Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Page 5 of 14

One drop Italian and so, Italian

 

DadandmeNewOrleansI’m Italian-American, only one-quarter Italian, one drop. But that’s all we need to decide who we are, one drop.

“… Barack Obama has become the most high-profile personification of the one-drop rule extant. That “rule” holds that any degree of African ancestry makes one completely black. The pressure on Americans of partial African ancestry to deny their European lineage and identify solely as black is enormous,” writes  Charles Byrd.

Perhaps our first bi-racial President should remind his nation we’re all ancestral mutts of one blend or another and so one human race. But we identify with a race or ethnicity for a variety of emotional reasons that transcend reason, sometimes as a statement of genuine protest or pride, by what’s fashionable in a movement or from seeds planted by our parents.

As for my ethnic origin if it comes up I cling to my one-quarter Italian because I’m drawn to Italy’s ethos. I crave the food and landscape and rich artistic history because I was raised to appreciate Mediterranean culture.

When I was born my father gifted me with the name “Laura Giovanna Politi” (Giovanna translates to Joanne) which out of my three brothers and one sister was the only “ethnic” middle name given in our family. My father left half his lineage for me to cherish and so, was a little hurt when years before his death I stupidly told him I used to hide my middle name from my friends at school. 

Back then I needed my name to blend as I needed to blend with all the waspy Beth’s and Carol’s and Anne’s.

Later however, as a young adult determined to declare myself with anti group-think bumper stickers like my “Why be Normal?” where “normal” was printed upside down, my middle name fit with the independent-minded person I wanted to advertise.

And so I made Giovanna proof of my Italian kin by convenience, clinging to roots planted by my father and perhaps imprinted from genetic memory carried through distant ancestors.

Before I got married I struggled over whether to drop my maiden name Politi in favor of Giovanna, but Giovanna won me over because it felt like the pseudo name of a novelist.

When I talk to Italian waiters here or over seas however, I pull out both names as one might with ethnic garb or a heritage pin. Invariably every waiter smiles and repeats “Giovanna Politi” in full accent, a polite gift for a paying customer who pretends her name spoken in native tongue somehow transcends our ethnic divide.

Growing up my father embraced the European/Mediterranean food lifestyle. For hours he prepared dinner with fresh local ingredients, meals where healthy substitutions that might dilute the recipe’s signature were strictly forbidden (no margarine, skim or pretend oils).

Italian food

Image: Pava

Silently my father entered the kitchen and ritually sharpened his favorite black-boned knives across a flint into slivered angles. He expertly diced shallots inside the small space between his steady fingers, de-glazed a brown sauce in his copper saute pan and finished all day spaghetti sauce with butcher-stuffed spicy Italian sausage.

Despite grumblings and noise from five hungry kids, my father moved into a meditative trance with whatever Craig Claiborne Times’ recipe he picked that morning. Cooking Mediterranean food was his only form of sacred worship and so, dinner always came with a serious glare and verbal warning, don’t waste your appetite on the bread, slow down.

Before I visited Tuscany a few years ago I romanticized Italy as many novice visitors often do. Even now I idealize a country where although I have no desire to live, I have a visceral attraction to its sensory pulse.

My father was third generation Italian-Russian and my mother is third generation German. Yet my own blood runs German-English and Irish-Italian, a European blend inherited from biological parents I’ve been trying to find for more than three years.  At times I proudly pull out my middle and maiden names, Giovanna Politi, clinging to my two drops Italian as I cling to the invisible lineage between my two fathers, men who unaware of one another, created a daughter long drawn to Italy’s familial heartbeat.

Fiesole Italy

 

One reason I love life (but the point where my grace ends)

Image credit

One of the many reasons I love life is the unexpected synchronicity that happens all the time….

Driving traffic-clogged I-4 at 6:50 this morning to get to the YMCA prayer breakfast, I responded (okay, yelled) at the radio because a well-spoken but clearly wrong (by the discrimination yardstick) Baptist Minister explained to the radio host why his speech should be protected and isn’t discriminatory (e.g. denying a wedding cake or photography service to a same-sex couple about to get married is protected speech he argues, based on his Biblical beliefs. But, denying the same couple a hamburger, or accounting services etc he says is discriminatory).

Finally I arrived at the mega Orlando First United Baptist church for the YMCA prayer breakfast. I ran into the packed room, saw our Oviedo YMCA Exec Director at my table and I said loudly to him across the noise,

“I just drove like a bat out of HELL to get here!”

Just as I said this I turned around and seated right next to me at my table is a lovely young pastor with my town’s local New Covenant church. (But you know God has a stellar sense of humor, so goes the saying “Because God made (insert what/whoever you think is worthy of God’s sense of humor).”

I asked the Pastor about his church, told him I’ve heard good things about his pre-school. He shares a little about his church (Anglican). He asks me where I go (Unitarian Universalist). We both make polite conversation. Pastor asks me if my husband and daughter attend UUU (mostly no and I tell him why and why I left my Methodist church. Fond memories and deep gratitude for my daughter’s programs and our religious roots I explain, but I had increasing discomfort, and my new church resonates better with my views).

I tell Pastor a tiny bit more about my church all the while trying to be diplomatic and respectful, yet honest.

Oh yeah, hi there, Mr. President

Then our speaker gets up. Lucas Boyce (Dir of Business Development and Legislative Affairs for the NBA’s Magic). Lucas wrote “Living Proof: From Foster Care, to the White House and the NBA” and is clearly living proof for character and faith and belief in himself (and bold courage).

Lucas inspires us with several stories, each underpinned by his faith and that moving from a crack addict prostitute mother to foster care to life with a loving adopted mother who encouraged him informed his life’s trajectory. Lucas built the life he dreamed as a child (with thanks to God first he said) the moment he saw the White House (and after he saw the coolest airplane ever in the movie Air Force One).

Somehow on his pathway to become a lawyer he became a White House intern/page during President GW Bush’s term. One day President Bush did a quick photo-op on the south lawn with the pages. Twenty-two year old Lucas, not yet groomed on the basics of Presidential how do you do said something like “Hey yeah, how are you? but closed with, “I’m praying for you Mr. President. It’s a just cause (post 9/11 reference).”

The next day President Bush told a staff member he was impressed with “that young man” and to hire Lucas right away. From that moment Lucas’s life moved exactly where he wanted it to go.  

The crowd, all 1,000 of us, gave Lucas a deserved standing ovation.

Passionate. Inspired. Full of faith and conviction.

