Label This!

I have many labels, and have been called many things. I was born in the United States, which means I’m a mixed breed. I don’t speak Starbucks, and as far as I’m concerned, they are the ones who should learn English.
I’m beige on the outside, which I grew up being told was ‘white’. Inside, I’m the same as everyone else.
My age of 48 puts me in Generation X (children of the Baby Boomers). Not cool anymore. I’m old to some and young to others.
As a woman older than 35 but younger than 50, I am a lost demographic to the marketing world; but since I am single, I may be used as a prop.
When I was a bartender, I was told I was very pretty – unless I shut that person off. When I was a legal secretary, I was a typist. When I was a stripper, I was called a slut. When I was a waitress, I was treated as a servant. When I was training male doctors on a new computer program, I was still just a woman expected to be intimidated by a male counterpart who made more money. When I was a school bus driver, I was ignored as an ‘underling’ – unless I made a child sit up in the front seat; then I was a mean-person-out-to-hurt-children-as-a-means-of-validating-myself, because your child would never misbehave. When I gave birth, I was just a mother (this includes a loss of sexuality points).
As a young girl, I was told I was ‘just a girl’ and warned of the many things I couldn’t do. I ran like a girl, threw like a girl, and cried like a girl (but I could spit like a boy).
Then I got ‘girl married’ and I was someone else’s possession, representative, mirror, and secretary.
Because I’m a girl, when I moved into my neighborhood three years ago alone with my young daughter, I was called a cougar. Because I’m a girl, I was hurt when someone broke up with me. Because I’m a girl, I was accused of having another man lined up when I broke up with someone (because a girl would never do that unless she had a safety net).  When I get angry, I must be ‘on the rag’. When I’m hurt, I’m overreacting. When I have an opinion, I’m bossy. When I say no, I’m a bitch (when I say yes, I’m a slut, again). I have been accused many times of acting ‘like a man’ – or trying to.
Oh, and since I’m single and own cats, I am now a ‘cat lady’, too (although the lady part might be questionable).
I am labelled because of my color, my sex, my job, my age, my looks, my choices, my hobbies, my lifestyle, my political status, my religious beliefs, my clothing, my children, my friends, my pets, and the color of my nail polish.
We use labels for organization and separation. Consider the file cabinet (unless you are under 40; then think about a file in the Documents folder of your computer): we will label a file as separate from another file, and then we will label a sub-file within that file, to isolate it even further from its parent file.  Generally speaking, each sub-file is a part of the main label, but still separate from it.
How is it that we are willing to split hairs and define paper, thoughts, projects, areas, time periods, and things as their own unique items, and not do the same when we label people? We even allow uniqueness with paint colors (fuschia is not pink), yet we label people in generalities. White or black, gay or straight, male or female, republican or democrat, liberal or conservative, etc. We have this need to separate; if you are not this, you are that. The sub-category (sub-folder) does not apply here.
In treating people according to blanket-generality labels, we deny them not only their own uniqueness, but our connection to them. Try as you may, you cannot deny our connectedness; it has already been established that we all bleed the same way.
Both sides complete a whole, yin and yang, male and female, heads and tails. I am not this or that. I am this and that. A little of both, a little bit of everything … a little bit of you.

(But since all that is too much to put on a t-shirt, you can just call me Susie.)
Ladies, Chaka was partly right: we are every woman, but we are more than that. You are more than that. 
The Stylistics said it better: You are everything.
And everything
(everyone)
Is You.

Stick that in your label maker.
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Dropping the Basket

I dropped my basket yesterday.

Again.

I hate admitting it, as usual, but since there were a few witnesses my secret is already out.

Actually, I dropped it last week, however it was as if the event was videoed in slow motion, giving plenty of people time to catch up and watch.

In my case it’s not about depression; this is a situation more like the feeling of being an egg sitting in the boiling water too long that begins to crack (that analogy is something I’ve had the opportunity to associate first-hand – an attestment to my cooking skills). Of course, it could also just be Head Up Ass Syndrome.

We’ve all reached that point somewhere, sometime in our lives, when we just lose it. I’m not whining. I understand and even support that sometimes it needs to happen. I usually operate with an internal pressure release valve; when something happens, I vent (and vent … and vent). Sometimes my venting is quite entertaining (according to some of my friends) as I get creative in my descriptions of how I’d like to react – another part of my process; reaching for the ridiculous always helps me with perspective (or, it just highlights my own level of crazy – either way, it’s part of my charm). I have learned to temper my venting in front of a woman I work for occasionally, because even after 12 years she will still say, “But you’re not going to do that, right?”

