A Blessed Woman

I’ve been reflecting on what, to me, is a lack of perspective on the part of many women in the U.S., and, if I may be so bold as to say it, a lack of gratitude for how good we actually do have it here.  With that thought in mind, I did a little research on places in the world where women’s rights are truly restricted. Here is what I discovered:

  1. In some states of India there are strict rules requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.  A great law, to be sure, because if you’ve ever seen footage or actually been able to visit and see for yourself then you know that their traffic is not like our traffic.  You take your life in your hands on a motorcycle and it’s nothing to see three or four people hanging on for dear life to the bike in bat-out-of-hell traffic.  Anyway, great law, right?  Yeah, for dudes and dudes only because women are exempted from wearing protective helmets and they are injured and die by the thousands because of it.  They say {this is ironic and darkly funny to me} they’re just trying to keep from messing up women’s beautiful hairstyles and expertly applied makeup.  Excuse me while I throw up because everyone knows that a woman’s life has very little value in that culture.
  2. How about Yemen in the Middle East? Let’s say a woman witnesses a crime and her testimony could prove innocence or guilt of an individual.  She’s willing to testify but, alas, she must have her testimony backed up by a man. A woman is not “recognized as a full person before the court.” Oh, I forgot…she may testify if the said crime occurred in a beauty shop or any place a man would not be. She may NOT testify in cases of adultery, libel, theft or sodomy. Blech…
  3. Here’s two—one not a shocker, the other surprising to me. Women still may not vote in Saudi Arabia or Vatican City, which, as you know, is home of the Pope and a country all to itself. Looks to me like the Supreme Pontiff himself would intervene and show how progressive he really is.
  4. Saudi Arabia again and the North African country of Morocco, land of genies in bottles and magic carpets. There are many countries that fail to offer asylum and protection to rape victims but these two countries go in the Evil Hall of Fame. There’s no leaving the house without a male companion—a woman would be harshly punished for doing that. Unadvisable to ever be caught alone in the company of an unrelated man because the punishment will be swift and harsh. You can just hang it up if you get pregnant from such an encounter—it’s not his fault, it’s YOUR fault, you hussy. Several years ago there were reports of a 16 year old girl committing suicide after she was forced to marry her rapist—a statutory rape charge is dropped immediately if the rapist agrees to marry the poor child. I just threw up in my mouth a little.
  5. Here’s Yemen again. Don’t even think of leaving the house without your husband’s permission over there.  It’s a law. There are exceptions, though, thank God. You might escape punishment if you MUST rush out to take care of your dying parents. But you better have a man’s testimony to back up yours, girl.
  6. I don’t know about you but I love to turn up the music loud and take a leisurely drive through the country. Not in Saudi Arabia because women aren’t allowed to drive.
  7. Afghanistan—home of the Taliban. Obviously, you wouldn’t expect a country with such an oppressive presence to be progressive in its treatment of women, but it’s way worse than we can imagine. I’m 43. If I were an Afghan woman I probably wouldn’t make it to 50 because the life expectancy is just 45, ladies. I wouldn’t ever have the privilege of curling up with a good book because most likely I wouldn’t be able to read or write. I would’ve in all likelihood been forced to marry before I turned 16. I would have to grow up fast because I would get pregnant soon after marriage and face the very real challenge of surviving childbirth. A woman dies in childbirth every half hour in Afghanistan—shocking. If I am unlucky enough to lose my husband to death I will be forced to walk the streets and sell my body to survive. It’s not difficult to see why it’s the only country in which the suicide rate is higher for women than men.
  8. The Congo. Honestly, just the name gives me chills. It’s no place for a female, a brutal, violent land where rape is a part of life. And you’re not guaranteed to survive—not that you’d want to after such brutality. HIV is rampant and your very existence is seemingly without hope.
  9. Nepal—landlocked and stuck between domineering China and India, it’s home of Mt. Everest and the magical sounding Kathmandu that Bob Seger sang about. No magic, just evil abiding here because early marriage and malnourishment exhaust women there in such a way that one in 24 will die in pregnancy or childbirth. I find it amazing that pregnancy and childbirth is looked on as such a joyful, exciting time in this country; we expect to come home from the hospital with a live baby and live happily ever after. That’s a fantasy over there. Not only that, if a girl reaches the ripe old marrying age of sixteen (which, incidentally, is considered well past the desired age of marriage for a female-a much younger bride is most desirable) and finds herself in the unfortunate predicament of having no man in her windswept, dry village willing to marry her, she will most likely be sold off to sex traffickers by her family because she’s useless, only good for the price she’ll fetch for her young body.
  10. I could go on and on because this is by no means an exhaustive list but I’ll wrap it up by listing one of the world’s poorest countries, African Mali, where you would be the exception to the rule if you managed to escape the torture of genital mutilation.  And in case you think these atrocities are limited to Africa and Asia, I give you Guatemala in Central America, where violence against women and rape are commonplace. It’s true. As if that wasn’t enough, this little country has the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS after the sub-Saharan African countries. And adding insult to injury to our sisters over there, an epidemic has coursed through the land down there. Not an epidemic of disease but one of murder—hundreds of women dead, many left with hate messages scrawled on their lifeless bodies.

