Laura G Owens ~ Writer. Raw. Real. Chronically Ambivalent.

Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do, you apologize for the truth. – Benjamin Disrael

Why Would I Ever Want to See the Barbie Movie? Now I Know.

The Barbie movie is stirring up buzz on all sides.

A couple months ago a friend invited me to see the Barbie movie. I appreciated the invite but wasn’t remotely excited about going.

Why torture myself? Feminist me at a Barbie movie? Never.

Until I read the massive buzz and learned that my daughter (25), the last person I expected to see it, wanted to go.

We chatted about the movie’s premise and I told her as a feminist and a Devil’s Advocate, I’d heard Barbie was over the top, excessive male bashing, a radical feminist roar.

So I asked her to let me know what she thought.

The following morning she texted:

“It was great, super whimsical, a satirical world contrasted with the complicated reality of womanhood. I think you might find the story over the top, but it conveys some very important messages every woman can relate to.”

When Taylor was little for the most part she ignored the few Barbies I gave her, the character versions like Cinderella and Belle.

My feminist values justified that Disney Barbies were merely cute merch from iconic family films, and that my daughter was too young to internalize the impossible beauty standards Barbie projected.

Which of course isn’t true.

Beauty and gender role expectations douse kids from day one. But I’m a fun mom and personally I liked the character Barbies.

About fifteen years ago my husband got on me after I bought a black Barbie for a (white) friend’s (white) daughter’s birthday party. Without asking the parents.

“It’s not your place to bring up race. She’s not your kid.”

I insisted the parents wouldn’t mind. But he was right, I was wildly presumptuous. it’s just that I was tired of seeing mostly white Barbies.

That’s long since changed.

My daughter never paid much attention to Barbieland. But once she turned into a tween I told her Barbie was an unrealistic bad female role model.

Growing up, indirect feminist messaging was everywhere in my house. Mostly from my dad. Where he got this I have no idea. My grandparents weren’t exactly poster parents for feminist ideals. I just remember, as kids do, loving them. Although Grandpa was apparently a bit of a tyrant to Grandma.

My dad outlawed nearly all TV, notably smut and female-demeaning fluff, like beauty contests and soap operas. Anything he thought mushed the mind or dumbed down women. So of course because it was forbidden, I watched all of it behind his back. The Waltons, PBS and Little House on the Prarie passed.

If my father caught me watching Miss America or Days of Our Lives he’d say, “What the hell is this crap?” Then he’d turn off the TV and tell us to go read a book.

But I was allowed Barbies because no one was paying attention to toys and feminist messaging back then. The few Barbies I owned were the original 70’s blond, buxom, high-heeled, no-waisted models.

I loved her look. The clothes, the shoes, the cool RV camper and the girly hair salon kit. I lived in Barbieland for a time, although I don’t remember ever wanting to look like her, except for that waistline.

Barbie camper

Today Barbie is a liberated bad-ass. But she’s also an individual. Ambitious CEO or homemaker, bougie or boho. A little or all of the above.

I was a stay-at-home mom but I was also career-driven and ambitious before, during and after I stayed home. I’m polite, crude at times, blunt, feminine and feminist. That used to be called an enigma. Now it’s called being who you are.

I wear make-up, high heels and short skirts but I love my hippie thinking. I’m aging with unapologetic vanity. Willing to shout my age but not enter it gracefully. I once thought Botox was an atrocity, now at 58 I embrace it. This doesn’t feel anti-feminist. It feels natural.

The Barbie movie is wildly popular with feminists and wildly unpopular with conservatives. Critics call it a hay day of male bashing, extreme “wokeness,” an angry movie (softened by an iconic beloved doll).

“The Barbie movie has smashed box-office records, brought dress-up back and put feminism in the spotlight.

Specifically, it has many asking: Has a doll long criticized for perpetuating outdated gender norms and unrealistic body image become a feminist icon? Has she always been one?

For context: The movie takes place largely in Barbieland, a candy-colored, women-centered utopia where Barbies hold the positions of power (all of the jobs, really, except for “beach”) and Kens are essentially peripheral. That’s painted in stark contrast to the “real world,” of course.” NPR. Rachel Treisman (Host). July 27, 2023. Is Barbie a feminist icon? It’s complicated.

I’ll decide what I think once I see the movie. I’ll be fair. I make a point not to knee-jerk fist-pump with my progressive friends and family on any subject.

And I can laugh at myself, so I can certainly laugh at any woman or man who acts the fool or bimbo or whatever light caricature I’m presented.

I am however, dead serious about equal rights.

Despite its bad reputation, feminism has never been about pushing men down. That’s a paranoid ultra-conservative reductionist narrative that translates into “feminists hate men and are bad for family values.”


I like men. Some, not all. I like women, some not all. It’s the person, not the gender that makes me like or detest someone.

Feminism has never meant, at least in later waves, male-bashing or getting off on emasculating men. It does mean unraveling patriarchy and ending culturally manufactured and reinforced male toxic behavior. Which by the way hurts men too (Big Boys Don’t Cry)

Feminism on the whole is simple.

It means equality for both genders. Not at the expense of one, but to the benefit of all.