Believe. Pray. Worship. Inspire others. These are the fuels that feed our compassion and hope and propulsion forward.

BUT while you pray and inspire others, please know this:

The majority public opinion believes that religious beliefs should NOT allow legal rulings to protect speech that denies well-behaved (ruly), shirt-covered citizens service.

So clergy if you must deny officiating a same-sex marriage because it goes against your Biblical beliefs, you have the right as a religious institution.

(However,  I will never believe it feels truly righteous and holy and God-infused, authentic to one’s spiritual core to deny marriage to a loving couple).

Our nation’s individual views on God (and God’s will and use of our free will) is all over the place yet all of us in small moments of respect and grace at round tables can listen to the one another. I truly want to hear someone’s concerns over same-sex marriage however, when the legislative hammer comes down and denies service to our citizens due to sexual orientation, I immediately stop listening. 

Red Barber did his job, so can business owners against same-sex marriage

The radio interviewer then asked the Baptist Minister….. “I know this is a different issue but baseball announcer Red Barber nearly quit announcing for the Dodgers after desegregation and Jackie Robinson started playing. But Barber changed his mind. He knew he had a job to do. Can’t business owners against same-sex marriage simply serve someone and do their job?

The Baptist minister said for him no because it violates his speech.  At that moment the minister said no and denied service to a SS couple, is the moment I don’t believe he worships the same God — I do.

Okay, disagree with same-sex marriage if you must, but your job as an American heterosexual citizen afforded rights is not to deny to others, the same services/benefits YOU enjoy.

We are not, any of us, born chosen or special because we are heterosexual any more than we are born chosen or special because our eyes are blue or brown or hazel.

(To help illustrate the real life wrong in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Let’s use our heart rather than our head. Picture your adult child, deeply in love with her long time same-sex partner. One day both giddily head to the only bakery in their tiny town to order their dreamed-about wedding cake, budget tight but they’ve got just the cake picked out in their head. Lo, the baker-owner Frank who has known these ladies since they were little and used to give them free sugar cookies every Sunday says sorry ladies, I love you both but I can’t bake your wedding cake, my beliefs don’t allow it).

That’s love? 

Postscript:

“The man who broadcast Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Dodgers recalled that, as a boy in **SANFORD, Florida,  (Red Barber): “I saw black men tarred and feathered by the Ku Klux Klan and forced to walk the streets. I had grown up in a completely segregated world.” Red Barber confessed that when he learned the Dodgers would field a black player, his first reaction was to quit his job.” (Society for American Baseball Research).

When we don’t know any better we don’t do better. Once we know better, we must do better.

Why this nation is so happy

By Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Live Happy magazine reports that Costa Rica ranks as one of the happiest places on earth across a number of happiness index scales (Ranked number 1 out of 151 countries by the Happy Planet Index, HPI).

When I went a few years ago, among the many places I’ve traveled, Costa Rica in particular, left a vivid sensory imprint I revisit in my mind, often.

There’s something quickly transformative about Costa Rica, perhaps it’s immersion in the lush biodiversity combined with meeting Costa Ricans (“Ticos”) who do more than merely recite their nation’s slogan, “Pura Vida,” the good life, they feel it.

And so, I’m not surprised the Happy Planet Index (HPI) ranked Costa Rica number one.  The HPI combines 3 factors:

  1. Sense of well-being. (The HPI survey asked respondents to imagine the worst possible life and the best possible life and then rate where they fall on the Ladder of Life). (Costa Rica = 7.3/10, excellent).
  2. Life expectancy. (Costa Rica = 79.3, excellent).
  3. Ecological Footprint.  (This measures sustainability. Can a country sustain its citizens without outside help. If for example, a country cut itself off from the rest of the world, could it be self-sufficient based on use of land for sustainability? Costa Rica = 2.5, average).
Lost Iguana Resort, Arenal region, Costa Rica

Lost Iguana Resort, sloped walk towards our room.

Simply put, Costa Ricans rate their quality of life high, live relatively long and while their sustainability/self-sufficiency isn’t superior, it’s right up there. Much of the land is protected under an aggressive conservation plan and so citizens live among unspoiled natural beauty, which as we know, closer to nature, closer to calm.

Let me add, Costa Rica has no military. 

“We are a happy country because we don’t know what it is to lose millions of people in a war,” says resident Carlos Arias . “We have no army. Our happiness is easier to achieve because we are easily amazed, and maybe that has to do with the fact that we haven’t suffered any big wars, like the rest of the countries in our continent.” Source: Live Happy magazine, April 2015.

Costa Ricans, Carlos explained, also have an easier time moving up a social class and making friends across classes. I wonder then, if some of their sense of well-being is feeling inter-connected which fosters mutual respect and that caring community we all crave.

What is superficially surprising, however, is that Costa Rica, a relatively poor country, whose per capita income is no higher than the international average, is consistently right up there (on happiness) with its wealthier counterparts. ~ “A Country Without a Military? You Bet!,”  by David P. Barash Ph.D, Dec. 13th, 2013

 

Arenal volcano, Costa Rica, Lost Iguana Resort

Arenal volcano. La Fortuna region, Costa Rica.

A couple of years ago my husband and I visited the Arenal volcano region (outside La Fortuna) to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I was at once relaxed like every vacationer who finally exhales, but Costa Rica brought me there faster.

Iguana Resort was surrounded by exotic flowers, plants and birds. The private lodging was nestled into the side of a mountain with access through small paved roads that sloped upward to our secluded room.

Lost Iguana Resort, Golden Gecko spa

Sitting outside Lost Iguana Golden Gecko spa. Costa Rica.

Our open air porch housed two (notably creaky but oddly soothing) wooden rocking chairs that faced the jungle and the misted Arenal (active) volcano on the horizon. You have no choice but to feel blissed when you’re connected to a country who cocoons visitors in natural beauty at every step.

Residents are extraordinarily polite (almost formal I’d read despite the informality of the country) and so on the advice of traveler reviews I reigned in my forward American gusto to keep my personality footprint respectful.

Still, everyone easily smiled hello and good-bye while they said the nation’s mantra, “Pura Vida,” the good life.  I quickly looked forward to responding with the same as a reminder that like the citizens, I was experiencing the well-felt Costa Rican life. 

stray but well fed dogs in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Well-fed stray dogs outside a restaurant in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Stray dogs also thrive in this relatively poor but largely economically sound nation.  Most residents in La Fortuna can’t afford to keep pets but they clearly care for the animals. I saw water bowls on almost every business stoop and people threw scraps for the dogs while they ate in outdoor air restaurants.   The loving communal care is obvious because despite the throngs of stray dogs, none of them looked starved for food or attention. 

