Cleavage vs. "Can Do"

It seems absurd that a newspaper like the Washington Post would bother to print an article discussing the fact that Hillary Clinton has cleavage! Of course she has cleavage - she's a middle-aged woman! Why is this worthy of comment? I don't read any articles about what side the male candidates "dress" on, or how well they may be endowed.

But recently, when Senator Clinton spoke on the Senate floor, wearing a pink jacket and slacks with a white V-neck blouse underneath, Post fashion editor Robin Givhan saw cleavage on C-Span, according to her column. Givhan went on to describe her discomfort with this (though the photograph attached to the Washington Post's online article doesn't show a hell of a lot of cleavage that I can see.) Apparently this woman-- a yuppee African-American journalist who ought to know something about bias-- has never been in the try-on room at the nearest Loehmann's. If she had, she would long ago have gotten used to the sight of women in various stages of undress.

It's a good thing Hillary isn't a young breast-feeding mother. If Givhan had happened to walk into a Ladies Lounge in Nordstrom’s and seen her suckling a child, God only knows what kind of a column that would have generated.

I am just sick and tired of the absurd standards being set for Hillary Rodham Clinton as a Senator and a presidential candidate. She's a bright, capable and determined woman, and yes, Robin, she even has breasts. Get over it. Her breasts aren't running for president, SHE is!

Givhan goes as far as to say that a woman who shows cleavage anywhere where neither cocktails nor hors d'oeuvres are being served is being "provocative." Next time Givhan is in a house of worship and a strapless-gowned bride walks down the aisle to the altar, I hope someone throws the bride a stiff drink and a hunk of Swiss cheese. If not, Robin is bound to declare the wedding to be X-rated.

Givhan may be one of the first people to go on at length about Hillary as a sex symbol-- not something the wife-of-Bill is usually accused of being. America's voters, however, will be voting for the candidate whose brain and whose heart they believe will be best for America. Hopefully their external anatomical appendages will not be a factor in the way voters' ballots are cast.

Now if Ms. Givhan can just get out more, maybe she can actually come up with something sensible to write about.


Giulani, Morality, Hypocrisy and Rome

The day after a New Hampshire lightening bolt dramatically punctuated R.I. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s condemnation of Rudy Giuliani’s position on abortion, Giuliani came to Rhode Island for a campaign handout. Tobin’s remarks had, by then, received national media attention.

Dodging queries about the bishop, Giuliani embraced his supporters who flocked, checkbooks ready, to subsidize his presidential bid.

Will Tobin tighten the net and try to force campaign volunteers to divorce themselves from Rudy? Will he argue that supporters cannot remain Catholics if they work for Giuliani’s election? Will he banish them from the communion rail for ignoring his dicta on abortion?

The overwhelmingly anti-choice Host Committee for the Giuliani fete seemed oblivious to the bishop’s warnings. Perhaps strident pro-lifer and unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Steve Laffey should have practiced obedience, capitulated to his bishop and encouraged other Catholic Giuliani cheerleaders to follow.

Tobin ought to worry about what’s morally wrong in his own office. Since his consecration as bishop, lawyers representing clients alleging sexual abuse by priests have been ignored when they come forward under the so-called Pastoral Program initiated in 2005 by former Bishop Robert E. Mulvey. About 50 cases were processed under Mulvey’s Pastoral Program providing counseling for the victims and cash settlements costing around $2 million. (The original Rhode Island settlements of at least another 38 victims from one legal group alone cost the diocese $14.25 million, and other attorneys had even more settlements after that. Calls to the diocese for an update on the program went unanswered.)

Why does a bishop so fixated on what is morally and dogmatically acceptable when it comes to a woman’s pregnancy options ignore what is moral and dogmatically acceptable on the question of sexual abuse of children by priests?

The Catholic Church and the Diocese of Providence have always been arbitrary in defining who is moral and Catholic and who is not. Heavy donors to Catholic Charities are divorced and remarried with ease while their blue-collar equivalents are banished from the pews. Mafia kingpin Raymond Patriarca was given full burial privileges in a Catholic RI cemetery while a beloved Catholic priest who chose suicide was stripped in his obituary of the title, “Reverend.” Loving relatives were denied the chance to be witnesses at their loved ones weddings, baptisms or confirmations because of one priest’s judgment that they were not worthy. Later that same priest was defrocked for sexual abuse of young people.

Giuliani is a former seminarian, twice divorced and remarried, a public philanderer and proven political slut (Giuliani nominated-- then withdrew -- friend and unscrupulous libertine Bernie Kerik for the nation’s top security job, despite Giuliani’s firsthand knowledge of and alleged commitment to preventing another “9/11.”) Why anyone even considers him a Catholic at this point may be the eighth glorious mystery.

