On E. coli, the grassy knoll, and the second wave

I got food poisoning Friday night via some artisanal microgreens I paid too much for and was reluctant to trash. They smelled suspect but the date was OK, so I thought, “maybe it’s just one bad leaf,” and put vinegar and oil on them. Six hours later I exploded. Awful things happened to me; things I can never un-see, so I am evangelistic tonight; the Chuck Colson of food safety: If in doubt, throw it out. Fuck a triple-washed basil/fenugreek mélange if it doesn’t smell perfectly fresh, because know what’s pricier? A cart full of bland foods and E. coli-killing cleaning agents:


It was the kind of sick where your entire body gets involved in a full-court, military defense against death by bacteria; a cycle of PUKE —> 30 minutes relief —> 20 minutes moaning nausea —>PUKE —> try not to poop on your feet —> repeat for eight hours. So I couldn’t sleep, and the only thing on TV besides infomercials (Don’t Let Your Neck Reveal Your Age!) was a Kennedy assassination documentary. It’s a big anniversary. Fifty years.

I rode with the show and another like it throughout the night, trying to distract myself. During each 30-minute nausea-relief period, I’d get interested, like, Wow, Oswald had 11 seconds to fire three shots, not six seconds, which makes a huge difference, especially if one of the bullets deflected off the traffic light — and then the nausea would build oh god oh god as Jack and Jackie landed in Love Field, and then they’d turn left on Elm Street oh noooo and then Kennedy would be shot just as I puked into a mixing bowl.

The Zapruder film looked worse on my bigscreen than it did in 11th-grade history. Another thing that looked worse: Every journalist, every doctor, every government official (except Judge Sarah Hughes who swore in Lyndon Johnson; she’s the exception who proves the rule) is male. Fifty years ago, that wasn’t jarring; most people didn’t think twice about it, and they wouldn’t until about 1967. Until the second wave.

Which is why I get scared and angry when women shrug the second wave off like it’s irrelevant to their lives. Like their safe, legal birth control; sports scholarships; and law degrees just sort of…happened! A gift from an enlightened Universe! Too many women think that fifty years ago, every single one of them would have been Sarah Hughes. It’s a weird kind of exceptionalism.

The truth: No matter how special or smart you are, on Nov. 22, 1963 you’d be in the background shot, sweetheart. Most likely you’d be home crying in front of the TV, but if you “had to work,” you’d be teaching sixth grade or pounding out your nursing shift or transcribing on Dictaphone things men said. You wouldn’t get anywhere near the Warren Commission or Air Force One, or even the city desk of the Dallas Morning News. And if you did, you’d pay dearly in terms of your personal life. Men didn’t want to marry career girls; just ask Life magazine and the Ladies’ Home Journal.  And career girls who loved other career girls? Yeah, have fun. Pregnant and didn’t want to be? Raped and trying to report it to the police? Good luck with all that.

This is in the past, like nausea that’s hard to remember after it’s over. But we must remember, because lots of people would be delighted to return to that past; or can’t be arsed to imagine how it felt to actually live in that past.

If we’re smart, we’re afraid of a recurrence. We snap our heads up fast upon smelling the slightest waft of patriarchal funk. We don’t say “it’ll be fine,” and ignore tiny signs of rot in our healthy, verdant lives. Because, by the time we smell it, the rot’s gone pretty deep; and once we start to feel sick? We’re in for an ordeal.

4 thoughts on “On E. coli, the grassy knoll, and the second wave

  1. I just love this incredible post. I too am mystified at what it is about the women’s liberation movement that is so hard to honor or respect? Really, law school, job opportunities, lesbian nation? What men drum into each other is respect for the male past, and male accomplishments.

    Patriarchy is set up to cause women to be divided in this preservation effort. We’ve seen male rule for 5000 years, so i think we owe it to ourselves to think about what causes this age after age.

    Recently, I was talking to a woman who was critical of a huge lesbian event. She was doing nothing in particular for the community, but she had nothing good to say about all the lesbians out there DOING THE WORK. Just do the work women, give credit to women for changing the laws, take a look at those JFK films with ALL MEN RUNNING the show ALL the time. It’s shocked, but that was only 50 years ago.

    It was a lifetime I lived, and what pains me is to listen to all the third wave attacks, as if each woman had the power to “choose” her own future back then. Nope. You had no choice, you had no images, women weren’t allowed to go to law school. Women were paid nothing. The exceptions are the rule.

  2. I was six years old, and have no memory of the JFK assassination, never felt anything at all about the national obsession with it. In fact, as I got older and studied that administration in more detail, I really didn’t think he was a very good president up to that time. We had no TV, I wasn’t a product of the TV news cycles back then. So even though I am a later boomer, I was not old enough to feel anything at all.

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