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Before I Moved to California
Nov 18th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Before I moved to California, I had never

had Indian food

had decent wine (you know, the kind from a bottle instead of a jug or box)

met an out kinky or poly person

had gin

met a Hmong person

had goat cheese (or any good cheese, really)

had lamb

had been able to send my son to a school where they had enough money for classroom supplies like toilet paper and thus didn’t make each family buy a big list of stuff

tasted Thai food

met a Jewish person

had Vietnamese food

experienced a drought

known there were “asian” pears–and that they’re awesome!

had a good tomato that hadn’t been refrigerated prior to serving

seen heavy snow

seen an apple in the grocery store that wasn’t a Granny Smith or the ironically named Red Delicious

met an out transgender person

understood how black and white my upbringing had been

tried Afghani food

had to think about writing less American-centric prompts, since I only had American students

met a Sikh person

felt an earthquake (although it was so minor that I thought it was the neighbors waking me up with exceptionally brief sex that shook the wall)

had the opportunity to join a union

gone wine tasting

had access to healthcare as an adult

 

Some of this is because I was in Florbama . . . there are more cosmopolitan areas of Florida.

Some of this is because I was raised fairly white trash. It’s probably possible to get decent wine and cheese in Florida–I just didn’t see it.

 

But still–I had never had INDIAN FOOD!

If I had consistent access to grouper out here, y’all, I might never go back home.

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A “me too” story
Oct 21st, 2017 by Dr Karma

When my best friend of many years came to visit me and, by default, the guy I was living with when I was 19, he kept making “jokes” about threesomes.

During one of the “jokes,” he grabbed her breasts.

If he’s on social media right now, he’s shaking his head at all of his female friends saying, “me, too.”

He’s astounded at what men do to women.

I know him.

Unfortunately, I was briefly married to him.

So I know he’s not thinking about having assaulted and harassed my friend.

He thinks he has never done that. That he never would do something we would label that way.

He thinks he’s a good person. In many ways, he is. He is generally kind, generally generous, etc.

And he’s religious–very religious.

And that’s part of the problem–he thinks that because he goes to church, he’s a good person.

He doesn’t see the way in which evangelical Christianity is at odds with treating women with actual respect.

Once, we had an argument about “chivalry.” He’s Southern (like me), and he thought it was the right way to be.

Me: But answer me honestly.

Him: Okay.

Me: Do you go out of your way to open doors and stuff for fat middle-aged women?

Him: No.

Me: Then it’s not about respecting women. You “chivalrous” guys treat young women like me differently–and part of it is so you can have a chance to be physically close to us, to talk to us, to have us smile at you.

Marrying him was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, and I won’t go into all the ways and reasons here, but he had pretended (lied) about believing in equality before we got married.

And then when we did, he said words like “submit.” He said he had “hoped God would change [my] heart” after a marriage based on that lie–that I wouldn’t believe in what I believed in anymore.

In his mind, he was a good man.

In believing myself equal, I was a bad woman.

Even though, “in the image of God created he them, male and female.”

Until he got with his current wife, he came to me with his dating problems, even though I all could do was laugh at him sometimes. Like most people his age, he slept around. Then, he’d say things like this: “I really like this one, so I talked to her and we’re going to try not to have sex anymore. It’s what God would want.”

I never could get him to see the strangeness of that logic or any of his logic about how he interacts with women.

Once, he came to me worried that a woman was going to call the police. He had run into a girl he knew in high school at a club. He had always wanted to fuck her. When she left, drunk, he followed her home, to make sure she was safe. He said she invited him in.

The next morning, she asked how he got there, how he got in, and if they had had sex.

I don’t know what happened, really.

But I know that he thinks he’s never assaulted anyone.

I know he thinks he’s one of the few good Christian men who treat women right.

But I also know that one day, after dropping my son off, long after our divorce, he made a move on me. His desire for “ex sex” was something he’d commented on before–I had made my lack of interest clear.

I asked him to leave.

He moved closer.

I asked him to leave again.

He moved closer.

I told him that if he came any closer, I would punch him in the face.

He left, after I punched him in the face.

I’m lucky that he didn’t punch back–that he didn’t force himself on me.

He probably thinks that’s where the line is–that he’s not guilty of anything because he’s never used force.

I tell this story not because he’s the worst or most dangerous or most threatening man who’s ever done something to me.

Far from it.

I tell this story because my grandmother died thinking the worst thing I ever did was to leave him, because he was such a good Christian man–and because he knows that’s what she thought.

And because he thinks it too.

