Sunday, July 18, 2010

What a morning

Saturday mornings have always been full of promise for me and today was no exception.  Liv was setting off on her mission trip to a Sioux reservation in South Dakota, Ally and Chip were playing in a softball tournament and I was looking forward to a night of music in a local park.  A beautiful and perfect summer day, muggy and buggy and blindingly sunny.  The kind of day I try to sock in my memory for February when I'm in need of a warm thought.

Senior citizen blankets plus mine

As a recreational crier I had the privilege of getting in some tears early as this admirable group of kids and their dedicated chaperones posed for photos before the youth pastor had us circle for a quick prayer for safe travels and thanking US for sharing our kids (he's taking my kid for a week and he's thanking me? ) before hollering "Hug and kiss and load 'em up!" A tear jerking moment for me inspirational enough to consider volunteering my time on future missions.  But it it does.  Philanthropic use of my free time dedicated to the civic, moral and emotional development of young people?  That boat sailed a long time ago and I found myself waving from the marina bar.

Little darlings

Later when I had lunch with the softball gang and bore witness to my kid's do-gooder posse, especially marveling at the adults who sign up to do these trips with forty teenagers, one of the softball dads replied cavalierly "Well, those types of kids aren't like these kids."  I peered down the table at our sassy superstars wondering where avid sports dad was going.

"Most kids like the ones that play sports can be too aggressive and unruly and that isn't the kind of kid that goes on mission trips." The implication being that kids who go on mission trips are easier to travel with than the yahoos at our lunch table.  It was a generalized statement about pretty diverse bunches of kids both in the church youth group and on the softball diamond. But simplicity aside, is it accurate in any way?  Although kids try on lots of hats in adolescence, my experience is that despite the hat they have a deeper, inherent sense of their own universal personal truths (hate bugs, homesickness, hate parents) and know the limits of what they can ask of themselves.  And so do kids who know they can't possibly be well behaved riding in a hot van for seventeen hours across Minnesota and South Dakota generally avoid signing up for such things?  I'm sure the youth minister could tell a story or two of some mission trip antics by the most saintly of children, but overall softball dad's theory might not be totally off.

Regardless of how well behaved and inspired the group of kids is on the mission trip I'm sure the chaperones will be the first ones disembarking from the vans in a week with their hands in the air like they just don't care. It's an unbelievably generous emotional commitment and a lot of psychic wear and tear to keep even good kids from offending Native Americans and wandering off into the plains of South Dakota to chase prairie dogs.

Meanwhile left to my own devices, friends and I attended Madison Opera in the Park.  Despite the icky old people on the adjacent blanket seriously groping each other through their clothes and the tenor's voice blowing out on more than one note, there is nothing bad that can be said about drinking wine and listening to music outdoors on a blanket.  But we prayed hard for the darkness to come, cloaking the oldsters' foot rubbing. back massaging and thigh entwining from our bleeding eyes.  Seriously gross and no amount of mind bleach can erase the horror when I close my eyes.


  1. What opera was being presented...
    And as for the contiguous blanket canoodling...eeeeewwww...
    I believe the proper way to deal with that display is to loudly state: "Get a room"
    Or another favorite of mine..."For God's sake...think of the children."

  2. I don't know... Happy cuddlers are so not gross to me. Screamers, smokers, arguers, punchers, stinkies -- gross. People who are in an embrace -- beautiful.

  3. @MLS, it's just samplings of what the Madison Opera will be doing for the 2010-11 season, La Traviata, ThreePenny Opera and The Marriage of Figaro. I will remember your words if ever I run across this couple again. @Nina, their behavior was so wildly inappropriate and self indulgent, we ourselves were laughing....not beautiful on any level.

  4. Oh my - I am swift in thought looking ahead to my own 2 girls finding their paths. As it is, if they can find their beds and toothbrush, I am calling it a good day.
    Still loving your humor...will I ever tire?
    I think not.

  5. Having just shared the Onalaska Hampton Inn with -- I swear -- THOUSANDS of 12-yr-old baseball playing boys and their families, I can't imagine any group being more ... what was that? -- aggressive and unruly? Um, yep.

    And yes, as it has always been, stepping over a certain PDA line is definitely TMI. Regardless of age. I need the mind bleach just thinking about it!

