Punishment

You’ve heard of the IKEA prison?

When I was seventeen, I went to the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program. It’s a six week program on a college campus for gifted high school students in different subject areas. The kids come from all across the state, and part of the joy is seeing suburb kids and city kids and country kids get to know each other. Actually this year GHP was only four weeks due to budget cuts, but that’s a different fish worth frying.

When I was twenty and twenty-one, I worked there as a resident assistant. When I was twenty-five, I taught there. It’s nerd camp, and it’s absolutely the greatest educational program I’ve ever been associated with.

It is magic.

My second year as an RA, I shepherded some very politically savvy young men. One night they all stayed up late in one dorm room, watching returns from the state’s gubernatorial primary with feverish excitement. Nerd camp. They were what we at GHP call SocStuds – Social Studies majors. They are always having outrageously erudite discussions with each other all over campus. And making out with the much cooler Communicative Arts majors in their spare time. At least the smart ones did that.

So when I hear Glenn Beck, who I grant you doesn’t really deserve the mention, comparing Norway’s Utoya camp to the Hitler Youth, and asking, “who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics?”, I already know the answer. I know what those kids look like in America, and I have faith that hyper-intelligent teenagers are similar the world over, and so the news from Norway just breaks my heart.

In another world, where life is built out of different fabrics, maybe there could be a punishment that could do justice to the murder of 76 people. I don’t know – maybe you strap a guy down to the gurney and you pull his psychic liver out, you wrench from him joy and heat and passion to make a new person. And it hurts like hell to do that to him – to take a piece of his soul like that. The good piece. The best piece. The goodness that’s buried deep down, or maybe the pride that’s right on the smug surface.

And at night you let that liver grow back. And in the morning you do it again.

And then when you have these 76 people, all shining and bright, all the best parts of him that he rejected, and the love he had that he forgot or ignored or never understood, you have them lay their hands on him and press and press harder and harder and they all press in and he’s pressed into some new shape, some new form, some better angel, or he’s pressed into nothing at all.

It still wouldn’t really be right – there is nothing imaginable that would be right, except maybe pulling a Superman and spinning the world in the other direction and getting those kids back and burning him out of the universe.

But I’m being fanciful and we all know the world does not work that way. We have not been given such a world. It is unfair. You can pick up a gun and you can shoot somebody, you can shoot everybody, and we can throw the book at you, we can torture you, we can kill you, but it doesn’t undo what you’ve done. Hell we could rehabilitate you and you could go on to save the world and it doesn’t undo what you’ve done. It does not sew those pieces back together. That’s not the world we have.

And so it doesn’t really matter if Anders Breivik gets put in Abu Ghraib or in this so-called IKEA prison. Does it?

When we want vengeance, when we want someone to suffer, what do we want that for?

Do we want it to send a message? Do we want someone to suffer so that others will look at that example and say, well, I was GOING to go kill 76 people, but now that I see that this shmuck’s going to get his fingernails pulled off with pliers, count me out?

The statistics aren’t there for the deterrent argument, and I don’t think logic helps us much either. It’s just as likely that Breivik would get off on his punishment, on anything we could do to him, on becoming a martyr. It’s just as likely that someone with dreams of killing a fresh 76 would further delight in such notoriety that torture or execution would bring. The thought of imprisonment might keep you and me from boosting our neighbor’s shit, but these people aren’t dealing the same deck of cards as you and I are.

Besides, I think when you get down to it, for you and for me, it’s not about deterrence either. It’s about the fact that we have a conscience, or a superego, or a morality that is differently developed from Breivik’s. We know that it’s not right to go out and kill people because you hate Muslims. We know that’s not what goodness is.

Some of us tend to differ on whether it’s goodness to go kill Muslims because “they hate our freedom,” but again: different fish.

So our anger is anger over another unfairness. We are saddled with these particular consciences, and other people are not. Other people have different moralities, for whatever reasons. Other people didn’t grow up with mom or dad or Jesus or Ronald Reagan or Mrs. Buckmaster or maybe they did and they still turned out bonkers.

And that sucks. Because here I am paying my taxes, and this jackass is getting paid under the table.

It’s unfair. You can be walking down the street minding your own business and a piano falls on you. You can follow all the rules and your kid gets killed at nerd camp.

So people are mad that Breivik’s going to get cushy surroundings. Because we want him to suffer. But why?

