Go Get Yourself a Girlfriend

I watched the movie About Time recently which was mostly lovely and thoughtful except for that one little thing that continues to bug me: the main character tells his father he would like to use his time-travelling ability to “get a girlfriend”. Then, in a comedy of errors-type pseudo montage, he tries to woo his sister’s friend and fails. He cute-meets another woman later but through the magic of time travel, manages to undo the meeting and instead has to trick the woman into getting to know him in an alternate timeline.

Movie boys always be trickin’ girls into stuff. Movie girls always be fallin’ for it.

A man I know personally, although at this point I wish I did not, has been very public about his life goals this year, posting a list and real time updates on Facebook (this man posts a lot of things on Facebook. I may have mentioned him before. Unfavorably.) Among getting a new job, a functioning car, and meeting a particular weight is Getting a Girlfriend.

Psst, what he hasn’t posted is that he already got laid off from the new job which means he won’t be keeping that new car very long and if how he treats his “friends” is any indication, any woman willing to date him might not be willing for long either.

I was a Girlfriend once to a man who staked his self-esteem on such things. He felt that as long as he had this list of things, he was succeeding at life: job, car, apartment, girlfriend. Even when the relationship fizzled, long after all intimacy ended (ALL intimacy, like hugs and high-fives were more than we could handle), he refused to break up because in order to be ok, he had to be able to check off the things on his success list.

Little did I know (or care), he was using our failing relationship to woo another woman so as not to interrupt service in the transition from one girlfriend to the next.

And what are women for if not to give men a little more prestige? It was never about affection or attraction or emotional investment with these three (until perhaps the end of the movie) and it certainly wasn’t about the individual woman or her wants and needs. It’s just a goal for some men to aspire to, a trophy to put on the shelf, a item to mark off a list.

And it feels awful to be that woman, knowing that who you are doesn’t matter as long as you fill that role in that man’s life for however long he deems you worthy.

Girlfriends aren’t goals. Women are people. Why is this still an issue?

 

 

 

Sometimes Low Self-Esteem is Just Good Common Sense

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“Lately, your low self-esteem is just good common sense.”

It took a long time for me not to hate Tea Leoni after Spanglish. I hated her character So Very Much which speaks to her talent as an actress because I love Elizabeth McCord on Madam Secretary so very much. The thing about Deborah is that I know so many people like her (whereas I only wish I knew anyone anything like Bess McCord): thoroughly self-absorbed to the point of actively, probably passive aggressively hurting the people they supposedly care about and never once taking any responsibility for the damage their words and actions do.

That last part is on my mind today: Taking Responsibility.

It has come to my attention that a former client that my husband and I tried to help start his own business has been sharing some¬†stuff on Facebook. “Haters gonna hate, ya’ll.” “I’m gonna Rise Above the Negativity,” “They’ll see when I get to the top and look down on them,” “They’re all just JEALOUS of my success,” and so on and so forth.

Here’s the thing: This man violated the terms of our business agreement… Four Times. Each time, we sat him down and explained what he did wrong, why it was important for our business and his that he follow not only this specific segment of the agreement, but ALL of them, and what we could all do instead of whatever stupid ass crap he did.

The third time this happened, we upped the ante. We told him our business is how we pay for our house and feed our child and if he effs with it again, he’s out and we’re done.

Naturally, he effed up again. So we emailed him and told him we’ve had to make this strategic decision to protect ourselves and our business. And he reacted like a consummate professional and mature compassionate man.

Just kidding, he unfriended me on Facebook during the email exchange, threw an epic hissy fit and started posting HATERS GONNA HATE memes. Ughhh.

My husband is pissed. I’m feeling pretty justified. I’ve been saying from the beginning that this guy doesn’t have the resourcefulness, the fortitude, the humility or the temperament to run a business. Point proven.

But back to Deb and self-esteem. Now that our former client is posting all his negative positivity statement, his friends are jumping to his aid in trying to build him back up while I’m sitting here, knowing the whole story and thinking, Dude, your low-self esteem is accurate to your energy output. Why don’t you fix your ‘tude before you try “helping” anyone else.

