What I Would Tell a Daughter About Selfies

the outside lane:

An oldie.

Originally posted on The Outside Lane:

Since I’m getting emails and PMs about the girl side of things, I’ll address the girl side of things here.

So, I used to teach Sunday School for 6th Grade girls.  When I took on the responsibility, I thought I was going to be–I don’t know what I thought I was going to be teaching, but it was NOT sex.  I started reading through the lesson book, and halfway through BLAMMO sex/pregnancy/abortion.  Uh…

I worried about a few things:

  1. I would accidentally warp these children.
  2. I would say something that would make concerned parents take up pitchforks against me.
  3. That the church hadn’t thoroughly vetted my thoughts on sex/pregnancy/abortion before handing their 12 year old girls over to me.
  4. What if one of the girls had been bad-touched, or was already sexually active and I said something that made her feel like a monster?

I worried most about the pitchforks.

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A Review: Ex Machina

There is very little new in the world of cinema, with every movie seeming like a rehash of something else.  So, it’s nice when a story at least reaches back far enough that I can tag Ovid as inspiration, or Mary Shelley.  Both Pygmalion and Frankenstein are done to death, but when they are done well, you know you’re getting a quality narrative.  Ex Machina is both done well at once.

Domnhall Gleeson stars as Caleb, your run of the mill programmer, seemingly selected at random to visit with his boss, a Hughes-ian billionaire, tech-genius-recluse, Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac.  Once I’d suspended my disbelief, made it past all the hyphenates and exposition required to set the stage (Genius Nathan has selected Caleb to come and be the human interface in a Turing Test for his AI prototype), I was all in.  That’s about the time Alicia Vikander was introduced as Ava, the AI.

Alicia Vikander as Ava, in Ex Machina.

It would be impossible for me to tell more of the story without spoiling the twists, which play out more as long, slow curves in this quietly paced, richly filmed movie.  What I will tell you is that there is a sequence that will go down in my mental history as the weirdest, best, most horrifying dance number I’ve ever seen–for about twenty different reasons.

If you enjoy food for thought, you’ll have a veritable buffet of topics to consider, ranging from what makes us human, to what constitutes consent.  If you just like to look at pretty things, you’ll do equally as well.  Vikander is luminous.  It takes quite a face to make a bald robot head look pretty.

Even a quarter of the way through, I was feeling anxiety and empathy for the characters–all the characters.  Even the one who never spoke.  All the anxiety, and about half the empathy turned out to be for good cause.  The rest of my empathy?  It would spoil the movie to tell you what I walked out wondering, so I won’t.

At 108 minutes, it felt like really short, but it was perfectly timed.  No scenes felt wasted, and nothing dragged on.  It was just right.

It’s rated R for full frontal nudity, though that was presented in such a way that it didn’t even feel like I was looking at boobies, and for mild violence.  I only hid my eyes once.

I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

-0.5 because I hated Isaac’s beard so much.

When a Raccoon Loved Me

Depending on who you ask, the people who can math (Leslieann and Renae), or the people who want a better date for the story (Me), it is either the 16th, or 15th anniversary of an ill-fated camping trip we took (along with the also math-able Karen) to Tyler, Texas as part of a Baptist church outing.

Of the four of us, one had some camping experience, having once helped someone put up a tent sometime in the far past, but all of us piled into Leslieann’s Kia Sportage, loaded up with Karen’s brother’s loaned camping equipment and several backpacks full of enthusiasm, naivety, and sense of adventure.  It’s a lot easier to do things when you are totally ignorant of the right way to go about them.

We arrived at the State park in time to pitch our tent in the one remaining campsite in a prime spot, facing the lake.  We weren’t supposed to have that spot.  You see, as the lone representatives of the Singles group, and as unmarried women who might be a temptation to the men in the family area (this was said out loud), we had been assigned a site that was about a mile away, down a cliff, in a literal ravine that was a steep climb back up to the rest of the Baptist campers, and the toilets.  Still, since we were four girls alone, one brave husband took pity on us, and told us we could set up there for the night.

After helping us get our tent set up, he and the rest of the church group avoided us like we had the plague.  Or free-range vaginas.  You have to watch out for those because they will jump right out of an unwed woman’s cargo shorts and try to trap you into having an affair.

Aside from being treated like a pack of slavering succubi, we passed a pretty decent night for as hot and humid as it was.  At least there was a breeze coming off the water.

When we got up the next morning, we were run out of the campground by the wives (and I mean they were hands-on-hips telling us we had to GO), and sent on our way down the ravine so that the other married couple (who had still not yet arrived) could take over our vacated space.  Alone, this time, we managed to get our tent up in the curve of the cliff wall, under shelter of some massive pine trees, and we laid out our camp.

S'more or less.

S’more or less.

There were weenies to roast, s’mores to toast, coffee to make, and a lake to swim in.  For the next few hours after lunch, we were fairly self-entertaining.  Then, several things happened at once.

1.  The temperature dropped

2.  The wind kicked up

3.  The campers at the campsite about 6 sites away from us started packing things up and moving them into their tent

4.  It started pelting down rain

5.  I got my period

You can guess which was the most troublesome for me.  #5 meant I was scrambling up the ravine on the steep, cut out steps that were quickly turning into mud slicks, at some points on my hands and feet because of the angle, to make it up to the dingy, spider filled bathrooms before I could ruin my favorite pair of shorts.  Once managed, I had to make my way back down the ravine to our tent, where we four huddled inside and listened to the trees rocking in the wind.

My first trip up the ravine wasn’t pleasant, but at least it was still light out.  My second trip up, not only was I trying to navigate the dark of the woods with a penlight, I picked up a friend.

