2005: M.J. Wilde, The Albuquerque (N.M.) Tribune
Award for Community/Column writing
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
by: ASNE Staff

Section: Commentary/Column writing

M.J. Wilde

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Anti-gay county inherits the windstorm

March 26, 2004

In the last several days, there has been a lot of voting going on in Rhea County down in Tennessee.

First, the Rhea County commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee's criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals with "crimes against nature."

Of course, that's ridiculous. Homosexuals love nature. Especially pool parties.

The most outspoken commissioner, J.C. Fugate (a name for the ages), put it this way: "We need to keep them out of here."

In fact, County Attorney Gary Fritts was asked by Fugate to "find the best way to enact a local law banning homosexuals from living in Rhea County."

Was it a surprise? Well, no. All this is coming from the same county that still has an annual festival commemorating the 1925 trial that convicted John T. Scopes on charges of teaching evolution, even though the verdict was thrown out by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

But this recent gay ban did not sit well, as you can imagine, with the rest of the civilized and, yes, evolved world and brought a poop storm down on Tennessee's most conservative county. So, in a lily-livered backpedal, the county's commissioners got together and reversed their 2-day-old decision.

That's right. Two days, and they caved.

Come on! If you're gonna be ignorant, go all the way.

I say, let them ban gays and lesbians from their county. I say take it beyond that. I say ban everything that even suggests gayness. And there's only one way to be sure, and that's to strip Rhea County of all things fabulous and/or sparkly.

The only colors that should be allowed in Rhea County should be beige, navy blue and brown. All comfortable shoes for women and all high heels over a size 10 should be burned. Toy poodles, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus and Pomeranians should be bused to the nearest Gay Accessory Shelter. Feather boas should be plucked naked, and all cosmetics - especially hair gel and glitter lip gloss - should be destroyed.

Of course, certain subversive CDs and/or albums that make you feel like dancing, thinking, connecting emotionally or being happy, i.e. gay, in any way - Cher, Judy Garland, John Lennon, Johnny Mathis, Melissa Etheridge, U2, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Donny Osmond - gotta go. (Marie Osmond is OK, ¹cause she's a little bit country. But Donny, well, he's a little bit rock ¹n' roll.)

Now, any restaurant that serves expensive food in small, attractive portions should be shut down immediately, and the owners run out of town. I mean, it's not like they can be rehabilitated to overcook food and put gravy on everything.

School drama departments, swim teams, wrestling teams, community theater and musical groups of all kinds should be immediately disbanded. All participants should be required to sit and watch a re-edited, redubbed version of "Footloose" in which the kids realize that banning rock music is a good thing. The added anti-gay message at the end will, of course, be re-enacted by puppets.

Cable TV? I don't think so, mister.

Finally, Rhea County residents might wanna think about building a really big wall around their county. You can't be too careful. But they should keep in mind gays and lesbians have been known to get around just about any barrier put in front of them.

Oh, and just FYI, I believe the Bush administration's chemists are developing a substance called Gay-B-Gone. It smells like a combination of feet, canned green beans, motor oil and Fritos. But it's just in the testing stages.

Seriously, I do think gays in Rhea County could do a couple of things to draw attention to their cause. First, they could drop planeloads of glitter and confetti all over the county. I mean, who wouldn't love that? Or they could release as many monkeys as they can find into the next County Commission meeting.

Who knows? Maybe the monkeys can take over and make more enlightened decisions. They've evolved a lot since 1925, you know. The monkeys, I mean.

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Life's scary. Ask my bosom buddies.

June 18, 2004

You know, it's not death I fear so much. It's everything leading up to it.

When you get to a certain age and the people you love have bad, bad things like cancer and emphysema and diabetes, it tends to shrivel your view of life to pinpoints.

My aunt has emphysema. My sister has breast cancer. My cousin has uterine cancer. My mother, father and brother-in-law have diabetes. My brother has heart problems and a knee that needs an operation. Another cousin has to have some serious back surgery. And a good friend has terminal cancer.

So when it was time for me to go in and get a physical, I was a little, um, freaked out. OK, I was really freaked out.

