Career and Family
By Chastity Lillicreme
November 1, 1999
I was shocked and delighted to get a response to my last column regarding my changing role as a mother that didn't include words like "slut" "whore" "hobag" "unfit" and "cumbitch", and didn't end with the phrase "suck my big fat hairy cock you child-abusing skank." This week's favorable response comes from Marjorie MacGinny, a new regular visitor to divisiontwo. Marjorie writes, "I empathize completely with your decision to euthanize your third born. I had to make the same tough decision in 1961 when our family was moving into a building that only allowed two children per apartment. Sometimes I still miss that apartment." I have no idea what Marjorie is referring to, since I never had a third born and most certainly would never put it to sleep it if I did, but nevertheless, this was the kindest response I received all month. Thank you, Marjorie.
This week, I have a very serious column to write. An issue came up in my household that we, as modern American parents, have a responsibility to address as our children reach the age where they become curious about life's tougher questions. No, I'm not talking about explosive diarrhea again...Perhaps next week I'll do a follow-up to that piece.
My daughter Kelsie is in the sixth grade, and since she is only 12, my husband and I don't let her watch television past 1:00a.m. She knows that after 1 o'clock in the morning, the TV goes off and it's time for homework. My husband and I believe that children need this kind of discipline and scheduling when they are young if they are going to learn good, productive habits for adulthood. This strategy is also highly effective in keeping objectionable, offensive late-night programming out of my house. My children don't need to see programs touting the glories of food dehydrators and colored car wax that they can't have, and they most certainly don't need to watch suggestive commercials featuring bikini-clad women sucking on strawberries and urging them to call a $2.99-per-minute sex number. They see enough of that kind of garbage on weekend afternoons.
But last Thursday my husband and I were both exhausted from our hard days at work, he at the Department of Corrections and I at the Como Shopper, and we accidentally fell asleep on the couch in the middle of the late evening news. This allowed Kelsie to continue watching television past her 1 o'clock limit unbeknownst to us. I woke up just in time to witness Kelsie staring blank-faced at one of those cheap commercials advertising a Best-of-the-'80s "Monster Rock" compilation CD. The commercial featured shot after shot of large men with even larger hair, their faces covered in gaudy make-up, their ripped clothing hanging off their muscular bodies as they screamed into their microphones and thrusted their pelvi in a seductively epileptic fashion. I quickly woke my husband. We found the remote and clicked off the TV just as the commercial was ending. But it was too late.
Kelsie turned to look at us, tears streaking her cherubic little face, and asked in earnest, "Mommy, was that for real?" My husband and I exchanged worried glances. He nodded slightly, and my heart sank as I knew that it was time. It took all the courage that I had inside me, but I looked my daughter straight in her innocent little eyes and said, "Kelsie, it's time your father and I told you about the '80s."
I brought Kelsie to the couch while my husband went to retrieve the special clip book we had prepared in anticipation of this inevitable day. "Yes, honey," I began, "that commercial was for real. Luckily, you're too young to remember it, but that was a commercial showing what life was like in the 1980s."
Her eyes grew wide with interest. When my husband returned with the clip book, we paged through it together slowly, explaining each image from the 1980s and what it represented. We showed her disturbing magazine advertisements of girls with crimped hair and explained that people thought it looked good in the '80s. We showed her horrifying photographs of family members in acid-washed jeans and explained that we didn't know they caused testicular cancer. We showed her newspaper clippings about the Iran-Contra hearnings, the attempted Reagan assassination, the popularity of Cyndi Lauper, even the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, and we said flat-out that the '80s were a very dark, shameful period in our nation's history that most people would like to forget. We told her about television shows like Family Ties, The Facts of Life and The Cosby Show and explained how morality plays and comedy were considered interchangeable back then, often with deadly results. We showed her things like the New Coke, Mr. Microphone, the Rubik's Cube, and Tiffany, and she could see in our eyes that we were very ashamed we had participated in such inhuman acts of atrocity. Perhaps we weren't active participants, but our complacence is what allowed it to go on. Finally, we showed her stomach-wrenching photographs taken upon liberation of the '80s Nazi death camps and illustrations of the disgusting inhumanity of slavery. We closed the picture book and on the back cover were inscribed the words, "It all happened in the '80s."
By this time tears were flowing freely from Kelsie's red, puffy eyes as she blinked in disbelief at what she had just seen. There was a minute or two of silence before she found the strength to speak.
"Did it all really happen, mamma?" she asked finally, her voice shaking, hoping that I would tell her no, that such horrible events didn't and couldn't happen in her world. But I couldn't do that, as much as I wanted to, because it isn't the truth. Denying our past only dooms us to repeat it.
"Yes, dear," I answered, holding back a sob of my own, "but as long as we remember it, it will never happen again."
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