The Catholic Church, which often adopts the Christian symbol of the fish, may, in fact, be deteriorating morally. But even Mr. Patriarca could have told Tobin that the fish still rots from the top down.


Baa Baa Converted Sheep

Dr. Charles Roselli at Oregon State University caused quite a stir recently when his studies of gay sheep were reported in the NY Times as having broad, “...implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation and mate selection across mammalian species including humans.” In short, Roselli says he can spot a gay sheep in the herd and is wondering if, down the road, the sheep might be taught to become heterosexual.

Maybe Roselli ought to get in touch with Rev. Ted Haggard to see if they can collaborate. Haggard, you may recall, was expelled from the 14,000-member New Life Church he founded after he confessed to trysts with a gay hooker, perhaps with illegal drug involvement as well.

A few months ago, however, Haggard met with former church elders who gleefully announced they are convinced Haggard is “completely heterosexual” after only three weeks of counseling. .

I’m no geneticist, so I shall have to take the fifth on whether or not Mary’s little lamb with the pink bow and bell around his neck is just sweet or truly swish. I have no idea whether that sweet lamb will grow up to be a full-blown queen and, if/when that were to happen, whether Roselli and company might be able to scientifically change the sheep’s orientation. I do know that evangelicals have, for decades, told about “praying over” gay men and women and turning them around, so to speak.

Like most of you, I have plenty of gay and lesbian friends and acquaintances, but I have yet to meet a “former” or “ex” queer person. I have, however, met some allegedly “straight” people who, years later, turned out to be queerer than they thought. Like Haggard, however, these people may have been fighting the gay thing all along, being reluctant to admit to it for fear of being labeled a sinner, pervert, or worse in their circle. Being “out” is still no picnic in many parts of our society.

If Haggard were truly to have been “cured” in three weeks, this would be a scientific phenomenon with international implications. So far, I haven’t heard that Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine or any of the other prestigious scientific journals are reporting on this miracle. In fairness, I’m not sure Haggard’s “cure” is even getting any ink in secular magazines like Men’s Health, TIME or National Geographic.

Haggard’s religious elders stood behind his “complete” recovery from gayness and his “fully” heterosexual orientation du jour. My question for them is the same one I’ve asked of those who claim they have seen gay then later turned straight by the power of prayer.

Would they-- or you-- be happy to send your beloved child or grandchild down the aisle with such a person?


Send Me No Flowers

One of the most thoughtful gifts I received from my mother was freedom from guilt about avoiding her and my father’s gravesite. I seldom visit the cemetery. I am just following her instructions not to.

“Don’t bring flowers to the grave…” she would admonish. “…Buy shoes for a child who needs shoes!”

So I do, convinced that my mother and father are much better honored and remembered by a good deed done in their memory than by flowers brought to a stone to die or be thrown away long after the good deal continues to comfort.

Not everyone agrees with this. I have friends enslaved by their need to visit the graves of their dead regularly. Some people spend hundreds of dollars on holidays, birthdays and death anniversaries buying space in the local papers to insert old photographs of their dead above a Hallmark-wannabe verse of loss and melancholy. Worse, they write their own messages to the dead.

“We will always remember you and miss you. Cape Cod will never be the same.
Love, Jack, Jill and your loving dog Sparky.” When the dog dies, his photograph will get added to the memorial ad: same newspaper he got house trained on-- life coming full circle.

My mother was a practical but compassionate woman. She knew the difference between what people really needed and an empty gesture. She would rather buy a coat for a homeless person in winter than offer him a box of taffy his toothless mouth couldn’t handle anyway. Long before it was fashionable to do so, she would bring sandwiches to street bums knowing that a gift of cash might just go for the booze they best avoided.

My 50-year-old Dad died when I was nine. I remember going to the cemetery with my devastated mother, a widow at 49 with a child to raise alone. She wept uncontrollably. I felt helpless and useless. I also remember feeling worthless. Nothing I could be, do or say could fill the void my father’s death had created for her.

I told her this. She was stunned by the possibility that her grief would permanently wound, even damage, her child. Her practicality kicked in, and from that point forward we were buying shoes, bringing clothing, carting meals, driving people to the doctor’s, making a difference.

At her wake, there were few flowers, but there was an endless procession of mourners, some we did not recognize.

“You don’t know me…” they would offer with their hand outstretched in greeting, “…but your mother brought us a meal when my husband was out of work.” Or, “once your Mom bought my kid a snowsuit so he could slide with the other kids…” Or, “Your mother bought my mother a train ticket to New York so my Mom could visit her dying sister there.”

What tributes-- not floral, and not a newsprint advertisement of grief, but so sweet and so lasting.

