Boy Cooties: They're Treatable

Growing up, I lived on a street full of boys.  I spent a lot of time playing football and Monkey in the Middle.  Sometimes there'd be fights; sometimes a stray yard dart would land in your leg.  What am I saying - if you know any tween boys, you've been there.

The year everyone asked for mopeds for Christmas, I asked too.  Then we became a small bike gang of sixth graders.  It was a good childhood.

I never thought about the fact that I was friends with mostly boys until later.  My girlfriends lived a few blocks away, and I spent time with them also.  Sometimes they'd bike over and wander into the testosterone fray, or ride on the back of my moped.  I had as many male friends as female friends, and I'm not sure I really noticed.  I didn't have brothers, and being around boys was good for me, but if I'm honest, I never noticed that either.  They were just humans.

In college and my 20s, working and hanging out with friends, life was the same.  There were guys I dated, and guys who were just friends.  But somewhere along the way, things got twisted.

I didn't grow up in a conservative church, but I dived whole-heartedly into one in my mid 20s.  That is where things started to get confusing.  As a single person in that church, the doctrine encouraged friendships between males and females.  In fact, dating too seriously as a young adult was frowned upon.  Friendship was the goal.  Yes, marriage was the end goal, but you weren't really supposed to get too serious or saucy with anyone leading up to that. 

If you ever heard the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" book or theory, you understand what I'm saying.
Ironically, as soon as you were married, you had to Kiss All Your Male Friends Goodbye.

Single and in my 20s, I had the experience of working with several of the people from the same church.  Therefore I was soaking up the doctrine around the clock.  They were lovely people, and I'm thankful for them, but I wish I hadn't bought into some of the ideology so hard.

As a professional, the men were not to have meetings with a woman alone with the door closed.  When people started complaining and acting shocked about our current U.S. Vice President instating that rule for himself, I didn't blink.  I've heard that for years.  I was also taught that a married person shouldn't sit in the car alone with someone of the opposite gender, send them an email or call them.  Maintaining a friendship with someone of the opposite sex would be impossible.  However, once you married, you weren't supposed to need to be friends with any male except your husband anyway.

After I was married, and attending women's bible studies, I read books and heard discussions from women, as well as men in church leadership, that doing things like complimenting a man's outfit or haircut could lead to trouble.  Patting a man on the arm or back was also a problem.  The fear was that if he received this kind of affirmation from someone besides his wife, he might feel drawn towards another woman.

I'd like to take this opportunity to ask if you've met my father or me.  If so, your back is still recovering.  We literally PAT THE LOVE INTO YOU.  And if I've never noticed your clothing, you must not wear any, because we are patting and complimenting our way through life. 
Therefore, God must have made us wrong.
After marriage, I'd need to be very different than the person I'd been for 29 years.  But I'm nothing, if not a learner and a pleaser,  I drank the hell out of that Kool Aid.

I'm not going to dwell on the last nearly two decades.  The short summary is that I lost my male friends.  People I'd grown up all my life lost parents, and I missed their funerals.  I skipped weddings.  I certainly didn't return emails or phone calls and eventually the friendships dissolved.  Some of this is natural.  You get older and busy and it's the natural order of things.  But in my case, it was just plain wrong theology and control.  I was not allowed to have old or new friendships with males.  I did not allow myself, because of the judgment and consequences it caused at home and the way I feared I'd be perceived by others.
And it is a crying shame.

One of the best things that has happened this year is that I've had several close dear friends who've basically kept me functional.  Beyond that though, I've laughed so hard with them, and learned so much from them.  And number-wise, they've been split down the middle between male and female.  I desperately needed both.  There are questions I've asked men that only men can answer.  There are other discussions I only feel comfortable having with women.

I have a son and a daughter.  There are questions I've had as a woman about raising a boy that have been answered by men because they've been teenaged boys.  And yes, you can ask a son's father, but guess what, your children are not your clones.  Not every mother understands her daughter well.  The two of can have very different personalities, and the same goes for fathers and sons.  You learn from other humans regardless of gender.  And i greatly greatly greatly (did I mention greatly?) regret what I've missed over the years.

I won't miss it anymore.  I'll be friends with the humans I love.  I won't give them up for anyone or any rule again.  And I plan to teach my son and daughter the same.  The time spent with only one half of the human race, in my opinion, leads to more division and misunderstanding.  And as far as I can tell, our country can use less of that these days.






curled, fried baloney

"To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float."
"The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance." alan watts

There is floating, and then there is thinking you're floating.
Fibbing-to-yourself-floating.

