This is the first story in a series about my family, or at least the first following “Freezer Mouse” which you can read here. My family is awesome, I adore my parents, and they almost always had my best interest in mind.
Since illustrating people makes me anxious I drew us according to our family nicknames: my mom is “bunny”, my dad is “frog”, my brothers are “puppy” and “piggy” and I’m “kitten”.
Chirpstory lets you tell a story in tweets, so each piece of the story has to be 140 words or less. I’m a big fan of artistic challenges that impose specific structural requirements because for me it encourages creativity and cures artist/writer’s block.
John Fugelsang’s chirpstory about his parents’ unusual love story is worth reading no matter where you are in your romantic life. Enjoy!
I’m sad about Whitney’s death but just a few minutes after I learned about it I thought to myself “I wonder how Madonna feels about this”. I think about this question more regularly than I should, like when I’m pondering breakfast options, but this time it’s something she might actually care about. I really wonder how Madonna feels about her pop royalty competitors–at least the ones from her generation–dropping like flies around her. Not so much does she feel sad about it, but does she feel like “wow, I didn’t plan for this”? First MJ, now Whitney, and both well before their time.
While searching for an appropriate Whitney pic while trying not to support the spectacle of her drug abuse I stumbled upon a chance of fate that pretty much captures my question:
I know complex algorithms determine what ads appear where, but screw that this is God’s work. It’s a divine convergence between the hoopla over Madonna’s halftime show last weekend and Whitney’s early demise last night. Madonna is not only still alive, she is also still producing exquisite entertainment and selling tickets. Even if you think it’s junk, she’s out there on her own terms.
This is by no means a “stop hating on Madonna” plea. I love fighting with fans and non-fans about her, and I don’t buy all her shit (musically, cinematically, philosophically…). But she has survived and continued to entertain us all one way or another.
A funny thing happened for me when Michael Jackson died: I thought to myself that it was really easy to scoff at him when my vision of him never included his death. And it was really, really easy to goggle at Whitney’s plummet from grace when I didn’t expect drugs to take her life just as they could take anyone else’s. It could just be rose-tinted glasses and nostalgia, but I think there’s something more troubling about their deaths.
We have a very strange relationship with the people who entertain us. When they die that relationship is magnified (briefly) and I bet a lot of us wonder why we care so much. They don’t love us or feed us or pay our bills. They do something else for us. Our sadness when they die is proof that food, security, even love isn’t all we need to live. We also need entertainment.
As for Madonna: you go and thrust that crotch at the camera so I can live.
Years ago I worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, in particular one that provided abortions. On my day off I got a phone call from a cheerful Planned Parenthood volunteer encouraging me to call some senator or attend a rally. She began the drill about how I could help protect abortion rights, to which I said “I WORK in one of our clinics, isn’t that enough?”.
Looking back the answer to my question is no, it’s not enough, but it’s not because that chirpy Planned Parenthood rep was right. It’s because I didn’t do anything at the clinic to address the problem that I think underpins all the legal, political, and social anguish in which abortion is still mired, including the latest Susan G. Komen debacle. The problem is that we fight about abortion plenty but we don’t speak about abortion nearly enough.
We as friends, families, schools, work places, Facebook friends and tweeps don’t speak about abortion. Well who the heck wants to, you say? It doesn’t matter where you are, Colorado or New York City, abortion is a shaky topic in any conversational context. So we sidestep it, cover it with metaphors and bumper stickers and convenient miscarriages on TV, and hope that it’s best for everyone whether pro-choice, anti-choice, or no comment.
But you know who gets hurt when we don’t speak about abortion? Women having abortions. Their families, friends, even their health care providers get hurt too. And guess what else: all the above people are the same people. One of the significant flaws in the “Who wants to speak about it” logic is the misconception that abortion is rare and affects only a small percentage of the population, or at least a small percentage of the people we know. But really, unlike some other controversial topics like capitol punishment, abortion is a pretty common experience. You don’t have to poll your friends to confirm this, just look at the numbers. In short, no matter who we are or what we assume about those around us, we hurt each other by not speaking about abortion.
Not around it, but about everything from the nuts and bolts of the procedures to the nuanced and complicated emotions of each person involved in receiving, supporting, or providing an abortion. That was another thing I learned from Demystifying Abortion: we have to accept that what we hear may not mesh with any larger political, legal, or moral agenda.
Sure, Planned Parenthood and NARAL may reference anecdotes from real patients about their abortion experiences if it will help promote the cause. So do anti-choice organizations. What must change is that the goal of speaking about abortion should be to improve past, present and future abortion experiences, not pass laws or raise money for a side.
So where to start? Right now, this very moment, there is a groundbreaking organization called Exhale that helps people speak about abortion after they’ve experienced one, without agenda, without therapy, without attempts to control the dialogue. Through the wonderful “Demystifying Abortion” panelists I learned that there are now “abortion doulas” (another dream job for me??) who help women through their abortions and also work to include abortion-related services in doula/midwife communities, similar to Medical Students for Choice.
I believe established pro-choice NPOs do a huge part in protecting abortion rights and increasing access. I also believe they have a fundamental conflict of interest when it comes to encouraging us to speak about abortion outside of their tightly controlled dialectical framework.
And I am so, so excited that now is the time to speak.