 

 

 

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 75
Oct 14th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Now that I have a boyfriend (he prefers “paramour,” by the way), it’s time to do some reflecting on the search.
As my readers know, there have been a few guys who let it slip that they weren’t looking for anything serious, which led me to break things off.
The guys were always surprised, even though the only box checked on what I was interested in was “long-term relationship.”
So did I want to date a guy who says that he’s never been in love (even though he’s divorced), who says I’m obviously lying to myself about wanting long-term when I don’t like living with people, who says the twenty minute drive to me was too much for something real.
Did I want to date the guy who confesses that he is still very much in love with someone else, but he’d like to keep things casual with me, since it will help him have sex with this other woman less?
C’mon, guys.
After I realized that our interests were not aligned, I called things off.
In these cases, the guys would make the same request:
Why don’t we just date casually and see what happens?
In other words, why don’t I (the guy) get what I want and you not get what you want, which will lead to a frustrating end in which I reiterate that I was never looking for something long term?
And in these cases, the guys came back, sometimes weeks after, sometimes years after, saying they’d made mistakes.
That they didn’t appreciate what I had to offer or the ways in which I’m different from most women.
Maybe they should have been different from most men.

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 74
Oct 1st, 2017 by Dr Karma

Lately, I’ve been missing Jareth a lot, but the boy won’t let me get another kitten.

No one can see me–I’m in mommy’s fur!

Nor will he let me get a porcupine so I can talk with it while feeding it corn.

And he’s adamant that we not bring an owl named Weird Owl Yankovic into our home, even after Jenny Lawson came up with that name.

However, this month, my desire for a kitten has been decreasing. I’ve found myself a man.

A great one.

One who makes me feel sexy.

One who can keep up with me, intellectually.

One who plays the piano for me and recites poetry while we snuggle.

One who gets my job and my schedule since he’s a teacher too.

One who just brought me tea and is literally making and packing me a lunch while I write this now.

 

Don’t worry, readers–I haven’t told you every story from my dating adventures–there are more blogs yet to come.

 

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Close Reading in Kindergarten
Sep 18th, 2017 by Dr Karma

My kindergarten teacher taught us an old rhyme:
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

A Conversation From My Youth:

Me: What does “dainty” mean?
My teacher: Small.
Me: A pie with 24 blackbirds would be really big. Are we saying this wrong? Should we say “undainty”?
[Long pause.]
My teacher: No one else has ever had a problem with this.

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W3 Story 2: William Tell
Sep 13th, 2017 by Dr Karma

My (Grand)Daddy spent a lot of time on his grandparents’ dairy farm in Michigan. His grandmother only spoke Finnish, and he only spoke English, but he said they still understood each other.

John and Mary Waltonen, my great-great grandparents from Finland

Not surprisingly, he was an adventurous child. Once, after having been to the picture shows, he tried to jump off the barn, thinking that an umbrella would slow his fall, as it had for a cartoon character.

My grandfather as a young man, with his younger sisters and parents.

But my favorite story from his youth is this one.

He played William Tell with one of his sisters–putting an apple on her head–and getting the bow and arrow ready.

He shot her in the cheek.

And then, somehow, he managed to convince his other sister to let him try on her.

And he shot her in the cheek.

The moral of this story: Waltonen women cannot resist that man.

Today, he would have been 89. If there’s an afterlife, I hope he’s with his sisters today and that all arrows shoot straight and that cartoon physics rule the land.

A very bad boy and his trusting sisters

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An Octoroon at CapStage
Sep 12th, 2017 by Dr Karma

An Octoroon won an Obie for Best New Play a couple of years back. It’s now playing in Sacramento, at CapStage.

I love this play and this production.

The Octoroon was an 1859 play/melodrama by Dion Boucicault–it was extremely popular, and was used in the North to further the abolitionist cause. Using the image of the octoroon was common–those who were 1/8ths black could usually pass. Thus, the audience would see a white person being treated like a black one, which hopefully lead them to question such treatment all together. Female educated octoroons were especially sympathetic–and bound for tragedy–no white man was supposed to love them (and laws in some places forbade it), and audiences believed that an almost white woman shouldn’t be with a fully black man.

It’s an old story, one that we don’t tell that much anymore.

That’s not at all to say this new version is dated–it’s completely relevant and terrifyingly familiar.

An Octoroon is a postmodern revision by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins–it’s clever and funny and satiric and heartbreaking. The melodrama–and the octoroon–are still there, but Jacobs-Jenkins gives a voice to the other slaves in peril, asks us to ask why we’re laughing, and thrusts us into contemplative, uncomfortable silence.

