Shaming has become the great American pastime: slut shaming, body shaming, shaming over what we eat, how we feel, who we sleep with and what we drive. I’ve seen cell phone shaming, headphone shaming, shoe shaming and even landscape shaming, as in, “The rest of the lawns in our neighborhood are manicured to a perfect 3.25” height once every 5.75 days. Your grass looks like the savanna.”
Shaming is sport on Facebook where we are admonished to “share if you love Jesus,” the implication of which is that to not share is to diss the Christ in Christmas (and just what kind of succubus are you?). “Share if you support law enforcement, the national anthem and the elderly,” is counterbalanced by demands that we “share if you hate cancer, bullies and the president,” again the implication of which is that to be stingy with one’s shares is to be against cops, country and coots while the latter proclaims we are in favor of disease, oafs and imbeciles.
My female dog Zuzu stands at will over her male counterpart Alfie in a show of alpha-ness. People often snicker when I say Zuzu is the alpha female, aka an “alpha bitch,” (and also because that is how I often refer to myself) which supports my impression that many humans are unfamiliar with the term, erroneously thinking “alpha male” is just…natural, while alpha female, or boss lady, seems somehow made up. But I digress.
The point is, as she asserts her dominance, Zuzu “shames” Alfie by positioning her crotch over his scruffy little head. That is exactly how it feels when some nitwit suggests my footwear is better suited to a younger woman, say in her 20s, or a stripper. (I will admit some of my heels sport rather suggestive architecture.)
Likewise, to hear that a woman “had it coming to her” because she wore a miniskirt and push-up bra when she was sexually assaulted makes me see red, then I weep with pity for the male of our species because according to “what did she expect with that outfit” logic, menfolk are just too weak and intellectually impaired to control themselves when they see lady bits. Poor little snowflakes dears. I don’t think people thusly debilitated should be allowed to vote, really. Or drive cars. Or serve in the military.
When I was a kid we didn’t call it shaming. We called it bullying and picking on and we were generally instructed to to walk it off, but in the trenches we knew what happened when the bully was bigger or more powerful than the person being bullied. The little guy got her ass handed to her.
All the sticks and stones platitudes in the world didn’t prevent me from being smacked down every 6th grade recess by Tom P. Having been held back about a dozen times in the third grade, the dude was like 30 years old–a dangerous combination of grown-up gigantic and smart as a box of hair. My folks told me to ignore him. I was afraid to go to the authorities for fear I’d make things worse and he would escalate from knocking me down and pulling my hair to strangling me in my sleep, as he had often promised.
One day as Tom P hurtled in my direction, shoulders poised to knock me into next Tuesday, I braced myself against the building, thinking it would keep me from falling to the ground. The impact of being slammed into a brick wall by a speeding troglodyte shattered a bracelet my grandpa had given me, which then cut into my wrist. Without thinking I spun around and slugged Tom P in the stomach. I will never forget his eyes just before he crumpled to the ground and started crying like a bitch. He looked exactly like Alfie when Zuzu stands over his head—slightly bewildered and totally submissive.
An hour later I was called out of class and told to report to the principal’s office where Mr. and Mrs. P sat facing Sister Benedictine, our principal. “Did you hit Tom?” Mother Superior asked.
Knowing Sister Benedictine and the baby Jesus would want me to apologize, I said, “I’m sorry I made him ugly cry.” Mr. P winced and I immediately knew the beat down I gave the boy was nothing compared to what was going to happen to him when he got home. He had let a girl get the best of him. He had been shamed in the worst possible way.
I have a scar on my wrist from the incident, and have long since learned that only in grade school can you teach a bully a lesson by hitting him back. In the real world—Facebook and Twitter—there is no amount of “hitting back” that stops someone from shaming, or bullying. All I can imagine is that the people who feel better about themselves by trying to make other feel less than were abused themselves—be it physically, emotionally or by being given hundreds of millions of dollars with which they could go repeatedly bankrupt.
So I will do what I always do when someone tries to shame me. I will slip on 5” heels and lie on my neighbor’s perfectly manicured lawn, forcing her to mow around me. The resulting grass topiary shall serve as a beacon for anyone who refuses to let the dogs of shaming stand over her head.
The other day a man on the street gave a homeless person a dollar, and I smiled at him. “What can I say?” the man told me, puffing up his chest as he got into a new Mercedes. “I’m a generous guy this time of year.” It got me to thinking…people seem confused about generosity.
Rosalind Russell stars in the 1958 film “Auntie Mame” as a wealthy eccentric with a heart of gold. In the stock market crash of 1929 Mame loses it all—including her new job as a clerk at Macy’s. Demoralized and broke, she foregoes a warm cab ride home and opts instead to drop her very last dollar into a Salvation Army bucket.
In flusher times Mame might have handed the bell ringer a couple of Benjamins, but it would not have been a fraction as benevolent as giving away her last dollar. Generosity is not conveyed by tax breaks for charitable contributions or crowing about giving someone less fortunate a couple of dollars. True generosity requires a bit of personal sacrifice—and comes from a place where we actually care about people irrespective of social station, income, religion or race.
