Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Here We Grow...again...

I feel like I've written about this so many times, but if the issue continues to rear its ugly head, I'll keep swatting at it. Yesterday, my little peanut told some girls at school had been mean to her. Ughhhhh...can you envision my head erupting and lava pouring down my body onto the kitchen floor? Cause that's pretty much what happens when my kids tell me someone was mean to them.

Now, these particular transgressions were mild. Passive-aggressive. Nothing outright mean. Also, let's consider that this tiny kitten is my virtual clone, and one of my biggest shortcomings is reading stuff into what people say and do. It is possible she is overreacting.

Here are the facts: No one was blatantly mean to her, but there was undercover, shady mean stuff. She picks up on that nonsense though, and it's my job to help her navigate through these issues no matter how big or small because they're all big to her.

More facts: For the life of me, I do not understand this bullshit any better having dealt with it for more than 40 years than I did when I was her age. My girlfriend said we should write a book about it. Sure, I could write a book about how annoying and stupid and hurtful and damaging it is, but could I offer any insight about how to make it less so? I don't know.

But today I saw an eagle at the lake, and that encouraged me to be courageous and stretch beyond my limits and pull together some advice people have given me, and I've given my girls over the years re: mean girls. Maybe something helpful will emerge.

Facts about Mean Girls
1. They are sneaky and sometimes snarky.
2. They bully people--overtly or covertly.
3. They are often jealous and insecure.
4. They sometimes grow up to be mean women who spawn the next generation of mean girls.
5. They probably just want love and acceptance and have a twisted way of seeking it.

Once you break them down into little pieces, it's easier to find tactics to deal with them. And it's fun to break mean people into little pieces. My mother's advice re: mean girls? Just ignore them. I used to tell my girls the same thing. Just ignore them. I never could though. And last night, after hashing through this stuff with my itty bitty girl, I realized that ignoring isn't always a valid coping mechanism. We had to come up with something better.

Here's what we threw together:

1. Be kind. You don't have to be everyone's friend, but it feels better to be kind even when someone is mean to you. People who feel loved on the inside don't treat others unkindly, so when a person treats you badly, it's probably because she feels bad on the inside.

2. Don't play with people who are mean. One of your "friends" always insists that you play the game she chooses. That's okay. Play with someone else. But all your friends are playing with her? Make new friends. You don't have to fight about it, simply remove yourself from the situation.

3. Speak up. The last thing passive-aggressive meanies want is for their behavior to be called out. "It's not kind to whisper about people." "I don't want to play with you because you are bossy to me and our other friends." "It's mean when you threaten not to be my friend or to tell on me just because I don't want to play this game." This works for all ages with minor modifications. Try it. It's empowering. And it's almost as fun as breaking mean people into little pieces :)

4. My favorite advice is from my Queen Mother Maya: When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. I'm not saying that people can't change, but when someone is mean to you, pay attention. When you see a "friend" being mean to someone else, remember, tomorrow that someone could be you. Notice the person who gossips about everyone. What does she say about you when you aren't around? Watch how people treat waitresses, fast food employees, bank tellers...people they believe to be...inferior. Trust me. It tells you a lot about a person. How do people act when they think no one's looking? I can tell you with absolute certainty: The same people who were mean to me 20, 30, 40 years ago are still mean to me today. Even the ones who smile and hug me.

5. Finally, give people grace. Mean girls included. You don't have to hang out with them, be their friend or even speak to them. But we don't know what's going on in someone's life that makes them act the way they do. We don't have to try to understand or figure them out. We don't have to read into their actions. We can give them grace...freely...and maybe from a safe distance.

At this point, I've cut all the mean girls and people and even a few cats--cause some of them are just assholes--out of my life. I'm no longer trying to make people like me. I'm not interested in being the homecoming queen. And I have zero energy to give people who don't bring joy to me and to our family.

Fortunately I am extravagantly blessed and grateful to be surrounded by smart, kind, compassionate people who love me for who I am while challenging me to learn and grow. And I'm trying my damnedest to be kind, compassionate, loving and forgiving while raising 3--or 2, is Chloe raised? gulp--people who will be the good...the change I want to see in the world.

And you know what? It's working. My big girl excelled through three years at a women's college. She met amazing people who encouraged and inspired, believed in, challenged, taught and learned with her. She didn't have hardly any mean girl nonsense. It's a slow process, but it's working.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pro-Choice

A lot of energy is focused on what women wear. People have very strong opinions about what is or is not appropriate for certain body shapes or ages. I cut my hair off at 30 because my mom told me it was inappropriate for women over 30 to have long hair. For real. It's since grown back, and I have no plans for another age or shame-based shearing. I don't care what other people wear or what people think of what I wear. Still...

Awhile back a woman took to the internet saying that "she wasn't judging anyone else,"--BUT, there's always a but (butt), right??--she wasn't going to wear leggings or yoga pants anymore because her husband told her he had a hard time not looking at women in yoga pants. I believe she might have also claimed Jesus' involvement. Okay, if my husband told me that, I'd think he needed to keep his eyes in his own business not that I needed to wear looser pants so that other women's husbands weren't tempted to look at my ass. Maybe that's just me.

Let me address one little thing: While yoga pants, leggings and other articles of women's apparel are hotly debated, men walk around in speedos, and no one blinks. Seriously? Men are distracted by the curve of a woman's butt, but everyone can ignore the outline of a penis and testicles? Mind. Blown.

In all honesty, I couldn't care less about this debate. I will wear leggings all day every day. However, it came to my attention that Lakeview Middle School recently instituted a "No Leggings" rule. My little peanut, who will attend this school next year, is distraught because her wardrobe is 98% leggings.

I'm not sure how to approach this.

I am not advocating clothing anarchy. Dress codes certainly serve a purpose, and boys and girls alike should dress appropriately for school. But before someone jumps down my throat, let me say this: If my son cannot concentrate on math because a girl in his class is wearing yoga pants, that is HIS problem. Not hers.

Can you say rape culture?

Before I went to public school in 8th grade, my dad gave me a rather unconventional birds and bees talk. Basically, he told me all kinds of different lines boys would use to try to coerce me into sex. He then pointed out that each and every line was bullshit. He said, "Boys CAN control themselves. Don't let them convince you that they can't. It's a choice."

I have explained to my daughters and my son that our bodies are our personal property as are other people's. What you wear is your business. And what other people wear is theirs. You can never touch someone without their permission, and no one should ever touch you without yours. If I wear a short skirt, it is because I chose to wear a short skirt. If a man looks at me wearing a short skirt, it is because he chose to look at me wearing a short skirt. If my husband looks at woman in yoga pants, he chose to. The woman in yoga pants didn't make him do it. It's a choice. It's a choice. It's. A. Choice.

I promise you, if I see a man in a speedo, I'll choose to look away.

Unfortunately, circling back to my point, now, my teeny girl doesn't have a choice. She can't wear what is most comfortable to her because someone in a position of authority decided that girls (even teeny ones) wearing leggings are inappropriate. That kinda infuriates me. In fact, this whole demonization of women's clothing seems to be a smoke screen preventing genuine issues from being addressed in schools and in life. How about if we actually start raising our children to be kind, considerate and compassionate adults rather than finding lame excuses for why they're not?

One of my girlfriends tells her son, "It's your job to be kind and help people." She is right, and her son is a darling child, who I'm confident will grow up to be a kind and compassionate man. What if we took that approach to life? What if we woke up every day striving to learn to live and love wholeheartedly? To forgive, accept, and be kind to ourselves and one another? Every day I try. And I fall short. Especially on days when people make a big deal about leggings. For real. But, I get up and try again the next day. Usually in leggings.