"Things that interfere with writing well: Earning a living, especially by teaching."

-William H. Gass

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Angry Letters

I've recently written some angry letters to companies that disappointed me in one way or another. Today I was motivated to write one on someone else's behalf. She told me her story and I was just so ticked off I had to compose the following...I think I've found my new passion...

Dear Sir or Ma’am at Under Armour:

I am writing to you to express my complete dissatisfaction with your product. I have watched your commercials over the years and have been led to believe that your products are designed for the most intensive athletic experiences. Alas, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

First, I must establish context for you so that you may understand the degree to which your product’s failure impacted my life. In the past two years, I have lost over 30 pounds and I have maintained a vigorous exercise program which includes, but is not limited to, daily gym visits before work. That’s right - I have been getting up at 5 a.m. each day to go to the gym. Further, I have been working two jobs and have just finished graduate school. Due to financial constraints, these gym visits have featured a Champion sports bra, which I purchased in 2006. It was a fantastic sports bra and I would have bought it again if they still made it.

I knew it was time for a new sports bra about a year ago, when the stitching began to tear, but I couldn’t afford to buy a good one. Then, last week, I got a new job. Finally - I could afford Under Armour, what I had believed to be the best of the best in sportswear. I spent 50 dollars, no small amount given my budget, and was excited at the prospect of a more secure workout experience.

Today I got onto the elliptical machine for my regular workout, feeling particularly edgy after a very hard day. I needed a good workout to clear my head, and I was glad that I had the protection of Under Armour’s caliber. I began my workout.

A mere one minute and thirty seven seconds later my workout was over. My upper region was no longer restrained; the zipper gave way and the other gym members stared as this athletic wardrobe malfunction dishonored Under Armour’s name for all to see.

My shame is only exceeded by my boiling fury.

I am not a small chested athlete; I wore an XXL. I have seen larger-breasted women more supported in their athletic endeavors. So what have they done? Do they have custom-made Kevlar vest molds for their breasts? One thing is for sure: they aren’t wearing Under Armour.

You should be ashamed of yourselves. There are athletes of all shapes and sizes. We thought we had your support.


She who shall not be named

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


"Careers." It's a board game I used to play with my mother. Like you might expect, "Careers" is modeled after the Boomer's experience of choosing, pursuing and working in a career. You went to school for a long time to be a doctor or you went for less time to be a newspaper woman, and so on. Very simple, defined paths wound around the board. Once you chose yours you simply rolled the dice, chose between a few options, and at some point, retired. The game provided no opportunity to veer off the path and learn how to sail or anything, but there was a comforting sense of stability to the whole thing.

I have spent a lot of time lately longing for the "simpler" times of yore (which of course are no simpler, but they sure seem that way) in which careers took less time to secure. You didn't need to invest the first half of your life to work in the same field the second half of it. It seems like people such as, say, Jefferson, had lots of time to be president AND make wine AND rewrite the bible AND collect hundreds of rare books AND found universities AND pursue all sorts of intriguing hobbies. (That he relied on the labor of slaves to do much of this is not lost on me, but I think the point still stands). Read about these "Renaissance" folk and, if you're like me, the first reaction is the question, "how the hell did they find the time?"

Now, I've done all the career stuff. I built up a whole pile of debt, work in the field I chose, and do other work to maintain the necessary pieces of paper that allow me to continue doing it. I don't have any kids, pets or debilitating diseases...and yet I can barely find the time to do stuff I already know how to do (i.e. blog) nevermind learn new stuff like vineyard cultivation!

Consider earlier today, on school vacation, the rest of the week spread out like a gleaming highway of possibility. I could read a whole book today. I could finish the scrapbook project. I could try a new recipe; rearrange furniture; take photographs; whatever. I spent fifteen minutes arranging the new watercolors I received as a gift. I prepared to try my hand at a new kind of art. I realized I had everything I needed except for something on which to paint. The prospect of driving to an art supply store seemed too daunting...especially with all the chores left to do and the date night plans beginning so early in the evening...

And just like that, the sun is down and vacation is more than half over. Time to grade those papers, waiting in a giant pile right next to the computer. Repeat the mantra: "There's always summer vacation. There's always summer vacation."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

uh oh

I hear it all the time. The sixties are over. We have a black president, how can you possibly still be talking about segregated schools, this is America! We've come a long way. Racism only exists in the South. It's all just because people want to live in different neighborhoods. Etc. Etc. Etc.

People seem to think that racism is "dead" or at least only visible in tiny pockets, somewhere in the deep south. This is a nice idea, but racism has a new face and people in the northeast love to ignore it. In the interest of offering another point of view, I offer the following story...(the names are fake because I don't want to get in trouble).

On Tuesday of this week a student threw a big rock at another student and shoved a teacher, hard, in the chest. He is a very nice young man, this student, but he also has a learning disability that makes it very difficult for him to adjust to new situations. Since he was on a field trip that day, and suddenly things didn't go as planned, he freaked out. He was taken home and suspended for one day. The teacher wrote it up, filed it, and we haven't said much about it since. This particular student has made terrific progress over the years, and these incidents are pretty rare. Let's call this student "Frank".

Another student has a mouth like a sailor and a bad attitude. I, of course, love him to pieces. He is constantly threatening to kill me, sue me, smash my windshield, and it is a joke and I know it. It's his own socially inept way it's a show of affection. I guess we have a similar sense of humor. (I realize these statements sound awful, but in context and with the right tone of voice, telling your English teacher, "I'm going to slash your tires if you assign homework tonight" can be really funny). Let's call this student "Ignatius".

Another student, new to us this fall, also has a mouth. He is incredibly impulsive and energetic and constantly getting in arguments with one of his classmates. He makes verbal threats in a menacing tone of voice and then laughs hysterically, which several of his classmates find very funny and a few others do not. He is constantly moving and has one of the worst cases of ADHD I've ever seen. He and a few other boys have gotten into scuffles but nothing serious and he has yet to be suspended. Let's call this student "Homer".

For the past few weeks, a teacher, we'll call him "Geoffrey", has been pulling teachers aside and complaining about Homer's behavior. He says things like, "He is going to be a behavior problem, I can see it coming" and "We need to get him out now before we're in a legal mess" and "He doesn't belong here" and "We can't handle this here" and the like. He has spoken at length to several faculty members about how worried he is about Homer and how concerned he is for the other students.

Oddly, Geoffrey hasn't ever mentioned that Ignatius and Frank ought to leave, even though their behaviors are very similar, and in Frank's case distinctly worse. So...what gives?

Homer is black.

Now, is it Geoffrey's malicious intent to kick the only student of color out of our school? Probably not. Is it the result of an implicit bias that Geoffrey has not had the occasion to reflect upon? Probably. Is anyone going to react well if I bring this up at faculty meeting? Definitely not.

What would you do...?