Monday, January 24, 2011

Six months to the big 5-0

I haven't written much lately because ever since the Georgian clocked ticked its way into the new year, I have been preoccupied with the fact that this is the year that I turn 50. No matter how many times I say it -- and trust me I say it a lot -- I can't get over the fact that come July I will be 50 years old.

My husband doesn't understand why I keep telling people that I am turning the big 5-0. I bring it up in pretty much every everyday situation in which I find myself. He's more from the school of thought that believes in turning 39 for the next 45 years. I do not subscribe to this school of thought at all.

Most of the people I am friends with in Israel are in their early 40s (and a few are still in their mid 30s) and day-to-day that is neither here nor there. They are my friends and age doesn't factor into it. But I noticed, that beginning about eight months ago, I became very conscious of who my contemporaries in the neighbourhood were. And since then I have decided that I prefer the company of people my own age. That doesn't mean that I like my old friends any less -- I don't. What it means is that I like my contemporaries even more than I did before.


It's simple. We have a common bond. We come from the same place.

For those of us who grew up in the 60s, there were embarassing bell bottom pants and the ridiculously thick and funky belts that held them up. We had Lite Brites, Creepy Crawlers, Easy Bake Ovens and Etch-a-Sketches. Our home telephones had rotary dials and they weighed enough to really injure someone. We listened to The Jackson Five and The Osmonds. And when we got a little older and cooler we listened to Led Zepplin, Cat Stevens, Seals and Crofts, James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkle. We drove in cars without seatbelts and rode our bikes without helmets. We ate white bread and sugary cereal. We played outside all day and no one knew where we were or could call us on our non-existent cell phones -- and no one was worried about us.

It was the tail end of a simpler time. Not like my friends who were born in the mid 70s and came of age in the 1980s when the world was already changing beyond recognition.

I love that I am a child of the 60s. Much cooler than those nerdy kids born in the 50s and more innocent than the kids born in the 70s. I was an impressionable eight year old when women were burning their bras and a nine year old, when newly rebellious teens were hitchhiking to Woodstock. Many of my later ideas were initially formed by Gloria Steinem. I was old enough to absorb all the amazing changes that were going on without having to be the experimental guinea pig.

1961, the year I arrived on the scene, was the year that the US cut its ties with Cuba. It was the year that JFK actually went to work as the president of the United States. The Beatles performed for the first time at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The trial of nazi Adolf Eichman took place in Jerusalem. Yuri Gagarin became the first human to go into space. The US civil rights movement was gaining momentum. The New Democratic Party was formed in Canada (albeit, not world changing, but I had to get Canada in there). Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev requested asylum in France. The first MLB All-Star game to end in a tie occured. Construction of the Berlin Wall began. West Side Story was released. Catch-22 was published. And Barbie got a boyfriend, Ken.

So to all my friends born at other times (mostly much later), read this and weep! You may be younger but I wouldn't change a thing. I remember when the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan show. I got to stay up late to watch it. You only saw the replay on You Tube!

There's an email that circulates around the internet and surfaces on my computer every other year. Basically it says that the objective of life is not to show up at home plate looking perfect and all in tact. The whole point is to slide into home looking dirty, gnarled and like you have really lived. Kids born in the 60s aren't afraid to get dirty. They never were. Happy birthday to everyone born in 1961. May we all slide into home, looking like hell, at 120.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Welcome to 2011: It's Still A Man's World

(Spoiler alert: for anyone who doesn't like when I am serious, turn back now. Today I am angry and in a serious mood.)

Yesterday a very old friend of mine who I haven't seen in about 28 years sent me an old photo of us at another friend's wedding. The picture is 30 years old and I can't believe that I have a picture of myself as a young adult that is THAT old. I was so young then and I really believed that the world was open to women. I honestly thought that everything was possible. However, when I read the lead headline in the online edition of the Jerusalem Post this morning, I was quickly reminded that no matter what women achieve, it is still a man's (pathetic) world.

The lead story on January 3, 2011 (27 Tevet 5771 in Jewish time) is about the tapes that the ex-prime minister and now convicted rapist Moshe Katsav gave to the police to initiate an investigation on complaints of blackmail by an ex-employee. In the tapes the woman tells Katsav that since he ruined her life he should give her money so she could get the psychological help she needs. In the tapes she said that she could no longer work or function as a normal human being because of him. She went on to say that if he gives her the money she will keep her mouth shut.

Ironically the tapes were ultimately used against Katsav because the attorney general suspected that there was more to the story than the then prime minister provided so he began a little investigation of his own.

Please keep in mind that Katsav was recently found guilty by an Israeli court of a series of rape/sexual assault crimes and therefore it would be reasonable to think that the women he abused had received justice -- too late of course, but some degree of acknowledgement nonetheless. Not so.

As if often the case, the most interesting parts of the story were still to come.

The most telling part of the article isn't in the body copy but rather in the comments following the article. They are so sickening that the only conclusion one can come to is that in 5771 years nothing has changed. Women are second-class citizens. Men's thinking has never changed: if a woman is raped it is her fault because she must have been provoking the man. And you know men, they just can't control the urge to ram their penises into anything that they perceive to be deserving.

Let me read you a few of my favorites:

"The whole thing is starting to sound fishy.... The more I now here from "Aleph" (the complaintant), the less credible it all sounds."

"The case against Katsav is a total crock cooked up by leftist lawyers and radical feminists. If Bill Clinton is walking free so should Katsav!"

"I was pretty sure this whole case was a political-judicial lynch and this latest news seems to confirm it. Wonder who was behind it..."

"Rape? No. They had an affair and she got dumped. That's what it sounded like to me. What rape victim talks like that? If you're a woman whose been raped you don't call your rapist and say "My life is over - you have a life I don't how about $250,00?" "

"Is the whole case against Katsav bogus?..."

Journalists are trained to report the facts and in theory, keep their personal opinions out of their reporting. Granted, it doesn't always work. However, the Comments section is for people to voice their feelings about the issue and the story. That often makes them more telling.

It is not unusual to read opposing views in the Comments section following a story but in Israel's case they are usually placed there by her adversaries who hold a different world view. You might not agree with them and they may even sound crazy but you know where they are coming from.

But this is a universal issue that knows no borders. What the comments on this story tells me is that nothing has changed from when I was a young adult smiling naively at the camera at a friend's wedding -- and honestly believing that the world was open for women.