The Prayer

This morning I read something about a 29 year old man that had 21 kids with 11 different women. The article stated something about four children being born in the same year. Twice. Okay, I guess at the very surface, the first reaction would be to laugh. It would be kind of funny if it were fiction. I can laugh at the shock of it. To me it is unfathomable that someone would have so many kids, and just keep making more. These aren’t Lay’s Potato chips. Nobodies eating all the babies they want. The human race isn’t dying out (yet). There’s no need to for anyone to make more. I don’t get it.

So far we have two things there—laughter followed by befuddlement. There’s also a third thing that happens when I read such stories. I say a little prayer. Certain groups of certain people will know exactly what I mean here. It’s the prayer of “Please don’t make us all look bad.” “Please, please…”

“Please don’t let it be a black person.”

Then you open the link to the article, see the face of the culprit in question and think “God damn it.”

It doesn’t even matter that you have no other connection to this person aside from superficial appearances. You’re in the group, they’re in the group and there are still people out there that will make vast assumptions of an entire group based on one person. It doesn’t even matter that someone in this group is the president of the country. It makes no difference.

If you can go into the world knowing you will be judged based on your own actions alone, and no one else’s, consider yourself lucky. I don’t even consider white people to be exempt from this—it goes both ways. There are vast assumptions about white people too. For example, remember the sniper incident of 2002? Who were we picturing before we solved the mystery? (yes, another “God damn it” moment for me, but that’s beside the point) Who do we see in our minds whenever a strange letter about powdered ‘thrax gets mailed, who do we picture when some militia-minded individual goes wacko against the government? That’s right.

Maybe this is why we have a need to put people in boxes. I can be split evenly into two boxes (same goes for the president) but let’s not kid ourselves. I know how I’m seen by most people based on their first glance. Why do we do this? Is it an attempt to predict behavior? Is it a way to figure out what we have in common with some and how we differ from others? I look forward to the day when the prayer does not cross my thoughts whenever I read a story like that, but I think that day is still a long way off.

(God damn it)


The Fairer Sex

Let me preface this by telling you that I’m not a big horse-race person. I don’t know much about it at all. I did rejoice a little when this year’s Preakness was won by a filly instead of a colt. Of course there was plenty of lead in on the news informing the masses on why her participation was a BFD. Those are inevitably followed up with the man on the street type comments, and one came from an older man who stated with a smug little smirk, “Fillies should race fillies, and stallions should race stallions.” There’s always one that thinks like this, isn’t there? You know someone is going to open his big yap because deep down he’s afraid if a female races, she just might win. So she did win and then what? Out comes the whining about how she had an unfair advantage.

And if she lost, you know what? Someone would come out with “well she had no business racing anyway.” And this is just about horses.

I have a feeling the attitude extends to plenty of other areas. I remember an argument discussion I got into online about who should have a role in combat in the military. The guy kept insisting on whatever was best for the “morale” of the troops. My argument is based on whatever is best for the military, which means the most competent people for certain jobs get to do those jobs. According to the law, it is illegal for women to be on the front lines in a combat role, but what happens when the rules change? I was branched Air Defense Artillery in the Army, which is defined as a Combat Arms branch, however I was limited to being in Patriot units since the Patriot Missile System is generally relegated to the rear ranks. It wasn’t designed to move very often and the long range of the missile means you can shoot from afar. Well this time around, those units moved right along with the infantry, which put women on the front lines. Then last weekend I watched “Lioness” which is about "Team Lioness"--female soldiers who were assigned one type of specialty, while given an additional duty of going into towns and going into the homes of people suspected to be conspiring against Americans. Since these were families, and families generally have men and women, and it’s not even cool for men to do body searches on women in OUR culture, guess what? They needed women to search the women in those houses. Some of these patrols involved close range firefights (combat) which technically made the whole situation illegal. There was even one soldier who had hunted before entering the military, who was specifically given the duty of carrying a squad automatic weapon because she was a good shot. This wasn’t getting caught up in a supply convoy that hit an explosive, it was sending female soldiers directly into a combat zone even though we have laws specifically against that. And while we’re on the topic, it’s kind of absurd to declare that an entire half of the population can not be in combat. How do you avoid that in a war? There are green zones but nothing is really safe, is it? I feel like all of this is based in fear, and in this case it’s the fear of seeing women come home dead or maimed. Even if you’re a soldier and in the role of protecting others and fighting battles, sometimes people still think you need to be protected, not for your own good, but for theirs.

There was a recent episode of “Cold Case” (stop that laughing) I watched that involved a fictional military institution (Pennsylvania Military Institute, or “P.M.I.”—get it? Like “V.M.I.” except it’s not, wink, wink). Anyway, this involved a 2003 case of a female cadet who mysteriously turned up dead. I told my husband “This is kind of not relevant anymore,” but then again, maybe I’m wrong. I remember 1995 when Shannon Faulkner entered the Citadel. I remember the disbelief at the people fighting her entrance into the school as well as my own classmate who claimed “The Citadel is done if they ever let women in.” (I wish I’d asked him why he chose West Point, since most of his discussions involved high praise for The Citadel).

Shannon Faulkner didn’t make it, but was that any surprise? She wasn’t really in shape, but also, she was the only woman to enter with her class. That’s pretty much a recipe for failure. At least the service academies let in more than one, and at least many of them made it through. Someone has to be the first, but it’s easier to be the first when someone else is doing it too. Your name might not make the news, but you have a better chance of getting through.

I’m sure there was just as much bullshit in the first class of female West Pointers. The first year is hard enough, I couldn’t imagine the additional sexism heaped onto that already generous pile. When you have a general, and graduate, General Westmoreland, claiming that women in combat would have to be “freaks” you have to wonder. For every guy that speaks his true feelings, I’m guessing there are a bunch that secretly think it, but don’t say it.