Bats and Balls

An article in the British magazine The Economist tells us about a scientific study done at Syracuse University in New York by Professor Scott Pitnick. Interestingly, researcher Pitnick was studying bats and the biological relationship between their testicles and their brains. ( Some readers are now asking, “Why?”)

Since many women have maintained for generations that men actually think with their, uhhh, testicles, the article had my attention. The premise of the research team is that a bat’s testicles would be larger in species where the females of that group were more promiscuous, and smaller when the females tended to limit their couplings.

The article went on to mention casually, as if we all knew a lot about such things, that:
“Greater promiscuity does, indeed, lead to bigger testes presumably because a male needs to make more sperm to have a fighting chance of fathering offspring, if those sperm are competing with a lot of other males.” This is fascinating since women are so often accused of ripping off those particular body parts, or “busting” them, as they say. Now we find out there is a legitimate scientific study that shows that we actually give men those things they love! More interesting, the naughtier we are, the bigger theirs get! It is only if we are prudish that they “shrink” to embarrassing miniatures.

Again from the article:
“Gorillas which discourage dalliances between other males and the females of their harems, have small testes. Chimpanzees, among whom females mate widely, have large ones.”

Then the addenda our curiosity has been waiting for:
“Human testes lie between these two extremes.”

This conjures a spectrum with King Kong on one end, J. Fred Muggs on the other, and your husband or boyfriend(s) -or both- somewhere in the middle.

The smallest bat testes were found among those whose females were monogamous.

Finally, the kicker:
“Brain size, by contrast…varied in the opposite direction.”

This means the bigger the testes, the smaller the brains. (Many women reading this column are now resting their case.)

This study is not likely to be nominated for a Nobel Prize, but it does give us something to ponder. The conclusion of the article said much more that anything I might add in summarizing the results of all this research referred to in the title as, “Bats and Balls”.

As the article ended, simply:
“…it is better to be virile and dim, than impotent and smart.”

But then again, a lot of us already knew that. Sleep tight King Kong: we now know you are much smarter than you look in those frontal nudity shots.


European Remedies...Why Not?

I was in Rome recently, vacationing and reveling in the wonderful lifestyle Italy offers. I was also battling the remnants of a persistent cough (shared by many of my fellow New Englanders) born of a spring cold exacerbated by a higher-than-usual pollen count during some unseasonably hot days and excessive mold spores following heavy spring rains.

Discouraged at the amount of energy my cough was consuming, I visited a pharmacy in Rome and sought the pharmacist’s advice. He asked me what I had already taken and noted the medications I was normally prescribed, then suggested an over-the-counter item which I optimistically took that afternoon and for the next few days. Within three days my cough was subsiding: in a few more days it was gone. I even managed to fly home in the plane’s dry air without hacking. I called my local pharmacist on my return and brought in the package of the Italian cough remedy. It seems it is a simple formula that could easily be replicated here in the U.S.A. and even be sold without prescription,

But it isn’t, and the tragedy is it probably never will be. This is not my first such experience with effective European pharmaceutical products that really work and don’t cost a mortgage payment to buy. My frequent visits there and my fortunate language skills make me less hesitant than others might be to give Europe’s remedies a try. I have never been disappointed.

My experiences do make me wonder, however, why Congress doesn’t deal with the overbearing pharmaceutical lobby that holds Americans hostage to outrageous drug prices by allowing more European competitors into our market? If a drug hasn’t killed or harmed all the Swiss, French or Italians over the last decade it’s probably safe enough for Americans as well. Our own FDA certainly does not have a flawless safety record when it comes to approving U.S. drugs for American consumption.

Why not bring in what’s tried and true in Berlin, Madrid, or London? Despite the American myth that we live in “the greatest country on earth,” our bodies function in the same ways as the bodies of our European neighbors. If a pill doesn’t do damage to the European Union’s gastrointestinal tract or respiratory system, it won’t hurt the stomach or lungs of a guy in Dayton, Ohio either. Besides, the federal government has depended on bringing in foreign flu vaccines, bird flu preventatives, and even West Nile remedies when the U.S. could not or would not develop enough on its own. I suppose they cannot have it both ways, eschewing foreign drugs when it interferes with U.S. drug company profits (and therefore campaign contributions) and, on the other hand, buying such drugs to avoid U.S. government embarrassment and public health crises.

My guess is that reasonable Americans agree it is time to get serious about lowering prescription and non-prescription drug costs in the United States. Opening our pharmacies to legitimate European drugs with excellent safety records might be a good beginning.


Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
Italy Series of articles runs Aug./Sept/Oct 2015

Hope for the Future: Uruguay 2007

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"JOACHIM" - Oct. '92-March '08

"JOACHIM"  - Oct. '92-March '08
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