No one notices it quite like I do. No one is at all concerned about the perfect match of my earrings to my outfit. I was quite deflated when I realized this. But then, something happened, I became immersed in my own standards. To heck with whether or not others realized that my lipstick was a perfect match for my fingernail polish, I realized it and I cared. At some point, I became the approver of my perfect appearance. When that happened, I was relieved! I didn’t become less caring about my appearance, I was the same.
For Ella Mae, my mother-in-law, it was quite a different matter. When she passed in 2005, I had not prepared in the same way I did my mother. I loved her and told her so, but she never knew how important she was to me and our family. Because she was a formal woman, there just was not the casual love that was available in my family of origin.
I have valued Ella Mae more in retrospect, than I ever did while she was alive. My own mother knew how much I valued her, I wrote cards and letters and expressed my joy and love in many different ways. Ella Mae, not as much. I am very grateful for her contribution to our family and for this reason, I have for the last 12 years been valuing her “things”.
I know better than most that guilt is no replacement for current action and present love, and yet, here I am indulging in guilt because I did not treat her the way that I would want to treat her today. I find myself thinking “I must hang onto to Ella Mae’s china so that I can pass it on to my daughters.” Why would I want to imbue value onto the china if I didn’t feel some measure of guilt? I didn’t value Ella Mae enough while living and so now I must value her china to show the kids how important that she was. It’s just not necessary with my mother’s things because her value was so well established while she lived.
In this case, I think the point of guilt is so that I can convince myself that I loved her enough and that she knew it. If I didn’t love her enough while she lived, I am trying to make up for it. This is a burden for all of us. It is a burden that I do not wish to bear, nor do I believe that there is any way to make up for my behavior once someone has passed away, nor will I make promises about future behavior. I simply must say that Ella Mae gave us much, she taught manners and in this way made us comfortable in any environment. Ella Mae taught me that birthdays are important, my family never celebrated birthdays, it was Ella Mae who brought that tradition to us. She loved step grandchildren and biological grandchildren and tried very hard to be fair. She was not fair; the attempt was there. For this I am grateful.
Ella Mae was a very gracious woman who welcomed everyone into her home. She saw holidays as a means to give me a rest and she would never let me lift a finger or ‘bring’ something. She cooked like a chef and hostessed like a queen, and it was those talents that she passed to me. She had a beautiful silk hanging in the dining room. For some reason both of my sons had to touch it every single time they passed by on the way to the kitchen. She may have grimaced and she may have said something, but she never got mad. Her graciousness extended to everyone.
Maybe now that I understand why I am hanging onto the china, I can actually put it down. No one wants that stuff anymore. I do hope that I can pass on graciousness, that’s a gift worth giving.
I do not condemn women who are manipulative and indirect in their communications. I believe that it has been and continues to be an evolutionary imperative. Women (with very few exceptions) have always been dominated and often by those who are careless of their wants and desires. In this environment, it has always been far safer for a woman to keep her peace and find her own means of gaining what she needs and wants.
Our history tells us that if a woman disagreed with the men around her, she could be beat, tortured and in some cases, even killed. I was taught to make my own way, to not depend on a man for my own sustenance. My mother role modeled independence and the direct way to get there. She did not appreciate indirect communication, if you wanted something, please say it. If your desire was not a popular idea, it doesn’t mean your desire should be abandoned, it means you can re-evaluate, including others input, but you do not change your mind because ‘another’ has told you to change your mind. I was taught to be direct, which leaves very little room for the fine art of manipulation.
Many women I know did not have the benefit of a strong and direct mother. It seems that the alternative to being direct, indirectness, teaches us to be manipulative. Often, there is a very good reason for manipulation. Often, being manipulative turns into a default zone that a person operates in. Over a period of time, this personality can become unable to be direct and even honest. For some relationships this can be a satisfactory state, but for business relationships, it can be disastrous. What happens when you have been taught to rethink commitments, and change agreements to suit yourself? In most business environments this kind of thinking will damage relationships, particularly relationships with a boss or supervisor.
