Sunday, April 22, 2007

Love Bundles for the Predators

This Tuesday afternoon, I walked to “the octagon” (the cheerfully donated plot of land which I’ve turned into a vegetable garden). I walked down a busy boulevard, passing coffee shops, Vietnamese and Persian diners, thrift shops, and the best looking community college I’ve ever encountered. A block from the community college, a white pickup pulled along the sidewalk. The mustachioed driver, someone I had never seen before, rolled down his window and shouted a hey at me. As I turned to look, he reached across his passenger seat and grabbed at his door handle, starting to open it. He yelled, smiling like an alligator, “Do you want a ride?”

Hell no, predator.

I glared at him and moved to the far side of the sidewalk. “No.”

“Okay.” He pulled the door closed and drove ahead. I saw him turn right at the next intersection. Hoping that JCC was home at the house where “the octagon” resides, I picked up the pace.

********

I used to run more regularly than I do now. I kept a three-mile route that led me through both urban diversity and established homes of old Pasadena money. (I live in the urban diversity part of this route, by the way, clearly not in the old Pasadena money part.) Before I had even hit my stride in a midweek evening jog, at a corner only a few blocks from my house, ugliness happened.

It was beautiful at first. A shiny silver Mini, hopped up with racing stripes and chrome extras, stopped at the light, left blinker on. Oh, how I wanted a Mini then. I jogged in place, waiting for the light to turn and admiring the car. The near-setting sun caught every metallic fleck in light and turned the windows into golden mirrors. The wheels glowed with Armor All and pride. Blink blink went the turn signal. Beat beat went my heart.

The window opened and bright white teeth flashed me. “Hey baby. Why don’t you shake that ass a little more for me, won’t you?”

I looked away and stopped moving. He yelled at me again: “Oh come on, sugar. Take that top off. I know it’s hot.” He continued, practically singing, “Start bouncin’ again baby. You’re boring me.”

My male friends tell me that men like the Mini-driver set out to make women mad. They tell me that I shouldn’t respond, that guys like this one just get off on it. But, sometimes, I just can’t help it.

“Asshole,” I growled, hoping for that little white man-shaped light to appear. I never wanted to cross a street more in my life.

“Oooooh. I’m pissing her off. I like ‘em mad. Come on baby, yell at me a little more and shake that fine ass.”

The light finally turned, and I had to run right in front of his perfect Mini. He shouted at me the whole time, and I ran away with a hard stride. A few blocks down the road, a thought entered my mind: I shouldn’t have called him an asshole; instead, I should have politely inquired if his vehicular choice was, in some way or another, representative of the expanse of a particular bodily member. Ah, but then I’d just be stooping too low.

I no longer want a Mini.

********

Spring is usually a gentle breeze of floral kindness in Washington, DC. On this type of day my junior year of college, listening to The Smashing Pumpkins I was humming in my head, I walked home from classes, enjoying the explosion of bulbs and buds. A fence circled the flowers around my dorm, and as I walked towards it, I noticed a man leaning against this fence. He looked at me and smiled. I smiled back—why wouldn’t I? Still smiling, teeth bared, he nodded downwards with his head.

Unfortunately, I followed his nod’s suggestion and looked down. He had pulled up one edge of his short shorts, and stood there with his dick in his hand.

I may have thrown up a little in my mouth.

Struck into robot-mode with fear, I crossed to the other side of the street and had to make a wide circle around him to get into my dorm. After I entered, I went straight to the security guard and told him what I saw. I still can’t believe I smiled at him.

********

There are many more: the time my friends and I were followed for blocks and blocks; the period when the uncle of a former employer used to call and leave vaguely menacing messages on my machine; the time in junior high when I got off the bus on my rural road and a man pulled over and got out of his car to “ask me directions” (luckily, my eagle-eyed mother saved me). I could keep going, but you’ve probably all experienced these times too. As you know, there are too many to recount, and I’ve been one of the lucky ones. Others have experienced far worse.

********

I have thought long and hard about why some people behave they way they do. I know there are quite a few possible reasons: emotional damage, mental illness, lack of self-respect. I’ve read my share of feminist theory, abnormal psychology, and the like, but I have never found a complete answer for this sort of predatory nature, a point of view in which others are simply targets for sexual use. How do folks get to the point where they lose all respect for others?

Although I became a teacher to teach people to write, being a teacher has given me the opportunity to model respect. I respect my students and they respect me. I swear; it is a little respect party going on all the time in my classroom. I’ve been teaching for ten years, and I can’t imagine any student I’ve had thinking it is okay to be such a predator. I’m probably being far too optimistic about the kids I know and love in my classroom, and maybe I’m missing some glaring indicator that would tip me off, or maybe some change in attitude occurs later. Where does the breakdown happen?

I don’t know why this breakdown happens, but I do know how it affects me. Many emotions flood me when I encounter predators. First, I feel fear, lots of it. Then I get angry. When I first started thinking about writing this entry, I pictured myself including some kind of recipe that required chopping phallic vegetables with very sharp knives. I can’t do that though, because in truth, I don’t believe in that kind of response. Fear and anger don’t lead to positive change. Fear and anger lead to more fear and anger. I am not de-valuing these very important emotions, but I don’t believe that they can move us towards healing.

On the other hand, as John Lennon and millions of other music-makers, poets, theologians, and thinkers have told us over and over, love is pretty powerful stuff. So, predators, I’m offering you something, a recipe that you will love, one that is so perfect and easy, cheap yet still remarkably elegant, you’ll wish you’d always known it. And, I offer this to you with love, with the hope you will heal and stop hurting others. It’s remarkably Pollyanna of me, I know.

