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Posts Tagged ‘individuality’

And thus ended the date.  Well, in my mind anyway.

What prompted this?

I said something along the lines of my typical evening is going home, snuggling my cats, maybe watching a movie while I sew or spin.  Basically what I enjoy was stuff that wasn’t going out to bars/parties with friends or staying up late.   I’m thirty-seven, for peetsake!

I realize that it was probably a not-entirely serious comment, I realize that it wasn’t really meant to be mean, but what it told me was that my idea of a relaxing evening wasn’t comforting and relaxing but was in fact lame and boring and that based on someone else’s opinion I should be doing something else with my evenings to be worthy of the label of “having a life.”

But y’know what?  I’m happy.  Going home to relaxing evenings with my hobbies, snuggled on the couch with cats watching the rain fall, enjoying the quiet moments life has to offer is not lacking a life.  It’s living my life.

There’s lots of similar phrases that get tossed around these days.  “You need to get a girl/boyfriend!”  is another one I’ve heard far too often, as if someone who enjoys being single and doing things that aren’t considered the typical single party things to do is therefore in *need* of someone else to validate their lives.

It was really a bummer because it wasn’t like he had been a jerk or anything.  He was nice enough, I had even been looking forward to the date, but when he told me that I decided he didn’t seem to respect me or my life enough to be further considered for inclusion in it.

If you want to be part of my life, you have to respect that I already have one without you.

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gayapparel

© 2013 Eliza Murdock

FA LA LA
LA LA LA
LA LA LA

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year
to all the straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, asexual, questioning,
brown, Asian, black, white, multi-ethnic,
middle-aged, teenaged, old, young,
religious, atheist, agnostic,
people out there!
Sing we joyous all together
Fa la la, la la la, la la la

Except the assholes.

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This isn’t even a joke.  Okay, I mean it is, but it isn’t.

So we’re expecting snow tomorrow in the greater Seattle area, and I was just thinking, I hope the snow plows are out nice and early so I can get to work… and I had to add “too” at the end, there, because well, first I won’t be the only one trying to get to work, but in order for me to get to work those drivers have to have already been at work for quite a while.

Which got me seriously thinking, how do they get to work when the snow is really bad?  I’ve seen street trucks with plows on the front, maybe that’s how?  But yeah, it’s amazing how often we don’t think about who else has to do their part so we can accomplish something.

And what’s worse, we’re getting more and more selfish about making sure we get ours and not caring who has to sacrifice what for it.

We want stores not just open first thing dark and early on the day after Thanksgiving, now we want stores open on Thanksgiving itself!  Never mind that the people having to work are being denied their holiday with family and dinners (at least, I hope that’s what they’d be doing otherwise), we want our stuff and we want it now and nobody had better inconvenience us by *closing* on holidays!

I’ve had people pass me, while I was in the left turn late, heading into oncoming traffic, because wherever it was they had to be was more important to them than considering the accident they might have caused by their impatience and reckless driving.

I’ve heard people talk about a bank who denied them loans as “not giving me my money!”  But it wasn’t their money!  This idea that someone else is denying you access to *their* money is now equated with being denied access to *your* money. (And no, I’m not going to get into the actual details of that not even being the bank’s money, that money was created out of thin air from nothing at all… that’s a different rant.  Being denied a loan for prejudiced reasons is also a different rant, but that happens, too.)

But in general, we’ve become very self-centered, spoiled, and entitled.  We don’t care about lifting up one another, only ourselves.  We don’t care who is denied something, so long as *we* aren’t denied something.  We aren’t grateful for what we have, we’re indignant that we don’t have more.

I suppose it could be the country going through it’s terrible two-hundreds…  (not that it was all that good in the first place) but wouldn’t it be nice if people remembered we’re all in this together?  You can’t climb a latter if you keep sawing off the rungs because they’re “in your way”.

Take a minute today and think of who around you helps you ‘get where you’re going’, either literally or metaphorically.  Think about the janitor (or maybe the family member!) who replaces the toilet paper rolls so you can… ehem.  Think about the person working at the check-out counter so you can buy your things.  Think about the snow plow driver who has to get to their work so you can get to yours.

