In response to that post about why women drink: Leave my booze alone

standard August 22, 2016 1 response

When I woke up this morning, because of my usual 3-hour West Coast delay, Facebook was already all atwitter about an article that was rapidly making the rounds.

The article, prominent enough that a friend who isn’t even on Facebook had texted it to me, is about the pervasiveness of booze in the world of women, as seen from the point of view of a woman who has been sober for a few months.

Many people who hadn’t read beyond the title were ranting that people could take their booze from their cold dead hands and what did people know anyway. Booze is Good.

Others, like me, took the time to read the rather lengthy and wordy piece and then gave it a bit of thought.

Let’s start with this:

The piece, while I believe is well intentioned, does come off as a tad judgey and a smidge moralistic. I’d like my ethanol chilled, please. It goes better with the guac.

It’s also fraught with some serious hyperbole, which I think is a shame, because it detracts from some interesting observations.

1) Life is HARD, yo.

Here’s the hard truth. Whether you are a woman trying to make it in what will almost surely always be a man’s world or a mom juggling the needs of children and family and home, life is fucking hard. Women aren’t ever treated as equals. We always have to work harder for less. We will never be given our just rewards.

2) Booze is society’s answer to all the hard.

If you spend any time at all online or in the real world, you’ll know this to be a fact.

Booze lubricates conversations and events. It soothes ruffled feathers. It heals all hurts. If you ever complain about anything or mention that anything is hard, people offer you wine. No matter what time it is.

People joke endlessly about booze. People talk about it. A lot.

wine meme

 

3) Women drink. Like a lot.

It’s not just a cliché. It’s a fact.

We drink for fun, we drink to relax, we drink to reward or comfort ourselves. It’s a societally acceptable way to do all that. So we do it.

I-Wish-I-Could-Trade-My-Heart-For-Another-Liver-So-I-Could-Drink-More-And-Care-Less-Funny-Drinking-Meme

Then let’s go here: 

Sadly, I don’t think this article went quite far enough. I think the author stopped after laying out a few observations coated liberally with judgement.

Here where I think the conversation could go after everyone reads this piece.

Let’s take an uncomfortable look at exactly why women drink. Beyond the fact that society constantly pushes us to do so.

Remember point 1? Life. Hard.

We are always ON. Always fighting. Always doing. Being the perfect employee, the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the good daughter-in-law, the nice neighbor, the good sibling, all comes at a huge cost to ourselves and our well-being.

Our most common options for “time off” is either to work out or drink. And, as the author of this piece points out, even the line between those two options gets at times blurred. (To wit: 10 Races for Wine Lovers.)

And just so we’re clear, working out, for most women, is not about having fun and blowing off steam. It’s about looking good, so we can meet society’s standards for what we “should” look like. (Not you, I know, you totally run because you love it. I know.)

Booze is the great equalizer. For an hour or two, glass in hand, we can relax and be our true selves. If we’re not acting as we “should” we can always blame the contents of the cup. Expectations are lowered. We can finally be real with no real judgement. (Unless we get raped. Because then it’s clearly because we had too much to drink. D’oy. Let’s get real here.)

Fact is, booze is quite handy when it comes to helping us cope with the challenge, ignore the little voices inside that whisper that nothing should be this hard. It also dulls the anger, the emotions. (Please note, my use of the word booze, instead of the more innocuous wine is intentional. The effects are the same. The sugar coating, not.)

Because as we all know, emotions and anger are the most terrifying things a woman can show. An angry woman is a woman who gets shit done. A woman to be reckoned with. No one wants women to get angry. Well, men don’t. Like ever. Bad things will happen. Or good, depending on the point of view. An angry woman is a shrew. An angry man? Well, he’s just got something bothering him, OK? Lay off, he’s had a hard day.

So instead of telling women it’s OK to feel strong emotions, that anger and fear and sorrow are just as valid and honorable as joy and enthusiasm, we all tell her to chill out and have a glass of something relaxing instead.

Fell down and skinned your knee? Here, this glass of wine will help.

Pissed you were ignored at your board meeting again? Have a cocktail, you’ll stop caring.

Husband being a jerk? Come over, we’ll have a drink or five and when you get home it’ll be water under the bridge.

The message is clear:

Don’t get mad. Get drunk.

Don’t get busy. Chill out with a glass or three.

Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and burn our bottle openers in righteous indignation. You will literally have to pry mine from my cold dead hand. I’m not saying that drinking is wrong, that we should all instantly stop and fight the patriarchy. I’m just saying, isn’t it fascinating how we all seem to be living in some Brave New World parallel universe?

Huh. Soma anyone?

soma

Tuck that away somewhere where deep thoughts go to stew.

And, while we’re at it, let’s also remember the part where we’re all genuinely so damn busy. So that we can find it in our hearts to have a little grace for ourselves and our fellow women. We can’t all change the world or even our lives. Sometimes we’re just in a tough place that needs to be endured, not fixed. Sometimes we really do have too much on our plate.

