Thursday, August 17, 2017

Like many of you, I'm still sifting through my emotions over what happened this weekend in Virginia. I am angry and sad and confused and lost. Looking for some sort of hope to latch onto, I posted on Facebook that the driver of the car was arrested and denied bail and that one of the "protesters" lost his job. I know my friends are sad and I wanted to offer something encouraging. I've seen others do the same, especially during our TN session of congress. There were posts about hate bill and health care bills that were killed or voted against. It helped us to feel like we were making a difference.

What I didn't expect at all, and what completely blindsided me, was for a member of the burlesque community to call me out on it. What the fuck?? I can't offer some sliver of hope?? She is a woman of color and insisted that I was spreading dangerous rhetoric, that my intention and attitude was wrong. So, immediately, I was defensive. I was told to do some research. And it all totally confused me. I've read books, I've watched films, I've been to and participated in discussions with women of color. Last year I attended a BLM vigil and studied up on how I should behave to be supportive while letting it be about black people and not white allies. I thought, what else can I do??

In my anger and frustration, I allowed the incident to escalate. My friends stepped in to try to defend me. My white ally friends chastised me, at least in my eyes at the time. I thought why even try when nothing I do is good enough??

For two days I felt a rock in my stomach. I questioned why I felt so bad and so angry if I hadn't done anything wrong. I reread comments and posts. On the second day I apologized for half of what I said. I sent a message to the woman who had called me out, trying to explain my viewpoint, my history, how I cared. And I apologized. I thought, okay, that should do it. Because I'm a good person. I do care. If someone can't see that, what else can I do?

And the rock remained in the pit of my stomach. Something was still bothering me. There was a shame I couldn't get past and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

Last night I watched this video. I watched a black woman scream from terror and disbelief and emotional pain and distress. I saw a black man insisting that they didn't want that group in their town, in his town, in his home. I saw waves of white people filled with hate, claiming they were fulfilling their rightful part of history.

And I got it. And fuck, it hurt.

Posting that bills are voted down is not equivalent to trying to find anything good from this past weekend. Hey, one KKK was arrested. Yippee!!! Hey, look how all of those white men can push against a line of police and nothing happens to them!! Look how those men are allowed to carry torches and firearms and how our fucking president excuses it all. Gee, that's progress.

No, I was wrong. I didn't want to be. But this wasn't the time to rally and talk about  how things are going to get better. Not when, right now, they are getting so much worse. People of color are truly terrified by what is happening. Because it isn't new. It never has been for them. And now we have a "leader" who all but endorses it. I try to understand, but I can't really fathom what it feels like to walk through life being hated by such a large group of one's own country.

I don't know how this will end. I know how I want it to end. I thought we were better than all of this. I didn't really think we would elect a misogynistic, racist, completely ignorant buffoon for a president. But we did. I didn't think KKK and neo-Nazi groups would organize. Or militarize themselves. But they have. I keep thinking it will stop. This nightmare will end. But it doesn't. I think, okay, we've reached the tipping point. And another wave hits us.

I don't have any answers. I think I have suggestions, but at this point, I'm not even sure about that. But here they are, for whatever they're worth.

White people - don't include POC in your frustrations. They're not here to make you feel better. They don't have to explain their history. Talk to your white friends. Tell them how you feel sad that you try and you feel misunderstood and then try again. It's okay to be angry, we're all angry. But be appropriately angry.

White friends - be patient with each other. Daily conversations of racism haven't been a regular daily activity for a lot of us. I lived in a town for 22 years where I literally went MONTHS without seeing a black person. There were hispanics and latinos, but it was much less diverse than Nashville. If someone isn't getting it, it's helpful to offer different reasoning rather than getting defensive yourself. And if you're not capable of that in the moment, if you don't have the mental or emotional energy, save it for later. We need each other and we need understanding. Am I full of shit on that one? I could be. Like I said, I don't know anymore.

If you have an interaction that leaves you feeling less than okay, explore that feeling. Dig down. Your gut and your heart know what's off, so listen to them. Be humble.

