The Evening News: A Content Warning

So, one of the guys I work with stomps into the break room the other day, and announces… loudly, and with great consternation: THERE ARE WOMEN DRESSED AS VAGINAS ON THE SIX O’ CLOCK NEWS. When the kids… and THE SIX O’ CLOCK NEWS. (There may or may not have been more to the conversation, but that’s about where it landed on me.)

The oldest of his kids are about ten, and girls. And WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO TELL THEM?

He turned the TV off, but you know it. Daddy WHAT IS THAT?

I’m going to say it’s a safe bet that the average ten year old is not going to recognize a vagina built out of felt and hot glue, and that the first tiny hint she had that SOMETHING WAS WRONG was when her father tackled the television set.

You can probably tell that I find this whole scene to be… well, somewhat amusing.

And, if you know me, you’ll know that my chameleon circuit self-censoring mechanism has been broken for a really long time.

So, I had to ask. What did you tell them?

NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!

So, okay. Let’s go with that. There’s NOTHING on television, but your father just dove twenty feet across carpet to turn the damn thing off? At best, he’s lying to you, and at worst, he’s a completely irrational and unpredictable creature.

(Note: Co-worker in question is one of the most involved and able parents I’ve ever known. Vagina costumes just wig him out.)

And what if there was something on television?

You haven’t actually learned any of your family’s rules about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

At ten, you’re probably still debating whether it’s a Muppet or Patrick from Sponge Bob that set your father off. Being quite honest, there are a lot of vagina costumes out there that I wouldn’t recognize without a label, if I were a gynecologist, much less a ten year old. (Oh, look. There’s one with teeth.)

You can explain your family values, and not leave the kid wondering what they did wrong.

Well, kiddo, in this country, we have freedom of speech. Which means that people sometimes do things to make a point or attract attention.

Those women were dressed as (private parts, vaginas, pussies with teeth) to attract attention to what they were saying.

In this family, we don’t watch television shows with vaginas in them because (mixed company, inappropriate for children, we believe they’re private, etc.)

Then, you go on to discuss Pravda, and propaganda in various totalitarian governments, and how turning the television off from time to time is a small price to pay for freedom of speech, being able to criticize our leaders, and the rights we all enjoy.

Now, eat your beanie weenies.

Gifted Children, Education, and Abuse

I spent a lot of time locked in the library, when I was a kid.

Just to be clear, I don’t mean visiting the library, or absorbed in reading at the library, or gee, I was one of those kids who always begged their parents to take them to the library.

I mean locked in.

As in, dumping me in the school library was my teachers’ solution, when I didn’t fit their curriculum, or was inconvenient.

As in, I still remember a couple of days when I was allowed to come downstairs and watch Letter People with the other kids.

As in, I was six years old and checking for fire escapes, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back out the way I got in, and I wasn’t sure anyone would remember I was there. A lot of times, they didn’t.

I was locked in.

Because I was smart.

And in a weird way, this was presented as a privilege. No one was telling me what to do. And I was the only child in the school who had free access to a computer… books… their time.

I certainly learned more than I would have, if I’d spent the time watching Letterpeople and handing out papers because I was the only one who could read.

And it didn’t occur to me to tell anyone, because it didn’t occur to me that what was happening wasn’t normal.

Of course, I didn’t belong with those other kids.

I wasn’t really a child, after all.

I just finished watching the movie “Gifted,” and I have now been crying on and off for an hour.

I think it was supposed to be a happy ending.

The kid goes home (following a brief stint in you’re smart foster care), and gets to attend university classes AND regular school. And… uhm… the father-figure winds up in a relationship with what I would describe as a semi-abusive grade-school teacher.

Seriously? You’re making that woman a permanent fixture in your kid’s life, and it’s supposed to be a happy ending?

She was vile.

You know the teacher who tries to humiliate a kid in front of the whole class just to make them shut up? Yeah. That’s the one.

And somehow, the fact that the kid is smart, and the abusive teacher failed to humiliate her somehow turns that teacher into a shining exemplar of the educational system, and a suitable romantic interest.

She was so awful, in fact, that later on, when she’s having a conversation with a minor, minor, minor character in the hallway (do NOT blink while the pretty black teacher is on screen) my response was hallelujah, Miss Honey has arrived. She will fix this.

Nope. Thirty seconds, and she’s gone for good.

The film was all full of such snazzy tropes as the kid’s aptitude and interests **just happen** to be exactly the same as mom’s, grandma’s, and even the (blue-collar by choice, but wow, he’s smart) uncle’s, and gee, it’s in the kid’s “Best Interest” to develop whatever they’re talented at, because after all, don’t exceptional intellects really belong to everyone?

Spoiler alert: No, my brain does not belong to everyone.

I don’t really care that what I’m capable of could bring the world more happiness, more money, more understanding of the universe as a whole.

What makes me happy is farting the alphabet while eating breakfast cereal.

There is no noblesse oblige.

Society is not entitled to the fruits of my misery.

It’s not even entitled to the things I enjoy.

Think about it. Somewhere out there–somewhere in a quiet town of a thousand–there’s a mechanic who locks the windows and pulls down the blinds, and works on a Millennium Problem.

For himself.

Because he wants to.

And someday, when he finishes, he’ll throw the papers on the fire, and go to sleep, content in the knowledge that he solved it.