Kitty Don’t Play That

grumpy-cat-neighborMy son has been harassing the cat since he was old enough to crawl and the cat, bless his evil cat soul, has been very VERY patient. Until now.

I think it’s important for children to interact with animals. It teaches them empathy and boundaries and responsibility. Or so I hope? I have a cousin who has very little experience with animals and without really meaning to, he’s always pissing off my cat and my mother-in-law’s dog. I’ve been trying to teach him the basics, like never to mess with an animal’s food or not to stare a cat in the eye but he just doesn’t get it. Whenever he’s near my cat now, he blinks nonstop. He’s 9. He’s… not too bright.

I wanted things with my son to be different so I always let my cats sniff him and let him touch them. But my surviving cat (the other passed last year) is a rescue with an unknown history of suspected abuse. He’s skittish and well, paranoid. But up until yesterday, he let the kid touch his nose and ears and tail. Yesterday, the kid pulled the tail and grabbed the paw and the cat had had enough.

Today, the child has several little scratches along his arm. They’re not deep or long or bad at all. They’re nothing compared to the nightly love scratches I get from not snuggling properly or patting long enough. But they look scary on your baby regardless. Blood coming out of your child, no matter how little, still feels traumatic.

But you don’t pull the kitty’s tail. You don’t try to touch his eyeballs. You don’t take his food away from him. And you don’t chase him, screaming “BAAAHBAAAAAAAH!” without incident.

Lesson learned, my boy? No? You’re still very interested in his eyeballs. *sigh* I guess we’ll have to stay on top of this lesson.

 

 

Toxic Masculinity: It’s Not Just for Males

I have two cousins roughly the same age who both got dodgy around their twelfth birthdays. Neither was interested in becoming a teenager and twelve was their last chance to be whatever they wanted before the TEEN GIRL police hauled them in for lack of nail polish or hair dos or whatever other stupid junk girls are supposed to be. They started wearing baggy t-shirts and watching sports and bragging about how horror movies didn’t scare them. They became the polar opposite of what they were told they had to be.

e353066dd8c76675785a93a3e9308184Now if sports and horror and baggy clothes are your thang, that’s not a problem. But that’s not all there was to these girls. They liked sports but they also liked dolls. They liked cars but they also liked purses. But in our culture, even in a post-High School Musical world, you can’t be two things at once. You’re a TEEN GIRL or you are not. And if you’re not a TEEN GIRL, then you’re a tomboy and you mock TEEN GIRLS because they are weak and frivolous and dumb. You want to be smart and strong and tough, like a boy is supposed to be, so you’re gonna have to dress and act like a boy. These are your options, so choose.

I did the same thing as a tween. A lot of us do. A lot of us are still playing out the “I’m not this so I have to be that” dichotomy.

Por exemplo: A friend of mine is not interested in having children. She is married and financially stable and of relatively good health. But she does not want children and that is that. I have no problem with that and I told her that BEFORE I had my son and then again AFTER I had my son at which point I added, “Homegirl, having now been pregnant, given birth, and nursed until my nips bled, I can tell you with absolute resolute confidence and honesty that I Do Not Think anyone who doesn’t want a child should have a child because it is HARD and it HURTS and it often SUCKS. The only thing that makes it not the most horrible thing ever is being very much in love with your very much wanted baby. If you don’t feel that, you don’t want this.”

Despite my support of her decision, she has mostly avoided me since my son was born. We ran into her at a public event a while back and she flat out ignored my son (who was an infant at the time and didn’t notice). It hurt a little bit. I know she doesn’t want children but does she have to pretend mine doesn’t exist? Ouch. She’s not a kid-hater either. She’s just going through an “I’m not this so I have to be that” phase. She is not and does not want to be a parent so she has to pretend all children are awful or invisible.

