Friday, November 2, 2012

voting with my vagina


Once again I am in class.  My friend, Texas, has a sports game on his ipad next to me.  The professor is telling us all about human performance and behavior. I think I have this one down. So I am spending time getting homework done that I missed last week when I was so sick that I had to feel better just to die.
            Tonight I want to talk about voting with my vagina.  CNN reported a study done by Kristina Durante at UTex, San Anton.  She looked at 275 women who were not taking hormonal contraception and had regular menstrual cycles. About 55% were in committed relationships, including marriage. During the fertile time of the month, when estrogen levels are higher, single women seems more likely to vote for Obama while committed women appeared more likely to vote for Romney, by a margin of at least 20%.  Yikes.
            Durante explains it like this: When women are ovulating, they "feel sexier," and therefore lean more toward liberal attitudes on abortion and marriage equality. Married women have the same hormones, but tend to take the opposite viewpoint on these issues, she says. So, the new slogan needs to be Sluts for Obama.
            You know, first:  why weren’t men’s level of hormones looked at.  When was testosterone defined as conservative?  Why are women accused of voting with their enflamed vaginal areas, while the penis remains in the pants?  And as long as we are looking liberal vs. conservative, why are we not looking at the levels of testosterone of Romney and Obama to see the differences?
Even if I am voting with my vagina, so what?  Does this meant that if I vote with my vagina I want to be raped, like Murdouck says? 
How come the idea of marriage itself isn’t being looked at? And for God’s sake WHY is only Texas (dear GOD) being examined in regards to this? That is, someone who is married in Texas may have a whole different viewpoint of why rape is God’s plan then say, me.
So here it is, my hormones are just fine, so is my brain.  I am not married.  I don’t live in Texas, and I don’t believe rape is anything but a crime.  I think this research is flawed only in the explanation being given for the findings.  I think I will vote with my genitalia.  I am not sure that this is so wrong in the first lace, especially if it means that Stupid doesn’t win.

Monday, October 29, 2012

WIP - The Next Big Thing


My dear sweet funny friend Heather Haven, whose parents were circus performers and herself on the stage as a performer, is not only fabulously funny and wonderful, but generous.  She tagged me in a game of round robin, or the author's version of Promote Yourself and Your Friends too.







So first:  my friend who tagged me and her website.  Pictured above are her first three novels in a series of fun murder mysteries.  And her blog with HER answers

Makes sense that she would now be the Amy Pohler version of Lee Child, right?  Seriously, check her out.

The game is this:  We answer ten questions (below) with our answers to ten interview questions promoting the thing we are working on.

"I'm in" I cried perkily, even before I finished treading her email.  And thus am assured that I will be linked to by all ten thousand of Heather's fans and she will be linked to all ten of mine.

Here are my answers to the questions: and below are y friends who also need promoting.



Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?
            The working title of my book is “Of Mermaids and Mockingbirds.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?
            There is a small island of the coast of North Carolina where I spent some time as a child.  It taught me a lot about community, childhood, and how to be in relationship.  It is the island of my mother’s people.  My family of origin is not the closest of families, but my mother was always the one who taught me about how to be family.  In a way, this is her story,  an homage to her and how she lives today.

What genre does your book fall under?
            I am not sure.  It could be Chick Lit, but it has a lot to say, so it could also be Southern Fiction. And I would love for it to fall under “Literature,” but I am not sure it is tortured enough, or uses long words that are either confusing or erudite.  So I think I have missed out there.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
            Well, I would love Emma Stone to play the grown up version of Weezie, and Jane Levy from Suburgatory would be a great teenage version of her.  I want Queen Latifah to be Miss Maybe, Nathan Fillion would Mr Jack, and Miss Acacia should be Ashley Judd, with Susan Sarandon as Mimi.  I mean this IS my fantasy cast, right?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
            It is a coming of age novel set on a small island in the South that speaks to us of relationships, redemption and reunion.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
            An agency, please.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
            All together, in fits and starts?  About three years.  And then I threw out half of it, and another third a year later.  I am just now finished two years later with a version that I really happy with.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
            The Help.  The Prince of Tides (for women), and maybe a little bit of Sarah Addison Allen thrown in.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My mother.  Always.  And my best friends who love the Southern stories that come flying out of my mouth over wine and blues late after dinner.  They are never sure if I am lying or not.  It is great fun, really.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
            It is funny enough to make you belly laugh for a while, and so sad that your heart will break in millions of pieces.  There is magic and mystery and the wonderfulness that comes of growing up in such a place.


so there it is, the work of my heart, . . .er. . spare time.  I am looking for an agent, or publisher, so if anyone knows of a good one? 