The physical wasn't such a bad experience. Except you're naked, draped in a thin paper gown and sitting for 20 minutes on butcher paper. I felt like a club sandwich without the toasted bread. All that was missing was a pickle and a side of cole slaw.

Every time my doctor said, "This is going to feel a little uncomfortable," she was being completely honest with me.

It turned out I had a questionable little bump on my left breast. The doc said it was probably just a little swollen node. OK, I bought that. It was nothing. Then she said it would be a good idea to have a mammogram, just to be sure. I hadn't had one yet, and so it sounded like a sensible idea.


My sister had just had a mastectomy, and my cousin a partial hysterectomy. Both were undergoing chemotherapy, and both were doing well. This news did not calm me.

In the three days before my mammogram I kept having the same dream. I was in some 1930s Hitchcock movie. Everything was black and white and slightly tilted. I was in a ritzy hotel lounge having a drink with friends. I was so happy, so carefree.

Then a bellboy who looked like a young Harrison Ford appeared at the door to the lounge and yelled out: "Mammogram! Mammogram for Ms. Wilde! Mammogram!"

Everyone turned and looked at me and froze. I'd wake up in a sweat.

So the day finally came, and I soldiered on over to the radiology place, filled out some papers and sat among the brave. Women of all ages sat, acting casual and reading golf magazines as though the secret to life were hidden in the pages. We all had that same look. The look that said: "This is nothing. No big deal. It'll be fine, and then I'll go get ice cream. Maybe buy a sexy new bra. Or a bottle of bourbon."

They called my name.

"M.J. Weeeldee?"

"Um, that's Wilde," I corrected. Geez, I thought in a panic, I hope they're better at reading mammograms.

During the mammogram, the technician made small talk as she cavalierly squashed my perky girls into Play-Doh pancakes between panes of glass. By the time she was done, we each knew the other's life story, and my mammos were now hanging to my knees. In fact I almost asked if they had one of those canned ham keys so I could roll ¹em back to their original positions.

After a week of waiting for the results, my doctor called me at work.

That's gotta be bad news, right? They never call you at work. Heck, they never call you.

But she was calling to give me good news. I was fine. All the tests were normal, including the mammogram.

I should've been happy. But all I could think of was why was I the lucky one?

There's no answer really. We wake up every morning, hold on to hope with both hands and laugh as much as we can.

It's not much to go on, but it's all we've got. Besides, hope and laughter beat fear any day of the week. And if we're lucky, maybe even cancer.

You can call or e-mail M.J. Wilde at (505) 823-3605 or mjwilde@abqtrib.com. Not to worry. The girls are bouncing back just fine.

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Bathing suit (my! oh!) can't skim flaws

July 16, 2004

It happens every summer. And it's a big, fat lie.

There has never been a bathing suit made that can "hide your figure flaws." Unless, of course, your figure flaw is a tiny heart tattoo on your size 2 tushie. And if it is, I hate you.

And there has never been a bathing suit made that can "draw attention away from your figure flaws." I imagine, in my case, this miracle suit would have to come with a juggling monkey I would wear as a hat as I approached the pool area.

Every time I log on to the Internet these days I see the happy little feature stories on how to go about buying the bathing suit that would flatter, fix and forgive even the worst of my fatty and/or genetic flaws.

The idea, you see, is to camouflage the problem. Blend in. Make your 2-foot moons glow less brightly in the light of day. This works about as well as when guys wear those camouflage outfits to the grocery store so the "enemy" can't see them in the cereal aisle.

And magazines glare out at us every year with advice on how to fix big butts, small butts, small chests, big chests, short legs, long legs, big tummies, short torsos, long torsos and everything else they know we consider just plain ugly. The reason they know we consider ourselves just plain ugly is they helped put the idea in our heads in the first place.

You can ask any normal woman - from a chick-on-a-stick to a-roast-on-a-platter - and each will tell you, point by point, what is wrong with their bodies. And, unless they're on the cover of Sports Illustrated, they'll also tell you how much they hate wearing a bathing suit.

Some of the suggestions of the bathing suit gurus are such lies that it's silly even to point them out. So I will.

I like the one where they suggest wearing one of those shiny metallic suits to create an optical illusion about just what the heck is wrong with you.