    Glad the Hunter ladies are all enjoying their worlds and looking forward to an adolescent-free weekend in LaCrosse soon. :D

  6. "Wildly inappropriate," Julie, is, of course, subjective. I tend not to be bothered by behavior that seeks not to offend. I can never understand why our threshold for signs of violence and aggression is so much higher than for love and affection. I may think someone's way of expressing love toward another isn't pretty (we like it in movies where bodies are unnaturally beautiful, but not in real life where they are motley and ravaged). I'll look away, but I will never think that they are somehow wrong to express warm feeling toward one another.

  7. Well, hands in crotches at the opera crosses the line for a lot of people.

  8. it's those damn suggestive cialis commercials given em ideas...

  9. I do know that people have differing views on this and I accept that they do, even as I don't understand them: why is it okay to watch with a roomful of strangers actors make love in a movie (beautiful scenes of this in I Am Love, now playing at Sundance), and so deeply disturbing to watch "the oldsters' foot rubbing, back massaging and thigh entwining?" This is a genuine puzzle for me. I just cannot get myself to attach the label of immoral, icky or disturbing to physical affection. The most I can hope for is to understand why others do, hence this protracted comment.

  10. Gazing, loving, public hand holding --just dandy. Groping, entwining, 'look at how in love we are' behavior in a public fourm==not so much. Natalie H.

  11. nina, I think a fundamental difference is context. Movies with love scenes: typically kind of brief, either moving the story along or a bit of gratuitous, salacious eye candy. Or both. Producers/directors usually know when enough is enough! (Or it's porn, and in that case, odds are the viewer is a willing participant.)

    What Julie describes is a very public occasion (Opera. In a park.) People placed blankets in advance to reserve their spot for an extended event, and courtesy to the performers and one's blanket-neighbors might give the expectation that they could be spared prolonged exposure to other people's extremely intimate activities. (What happened to listening politely to performers sharing their gifts and work?)

    If people are having obvious contact with each other's genitalia, I'd see that as inconsiderate at the very least. "Exhibitionism" might apply, too. Definitely inappropriate. YMMV. But the phrase "get a room" resonates for a reason!

    I well remember my dad talking to me about movie ratings in the early 70s. (I saw "The Graduate" at a remarkably young age.) He mused that "a little skin" was far less offensive to him than violence. 40 years later, and as a mother of a young boy, I agree. But it doesn't excuse people being inconsiderate -- rude? self-absorbed? -- to others not wanting to be a part of it!

    Peace, hugs & kisses to you -- but of a polite, not-too-effusive, cringe-inducing sort.

  12. Nope, still don't buy it. And mind you -- this says nothing about my own preferences on how to demonstrate my own feelings of love. But there was a time... And truly, do you not remember it? When love was so potent, so palpable that you just wanted to be physically connected to the person who was your object of desire all the time? You find that offensive? Okay, I know some do. I don't.

    It's all a question of line drawing. "Movies, typically brief... moving story along... eye candy" -- that's acceptable to you. What I find difficult to accept is that my line, your line, should be THE line that separates the ugly from the beautiful. In terms of love, I'd rather let people define it for themselves. It's love. What could possibly be deserving of prohibition about that?

    Family viewing. Sigh. Family values. Shield your kids. Pretend otherwise. I get it -- people use these phrases all the time. I just don't agree.

  13. Frankie and I went to A Winter's Tale in Central Park two weeks ago and a young couple directly in front of us had their tongues in each other's ears for all of Act Two. Is a play different from opera?

    They were young and he was pretty; she, not so much. They were directly in front of us, and I had used the gap between their heads to see the stage during Act One. For all of Act Two, I sat wondering what reaction Frankie and I would have received had we enjoyed each others' company similarly. A few murmurs? Some heavy sighs? Even in New York, you can still get a "FAGGOTS!"

    Ultimately, since seats at Shakespeare in the Park are so limited, and coveted, I decided the long deep kissing was selfish -- like going to a show with your iPod in your ears. Not really much different than talking to the screen. It's why we have homes, I thought. And so I wondered, does that mean I don't like watching people gettin' it on in public.

    Love is more beautiful when we opt in, so I guess voyeurism is less offensive to me than exhibitionism. Until everyone can do it without getting spit on or called names, maybe no one should do it.

    Meanwhile, Julie, I've been waiting a year for some frickin action on this blog. Finally! Nice job -- way to post!

  14. I don't understand the term exhibitionism. If he or she are splendid then it is unremarkable that he or she should be undressed. But if they are ordinary or old or with age, then they're somehow trying to coopt us into their act. My guess is that they're not.

    I spend a part of many summers along the coast of distant seas where old women with bulges and crevices walk around topless. Is that exhibitionism? Is not exhibitionism because they know that no one will notice or care?

