Monday, October 16, 2017

Me Too

There’s a viral social media thing happening right now in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal

Women are posting, “Me Too,” and/or #metoo, with a request that other women who have suffered sexual harassment and/or sexual assault also post “Me Too,” in order to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Sometimes the “Me Too” is accompanied by a brief description of something that happened to them. 

But I think that women, at least, already understand the magnitude:  It’s all of us and it’s for a lifetime. 

In fact, my default assumption about other adult women in America is that they, like me, have been sexually harassed and/or assaulted multiple times in their lives in small and, sadly, sometimes very large ways.

I am fairly certain that there are other women reading this blog who will have experienced some of the following, a sampling of moments from my own life:

  • Someone has, uninvited, grabbed her breasts from behind.
  • Someone has catcalled her to “compliment” her looks.
  •  Someone has catcalled (anti-catcalled?) her to tell her that she is fat.
  • Someone in the workplace has mistaken her role for a more traditionally female role.  (In my case, I was wheeling my litigation bag into court and someone assumed I was a paralegal lugging a lawyer’s stuff for him. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a paralegal, of course. I couldn’t do my job without them. But I don’t think the assumption would have been made were I male.)
  • The prelaw advisor at her undergrad tried to discourage her from applying to law school, suggesting paralegal school instead. 
  • An older male someone in the workplace has pejoratively asked her age when she challenged his argument. 
  • A male someone has repeatedly  interrupted and/or talked over her during a meeting.
  • Conversely, such a someone has complained that he cannot hear her voice because it’s too soft when no one else seemed to have a problem hearing her. (This happened to me less than a month ago.)
  • Someone in the workplace has suggested that she is being argumentative (which is kind of my job, by the way) because of PMS or “that time of the month.”
  • A stranger on the street has told her to smile.
  • A stranger at a nightclub has danced up behind her, grinding their pelvis into her backside.
  • Someone she knows has forcibly kissed her.
  • Someone she knows has sent to her an unsolicited naked picture of their private parts. (Yes, that really happened, and pre-digital age.)

These examples span decades.  So, no, it doesn’t happen every day.  It doesn’t even happen every week or month. (Though it did happen more frequently when I was young....)  I fully expect to at least occasionally experience more of the similar for the rest of my life.

These things or things like these things (or worse than these things) have happened to all of us.  They are of varying degrees of severity, but these kinds of affronts and/or assaults are part of the landscape of a woman’s world. 

Not just the slutty ones.

Not just the dumb ones.

Not just the ones who wear short skirts and drink too much.

Not just the ones in Hollywood.

Not just the weak-minded ones. 

Not just the traditionally pretty ones.

Not just the young, naive ones.

Not just the ones who are “angry feminists.”

All of us.

And it begins early. I remember getting my first catcall at age 12. Freaking 12 years old, people.

So if it’s all women, why don’t we call it out all the time, or more often? It’s because the “lesser than” status and the “there to please me” status of women is baked into our culture.  You complain?  People tell you to lighten up. It was just a joke, just a kiss, just a sarcastic comment. “I didn’t mean any harm.  I’m sorry if I offended you.”  Maybe they call you a bitch. 

So this brings me to another default assumption I have developed as I have lived my female life in America:  Complaints often go unheard, even, sometimes, by other women. We don’t protest or speak out when these things happen because we don’t want to be shamed as sluts, derailed in our careers, put off or disbelieved.  Sometimes, when it happens we may be so shocked that it happened (or frightened by it) that we don’t speak up because we have, in our own surprise and disbelief, lost the ability to speak up.  Sometimes, we don’t speak up because we just want to forget the humiliation and get back to business.

Besides, until a crowd of famous women start making a stink, no one believed them either. Who would believe the word of a solitary nobody?

Finally, a point I want to emphasize:  It’s not ALL men. I know many wonderful, respectful, enlightened men of all generations. But it’s ENOUGH men to make women like me a tad wary — trust less, be afraid of the night, question motives — by default.

And doesn’t that just suck for all of us?

So how does it all change?

How does participating in #metoo to show the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault improve things?