Yeah, this way the sun can point you out to those who might have thought that slap-slap-slapping sound was coming from the pool's water instead of your thighs. Happily, just before they register your face, you will reflect said sun so intensely they will be blinded for life.

Win-win sitch.

Then there's always the skirted bathing suits decorated with dizzying geometric patterns. These make people feel nauseous and fall down, giving them no time to notice your poochy stomach/floatation device.

I have one word for you: Lycra.

This is the magic word used in many catalogs for women larger than a size 8. It is usually found in the bathing suit section, which is one page squashed between the 20-page "why don't you just stay home and wear a caftan?" section and the 12-page "thank-you-God-extra-wide shoes" section.

Lycra, my friends, is not found in nature. It was not discovered on a hippo who was using it to quell the gibes of hyenas as she approached the watering hole.

Lycra is the trademark for a substance called Spandex, a man-made elastic fiber used in all types of clothing, especially leotards, unitards and Halle Barry's cat suit. And yards and yards and yards of it is used in bathing suits. It will flatten your tummy and hold in your tush. But I must caution you. On some of us, it can smoosh those flaws out the leg and arm holes and leave you looking like the Michelin Man.

I say flaws be danged. I say embrace your figure flaws and show the world it's those very figure flaws that make you the gorgeous, saucy, unique individual you are.

Personally, I'm gonna do my bit by stripping and going nekked to the next office swimdig.

Of course, I'll wear the juggling monkey as a hat. I mean, I'm not crazy.

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I'd like to teach sodas to live in perfect harmony

July 23, 2004

A Pepsi drinker once asked me why I'd never joined Pepsi's "Next Generation."

Honey, I replied, Pepsi is a cult. But Coke is a religion.

You see, there are two kinds of people in this world. There are Coke people and there are Pepsi people.

Coke people are smart and very awake. Pepsi people think they're smart and very awake. But both are good people. Except for Pepsi people.

Not that I'm a soda bigot. We all have a right to drink whatever we like without having it held against us. And if someone out there decides that drinking a weak, sorry-excuse-for-a-soda like Pepsi makes them happy, well, good for them.

Now, this is just the kind of open-mindedness that has made me proud to work here at The Tribune.

You see, we here at The Trib are all about diversity. We're all about choice. We're all about thirst-quenching freedom.

And nowhere could you find better proof of those ideals than in our soda machine.

That's right. Stressed out, cotton-mouthed employees could choose from Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper, Slice, Mountain Dew and even some kind of atrocious grape soda.

All you had to do was pay 55 cents, and you were instantly rewarded with a cold can of the heaven of your choice.

It was beautiful, man.

It was also proof that Coke and Pepsi could co-exist peacefully and profitably in one machine. And if they could, maybe there was hope for the rest of the world.

That's when it happened.

Our little testament to freedom and diversity was replaced. On the surface, not a bad thing. And not a complete surprise. The old machine was a little eccentric. It sometimes sucked in dollar bills and then refused to cough up a soda. And there were those times when it didn't agree with your choice of Diet Coke and gave you Dr Pepper instead.

We could hear the commotion down the hall as our old friend was scraped across the floor, lifted onto a dolly and unceremoniously rolled into the sunset.

When the noise died down, I made my way down the hall toward the small room where my cravings for "the real thing" had been satisfied for so many years.

My screams of horror could be heard throughout the building.

Standing before me was a modern gargantuan example of corporate greed. And staring back at me from behind its plexiglass lair were rows and rows of - Pepsi products.


I thought perhaps I was mistaken. So after the initial shock, I scanned the machine's offerings again.

But it was true. There was bottled Pepsi in all its horrid and various forms. Wild Cherry Pepsi? I gagged.

There was also bottled water and juice. For the love of bourbon, we're not schoolteachers. We're journalists. There should be a row of Lynchburg Lemonade, not mango juice.

All this, but not one Coca-Cola product.

Avarice! Sheer avarice!

My shock turned to rebellion, and I went straight to The Trib's editor with the war cry of "Coke or death! Coke or death!" fresh upon my thirsty lips.

