International Women's Day: Mustache March

Bryon and I are usually simpatico on nearly everything – well, except when it comes to budgeting. For example, my neighbor, who is PCS’ing (for those non-military types, that means moving); came in today and asked me, “do you throw out your plungers when you move?” This seems like a ridiculous question, as most people move ten miles down the road; and therefore, throw their plungers in a baggie in the backseat of their Hyundai. But, us military types, we pack ‘em up, gross germies included, and unpack ‘em months later, when the crates arrive, and then plunk ‘em back down next to a new toilet, in a new state. Can you imagine how many germs have multiplied in that time, in those dark, dank, moist, hot moving crates?

Her argument was simple: the minor cost of replacing a plunger is worth the waste of throwing a way a perfectly good plunger every few years. Given thought, I realized that in the twelve years of marriage to my dear husband, I think we’ve celebrated all of those anniversaries with the same plunger. Not literally; I mean, we haven’t sat across a candle-lit table with one another and our plunger. However, we’ve never replaced a plunger.

That means that, yes, we move our plunger. Alas, we disagree, fundamentally on budgeting, and on how, and when to spend money. This is not news. I buy boots. I buy clothes. I buy home goods. I buy anything shiny that catches my eye. I’m like a crow, or a toddler. And damn it, if given the choice, I’d buy a new plunger every time we moved. Hell, I’d buy a new one every time we used it, if I could rationalize it to Bryon; or, if living with Bryon didn’t necessitate its constant use! I’d just never considered it as a life issue. From now on, I will.

Why the preamble? Because I’m not capable of talking without babbling. But also, because he’s a commander, now. This means that he has the responsibility to uphold all the tenants of leadership that the Air Force shovels so far down your throat that your feet turn AF blue. The jargon about mentorship, teamwork and service can’t just be jargon anymore, not to him. I’ve seen him, on weekends, creating Power Points about these very topics, the sorts of things that would’ve made Lieutenant-me, and Captain-him (who we were when we met), roll our collective eyes at commanders’ calls. Poor Bryon. He knows it’s Kool-Aid; but not only does he have to drink it, he’s got stained spoons from making and serving it. At least it’s tasty.

But, this whole leadership thing has led to the first major rift in our marriage: Mustache March.

If you are in the military, or a spouse, you know what I am talking about. It means the men, join together, and grow facial hair, like a bunch of idiots. Its origins are murky and the stuff of legend, like the chupucabra. Some will make vague references to it having to do with March Madness. Those with a misplaced sense of dignity will claim that it’s done to raise awareness for men’s’ health issues, such as the oft ignored, or easily missed, symptoms of prostate cancer. If you google it, apparently, Wikipedia claims it is pays homage to some renegade pilot who grew a mustache to flout facial hair regulations, by growing a handlebar mustache: Robin Olds.

In reality, Mustache March is an excuse to remind everyone, including a man’s caveman brain, that he has enough testosterone to grow facial hair. It’s also a chance to bond, in a chest pounding way, with your fellow cavemen, about who looks like the bigger asshole with said facial hair. Who was able to pull off the closest Selleck mustache? And, who looks like they grew the kind of mustache that makes him look like he has to stay 500 yards away from a school?

Har. Har. Isn’t this fun?

Wait. Remember those gals with the vaginas and breasts that can’t grow mustaches? You love those parts when you get to play with them, but you whine about them when we use them to point out how they interfere with your fun. Isn’t that a pain in the ass? It’s also easy to play the, “ugh, there’s always something to complain about,” card; or, the “why mess with tradition?” card. Well, perhaps it’s important to raise our voices when there’s something wrong, even if it makes you uncomfortable, and even if it means it challenges the way that something has always been done. Just because something is tradition, doesn’t make it right.

It’s so convenient to say that they claimed that they wanted the unit to participate in Mustache March this year, that it would be fun! That it would even be such a team bonding experience. Of course, they say that. Who wants to be the spoil-sport? But, here’s the problem with that: if the entire team can’t play, it’s not a team building event, is it? It’s like playing Marco Polo with a deaf guy. Plus, women in the military have been conditioned to play nice with the boys, not to rock the boat. We’ve been conditioned that we are supposed to like the boys’ games, and that we play too, or we won’t be allowed to play at all. It’s why we do things like laugh at the non-stop sexual innuendo jokes from pilots, pretending that they are not the humor of twelve-year-olds. We play so we can be allowed to be in the professional circle.