Let’s practice together. Grace. Not judgement.

The woman partying at the end of the pool might be caring with an ailing family member and only get one weekend a year to blow off steam.

The girl wasted at the office party might have just worked 7 straight weeks with no weekends.

The mom sneaking some wine at the back-to-school night assembly might have just folded an Everest sized mountain of laundry for a friend who just had a baby.

Self-righteousness doesn’t fix anything. Instead maybe we could all just bring a little self-awareness to the table. A moment to think “what is the purpose of this drink?” before we pour the glass. Not to shame ourselves, but just to keep tabs on whether we’re doing what we want rather than reacting to what we’re been told we should want. That seems like a good place to start, no?

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Fear hiding under fear

standard August 15, 2016 1 response

Over the summer we received some upsetting health news about a close family member. Until that moment I’d been fired up by the notion that, as soon as the kids went back to school, I’d be able to finally sit down and really think about what I wanted to do with my life, how I wanted my future to look, and what steps I could take to get there.

When the bad news fell, I instantly felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under me, robbing me of this chance to finally get my personal shit together.

It’s not the first time this has happened, so I launched instantly into what my therapist calls a “behavior pattern.”

Woe is me. The rug has been pulled out from under me. All options have been instantly wiped from the board. Why does life keep doing this to me? When will I ever get to be in control of my own damn life? I might as well give up now since I’ll clearly have no say in what my future holds.

She’s sweet, so she listened patiently. Nodded in all the right places. Made all the right sympathetic sounds. Then she sent me on my way with a comforting smile.

A week later, before I launched into a completely unrelated tangent, she very quietly mentioned that there was something she wanted to say in response to what I’d vented about the week before. She’s wily my therapist. When she says something quietly it’s usually extra important.

This time she had to repeat it a few times before I really heard her.

“I think you’re choosing to bury one fear under another.”

I blustered, brushed it off, tried to distract her with some Class-A posturing about how strong I am and how I can take it all, whatever.

So she repeated what she said.

“I think you’re choosing to bury one fear under another. I think you’re scared of failure or success and so you’re latching on to the fear that’s going to get you out of facing it.”

Bomb. Dropped.

When you’re so good at bullshitting that you even manage to bullshit yourself, it’s good to have a person who sees right through you.

Even if it sucks in that very moment.

Having made me squirm for a few minutes, she had the grace to let the conversation jump to a different topic, knowing full well that I’d keep noodling what she said long after we said our goodbyes.

She’s not wrong.

Part of me had been excited about the chance to figure out what’s next. But really part of me was downright terrified. So, when the medical news came, news which won’t, in all reality, alter my day to day life a whole lot, I didn’t just slide into my usual “behavior pattern” I dove head first into it with wild abandon.

So here’s today’s unvarnished truth.

I’m pushing myself out of my usual pattern and facing the cold, stark reality, that in fact, there’s nothing really stopping me from trying to figure out what’s next. Nothing other than my fear.

Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear that what I choose won’t be as fulfilling as I hope. Fear that I’m not enough. That I’ll never be enough. Fear that, just maybe, there isn’t something out there that will ever leave me feeling completely fulfilled. Fear that really this is all there is.

 

Fear, like dangling over the side of a building

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My truth

standard August 12, 2016 1 response

After hearing her speak on the Beautiful Writers Podcast, I bought Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, because I do that, buy books after I hear author’s speak, and then I popped it into the bathroom, because, let’s be honest, that’s what I do with 99% of the non-fiction books that I buy.

Having read a few chapters already, I have to say, this book might actually make it out of the bathroom. But let’s not hold our breath. Because non-fiction.

In any case, after reading the bit (at the very beginning) where Glennon explains how she came to the conclusion that her thing, her way she could give back and help, would be to speak her truth, her whole truth, so that others would hear her words and maybe no longer feel like they were alone, I thought “I do that! I speak my truth online too!”

Patted myself on the back. Smiled a little. And then my smile faltered as I realized… wait, maybe, just maybe I don’t speak my whole truth. Maybe I speak a sanitized version of my truth. Maybe I should grow a pair and try it the Glennon way, the whole unvarnished truth. The kind that resonates with people and helps them on their own journeys.

So I sat down and I opened my journal, because I’m a chickenshit and I had to see if maybe I had the guts to write my truth somewhere hidden before I could maybe share it here, this truth that has been sitting heavy in my gut for weeks now.

I have to say, it flowed easier than anticipated.

So here is my truth.

I am 40 years old and I don’t know who I am. 

I know I’m a mother, a sister, a daughter a friend.

I know I write, though I struggle with defining that part of myself. 

I know I love to watch TV and read stories. The more fantastic the better. 

I know I love to help people, to guide them and advise them. 

But, at the core, I genuinely don’t know who I am. 

I have no strong convictions, nothing I believe in passionately. 