Maybe it’s just me, but I am not blanketed in warm fuzzies when I see gratuitous Christmastime TV ads touting the “generosity” of a company that donates a few pennies on the dollar to charity “in the spirit of giving.” It doesn’t strike me as particularly giving to donate money simply to earn a massive tax break when your workers don’t have affordable healthcare. #ScroogeMart
In a decidedly ungenerous move, and for reasons beyond my comprehension, a swath of the American public has decided to jump onboard the “restore Merry Christmas” crazy train, ignoring the fact that, quite simply, we have a proud multi-cultural history and not everyone believes in Jesus. Considering Christmas, the birthday of said Jesus, is the penultimate celebration of generosity, it seems disengenuous to cram one’s religious beliefs down people’s throats by insisting they get with the ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ program, then label them un-American when they won’t.
This year I decided to try something new—something perhaps…charitable. I ask, “Do you celebrate Christmas?” When people say yes, then I wish them a merry Christmas. When they say no, I tell them happy holidays. There is a brief pause as the person digests the question, then come the words, “Thank you for asking.” Boom.
There are so many ways to express generosity, from helping an elderly person across a busy street to honoring someone else’s culture. Among the same group that is leading the Merry Christmas Goddammit assault, there is the argument that if African American persons refer to one another with the N word, then why can’t the rest of us? (This proposition reared its head at a Christmas party, which seemed ironic somehow.)
We could go round and round debating the roots of systemic racism, which would be the right thing to do if we were really interested in learning anything, but that would demand logical consistency and factual accuracy. Instead, in the spirit of Christmas, I propose that persons who are not African American simply accept that persons who are African American really don’t like it when persons who are not African American use the N word. Can’t that be enough?
To suggest white people should be allowed to call African American people by the N word because African American people use the word is to insist upon calling Richard ‘Dick’ when he has specifically asked to be called the former. It doesn’t matter whether Richard’s family calls him Dick, or what his race is. Unless you are in Richard’s family, and assuming you have half a brain, you will call him Richard. Otherwise you are the real dick.
Was that ungenerous? My bad. (Your appreciation, or acceptance of my sense of humor and language is quite generous.)
This holiday season I want to thank you—for sharing your stories with me, letting me know what you thought of a blog, laughing with me, crying and raging against the machine with me.
Here’s to all of us, honoring whatever tradition, belief or non-belief we subscribe to by being tolerant, kind, compassionate…and you know. Generous.
Happy holidays. Loves ya,
Some men I know are whining about the legion number of sexual misconduct accusations and resulting firings and humiliations that have been coming to light every five minutes for the past few weeks. I do not share their bewilderment, frustration and suspicions that women are jumping on some over-sensitive bandwagon.
One man thinks it is only famous men who are being persecuted because those are the only guys we’re reading about. Unless a “civilian” guns down 50 people or sets himself on fire while deep frying a turducken, the media doesn’t generally cover my neighbor mowing his lawn, or whether he has been let go from his job at Ace Hardware because he groped Sally from the paint department in the paint department. I’m thinking this must be a crazy time to work in Human Resources, but the New York Times and Variety aren’t going to devote ink to my neighbor when Garrison Keillor has been caught with his hand up a woman’s blouse.
Keillor was smart. He released a statement to the New York Times in an effort to get out in front of the accusation—with his version of the “alleged” sexual misconduct. So now people are debating whether what he describes was really so terrible—the woman’s blouse was open in the back, he was consoling her, and his hand accidentally slid 6 inches up her bare back. Jeez, has it occurred to any of the men who think, “Yeah, I can see how something like that could happen” that Keillor, a storyteller by trade, might have written a less lascivious account for the public? And frankly, I don’t find his carefully constructed prose even slightly okay.
If I break down and cry and a man seeks to console me, trust me. I know the difference between empathy and horny. It’s exactly like pornography. We may not be able to define it, but we sure as hell know it when its creped, liver spotted hand creeps up our bare skin.
Another argument I hear in Keillor’s favor is that he is really old. Huh. There is an 89-year-old man I see at a professional meeting every month, who persists in giving me a hug, which includes grabbing side boob, sometimes actual full frontal boob, my ass, and occasionally, when I am distracted, he tries to French me when we do the cheek kiss greeting. I am ashamed to admit I have never called him out on it because he is old, but I hate myself every time it happens. I feel dirty, confused, violated and I have anxiety the instant I see him.
I’m not going to kill myself or seek professional psychiatric care because of it, but it is not right. If I learned that one of my dear nieces or stepdaughter were being fondled, groped, felt up or licked by this guy I’d punch him in the throat and if he broke a hip, so be it. That’s the price of being sexually inappropriate when you’re not a celebrity who can be fired from a big time job, but are instead simply a dirty old man from Milwaukee.
I am fortunate in that I have never been raped, but when I look back at behavior that was deemed acceptable, because to not accept it would have meant I was “uptight,” “frigid,” “no fun,” or a “poor sport” I can hear my blood pressure rising and my armpits begin to sizzle. I am a formidable creature at 5’10” tall, especially when I wear 5” heels. My parents blessed me with self-confidence in spades and attitude a mile wide, but even so I have been cowed by men in positions of power, and almost as bad, embarrassed by the likes of nobody idiots who think it’s their god-given right to touch my ass on an escalator or comment on my legs just because, you know, I have them and I am using them in public.