Costa Rica’s verdant land and symphonic rain forest ripe with hundreds of varieties of birds was subconsciously meditative. Years back I gave up the pressure of trying to meditate except to intuitively fixate on nature’s theatre and gentle tree sways.

LI pool

The pool at Lost Iguana Resort, Costa Rica.

One afternoon at the resort I quieted my busy brain by walking circles in the shallow end of the resort pool as I scanned the property with binoculars looking for hidden birds I could hear but not see.

One-third of the year Costa Rica is covered with blue skies and cool breezes. Every day after 1pm it rains which for someone who craves long hours of bright sunlight is unappealing and moody. Usually however, the rains only lasted long enough to re-lubricate the land and to hydrated my skin in a wonderful permanent mist.

When I asked our canal eco tour guide if he ever considered living anywhere else he told me no, never.

If you grow up in Costa Rica, chances are you’ll stay even if you’re not rich.  If you live outside Costa Rica, chances are someone will insist you visit a country that seems to live abundantly happy, despite it’s modest abundance.

Postscript: Nadine Hays Pisani author of Happier Than a Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica & Living the Zero Hour Work Week. “I’ve had a very, very good experience. I don’t know if I could go back to how I lived before. I made a mistake by thinking I always had to have something new to make myself happy. I never considered that nature can make you happy, being outside can make you happy. I worked a 10-12 hour day. I was never outside.”

Why care about happiness ratings for another country?

“Most measures of national progress are actually just measures of economic activity; how much we are producing or consuming. By only using indicators like GDP to measure success we are not accounting for what really matters, producing happy lives people now and in the future.

The HPI puts current and future well-being at the heart of measurement. It frames the development of each country in the context of real environmental limits. In doing so it tells us what we instinctively know to be true – that progress is not just about wealth.

It shows that while the challenges faced by rich resource-intensive nations and those with high levels of poverty and deprivation may be very different, the end goal is the same: to produce happy, healthy lives now and in the future. The HPI demonstrates that the dominant Western model of development is not
sustainable and we need to find other development paths towards sustainable well-being.” Source: Happy Planet Index

Get your bare feet on the ground: The many benefits of connecting your feet to the earth (called grounding or earthing) 

3 ways to amp up happiness

happiness

Credit: pixabay.com

The happiness movement is in full gear with piles of positive psychology research and even a happy magazine (“Like” Live Happy magazine on Facebook for daily tips to amp up your smile).

Most of us already sense how we can get happy but now research backs what our gut’s been telling us.

Live Happy tips:

  • Vitamin D. Before the skin cancer worry we used to let the sunshine in to reap the benefits, including a natural mood boost. Everyone is happier with sunshine streaming into a nearby window but to get a full dose of D, you need a direct hit. So, if your skin type and schedule can take it, grab some sun for 15-20 minutes a day. Otherwise, supplement (I take 5.000mg a day of D3 (cholecalciferol), not D2 (ergocalciferol).
  • Exercise. Exercise boosts the protein BDNF (brain-developed neurotropic factor) which helps neurotransmitters function more effectively. Exercise is so helpful to battle depression it’s often included in treatment programs. The last thing you want to do however, is beat yourself up because you’re not exercising enough. Find an activity you enjoy that moves your body as often as possible. Walk, hike, take the stairs, park farther away, dance, bike, do yoga. Work up to 3-5x a week, 30 minutes or more.
  • Gratitude. Happiness researchers mention the benefits of feeling grateful all the time. So, how can we make gratitude convert into higher happiness? Notice the good in our everyday, even our yesterday, moments.Create a positivity (rather than negativity) bias. Say you had a really bad day yesterday, think back to what went right (more than you imagine) and what’s going right, right NOW. Practice active gratitude and in time you’ll re-wire your brain to notice more of the positive than the negative. Neurons that fire together, wire together.

Feeling joy: living intentionally to re-wire your brain

joy, living intentionallyAs it turns out, we humans adapt pretty well to feeling awful or to living the less dire but equally joyless neutral and numb existence.

Kids, relationships, jobs, falling finances and health vie for every inch of our energy. For some, crippling pain or depression or anxiety or loneliness overshadows sensations of joy, stifling an existence that is designed for pleasure.

Soon the moments of joy we do notice become special occasion exceptions rather than our rule for living.

Embrace hedonistic happiness

And yet, as humans we’re designed to pulsate with pleasure, to feed our craving for self-gratification (hedonistic happiness) and to pursue a noble meaningful purpose that elevates our mind and opens our heart for the greater good (eudaimonic happiness).

And yet our happiness can be notoriously fed or doused by the company we keep.

Misery might love company but positivity is contagious and a habit like any other. If we align long enough to people who recite reasons why life is out to get them we reinforce a rut of joyless and pained living.

And while we don’t necessarily need to abandon every negative person in our lives (although a toxic relationship dump is a grand idea in some cases), we can become immune to their soul-sucking (however unintentional) vibe.

This emotional protection is, in a poetic sense, what Herman Melville in Moby Dick referred to as our “insular Tahiti,” a self-protected encapsulated practiced place of peace and joy we strive to live, despite external chaos.

Humans notice the negative: breaking patterns

All of us can unlearn parasitic patterns of negative thought that erode our well-being (thoughts that literally affect our health). I’m not suggesting daily pep talks or posting sticky note mantras on the fridge will radically change your well-being (although these can’t hurt), I’m suggesting making our thoughts and actions intentional, habitually feeling grateful and engaging in happiness-stoking activities that literally re-wire our brain from our human tendency towards the negative, to the positive.

Humans, explain evolutionary psychologists, have a natural negativity bias in order to survive earlier threats. When man spotted a lion (negative) he ignored the carrot (positive) because he knew the carrot wasn’t a threat and would likely be there tomorrow, but he might not there tomorrow if he ignored the lion.

We simply adapt to our day-to-day positive experiences (we wake up rested, the sunrise is stunning, we eat a nice breakfast, our child is dressed on time, our dog is loyally loving us, the traffic flows for a change, purple flowers cover the highway median, our headache is somehow gone).

We tend to notice the negative that interrupts the web of positive that makes up the majority of our day.

We can however re-wire our brain. Experts in the field of positive psychology often cite that “neurons that fire together, wire together.”  In other words, engage in happiness activities (what you truly love) over and over and over and you re-program your brain towards a positivity bias, and you feel better.

