Monday, February 15, 2010

Life in the Big House

Several years ago, when we had cable, I came across a series of pseudo-documentaries (in that they were documentary in nature, but produced by Newsfrontline or Breakingnewsdate or whoever, so they came complete with ominous voiceovers and dramatic music) about life in US prisons. I have never been to prison, don't plan on going, but I was intrigued and watched a few back-to-back hours about our fine penal system.

(Heh. "Penal.")

One of the segments focused on women's prisons and the issues particular to them. As an early childhood/infant mental health person, I was very interested in the programs that allowed inmates to stay with their infants, sometimes for a few months, sometimes until toddlerhood (a report about these prison nurseries is here, if you're interested. It's a fascinating idea). And this was my explanation for MOTH when he came home and found me glued to the TV, randomly calling out prison factoids and questions: "Hey! Did you know that a tattoo of a clock face without hands signifies doing time? Get it?" MOTH: "Um, I'm just putting away groceries, lady." What started as an idle curiosity became professional curiosity, which would have been fine, except that I stayed on the couch until it became idle again, which lead me to call to MOTH, "I think I'd do well in prison."

MOTH disagreed. With snorting, as I recall. He refused to buy my logic, but he wasn't watching the show with me. I was learning about how, while men in prison tended to join gangs for protection, women often formed more intimate relationships for protection, yes, but also for companionship. My thinking was thus: I'm funny. People like me at parties. As soon as I dropped some of my patented wise-ass remarks around the yard, I'd be golden. (This is the same thinking, by the way, that leads me to believe that if I'm ever cornered by a bear or other wild beastie in the woods, singing in dulcet tones will turn the growling predator into my bosom friend.)

Despite what was obviously flawless logic, MOTH continued to disagree with me. I believe his exact words were something like, "You'd be shanked by dinner."

Over the years, we continued to have this discussion, by which I mean I would, apropos of nothing, blurt out, "I still can't believe you don't think I'd do well in prison," and MOTH would sigh and say, "Fine. I'm wrong. You'd be the queen of prison," but I'd know he didn't mean it.

I was recently talking to my BFF, and I can't remember how it came up (but it did, and without me forcing the issue, I swear!), but I said, "That reminds me...don't you think I'd do well in prison?"

After a beat, he replied cautiously, "I would survive. But you would be verrry unhappy."

"No, no, you don't get it. I mean I think I'd do pretty well for myself. MOTH doesn't get it either. Listen, I'm funny, right?"


"So, I think I'd be OK." I gave him a quick rundown of what I'd learned from that one TV show six years ago, the extent of my knowledge even to this day (but really, how much can have changed?) about how female prisoners tend to bond together. "I make friends pretty easily, so I just have to make friends with someone who can protect me. Why are you laughing?"

"No, no...look, I see what you're saying. I maintain you would be verrrry unhappy. You'd survive, though. I'm not saying you wouldn't."

As if this sop to my ego was supposed to be reassuring. "Just hear me out. Here's my thinking: I figure out who's the alpha, right? The queen bee. Then, I make her laugh and she takes care of me. I have it all figured out. Like, I know that I'd likely get roughed up at first, because, you know...but I'd make a couple quick, sassy remarks, and the alpha, she'd call off the goons and say, 'I like you, kid. You got moxie.'" (Because, apparently, I'm going to prison in the '40s.)

"You do know, right, that there isn't, like, one big room? With one woman in charge, sitting over in the corner in a throne or something? Snapping her fingers to wave away her henchwomen?"

Which is a little sobering, because obviously I know that. But that is kinda what I've been picturing...

Anyway, I don't remember the rest of what he said because of all the laughing, but I hung up feeling...less than vindicated.

Nobody gets me.

Come on, you guys think I'd do alright, don't you? I got moxie.


  1. I believe that working with 4-year-olds in a school setting has likely prepared you well for prison. Oh and your humor will take you a long way as well, I agree. ;) Not everyone can be a comedian in prison -- you will carve your own niche. They'll love you!

    (Not sure I'd want to test out this theory though.)

  2. I just want to see your bad ass prison tat. PS, you'll need to apply vaseline to keep that thing from getting infected. You're welcome.

  3. bahahaha ha ha ha ha.

    I mean...sure you would. heck, you already found the humor in penal and shank, right?

  4. I'm with nap! You'd be a barrel of laughs in the big house!

  5. I agree you are the wittiest of them all. BUT, after watching OZ the entire series, I don't care for being in prison, male or female...

  6. This is actually quite a coincidence: I just awarded you an award... and I am not sure whether it is something you would want to mention if you are ever in prison...

  7. THANK YOU! Vindication is mine at last. Although I told MOTH that the internet thinks I'd do well in prison and he rolled his eyes and said, "Fine. Go to internet prison."

    He so doesn't get me.

    (Submom, you are, as they say, too kind. On my way over to check it out!)

  8. MOTH is funny, too. Maybe he can be your bitch in Internet prison.

  9. Those pseudo-documentaries get me every time. I always get sucked into them!

  10. Naptime--Sadly, if I go upInternetriver, I'm going alone. MOTH might write to me, but I think that's about it. Sniff.

    Jen--I know, right? Like, you KNOW they're edited to heck and back, but can't resist the pull of their "facts."