Three Bad First Dates

He asked the bartender for a taste of a particular wine to see if he liked it. Common enough; no biggie. He wanted a sweetish white. Well, he did not like it, so he tried another one. Nope. The bartender tried to chat with him about the wines, explaining that the Reisling they pour is quite dry, that they don’t have too many truly sweet whites, that such-and-such was the most “fruit forward.” My date was pretty determined to know more about wine than the bartender, so he waved his words away and asked for a taste of yet another bottle. Still no luck (as was anticipated by everyone within five feet). After the third reject, he ordered the same red wine I was drinking, but only after asking for a taste—he refused to taste mine, though I offered.

So this was the start. Then he needed to interview the chef about the menu. She obligingly came out to the bar to talk about this and that. I sipped my wine, nodding. I know a bit about food too, but saw that the wisdom in this moment was to just smile and seem impressed. I was impressed—with the chef—but my date did not need to know that he wasn’t the one earning my approbation.

I’ve been very lucky with my forays into the world of dating, thanks to the following: I am very selective, and do my homework. I don’t have a ton of unscheduled time to drive around the Hudson Valley and meet people so when I do I want them to be—at least—interesting. I have met about a score of men since last fall, most of them truly lovely—various versions of smart, kind, interesting, interested, thoughtful, sexy, funny. But this guy was a mistake from the get-go. To make it even more interesting, two friends of mine happened to be sitting at the other end of the bar no doubt giggling into their martinis.

After he had his wine, and was eating his calamari or whatever it was, he began to tell me the story of his lovely wife and how she died. I actually was relieved when he started down this road as it gave me a chance to simply see him as a man who has gone through a tough time. But somehow, his narrative was full of sex. The sex he used to have with her, and that they didn’t have while she was dying (yeah, and that is important to his story why?), and then the tangent about his mother and how she was such a fan of his stories of sexual exploits now that he’s single. She must be very proud. Actually, I think the word he used was “sexual prowess.” Oy. (This same mother, I also learned, got pregnant with her husband at the age of 17 back in the old country, without knowing how that worked—like, what made a woman pregnant exactly? I could write a book about this guy, his mother, and dead wife….)

The story of the wife was quite moving, actually. I think part of my reaction was on her behalf, wondering if she was now spinning in her grave as her widower tried to use his grief over her loss to get into other women’s pants. But she sounded pretty great, and unless he was lying completely, he may have been a good husband to her. I am willing to assume: yes. It helps me to believe that.

I had talked very little at this point (a definite theme in the three bad dates), but I said something sympathetic and he said, “Now don’t start crying.” I said, “Not planning to…” wondering if perhaps that was and continues to be his end-game with first dates, to get them to cry over his dead wife.

His next rant was about the dating site on which we met and how they “obviously put filters on the photos.” Excuse me? Pretty sure they don’t do that, and I said as much. He whipped out his phone and called up my profile. There were my carefully selected unfiltered photos on his phone, his big thumb flipping through them. Yup, regular old pictures, my most flattering of course, but as I am not a baby any more, they show the reality of wrinkles and the like.

Somehow the poor guy felt like he’d been sold a bill of goods, and did not mind telling me. I laughed right (at him) and asked, “Am I not looking my very best tonight?” (I looked really hot, BTW.)

But then, he flipped to a full-length photo of me and said, avoiding the question, “Oh, this is my favorite.”

I commented, “Oh look, I’m wearing those same pants now.” (It was something to say.)

He said, “I know,” and proceeded to jam his entire hand between the thighs of my crossed legs. I batted him away and inched closer to the woman sitting to my right.

Why didn’t I leave then?

Meanwhile, the bartender, Jim, was giving me sympathetic looks every time he came down to that end of the bar. I felt free to make eye contact with Jim because literally any time he was not actively talking, my date was looking over my shoulder at the TV set above the bar.

When my date launched into a story about how he gets hit on by ministers on all the dating sites, and his weird fantasy of the awkwardness of taking off a minister’s clerical collar to get at her boobs, while demonstrating on me, including a “turn the knob hard to the right” gesture mere inches from my own breasts, I turned to the bartender and said, “Could we have the check please?”

My date threw down his card the minute the check arrived. Almost 100% of the men I have gone out with (there is one exception and you’ll meet him below) have picked up the tab—this is a topic for another blog perhaps but I learned early on that questioning or offering or simply raising my eyebrows while reaching for my wallet—these things make men very uncomfortable. So I have developed a gracious-acceptance position and always say thank you. When my date for the evening walked me to my car and said, during the very unwelcome full body hug he pressed upon me, “If you want to see me again, it’ll be on you,” I had to wonder about that mama of his, and what she taught him, exactly, as a child.

