Finding Validity in My Own Convictions

I love writing, but until recently, I haven’t really been flexing those muscles.  That’s why I’m taking a writing class and why I started this blog over a year ago.  As you might notice by the scattered posts, this wasn’t as successful.  It could be because this blog lacked focus*, but I also realized that it has to do with anxiety I have around making my very personal views public.

William Zinsser, the author of one of our required readings for the writing class (On Writing Well), notes that people often put up a fight when instructed to write in first person:

“Who am I to say what I think?” they ask.  “Or what I feel?”

Yup, that’s pretty much exactly what I think when I publish a post.  I have to remind myself exactly what Zinsser prompts his students and readers:

“Who are you not to say what you think?”  I tell them.  “There’s only one you. Nobody else thinks or feels in exactly the same way.”

This is the pep talk I need to give myself whenever I hit the “publish” button.  To some, it might seem contrary to my personality because I’m a pretty outspoken person, always have been.  But that doesn’t keep me from being cautious about what I say, how I say it, and especially what people will think about me when I say it. This is something I’ve lived with my whole life where I seek validation to ensure my expressed views will be amenable to others.

I definitely don’t think I’m alone in this, it’s how I – and most women – have been socialized.  We like to think that we are getting close to gender equality, but this is something that still sets women and men apart.  Women are socialized to want to be liked and men are socialized to achieve.  I have the same drive to achieve, but I often feel that’s influenced by how much people like me.  I don’t believe men have the same challenge.

There have been a couple instances when I post an article on Facebook, it prompts a discussion that requires me to explain or justify the posting.  This is not an unreasonable thing, but oftentimes when it’s brought up, I dwell on it for several hours wondering if I overstepped my boundaries.  I don’t want to ruffle any feathers, I think to myself.  But I suppose deep down I do want to ruffle feathers because the thing I posted was important to me and I want to have a discussion.  So why do I feel so self-conscious about it? Because I’m afraid of criticism and for not being liked. I don’t know many men that reflect on their actions that way, and I’m envious.

I know that Zinsser isn’t speaking just to women, but I feel that women need more convincing of the validity of their voice.  Now that I pay attention to it, I notice that I apologize more often than I should or need to, and so do many of my women friends.  I know so many amazing, smart, talented women that apologize for things that they don’t need to apologize for…like sending me a long email or for giving me a call before warning me with a text.  I am GLAD to receive a long email or a call from those amazing people, and I tell them that.  But I have a hard time giving myself that same feedback.  These feelings are not unsubstantiated.  Women are often judged more harshly than men.  Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) highlighted this on the Daily Show this week (where she discusses her book Lean In).**  I’ve read of this plenty, especially in Women Don’t Ask, and also felt it myself, but I see this most often in my own psyche.  I have to check myself often when I start judging women on their actions or comments and reflect on whether I would be thinking the same thing about a man in this situation.  And oftentimes, I would not.

Women Don’t Ask focuses a lot on women’s lack of confidence in advocating for themselves while feeling much more confident in advocating for others.  This is consistent with other studies I’ve read about and I know from personal experience.  I feel this in my writing too.  I am very confident in writing academically and don’t hesitate to submit a proposal. Some of this is practice, but it also doesn’t require me to speak in first person and I have to back my assertions up with research and other resources.  I’m good at that.  However, when it comes to expressing how I feel and describing why I feel the way I do in a non-academic environment, I find it much more existentially challenging because it is based on personal experience, not research, and it makes me vulnerable.

This is largely the reason why I stopped expressing my views against international development after Peace Corps to people who had not had the experiences I had.  As convinced as I was, I didn’t feel I had the validity to back it up.  Backing your views up with research isn’t a bad thing at all – in fact it strengthens a personal conviction as it did with mine – but if it comes from personal experience, it put me in a much more vulnerable position.  But that doesn’t mean that my convictions are any less valid.

The challenge I have putting myself out there makes me respect and admire the women who do that in their everyday work and lives even more.  It’s an act of courage to be strong about your convictions and to confront how we were socialized and getting past those barriers.  I will think of them every time I hit “publish” and remind myself that I am the only me and hopefully with each click I will believe that more and more.

* I did recently start another blog that had a much more specific focus: travel.  So, check it out at www.thesearenottanlines.wordpress.org.