We now know our noggin is far more pliable than we ever imagined.

No longer do we need to become our doctor’s diagnosis and we can bathe our mind and body in feel good, healing and calming chemicals by, for example, spending time with others, feeling genuinely grateful and showing empathy towards others.

Walk barefoot on the sands of a quiet beach at sunrise, sync with the ebb and flow of the ocean as you whisper thanks to a divine and you will simultaneously relax your mind, breathe in spirit and soak in the earth’s abundant healing electrons (called “grounding” with 15 years of evidence to back its benefits).

Intentional living means we focus on the many everyday moments that continue to go well.

We can tap the healing powers of our natural world to create emotional and physical well-being.

We can use what we now know of neuroscience to maximize our brain’s capacity for joy.

We can embrace the unseen forces in the universe for our own good and the good of others, call this force God, divine, or if you prefer, energy.

We can merge science, our natural world and spirit to elevate our mind and body to a place of intentional and habitual joy. This isn’t a prescription for nirvana or bliss, that ethereal place we imagine only for monks, it is a real-life prescription for better living, through better feeling.

Image credit: Maggie McCall

Separation of church and state, including Satan’s coloring books

Satanic coloring book in Orange county schools

Public schools shouldn’t be allowed to distribute Bible’s or Satanic materials

 

Separation of church and state, including Satan’s coloring books

Personally, I don’t care if a religious or pagan or atheist group distributes materials at public schools.  If my daughter’s old enough to decide what does or doesn’t sit well in her soul, she ‘s old enough to take it all in.

But I do care on behalf of others, in separation of church and state.

Orange School Board bans outside Bibles, Satanic materials in schools. 

Ideas thrust into in the minds of thinking people doesn’t destroy beliefs, they might in fact, expand them.

But we have to protect the original intent of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause to ward off potential abuse of religious power over non-Christians and the non-religious, so I come down on the side of separation of church and state. 

As for the Church of Satan giving out coloring books in Orange County Florida schools, for obvious reasons I don’t want little kids taking their box of Crayolas and making pretty rainbows in Satan’s fiery abyss, nor do I want them reciting The Church of Satan’s 9 Satanic statements (#5 Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek! (emphasis not mine))

I happen to believe Hell isn’t a place. I believe Hell is of our own making (and that Mother Nature just does her thing rather than vengefully make our lives hell) but kids don’t deserve gruesome Satanic images pages stuffed inside their little Dora the Explorer back-packs.

The Church of Satan worships some seriously creepy stuff and if for no other reason than I can’t shake my childhood superstitions that monsters lurk under my bed (and neither can kids) I don’t want Satanic materials circulating in our schools.

Equality opportunity disgust for all gruesome religious images

I wasn’t happy when years back my then 4-year-old daughter came home from her Methodist pre-school and tucked among her jelly bellies were crucifix images (on a bookmark or daily reminder page of Scripture, I can’t quite remember) during Easter time.

Gruesome is gruesome even (or especially) because it’s in religious context.

Little kids are too impressionable to easily process the image of Jesus’s wrists and feet nailed to a cross with little drops of blood dripping down as he looks in agony towards God. We can sweet it up all we want with adult justification phrases like He died for you little one, but it’s still a half-clothed man — on a cross — nailed — with a 4-year-old who didn’t ask Jesus to die for her.

In fact, I’m pretty sure 4-year-olds don’t want anyone to die for them.

When I saw crucified Jesus in my daughter’s hands I almost forgot my usual laissez-fair attitude about not jumping down a school’s throat for doesn’t-really-matter-in-the-long-run missteps. I’m very selective with my school outrage, in fact I can’t think of one time in 15 years I went off on staff or faculty except when my 2-year-old’s teacher wouldn’t give her lunch because my daughter and her criminal 2-year-old boyfriend threw their piece of pizza on the floor just because, you know, that’s what spunky 2-year-olds do.

But here’s my issue about religious materials in schools, Christian groups don’t get to cherry pick what gets distributed in state schools — Jesus in, Satan out.

It’s all or nothing.

And so, nothing.

Source: Orange School Board bans outside Bibles, Satanic materials in schools. 

Image credit

Good girls don’t get the corner office

Image: Wikipedia

“Teach your daughters to resolve conflicts, take risks, tout their strengths and “check your good girl at the door,” writes Rachel Simmons in her book, The Curse of the Good Girl.

Gender stereotypes start young.

Instead of taking risks and honing their leadership skills young women unwittingly sabotage their success by questioning their abilities and diminishing their potential, explains Leslie Mann in her article, Family duties make women executives prone to depression: study. “The result is a ‘psychological glass ceiling.'”

So, say good-bye to the nice girl. But let’s be clear, the not-nice girl isn’t the often mis-labeled bitch.

Bitches have nothing to do with corporate America, although you might find one there or down the street or in the grocery store.  A bitch is, pure and simple, a personality that can crop up anywhere, but she’s not the assertive, confident, authoritative woman doing her job. Bitches are aggressive, petty, underhanded, mean-spirited, back-stabbing and so it turns out, bitches are also men.

“Definitions of “feminine” and “masculine” must change, Pudrovska said. “When women in authority are assertive, dominant, powerful and confident, they’re viewed as unfeminine,” she said. “Men don’t have this conflict; these are ‘masculine’ traits.”

Women with a firm confident demeanor are sometimes seen as having “some nerve.”

Indeed, it takes some nerve to speak up. Assertive women exude authority, they challenge long-held gender expectations and status quo. Status quo is cozy comfy predictable, it tells us how we “should” operate as boys and girls in society.

But no one ever changed anything worth changing by staying within the confines of “should.”

In other words, as the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history, or get the corner office. 

Successful women don’t speak in meek diminutive tones, nor do they yell or bull-doze over everyone else in the room.  

I have what I think is a pleasant enough and also firm voice. No whispering mouse lives inside my voice box (anymore I kicked her out decades ago). I speak politely but with an audible strong tone if I have something meaningful to offer in meetings.  I challenge points diplomatically. And if I make someone uncomfortable with my “masculine” qualities that individual needs to ask why what his or her male peers exude is threatening, only when I do it.

“Women excel at compassion and empathy, which complicates their leadership roles, Breathed said. ‘When men get to positions of authority, they’re like the chest-beating silverback gorillas; they’ve made it!” she said. “But women say, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to fire a woman with two kids.'”

I respect businessman who exhibit among other traits, “female” qualities (known typically as empathy, compassion). I don’t see this as lacking the cojones to be effective leaders. When the hammer has to come down then they bring it down, until then, they listen to the human at the other end of their desk.