Just… take a moment and think about others.

And Merry Christmas.

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I admit it.  I think of myself as normal.  I think that’s pretty normal, isn’t it?  But I am constantly proved wrong, of course, because no one is normal.

I mean, there are *some* things I do that I know aren’t normal, like spinning my own yarn.  But then there are normal things I know I don’t do, like knitting.  And then there’s my friend who is herself about as far from normal as she can be, who loves to tell me how not-normal I am in the best possible way, and yet that’s partly because we’re alike in many ways (who needs a fork, we can eat the eggs and ground beef straight out of the skillet!)

Still, there are times when my perception of what normal should be runs head-long into reality.

Like, it’s really bizarre to me that someone wouldn’t know where to go to buy cardamom.  I like to have not just a well-stocked spice cupboard, but I actually *use* the spices in my spice cupboard.  Regularly.  Not just daily, but meal-y!  Which I know makes me not normal, but only not normal compared to people who think spice means salt, which I hardly ever use, but makes me really normal compared to people who use herbs and spices in abundance.

It’s also really weird to run into people who think letting your pets lick your dishes before you wash them is gross.  Seriously, I’m still going to WASH them.  It’s not like you’re eating your next meal off cat-lick.  I promise, the hot water and soap that can kill raw meat germs will clean kitty spit.  And by the way, get that hand sanitizer away from me, gross.

Or finding out that for some people, 10 minutes is a really long drive and can’t I find any place closer to eat, because my brain immediately says “What on earth could be closer than 10 minutes away? How do you get anywhere!?”  Because for me, a trip to town is 45 minutes, one way.  Whereas they can walk three minutes and get almost everything they need.

And I still remember the time I went to buy a good dress shirt and the lady told me it was wrinkle-resistant fabric, or something like that; that you pull it out of the dryer and hang it up, no ironing needed. And I said, oh, well I use a clothes line.  And I got *that* look.  That look that the 20-something year old sales attendant gave which can only be described as somewhere between disbelief and condescension, as if who uses clothes lines THESE days, it’s 2010! (or was at the time.)

Or maybe I’m just being really unfair to the 20-something year old sales attendant who had likely never conceived that anyone who would be buying business casual dress shirts would consider putting them on a clothes line, because that isn’t exactly normal.

And for as much as I recognize (and am sometimes flat-out told) how not normal I am, my brain just insists on assuming that I am normal.  Because I am the only way I know how to be.  Being something else isn’t wrong, but it’s not something that generally comes to mind when I run into scenarios like the above.

Then there are other times when I experience a strange feeling of culture shock without ever leaving home.  Like realizing my friend in New York has no idea why I think having a good snow fall in the mountains in winter is good, because it helps prevent drought in the summer.  Or having someone from California up who is boggled that we have a store dedicated solely to selling potatoes.  (In season, of course.)

And I realize everyone thinks they’re pretty normal.  Which I guess makes me normal.  Except I’m not.  Because no one is.  We’re all normal in that we’re all different, and we’re all different in so many beautiful ways, that I’m glad there isn’t any such thing as normal, cause life would be really freakin’ boring if there was.

I really like not being normal, and I wouldn’t want to be.  But sometimes I still forget and think I am.

Which means normal is only how I am compared with how I think I am.  If I do something I find not normal, it’s only not normal compared to myself, not compared to anyone else.  And when I do things that are normal, it’s only my own normal, and no one else’s normal.

I just have to remember that everyone is just as normal as I am, as everyone is pretty much the only way they know how to be.  Which means everyone is their own normal, and everyone else isn’t.

Which I guess means I am normal.

Just a different same normal as everybody else.

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The US, of all countries on earth, the US especially loves to be the standard of individuality.  The individual, not the group, not the whole, the individual is important.  The individual choice is king.  The “Army of One” ideology.  40 acres and a mule to everyone and you rough it out on your own.

And yet in reality, beyond whatever ideology we espouse, we are – as are most humans by nature – sheep.  In all the ways that really count.