My friends whose work I admire and want to also promote:

Julia Park Tracy

Samantha (never Sam) M. Smith

Monday, October 22, 2012

Say Hey Willie (McCovey)

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Here is the thing about Baseball:  Like many children of the South, it was my first love.  As the only daughter of six children, I never understood that only boys could make a living as a third baseman. Then I grew up and couldn’t play baseball any more because I was too old for little league.  I had to play softball, because that is what girls did.  Once again I was reminded of my gender. What?!
(Worst line to a girl who wants to play:  “Oh, you wanna be third base?  Okay, why don’t you go BE third base?”  This was usually uttered by some idiot who found himself thrown out at first, by the Girl at third.  Her brothers laugh wickedly, knowing better.  Take that, dickhead!).
It kinda wasn’t the same thing, even though it was.  So I chose to be a rebel swimmer that could earn a scholarship to UNC.  I wore leather and black and eye liner to the pool, swam a clean race and got back into my angry clothes.  Looking at Brian Wilson, I completely get it.
I missed the green grass and the smell of leather gloves and the heft of a good bat.  I can still whip my arm sideways to nail the douche at first, but the throw doesn’t have as much speed or power.  I didn’t know about the All American Girls Baseball League, even though my aunt played for the Georgia Peaches.  I didn’t know until the great state of North Carolina told me I couldn’t play any more because I was too old.  Aunt Ruth took me to the crab shack for Hush Puppies and told me stories of playing catcher for the Peaches.    Seems like the girls not playing thing has been around a while.  She and I shared that great deep sorrow until her passing last October.  I hope she is somewhere catching serious strikes.
So forgive me if I chose to watch the Giants take out the Cards instead of Mitt Romney drone on about women in binders.  Either way I figured someone was gonna drop a ball, and I had seen Mitt do it twice already.   I am not someone who whoots and hollers about sports.  But I do love me some ball.  It broke my heart a long time ago, and it comforts me that all about this country that is good, is not lost.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bang Bang Bang (the sound of my head against the table)

2011-09-18 Elf Fantasy Fair 2011 Edition Arcen
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Okay, so here I am (yes even as we speak) in class.  This is the class I was most looking forward to, and it is the class I hate.  The teacher is (I think) or Arabic origin and has a thick accent.  He is difficult to understand and is often vague.  He yells a bit and makes us, okay me, not want to answer at all.  When I have answered, and I know I am right, he says something slightly different to make me wrong.  He then wonders why students do not want to sit up front.
            He also gets the theory wrong.  A lot.  But not enough to say anything and not enough to do anything but set my teeth on edge.  There is some sort of language disconnect that does not allow for anyone else to be right, or give an answer that he does not expect.
            It sucks.
            Luckily, the book rocks.  And the projects rock.  I have learned more from writing my midterm than I have in the entire seven weeks of class, so far.
            That’s cool.  And makes me feel like I am moving forward.

            I had forgotten how much it sucked to have a teacher that you don’t enjoy.  Welcome to graduate school.

            Sigh.

            The other part is that I am learning how much I just don’t know. I am also learning how to work with all sorts of different people.  I am lucky.  Most of the folks in my program are very nice.  And it startles me when one of them friends me on Facebook or wants to connect on linked in, and I actually have to go and look up who they are.  I am at a disadvantage.  I was called out a couple of times at the beginning of the class as the one with the Doctorate.  That is how people know me, the one with a Ph.D.  Oh excellent.  No pressure.  And no way to fuck up.  And I am gonna’, especially in this class where I cannot seem to find the right language.
            I feel like my face is painted green and my lips are blue.

            And then I remember there are so many people in this program who are so much better at so many things than I am.  I am learning form them all the time.  I am grateful for the girl in my group who does this for a living.  I learn every class from her. And the guy who used to be a rockstar in the HR world. He told me that seeing so many degrees would lead him to think I was indecisive.  Wow.  Good to know.
            I am once again in a world where I am not the brightest person in the room.  It feels pretty good.  There is so much pressure in being the one who is supposed to be the most knowledgeable.  I am expected to be the one who solves conflicts, the last word in any discussion, the test giver, the Power. I am soooooo not in this world.  I get to learn too.
            I like it here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reverting to type -


