Friday, August 30, 2013

C'mon Barbie, Let's Go Party

As a kid, I spent time pretty equally doing girly things and tomboy things.  I liked building forts, playing outside in the dirt, and playing various games or toys that sat along the gendered spectrum of childhood activities.  I could build some kickass stuff with Legos, but I could also rock the shit out of using an Easy Bake Oven.  But there was one toy that had more power over my childhood than I could ever realize, and that bitch’s name is Barbie.

Barbie has been influencing young girls for years and influenced me in a few key ways.  Frankly, in some ways I could have never realized until I got old enough to look back on it.  

1: Career Paths

If I decide to be like Barbie, I can go anywhere and do anything.  Seriously.  What hasn’t Barbie done?  She got a medical degree, served in the military, worked as an ambassador, worked in varying science careers, has a pilot’s license, and is fairly entrepreneurial. (See Here)   Not only does she do all of these awesome things, she manages to not age a day and get all this stuff done in a fairly quick time span.  She is either a wackjob with multiple personalities or she possesses the one ring.  And honestly, I’m more convinced it is both of these things plus a Santa like ability to get a lot done in a very short period of time.  So she’s probably a Time Lord.

2: Fashion

Barbie has taught me that I can wear whatever I want, whenever I want, even if it doesn’t fit the social setting.  For instance, I’ve always wanted to wear a ball gown around, just because I could.  So even if something is terribly unfashionable or not at all appropriate for the setting, I can wear it anyway.  Who wants to go ball gown shopping with me?  Plus as a kid, my mom let me dress myself and let me tell you, I never matched.  Fuck it, haters gonna hate.

3: Body Imagery

I never felt that Barbie personally attacked me, telling me I was chubby and I would never find my “Ken,” but I wouldn’t rule out that it had something to do with my body issues as a youth (and slightly older not really youth age).  Barbie’s proportions don’t exist in real life, and if they do then something unnatural is happening to attain them.  Barbie could have been anorexic or wearing her corset too tight, and that’s a bit much.  Recently, someone decided to take statistics and create what is a more realistic Barbie figure based on real averages of real women. And the results are an interesting comparison to the tall blonde we all know.

4: Sexual Curiosity

Anyone who had a Barbie and says they didn’t mash Barbie and Ken together to look like sex is lying.  When you’re a kid and you are trying to grasp this incredibly adult concept, you need a way to help yourself understand.  At that age, your known information is bits from movies and pieces of gossip.  It’s incredibly natural to take a tool that is at your disposal to attempt to understand.  If it’s any consolation, my Barbie was kind of a slut.

5: Independence

Barbie can be critiqued for a lot, but oddly enough she is a pretty great idea for being self reliant.  Sure she has Ken.  However, look at everything she does and does it all without him.  Barbie doesn’t come with Ken.  They aren’t a package deal.  Barbie’s only version isn’t House-maker Barbie.  She may have a man, but Barbie still gets shit done on her own.  And it’s a lot of shit at that, a.k.a look back at her career choices.

So whether you love her or hate her, Barbie isn't all bad.  And she's responsible for one of the most horribly catchy songs ever.  How much do you want to bet that Aqua will be playing in your head the rest of the day now?  Ah, ah, ah, yeah.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Issue of Suffering, AKA Part of Why I Quit Catholicism

I was raised Roman Catholic and for most of my life, I attended church in school and then again on the weekend (because the school attendance doesn’t meet God’s weekly quota, I guess).  I went to religion classes, which then later passed off as philosophy classes.  All of it the same information molded and forcefully thrown in our faces. JESUS LOVES YOU.  Yada, yada.  And since he was my shepherd, I followed like a sheep.  Eventually, once I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid and opened my eyes, I started to really disagree with things.  