Today, (Mattel’s) online store boasts Barbies modeled after inspirational female figures — from Jane Goodall to Naomi Osaka to Laverne Cox — and people with disabilities, from a doll with Down Syndrome to those that come with props like hearing aids and wheelchairs. — NPR. Rachel Treisman (Host). July 27, 2023. Is Barbie a feminist icon? It’s complicated.

Westboro Baptist Church

How even the most hateful views can shift. Former Westboro Baptist member converts to love.

Westboro Baptist Church
Westboro Baptist Church

Last Sunday my Unitarian Universalist Reverend spoke about a former Westboro Baptist member, Megan Phelps-Roper.

“At 5, She Protested Homosexuality, Now She Protests The Church That Made Her Do It.”

Westboro Baptist if you aren’t aware, protest at LGBTQ funerals. Members wave signs at grieving loved ones that slur LGBTQ people and support divine killings:

God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11,” “America is Doomed,” “Don’t Pray for the USA,” “Thank God for IEDs,” “Fag Troops,” “Semper Fi Fags,” “God Hates Fags,” “Maryland Taliban,” “Fags Doom Nations,” “Not Blessed Just Cursed,” “Thank God for Dead Soldiers,” “Pope in Hell,” “Priests Rape Boys,” “You’re Going to Hell,” and “God Hates You.””God hates faggots” “Fags doom nations” “Thank God for 9/11”

Members protest at travelers disembarking from LGTBQ cruises.  

This includes parents with kids in tow unprepared for the verbal onslaught.  Westboro, also with kids in tow, proudly pass on their hate-disease by enlisting little ones to hold “God Hates Faggots” signs as their kid’s faces shine with confused giddiness.  

These poor children have no idea why they’re so excited to scream vile phrases at innocent families, except that mom and dad told them that hating “those people” is God’s will. 

And so, it must be.   

What I feel about Westboro Baptist can’t be printed. Although I blogged about them for the Huffington Post after the Pulse tragedy in my hometown, “To Westboro Baptist, We Win.”

It’s no surprise that when people challenge our deeply embedded worldview we double down on our argument. It’s the boomerang effect. Calling someone a “fascist pig, libtard, baby killer or evil disgusting homophobe” feels good in the moment but does nothing to change minds.  

We try to convince people that we’re obviously right and that they’re obviously wrong with their stupid thinking. Even if we don’t call them stupid, we imply it.  

This never works. You and I know that.

Nonetheless, I continue with my rage-du-jour on Facebook. I’m deeply into social activism and frankly, ranting is cathartic. Ranting releases my psychic outrage which seems to be growing exponentially as a Florida Democrat (in the news lately, DeSantis’s dystopian book banning).  

I never call names, of course. I save that for the privacy of my home where I shamelessly and grossly let loose in the most unChrist-like way.

I avoid face-to-face politics. And online I present rational arguments with great passion and occaisional snark towards select politicians (thus igniting the tribalism at the root of “us vs them” thinking).

On Sunday my reverend presented five suggestions for how to disagree better.

1) Assume good intentions

I admit that I don’t assume good intentions for Neo Nazis, Westboro Baptist or people in favor of forcing a rape victim to carry her pregnancy.

Now, if I went way down deep into a Christ-like place I might find a morsel of “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” But I won’t, not for the real damage they’re doing.

2) Ask questions

I learned that our question shouldn’t be “Why do you think this (stupid) way?” rather, “May I ask where you learned your beliefs?” Then listen. Meet people where they ARE. We don’t know why they feel the way they do. Upbringing. Brain-washing. A bad experience. A need to belong.

3) Stay calm

If nothing else, do this.

I stay relatively calm in my posts except when referring to laws that take women’s rights away, ban books, marginalize the LGBTQ community, and the like.

Since 2016 I don’t engage in face-to-face opposing politics. It’s relationship dynamite and puts me in a bad mood.

The last Trump fan I spoke to about Trump was about 5 years ago. This woman insisted nothing was wrong with his character, and as for the Me Too movement?

She said women “overreact” at work when men make lewd comments. She said she was smarter than most people in business because she knew how to use her looks to get what she wanted. For example, she agreed to get a boob job suggested and paid for by her boss to “boost her sales numbers with men.”

Sad and brimming with flawed arguments. But do I have the will or energy to guide her to reason? No. 

4) Make the argument

And I do, with facts, mainly with centrist media sources like the Associated Press, Pew Research etc.  Look for reporting that doesn’t lean left or right. Check media sites with

5) Speak with love and grace

I’m pretty damn gracious if I do say so, but do I speak with love? Sort of.

Love is a big word, wildly overused and diluted. I can be open to why someone is the way they are.  God knows I have issues that shaped my least-best traits.

I can be compassionate until someone uses words and actions that harm (“God hates faggots”). What do you think that does to a teenager struggling with his or her sexuality?

Or the 15-week ban on abortion in Florida with no exception for rape and incest. A girl is raped by her father but has to bear the burden of that horror for 40s weeks? There’s not enough crisis counseling in the world to counter that sort of psychic torture.

People much more patient than I, people willing to open the door with Westboro Baptist, engaged graciously with Megan Phelps-Roper on Twitter. Enough people who vehemently hated her views remained calm, open, asked good questions and listened.

And over time it worked. Megan did a 360 and is now helping change people’s hearts.  

It would take Jesus himself to tell me, Come on Laura, do better and graciously engage with people who spew hateful venom.

