Looking at Laura


I’ve always had a rocky relationship with Laura Ingalls.I’ve been reading the book “Libertarians on the Prairie” by Christine Woodside.  I have also recently read “Prairie Girl,” which is a collection of Laura’s unvarnished recollections of her life

I’ve been reading the book “Libertarians on the Prairie” by Christine Woodside.  I have also recently read “Prairie Girl,” which is a collection of Laura’s unvarnished recollections of her life

Growing up, I was always sitting in front of the television, watching this perfect American invention of what a girl should be, and our house was home to the entire series of books.  She was spunky, just the right amount to be mischievous and pull cute kid stuff, but never aspired to descend into any real rebellion.  Laura never brought home a science book with Darwin’s theory in it, asking difficult questions. Indeed, she was living in an age when they were first putting age restrictions on teachers, and a teaching certificate was only for rudimentary math and literacy.   Laura never listened to metal or punk or hard rock or gansta rap.  Laura never had a Barbie doll with a disco outfit.  Laura never tried to copy Soul Train dancers in her living room.  Laura never begged for a mini skirt (the tiered one with ribbon trim in different colors on each tier) or branded sneakers or cereal that had the cartoon of the day on the front.

I was overdosed with Laura and, when possible, the Walton clan, and reruns were endlessly on play whenever they were available.  My mother bought into and remained stuck in, that era of 70’s polyester pioneers and country simplicity bordering on bumpkinism.

Laura was guided only by elders in her actual presence.  Laura on tv had hair that hung in perfect braids (which my mother may still not realize was a wig.) Book Laura was impressed easily by what modern international trade made into everyday objects.  Laura didn’t have the benefit of chewable vitamins and would never live to see Geraldine Ferraro as a possible vice president, or 80’s era feminism.  Laura didn’t have Commodore and Apple computers at her school.

Laura was the one of the most wholesome of the wholesome professions for women—a teacher.  Later, a journalist, but in the books, always a teacher, and then a mom and wife. I found out when I was dating a Muslim man several years ago that Little House on the Prairie was well liked in his country and passed the censors because it was so completely safe.

It became apparent as I grew older, that my mother was desperate to be the wise and admired mother:  The Caroline (or on The Waltons, The Olivia).   Full of uncanny good judgment on TV, full of ridiculous teenage faux-mature behavior in the books. The reason my mother had children was to have someone to be wiser than.

I was born in 1976.  The tumultuous times of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper and Boy George were time for a different kind of wisdom.

In my mother’s eyes, Laura was a perfect poppet of just the right level of mischief.

But she was also poverty porn.

My mother idealized even the difficulties of prairie life. If there had been a way for her to make me stay home and do a bunch of farm work to show me how tough life was, she probably would have.  She frequently made me (not my brother, mind) work on my uncle’s farm, but would not allow me a summer job of my own outside of the family.   Laura was an example, an example to be happy and impressed that I even had shoes from a real store.  That I was supposed to be proud of homemade clothes over store-bought, and that’s how it used to be so I should shut up.

Encroaching on this mentality was always the problem of geography.  I am from the area surrounding Augusta, Georgia.  The old antebellum South.  There was no prairie for me. No deep snows.  This was a place planted by Oglethorpe, and sexualized through the shaking and quaking of James Brown.  I would see GI’s outside the Fort Gordon area drinking copious amounts of beer in the Pizza Hut on Dean’s Bridge Road, and hear them telling loud and dirty jokes.  I would go to Chinese restaurants older than I was. This wasn’t the prairie.  The closest thing in town was the Augusta National Golf Course, complete with the held breath of class consciousness it brings.

When I was quite young, still in elementary school, we had a town centennial beauty pageant.  My mother made my dress.  It was brown calico, unflattering for my coloring, and had an off-white apron and a bonnet.

I lost.  The little girl that won had something much fancier, much more likely for the area where we lived and the time frame in question.   The older girls that won wore prom dresses that were popular at the time that sort of had a faux-antebellum vibe.

Sometimes I think about the Laura’s that I did know.  Wholesomely wholesome unquestioning individuals, absorbing parental lessons rather than looking up another source of information, who became teachers and then stay-at-home moms. Always Protestant Republicans who majored in Early Childhood Education.

But, I don’t hate Laura.

I find her sitting there in the corner of the house of the mind, a dusty book once again picked up.

Laura and Rose cranked out good stories.  American literature that falls into the right rhythm in all the right places, and you feel the wagon creaking across an empty prairie again.  It’s good writing.  I still recognize the craftsmanship of the work itself.

I wish I could go back in time and tell that skeptical little girl that her suspicions are true.  And that yes, Dorothy and Alice are so much cooler.


Your Feelings About Abortion Aren’t About a Baby

There is one abortion clinic left in all of Kentucky.  One.  This story appeared on my news feed on Friday and I felt my gut wrench.