I want to say that hate won't win, but damn. It's got a really fucking good lead right now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Death of Dating

Last night I had drinks with someone I met online. At first I appreciated that he wanted to skip the formalities and small talk and meet right away. He seemed to have a sense of humor. I think the road to hell should now be paved with seems.

To start, he was 20 minutes late. But, Nashville traffic being what it is, I went with it. He sent an odd message about panhandlers, thinking he was making a joke. It was off-putting but I hoped I just misunderstood it.

He has a dog. We had a nice conversation about dogs and how great they are. It's charming when a man really loves his dog.

And then it went downhill. I specifically have a comment in my profile to not contact me if you voted for Trump. I foolishly expect that this will be respected. When he asked me if I don't like Trump, he said he could tell because of "all the woman stuff." Um... woman stuff??

He then proceeded to tell me a 30-minute story about how his wife left  him. For a black man. When you say, "I'm not racist but..." and then follow that with a terribly insulting imitation of a black man, then yes. Yes, you are a racist. A big one. I don't blame the woman for leaving.

Because he kept insisting he wasn't racist, I pressed him on his vote. He didn't want to answer, which made his choice obvious. What's worse is that he voted on a single issue. Gun rights. His collection of 20 guns was more important than women's health or right to choose, more important than the environment or the economy or foreign relations. I asked if the protection of his second amendment right was worth what happened in Virginia. If it was worth a woman dying for. He didn't have an answer.

Now I'm left with feeling like I can't trust anyone. That there isn't someone who can be just basically respectful and kind. So I think I'm done. I'm definitely done wasting my time on men who completely disregard my feelings as a person, let alone as a woman.

I have dogs. I have a daughter and a best friend. I have a business and a hobby that I love. It's a good life. I'm okay with it being a single life. Right now it's better than the alternative.



Monday, August 07, 2017

How It All Makes Sense Now

Like many of us, my world seemed to fall apart November 9th. After I spent a few days being deeply depressed, I decided to take action. I took all the action and went to all of the things and I got really involved. I wanted to Be Effective and Make a Difference and Have My Voice Heard. I protested, I joined groups, I went to meetings, I signed up for nearly anything that was put in front of me. I wanted to find the one thing that would be My Purpose.

And then I was overwhelmed. I couldn't focus on one thing because I was trying to do everything. I was close to burnout. The other goals I made for myself this year seemed less important and I was spread too thinly everywhere.

This last week I went to National Training for Pure Romance. Thursday night I was sitting in Aronoff Center in Cincinnati for opening session. Pure Romance will be celebrating 25 years of business in 2018 and, during the opening video, our founder Patty Brisben reflected on the beginnings and on the changes she has seen in the business and what it was like starting out. Her husband left her and their children because he wanted a wife who was more successful. (And all I can think is, "How you like me NOW?") She was broke. She was scared. She got involved in a business where she was shunned by mothers and other women. And she kept going. She kept going and she now heads a $200 million empire.

That piece was inspiration in itself, but she continued. She said how thankful she is that, as consultants, we are changing the lives of women every day. We empower them. We teach them about sexual health. We encourage them to do all of the things that our current administration is against. She got emotional and I did too.

Because it hit me. I am exactly where I need to be to Make a Difference. I don't necessarily need to protest, although I'm sure I will at times. I don't have to sign up for every single event involved with my political party. I can just focus on the parties I have with women. The conversations I have with them. The education I provide that so many hundreds of them have been lacking. We talk about consent and communicating what we want and how to get it. If women can do that in the bedroom, which is one of the hardest places to use one's voice, then they can learn to do it outside the bedroom too. They speak up not just for themselves, but for other women as well. I can affect change one conversation, one sale, one party at a time. This is it!!!

When we hear about women's health, we often think of abortion or breast cancer, but it's much more than that. One of my teammates went to a class on menopause. Yucky topic, I know. It doesn't feel good. Hot flashes aren't comfortable. While some women look forward to it, others feel like they're less womanly. There is a gamut of emotions and physical symptoms and very little research being done or treatments being offered, considering how complicated this transition can be. The Patty Brisben Foundation is the only one of its kind to focus on this issue, as well as cancer treatment and its effects and research on these and other reproductive issues.