Again, many men will argue there is no harm in a man telling a woman she has lovely appendages. Right out of the gate, I reject this on its face. Unless I have signed up to be in a leg, ass or tit competition, shut up. Think what you will, but please, just shut up. I am not flattered or moved by a sleaze ball in sweatpants who tells me I’ve got long legs, like this is some revelation, or worse yet, a compliment. A compliment implies we give a rat’s ass about the other person’s opinion, and believe me when I speak for all women; there are not few enough fucks to give for your “opinions” about our body parts.
Older men tell me it’s natural to compliment a woman on her smile, hair or legs, but when it is said with a leer and a tongue flick the man is not innocently commenting on my inseam, but instead is very crudely letting me know exactly how he envisions my legs vis-à-vis his personage. It is creepy, disgusting and leaves me feeling violated. This doesn’t mean I will be damaged for life, unable to work, create, love or bake soufflés, but it does mean another person has invaded my personal space in a manner that is just not acceptable.
Human touch can be the very best thing ever in the history of our species, but we can’t allow it to be co-opted by men who think our bodies are mere chattel, like the women of internet porn who seem to exist only for the sexual enjoyment of others. I actually have nothing against porn, but it’s important to make a distinction between what’s on a screen and what’s in front of you on the escalator, and then behave accordingly with your hands.
I feel sorry for men who do not understand what “all the fuss is about.” These human specimens are either profoundly flawed, unable to get it up for empathy, or they are delusional. I do not buy that men are confused by the sudden, copious accusations of sexual inappropriateness, or what being sexually inappropriate even means.
Here’s a simple freakin’ litmus test for those fellas: would you conduct the behavior in front of your boss, wife, daughter, mother, aunt, grandma or fourth grade teacher? Would you be comfortable grabbing a handful of a stranger’s shapely butt in front of Mrs. Worshefsky?
Would you masturbate in front of a coworker with your daughter standing beside you, then when she freaked the F out tell her, “Oh, honey. It’s okay. I asked first?”
Sexual politics have always been tricky, but since forever we have excluded sexual conduct outside of intimate relationships from the discussion. Women burned their bras, got the pill and slept with whomever they damn well pleased, and yet no one was talking about being groped in the supply closet or missing out on a promotion because she refused to blow the boss.
My friend Brigette Breitenbach posted the simplest, most meaningful statement on her Facebook page today. It said simply, “You know it’s a racial slur if it was meant as a racial slur.” Same can be said for sexual inappropriateness. Men can pretend, “I didn’t mean anything by it,” but not one of them would “not mean anything by it” if their wives, mothers or bosses were standing right there.
It doesn’t matter whether the woman you’ve sexually accosted—be it physically, psychologically or verbally—is a shaking mess of protoplasm unable to feed or fend for herself as a result of your misconduct. I, a statuesque warrior goddess with nerves of steel and a wicked right hook, have been made to feel dirty, violated and anxious by an 89-year-old man who thinks it’s cute to feel me up. Next time he does it, ima knock his block off.
To all the warrior goddesses out there, young and old, keep fighting the good fight, and speak up. For every snarky supposition that women are “just doing this for attention or money,” we will answer with the truth, and the truth is that we have been silent, and subjugated, for far too long.
Lastly, to all the men who are foaming at the mouth because they believe some guys have been unjustly accused and punished, it’s called collateral damage. You accept it as a fact of war, and that is when innocent people are actually killed dead. A few men lose their gazillion $ salaries by mistake? That’s the price of building a better society for everyone. As women have been told for centuries, get over it, doll.
Years ago, before Sandy Hook, Columbine, Orlando, Virginia and all the others, I would have been devastated by the events of this past week, but truth be told I am becoming inured to acts of extreme violence, and loss. Each time CNN ratings spike, which is either the result of an internationally embarrassing tweet or paper towel toss, a natural disaster or a mass shooting, I feel just a little less pain for the people who are affected.
I am an empath who is beginning to lose her mojo and that can’t be good.
When there is another mass shooting I become sort of paralyzed, unable to look away but equally unable to stay tuned. I find myself in a no man’s land between worlds where bad things happen to good people and bad people have more rights than anyone else. Dozens of innocent people are dead—cut down for no reason at all—and folks on Facebook are calling each other names because they disagree on the sanctity of the Second Amendment as though a glittery unicorn in the sky had written it himself, never mind the 59 people who are dead forever and quite possibly not flying up to the clouds where free beer and potato chips are served 24/7 in a place called heaven.
From where I sit it feels as though we have spun out of control with no hope of restoring order to our lives so we tune in to cable news and shake our heads and maybe watch a video on how to survive a mass shooting. I do not understand how the slightest threat to any type of gun ownership whatsoever foments a nationwide gnashing of teeth and heeling of elected politicians while yet another horrific mass shooting generates nothing but ratings and Facebook wars. No one is taking to the streets. No one is knocking down the doors to their representative’s offices. Millions of women are not marching on State capitals in a show of force that tells elected officials “we will not stand for this a second longer.” What, we’re too busy knitting pink pussy hats?
