NOTE: This compilation essay has been edited from its original version and reposted on TM.com, and originally appeared in the 1990s on another site. The campaign that was waged around the time of these writings against Dr. Laura to stop her TV show, because of the toxic nature and anti-America value message, succeeded. John Aravosis was one of the leading voices in it and I also joined in. It wasn’t until many, many years later that John and I knew we’d fought this fight together.
She’s everywhere these days. You can’ turn on a talk show without seeing her mug shining through, her new chic hairdo styled to perfection, as she beams straight at the camera in her oh-I’m-so-very-up-front gaze. Then she opens her mouth, and it quickly becomes apparent that this woman may have gone Hollywood, but her manic mission of marriage and children hasn’t undergone much of a rewrite, though it most certainly has been sculpted to seduce. Dr. Laura Schlessinger is on the warpath and she’s taking prisoners, but her hostages are putting up quite a fight.
Modern day women’s issues are her first line of assault.
On her radio show, in her books and, in the fall, on television, Dr. Laura dispenses her prescription for healthy children and a fulfilled life, while bemoaning the culture of “me-me-me,” which she believes should be “we-we-we.” She’s got snappy slogans, contentious commercials and religious repartee, and something about it feels oh, so familiar to me.
No premarital sex, boys and girls. Don’t get married so early, kiddees. And if you do get married, stay that way at all cost, no matter what; forget about “me-me-me,” you’ve got responsibilities to “we-we-we.” Children are better off with two parents, even if they can’t stand each other and are lying through their teeth every moment of their lives around one another. The children will never pick up on this deceit and dishonesty, and even if they do it won’t matter, because they’re just too happy having the picture of the perfect home, not to mention grateful. They have real live role models showing them how to be a good parent. Something about this seems oh, so familiar to me.
Dr. Laura is just getting started, and so are her critics.
Gals, how dare you choose to be a single mother without a father in the house. Gals, how dare you choose happiness and single parenting over an unhappy marriage, You’ll receive happiness through the sacrifice you make by mothering selflessly, but only if you stay married. Of course, if he beats the crap out of you, is a philandering putz or an addict, you have Her permission to divorce. But don’t you dare remarry, it will never, ever work, you’ll end up getting another divorce, and oh, the children, the children, the poor, poor children. And how dare you choose to work and be a mother, especially if your husband is working. Gals, how dare you liberate yourselves, and guys, how dare you encourage and enlist in this equality. Bad, greedy yuppies, bad¦ bad!
Dr. Laura chastises, saying wise up you wayward fools. Derive your happiness from sacrifice, service and subjugation. There is fulfillment in martyrdom, you’ll see, just wait. Live your life for your children and through your children. Bite your lip, don’t teach the values of family honesty, self-reliance and courage, because they’re only children and can’t know, can’t possibly understand and certainly can’t appreciate what you’re giving up for them. “Nurturing” conquers truth and trust in the Land of Laura. Again, something about this seems oh, so familiar to me.
Will someone please bitch-slap this woman into the 21st century?!
Okay. I’m in. Stay tuned.
Now I remember why the Land of Laura seemed so familiar to me. I watched it play out once before. In fact, I lived it.
The Dads in the neighborhood could be seen leaving their houses at around 8:00 a.m. every day. The moms usually waved goodbye from the front porch, hidden discreetly by evergreen bushes, trees and the white picket fences that divided the houses into perfect, pointed and prim plots of land. Life looked so good.
Everyone was neatly tucked in to their prescribed roles, depth of feelings and desires hidden deeply in the shadows of their repressed personalities. Society’s expectations making “real” men and women of a generation of people, who knew their place, what was expected and what was their duty. They complied with deep reverence and a sense of obligation to what had come before. Tightly buttoned down in their single-breasted coats, narrow trousers and floral shirt-waste dresses, a generation of Dads and Moms lived their lives and raised their families according to code, without so much as a whimper, bellyache or an acting out session.
Life looked so good.
We didn’t question much when we were young, though we often asked if Dad had played football or if Mom had been good at math. Dad had a full history of sports and academics, but Mom was happy to simply learn homemaking skills, though she always said it with a hint of embarrassment. We didn’t question the imbalance. But once we tread into our teenage years, our dreams exploded in our imaginations, giving rise to wonderful fantasies of future goals and ambitions. Our physical passions multiplying with the years raising new questions about our parents and the lives they led. What were their dreams? Did Mom ever have any ambitions of her own? What were their passions?
The epiphany was swift and sudden, as we realized that our parents had ignored their dreams for something other than what they wanted, actualizing in lives that were a far cry from the free wheeling, passionate and unlimited possibilities that life seemed to offer us. Why had Mom and Dad made the choices they did? The dawning was cruel: because they had no choices. Their lives were prefabricated, preplanned and preordered. They lived their lives for us, for the children, as had their parents before them.
But everything had looked so good.
From the perfect past we have unlocked the unsure future of freedom, choice and possibilities, without a guarantee of success on anything to which we commit. Life is risky business, riskier than it has ever been, but the rewards one can manifest are gargantuan, for individuals, regardless of gender, and for families. There is no reason to regress to what didn’t work the first time around. Denying who we are, what we want and what our desires honestly are can now be even more deadly for marriages, families and our society. We must be patient and sustain the freedom ride. We must learn the lessons from our parent’s lives but once.