There is trusting yourself to the water, and being present in the moment...and then the next as it arrives...and then the next...
and then there is telling yourself you're floating, but really only fib floating with one eye on the next buoy, so when it's within reach, scrambling onto it to wrap yourself around it viciously.



There's a difference.
Let's find that difference, and try to uncurl our fingers and float for once.

Man, even picturing it makes my stomach clench.  It gives me the feeling of a child learning to float on her back.  You know how the swim instructor has a hand under her back and says, "Relax, I've got you.  You're doing it."  But instead of lying flat on her back, the child is shaped like a round piece of fried baloney, curled down in the middle with every edge reaching up.  Her head is almost out of the water, neck craning to see her feet, fanny sinking, toes straining to hit the air to give herself the illusion of floating.  She has zero trust that guy isn't going to move his hand, but maybe if enough body parts are above water, she can fool him and herself.

That kid isn't wrong to be nervous.  That lifeguard is probably a 16-year-old lifeguard who will move his hand at some point, so he can say cheerfully, "See?!  I told you that you could float!"  And that child may not go back to the pool for a week...or decade.

But now we are grownups.  We don't have to trust Josh the lifeguard.
It's okay to try to float.
What do we have to lose?  This buoy clinging is exhausting anyway, right?
Uncurl those tight fingers, Honey.


marionette girl



A year ago I placed a tiny sliver of index card above my desk.
When I did something brave, something very challenging, took a step or action that would've stymied me in the past, I drew a tiny star on that paper. The star was a tiny something no one would understand but me.

The stars were not related to fitness, hobbies or any single goal. The way I earned them wouldn't make sense to most people. Most of the stars were for actions or choices you may make regularly by instinct or habit. I did not keep a record of each action or why it was difficult for me at that time. But make no mistake, those stars were hard-earned. My only goal with the star card was to remind myself that I was capable. "Of what?" you ask. And my answer is, "Just that: Capable."
If you spend years relinquishing power to gods or other people, after awhile you don't know you have any of your own. Surrendering that strength and your own will sounds beautiful and selfless to some. To others, it sounds like shirking responsibility for your actions. I believe it can be both at different times. But even as an act of selflessness, it can become skewed. For me, the result was feeling like a marionette. And when the strings on a marionette are cut, it flops to the ground. And when you flop to the ground, you have to build or rebuild those weak legs to stand on your own.

The stars I gave myself were for each time I practiced standing. They reminded me I had tried using those standing muscles and succeeded. And even when I couldn't remember how I'd "stood" exactly, I'd see the card filling with stars. I'd see it, and I'd think, "Capable. Remember, you are capable of standing and choosing for yourself."

Today I noticed the card for the first time in awhile. That tells me something.
 It tells me that at some point, making choices became more habitual. The muscles became a bit more developed. My instincts became more natural, and choosing things for myself was a muscle I'd used. Recording each one didn't seem so pressing.

Of course I noticed the card today, because I needed to be reminded. That's how things work, right? I was going to take it down, but instead I think I will just draw one more star so I remember I remembered;)


bodies

I take the human body very seriously.  I mean, toes are funny, but otherwise, I want to treasure mine and others'.

We see so much of everyone and all their skin in the media.  In addition, any child can find pornography somewhere, whereas in the 80s we had to count on that one kid who'd found a mauled magazine in the woods. The pages were so worn by the time the thing made it around our circle, the bodies were blurry and confusing.  But, honestly, nudity isn't even my point.

I'm not sure what I want my children to know exactly. With all of the sexual assault and harassment news, of course it's on every parent's mind.  We want good and safety for our kids as they grow up in this world.   And I think a lot of us are nervous.
...
...
Okay, remember that paragraph when I said I wasn't sure what I want my children to know?
That was a lie.  That was a soft Pam-ish way of saying, "Get ready, because I'm going to tell all of you exactly what I wish we knew."

What I want:

I want us to look at people and their appearances with gentleness.
I want us to look at their bodies and realize that it is a form and precious home that has carried them their entire lives.  And even if they ridicule it, hate parts of it, joke about it, we don't join in.  We just silently or verbally, remember it is the one body they get. Flawed or not, it is a precious living amazing place that carries them through this world.

Then, after that, I want us to look down at our own bodies...the parts we have had wars with, the parts that we've spent years wishing away and dreaming of changing, and place a careful hand on each part to thank them for serving us.