Sometimes, the vent sticks shut, or is not open enough to allow enough air out, and the pressure builds.

Back to the basket. I dropped my basket. I always loved that saying, even before I heard it in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. With this morning’s acknowledgment of my own basket-dropping, I began to think about that phrase a little more, with a little mental imagery. Of course, I took it further – and then I found myself in the middle of another great (as far as I’m concerned) analogy.

I want you all to try something. (Seriously, try it and post pictures of it here or to my Facebook page) Fill up a basket with little plastic eggs (or superballs, if you have the time and really want to have some fun).

Take that basket out into the middle of any public area and just drop it. Watch the little eggs roll off in all directions (I think I really want to do this with superballs!). Here you can get a good visual of how the basket-dropping expression came about.

Now, watch what else happens. People start running around trying to retrieve the little eggs and bring them back to you. No, not everyone; but usually more than you think. Pay attention here: this is not simply a matter of other people trying to be helpful – it is that, but it’s more than that. Someone who is trying to be helpful has time to size up a situation before making the decision to do so – those are the people who were some distance from you who either saw you drop the basket or noticed everyone around you scrambling for the eggs. For other people, helping you out was automatic. Think about it; the people closest to you when you dropped the basket did not have time to think about helping you – they just reacted. Immediate reactions happen without thought; and without thinking, these people rushed to help you gather the eggs.

If you want to go further into this little social experiment, spend some time in this public place and study the people there before you let the eggs loose; see if you can pick out ahead of time which ones will help and which ones won’t. I guarantee at least one person will surprise you, by either not helping when you thought he would, or helping when you thought he wouldn’t.

This is life. You may let go, drop it, lose it, or fall down, however there is always someone there, in some way, to help you pull it together, pick it up, find it, or help you up. Automatically, because however our separateness, we have an innate connection in spirit. Whether it is the person who surprised you by not helping, or the one who surprised you when he did.

The actual physical experiment is nice in that you are detached from the outcome; if someone does or doesn’t help, it doesn’t matter to you because you had no personal investment in it – you were just watching to see what happened. In real life, you may feel disappointed if someone is not ‘there’ for you – but you also may be pleasantly surprised by who is (even if it is just for that one instant). But even then, you are in a position to detach yourself from that feeling of hurt, because if you step back and look at the overall picture, someonewas there. And there will always be someone. That’s the order of chaos, the Universal system of checks and balances, this and that. We just have to believe it’s there in order to be able to see it.

We all have those blinders that prevent us from seeing what we have. Those blinders can also prevent us from seeing when another person needs assistance. In the physical experiment, you will notice that some people never offered to help because they didn’t see what happened – and yes, this is sometimes a conscious choice. Some won’t help because they are too far away, or they deduce that there are enough people involved. Each one of us has been in a similar situation where we didn’t see, chose not to see, felt we were too far away, or guessed the situation was under control. That’s human nature based on personal perspective, and it is in all of us. Whatever the case, someone was (and will be) always there for another. Trying to see the bigger picture will give you the opportunity to sidestep feelings of disappointment and be present in appreciation.

Back to me – yes, because I started this. I dropped my basket, and the eggs went flying.

And manypeople rushed around to gather them back up for me. I saw all of you.

Thank you.

So much.

What Not To Wear

How a person dresses – at any age – is and should always be a matter of personal choice. When we are comfortable or are happy in (or even enjoy) what we are wearing, we perform at our best. The problem is, we are told that fashion is not a matter of personal choice, but of age and public opinion, and the only exceptions to these rules of age-appropriateness and dress-code deviance are specific highly acclaimed artists and celebrities. People who toe outside of the accepted boundaries of FASHION are insulted, publicly shamed (“Worst-dressed List,” anyone?), and mocked (“Are you going to WalMart?”).

What is FASHION? Fashion is defined as a noun in two ways:

  • A popular trend, especially in styles of dress and ornamentation.
  • A manner of behavior or doing something.

Fashion is also defined as a verb:

  • Make into a particular or required form.

There is a bit of irony in the definitions of the word, if you think about it:

Acceptable FASHION (n.) is only considered to be after one has been FASHIONED (v.).

What happened to “Express yourself” or “Be YOU”?

Eddie Izzard summed it up nicely when his mode of dress was questioned:

“They’re not women’s clothes. They’re my clothes. I bought them.”