I struggle with my weight, and have done so my whole life, but only because others have told me I should be concerned about being overweight. 

I am a rule follower because it has always been expected of me, not because I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do. 

I am 40 years old and I have always done what my family, my society, my community expects of me.

I am 40 years old and I don’t really know who I am. Nor do I have a clue about figuring it out.

 

This little block crafted by Robin Plemmons has sat on my desk for years. Maybe I should read it more often.

This little block crafted by Robin Plemmons has sat on my desk for years. Maybe I should read it more often.

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Not Bad Mom, just Trying My Best Mom

standard August 10, 2016 Leave a response

As it so often happens, I read, heard, or saw a number of things this week that have collided in my head in one big messy pile that took some time with a pen in hand to sort out.

The first was the movie Bad Moms, which I heartily recommend. I went in thinking that I’d get a few good laughs and a fun afternoon out with some girlfriends. I came out with my head spinning with a mix of killer one liners and soul stirring feelings.

You see, without giving away any huge plot twists, the whole movie is about that endless struggles that moms face, dealing with societal pressure to be the “perfect” mom all while desperately trying to hold on to who we really are.

Bad Moms

Come now, you know all about struggling to be the perfect mom. But how about we admit that, between the picture perfect parenting displayed on Pinterest and the endless Fakebooking that everyone is guilty of to some extent, the perfect parenting bar is set impossibly high.

The worst part is that we’re somehow tricked into feeling like we can’t ever stop trying to achieve perfection, that the day we rest on our laurels even for a minute everything will be stripped from us.

The race to perfection starts as soon as you first discover you’re expecting and the “shoulds” start pouring in. Except they’re not couched as “shoulds” they’re couched as “if you love your baby you wills.” Which is like a million times worse.

If you love your baby you’ll take these horse pill vitamins. 

If you love your baby you’ll stop eating sushi, drinking coffee, taking hot showers, sleeping on your back or on your stomach.

If you love your baby you’ll spend a gajillion dollars on this crib, this stroller, this booster seat, this electrical outlet cover. 

If you love your baby you’ll quit your job/keep your job; switch to all organic; stop eating dairy; nurse until he’s 15; only dress her in sustainably grown organic cotton. 

The “suggestions” never end.

And of course we love our babies, so of course we want to do everything that is suggested. Because what do we know? We were just handed a squalling bundle and these “helpful suggestions” are the only damn manual that exists. (Don’t even get me started on the What to Expect series. Just don’t.)

The thing is, the suggestions don’t EVER end. Your kid just gets bigger and the stakes, so it seems, just get higher.

You go from buying bottles that perfectly simulate a mother’s breast to one day finding yourself pulling up at school, dropping your perfectly dressed kid off, hoping no one notices that their carefully homemade lunch isn’t 100% organic, or that you used the cheap detergent on their clothes.

Or, if you’re like me, you gave up the pretense way back when they were tiny and you realized that you simply couldn’t keep up and stay sane, so you just drop your Target clad kids off at school with their processed lunch and try not to judge yourself as harshly as you assume others are doing.

You’d think that the pressure lessens a bit when the school years start, that you have a little more time to to process everything and make your own decisions, but those are the years when you are simply expected to do more. Volunteer. Work. Exercise. Homework. After-school activities.

It. Never. Ends.

So, by now, for almost a decade, your entire life has been about doing everything “right” according to a code that has been created by a nebulous collective. You have spent countless days watching what everyone around you is doing to make sure you’re meeting this code’s standards.

So when you start freaking out about turning 40 and everyone around you says “The 40’s are amazing, that’s when you stop caring what others think!” your brain literally stutters to a stop.

A childhood of attempting to meet parental expectations. 

A teenagehood of attempting to meet peer expectations. 

A young adulthood of trying to meet first boss expectations. 

A young parenthood of trying to meet societal expectations.

And now we get to be ourselves?

How, pray tell, are we supposed to know who that is?

I’ve been grappling with that all summer long.

Then, yesterday, while I was walking the dog, I was listening to the Beautiful Writers Podcast and heard I either Glennon Doyle Melton or Martha Beck (can’t remember which, sorry) saying something along the lines of

“Women define themselves by the people they love — wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter — which is why we’re always terrified, because at any moment the very things that define us can be torn away from us, leaving us stripped of our identities.”

So, yeah, there’s that too.

So, in short, we define our identities by the people we love and determine our actions by what we assume people think we should be doing.

No wonder women are always stressed.

We need to stop. Like today. Not embrace the Bad Mom movement, just the Real Mom Doing Her Damn Best to Be Herself While Caring for Her Family movement. Because we’re more than bento box lunches shaped to look like Spongebob Squarepants or whatever else we’ve decided our kids can’t live without.

So here’s to remembering that we are people outside of the people we love, and that the people we love love us for who we are, not for what we do.  Because we’re freaking awesome just the way we are.

Cheers

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