The current production (running through October 1st), directed by Judith Moreland, is powerful and has a strong cast (I couldn’t take my eyes off of Alexandra Barthel when she was on stage). The intimacy of this theatre space adds a great deal to the meta aspects of the play. When the actors turn to us, we are only a few feet away. There’s no where to hide–they can see us when we laugh, when we grimace, when we give them their well-deserved applause.

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 73
Sep 9th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Last week, a 35 year old messaged me, asking if I dated younger men.

I said that he wasn’t all that younger than I was, and that I date guys older too. I was trying to signal that a 7 year difference isn’t a huge deal, one way or another, at my age.

Him: So you like older as well like daddy?

I explained I didn’t date people my father’s age, no. Didn’t say: and I just buried my 88 year old daddy.

Him: Ever role play invest

That threw me for a loop. My first thought: Banking role play? Loan officer role play?

And then I understood.

He was interested in incest role play.

Not only am I really not into incest play, I am offended that someone only seven years younger thinks I should be playing his mom.

Ewww and ugh.

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A Bad Start: On Growing Up in the South
Aug 30th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I am 14. My beloved (grand)daddy says, “You need to have white babies; our race is dying out.”

Where do I start?

Not “how do I answer that?”

How do I start to tell you this?

My (grand)daddy is recently deceased. I am mourning. Atlas dropped the world.

But he said that.

When I told my mother, she said he didn’t used to be racist. She and Mindy have told me about how when Mindy was a teenager and was working in a store that catered mostly to African-Americans, she was told they wouldn’t be upset if she dated one.

I have heard it so many times.

It’s an alibi.

And now I’m the prosecutor.

Why wouldn’t I have been allowed to?

Why did you hide your non-white boyfriends and lovers (they were roommates) from them?

Why did they have to say it if it were true?

How do I start this?

***************************************************

No one in my family would call themselves racists.

Some context: my maternal grandmother was born and raised in the South. She is an official Daughter of the Confederacy. She married my (grand)daddy, who was a Yankee in the Air Force. After he retired, they built a house on the land she inherited and settled in to a very insular, very Southern, existence.

My grandmother would lower her voice when she said the “n” word–even though she lived in the woods where no one would hear her. I presumed she got quiet because she knew what she was doing was wrong.

When I moved to California, my grandmother asked me if there were many black people where I lived. She was relieved when I said my town was mostly white and Asian. “Oh, they’re okay.”

A few years before her death, she stopped lowering her voice when she said the word.

I wanted to blame FOX News, which was convincing her that her President was not hers–that he wasn’t even American.

But that’s not where it started.

And she still would have said she wasn’t racist.

******************************************************

My son is 5. I am called into his kindergarten. He has been saying he doesn’t like the janitors because they’re black.

He spends a lot of time with his great-grandparents.

I move to California. My grandparents try to guilt me into leaving him with them. Permanently.

Then, my son is 8. We are watching a show–the teachers on it are talking to the principal about a student who has said “the N word.”

My son finally looks at me, frustrated.

“What are they talking about? Nipple?”

And I have to say it, to explain it to him. Grateful that he hadn’t heard it yet some other way.

****************************************************

Where do I start?

I am in kindergarten. It is 99% black.

I come home and tell my mother that I and a boy in my class will get married. He is my boyfriend.

She tells me he can’t be, because my grandmother wouldn’t like it.

It was unlikely that I would have married him. I can’t even remember what we had in common.

But I was transferred to another school–one that was 99% white.

(The South is still pretty segregated, y’all!)

It didn’t occur to me that my mother should have told my grandmother to mind her own business about my boyfriends.

Or that my grandmother was her excuse.

*************************************************

I am 13.

I hear my stepfather getting his Great Dane riled up to go outside.

Usually, he says, “Wanna catch a squirrel?!?” and the dog practically pees itself with excitement.

Today, he says, “Wanna catch a nigger?!?”

“What?!?”

He hadn’t known I was behind him, that I’d heard.

He tells me that it was what his parents always said. I make him swear to never say that word in front of my little brother.

Usually, I was punished–severely and physically–for talking back.

This is the only day ever that I give an order and get away with it.

Because he knows it’s wrong.

It’s years later, thinking back on this, when talking to my students about the importance of language and the words we use, that I realize my mother must have known he used that word.

After class, I remember other things he’d said. Like “Cleopatra couldn’t have been the most beautiful woman in the world. She was black.”

And how no one corrected him on Ptolemaic history or racism.

Or talked back.