The saddest thing I’ve seen in the recent past is the massive chasm among women. This “us against them” political bullshit is a divide and conquer tactic as old as the hills and as effective in undermining our collective authority as a nuclear bomb. The men who rule have employed a doctrinal military tactic that allows them to defeat an enemy (female voters) by destroying small portions of our armies rather than engaging our entire military (women in aggregate) at once. So simple. So diabolical.
We’re gonna have a hella time getting along when you’ve been convinced that wearing a “Trump can grab my pussy any time” t-shirt is a good idea, but I am willing to work with you because we really are stronger together and our children are being gunned down in cold blood.
I’m not all rah rah women are better than men, but I recognize certain facts about who we are, namely the people who get pregnant, endure nine months of gestation, give birth to another human being, feed it from our own bodies and would rather die than see harm come to it. How on earth were we bamboozled into acting against our very nature by supporting politicians and laws that allow grave harm—and death and suffering—to come to our offspring? Are we really okay with 59 of our children (or 49 or 33 or 28 or 15 or 14 or or or) being slaughtered for any reason whatsoever?
When I was a very little girl I was obsessed by a book my parents kept hidden high on a bookcase that could only be reached by first clattering on a chair then scaling the shelving like a mountain goat. There were illustrations of naked women in the book—contraband. Y’all know I’m drawn to the forbidden like Anthony Weiner to an iPhone so I quickly taught myself to read. (I am also drawn to exaggeration like a Ferderbar to…an exaggeration.)
The book was Lysistrata, written in 411BC by the Greek author Aristophanes. It is a somewhat comic account of a woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War by denying men sex. Lysistrata persuades the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace—a strategy, however, that enflamed the battle between the sexes and paved the way for American politicians to divide and conquer women voters.
Even then, men realized that women were way too strong a force to take on with conventional warfare. We withheld sex. They caved. Something had to change! So they figured out the divide and conquer thing and we have been subjugated ever since. There is no other possible explanation for pro-Trump pussy apparel.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving became a political behemoth, a more powerful lobby, in fact, than the NRA, through the simple simple simple strategy of unifying women against a common enemy—the death of their offspring. MADD became stronger than Republicans and more powerful than Democrats—combined.
(Before I continue I need to address a false equivalency that often silences people in favor of stronger gun control laws: gun violence in Chicago. People are dying by handguns, yes, but using that as an excuse not to curtail the availability of assault weapons that make it possible to mow down hundreds of people in a few minutes is like saying ice cream is high in calories and fat so we may as well eat deep fried butter served with a side of hollandaise for breakfast every morning. This is another tactic in the ongoing campaign by the gun manufacturer’s PR firm of NRA to shut us the hell up, or at the very least confuse the issue.)
I believe we must think like Lysistrata and the geniuses at MADD, putting the sanctity of our children’s lives before all else. That means not tearing each other apart over any other issues. It means focusing on that which we all believe in with all our hearts. We have to stop letting “them” divide and conquer us as though we are simpletons incapable of thinking for ourselves. Rather than “never Hillary” we ought to focus on “never my child should die in a hail of bullets.”
Next time I see a woman with a pro-Trump pussy grabbing t-shirt I am going to engage her in a respectful, warm and loving way. I’ll ask whether she has children, their ages and how well they do in school. There will be common ground, no doubt. When I meet a woman who believes abortion is murder, I will sit with her and try to find that sweet spot where we naturally both agree that abortion is not a good thing, but that maybe it isn’t as heinous as some other things that we can work together on, like mass shootings.
Women are strong. Even those with whom we adamantly disagree have a formidable backbone specific to the female sex. What might we accomplish if we joined forces?
Fare thee well, beautiful Tom. You will be dearly missed.
The other day I got into a debate with someone who believes that rich people are smarter than poor people, which is a myth rich people would like to propagate much as I would like to spread the news that writers are all frickin’ geniuses. Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, the argument goes something like…”you don’t get to be a billionaire if you’re an idiot.”
My boyfriend explained that rich people have to believe they deserve their wealth or poor people wouldn’t deserve poverty. In order to deserve something we need to earn it, so they convince themselves they earned it—even if their wealth was handed to them or stolen from the poor.
Mind boggling, right? I have a boyfriend, which brings me to my point; it’s all about luck. Say you’re in the .0001% wealthwise. Chances are you were born in the United States or a palace. You can’t really argue there was any shrewd business calculus on your part. Likewise, five decades in I found my bookend, the one who makes me happy, my soul mate. Believe me, I have tried everything known to humankind to ferret out Mr. Right including dating (and occasionally marrying) every Mr. Wrong I could get my hands on including a man in California whom a mutual friend dubbed “the most inappropriate man in L.A.” (I can only assume Mary Knox-Sitley meant L.A. proper with its population of 4,000,000 and not Los Angeles County, which would have made the odds 1 in 13,000,000 that I’d snared the most unsuitable mate in the world’s fifth largest economy. I mean, come on!)