And even then, I’d need to be heavily medicated.

But we can all do better to close the gap between our divisive worldviews. Stay calm. Don’t insult, walk away, be gracious.

I noticed over the years that a few Trump friends unfriended me. They did it quietly. I just looked them up and they were gone. I completely understand. If I loved Trump, I’d hate my posts too.

And honestly it’s for the best that my QAnon friends went away. I don’t see much hope for us coming together when their views include the conspiracy theory that Hillary runs a secret chain of pizza restaurants as a cover for child sex trafficking.  

Sometimes there’s zero wiggle room to disagree lovingly. So just quietly unfriend, walk away, don’t discuss. You won’t change their mind, but you won’t make your relationship worse.  

 Former Westboro Baptist member Ted talk

new years resolutions

New Year Resolutions? Go small. Three things to add to your 2023.

Years ago I swore off making one single day the starting line for when to begin a new habit, or drop an old one.

I figure any day is fine.  But as the new year approaches I can’t help thinking about what I want to do differently. How I want to evolve my mind, body and spirit.

For me, it’s an endless battle to be more patient.

With infuriating customer service, with my husband whose Maryland conversational cadence is slower than my New York vocal marathon.  

I also need to interrupt less. This always enraged my father, and my husband isn’t a fan. He tells me to stop interrupting, I tell him to talk faster. This goes nowhere.

I also need to pare down (a little) of my wine-love. But I’m a hedonist, they’ll be no Dryuary (dry January) in this house.

Another of my goals is to drop two dress sizes.

This means at 57 the simple non-magical formula of eating fewer carbs, less sugar, lots of protein and minimal nighttime snacking. I already work out six days a week but as my daughter reminds me, “abs are made in the kitchen.” I bust my ass at the gym but my waistline doesn’t seem to notice.

I don’t weigh myself. Haven’t for decades. Women’s weight goes up and down with water gain and added muscle (men too). So the scale is an annoying stab in the back. It demotivates me and makes me want to kick the thing across the room.  

Basically if I have to suck in my stomach to squeeze into my jeans, it’s time to lose weight.

For 2023 let me offer a suggestion.  

Don’t make your resolutions big. Go for inches. Small strides. Work out one day a week, then two, then five. Cut out a little sugar, add more veggies and protein. Read more. Don’t make your goals feel impossible by day three.

Three things to add to 2023: Breast health, immune support, healthy boundaries

I’ve been studying what it takes to fix my mind and body for more than 20 years.

After I was misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, had severe postpartum depression, anxiety and adrenal insufficiency, I took my health into my own hands. As of a Greece trip in 2019, I now have microscopic colitis. I’m working like a dog to get rid of it despite being told it’s autoimmune (Never goes away. Not on my watch. I’m getting rid of it).

My doctor is a holistic MD who preaches prevention and cure rather than just treating symptoms. We’re a team. She listens. She reminds that the body knows how to heal itself with the right help.

  1. I suggest women add breast thermography to their annual breast health plan. Inexpensive, painless, life saving.
  2. I also suggest everyone add Argentyn 23 to help their immune system. It’s a powerful safe antiviral and antibacterial small particle silver. My husband, daughter and I took it constantly during COVID (none of us got COVID). There’s peer-reviewed science behind small particle silver. I can’t sing it’s praises enough.
  3. Set personal boundaries and extricate yourself from toxic people. Mean, shitty people who don’t make you feel good about yourself, or people you don’t trust, don’t deserve your company.

How do you know who’s toxic and who you need to gently leave behind?

Ask yourself how you feel every time you’re around this person. Are they at least trying to get better? Are they self-aware? There’s your answer.

To a joyful, healthy happy 2023.

Broken trust

Broken crosses: Two local religious leaders who broke my heart

The reverend asked us to call him Bryan, but some people called him “Rev.”

He was a regular visiting minister at my lay led Unitarian Universalist church. Wildly popular, burly Santa-type, warm and calming. When Bryan spoke, I made a point of getting my lazy-butt to church.  

Clergy always made me a little uncomfortable. Not from religious guilt or any bad experience. I just wasn’t around religious leaders enough chit chatting at our church’s Wednesday dinners to see ministers as regular types. Growing up I went to a Methodist church with my mother, but only sporadically.

In my early thirties, I re-started in the Methodist church, but when even the coolest laid-back pastor said hello I got nervous. Godly rock stars, I guess. My anxiety around the cloth wasn’t because I was God-fearing. If anything I was God questioning. I just wasn’t sure how to act.  Bryan made it easy.

Thankfully he was our scheduled speaker the day after the Pulse Massacre 25 minutes from my house. He led us through our stages of pain. Enraged, shattered and speechless, spiritually bleeding from the shock and sorrow.

His messages were always easy to carry into your day. The sort of pastor who uses straight language without cryptic Biblical jargon.

And so his style resonated with our mutt UU congregation of believers and non-believers, the reformed and practicing Christians, Jews, Catholics, humanists, agnostics and atheists. He mentioned Jesus here and there as a symbol of how to do the right thing under the hardest circumstances. It didn’t matter if we thought Christ was the Son of God, a hippie or fairytale.   

Bryan spoke the greatest hits across all religions: love, kindness, humility, compassion and forgiveness. And he was a walk-the-walk advocate for civil and women’s rights.  It was his dedication to reproductive choice and gender equality that impressed me the most. An unabashed feminist who railed against patriarchy.

