Thursday, May 7, 2015

Appropriations, and The Concept of Human Entitlement

Max is back home now, and happily running amok. Even after a full evening, night, and morning with him, I found myself following after him, just watching him and aching with how much I love the little disaster-invoking fur ball. He's oblivious to my residual, PTSD fretting, of course, and seems perpetually surprised to find me hovering, whenever he turns around, and thus merps his little trilling greeting and comes trotting over to me for chin scratches and to offer me love nibbles. I love him all the more for that. The discharge papers from the vet described him as capable of being 'very affectionate' but also capable of being 'quite fractious'. That's Mad Max, just like his namesake.

But onto the meat of this post. I've posted before about Native appropriations, and everything I said in those posts, still stands. This time I'm focusing on a different sort of appropriation, one that the public at large has probably not even noticed, or registered, and one that I'm sure at least a chunk of folks will tell me is simply me taking offense to something unoffensive. But I'm going to write the post anyway.

It all started with a trip to Starbucks. I had gone and gotten Max from the overnight vet, and transferred him to our regular vet for daytime care, and on my way out of town I stopped to nab some coffee goodness for my coworker and myself. While I was waiting for my order, I noticed another patron's shoes. My instant response was *I WANT THOSE SHOES* but then I looked at them more closely, and my insta-love turned into insta-loathing. Such insta-loathing that I covertly snapped a photograph to be used for this post.

Here's the thing. Those shoes are awesome, because they look like actual pointe shoes. The problem is, you don't just 'get' pointe shoes, you earn them. And you earn them by doing years of hella hard fucking work. This is a picture I've seen going around which is a great representation of the sacrifice that goes into gaining the beauty of a pointe shoe.

My point (no pun intended) is, pointe shoes are a right you earn, not an accessory you wear. Before anyone argues with me, I know it's *possible* the woman in Starbucks is a dancer, but her body says otherwise. If she danced, it was years in the past. So what right does she have to wear a pointe shoe, or a shoe designed to look so much like an actual pointe shoe, that at a glance one would think it was a real pointe shoe?

And I don't feel this way only about this specific pair of shoes, and this specific incident. I was rolling in my grave, so to say, over the obsession with fashion riding boots - and 'riding pants' - in recent years. Uh, no. I've spent 26 years working to earn the right to wear riding boots - and let me tell you, honey, even I don't wear the black boots with the brown tops, hunt-tops, they're called. That's formal hunting attire, to be worn only with a red hunt coat (there are numerous regulations) and if you aren't a member of a hunt club, you don't wear that shit. And yet, here I am surrounded by people, many of whom have never even touched a real horse, wearing 'riding boots' and 'riding pants' (For the record, they're called jodhpurs if you're a junior, and you were them with leather garter straps around the leg below the knee, and jodhpur boots. They're called breeches, if you're older and those are worn with tall leather boots, field boots for hunt riders, and dress boots for dressage riders. There are major differences in attire across the disciplines) while I'm just walking around in my jeans, and my breeches and field boots are in the closet, because, you know, I'm not riding a horse, I'm walking down the street. Look at this hot mess, which I found particularly amusing and irritating, with its fake little 'spur' around the heel. No riding boot ever looked like this.

Where did this concept of I'm a human, therefore I'm entitled to wear anything that looks cool come from? I understand such appropriations have been going on for centuries, but they've certainly gotten more profound or, perhaps, more widely visible in recent years. I'm sure much of such visibility comes from the internet and social media. But I still fail to grasp why society in general thinks it's okay to appropriate things. I look at fashion icons (I'm thinking Michael Jackson, whose distinctive style was influenced by various things, but which never actually copied anything that I know of) who created their own style without appropriating cultures or skills. Yes, at some point in their career, I'm sure something was appropriated, inadvertently or otherwise, but they didn't sell entire fashion lines by taking another cultures style. And no, I don't count Cher and her 'Cherokee' outfit as an appropriation because she is of American Indian descent (in part, at least). 

Appropriation has been in the news quite a lot recently, and I think that's a good thing. But I think we also need to take it further. Enough of this picking and choosing what's okay to appropriate, and what's not okay to appropriate. If you aren't of American Indian descent, don't wear something that utilizes one of their cultures, unless it's something you bought directly from an American Indian artist. I wear tons of turquoise, but I don't wear anything with religious emblems, or tribal patterns, not unless it's an item I bought from a Native artist. If you don't ride horses, don't wear freaking 'riding boots' or 'riding pants'. If you're not a ballet dancer, don't wear pointe shoes, or shoes that mimic true pointe shoes. Be aware of crap like Givenchy using words like chola to in their fashion designs, and lines, when they have no right to, and have no understanding of what the word means to those who do have a right to use it. Don't be sporting bindis just because they sparkle. Pierce your nose if you want, but don't wear jewelry designed to mimic the plethora of nose-specific jewelry worn by the various cultures of India, because, you know, those styles mean something spiritually and religiously to those peoples.

