This Post Brought to You By the Crazy Guy at Starbucks

Image

It’s a summer day and it’s hot outside. Earth shattering newsworthy fact, sure, but I never tend to realize how hot it can get in the inland Southern California town where I work. On a typical weekday I don’t leave my office. I normally just bring a sandwich and eat at my desk or stand in the kitchen rabbiting a ranch doused salad.

But today I decided to try something different. I’ve been struggling lately to find time to write, so today I decided to bring my laptop to work, so that at lunch I could escape to a local Starbucks and get some work done.

So there I’m driving, pull neatly into the little parking lot meant for patrons of the Starbucks, sandwich shop, or dry cleaner of the little mini complex. The A/C in my car isn’t superb, so I tend to leave my windows rolled all the way down as often as I can. I surprisingly couldn’t find a spot right in front to the coffee shop, so I switched my clunker into reverse and looked over my shoulder as I began to roll backwards.

“HEY WATCH OUT!” shouted a toothless man as loudly as possible. I slammed my breaks un-dramatically, as even a squirrel could have stopped my 0.5 mph pace. I turned my head even further and saw a truck was pulling out of their spot at the moment that I was backing up. Probably 15 feet away.

“WELL PULL FORWARD AND GIVE HIM SOME ROOM!!” he shouted, this time with a healthy dash of anger. Baffled at the frantic urgency of the stranger, I turned to see the truck had an extraordinary amount of space without my moving. However I was being screamed at in front of the lunch goers chillin’ in front of Starbucks and the sandwich shop, so in my frazzled state I tried to shift gears and move forward ever-so-awkwardly.

I realized the truck was already gone by the time I began to pull forward, and heard the angry man walk by my window muttering under his breath profanities sprinkled with “dumb” and “girl.”

I shook my head, backed up again, and parked in the spot I had planned to before the public humiliation.  I had three bags with me, my purse, lunch bag and laptop case, and climbed out of my car with as much dignity as I could muster. As coolly and confidently as I could, I walked up to the complex and smiled at each stranger staring me down…or up…or whatever.

I know I wasn’t wrong. But damn that was embarrassing! I’m sitting in the coffee shop wondering why the guy had to make such a scene about it. Was he trying to protect me? The truck? Assert authority? Who knows, but I’m admittedly rattled.

SO MUCH SO THAT I’M STILL TALKING ABOUT IT. I came here to write and thanks to the grizzly old alcoholic, I’m rattled and distracted from the task I set out to accomplish.

But such is life isn’t it? Why is it the very moment that we set our eyes on something, almost instantaneously there is a brand new obstacle flung in our face to try and beat us back into mediocrity. Or distract us, humiliate us, cause us to change course.

Well public humiliation or no, I saw something pretty incredible. Here a fitting hackneyed phrase comes to mind, something to the air of “The biggest hill comes right before your biggest success.” Yeah something like that. But I must be on the right track. If the oddities of the earth are trying so hard to distract me, what awesomeness are they afraid I’m close to accomplishing?

Don’t get distracted today. You have a goal and you have a mission. It’s summertime, there’s crazies about, there might be good TV on later. There will always be distractions, but try and make some time today to take one step closer to whatever it is that will make your life amazing and far above the status quo. You never know, your big break might be just right around the corner.

Advertisements

Being Honest: This is Why I Write

IMG_1795

One of my favorite Dr Seuss quotes is, “Be who you are and say what you mean [feel], because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I tell you, while this fellow wrote children’s books and poetry, I find his words just as inspirational as Tony Robbins’ and as comforting as chocolate chip cookies. This one in particular is a healthy reminder that people are going to say things to you and sometimes it’s going to be painful, but you can’t stop saying what you mean. I know, I really reached deep for that one.

Yet I point out this quote today because lately, I’ve been letting it all get to me. An important individual at work is pretty ferocious with attacking words these days, and I’m growing weary (hence the slow down in posts lately). Additionally I’ve mentioned in a previous blog some of the struggles I’ve had in wedding planning and realizing that I’m just not going to make everyone happy. Which is kind of a bummer.