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Everything changes, and some things don't.  I never thought I would be back at school, not after The Hell That Was My Doctorate.  And yet I love school.  I love to learn.
But after VoldeDean, I now understand that Acadmia as a career choice will only take me so far.  Frankly, I am also  being really really tired of being poor ALL THE TIME, I decided a career change is in order.
I am in a new Masters program.  I never thought I would be back in graduate school, or school at all.  Well, other than the interesting class here and there on odd topics like jewelry and web design.  And yet, two days a week I am in classes teaching me about Human Computer Interaction, and Ergonomics.  With 51 other people, most of whom are younger than I am.
And with better social skills.
Sigh.
The last time I was in graduate school, I was in a program the other graduate students’ called the Wolf Pack.  There were two other neuropsych programs called this as well; Waterloo, and Columbia.  The three of us were the young up and comers in a snarky, snippy and just plain mean set of scientists who seemed to delight in pissing on each other.  It was we were taught to do to be “good” academics.
I hated who I became.
I am a really happy person who wants others to succeed and likes to smile.  I became kinda bitchy and mean.  This is especially true because to be part of the Wolf Pack you were kept off your mark and developed neurotic self image tendencies.  It wasn’t until I left that prestigious and seriously fucked up program that I realized all graduate studies might not be like that.
Don’t get me wrong.  I think graduate school is hard.  Really really hard.  So hard that not everyone should do it.  It is a marathon that steals parts of your soul, and sometimes you don’t get them back.  But it doesn’t have to be nasty.
So you can understand why I was a little nervous to enter this program.  And what I found was a normal group of people.  Everyone seems to be very nice and very congenial.  We have the girl who is part mean girl, eg, she wants to be friends with the boys and cuts out other women.  She is too young to know better, or to understand that this is about her self-esteem in competition with other women. She can only hurt the rest of us if we buy in, but most of us are older than she is, and know what she is doing. Bless her heart.  I hope she grows out of it, because she could be a lot of fun.
We have several people who already work in the industry and are getting a formal degree to get paid more, or move up in their career.  We have several (like me) who are switching careers, and are fairly new to the world, but not such newbies that we don’t know anything. I know a lot about how people behave.  I just need to learn to apply it to product and machines.
I have also discovered that my knowledge base is not common.  There is a teacher who gets the theory slightly wrong, but not wrong enough for me to say anything.  And even if he did, I am not sure I would say anything.  I don’t want to be that girl.  You know, the one who always has to correct everybody, even when it is no big deal.  You roll your eyes every time she says something, even when she says something relevant.  You just don’t care any more and you want her to just. Stop. Talking.
I most definitely do not want to be her.
I have already been called out a couple of times in the classroom because of the amount of education I have.  The joke is that I have more degrees than a thermometer.
Oh Ha Ha.
Mostly, the people in the program are all good socially, quite unusual for a degree in engineering.  I am lucky enough so far to be working with a couple of really cool girls on a project, and have worked in class with a couple more great folks.  I find myself learning huge amounts from the others, and I tell them so.   
For now, I am in a good group with two women I like, and I plan to keep my end of the bargain, keep a good attitude, and, keep going.  Like the snake with its tail in its mouth, I will shed my skin, emerge anew, and live to fight another day.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Ripping off the Mask - not everything is a gender issue


The more I think about the Imposter Syndrome, and how many women have bought in, the angrier I get.  Here is the thing: I think to imply that the imposter syndrome is a gender thing is doing men a disservice.  I can’t tell you how many of my male friends have indicated that they too, fake it until they make it, and even then feel as if they have fooled their bosses; that sooner or later someone will call them out; and that they will be asked to go home any day now.  Like women do.  I don't think women get to claim this one.  I think that may be they are more likely to cop to feeling this way, but it isn't something that women can claim as theirs.

To imply that women only feel this way is to create a gender issue where there is none.  In fact, it gives tacit permission for women to buy into the same old, same old implication that women are not as good at science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that men are.  Except, we are the ones who think that now. The benevolent sexism that women subject themselves to when buying into the Imposter Syndrome as female based helps us not.  In fact, it only serves to reinstate and validate the status quo of the male as the engineer who is changing the world.

Yesterday, at a memorial service for a man who never once treated his daughters as less than, his best friend’s wife told me that she thinks that women have done themselves a disservice by wanting equality.  After all, she told me, men have an ego that is a little more fragile, and to ask for equality leaves them blinking in the dust and not knowing their role.  I was startled, and while a part of me understands that she sees herself as a strong woman, I can’t help but think she got there at the expense of her husband.  To me, that attitude infantilizes men.  It creates them as children who must unwittingly follow the female lead in order to feel good about themselves.