One of the great things about being a human, perhaps the greatest thing, is that no one can control our thoughts. Not even Meryl in The Manchurian Candidate, and if there’s anyone who could come close to total cerebral domination, it would have to be Meryl Streep.

But it’s one of the great themes, this idea that you can do whatever you want to my body, but you can’t break my spirit if I don’t want you to. You can cloud the hell out of my mind, you can keep me from being able to concentrate, and hey I bet you if I were tortured I’d fold like cheap lawn furniture and tell you anything you want to hear.

But I can’t make you love me. Right, Bonnie?

I can sit down at family dinner and think about how much I want to be out of there. I can walk down the street and think dirty thoughts about attractive people I pass.

I can break your heart or kill your kid and I can be not sorry about it and you can’t make me sorry. You just can’t.

Some people are going to be like Raskolnikov. They’re going to have their high-minded rationalizations for committing crimes, and then their minds are going to punish them. They’re going to drive them crazy with guilt, remorse, and the punishment society adds to that will just be an afterthought. But some people aren’t that way. They could be locked away forever or strapped to the chair and you just can’t make them suffer.

That’s unfair. That’s the world we have.

I think punishment keeps criminal elements from reentering society, and I think it should continue to do that, and I think for a small percentage of the population, societal punishment can lead to rehabilitation, and that’s wonderful. And for a majority it doesn’t, and that’s terrible in several ways, not the least of which is that it is in part our failure. And part of me wishes Norway would throw away the key when they put Breivik into IKEA, or that some higher power would reach down (“enter hand of God”) and toss him into that big IKEA in the sky (no, not Heaven – I mean let’s get real: have you ever been in IKEA for more than two hours? It gets old fast).

On the other hand, I have no way of knowing the content of his character after twenty-some years there. I know it will never restore the nerd camp magic, or the magic of those lives, that he so cruelly dispelled, and that’s an injustice that I accept as the world’s, and which I refuse to punish myself over, because it is not my fault. Or if there is a higher power who reigns over the celestial IKEA, I have no way of knowing why Breivik is allowed to live and 76 were not. And I can’t punish myself over that either.

Will Anders Breivik become someone who would be a contributing member to society? Maybe, if some vigilante doesn’t kill him first. Because that’s the freedom we all have, of course. We can fight fire with fire, and then deal with the burns we’ve received in turn.

I just can’t help but think the energy’s better spent trying to prevent new Breiviks from spawning. And I don’t tend to see that happening through punishment. I see it through education. For that matter, you may not be able to force Breivik to feel sorry for what he did, to feel the pain of his victims. But you, perhaps, could teach him to.

It’s not fair. It’s just all we have.

HIV/AIDS (1)

I love a good subway ad. ConEdison has a series now that is a bunch of different multiple choice questions about how to be greener. They’re tongue-in-cheek and informative. Much better than staring at pictures of suspicious lumpy bags with “Si Ves Algo, Di Algo!” written below.

But the subway ads drawing the most ink lately have to be the “It’s Never Just HIV” posters. The first one I saw featured a young black man, looking just a little bit sexily mysterious, being told that, even if you’re on meds, HIV leads to greater risk of ANAL CANCER. If this ad were a greeting card, it would play organ music when you opened it. Actually you can hear the accompanying music in a TV here. They have shots of young men (of different races) looking anxious, building to an anal cancer climax, complete with a blink and you’ll miss it graphic image.

There are two ways this ad points to the fuzziness of our definitions of HIV and AIDS.

I) The Changing Faces of HIV

The ad I saw featured a black man. The campaign is multicolored, but there is a specific (and relatively new) purpose behind including black men in such material. Back in 1982, this disease was called GRID, gay-related immune disorder. Then doctors realized that this name did not accurately reflect all the demographics being affected, so the more equal opportunity name, AIDS, was born. For the next decade, AIDS in the public realm would revolve around white men. Take a look at the cast of Broadway’s recent production of The Normal Heart, one of the first plays to deal with AIDS by one of the first activists (Larry Kramer) to fight it:

Here you have a token white woman; in Angels in America, the apotheosis of AIDS literature which came some years later, we would get a token snap queen: Belize. But for the most part, the arts and the activists gave us an AIDS of well-educated, generally well-off white guys. Think Tom Hanks in Philadelphia: a brilliant and compassionate lawyer. This white face was the dominant face of AIDS.

