black/white. either/or. one/the other. your side/mine.

The last thing the internet needs right now is another think piece about abortion. This isn’t one. This is just my little 1,400-word opinion, but I feel compelled to share it. I honestly sat down to scribble a few thoughts for myself, but then this all just happened. Some things I’m itching to say, I guess. Enough to drag me out of a long blog hibernation. There’s so much shouting going on right now. It’d be nice to talk.

Separately, this will be its own long story: I’ve spent the weekend cleaning my house (“tidying”) using the KonMari method from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. One remnant of the past, hidden in a desk drawer, was a stack of index cards from my senior research paper in high school. About stem cell research. (Very 2002.)

I tossed them in the recycle bin, but not before quickly flipping through. Couple of thoughts: 1) I was such a smarty pants and so thorough. Meticulously transcribing MLA sources by hand, and noting I’d met the limit of “2 internet sources,” funny. 2) It’s interesting to see my current beliefs at their very earliest stages. While the paper was mostly about stem cell research and its promising potential in medical research (pushes up 18-year-old glasses), there were some connections to abortion. Because embryos. And science.

So here we are, today. Another awful news story about another terrible situation to remind us that the world is ultimately cold and cruel. (Think of the lions and poor zebras, even. It’s rough out there.) It is sad. Another sad gun story in America. (BUT THAT’S ANOTHER STORY!) On to my story:

The now-infamous Planned Parenthood Videos, which most likely inspired the Colorado Springs gunman to some degree, also inspired a local protest in August by our dear City Councilman Justin Burnett at the Springfield Planned Parenthood. (Which, of course, doesn’t provide abortion services. Nor does any other anyplace in the state of Missouri, save the one (1) in St. Louis.) When I heard there was a Stand with Planned Parenthood event to counter, I decided to put my hashtag activism to action and actually show up.

So I went. Early on a Saturday morning. Joined others in pink t-shirts and we held our “Stand with Planned Parenthood” and “Healthcare Happens Here” signs. We stood in the clinic parking lot, while the protest group set up across Battlefield (appropriate street name, if there ever was one), and some right near us on our side of the street, also holding signs. Most were silent, many probably praying, and surely well-meaning people, albeit misinformed.

But a few were outspoken. Sarcastic. Arrogant. Holding hand-painted poster boards with such winning slogans as, “Hearts lungs and livers? P.P. Delivers.”

I’ll admit some of the PP chants were obnoxious in their own right. Like flippant little Baby-Killer Cheers, if one chose to look at it that way.
– They say No Choice. We say Pro Choice!
– 5, 6, 7, 8 — Separate the church and state!

Oy. As a professional writer of ad copy, I’d caution that using rhyme in headlines is a dangerous game. I came up with a few alternatives, to entertain myself:
– These are complicated issues. Why you focusing on tissues?
– We have heads and we have hearts! We do not sell baby parts!
– Abstinence-only education / only leads to procreation.

(Man. Those are good.)

One of the Pro-Lifer women (who was there with her husband and children. A few whole families were there—good luck with those therapy bills in 20 years, kids!) was shouting things at no one in particular, at all of us, the whole time. Nothing too provocative, but still totally shitty. Verbally subtweeting. Her entire demeanor screamed for a good face-punch. (There’s a reason they make us sign a form promising not to interact with protestors…)

A few times, different people in our group outside the clinic took the (portable, shoulder-carried) microphone to motivate the crowd and speak-to-but-not-speak-to the people on the other side.

Partly because I just felt compelled to, but also because that lady’s shit-house attitude was pushing my buttons, I decided to step up to the mic as well. I tried to be a little peace-maker, build a tiny bridge between their side and mine. I said something along the lines of, “When I was a kid, I joined with my church at Pro Life rallies like this. And now that I’m standing here, I know it’s easy to vilify the other side. But we both want quality lives for all and we want healthcare for all.”

(Something like that. Like Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail: I was eloquent! Shit!) I’m sure I didn’t change any minds. But it helped me feel better, to reaffirm to myself out loud how I feel. And why I was there.

In retrospect, I kinda wish I would’ve finished with direct eye contact, a slow finger point and, “You don’t know my story, biiiiitch.” Mic drop.

Missed opportunity.

I was thinking today about misconceptions about Pro Choice people. And I’m sure that goes both ways. See, too many extreme believers in anything see things as black/white, either/or. One/the other. Your side/mine. Pro Life/Pro Choice. (Implying, or sometimes outright saying, that we are “pro murder” or “pro death.”)