Sure, she may like seeing you guys looking like assholes with your ridiculously ugly mustaches; because face it, less than 1% of the population pulls one off successfully. However, it doesn’t bond you as a team. In fact, it’s directly exclusionary on premise alone. If the only way she’s included is to be amused from the outside, how is it inclusionary? Plus, even if the goal is lofty, men’s’ health awareness, where is the equivalent team-building event for women. Or, if it’s to pay homage to a rule against facial hair, it’s even more exclusionary. Unless we include particularly hairy women who wax, intentionally, of course; but, that’s another ball of wax.

Which brings us back to why my husband and I are at odds, this month. He’s doing Mustache March with his unit. It infuriates me. We’ve had conversations about Mustache March for years. Every year we’ve been in the Air Force, in fact. I saw it on active duty. I’ve seen it as a spouse. I have always said it’s ridiculous, exclusionary, and an example of trickle-down sexism that should be shunned from the top and made an example of as institutionalized sexism. He’s agreed. I’ve said that, if I were Chief of Staff of the Air Force, I’d ban it. It’s that important to me to make women feel included as part of the Air Force.

Now that he’s in a leadership position, he’s got a mustache, and he’s playing. I’m disappointed. He says the women wanted to play. I know he’s torn, because I know his principles, and his gut says that it’s wrong; but I know he wants to make his team happy. Or, he wants to do what he thinks makes his team happy. But, institutionalized sexism comes from the top down; without the Chief of Staff making the call, it’s incumbent on lower level leadership to do the right thing. Small changes make big changes.

In conversations, he admitted he didn’t even know what the history of Mustache March was. I knew more than he did. Ugh. Annoyed. Why is he doing this, again? Principles, man! Principles! Stand up. Even when it’s hard. I feel like what’s right is right, regardless of situation; but I’m a hard-ass loudmouth, who, thank god, got out of the military before it kicked me out for being insubordinate.

I told him that it was International Women’s Day, this week; and I asked him what he did to remind his unit, or to celebrate, with his ridiculous mustache that infuriates me every time I look at it. He said he didn’t do anything. So, I told him I still don’t like his mustache, and that I had the perfect way to celebrate. He said to post away.

I think that by the time this Mustache March is over with, he will be tired of hearing my lectures about how equality is not the same as fair, and that his position afforded him the ability to affect change, and he missed it. He will also get tired of wearing the Wonder Woman Band-Aids that I ordered for him to wear while at home. It’s not just that it’s ugly, it’s ugly on the inside. I can’t stand looking at the damn thing for the rest of the month. Thank goodness he’s TDY a lot this month…something I don’t generally say!

So, happy International Women’s Day.


Wonder Woman's Comic Con Delay - With a Side of Plagiarism

I am throwing myself a pity party. It’s sad a pathetic here right now. I am supposed to be at Comic Con with my family, schmoozing with all the geeky nerds, pushing through throngs of people, and fighting for free stickers and swag that I’ll argue with Collin about to throw away next week, because it is, indeed garbage.

More specifically, several hours ago, I was supposed to be climbing into the invisible jet, in one of my Wonder Woman costumes, and smiling for a picture that I’d treasure forever. I was prepared to throw elbows for a spot in that line (it was last night). The promise was that it would be lit up for a nighttime display. I was thrilled to see it, thrilled to be a part of it, and ecstatic to sit inside it. It was a dream come true. Now, all I can do is hope that it’s not dismantled by the time I make it down there.

Why aren’t I there? And where is my family?

Well, my family has made it to Comic Con...without me, Franky! Not to worry, the "plan" is that they come get me tomorrow morning, and "hopefully," I can join them. Fingers crossed.

Well, my family has made it to Comic Con...without me, Franky! Not to worry, the "plan" is that they come get me tomorrow morning, and "hopefully," I can join them. Fingers crossed.