But most of all, I’ve been learning a lot from you, the readers of this blog. I want to thank you. While I realize this is a relatively small audience in the grand scope of public writing, it matters to me what people think and I care about your opinions and thank you for sharing them.

With all that, I’m learning why occasionally Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno will talk about a celebrity’s latest Twitter outburst after they’ve been heckled, put down or argued with one too many times. It’s challenging to put yourself completely out there and then realize that not everyone is going to like what you have to say. What?!

To just about everything I’ve written so far, no matter how benign I thought it was, it’s been met with opposition in some sense. I am a novice in this whole public writing thing, but I have learned quickly that voicing an opinion means putting a target on your forehead. I am asking directly for comment and to be totally honest, it’s thrown me on my back a few times.

I wonder…is that what progress looks like?

I think so, but only if I can get back up and keep going. One of my grad school professors once said that “Rhetorical criticism is society’s homework.” And to simplify what that means is – pay attention and think about it! Why did Wendy Davis stand for 11 hours? Is it helpful to society that Justin Timberlake’s new video is a boob-fest? What’s going on in Syria and should we intercede? Why would someone eat 69 hot dogs on the 4th of July?

Then comment on it. Say something about it. I have opinions on all of those items, and trust me I’ll get to them.

My point is, what I’m trying to accomplish on this blog is to get you to think critically about what’s happening around you. You deserve a raise, why won’t you ask your boss for one? Are you intimidated or are there social constraints that are causing this stymie? Why are you (or your partner) changing your (her) last name after your wedding? Isn’t there some kind of importance to a female’s family name too? Or why can’t you ever be taken seriously in a meeting with people 20 years older than you, even though you’ve proven that you can keep up with similar work?

I spend a lot of time thinking about these things and about a bzillion more. I’ve counted once, and I actually got to a bzillion and one. So I use this blog to talk it out, and hopefully get some constructive feedback that will help us all understand our world a little better.

That said, I realize that there are things I have said, and am going to say, that are offensive. I’m not out to offend but if it’s going to bring more understanding or alternative thinking, then so be it. I can’t be intimidated.

(yes, this is just as much a pep talk for me as it is for you)

I have had a lot of people in my life who have genuinely tried to control my life, my mouth, and my body. I realize that sounds like an exaggeration but it’s absolutely true and I won’t let it happen anymore. One time when I told my Dad I wanted to be a doctor, he said, “Why can’t you do something more lady-like? Like be a nurse?” Another time, my slim 13-year-old self reached for a candy bar and my older brother grabbed it and put it on my skinny thigh and said, “You might as well just put it right here. Pretty girls don’t eat candy bars.”

You’ll see that I have a lot of opinions with regard to gender equality. Another thing to note is that I was born in Texas in a mostly white community. One time the black boy in my class wrote me a love letter and I showed it to a family member who said, “I don’t ever want to see you talk to that boy. White girls don’t talk to n——.”

Therefore, I have a lot of opinions in favor of racial equality. I have stories with regard to religious oppression, political nonsense, and animal rights too. And if I am paying attention, would it be right to stay silent so as not to rock the proverbial boat? Should I have just gone along with what I was told to do? I say no, and my words are my most powerful asset and therefore I will use them to try and make this society a better place.

I realize that some of you will not like what I have to say, but my point today is that I want to express that it’s coming from a good place. I try to keep it light with humor, but even that can bring further offense. Yet at least I’m out here trying, and I encourage you to do the same.

While I’ve ranted a little about how I’ve been affected by some of the responses, please don’t misunderstand me and think I don’t want to hear it. I encourage your feedback no matter how sharp (or friendly!) it is. We all have a voice, and my point here is to get those of us who are traditionally silent to stand up and really be who you are and say what you mean.

After all, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” (Dr. Seuss)

Agree to the Party, But Not All It Represents

I don’t know what happened. I was in a pretty good groove. Writing, exercising, budgeting, things were going pretty well. Then, I went and got engaged and literally the entire situation that is my life changed.