Let me say, anyone who has religion in their life, this is not an attack on you.  Unless you use your religion to be an asshole, in which case, yeah, I am attacking you.  But this disagreement for me is not about having a religion, it’s just about this particular religion I took part in while I grew up.  I’m not saying having a religion is bad.  I’m not even saying this religion is bad.  All I am saying is that I don’t agree with what this religion believes.  Okay?  Have I disclaimed from offending people?  Good, I shall continue.

We are taught that God is all-knowing and all-powerful.  Ok, I get that premise.  God is our creator and we are created in his image.  He loves us for everything we are, even though we fuck up A LOT.  That whole free will business.  So here is my issue: suffering.

There is that whole saying “When bad things happen to good people.”  Good and bad are subjective terms.  Also what might be bad for one person can inspire good in another.

And then there are little kids dying of cancer. What the hell is that, God?  

There is no good that comes out of that.  Maybe someone is inspired to do something great from seeing someone die, but why a kid?  Why create this piece of beauty in your image to then destroy it in a heinous and painful way only a few years later?  WHY?!

I’ve watched three women I care about deal with cancer.  Two women lost the fight, and the third is in remission (sigh of relief).  I watched my Great Aunt Carol, one of the brightest and liveliest women I’ve ever known, sink away from us while the terrible disease invaded her body and mind and eventually robbed her of her ability to speak.  Where is the good in that, God?  If you’re all-knowing, it means you know it is happening.  And if you’re all-powerful, why let it happen?  Why let this gift of a woman die slowly and painfully?

I can’t believe in a god that allows that.  If God truly loved us, I don’t think he would want to hurt us.  I think we hurt ourselves with our free will.  But cancer is not the result of free will.  Cancer comes from somewhere else. Because if cancer comes from God, how does he have the authority to make shit like that happen?  Because he made us?  If that’s the case then any mother or father has justification for torturing and murdering their offspring because they made them.  

The only way I can believe in a God and wrap my head around the idea of suffering is a God that is all-knowing but not all-powerful.  I won’t believe in a God who is all-knowing and all-powerful who lets people suffer and die just because he can.  

Because if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then he’s a sadist.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

These Dating Rules Are So-So...Or Really Not So

Dating books are always marketable because there are always single and vulnerable people.  Much like cosmetics and alcohol during a depression, dating books will always sell.  Fads in dating come and go much like those in crash dieting.  Try this cleanse! Take these pills! You’ll lose ten pounds in ten minutes! Oh boy!

Do this, do that, and you’ll magically find yourself in a meaningful relationship.  So much like I have said with crash and fad diets, I call bullshit.  I call so much bullshit.

This book that I’ve recently come across is called Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider.  And it made my inner feminist roar with so much anger.  Fiery passionate burning rage.

The book’s premise is teach women “how to capture Mr. Right in the new world of dating and romance” (pg. 3).  While I believe dating life changes as society changes, the approach in this book is one of submissive adherence to men’s desires.  So like I called earlier, bullshit.  And this isn’t the only book.  There is more of this madness floating around out there.  

“Simply put, The Rules are a way of acting around any guy who initiates conversation with you, whether in person or online, so he becomes obsessed with you and wants to commit.  Yes, it’s about playing hard to get, because guys love a challenge and lose interest when anything is too easy--especially women” (pg. 2).

So right from the get-go, the book is about playing hard to get.  And while playing coy works for a bit, the book emphasizes the role of the female being completely passive to the male in the relationship.  “Women cannot be the pursuer in a romantic relationship without the possibility of getting rejected, hurt, or perhaps even devastated” (pg. 4).  Isn’t that the point of life?  You can’t go through life, especially romantic attachments, without being hurt.  If you don’t experience some hurt in romance, how do you believe the feelings you have are real?