We want the choice between Coke and Pepsi, we want the choice of 500 channels on the TV, and we want the choice in which cereal we put in our shipping carts.

And yet for all the choices, for all the individuality we desire, we choose based on what we think everyone else is doing.

4 out of 5 doctors tell us what we should do based on the majority opinion.  Most moms agree that they would do what most moms would do.  After all, the majority rules in a democracy, right?  So the majority must be right, and we want to be right, so we’ll go with the majority.

We don’t want individuality.  We want conformity.  In fact, we demand conformity around us.  We don’t want the person with the pink spiked hair to express their individuality, we want to tone them down into what we have deemed to be normalcy.  We don’t want to be the one who speaks out when everyone else seems to be agreeing.  We don’t want to be the one who stands out in a crowd.  We want to blend in, to go on with our lives, to be unremarkable.

We don’t want individuality, we want invisibility.

We will let evil happen so long as it looks like everyone else is letting evil happen.  Because we don’t want to be singled out.

But when we see someone step forward in dissent, we are more likely to be emboldened to dissent ourselves.

We don’t want to be individuals.  We want to be part of a group, and we’ll find the group that best fits what we want to be to become part of, but we won’t be a group of one if no group really fits us.

We won’t vote for the candidate who truly expresses our ideals, we’ll vote for the candidate we think is most likely to win.

We don’t want to be individuals!  We want to be part of a winning team.

We don’t want to rock the boat.  We WOULD jump off that bridge if all of our friends were doing it, because if they were *all* doing it… they must have a good reason!  Surely someone thought this through, and well, if they decided that was the best course of action, and if ALL of them decided it, who are we to dissent?  Who are we to go against the flow?  We don’t want to think, we want to follow.

We want to assume everyone else has put in the proper amount of thought and process into their decision making and come up with the best solution, and we’re just going to capitalize on their effort.

That’s why commercials show people “just like you” who have made this choice for you so you don’t have to think about it, they already did that.  All you have to do is buy this product and you can have whatever it is this person “just like you” has.

We don’t want to be the whistle blower.  In fact, we don’t even want other people to be whistle blowers.  We HATE whistle blowers!  We hate individuals.  We hate non-conformity.  We hate difference.

We have been conditioned to conform as part of our human nature.  In fact, we have been conditioned to believe that non-conformity not only is bad, but is useless.  We believe that *I* can’t make a difference.  *I* can’t change things.  *I* can’t help.  *My* vote doesn’t count.  *My* choices don’t affect anyone else.

We *fear* difference.  We *fear* change.  We *fear* standing out.  We *fear* being away from the heard.  Stay in the heard, blend in, be the group: you’re safe.  Be the stand-out, be the straggler, be the individual: be dinner.  We embrace conformity unless we think that through individual identity we can achieve greater power.  And it’s this belief that we can have power that overcomes our fear of being individuals.  But we don’t really let go of the group, we merely become leaders of that group, we gain power to control and direct the group.  We *become* what others need to conform to, and then we enforce that conformity on the group.

*I* did this.  *I* made this happen.  *I* deserve recognition for greatness.  *I* deserve to be given power for my accomplishment.   Therefore, you must follow me.

We want to act as a heard for safety, but we want to be recognized as an individual when that recognition brings us greater benefit than anonymity would.  We want to get the raise, we want to get the prize, we want to get the award, we want to achieve the fame, when these things come with positive benefits to us.

We want to act as a heard when it comes to blame, or better yet, treat others as the heard on which to be blamed, but act as an individual when it comes to our benefit or to avoid blame.  *We* failed to achieve our goals, *you* let down the customer, *I* did everything I could.

But even if we crave individual power, individual recognition, we instinctively know that anonymity in the group can give us greater power than individual recognition.  We instinctively recognize the power that anonymity grants us.  From wearing white hoods to hiding behind a keyboard, we allow the group to dictate our actions, our anonymity to become our immunity.  In order to express our power, we prey on the powerless.  The individual.  The stand-out.  The straggler.