At least I’m a Pollyanna that eats well.


Love Bundles (Parmesan Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon)
I don’t recall for the life of me where I read or heard this, but a couple years ago I came across the mention that Suzanne Goins serves these at AOC. This is how I ended up making them, and they’ve been such a hit, I’ve served them as amuse bouches for nearly every party since I first discovered them. This is a simple recipe, so its excellence depends entirely on the quality of the ingredients—shop wisely.

You will need:

Dates (I use the Empress variety from my farmers’ market)
Parmesan, cut into approximately 1 inch by ¼ inch batons, as many batons as you have dates
Bacon, strips cut in thirds lengthwise, as many thirds as you have dates.
Toothpicks

To make the “love bundles” (I know it is a cheesy name, but can you really think of anything better for this particular recipe?):

With a sharp knife, pit the dates, discarding the pits. Insert a piece of parmesan into the cavity of the date, and press the fruit back together. Wrap a third-length of bacon around the date and secure (as best as you can, it won’t be perfect) with a toothpick. If you need to, use more than one toothpick as I often do.

Place the bacon wrapped dates on a broiler pan, or other utensil you may prefer for broiling, and broil under high for a couple minutes. You’ll need to watch carefully, as the dates will brown quickly. When the bacon on the top as browned, use kitchen mitts to remove the pan from the oven, and use tongs to turn the dates over to brown on the other side. Return the pan to the oven to broil until browned all over.

Wear oven mitts to remove the pan from the oven, and using tongs, place the dates on a dish lined with paper towels to drain a bit of their fat and cool enough to eat. Don’t wait too long though, as they’re best when they’re still quite warm.

(Sorry, no pictures. Does anyone know how to make photographs of dates look like anything other than pictures of small turds? Believe me, I tried.)

11 comments:

Susan said...

The predatory, power-trip misogynist - I have my own notebook of episodes. Disrespect starts very early in the home with the first role models, and that kind of programming is pretty intractable. Instead, we are forced to change, to loose our natural, easy sociability and trust in the world. I am not particularly fearful of these encounters (although there could be potential for real danger), but I am furious over them. Freedom means a lot to me, but I cannot go running alone. I'm sorry you had to write at length about such things. Love can't cure these creeps, but living well is our best revenge.

Susan said...

P.S. - Your Love Bundles sound quite delicious. Anything that's wrapped with bacon reminds me of rumaki, which I've had many different variations of while eschewing the dreaded chicken livers.

tannaz said...

1: a stretch with both persian and vietnamese restaurants? i gotta spend more time in pasadena.

2: as a mini owner, i am ashamed to be in the same ranks as that character -- how horrid. we're not all sexual predators, i assure you.

3: cheese really is love. i'm pretty sure you've nicked the whole predator issue with this outpouring of cheese love (wrapped in bacon, no less!). so yeah, thanks for taking care of that for us =)

Sarah said...

Love bundles...I made these a while ago and took some photos. Whaddaya think?

I think I had a near-sexual experience when I put them in my mouth.

What an interesting post. Such a mixture of ugly and divine. I really enjoyed it.

Nice to make your acquaintance!

Elizabeth & Joshua said...

Speechless R Us at the moment. But I will say that next time I visit the Army Surplus store, I'm picking up some of that pepper spray that straps to your palm, and I'm giving it to you! -Elizabeth

Susan in Italy said...

As I read your post, I was initially envious of your thrift shop, varied ethnic restaurants rich and poor(er) living side-by-side and all that jazz. Then I got mad. I know you're right about dealing with this aggression with love but I just wish I could have a water pistol that doesn't leak in your purse so that I could schpritz jerks who make rude comments in the face and humiliate them back. I know it wouldn't change them but it would make me feel like less of a victim.

rowena said...

Well immediately upon reading this post I was diverted to “the octagon” and am delighted to see that you've got a gardenening plot of your own even if on "loan" by some friends. The charentais melon caught my eye...just love them!

Christina said...

Susan: And we do live quite well! Thank goodness for that.

Tannaz: Welcome to my blog! 1) Pasadena rocks. It is a little known fact, but it is true. 2) Being a Mini driver and sexual predator do not go hand in hand--you are clearly proof of that fact. 3) Yes, cheese is love. Bacon, however, may very well be love squared. Thanks for the kudos--I do my best.

Sarah: You have proven that dates can photograph as something other than turds, and I thank you heartily for that. Your photo is lovely! I'm so glad you stopped by--we Pasadena food bloggers have got to stick together!

E-beth: Thanks for the support. I love that you've got my back.

Susan in Italy: You are a funny lady. I laughed out loud when I read the "water pistol that doesn't leak" comment. Great idea!

Rowena: Welcome to my blog--I'm so happy you stopped by. So far, the charentais aren't sprouting as mightily as I'd like them to; I may have to re-seed . . ..

lorika said...

I too have my predator stories - most recently in the alley behind my house!

But, I love the way you are trying to deal with it with love. I just wanted to smash his face in with a shovel.

Perhaps I'll keep a few of your little love bundles with me when I'm out and about - all piping hot and ready for some jerks face. No wait, that would be a waste of a delicious thing.

Thanks for posting this. Love your blog so far.

Christina said...

Lorika: Welcome! I'm sorry you had to consider shovel-smashing recently. Argh. Thank you for the compliment--I really appreciate it!

Winlor said...

Christina,
I was reminded to read your blog after reading an ex-student's blog. I'm very glad you put such effort into your prose and thought. We should dialogue more. I miss teaching.. .
sometimes. We need to catch up.
I'm not a predator.
My new school email:
wchang@smusd.us