Of course we’re not.

We look at a very complicated issue and see it differently. Pro Life folks think every fertilized zygote has a soul and God’s special twinkle in their developing tissue. (*Zygotes don’t have eyes.) Pro Choice folks (and the majority of scientists, physicians—people much better informed than I am) don’t ascribe to that notion.

I’m so sick of hearing about “baby parts” being “sold” by the big, bad evil scientists of Planned Parenthood. Besides all the ways that’s totally untrue, it’s so not even the point.

I’m reluctant to post much about PP on social media. Couple reasons: 1) I don’t like Facebook conflict. 2) My parents. But today, a tweet by Andy Richter resonated enough to get an RT:

To call fetal tissue “baby parts” shows a childish ignorance about medical research. Imagine a Dr. calling muscle tissue “people meat”…

(Stay out of the @replies if you, too, have internet-conflict-induced PTSD.)

Maybe the very complicated issue is that simple: You see it that way. We don’t. Maybe there is no middle ground, and there’s no coming to a compromise. Maybe it’s Dr. Seuss’ Bitter Butter Battle. Maybe we’ll all blow each other to Sala-ma-goo before we ease up a little and try to find a better way.

After the shooting, I saw another tweet (why do I go down these rabbit holes? why?) from some dude (always the foremost authorities on any subject: Some Dudes) about Planned Parenthood, saying something like:

“1 person shot in Colorado. 6,000 babies murdered a day.”

That makes my head hurt for numerous reasons…but first, it’s not even accurate. CDC’s reporting from 2011 was literally 1/3 of that total number. (and some will still say that’s too many…and I wouldn’t disagree. So many potential tangents here: access to healthcare and birth control…Abstinence-Only sex education…complicated.)

But still. His point. And mine.

Goes without saying (I hope.): Abortion isn’t a convenient “oops, whatever” plan B birth control option. (I have to imagine very few women see it that way, btw.) What it is, is a personal and complicated and I have to believe difficult…can I say personal one more time? And not political? But personal?…decision.

But beyond the personal results or repercussions: I also wonder about the systemic side effects. And the quality of life for an unwanted child. That’s what I want to ask @ClosedMindedAsshole69 (not his handle. but like, same same?). Who’s going to take care of those babies? Are you, @ClosedMindedAsshole69? Do you have 5,999 friends ready to take in unwanted babies? Or I guess foster care? Welfare? A family situation with a high likelihood of child abuse and/or poverty? (Startlingly high incidence in Springfield, Mo, in particular.)

Is that the better way?

(Of course there are miracle stories in which it does work out that way. But “6,000 times” a day?)

Back to the PP rally. There was one chant I could get behind, 100%:

Every Child A Wanted Child.
Every Child A Wanted Child.
Every Child A Wanted Child.

I think that speaks most closely to my heart. Babies deserve to be wanted, loved, cared for (and eventually ruined in some way or another by their well-meaning parents, followed by years of therapy…You know, family!).

It’s just not as simple as some people are making it out to be. I shouldn’t assume Pro Life people are all closed-minded assholes. No more than they should assume that Pro Choice people are all slutty baby killers. (Though that’d make an excellent ironic punk band name.)

I don’t know how to end this. Thanks for reading, if you did. Back to cleaning my house. It feels good to let some things go.

stand-with-pp

Daily Thought Thoughts

I get the Real Simple magazine Daily Thought in my inbox every morning. This week, I had to laugh when Monday and Tuesday offered me these:

061013-dt

061113-dt

Both thoughts are empowering, of course, but they’re also a little bit terrifying. And exactly what I need to hear. Some pretty big changes in the works (anybody looking to buy a house?!) — and while I’m really excited about it all, I also have these moments of oh crap, what am I doing?! (Just changing zip codes, not cities. You’re stuck with me for now, Springfield.)

Boxing up your life and starting again (again) is humbling and refreshing and arduous and hilarious. All at once. So I need all the “it’s okay! Even if it ends up sucking for a while!” that I can get right now. Or:

“Follow your dreams!…even if your dreams lead you to the middle of a deep, dark forest! Yikes, did that wolf sound angry to you guys?!”
“Better to break your arm while taking a leap of faith than have two good arms from playing it safe!”
“Chill out. At least you aren’t (insert person whose name you’d never admit out loud. C’mon. You know you want to…).”