We become that which we feared.  We become the predator.  We riot, we lynch, we laugh at the racist joke, all to conform to the group, all to gain power through group action, to conform to group-think.  We don’t want to be the one who stands up and says this is wrong.  We don’t want to be the one who stands in front of the tank.  We don’t want to be the one who goes to the press.

We don’t want to be individuals.  Yet we keep perpetuating the lie, the myth, that we are.  We are, in some ways, worse than cultures who work for the benefit of the group at the expense of the individual.  We will work with the group that brings the greatest individual benefit for ourselves, and sacrifice both the good of the group and other individuals to achieve it.  And especially, we want to ensure the “other group” doesn’t take the power from our group.

If you want to be an individual, don’t think that your choice of car models or soft drink or how you cook your eggs is somehow relevant to your individuality.  It’s your social choices, your choice of “groups”, your choice to remain silent, your choice to speak, your choice to act, your choice to stand-by that will make you a human being or a pack animal.

Which one are you going to be today?  Which one will you be tomorrow?  Which one will you be every time a chance to make a choice is presented?  Which “group” are you going to choose to belong to, and why?

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I’m going to list some attributes, and I want you to take a few moments and really consider not just each attribute, but what association  you make with that word, the other thoughts, concepts, and ideas that spring to mind when you read it:

Female

Blonde

Glasses

Tattooed

Engineer

Irish

Traveler

Take a moment to think of what each attribute “tells” you about the person who has it.

We tend to, conscious or not, associate certain *values* to physical attributes, ethnic origin, or even career choices.  Some are fairly neutral in nature, others can be positive, but unfortunately, many are negative.

But whether the association is positive, negative, or even neutral, the problem is making the association in the first place can hinder your brain’s ability to see and accept information that contradicts that association.

The image of the ‘Drunken Irish’ can be so ingrained in a person that even if they met an Irishman or woman who had never touched alcohol in their lives, they may still find themselves suspicious of their sobriety or trustworthiness.

The image of a ‘Dumb Blonde’ can heighten your notice of everything a blond girl does wrong, while overlooking what they do right, even seeing them as less intelligent than another despite actual results.

The image of an “Irrational Woman” may mean you dismiss even entirely rational and justified anger or frustration on the part of a woman because it’s easier to make it her problem rather than see your (or someone else’s) contribution to the reaction.

Stereotypes originate through the part of the brain that really, really loves to categorize the world in order to make it both make sense, and to develop processes for dealing with new situations.  Familiar can become invisible, new can be frightening, common can become confused for normal*, and so on.

The way to counter the negative effects of stereotyping isn’t to suddenly decide “Well, I just won’t do that!”  To some degree, it isn’t controllable.  The brain can make these associations before you’ve even realized you’ve done it.  What’s important is to recognize these unconscious and automatic associations and actively allow new information to correct them.

Stereotypes reduce people to categories rather than individuals, and no one fits neatly into every category you may have.

For example, while blonde may generally be associated with stupid, glasses are often associated with being smart, and yet neither hair pigmentation nor impaired eyesight are linked with intelligence in any way.   So recognizing the unconscious attempt to categorize one attribute into a false association can help you not limit another person through your own stereotypes.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that’s all well and good for some things, but other stereotypes are justified.  Well, it’s more likely to say that some stereotypes have been justified through selective observation.

If you associate red hair with a temper, and not brown hair, any show of anger from a red head you’ll attribute to the hair (i.e., they don’t really have a reason to be angry, they just have a hot temper because they’re a red head!), whereas any show of anger from a brown haired person you may view very differently (surely they must have a good reason for being that angry.)

So the same behavior will be filtered through a different lens of observation, one being used to justify a continuation of a stereotype, whereas the other is simply allowed to be what it is without having to find further reason for it.

Worse, a person may actively goad a person to a certain reaction as an excuse to then justify a stereotype.  Treat a person poorly enough, they’ll finally fight back, and thus you have neatly “proven” your original belief that the person is either violent or difficult to work with or whatever, when really you are the one who provoked a reaction that may be very natural across the board, not just belonging to one ‘group’.