Ultimately, business men and women can learn from each other by recognizing the value of “male” and “female” traits and when best to use them.

 

 

 

 

 

Vicious closet cyber bully converts

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Warning: A small part of this post below is deeply disturbing, but if you hang on the emotional investment pays off.

Converted bully: Hey Lindy, I don’t know why or even when I started trolling you. It wasn’t because of your stance on rape jokes. I don’t find them funny either. I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self. (a “passionless life” he called it).

Bullied: It’s frightening to discover that he’s (the bully) so normal. He has female coworkers who enjoy his company. He has a real, live girlfriend who loves him. They have no idea that he used to go online and traumatize women for fun. Humans can be reached. I have proof. Empathy, boldness, kindness, those are things I learned from my dad, though he never knew how much I’d need them. Or maybe he did……….I still get trolled every day. If I could get through to one troll, the meanest one I ever had, couldn’t I feasibly get through to any of them, all of them?

Laura: If you haven’t experienced cyber bullying, thank God.  The Internet’s spawned some vicious verbal warfare thanks to the distance and cowardice of the keyboard. 

No one’s ever cyber bullied me but I’ve had a few nasty attacks out of the blue (I say out of the blue because no one else on the thread, that I knew of, seemed upset, just this one man or one woman and with such spitting anger you knew the issue — wasn’t the issue. 

The rare times someone came at me swinging before I answered I spewed George Carlin’s 7 dirtiest and dumped my anger into the air, or I ran like hell (left the forum or ignored the post). You can’t stop people from beating you up online unless you disappear or convince them there’s a living person at the other end of their poisonous pen. Conversion can happen.

Cyber bullying bothers me for the obvious. It’s mean. But more, I can’t figure out who these trolls are (trolls are online posters who slay people with relentless verbal attacks sometimes to the point of stalking or threatening violence).

I assume these piranhas have mothers, maybe kids, a cat, a friend or two, that they cry, bike, garden, kayak, make all day spaghetti sauce, call their grandmas.

A recent This American Life podcast gifted me with a stark and hopeful A-HA moment.  Moral: If you’re miserable, making someone else miserable won’t help. Not even a little. If you apologize, come clean, remember the human at the other end, you’ll feel better, at least a little. 

Here’s the story:

Writer, blogger, feminist Lindy West wrote a piece in response to dialogue circling the Internet, do comedians go too far when they use material about violence and rape against women? Lindy wrote yes, these topics should be off-limits to get a laugh.

As usual she wrote her honest unapologetic opinion.  As usual she expected a boatload of misogynistic hate email because she got them all the time, but one person went too far. 

“One midsummer afternoon in 2013, I got a message on Twitter from my dead dad. I don’t remember what it said exactly. And I didn’t keep a copy for my scrapbook. But it was mean.

And my dad was never mean. So it couldn’t really be from him. Also, he was dead. Just 18 months earlier, I’d watched him turn gray and drown in his own lungs. So I was like 80% sure.

And I don’t believe in heaven. And even if I did, I’d hope to God they don’t have fucking Twitter there. It’s heaven. Go play chocolate badminton on a cloud with Jerry Orbach and your childhood cat.

But there it was, a message. Some context– in the summer of 2013, in certain circles of the internet, comedians and feminists were at war over rape jokes. Being both a comedy writer and a committed feminist killjoy, I weighed in with an article in which I said that I think a lot of male comedians are careless with the subject of rape.

Here’s just a sample of the responses I got on social media. A quick warning, these are internet comments about rape, so it’s going to suck.

“I love how the bitch complaining about rape is the exact kind of bitch that would never be raped.” “Holes like this make me want to commit rape out of anger.” “I just want to rape her with a traffic cone.” “No one would want to rape that fat disgusting mess.” “Kill yourself.” “I want to put an apple into that mouth of yours and take a huge stick and slide it through your body and roast you.” “That big bitch is bitter that no one wants to rape her.”

It went on like that for weeks. It’s something I’m used to. I have to be. Being insulted and threatened online is part of my job, which is not to say it doesn’t hurt. It does. It feels– well, exactly like you would imagine it would feel to have someone call you a fat cunt every day of your life.

I wrote about Paul West Donezo in an article for jezebel.com. I wrote sadly, candidly, angrily about how much it hurt, how much that troll had succeeded. And then something amazing happened.

The morning after that post went up, I got an email. “Hey Lindy, I don’t know why or even when I started trolling you. It wasn’t because of your stance on rape jokes. I don’t find them funny either. I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self.

I have emailed you through two other Gmail accounts just to send you idiotic insults. I apologize for that. I created the paulwestdonezo@gmail.com account and Twitter account. I have deleted both.

I can’t say sorry enough. It was the lowest thing I had ever done. When you included it in your latest Jezebel article, it finally hit me. There is a living, breathing human being who’s reading this shit. I’m attacking someone who never harmed me in any way and for no reason whatsoever.

I’m done being a troll. Again, I apologize. I made a donation in memory to your dad. I wish you the best.”

They attached a receipt for a $50 donation to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance where my dad was treated. I guess he found that out in this research too. It was designated Memorial Paul West.

I didn’t know what to say. I wrote, is this real? If so, thank you.

The troll wrote back one more time, apologized again, and this time, he gave me his real name. I could have posted it online, which he knew. But I didn’t. And I’m not going to be saying it here either.

That was almost 18 months ago, but I still think about it all the time because I still get trolled every day. If I could get through to one troll, the meanest one I ever had, couldn’t I feasibly get through to any of them, all of them?

Was he special? Or did I do something right? I wonder how he would tell me to respond to the people trolling me today. I wish I could ask him. But then I realized, I could.

Lindy West

I don’t know. I guess I’m just kind of nervous. But it’ll be OK, right?

Chana Joffe

Yeah.

Lindy West

This is me in a studio with producer Chana Joffe-Walt and a phone.

[TELEPHONE RINGING]

 

Man

Hello?

Lindy West

Oh, hello?

Man

Hello?

Lindy West

Hi. How are you?

Man

I got to tell you, I’m really nervous at the moment.

Lindy West

I’m a little nervous also.

Man

At least I’m not alone.

Lindy West

No, no, not at all.

I asked him why he chose me. He’d said in his email that it wasn’t because of the rape joke thing, so what exactly did I do?

Man

Well, it revolved around one issue that you wrote about a lot which was your being heavy– the struggles that you had regarding being a woman of size, or whatever the term may be.