After years of dates with Satan, men with eating disorders, mother issues, addictions, predilections, poor taste in music and hairy wens, the man who takes my breath away landed right in my lap. I hadn’t set out to find him. I wasn’t smart about it and I am not the most deserving by a long shot. I did pretty well on my own, truth be told. I liked the quiet. So what gives? Luck, my friends. Pure luck.
In fairness there were some really cool guys along the way, but for whatever reason either the timing was bad: “Will you wait for me until, a) I get out of the joint, b) my divorce is final, c) the drugs kick in?” or there was no chemistry. I wouldn’t say I gave up as much as I deferred the love search for some future time when I’d be even more aged and there’d be even fewer men from which to choose. And then it happened.
Two people in the same place at the same time—literally and figuratively. It was July 4, so the fireworks were more than a cheesy metaphor. He was funny, engaging, and really smart and I noticed him watching me when he didn’t think I was looking. Maybe these sound like normal things to you, but for me…I’m kind of a bull in a china shop when it comes to dating so trust me when I say it was pure luck that I was paying attention on this occasion. The chemistry was palpable; right beneath it, like a strong current in black water, luck was pulling me under.
There is a question I ponder every day: are there things we can do to increase luck?—the basic premise of Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale. I’m still in research mode so I do not have a definitive answer, but I have discovered a few strategies along the way.
1. Eyes open.
My grandma used to say you won’t find a penny on the floor if a bird poops on your face. I’m sure it was more lyrical in her native Czech, but what I think she was trying to tell me was that you need to be on the lookout for real treasure, not pie-in-the-sky dreams. What if luck was right there under your nose, for example, but you were too busy obsessing about having eaten a 2lb. Toblerone bar for lunch? (I’m sure in Czech that would also sound prettier, less gluttonesque.)
Put down your phone, book or chocolate bar and look around. Listen. Watch. Worst case scenario you will see some beautiful stuff and you might just find a lucky penny on the floor. On any given day it is also possible that sitting right next to you, inches away, is someone who could take your breath away (in a good way, not as in strangulation as a form of sex play, which leads me to #2).
2. Be specific.
If there is anything I’ve learned it is to be specific. My friend Ashami pointed this out in the wee hours after a big party at my house. As “Barry” skulked down the driveway with a lumpy pillowcase that looked like it might contain candlesticks and a Blu-Ray player, Ashami sipped her wine and said, “You really need to be more specific when you say you want a man.”
It’s not like I recently said ‘please bring me an incredibly sexy artist with a big brain, beautiful hands and a tender heart,” but when I did put it out there that I was open to at least chatting with Mr. Right, I asked the universe and goddesses to stop lobbing Barrys at me. That sort of specificity is the key to the whole operation.
3. Raise your standards.
In the search for a mate, whether we have been accused of being too picky or we have single girlfriends who’ve been labeled such, the reality is that we are not nearly picky enough. Traits and vices that we would never tolerate in a million years from a friend or even a family member somehow become “quirky” or “eccentric” in the host body of a man with a job and a perfunctory knowledge of the English language.
Conventional dating wisdom tells us that we will broaden our horizons if we lower our standards. It may be a mathematical equation, but it’s horseshit. There is nothing lonelier than being with the wrong person even if it is for the right reasons. Seriously. We have one life.
4. Be yourself.
I wasted a lot of time trying to be a version of myself that I thought men would find alluring. The mishaps were legion. I ended up attracting men who were so uninteresting to me that I’d have to sabotage things just to make a clean getaway, and what the hell kind of crap is that when I could have just stayed home and read?
I am not easy. I’m not a bargain. But at this point in my life what you see is what you get. Jeez, I wish I’d have been her years ago, because luck—that indefinable thing that carries to us treasure on a silver platter—only happens when we are our authentic selves, otherwise the universe and goddesses get confused and they send George Clooney to that Amal woman, who judging from everything I have seen has had her share, and more, of all the luck on earth.
Mates of any description do not complete us. Perhaps the thing about luck—really good luck—is that we are the prize, and they are the lucky ones.
It’s probably safe to say that most of us aspire to be loving creatures. We spend a lot of time figuring out how to love others, but everything we understand and know about love pretty much begins with how well we love…us. Wow. That’s a tough one for a lot of people, but what can we possibly know about loving someone else if we aren’t intimately familiar with the concept of loving ourselves?
We have stigmatized “loving thyself” with the fear that we will be labeled egomaniacal or narcissistic, but those are traits that describe humans who don’t so much love themselves as hold themselves to a lesser standard than they hold the rest of humanity.
A politician who espouses family values literally gets caught with his pants down in a public toilet in the company of a meth addict transsexual prostitute and he begs our forgiveness. (I’d find it comical if it weren’t so, so ironic that he asks to be pardoned for having sex with a drug dealer/hooker rather than for signing legislation that limits other people’s rights to have sex with whomever they please, marry whomever they love and use whichever bathroom matches their sexual identity.) But I digress.
We end up forgiving the scumbag because…why? He cried on television. We eat an extra piece of cake and can’t forgive ourselves. Sheesh.
As a nation we are on a mission to end bullying in schools and yet we bully ourselves every single day. I was loading groceries into my trunk earlier this week when a woman pulled into the spot beside me, got out of her car, dug around in her bag and then smacked herself, hard, across the forehead. You know me. I had to ask.