What I need and what I want has been in front of me this whole time. It's usually that simple, isn't it? If we just open our eyes. I went to classes about leadership, sponsoring, common sexual problems, sexual health information, motivation, time management, money management, and a future leader training. And yet this was the biggest lesson that I learned. It's so freeing to now have this direction and this focus.

If this is something that you want to do, I can help you with that. I'd be overjoyed to welcome you into this community where I have gained so much. I'm going to do all that I can to give that back.

If there is no part of you that wants to use your voice this way, I understand completely. Like Patty said, it isn't easy with so many naysayers. However, I still encourage you to Do Something. We have a long way to go to undo a lot of the damage that has been done and we need each other out there in may other areas and forums. I can direct you to those areas as well. Just please be involved because it's too important not to be.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How Andrew McCarthy Relates to Being the Dildo Lady

I met Andrew Fucking McCarthy tonight. You know, Blane (That's not a name, it's a major appliance!!). He's still adorable and wonderful and totally unassuming and a REAL WRITER. He was completely candid and sweet and didn't mind me being an awkward, crazy, author-fan-girl.

I almost didn't go because I do SO MUCH. Because I thought I should spend the whole evening working my business and the booking blitz. Because, most of the time, I feel guilty doing one thing when I should be doing another. But, when I offered my bestie an out, she didn't take it. So I went.

And I smiled the Whole Damn Time. I was connected and In the Moment. And what he said didn't detract from my goals but added to them, added value to them. And he said that escape isn't running from something, but running TO something. To discovery. So I wasn't running from my obligations, I was running to inspiration and motivation and fulfillment.

He spoke a bit about Pretty in Pink and what it meant at the time and what it meant to be that age. How it became an Important Film for our generation and why and how we relate to and cherish that time in our lives. How it's about a girl who feels unappreciated and misunderstood and how she has to make the dress to go to the dance anyway. And how we still, as adults, feel that way but we're able to parent ourselves through it because we know it gets better. We know that you come through the other side.

And that's how life just is. I get lonely. I get discouraged. I think nobody has ever felt the way that I do at times. But then I remind myself that I can get through it because I have done it before and even when it's exhausting, there really isn't an alternative because this is who I am and this is what I do and, damn it, I have something to prove even if it's only to myself.

So, yeah. It was meaningful. Significantly so. More than meeting a cute actor/writer who charmed an entire room and graciously wiped off my drool while putting his arm around me and taking bad pictures because he kept talking.

When I got home and checked on my team and their progress, I was in awe. In just four short days, they accomplished more than I dreamt of. With minimal coaching from me because I'm pre-occupied. They motivated themselves and worked their little buns off and I was so proud I nearly broke down into a pile of sobbing mushiness. I had felt enormous guilt taking the evening off to do something I wanted to do. It felt selfish because I knew, earlier in the day, how hard they are working.

In the end, they were fine. They were more than fine. And I wasn't running from them or from the work I think I need to do. I was running towards the motivation and the recharging of my batteries that I need to continue on. Andy (we're familiar like that now) explained transitions in his life with the phrase, "There I am." Over and over, "There I am." He found acting. "There I am." He found writing. "There I am." And so There I Was. Hearing what I need to hear when I need to hear it. And Here I Am. Motivated, inspired, soul re-filled.

There are times when I drag myself to a party. When I'm tired and not in the mood to be "on." But then I find myself. I find my groove and I find my connections with other women. I find my purpose. There I am. Tonight, in the accomplishment of my team, There I Am.

I didn't make my goal. Far, far from it. But the inspiration is still there. It waited until I came back. And There I Am.

All I need now is for Blane to walk me to my car and tell me he believes in me. And that he will love me.. always.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Stories of Sexism and Violence

There is a blog that I posted last year and again this year when it showed up in my memories for the day. The author grew up in Montreal, Canada. Except for a few early years in Texas, I grew up in California and then Oregon. I should feel a kinship with this woman on the other side of the continent, in another country, and I do. Our experiences are eerily familiar. And this horrifies me. It is disturbing that two women so far apart can have the same feelings, been preyed upon in the same manner. It means that our experiences aren't limited to a geographical area. Or a certain type of man. Or a period in time. They are rampant. They happen every day to every one of us. And there is no end soon in sight.