I laid out my cola complaint on behalf of myself and like-minded colleagues. My editor took immediate action. He called the soda people and told them we wouldn't put up with such a blatantly evil anti-Coke demonstration. He told them that Pepsi and Coke had been living in harmony lo these many years and The Tribune would not compromise its ideals to satisfy any attempt by Pepsi to monopolize our thirst for equality and diversity.

Or maybe he just asked if next time they could throw in a few more Cokes so we'd leave him alone. I'm not sure. But whatever was said, a row of Cokes and Diet Cokes was added. But over the past several weeks, slowly, insidiously, they have once again pushed Pepsi upon us. The balancing presence of "the real thing" has again been eliminated.

First the Patriot Act. Now this.

My friends, I fear for us all.

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The baseball - it's something to spit about

November 5, 2004

Did you watch the World Series? Or as a friend of mine calls it, "the baseball"?

Very exciting for the Red Sox, I understand, who hadn't won a series since the earth cooled. Now they've won and the world can breathe a great sigh of relief and continue spinning happily on its axis. And I believe the players got a parade and a ring. Well worth years and years and years of taunting and sacrifice.

I tried to watch the baseball, but, well, there was something disturbing that distracted me completely from enjoying America's pastime.

I'm speaking, of course, of all the spitting. You know what I'm talking about.

There's always been spitting in the baseball, but over the last several years it has escalated to tsunami proportions. There's so much spitting on the field it gives "sliding home" a whole new, icky meaning.

Used to be you'd see some ballplayer with a wad of tobacco in his cheek the size of a golf ball. Very attractive. Chick magnet. But now, every man on the team looks as though he's got a giant softball-size meatball in his cheek. Some have tobacco, some have wads of gum. They look like a control group in some kind of grotesque medical study of cheeky tumors.

They spit on the field, they spit into their gloves, they spit on their hands, they spit on the bases, they spit on the baseball and they even spit in the dugout. I pity the poor janitor who gets the dugout gig. There are no words.

It made me think a lot about men and spitting in general. Hey, it's my job. I'm a columnist.

For the most part, men do not spit indoors. For that we are grateful. But as soon as they're outside, all bets are off.

Now, as a rule, women won't spit unless there's a bathroom sink available or a big, soft absorbent tissue suffused with aloe and vitamin E. Apparently, a woman's salivary glands are not triggered by the outdoors. (There are those that believe the spitting is a sports thing. But I watched the Olympics and all the spitting and drooling happened off-camera from male correspondents during women's volleyball.)

I had a boyfriend once who never spit if we were on a long trek in which sidewalks were involved. But get him on some outdoor dirt trail and, "Hock-patooey!"

I asked him once why he spit. Did the outdoor air trigger some kind of uncontrollable testosterone spit font? Was it something macho he learned as a boy while playing sports? Were men born with a spit gene as part of their DNA construct? Was his swallower broken?

He blinked as if I was an alien from the planet Loogie, spit and said, "Beats me."

Today that man is clinically insane and wears a bib.

Now, I've interviewed tens of people about this. OK, five. Alright. Two. I've also perused football, basketball, tennis, golf and badminton and could only detect one or two incidents of spitting. And it was during a rather tense set of badminton.

It all leads me to this very important conclusion:

Men spit while playing the baseball because it's what ya do while playing the baseball. It's what Babe Ruth did. It's what Lou Gehrig did. It's what Sammy Sosa did. It's what Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins did in "Bull Durham." It's a tradition. I get it. But it's gotten out of hand.

(Now, this is all very different from that old guy you always see spitting up something heinous and possibly alive onto the sidewalk in public. He's an old guy and has had many years of life built up in his lungs and must get rid of it in order to stay alive. Give him a break.)

I guess in the baseball, if you're not salivating like a bull mastiff, then you're just not passionate enough to be playing the game. You need to go home. The baseball is not for you.

Look, I'm all for tradition and I love the baseball. All I'm asking is for a return to golf ball-size cheeks and intermittent, moderate spitting. And if you're a grown man and not even remotely involved in a sport, just cut it out.

If that happened, much like Gehrig, I'd consider myself "the luckiest (luckiest, luckiest, luckiest) gal (gal, gal, gal) on the face of the earth (earth, earth, earth)."

Stories copyright 2004 The Albuquerque Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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