***************************************************

When I was little, I had a Dukes of Hazard night shirt. It said, “My heart belongs to Bo.”

A couple of years ago, in my stand-up, I tried to make the point that racism was alive and well in America. (Until recently, I had white Californian students tell me there was no racism because they’d had multicultural days in high school, where they had an ethnic food fair.)

I asked people to remember The Dukes of Hazard. The Duke brothers are moonshiners–you know, drug dealers, with a slutty-dressing cousin, and they spend every episode running from the cops in a car with the confederate flag on it called The General Lee. It’s a comedy. White America loved it.

“Just some good old boys / Never meaning no harm / Beat all you ever saw / They been in trouble with the law / Since the day they was born.”

If there’s no racism, we can do cross-racial casting.

Imagine that show–except the boys are black. They run illegal drugs. Their cousin dresses like a ho. They run from the cops in the Malcolm X.

“Just some good old . . .”

Bang!

Cause they would have been shot in the credits.

****************************************************

My grandma used to say, “Our family didn’t have slaves. We were too poor.”

And thus she was free, she thought, from recrimination. Even though her ancestors had fought for the South.

(My grandfather bought a certificate, from Rush Limbaugh, I think, that absolved him, as a white man, for everything. It was signed by a black man.)

But my grandfather was a genealogist.

One night, he shows me what he’s found–that one of grandma’s ancestors had owned at least one slave.

“But they treated her just like family,” my grandma interjects.

I wonder how she can be so sure, since a moment ago, she was convinced there was no such person.

But this narrative is important. She needs her story to lead to a South without racism that she can see, so she can be proud to be Southern, so she can be Republican. All these things have to be unrelated.

That way, it can be the race’s fault when she doesn’t like them.

*******************************************************

I am in my thirties. My grandmother and I are sitting in the car, while my mother is in the store, getting my grandmother’s prescription.

I don’t talk about politics with my family at this point. I’ve escaped, after decades of feeling like a misfit, in both my family and my society. I try to enjoy the few times I go home. To ignore the framed pictures of the current and former recent Republican presidents over the dining room table. To ignore the framed picture of a donkey with a red X drawn over it hanging by the washing machine.

Thus, I do not know and have no memory of how this came about–I remember it slapping me:

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

I try to talk about abortion as necessary, to find common ground about how when it’s illegal, doctors aren’t even trained to take dead babies out of women, how some women who have lost their children have to live with a rotting corpse inside them–to carry it to term.

It is all I can do, because my mind is whirring. It repeats the statement all day.

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

Is it that the child will be mixed? I know she “feels sorry” for mixed race children, since “they don’t belong anywhere.” In her world.

But no. Because almost all mixed race abortions would still be illegal.

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

Not a Mexican? No, because she’s probably not even thinking about any other races. Many times, in the South, all ethnicities/races disappear from consciousness. It is literally black and white down there.

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

But this isn’t about rape. Because a black woman can still be raped by a white man and have to carry it.

“All abortion should be illegal unless a white woman gets raped by a black man.”

I am in bed, not sleeping, when it hits me.

If I were raped by a white guy, she would of course be upset. But the life of that baby would take precedence.

But if I were raped by a black man, and were forced to carry it, and maybe to raise it, then someone might misunderstand–they might think, if they saw me with the child, that I’d had sex with a black guy on purpose.

How would they know I’d been raped, since survivors don’t usually wear t-shirts attesting to the fact?

(In my mind, these t-shirts are airbrushed. Cause it’s the South.)

****************************************************

President Obama is running for President.

I ask my mother to send me some instant grits.

(I do not think these things are related.)

When the grits come, they are accompanied by an airbrushed (read: homemade) shirt.

The shirt features a confederate flag.

The call:

“Well, I know you’re not going to wear it inside.”

“I’m not a racist inside the house.”

“It’s not racist; it’s heritage.”

I stop.

I try again, rogerian-style.

“I’m an American. Why would you expect me to wear the symbol of people who didn’t want to be American any more? Who told America to go fuck itself?”

“Alright.”

************************************************

Obama has just been elected.

My mother: Well, now we’re going to lose our rights as white women.

Me: Which ones?

Long pause.

Silence.

Me: Cause as a white, straight, educated American woman, I have more rights than most people have ever had. I have more rights than some of my friends have right now. Which ones can he take?

Silence.

*******************************************************

Obama is serving his term. My mother is taking care of her parents, my grandparents.

They encourage her to plant her garden. They think they’ll need it, when Obama comes for their guns. When he starts a race war.

*******************************************************

Here are some things that are true.