Maybe this extended to the way we were viewed as cadets too. I remember the mindset that we “gray trou” weren’t dating material. I am guessing this was based in fear too—who would want to date someone that wouldn’t be wowed by your uniform or your daily exploits because she’s doing pretty much the same thing? And then--horror or horrors--what if she’s better at doing it than you are?

I was never any kind of stud at anything at West Point—I struggled with many things. I also don’t think most guys were against me. I’m sure there were a few, but without the vast number that helped, I wouldn’t have made it. People are changing, and I think men change as they live and see what women can do. I think they change when they have daughters and turn into the person that does not want someone else limiting his kid’s future because she’s a girl.


Speak & Spell

One of the biggest burdens of being a parent is coming up with a name. You have to choose the collection of letters that's going to represent someone else, and that person has no say in the matter. I like my name but it's uncommon, which is both a blessing and a curse. Only people who have the same name can understand this. I don't really know anyone else with the same first name, but when you hear it called out, intended for someone else, it's a little surreal. I remember going up to a cashier at Michael's once, just to say, "Hey, I'm Giselle, too." And I also remember a woman who entered the elevator, glanced at my company badge, and exclaimed, "My name is Giselle too!" Then, to prove her solidarity, she produced her own badge, and there was my first name staring back at me.

The Good:

Just one thing really—it’s unique. When you run into someone you knew once upon a time, chances are high that you can say your first name and you’re the only person they’ve known with that name, and that's kind of cool.

The Bad:

I like my name, but when I was younger, it caused me a lot of unhappiness because I could never find it on a keychain, or a mug, or some other useless trinket that was likely manufactured in China. If your name wasn’t there, it was either because it was sold out, or because your name was too uncommon to be profitable. When you're in the second category, you eventually lose hope and stop checking the racks altogether.

At this point, I’m over it. I think the solution was getting a personalized license plate (seven letters) with my entire first name on it. When I emerged from my car in a parking lot and someone I didn’t know passed me and said “Hi, Giselle,” in an instant, the need for vanity plates and the need to have something with my name on it was cured. Strangely enough, it happened again on a plane, when someone peered over my shoulder from the row behind me to ask about my laptop. My profile was under my full first name, which I have since switched. I have come to value anonymity over personalization.

With an uncommon name, you run the risk of being questioned. “Is it a real name?” they’ll say, hinting that someone did you the great disservice of sticking you with some dumb, made up name just because they never heard of it. Or, “That’s a weird name” someone else once said, who, I might add, went by the name “Rocky.”

Most people get the pronunciation right…mostly. I have been called “gazelle” more times than I can count. People have also asked “Do you have a nickname?” It’s a two syllable name, the last syllable is the very, very common “elle” and you need a nickname? Sometimes people add their own twist. Usually the “s” is spoken with a “z” sound, but some use the softer “s” sound. I’ve known two people who pronounce it this way and I’m really not sure if it's right. I will accept a soft “s” but correct a hard “g.”

Then there’s the spelling—you wouldn’t believe the variations that develop when people only hear the name.


Okay, I can see how this happens. If you’re hooked on phonics and it worked for you, this would be your logical conclusion. Sure, it’s a little clumsy and it brings about thoughts of “Jezebel” but it sort of makes sense.


Yeah, I get this too. This offense is probably made by people that spell “tomorrow” as “tommorow” because they simply can not remember which consonant is doubled.

The Ugly:
It’s been decades since my eyes were witness to the worst spelling of all, and I’m still a bit traumatized by it--for the sake of this entry, I will share this memory with you (don't you feel special now?). It was elementary school (I want to say Mrs. Gorman’s 3rd grade class) and there was an instance where the students were divided into groups and the names were written on a list. Back in the olden days, the best way to do this was to write it out in pencil or pen, or with chalk on the boards. The details of why we were on these lists, or who actually wrote them remain sketchy, but I distinctly remember checking that list of names and realizing I wasn’t there. Some other name was there. It was oddly spelled, and indicated that maybe we had a foreign exchange student in our midst. "Who is that?” I thought. “There’s no one in this class named 'Drezel'”

Then I sounded it out.



Stream of consciousness

(I was on the train home when I scrolled through my music collection on my ipod and landed on Nine Inch Nails. What follows are the thoughts and actions that resulted from my music selection.)
-Hm, I haven’t heard this in awhile. It’s still pretty good. Hey, I forgot about this song.
-Wait, aren’t they supposed to be in concert soon? Or did it already happen? I’ll have to remember to check that when I get home.

(at home)
(Forgets to check that.)

(in the car the next morning)
-Good thing I found the NIN CD's so I can listen to them in the car.
-Too bad I still need to fix the ipod adapter connection. It sucks to switch CD’s out all the time and I am terrible about taking care of them so they don’t get scratched.
(As an aside, try to drive slowly when a NIN song is playing. It's impossible.)

(on the train)
-Oh good, I can listen to my ipod again
-let’s look through the paper to see if we can find the ad about that concert.
-Nope, can't find it, I guess it already happened
-Oh, wait, here it is.
-And look, Jane’s Addiction is playing too. I forgot about that
(switches ipod songlist from NIN to Jane's Addiction)
-I wonder what the tickets cost. It’ll probably be expensive.
-And I’ll need someone to babysit.
-And my husband will probably not want to go to this, but he will agree to it just to oblige.
-Well at least I’ll be here June 9th—
-Oh wait, no I won’t. I’ll be on a plane returning from California.
-Yay, trip to California!