The other two “bad dates” were similarly themed. One guy was the epitome of the mansplainer. He pursued me very hard on the dating site and I had a few pre-date phone conversations with him. So I have only myself to blame as the writing was on the wall. But, I was lured by the words, “You interest me,” though they were belied by his actions. (It is rare that a man will admit to being interested in me, as opposed to how sexy I look or the fact that I might be interested in him.)

So I met this guy in my town. He drove the 40 minutes (normal procedure is to meet halfway) which was a nice touch. He wanted to greet me with a kiss. To clarify: he wanted to meet for the first time with a kiss on the mouth. I demurred.

So this is the summation: he talked, he held forth, and he knew more about everything than anyone, especially me, could ever know. One topic covered: cooking and food—I managed to slip in that I had once cooked professionally. He blew past that to launch into All the Knowledge about All Cooking as well as All the Kitchen Exploits—his. Not interested in my input. I did try to start a few sentences. This is how many times he interrupted me: all of the times.

He brought up independent education because he went to a private school in 8th grade. I slipped in (by talking very fast) that I had attended private schools too, and have worked in independent education for 30 years. He gave me a level look that seemed to say, “Oh you poor ignorant woman,” and proceeded to mansplain the hell out of education, private education, including teaching, fundraising, finances, child development, private vs. public, and on and on. He got a lot of things wrong. I started a few sentences along the way. This is how many times he interrupted me: all of the times.

At one point during this ghastly hour I figured, what the hell. I’m going to have fun and try an experiment. Next time I try to talk and he (invariably) interrupts me, I will—instead of stopping talking to let his interruption go unchallenged—continue with my sentence until it is over. Or even my paragraph. Let’s see what happens.

Maybe you’ve guessed? Yup. I continued to talk after the next interruption and he kept talking so that we had two adult humans facing each other both saying different sentences. If this were a traffic situation, it would look like this: I had the right of way, he pulled into my lane and then refused to stop, instead literally driving over my car and probably my dead body.

I was truly amused by the fact that he was 100% oblivious. I went to the bathroom and texted my daughter: “CALL ME IN TEN MINUTES WITH AN EMERGENCY.”

She did it, bless her. As soon as the call came through and I explained the “emergency” to my date (who clearly knew what was happening as it probably happened on all his first dates), I hustled to find the waiter for the check. The waiter and his colleague were in a little alcove out of my date’s line of sight. I asked for the check. Both men gave me looks of such unutterable sympathy that I almost cried and laughed. Instead, I rolled my eyes and grinned. The check came fast. This was the one exception, in my experience, to the who pays rule of thumb—I threw down cash and bolted. My date did not object.

The most recent bad date was probably the least bad, really. Nothing aggressive or menacing, no rude assumptions or veiled insults. Just another well-meaning, obliviously privileged white male who thinks a first date is a chance to dazzle, monopolize, hold forth, audition, dominate, prove-something….

This is what I learned about him in one hour: how many times he was married, what kind of alcohol he likes, how he came to be introduced to port, and sherry, and his recent trip to the Middle East, and that his sister paid for it, and that they stayed at great places, and what airline they used, and what airlines he prefers typically, and that he used to drink one beer a day, and that he doesn’t now but he drinks wine (and port and sherry) and that he goes to the gym daily, loves Zumba…. I learned how he found out about Zumba, in detail, and how he got involved, and how he got good at it because he’s not a natural dancer, and how it reminds him of some great free form dance events he used to go to, and how his girlfriends never went with him, and exactly what those events were like, and how he organized a Zumba flashmob at his gym, but that he did not know what one was till he heard it mentioned, and that the flashmob he organized made him a hero at the gym and how everyone loves him. And he has a bad knee, and I know about the medical interventions he has sought, oh and I know what kinds of shoes he wears for each kind of activity he does at the gym. I heard about the errands he did on his way to meet me, and about his career, and about a conference he is about to go to in Oregon, and I learned so much more that has leaked out of my brain. Realize that each of these single items was part of a detailed narrative with tangents, side-notes, and usually accompanied by the words, “I’ll keep this short.”

This is what he learned about me: my son lives in Oregon, I had knee surgery once. (Slipped those suckers right in there!)

The funny thing is, all three of these men understood instinctively that there would be no second date. So they all pulled the plug on their own, making excuses or shutting the door, managing the situation so I did not get to reject them. Understandable. Their privilege comes with a certain undercurrent of uncertainty perhaps, or vulnerability when faced with a very clearly unimpressed female with a mind of her own, long legs, and a loving heart—none of which they’ll ever get to touch.