So it isn’t enough to insist that whatever stereotype or prejudice you hold is justified through example, because your own ability to observe is colored by your prejudice in the first place.

Let’s say you had been raised with a negative view of piano players.  Perhaps your mother ran off with a piano player when you were young and so growing up all you heard was negative things about them.  You now believe that all piano players are either unfaithful, or will cause unfaithfulness in others, that they aren’t trustworthy or honest.

Now it wouldn’t matter how many piano players you had met since then that were faithful, honest and trustworthy, the second one person (who just happened to play the piano) did anything the slightest bit questionable, you would quickly insist that it’s because that person is a piano player! You knew they were all rotten, and here’s proof!

Now, does anyone really think that all piano players, everywhere in the entire world, are the same?  That their values, their beliefs, their customs, their actions, and how they treat others would somehow all be a mirror reflection of the one attribute of playing the piano?

No, of course not, that’s ridiculous.  And yet people do that all the time, only with much more subtle and insidious associations.  All Mexicans are here illegally and can’t speak English.  All blacks live in the ghetto and are in gangs.  All Asians are good at science and math.  All Polish people are stupid.  All Jews are greedy.  All Muslims are terrorists.

This is the exact same kind of thing, saying that one shared attribute must enforce many shared attributes.  But the logic is just as ridiculous here as it is with the piano player.  Perhaps you’ve only met one black person in your entire life, and they were in a gang.  Do you really think that must mean every black person is in a gang?? Does skin color somehow trump a person’s individuality?  What about national origin, are Poles really, as a whole people, that much less intelligent than anyone else?  Or Asians that much smarter?  Do you really know that every single Muslim on the planet has anything at all in common besides their religion?

What happens when you get crossed stereotypes that contradict one another?  A Polish Nuclear Physicist?  A Black President?

By insisting on your stereotypes and prejudices, you are not just closing your eyes to contradictory evidence, you are limiting other people to your narrow views of who and what they must be.

If you were a 49ers fan, would you want someone to make a whole host of assumptions about you based solely on your devotion to a sports team?  Do you share every attribute with every other 49ers fan?  Is there something in your genetic make-up that forced you to be a 49ers fan?  What if based on some other attribute of yours, someone refused to believe you were a 49ers fan?  Wouldn’t that be annoying?

We must always allow people to be both individuals and to contradict our preconceived notions about them, and the more we’re willing to recognize what those preconceptions are and allow them to be challenged, the more we can truly understand and connect with people around us.

Now, that isn’t to say that you can’t make any assumptions at all about a person.  If I’m being introduced to a Muslim, it might be a good idea to ask if he can shake my hand before extending it, and avoid a possibly awkward situation.  There are some cultural practices that you can learn about, and ask about, but don’t necessarily assume they *must* practice it, or insist they do if they say they don’t.

Point is, as in all things, the more open you allow your mind to be, the better off it is for everyone.  Don’t be so quick to make judgements about someone based solely on their occupation, skin or hair color, religion, ethnic background, culture, gender, or anything else.   Don’t use differences as points to mock or belittle, and don’t argue with what a person says about themselves: let them tell you who they are, don’t just think you can know them, as they also can’t know you.

When we let people be individuals, we experience the full and beautiful spectrum that is humanity.

*common vs. normal: they may seem the same, until you look at the opposites.  Common is wide-spread, uncommon is limited or rare.  But normal is seen as a positive attribute, whereas abnormal is seen as inherently negative.   Being left-handed isn’t common, but it isn’t abnormal.  Just like being gay may not be common, but it isn’t abnormal, either.  It’s okay to assume a “common” because… well… it’s common.  But don’t let uncommon become associated with abnormal, wrong, dangerous, frightening, or other negative connotations.  Let uncommon just be more rare.  (remember: coal is common, diamonds are rare 🙂 )

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I am likely one of the few women in the history of this world who actively wants to turn 60.  If I was offered the chance to turn 60 tomorrow, I might well take it if not for the fact that many of the reasons I want to be 60 would be lost in that 25 years I’d be skipping.