I offer these facts not as a scare tactic but as a way to possibly bring to mind an awareness of how good we as women have it here in this great nation. The fact that we can reasonably expect to receive an education, to avoid being raped and murdered, to vote and read and write, to survive pregnancy and childbirth and bring our precious ones home from a clean, safe hospital, to be the recipient of social services should we fall on dire circumstances, to choose if, who, and when we will marry—all these things are expected and not seen as rights and privileges in this country. We don’t get to choose where, to whom and into what circumstances we are born. If you are reading this on American soil you are blessed beyond measure and it’s my sincere hope that we all learn to live in a constant state of gratitude and awareness of our exalted station in life simply because we were born as United States citizens.



The Birthday Blog


Ten Truths for My 43rd Birthday

1. Most of us are doing the best we can…Let’s face it–most of us aren’t playing with a full deck, anyway. Throw even a little bit of physical or emotional trauma into the mix of a life–especially the sort of trauma that manifests itself in shame and self-loathing and is stigmatized by polite society–and, well, it’s a tried and true recipe for disaster straight out of  that beloved old favorite cookbook, “Recipes for Disaster from the Junior League of Podunk, Mississippi. “  

It’s just a complete wonder to me that we’re not all stumbling around in shoes without laces, catotonically doing the Thorazine shuffle in true Girl, Interrupted or One-Flew-Over-the-Cuckoo’s-Nest-style. (And if we’re playing the Official Girl Interupted Board Game, then I call Angelina Jolie because everybody knows the bad guy–or gal–role is more interesting and just plain funner to play. Think  J.R. Ewing and Southfork if you’re vintage enough to remember when Larry Hagman was the man we loved to hate.) 

By the time an individual reaches the three-quarters mark–less commonly referred to as Mile Marker .75–she’s hopefully developed a little common sense, which is not common, despite the misleading nature of its name. I’ll be the first to admit that this sensibility has been slow coming to me, but I like to think that after being burned by the same hot stove too many times to recount, I’m finally sick of it. No, really–my hands and arms are literally covered with burn marks from the oven. I already was not blessed with lovely hands and now it looks as if I’ve spent my entire adult life up to my armpits in scorching health department-hot dishwater, scouring away all the baked-on, caked-on gunk from the neverending stack of dishes in the greasiest all-nite joint you’ve ever seen. It’s a running joke between me and my kids and also a literal, living example of how not to do it, if you will. I do not want to be a Darwin Award recipient, of that I’m sure.

2. The areas that were so black and white to me in my younger years grow ever more gray with each passing year. And you know, I’m really happy about it because it’s not easy living life as a rigid person. Everything is not an absolute. It’s a relief and the lifting of a heavy burden to be able finally to acknowledge all the gray areas. And it’s not the worst thing in the world, either. Life is messy and it doesn’t all fit into neat little black and white gift boxes from White House Black Market. I can testify to this because I’ve been dealt some very untidy, messy stuff in the past year–which leads to #3.

3. I do not have it figured out yet and if it ever sounds like I do, don’t believe it….Oh, I though I was so smart for so long until I saw how stupid I was. Thinking I had all the answers led me to have crazy high expectations from life in general. It’s so laughable now that I thought I was owed something. As if my conception–and later–as day follows night–my birth–were just a little less important than the big conception over in Bethlehem–you know–the immaculate one. As if my very existence guaranteed a smooth turbulence-free ride. Well, brothers and sisters, when the proverbial excrement hit that great ceiling fan that this menopausal woman always has running at warp speed over her life, well, let’s just say that I was ill-equipped to handle it. My world caved in because I thought I knew everything but didn’t know how to accept the unexpected or roll with any kind of punches. Life had shaken me up and gotten my attention and the only absolute left in my thinking was that I knew that I knew absolutely nothing at all. 

4. Suffering is no respecter of persons…I’ve seen some hurting people this year and I’ve walked through some stuff with others, just as others have walked with me through my own pain. And I can tell you that I now know that suffering, trouble and toil come to us all, rich and poor alike. I don’t think it’s a fatalistic view–but it is realistic. Now, by no means do I have one foot in the grave and I still buy green bananas, reasonably confident that, God-willing and the creek down the road don’t do no rising overnight, I’ll still be walking this earth come daybreak. Since I’ll probably have to show up for life tomorrow and make an attempt at being some kind of successful and content, I don’t have the luxury of living on a pink fluffy cloud. At this juncture in my life it’s important for me to just be real with myself and see things as they are–not how I wish they were. 

5. Pain is the greatest motivator for change. For me it is, anyway. Because I’m stubborn and strong-willed. I can take a whole lot of pain–too much–before I surrender.

6. People can change if t want to…it’s rare but it happens.

7. I am rich no matter what’s in my billfold…eternally wealthy.

8. My children are my best friends…Four exquisite gifts from the Giver of All Good Gifts. Every year a new layer of our relationship unfolds and they rise up and call me blessed.

9. My brain still works! Considering the abuse it’s suffered this is excellent news. Yes, I still have my mojo.

10. Don’t count anybody out because God specializes in the impossible and the world loves an underdog. Root for that underdog.