Solidarity, Empowerment, Sisterhood, and Love

 

Me with my daughter on 42nd Street amidst the throng.

Me with my daughter on 42nd Street amidst the throng.

Standing in line to get some food at Grand Central at the end of the day, my daughter, a friend, and I stood chatting. A man in a Metro North conductor’s uniform stood near us. He turned a few times to look at us, and finally spoke. “I don’t mean to be forward, but I wanted to say something to you.” We were listening, unsure what would come next. “I haven’t been doing so well since the election. And today, seeing all the people pouring onto my train to come here to join the march, is the first time since that day that I have felt calm. I want to thank you.”

The estimates vary a bit but it looks like at least 500,000 men and women marched in New York City on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump. The purpose was simple enough: to let the new administration know we are here, we will be heard, and that human rights are not to be abrogated, dismissed, or flicked away because they interfere with one man’s fascist agenda. Well, one man plus a lot of other men who see Trump’s ascendancy as their chance to solidify their privilege once and for all. Fat chance.

A group of friends who either went together or found one another.

A group of friends who either went together or found one another.

If you have a pulse and are awake at least an hour or two out of every 24, you probably know that over 600 marches worldwide pulled in upwards of three million participants. All of them were peaceful. What I tuned into while I walked (and often stood still in pause-mode, pressed up against the patient thousands in my immediate vicinity) were: love, empowerment, solidarity, optimism, some fear and anger at what is transpiring in this country at the expense of the majority, but most of all a spirit of activism that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Even the protests against Vietnam, the Civil Rights marches, the Million Man March (1995), and other major peaceful protests have not approached the numbers that turned out this time (around the planet).

As far as the eye can see.

As far as the eye can see.

Thousands of men marched alongside their sisters, wives, daughters, mothers. There were people of every color and all ages. From toddlers on shoulders to teens, the kids who participated were learning the lesson of peaceful activism from their parents—such a valuable lesson to learn by doing. White-haired grandparents, men and women in wheelchairs, straights, gays, transgender, first time marchers, veteran marchers, breastfeeding moms, dads wearing pink pussy hats—so many human beings with common purpose.

I marched with my alma mater.

I marched with my alma mater.

People are realizing that every voice does matter. People who voted for Hillary, and people who did not vote at all, and even some who voted for Trump, are coming together to take a stand against the rich and entitled skewering the rest of us. Take a stand for affordable healthcare for all. For public education. For the environment and the future of our planet. For the rights of women. For the rights of immigrants. For #BlackLivesMatter. For the future of this entire country, not simply the privileged.

Pussy hats prevailed.

Pussy hats prevailed.

There is a phrase in the song “America the Beautiful” that goes like this: “crown thy good with brotherhood.” (Sometimes when I sing it, the word “motherhood” slips out instead.) But what I want to say is this: for centuries, the concept of brotherhood has been accepted as a catch-all to refer to solidarity among people of all genders. The male pronouns and nouns have reigned. Yesterday, a spirit of sisterhood infused the marches worldwide. The men who participated did so joyfully in that spirit of sisterhood. Josh Bauman, a young cousin of mine, wrote this on his Facebook wall: “As today has proven in overwhelming numbers, we are stronger together and we will stand against those trying to tear us apart. And, appropriately, it is WOMEN leading the way.”

Some friends and colleagues of mine in D.C. with their posse.

Some friends and colleagues of mine in D.C. with their posse.

Women are indeed the future of this planet, simply because to continue to marginalize them and the issues they embrace is to alienate 51% of the humans on Earth. The needs, wishes, and agendas of only men will not serve the future. Pretending that a pussy-grabbing, climate-change-denying, racist one-percenter in the pocket of Vladimir Putin is a legitimate and worthy person to lead us into the future is pointless, a distraction, and a very dangerous thing to do. The Trump Zone of “alternative facts” is a parallel universe of lies and hatred that more than 3 million people rejected on Saturday.

Love, assertiveness, and empowerment are far from being mutually exclusive. They strengthen each other and those who embrace them. #whywemarch #womensmarch #resisttrump #pussygrabsback #dissentispatriotic

 

 

Be the Sapiosexual You Want to See in the World—Smart is Sexy! *

 

smart-is-sexy-image

Sapiosexual.

If you know what that means, I’d probably like you. If you consider yourself to be sapiosexual, I might even love you. And if you’re a guy, I’d date you.