I want to turn 60 because while other girls dreamed of being the princess, I wanted to be the old, wizened, grandma woman living in the woods who the young princess or prince or king or peasant never listened to, but she always turned out to be right.

I want to be the woman that children come to for advice because nothing they could possibly say would shock me, but many things I might say would shock them, and for that they’d listen in wide-eyed wonder as I recounted days gone by, or the way their parents acted at their age, or how to make Fairy cookies to make wishes come true.

There aren’t many things that I equate with success in life that aren’t likewise exemplified in the woman usually labeled as ‘witch’.  Despite not being wiccan or pagan or any such religion, still the concept of the witch in the woods is very appealing to me.  The old woman living on her own in a rustic cottage in the trees, in much greater harmony with the world than those living around her.

Natural medicines, healthy cooking, and many cats and other critters serve to round out the mental image of perfection that accompany the wisdom and wrinkles.  Of course, this mental image exists in a far more mythical European setting than is generally practical or possible in modern day America.

When I turn 60, I will no longer have a mortgage.  When I turn 60, I hope I will have children and grandchildren at last.  When I turn 60, I hope I will actually know who my neighbors are.   When I turn 60, I hope I will at last have the time to devote to these dreams.

So I guess really what I want to be is known as a person who helps others, who has both medicine and advice to give, but both only in very small doses.  I want to be the person that people come to because I haven’t lost the art of cooking and sewing and working hard with my hands and bless the dirt that is on them!

I suppose I really don’t have to wait until I am 60 to achieve those things.  But I think the wrinkles would definitely help things along.

I suppose what I really wonder is, by the time I turn 60, will I still be needed?  I am torn between wanting to be, and hoping I won’t be.  I want the world to have gained wisdom, health and contentment by then, but I fear it won’t.  In which case, I want to be wise, healthy and content so I can teach those around me.

Well, I have 25 years to find my way there.  I hope I arrive on time.

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How many people does it take to have a culture?  Can I be my own?  Can I observe things that no one else observes, or celebrate in ways no one else celebrates?  Can I look at the world differently and find value in my own art and creations?  Can I be a culture unto myself?

I’ve thought about this more and more as I realize I belong to no culture but one I really don’t care for at all and don’t really fit into anyway.

So what will it mean to be a culture of one?  Well, first, it *doesn’t* mean I can’t share anything with anyone.  My culture will be individual to me, but it will not be comprised entirely of unique elements – no culture is anyway.  It will be merely comprised of elements that I find meaningful; important.

That means there will be plenty of elements that, individually, I will share with many people, some elements I may share with only a few people, and of course, a few elements that will end up being at least mostly unique.

It also doesn’t mean that nothing will then ever change.  Culture is alive, or it isn’t at all.  The only static cultures are those which exist solely in the past now.  Culture exists to change, to grow and bend with the generations, and sometimes even within generations.  So merely having aspects which evolve with time does not make it somehow invalid.

Still, it will be lacking quite a bit from being only me.  Someday I hope to bring more people into my little culture through a spouse and/or children, (really, I’m more interested in children than a spouse anyway) but until then, I’ll spark a little candle flame in my soul and see where its light lands.

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Throughout history, across cultures, there have been marriages for love.  Marriages that threw off tradition and social acceptability and proved that bonds forged between two people can triumph over all adversity.

These were the exception, the rare events.

More often, marriages were arranged, and love may or may not have followed the wedding, but it didn’t always matter.

Husbands were meant to support their families.  Wives were meant to raise their children and make their husbands look good.  This was all understood as the proper way to do things.  Love was nice but hardly expected or required.  Divorce because you didn’t love someone was silly, it was usually because of abuse, abandonment, affairs or inability to support the family, and even then it wasn’t terribly common or expected.

Husbands pretty much treated their wives like children, punishing them for ‘wrongs’ and expected to guide them from falling into bad ways.  So yes, children.  I don’t know how a society can expect children to be raised by a person they see as no more than a child herself, but society is often a funny, illogical and downright maddening thing.

