“I like Sheryl Sandberg,” I said while Mom and I were clearing up from dinner one night. “I think she’s right. There aren’t enough women in positions of power. If things were equal, we’d have fifty percent of corporations run by women and fifty percent run by men.”
A tight smile cinched at Mom’s lips. “Yes, but she doesn’t have it all right. I mean, just listen to her. She carves out time for her family? For her children? Like she’s so busy that they need to be scheduled into her day to see her? Something’s wrong with that.”
I shrugged, lining up dirty plates by the sink. The ceramic clattered. “So what? She’s doing what she thinks is best.”
“I agree,” Dad called from the other room. “And actually, I’ve had a discussion with my boss about this. More women should be leaning in. They just don’t because they don’t want those leadership positions. But they’re perfectly capable of doing it and if they do want it, they should go ahead.”
But Mom shook her head. “How can she do that to her children?”
“Oh, wow, I haven’t seen this one before,” I said, touching the tattoo on L’s shoulder.
My brother sat at the kitchen table, wearing a sleeveless shirt that revealed the dark green leaves of another tattoo. He glanced up at me and then at his shoulder. “Huh? Oh, yeah. I got that one a while ago.” He pulled his shirt back a bit so I could see the long, skinny vine surrounding a pair of quarter-sized, plump red tomatoes inked into his skin.
“You only got two?” I asked. My thoughts wandered back to the six tomatoes we’d had engraved on Dad’s headstone.
“Yeah, well, I had it done so that I would have room for more if I ever wanted to add any.” He let his shirt fall back into place.
“I want to get another tattoo,” Big H said.
“No,” Mom said, the way parents do when their kids want something that looks cheap, or sticky, and costs twice the amount it’s worth. “No, you don’t want to do that.”
“Why not? It’s my body.”
Mom shook her head. “Don’t you know how bad it will look in your wedding dress?”
My jaw fell open. Big H’s eyes caught mine from halfway across the room, her expression mirroring mine. We scoffed at the same time.
“You’re kidding me,” I said to Mom, echoing her same reprimanding tone. “Her wedding dress? That’s what you’re worried about? What kind of argument is that?”
Mom shook her head. “But when you get a job, they’re not going to want to see these big, black marks all over your skin.”
“That’s a slightly better argument,” I said at the same time Big H cried, “Who cares about the job? I’ll cover them up!”
Mom swiveled around in her chair to face me. “Listen to you!” she said. “Since when were you a part of this conversation?”
If I’d thought of the words in time, I would’ve said I’d been a part of it the entire time. I would’ve said it shouldn’t matter how many tattoos Big H gets. I would’ve said what Big H told me when we were talking about afterwards: “She lets L get giant tattoos on his back and chest and arm, but I can’t get a cap for my shoulder?”
Instead, I puffed up, angry, but couldn’t speak. My thoughts echoed with the hollow hum of an empty room, all arguments momentarily erased. Irritated into silence, I slipped into the next room to sit with the cat.
“And who says I want a traditional, sleeveless dress, anyway?” Big H said. “You didn’t wear one for your wedding.”
Mom didn’t say anything to that and the conversation ended.
Juan Pablo glimmered on the screen in our high definition version of ABC’s The Bachelor. He wore his customary blank-eyed look with the slightest lift at the corners of his mouth, his trademark expression: “It’s not easy (or ees-see, as he pronounced it).”
Across from him on their three platform levels stood a group of glittering women. Everything on them glittered: their hair, their lipstick, their eye shadow, their eyes, their dresses, their jewelry, their nails, their shoes, their tears…especially their tears.
There are a lot of tears on this show.
“I’m just — so in love with him. So in love with Juan Pablo,” one of the contestants, Nikki, kept saying. “And I just want to show him that. I want to show him how much I love him and that I want him to be with me.”
“Oh please,” Mom said from her chair. She had a pastel pink ball of yarn in her lap, crocheting while she and Little H watched the show. “They’re so fake. You’re not actually in love with him, sweetheart. You can’t fall in love with someone only weeks after meeting them. You don’t even know each other.”
“Those tears look pretty real, though,” Little H said when Nikki started crying.
Mom made a face. “No, they’re not. They’re getting paid to make drama.”
“You don’t know they’re not,” I said. Even though I only half-watched the show, I could feel my brain numbing with its banality, but Mom’s comments perked me up. “I mean, these are real people. Yeah, they’re probably being paid, but they come onto this show for a reason.”