Lindy West

You can say fat. That’s what I say.

Man

Fat. OK, fat.

Lindy West

I write a lot about body image, about the stigma and discrimination that fat people face, about being a fat woman. He told me that at the time he was about 75 pounds heavier than he wanted to be. He hated his body. He was miserable. And reading about fat people, particularly fat women accepting and loving themselves as they were, infuriated him for reasons he couldn’t articulate at the time.

Man

When you talked about being proud of who you are and where you are and where you’re going, that kind of stoked that anger that I had.

Lindy West

OK, so you found my writing. You found my writing, and you did not like it.

Man

Certain aspects of it.

Lindy West

Yeah.

Man

You used a lot of all caps. You’re just a very– you almost have no fear when you write.

Lindy West

Yeah.

Man

You know, it’s like you stand on the desk and you say, I’m Lindy West, and this is what I believe in. Fuck you if you don’t agree with me. And even though you don’t say those words exactly, I’m like, who is this bitch who thinks she knows everything?

Lindy West

I asked him if he felt that way because I’m a woman.

Man

Oh, definitely. Definitely. Women are being more forthright in their writing. There isn’t a sense of timidity to when they speak or when they write. They’re saying it loud. And I think that– and I think, for me, as well, it’s threatening at first.

Lindy West

Right. You must know that I– that’s why I do that, because people don’t expect to hear from women like that. And I want other women to see me do that and I want women’s voices to get louder.

Man

I understand. I understand. Here’s the thing. I work with women all day, and I don’t have an issue with anyone. I could’ve told you back then if someone had said to me, oh, you’re a misogynist. You hate women. And I could say, nuh-uh, I love my mom. I love my sisters. I’ve loved my– the girlfriends that I’ve had in my life. But you can’t claim to be OK with women and then go online and insult them– seek them out to harm them emotionally.

Lindy West

In my experience, if you call a troll a misogynist, he’ll almost invariably say, oh, I don’t hate women. I just hate what you’re saying and what that other woman is saying and that woman and that one for totally unrelated reasons. So it was satisfying at least to hear him admit that, yeah, he hated women.

He says he doesn’t troll anymore and that he’s really changed. He tells me that period of time when he was trolling me for being loud and fat was a low point for him. He hated his body. His girlfriend dumped him. He spent every day in front of a computer at an unfulfilling job. A passionless life, he called it.

And then gradually, he changed. He enrolled in graduate school. He found a new relationship. He started teaching little kids. He had a purpose.

Slowly, his interest in trolling dried up. We verified nearly everything that he told us about himself. Except, did he really stop trolling? I have no way of knowing, but I believe him. It felt true. And if this was all a con, it’s one that cost him a $50 charity donation.

We talked for over two hours, and I spent a lot of time trying to get him to walk me through his transgressions in detail– the actual physical and mental steps and how he justified it all to himself. I felt like if I could just get the specifics, gather them up and hold them in my hands, then maybe I could start to understand all of the people who are still trolling me.

Lindy West

How did you even find out that my dad died? How did you–

Man

I went to my computer. I googled you– found out you had a father who had passed. I found out that he had– you had siblings. I forget if it was three total.

Lindy West

I have two siblings.

Man

So–

Lindy West

Did you read his obituary?

Man

I believe I did. I knew he was a musician.

Lindy West

Yeah, I wrote that. I wrote his obituary.

Man

What I did was this. I created a fake Gmail account using your father’s name, created a fake Twitter account using his name. The biography was something to the effect of, my name is– I’m sorry, I forget the name– the first name.

Lindy West

His name was Paul West.

Man

I wrote, “My name is Paul West. I’ve got three kids. Two of them are great, and one of them is an idiot.”

Lindy West

Yeah, you said embarrassed father of an idiot.

Man

OK.

Lindy West

Other two kids are fine, though. And then–

Man

That’s much more worse.

Lindy West

And you got a picture of him.

Man

I did get a picture of him.

Lindy West

Do you remember anything about him? Did you get a sense of him as a human being?

Man

I read the obit. And I knew he was a dad that loved his kids.

Lindy West

How did that make you feel?

Man

Not good. I mean, I felt horrible almost immediately afterwards. You tweeted something along the lines of, good job today, society, or something along those lines.

Lindy West

Yeah.

Man

It just wouldn’t– for the first time, it wouldn’t leave my mind. Usually, I would put out all of this internet hate, and oftentimes I would just forget about it. This one would not leave me. It would not leave me. I started thinking about you because I know you had read it. And I’m thinking how would she feel. And the next day I wrote you.

Lindy West

Yeah. [INAUDIBLE].

Man

And I truly am sorry about that.

Lindy West

Yeah, I mean, have you lost anyone? Can you imagine? Can you imagine?

Man

I can. I can. I don’t know what else to say except that I’m sorry.

Lindy West

Well, you know, I get abuse all day every day. It’s part of my job. And this was the meanest thing anyone’s ever done to me. I mean, absolute– I mean, it was really fresh. He had just died.

But you’re also the only troll who’s ever apologized. Not just to me, I’ve never heard of this happening before. I mean, I don’t know anyone who’s ever gotten an apology. And I just– I mean, thank you.

Man

I’m glad that you have some solace.

Lindy West

Honestly, I did have some solace. I forgave him. I felt sorry for him.

It’s so difficult to believe that anyone ever really changes. And he did it. I found immense comfort in that.

Toward the end of our conversation, I remembered that in his email he had confessed that he had harassed from multiple troll accounts, not just Paul West Donezo.

Did I ever write back? Was there anything I didn’t know? He said, yeah, one time he’d sent something mean from his personal account, and I retweeted it to all of my 40,000 followers. He was mortified.

Man

And I’m trying to remember what it was about. I think you had mentioned a comedian. You had tweeted about a comedian who had threatened to throw his girlfriend down the stairs?

Lindy West

Oh, no, he said he wished that I would fall down a flight of stairs.

Man

Oh, OK, and I think I said– I don’t know if I retweeted it or I– what did I say?

Lindy West

Oh. Oh my god, I remember you.

Man

Yeah, OK.

Lindy West

Oh my god.

Man

What did I say?

Lindy West

You said something like, I wish I could be the one to push her, or something. Or–

Man

Or I thought it was, too bad Lindy isn’t your girlfriend.

Lindy West

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh my god, I remember you.

Man

Yeah, that’s me. I’m a dick.

Lindy West

I can’t believe– I mean, there’s so many trolls. I can’t believe– I can’t believe I remember you.