Kidding about that last one, obviously. (But seriously. Don’t you feel a little better?)

Rejected.

pre-ps: remember those proto-youtube ‘Rejected’ videos? “My spoon is too big!!”

(Wow, 2002.)
But the real point of this post is NOT absurdist cartoons from my early college years.

You see, I recently got rejected. By a writing contest. Timothy McSweeney is just not that into me. Of course, he’s not the first self-important hipster in recent memory to decide he could do without me…

*Insert Jon-Stewart-style camera-mugging tie-adjustment.* 

Point is: I entered the McSweeney’s column contest about a month ago — which is a victory in itself, considering I found out about it just a week before, and I turned in my submission entire hours before the deadline.

There aren’t a lot of specific requirements — just the four questions below — and an original, quirky idea that’s smart & strange enough to suit the tastes of McS’s lit-hip readership. Seemed doable.

And even though I wasn’t selected, I’m still pretty proud of my attempt. Maybe I’ll just turn this into a column on my own. Then it could be the rejected idea that keeps on giving…

Enjoy:

A brief description of the proposed column:

My column is about breakups. I’ve been dumped three years in a row, all within a month of my birthday. (Beginning to wonder if it is in fact not them, but me. I write in order to figure it out.)

I was in my car the other day when Bryan Adams’ “Please Forgive Me” shuffled on my iPod. As I belted along, playing air drums on my steering wheel, I thought about how the breakup song genre can be broken down into a much more nuanced taxonomy. All heartbreak anthems are not created equal, and I like the idea of exploring that. You turn to different tunes for the different stages of heartbreak: anger, denial, driving by his apartment at 3:00 a.m., finger-wagging and moving-on, etc.

The prescription idea came later, and it seemed a natural fit, because music is such potent self-medication. And pharmaceutical ads are such fun to lampoon. Then I thought about expanding the concept to other typical post-breakup activities. And here we go. Ex-Rx.

One full example column:

Ex-Rx: Bryan Adams, “Please Forgive Me”

No one denies the pain you’re going through, and self-medicating with this early-90s adult contemporary hit is an acceptable coping mechanism according to the American Psychological Association(‘s message boards). Bryan Adams songs give your broken heart a healthy boost, including warm thoughts of Kevin Costner’s glory years and vague memories of the disco-ball darkness of roller skating rinks.

Use only as directed.

Active ingredients:
Nostalgia
Weepy Guitar
Power Bridge

Side Effects:
Using Bryan Adams could result in spontaneous displays of emotion in karaoke bars or karaoke-like behavior within your motor vehicle. The use of alcoholic beverages intensifies these symptoms. If you are prone to episodes of air guitar, do not use Bryan Adams while operating heavy machinery. Heightened sense of romantic heroism will usually pass within a 24-hour period. Resist the urge to contact your ex until at least 24 hours have passed. *If you’re feeling lonely, don’t*…post the YouTube video on your Facebook wall after 12:00 a.m., as feelings of post-post remorse may occur.

Brief descriptions of three additional installments of your column:

Future columns would examine more songs and their corresponding moods: Jeff Buckley’s “Lover You Should’ve Come Over”, Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable”, Fleming & John’s “Ugly Girl”, Sam Cooke’s…pretty much anything. The format would most likely remain close to the original, but maybe new sections evolve: a doctor’s testimony, diagnostic quiz, holistic self-care, etc.

And I imagine the concept easily expanding to cover other post-breakup activities, alternating between music and other topics, like: binge shopping, martinis, Nora Ephron films, rebound sex, joining a gym (or book club), etc.

A short biographical note:

Hi. My name is Sarah Jenkins. I just turned 29, and I’m a writer from Springfield, Mo. (Hometown of Brad Pitt and Bob “have your pets spayed or neutered” Barker; home state of Jon Hamm and Todd “shut that whole thing down” Akin. Yes, we’re known for our beautiful men and a natural concern for reproductive issues.)

Other things you might like to know: I play the accordion, I ran the Chicago marathon, I have a cat named Jenksie, I do improv comedy, and sometimes people tell me I remind them of Tina Fey. And then I kiss them full on the mouth.

My major relationships have been with men who have dark hair and wear glasses, physically resembling both myself and my middle school science teacher. Probably not a coincidence.

:::

So that’s a thing. You’re invited to reject me, too. Everybody’s doing it. But fair warning: I’m probably going to blog about it.

Please forgive me, I know not what I do…