This is not the kind of equality I am fighting for. 

And I am not sure that having a gender role is a good thing, so maybe leaving them blinking in the dust is okay.  They will either step up, or get left behind.

I think all of us have gotten ourselves into situations in which we need to sink or swim.  We either begin paddling and stroking for shore, or we go down in a spectacular puddle of bubbles.  I don’t think this experience is specific to a gender.  Some things just are not gender issues.  And I for one, am navigating a new world of technology and social interaction, as are many of my friends.  Maybe it is the reason why I am still single, but I think we are all negotiating our way in the world, in relationship, in technology, in a new job, in a new career.  I am not sure my gender plays a significant part, at least in this.  Or maybe I am just really bad a at navigating.

photo credit: mikebaird  (this photo is one of my favorite mini stories)

Monday, May 21, 2012

There is no Just World, just a world that changes


Okay, so one of the worst things that can happen to a person has happened.  The career that I trained for, the doctorate that I traded my soul away for, it has all been taken away by a broken person, who isn’t smart enough to compete against my left pinky.  She got lucky and nailed me on a technicality that she wasn’t even aware of, and that legally she can’t nail me for.   The truth is I wasn’t aware of it either or I would have taken care of it.
In a Just World I could go after her.  But if I did that I would be scorching the earth behind me like a petulant child, and hurting people who have been good to me in the past.  It is not, sadly, the right thing to do.  Even though it is Just.
            It is seductive to believe in the Just World.  That if we are good people who do the right thing and listen to the teacher when she says not to eat the paste, we will get good grades and be a good person.  There must be a blueprint out there somewhere on how to do this, right?  So many people seem to have gotten those homework notes.  I missed them somehow.  It has never been clear where I fit.  Until I walked into the classroom, and began to teach.  Until I left grad school with an understanding of how to do research to understand human behavior.  And let me be clear with this last one, I understand how to do the research, but not all of human behavior (human behavior surprises me still).
            And if I look at this objectively, this is not the first time I have encountered the ridiculousness of morality, and not the first time I have been the one in the room with the least amount of power. I spoke Truth to Power.  Usually, this works out well, and I am appreciated and even promoted for doing this.  Not this time. 
            I think this is a good thing, even though at first I wasn’t sure of that.  I still love teaching and I still understand how to do research, and I am fascinated by the human computer interaction.  So I am going back into a grad program to learn more about this and then back out into the corporate world to use this knowledge.  I am pretty excited for the next chapter, even in my 40s when I am supposed to be living a settled life and own things I don’t own (like a house).  It will be interesting see how this works out, and whether or not I will ever own a house.  (Not that I necessarily want one).  And whether or not I will ever understand Human Behavior.

photo credit:lindsetya




Sunday, May 20, 2012

This is not the life I ordered


This is not the life I ordered

Growing up in the seventies and eighties we were all sold a bill of goods that seemed left over from the fifties.  Well, the girls were anyway, and especially the girls I knew in the South.  North of San Francisco had some similar homilies.  The message ran a bit like this: study hard, go to college, find a partner, get married, have a kid or two and by the time you are my age, have a rock on your left hand the size of a small tropical island and travel to Hawaii, Cabo, Tahoe, and Paris every year.  You are to own a house that either you or your husband paid for that you regularly show on house tours, and your children are sparkling golden versions of yourself.  Everyone loves you and your 50th Birthday party thrown by your loving spouse is the event of the ages, or at least the event of your small pond.  You are tan and fit and one of the privileged.

I didn’t do any of that. 

Instead, I studied not at all.  It came very easily to me, and when it didn’t, I was usually not interested.

I went to my local Junior College.  Sometimes.

Bored with that, I went to Australia and surfed my days away, slung beer and chips and night, and fell in love with men named Nigel and Stuart, who thought my Yank accent cute. I left them behind.

I came back home, joined the Coast Guard, jumped out of helicopters to pull drunk old fat men out of the water every three day weekend and got a bit bitter.

I decided to return the script as written, walked on to the Swim Team of the college I got my undergrad.  I got a scholarship, became a resident advisor, and walked away with a couple of degrees before heading off to Graduate School, by myself, half a state away.  By this time, my parents had fled California, returning to North Carolina, and I was alone in every way. 

