Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's more about the action than the standing around looking sad

Five days a week I drive along about four miles of road that is flanked by cemeteries. I hardly notice them on the drive in because traffic is pretty light; we all glide right by. The drive home is a different matter.

We are bumper to bumper, no hope of getting around the 301 bus, sullen about our jobs and stymied by the traffic. Quite a few heads are turned towards the grave stones that dapple the grassy knolls on either side of us. Large monuments, modest head stones, and plaques flat on the ground that are only noticeable because of the plastic flowers standing vigil over them.

Every day my eyes slide across names, birth datess, and death dates of strangers. I wonder the usual questions. What kind of life? What kind of person? How the hell do you pronounce that name?

Then the news broke about the Burr Oak Cemetery fiasco. I noticed fewer people were just casually glancing at the cemeteries and more people were peering across the lawns to catch a glimpse of any wrongdoing. I didn't. Even if these cemeteries were caught up in the same dispicible practice, they'd have sense enough to cut it out until the whole thing cooled down.

Today something caught my eye. Various colors dotted the marble gardens and there was more movement among the trees. People were coming to these cemeteries to make sure their loved ones were resting in peace. Or, just as likely, to see if this cemetery was also up to no good, and to get money for it.

My skepticism was gearing up to reach 11. I shook my head, thinking of how quickly people try to capitalize on everything - even the death of their loved ones. All these people coming to check if they had a case against the cemetery's caretakers, under the guise of paying respects to Aunt Betty.

But I suppose there are some out there who are genuinely checking in on their families' remains. People who were reminded that even the dead could use our attention now and again, even as an afterthought. People who felt hindsighted love for the buried and nearly forgotten. People who cherished memories in private and were now forced to wonder if the last memory of that loved wouldn't be a kind smile or a fond funereal farewell, but the long and laborious fight to make sure the ones they love really do get to rest in peace.

And deep in my skeptical heart, I know that if I were to find out someone had desecrated my grandparents' graves, I wouldn't sue anybody. I'd fuck them up, but I wouldn't bother to sue them. My grandfather was buried in the mid-80's, my grandmother in the mid-90's. They both rest in Kansas, in adjoining plots that I haven't seen since the day we buried my grandmother.

So I'm trying to see the good in people, trying to see each new boquet of flowers scattered around the cemetery as an example of people who love the dead enough to leave the saddest memories alone and keep with them every day the best moments and sweetest thoughts.

I cook with my grandmother's bowls and pans, I keep my towels in a cabinet my grandfather made. I remember playing cards and watching Johnny Carson with the two most stable adults in my childhood. I'll hold on those memories. I'll remember those good, strong, healthy times instead of counting the years that I haven't stood beside their headstone to say words that don't mean as much as I want them to mean.

And I hope each person coming to check on their parents, grandparents, children, and friends will understand that in the end, it's still the thought that counts.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Why "Drop Dead Diva" doesn't reel me in

Sure, the show was on Lifetime, but I figured I'd give it the benefit of the doubt and see how it was. After all, Margaret Cho was on it.

"Diva" is the story of some waif who dies and comes back as a fattie. Not a blunt, just a "plus-size" gal. When is Hollywood going to stop giving us this story? "Shallow Hal" tried to throw that same shit down my throat and it was just as disgusting coming from Gwyneth Paltrow. Is this supposed to make skinny people stop making fun of fat people, or is it supposed to make fat people feel ok about themselves? It fails at both goals.

In one scene, Jane (the plus-sized, smart one) is having a small meltdown in her office. Her assistant, played by an almost unrecognizable Margaret Cho, sternly tells Jane to sit down and put her head back. Jane begrudgingly obliges, and Cho sprays Cheez-Whiz in Jane's mouth.

What the hell? You've just told America that fat women only get upset because they want cheese! Which means any valid reasons we might have to get upset will be met with "here, honey - have some Muenster and relax."

Don't get me wrong, I love cheese and have beheld its healing powers. However, don't women of any size have problems enough having their opinions and feelings being taken seriously? Don't we already have to work hard enough to make sure people know we're upset for a valid reason and we aren't just PMSing? The next time I'm lodging a valid complaint with anyone - the car repair place, the landlord, the guy with the teenie peenie - I want to be taken seriously. I don't want to hear "psht, lady, eat a fucking donut and calm the hell down."

So will it keep skinny people from making fun of fat people? No. Nor will it make fat people feel OK about themselves.

It's made clear that you can only be pretty OR smart. None of this pretty smart girl nonsense. And forget finding a fat girl in the city who can't quote Shakespeare, it's just not done. So, fat ladies everywhere, embrace your arcane knowledge of the Civil War and proper preposition placement! It's ok that you're fat because you're really good at crosswords!

There are other things wrong with this show - for example, how come Jane went immediately back to work after taking a bullet for a co-worker? Why would her company let her come back that same day? I tell you what, if I took a bullet for a co-worker and I had to come back to the office for something important (house keys, whatever) and my boss and co-workers were cool with me staying the rest of the day I would fucking quit. "Oh, hey, Meg - how's the flesh wound? Oh I don't mean flesh like you're fleshy, I mean you are fleshy, but I mean...anyway, can you fax this for me?"

Also, how come Jane hasn't been back to her house? I'm guessing the writers on this show have her living with at least three cats.

But the biggest problem with this show is that it wants fat people to both be and feel accepted. If you make a show where being fat is the focal point of the show, then you will never achieve that goal. Just make a show that has some fat people in it, some skinny people in it, and so forth. Like in "Gilmore Girls," where Melissa Murphy played Sookie St James. Nobody ever mentioned her being fat. She never had a very special episode about heart disease. She just went around being Sookie - funny, cute, good at her job. Not the fat girl, just a friend.

So does it make fat people feel better about themselves? Not really. The skinny girl who is "trapped" inside the fat girl (anybody else see the poorly hidden Richard Simmons lesson here?) is constantly bitching about the fat girl's body. When Jane goes to visit Deb's old friend, the friend tells Deb that if the two went out for the night, Jane's body wouldn't get past the velvet rope.

Sure, there's a nice little lesson in there about standing up for yourself and being proud of who you are ("shoulders back, stick out the rack" or something), but really - there are better ways to get that point across than to bombard us with fat stereotypes and two-dimensional characters.

After all, we fatties prefer more robust fare - both on our plates and in our TVs.