My friends, it goes back to the “wives and daughters” thing from the lead up to the 2016 election. I wrote about it here.  Though people complained at the time that you shouldn’t have to have a female loved one in order to have sympathy or to be outraged by sexual assault or harassment, that’s exactly what #metoo is getting at. It’s trying to show that everyone has loved ones who have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault. Right? It’s showing that it’s all of us.  All the wives and all the daughters and all the sisters and all the mothers....  Yours, mine, all of ours. 

And if that realization takes hold in the hearts and minds of all whom #metoo wishes to convince, maybe the future wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers will have fewer sad defaults (like mine) that shape how they view and move through the world.

So, yep, me too. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Excuse me while I geek out about Star Wars for a moment

First, for those uninitiated into Star Wars culture, there’s something known as the Expanded Universe. The Expanded Universe grew up in (more or less) the late 80s/early 90s,during the void between the first (or “second”) trilogy — the Luke Trilogy, I like to call it — and the second (or “first”) trilogy, the Anakin Trilogy.  The Expanded Universe existed in the form of novels, comics, games, etc. It followed the families of the movie characters we know and added new characters, storylines, aspects of the Force, types of Force users. It expanded the Star Wars universe. (See?)

The Expanded Universe persisted after the Anakin Trilogy until Disney acquired Lucasfilm. With that acquisition, the Expanded Universe became “Legends,” and only the movies, certain cartoons, and certain print media were deemed Star Wars Canon. (Personally, I loathe the use of a word like canon to describe Star Wars, like its a religion, but I didn’t make up the lingo, so I’m stuck with it and shall use it.)

I never took of the Expanded Universe. But I was aware of it, vaguely.  In the Disney landscape of Canon and Legends, only Canon is real and relevant to the storyworld. Except...except that Disney keeps reintroducing aspects of Legends (the former Expanded Universe) into Canon. Click here for examples.  So Legends/the Expanded Universe remains relevant in the Disney Star Wars era when theorizing what might happen next in the movies (and cartoon and print media). 

Still with me?  Good. (Honestly, I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t. That explanation was tedious. Tedious but necessary, I think.)

Now that we’ve been through all that, I present to you, in bullet point format, my theory about the Kylo/Rey Trilogy, inspired by the most recent trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, season 3 of the Star Wars Rebels cartoon, the Clone Wars cartoon, and my tenuous knowledge of the Expanded Universe/Legends. 

  • There were folks called Gray (or Grey) Jedi in the Expanded Universe.  They drew from both sides of the Force, but fell to neither. (Except for when they did, but never mind that for now.) They were neither light nor dark. They were balanced. 
  • Anakin Skywalker was The Chosen One who would bring balance to the Force.
  • In the Clone Wars cartoon there was a planet called Mortis, a supernatural world, the source of the Force, if you will, where dwelt The Father, The Daughter, and The Son. The Daughter was Light. The Son was Dark. The Father remained in the middle, balancing the Force. 
  • In Star Wars Rebels, season 3, there’s a character called The Bendu. The Bendu is a force sensitive creature who describes himself thusly:  “Jedi and Sith wield the Ashla and Bogan. The light and the dark. I'm the one in the middle. The Bendu.”  He’s in the middle, like The Father. He’s balanced. 
  • In the finale of Star Wars Rebels season 3, The Bendu uses the Force. When he does this, stones rise from the ground and begin to swirl around him. He’s scary-powerful and he shows everyone just how powerful (and terrifying) he is in this episode. 
  • In the most recent trailer for The Last Jedi, Rey meditates, in touch with the Force, and rocks float, the ground cracks...like The Bendu.
  • This frightens Luke. And he’s seen it before.  He says he wasn’t afraid of it then and he should have been afraid, and that’s why he fears it in Rey. (Assumption:  Luke saw that before with Kylo Ren/Ben Solo when he was Luke’s student.)
  • In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren tries in many ways — including patricide — to suppress his light side so that he can become like Darth Vader, fully Sith. (But, query, was Vader fully Sith?) It’s a struggle for Kylo Ren. We see, I think, a continuation of this struggle in the most recent trailer for The Last Jedi.  Neither light nor dark appear suit him. 
  • Also, in the most recent trailer for The Last Jedi, Rey says that she needs someone to show her her place in “all this.” The next scene is Kylo Ren offering his hand to someone. The trailer wants us to think it’s Rey he’s offering his hand to and that she’s asked him for guidance. It’s equally plausible that she’s talking to Luke, though. What’s clear is that she’s confused as to where she belongs. Maybe neither light nor dark suit her either.
  • Maybe Rey and Kylo Ren do join forces in the Force.
  • Maybe Rey and Kylo Ren become Gray Jedi. Neither light nor dark.
  • Maybe they are the ones in the middle, fulfilling their grandfather’s (assumption about Rey) legacy to bring balance to the Force. 