Well, I’ve learned that I can’t depend of my body to hold together for much of anything. The one thing I can rely on it for, is to fall apart when something big is in the works. It threw me in bed with one of the worst Chiari attacks I’ve ever had, when I was supposed to be the dutiful, proud wife, at Bryon’s promotion ceremony. It slammed me into two emergency rooms, with much of the same, as we tried to drive cross-country for our move. And now, this. I guess that with my body, it’s like there are some things in this world you can rely on, like a sure bet. And when they let you down, shifting from where you’ve carefully placed them, it shakes your faith, right where you stand. You get used to it though.

Hi! From the ER. I know I don't look too sick, but that's because I'm lying flat on my back, the only position that I could find that was manageable. Boo for the ER.

Hi! From the ER. I know I don't look too sick, but that's because I'm lying flat on my back, the only position that I could find that was manageable. Boo for the ER.

Off and on, for several months, I’ve been having abdominal pain and weird bladder symptoms. Without being too personal (wait, don’t I tell you all pretty much everything?), I have been having difficulty voiding my bladder. I’ve started bringing books to the bathroom, not for that, but because sometimes, it takes me half-an-hour, to go. This means that, sometimes, I don’t want to go; because it’s such a chore! So, I hold it too long. Obviously, this is a bad idea. So, I’ve gotten two UTIs, in the past three months.

My trouper, who deserves lots of credit. He sat at the hospital for over seven hours, in that chair. There was barely a peep out of him. The only time he got up was to comfort me, when I sobbed, several times, about missing out on Comic Con, and to apologize, guiltily about how sorry I was for ruining yet another family event. My boy is the best boy in the world...even if he does take crazy pictures!

My trouper, who deserves lots of credit. He sat at the hospital for over seven hours, in that chair. There was barely a peep out of him. The only time he got up was to comfort me, when I sobbed, several times, about missing out on Comic Con, and to apologize, guiltily about how sorry I was for ruining yet another family event. My boy is the best boy in the world...even if he does take crazy pictures!

In tandem with these UTI issues have been lots of non-descript abdominal pain, and the feeling of constant fullness, like there’s something “blocking,” what I’m doing. After the last UTI, which I just finished the antibiotics for, a few days ago, the abdominal pain didn’t go away, and over the past few days, has gotten exponentially worse.

By yesterday morning, I couldn’t stand up straight. And, I was increasingly nauseated. Paaaartayy in Rachel’s whole trunk-al (I like that word that I just made up to describe everything between my neck and my bits) region. You should’ve been present for the heartburn. Thanks to it, I couldn’t even drink water. It was a sight. It reminded me of being pregnant. If Bryon hadn’t been snipped-de-do’d, I’d have questioned it!

So, we went to Urgent Care, on the way out of town, thinking that if another UTI was brewing, or the last one wasn’t gone, we should antibiotic-it-up, before it got out of hand. Alas though, my urine was clean, but the doctor was concerned with my symptoms, so he shuttled me off to the ER with a permission slip to be escorted in more quickly, or at least, ahead of others. It worked; I was called back almost immediately. That never happens at an ER!

They did the same tests, plus more. The ultrasound was particularly fun. It was one of those times that I wish I had a penis, instead of the equipment that I’ve been given. If I had a penis, I’d not have had to endure a trans-vaginal ultrasound yesterday, with an inflamed bladder, or whatever the fuck is going on in there. I literally sobbed the entire time. The poor ultrasound tech just kept apologizing. I felt badly for her, because she didn’t know what to do, or how to help, but had to do her job, and I was moaning and wailing. I tried not to cry, and to be a man about it, but as I said, I don’t have a penis.

Lots of blood work, which was difficult to do, as my IV fell out, literally, just fell out on the bed, later, and no answer. All we know is that there’s no blood in my urine, and no infection that is immediately present. They sent me home on some of the stuff that makes your pee orange to help stop the spasms, and a high dose of anti-inflammatory meds through my IV. Thankfully, they gave it to me before my IV fell out. 