*If you watched the Daily Show clip, you’ll notice that EVEN in that section where Sheryl Sanberg was describing her experience being chastised by another mom for not dressing her son in green on St. Patrick’s Day, the point that got applause was her husband’s response.  Oh my fucking God.  It even happened THERE in that conversation about expectations.  Did anyone else catch that?  ugh.

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Just Chillin’ in my City

After our weekend plans to meet up with friends in NYC were thwarted by Winter Storm Nemo (um, when did we start naming winter storms something other than Snowmageddon or Snowpocalypse?), C and I decided to put the Saturday to good use by taking our recent camera purchases out for a spin.

In anticipation for our trip to Africa this summer, we both got new cameras – mine is a few  steps up from my digital point and shoot and C bought 3 film cameras.  Seriously, don’t ask me why or what they are for.  At least I can tell you that they’re lomography cameras, or one of them is, or all of them are.  Shit, I have no idea.  I just know the one he took out yesterday looked like a toy.  I believe they produce photos that appeal to hipsters.  I guess I’ll have a better sense when he gets them developed.  Either way, C was adamant about getting our cameras 5 months in advance so we had enough practice to figure out how to use them.  He spent a couple weeks researching all of them.  I thought it was funny because for a man who claims he doesn’t get excited about things (outwardly) such as purchasing tickets back to our Peace Corps countries (I was jumping around for a few days when that happened), he sure shows excitement through preparedness (he even bought toothpaste for the trip, gotta love him).

Anyway, after taking the camera for a spin, I can see why practice is probably a good idea.  There are so many features on that thing that it makes crappy-ass photos look good.  Also, it was fun to take a little trip around our neighborhood.  Check out some of what came from our little mini-tour:

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Thames Street
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Max’s Taphouse Beer Car
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Ducks in the harbor
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Our street in Butcher’s Hill
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The Famous Bertha’s Mussels (we even saw a sticker in Glacier for Bertha’s)
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Can you find the Raven’s flag?
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Oh, ya know, just a skeleton in February
From our roof deck
From our roof deck
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Patterson Park with a view of Brewer’s Hill 
Stopping in to Duda's for some Boh and Resurrection Ale
Stopping in to Duda’s for some Boh and Resurrection Ale

And here’s where we did some playing around with the awesome features:

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Kind of a crappy photo taken on Thames…
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…somehow seems so quaint now.
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The shadow doesn’t really work for this photo, but…
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…now it kinda looks cool.
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Okay photo taken of the building from Homicide (pre-Wire David Simon)…
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…now looks oh so historic.

Although I have always loved taking photos (and anyone who has traveled with me know that I am skilled at taking copious amounts of photos), I’m not even an amateur (novice for sure).  It’s nice to have a camera now that does the scenery justice.  Isn’t my city beautiful?  Gotta love living in Baltimore.

New Years Resolution #2: Become Brew Masters

On top of finishing more posts, I (along with the boyfriend, C) have another new years resolution.  We’ve started the year off right by following the latest trend amongst bougie liberals and hipsters by brewing our own beer.  We’re starting out small, nothing crazy.  The Brooklyn Brewshop has an aesthetically pleasing package (nice one-gallon bottle to brew in) and pre-made mixes.  All you need to do is follow the directions.

For our first go-round, it was a bit more complicated than we expected.  My old roommate and I actually tried our hand at brewing before, but all we needed to do was mix water and some pre-made liquid-y mix.  It took no time at all.  This was definitely more involved and we absolutely did not feel like brewers.  We watched almost every video online that had instructions on how to brew.  (And I might add that said brewing videos always left out important details.  I suppose that’s why directions are important, but C and I are both visual learners.  That said, maybe there’s a market for a comprehensive video that covers everything from start to finish.) It took us close to 4 hours and when we were finished there was beer-making residue on just about every surface.

For those of you interested, I’ll show you some of the process to give you a sense of what’s involved.  Here’s our Chestnut Brown Ale-making process (minus the chestnuts, so I guess we should call it Brown Ale).

The Mash: Basically making oatmeal with the mix.  Smells like beer and oatmeal together.

Beer_TheMashThe Sparge: I guess it means straining.  We’re learning a lot of new words in this process.

Beer_TheSpargeBoiling the Wort: The wort is unfermented beer.