The other part to this indirect and manipulative personality style is a feature of secretiveness. Sometimes, even often, the secrets are unnecessary, yet there is a piece to secrecy that can make one feel powerful. Practicing secrecy is the hallmark of this personality style. Secrecy, when recognized, can make those around you feel very uncomfortable.
The alternative, direct communication, can cause disruption and create confrontation. “Can”, but not always, often the direct personality style is assertive and possibly aggressive. It’s important to delineate between direct communication that can be confrontative; and aggressiveness, as aggressiveness only causes the indirect person to become more manipulative and secretive. Aggressive people just want their will to be done. Direct communicators are not necessarily focused on their own will.
So it is that my entire lifetime, I thought that the manipulative woman was somehow “less than”. I do not respect this woman and I cannot communicate with her as she is completely unreliable. How do you have a relationship with a woman such as she? Yet, on the other hand, it is the evolutionary imperative, necessary for survival in a world where everyone is larger and harsher than you. Where is the balance? And how do you navigate when dealing with those who may be damaged?
I don’t know.
I know this and I preach this. The wishes for karma, the wish for a vengeful God, the wish for the rich to be rejected from heaven, are all just that: wishful thinking. Religion is a structure that gives the peasant, the working masses; reasons to keep going from day to day.
America gives a chance to live beyond a survival mode and an opportunity to actually experience life. It is an epic growth opportunity, but it requires choice. What I mean by this is that, you must be consciously willing to go past the ego’s survival to another consciousness that includes more than just the self. It is a conscious choice and cannot be made by an unconscious ego that concerns itself with only self, and is in survival. This living, which is a step up on Maslow’s hierarchy, requires the self to be concerned with others, to think of others and ultimately to have compassion for others.
This is all in the background of my mind and so affects how I view how the presidential election played itself out. I am deeply ashamed by what we have done here in America (and of course, we have done worse). I am embarrassed that people I love actually support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. I understand that justice does not exist, so I do not fight the idea that the electoral college “trumps” the popular vote. The majority of America prefers Hillary Clinton, but…too bad, so sad. Bruce and I each have a young nephew that supports Trump, one posting on Facebook “I’m not racist or bigoted, I just like Trump.” The other posting on Snapchat “I am a deplorable.” There is a thought by these young people that Trump will change Washington ~ and I am sure he will. I don’t know if they noticed that the same old republican senators are following Trump around. Capitalism will continue to reign supreme in this country. It will not be beneficial to the working person, not at all. Capitalism in America is just like Trump, concerned with self and with no other.
In the back of my mind is the thought that this is a white man’s war against anyone and everyone who challenges the authority of the white man. It’s been a comfortable position for the white man here in America, and who would give that up willingly? Capitalism has been the white man’s weapon and they have used it well to repress all others. White men owned Madison Avenue and spun their own stories of reality. It is almost unbelievable how many Americans keep falling for the fairy tales that Madison Avenue keeps spinning. From the cigarette industry to the current mortgage catastrophe, advertising companies have sold Americans a bill of goods that Americans keep buying.
No wonder the uneducated working class white male voted for Trump, and their women, who voted the same! The problem identification is so wrong. Working people will not have their life improved by an emphasis on capitalism, witness the last 10 years, capitalism has almost wiped us out. Capitalism has decreased the middle class by more than 15% – all of those people are now poor. The loss of homes still proceeds at an epic rate.
I am more scared than I have ever been, even when Bush was president. I believe that egos are in control and egos are always about survival and self. This is bad news for each and every other person. The person in power will always chose self when the ego is in control.
Cash, guns and food ~ Bruce and I have decided to launch a defensive campaign, just in case. We are putting together a reserve of cash, guns and food. But make no mistake; we are able to do this. There are millions who cannot. Twenty percent of Americans live below the poverty level. For those in poverty, there is no such thing as a reserve. We are looking towards some very bad times here in America, and I am scared, not just for me, but for everyone.
It never crossed my mind that I would need to explain feminism to my daughters. After all, I lived a strong and independent life and worked hard for my own accomplishments.