Thank you for your patience.  I really needed to get that out somewhere. Now back to our regularly scheduled momming. 

  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

That Day I Lost My Shit Before A Hearing

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. that morning, and had not been able to get back to sleep. It wasn't from anxiety that I woke up, even though I had a big, important hearing later that morning -- a hearing that touched on national policy issues, a hearing that our executive office in DC was interested in, a hearing I'd better not screw up.  Okay, maybe a little anxiety was at play . . . But mainly, I think, I woke up from being 47 and from experiencing that phase of life that being 47 begins to introduce you to -- the one with temperature issues, lack of sleep, and a higher risk of heart attack. (Lo, do I loathe to blame something on hormones -- because that's so lame, and it feels anti-feminist. But insomnia is one of the symptoms too, for the condition that afflicts women "of a certain age.")

Anyway, I woke up WAY too early on a day when I really needed to sleep, and I suffered for it. 

The day before the day of the big, important hearing had been a tough day too.  This big, important hearing was not happening on its original setting. It was happening two weeks later than originally scheduled.  And, long before, I'd arranged my schedule so that other important (but maybe not quite so big) matters, would occur a couple of weeks after the big, important hearing. With other matters deferred to after the big, important hearing I would be able to focus exclusively on the big, important hearing.  And then I could focus on these other important, but not quite so big, things after the big, important hearing had concluded.  That way they wouldn't compete.  See?  Planning ahead.  That's what a good lawyer does. 

But then the big, important hearing got moved right on top of all the other important matter that I also needed to handle, and that I'd carefully scheduled to avoid the big, important hearing.

So, you know, shit. 

And I don't have help. I don't have associates I can shove things off on. I share a paralegal with five other lawyers. I do not have a secretary. We are lean at the government law office (despite the generalized complaints in the wider world of government waste).

Anyway, the day before the day of the big, important hearing was trying for two reasons:

First, I had all the other important stuff I had to cram into that day because I would not have time the rest of the week (or at least the next two days, as previously supposed) because of the resetting of the big, important hearing.

Second, the exhibits of my main opponent were not delivered to me in a manner in which I can access them.  (They were delivered via a website link, which my office IT policy forbids me to access.) The link was sent on Friday night.  On Monday morning (the day before the day of the big, important hearing), I saw the email with the link I was forbidden to click. I immediately  informed my opponent of this problem.

One lawyer on that vast team of attorneys on the other side told a paralegal (via email copied to me) to have hard copies delivered to me.  Perfect. Hooray!  Another lawyer at the same firm emailed me about setting up a call or emailing them. But I didn't need that, I needed the exhibits to read them and decided if I was okay with them.  And lawyer the first was having them delivered. I had also informed opposing that I would have to leave at 3:30 for an appointment with my son.

So, I waited for the hard copies while I worked on my other cases. The binders didn't arrive before I had to leave.  I sort of expected this:  their exhibit list was vast. 

So I left at 3:30 p.m. as planned, thinking, "Oh well, they'll be delivered in the late afternoon and I'll just get in early tomorrow to look at them right before the hearing."

Except they weren't delivered. 

When I arrived at the office, I had nothing.  I was not happy. 