One. In a whole state.

The idea that all abortions should cease is a minority opinion in this country, and yet, that minority opinion keeps getting louder and louder.  And the protesters get meaner and ruder and worse all the time.  Angrier and Angrier.  More full of vitriol all the time.

They hate women.

Wait.  Let me rephrase that:  They hate women that have been found as being able to be sexed by men.  It doesn’t matter if the circumstances were rape or incest.  It doesn’t matter if the woman is a confused teenager or a 37-year-old married woman.  What matters is that the woman is guilty because she has female parts and a man experienced sexual excitement in her vicinity– mattering not if that was brought on by violence and rage or affection or some deranged perversion.  That is what they are angry about.  Having a pregnancy (not a child, but a full 9-month pregnancy) is the punishment they believe women should have for the crime of having attracted, even if that attraction was completely unwanted or even unwarranted.

They hate that women are holding their head up and walking into a clinic, verifying to the world that they have, indeed, been found fuckable at some point by someone.

This comes down to the sin of being female.  The sin of being able to attract. Hatred of women as attractors.

This comes down to assuming “nice boys” from “nice families” only do bad things if a bad woman gives them a reason, confuses her intention, or fails to be chaste in every possible aspect of her being.  This comes down to the too-low shirt or the cheerleader skirt or the strapless dress when no one says anything about the shirtless pool boy.

This is punishment for having female plumbing.

“Be pregnant for 9 months.  Grow a baby.  You should not have been attractive to anyone ever.  I don’t care if that was your intent or not.  You shouldn’t have been something other people could see as fuckable. Even you, Sister Hilda from the Convent who was raped while wearing a floor-length habit.  This is your punishment for being fuckable.”

Snicker if you wish, but I guarantee you– if it is living and breathing, something out there is wanting to have sex with it, no matter what it’s wearing.

The hard truth is:

If anyone honestly gave a damn about the kids, there wouldn’t be a single child sleeping on the street.  We would have enough homeless shelters and care centers for all of them. Why aren’t these religious organizations starting more homeless shelters?

If anyone honestly gave a damn about the kids, there would be no bickering over free healthy lunch in schools, and the cafeterias would not be outsourced to a private entity, but properly maintained and monitored.  Why aren’t these individuals protesting their local or state school board’s practices?

If anyone gave an honest damn about the kids, there would be comprehensive sex education across the board in the US that contained the tools to not only discuss sex but also to discuss boundaries and appropriate behavior.   Because American parents are way too scared to discuss sex in any rational manner whatsoever, and some of them may not know a lot about real sex education either because they didn’t have in in their school.

If anyone gave a damn about the kids, we wouldn’t be letting them get their ONLY sex education on how the body actually works from cheesy and wholly unrealistic internet porn.

If anyone gave a damn about the kids, there wouldn’t be a single child who is waiting to be adopted and these same people would be spending some of this protest energy on launching protest campaigns to reduce the cost of adoptions and the time for adoption transitions.

The first thing that anyone says is, “They should give them up for adoption.” Quickly followed by, “But it’s so expeeensiiivee.  And it takes soo longggg.” No one is protesting those laws.  Why not?  Where is the outcry?  Where is the demand to change that legislation?  Where is the ever-vocal minority on that?  It doesn’t exist because they really don’t care about it.  If they did, they would be doing something about it.

No.  We get people harassing women at the only abortion provider left in an entire state.

I’ve seen our sexual culture change.  In my high school years (think about the early 1990s), sex was just a thing you maybe did or didn’t do, and many sexually active kids did have, purchase, and have access to condoms.  Many boys in my high school carried condoms in their wallet, “Just in Case”.  While some might snicker at the assumption that these teen boys would ever get lucky, the fact is, kids were having sex all the time.  Those condoms got used.  The pregnancies that happened were often because the condom broke, not because there wasn’t one.  Sexual responsibility was a part of emerging adulthood, regardless if that responsibility led to abstinence or responsible sexual behavior.

Now, it seems we are in a world where teens are almost given the culture of having sex accidentally and unprepared as being the normal situation.   There has been an emergence of an American subculture that wants the drama, the negative outcome, salivating over the punishment.   They keep setting up the perfect storm:  Lack of sex education, so that people, especially kids, can only make stupid decisions, which can be devoured later with their eyes to give some sense of smug self-satisfaction.  Giving only one path for escape, knowing most won’t follow.  All to visually feast and scream through bullhorns at those who bear the burden of failure combined with bad luck so that they can be made examples of.

Because that is what they want.  Not more babies in the world.  Satisfaction from seeing a punished, “fallen” woman.  A woman punished because her body is breasts and hips and thighs and that female-ness committed the crime of being and therefore attracting, a male.