My favorite part was listening to the patient who came in, and was in a gurney in the hall outside my room (he was very loud). He “thought” he might have overdosed by taking the wrong pill from his mother’s pill bottle, instead of his. He meant to take an Ativan (anti-anxiety drug), but he might’ve taken his mother’s Valium (also an anti-anxiety drug). His description of the problem was as follows:

Patient: My mom’s drug is a yellow football. It’s bigger than my white football.
Doctor: So, you swallowed a football? Like a toy?
Patient? No, I took a pill. But, it’s a football shape. A yellow football. My football is white. I’m not sure if I took it.
Doctor: So you think you took the wrong meds?
Patient: Yes, but I’m not sure. I can show you. I’m not even sure I took it.
Doctor: You have one of the pills you think you took?
Patient: No, I have the pills I’m supposed to take. But, the pill I might’ve taken looks like a yellow football. It’s bigger than this. It has a “V” on it.
Doctor: The white pill, shaped like a football, is usually a Valium. Yours is an Ativan. Did you take them both?
Patient: Yes. I got panicked that I might’ve taken the wrong pill, so I took my Ativan to help me calm down. So, now I feel a little funny.
Doctor: (gives him a basic field sobriety test, which he fails) Yes, you are essentially “drunk.” You aren’t in any medical danger, and it’ll wear off in about four, to maybe, six hours. Why did you take an Ativan, if you thought you might’ve taken too much Valium?
Patient: I don’t know. That wasn’t smart, was it?
Doctor: No.

This conversation went on a while. It was insane. It was very loud. Additionally, he spent every other moment on the phone (ironically, with his mother), or flagging down passing nurses, by shouting, “are you my nurse?” trying to get himself released, or another blanket. It was really something entertaining to pass the 7 hours we were there.

But, I think we expected too much: we ended up disappointed, in that way that disappointment is a bankruptcy of soul. It’s the type of bankruptcy that expends too much in hope and too much in expectation. Alas, that’s my tale of woe. For the first few hours, we held off disappointment. We thought, maybe, just maybe, they’d be sending us on our merry way, and we’d be able to make it to Comic Con still, happy as clams. Then, we thought, maybe we’d make it to the hotel that night, skipping preview night, but that we’d still be there together. As the day wore on, it was pretty clear that we weren’t going anywhere, it was just going to be them. It was a sucky realization. But, as I’ve adopted the idea that blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. Wait, no, fuck, I’m disappointed.

But they are there today...and they are happy. So, I have to live with that and be happy for their Daddy/Collin day! Hooray for bonding time!

But they are there today...and they are happy. So, I have to live with that and be happy for their Daddy/Collin day! Hooray for bonding time!

The thing was, why was I sad? All I had was plans? There was nothing tangible. I’d not been there yet? I’d not seen the invisible jet that was supposed to be there. All I had was imaginary things about how it was going to be fun. I kept thinking about how fun it was going to be. So, I tried to realize that I was disappointed about something I’d not really had, I guess. It was one of those times that you feel a sense of loss, even though you didn’t have something in the first place. I guess that’s what disappointment is, a sense of loss for something you never had.

Being perpetually sick, you have lots of “sick” days though. You can plan things, and hope for things, but you have to prepare yourself for the idea that you will miss stuff, even if you plan to be there for it. It sucks. Life, it turns out, is a long preparation for something that never happens. It turns out that for sick people, that’s more true than for well people. I’m hoping that I get to go tomorrow (Friday). I know that one must not let oneself be overwhelmed by sadness; so I’m trying to be upbeat today, while I wallow in my pajamas, focusing on the idea that I will hope to be well enough to be there tomorrow.

If you thought I sounded more genius-y than normal, that I was more profound today, that’s because I was (or, maybe I’m always profound, and you always think I’m a genius?). See if you can find where I plagiarized. It’s only a few places, and only a few words; and, they are general IDEAS about disappointment that anyone might share. So, you could argue, that anyone might generalize the ideas behind them; but, they aren’t MY words, they are someone else’s, and they said them, in THAT order, FIRST. It’s not a “coincidence” when so many words, in that order, in a row, are exactly the same. It’s not mathematically possible. We’ve proven that, time and time again, with plagiarism software, that universities, worldwide use.

