Pantsuit Nation Restored My Hope at the 11th Hour

standard November 8, 2016 Leave a response

I just spent a pathetic amount of time trying to find a photo I took of Little L on election night in 2008. It’s lost somewhere on a thumb drive or a USB card, or maybe the laptop I was using back then. The fact that it’s not stored in my Facebook memories probably says more about how much my world has changed since then than anything else, but I digress.

In the photo she’s sitting in her highchair wearing not much other than a diaper. The tray in front of her shows the remains of the pitiful dinner I managed to pull together for her while keeping my eyes glued to the election Twitter feed. Olive slices and cupcakes. That’s it. That’s what my delighted toddler ate on election night 2008. There is no record of what her 3 year old sister had for dinner that night.

It was an amazing night. One full of hope and excitement. I couldn’t take my eyes off the giddy frenzy that was Twitter. It was all just such a high.

The last year has felt like the opposite of that high and I’ve often looked back at all the tragic events that have sucked the hope right out of the air and the vitriol that has filled it instead and wondered where it all went wrong.

Where did the love go? The hope? The camaraderie and support?

So much hate. So much anger instead.

It’s enough to make a person want to lock their doors and hide forever.

Even Twitter, so full of bubbling joy that night, has become a cesspool of muck.

Then yesterday I joined a top-secret-not-so-secret Facebook group titled Pantsuit Nation.

I was sick and tired of the increasingly desperate Facebook posts of people pleading 3rd party voters to not throw away their vote. Exhausted by reading the same rhetoric again and again. And lured by the hints of hope I was seeing from people who had joined the secret group.

I waded in with zero expectations and was gobsmacked into feeling hopeful again.

It’s not a group for convincing fence sitters or staunch opponents, it’s just a group of people celebrating Hillary.

No, no, not a “rah rah, ain’t she great!”, kinda place, just story after story about why people are voting for her.

Intensely personal stories about late term abortions, immigration, daughters and sons. About elderly parents who are voting for the first time. About terminally ill people holding on so they can see history made. Stories about triumphant love and healthcare. About beating odds that didn’t even exist 8 years ago.

It is a place of hope and love, of support and encouragement.

It is proof that all the goodwill hasn’t been sucked out of America.

Proof that lies in the fact that, as of this morning, 2.5 million people have joined the group and the comments aren’t angry, aren’t mean or demeaning.

That’s worth repeating. The comments aren’t angry, mean, or demeaning.

This morning in the Pantsuit Nation group I saw a photo of a man standing in line to vote, wearing the most amazing pair of red patent leather high heels. And the thousands of comments were all positive.

All. Positive. 

For a man who is so hopeful to cast a vote that might mean he can truly be himself, that he wore red high heels to vote.

I don’t know what tonight’s election results will bring. I’m crossing all of my fingers and toes that the nation turns out to vote in favor of love and not hate, but no matter what happens, I’m going to forever hold those red shoes in my heart.

Over the last few years, we’ve been showing our really gruesome underbelly. Hate. Racism. Sexism. Xenophobia. I don’t believe that these are new, I just believe that people have kept them hidden deep in dark closets and basements.

Maybe, just maybe, Pantsuit Nation is proof that what was really happening is the first step to the great clean-up. When it’s time to tackle that closet no one dares open or talk about, you first have to take everything out, lay it out, and start sorting.

We’ve laid it all out. I finally have hope that what comes next will be beautiful.

That baby who is no longer a baby covered in olive juice and frosting deserves to grow up in a world where people are loved for who they are instead of being reviled for being different.

No matter who wins tonight, I take heart in the fact that at least 2.5 million others feel the way I do. Because in the end, it’s proof that humanity hasn’t yet lost.

Pantsuit Nation

 

The woman I’ll become

standard October 28, 2016 Leave a response

I have this vision of myself, later at some indistinct time in my future, in a house with a yard. It’s a cozy house with lots of snug areas to sit, with a warm comforting kitchen that is more welcoming than functional.

The me that I imagine I’ll be then isn’t lithe, nor is she overweight, she’s an indistinct somewhere in between. She’s somewhat inspired by the maternal figure in Trixie Belden, or at least as I remember her, portly, busy baking pies and cooking for anyone who might be over, and also by other literary figures who have charmed me over the years.

The thing about this me of the future is that she’s secure in the knowledge that people love her exactly for who she is and how she makes them feel, and not because she’s dressed in a particular style, or looks a particular way. She’s just very comfortable being herself.

She putters. She wears flowy colorful clothing clearly designed for comfort and not for looks. She brews tea at all hours of the day. She hand-writes quotes and hangs them all over the place. She has notebooks stashed everywhere in case inspiration strikes.

She’s always ready to have people drop by for a treat, a cup of something warm to drink, a chat in the yard or in the cozy kitchen.

She’s got advice if it’s wanted and an ear if it’s needed.

I like to think that she’s a safe haven because she’s so secure in her acceptance of herself as she is.

Occasionally I see glimpses of this me I hope to someday become.

The handwritten notes are already populating my office walls. The tea is already a fixture.

wall-notes

It’s the rest that still eludes me. That feeling that I could wear anything that makes my soul feel at peace and not worry about what others might think or say.

Once in a while I spot an item and think, “I need that. I must have that. Because one day that’s who I’ll be.” Usually I demure. And sometimes I don’t.

Which is how I ended up ordering the one piece romper jumper thing that everyone was talking about one day on Facebook. It’s utterly ridiculous, and yet my soul cried out for it and my wallet didn’t balk at the $14 price tag.

The package arrived and sat untouched for over a month. I couldn’t bring myself to face the ridicule, knowing how much I would love having it on.

The other day, I finally found the courage to try it on. I swooshed around the house, loving the feel of the fabric flowing around my legs, relishing the utter freedom of the endless comforting material.

Then I saw my daughter’s face, half smiling/half afraid that her nutty mother might actually wear this thing out in public, and I changed out of my romper and tucked it away.

It’s ok. I get it, I really do. And I’m not entirely ready to be that person anyway.

So, for now, I’m happy to let it sit there, in my closet, waiting for the day that I’ll finally be that person whose self-assurance shines through so brightly that what she drapes over her body isn’t what people will see first.

And maybe on quiet days, it’ll come out to play.

In the meantime, I’ll smile at the knowledge that I’m not the only one who bought the romper while it was on sale. The Facebook frenzy about it is enough to tell me that I’m not the only one who dreams of one day being that self-assured woman.

I look forward to sharing a cup of tea with them in the not so distant future.

****

Please note, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that the links above include my Amazon affiliate link. Should you click on them and purchase something like maybe a book to treat your inner child or a romper to tempt your future self, I’ll earn a teensy tiny portion of the sale and I will be endlessly grateful.

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?

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