I trusted him as a female-ally because he was well-known for fighting for women’s rights. He once told our congregation, “How arrogant would I be to think I know what’s best for a woman who finds herself pregnant?” He took hard stands, but gently. He was witty, humble and much better at doing grace than me. Exactly what I want in my spiritual leader. Better, but admittedly fallible.

When I heard in October 2019 that Bryan was charged with having sex with a minor over 100 times between 2005 and 2010 (starting when she was 14, grooming her when she was 13) I almost threw up. His victim was a long-time member of the church where he served as senior minister.

If you live long enough you know that plenty of good people do bad things. And that sexual abuse in all places of power is sickeningly common. But people like Bryan, a religious leader outspoken about gender equality, they don’t sexually abuse.

For weeks I woke up in the middle of the night hoping it wasn’t true. My heart was broken. I felt betrayed, angry and bitter.

Bryan was a local celebrity known for his commitment to interfaith discussion, a topic that always appeals to me. He co-hosted the popular NPR show, “The Three Wise Guys” (A minister, rabbi and imam), bantering theology (with reverence) across the Christian perspective on issues. After his arrest the show shut down. It stuns me that people still write “Happy birthday Bryan, we miss you,” on his Facebook page. Even after what he did. 

Sadly the Reverend killed himself ten days after he was released on bail. Before he had to face numerous felony charges. Investigators recorded a long conversation between he and his accuser (now an adult) where Bryan admitted that she had been a victim and that he was a predator “in the eyes of the law.” He admitted to having a sexual relationship with her for years when she was under 18.

“[T]here was never anything salacious or bad about it and you were always too damn mature for your own good and I have always loved you,” Fulwider told his accuser in the call, according to police. “It wasn’t like I was off hunting people. It was a connection.” ~ The Orlando Sentinel

Orlando Sentinel

I was heartbroken for his family, and relieved that someone I cared for, someone who regularly talked to God, no longer had to battle his demons. But I also wanted to scream in his face, “Listen you predatory scumbag, you did this to yourself!”

I’d like to say time softened my anger, but it only dulled the edges. I don’t forgive as fast as Jesus. Sometimes, although rare, I never do. On purpose. It keeps evil and good simple.

Bryan’s sons said they “witnessed his pattern of disrespecting women and know he was not the person he presented publicly.”

Some of my church friends who knew him better than I, or who are probably just more forgiving, haven’t erased all the good Bryan did.

Still, it’s one thing to cheat on your spouse, evade taxes or embezzle church funds. It’s another to commit statutory rape with a 14-year-old girl in your congregation.

A couple years ago another one of my favorite speakers was arrested. A priest charged with sexually abusing a boy. That’s all I know because I can’t find anything about his arrest record. I only know from friends at church that he’s serving time.

This priest whenever he saw me (or anyone), beamed a magnificent smile, like he was genuinely excited to see me. Then he’d give me a hug. Usually this sort of gushing friendliness from someone I don’t know well creeps me out. But my priest-friend radiated genuine love and benign affection. He made you feel special. So my trust radar, like with Bryan, beeped strong. That’s pretty Christ-like. I was drawn in.

His voice was deliciously melodic when he recited poetry and sang verses of his favorite black spirituals. He was brilliant about breaking down theology into modern practical terms. He was also mesmerizing and charismatic, commanding but not at all intimidating.

A few years ago he helped a few of us at church during a breakout session for an eight-week white privilege class. Somehow he moved us past being mildly self-righteous white liberals (who mean well), into activists who needed to keep our back-patting wokeness in check.      

Years ago he begged his Diocese to let a few local impoverished non-Catholic kids reap the educational benefits of attending a Catholic school. He knew God wouldn’t care about rigid enrollment rules, only that he could help a handful of kids get a better shot in life.   

Maybe someday I can forgive my priest friend. But not Bryan.

My priest friend as far as I know (or tell myself), “only” molested one boy. Bryan groomed and sexually molested one girl over a 100 times.

Evil amounts to numerical calculations against all the good someone has done. There’s a net total we learn to live with. But once we see evil in someone we trust, it’s hard to see anything else.  

For me, despite what we’re promised, forgiveness isn’t always a salve for the sufferer (“forgiveness is for YOU, not for them”).   Not forgiving can heal too. People think I’m nuts on this. Not forgiving goes against all the best Jesus lessons. It holds on to emotional sludge and makes you literally sick.

I’m not saying we stew in destructive rage. What I mean is, choosing not to forgive someone for heinous acts puts evil and good right where they belong, in separate corners, judged as they should be judged. There’s relief in that sort of clarity.  “I don’t forgive you,” doesn’t have to make you stuck in pain and bitter. It means you gently accept that some things are unforgiveable.

My interview on Mother Plus Podcast

Ambivalence in motherhood. Part 1: When you’re a “different” kind of mom

What happens when you feel like a “different kind of mom?”

Despite feeling grateful to be at home with my daughter, try as I might, I didn’t fit the mold. Despite joining numerous playgroups, despite having date nights with my husband, mom’s night out, etc.

I sensed immediately that I needed more — more time away than other mothers, more of my own interests, more of my old identity.