“I forgot my grocery list,” she explained, a red welt forming above her nose. “My kids will kill me if I get the wrong cereal.” I automatically despised her children and wanted to take the woman home with me—to pamper her and drink wine with her, but instead I suggested she not be so hard on herself and she tell her brats to get their own damn cereal. “They’re three and five,” she said, retreating into her car as I tried to hug her. I’m not sure how toddlers could kill an adult, but I still disliked them for making a perfectly lovely woman hit herself in the face. “Love yourself!” I shouted as she peeled out of the parking lot. (To self-soothe I gave myself a hug.)
I’ve consulted the pros about self love, you know, Oprah and Deepak, and they say identifying the sources of our inner pain—fear, anxiety, jealousy, stress, abuse, etc. and then learning how to let those things go is the key to truly loving ourselves. Bah. There, I said it. Bah! How about we identify the things that bring us joy and peace and we focus on those?
Do I love myself more when I’m zoomed in on my political anger or when I hug it out with an old friend? I can tell you that stress, anger and anxiety do not make me exactly lovable. In fact, I’ve been told in some circumstances that I actually have an evil face. There’s definitely a time and a place for dealing with our inner issues and learning how to get past them, but in terms of learning to love ourselves to the extent that we can better love others…nothing beats lightness, and joy.
Walking my dogs this morning I stumbled upon a small patch of wildflowers just off the road. When I got closer I saw they were abuzz with great big bumblebees. A little rabbit hopped out of the thicket and into the woods. The clouds were those big, dense white cotton balls that seem to explode off the blueness of the sky. My dogs were smiling. I was overcome with such joy that I wanted to cry.
I stood there, grateful for this moment on this day. I looked inward. I had nothing but love in my heart—love for other people, sure. But I felt good about myself because gratitude does that.
In that moment, had anyone seen me, I promise you they would have found me lovable, and for the rest of today I feel like I could wrap my arms around the whole world.
Maybe it’s too simple. I’m not a psychiatrist or self help guru. Hell, half the time I can’t find my ass with both hands. I am an astute observer however, which is the basis for building fictional characters who seem real. I look at people whom I consider extremely loving and they are always without exception very lovable. They hold their heads high. They take care of themselves. They love themselves. Then they go out into the world…and they love everybody else.
I wanna be that.
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The most epic love story I know—first hand, eye witness, felt it—was that of Simone and Martin. They met, they mated for life. Tragically, only 18 years later, Martin passed away, but not before forever changing the landscape of love…for me.
Unless they devolve into tragedies, love stories in retrospect have the tendency to feel and sound corny like a 1980s movie with a scratchy soundtrack, but the real thing has a decidedly genuine quality that lacks sentimentality and yet explodes with emotion.
Cue the scratchy soundtrack for just a moment…Simone and Martin never had a cross word between them. They never slept apart from the very day they met. They positively radiated, and if you were having the worst day of your life and you spent five minutes in their company, possibility replaced woe and you’d find clarity exactly when you needed it most.
Yesterday I got slammed on Facebook for saying that counter protestors at white supremacy rallies are decent, moral people. I was called a troll, naïve, un-American, communist and a whore—in one fell swoop. To be honest, none of these appellations seems particularly offensive to me except the troll part and that’s only because my posts are not off topic. If they’re inflammatory, so be it. I think Nazis and the KKK and racists and anti Semites and people who are filled with hate for people who are not like them are the lowest, most vile waste of opposable thumbs in the universe.
I’m not sure you can love the hate out of someone anymore than you can beat the naughty out of a recalcitrant child. In my personal experience it certainly seems that violence begets violence and hatred begets hatred, so how do we change the world? How do we remain loving in the face of so much abject, unsolicited hatred? Simone and Martin’s love story provides the key.
After the initial wow of observing the most loving people on the globe I started paying attention to the how of them. Every single thing they did, whether together or apart (which was rare as they were almost always found in pairdom), was predicated on a really basic principal; love is the motivation for the action.
Naiveté is not something with which I am generally credited, so I don’t expect I can change or influence haters by virtue of my loving thoughts, but I can disengage from exchanges that don’t move the dial for either side. I can choose to fill the vacuum with positivity because, according to what I have learned from my dear friends Simone and Martin, that should generate more goodness—more love.
Simone and Martin made a choice every minute of every day to base every single thing they did…on love, and what that begat was simply more love until eventually it was like breathing—it required no forethought. It poured from them and floated out into the world where, if you were observant, you’d see it wash over everyone around them; we smiled more, hugged it out, were kind to one another.
Martin left us way too soon. Simone continues to electrify the space around her with her light and her love. And now, so many years after meeting them, I think I finally understand how to do it. The trick is gonna be in the practice.
To love will be different for everyone, which in and of itself will require coming from a place of love in order to accept. We needn’t suspend reality or common sense. We don’t have to tolerate haters, bigots or assholes. All that’s necessary for being a light instead of the opposite of light is the genuine desire to root all our decisions in love. When we do that suspicion and fear evaporate, and what is the basis for hatred but wariness of people who are different from us, and the uneasiness we feel when we don’t understand those differences?