“Yeah,” Little H said. She sat up straighter as the conversation in the room became more interesting. “You don’t know the tears are fake. They could be in real pain.”
“They are actual people, you know,” I said.
Mom shrugged, but what she’d said hummed through me, a low, deep pluck of a guitar string. I wondered if anyone else felt the way that she did. I wondered if anyone else thought that these people — these women, in all their glitz and temporary fame — couldn’t possibly feel anything on a show that, I feel, makes fun of relationships.
I watched the women for a minute longer. Listening to their high, nasal voices end their sentences with upturned inflections that made statements into questions, I wondered who gave them sympathy.
Do people really think these women are just acting, not real people looking for real relationships? Do they make fun of these women for thinking they can find true love on TV? Do they make fun of the way these women getting emotional? Do they call these reactions overly dramatic, even silly?
Do women watch this and think, “I hope that can be me one day”? Or “at least I’m not that kind of girl,” as if there’s something wrong with being like the women on the show?
Does anyone make fun of the men who go on The Bachelor? Do they make fun of them for thinking Bachelor(s) could find true love on TV? Does anyone make fun of them for the way they talk, for the way they approach drama, for the way they act with women?
Does anyone wonder if there’s something wrong with being like the men who go onto this show, either to find true love as The Bachelor, or to find true love with The Bachelorette?
Does any woman in the audience see him and think, “at least I’m not dating him“? Does any man see him and think, “at least I’m not that kind of guy”?
I kind of hoped so. Maybe it would even out the playing field a little bit.
I feel like a lot of people have a lot of opinions on what women should be like. I’m sure the same is true of men, but the bigger focus is unfailingly on who women are and what we do.
We’re constantly told to prove ourselves. To validate our choices, not only to the people who take interest in us, but to each other. Especially to each other. We’re subtly told we’re in a competition of who’s most womanly.
Can you balance a family and career? Can you look good all the time, no matter what you’re wearing? Can you keep the weight off? Can you keep your husband, or wife, or significant from cheating? Can you make enough, but not so much that your male counterparts feel threatened? Can you be polite and courteous and kind, even when you’re terrified?
If you fail to match the list of items given, why do you think you ought to qualify for the title of “woman”?
And if you do match, don’t you know what you’re sacrificing? Don’t you think that sacrifice makes you a bad person? Have you called your mom? When do you find time for the significant, or kids? The housework? Your career? Your diet (because you must be on one)? Your beauty regime? Your exercise class?
No one asks about your education, though.
It’s an awful lot of pressure. What’s worse? It’s directed at the woman. It becomes her job to maintain all these things. It calls her a failure when she can’t.
I wish we all would just get that we, men/women/everyone in between, are all flying by the seat of our pants. That nobody has it perfectly and no one always knows what they’re doing. I wish we could stop caring so much about what we women do and what we “become” as a result.
I wish it could just be her choice, who she is, without anyone else being involved. Because ultimately, what I do is nobody’s goddamned business. I just wish that were good enough.
Have you ever been made aware of double standards?
ref this article http://www.eatthedamncake.com/2013/06/04/26-and-already-pregnant/
I watched this last year and have been referring to it since. It’s been such a help in my creative life. I love Neil Gaiman.
“I am tired, not of arguing in favour of equality, diversity and tolerance, but of having to explain, over and over and over again, why such arguments are still necessary, only to have my evidence casually dismissed by someone too oblivious to realise that their dismissal of the problem is itself a textbook example of the fucking problem.”
- Reading. Hah! Did you think I was going to put writing up here? You’re right, actually. I did, at first, but then I’d have to make this one number two when it’s not. I was a reader before I was a writer. This and writing are tied, if I’m being honest. Even if I never wrote another word, I’d still read, and vice versa. (That’s a bad way to be, though. If you’re not reading, you won’t have the time or tools to write.)
- Writing, which I think is something I’ve already established I have an ever-burning love for. I’ve been telling myself stories since elementary school. My earliest memories include being surrounded by Barbies while dictating to L what would and wouldn’t be happening in the toys’ adventures, daydreaming on our swing set, and talking to myself under my breath while swinging. I didn’t write anything down until later, and I didn’t consciously decide to try writing a serious story until I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. So it’s been with me for a long while.
- Music. I’ve been a member of an orchestra for a good portion of my life. Even though it’s not something I’ve really followed through with, it’s given me a huge respect and appreciation for what I like and what I think works. Music also speaks to certain years and events for me. That’s probably why I try to change it often and morph it to fit who I’ve become. I like the forward momentum of it.