Listen on ITunes
Listen on Spotify

I share:

Why we need to have real conversations about our ambivalent feelings and find moms who understand (find your tribe who gets it, who gets you).

Why having feelings of ambivalence has nothing to do with how much you love your children (zip, zero, nada).

Why you’re “allowed” to have childcare even if you’re a stay-at-home-mom (gasp!).

Ambivalence in motherhood Part 2: Changing the definition of “selfish”

Why I put my daughter in two half-day pre-schools although I was at home (oh the comments!)

Accepting the type of mother you are, even if you’re different from other moms (self-acceptance).

Listen on ITunes
Listen on Spotify

Bottom line but what we never tell mothers:

Mom needs to be as happy as her kids. Change the definition of “selfish” to “filling” self, to caring for yourself. This is excellent role modeling for your kids, especially girls.

I’m not suggesting you ignore your kids’ needs and put yours ahead of theirs. Of course not. Parenting demands sacrifice. I’m suggesting a radical paradigm shift that says, “my needs count too,” and acting on it.

It’s important to acknowledge and accept that ambivalence—even hating motherhood sometimes, is normal.

Image credit

vaccine passport

Orlando Sentinel guest column: Vaccine-passport debate shows middle-ground thinking is dead.

Vaccine passport

Orginally published by the Orlando Sentinel – Guest columnist

My daughter recently attended a Harry Styles concert at the Amway Center in Orlando. As required by the venue she showed her vaccine passport (or a negative COVID-19 test 48 hours prior).

Now, the Amway Center and other establishments in Florida, are under investigation for violating Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ban on vaccine passports.

When will it end? The politicization of everything vs. decisions based on critical thinking and common sense?

Norwegian Cruise Lines defied DeSantis’s vaccine passport ban. Of course they did. Cruise ships are giant moving superspreaders.

So why is our hands-off-business governor fighting this no-brainer?

Politics. And some voters on all sides are following suit.

Coming down on an issue solely in opposition to the other party. If they’re for it, I’m against it. But are they really against the issue across every angle?

Never mind nuance. Never mind science and common sense. That uncomfortable middle ground that makes our head hurt.

God help you if you ponder the practicality of mask mandates and vaccine passports in all situations. Party treason.

And when the vaccine was first released if you had a legitimate concern (vs. a ridiculous conspiracy theory) you were a selfish moron.

Where’s the nuanced thinking in statements like, “Wear masks even if you’re vaccinated!” or “Vaccine passports are like living under the Gestapo!”

On vaccine passports I’m not totally against or in favor. In other words, it depends.

I support (temporarily) requiring proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID test) at large crowd and travel venues. I support a vaccine mandate in schools, for frontline workers and in health-care settings. Lots of people, close together, spread lots of germs. That’s not political. That’s science.

But I’m against requiring them at every business, e.g. every retailer and restaurant. Common sense knows this isn’t practical. And it’s invasive. I say that and I’m a Democrat.

I support businesses encouraging but not requiring the vaccine as a contingency for employment (or a negative COVID test).

I personally have no issue showing my vax card (I have yet to be asked). It’s not like I’m revealing I had an STD. But if I had to show my card everywhere from now until who knows, it would get old. Of course I’d pull it out without pitching a fit. It’s how I feel about masks.

I hate them. Yes, we all do. But I hate masks a lot. Except I know they help stop the spread so prevaccine I politely complied.

Okay, you got me. Masks, like vaccines, aren’t 100%.

But when we scream “Masks don’t work!” we’ve willingly stopped using common sense, never mind respect for established science.

Masks do workThey help.

The word help doesn’t mean prevent. It means to assist. Vaccines assist in stopping the spread.

I’m concerned we’ve lost our will to even consider the nuance behind issues. Shades-of-gray thinking doesn’t fit into a tidy party narrative of Us vs. Them. And our cognitive dissonance is astronomical.

If a business still requires a mask I politely wear it, otherwise I forgo because I’m vaccinated. Uber still requires masks. So last weekend, I privately grumbled to my husband, put on my mask, got in the car, and kept my mouth shut about it to the driver.

I keep strengthening my immune system with a supplement regime I’ve done for years. And once the stay-at-home order was lifted in Florida in May 2020, my husband and I went out — a lot. I tested and quarantined before I visited my elderly stepmom, reminding her that a false negative was a real possibility.

I’ve tested three times including one antibody test. All negative.

Some people might call me selfish for going out so often before I was vaccinated. I’d ask them to consider what I’ve been doing to strengthen my immune system.

Either it worked or I’m lucky. I got sick plenty before I started on this regime years ago. Now I don’t. Or at least not for long.

We owe it to each other to care about the collective. We also have the right to take individual calculated risks. My husband and I are one of those messy middle-of-the-road people during the pandemic. We don’t fit one box or the other.

At this point during COVID-19 we might consider mandates in context of where and when they make sense.

We teach our kids to be good citizens and critical thinkers, shouldn’t adults do the same?

Image credit

bed alarm

“Bed alarm” – a poem in my father’s voice

Published on the Feminine Collective

I don’t tremble, but they assume I’m Katherine Hepburn’s kind.
We share our Parkinson’s frozen mask, expressionless, involuntary
deceit of emotion.

My shuffling gait halts while I calibrate my balance, refusing my wife’s arm
even as my committee of limbs won’t comply.