I didn’t know what sapiosexual meant until a while back when I saw a man describe himself that way on his dating profile. Excited to find a word I had not heard before, I was immediately hooked. I was pretty sure I knew kinda what it meant. Sapio—from the Latin verb “sapere” (dare to be wise) from which we (however accurately) derived sapiens, the second half of homo sapiens. Aka animals with thinking brains. (Yes, this is super species-centric and assumes we are the only ones with thinking brains [in itself a profoundly stupid assumption], and a case could be made that we might actually not be that smart after all, if you look at it a certain way [aka the fate of our planet and all the creatures upon it], but regardless, sapiens basically means smart.)

The Urban Dictionary tells us that “a sapiosexual person is someone who finds intelligence and the human mind to be the most sexually attractive feature in the opposite sex” (or same sex if you are gay). Glory be!

I am automatically going to swipe right for any man who says he’s a sapiosexual. Why? Because I grew up in a world that tries to convince women and girls that their brains are 1. Not that important 2. Probably not as good as those of the dudes 3. Something to downplay on a date and I could go on. All of which is 1. Wrong 2. Sexist 3. Likely to be the end of civilization as we know it if we stick with those made-up, ridiculous rules. I love the men who love my brain, because to me they are 1. Confident 2. Smart 3. Fun to be with. Oh, and yeah, 4. Sexy as hell. (And also probably not afraid to admit they are feminists, and in case you need a reminder that means they believe that men and women deserve equal rights and treatment. Not that radical.)

Smart IS sexy. It just plain is sexy, sexy, sexy. I’m not going to want to rub up against someone I can’t talk with. Deeply. I mean, whatever your thing is, it doesn’t matter: quantum physics, mechanical engineering, 17th century poetry, neuroscience, international politics, Cajun cooking, the history of fashion design, ornithology—I’m interested in it if you are, and I want you to be interested in my stuff too. I mean, why not learn something while you cuddle in front of the fire in the ski lodge, lie naked under the ceiling fan after a day on the beach, or sip yummy wine at a sexy little hole-in-the wall in the West Village.

Part of attraction/love/desire is being excited, right? If I’m excited about a book I just read or an idea I just had, it’s going to light me UP, and make me desirable and sexy. If you are turned on by your work, your art, your ideas, that thrill you feel will make its way to me and I’ll get… turned on too. See how that works?

Be the sapiosexual you want to see in the world. If you want to be fulfilled in the long term, don’t hide your brilliant fire under a bushel to get a date. If you do, you’ll be stuck pretending to be somewhat dim for the duration, and you’ll bore quickly or resent the person who liked you in spite of being, well, dim.

Shine forth!

  • Being smart means you are open to the fact that you don’t know everything. Think of the fights you’ll avoid by not believing you know everything. Smart people know better.
  • Being smart means you actually will read a book or have a conversation that might change your mind. Do you know how amazing it is when you send a link to an article to a guy you kinda like and he a. reads it and b. can’t wait to talk to you about it? Amazing in this case = sexy.
  • Being smart means you never have to say or hear (or say) the words, “There, there, dear, don’t worry your little head about that.” So much better to hear/say: “What do you think? I really want to know.”
  • Being smart means you may well be on your way to falling in love before your hands or lips ever touch. SO HOT.

The deepest loves (and sexiest) I’ve had have been the ones where something—a circumstance of one kind or another—allowed friendship and intimacy to blossom fully before that first sexual moment. The hunger and subsequent thrill that comes on the heels of that slow build-up is indescribable.

Are physical compatibility and attraction important? YES. But honestly, the men on dating sites who say “send me more pictures” or call me “cutie” without knowing a thing about me don’t interest me in the slightest and, in fact, turn me off. The ones who tell me something interesting, and ask to hear what I have to say—they will get me to keep the conversation going, every time.

*This blog also had a guest appearance on the blog of Betty Russel, BeFreeToLove.com. Thanks, Betty!

 

Scarred for Life—Christmas Shit I Reject

This is something I love. New York at Christmas.

This is something I love. New York at Christmas.

Growing up, I had a strange relationship with Christmas because I spent all my childhood from age 3 to emancipation (at age 17) leaving my mother (in NYC) to go be with my dad (in Pennsylvania). I knew I was abandoning my mother to whatever fate befalls women whose children leave on Christmas. (For all I know she was having an annual torrid two-week affair with the doorman or bar hopping with elves, but I imagined her drinking coffee and reading endless Agatha Christie novels.)

All that is ancient history at this point. As a grown woman, one of my favorite treats as a mother has been doing the whole Christmas thing.

