Saturday, November 15, 2014

On Dirty Girls

Pardon me, but I have to get something off my chest. Or more accurately, my thighs and ass.

I'm recently returned from a short trip through western New York, northern Pennsylvania, and northern Ohio on my way to Akron, trying to dodge bad weather hammering Cleveland and Erie.

I like Ohio in many ways. The people are uncommonly friendly, from hotel desk clerks to crowds milling in line to enter Akron's gorgeously renovated Civic Theater. The weather, while wintry, has more sunshine than I get at home. Drivers tend toward courteous, letting you into their lane.

But there's one thing I loathe about Ohio. I first noted it more than a decade ago, and it seems to be worsening. I see it at highway rest stops, restaurants, hotels, stores, academic buildings on college campuses, sports stadiums, museums, movie theaters, comedy clubs, and music venues large and small.

Ohio women--surely not all of them, but far too many--hover above the toilet seat rather than sitting down. They piss on the seat and often the floor as well. They do not clean it up. If you're the next woman and not paying attention, you're going to seat yourself in somebody's pee. If you are paying attention, you get the pleasure of wiping up some stranger's urine.

Oh, sure, I've gone to the next stall, and the next, and the next, living one of those weird dreams you're having because you really need to pee but haven't waked up yet, to no avail. It's not that some inconsiderate woman has hover-peed. It's that a great many do. At a place with a half-dozen stalls, it's not at all unusual to find every single one of them sporting a wet toilet seat.

This does not happen in neighboring Pennsylvania, by the way. You use a public restroom in Pennsylvania, the seat is likely to be dry, same as in most places.

So what is it about Ohio? My theory is that there's a basic distrust of and contempt for other-ness. In one's home, for instance, and perhaps at one's job, one's church, etc. surely these women sit. They presume the bathroom that looks clean is clean and the basic hygiene of the others using the bathroom is fine. They're right.

However, they also presume people and places they don't know are dirty, that sitting on toilet seats which only look clean might make them dirty, too, that the default for other women is unclean. And so they hover, making the seat unclean for others.

Who's dirty?

I take offense at the attitude that anyone who's not One of Us is presumed dirty. This isn't just about toilet seats but carries over into politics and social mores, and it's every bit as ugly as somebody's cold piss on the seat.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yup, I'm in There

The internet is all the proof required to know many, many people cannot reason at the most basic level. The family member who thinks schools need to teach logic in middle school is absolutely right.

I'm a fangirl--it doesn't matter which actor--and there's a woman I see on various fan sites who is certain the actor is gay. She reads between the lines of every print interview in which he mentions a male friend or colleague, gleefully reposts pictures in which he stands near any other handsome actor (while ignoring those of him near or touching gorgeous female actors), knows his few public relationships with women are for publicity's sake, ignores the pregnant girlfriend, and generally sees what she wants to believe whether it's there or not.

Among her favorite arguments to convince others (which seems to be her mission in life) is a novel written by a gay director who has worked with the actor. A character in that novel is very probably based on the actor, and that character is gay and has sex with the narrator. Obviously the director had sex with the actor, right? Is this not proof?

This is where her logic fails.

Novelists, including this director, put themselves into their characters. There's a bit of me in everyone I write, male and female, hero and villain, gay and straight and in between. I'm the curvacious wife--and her neglectful husband, the new lover, the older woman who becomes a friend, the elderly neighbor headed for a nursing home, the harried doctor, the stuttering man who prays aloud, and the cop.

Writers add many details which are not drawn from their own lives. They're inventions, fantasies, what-ifs, intended to develop the character or propel the plot.

Do I fret over my looks like Natalie? Yes. Am I long and happily married like she is? Yes. Would I add a very attractive person we'd only met that evening to our sex lives? Nope. I made that part up, like the director probably did his gay scene with "my" actor's character.

Using our own lives, and minutia drawn from those around us, is how authors make their characters seem real and rounded, with lives which existed before the events in the book and which will continue after its end--unless we kill them. I work hard to give my characters backgrounds and childhoods, opinions, beliefs, hopes, fears, families, friends, weaknesses, doubts, jobs, frustrations, tempers, senses of humor, hobbies and interests, and everything else real people have which make the simplest lives rich.

I make it all up, peppered with a few tidbits from real lives if they fit in the fictional mosaic of my characters' lives.