At Least

It took me getting cancer to realize that America’s pastime isn’t baseball. It’s attempting to find silver linings no matter how dark the clouds are.

I can’t tell you how many people have tried to make…me? themselves? both? feel better about this whole cancer nonsense by pointing out things that aren’t horrible. They said “At least you have a nicely shaped head” when I went bald. Or “At least you have a good disability pension.” Or “At least you got to meet some new friends because of cancer.”

I did it too, to be honest. Until one day, when I was done with denial, I thought, “You know what? This situation sucks, why am I looking for the bright side in this as if that’s going to make it not suck? My nicely shaped head doesn’t change the fact that I have a terminal illness.”

Since then, “At least” has become my least favorite phrase. And it seems like Americans in particular use it ALL. THE. TIME. As in “At least more people weren’t killed in that 100 car pileup” or “At least 9/11 really brought Americans together in a spirit of community.”

Are you fucking kidding me? No. Just no.

Sometimes it worries me that we, as a culture, don’t seem to know what to do when people are struggling except to try to distract them from the thing that’s wrong. We tell people who experience racism that at least they aren’t living in the era of slavery. We tell people who are grieving the loss of a loved one in war that at least they died serving their country. We tell people who lost their job that at least they still have their health. It’s like we’re saying that if there’s anything in your life that isn’t shitty, that’s supposed to make it OK that something really bad happened.

I mean, look, I don’t think we should all just sit around moping and giving up all hope whenever something bad happens, and ignoring everything good that happens. But pretending like a shitty situation isn’t so bad because not every inch of it isn’t completely covered in manure? That’s dumb. And really dismissive to the person living with the poop.

Instead, how about we acknowledge that something is wrong and ask “How can I help?” How can I help the family of the police officer who was murdered? How can I help the person who is homeless? Why not take our American optimism and ingenuity and face the problem head-on and come up with solutions?

It seems like an umbrella is a lot more useful to someone caught in the rain than just pointing out that there’s a rainbow.

Grown Up Movies for Kids: Field of Dreams

Ray: “You gonna write about it?”
Terry: “It’s what I do.”

It’s time again for another Grown Up Movie for Kids! And yes, it’s another sports-related movie. The Boy likes sports and so do I. But have you noticed how many of these sports movies aren’t really about sports? Of all the ones I’ve talked about so far, this might be the sports movie that is the least about sports, actually: it’s Field of Dreams. If you have been living under a rock since 1989, well, I’m sorry, I’m not gonna explain the plot to you. Instead, let’s jump into why this is a great movie to watch with a kid.

First off, are you worried about violence or nudity? There is none in this film. (In fact, there’s very little swearing in this one either.) The closest we get is when James Earl Jones’s character threatens to beat up Kevin Coster’s character with a tire iron before being reminded he’s a pacifist. Compare that to Harry Potter, Tangled, and Puss In Boots. The closest we get to nudity is a husband and wife settling down to bed and talking, and then they kiss. The Boy actually asked me what they were going to do next because he’s curious, and I said, “Hug and kiss, maybe have sex. That’s what married people do.” He was like “OK.” What a nice way to show how a healthy loving relationship is supposed to work!

In fact, I really liked the way that the couple in this movie really seem to have a partnership. There’s no “I am the husband, I do what I want.” He convinces his wife it’s the right thing to do before he takes any actions. They discuss their financial problems together. They both parent their daughter. In so many movies, especially sports movies, the spouse or girlfriend is mostly irrelevant to the plot, or resistant to the main character’s goals–Secretariat has that problem and so does Rudy. Here, the wife isn’t just an afterthought. She’s a partner.

What I really loved about watching this with The Boy was how it made him think. At the start of the movie, he asked, “Why do they call it Field of Dreams?” And I said, “That’s a good question, I want you to watch and then tell me what you think the answer is at the end.” And sure enough, at the end he said “It’s because people’s dreams come true there.” He also wanted to understand why Moonlight Graham wasn’t sad about giving up baseball. We had a long talk about that, how being a doctor brought him even more joy than baseball, because he got to help people.

I feel like if I’m gonna watch a movie with my kid, I want it to depict people living in a way that reflects positive values. Values like loving and respecting your life partner, and being helpful to others. Making up for it when you hurt someone’s feelings. Field of Dreams has all of that, and an entertaining plot, and good acting. What more could you ask for in a movie for your kid?