Wait, that wasn’t supposed to happen.  Wasn’t my mom supposed to live across town in her quirky way, and have my (non-existant) family over for Sunday supper?

Graduate School kicked my ass.  I gave up everything I thought I valued for my Ph.D.  It took a long time to get myself back, and I still have reservations about spending money on anything but books, computers, good food, and thrift store clothes that I can make work. 

I taught community college for years (13) and not a real school because I didn’t have the publications, and then I entered a fight with a terrible woman who soured me on Academia.

And now I find that I am changing my life, yet again.  I am entering into another graduate program that will allow my to update my degree and enter the corporate tech world doing something really cool (at least to me).  I am in my 40s now, still not married (no prospects), still no kids, and am tired of living like a graduate student. 

How many other women out there feel like they are not living the life that was scripted for them or are changing (yet again) their careers to do something that matters to them?  In my life there have been so many starts and stops that I wonder at the women who live the scripted life.  Is that what they want?  Sometimes I think it is what I want.  It would be a lovely life, and I would still want more.

I would still be the girl reading all the time and reading everything I could get my hands on.  I would still wander through thrift stores and upcycle furniture, this time as a design choice.  I would still eat well and have as many friends over for dinner as possible, because I would still be the girl who believes in the laughter of a summer night with good people as the most awesome thing in the world. I would still want to be the one seated next to the biologist who talks about arthropods during dinner, or the tech nerd who tells me about the app she just created.  I’m in.

It may not be the life that was ordered for me and I have no idea what is coming next, but as far as the quality of my life goes. I am perfectly happy with my serving.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why weight is NOT, in fact, a Race issue.


 There are so very many reasons why I am tired tired tired of body commentary in the blogosphere.  It is mainly because while I am plus sized girl – the last time I was a size twelve, I WAS twelve – there is more to me than my size and how I feel about it.  In fact the only time I am reminded of it is when other people point it out (rude and their own issue) or I feel unhealthy.  When this happens I generally address it by changing my eating habits, starting to walk and swim more or enter into an exercise or counseling program.  Just like people who are not plus sized.  This creates me as normal.

Opinions and articles out there range from what is wrong with us at a given size, to how a woman feels about being a given size, to the politics of being a given size, to why it is okay to be a given size.  I mostly agree with the latter (as long as one is healthy, size does not matter).  There is another category and I never quite know what to say or how to feel about it.  I am not sure I get to weigh in on this one because I am white, but I certainly have some thoughts on it.  So if I offend you with this, so be it.
           
May 6th, 2012 the New York Times Op Ed section ran an article called Black Women and Fat by Alice Randall, who I normally like.  In it, she remarks that Black women are fat because their men want them that way (um. What?) and therefore they want to be fat (um. What?!!?).  She cites historic references to poetry remarking on the beauty of big-hipped black woman.  I got no problem with the poetry.  I got a problem with Alice Randall’s interpretation of it.  She interprets the poetry as further evidence of A.E. Shaw’s book “The Embodiment of Disobedience: Fat Black Women’s Unruly Political Bodies.”  Shaw argues it this way: “Fat black woman can be a rounded opposite of the fit black slave,” and thus creates a remark on the prosperity of the Fatter Woman, much like Samoa.  The heavier you are, the richer you are (less work).

She also goes on to encourage her community of women to get fit, although the terminology she uses is to “get smaller.”  I am a fan of the fit, not the smaller because genetics are not even mentioned, nor is a person’s natural size.

First, I think having an opinion is a good thing.  Second, I don’t think extrapolating size to an entire culture is.  Third, making excuses based on race is never a good idea, and finally my feminism is outraged at the idea that I become fat and unhealthy in order to keep a man.  What a crock of shit!  That asks an entire race to collude in its own oppression because of sexism.  And that if you are a skinny black woman you are somehow not black enough (as written about by xojane). Bringing me to the idea that weight is a race issue.  Um. No.

Curvy CEO says she is tired of the “what is wrong with Blackwomen” meme.  I agree.  I am also tired of the “what is wrong with fat women” meme. Exercise is a luxury for many women in that no one has time. It is also expensive, except for walking and running.  (And I don’t run. Ever.)  If there are kids in the picture, their needs come first, and for many women, regardless of race, this is a truth.  To be chastised for not caring about themselves enough is just insult to injury.

Body size is an ongoing issue in that social comparison is an ongoing issue.  It isn’t about race, or men, or women.  I have reached an age where, when I see a lovely woman, or a good-looking man, I simply tell them.  It doesn’t take anything away from me to give a compliment.  My success is not dependent on someone else’s failure.  So, lets stop.  Lets stop with the “this is whys” and the “here is how I fixed myself” and the race politics of image.