All of a sudden, each and every of my thoughts have changed to the singsong of fairytales and hummingbirds, blissfully cheering “Weddddding, wooooo!!!” The books went from Lean In and Awakening Your Inner Giant to Bridal Bargains and The Big Book on Weddings. My budgeting goals have shifted from, “budget to get rid of student loan debt fast,” to “budget to have a beautiful wedding and fantastic honeymoon in Italy.”

What is wrong with me?! I’m progressive! I don’t like princess fantasies! I’m an independent woman whose education, attitude and work experience prove that she is self-determined, goal oriented, and committed feminist.

So what IS it about weddings that is the great equalizer, bringing women to the same altar of veils and flowing dresses, sparkling rings, promising that she will be the most beautiful bride that there ever was? I’m no damn princess, and I wasn’t the kid who always dreamed of her wedding. I had soccer practice to go to.

…Although I do know I’m going to look dashing in a casual beach wedding dress and a flower crown….

Anyway, back to my question. What is it about weddings that is so enchanting? I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, but in all honesty, there has been a lot about this experience that is very annoying. All of a sudden, people assume that I will follow the marching orders of brides before me. I am asked if my Dad will “give me away.” Really? Am I held captive somewhere and unaware of it?

Or how about the naming of the female attendants on the bride’s side, “bridesmaids,” or “Maid of Honor.” Am I the only one who hears how ridiculous those names are? Are they going to go milk a cow after the ceremony? Or perhaps hide back in the maiden’s quarters hoping and praying that their time too will come when they are rescued by His Highness?

My point is I have been sucked willingly into the world of white, which includes being assaulted with some troubling truths. While the whole institution of the wedding is steeped in tradition, most of the tradition in this world is steeped in patriarchy. And for some crazy reason…women LOVE it. This is their “one chance” to be a princess. Come on ladies, have you never really paid attention to those Disney films? Those princesses were often slaves of some kind or even locked in dungeons.

DUNGEONS! I myself have never seen a dungeon and I hope to God I never will. But even if they weren’t in the dungeon, they were slaves to their parent’s, often father’s, wishes for their lives, with little to no self-determination. They had zero rights or means to get themselves freed from their bondage and were dependent on Prince Charming to get his shit together and save her. Wouldn’t you rather have the opportunity to save yourself?

I digress. But I think a lot of women fall victim to the dangerous thinking that, YES, I finally found some guy who is going to take care of me and financially sponsor me for the rest of my life. While I know few of us would really say this out loud, that’s very much a huge female fantasy these days.

Don’t believe me? I have some examples.

I was watching a Modern Family re-run yesterday, one of my favorite shows. In this particular episode, Gloria was one of the main characters. Born in Colombia and from a life of poverty, beautiful Gloria met and married her American husband, a man twice her age with a bank account that could make Wall Street bankers blush. Her life is depicted as a dream. She is spirited and free, has a no nonsense attitude and speaks her mind at will.

In this episode, Gloria and her husband Jay just had a baby, and Gloria’s Colombian family came to visit the new infant. Gloria’s sister, also beautiful, never found her prince and is still living in Colombia. When said sister visits, she behaves like a slave – doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and is clearly oppressed. However it is explained that these chores makes her feel good and normal in this rich country. Gloria feels bad for her sister, and offers to give her some of her clothes. The two walk into what looks like a small designer boutique, which in reality is Gloria’s expansive closet. The sister is overwhelmed with awe, and clearly jealous that her life isn’t as wonderful as Gloria’s.

Later in the episode, Jay gives a speech at their son’s christening, and decides to talk about when he met Gloria. He mentions at the end of the story that the beautiful woman he first saw and desired from behind wasn’t in fact Gloria, but he later learned was her sister! This was news to everyone, and the sister filled with rage and jumped from her pew to strangle Gloria, shouting, “You stole my life!!”