Thus, it’s plagiarism. This is they very definition of plagiarism, in fact. This isn’t to harp on Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, or anyone who’s done it, frankly. It speaks to the larger point, because I’ve seen it so many times in my professional life. It’s an opportunity to define the term, at least in a small way. There are so many ways to plagiarize. People don’t realize, you can even plagiarize ideas, but we can talk about that, some other time. In summer “school,” with Collin, this is a learning opportunity for us, actually.

What’s happened with Melania Trump is important, because people are screaming, “but it’s such a small amount!” Well, you can’t rob a bank of $200 dollars, or even $50 and then scream, “But I only took a small amount!” You still robbed a bank! Obviously, these are different “crimes;” but, the comparison is what I’m looking for. Small vs large is irrelevant; the “offense” is the “offense.” When we take, even a small amount, of someone else’s words, especially exact ones, and say they are our own, we are saying several things about ourselves:

  • Our own words aren’t valuable enough, smart enough, or important enough to be heard
  • We don’t take enough care with our work
  • We don’t the appropriate amount of time or care with our work
  • We don’t expect our audience to notice, thus….
  •             We don’t respect our audience
  •             We think our audience is stupid
  • Most importantly: we don’t have the integrity to admit any of the above, both to ourselves, or to our audience.

Plagiarism isn’t just cheating, copying, or cutting corners. It’s a lie. And, just like any other lie, it speaks to the character of the person who does it. I’ve had plenty of students mistakenly plagiarize, before they knew, or understood, the writing process. It’s understandable. I’ve also had plenty of students plagiarize on purpose. There’s a difference.

What’s recently happened with Melania Trump has given us an opportunity to talk openly about plagiarism, and about integrity. I think that this was, most importantly, an opportunity for discussion about integrity, in a campaign that is so fiercely lacking. No one faults Mrs. Trump for being uncomfortable at a podium, with English being her second language, and being nervous about giving such an important speech. Thus, this was a good time for her to say, “I love my husband and wanted to make him proud, so I looked up some extra notes, and got confused. I made a mistake.” If that’s the truth, of course! She might’ve won some points for not appearing like a gold-digger, for once. It’s possible that she does love him – gag, gross, vomit.

Instead, we’ve got all kinds of weird excuses from Meredith McIver, who has admitted fault for the whole thing. Over the course of a few days, Meredith McIver became a mystery. Was she real? Was she fake? But, the more interesting question now is, thanks to the letterhead, is Trump violating all kinds of campaign spending laws?

Of course, Trump could drag a toddler and a puppy up on stage, have them fight to the death, and his supporters would scream for more, probably providing the toddler with an AK-47 and the puppy with sharpened teeth and landmines fitted on its paws. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love Hillary; but I think that a vote for trump Trump is a vote for an actual sociopath. At least a vote for Hillary is just a vote for just a politician, not great, but, meh, at least it’s not a vote for evil incarnate. This election cycle has produced the top two hated presidential nominees…of ALL TIME.

I think Melania gave a speech to satisfy someone she’s afraid of, and wanted to keep satisfied and proud. So, she plagiarized. That’s not much different than what a terrified freshman does on their first essay, when they don’t know how to write, or haven’t been paying attention to citation standards.

Okey dokey. And, now, she’s lying to cover it up, as part of both her (terrible?) marriage, and the political machine that she’s trapped in. The problem is that no one (of his supporters) seems to have a problem with the integrity of the whole affair. Lying about lying is a problem, for me. And, when someone deflects the issue at hand by saying, “but what about Hillary” is ridiculous! Talk about the thing we’re talking about!

Mike Rowe, who’s basically a God to conservatives, because he’s got dirty hands all the time (grunt, hard worker, grunt), spoke up about the whole thing too. He did say that Mrs. Trump is:

 absolutely, positively guilty of standing before the country and reading words she didn’t write as if they were her [sic] own (Rowe).

But, he also said that we’re not focusing on the bigger issue, which is that politicians are never using their own words anyway, because they use speechwriters (Rowe).