I never told them how lonely it is to fight for women. I never told them about the personal prices that I had to pay to defend women who were being raped by the current culture. I never explained to them the reality of how difficult it was for my mother to get a job as a bartender. My mother was, literally, the first female bartender in a free standing bar in 1968.
The biggest prices that women pay are the economic ones. After all, if you have money, everything else can be bought. Women have always, systematically, been kept out of the most lucrative jobs available in America. This is why it was so important for my mother to get that bartending job; it was the highest paying job in the industry.
At work in the 90s: when I spoke out against a male physician who was denigrating women in our treatment facility, I was marginalized and had to work in a hostile environment. Ignorantly, I finally resigned and the women who came to the facility for treatment continued to be put down and insulted by the Latin physician who thought shaming was okay.
My daughters were with me when these things happened to me. I didn’t explain any of it. I realize that in retrospect, it only meant that mom didn’t like her job anymore. I must have discussed it; I must have made some words for it. I didn’t explain it enough.
Being independent was not about getting away from men, it was more about ensuring that I had choices in my life. I thought I was demonstrating the right life, in spite of a male dominated culture. It wasn’t that a man beat a woman: it was more that nothing would happen to that man when he beat that woman. I was fighting the structure of a culture that allowed women to be beat; that kept those women in minimum wage jobs, that made child care impossibly expensive. When I was young it was actually impossible to get child support. Fathers of young children roamed free while the mothers were chained to child care and bare minimum wages. That was my world reality at age 20. Women stayed in hurtful marriages because the alternative was so much worse. Add to that, the fact that many women were sexually blackmailed by men more powerful than they. Landlords would demand sexual favors and no woman without money or family was safe in this environment.
Today, life is much better for women, but not nearly as good as it should be, not nearly equitable. My daughters are not aware ~ perhaps~ of this long and dark road that women have had to go down in the last millennium (or so). Trust me on this, it has been a dark road. When European daughters were being raped by uncles, brothers and fathers, Freud called it penis envy and the whole world believed that hundreds of women were just having sexual fantasies. Indeed, it has been a dark road for women of all classes.
Today, we are able to articulate so much of what was deprived of us before now. Now I hear people talking about the “pink tax” and I am so thrilled that it is now “a thing”. Yes, not only do women make less money than men, but then women must also pay more for everything that they need and purchase. Dry cleaning a woman’s shirt is 4.99 and a man’s shirt is 1.49. I am told by the dry cleaner that a woman’s shirt is more difficult to press. Why? No answer.
This culture is a structure that many men do not wish to be a part of. My son is passionate about fairness and would not participate in any of these crimes against women. But these crimes continue unabated. Women are still being beaten and murdered by their spouses at an alarming rate. Incest continues and perpetrators walk about freely with no one the wiser of the crimes.
We still don’t have enough female senators and certainly not enough female CEOs, and those women in power are often there as a function of being co-opted into the male world.
Why would any woman in her right mind, in America, vote for Donald Trump?
Those who could not or would not stop imbibing were thought to be degenerates, not deserving of social care and concern. In recent years addiction medicine has been able to pull us away from this paradigm into a broader understanding of how people become addicts and lose control of their lives. Science tells us that it is not a moral failing, but rather a complex combination of nature and nurture. There is DNA involved in addiction, as well as brain chemistry which reacts to primal pleasure sensations, seeking rewards by repeating behavior.
Addiction is not an easy illness to understand and this challenge has made it into a medical “stepchild” no one really wants to claim ownership and the illness keeps worsening. Addiction is now claiming lives in the thousands, daily, who overdose on opiates and heroin. At least society now sees a glimmer of reality by calling out the profit hungry behavior of big pharma and physicians who over-prescribe. We begin to see that addiction does not thrive in a vacuum, it thrives by virtue of hundreds of factors: social, medical, economic, individual and by the infinite possibilities in the strands of our DNA. Blaming an addict for using substances, doesn’t produce any good results and yet our society has done it over and over again.