But what does this have to do with toxic masculinity? Well, I’ll tell ya! Where do you think this dichotomy comes from? It’s the notion that to be manly, you have to be NOT lady-like. Being a man, more than anything else in our culture means NOT being a woman, or worse, a girl. Because girls are weak and frivolous and dumb and who wants to be those things? Not me, a woman. Not my cousins, two preteen girls. Not my friend, a childless adult. And if we’re not girls, we must be men. We must burp and scratch and enjoy violence and sport and hide our bodies and pretend not to love the things we secretly, shamefully love.

It’s stupid and harmful and limits us all as people.

And I don’t have a solution. I can tell the girls that they are free to be whoever they want, but they’re not. I can tell my friend that no one will accuse her of secretly wanting babies if she says hi to mine, but they will. I can continue to be soft and vulnerable at home with my son but thick-skinned and professional at work, but feel pulled apart in the process. It’s a losing game for all of us.

 

Just Paint Over It, They’ll Never Know

Another Sunday, another open house and this one, on the surface at least, was… passable. It was an old structure, possibly past its hundredth birthday with patches and paint-overs and very new siding. But there were child hazards everywhere.

The front porch was a granite slab about 3ft off the ground with no railings, attached to the front steps which also had no railings and the smallest of the bedrooms on the second floor was immediately adjacent (inches, really) from the staircase which had, of course, no railings. There were some hastily patched holes in the floor boards my son could certainly punch out of place without too much effort and all of the windows were set down at toddler height making it so very easy for my son to fall out of. The listing said “finished carpeted basement” which turned out to be a desk in a cellar with discount carpet fragments laid across the concrete floor and the stones that formed the foundation painted white. Above the desk, hanging from a ceiling beam was a Harvard diploma. As with most Harvard graduates I’ve encountered, the owner must think we’re all much too dumb to understand the meaning of “finished” or “carpeted”.

But it was painted serene and HGTV-approved colors and the floorplan was flowing and comfortable. The bathrooms were newly cabineted and clean (although the first floor half bath had 3 very large windows on two walls making your bathroom time feel like a neighborhood performance) and there was plenty of space for a family of three.

Were I a serial killer, I would not delight in this home quite like the one we visited last week but there was still a vibe. A bad vibe. Maybe no one was murdered, but perhaps a few wives were slapped around by abusive husbands. Maybe some children were punished corporally. Maybe there’s Yellow Wallpaper under some of that paint? I felt stifled and not just because all four realtors were wearing the same overabundance of perfume. Moreover, I felt like I didn’t want to be there, not just live there. I didn’t want to visit the people who might live there. I didn’t want to be their neighbor. I didn’t want to work with them or grocery shop in the same town. I just couldn’t wait to leave, hike back up the street to our car, and let the people who are impressed with fancy bathroom cabinets fight over it.

Like last week, we gave up on open houses after that. We’re not serious shoppers at the moment anyway and with me working less than part-time to take care of the child, it’s probably not the best time to move. But after three weeks of disappointing open houses, we’ve concluded this: people are getting REAL good at taking pictures for their listings. Too good. Ain’t no “no filter” bragging going on here, now, is there?

Time to Have Another Baby

The gossip today is all about my husband’s cousin who’s about 3 months pregnant with her second child, the first of whom is 8 months older than my son. We don’t know this of course because my in-laws are all secret-tellers and gossip-mongers and we get this update secondhand (or rather fourthhand if you’re counting the number of hands held to mouths to shield the telling of said secrets).

Because I so badly want to be a good person, I reacted pleasantly because babies are wonderful news, especially for couples who desperately want them. But because people find comfort in patterns and because Old World old people are extremely competitive and because by nature most in-laws are demanding of grandbabies, by my baby math* I have until early November to get myself knocked up so I can give birth sometime around Augustish so that my second child is yet again 8 months younger than hers.

This way, my mother-in-law can have the youngest grandchild and my husband’s cousin can continue to speak to me like she invented motherhood.

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*Baby math: That thing where you count 9 to 10 months forward from every time you have sex, protected or not, to see if you could handle a baby at that point in time.