Basically, if something being utilized in fashion is defended by the designer as 'simply inspiration' or 'just hair' or 'just makeup' then you need to take a closer look at the designer/company, and why they feel like they have the right to 'just use' whatever it is they've utilized in their fashions. The same goes for popular trends. If it's something that seems cool because it makes you feel like another culture, or whatever, then you probably ought to look at it a second time, and discern whether it's something that was actually inspired by a culture or subset, or if it's something that simply copies an existing culture or subset. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Lily of Death

I type this to you with Xanax seeping through my veins. Meanwhile, I.V. fluids are creeping through the veins of my beloved Mad Max Rockatansky. Why? Because he chewed on the leaves of an Asiatic lily. The life of my cat hangs in the balance because of four fucking leaves. Or more accurately the mere pieces of four different leaves.

Until 3:47 this afternoon when my Mom informed me 'Your son is chewing on my lily, google that and make sure it's not poisonous.' I had no idea - literally no fucking concept - of just how toxic lilies are to cats. If pollen gets on their fur and they lick it, they could die. No, I'm not being dramatic. That was my first reaction when the first website so, being the 'multiple reference' person I am, I went to another site and then to and and

By then, I was genuinely starting to panic. I had *watched* Max swallow one of the leaves, and three others were tattered. So I called our vet, and was told to bring Max in immediately. To overview: At approximately 3:47 Max chomped the ends off four leaves of an Asiatic lily. By 4:30 we were at the vet's, and he was consulting with a specialist in animal toxicology. By 5:00, Max had been induced to vomit (he vomited all the leaves, they could practically put the pieces back together) and they were waiting for the sedative (with cats, they give them an anesthetic, which causes nausea, and vomiting) to wear off so they could begin giving him activated charcoal. He's a twelve pound cat, which equals a dosage of 70 MLs of activated charcoal. By now, Max was swearing that he'd never even look at anything green again. Amazingly, they got all 70 MLs into him, and other than burping droplets a few times, he kept it all down. The next step is I.V. fluids. For 48hrs. The idea is that any bits of toxin which don't adhere to the activated charcoal, will be flushed out of his system before they have time to settle in his kidneys. Basically, it's the same sort of toxic process as antifreeze poisoning.

Shocked yet? Yeah, me too. I'm still trying to convince myself that in the span of five hours, I went from loafing in my pjs to writing this and not knowing if Max is going to live. Scientifically, rationally, and medically, his prognosis is 'very good' according to the specialist, my vet, and the emergency clinic vet, where he'll be spending tonight, and possibly tomorrow night. But anyone who has much experience in medicine understands that having everything go even the best way, doesn't guarantee that it will *continue* to go the best way. Now, with lily poisoning, the consensus is 'treatment within the first 18 hours' gives you the best chance for recovery, and obviously, Max started treatment within the first hour, so *crosses fingers and knocks on wood* in theory, Max stands a good chance of running rampant for years to come. 

But we won't know for sure until we're through the next 48 hours without problem. And no amount of scientific or medical fact is going to assure me of his safety until 48 hours has gone by without incident and he's charmed all the vet techs and comes bouncing home with me. So in the least, this incident has given me more gray hair, and empty bank account and a hell of a lot of emotional trauma.

The terror associated with the idea of losing Max aside, I'm still reeling with horror over the toxicity of lilies in general. And it's not just cats. Dog, humans and goats (of all animals) are incredibly vulnerable too. I mean, let's get real. Dropping pollen on a cat can kill them? Now think about a toddler chewing on a leaf of that Easter lily on the coffee table. Or the dog snuffling it.

There is not enough public awareness of just how poisonous lilies (all of them, to varying degrees) are to us, and the animals many of us keep as pets. I beseech you to share this post on all of those Facebook groups you're in, or Pages you frequent. And the lily that got Max into all of this? $3.98 at Walmart, not a single word of warning anywhere on the label or pot. Nowhere on that plant did it say just how devastatingly harmful it could be to an animal or human. I presume that the lack of warning is because everyone and their second cousin buy lilies in the millions around Easter and in the spring or early summer. This one happened to be be given to my Mom last week for teacher appreciation week. I hazard that the mother who bought it might have had second thoughts if there was a big old skull and crossbones on the tag. But I wouldn't be going through all of this, either. Even my vet, who's been in practice for over 30 years, hasn't ever dealt with this. He has indoor cats, and his yard is full of lilies of various types. That's probably going to changed. 

Please, share this. Help me spread this information now. The majority of lily poisonings are fatal, simply because people don't understand how dangerous they are. If no one witnesses the cat consuming the lily, the symptoms that eventually provoke treatment are related to renal failure, not the actual poisoning. And once the cat enters renal failure, chances of survival are slim, at best. Sometimes even weeks of dialysis are not sufficient to get the cat through.

The best way to assure that a cat recovers from lily poisoning, is to make sure they never get poisoned to start with. ALL LILIES ARE POISONOUS. If you have pets, or small children, don't have a lily. Period. It's just too dangerous.