    Truly, I think we are conflicted and inconsistent. Why does it matter that you or I like it or do not like it? Why do we tout to the rest of the world the idea of free expression and then censor those who express warm feelings toward each other? I just don't understand.

  15. Stop. This is boring me.


  16. Well, I just hate to bore Ally, but I need to be sure I've got the basic principle down.

    Because I was at a play. It was the Bard, and all. So I was trying to concentrate. Queen Hermione died, boy-prince Mamillius died. And then the people in front of me begin freely expressing themselves.

    And that's ok. Loud or soft, big or small, it's all to be encouraged, because the Supreme Court of Nina has deemed that free expression of "warm feelings" trumps all other freedoms. Not "hot feelings", or "cold feelings." And not "tepid" or "lukewarm" feelings. Just the warm ones. OK, I think I'm good to go.

  17. Naked at Opera in the Park is an interesting idea and one I might get behind for 2011.

    But if we leave people to determine what feels good without some subjective lines we draw as a society, it would seem to suggest that people having outright sex in public would be ok with Opera in the Park? And I should just be cool with that? Because then I don't want to go anymore. And not for nothing, I would equally condemn violence as much as watching icky people getting it on. But apparently opera incites lovers not fighters.

    Since I was the only one there I am the expert here. You have the luxury of calling it an expression of warm feelings and happy cuddling but you didn't see it. It was sexual and it was constant and it was a selfish indulgence of personal gratification at the expense of others' personal comfort. I live in the real world and I didn't make the social rules but overtly sexual behavior like french kissing and putting hands in each other's genital areas while in public makes a lot of people feel uncomfortable especially if unable to move away. If they were lying on Bascom Hill, I could walk by and have the freedom to look or not look and that is absolutely different.

    You've made a pretty subjective stand yourself against smokers, stinkers, screamers and punchers and I would say they are not such a problem for me, especially outdoors. Maybe we need to look at applying some of this freewheeling acceptance of the lovers to the smokin' stinkin' and screamin'. I'm with you on the punchers. They are not welcome.

    I'm really done beating this horse and nothing will compel me to comment further. Famous last words.

  18. Sigh. You misunderstand, Zgawdn. 1. I don’t want to impose my views. 2. Like everyone, I have some arbitrary line, even as I question my own line drawing. 3. I’m merely suggesting that we are conflicted in that we call for the privatization of expressions of (clothed) love or affection even as we are mesmerized by what we openly view in movies (naked love). At the core, we appear to be somewhat harsher toward the ordinary person than we are toward, say, Penelope Cruz. 4. You’ve upped the bar, Julie, in the course of this comment session. Remember, you initially wrote that they were entwined, giving back rubs and foot massages. Only later did it become crotch grabbing, and then later – a sexual act. I would not have commented had you started with sexual acts and crotch grabbing. 5. I suggested that we be more forgiving when people express affection (which is different than having sex by any measure), though I agree that if as a society we condemn such expression, then those who like to cuddle should hide or expect to experience the wrath of those around them. 6. I certainly agree that we (in America and pretty much everywhere else) definitely have spoken against sexual acts in public and I can list any number of reasons why this is so and so we can put that one to rest. That’s all.

  19. Au contraire, mon ami. Your romanticized redefinition of said offenders from the get-go as happy cuddlers and warm embracers led us all off on this mad thread. You may have meant it as a philosophical query but it felt invalidating and untrusting. My Irish is up.

    As always, I was trying to be funny...and I was.

  20. It's true, I do hold a generally positive view of the world. No disagreement there. I impute good intentions when I see no malice. And to you as well, Julie. Which is why your Irish should not be up.

  21. Wow. Julie & I are going to Concert on the Square tomorrow night. I'll lay out the blanket and stake out a good spot early, but I'm under no illusions that I'll get past first base. And judging from the range of responses here, it appears that most of the other patrons will appreciate the restraint.

  22. OK-I blanched when I read your latest blog, as BF and I were laying on a blanket and were cuddling a bit (no genital contact but did hold hands). I had put a blanket over my legs to ward off the mosquitoes, and Larry may have had one leg under the blanket as well. We do qualify as oldsters, and could have looked as if we were fondling, but thankfully I took a closer look at your photo as was relieved to see that you weren't in the same location we were up at the top of the hill.
    I pray that it wasn't us grossing people out. Mr. Z can get a little fresh at times.

  23. BTW-I agree with you Julie regarding over the top PDAs-thus my worry that someone may have thought there was something going on under my blanket!!! You were nice not to have said anything to the groping couple.