When a person acts from love the world truly becomes a better place. How frickin’ simple is that.
This week I truly say it like I mean it, I loves ya.
We have been recently admonished by our president that memorials to figures of the Confederacy are merely part of our “cultural history,” and why on earth would anyone wish to erase that? Oh, I don’t know. You won’t find a single statue of Hitler or Mengele anywhere in Germany and there’s a place whose cultural history goes back centuries farther than the American experience. The holocaust still looms large in the universal hippocampus, and yet the Germans don’t salute the losing side of history and decency with likenesses of the biggest assholes the world has ever known. I think we can honor history, pay heed to it and possibly even learn a few things without casting the villains in bronze. After all, it’s Jesus we see wherever Christianity is sold—not the Romans who crucified him.
Perhaps, as with most things, what we need to do is bring the discussion home—down to a personal level that makes it easier to digest. I will start with myself.
I have lost battles and I have lost wars and like the proud sons and daughters of the Confederacy, I am still standing. Of course I was humbled, educated, embarrassed, horrified, cowed and spanked by my losses so the last thing I would want to do is erect any sort of monument to my greatest blunder/s.
My first divorce lawyer lead me into battle like we were gonna land a few solid body blows up front, which would guaranty in the long run I’d own D Day. Although my lawyer was, on paper, a far better qualified human to practice jurisprudence (and spell it) than my husband’s drinking buddy, it is never wise to underestimate functionally illiterate degenerate alcoholics.
We strode into battle suited up with motions, depositions, statements and affidavits. They staggered in with the dumb luck of zombie barflies and waltzed out with the good china that was a wedding gift from my friends, which was soon thereafter sold to purchase lap dances at a strip club on Milwaukee’s south side.
Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, whose own relatives want his bronzes taken down across the South, once famously said, “I am more afraid of alcohol than of all the bullets of the enemy.” He may have been an asshole, but it turns out he was a smarter asshole than my attorney. Neither deserves a place outside (or inside) a courthouse.
So rather than “erasing history,” which is what our president says is the result of removing the statues, let’s take the statues down and commemorate the cultural history they represent by, oh, I don’t know, putting shit in a history book perhaps. What, it’s already there? Get out!
I guess you’d need to read books, or have read them, in order to appreciate that they contain slightly more depth than television news and whatever malarkey you find on the internet. When someone has taken the time to write a book, a history book in particular, a tremendous amount of research has been done so that the book contains something known as facts.
Many people question facts because they do not want to believe, for example, that the world is round or that Adam and Eve did not saddle up and ride a T Rex to their wedding.
Doubting that something is real does not change the realness of that thing no matter how badly you want it to be something else, like the truth. We laughed when Dubya said “truthiness.” Today, he reads like a freakin’ genius.
In the case of history, where the facts are verifiable because of documents, relics, ruins, carbon dating and such, books are a super great place to acquire the knowledge you need in order to sound intelligent when you speak. Statues clearly do not give you that edge. Sure, there’s something big, cold and cunning in our version of monoliths—we’ve taken short, often chubby, usually pompous looking men and made them bigger than life, but a statue misleads just by virtue of its being a statue.
Who’d be stupid enough, the reasoning goes, to erect a monument to a loser?
Ask the living descendants of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis who are begging authorities to remove the statues of their respective relatives in every place they exist under the sun. No decent people want to be associated with slavery. It is a stain on their very own family history. What does that say about the people who think the statues stand for American culture?
I write this on my birthday—a day that usually passes with special wishes and bedazzled cards from close friends and family, but that goes otherwise quietly into the good night. I am not complaining. Like most recognized days (yes, I consider my birthday a national holiday if only in my own mind) I think the celebration and silliness is mostly for children, but something strange happened this year that has changed the way I look at celebration, family, friends and love.
When I see a Facebook post telling me it is someone’s birthday, and that someone is someone I don’t really know—part of the extended “Facebook family’ comprised in part of complete strangers—I feel compelled to send a personalized birthday wish, but I always wonder if the recipient will think I’m a stalker. Am I being presumptuous, too friendly when I send my wishes for joy, happiness, hugs, kisses, loving, dancing, sexiness and glee? Then I throw caution to the wind and send it anyway. If anyone thinks I’m weird they can chalk it up to me being a writer, which lets me off the hook on lots of behaviors other people consider inappropriate.
Today I am on the receiving end of a truckload of good will, generosity, silliness, joy, intimacy and friendship and it makes me feel…like I’m suspended in an enveloping sea of warm Velveeta—floating in gooey, convivial bliss. I am deeply charmed.
It’s an amazing feeling to know that people with much better things to do spent the time to write a birthday greeting. Ok, it takes a few seconds, but that isn’t the point. Each person who wrote me had to overcome the same trepidation that I do when I send a note to a “stranger.” Then they sent it anyway. To be a warm, generous, giving human was more important than whatever opinion or reaction it might elicit from me. They went balls out in the brotherly/sisterly love department. If only the whole world could catch that cold.