“Men are easily bored, so if you want a guy to pursue you, don’t act so interested.  Treat him a little bit like a guy you don’t care for!” (pg. 4)  Yes, that sentence actually has an exclamation point.  Now, I don’t know about other people, but I’ve acted uninterested in guys before, you know what happened? Nothing.  Because why would a guy put that much effort into someone who may or may not be interested? “They will want the girl who is invariably too busy to ask them out or barely seems to notice them” (pg. 53).  I’m going to take a poll of guys I know and ask them if they would get bored with a girl who acts uninterested versus a girl confident enough to make a move.

In regards to texting and any form of communication, men are always supposed to reach out first.  Rule #3: Don’t talk to or text a guy first.  Not even to say hello.  “Talking to or texting a guy first may make you feel cool, but essentially you’re just getting in the back door, creating a relationship that may never have happened otherwise” (pg. 41).  This point unnerves me, because guys are not always confident enough to make the first move.  And if you’re interested but they aren’t biting and you do nothing and “play by the Rules,” you never know what you might have missed out on in not talking to him.  What if that guy was actually your soulmate, and he would have appreciated a women confident enough to reach out to him, and that is what started him falling for you?  But now you’ll never know.  Better to spare yourself from the possible pain than possibly finding something happy.  In this section they use celebrity Bethenney Frankel as an example of someone who waited for her future husband Jason Hoppy to make the first move.  I would like to add that they are now divorced, or at least in the process of a long and nasty custody battle.

Rule #6: Wait at least 4 hours to answer the first text and 30 minutes minimum for every subsequent text.  And this is for every conversation.  Your age dictates how long you have to wait in response to the initial text of the conversation, and the older you are the longer you wait.  You can’t text them over the weekend.  You must use fewer words than he does.  Change up your amount of time you respond so that he can’t tell you’re being formulaic in your responses.  End all conversations first.  If I waited that long to text my boyfriend back, he would think I was mad or dead somewhere.

“Remember, the point of texting a guy back is to get a date or to be in a relationship--not to talk all day” (pg. 72).  They also add that you shouldn’t talk too much in the first few weeks.  So here’s my question: how are you supposed to get to know them?  Isn’t the point of trying to date someone is to get to know them enough to decide if you want a relationship with them?  How are you supposed to do that if you aren’t allowed to talk a lot?  You also aren’t allowed to just hang out, you have to go out.  For introverts like myself, I much prefer spending time at home as opposed to going out.  But I’m not allowed to do that either.

Now, online dating is up next.  They actually encourage online dating!  As well they should.  Online dating is responsible for a good percentage of relationships these days, mine included.  The authors suggest this is a good way of putting yourself out there, though they encourage bragging a bit about yourself, with which I disagree.  For conversations online, the same rules apply.  “If a guy has not asked you out within 4 emails, it’s a fantasy cyberspace relationship, so move on” (pg. 149).  So no need to try and get to know someone first, just jump straight to trying to get a date.  Which of course the authors later lecture about being careful and the fact that you can’t trust who you meet online sometimes. So how am I to know if he’s a creeper or not if I only have 4 emails to do so?  Also, if online conversations are limited to 4 emails only before a date, I technically shouldn’t be the meaningful and wonderful relationship I’m currently in.  Sorry, honey.

The next part is the part that really made my blood boil and my inner feminist start roaring. “Men are extremely visual and cannot be attracted to a girl just because she is nice, smart, or funny [...] he can’t possibly love your insides if he doesn’t love your outsides” (pg. 4). WHAT THE FUCK?! I will admit that initial physical attraction is important.  You are more likely to talk to someone that you are attracted to, but that does not mean that that a guy won’t be attracted to her once the makeup is off and he sees her real personality.  This quote is basically saying that all men are shallow and all women need to keep up appearances or pretenses about themselves superficially.  In a single paragraph, one sex has been completely generalized and the other given all the responsibility to maintain the generalization.  SCREW THAT.  I stopped wearing makeup around my boyfriend after two weeks.  He still says I’m beautiful.  And now that he knows my personality, he understands why I don’t feel the need to always “put on a face” around him.  Because I feel completely comfortable and can completely be myself around him.  Perhaps my boyfriend is just really awesome in comparison to other men (I believe it).  But I highly doubt all men would insist on their girlfriends wearing makeup all the time.