Beer_TheBoilFermenting.  The beer did not sit on our counter for the entire two weeks of fermenting, it went to a dark place for the two weeks of fermenting.  Although, it may just as well have been on the counter because C and I were somewhat obsessively admiring our handiwork checking on it daily.  And not to worry friends, if you ever happen to come by the house, we will definitely show you our progress on whatever batch we’re on.

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Bottling.  A note to the inexperienced, this was two weeks after the fermenting began.

Beer_Bottling1Beer_Bottling2The product (2 more weeks later): it tastes like beer!  I suppose that’s all we could really hope for.  It’s a bit cloudy and there’s some sediment in there, but still tastes like a brown ale.

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Brewmasters we are not, but we’ve definitely taken to our  new hobby.  We’re on our second batch now.  It went a bit more smoothly this time.  This time it’s a Smoked Wheat Ale.  Next up: Everyday IPA.

To those of you who have aversions to homebrew (ahem, you know who you are 🙂 ), we won’t make you drink our homebrew when you come over unless you ask.  You also are not required to compliment it just because we made it.

2013 Woot Woot!

Happy new year y’all!  I always get a little excited and sentimental about a new year coming around.  There’s nothing like having the feeling that you get to start over with another year.  It’s silly, but I suppose it’s the kind of energy one needs with a post-holiday lull.

Excitement aside, I will heed last year’s psychic’s advice anew in 2013 and will not make new years resolutions.  Okay, maybe one, I want to write more blog posts.  Actually, make that finish more blog posts and post them, because I started about 20 in the past several months and then just lost momentum and now they’re either hanging out as drafts in the “post” section of this blog or in google docs.  I started writing one on Christmas Eve even (and it was going to be a good one!), but now it’s dated so finishing it and posting it seems silly now.  So, there goes that post.  I’ll keep it, though, for sentimentality and maybe next Christmas Eve I’ll pick it up (but the initial intended wit will just not feel the same when it was conceived a year earlier).  Oh well.

Maybe the key is short and sweet and don’t overthink it.  So here I go, finishing the first blog post of 2013.

Happy New Year!

2012 Holiday Letter

In case you wanted to read up on the past year of my life…

Dearest Loved One,

Trusting that the world does not end on December 21st, I hope this letter finds you well.

So, last January I made New Years resolutions for the first time in ages.  I got all Type-A and created goals and objectives (seriously).  I even set a reminder on my google calendar to check in on my progress around July.  My rationale: I do this at work to keep myself on task and organized, why not in my personal life?  (As Mike Birbiglia says: I know…I’m in the future too, so I know what you’re thinking).  Then, I went to a psychic (also seriously) and she told me I was trying to be too controlling about my life.  I did what anyone would do and followed the psychic’s advice and have not looked back at my resolutions since (I also bought a stone from her – can’t recall what it was for).  When my July reminder came up, I laughed heartily at my past self.  Turns out what I really needed to do to have a happier life was to move (and perhaps maybe the stone did the trick – I guess it was totally worth the $25).

What that move (and the stone) seemed to bring was the following:

  • An amazing new city (Baltimore), with a fantastic roommate and neighbors and an incredible neighborhood (Hampden).  I’m currently trying to convince all my DC friends to move north a few miles.
  • The formation of pretty much the best running group in the world (Shoes ‘n Brews) resulting in my 2nd Half Marathon (just for the record: I will never run a marathon, I trust you all to keep me to that).
  • A job that I love which contains just enough work for the 40-hour work week (read: work/life balance).
  • An amazing new boyfriend who will also soon be my roommate (lucky him!).  Sure, he likes me now, but soon he’ll find out that I’m a hoarder of plastic ziploc bags that once contained my travel toiletries (I keep them in the name of sustainability – they will totally be reused someday).
  • A blog (you’re already here, so you know the URL) – I think I’m putting this here in hopes that I’ll actually continue blogging because that pretty much stopped in March/April (when the aforementioned boyfriend began taking up all my time).  Disclaimer: This ain’t an academic writing blog, so just as in real life, I swear every once in awhile in my posts, so be warned those with delicate ears/eyes.
  • Watched the entire series of Mad Men (Best. Show. Ever.)
  • I started eating meat again. I have recently learned that when you go mostly without for 3 years, re-introduce it to your diet, then try to re-outroduce it from your diet, it is much harder to do than the first time (I was missing so much deliciousness!).