As I read her words again, I started to recall my own stories. The ones that are non-fiction. Those that haunt me. These are just some of them.

I'm four or five. Young. My class is on a field trip at the police station. There is a large carpet depicting roads and street signs. There is a tricycle on the carpet meant to be a vehicle. I want to "drive" the streets so I raise my hand. The police man chooses me. He says, "My, you're a pretty little girl." I can "drive" and show the other kids how to use the traffic signs, but first I must kiss him on the cheek. I don't really want to "drive" after that.

I'm five. My parents are divorced and my dad has custody but he works so his family friend watches me during the day. Her son is my age. He wants to show me his penis. I don't really care to, but he makes it sound like I really want to. Only he wants to see what I have. I do it just so we can move on and play. It happens a few times and one day his mom catches us and beats the shit out of me.

In sixth grade there is a boy who torments me relentlessly. He snaps my bra and when I get mad, he tells our teacher that I told him to "keep his black hands off of me." I am both humiliated that my teacher, who I respect more than almost anyone, knows that I now wear a bra and that someone touched me without my permission. I am devastated that he thinks I blamed it on the color of his skin when the thought never occurred to me and I cry like my heart is broken. Because it is.

I'm 12 and a family member hugs me but his hand lands between my legs. I pull away in disgust and he acts innocent. "What? What's wrong?" This happens intermittently and semi-regularly until I am 17. He shoves his tongue in my mouth, grabs a breast. I stop him every time and leave the room, but I don't tell anyone because I'm the one that feels ashamed. I don't tell my mom until after I'm married and I think the only reason I forgive him now is because he's old and frail and can't hurt me anymore.

I'm 18. My boyfriend is arguing with me for no reason, we work together in a store at the mall. I turn to leave and he grabs me, turns me around, and shoves me against the door. It's a metal door with a bar in the middle. I try to hit him but he has my arms pinned. As recognition at what he's done spreads across his face, he tells me with fat tears how sorry he is and that I must be so worried about what will happen next time. I tell him that a next time means he'll never see me again. He never touches me like that again, but he breaks things. He breaks my windshield and then his on separate occasions. When I'm 21 and I drive from Oregon back to college in Southern California, I decide to stay with my roommate and her mom in their hotel. I'm tired and tired of being in the car so I deny his invitation to go to his place. His invitation turns into a demand and then a threat. I hear a bottle break in the sink as he threatens to kill himself and I hang up. I end the relationship a few days later.

I'm 22 and engaged. We live together. I weigh maybe 96 pounds but I've always had a little belly. He tells me I'm fat. When he gets home from work he asks if I worked out, saying, "You were home all day. What else do you have to do?" I cry and wish I could be really fat so he'd have something real to complain about.

Years later when we're getting divorced, he tells me he will find someone young, blond, and thin. I am 10 years younger than him at 26 and still weigh under 110 pounds.

I'm a single mom and I work in an insurance office.  When I first start, the owner tells a male co-worker to tell a female co-worker to to tell me to wear a bra with more padding. The office is always freezing. There is an underwriter who asks inappropriate and personal questions when I make changes to my own policies. I tell my boss and he laughs it off. When I bring up sexual harassment and tell him I will do something if he doesn't, he finally calls the underwriter's supervisor. There continue to be comments on how I dress.

I'm in my 30's and live with a boyfriend. I go home at my lunch hour and the husband of his friend is working construction in our neighborhood. He follows me to the mailbox and grins, saying I should invite him over for lunch sometime. At a party with other friends, he walks behind me and rubs his whole front against my back. The room isn't that crowded.