In retrospect, I see that there was a miscommunication within the the big firm -- as between the two lawyers communicating with me about the exhibits -- regarding delivery of exhibits to me in a form I am permitted to accept. That can happen. And maybe I should have confirmed before I left the office that the notebooks would be delivered by X time. (Still, it's the responsibility of the party offering exhibits to get them exchanged, not mine to demand them be delivered. Just last week I had emailed exhibits and the email bounced back so I had to hustle and get paper copies in the snail mail so that they would be timely delivered.)

So, already exhausted at the beginning of what was sure to be a long, tedious, and mentally taxing day, I was not in a frame of mind to be magnanimous and understanding. And neither was my boss, who directed me to request a continuance before the big, important hearing started based upon the failure to exchange exhibits.

So, yeah.  No pressure.

And then I entered the courtroom.

 (Here's where I lost my shit.)

The younger of the two lawyers I had communicated with regarding exhibits started trying to explain. I was not interested in explanations. I raised my voice. I said vaguely angry and frustrated things. (Inside, I uncharitably thought, "You young, single, nonparent at a big firm with a large staff, you can't possibly fathom the pressures I am under," or thoughts to that effect.)  Then I dragged the other, older (which is to say, he is my age) lawyer I'd communicated with about exhibits into it. (The my-age lawyer, incidentally, is someone I have known since law school and a Facebook friend -- so very likely to read this. Hi! 😊)

The courtroom fell silent. All eyes (it seemed to me anyway) turned to me in my pique. Still agitated, I told the younger lawyer we'd just talk to the judge about it and, inwardly mortified at having made a scene, I made my way to my seat (stacked high with four binders -- my exhibits for the hearing delivered at last).

A colleague, a friend who was a fellow young associate at my old law firm (and his old firm too), made his way to me and asked if I was okay. 

"I've been better," I said, exasperatedly. And then I told him that it'll all be okay because, in the end, none of this is personal. It's just our jobs. At the end of the day, I said, we will finish our work and no matter what happens in that big, important hearing, we will remain beautiful children of God, if you believe in God, and good humans, if you don't. 

I was calming down. I'd regained perspective, the perspective I always seek to hold in my head with this job:  that this is merely my job. It's not me. It's but one side of a multifaceted life that includes family, friends, puzzles, books, games, occasional crafts, photography, long walks in the fresh air, music, writing, fabulous shoes, and so many other beautiful things. This job, so full of so many conflicts and frustrations, is not personal.

And then another lawyer friend said she couldn't wait to read the blog entry on this. "When do I have time?" I said. But then I thought, yeah, perhaps I do have time. Perhaps I needed to be reminded that this occasional writing thing, this public diary, is good for my soul. So, thank you, friend. 

At a break in the hearing, I gave the two lawyers I'd barked at hugs and we all said we're sorry. We're all still friends. I'm glad they don't think it's personal either.

So what did I learn here?  Maybe nothing. Maybe that I should confirm that a delivery I am expecting is actually on its way. Maybe don't schedule anything within a month after the scheduled date of a big, important hearing. Maybe take deep cleansing breaths before I enter a courtroom when am out of sorts. Maybe those things. Yeah. Maybe just that no matter what happens, it'll be okay. 

(By the way, in case you're wondering: continuance not granted. But I got extra latitude with the exhibits.)


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Colorblind




I have been blind.

I have been self-deceived. 

I have been ignorant.

Let me explain. Or try to . . . . 

I grew up in the immediate post-segregation era of the South/Southwest.

And I remember a few racial conflicts at school, but not that many, really. It was never so on-the-surface as TV and movies make it seem.

But I also remember people saying "the N word" to describe black people, people of African ancestry . . . and the "sand-N-word" to describe people of Arab or Indian descent, and other slurs to describe Asian and Hispanic people.

I remember it coming as a shock to hear it, even then, when segregation was less than a generation in the past.

But I do remember it being said -- when everyone in the room was pale.

Sometimes, I think kids said it just to be provocative.

Sometimes, I think kids said it to try it out like you'd try out a curse word.

Sometimes, I think they were copying what they'd heard grown-ups say.

Even so, these word weren't uttered very often, but I heard them.