Image matters.  Image matters in that when we feel good we look good.  Enough with the size justifications and apologies.  Enough I say.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Masked Ball - The Imposter Syndrome



I went to a conference held, run and coordinated by Stanford women in the engineering program.  It was called She + + and was specifically for Women in Technology.  It was great and I hope to go back next year.
I had a few motives for going:  a) It was free, b) I am really interested in this topic for a number of reasons, all of which will be discussed at various times on the blog, c) networking, and finally d) to really understand the mindset of women in technology because even though I am not user stupid, and I am also not as user savvy as I want to be.  I am learning how to code, but do not feel as if I can confidently say to someone I can code.  At the moment, I feel like an imposter, and I am scrambling to become legitimate.
So did everyone else at that conference.  Not surprisingly, this feeling got called the Imposter Syndrome and was brought up by Tracy Chou of Pinterest agreed with by Kimber Lockhart of Box.net and became a reoccurring theme throughout the day.  When a question was asked later if anyone else had ever felt this way, every female in the room and a couple of men raised their hands.  We were given the advice "Fake it 'til you make it." Later demographics found that the eldest woman there was 63, and the youngest, 16.  We all feel as if we are sneaking onto the playground.
I found this to be remarkable and I have been thinking about it ever since.  Women feel like imposters in the world of men.  We feel as if we will never know enough, be quick enough, learn code better, hack well enough, design better, even those of us who know we are smart.  This is especially true for those of us who know we are smart.  The playing field changed.  We are not competing in the same way anymore.  And because we don’t know the landscape we have no way to lead the younger women.
In grammar school and high school there were three kinds of girls.  The pretty ones, the smart ones and the cool art girls who were usually smart in a feminist way.  I fell into the latter category sometimes.  Mostly I was just fucked up, and trying to do my own thing and find some peace.
The pretty girls got married and are still in my hometown.  The true nerds majored in biology or engineering with mostly male counterparts, and got married to one of them.  They continue the status quo and find a dearth of women behind them.  They are the ones still wearing jeans, t-shirts and ponytails.  They are still reading fantasy science fiction and still rocking the code.  Old School.  These were the women who were always comfortable with being a nerd, and being immersed in tech.  Being a nerd was not always cool, especially if you were pretty, or an art chick.
The cool art girls who are smart in a feminist way are the ones who are still in the world doing art, being smart, being feminist and realizing that they need to change their knowledge base to keep up.  And aren't sure how to do it.
The smart ones always went to a good college and majored in something that would make them money, and are now in Human Resources or Management and trying to figure out the tech world like the rest of us. 
Because this is a new world, we are still navigating its waters and still trying to figure out how to be both comfortable female and comfortable being tech savvy.  So instead of hiding our smarts to be thought of as more pretty, or not wearing a ponytail or showing that we too read the vampire and dragon books, we went out into the world to discover as we dove into careers, that technology had sped by us, and we have to double step to keep up.  And who has time?
So we make it up as we go along and hope no one notices.  It isn’t a bad thing to be an imposter, but it can be lonely. You can't tell anyone that you aren't cool any more.  Even though people probably know it anyway.

This topic is not done, and these thoughts are not over.  I get the feeling this is a reoccurring theme.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Follow the Yellow Chick Road


