Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Three's Company: Polygamy Pushes the Envelope

(An excerpt from an actual Christian web site devoted to "building the family").

Been watching TLC's 'Sister Wives'?

Have you been surprised how loving, and normal, they seem? Would you be surprised to learn there are many non-Mormon Christians who have felt God prompting them to live this way? Maybe you are curious and trying to figure out if this lifestyle truly can work. Or maybe you are a believer in Christ and you are witnessing all of the practical benefits but still trying to figure out how to make sense of this in light of the Bible. But you are asking yourself “Does the Bible, and it's Author, accept this?" Read on.

In the show Kody Brown makes this statement: “Love is to be multiplied not divided.” The idea of marriage, or a union with a male and female, transcends all religious, cultural, and ethnic boundaries. People from every nation or sphere of the world join together and partner with one another in order to build a family. More than 80% of cultures throughout history have also practiced some level of polygamy.

What does God say?

But the real question is: does Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, approve of this type of family where one man joins with more than one woman? We at Biblical Families, an evangelical organization dedicated to historical Christianity, see that the Bible teaches and approves of this type of idea of love multiplying. Both the OT and NT teach that God is honored by this type of lifestyle.

Throughout the OT many of God’s holy men lived a lifestyle where they multiplied God’s love. Men like Moses the writer of the first five books of the Bible had two women at the same time in a union, Abraham, who had at least two and maybe three at the same time, Jacob who had four in a union, and numerous others like Gideon, King David, and King Solomon. Likewise, in one place in the OT God even presents himself as in a union with two wives (Ezekiel 23:1-5,7,11).

The NT never alters this idea of love. The theme of love is carried forth by Jesus Christ whose teachings along with the apostles verified this lifestyle as holy, normal, and to be accepted. The God-Man, Jesus Christ, even represents the three types of lifestyles in the Bible. He lived for awhile in a celibate condition, he then died, arose again, and then joined himself to the first church ever birthed in history, the Jerusalem church, which represents a monogamous relationship, and then as other church bodies were birthed he joined or united with them thus displaying a love relationship or union with those multiple members that make up his one body, or family (see 1 Cor. 12:-20,27; Eph. 5:25; 1 Cor. 11:2).

How can this work?

So how can one family have multiple wives in it and there be peace, harmony, joy,
satisfaction, and the blessings of the Lord in that family?

Here at Biblical Families we are teaching and sharing with people how this is possible. In the Christian faith this is not only possible but a very real testimony of the power of grace and the Holy Spirit working in the lives of those that believe. As the Bible says, where the Spirit of the Lord is there will be the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such things there is no law (Gal. 5:22).

. . . And so on, and so on, blah blah blah blah blah. I've included the juiciest part of what appears to be a bona fide Christian "family" web site, not only endorsing but encouraging the creepy practice of taking more than one wife with whom you're expected to have multiple children. This article goes on for hundreds of words, quoting the Bible ever more feverishly with each paragraph.

First I've heard of it, myself.

It seems the alarming traditions of fundamentalist Mormons are starting to overflow the container into "Christian" practice. TV shows like Sister Wives (and even Big Love, a satiric comedy/drama) seem to be giving lots of people ideas.

It was a long time ago that the "jiggle show" Three's Company was wildly popular. Not sure if it spawned a host of real-life imitaters or not, but it was, after all, only a sitcom (and those were more conservative times).

I know there is a movement called polyamory. This means any number of consenting adults can live together, with sexual sparks flying in every direction. Let's hope their offspring don't get together, or we'll have a genetic catastrophe. Polyamory is illegal, but every time the polygamy issue comes up, so do they, creeping out most of us to the point of disgust. 

I haven't looked at any polyamory sites, can't bring myself to do it. Once in a fit of madness I googled "marry your pet", and found an actual web site which was, I suppose, tongue-in-cheek (or maybe that's the wrong way to put it).

Some years ago, we had the spectre of a woman marrying herself. Not a bad idea: think what the sex would be like! Contraception guaranteed. It has a lot to say for it, but what happens when it's time for a divorce?