Yet, while it was white, it was still a face easy for the Republican party to ignore. Reagan infamously didn’t publicly say the word AIDS for years. He is ridiculed in this Slate article by Alex Pareene for being more willing to speak about the threat from aliens in UFOs than the threat of AIDS, which was killing, Pareene reminds us, a “staggering” number of Americans during his presidency.

What the article doesn’t stress is that Reagan’s main point about UFOs was that an “alien race” would force all humans to remember that “we are all God’s children.” But, in a speech to the United Nations, Reagan waxed metaphorical, asking, what could be more alien than war?

Okay…let’s see if he can figure out the next step on his own…

(Don’t you think, Mr. President, that it’s an easy connection to then consider an ingenious virus to be an alien force threatening our lives, while at the same time – as there is no cure, and no one is immune – reminding us of our shared humanity?)

But no.

It would take an affluent white woman – we all know white women make the best Victims – to speak to the Republican National Convention in 1992 and ask them to lift the “shroud of silence” around AIDS.

Then, as we all know, over the next decade, the face of AIDS changed. Sadly, part of it can be attributed to the decimation of the white male homosexual population. Those who survived, we are left to presume, stopped having so much anonymous sex, got meds, and became like Magic Johnson (rich and smiley enough to be white): they were living with it.

Not living with it, but dying by the millions from it, were Africans. Sure, Africa gave us AIDS in the first place, and we’re still kinda ticked about that, but Jesus, there’s just so many of the poor bastards. We have to do something.

Enter a new Republican, the compassionate conservative, God’s president, who may have guaranteed at least one positive in his legacy by spending billions to fight AIDS. Most PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) money goes to “hard-hit nations in Africa and the Caribbean” (quote from Times article). You see, Bush, the evangelical, was allowed to envision the now poor-black-AIDS as one giant mission trip for the taking.

And there’s no doubt that the Christian right has always been more interested in saving the unwashed abroad than the faggots next door.

It would be easy to think, then, that AIDS in our own country shrank down to a barely noticeable blip on the radar. Not exactly, although the faces became more colorful. Enter the MSM, the men who have sex with men (but do not necessarily identify as homosexual; a fuzziness in itself). While MSM can be of any race, much attention has been paid to the DL, the down low, a phenomenon among African-American men who apparently for cultural reasons have more of a motive to not identify as gay. So instead they stay with their wives and girlfriends and fool around on the side and then give these unwitting women HIV as a thank you note. This very situation was featured in the film version of “For Colored Girls,” and if it’s in a Tyler Perry movie, it’s for serious.

Also for serious is my favorite debate moment of all time (transcript here), when Gwen Ifill brought this issue up with Dick Cheney and John Edwards. Here she goes:

I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts. What should the government‘s role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?

Cheney then proceeded to discuss AIDS in Africa, which she specifically asked him not to do, before admitting this:

Here in the United States, we‘ve made significant progress.  I have not heard those numbers with respect to African- American women.  I was not aware that it was—that they‘re in epidemic there, because we have made progress in terms of the overall rate of AIDS infection, and I think primarily through a combination of education and public awareness as well as the development, as a result of research, of drugs that allow people to live longer lives even though they are infected—obviously we need to do more of that.

I love how he says “they’re in epidemic there” to describe black female Americans. John Edwards then went on and on about Africa, before settling in the States to turn it completely into a healthcare issue.

Ifill said, after these two lackluster answers, “Okay, we’ll move on.”

HIV/AIDS is fuzzy because it has affected different people (and different classes) in different degrees at different times. And these different faces have led to very different actions – years of silence versus a flood of international aid money versus ignorance on the home front once again.

But it’s also fuzzy – and this is the second reason I like the subway ad – because the very sickness it describes is now seen differently than it was twenty years ago.

HIV/AIDS (2)

II) The Different Meanings of HIV

I know from my AP Literature teacher that the phrase “double-edged sword” can be traced to the book of Hebrews, though it’s translated in the KJV as “two-edged sword.” And I know from watching TV talk shows that success is often such a sword – I’m thinking of the people who talk about winning the lottery and then bitch about how all their friends want money.

Progress in the treatment of HIV and AIDS has surely been double-edged. On the one hand, you have good news, like
this
Doctors Without Borders policy advisor saying that “in the US, if a twenty year old tests positive for HIV…that person is expected to live well into his 60s, to the age of 69, actually.”

On the other hand, this can lead to what those in the field have taken to calling “HIV complacency.” In other words, MSM and other sexually active folks are starting to shrug off the threat.