Stiffening, my six-foot body cracks against the shower door that night.
Cubes of blunt glass explode. I am bare, crooked. Fetal once again. Read entire poem…

Photo credit: John Towner

Barbie: Hilarious satire, sympathetic to both men and women.

Barbie and Ken

(Minor spoilers)

Last week I blogged that a friend invited me to see the Barbie movie with a group of women.

I appreciated the invitation but Barbie?  Pass.

Until I read all the hype and learned that my 25-year-old daughter, a mini-me feminist, the last person I expected to go, planned to see it.

While watching the movie I laughed, clapped and involuntarily cheered to the point a curious (but not angry) teenage girl turned around. I nearly did a standing ovation when the credits rolled.

Not that it’s that good, this is Barbieland we’re talking about.  

But in some ways the movie is brilliant.

Campy and ridiculous with feminist messaging wrapped throughout. Women laugh and nod because they’ve lived it, men laugh and nod because they get it.

Growing up I loved Barbie. The 1970’s blond impossibly thin-waisted, exaggerated beauty and boobs original. I loved her hair, clothes, perfected make-up, high heels and glitz.

The full girliness of all of it.

But as an eventual feminist and mother to a daughter (I bought her a few Disney character Barbies), Barbie wasn’t exactly my idea of female body positivity and empowerment. She was an impossible beauty ideal and bubble-headed arm candy.

And while I love a good satire I assumed the movie would be nauseating.

When my daughter was little we watched every Disney movie, and never once did I suck the fun out of the boy-saves-girl Belle or Cinderella tropes.  

Why would I?

Until middle school, the entry hell of puberty, full of fragile self-esteem, gender expectations, and overwhelming insecurity.

That’s when I taught my daughter about the fight for equality, and the importance of being assertive (to the degree her shyness allowed). And that creating boundaries doesn’t mean “bitch or difficult,” it means self-respect. 

And that it’s okay to have a healthy squishy body (all while I worried about gaining weight).

It’s clear I haven’t been paying attention to evolving Barbie. She’s grown into an individual and kept pace with every complex wave of feminism.

Third-wave feminism, in the 1990s, took a more complicated and nuanced view of the world, writes M.G. Lord in the LA Times piece,  “Yes Barbie is a feminist, just don’t ask her creators.”

“It enshrined, among other things, the idea of a woman’s right to control her own sexual expression, and, you could even say, her right to pleasure. When it came to Barbie, this form of feminism advanced the daring idea that some women might actually take pleasure dressing like the dolls, a practice that some second-wavers might have interpreted as retrograde and submissive to patriarchy.

The largely online movement of fourth-wave feminism that began around 2012 had a big impact in Barbie’s world. It embraces intersectionality and body positivity, challenging the idea that there is only one ideal body type.”

The movie is over-the-top ridiculous, but with playful unexpected existential messaging for both our plastic protagonists (we see Barbie lying on the ground trying to grapple with “Who am I?”).

No major spoilers, but she gets a taste of the patriarchal real world outside her female-centric Barbieland and she’s devastated.

Ken too, experiences patriarchy and becomes fast addicted to the highs of the boys club, finally appreciated as alpha male-powerful, rather than merely Barbie’s beach buff lovesick shadow.

The movie isn’t, as some conservatives insist, a male-bashing bashing angry feminist roar. It’s real-life flipped upside down inside a matriarchy.   

Outside her pink utopia, Barbie deals with catcalls, ass-grabbing, sexual harassment, and being patronized and dismissed.

One man who commented on my first post wrote:

As a *cishet male, I was not remotely offended or threatened by the movie. Definitely not “male bashing”. I hope we see more movies like this. I hear Mattel is already planning a sequel” ~ Daniel.

My guess is the movie’s message didn’t threaten him, it merely illuminated what he already knew.   

While another man added this thought-provoking critique:

The movie is for men, perhaps a bit of a Rorschach test for their ego. While my husband won’t attend a women’s rights rally, he respects strong accomplished smart women. His activism is in his beliefs and behavior.

During the movie we watch Ken go rogue then struggle with toxic masculinity “bro” nonsense. Ultimately we leave the theatre understanding the value of not, bashing men, but rather, bashing gender expectations.

The movie is a good time but in no uncertain terms, a feminist film, although one covered in candy-coated bawdiness, “I’d like to see what nude blob (Ken) is packing under those jeans”

Co-director Greta Gerwig doesn’t shy away from the fact that she made a feminist movie.

Mattel does. Hoping no doubt, to avoid scaring off some viewers.

But controversy invariably draws crowds and Barbie is a box office smash. 

Some people are going because of its feminist messaging.

Some because they think the movie is the antithesis to conservative family values.  “See, more wokeism indoctrination!”

Most people, like friends I talked to, go because they liked Barbie growing up, or their kids want to see the movie.

A friend’s teenage son went and afterward told her, “Mom, my friends and I liked the movie but it was a little….feminist”

He wasn’t disgusted, she said, he was confused. Not a bad thing for a teenage boy to admit when clobbered over the head in a funny way, with a reality he doesn’t fully understand.

Barbie today is every woman. Every color and shape. Every career, or homemaker. Every position of power. Glamorous or earthy.  

The movie isn’t remotely an “All men suck” diatribe. No-thinking woman thinks this, as no-thinking man believes all women are “bitches.”