As Jane Austen put it, “Happiness in marriage is a matter of chance.”  and “It’s better to know as little as possible of the defects of a person with whom  you are to spend your life.” (Ah Charlotte, I love you.)

The idea was that marriage was not the fulfillment of a bond with another person, a deep, spiritual bond that made you feel complete, your “other half” as it were.  Marriage was a social contract of you do your part, and I’ll do mine.  Let’s not focus too hard on the details, hm?

Women didn’t need men for our self esteem, support, guidance, approval, or even love.  That’s why we had our girlfriends.

The bond between women was the bond that mattered most.  Women had one another to understand, to lean on, to learn from.  Like Anne of Green Gables and her bosom companion, women sought out the closeness and intimacy of other women for things that today we expect men to provide for us.

The idea of gender roles in society and marriage has undergone extreme changes in recent decades, and it saddens me that one of the casualties of this change has been the bonds between women.  I’m not saying no woman today has her deepest, closest friends.

While all people are individuals, there is a trend that can be observed.  Since women became liberated, men aren’t necessary for being bread winners and home providers.  Women have careers and their own places, and the necessity of friendship between women has shifted.  The dynamic of being fulfilled has shifted from girlfriend to man.

Now our friends are everything from casual to convenient, with only one or two deeply close friendships, if we’re lucky.  Instead of sewing circles and knitting groups or other social community gatherings for women, it became girl’s night with the gals from work.  The group got smaller but the intimacy and closeness got less.  You didn’t necessarily *like* the women in either case, but your ability to find support from them became less certain.  The ladies at work were as likely to talk about you behind your back as to help you through a difficult time.

Gossip is age old, of course.  The sewing circles spread rumors (both true and lies) in their day, but there was more certainty of finding support in the sisterhood of your community.

Now it seems that women exist as competition for other women: for men, for jobs, for advancement.  We already promoted one token women, let’s not go crazy here!  Women don’t go to new mothers with a week’s worth of casseroles because the men are expected to pull their weight as the fathers and make dinner while the wife is recovering from child birth.

Is that wrong?  No, of course not.  But it does weaken the bonds between women.  And that is a loss.

Men are great.  I like men.  I don’t have one, but it’s not quite like running down to the Humane Society and adopting one, is it?

But I have my women friends and I have a job and I have a house and maybe that’s why I don’t have that burning sense of needing a man to complete me or justify my life.  My life is pretty good.

This isn’t just one way, either.  I think men desperately need to be with other men for their own support.  (insert anecdotal story of a boyfriend who didn’t think either of them should ever need another person, they should be able to be the only ones required for love, support and comfort worked out very badly for both of them…)

Women need other women.  Men need other men.  Women shouldn’t expect men to replace the close, intimate friendship of another woman, and men shouldn’t expect women to replace the close, intimate friendship of other men.  Neither one of them should expect the other to act as their therapist to just dump all their bad feelings and experiences onto and expect the other to ‘fix’ them or be perfect and unwavering in their support.

So this has been a very rambling opinion of why love in marriage is nice, but the closeness of friendship is essential for personal well-being and I feel a deep sense of sorrow and loss over the decline of women banding with other women for mutual support.  It may still happen, but as a society, we’ve lost that.

(without discounting for one second that some women marry women and some men marry men, I still think women need female *friends* even if they have a wife, and men need male *friends* even if they have a husband.)

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Okay so I know I said this entry was supposed to be talking about the good things in America but first I want to talk about this because it’s been on my mind lately and I think I finally found a way to articulate it.

I know a lot of people today don’t realize how much damage we did and continue to do to a lot of people, cultures, and ethnicities.  We were taught in school that these things were in the past, they were done in a different time by different people.  That’s true, but that’s not really the point.  Some of it is *still* going on today, and some of it is still affecting today, and we can’t ignore that.

I’m not saying that any person is responsible for the actions of their ancestors, however recent.  Of course you aren’t, no one can be responsible for what someone else has done, even if you are related to them.  It isn’t fair to make anyone directly accountable for a crime committed by another person.