This is why we have these anal cancer ads – one blogger has referred to them as the “death anus” campaign. HIV needs to be scary again. Larry Kramer, author of the lily-white The Normal Heart, believes that they’re not scary enough. Obviously, he believes in HIV complacency, and he has further earned my great respect for writing an anti-complacency letter which was hand-delivered to all exiting audience members of The Normal Heart. Sometimes he handed it out himself, at the ripe age of 76. Because he is a badass.

Entitled “Please Know,” the letter encourages the audience to remember that the fight is far from over, in this country and others. I just love that he did that, as otherwise the temptation after a cathartic night of theater is to believe that the work, the struggle of the 80s and 90s to save those nice white men, is over.

I’m wondering if the author of The Help is going to stand outside of theaters and hand out statistics detailing the great disparity in wealth among the races of this country, or the inequalities in our public schools, or things of that nature.

But back to the shifting meaning of HIV. Here’s another example of double-edged progress. We all know that many “developing” nations are on the move – that India, for instance, has an economy growing faster than was predicted. In fact, the economist Paul Collier argues in The Bottom Billion, a huge percentage of the world’s population is moving from “dirt poor” to “less poor” (my classifications, not his). Great, right?

Well, last week Doctors Without Borders issued a press release that said drug companies are going to take away “HIV drug discount programs in middle-income countries.” So countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, have been deemed by some companies to be just un-poor enough to pay top dollar for their drugs, while other lucky bottom-of-the-barrel places are charged maybe a quarter of that price. It’s like getting a raise and finding out you’re in a higher tax bracket. It chips away at incentive for economic growth, that’s for sure, and that’s usually enough to set conservatives on fire, so…I’m waiting for Rush Limbaugh to blast Pfizer for being socialist.

To add a cherry to this cake, I’ll tell you that in Stephanie Nolen’s 28, a volume that gives a glimpse into the lives of different Africans dealing with HIV/AIDS, there is a story about a woman who wanted to reinfect herself with tuberculosis in order to keep collecting the paltry free groceries she received at a health clinic while sick.

I thought, hmmm.

And I wrote a short play about an actress in a country poor enough to have cheap ARVs to give its sick. She wants a job with a street theater troupe, but you have to be HIV+ to work with them (the grant they received from a British aid group stipulates this; it’s a better story, a bunch of HIV actors fighting the good fight). So she decides to try and get herself infected with HIV, in order to improve her life and give her suffering meaning. This is part of her justification:

My life is terrible now without AIDS. It is empty. It is hard. I struggle. I work to find the money for a cup of water, then I wait six hours in the sun to get it. AIDS will give my life a purpose. AIDS will give me real enemies – I can put a name to the injustices we suffer here. I can put faces to the shit of my life – faces like the drug companies who won’t let us have the cheaper generic ARVs or the second-line drugs, faces like the people who say there’s no money to be made in researching this poor person disease, the people who think we are not worth helping. I will have a fight. And I will have friends to fight with.

Well, let’s say that when I read this play to a group of artists a few weeks ago, it drew some fire. Some people thought I was painting a racist picture of Africans being so stupid they’ll infect themselves with HIV.

And now all I have to say is, look, the rules of the game have changed. This ain’t your gay uncle’s HIV. Say what you will about this ad campaign, at least it’s stirred up some much needed dialogue about the state of our union’s viruses.

If you ignore the fact that things have changed in terms of how people all over the world look at HIV/AIDS, and that the ways people think and feel and live their lives with the threat of it have changed, you’re giving up your voice in a conversation that still very much needs to take place.

Famine

Ask Joe the Plumber on the street what a famine is and I bet he will tell you it is when there is no food.

Pretty simple.

But on a global scale things are more complicated. Have you heard that Eastern Africa is in the grips of the worst drought in 50 years? Actually I’m interested in knowing if you have heard, because many people have not, even though reports tell us that as many as 11 million people are affected (11 million sound familiar?), and that, to quote a headline from the major English newspaper The Independent, “millions could die of hunger.”

I don’t always know why my clicker finger is drawn to some stories and leaves others, but in this case what interested me was that for the past few weeks (if not longer) we were told that Eastern Africa was “approaching famine,” that they had almost satisfied, for want of a better term, the United Nations definition of famine.

You may remember from the FuzzyE entry on genocide, if you didn’t fall asleep halfway through, that the UN has an official definition of it, and when a situation is deemed to be an example of genocide, countries are bound by treaty to act. This leads to hemming and hawing on the parts of various State Department officials, and other international diplomats, who dance around the word for fear of having to send their troops in and risk having them dragged dead through the streets of a brown country. Again.