In continuance with the idea of physical superficiality, they recommend a few things.  Girls should have long hair and avoid short hair that will look boyish.  Don’t wear ponytails.  Color your hair.  Always wear makeup.  Have long nails, get them done if you can’t keep from biting them.  Whiten your teeth.  Wear sexy (but not slutty) and trendy clothing, including a push up bra, heels, and up to date accessories.  “for guys, you have to look hot, hot, hot!” (pg. 38).  “Men want to feel like they are dating a model or celebrity, so look like one!” (pg. 40).  So again, generalizing men into shallow people and putting the responsibility on women to maintain that generalization.  Also, make sure you don’t have unflattering pictures of yourself on the internet. Which let’s face it: EVERYONE has at least one unflattering picture in the ether.

Here are some other general trait points they made...Sarcasm is not a good idea (well I’m fucked).  Don’t pay for anything until you’ve been together and exclusive for a long time and it’s only ok to buy him little things, like a pop at the movies or dessert when you’re at dinner. Um, don’t they realize the economy affects everyone? In relationships, girls cannot relocate for a guy.  The guy must relocate for the girl.  Snooping in your boyfriend’s phone or email is up to you, but it is a quick way to get answers (pg. 167).  Yeah, it’s also shady and underhanded and dishonest.  Break up with any guy that cancels more than once.  I really don’t like when plans are canceled, but you have to admit that things come up.  If there is a valid reason for the cancellation, can you really fault them?  Also, what if they attempt to reschedule?  Don’t be overweight or put on weight, you must work out.  Ok, I’m all for living a healthier lifestyle, but seriously?  If you’re going by BMI, I’m overweight.  My legs are all muscle.  That is why the BMI index is terrible.  It doesn’t account for the weight differences in having fat versus muscle.  And, as you age, your metabolism changes, especially if you’re a female and you have kids. Notice of course this says nothing about the guy putting on weight, because it is all the woman’s responsibility. Yeah....  It also says you should start dating immediately after a break-up, no matter the length of the relationship.  Never mind having a healing period of being single.  When travelling long distance for a relationship, don’t meet halfway.  He must always travel to you.  Lastly, don’t live together until a wedding date is set.

They also polled guys about what their dislikes about girls were.  It doesn’t say who they interviewed or how these guys were selected, but you can tell by the list that this is all matter of preference.

Turn Off List
Trying too hard
Multiple tattoos and piercings
Deliberately running into them while out
Texting or checking Facebook on a date
Writing on his wall in positive way or being lovey dovey
Criticizing him in front of friends
Hooking up too soon
Overeating or conversely, calorie counting
Attempting to stay friends with ex
Not caring about her appearance
Flunking or being fired
Complaining about something that can be changed
Wearing too much makeup or cut too much hair
Making friends with the guy’s friends
Too much materialism
Double texting (i.e. sending the same message immediately after if he hasn’t responded)
Being argumentative, sarcastic, critical, or negative
Too drunk when out
Relationship comparison with past relationships

Admittedly, some of these are wise.  But mostly the list is just being critical of human behavior and trying to make women into silent arm candy.  Also a few of these turn offs from guys, immediately contradict advice given in the Rules.

I mentioned some good points right?  Ok, let’s get to those before I start getting nauseated.