It was one thing to hear her squawk in the late 1990s, but now, there She sits spieling Her litany of do’s and don’ts to the children of the 21st century. While warning Moms and Dads not to be “parents by proxy,” She cleverly plays on their fears and guilt as She counts Her outlets, coins and converts like a good 20th century demagogue. She peers out at us from the magazine, “Perspective,” posing and posturing, giving “positive advice” to Her submissive, sniveling sycophants. “Positive advice?!” Are they kidding? I doubt that the community of “biological errors” feels positively towards anything that oozes from Her mouth.
In the Land of Laura only She knows what is best. She is righteous, god-fearing and devoted to Her pause. Dr. Laura’s venomous egotism spews forth through every sentence She utters, as She urges Her masses to convert and fall in line. A sure case that righteousness has nothing to do with being right.
to be continued
There are so many people who don’t belong in the Land that Laura would build. No tolerance for differences, misfits or rebels, only the ones She judges suitable will survive. But special animus is saved for the sinners of Sodom. An entire community of women and men intending to live productive lives amidst the carnage of reality.
Kris was diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma in the early 1980s. Back in those days no one knew what the hell was happening to gay men, who were getting sick at an alarming rate. Now we call it AIDS. Kris had been dealing fairly well with his disease; that is until he went to apply for disability. Upon hearing of Kris’s plight, the government worker supposedly rushed from the room, quickly shuffled Kris into an adjacent office, and evacuated the immediate vicinity, only to appear several minutes later dressed in head-to-toe protective clothing complete with gloves and a mask. Ignorance and fear can make for powerfully cruel weapons. When I met Kris later that day at his apartment, he would not let me come near him, screaming, “Stay away! Stay away. I’m contaminated!” Tears rolled down his face as I forcibly grabbed him, taking him into my arms. I wasn’t brave, just sure his disease wasn’t going to transfer by hug. Since that day, his body has won the fight against the disease, though victory can never be declared. We’ve lost touch, as you often do in a city like Los Angeles, but I will never forget the public battle he waged. Kris spoke out about AIDS long before people knew what it was, at a time when to do so meant you could be ostracized, rendered unemployable and branded a pariah. Kris is one of the lucky ones. Others are not so blessed.
Dan became my close, dear friend in very quick order. Pending death makes intimacy more valuable. We would talk every day at work, never missing a chance to gossip or trade sexual stories. In less than six months he was walking with a cane, masking his lesions with make-up, and making plans, but not the kind that hold the promise of future dreams. There were phone conversations where he communicated from his dungeon of depression, as he questioned life, his purpose and God. There were also evenings of partying and frivolity. I always left his presence with a pang in my heart, knowing that I was losing someone I was still getting to know–Also wishing he’d take the medications that were available. But that was me being selfish, because he had the courage to take what was being dealt far better than the rest of us. Dan never believed in all the drugs and potions, especially their devastating side effects. However, he did relish the marijuana he had permission to smoke in order to keep his food down, his weight on and his stomach quieted. He lived his life fully to the very end. I miss him to this day.
Wendell, someone I have the privilege of knowing over 30 years, teaches me the value of life every day. He takes more pills in a day than I do in a month, and I consume a healthy quantity of vitamins and herbs daily! He gets weekly shots, monthly check-ups and continuous monitoring. He fights each and every day to stay alive, always looking for the next “cocktail” that can take over when the present drugs have overstayed his body’s welcome. (Calling what he takes a “cocktail” is beyond absurd–There is no enjoyment in the imbibing of his conglomeration of medicines.) When he first sat me down to tell me he was HIV+, I thought the air had been sucked out of the room. We wept, embraced and became more tightly bound together through a battle we know we are bound to lose. It’s ironic that the drugs that are keeping him alive will one day probably kill him. Not a day of his life goes by without intense focus and belief in his evolving life and the hopes he has for a bright future, which is any future at all. He takes each day–slogging through real sickness, depression and, sometimes, rage–as the holy gift it is.
Wonder if the Dear Dr. has bothered to read the American Psychiatric Association’s conclusions, stating homosexuality is not a psychological disorder, written back in 1973? Oh, I forgot, She knows better. I wonder if She woke up one day and chose to be heterosexual? I sure didn’t–I am. Wonder if the Dear Dr. ever considered that maybe gays and lesbians wake up simply knowing they are gay? Oh, I forgot, She knows better.
The Doc is very busy these days. She has to keep those uppity teens from having safe sex, stop those gals from enjoying their equality and passing it on to their children, and has to encourage the guys to dominate their work lives, wives and families at all cost, all the while she tries to lasso those pesky lesbians and gays who don’t realize they can choose to be straight. It’s a lot to do in a day! With her sights set and her cult corralled, the Lunatics from the Land of Laura have launched upon their Moral Minion March. Well, that’s their right. God Bless America.
Now Dr. Laura is putting her energies towards television. I can hardly wait. Stay tuned for messages from Her righteous sponsor.