We get one skin.
It is our boundary between us and the world.  It is a precious outline of our self and soul.  It should be the line between us and others, and if we choose to allow anyone to cross it, this is a holy gift to them.  Likewise, if someone shares a part of themselves with us, even if they joke and berate themselves, let's not agree.  Just a pat, a quiet solemnity usually settles anyone and reminds us we live in a sacred dwelling.

This doesn't fix everything, but it's a start.


maybe i'll go check on that g'mornin', Glory today.
maybe I won't.
maybe i'll do what I feel like.
maybe I won't.
maybe i'll give a damn and try real hard to learn and understand and grow.
or maybe i'll just eat this apple, core, seeds and all.
I dare you to call me a non-conservationist.


Monkey Life: Part 4

I'm writing this to myself until I make it through this year of living like a monkey.  Hopefully, it'll prevent a repeat of last night.

Dear Pam:

Remember that Firestone place you love?
C'mon, you know the place.  It's so close that once walking your weird dog, you dropped your keys into the sewer.  You walked over to Firestone, and that guy fashioned you a sewer-key-grabber out of a big wire.  You know, the wire you use to retrieve rogue socks from behind the washing machine these days?  That place.  No?

I know I can help you remember, stick with me.  It's where you went just two months ago after you knocked your sideview mirror off with a mailbox while applying mascara.  You drove straight there.  You were all, "Omigosh I need a mirror, but look how thick my eyelashes look!" And sewer-key-grabber guy was all, "It'll cost $300, but maybe don't replace it because it seems like you don't use it anyway!"  And you don't.  So you didn't.  Coming back to you yet?

Dude, you were JUST there a month ago for your inspection.  They suggested a bunch of stuff you needed and you bought none of it, because you didn't recognize most of the words and decided they were mythical items, fancy words people made up for trickery, like air filter and narwhal.  Also you found out you can pass inspection without a side mirror, which seemed so wrong, but was super economical.  Remember?  Yes? Yay!  There you go.  I knew you'd get there.  Yeah, THAT place.  Good, good.

We love that place don't we?  Yes, they ARE very nice.  Yes, they HAVE helped us with so many things this Monkey Year.  Omigosh, you're going to be so happy when I tell you their actual business.  I can hardly wait.  Ready? 
They change the oil in your car. 
I know; let it sink in.

Oil.
The stuff you bought at 10pm last night at Food Lion after having a guy try to jump your battery several times.  Okay two guys.  Why lie to ourselves?  Even I thought the first guy was being lazy.   Turns out, he was right.  Your battery is fine, but you forgot to put oil in the van. 

I know you think of the van as a cozy place to text and eat Cheezits, but you need it to run.  And I know those Firestone guys are good at retrieving keys and telling you when Starbucks opens, but please, for the love of God, occasionally, stop by and let them do their real job.  Just say, "Hey Jonah...you're here, I'm here, I brought the van instead of the dog this time.  Put that magical unicorn juice in here and make her go."

You're doing a good job  this year.  You are.  This year has been balls-to-the-wall crazy, and no one is blaming you.  But the next time you hit that Firestone curb and run into  their parking lot to catch your hubcap, just hang out for 15 minutes.  If you can't remember why you came, just wander aimlessly a few minutes.  I bet that guy will come out and ask if you need your oil changed.

You do.
The answer is always yes, you do.

don't grade yourself; you're just auditing

Some weeks, do you have a resounding mantra in your head that sounds like, "I'm just not doing very well at life...I'm just not doing very well?"  And you're not sure exactly what constitutes "doing well," but you're certain "well" looks different from what you're doing?  And if someone were coming around with a clip board to observe and grade you, you know she'd come with a clucking tongue, shaking her head and frowning.

But you're not dumb, you know no one is coming to grade you, which is all the more reason not to let yourself off the hook.  You must cluck and frown at yourself and remind yourself your performance is sub par.  It feels bad.  But if you relaxed, wouldn't you just slide further and further into mediocrity and sub par and even deeper into just plain shameful?

I know that we don't get graded.
I know we shouldn't compare our parenting or personality or job performance or anything else to others' or even to some fictitious ideal.
These days, I still cluck and frown at myself and tell myself I could "do much better, young lady."
I still mentally grade myself.
HOWEVER, I'd like to point out that I know it's wrong and I remind myself that it's wrong AS I cluck and frown.
And for this...
Well, I believe I should receive partial credit towards the final grade.