Have confidence in who you are, and don’t try to be something you’re not.  Don’t check your phone repeatedly when you are with him.  Don’t lose your friends because of a guy.  Don’t ditch your girls for guy time and don’t force your friends to constantly put up with him being around.  Don’t drink too much while out.  Don’t date married or unavailable guys.  Especially if someone cheated on you.  Don’t be the person who does that to someone else.  Don’t sext him anything you aren’t comfortable with him having if/when you break-up.  They frown on sexting in general.  But I’m of the belief that if you can’t identify me in the picture, meh.  How else are you supposed to keep the heat if you can’t get a little naughty every once in awhile?  Don’t accept booty calls or meaningless hook-ups.  Wait to have something meaningful in your relationship before having sex.  Most of the bad examples of when women went wrong in the book include having sex the first night of meeting someone.  And honestly, if you are being fully honest and safe, that’s a choice you can make for yourself.  You’re an adult.  So while it’s not my practice to do so, it’s totally your life and I have no place to judge you for that.  

While pearls of wisdom can be found in this book, you have to dig through a lot of shit to get them.  The good points that are there, to me are a lot of common sense.  And you have to dig through a massive amount of bullshit to get there.

There’s a section about how to raise your daughters to follow the Rules.  And part of it is good.  It emphasizes spending time with your daughter, but it also emphasizes showing them the importance of looking good.  To me, I think that’s a great way to breed shallow women.  I would say that you should look how you want to and screw people who don’t like it.  Guys may not like you that way, and that is their problem.  One day, a guy will come along that will like you and even love you for all that you are.  And those guys are worth waiting for, instead of casual dating, in my opinion.

In conclusion, it’s not all terrible.  There are points here that make sense.  Common sense.  But it gets swallowed by the shallow importance of looks and letting guys always make the moves.  Being passive to their whims instead of seizing what you want to seize.  Like I said before, if you decide to ask a guy out, he could appreciate your confidence and like that about you.  Some guys don’t like confident women like that, and they are stupid.  The book doesn’t want women to get hurt, and I know how relationships or lack thereof can be painful.  They even tell you go ahead and not follow the rules, you can learn a lesson from being burned badly and hitting rock bottom (pg. 24).  But that’s life.  You can’t go through life without downs or being hurt.  It’s impossible.  

So in conclusion and my humble opinion, this book is terrible and telling women to be submissive to men. If you want to read it, go for it.  But I can tell you right now, all the quotes I used are direct from the book.  That is what this book is about. Books are also available for more information about dating and marriage.  The last two chapters in the marriage book are Divorce and Second Marriages.  Yeah.

I’m going to write a dating book. Are you ready.  It’s gonna be short and sweet.

“Be yourself.  And fuck anyone who doesn’t like that.”

I think I could be a best seller.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Club: August

Serendipitous moments occasionally happen in life, and one such event pleasantly happened to me in the beginning of July.  My book club with the Hoover library meets every second Thursday of the month.  It works out perfectly with my work schedule since I have Thursdays off.  Well the first Thursday of July was the 4th.  The library also has a first Thursday of the month book group but they obviously wouldn’t be meeting on America’s birthday and their meeting got pushed to the following Thursday, what would have normally been reserved for our group.

So on the second Thursday of July, expecting to walk into my meeting, I wandered into the other group’s meeting.  Not realizing the days had been displaced.  It just so happened that the author of their book for July was visiting the group.  And it just so happened that the book was our book for August.

From Michael's Website

I got to meet the author Michael Morris who penned Man in the Blue Moon. I felt bad that I obviously hadn’t read the story, but decided to stay because as a writer, I take any chance I get to ask questions of other authors.  His advice in particular was something that I hadn’t ever considered, which in retrospect was such an obviously silly oversight as a writer.  I’ve always gotten an idea and just started at page one.  My writing would fizzle out quickly and I never knew how to keep with it.  He said he likes to create rich character backstories first and put out a rough outline of where he wants the story to go.  Making me feel silly for never thinking to start there.

So I finally attended my group meeting and this time had actually read the novel.  Michael is incredibly personable and charming.  He hails from Florida originally, offering amazingly in depth information to his setting in the novel which occurs in the panhandle of the state.  The most amazing part of the novel is the authenticity of the stories.  Morris took stories he heard growing up and later interviews with his grandfather and wove them together into a fascinating story.