The moral of the story: when life gives you lemons, buy a psychic’s stone and move to another city.  Let it be known, if things turn sour, I’m outta here!  I wish you all of my love and best wishes for the holiday season and 2013!

Peace and Love,
Yours Truly

_Hampden

Progress is in the Air

I’ve had this funny feeling this week.  I can’t quite pinpoint it.  Oh yeah, I think it’s the sweet sweet feeling of victory and progress!!  It’s been just over a week and I still can’t believe it.  I should’ve believed it because Nate Silver sure did (just like last time).  History has been made again on multiple counts.  Not only have we re-elected Obama, but there will be more women in Congress and the House than ever before in history, the first openly gay woman was elected to the senate, marriage equality laws were passed for the first time by voters in Washington, Maryland and Maine.  The air just rings of progress (despite all the sad white people mourning Romney’s loss).

Okay, so we might fall over the fiscal cliff any minute now, and I still think we need universal healthcare (because apparently it’s a young adult country’s right of passage) and across the board equal rights in all states which should seriously not be put to the ballot (because, well they’re “rights” and that’s why they’re not voted on).  And don’t get me started on the fact that although a big move, 20 out of 100-ish seats in Congress still falls severely short of being representative of the 50% of women in the country…oh, and women are still wrongfully being blamed for the transgressions of high-powered, “respected” men.

BUT…I can’t dwell on that right now.  I need to revel in the essence of progress.  We witnessed history in the making, albeit, through small steps.  People’s opinions are changing.  What couldn’t be accomplished in previous elections (passing marriage equality through the ballot) was accomplished in three states this year.  It’s 3 out of 50, but I think with changing sentiments and a conservative evolution, that 3 can turn into 50 not too far from now.  Progress is in the air.  It may not be my socialist utopia, but at least I can go to bed at night not wondering whether we’ll be going back to the 50s and my uterus will be controlled by some old, conservative, white guy.  Yeah, it’s been a good week.

*In other news: I guess I’m back blogging again.  I don’t know what that means – whether or not it’s going to be a regular thing –  because I found that if I make promises to myself without the threat of something dire happening, I don’t typically keep them.  That’s why I pay for expensive races to run a distance that I don’t think I’ll be able to make out alive unless I train to make myself run – or swim, bike, run.  Either way, maybe I’ll write, maybe I won’t.  Maybe people will read this and maybe they won’t.  How’s that for suspense.

MIA

Holy crap!  I just realized it’s been a whole month since I last posted.  Thanks to all my wonderful “fans” (i.e. my good buddies) that have been asking me what the hell has been going on that is making me not post.  Y’all make me feel so good that you’re actually reading my blog! So flattered.  Well, I guess I’m a fair weather blog poster I’m finding out.  This whole blog thing is new to me people.  That being said, I do have some blogs in the old hopper I call my brain. 

I am still forming an efficient blog-writing habit.  One thing is for sure, I need to be all worked up about something to get something down on paper (and yeah, there are times when it’s actually written down on paper before it goes anywhere electronically…I’m old school).  For a little background on my MIA-ness, though, for those of you who give a hoot: 1) things have gotten busy.  Those who actually know me in person know that I am really good at socially over-extending myself.  I’ve been doing that a whole hell of a lot lately and really need to work at finding some me time which would translate into blog-writing time once I get the rest of my world together; 2) Said busy-ness has left me a bit behind on the news (i.e. the stuff that tends to rile me up and make me angry/happy enough to post something), but I’m getting back into it; 3) um, well, I’m dating someone.  It’s a poor excuse, but this has actually been part of 1 & 2 as a new relationship kinda takes up a good bit of time and being kinda smitten also makes me less riled up about stuff going on in the world (who knew?).  Don’t expect to be hearing much about the new man here, though (aside from this post).  You should be warned, though, that this means no funny okcupid dating stories. 

Alright my lovely friends and “fans”, I will most definitely be back soon with another more lengthy and thought-provoking post.  And just to set up a little challenge for myself, I promise I will post within the next week!

Thanks for the love and for reading my blog!!