I was curious as to if there is a similar situation with famine, if it’s the F-word of humanitarian aid. When famine is invoked, are our governments legally bound to get off their asses and get out their soup ladles?

But no, it doesn’t seem to be that way. I’m happy to be corrected on this, but I can’t find anything like that mentioned in any of the articles I’ve read. All they say is that the definition of famine, for the UN, is so:

The UN declares famine when more than 30 per cent of children are acutely malnourished, more than two people in every 10,000 die per day and people have no food or other basic necessities.

Thank you, Independent. So, you know, it’s part of someone’s job in the Horn of Africa right now to count malnourished children – maybe to measure their little biceps to see if they qualify as “acute” or not. It’s someone’s job to go from town to town and see how many people have died, and verify if they died of hunger or some other less unnatural cause.

And yesterday that person got to write back to the boss that yep, we’ve hit it. And the bosses send out their press releases, and start badgering governments, and guilt-tripping the rest of us into maybe squeezing out a little disposable income.

I guess I can see the benefits of having an agreed-upon definition of famine, although a Cornell “food aid expert” claims there is no real international consensus on the term. We need to set standards so that we don’t end up like the boy who cried wolf, and you can’t just throw the word around every time Ndugu goes to bed hungry. Having a looser definition of famine might lead to aid fatigue, you know? We’d all just say, oh, right, another famine. There were two last week.

Except most people are there already – finding “hungry Africans” to be redundant – and even the most bleedy hearts among us have to admit that the disasters have just seemed to come lately at an unmanageable pace, and the poor journalists and aid workers have been hard-pressed to find stronger adjectives and classifications. I mean, while reading The New York Times these days – sorry, while reading the free news sources since you’ve ditched the pay-to-play Times – do you not sometimes feel like a meth addict slapping your extremities silly, trying to find a vein, trying to find some part of you that has a little blood left to give, a little tear left to drop, over the latest depressing story?

I have learned, from the wonders of youtube, that usually one of the last untapped veins for addicts is called the blue vein. It’s in your penis. I am not entirely sure how this can help the starving Africans, but I really wanted to share that with you.

If you are nodding and making little sounds of affirmation as you read this (not the penis bit), I recommend you read an article by Adrian Hamilton in The Independent on this kind of aid fatigue. Hamilton is more shrewd and knowledgeable about this stuff than I, and gives many solid reasons to have anxiety over aid in this particular case, and asks many penetrating questions about our responsibilities in general. Hamilton offers suggestions for improvement – he thinks we should beef up the UN’s infrastructure for dealing with disasters, and aim for “non-political intervention” that is not dependent on private charity. I don’t know how, really, but it sounds great.

But Hamilton also says, “We shouldn’t reduce the flow [of aid]. God forbid.” And that’s the point that might get lost in his larger examination of aid anxiety and fatigue.

Because let’s get real. Yes, there have been a lot of disasters, and lots of appeals for your chump change. And you, like me, most likely did not donate to all of them. Or only donated a little. And I ask you, and I ask myself, when I don’t give, is it ever because I can’t afford to?

And the answer for me is no. I can always afford to give something. And when I don’t, it’s usually just because I’m bullshitting myself.

It’s all well and good to have fancy definitions of famine, but I think etymologically the UN does something even more interesting. The full term actually is “famine/catastrophe,” and any Greek drama egghead can tell you that catastrophe is what happens at the end of a plot. It literally means to overturn. Someone who is up usually gets brought down – like Oedipus.

However, there can be happy overturnings. J.R.R. Tolkien called these eucatastrophes (eu means good). A resurrection is the ultimate example of this, the greatest possible “joyous turn.”

So, with all this in mind, perhaps labeling something a “catastrophe” is optimistic. Perhaps it means that the wheels are going to turn, that, now that we’re at rock bottom, things are going to start the climb back up. Perhaps it means that now, with the use of these words, something inside of us will turn over, and we’ll click a few buttons (or find some other way) to do a little good.

Drunk

I’m going to tell you something you probably already know.

Maybe you followed the case about the New York woman who was raped by the NYPD? She was out celebrating a job promotion or job change or something, and she had too much to drink, and she went home in a cab, and the cabbie called the cops because she was too funk to drunction, and the cops helped her back to her apartment. And then they came back and raped her.