And they stung my ears.

But I didn't say anything.

Standing up for what is right is hard to do.

It's even harder for a kid.

You want to be liked by everybody, even the assholes. And it's hard to comprehend, when you are young, that sometimes that's not possible, to be liked by everybody. You think you can thread the needle. Maybe just be silent and the bad stuff will go away and we'll all be happy.

So I was silent.

I got, maybe, a little more outspoken as I got older -- once, I took on a college friend on the topic of race. Once.  But mostly I still stayed silent, hoping the bad stuff would go away.

College, law school, career, marriage, parenthood: I was exposed to more people, more cultures, more points of view. . . .

And it seemed like the bad stuff did go away. 

At least, I didn't see it in my world anymore. Not even in secret when everyone was pale . . . .

With age, with wisdom, with experience, and with the ugly reality of racism staring me in the face, I understand, now, that I do not understand.  I do not understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of a person of color.

And I have not realized what a bubble I have chosen to live in, either, having excised the bad stuff from my orbit.
But, slowly, slowly, I have begun to recognize the subtle privilege that having pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes gives to me.

What do I mean?  I mean that people never assume I'm a threat. I'm a white middle aged woman. When I walk into a convenience store, no one assumes I might be there to rob it.  No one follows me with their eyes as I peruse the aisles.  I am essentially alone in there.  And in daily life, no one assumes I might not be that smart, or that I might be lying, or that I might be lazy simply because of the color of my skin.

So, disgusted and disturbed by this realization (that my skin color gives me a silent, constant advantage), I quite subconsciously decided at some point in my adulthood to sort of triple down on my notion that skin color doesn't matter, that skin color is utterly unimportant to a person's value as a human.

Towards this end, I began to remove the words "black" and "white" from my vocabulary, at least when describing other humans.

I've even avoided using those terms with my son. We tend not to talk about people's race first, and maybe not at all, except as an incidental interesting fact among many items that make up a person.

But . . . .

Recently, news and events in the world force the issue of race even into the consciousness of a white, male suburban child . . . And confuse him.

Now, now, I see that my utter avoidance of the topic of race in an effort to minimize its importance is a mistake. This is wrong thinking.

I mean, I do believe that one's skin color doesn't define one's worth.  That's not wrong thinking.

But I failed to realize that my willful colorblindness is, itself, part of the white privilege I abhor.

What I didn't understand until very recently is that a person's skin color does matter when the person may be instantly judged by some people -- by many people? -- based upon the shade of their skin.  A person who may be scrutinized in large and small ways because of the color of her skin cannot choose to be colorblind like me.

I don't mean to say that I think people of color are always overtly discriminated against the way they were 50 or 60 years ago.

But color, or the subtext of color, is always there. Unlike me, people of color can't just decide race doesn't matter and choose to ignore it. Race, on some level, always matters.

My wrong-thinking hit me in the face one day when my husband and I were talking about white supremacists (a sad topic of recent news) and my white son asked me if we were white.

Yes, really.

I'd been so meticulous in avoiding the topic of race that I had created this confusion for my little man. Even in my response to his question I couldn't release my discomfort with being a white person in a society where racism still exists.

I said, "That's what people call pale people like us, yes."

My discomfort with even calling my white self and my white son white is a problem.  Yes, it shows my extreme discomfort with the white privilege that I do have. I don't want it, but I do have it, whether I acknowledge and accept it or not.

My attempts to reject it by refusing to call white people white and black people black, inadvertently sweeps the issue under the rug:  If you fail to acknowledge that a problem exists, you cannot fix the problem.

While my colorblind attitude does teach my son not to see race as a proxy for human worth, it doesn't teach him that other people do use race as a proxy for human worth.  It does not teach him that such prejudice is or can be a barrier for people of color.  And, even though we did not create the problem of racism, people like him and me need to rally against it.  Sometimes, even though you didn't make the mess, you still have to help clean up the mess.