I do wonder sometimes just what's going on here. To be perfectly frank, this strikes me as license for a man to screw a whole bunch of women and still maintain his "faith". I cannot imagine that this practice would allow polyandry, i. e. a woman marrying more than one man, a subject which occasionally crops up on Sister Wives (and which Kody once pronounced "vulgar": a pretty good word to sum up the whole show).

I know I harp on this, it's an obsession and a fascination. In the recent season ender, Robyn had her much-anticipated baby (named Solomon!) at home, moaning in a way that seemed creepily sexual, then popping out ten pounds of Brown baby. One wonders how many more will follow, especially since Robyn has promised Meri to be her surrogate (ANOTHER Brown baby? When will it stop, particularly since the Browns have no discernable source of income?)

Other things crept out. Christine, who seems wholesome and matter-of-fact, isn't. She has probably suffered more than any of the others. A few episodes ago she admitted to marital problems with Kody that she couldn't resolve. In her presence, Meri more or less told her to shape up, that she'd had marital problems too and worked them out on her own, and that's what she was expected to do. Christine had no response to this.

Last week she said she'd been having anxiety attacks and was taking antidepressants. On the Robyn-giving-birth episode she made the baby a cute little sampler which she called a "peace offering" to Robyn: she felt guilty about treating her so badly. Treating her so badly? It made me wonder just what they edit out in these things. At any rate, it helped explain the marital friction and the antidepressants. Sister wives, when faced with towering problems like this, must put up or shut up.

Meanwhile, back at the polygamist Vegas ranch (which brings to mind Spinal Tap's Sex Farm),  Meri and Robyn have peeled off by themselves into the kind of tee-hee-whispering-nasty-rumours giggle-fest you see in Grade Five. Quite a bond they have there. Dynamics like this completely fly in the face of so-called true polygamy, lopsiding the energy and affection between the women, which already seems shockingly unevenly distributed. At one point Meri even mistily says she has the kind of bond with Robyn that she never had with any of the other sisters. Oh, that's going to go down real well with them, I can tell.

But this was the kicker. I've heard it before, so it may even be true (though I admit this comes from Perez Hilton):

OMG! One Of The Sister Wives Was Married To One Of The Other Wives' Brother!

sister wives janelle was married to meri brohter before kody

Just when you thought Sister Wives couldn't get any more disturbing, here comes the INCEST!

Star Magazine reports that polygamist and reality show stars, The Brown Family, are more about keeping things within the family than we all thought. In a shocking twist, it was revealed that Kody Brown's second wife, Janelle, was brought in as his wife shortly after she divorced her first husband - Kody's first wife's brother!

What the what?

In one BOMBSHELL of a secret, it was uncovered that Janelle was married to Adam Barber in 1988. Adam is Meri, Kody's first (and only legal) wife's brother. The two divorced only after two years of marriage and three years after that, Janelle joined Kody's polygamist fam.

A family insider reveals:

"I know she was originally very upset over Janelle dumping her brother. I think there has been a lot of unspoken tension between her, Janelle and Kody all these years."
I'd say.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Gift(s) of the Magi

This is a piece I tried to track down for years. It was on a Robert Shaw Christmas album (vinyl), but not on any known CD. Finally I found it on a tape, but it was a different version. I'm not sure who the conductor is here, or which orchestra it is because when people post classical music videos they don't ever mention these things, and it seems to me that nobody minds very much. It's just nice music, "relaxing" (which is what most people say about classical music).

I was born and raised in it (not on it, that’s a different thing), and while it may have been pitched at me like a religion, I nonetheless learned something about the fine but crucial distinctions between different artists and conductors and orchestras. My Dad, who was for the most part a son-of-a-bitch who didn't love me, did seem to care if I knew something about music. Most of it I learned just by having it around me all the time, dinner music and the music he played every night as he sat in his reclining chair with a vibrating pad on his back.

Strangely, this wasn't one of the pieces I heard then. I discovered it much later, when the Magi still meant something to me. I also dug up, just now, some information about the deluxe nativity scene which adorned our mantelpiece at Christmas. The figures were probably made by someone named Fontanini. At least there's a strong resemblance. The camel was marvelous, about 7 inches high, and I always wanted to play with it. I see now why my parents wouldn't let me.