Well, they say they didn’t. But they do not dispute that they kept going back to the apartment. To check on her, apparently. And cuddle with her in bed. You know, the usual.

You can check the specifics of the case out if you want, and the fact that the cops got off. Getting off is a popular thing these days. Maybe that’s encouraging. Maybe in the future we’ll all just get off continuously.

Semantics even played a part in the trial, as the jury heard expert testimony concerning the difference between “passing out” and “blacking out.” In the latter case, as one juror said, “you can be walking and talking but not able to remember what happened later.”

Anyone who has ever woken up with a retainer in their mouth but no memory of putting it there has already learned this distinction.

But what interests me is this: let’s say, hypothetically, that a few months ago I got completely drunk. And let’s say I got a little stoned too. Hypothetically. And let’s say this behavior led me to be for about four minutes the life of the party. Let’s say I theoretically developed an argument for why Babe, the 1995 sheep-pig classic, represents the pinnacle of American cinema.

And let’s say when those glory minutes were over, I ended up lying on a patch of grass, not too far from various deposits of vomit and urine. And let’s say I drifted in and out of consciousness for the next few hours, and rode in the back of a friend’s car trying to sing showtunes, and sobered up remarkably under the fluorescent torture of a convenience store, and went home without further incident.

And let’s say hypothetically I woke up the next day and read about Cop Rape ’11 and I thought, Jesus. Being drunk is different for men and women.

That’s the thing I figure you already know. But I’ll tell it to you anyway.

Minor firestorms were caused by the Cop Rape business when some commentators, females among them, tried to use the case as a teachable moment. Women just flat out have to take different care of themselves, they said.

Enter resistance. I should be able to get as drunk as the hell I want and not have to worry about getting raped by the cops, or by anybody. I should be able to get as drunk as the hell I want and not have people shake their heads and say “she brought this on herself.”

Of course you should. And in very many circumstances and situations you absolutely can. And in others you can’t. And, yes, bad things might happen to drunk men. But there is still a different kind of danger for women than for men, and so I was led to wonder if our dictionaries, being such tools for learning, ought not reflect this:

Drunkenness (n.)

1. the state of no longer being able to accurately judge old sitcoms (“The Facts of Life” was CRUCIAL, man. You liked “Growing Pains” better? Fuck  you. I’m never talking to you again. Hey, everyone: I’m never talking to him again. No, really. I want you to hold me to this.)

2. a condition that is more risky for women

Why stop there? We all know whiskey drunk isn’t the same as wine drunk. Friday drunk isn’t the same as Tuesday drunk. Bill Cosby had a mildly amusing routine on different drunks. The one I liked best was the beer drunk whose leg keeps filling up and so he has to keep hobbling to the toilet to drain it.

Imagine a more precise world, where you call up a friend to tell that person how you were just thinking about that one time, sophomore year, when you called her a bitch and you just wanted to say that you had a lot going on at the time, stuff she doesn’t even know about, like at home and with your Cognitive Psychology recitation, and you were drinking instant coffee which you never do, and you just really didn’t mean it, and you’ve always wanted to tell her that.

And your friend says, I know, you told me that last month. You’ve told me that seven times. Are you drunk?

And you say hypothetically yes.

And she says, tell me more.

And you say, I’m drunk like the time we watched Waiting to Exhale and thought the toilet was telling us secrets.

And she says, I’m on my way.

Whereas if you say, I’m drunk like the fourth inning of a summer baseball game, she probably won’t be worried and will go back to her red wine and “Growing Pains” DVDs.

Yes, that show IS on DVD, and why no one has bought the complete series for me yet is unclear.

Finally, I’d like to say that in case you’re not sold by my “female drunk / male drunk” dichotomy, how many times have you heard or uttered the phrase, “Yeah, I really wanted to hook up/make-out/hold hands with her, but since she was drunk, I didn’t do it.”

Now substitute “him/he” and see if the sentence still sounds right to you.

I submit that there is a double standard here: it’s okay if the guy is drunk because we already assume that sex is something he’s up for anyway. Women, being far more inscrutable, are a toss-up, and so, if we are chivalrous and not members of the NYPD, we do not make the assumption.

Or we say, wait, are you English Department poetry reading reception drunk, or are you that time I kept telling people I was at the corner of 8th street and 8th street drunk?

Because if we’re just talking “enough cheap sherry to get you through another evening of overwrought similes and confessional free verse,” then the game is on.