He needs to understand that, to some people, the color of our skin means something.  To some people, being pale with blue eyes is better than being brown with brown eyes.  And he needs to understand that people who think that way are wrong.  But, finally, he needs to know racism is out there . . . still.  I can't and I shouldn't protect him from the knowledge that racism exists. 

 It's a hard thing to teach: that race doesn't matter, except when it does.  One thing I realize now: you damned sure can't teach it while remaining colorblind. To teach how to resist racism, you have to allow that race and racism exist.

I see, now, that I need to ensure that he understands that it is out there because one day one of his friends who is not Caucasian may face a racist comment.

One day, one of his friends may be scrutinized while buying a coke at a convenience store for no reason other than his or her skin color.

One day, he might find himself in a room full of other white kids and someone may say a racial slur.

And I want him to feel the courage to do what I didn't do as a kid. I want him to have the courage, the strength, and the conviction to say, "That's not right."
It's not enough not to be racist. We must be ready to confront racism when we see it. 

So the bad stuff didn't go away, like I'd thought, like I'd hoped. I hid from it.  And this may be the most jarring and unsettling revelation for me: the world I live in is far, far uglier than I thought.

I will try to make it better, starting here. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

In Defense of Wives, Daughters, Sisters and Mothers and the Men Who Love Them

I wrote this before the November 2016 election. But the time, the election, the subject matter, was so fraught, I didn't publish it. Now, nine months-ish later, I think I can handle putting it out there. Cheers! -- The Working Mom

--------------------

I think it's pretty clear to anyone who reads this blog that I'm sort of left-leaning, a left-leaning centrist.  "Rockefeller Republican" might even describe me well, if they were still a thing. So, as it turns out, I find, as the culture has shifted, I've become a flaming liberal...for Texas.

Part of that liberality comes, too, from my age and my feminism. As I've aged and experienced the world as a woman, my views of women's rights and dignity have become more defined. Behaviors the 20-something me didn't believe exist anymore, became clearer to me as I aged through my 30s and into my 40s. I mean, honestly, would you have believed that a male attorney, my opposing counsel, would have suggested in court, on the record, that the only reason I was objecting was PMS.  (FOR REAL.) And it happened to me within the last five years. (Thank God, that the gay, male, Navy vet judge I was appearing before had a sense of what it feels to be the other:  he rained down on that guy swiftly and with blistering fury.)

So...in re feminism and the role and treatment of women in our society, during the 2016 Presidential race:  It was revealed that one of the candidates had said (and allegedly done) vile, sexist, objectifying, and assaultive things about (and/or to) various women at various times in various places. 

Many men, mainly conservative men, rightly denounced this behavior and these words. And many of those men referenced their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers in their denouncements. These men would not want the women they love to be treated this way, they said, and therefore, they concluded, no woman should be treated this way. 

Many people on the left criticized this "defense" of women as patronizing. You should denounce this sort of talk and these sorts of actions because you are a decent human being, not because you have female relatives that you love.

And that's true. It's totally and completely true. 

It also totally misses an important principal about humans:  If you've got a loved one who is a member of a group who is discriminated against, you are more likely to support that group. There's ample evidence of this regarding gay rights. We may not like that the motivation for supporting gay rights for some people is largely selfish:  they want their loved one treated well. But we cannot deny that, in another time not so long ago, the homosexual relative would have likely been outright shunned or shoved into the closet by their own relatives, not celebrated and loved for who they are. 

The same is true of women. There was a time not so long ago that women who were on the receiving end of sexist talk and assaultive behavior would have been seen as sluts. And there was a "this wouldn't happen to my wife/daughter/sister/mother" attitude.  The women that these things happen to are the other. The framing of the condemnation of these words and these acts as a defense of certain conservative men's wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers represents a profound shift in thinking.  These men, who 40 or 50 years ago wouldn't recognize that their female loved ones could become victims of sexist language, sexual discrimination or sexual assault, now understand that all women, not just those other women over there, are potentially targets of this vile behavior. 

And that's a major cultural shift that we need to recognize. Yes, it would be better if the condemnation were born of pure humanity, untinged by the self-interest of not wanting to see one's female relatives victimized. But we feminists have to acknowledge that the almost en masse realization that all women may find themselves victims of sexual discrimination and assault, not just those dirty women over there, is an important cultural shift in the way women are considered in our society.