I'm at a dinner with about 10 other people and an executive of our company who is in town for some meeting. He goes on and on about his toddler and his wife and how much he loves her. As people start to leave, he slides around the booth and puts his hand on my thigh while he whispers his room number in my ear. I tell him I won't be needing it. Several months later I'm in a car full of co-workers and my manager on our way to a conference. I tell this story and everyone is repulsed. Several months more go by and I get pulled into the HR office because a rumor is going around about that incident. I confirm that it happened and that, because men are constantly inappropriate and I would probably never see him again, I didn't feel the need to report it. However, my manager gets called out for not reporting it when he heard the story months before. Soon after I'm put on a performance review and the HR manager tells me she thinks it's a retaliation and to keep her informed if my manager says anything out of bounds.

I'm over 40. My boyfriend gets mad when I buy a pair of shoes in a color he doesn't like. When we argue, I tell him he needs to leave but he continues on and on until I hyperventilate. He tells me that my ear piercings look trashy. That I'm book smart but have no common sense. That I'm beautiful but, but, but...

I'm 45 and have recently ended a relationship. It was a mutual breakup with no animosity. A few weeks later he texts me, he's at his company Christmas party in my neighborhood and asks if he can stop by. I assume we're adults and can be friends. He shows up having had more to drink than I thought and continues to work his way through my bottle of whiskey. I tell him he's going to have to leave because I'm tired and need to sleep. He asks, over and over and over, why he can't stay in my bed because he has so many times before. I finally go to my room and lock my door and he leaves. I haven't seen him since.

I'm in a bar, walking through a crowd, at a concert, .....
..... a man puts his hand on my thigh.
..... a man rubs up against me.
..... a man "accidentally" grazes my breast.
..... a man gets offended and angry when I decline his interest. I'm a bitch, a dyke, ugly.....

These are just the stories that stand out. There are other moments. Other experiences. Too numerous to mention, too many to remember.

This is how men and women aren't equal. This is why we so often don't report harassment, abuse, coercion, rape. It happens ever day in small, seemingly innocuous ways and in ways we can't believe someone gets away with it. If I call out this one, another one will do something else tomorrow. And we still are blamed for what we wear, what we say, the time of day, the places we go.

I'm too tired by it all right now to even contemplate a solution.



Friday, March 03, 2017

Choices, Consequences, and Prevention

Last night I inadvertently posted something inflammatory on Facebook. It was meant to express my dismay at discovering how many men my age have young children and how, as a single woman, my preference is not to date those men. My post was taken as a stance against women who choose to have children later in life. Over and over the comments expressed were, "I had my child later - I wanted it that way" or "That was how it happened for me, what's wrong with it?" There is nothing wrong with it. We should have the choice as women to have children at whatever age we feel is appropriate for us and for our families. The general response was a resounding MY body, MY choice.

And THAT, when we are talking about reproduction, is really what it should come down to. Choice. Have a child at 20, or 30, or 45. It is and should be a personal choice. On the flip side, NOT having a child should also be a choice and this is where it gets sticky.

I promise you that no woman wants to have an abortion. Who would put that on their bucket list? But the conversation is always about limiting, restricting, or banning abortion. And this is not where the conversation should start. Once we solve what happens well before a woman is faced with an unwanted pregnancy, maybe we'll stop having this debate.

There is sometimes talk about expanding sex education, but even that comes later. The talks start with young children. Girls and boys both. Parents, tell your children from the start that they own their bodies. When you think pushing a child towards an older person and saying, "Give grandpa a hug" is harmless, it's not. At very young ages you are telling children when they do and don't own their bodies. Maybe grandpa stinks. Maybe your child has sensory/touch sensitivities. There are a myriad of reasons children don't want to show affection to adults and it's not rude for them not to. It is our job to protect our children from predators and taking away control in a a seemingly-innocent situation is failure from the start.

One of the most important things we can do is to use proper terminology. Penis. Vagina. Vulva. Using silly, cutesy names undermines a child's authority in a couple of ways. I once heard a story that I regularly tell my customers at my parties. A young girl told every adult she met that her uncle pet her kitty. Okay. That's nice. How cute. NO. NOT cute. Her "kitty" was not a cat. This child was being abused and asking anyone she could find for help. Their inability to understand her because she used improper terminology told her both that what her uncle was doing was okay and that she had no right to ask for help. Additionally, when a child uses the right words, grown-up words, he or she is taken seriously by adults. It demonstrates that they are very clear and knowledgeable about what is happening.