The Morality of Caring

All this Kony 2012 hype – both negative and positive – has brought a debate to the forefront that I think is incredibly important to acknowledge. For me, it hit home personally. Just to put it out there, I tend to agree with the critics of Kony 2012 and Invisible Children’s approach. The debates and the backlash and the backlash against the backlash look like my personal journey of figuring out what the hell to do with caring about the world in a responsible way, but played out on a massive public scale. It’s kind of interesting to watch.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s set aside the actual context for the moment. Because, I think it is safe to say that there is a lot of shit going on in the world and there are a lot of things to care about. In fact, there are a lot of things to care about in your own back yard. In this case, the context, the region or the conflict of focus does not really matter. What is really of importance is the question of how do we care and act on that caring in the most responsible way.

First of all, I do, wholeheartedly believe that caring is a very good thing! If everyone in the world cared about what was going on around them and worked to make positive change, we’d all live in a better world. The following discussion is certainly not a critique about caring in general. It is merely to put the thought out there that maybe we should not only care, but care informatively. I worry that to care based only off of images and pleas for help through social media memes only sensationalizes suffering. It also does not give enough credit to those who are being objectified by those images. Teju Cole very eloquently put it in his piece in the Atlantic:

How, for example, could a well-meaning American “help” a place like Uganda today? It begins, I believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for the agency of the people of Uganda in their own lives. A great deal of work had been done, and continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments (I’ve seen many) about how “we have to save them because they can’t save themselves” can’t change that fact.

Humility is the key word here. When one cares, we should not necessarily think that just because I care now, it means I can realistically do something about the problems in the world. Of course, the difficulty is, to be extremely cautious about what to do about your caring can also paralyze you from doing anything. I even wrote my Master’s thesis on this topic (not to worry, I’m not going to go into that).

The center of my argument is not to discourage people from caring, but to encourage people to see that there are risks to caring blindly. Furthermore, there are risks of doing more harm and perpetuating stereotypes when acting upon that blind caring without really understanding the situation in which you are involved.

I’ve dedicated myself to a career around getting college students engaged in the community through service and volunteerism. I am cautious and critical of the work I do and I am honest and open about it with my students about my struggles with service. Through my work, community engagement is paired with education around the social justice issue. A possible outcome of this education is that it can be hard to figure out how to even get involved. Trust me, after 2 years in Peace Corps, I have absolutely been there. But, for those who persistently care, will continue to educate themselves and find ways to get involved in an appropriate way that is respectful of the people with whom they are working by acknowledging the dignity and agency of everyone involved.

This also brings me to how the public debates and discussions reflect my personal ideological journey about caring and trying to figure out how to care and act most effectively. Cole notes that he received a lot of responses of varying degrees of positivity and negativity to his initial tweets on which his piece was inspired. The negative responses, particularly from those people who care a whole lot about other people and the world, seem to demonstrate some dissonance with the complexity of caring for and helping other people. To me, this is an incredibly natural reaction. When I first read Ivin Illich’s To Hell with Good Intentions I had an almost visceral reaction of defensiveness. I hadn’t encountered it until after Peace Corps and he was basically arguing against the work that I had been doing the past two years of my life. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is a 1968 speech to the Center for InterAmerican Student Projects in Mexico which essentially calls for all American volunteers to leave Latin America. I challenge you all to read it and to attempt at not becoming defensive. It took me years to get to a point where I could actually nod my head in agreement.

The challenge for me is that I still work in a field where I’m sending people out to communities that are not their own to volunteer. What has become central to my work, though, is acknowledging the complexities of caring and volunteerism through self-critique and education, but also to open myself up to the idea that good things can come from people learning from one another. What service is to me is not based on the actual projects, but rather the relationships that are being built and that MUST be built with reciprocity. These are all complex issues that you can’t really tease out from the memes you see through social media.

In the end, I am not trying to discourage caring. I do believe it is our moral obligation – especially for those from privileged backgrounds – to think critically about how we care, though. Once you know about a problem in the world, I understand the urge to want to do something about it. I also realize that it sucks to feel helpless when you really care deeply about an issue. But, in order to effectively do something about it, you should first think critically about your own ability to do something and probably more importantly, think about the people who are most affected by an issue and what they are already doing and how they are able to work for change without someone coming from the outside to tell them how to do it.

As cynical as I feel sometimes (the pre-Peace Corps idealism has won off a bit), I am still an eternal optimist. I believe we can all get involved in change one way or another. I just urge people to do it with care.