Man

Yeah, that was me.

Lindy West

At this point, my producer Chana, who’d been listening, couldn’t stop herself from jumping in.

Chana Joffe

God, hearing you guys, you sound like you’re like, oh, you went to that high school? I went to that high school too. Holy cow.

Man

Yeah.

Lindy West

Well, you know, I mean it’s such a normalized part of my life now. I mean, honestly– and it’s kind of a relief to talk to someone who really knows what I’m talking about, even though he’s coming at it from the other direction. There’s almost no one who understands–

Man

Well, you know what, as a former troll, I’d never told a single living human being until now that I did this. So it’s good, in a way, to get that off my chest to get my secret life– my old life– I don’t know. It just feels good to exercise these demons.

Lindy West

It felt really easy, comfortable even, to talk to my troll. I liked him, and I didn’t know what to do with that.

It’s frightening to discover that he’s so normal. He has female coworkers who enjoy his company. He has a real, live girlfriend who loves him. They have no idea that he used to go online and traumatize women for fun.

Trolls live among us. I’ve gotten anonymous comments from people saying they met me at a movie theater and I was a bitch. Or they served me at a restaurant and my boobs aren’t as big as they look in pictures.

People say it doesn’t matter what happens on the internet, that it’s not real life. But thanks to internet trolls, I’m perpetually reminded that the boundary between the civilized world and our worst selves is just an illusion.

Trolls still waste my time and tax my mental health on a daily basis, but honestly, I don’t wish them any pain. Their pain is what got us here in the first place. That’s what I learned from my troll.

If what he said is true, that he just needed to find some meaning in his life, then what a heartbreaking diagnosis for all of the people who are still at it. I can’t give purpose and fulfillment to millions of anonymous strangers, but I can remember not to lose sight of their humanity the way that they lost sight of mine.

Humans can be reached. I have proof. Empathy, boldness, kindness, those are things I learned from my dad, though he never knew how much I’d need them. Or maybe he did.

He was a jazz musician. And when I was born, he wrote a song about me. And listening to it now, it feels like he wrote it for just this moment. I’ll give the last word to him.

Paul West

Music playing, Paul West singing….”You’ve got a lot of nerve, little girl– bundles of nerve, little girl, to come here in a season full of doubt and tattered reason in a world you don’t deserve. You got a lot of nerve, little girl.

(HOST) IRA GLASS: Lindy West in Seattle.

Paul West

You got a lot of stuff, little girl. I hope it’s enough, little girl. Cause in a world so full of greed, it’s pretty likely that you’ll need it all and still have to be tough. 

Your original perfection

reachingoutAll of us it seems, have two voices in our head. Sometimes all we hear is the critical nudge who insists we’re never enough, that we find a new job or new relationship or lose weight or parent better or volunteer more, that we make more homemade or wipe away more piles of dust.

It doesn’t matter how this voice got a hold of us, whether our mother or father or 8th grade math teacher or failed business or best friend or partner convinced us they were right until eventually we believed the lies and kept trying to please, it only matters that we shoo the voice away or we’ll never be fully full despite mounds of evidence of our built-in, born with it awesomeness.

But within us also sits a whisper, the gentle voice who insists that whatever they think, the others, and whatever we haven’t done yet doesn’t matter much. What matters are the multiple seconds of good we do that are more powerful than our imperfections and anger and fear or failures or never-accomplished triumphs.

Think back to Monday when maybe made you made your child laugh until she fell down or on Saturday and most days, when without thinking you smiled at the stranger on the sidewalk who looked vacant and sad or when you gently spoke up for a friend at a party who wasn’t around to defend herself against attack or when you let a woman cut in front of you at the grocery store and sucked in your righteous griping, and that you always, without fail, apologize when you make a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings.

Your tiny angel efforts touch lives by spectacular inches.

If we pay close attention despite the noise of our day, if we reflect on gratitude for not only what we receive but for what we give, we begin to notice that we do more than merely ‘do no harm,’ we make a positive impact on others because we somehow sense that if we need to feel joy and hope, or at the very least not dreadfully alone, so must everyone else.

When we realize we make a difference in small but significant moments that add to the good emotions of someone’s else’s life and that the accumulation of these good emotions very much has a ripple effect; we begin to know that we are indeed, enough.

In a world filled with viral images of airbrushed perfection, with wars and global devastation and mean politics and pedophile priests and top 10 lists of hard bodies and high bank accounts and posts filled with lives that seem to shine brighter than ours, the applause from our internal cheering section sometimes fades to silence.

Instead of accepting ourselves as Original Sinners who chronically miss the mark, let’s notice our Original Perfection, times when we hit the bulls-eye of grace and care and compassion, times when we held our tongue with near impossible patience. Maybe then we do good from our gut rather than from guilt-of-falling-short which leaves drumming scars of never-enough.

I know people who can’t write checks to charity or can’t find time to volunteer between jobs, kids, colds, dying parents or too little sleep but they give the whole of themselves with daily decency. These are the people who ask “How are you?” to the stressed out cashier or somber man standing alone in the corner at the business meeting who looks awkward and uncomfortable.

This is enough. This is your God-given Original Perfection.

Maybe our kinder gentler voice is the divine tapping us awake, nudging us to notice our fleeting and seemingly unimportant gestures that add to the world rather than subtract, that leave a soft footprint of quiet radical radiance.

 Image credit

 

Trash TV: When kids catch you in the act

kimkThe other night my daughter looked over me lying on the couch. “What are you watching?” she asked.

I guess I fell asleep in front of some movie called “House Bunny.” I need to be more careful when I watch trash. My daughter is of the age (nearly 17) when she sees herself as my morality judge and jury.

Once your kids notice you don’t always follow your own advice, you’re doomed.

You see, “House Bunny” wouldn’t fall under my “empowered woman” content but if you watch the entire movie, you can find a good message.

My advice for my daughter to be a strong, independent woman runs the gamut from “smart is cool, to find a job and pay for your own life before you marry and have kids, to run (fast) from the mean boy to women aren’t sex objects, but.

(Image credit)

I tell her that being sexy by degrees as you get older is fine and that you and your friends shouldn’t call girls “sluts” because funny thing, we don’t call men who sleep around with a few women sluts (she seemed confused by this at first but then agreed with my theory. Sexuality hypocrisy for men and women runs so deeeeeeeep we barely notice).