As children grow, we need to repeat these lessons. I am going to focus on young women solely for the reason that the vast majority of rape crimes are committed by men against women, but understand it can happen to young men too. We need to raise our daughters so that they understand they have a choice and that they are worthy. That attention from a cute boy is nice, but not validation of who they are as a person. This makes it easier for her to say "no" when a boy tries to convince her to go farther than she's comfortable with. It makes it easier for her to have a conversation and dialogue about what her boundaries are and, if she's then rejected in favor of another girl, she won't be as likely to feel that she should have given in.

And this, years later, is where sex education comes in. Certain groups of people are just terrified of sex and any mention of it and are convinced that teaching children about body parts is wrong. It's not. Our vaginas and penises aren't any dirtier than our legs or elbows. If I have a headache, someone will offer me aspirin. If I have a pain in my breast, I should be able to talk about that and get aid just the same. If we don't talk to our kids about sex, they'll get the information somewhere else. Most likely it will be the wrong information. Myths about what will and won't cause pregnancy. Boys telling girls what they think will get her to change her mind. Information is power, arm your children with it.

Birth control is a tricky one as a parent. I know. I've been there. Offering it feels like giving permission. As adults with experience, we know that 16 is SO young, too young. They aren't mentally or emotionally ready for the consequences. You can do everything perfectly up to this point and then hormones happen. Teenagers are walking hormones. Again, information is just a necessity. Arming a kid with birth control isn't encouragement or permission for sex. It's offering a choice in the event that those hormones take over. Just because you have it doesn't mean you have to use it.

Teaching respect for self and others simultaneously teaches respect for life. Let's change the conversation and start it earlier before we demonize women for making choices they'd rather not face. Provide the messages of prevention earlier and we might not have the need for the really tough, divisive arguments later.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Story About a Story

I have loved Laurie Anderson since high school. I'm not sure how I even became aware of her at that age. She's an experimental performance artist and I was into Duran Duran and Wham! back then. I go years without listening to her though, and then when I do, I fall in love all over again. Her latest album (which is a soundtrack of her film), Heart of a Dog, is layered with music but is mostly spoken. Her voice is beautiful and mesmerizing and the theme surrounds the life and death of her dog, Lola Belle. Which, that piece alone, makes it interesting and easy for me to relate to. But it's interspersed with stories of her fascinating and incredibly interesting life. I can't believe I've never named her as someone I'd like to have dinner with because I would, very very much.

I shared a piece from the album with a friend, who then introduced me to Max Richter. I sat and listened to three instrumental albums right in a row immediately. I realized how absolutely beautiful music is, and in so many forms. Some of what I listened to was heartbreakingly sad, but that made it so much more lovely.

These last few months have been dark and I fear it will only get darker. I've been teetering on the edge of my own Great Depression and I have to keep moving, moving. Stopping my whirlwind of activity and scheduling of my time means I might just topple over into an emotional abyss. The depression is there and the negativity I see everywhere with our current climate is overwhelming.

J and I had a conversation yesterday about how easy it is to hate what is happening, what is being said, done, and the people saying it. And it is. It is so easy. But I can't do it. I just can't, because it will drag me down into that quicksand of depression that I might not be able to pull myself out of next time. So I told her that we have to focus on the positive, the good, and the good that is the majority. The hate makes the most noise, it's easy to be distracted. It does take work to bypass it, but it has to be done.

So last night, when I was losing myself in the melodies, I was reminded of the ways that I find beauty every day. Music. The obvious sunset. The look of love and adoration in my dog's eyes and her trust in me. My daughter, a life I had the absolute privilege of creating and being a part of. Friendships and unforgettable memories with friends. The women I meet in my business who share intimate parts of themselves with me. The most beautiful things are intangible, but they also make us who we are.

While we feel that some of our rights are being stripped away during what is most likely to become an infamous period of history, we still have beauty. Friendships and memories and love are things that can't be taken from us. The beauty we find and that we must look for and hold onto is what will sustain and strengthen us. I believe this, not only because I have to, but because it is what's true. The greater truth is in love.


 
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