Poor Gloria’s sister. She wasn’t picked up by a dude who thought she had a nice ass to spend all his money on her. What a dream to sit around married to an old guy and his money. Do you see what I mean?

What I am finding is that the wedding seems to be a symbol of many things, but a very strong idea is that men are the moneymakers, women are the fair helpless maidens. One other show I’ve gotten into lately is called, Rich Bride, Poor Bride. I like it because it is all about the budget for the wedding, and I like to see how couples choose to spend their funds.

But sometimes I am ready to slap those brides. So many of these women fall into the role of, “this is MY wedding,” and “I’ll talk him into paying for it,” and “he always gives me what I want.” I even heard one bride say, “I have no respect for a budget or saving. That’s for him to worry about.”

!!!!!!

I realize that television is an exaggeration intended to shock audiences. The words and behaviors of these women are appalling and that’s why they made the cut to be aired. But these attitudes are not locked in our televisions. They are deeply ingrained in our society and they are, in my opinion and experience in planning thus far, most prominent around a ceremony like a wedding.

My point is, when planning a wedding it is important to not get wrapped up in the hoopla. Everyone tells you what you “have” to do. May I remind you, there is almost nothing in this world that you HAVE to do!

Sure I am excited and a bit wrapped up in planning this big beautiful day, but that’s because I like planning parties, being a host and can afford it myself. I refuse to get an attitude over it or demand that someone else foot the bill. If I didn’t have the money, Vegas isn’t that far and I could run up there and get ‘er done around $100 with a sweet Elvis pic to boot.

I’m a woman who is going to take advantage of this opportunity to throw a bigger-than-your-average-Saturday fiesta for my friends and family to celebrate Scott’s and my love. Yes, I’m going to look damn good in whatever dress I choose. And while it will probably be white, long and somewhat traditional, that does not symbolize submission. Wearing it and participating in the cultural tradition of a wedding does not mean that I buy into everything it could be perceived to represent. Tradition can often be a very bad thing, and in the case of weddings, the bad thing is the tradition of the helpless bride – which has now morphed into the bratty, selfish, spoiled bride. She was traditionally a piece of property, the currency transferred from father to husband in the wedding ceremony. Yeah, I don’t celebrate that.
By wearing my white dress, I am wearing it because I like it. I have olive skin and it will be August so I’ll have a great tan. Besides that and a few other items I’ll borrow from the weddings of yore, Scott’s and my wedding will only represent one thing. Love….as celebrated by the best party you’ve ever been to.

What’s so wrong with the “F” Word?

Image
No, I don’t mean the four-letter “f” word. But while we are on the subject, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the word “fuck” either. It’s short, and it has a nice sharp sound to it enunciating that you really mean that thing you are saying. It draws instant attention. And there’s something nicely taboo about it.

As a lady, I’m not expected to say, “fuck.” If my mother ever figures out what a blog is, that I have one, and gets to reading it, I can guarantee that she will make the 1,200 mile trek that separates us to wash my mouth out. It’s just “un-ladylike,” and no one will marry a girl with a foul mouth.

What the fuck does that even mean? I suppose you could make the argument that no one should say fuck, man or woman, because it’s just a vulgar word in your opinion. I’ll buy that. But to say there is a certain vocabulary women are disallowed from using is a whole different ballgame, and the very ballgame I intend to play.

The aforementioned “f” word is “feminism,” a word as taboo as “fuck.” There’s something inherently terrible about the word that makes my generation of iPod listening hipsters roll their eyes instantly and pray for a swift change of the subject. Like punk, many believe feminism is dead. Things are better than they used to be right? Quit whining, what more could women possibly want? Things are equal. After all, women can wear pants now.

So then, if things are just fine now, we can assert that we no longer need feminism. But before we have the funeral, what exactly is/was feminism?

In one of my first classes in graduate school, my professor asked us that very question. This wasn’t an undergraduate class of squeaky faced 18-year-olds carrying their Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift posters. GRAD students were labeling feminism a band of angry, bra-burning, man-hating lesbians who wanted their XY chromosomed counterparts eliminated from the planet altogether.