A raccoon came out of the bushes and took a sudden, serious interest in me.

Have you ever heard a lovesick raccoon?

My second trip up the ravine, I made in half the time because I had one chasing me.  He stood outside the bathroom and chirped, trilled, and growled at me, while I cursed every married Baptist woman in our church.  I did not mind changing campsites–we were having a better time on our own anyway–but I did mind being chased by wildlife.

That stinking raccoon waited for me to come out, and he chased me back down the ravine (laying cold paws on me exactly once), where I jumped into Leslieann’s car and hid until he disappeared, and I could lurch back into the tent.  (You would be so grossed out by how I got him to dive into the woods, away from the car that I will not even tell you.  I don’t think I’ve ever told the girls.  I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

When I did make it back into the tent the wind and rain were really bad.  A little scary.  I found the girls discussing whether or not we should pack up and leave.  We agreed that we would stay until the other campers down the way packed up.  They seemed to know what they were doing, and if they were staying put, we thought it was wisest for us to do the same.

Weather alerts started bleeping out of the radio, warning us of flash floods and tornadoes in Smith County, wherever that was.  With nothing else to do, and with the other campers hunkering down, we did the same.  I took four Advil and got in my sleeping bag, hoping I wasn’t going to flood out anything myself, and I went to sleep.

I can sleep through anything.  There’s this funny story about the time I slept through a tornado on a camping trip…

Somewhere in the middle of the night, our tent started flooding.  Apparently, Leslieann and I can sleep with rain pelting us in the face.  Karen and Renae cannot.  So, the two of them got up, got out, and found the tarp Karen’s brother had loaned us.  They took off their shoelaces and rigged the tarp to further shelter the tent, then took turns wanting to kill Leslieann and me as we snored away.

Well, I snored away.  Karen said that at one point, she thought a tree limb had come loose and was falling to crush us, only to realize it was me.  I have a deviated septum!  I can’t help it!  It’s part of my charm!

In the morning, we got up and went about our business of ablutions and breakfast.  We all felt gross and tired, but we were fine.  When we climbed the hill to the bathroom, we didn’t pay much attention to the disarray.  I was keeping one eye out for the amorous raccoon.  Karen and Renae could barely keep their eyes open.

Back down the cliff, later in the morning as we packed up to go, Karen overheard the other campers arguing.  It seemed they had stayed out in the weather not because they were expert campers, as we had surmised, but because they were novice campers and they were “watching the girls.”  If the girls left, they would leave.  If the girls stayed–well, it couldn’t be that bad if a bunch of girls were waiting it out.

Oh, it was that bad.

Karen came back with that report, which had us rolling until the man who had helped us the first night came driving up.  Some eight hours after the worst was over, the Baptists had remembered the four girls they’d cast out, and were coming to see if we’d blown away.  Because, yes, we had just happened to be in Smith County, where a tornado touched down in a State Park–ours–and where the winds had been so strong coming off the lake, they’d blown down and sucked out a full tent and gear.

Guess which tent.

It was a good thing we’d moved!  If the Baptist wives had allowed us to stay in their midst, we’d have been swimming.

Where we were, aside from the wet and the wildlife, we’d been safe as houses.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling unfairly persecuted, I like to remember this story and laugh.

Today, Renae, Leslieann, and I were laughing about it together.

(And because I love all three of you, I did not post the pictures I have of us on this trip.)

This Is How We Do

Over dinner:

Thor:  Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom!  Do you know what Nathan Hale’s last words were?

Me: ” Urrk glurrrg unf” *flop*

Thor:  *eye roll*  That is not right.

Me:  “Help me!”

Thor:  Not right.

Me:  (in my best JFK voice)  “Ask not what your country can do for you…”

Thor:  Wrong.  And wrong accent.

Me:  (in my best Patrick Henry voice)  “But as for me, give me liberty…”

Thor:  *sigh*  Wrong quote, wrong accent.

Me:  (in my best Forrest Gump)  “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country!”

Thor:  Mom.  Seriously.  That’s the right quote, but the way wrong accent.

Me:  British?

Thor:  Probably.

Me:  Hm.

This kid makes my world go around.

This kid makes my world go around.

Thor:  Do you know how he was captured?  Nathan Hale?

Me:  Oh, yes.  The British set out a trap for him.  It was a really big box with a stick holding it up, with a piece of rope tied around the stick.  They put a pie in the shadow of the box because Nathan Hale was known to love pie.  He was walking through the forest, saw the pie and just went for it.  He loved pie so much, he didn’t even notice the box, the stick, or the string.  When he crouched down and started eating, the British pulled the string, which dislodged the stick, causing the box to fall over Hale, capturing him.

Thor:  Wrong.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Me:  Oh!  It was cake?  Not Pie?

Thor:  Mom.  They sent in a spy, who was pretending to be a double agent, and that spy got Hale to confess that he was a double agent, so they captured him and killed him.

Me:  I like my story better.

Thor:  Your story is better, but mine is right.

B:  *never says a word–just keeps eating his dinner*

Rolling Down Hills, and the Climb Back to the Top

Originally posted on The Outside Lane:

When I was little, I loved rolling down hills. It was thrilling and exciting to lie down at the top of an incline, make my body into a straight line, then bump bump bump bump flop flail boink my way down to the bottom in a mess of giggles, hair, and grass stains. I’d get to the bottom, run back to the top and start again. Lather, rinse, repeat until I’d made myself so sick, all I could do was lie on my back and watch the clouds until my stomach settled. It was good.

I don’t know what happens after we die. I know it’s comforting to believe that we’ll be reunited with loved ones. I know it is satisfying to believe that bad people will be punished. I know it is psychologically validating to believe that we are more than just the sum of our small lives, and…

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