The past couple of years people have taken the unusual step of insulting one another in an openly hostile and reprehensible manner—total strangers calling others every version of “’tard,” an offensive term no matter how you decorate it, telling one another they’re stupid, not worthy to live, deserve to be shot and the ever popular, “then move to Canada.” (I will never understand this as invective since with said move one would be that much closer to a calendar-worthy world leader.)
Amid all that nastiness and vitriol, the birthday wishes for happiness, fun and love stand out like Bjork. The gleeful emojis, exclamation points, hearts, flowers, dancing monkeys and balloons erase the nastiness spattered across my daily feed, and remind me there is infinitely more love in the world than not.
So here’s my thought: if we can take the time to put aside our differences for the moment it takes to write a birthday wish on FB, then doesn’t that show we have the capacity to tone down the ugly in favor of the beautiful? All it takes is NOT writing something horrid no matter how sincerely we believe we are right and the other person is a drooling Neanderthal.
Each time my phone dings with the news that there’s another post, my heart sings like a whistling cockatiel—all those people spreading a little message of love today. Happy birthday to me! And thank you.
Every day I receive several emails trying to sell me books, webinars, seminars and workshops promising to teach me how I can change my life, my appearance, the way I eat, sleep and love, which begs the question of why I am being targeted by these ads. I feel like hitting reply and asking, ‘What have you heard?’
Admittedly, some of these “programs” pique my interest because frankly who wouldn’t want the giblets and jowls of a 20 year old without invasive surgery? But like the Nigerian nationals who have asked for my help in getting their $millions into the U.S., I much fear all these efforts to make me younger, smarter, thinner, taller and with super sexed up cavewoman blood coursing through my veins are a sham.
The most recent solicitation promised to show me the ways in which I could ferret out, stalk and bag any man I wanted. (It was phrased differently.) The protocol was simple enough. I’d have to change every single thing about myself. Then it occurred to me that even if I did all that I still wasn’t going to “share an intimate relationship” with Justin Trudeau, George Clooney or Kevin Hart (let’s face it, funny is every bit as sexy as sexy) unless by intimate what they meant to say was imaginary, in which case, sure, it could happen.
My curiosity got the best of me and I bought a book on how to repel a man just enough to make him want me. According to the author, men only want what they can’t have, so if you become just the right amount of repellant you should theoretically be able to snare a live one. The trick is walking the fine line between acceptably loathsome and outright disgusting. I’ve never been good with the fine points, so I don’t expect great results when I “lovingly insult him into submission.” I would expect to be shown the door and told to go fuck myself.
Why are we so desperate to change? I can’t think of a soul who doesn’t have days where she’d rather be…different, but does that mean she really wants to change the most basic things about the way she operates? I’ve made my share of blunders and if I could have even one do-over I’d really make it count (I’d halve the number of times I’ve been married, for example), but we don’t get leprechaun second chances and turbo time machines in real life. What we get are life lessons, which hopefully provide some sort of counter balance for future endeavors so that the next time a man says “I’m an asshole” we take him at his word and cheetah ourselves right out of his apartment.
I talk a lot about developing habits to make us nicer, kinder, more compassionate beings and yet when it comes to intimate relationships many of us are all thumbs and Groundhog Day. In any other scenario, like touching a molten cast iron skillet, we learn from being burned pretty much the first time it happens. Not so with love. Lust. Sex. Flourless chocolate cake. No matter the cost in calories or heartache, we go back for more seemingly unbothered by our own historical context. What is that?
My theory is that deep down we do love ourselves, and the thought of trying to shoe horn all that we are into a size smaller Loubie is repugnant. There is a special indignation I feel when someone tells me if I were only to refrain from cussing, get a job that doesn’t intimidate a man and stop dressing like I still live in L.A. then I would attract a decent guy. What I would attract is a guy who should be going after a woman who vaguely resembles me, but who doesn’t swear like a sailor, write like a motherfucker or enjoy surfing.
I think there’s nothing wrong with self-improvement, but the key here is the word self. If we lose that which is uniquely us—be it cockeyed optimism, hopeless romantic notions, a propensity for infatuation or simply being a lovable dufus, then we’re not self improving; we’re pretending to be someone else.
How many times have we met someone who seems like a good match—sincere, forthright, funny and kind only to discover he is rude to waiters, cheats at golf and loves his car more than his mom? We wonder how we got suckered in, why we didn’t see it from the start, how we could have been so blind. I’ll tell ya – dude pretended to be another version of himself in order to bag some lady goodness.
Absent from my inbox are tutorials on how to love myself more, better. Imagine if we all walked out the door tomorrow morning feeling invincible—not reminding ourselves to walk taller, eat less, smile more and for godssake don’t intimidate. The female self-improvement industrial complex is nefarious and for purely monetary reasons encourages us to view one another critically so that eventually we turn the prism on ourselves and then feed the kitty by buying into all the crap that has been manufactured to make us feel insecure in the first place.
I hate to burst any bubbles, but it is possible that there isn’t a lid for every pot, and maybe personal satisfaction, growth, achievement and happiness aren’t really predicated on cookware at all. Maybe you get all that stuff by simply loving and believing in your own unique quirky weird little self. Wouldn’t that be something? Vive liberte!