Frankly, what the fuck? Who cares about speechwriters? The politicians themselves review all speeches, help write them, and polish them. It’s not like they aren’t part of the process. And yes, politicians read from a teleprompter, something else he criticized. Can you imagine giving new speeches, almost daily (or more!), having to memorize all of them? Some of these speeches are up to an hour, or more, long.

I think that using a teleprompter, because it’s difficult to memorize a long speech, day after day, is a far cry from Kabuki, sir. And, comparing it to such a thing intentionally distances white-collar politicians from blue-collar workers, to make the divide seem immeasurably far. Bravo, Mike Rowe, at intentionally, using a word (and concept) that your audience might be unfamiliar with, like Kabuki, you make your audience feel like the white-collar politician is just thaaaat much farther away, while you are thiiiis much closer. You are a very smart man. Mucho respect-o.

By the way, Trump has never written a thing, including his speeches, nor does he read. This is why his speeches are so… hugely eloquent, and off-the-cuff? I wish you could’ve been in my head to hear my emphasis on “hugely.” On being told he was being sent an important, but lengthy report, he told someone to send him three pages, for example (Fisher, 2016).

Meanwhile other politicians (and humans) read voraciously. All the books Trump “wrote,” have been ghost-written. Surely, you know that his ghost-writer, from Trump’s most famous book, The Art of the Deal has come out to say that the biggest mistake of his life has been aggrandizing a man that he considers a sociopath? He’s afraid that if he didn’t speak out now, he’d go to his grave regretting it, afraid that if Trump is elected president, without him telling the world what a crazy person he is, that he’d be responsible for helping to not only elect him, but to destroy civilization, as we know it (yes, for real):

I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization

Trump is so humiliated at being sold out by his former ghostwriter, that he's, of course, sent a cease and desist letter to him to, basically, stop beinga meanie-pants to him. Even if you are a Trump supporter, the list of horrendous things Schwartz says about him makes for an interesting read; the man spent eighteen months shadowing him, so he's got an interesting take.

A ghostwriter, by the way, is way worse than a speechwriter. P.S. Meredith McIver is a ghostwriter! Remember her from a few paragraphs ago, the staffer who admitted to being responsible for Melania's "issue?" A ghostwriter writes the whole thing, and lets the other person put their name on it, and, theoretically, everyone pretends that he/she doesn’t exist; meanwhile, everyone knows there are speechwriters employed. So, how does ghostwriting compare to speech writing, Mr. Rowe? Is that plagiarizing to the Nth degree, then, in terms of compromising a person’s integrity?

Alas, that was a long digression, yes? But, the issue of plagiarism is far more complex than just stealing a few sentences, isn’t it? Especially in politics. When we “steal” a few words, it’s not just “stealing,” it’s lying. And, lying is always about integrity. We have to ask ourselves: why? And, when it’s political, then answer is never simple.

By the way, as a side note, I read an equal amount of garbage-ola about Hillary. If you think I don’t know anything about e-mail servers or about Benghazi, try me. Just FYI. I read…let’s just say, I read. If it’s out there, I’ve read it. But, I try not to make my only source material come from one side.

For example, these are places some of my insane friends have actually sent/posted links to that I assume they think qualify as “news” stories, in just the last 7 days alone – if you want a laugh at what people THINK qualifies as “news” check some of them out: Redstate, Right Wing News, Town Hall, Fox News, The Blaze, The Drudge Report, Jihad Watch, Patriot Post, Life News, Conservative Tree House, LifeSite News,

**by the way, one of these days, I'll have to do a post on divisive rhetoric. I mean, clearly, liberals can't be patriots, or can't value life. The conservatives have the market cornered. We should call our news sites death news or traitor news, right? Rhetorical devices are pretty interesting, right? I read, practically everything, because I think it's interesting to see where the other side comes from and how they develop their thought. Maybe more people should be reading MORE.

P.S. The good girl in me can’t allow “real” plagiarism to stand. If you want to know where the plagiarism is, I’ll tell you. Send me a comment, or an email!  But, I plagiarized the following people: Jackie Kennedy, W.B. Yeats, Alexander Pope, Deb Caletti, Eric Hoffer, and Sarah Desser.

P.P.S. I'm still thinking on that Ark thing. I promise. It's driving me CRAZY!