If students in the top 10% of the education system believe that feminists are simply angry homosexuals, what in Flying Spaghetti Monster’s name does the rest of the country think a feminist is? Perhaps many still conjure a “Feminazi,” a term coined by friend to egalitarians everywhere, Rush Limbaugh. Hopefully you caught my sarcasm. Rush, no friend to equality, started calling feminists “Feminazis” in the early 1990’s, accusing women who want to be equal to men just a terrible as Nazis. Nazis. Equating people who seek equality to people who are responsible for the genocide of millions.

Yeah, that sounds about right. <- Inserting another dose of sarcasm.

Perhaps from these small examples you can begin agree with me that feminism has taken a lot of crap in the last 20 years. Sure, in the 60’s and 70’s there was great progress in what most scholars agree to be the 2nd wave of feminism. But when the 1980’s showed up, there was a giant backlash against feminism. Feminism was blamed for the problems of the day, responsible for the supposed death of chivalry, the arguable increasing instance fornication, and the normalcy of women wearing stupid pants. What a bunch of ball-busters.

In my humble opinion, we are still in the backlash. Some scholars say that we are in the 3rd wave of feminism, in that feminism is lesser holding giant protest rallies and more so a covert effort behind curtains, quietly still pushing onward in the pursuit of a greater equality. But I’m not very convinced.

The big reason I think we are still in the backlash is because, again, the word “feminism” is a word as taboo as “fuck.” If we can’t even SAY the name of the movement, is there really a movement at all? The fact that I’m even writing this may suggest that feminism is alive and well, but I’m honestly nervous about posting this piece because I know that I am eliminating an audience by coming out feminist.

But I have to. I have to keep the conversation going. I have way too many hilarious stories about the ridiculousness of my being female in the workplace, bar, grocery store, and street. I have to share these stories with you, but before I do I want to lay the premise that I’m a feminist, because well, you’ll get my humor more easily.

I’m a feminist. I think I, being woman, should be equal to men. Boom.

I shouldn’t be called, “sweetheart,” by my subordinates. But because I’m female, it happens. I have an older colleague who doesn’t hesitate to call me, “beautiful Joni,” each and every time he addresses me.

So, I playfully call him, “beautiful Eric,” every time he calls me that, over and over pointing out the irony of such a statement. We always laugh, and that is that. I accept it when men hold the door for me, I think it’s awfully polite. I am not offended. However, in the name of feminism and equality, I hold the door for them too. While this almost always confuses them, they accept it, laugh, and we all successfully make it to the other side of the door.

See, I think feminism is more playful than many people believe it to be. Given that we are still stuck in many of the confines of gendered behaviors, playing with those lines always gives way to a laugh. What I’m saying is, we can be feminists in our own covert ways, and enjoy our small victories when we successfully cause someone to consider the WHY of the way things are.

But as covert as we can be, I want the conversation to continue as well. If 3rd wave feminism is our own feminism done in our backyards, blogs and neighborhoods, I think it deserves a name. Many feminists have the discussion, “well maybe we should change the name of the movement, since ‘feminism’ has become such a bad word.”

Ah hell no. That’s our word. That’s your word if you want it. And feminism is for everyone, men and women. As a matter of fact some of my favorite feminists are men, who remind me not to back down and fight even harder than I do currently to perpetuate equality.

At the end of the day, feminism is simply a movement for equality. It was born when women wanted to vote in the 1800’s, so yes it bears the gender specific root fem- in the name. But feminism is for equality in every regard of humanity. Feminists believe in equality of sex, gender, race, and class.

People, I’m a fucking feminist. And while you may find those words offensive, I hope that you at least know that what they mean. Fuck is just kind of a silly word in my opinion, used for punctuation of a point. Well sure it also means doing the ditty, but that’s beside the point.

Feminists are equality proponents. And I wonder – if you thought about it hard enough – perhaps, maybe, possibly, you could be a feminist too and not even know it?