In other words, we feminists, we left-leaners, we Rockefeller Republicans, need to cut these conservative guys some slack. Forty years ago, they would -- likely -- be blaming the women for what was said and/or done to them, never dreaming that women in their own families could suffer the same abuse. That they see that it could happen to all women, even the women they love, is a step forward for women's rights.  Sure, it's baby steps, but it's baby steps in the right direction. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Evolution of Ladies Fashion

I am 46 years old.

And I love Talbots. (It's not the only place I shop, mind, but I love the store.)

I remember, tenish years ago, when female colleagues of mine, 40-somethings then, would talk about shopping at Talbots.

I would silently, secretly feel confused and a little judgy . . . For the clothes at Talbots were "old lady" clothes.  Those clothes were not for me.

I was young!  Thirty-six!  No, I shopped at Ann Taylor!  I shopped at Banana Republic!

But I realize something, now.

I understand.

Fashion, like our bodies, evolves. 

When people my age were 20-somethings, we shopped at The Gap, we shopped at Old Navy . . . The Limited was big when I was a young adult. (Remember The Limited?  Does The Limited still exist?  I don't go to malls.)

Anyway, I think the youngsters shop at places like Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale.  But what do I know about these kids?  I'm 46: more than half-90, four years short of my AARP card.

Anyway, it hardly matters where they shop or what they wear because, in your 20s, with your amazing bod (though you revile it, sadly), you can wear pretty much anything and get away with it.

That's why Units were so popular back in the day:  "Hey, girl!  Here's a sack and a belt. Ta-daaaaa!  You look fab. Now, put on some Keds and go get a spiral perm."

As we age and we gain and lose and shift weight around, what worked at one age, just doesn't anymore.

So I love Talbots . . . for their slightly higher waistlines, their slightly more generous cut through the hip and thigh, their whimsical sweaters with birds an monkeys and hedgehogs on them, their A-Line skirts. Sure, maybe the vanity sizing there is a little out of control (Only in the Talbots universe would I be a size 6 in jeans...even curvy cut jeans.), but the clothes fit me and they look good. That's the most important thing.  

And so that's why I'm glad that Talbots and its "old lady" clothes exists.

Although, of course, now I know that these are not old lady clothes.

These are middle aged lady clothes . . . until my AARP card arrives

P.S. Who other than Silicon Valley millionaires retires at age 50?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My Child is Not an Asshole. You are.

I like the parenting community, Scary Mommy. Amusing anecdotes and observations therein lie.

But this one story keeps popping up there that grates every time I see it:


The gist:  Self-important adult, and fellow parent, observes the interactions of parents and young child in public, and judges the behavior of the child by adult standards. As a fun bonus, said adult, based upon the scant evidence gleaned from this brief interaction, blames the parents' lax/neglectful/indulgent parenting for the kid's poor and/or demanding behavior. 

And, finally, said same adult excuses herself by noting in an off-hand way that her kid is, of course, far from perfect...with the subtext that "at least my kid isn't as bad as that kid . . . and at least I'm a way better parent than those jokers."  A paragon of imperfect parenting, this one.

Now, stipulated:  Spoiled brats with indulgent parents do exist in the world. They are a thing, and they have always been a thing.  Too, I fully, completely and totally understand that a parent is the strongest influence on a small child's moral, social, and spiritual development. And you can -- and most likely will in some small or large way -- screw that up.  And, finally, I admit that, yes, I have, in extremis, privately lamented my son's assholery.  I also admit that that was an immature and wrong thing to do.

All these acknowledgements and stipulations being laid out, there are still so many things wrong with a parenting culture that thinks it is funny -- or at any rate, helpful or illustrative -- to call a child an asshole.

Here are five of those things:

1.  It's ignorant, part A.

Obstinance and difficult behavior in small children is developmentally normal.  And it is also normal for parents to want to go out of the house for a family meal or other event before the child hits puberty.  It is not a solution, as the virtuously imperfect parent implies, just not to take the kids out and about.  Indeed, I would suggest that that is not normal behavior, as it fails to provide the child with opportunities to learn how to behave properly in public situations.   