1. I miss my (grand)daddy so much. And even though this part of him disappoints me, I am deathly hurt by the thought that I disappointed him, as I know I have.

I have always cried–for hours–at the end of Mulan, when the father expresses pride for his daughter.

2. Now that my grandmother has died, my answer to the Pivot question about what you’d like to hear at the Pearly Gates has changed.

I’d like to hear, “Well, hi, Karma!” in my grandmother’s voice, the way she said it every time I called home.

No one has ever sounded so perfectly and consistently happy to hear my voice.

3. Typing this, now, has made me cry.

4. My family is normal in the South.

And they are polite to people’s faces.

They are not seen as extremists there at all.

They are not the people who start to whisper when you’re at the park having a picnic with a black man, the whispers getting louder, until the air starts to crackle, and you pack up early–carefully, fearful that if you move to fast, they’ll chase you.

5. My mother said that all people were equal when I was young. With some her words.

6. When people wonder where all this racism and hatred have come from, I’m surprised. Didn’t you hear them whispering? Didn’t you see them start to not lower their voices when Obama got elected?

7. When people try to tell me that the alt-right isn’t really racist, that they’re just angry because they’re poor, I shake my head. Did you live with them? Were you taught by them? Were you their neighbors? They, rich and poor, for all they years I’ve been alive, have said all the things at home that you’re just hearing on the internet now.

8. I have benefited from white privilege. When I was treated well the two times I’ve been pulled over. That I’ve only been pulled over two times. That I could walk down the hall in high school and not get asked for my pass. That I wasn’t asked for references when I tried to rent my first apartment. “You don’t need those.” Everyone else in the complex was black.

7. When I tell people these stories, they say, “how are you you?” And I don’t know. But I’m still part of them. And they’re still part of me.

*******************************************************

The statues need to come down.

My grandmother was a Daughter of the Confederacy. Technically, that means I am too, though I’m not registered. It’s not what I’m proud about–it’s not about who I am.

The statues need to come down.

When my relatives say taking them down is a liberal attempt to erase history, my eyes roll so hard my head hurts.

One of the best field trips in school was to a museum of the Civil War. I liked it because I learned a lot — like where “bite the bullet” comes from. I don’t remember the South being celebrated there–and that’s how this war should be remembered–as a rebellion to study, not to celebrate. Moving the statues to museums isn’t going to erase this history.

(Contrast this to a teacher I had in elementary school–an elderly woman–who told us lots of stories about how the South was better in Plantation days. Yes, this was the 99% white school.)

When my relatives say taking the statues down is an attack on their way of life, I can feel the blood vessels in my chest constrict.

What way of life is in danger? They’ll still be able to put way too much sugar in their tea, to fry absolutely everything, to deny science, to wear confederate clothing, to think racist thoughts and to say racist things.

It’s just that all of those actions have consequences.

When I was younger and I would see a “The South will Rise Again” bumper sticker, I would joke, “And do what?!?”

But it’s not funny at all. They white Southerners are rising again–and what they’re trying to do, by their own admission, is to push an agenda to ensure the prosperity of the white (Christian, straight) race. They want every one else gone or else so subservient that they might as well be. Race traitors like me deserved to be destroyed too, since I’m not helping their cause.

The “American” “way of life” they’re talking about losing is one of state-sanctioned white privilege. It’s the one where your whole state puts on that airbrushed confederate flag t-shirt.

It’s not about being Southern. It’s not about states’ rights. It never was.

That’s why the only “right” talked about in Confederate papers and speeches was the right to own black people.

That’s why black Southerners don’t fly the Confederate flag on their pickups.

And that’s why Nazis fly the Confederate flag in Germany, where Nazi flags are banned.

There’s a meme going around that says liberals think Southern statues “aren’t important.”

They are so important. That’s why they need to come down.

**************************************************

The KKK and the Nazis can march with assault rifles, and the cops do nothing. And the President defends them. That way of life will apparently be fine, statues or no statues.

Unless we do something.

Removing the statues is a small step, but a necessary one.

I don’t know how this started.

I just know it has to stop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Adventures of Karma’s Online Dating: Entry 72
Aug 26th, 2017 by Dr Karma

A guy who only had pictures on his profile messaged me this week:

Him: Hi there! How are you?

Me: Hi! Could you fill out your profile and answer some more questions? I’m on OKC instead of Tindr so I’ll have more than a picture to go on.
(Nice pics, by the way.)

Him: Haha no

Me: Fair enough.
Have a great day, and I hope you find what you’re looking for!
🙂

 

[I shake my head, resign myself to celibacy.]

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