But I also told her, you gotta have self-respect. Be very selective. Care deeply about someone (if) before you sleep with him.  Watch the image you put out because you’re your own brand. (“House Bunny” had piles of women who at strictly face value weren’t role models but it was an entertaining movie and we can’t over think the plusses of shows that relax the tired mind).

House_bunny

My daughter flagrantly cuts me off when I try to talk about sex but I know she hears me.

Everyone once in a while I remind her to wait until she’s married. I’m supposed to say this. Abstinence messages are Responsible Parenting 101 and the terrified protective side of me agrees. Sex opens up all sorts of dangers and complicated emotional doors.

But pounding the drum of abstinence also puts our grown children at risk that they’ll marry their best friend — with no benefits. So after I throw out the requisite wait-wait warnings my daughter and I silently snicker to ourselves and then move on.

Fortunately she seems to have a firm sense of self and almost palpable disgust for in authenticity in friends and pop icons.  Also, she still hasn’t had a single boyfriend and I think honestly without meaning to brag, she very easily could.  She’s smart, quite attractive, quiet yet sort of self-assured and if I do say so, pretty damn nice.

She dresses All American with that slight twist I keep my eye on. Her tops aren’t too low and her shorts and jeans maybe a smidge too tight, are for her age, passable.When she hit the Embarrassed by My Parents phase (long since gone) she’d tell me to pull up my Friday night tops. If I didn’t she’d just reach over and do it for me.

“I’m married. You’re not. And, I’m older,” I told her. “If I want to show some leg or cleavage I will. You’re too young for all that.” I give her my version of When Measured Sexy is Okay and When it’s Not. My version might not go over well when I’m 85.

When I tried to explain why I wasted my time watching “House Bunny,” that the movie definitely had some feel good lessons (Mean girls try (and fail) to get high IQ socially awkward Nice sorority girls kicked off campus by Mean Girl President because Mean Girls want Nice Girls’ sorority house), she shrugged me off.

I think by now she gets that her parents are sometimes mild hypocrites and that probably even Gloria Steinem (if she remembers who I told her she is) watches mind mush from time to time. I don’t think we’re meant to fill up every inch of our brain with high-minded matter,  just most of it.

In the movie the Nice Girls’ house is run by a sweet woman-child who chronically under dresses and has the most grating baby voice ever conceived by a director. Shelley is a former Hugh Heffner Playboy playmate kicked out of the mansion for being too “old.” (ironic because I thought Heff was half in the grave). She winds up homeless until she finds herself house mom to the “misfit” sorority girls who look to her as their make-over mentor (they never knew they needed).

The moral of the story: looks fade but solid character and good friends last. When my daughter walked in I had the moral to the story ready in case she pulled another Kardashian-scold on me.

A couple weeks ago she caught me watching “Khloe and Courtney take the Hamptons.” The Kardashians already took New York and California and other places around the globe so I thought they might have some insights on the often misunderstood Hamptons.

The fact is, it’s very fashionable for people to say they hate the Kardashians.  I’m supposed to scoff and announce I’m too good for all of them, especially that fame-sucking mother. I’m supposed to lean on high ideals and group agree these women are shallow airheads famous for just being famous. I’m supposed to be outraged and yet, I’m not. (The Housewives Of….. another series I sometimes watch(ed), truly outrages me because frankly the jealous infighting gives rich cat fights and first world “problems” a new low low low).

I’m a former psychology major so I’m drawn to all kinds of social situations and the Kardashian petri dish is alive and multiplying. The family happens to be rich media royalty but they’re extremely close and I like that. Kim is gorgeous (beauty is indeed only skin deep, but beauty of all kinds, still draws the eye), sweet and a brilliant marketing machine. Chloe is outspoken and ballsy and Courtney never changes her expression; I mean never. Poker face perfection. Ecstatic is the same as depressed is the same as jealous is the same as disgusted. Who can’t wonder what lies beneath?

“Why are you watching THIS?”  my daughter asked.

For a second I thought she was about to plop down on the couch and watch with me. Mother-daughter admitting our mutual attraction to fly on the wall TV.  I should have known better. My daughter hates reality TV (but insists the 13 “Saw” movies she watched have lessons if I’d only give them a chance (I won’t). Choose between say, saving your own life or sawing off the arm of the woman chained to you).

She and I just started sharing “Modern Family” and “Black-ish” but I wasn’t ready to share Kardashian OMG moments when one sister is incensed for 10 minutes because the other sister didn’t show up in a “super cute” outfit when she knew very well they were going out to lunch. 

“Uh, well it’s been a long time since I watched the Kardashians (a month?) but I just felt like something mindless and entertaining. But I mean it’s been a long time.”

“Yeah but this? Such a stupid show. There’s better mind mush you could watch. Like one of your sitcoms you love.”

Noted. I live on stupid sitcoms, movies, non-fiction books and documentaries. Funny beats reality TV, but neither beats Saw?

My child softly shamed me into turning the channel because well frankly she was right. I could have chosen better, but sometimes I don’t want to choose better.

She knows perfectly well I don’t just ingest important content. My list of crap is impressive: the Golden Girls (radical for their time) to Big Bang Theory, Frasier, King of Queens, Mike and Molly, The League (my husband still can’t believe I like it), Vogue, sometimes an airport People and yes movies like, “House Bunny.”

Once your child becomes your morality police you’ve either done something terribly right or terribly wrong.

You can cover up content when your kids are young because they’re too busy coloring or playing Legos to notice. But by the time they hit double digits (really much earlier thanks to the Internet) they’re lens become all high and mighty. They see your weak attempts to hide your guilty pleasures.

For the most part I try to beat my daughter to the punch and expose myself before she’s too disappointed. Sometimes however, she gets there first.

This past Christmas was the first year she noticed how many wine-themed ornaments I have.

“Gifts from friends. Everyone one of them,” I pointed out, as if friends thinking “wine” when they think “Laura” is better than if I bought the ornaments myself.

“Guess that doesn’t say much about me, eh? Or the fact that one time when you were in Kindergarten your teacher told you to make something that reminded you of your parents and you made a tiny paper wine bottle?”

She didn’t look the least bit worried by my half a dozen wine bottle ornaments.  My daughter is now chronically amused at my anxious attempts to make sure I haven’t screwed her up. Maybe because my guilty pleasures haven’t changed her day to day life or ruined her sense of continuity or safety or sense of self.

Maybe she’s old enough now to see her parents as expectedly but manageably flawed, trying not to wobble her life too much despite ourselves, which in the end, is our way of big messy love.

House Bunny Image credit: Wikimedia

 

 

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