I do not accept that the holiday is fundamentally bad because #commercialism #greed #crappytoys. There is love to be shared, and family to loll around with in PJs, and great food that has no calories because it is a holiday, and even when you find yourself alone (as I am for several hours this Christmas late afternoon), the lessons to be learned are the kind that heal and make us grow. This I believe.

But I will not under any circumstances sanction the following….

  1. Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. christmas-up-before-thanksgivingI know I share this pet peeve with many others who also bemoan the jingling of bells that nowadays occurs in SEPTEMBER in some stores. And I would add, the premature yard/house decorating that also takes place. There are rules. Santa comes waltzing down from the North Pole ON THANKSGIVING during a certain parade that happens in New York, courtesy of Macy’s. Yes, yes I know. Commercialism. But not really. The parade is a gift from Macy’s to the city of New York as well as every town and borough and country lane where it is televised. They go to all the trouble of getting Santa to make an appearance at the beginning of the holiday season. (There are a few other parades that day, like one in Detroit, but the real Santa is in NYC, obviously.) After that, you can put up your lights, your tree, and start piping in the music.
  2. The island of misfit toys. misfit-toysThis is very personal for me. I grew up watching Rudolph and was scarred for life (over and over again) by the unutterable sadness of rejected toys living out their lives, banished on some cartoon equivalent of the gulag archipelago. When I was raising my kids, we NEVER watched that movie. If my children saw it, believe me it was without my knowledge.
  3. Shitty desserts. Fruit cake. Plum pudding. Panettone (okay that one might not be a dessert, I’m not sure). Springerle cookies. Mincemeat pie. WHY?
  4. Christmas songs that are just not right. To name a few…. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is about a ubiquitous stalker who threatens all children with barely veiled horrid outcomes. I mean, he sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you are awake. Does he have a nannycam in every house? Creeper! Every sexist holiday song ever written. Here are two. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” is gender stereotyping boys as killers and girls as baby-machines. But worst of all: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” = date rape. The whole song is about how he talks over her. And then: no consent. Then: roofie. It sucks.
  5. Fake trees. purple-fake-treeAs a toddler, when I first saw a live tree brought inexplicably into the house, I questioned my parents’ sanity (apparently this did happen). But that experience never scarred me for life. The first time I saw a fake tree—now that was just wrong. I now know that fake trees are terrible for the environment, so I can be a little self-righteous about this. But regardless—artificial greenery of any kind is a holiday NO. And when the “greenery” is pink, blue, purple, or silver, with glitter? There is evil afoot.
  6. Blue Christmas lights. blue-lightsWhile we are talking about crimes against the holiday, let’s put it out there. A tree all lit with blue lights is a very very very sad tree. A house with blue candles in the window, or blue strings draping the arbor vitae is a house I do not want to visit. Sorry if you are that blue-light person. I am not.
  7. People who celebrate Christmas but don’t understand it. I am not a Christian, but I am all about Christmas. I recognize the many pagan roots of the holiday and I also honor the Christ-like spirit that imbues Christmas with its modern-day meaning. So when people shove you aside to get to the on-sale stocking stuffer aisle at CVS or mutter ugly comments under their breath at a harassed café worker or the holier than thou characters who live their entire lives waging war against the underserved in our society and then make up a non-existent “war on Christmas” because some people don’t happen to celebrate that particular holiday… all I can say is, “Hypocrisy much?” is-there-a-war-on-christmas1

2016 was one of the worst years in recent memory if you have a fondness for Prince, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, Patty Duke, George Michael, the environment, human rights, the first amendment, or the US Constitution in general. So at this holiday season, I really have focused on love. And food, I admit, but only because I love food. All the love in the world can cure, or at least mitigate the effects of, shitty desserts, blue tree lights, elections interfered with by foreign powers, dangerous songs, and lots of other things, that matter a little, not at all, or lots and lots. So, love love love to you and thanks for reading.

drummer

After the Fear, Fall in Love with the World

love-the-frog-kiss

It’s been almost 3 weeks since the 2016 election. Or rather—the day when the people went to the polls to cast their votes. It is, of course, not over until the electors do their voodoo next month. And the aftermath… well the entire length of Donald Trump’s presidency will be known as the “aftermath” I suppose. Like the aftermath of a tsunami, or tragic explosion, or an inexplicable death.

This is not a political blog. It is my personal blog. I’m one woman, trying to figure shit out. Sometimes I poke fun at myself or maybe you, sometimes I rant about the things I feel passionately about, sometimes I submit pure fluff (well researched or at least backed by meaningful opinions… namely, mine).

So don’t look for any deep wisdom here. In fact, at this point (paragraph three) I have no damned clue what I’m going to write next.