What we shouldn’t miss is the message for Ken.

That, while Barbie is no longer the poster girl for a one-dimensional female ideal, Ken too, has always been more complex than what people expected of him.

Ken isn’t threatened by feminism, because Ken finally knows who he is.

*This two-part identity means that a person is both cisgender and heterosexual. A cishet person identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, and they choose romantic partners of the opposite sex.

The Grand Canyon

Chevy Chase was wrong. The Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon

I expected to feel some mild version of that Chevy Chase scene in Vacation. I mean not entirely pre-jaded, but prepared to smile, nod and check her off my travel list. 

The Grand Canyon, who hasn’t gone, who hasn’t dragged her family to the edge while holding their child’s hand so she doesn’t plunge to her death. Who hasn’t stood against a guardrail and asked some wandering tourist to take a picture.  

But then I saw the Grand Canyon and something shifted. Her beauty still sits with me to this day. 

The layered cake rock that reveals her ages and stages, resilience and formation we’re fortunate to witness.  Her colors. Deep rich and complex, the sun’s shadows washing her out then gradually sliding across to light her up. Those colors, our guide explained, paint an era, and how porous the rock or clay is. 

But more than anything it was her vortex, her cratered mammoth mouth that stretched for miles. Millions of years once covered by ocean that brewed the earliest amoebas of man. I was ashamed that I expected to feel anything but awestruck.

I can blame being blaise on Chevy Chase, but it was mostly my fault. I say mostly because nothing prepares you for her monstrous beauty, and the feeling of being involuntarily taken over by nature. 

The Grand Canyon is beyond what I imagined from postcards and Hollywood. She ate me whole, laughing as she heard the echoes of my teen daughter, husband and I playing with her acoustics.

I felt sick standing too close to her edges without a rail. It’s how I feel with every hotel balcony my daughter leans on, except with more intensity. I didn’t experience that terrifying counter-intuitive primal impulse to fall as some people swear cliffs do to them. I have felt it, but not there. 

I felt enveloped and consumed by her beauty and strength. Taken in by her irreproducible natural canvas and ancient history, by her fortitude and power to put me in my tiny arrogant place. Not even the Amalfi Coast which in my travels I found the most beautiful, moved me to such humility, awe and silence.

Public preaching

When street evangelists scream preach I just ignore. But this guy is interrupting people working out.

I saw a viral video years ago of a girl at my daughter’s college in tears because a kid with some Christian group, was screaming that she was a “whore” for the way she dressed.

Certain places on campus allow these sorts of public soap-boxes.

Me personally, I’d just tell the guy he was a bully, and that I’d worn my favorite short-shorts that day, which I believed were not REMOTELY-whorish.

And that I’ve never taken a single dime for sex. So “whore” is not quite accurate. Then I’d tell him he was an asshole, likely in need of getting laid. Then I’d smirk while he turned away from the girl and shamed me instead. Sacrificial lamb and all that.

But this poor girl was genuinely shaken. Slut-shamed on her way to class. Fortunately a few kids spoke up and rallied around her and gave her a hug.

Bullies always lose. Mello Jesus wins.

Does this really work? Bullying people towards God? Seems counterintuitive.

Dude, read the room, no one wants you screaming while they’re working out.

Is this need to YELL the Good News a sickness? I was a Methodist. I know the Good News.

And calling people sinners is a huge no for me.

This being “born” a sinner is weird.

Seriously when was a baby a sinner? In the womb she sucked in too much amniotic fluid?

I’m wildly flawed, but preach “sinner repent!” and we’ll have words. I hate guilt preaching. I makes me want to run away from God. (My God is very LGBTQ friendly, pro-choice and doesn’t support burning in hell for non-believers).

Listen, I don’t go to my gym and preach the word of my Unitarian Universalists while someone jams out on their cross trainer.

The gall of ANYONE to preach ANY religion AT people, astounds me. Which is I why I get giddy when LDS folks come to my door.

They smile, hand me a pamphlet, share the Word. I then kindly and gently (I swear) share my Word (Unitarian Universalist: Nutshell: We don’t care if you’re protestant, Catholic, pagan or an atheist. Just be loving compassionate and open-minded.

My favorite preaching is when religious folks want to tell me about preparing for the “end of times” so that I’m not Left Behind while the sinners burn.

Now THERE’s a super upbeat conversation at my doorstep.

If you want to share Jesus, please quietly hand out pamphlets, invite people to your church, start a blog.

I wish people would stop YELLING God AT people in public places.

Jesus was a gentle peaceful guy. He’s well-known. We’ll find him if we need him.

Three things to make your holiday FEEL better

Holidays make lot of us giddy. The lights, decorations and excited kids drunk on all the magic. I love this time of year.

My daughter is grown but I still run to my front porch and wave to Santa when he comes riding into our neighborhood, sirens flaring (now in a pickup truck vs fire truck. No more candy canes. Even Santa has his budget cuts).  

But holidays send some people into a tricky emotional place. They feel gut wrenchingly sad because they miss a parent or are estranged from loved ones.

This time of year triggers memories of drama-soaked meals where someone was too drunk, too mean or too critical.

Christmas in our house was a big deal.