The Second Thursday Book Group. You can easily spot me. I'm the youngest by an average of 25 years

The story centers on mother Ella, who is struggling to keep her family of four afloat after her husband up and leaves.  Set during WWI, Ella tries to make due with the help of friends but the bank is calling for foreclosure on her land, and she just doesn’t have the money to make the payment.  A mysterious box arrives, seeming to contain a clock.  When a man named Lanier emerges, Ella doesn’t know what to do.  Keeping him at arm’s length, she eventually has to rely on him when he happens to possess a healing gift and her youngest is suffering and close to death.  Once her son is healed, Ella finds this stranger more of a blessing than she realized.  Outbreaks of influenza, a town girl who is addled, and a visiting pastor trying to open a spa provide additional texture to this already rich story.

I would absolutely recommend this author.  I found not only the story engaging, but he writes in a fabulous style that flows like a film inside your head.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“And let me tell you, son, innocence and justice sometimes don’t go hand in hand.” pg. 32

“Somehow it was easier to stay in the shade of doubt rather than give way to the momentary light of wishful thinking.” pg. 134

“My aunt always told me that people were in the world not just to observe but to impact.” pg. 171

“Let the art free your mind.” pg. 313

“He had made the mistake of being an open book once and would not make it again.” pg. 317

Michael is an awesome guy to talk to and an absolutely talented writer.  I cannot wait to read more of his works. I encourage anyone interested to check out his facebook page here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Club: July

Though this comes a little bit late of the month of July, better to post late than to not post at all.  Right?  So onward we go!

 (Image from Goodreads)

What would you do if a gift arrived in your lap of something you have repeatedly lost?  This month’s book club book was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman.  Set in Australia after the first world war, soldier Tom Sherbourne finds employment as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock.  Isolated for months at a time from social interaction and barred from returning to the mainland for years at a time, Tom finds solace in the solitude of his job on the rock.

Eventually back on land, he meets the feisty Isabel Graysmark.  Their courtship is quick and eventually she joins him in matrimony and life on Janus.  The two personalities of the husband and wife mirror the imagery of Janus, the god with two faces.  Their relationship blossoms for a time on the island, but after Isabel suffers numerous miscarriages, their marriage begins to flounder.

A boat then crashes ashore, and inside are a dead man and a child.  Instead of reporting the finding of the baby, Isabel insists they tell everyone it is the child she recently lost because they really don’t know what happened to the mother.  This lie forces Tom into uncomfortable territory with his job and his relationship.  But the child is raised and loved by them.  Eventually the two discover the truth, that the child’s mother is alive and still searching for her missing husband and child.  Now Tom and Isabel must choose between what is right and what they desire most.

Since I didn’t enjoy last month’s book at all, I was excited for a fresh start and I wasn’t disappointed.  The differences in Tom and Isabel’s characters reflect the differences of the two faces of Janus and how two different people can be one unit.  Their situation is one of pain and grief that could not even begin to understand.  Losing not only one child, but three, would have been unbearable for Isabel.  So when a gift landed in her lap, she did all she could.

The author has a wonderful style that magically transported you to the isolated Janus Rock.  You could easily picture the beautiful, yet dangerous, scenery.  It’s a painful story, but one that is gently shared.

Some quotes I enjoyed:

“Things turned up in their own time, in their own way.” pg.5

“But he’s scarred all the same, having to live in the same skin as the man who did the things that needed to be done back then.  He carries that other shadow; which is cast inward.” pg. 10

“He was still taking stock of this girl and her uncanny ability to tip him a fraction off balance.” pg. 40  This is my favorite quote of the book, when Tom is regarding Isabel

“History is what is agreed upon by mutual consent.  That’s how life goes on--protected by the silence that anesthetizes shame.” pg. 155

Overall I thought it was a deep story, that was eloquently told and would recommend the book to others.  Happy reading!