fierce attachments

a mother-daughter blog about the fierce attachments in our lives… title inspired by Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir

Category: politics and religion

Chris Bully Boy Christie: Obesity and Empathy and the New Jersey Govenor

by nikki meredith

Chris Christie snarlingWhen I was in high school, my best friend and I were walking across the parking lot at a southern California beach where my family camped every summer. Three boys our age were walking towards us. My friend and one of the boys, a hefty guy…okay, a fat guy, got into one of those do-si-do routines: each time she stepped to the left, he stepped to his right; each time he stepped to his left, she stepped to her right – neither one could move forward. It’s the kind of situation where someone with good humor, if not much wit, says, “Shall we dance?”  This guy, however, had neither good humor nor wit. He planted his feet in a wide stance, folded his arms, and snarled, “I’m not going to move.”

My friend put her hands on her hips and examined him from head to girth to foot. “You couldn’t move,” she said, “even if you wanted to.”

I was gobsmacked.  On the one hand, I’d been taught by my parents never, ever, to ridicule or even comment on a person’s physical traits.  On the other, I wanted to yell a 1960’s equivalent of you go girl. The guy was a bully and clearly the back-up of his snickering buddies bolstered his bullishness.

I think of that incident and my dual reaction almost every time I see Chris Christie on television and I’ve been seeing him a lot lately because of an incident involving the George Washington bridge where he is alleged to have thrown his weight around with, if not dire consequences, certainly inconvenient ones for a considerable number of people. I’ll get to that in a minute but first let’s review some highlights of the Gov’s bullying tendencies: Read the rest of this entry »


jew-ish: the life and times of a one-sixteenth jew

by caitlin meredith



I am one-sixteenth Jewish. It’s funny to say it like that, but that’s what it comes down to on the family tree. And, I guess that’s how much Jewish I feel. One-sixteenth.

How exactly does that translate?

Most of the time I don’t feel Jewish, but I don’t feel not Jewish either. I feel Jewish-ish. Since my Jewish blood comes through my mom’s mom’s mom (otherwise known as my maternal grandmother), it would be enough for Israeli citizenship should I want it, and, as my mom pointed out, it would’ve been good enough for Hitler. Blood is what I’ve got to go on since all the women in my family coupled with gentiles and it’s an atheist line.

My mom once told me that the closest she could get to defining her Jewishness was that she gets a family feeling when she was around Jews. I feel the same, but I wonder if that counts. Doesn’t everyone get a family feeling around Jews? Sort of like the Italian mama in the neighborhood is everyone’s mama. Read the rest of this entry »

they do it better in dutch: sex workers and the disabled

by caitlin meredith

painted wheelchair on dutch beachMy mom’s last two blog posts about sexual surrogacy and the movie “The Sessions” (see part 1 and part 2) reminded me of one of my old pieces of dinner party trivia. In Holland, the government pays sex workers to have sex with physically disabled people. I know – crazy, right? At least that was my first reaction.

At the time I learned about this little social service gem I was working in Sudan living with three Dutch colleagues. So many of the things they revealed about their quirky country astounded me that I became used to having daily conversations sprinkled with counter intuitive nuggets. None of them had ever tried drugs, including pot? What was the point of living in the Netherlands?? The government had public health campaigns encouraging people to snort their snot back into their noses instead of using a tissue?? This was deemed more hygienic? Their national cuisine is a bowl of mashed up everything called stamppot?

By the time someone casually mentioned the generous sexual services benefit I was a bit jaded and it almost escaped my “Wait, what??!!!” radar. Almost. Read the rest of this entry »

was nora ephron right? does getting older suck?

by nikki meredith

In the last essay in her book “I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman,” the late Nora Ephron expressed unhappiness about being older.  The tone, which borders on the desolate, is quite different than the lightness of the other essays in the book.   ‘The honest truth is that it’s sad to be over 60,” she wrote. I assumed the despondency was due to the recent death of one of her closest friends. Now I wonder if perhaps she had already gotten her own bad diagnosis.  In any case, when I read, ”Why do people say it’s better to be older than to be younger? It’s not better.” I wanted to shout. “You’re wrong, Nora. There are many things about being older that are better.” Read the rest of this entry »

the only thing Jesus Christ and J.R. Ewing have in common

by caitlin meredith

A Northern Californian childhood had some major advantages. There were mountains to hike and ski, the ocean to swim and fish, and the Redwood forest to breathe in and explore. The cultural patrimony was rich as well: hippies.  At least in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, in Marin County hippies were parked in their VW Buses on every street corner, teaching me about the groovy universe. Hippies like my art teacher Turquoise who introduced my Montessori kindergarten class to Mother Earth and trail mix. Hippies like the parents of my classmates who named their children Meadow Rose and Morning Star and who didn’t allow refined sugar in their households.  And, of course, hippies like my parents who (before I was on the scene) spent weekends talking, then shouting, about their feelings in encounter groups.  Though hippies were long on organic produce (marijuana), psychotherapy and world peace, there were a few crucial American concepts they failed to transmit to those at their knee. Namely, Christianity and contemporary American television programming.

As a direct result of these missing pieces in my intellectual development, I believe I’m one of the only Americans over the age of 25 for whom Jesus Christ and J.R. Ewing occupy roughly the same plane in my cultural landscape. Read the rest of this entry »

god, lies and Romney

by nikki meredith


When I was in elementary school, I had a secret: my parents didn’t believe in god.  This was a source of anxiety for me because in the 1950’s everyone went to church. Everyone except my parents and their heathen friends.  I wasn’t totally left out of the religious experience, however.  Though they didn’t believe in god, they wanted me exposed to all sides of all issues, so they enrolled me in an after school bible class. That made things worse. The teacher illustrated stories from the bible on a felt board. The image that made the biggest impression on me was a tableau of a kindly Jesus Christ administering to lepers.  My parents didn’t administer to lepers so I concluded that people who believed in Christ and hence in God were kinder, gentler, in short, of better character. Consequently, I kept my parents’ atheism securely in the closet.

At some point along the way I noticed that my parents, in spite of their godlessness, seemed to be guided by compassion and integrity in  their work and in their personal lives. They didn’t nurse lepers, I don’t think they even knew any, but they were committed to social and economic justice.  I have no doubt that my father’s Jesuit education contributed to these beliefs just as my maternal grandmother’s activism – she was a feminist, an anarchist and a protégé of Emma Goldman’s — informed my mother’s world view.  At a later point, I also realized that a lot of religious people were capable of doing very bad things to other human beings. Read the rest of this entry »

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