It’s Time to Get a Little Pissed (In Honor of Women’s History Month)

Personal confession: Perhaps I bring up the issue of gender a little bit too often in everyday conversation.  My sister – in the only way a sister can – yelled this at me the other day when I brought it up in a discussion that, admittedly, didn’t need to have that issue tacked onto it.

I’ve learned that just because something frustrates me, I don’t have to be self-righteous about it and tell everyone and anyone who will listen (i.e. usually my poor friends and family).  I learned that the hard way when I came back from Peace Corps, because no one really cared about the fact that “I went through 20 liters of water a day [I had no running water at my site] which equals 2 toilet flushes, so think about that every time you flush your toilet”.  Or if they did care (which knowing my friends and family a good number of them did), they didn’t want to be guilted into changing their habits by a jaded returned peace corps volunteer.  So, I learned to quietly (and non judgementally) follow the rule: “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” and if any visitors to my house asked, I would tell them why I believe what I believe regarding said toilet habits and how it relates to the environment.  Likewise, I have learned not to bring up gender issues in an everyday conversation, say, about what we’re having for dinner tonight.

This analogy is certainly not meant to diminish the issue of gender (as broad as that is), rather it demonstrates the difficulty of having to navigate the dissonance when confronted with something challenging even when it is as simple as toilet flushing (or in this case not flushing the toilet).  As a social justice educator, my job entails being educated about a variety of different social issues.  I have to admit, though, there’s one that I have ignored despite my personal connection to it, the issue of gender and the rights and view of women in society, more specifically in the U.S.  Like anyone, I’m not going to decide to really care or act on something until I can’t ignore it anymore.  And, I can definitely identify with not wanting to be guilted into action by a self-righteous social justice advocate as I tried to do to others when I came back from Africa.  But, the funny thing about dissonance is that it keeps coming back until you can’t ignore it anymore.  There is a point when we need to confront it and do something about it.  There’s something that is staring straight at us right now that I wonder if the women (and men who trust women) of America (liberal or conservative) are starting to feel the strain of not speaking up or doing something about it.  Is it seeming strange, frustrating, angering, absolutely ridiculous that the people making decisions about OUR reproductive health are old men?  Even to the most conservative woman, doesn’t that seem strange?

Does something look a little off about this panel on BIRTH CONTROL (you know, contraception, that thing that most women…and by most I mean 99% of all women and 98% of all catholic women have used?

I know it’s an image you’ve probably seen more than once in the last several weeks or so if you aren’t living underground, but as marketing has taught us in America, repetition can work.  Because, every time I see this image of the birth control panel, it makes me more and more pissed off.  You don’t have to call yourself a feminist (as I know that term can be contentious even for the most progressive-minded women working for women’s rights).  But anyone who values social progress and equality in our society should find something strange about the fact that those voicing concerns about reproductive issues, cannot, in fact, reproduce.

And then to make matters more frustrating, the conservatives in Virginia (who are afraid of the word “vagina”) had to go so far as to pass the mandatory ultrasound bill requiring women seeking an abortion to take a transvaginal ultrasound (i.e. inserting a 10-inch wand – against her will –  inside her at her own cost no matter that said woman’s pregnancy might have resulted from a rape.  Hmmm). Not to mention the effing old men schooling all of us women on the olden days of aspirin between the legs and the assholes (um, Rush Limbaugh) calling Susan Fluke who testafied before Congress a slut for using birth control.

I’ve seen frustration and anger all over Facebook about these and all the other anti-women commentary and legislation being pushed forward.  All I can really say about this regression into the past is that there is a lot of fear out there amongst the old conservatives in power.  Maybe they’re afraid that if they bring too many women into the conversation, they’ll all simultaneously be menstruating causing a whole bunch of hormones to bounce off the walls and create chaos (because, you know, that does happen).  Or maybe they’re afraid that by not exerting control over their (meaning all) women, they’ll lose their masculinity.

When I was teaching HIV/AIDS education in rural Africa (which I’m sure to the surprise of many old  congresspeople, included education about contraceptives), I observed that culturally, men did fear their women being educated on these matters. But, over time, I saw male counterparts and community members open up to the idea of contraceptive use and education.  I honestly did not think this discussion would happen at a national level in what on the outside seems like one of the most modern countries in the world.  Well, listen dudes, with modern progress also comes social progress and you are just going to have to deal with that.