As for Respighi's Magi, I respond to this sort of music almost excruciatingly, as if my brain is somehow wired wrong. Well, I might be convinced of that today, having just received ANOTHER rejection for Harold from a publisher that hadn't read the manuscript. It was based on my query alone, which I guess didn't sufficiently condense 300 pages into one or two.

I think I can write, but sales? The whole thing escapes me. "Just get an agent," I am told, but that's kind of like saying, "Just win the lottery, it will solve all your financial problems." Which it probably would.

I think this is Advent now. I'm not with the church any more, which sometimes causes me considerable melancholy (but not enough to go back). It's weird how many things suddenly dropped out of my life around 2005. I used to be a semi-professional astrologer, studied it from about age ten, used to cast individual birth charts for people, and now I can't see any use in it at all. It's just a bunch of hooey. Christianity is almost never truly lived out by anyone, least of all clergy. I don't know if I've ever seen more emotional hangups concentrated in any other group of people.

So this time of year is, well. . . But hark, there's better news, for I have four small children in my life now. So the Christmas projects are in full gear. This week we made felt stuffed animals (I found my tiny battery-operated sewing machine in the closet, and it actually works), snowmen and gingerbread men and teddy bears. Very messy and labour-intensive, but absorbing and fun. But I find I feel overwhelmed these days. Underwhelmed, too. Funny how those two often coincide.

If this year is like all the others, in the next few weeks I'll receive most of the rejections I get in a year: the most succulent one is usually reserved for Christmas Eve. Most likely the one I had prayed for, or at least fervently hoped for. This can trigger a sense of futility that is downright embarrassing. All out of reach, though just barely, like a balloon that keeps popping up above my fingertips. 

I'm not supposed to want this so much. What do I think it's going to do for me? I don't know, solve all the problems in my life, I guess. Why not?

Next weekend, gingerbread. I hate making gingerbread and have never been successful at it. Last Christmas Caitlin and Ryan convulsed when I threw the dough at the wall (it stuck). I hate cooking with molasses, molasses is the devil, dark and sludgy and evil-tasting, but the recipe calls for it.

What if my life ran out next year? What if 2012 is the last year I will ever live? Oh, stop it, Margaret.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why women (still) love Harold Lloyd

Why Harold Lloyd?
 That’s the question I get all the time now.

Why did I write a novel (it’s called The Glass Character, folks!) about this arcane subject, this long-ago figure, this non-Chaplin, non-Keaton movie hero from the distant past? 

I think it's because he isn’t so distant. 

I think that in spite of all the time that has gone by, there’s something spookily contemporary about him.

He’s not the outlandish figure you see in silent comedy: no crossed eyes, no tramp suit or corpulent body. No, he’s the average guy, striving to keep his head above water as life throws him one curve after another.

And he makes it, but only just.  

People haves wrongly called Lloyd a “go-getter”. Not so.  
He does everything for love. Everything. There is a romantic idealism in his devotion to love that is almost Elizabethan.

Only in one film does he reveal the more ferocious aspect of his love for women. At the end of Why Worry? (my personal favourite), he literally grabs Jobyna Ralston and kisses her with volcanic intensity. She tenses, then goes completely limp in his arms, doing a very slight leg-pop in delirious sexual surrender. (If I could find a picture of this, I'd post it.)

But even at the end of Why Worry, the “kicker” reveals that Harold van Pelham has grown up. He’s actually working, rather than lazing about complaining about his health. Then he gets the call that his wife (Jobyna, of course) has just had a baby, and he races off to see them in a sort of mad car chase without the car.

Don’t get me started on Harold, for I don’t think I will be able to stop. Yes, I know - writers always say this (because they have to), but I believe this story has the potential to reach people, a lot of people in fact, but I feel like I am on this ice floe and don’t know if I will ever get off it.

Help me, Harold! I want to tell your story. Not because you’ve been forgotten, but because I feel like you’re still here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Isn't gluttony a deadly sin?

Why is everyone so goddamn FAT?

I have a question. Call it the question of the day.

Why is everyone so goddamn fat?

I’ve been wondering about this for a long time now. Everyone’s read the statistics, though as you may realize, I hate statistics and seldom quote them. But they do reflect a certain trend.