- The supernatural/paranormal. It terrifies me and a great deal of it makes no sense, but I adore the psychology and sociology behind the myths, legends, and rumors. Right when I think I’ve outgrown it, I hear a good story or I see a cool movie and I get sucked right back in, my skin tingling with excitement. I hesitate to put my interests in Wicca/Paganism under this, if only because I do believe that the supernatural is different from the Old Religions. At the same time, there are a great many parts about the supernatural that led me to Wicca–dealing with ghosts, the moon, spells, magick, etc. Given that, I think it’s only fair to, for the purpose of this post, lump them together. I’m a firm believer in science and I do think there are logical answers to 99 percent of our questions. That other one percent is what keeps me believing in the supernatural, dabbling in Wicca, studying Pagan paths — because science hasn’t given me an answer for everything. So maybe there’s more to it than we know? I don’t know. I am curious about it.
- Maintaining relationships with people. I’m not sure this counts as a passion, even if it’s something that drives me. When I think of passions, I think of things you work around in and investigate. This is more of something I know a lot of people feel a couple of times a week, maybe. A universal experience. My hope is that everyone’s felt this at least once: the urge to keep people you really like around, even if you don’t talk for months (or years, as the case may be), because you had/have a great relationship and would like to sustain that. Yes, there’s a certain art to maintaining connections. Some people are good at just drifting in and out of the lives of certain people, whereas others need constant validation that they’re friends with a person. I was that second kind of friend, which can get annoying when you just want to take a pair of scissors and chop off the invisible umbilical cord you never saw growing. But there are people I’d love to hang onto for the rest of my life and having them in my life means a great deal to me. So maybe showing them that I value and appreciate their love and friendship is something I’m passionate about?
What are five of your passions?
You wouldn’t know this by the way I’ve been posting these topics, but it’s taken me a while to get to this one, if only because the topics are, as I’ve said, becoming harder to respond to.
There are a number of things I could list here, but I’ll talk about two because for me, they rate about the same, with a few key differences.
The first is the passing of my dad over a year ago. I put this as one of the hardest things because you never realize how much you rely on a person until they’re no longer around. Even when he was sick, we relied on him. We had the hope that he’d pull through and even though pulling through meant months — or years — of similar hardship, any difficulty was easier to imagine than…well, you know.
Losing him was hard in those final days, especially. Everything kept getting worse. We were just waiting for the day when everything tipped, the way it seemed to want to, only we couldn’t be totally sure which way it would go. (The doctors wouldn’t give us definitive answers, so that didn’t help much.)
Actually losing him left me feeling both hollow and full. Hollow because we’d tipped, finally, and now — what? What was left? Where were we going to go? All that strife and hard work and it was all gone. Instantly. Put out in the blink of an eye.
And full because of what rushed in after: immense sadness, immense relief, the enormity of what it meant to lose a parent, and the weighty pressure to carry on after when there’s still so much that hasn’t happened yet.
Keep Calm and Carry On. If this time in my life could’ve been a chapter…
The second hard thing is moving into college. You’re probably flinging yourself back into your chair right about now. You’re probably shaking your head, holding out your hands, furrowing your brow, and going, “Um, what?! How the fuck does that compare? Really?“
Maybe not. I’m writing on the assumption that you are. Anyway:
I was sheltered. Am sheltered. In a huge way, too: I sheltered myself. I kept myself wrapped up in a huge ball of metaphorical bubble wrap. I didn’t go out when I felt too nervous. I tried not to do anything that would remotely break the law. I didn’t want to get in trouble. I followed the rules and regulations with the wide-eyed naivete of sheep on a field, looking for the shepherd to tell me what to do.
Spoiler alert for Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series — there’s a part in the series where the main character, Sydney, is getting ready to go out for the first time. I think she’s going on a date? So she picks out what she qualifies (at the time) as her “most daring” outfit: instead of her pattern-less clothes, she opts for a blouse/skirt (can’t remember which one) with a faint — faint, as in you can’t even see it without her showing you it’s there — vertical pattern going across it.
When I read that, do you know what my first thought was? Of course you do. I sat up in horror going, “Oh my god, that’s me.“
And it was.
I’m so thankful I was aware of that, too. It only took me about ten years to see it.
So take this new image you have of a sheltered homebody whose idea of a daring outfit is one that has patterns (bless my poor, timid soul) and imagine her trying to live away from home. Just for a week.