It’s Women’s History Month, so in honor of the women that have struggled for us to come this far, let’s try not to slip back into the past with old-school sexist laws and assumptions.  Like I said before, once realizing that something is just not right, you have to do something about it.  I realize it’s not easy to see clearly what that action is, especially within the political structure we currently have.  For those of us of any gender that are not afraid to see some change and a shift in dialogue, it’s time to at least start trying to do something about it.  You don’t have to call yourself a feminist, but if you support women’s rights, this can still speak to you. As we’ve seen through recent successes through social media, our voices can be heard.  If anything, paying attention and putting your voice out there is one of the most important things we can do in our democracy.

Here are a few suggestions:

I’m getting really tired of not doing anything about it, so let’s get empowered and make our voices heard.  We owe it to the women who helped us come this far.

And for those of you who respond best to a little funny, I’ll leave you with this:  Really?!? With Seth and Amy: Birth Control

A Single State of Mind

Do we have a single state of mind or are we just waiting to get out of that state and into the relationship state of mind?

That’s a question I’ve been pondering lately, particularly spurred on by a talk I went to a few weeks ago called All the Single Ladies  in response to an article by the same name written by Kate Bolick in the November 2011 issue of The Atlantic.  An awesome article if I might add.  I won’t go into a detailed summary because y’all (men, women, coupled or single alike) should read it for yourself.  But, to give you a very brief summary, as a 39-year-old single, white, educated woman, Kate Bolick did some research into how single women are living as well as the mentality around single women in our culture.  A couple of points I got out of it were:

1)      The dynamic of marriage and relationships is changing whereby more women are finding themselves single because of the number of educated and successful women is increasing while the opposite is happening to men (although, Stephanie Coontz recently published an article that disputes the myth that more education=less marriage for women ). Either way, though, my personal observations are that there are still a lot of single people out there and that was evident by the number of single women in the audience at the talk.  Although, my observation might be skewed a bit given that the talk was in DC and I lived in DC the last 5 years which has been deemed as one of the worst dating cities for single women; and

2)       Single women need to cultivate strong communities of other single women.

How’s that for putting a 4-page in-depth article into two bullets?

With the “synopsis” out of the way, let’s get to the point – what is a single state of mind?  When Bolick mentioned this idea during the talk, what I immediately recalled was the anxiety I have felt around the idea of being single and how seeking out a partner seems to be a central focus of my life.  I feel that I’m at a unique vantage point because although I am doing the online dating thing, I’m finding myself more and more an advocate of being single each day.  Call me selfish, but the thought of putting energy into someone else right now makes me more anxious than the thought of spending my life “alone”.  Now that I mention being “alone”, I realize how ridiculous that statement sounds. Because seriously, you are never alone unless you really want to be!  And sometimes, when you just want to embrace your introverted side (that most people don’t know is there), you still are not ever alone.  Can you tell I’m in desperate need of alone time?

Thinking about it, I have been single most of my life – despite a couple serious relationships in there – so I find it really interesting that all that time I was wishing myself to be in another state. I can honestly say that the single part of my life has probably been the easiest, so why has it always been the most unsettling?  I mean, thinking back to the relationships I’ve been in, relationship-management became the central focus and you know what, that sucked.  Okay okay, those guys were not the ones for me and maybe it’d be different, but even the idea of having to negotiate the recent move (40 miles up the road) with a hypothetical partner makes me feel so grateful that all I had to do was have a conversation with myself.

Now, I’m not knocking the idea of having a partner.  In fact, I would like one someday.  Even more, I would like to find myself again in a place where I’m actually open to bringing someone back into my heart.  But, I do find it really sad that society constantly tells us women that we are not 100% successful until we have a partner.  I am not “biding my time” before I find “the one,” I am living my life and being me.  Someday if and when I find someone to share my life with, I sure do hope that whoever I am as a single person doesn’t just disappear.  When we live our lives trying to get out of that state of being, it seems that we’re trying very hard to erase that part of ourselves before we’ve even moved to a different state of being.

My conclusion to all these observations is simple: I’m just gonna enjoy being single like a single lady in her single house in a single city.  Whatever the hell that means.  For now, I am perfectly happy sitting at home by myself with my cats watching Ghost Whisperer like a real spinster.