People are getting huge. I mean, HUGE. Sometimes I wonder where it’s all coming from. In the past ten or twelve years, the population has ballooned to the point where half of us are too damn fat, and a third of us are way WAY too fat.

If it’s only in the last ten years or so, what happened? As far as I can remember, back then everybody was obsessed with their weight. Everybody wanted to be thinner. There was diet book, after diet book, after diet book coming out and hitting the top of the best-seller list.

I had to ask myself: why keep buying these things, when you obviously can’t follow them? Why the endless search for the Holy Grail of diets, the one that will take weight off and keep it off forever and evermore?

Meanwhile, in the midst of this best-sellerism – which still goes on today, only in a more scientific, theory-oriented way (can’t eat carbs with protein, have to follow your blood type, primordial cave man diet, What would Jesus Do diet – presumably, consisting of loaves and fishes) – we’re getting so damn fat, it’s shooting past the upper limits  of the scale.

You see this reflected in all those weight-oriented TV shows like Biggest Loser and whatever-the-rest-of-them-are (I don’t watch them much, too painful). Shows that are seemingly unrelated, like Hoarders, give us examples of impoverished men and women who are somehow enormous, their bodies no longer in any kind of recognizable shape. Usually it comes out that they can’t cook anything because there’s no electricity – the rats have gnawed through the cables or something – so they live on McDonalds and throw the leftovers and wrappers all over the floor (which is nice for the rats).

I shouldn’t have watched this show at all, I’m ashamed to admit it, but it was like a circus side show: once I fell into it, I couldn’t get out. It was called Taboo and it explored the weird, weird, weird, weird things people do (including having sex with the Berlin Wall), always with some expert coming on to say “their behaviour falls within the realm of normal activity”. One of these “normal” guys, somewhere in his 30s and living on disability, was probably close to 400 pounds. His “thing” was to dress up and act like an infant, goo-gooing, sucking things, toddling around in enormous fuzzy sleepers and being fed glop.

Being fed? His “caregiver”, whom at first I thought was his mother, was probably at least 200 pounds heavier than the guy. Her body was just not in a human shape, at all. It was like a misshapen cookie that had melted in the oven, everything all over the place. When she stood, which was difficult for her, her stomach touched the floor, and her breasts reached past her knees. This was supermorbid obesity at its most shocking.

The woman had no upper teeth, and maybe that’s a separate post because an awful lot of people on reality TV have no teeth. It’s a related issue, maybe. Toothlessness may explain why this guy  lives on baby food, but what about the adult diapers? Does she change them, and – no, we won’t go there. It’s just too horrific.

But let’s turn to the more mundane examples of hugeness that we see every day. I just don’t remember seeing this level of obesity in the past. I don’t remember someone lumbering on the bus who weighs maybe 400 pounds, I mean a young guy in his twenties. And I can’t help but think how on earth he’s going to get to 40, or even 30.

There are theories. The weirdest one I saw involved wheat: there’s a scientist out there who says the new strains of wheat are designed to make you fat. Supposedly, if you give up wheat, i.e. go gluten-free like many people do anyway, the excess tonnage will just drop off and stay off.

                              (Original McDonalds hamburger)


There are portion sizes: yes, my-oh-my! My husband and I like to go to Denny’s, mainly because it’s relatively cheap and they know how to cook an omelette. But every time we go to Denny’s, we seem to see a family who are all of them huge: most heartbreakingly, even the small children who are encased in soft, puffy fat.

Look at the menu, and you’ll see why. The Grand Slam has been replaced by a sort of grotesque Grand-Grand-Grand slam with four eggs and six sausages and God knows how many pancakes. Reminds me a bit of their bacon extravaganza, in which they offered such greasy delights as a bacon sundae.

If you’re still hungry after being slammed, you can order deep-fried hush puppies (presumably, not the shoes) with ice cream and syrup for dipping. And Denny’s is hardly alone. McDonalds Quarter Pounder is now a Third Pounder. Most people who go to McDonalds can’t do math, so maybe they don’t realize how much larger it is. Wendy’s had a three-patty bacon cheeseburger which gave me chest pains just looking at the menu board.

Meantime, in spite of all the emphasis on fitness and going to the gym, people just don’t, for the most part: they park as close to the mall as possible to avoid walking for two minutes. I wish I could find the cartoon, one of the best ones I’ve seen, in which a couple in a department store has the following conversation:

“Now let’s see, where’s that treadmill they have on sale?”

