Oral Hygiene Queen

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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Day of Silence

Today was the Day of Silence at school, and as usual I wore my Day of Silence t-shirt and ribbon in support of all the kids who chose to refrain from speaking for one day to highlight how GLBT people are silenced in many ways on a daily basis. And as usual I gave all my classes my spiel about what forms that silence takes - how straight people can talk blithely about their spouses or significant others, about their partners in parenting or their former boyfriends, girlfriends, and crushes, without fear of reprisal or silent judgment, how they can express affection openly, how they can reap all the social and material benefits of heterosexual privilege, but those privileges aren't available to gay, lesbian, bi, or trans people, and those GLBT folks who choose to speak out and act out to claim the same rights as straight folks do so at great risk.

What I didn't do, what I've never done, is actually participate in the Day of Silence by being silent. It's hard to imagine how I'd swing that as a teacher, short of giving my students quiet seat work, which I never do for an entire period. I'm pretty jealous of my time with my students, and at this point in the year, every one of the dwindling minutes of time I have left with them is spoken for. But, when a colleague saw my shirt and asked if I was being silent today, and I made a performative utterance by answering "No..." I started thinking about what it would mean for me to stay silent for a day. And it would be hard for me, big mouth that I am. But I began to think about my own Day of Silence speech and recognize something that would be much, much harder for me than staying wholly silent for one day: staying silent for a week, or a month, or a year about my Old Man and everything related to him. That might give me a small inkling of what it would be to live without the unquestioned privilege that comes with being a heterosexual married woman, to have to verbally step around the partner with whom I share my life, who parents my children with me, who I wake with in the morning and fall into sleep with at the end of the day.

And that thought made me question the decision I've made every year since my school began participating in the Day of Silence. That one day of silence is merely symbolic, and yet perhaps the struggle not to speak at all can remind me of all the times I might have to struggle to decide whether to speak openly about my life if my Old Man were my Sweet Woman. Who am I talking to? Where do they stand? What might I have to lose by being open with them? Can I trust them? I felt like this one simple question my colleague asked me - "Are you participating?" - made me feel in my gut some of the points I'd merely been thinking with my brain (and lecturing my students on).

My colleague also mentioned a student of hers who was silent today and who, when it came time to do a five-minute presentation on a book, something she signed up to do months ago, came up to the board, wrote the name of the book and the author on the board, stood silently for five minutes, then sat down. I know this student, who is also in one of my classes, and she's sweet and unassuming and generally the kind of person who seems to try actively not to make others uncomfortable. I can only imagine that her silent presentation was uncomfortable for her. But I thought it was brilliant, much more meaningful than if she'd talked to her teacher earlier this week and rescheduled her presentation. It made me think I could surely come up with some way to teach without words for a day.

It's possible my silence could teach my students more than my lecture. Maybe next year I'll participate in the Day of Silence.

Monday, April 06, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

1. I was born in Normal, Illinois.

2. I was relieved that my feet didn’t get bigger during either of my two pregnancies.

3. I believe in the value of 8 hours of sleep a night.

4. Despite my ongoing efforts to spice it up, my wardrobe consists mostly of solid-colored clothing in black, grey, dark red, and earthy greens.

5. I met Allen Ginsberg when I was a toddler, though I have no memory of it.

6. I like coffee, but I love tea.

7. I’ve been a vegetarian for twenty years (!), though I’m not especially strict. (I’ve been known to eat a slice of pizza after picking the pepperoni off.)

8. I have a committed and intense relationship with dark chocolate.

9. Every time I watch the complete first season of Freaks and Geeks, I have to go through a new mourning period, lamenting that there was never a second season. (You couldn’t let us have just one more season, you NBC bastards?!)

10. I love my job. I enjoy teaching about 96% of the time.

11. I think you’re either a natural at teaching or not, and if you don’t have it, it’s unlikely that any education class is going to help you become a great teacher. But I also know that lack of preparation can kill anyone’s teaching.

12. I once thought very seriously of getting a smiling tooth tattooed on my arm.

13. I have no tattoos.

14. I’ve kept a journal since I was 17.

15. My Old Man makes me laugh every day.

16. Speaking of "My Old Man," I'm currently writing a series of poems, one for each song on Joni Mitchell's Blue album. At this point, I've written drafts for nine out of ten.

17. I eat a carrot with my lunch every school day, but almost never eat carrots on the weekend. Or during the summer.

18. I think I look better with my glasses on.

19. I’m gratified that despite the clear trend to give kids quaint Old People Names, my son O’s quaint old-fashioned name remains only in the 900s on the Social Security Administrations recent lists of most commonly used names.

20. I haven't played chess on a regular basis since I was in high school, but I want to start again.

21. I don’t regret voting for Ralph Nader in the 2000 election. (I do regret that Al Gore watered himself down so much in the run-up to the 2000 election.)

22. I hate uncomfortable shoes and only wear shoes that I can walk a mile in. Except when I dress up, and then I’m continually taking my shoes off under the table.

23. I like my hair better short, but for some reason feel the need to suffer through growing it out every four years or so.

24. I’ve never had a manicure or a pedicure.

25. I read at least one poem every day.

(Note that there's nothing about oral hygiene on this list, because my oral hygiene facts are essential rather than random. Maybe next I'll do "Ten Random Oral Hygiene Facts.")