What has it been like for this privileged white woman? Let’s see. First, grief. I don’t know how it was for others, but my grief was partly because I had misjudged so badly. Had failed to see what was right there around me, under the surface… no doubt my whole life. The deep anger. The bigotry, or at least the willingness to let bigotry do its worst. Oh so easily. I thought about minds closed tight. Mainlining Fox news. I grieved that people were so badly informed.

But what did I do? I immediately mainlined my own version of intellectual/philosophical comfort food. Gloria Steinem in The Guardian. Toni Morrison in the New Yorker. Tess Rafferty’s video. Among many others.

Of course, by comfort food, I do not necessarily mean words that lower the adrenaline and cortisol in my blood stream. These people’s brilliant, thoughtful, and inspirational words are the kind that remind me that I’m not alone. That other people feel pissed and scared too. But more importantly, that there is more to be done. That we are not giving up. That’s good comfort, even if it isn’t the easy pablum of “it’s all gonna be okay.” (Cuz it won’t.)

So then I realized I was badly informed too. I can’t bemoan the way people only read what they want to know if I have been doing that as well.

So many of us chose not to believe a Trump victory was possible. Easy for us to be horrified by what was in front of us: the white supremacists at Trump rallies, and the pussy-grabbing, and the ignorant, hateful, reactionary tweets. But did we really believe the danger was real? I’m thinking maybe not. Until it was.

And then, along the way, I realized that, white supremacists aside, there are Trump voters out there who feel scared too. Or they did, and somehow a vote for the Orange One made their fear abate. Still, I don’t really get what they’re thinking. I mean, how scared and angry do you have to be to vote for someone as terrifyingly narcissistic, reactive, ignorant of government in all forms as Trump? How desperate must you be to overlook the racism and blatant misogyny? Because from where I sit, if you overlook it, you are it. Bystander guilt is real. But there was a lot I did not know, and that these folks are scared too, I had to finally admit, with help, starting with Bernie Sanders’ statement the day after the election.

I tend to see the good in people. That’s who I am—no credit can be taken because I guess I just came out that way. But you can see how this tendency is creating a kind of cognitive dissonance in me right about now.

Unable to continue a consistent train of thought in this particular blog, I’ll end with this question: Have you done any of these things?

  • Shared every horrific fact about what Trump is doing, post-election, on Facebook?
  • Wallowed in the “whatthefuck” as, eyes pinned wide, you watch videos of white supremacists heiling Trump at political speeches until you are sure your as-yet-unborn grandchildren will live in a literal and figurative desert?
  • Listened while people you know tell you about how they were ordered to the back of the line (black woman at the post office), told to go home to their “third world country” (American with Pakistani heritage), lunged at by a group of young men saying, “It’s legal to grab you by the pussy now” (girl walking down the street)?
  • Cried real tears for HRC. #imstillwithher
  • Decided to only spread love on Facebook, which lasts about a day? But then you keep deciding that, which is good. (Keep trying.)
  • Decided to leave social media altogether but then you don’t and then you see something truly inspirational?
  • Decided to do something tangible, even if you can’t pour money into Planned Parenthood or the Southern Poverty Law Center (if only you could)? I applied for iMentor, whereby I can actually help kids from under-served schools in NYC apply to and get into colleges.
  • Spent entire dinners with friends NOT talking about the election? Except when you can’t help it for like ten minutes but then someone says, “Let’s not talk about this right now.”
  • Spent entire afternoons doing nothing but talk about all of it with anyone who will engage with you?
  • Sent postcards to Trump? #postcardavalanche #stopbannon
  • Tweeted even though you literally never Tweet.
  • Wondered if you should wear a safety pin or if it’s patronizing and all white-clueless-privilege to do so? The paralysis of NOT wanting to be judged as insensitive sometimes makes us insensitive. (I think I’ll get my safety pin on.)
  • Reminded yourself that #blacklivesmatter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal, science is real, love is a superpower?

I’m just one person floundering around trying to do something good. I almost said “my best,” but I wonder if we ever do the best best best we are capable of and if trying hard to be real is almost as good anyway.

I realized the day after the election that I had (heretofore) managed to banish fear from my life almost 100%. The journey to that state was long and sometimes it was hard work and genuinely concentrated effort and other times it just meant being me, your basic happy, loving person who sometimes gets scared when the internal monologue needle gets stuck in the groove. The reason I realized I had almost entirely banished fear is that on November 9, I felt it. The fear was back.

My goals as I see them right now, November 27, 2016.

#1 Keep fear at bay.