Obesity is our latest moral failing in America, and like addiction it does not earn the appropriate attention for resolution. I read a billboard yesterday that was advertising liposuction, the billboard said “Get Your Sexy Back!” The assumption is: Of course you can’t be sexy if you are fat and of course, if you are a woman, you must be sexy. All through my youth there was a part of me that admired the woman who was not sexy and therefore did not have to glamorize her self. This woman was not being watched or looked at and had long since decided on a lifestyle with different demands. I deeply admired this kind of woman.
But the point is, that people are being denigrated and disparaged because they are overweight. Many will righteously criticize the obese making statements like: “fatty, stop feeding your face and you are a tub of lard.” Public Health appears to be much more concerned for the overweight than the addicted, which has been helpful for the overweight. Public Health brings a validity to this condition. All forms of healthy recognition can be appreciated, as long as the public understands that attacking those who suffer from addiction or obesity does not make for better public health.
What really needs to be said is this: People are not bad because they are obese, just as they are not bad because of addiction. It doesn’t help anyone to denigrate those who struggle with their behavior. There are no easy prescriptions for recovery and our culture does not support the discipline of sobriety, nor the task of healthy eating. Just the opposite, our society is concerned with selling booze and hamburgers to anyone with a dollar.
While our society spins relentlessly to the music of a dollar bill, in the meantime, our part of change is to be kind, kind to everyone, everywhere and at all times.
This means that we don’t blame, denigrate and demoralize anyone for any reason. Obesity is not a moral failing and neither is addiction.
The high heel is uncomfortable and discourages walking. For many, many years I wore them anyway. My legs are gorgeous and always have been, but boy, with a hi heel, they are magnificent. It wasn’t the best choice. First, I did not need to mate. I had a great husband and more kids than I could handle. I received so much positive attention, I thought it was worth while. In retrospect, not so much.
Walking on high heels damages your body and leads you to a sedentary lifestyle. Both of these facts are not good for you as a person. I have been reflecting on why women do these things and I think it has something to do with advertising and emulating the rich. Advertising tells us to emulate the rich and unfortunately, we do it. What is nail polish but a way to prove that we don’t engage in manual labor? What are hi heels, past mating, they are but a way to prove that we live in leisure and elegance. Unfortunately, advertising has a powerful effect on human behavior.
I am very proud of my second cousin – www.Whitneydolo.com, as she explores body mythology and body identity. Whitney was born missing an arm and a leg. She is committed to finding herself and being a woman. She is doing a great job.
She encourages me to speak out. I have long believed that the female culture is a farce. I say so now because it is time. Thank you Whitney. 😍😝
We have made these associations from our own volition. It is us who make youth the star of every show and every movie of life. It is us who decide to worship youth.
I think that we forget this. We forget that we made the decision to worship youth. We forget that this is a construct, not reality. We have to be careful about thinking that our construct is reality. Youth does not equal beauty. Youth is NOT equal to sexuality and it certainly has no relationship to success. Youth is a lot of things, but has no perpetual meaning. Youth is simply a time of life like any other, it has no magic other than the magic that we may individually choose to imbue it with.
Don’t forget these simple realities. Don’t think that because you are thirty, you are no longer young, don’t think that if you are forty you have lost your youth. Don’t imagine that being fifty – with all of the changes that the age brings to the body – is a bad thing. We are still wholly the person that we are, made all the better with age and experience. Youth is not what makes us beautiful, sexy or successful. The width, breadth and depth of our lives is what makes us beautiful, sexy and successful.
It may have been watching the Dove commercials…
Here is what happened: I decided that my body is okay. I will not concern myself with fixing what is truly appropriate and okay. I’m 56 and it’s okay, I am not reed slender, my breasts do not stand up. My breasts laid down a very long time ago, probably along the time I was breastfeeding my third child. So what set me free from an obsession with a young body?
I think it was none other than me deciding that I did not want to chase me. I think I decided that I am secure, my place is decided and I cannot chase the dreams of materialism. I look somewhat the same with or without 10 pounds, my neck droops, my eyelids droop and it’s fine. I am who I am.
In a broader sense, women are beautiful as they are. We offer life and love, we give, we receive, we do what it takes to take care of our families. What matter what shape our bodies take?