Oh My God Easter! 
 How I love Easter!!  It is the Christian commentary on renewal, rebirth, and reinvention. I am all for all of these things. Every good novelist knows that these are consistent topics of fascination for people.  We all want to be different people sometimes.
 And, the best part is it happens every year.  You don’t like something?  Change it.  You can do anything for a year to try it out.  Can’t make your New Year’s resolutions? Try again on Easter.
The bright spring flowers and the sunshine colors all argue for coming out of the darkness into the daytime full of surprises and decisions to do things differently.  I love this day. 
About fifteen years ago, my roommate Amy and I, both desolate about being in graduate school so far away from our families and home churches, decided to have a Easter for each other and the other women we had come to befriend who were also alone and away from their families.  Thus was born the first Easter Chick afternoon, wherein my girlfriends and I have a potluck meal of some kind, and bring treats for each other’s baskets.  If you bring chocolate, it has to be the good kind, not the eggs that you buy in the grocery store.  We gave each other lip smackers and nail polishes and erasers, things that children would be delighted by.  And we were too.  We each lead one of the others on a scavenger hunt to find the baskets, and then ate brunch while giggling and playing with our toys.
I still hold the tradition, and the only other original member flew down that first weekend to visit me.  She has come every year since (except last year when she was sick as a dog) and I hope comes every year that I hold it.  Another woman has come for thirteen years, since I met her, and the fourth and fifth women have interchanged throughout the years.  If you get invited once you are always invited back.  But people move on, get married, have children, or whatever, and so, it is me, Kdub (who has been married but returns still), Floryfae (who is both married and has two children but makes it work anyway), and whoever else comes.  We spend as much time in whatever garden I have created that we can.  I have to have my hands in the dirt and have created some truly amazing gardens in the places I have lived.
This year we held it later in the afternoon with gin and tonics, strawberry wine and finger sandwiches.  We were a group of tired, slightly older women all of whom have some serious shit going on right now.  And it was a warm afternoon, a mellow atmosphere, and good company.  Somehow each year, it morphs into what we need it to be  It was a relief this year to be able to finish puttering between church and when my girl came.
I used to think by now that I would be married and have a child or two wandering around and send my family off to the movies while the girls came.  It hasn’t worked out like that.  I haven’t found my life partner yet, and may never have children, I am trying to finish my novel, and have finally learned not to count on much because God always has a slightly different plan.
But Chick Easter?  I can count on my girlfriends and their love on this sacred day.  And you know what?  That ain’t bad.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Try Grace


In the world of Women in technology, the most recent discussion has been about how to be nice while still getting ahead.  This is courtesy of Sheryl Sandberg, and I am a big fan of this idea.  I think she is right.  And so do many other people.  Suddenly there are a ton of books with titles like “Nice Girls Can Finish First.”  “Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It,”  “How to be a Lady in Business,” and “Too Nice for Your Own Good.”  All implying that to “win” or to “get it” you have to be something resembling a warthog.
I don’t think this is quite what Sheryl Sandberg means.  I don’t mean to speak for her, and I am not good at the tag lines or “up speak questioning” cadence in my speech patterns.  But I can’t help but think about my mother who has always said that you can be as rude about things as you like as long as you are polite about it.   I do not do well with rude on purpose for any reason, and i do not simper.  I am instead straightforward and I need to learn to tone it down.
This does not mean to be vapid, or to say those three little words women are taught to quickly say whenever there is a conflict: “Oh, that’s okay.”  Because, very often, it isn’t.  It isn’t okay that someone just walked over your idea or talked over you or discounted what your education and skills show you know.  It isn’t okay when someone comments on your looks instead of your words.  It isn’t okay.  Instead, say “Thank you” when someone says they are sorry.  I learned this when someone did not rsvp to a baby shower I threw, and instead called the honoree three hours before the party to let HER know of attendance.  Tacky.
So when this woman brought it up to me at the shower by saying something off the cuff like “Ohmigosh, I have just been so busy and mommies have such limited time and I am so sorry that I did not respond earlier . . .” I simply replied “Thank you.  I am glad you could make it out since you are so busy,” and smiled at her.  Her eyes got big, and she scurried past me. 
I think she got it because I did not say it was okay.  I did not tell her that her rudeness was okay.  I responded graciously, and she still got the message.  So I think this is the way to do it.  Everything I have heard about Sandberg leads to one conclusion, she is gracious.  As hard as it is not to point out someone else’s rudeness, I think a better point is to move around it as if it didn’t happen.  When something is acknowledged it becomes true.  If you ignore it, then you can pretend that the person who has behaved badly gets another chance.  This is, to people who are self aware, a blessed thing.  It puts them in your debt.  To the un-self-aware, not acknowledging their behavior gives them no reward.  It is called negative reinforcement.
Either way, you win.  And you were nice.
I thing Sheryl's meaning is to always be gracious, and since most people don't know what that truly means, the closest thing she had to communicate the idea was "nice."
  Try Grace

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Marie Claire



At first I didn't know what to think.  I saw the November issue of Marie Claire magazine on a friend’s coffee table.  She happens to be from Capetown, South African, and likes to get the version from her home country.  I mostly hate magazines aimed at women, because I think most media does our body image (among other things) a disservice.

Across the cover in screaming letters were the words  "What would it take to love your body?"  Okay good start.  A great question and one that needs addressing by most women.

But the woman on the cover was a Victoria's Secret model  (wearing a ridiculously-exposing black swimsuit, on a body that was surely photoshopped). Juxtaposition? I'd say so.