2.  It's ignorant, part B.  

There are many childhood developmental difficulties and/or learning differences that make normal difficult behavior even more difficult:  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, opposition defiant disorder, conduct disorder, certain sensory disorders, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum, Down Syndrom.  All of these conditions have the potential to turn normal childhood obstinance into difficult to manage defiance.

I'm sure the solution that this particular imperfectly perfect parent would suggest would be to just keep those kids at home so they can't spread their psychological or psychiatric disorders all over the rest of the normal folks in society.

But that's neither practical nor appropriate.  Just like typical kids, these kids are part of society, and being part of society means learning to function in it.  Who teaches that?  Parents.  And parents cannot teach these kids how to handle themselves in public from the privacy of their living rooms.  These kids and their parents are allowed to go out in public.  And in doing so, these kids and their parents, might have some difficulties. It's how a free and open society works. We don't actually hide these kids in asylums anymore, funnily enough, but allow them to be the part of us that they truly are.  And if we are kind and decent humans, we are sympathetic to these parents and, maybe, we offer help. Which brings me to . . . . 

3.  It's unsympathetic. 

"There but for the grace of God go I," should be your parenting motto. Not, "God has blessed me with superior parenting ability to these pathetic losers."

Drop the pretense of imperfect perfection and actually stand in those people's shoes:
  • Could the parents need a hand?
  • Can you sense a subtext to the child's behavior?
  • Do the parents look harried?
  • What could you do to lighten their load?
Instead if sneering and snarking, surely, there is something helpful you could do. Maybe you could distract their child. Maybe you could distract other children who are around so the parent of the misbehaving child can correct the behavior you find noisome.  Maybe all you can give is a sympathetic, half-grin of solidarity and support, accompanied by a moment of meaningful eye contact. Surely, that's better than criticizing them for bringing their ill-bred kid out for a meal.

And, let's be honest:  There's never been a time when you've taken your kid outside of the house and, much to your chagrin, he's behaved abominably?  Never?  Really?  You are a special unicorn.

4.  It's unhelpful. 

No one but your little echo chamber is listening to you. No one is changing their behavior or their parenting techniques based upon your judgy pronouncements. You are preaching to your imperfectly perfect choir. You change no parent's behavior by unsympathetically calling their child an asshole.  See above for actual ways to lend a hand, which might actually give you the opportunity to talk with the offending parent-of-asshole to offer suggestions or understand their point of view.

5.  It's modeling antisocial behavior for your own child.

That's right: When you judge other parents by a single instance and dub their toddler an "asshole," you are demonstrating to your child how to be an antisocial asshole.

There's no need for sympathy.  No need to offer help.  No need to lend a hand or give a sympathetic smile.

Why do that when you can snap-judge these people from your lofty tower?

I mean, after all, if you offered your sympathy, you might understand what these people are all about. You might see that they are doing their best.  Maybe, just maybe, you might learn something about other humans.  You might even learn to understand yourself better.  And you'd probably show your child how to be a decent human . . . instead of, you know, an asshole.

But why do that when you can write a pithy blog post calling a three year old an asshole and laugh about it with your friends?

Wait.  That's what school bullies do, right?

They attack and exploit the vulnerable in an effort to raise themselves up.  What a great lesson to teach your kids:  why give someone a hand up when you can shove them lower. "Hey, kids, watch Mommy shame and deride these parents and their kid for having the temerity to got out for Sunday brunch!"

But maybe you're not the big giant asshole of a bully I've envisioned you to be.  Maybe you've just used extreme and crass language to describe kid behavior in order to get attention.  Maybe it's "clickbait."

Might there be a better way, though, to get attention for your view that the world is going to hell in a hand basket because some parents (for reasons unknown to you) chose not to eat at a particular restaurant because the restaurant didn't serve food that they knew their child would eat?

I think, maybe, there might be.  In short, even if you're not an asshole, stop acting like one.