We are not supposed to be fashioned into being anything other than who we are. Keep in mind, too, that those acclaimed celebrities were not accepted for their non-conformity until it became recognized that they weren’t going to change; eventually, it became expected of them – thus allowed and accepted.

Wear what makes you happy. Be you, inside and outside.

That being said, there are a few suggestions about things that shouldn’t be worn, however these guidelines are somewhat situational and fall more under the category of personal safety.

What Not to Wear

Too-tight clothing: Clothing that interferes with your breathing is not good, because breathing is necessary for a lot of things.

Stiletto heels: There’s a time and place for high heels, even when you’re not standing on them; however, they should never be worn:

  • When swimming, jogging, or skiing.
  • In the snow; they don’t have a lot of traction and you could slip and fall.
  • While riding a bike or motorcycle – unless you are the token sexy prop in a commercial for some pricey male cologne or, of course, Viagra.

“Mom Jeans”: I hate to break it to you, ladies, you’ve been wearing Mom Jeans since you gave birth. If the jeans are hers, and she is a Mom, her jeans are Mom Jeans. Transitive Property. Do the math.

Miniskirts: These should never be worn when walking a tightrope or climbing a ladder, because others will be able to see your underwear. It’s probably not a good idea to wear them out in the snow either, because it’s cold.

Short-shorts: Like miniskirts, these should not be worn out in the snow, either; they are made for warmer weather. Be careful on slides. Hot slides can burn – especially those old metal ones.

Tops that expose a lot of cleavage: These should not be worn to a wedding; remember it is unfair for the girls (any of ‘the girls’) to upstage the bride. It might also be considered a little disrespectful to wear them to a funeral (unless, of course, it’s your funeral).

Long, dangly earrings:  These can be dangerous if worn during sports or on rollercoasters – one could chip a tooth or poke an eye out.

Flip-flops: See Stiletto heels. For the same reasons (although these are not meant for advertising to the male demographic). But please, please, don’t wear socks with them. That’s just wrong.

Bright nail polish: If you wash dishes without gloves, or your hands are in and out of water a lot, bright nail polish isn’t a good idea; this type of activity will cause the nail polish to chip faster, and bright colors show off chips more obviously than the blander colors.

Sleeveless tops and dresses: If you have a sunburn on your arms and shoulders, you should not wear anything sleeveless if you are going back outside. Keep them covered until the sun goes down.

Belly button rings: These may only pose a problem if you work a job with high-level security or spend a lot of time at airports, as some of the metal in certain jewelry pieces may set off alarms in metal detectors. Do you want to spend the extra time removing your belly ring while taking off your shoes, taking your laptop out of your bag, and emptying your pockets?

Laws of fashion are not Universal Law. Ignoring them will not cause you any harm like, say, ignoring the Law of Gravity might.

 

See also When Will I Be Old Enough to Wear Purple?

When Will I Be Old Enough to Wear Purple?

In 1961, Jenny Joseph wrote a famous poem called “Warning,” that has become more and more relevant to women as they continue push beyond the societal norms that dictated their places in the home, limited their opportunity in the workplace, and infringed on their birthright of personal choice and expression.

Whether or not you know the title of the poem, you know the first two lines:

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

This is a wonderful poem about being in charge of your own happiness, boiled down to allowing yourself to make your own choices about who you are and how you express yourself. Many women have taken this up as their platform for personal empowerment and enjoyment. It spawned The Red Hat Society, founded by Sue Ellen Cooper in 1997, which promotes “fun after fifty”.
Ms. Joseph wrote that piece when she was 29.

29.  Most people don’t know that. That’s pretty young to be thinking that far ahead, don’t you think? At that point in her life, what age do you think she thought counted as being ‘old’?

Right now, the only people seeming to pay attention to this work are the older women – certainly not 29-year olds. If they are paying attention, it is information that is surely filed away for ‘when they are older’.

When is that? At what age are we defined as ‘old women’?  

When will I be old enough to wear purple?

Like anyone living in this generation, I asked Google.

“How to Dress Your Age” brought up about 84,900,000 results (0.52 seconds).

I have to say, first, that NONE of the results on the first 2 pages mentioned wearing purple anywhere. But I did find multiple lists of “age-appropriate” dress for people over the age of 30, 40, 50, 60, and 70.

(I’m sad to say that even Oprah had one. Age-appropriate, Oprah? Really? Conformity?)