I don’t like eating when I’m nervous. My stomach clenches and food sticks to the insides of my mouth and I can’t swallow easily. Smells become potent, to the point where I can detect things like bananas from the door of a room. Also, I don’t sleep well when I’m nervous. I don’t dream, and I’m a vivid, active dreamer most of the time.
The day I moved into college, I was a mess. I worked hard to nibble on a banana and honey nut Cheerios. I drank water like I was about to be dropped off in the middle of a desert and wouldn’t see another bottle of the stuff for a week. I couldn’t stop shaking.
My mom tried to help. She talked with my roommate’s mom and they laughed together about the whole moving-in process. They assured each of us that the other was just as nervous as we were.
My family was kind enough not to leave until after dinner. After they left, I watched Everyone Loves Raymond (something my family used to have on after we’d finished eating) and went to bed early. The next morning? I called my mom early and she had to remind me to eat the Cheerios I’d brought so I wouldn’t be starving later.
This might not sound totally awful because I didn’t throw up or have a breakdown or anything like that. Trust me, though. For me, this was tough. I had to rely on myself way more than I was used to. For all my insight about myself, I felt like a penguin trying to fly through the air — totally out of my limits.
So both my father’s death and moving into college were hard experiences for me. They just had different kinds of difficulties attached, although some of the demands — self-reliance — were the same.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to experience? Can it compare to anything else?
I just started watching Mental Floss because they were discussing how decaf coffee is made. It’s a fascinating video, whether you like decaf or think it’s the spit-up version of regular coffee. However, I like candy more than coffee (I prefer tea — watch as I gradually lift my nose into the air), despite the fact that I’ve been hugely interested in getting my hands on the Fed Up documentary about how the food industry’s working to make us all fat…and then blame us for having no will power and not exercising.
That’s another topic for another day, though. For now, sweets!
(Random fact: sugar lights up the same portion of the brain that a certain drug does when you ingest them. To find out which drug, watch the Fed Up trailer…or just the movie. Either one. I’m not sure why I’m playing promotional representative here. I just thought the fact was interesting, only I promptly forgot the name of the drug. Go me.)
I think you’ll all be amazed by just how boring this turns out to be. Either that, or you’ll be pleasantly surprised. “Hey!” You might think. “That’s EXACTLY what my day looks like.” Maybe none of this will look anything like what your life is, though. Maybe it’ll turn out that you’re one of those people I think is super cool who travels around and doesn’t log into Facebook every day. The kind of person whom everyone sends “Happy Birthday!” messages to, every single year, even though they never show up to thank anyone for the wishes.
If you are one of those people, try this post on for size! I’d love to know what you’re doing when you’re not on the internet. Probably out in the world, being fabulous…
Keep in mind, this changes. A lot more than you think it would. The work stuff usually doesn’t unless I’m away somewhere. Everything else? There’s a John Lennon quote for that.
Anyway, in the tradition of Little H: My Day:
- Wake up obscenely early (think anytime before 6 AM and you’re in the right ballpark)
- Shower, dress, eat breakfast, check email, talk to Mom, avoid tripping over the dogs
- Board train
- Spend hour and a half writing/editing/revising/talking myself into writing, editing, or revising/ staring out the window thinking about nothing to do with writing
- Get home sometime after 6 PM (unless I have to leave early for whatever reason)
- Eat dinner, make lunch for the next day, clear table, take dogs out, change clothes, exercise, and squeeze in dessert because I like having something sweet to polish off my day (even though sometimes that means only having a glass of tea because I’m still full from dinner)
- Go to bed obscenely early (before 9 PM is ideal)
I live a riveting life, don’t I? :D
What does a day in your life look like? Anything like mine? More exciting? Less?
As part of a Work-in-Progress blog hop, I’ve been tagged by a brilliant writer named J. R. Frontera to post the first line of the first three chapters of my current work-in-progress, and then nominate four other bloggers to do the same. My story (working title Dusk) is about an understated high school boy, Scott, who has to stop a vampire from feeding off of his father before the man either winds up dead, or is turned into a vampire, too.
Scott Whitney held open Northam High school’s front doors for his girlfriend, thinking to himself that, if he hadn’t done anything else right in his fathers’ eyes, at least he had good manners and the decency to find a girl.
Rebecca was waiting for Scott by her car when he arrived at school the next day
After his promotion, his father started working late.