#2 Know that light banishes dark, love banishes hate, and activism works.

#3 Remember that people are good, and those who are not good right now have goodness in them. It’s just hiding behind fear.

#4 I want to talk to people who disagree with me about anything and everything…. The ones who can do that without agenda or anger. And I’ll leave all agendas and my own anger at the door too. I just really need to know a lot more.

#5 Try harder.

#6 Here is one more goal I can think of right now: Fall in love with the world all over again every day from scratch and then again and then again. Pass it on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vote Down Groupthink

rules“[I]t is essential—now more than at any other time in the history of humanity—that we master the art of making good, healthy, and wise choices, based strongly upon an inherent esteem of ourselves and of others. As society is no longer making our choices for us, we recognize that our destiny is now in our own hands.”

–Katherine Woodward Thomas

This quote, from a book about finding love in the 21st century, was written a good decade before the current election season got underway. But its applicability to the current climate within our country now is pretty obvious.

For much of the history of human society there have been rigid guidelines by which the majority of people lived. There really were not a lot of choices to be made. Whether you were a man or a woman, your life-track was pretty clear. Your family’s religious legacy determined how you worshiped. People lived near where they were raised. You married the person chosen for you. Until the mid-20th century a woman would most likely not attend college or have a career except in a few “accepted” fields, and would have no choice about marriage (to a man) or childbirth—they were simply in the cards. A man would not be able to choose homemaking while his wife pursued a career. Although sexual orientation and gender are not choices, people do have the choice now to live openly as gay or trans, though they are still vulnerable to bias and hate.

But aside from our personal lives, we face moral choices now that perhaps people always faced, but it is harder and harder to excuse racist or sexist choices by saying someone is a “man of his times.” The times we live in remove the easy comfort of groupthink. Until recently….

Whereas boundaries were once rigid, now there is choice. There are not as many rules to follow—aside from moral precepts such as “do the right thing” and “act from love.”

Yet certain people seem to crave that rigidity. The monochromatic whitewashed “Pleasantville” of old where someone like Mrs. Cleaver still baked cookies for someone like Beaver and the Mr. Cleavers had all the power.

There are people who don’t want to be asked to help form policy, foresee a better future, or contribute to a society of equals, but rather prefer to be told how it is—and how it will be. They want all the inconvenient and anxiety-producing grays turned to black and white for them. They want this so badly that they’ll overlook almost anything in their desperate quest for non-choice.

Their desire to avoid thinking, making choices, opening their minds, and facing growth and change causes them to overlook blatant and repeated misogyny and disrespect for women including an admission of sexually predatory behavior, unmitigated racism and the welcomed support of openly neo-Nazi groups, numerous facts about cheating at business, being in bed with foreign dictators, the inability to NOT take everything personally, full-out, scary ignorance of the constitution of the United States, full-out scary ignorance of foreign policy, and promises to uninsure the insured, remove protections from the vulnerable, roll back the already paltry efforts to steward the planet safely. To name a few.

In fact, they want to dictate patriotism to our democracy and what it should look like. They are less offended by a swastika than by peaceful protest. They don’t seek to be governed, but ruled, even if it means being belittled and disrespected or belittling and disrespecting others.

To vote is to choose. It is a choice many have fought and suffered and died for.

Vote so that we continue to have choices and will be able to say, “We did the right thing.”

My Mother’s Battle Against White Male Privilege

woman-in-mans-world-3

I’m sure I don’t know the half of it.

Back then, if it was named at all, it might have been called chauvinism. I doubt she even heard the word “sexism” until she was out of the corporate world and battling a different set of demons that dominated the latter part of her life.

She grew up in poverty during the Depression, was the first person in her family going back to forever who went to college, and the first of her immediate family to leave Ohio. She was also the first woman in her family to pursue a career outside of domestic service. She was, I believe, the first to imagine a different life. She had aspirations.

She learned how to “pass” in the world she longed to enter by taking lessons from a kindly aristocrat who lived on the other side of town. As a girl, my mother would visit Mrs. Myers to learn how to speak properly, set a table, pour tea, walk gracefully, descend the stairs with a book balanced upon her curly head. She had aspirations, sure enough.

Her fascinating career path, post-college, included stage acting, a brief hiatus as a travel agent (it got her to Europe), and even her own 15-minute TV show called “At Home with Lee”—a kind of proto-Martha Stewart thing where she (as I understand it) advised about home décor and fashion. That was all out in California. Then, in 1962, when I was two, she ended up leaving my dad behind in Pennsylvania where they lived, to pursue acting in NYC, only to change gears again in the pursuit of enough money so she could feed me and pay rent. A clever writer, she got a job with L’Oreal (then known as L’Oreal of Paris) creating names for lipsticks and nail color and was soon promoted to copywriter. Within five years she was a rising star in the New York advertising world.