After my dad’s first wife left when I was five, my father was instantly a single parent with five emotionally shattered kids. Therapy helped but children don’t ever fully recover when their mother takes off.   

Santa does wonders.

My dad made Christmas spectacular. Our 10-foot tree was covered with presents, our stockings were stuffed, dinner was spectacular (my dad was a hobbyist chef and could master any recipe). He’d make beef tenderloin, Yorkshire pudding, and homemade chocolate mousse with hand whipped cream spun with a bit of bourbon.

I don’t remember Christmas as especially sad, angry or dramatic. Although, if you spoiled your appetite or pushed your food around the plate (I dissected every inch of fat off my meat) — you better run. My dad had a big loud temper. Which, managing five kids (three big feral boys) and working full-time, I’d be cranky too.

Whatever the holiday feels like for you it’s guaranteed busy.  

If being a perfectionist gives you peace and joy. Go for it.

I’m reindeer obsessed so I spend hours setting up my indoor decorations exactly right. It’s a high.  Some people feel compelled to master gift-wrap corners (I’ve tried for years. And I still can’t fold a fitted sheet). For others it’s flawless pies and sixteen homemade side dishes. Preparing food is a love language for a lot of people. Too many sides makes me tense just thinking about it.   

If you’re losing it on everyone and stressed, let something go.

What I mean is: willingly “fail.”

Cut out a few sides, ignore the crappy wrapped corners, and God knows ask for help from your kids, your spouse, any willing and able body.

No opposing politics, none, nada, zip

This speaks for itself. Haven’t we learned since 2016 that talking Trump vs Not Trump is useless and disastrous? No one gets any closer. They get mad and farther apart.

So if “that” uncle or cousin even hints at bringing up opposing politics, gently steer them away. If they don’t listen, firmly steer them away. If they’re being obnoxious drunk and belligerent, send them to the TV room.

Make peace with gaining a few — or don’t gain a few

You can go a couple ways here.

Except that you’ll gain a few pounds but lose it later. Or, treat the holidays like any other week. Eat and drink reasonably, indulge here and there, exercise as much possible.

I’d rather not put on a few pounds and have to work it off. At 57, working off a few pounds is exponentially harder than at 25.  The added weight just laughs at me now, “good luck losing it.”

But I’m also not big into self-sacrifice.  I’m a hedonist. For me that looks like fine cheeses, plenty of wine and lemon drop martins and some sea salt dark chocolate. I generally love all salty savory white carbs. Pasta, chips, popcorn by the bowlful.  

Some people prefer to get buzzed on pie and cookies. Do your thing. Decide what’s worth it.  Then let it go.

10 things to tell yourself when you’re going through a hard time.

From Tiny Buddha (I love this site).

Every point hit home for me. But oddly enough, number two stood out because at first glance, it sounded kind of selfish.

You have the right to feel how you feel even if other people have it worse. Your pain is valid regardless of what anyone else is going through.

Sometimes I feel a little petty when I vent about minor problems, or even big ones (like family estrangments, health issues) in contrast to true tragedy. Ukraine, COVID deaths, a friend who lost a loved one or is suffering from a serious illness, job loss, financial ruin, divorce.

How dare I bitch about the contractor who didn’t show up or ripped us off? How insignificant and trivial. Veering on the now grossly overused, “Karen.” (My laid-back husband and daughter have accused me of “going all Karen” on customer service or contractors simply for refusing to get screwed over).

We should all try to view our problems in contrast to bigger suffering. It puts our life into perspective. And yet, all stress and pain is valid, while not created equally.

I remember years ago I was venting to a friend about my husband being insensitive about something. I don’t remember what. Nothing major. All of a sudden my friend, usually a great listener, snapped. “Well at least he’s alive. Remember I told you Lisa just lost her husband from a heart attack? Dead before 50. Now THAT’S suffering.”

I was taken back and defensive. I told her I remember her telling me about her friend’s husband and how sorry I was. But I wasn’t comparing my minor complaints to the death of a spouse, obviously.

It became clear she lashed out from fear. She told me she was terrified how many people she knew who suddenly dropped dead at a young age (usually undetected heart issues). My friend, in her late 40’s at the time, was facing her own mortality and the possibility of suddenly losing her own husband. The unpredictability of life is something she’d spoken to me about every time she heard of someone dying too young.

So for her, my venting at that moment felt trite and meaningless.

But all feelings are valid.

Now if I chronically complained about small stuff, yes, I deserve a knock upside the head reminder that suffering is relative. No one likes a chronic complainer.

One of the practices I use to get myself out of a funk is to focus on gratitude. What’s working in my life vs what’s not.

Part of my gratitude practice is to mentally rank how much harder my life could be if I say, I had an incurable disease like so and so, or if my partner left me like so and so or if I was living homeless or hand to mouth like countless people across the world.

My gratitude list is infinite. Likely yours is too.

I’m not sure that comparing and contrasting ourselves aka, “it could be worse” is pure gratitude at its best. But it is a form of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most powerful, transformative tools humans possess.

But I often say, it’s normal to have two seemingly conflicted feelings at the SAME time. What I mean is you can feel grateful for x,y,z in your life and upset about a,b,c.

You don’t have to feel guilty for experiencing pain because someone else has worse pain. Your feelings are valid. It’s all about timing and self-awareness. When or even if to vent to someone who’s suffering.

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