By my deductions, that would make 80 the age of the ‘old woman’ and the allowed time slot for wearing purple clothes and red hats.

Are we expected to wait before we can be free in our expressions of who we are? Conform now, be happy later?

Ms. Joseph herself questioned that, in the last lines of her poem:

“But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.”

Whether your mode of dress is full-on ornamentation or simply a matter of concealing nudity, what you choose to wear is a part of who you are, and is often a matter of self-expression.

What happened to “Be You”? Is self-expression and thinking outside of the box conditional? How do we keep using lovely phrases like “Be-YOU-tiful” while we are telling people how they should look, and at what age they should look like that? Isn’t that talking out of both sides of our mouths?

One could argue that how one dresses does not determine the character of the person; however, how one dresses affects the perception of that person by others. No, another’s perception of you does not define you, but it will affect how another will treat you.

The only person that needs to accept me is me. But I will not truly have self-acceptance if I don’t allow the same for everyone else.

Change is needed here, but shifted to the perceiver aspect of ourselves; to allow others to be who they are, before the “Be You” attitude can be fully adopted and acted upon.

Fashion may seem like a small detail in the grander themes of personal power and freedom, but it really isn’t. This ‘small detail’ is a baseline for levels of acceptance and self-esteem. It is a long-standing, self-perpetuating model and prototype of societal conformity that is completely at odds with any and every idea of self-expression and the tolerance thereof. The gateway to all other types of the push for conformity.

A funny thing about this type of following the herd is that the rules are fickle. We knowinglyadhere to rules we know will change nearly every 10 years; it’s like following a religion with changing Gods. Yet the true essence of ourselves doesn’t change (it may grow, but it won’t change).

Your favorite shirt, skirt, shoes, hat, pants, tie, hairpiece, or jewelry (whatever it is) makes you feel good, lucky, powerful, confident, comfortable, etc. Clothing and accessories you don’t like, don’t. How you feel in what you wear is reflected in your attitude, even if it’s only a little bit. Dress yourself up in what suits you. Only you knows what that is.

With more people making that choice, we can slow and maybe eventually stop the dictates of this one aspect of forced uniformity. Progress and change do not come from repeatedly same thinking. The pressure put upon young people by the fashion magazines cannot be discounted. Imagine the possibilities of the younger generations growing older with more self-esteem and better acceptance of others …

I’ll tell you this right now: I’m 48 years old, but the only things that will affect my decision to wear a miniskirt will be the outside temperature and whether or not I feel like shaving my legs.

(My skirt will be purple only if it matches my shoes.)
See also What Not to Wear.

Did I Win?

This was my fortune from a cookie three years ago today. Facebook reminded me of it a little while ago. Of course, my thoughts ran through any and all of my life events over the past three years. (And this is not considering the “in bed” game!)

–Now, yes, this could be a direct reference to tonight’s Powerball jackpot – I mean, three years is technically “the near future” from that date, seeing as how that as far as The Universe is concerned, three years is just a drop in the bucket! I will know for sure a little later on tonight.

However, if The Universe was talking about something else, I’m back to the question I first asked when I saw that picture again: Did I win?

Immediately my thoughts went to two separate events that happened within a short time of each other. Both were life-changing chances, and both were something I’d considered at the time to be a definite ‘win’.

At the time. I say that because I also lost both of them. This is not a matter of me getting something I thought I wanted and then finding out it wasn’t as good as I expected; both were even more wonderful than I could have hoped for, and, for reasons outside of my own control (I hear The Universe gently mocking me here), I do not have either anymore.

This makes me question the idea of a ‘win’. Is a win only momentary? Or is the win title applied when you can look back and still feel like you came out on top? A while ago, when I had what I wanted, I’d thought I’d won. Looking back now with empty hands makes me question that.

I try to find the answers by looking at events after/as a result of my alleged (I’m trying to be … optimistic?) losses. I can’t honestly say that I’ve fully recovered from either. The missing of both is still very prominent in my life, for many reasons.

So, I dig deeper. The fucking cheerleader in me has to find something … anything.

I didn’t get too depressed.

Stop laughing!

Let me rephrase: I didn’t get SO depressed that I let it prevent me from moving forward. I did publish a book, didn’t I? My first one! Yay me!

I began to see myself in a new light (after I stopped belittling myself). Progress is progress, right?

I also learned more about myself, some things I even like.

If I really learned something from my experiences, then I have gained knowledge. While that may not always seem like a win to me, any gain proves that I sure as hell didn’t lose!