I literally had to watch Mad Men to realize how thrilling, and truly horrific, that must have been for a young woman.

She was a strange product of two worlds—the one she was born to and the one she pushed her way into (brooking no argument). She did not think in terms of “feminism” but the constant inequities she faced were, to her, shockingly, soul-burningly unjust.

But she shared little of this with me. Interesting, considering she did not hesitate to include me in way too much information about other things in her life. Perhaps she felt that it was somehow her fault that she could not convince her employers that she was worth more than 50 cents on every dollar her male counterparts earned. Her solution was simply to work five times as hard as they did, achieve 10 times their success… and maybe if she was lucky inch up to 55 cents.

One story she liked to tell—probably because it showed my father in such a good light—was this: My father had recently taken a job as a professor at a small Pennsylvania college. At this point, their separation and her move to New York was still a couple years in the future. Though she’d always worked before they moved back east from California, she was now expecting a child (moi), and didn’t have a job. My father was asked to give a speech, but felt overwhelmed with his new duties, so he asked his wife if she’d help him out by writing the speech for him. The way I understand it, they talked. He told her the gist of what he wanted to say, and she made it happen. It’s called ghost writing (I do it for clients all the time). It was apparently a very good speech. He delivered it, with few, if any, tweaks.

When the chair of his department came up to my parents after the speech and praised my father for it, my dad (bless him) said, “Well thank you! My wife wrote it, actually.”

The professor looked down at my mother with (I imagine) a painfully patronizing faux smirk of uber-unctuous paternalism and said, “You mean she typed it?”

A good story in that the guy was set straight, but very few of my mother’s encounters with entrenched sexism had happy endings. As a single working mother over 30 she was constantly judged as either doing a crappy job of parenting or, inevitably, doing a poor job of everything else.

Still, she earned lots of respect from many people in her field. She always managed to be promoted, or head-hunted for an even better job, and broke through several intermediate glass ceilings on the way. But she had to prove herself again and again in ways that the men in her field did not. She and her team won numerous Chloe awards and, every time, had to correct assumptions that the team was led by the only man on it, 15 years her junior and with less than half her experience or savvy.

Before she left the corporate world, she was making more than anyone in her family ever had, despite the income disparity between her and every guy within ten thousand hectares.

That was the 60s and 70s. One woman: my mom. Multiply that story by a zillion cubed and we might have an idea of how women have had to fight for every ladder rung. Beat off the guys who tried to grab them by the arms and throw them off that ladder with dismissive claims that they belong in the secretarial pool, if not the kitchen. I imagine my mother sitting in meetings with a bunch of men and trying to report on her department while being called “honey” and asked to make coffee. How many times was her ass pinched in the elevator? How many men tried to sleep with her? How many men threatened her job if she did not sleep with them? I mean, I don’t know for a fact. So maybe it never happened.

But it happened.

Here we are in the 21st fucking century. Women have been elected to the highest offices in several countries. Women populate the colleges and universities in the US by over 50%. We’ve crept up to 74 cents on the dollar (average between the 79 cents of white women and the 68 cents black women earn). Do we celebrate those gains or beat our heads on our desks because it’s so insanely not enough? But we keep inching painfully forward. Justin Trudeau makes headlines by having a totally integrated cabinet. I love him, but why does that make headlines? It should be a non-starter, as it would be to splash the front page with two inch letters saying Boys and Girls Being Born Every Day in Local Hospitals.

Still, what I’m saying is that we’ve continued to (mostly) make progress since my mother’s story.

The coming election will mean everything to this continued narrative of women’s rights. Will the tone set by Trump and his followers become the tone of the story of this nation in the future? Will the ugliness of bare-knuckle misogyny be the new starting point with our children, sons and daughters alike—the next generations who will either continue to be incrementally moved toward gender/race enlightenment or have the scaffolding knocked out from under them?

Women still get their butts pinched in the work place, but at least now it’s against the law. Women still have to cope with intrusive, objectifying, sexual, patronizing behavior from men every single day, but they are less and less afraid to come out in public to say, “This happened and it’s not okay.”

Is all that going to change?

“Momma, I’m sorry to say that all the work you did will come to nothing in the end” is not something I want to say to the urn sitting on my bookcase. I want to say, “The asshole got his comeuppance and the first woman president has been sworn in. And she’s badass, Momma. You’d love her.”