”It’s way over on the other side of the store.”

“Oh to hell with it then, let’s forget it.”

Never once seeing the irony.

We save steps. I’m a walker – it’s the only consistent exercise I’ve ever done, but I’ve been at it for more than 20 years – and people are constantly trying to give me rides, even complete strangers. Needless to say, I tell them no. But there’s something about walking. It’s stigmatized. It’s just not done. Even cycling is better, but still seen as something of a fruitcake activity around here, something they do in Stanley Park, not the suburbs where a car is the only way of getting around.

I get mowed down regularly, which says something about the car-oriented society that I believe has evolved around malls. I have learned to look obsessively over my left shoulder to avoid that dreaded, heedless right turn. They don’t see me, so I have to see them to avoid ending up one inch thick on the pavement.

I get despairing sometimes, I really do. For the statistics aren’t good. Fatness is still escalating. This makes me wonder: where have all the fat people come from? They must have been much thinner than this a decade ago.

God didn’t just pull out a whole lot of enormous balloons and blow them up and launch them out there. Surely people have done this to themselves.

If the statistics have changed this alarmingly, it means that people who used to be normal weight are now increasingly overweight, or even obese. Women’s clothing reflects this change. It seems everything I try on is stretchy – not just a little stretchy, but stretchy like chewing gum, so that it doesn’t snap back and ends up like an exhausted rubber band

Not only that: sizes have changed. I’ve been fighting weight swings all my life, and in high school I often wore a Size 14 or 16.

Now I am sure I am fatter than I was then, and can wear a 10 or 12.

So what has happened? Can you guess? This is called “vanity sizing” , and it has been done to keep women from committing suicide over their appearance.

It was long ago that Oprah, having skinnied down alarmingly on some kind of powdered protein, suddenly proclaimed, “Diets don’t work!”. She seesawed up and down after that, then kind of settled where she is now, probably a good 200 pounds. She spent one show sitting in a chair and addressing her viewers about her weight. No narcissism there! Her personal trainer came on and said she had “unresolved issues”, but Oprah has always maintained that having people like Dr. Phil on her show was just as good as therapy.

Be that as it may.

I have no doubt that the massively obese have “issues” beyond just  trying to fit behind the wheel of a car. There is a strong connection between obesity and sexual abuse (as there is with any addictive behaviour). It’s burying yourself, really.  Not to mention lugging a huge burden around. The symbolism is very potent, and hands a clear victory to the abuser.

I’ve seen people come on talk shows who represent the Fat Acceptance Movement, and in every case they round up an expert (there must be a TV-related agency called Rent-an-Expert) who says obesity has no significant negative effect on health. Just as easily, one can find experts who tell us exactly the opposite. I’m sick of experts, myself.

I’m frightened of the escalation, because it hasn’t topped out yet, and I wonder when it will. Obesity is fast becoming normalized, and we’ve learned to accept it as never before.

When I was a kid, we had a neighbour named Ruth. My mother didn’t have friends so much as caseloads, so she befriended this woman along with the blind lady, the woman who was “barren” and could not have kids, and the lady with the hydrocephalic daughter. At my estimate, Ruth weighed somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds, but no more than that. She was considered huge, enormously obese, to the point that she seldom left the house. On the rare times when she did, people disapproved. They didn’t really think she should be showing herself, and if she insisted on it, why didn’t she wear a corset or something? For that was the age when even the thinnest women wore iron girdles to shape their bodies and keep things from moving.

Doesn’t happen any more. We don’t wear girdles, except for those awful Spanx things that cover you from neck to ankles and are supposedly “comfortable”. And even though they claim “anyone” can wear them, “anyone” does not include a woman who weighs 400 pounds.

Will we ALL be obese in twenty years? Will people start exploding from the internal pressure (I have actually heard stories of skin splitting: and what happens when someone who has had a massive tummy-tuck gets fat again)? Will gastric bypasses, which often backfire (look at Carnie Wilson) become as routine as tonsillectomies used to be? Will we require significant mutilation and the risk of death to try to regain some semblance of a recognizable human shape?