And I’m still here.

I’ll take it.

Thank you. I needed to remind myself of that.

USING MUSIC – Self Love (With or Without the Mirror)

 “Louise Hay is considered to be one of the founders of the self-help movement, and she promotes a technique for self-love that she calls “Mirror Work“.  Basically, it is positive self-talk, using a mirror.”

Yeah, I know, I said that already (Mirror, Mirror); however, it’s not as easy as it may sound. Corny? Maybe. Ridiculous? Only if you’re concerned with who’s watching, and if it’s just you and you get embarrassed you might have more work to do.

I’m making light of it because it is hard.  Actually, it can be quite scary, because it can bring up things you don’t want to face (like ourselves). Most of us look in the mirror only to make sure there’s no spinach in our teeth, or that we don’t have our skirts tucked into our pantyhose – basically, to make sure we are presentable (or not offensive) to others. We are not in the habit of actually facing ourselves. Many of us take great lengths to avoid it; not spending any time looking in a mirror may seem small, but it’s the most obvious and overlooked tactic of self-avoidance. Try it. Look in the mirror and see how long you can stare at yourself – not fixing, adjusting, or applying anything – and pay attention to how long it takes you to find something you are unhappy with. You will know the exact moment because that will be the moment you look away.

That’s not even the hardest part, the ‘looking’. The hardest part is talking directly – nicely. Try it. The first time I tried to tell myself, “I love you” I couldn’t even be serious about it. I tried and then immediately went into comic mode. I held the mirror at arms’ length, lowered my chin and gave myself my best come-hither stare, and my “I love you” came out more like Billy Crystal’s “You looooook mahvelous!” Then I pursed my lips and blew myself a number of loud kisses.

There was another time I tried and I ended up focusing on my eyebrows, and out loud I joked about my unibrow; from there I went to unique, unicycle, unicorn, and Unabomber. I didn’t shut up until I was attacking my eyebrows with tweezers, having completely forgotten why I picked up the mirror in the first place.

Forgot. Yeah, that’s it.

I mentioned previously that the first time I actually looked at myself in the mirror, I cried. I realized I had nothing nice to say to me, but plenty of other shit to say. And it was so easy. Why was it so hard for me to be nice to me?

Well, with mirror talk being so difficult, I came up with another idea. Using music.

(It always seems to circle back to music with me. Ah, well … it’s part of my charm. J)

I use music to affect my moods quite deliberately; that’s nothing new. It was Hoobastank that gave me the idea of taking my deliberateness further with their song, The Reason.  I love that song. As far as I’m concerned it is perfect, simple lyrics sung simply, with feeling –

Yes, I have a playlist of songs that I feel are pure, in that adding anything else to them would ruin the tone. Ask me one day about Marty Balin and his song, Hearts.

Anyway, the chorus of The Reason is:

            “I found a reason for me
            to change who I used to be
            a reason to start over new-
            And the reason is you.”

I would listen to the song over and over, and feel it.

— Now, I have had an inner mental battle going on for a number of years about relationships, what they are, the whys and the wherefores, yada, yada, yada. I resent the line from Jerry McGuire – “You complete me.”– that everyone gushes over as being so romantic, because I feel we don’t need anyone to make us complete. Romantic relationships should be about two, separate, complete individuals coming together, retaining their wholeness, under one big umbrella.

This thinking, of course, can ruin a good love song.

That is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed (i.e. cried to) a song that goes on and on about how shitty we can feel after a breakup.

But that is another discussion totally.

As I listened to The Reason (and like I would with any heartfelt song), I thought about the song being sung directly to me. First, I got the heebie-jeebies; the thought of someone changing their life for me seemed like way too much responsibility for me to handle.
And then, I heard it sung to me, from me.
(Then, I really started crying. And this happened)
I thought more about it. If we can’t find the words to be able to say something nice to ourselves when we look in the mirror, why not find a song and sing it to ourselves? Not having to come up with the words takes a lot of pressure off, and if the song already resonates with you it would mean those words are just what you need to hear.
Turn the song around. To you. From you. You don’t even need a mirror.
Or, at least, just think about it. When you’re in the car or listening to the iPod and a really nice song comes on, turn it on yourself. If it’s too hard to sing the words, hear them.  
With or without the mirror, it will help change how you feel about yourself. Even if it only makes you feel better for that one moment, it will be enough right then.

Remember, “you’re amazing, just the way you are.”

And you won’t need anyone else to tell you that.