I picked up the issue ready to scoff and make fun, but found some really great ads admiring all shapes and sizes of the female body. There is a yummy curvy voluptuous woman of color with copy that reads "You wish you had Stephanie's skin, and Stephanie wishes she had Tasj's boobs, and Tasj wishes she had Kassie's legs" And then it ends with “Love what you are.”
There is a Barbie that had all sorts of dotted lines and arrows to editing comments like "add crows feet" "add freckles" "inject cellulite" "scar from climbing in back yard" implying that this was how to make Barbie into a real woman.  As if!

Barbie is the least likely to be a real woman of all the plastic icons that are out there, but I appreciated the effort to create the Doll into a real woman. The irony of the norm of being asked to create myself as Barbie, with Barbie being created as me to promote self love was not lost.

Another ad has rectangular black strips over various parts of a woman's body with a caption that reads, "What if you took away all the parts of yourself you don't like.  What would be left?"  There is only about a fifth of the body is uncovered.

Finally, the profile of a woman in a morgue with a sheet coming to her collarbones is striking in its simplicity.  And the copy reads "When will you stop worrying about your looks?"

My immediate response to this is to reply when others stop placing importance on them.  But I know that what is being promoted is the idea that women's greatest fear is mortality, because it implies we are no longer young and beautiful.  And therefore still of social worth.   Is this just an American phenomenon?  Why can't American women claim the sense of individuality that we are known for?

 The caption is meant to teach us that we should stop placing energy and value on our looks, and go live our lives.

Good advice.  See ya.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A shot in the arm?

Every time I begin to like Ron Paul's no nonsense attitude, he is bound and determined to ruin it.  I like that he is straightforward and has mostly good ideas, except when it comes to women and children. He just can't seem to shake the crap he is a product of.  This time it is over what he calls Honest Rape. I just kinda sat there for a second when he said that because I am still not sure what that means (as opposed to dishonest rape?).

As a woman who loves language, I am stymied by this one.  What DOES that mean?  A rape that really happened, and not in the woman's imagination?  A rape that is professed to be just that by both parties?  Or a woman who is strong enough to be honest about the fact that she was raped?  Sorry to  perseverate on this wording, but if someone like Paul is to be a lawmaker than wording is everything.  And this means nothing.

And if we are to call it it this: An Honest Rape, how do we decide what is honest and what is dishonest?  And who will have to do the proving of it? Will it be the victim of the rape?  Will she be subjected, again, to be vilified by the men who subjected her to their power the first time? Because I promise you, it won't be women who have had any experience with rape who will be a part of this travesty.

Will she have to go to court to prove it, thus delaying the right to abort until it is too late, therefore nullifying the original intent, and only submitting her to more anguish and, well, rape, by the courts? (Remember that rape is about power, and this idea of an honest rape is clearly about power).

My question is, why should she have to prove it at all?  Isn't enough that she went through the trauma in the first place?  It seems that this is just another way to create women as extensions of infants who cannot discern between an honest rape and one that they somehow brought upon themselves.

Let me be clear here.  NO ONE BRINGS RAPE UPON THEMSELVES.  Didja' get that?

It reminds me of Susan Estrich's book:  Real Rape.  She was raped in the back of her brownstone when she was at Harvard Law.  By a stranger.  And that is what people meant when they said to her, "oh, then you were really raped."  (yes, they said this to her face - kind and compassionate souls that they are).  As opposed to imaginary or pretend rape? Or even more damning, an acquaintance or a date.  or even a  spouse who doesn't want to and says no, not tonight, but is forced into anyway.

If a victim says no, then it is rape (see caps above).

Back to Ron Paul: His remedy for woman who gets raped?  Send her to the Emergency room and give her a shot of estrogen?  Um.  What about a man?  What about woman who wasn't Honestly raped, just assaulted? Free estrogen shots for all!

Now I am not a doctor, and I am not a former Ob/Gyn like Paul is, so I am really unclear about this shot of estrogen.  What exactly will that do?  Boost my period so I will have a really bad one?  Support my internal female system in the event that I am pregnant?  Help my emotions that are associated with my hormones so I won't feel abused, violated, and, well, raped?

This just does not make sense.  Not any part of it.  Not when you are female, not when you have worked with rape victims, simply know someone who has been raped, been raped yourself, or are aware of how much power men still have over women.

Or, can think for yourself, make decisions about your own body and life, and use your vote to get politicians out of a woman's uterus.