Feb 1 2018


The author as a a young turk.

The author as a a young turk.

My experiences with men have been across the board. Some relationships were innocent and playful. Some were pure raw passion and few rules. But in each, there was respect. And we didn’t have a conversation about it; by the times we’d “gotten there” there was plenty of communication, much unspoken about boundaries and knowing what was “okay.”

From the moment you meet someone, you are communicating with them. Mostly, you are telling them about yourself, and how you view yourself, how much (or whether or not you) respect yourself. My peers and I (Gen-X, if you will) grew up reading social cues and emotional cues. We knew that when someone said “yes” with a face full of dread, there was something else going on there. We knew by how someone reacted when they saw us whether or not they felt the same way we did seeing them.

But times have changed. I read Sherry Turkle’s “Reclaiming Conversation.” In it, she says young people DREAD conversation. They fear they’ll “say it wrong,” and so they prefer to text, where they can edit their words so that they “get it right.” Another reason for text is so that they have a record of a conversation (in case they need to disprove someone’s version later). Isn’t that lovely?

Lost in all this text is facial expression. Body language. The nuances and subtleties that often tell us WAY MORE than what someone is actually verbalizing.

It’s not the kids’ fault. They learn from their parents, and parents of teens and young adults now are every bit as guilty of being glued to their devices as their children. I struggle with trying to spend less time with mine, and have to set hard rules for myself.

Which brings us to #metoo. People need to get back to looking each other in the face. People need to learn what the face (and body) language of remorse, guilt, fear, unease, confusion, uncertainty, nervousness etc. etc. etc. looks like. We can “talk about it” all we want. But we’re not really listening unless we are reading the whole person.

A few times I found myself in situations I realized I didn’t want to be in. I had sex with someone just to get the whole night over with. That was my choice (in your twenties, having sex wasn’t the worst thing that could happen, even in that situation). Another time I was on a first date with a multi-millionaire who grew enraged when I didn’t want to go to his place to watch a movie after dinner. I’d gone back to mens’ places on the first date before, but it didn’t feel right here. I suggested we see a movie in a theatre instead. He grew enraged, and I told him to pull the car over.

My point is, we all get in situations that are not ideal (and I’m only talking about dating here). As women, we also have to read visual and emotional cues — that charming, attractive multi millionaire… something told me NOT to go home with him, and his response to my “No” confirmed how right I was. The sex with the “just to get the whole night over with” guy — that was my choice. I was not a victim in either of these two scenarios. I put myself in them, and I got myself out of them. I own my choices, and I learned from both experiences.

Of course there are cases far more serious than these, and I’m definitely not suggesting that women can get themselves out of every situation. Men are bigger and stronger and people (especially if we don’t know them well) can become violent surprisingly quickly, especially when alcohol is involved.

But we need to talk about communication. Talk is great. BUT LET’S NOT FORGET about emotional and social cues. Put down the goddamn devices. You may NOT text a break up, or an apology. We owe those we hurt, intentionally or otherwise, the respect of doing these things face-to-face. We need to see the hurt on their face, the harm we’ve inflicted.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina put this into practice in Larry Nassar’s case, when she let 150+ of his victims read their victim statement. He had to see and hear the immeasurable pain and suffering he inflicted on every one of them. We need to get back to a time where we not only recognize it’s wrong to hurt someone, but we are TERRIFIED of the consequences if we do. People have been consequence-free too long. #timesup

Feb 14 2009

Status: Not Complicated

I am not a co' ho'.

I am not a co’ ho’.

Raise your hand if you’re tired of people old enough to know a thing or two by now (and I’m talking to you, my fellow aging Gen Xers) complaining, lamenting, wondering: “how did I get here?” Not just in terms of their relationship, but their life: career, income, self-fulfillment. I used to do the same. But at some point, increasingly I’d ask that question of myself (rather than of a friend, rhetorically, over my second double macchiato, as was my way in the past). And when I asked it of myself, I actually required of myself an answer. And it hit me:  Because that’s what I’ve chosen. Wealth and a relationship and self-worth cannot be had if the price is feeling trapped. Compromise? Of course. Frustration? A given. But trapped: never, ever again. Not in a job, not in a relationship, nowhere. Let freedom reign.

I’m smart. So why am I not Wealthy? Married? Satisfied? Sometimes I need to remind myself, to be quite honest.

Why am I not wealthy?
Because I chose to walk away from a lucrative corporate gig a long time ago. It paid well but I was miserable. I felt trapped. The good definitely did not outweigh the bad – no amount of money is worth feeling trapped, not to me. So I walked. I could quite easily have more money. There are lots of ways right outside my door I could easily earn a great income with lots of benefits. Perhaps I’ll find one that fits well and doesn’t feel come with that “trapped” feeling. In the meantime, I know exactly how I want to live my life, what I want to do with it: and it can pay off. It’s a longshot, I know. And that’s okay. I’m doing okay. It’s 100% worth the tradeoff. I’m loving every minute spent trying. This is an adventure.

Why am I not married? Again, I chose to not remain married. I loved being married. I loved him, he loved me; we still love each other. But Dave Mason said it best: “There ain’t no good guys. There ain’t no bad guys. There’s only you and me and we just disagree.” And if you spend your life together in disagreement, it’s not good for either party. It felt like another trap: one I’d built around myself. Some people stay with the wrong person for fear of ending up alone, or for the kids, or because they loathe the confrontation/battle of divorce, so they take the lifelong path of least resistance. It’s up to you: risk being alone for the right reasons or with someone for the wrong ones. And that is for no one to decide or judge but you.

Climb Me.

Climb Me.

Why am I not satisfied? I choose — no in this case, I’ll always need — to ameliorate. Because I like the act of striving, pushing myself, wanting to accomplish more, improving myself. I’ve been satisfied many times, and to great degrees. I just don’t remain satisfied for very long. Show me a mountain and I have to climb it. And there’s always a mountain to climb. I like the climb as much as the view from the top. And I mean that literally, not metaphorically. But you can do what you want with that mountain and that metaphor.

Self pity, tear down this wall!

I wonder if he's satisfied.

I wonder if he’s satisfied.

But let’s talk about you now, my fellow aging Gen Xers, who are still stuck on the “why me?” loop. Most of you are fiercely smart. Too smart for your own good. It was great currency in your 20s, when having a low-paying job with cool cred was hot. Or you were working a McJob until your big break, when your indie-alt-grunge band “Carpet Picnic” (or whatever genius name it was then) was discovered, signed to Sub Pop, and changed the face of rock forever. Or you were working to Save The Children (or The World, or The Peppered Moth) in a non-profit organization — which made you a good person. Fine and dandy.

But we’re 15, 20 years on, guys. You didn’t go into it for the money then. And you stuck with it. So why, oh why are you whining that there’s no money now? “How did I get here?” “How did this happen?” Answer: Because it’s what you chose. You could change it any second. Get a broker’s degree. Go into pharmaceutical sales. Not into selling out? Write the next blockbuster movie franchise that elevates the genre into the category of  “art”. Just do something, anything, different. Differently. Or own it, take pride, be the best you can be at it. Or… choose to stop complaining. It’s only your life we’re talking about after all. Just how much of it do you want to spend complaining, regretting, lamenting – and annoying everyone around you in the process (while you still have their attention, that is)?

Sure, there are some circumstances we definitely do not choose. Death of loved ones, layoffs at work, and other’s behavior all come to mind. But whether we stay vs. go? Choice. To listen vs. ignore? Choice. Accept vs. change? Choice. Path of least resistance (and often, least reward) vs. challenge? Big choice. Big choice. Choose wisely.