I am saying that we need to take responsibility for what happens now.  And this is the illustration I think best sums it up:  You may not be responsible for the hitting a person crossing the road with your car, but shouldn’t you take responsibility to help them?

This isn’t about laying blame but doing the right thing.  I don’t know if *my* direct ancestors ever did anything wrong.  I don’t know if they ever owned slaves, or ever massacred Native Americas, or ever showed prejudice toward anyone.  I don’t know if they did or didn’t – and that isn’t the point.  I’m part Irish, so for all I know my ancestors may have been slaves here, too!  That isn’t the point, either.  The point is there are people who did do these things, there are people who oppressed, enslaved, committed injustices, genocide, and other horrible things.  I’m not to blame for these things, but shouldn’t I – not as a “white person” but as both an American and a human being – be taking responsibility to help set things right?

Like in my illustration, maybe it wasn’t my car or me driving, but as a bystander, don’t I still have a responsibility to help people who are injured?

So that’s my view of it.  It isn’t about laying blame, just asking people to be responsible to set right what happened and is still happening today.

I know this is actually a shock to a lot of people, too.  I was raised believing that things like racism, discrimination, and the like were all things in the past, things we had already taken care of, things our nation had risen above, moved beyond.  Sure, I knew some people still harbored prejudices, but that’s always going to be the case.  What I didn’t know was how pervasive it still is, because it wasn’t where I grew up.

I lived in a diverse neighborhood, I grew up with friends of all colors and it never even occurred to me that it should be any other way, that it wasn’t the same everywhere.  I live in a pretty tolerant area.

When the internet allowed me to basically reach beyond where I lived and meet people and see people in larger cities or less diverse areas, I was shocked and sickened by some of what I heard.  I couldn’t comprehend the mindset of people to think or act in these ways.

I’ve been brought to silent tears on a number of occasions as my friend rather casually recounts her experiences growing up on and off the Res, and it just makes me sick.  It makes me angry.  It makes me feel so helpless to do anything about it, either.  But I’m trying, and hopefully things like this can help make a difference.

To everyone who has ever wondered why we still have Affirmative Action; to everyone who ever gets angry that we still talk about slavery and the Native American genocide; to everyone who ever was raised to think that these things are decades or centuries in the past, the sad truth is they are not.  The sad truth is we still need to help balance the scales.  The sad truth is even if you aren’t prejudice, you live in a country that still is.  Sometimes balancing the scales isn’t fair to the individual – you *are* paying for the mistakes of your predecessors – but it is a necessary sacrifice to help the whole.

And that kind of sacrifice for society is something American Culture is really bad at – it’s a time when we really need to look at other cultures and understand that sometimes the individual does need to step back a little and look at how we all are connected in so many ways.  To quote Spock (who was probably quoting someone else anyway) “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one.” (yay, geek moment.)

Being so focused on the individual isn’t wrong, per se, but sometimes it can be short-sighted and harmful to many more.

So what can I do?  I’m still not really sure.  I can pay attention to political platforms, but if no one is talking about the problems it can be hard to decide who would do better with them.  So I guess the first thing that needs to be done is get people talking about it.  Get people aware that these problems are still real, still relevant, still exist today.  Get people to stop treating Affirmative Action as if it’s the problem – like everything would be okay without laws like that.  Get people to realize that even if the immigrants weren’t working in our fields, it doesn’t mean the out of work Americans would be!  (Because, you know, people who complain that immigrants take ‘our jobs’ wouldn’t stoop to doing those jobs themselves anyway.)

Just be aware, be conscious of it.  You don’t have to feel guilty or take it personally.  This is a problem with our society, and that means as a society we have to change.  That takes time.  I think we’re about half way there.  I think we’re finally reaching that tipping point where enough people born today are understanding this that eventually they will be the ones who by sheer numbers will make things better.  But half way in 40+ years means we still have a LONG way to go.  There are still a lot of prejudices out there to try to counter.   There is still a lot that society needs to do to really balance the scales.

What will *you* do?

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