Tuesday, September 22, 2020

ch ch ch ch changes

When I have my occasional a-ha!! moments, after they're over, they often seem so obvious that I'm a little embarrassed it took me so long to figure it out. Surely everyone else already knew this.

That's how I felt about my realization that at age 59, I am no longer in the same demographic that I was at age 49 (the original posts are here and here). Well, DUH, as we used to say when I was in junior high. How could I possibly have thought that I was? 

But I've continued to read and listen to people and podcasts, and you know what? I'm not alone. I'm not the only woman in her 50s who is having trouble making this mental switch. It's not so much that we mind our encroaching age. After all, by the time we've reached this age, we've lost friends and loved ones and we know how lucky we are to make it to 60. 

It's that we don't feel old, at least not the way our youth-obsessed culture defines old. We don't feel irrelevant, and that's how our society views "old" people. And my friends who have already turned 60 don't seem like senior citizens, at least not the way I thought seniors were when I was 40. I think that is more about my misunderstanding of what a senior is like than it is about 62-year-olds being different than they used to be. Our society really is remarkably stupid about aging.

I think the key is that we have to change how we think about age. We can't do much about changing how young people think-- I can remember being that younger woman who rolled her eyes when someone in her 50s would enthusiastically tell me that "50 is the new 30." That younger me was not convinced. 

But we can change what we believe about ourselves, and about age. We've internalized this idea that if you're not at the center of making things happen, your usefulness as a human being is gone. So we keep chasing after that feeling of being in the "maker" stage, the influencer stage, the making a difference stage. I want to feel like I matter.

But you know what? We do matter. We just do. We don't have to manufacture this, or change our culture, or convince anyone, we just have to believe it ourselves. Instead of trying (unsuccessfully) to continue to shoehorn ourselves into the mid-life category, we need to change how we think about people in their 60s. Yup, I'm old. Yup, I'm no longer on the center stage of what is happening in our world. But I am still a badass.

What if we just move forward? Instead of accepting what our culture tells us--that if you're not in that cultural sweet spot of mid-thirties to mid-forties, you don't matter-- how about if we dump our own anti-age prejudice and know down to our core that american culture is wrong about aging?

Because if we don't do this, if we continue to try to pretend that are in that center stage phase, that's exactly when we become ridiculous. To be clear: Do what you want, wear what you want. Ignore the YouTube tutorials about "seven things women over fifty should never wear" and "six makeup tips for looking 35 again." That's not what I mean. 

What I mean is: recognize that the generations have shifted. The women who are in their 30s to 40s have a different cultural context than we did. They have a different set of priorities and a different set of challenges. We can't talk down to them as if the things we did at their age were important, and theirs are just window dressing. We can't tell younger women that their a-ha moments are unnecessary because our generation already did that (not kidding, I came so close to actually saying that a couple of months ago).

Every generation has to figure out certain things for themselves. Their generation is being forced to manage their kids' online education while figuring out how to organize their homes during lockdown and track their Instagram feed and monitor their kids' use of TikTok and Snapchat. It's a whole different world out there. 

Our lives currently include aching knees, unrestful sleep, chin hairs, and not understanding why anyone would want four social media apps. Own it, my friends. We got this.

****** a blog note ******

Last week we spent the entire week smothered in a thick fog that was actually smoke, blown in from forest fires on the west coast. Like many people with allergies and smoke sensitivity, it was a miserable week for me. But-- of course -- not even close to as miserable for us as it is for the people who are actually experiencing the fires.

It finally rained a bit over the weekend, which at least temporarily cleared out the smoke and let my brain start working again. And when it did, I remembered the post I accidentally published last Monday. It wasn't supposed to go up until Tuesday, but it's easier than you would expect to screw that up. I quickly figured out my mistake and "unpublished" it, and for the first time ever, I managed to delete it before it went to the RSS feed so it never appeared in my reader. But then the smoke descended and I forgot about it until yesterday, so that is why a post that is dated last week was just published yesterday, and why those of you who are email subscribed received at least two copies of it (three?). Oops.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

ugliness abounds

This article in the Atlantic is one of the more interesting perspectives I've read on covid-19. On our unfortunate fixation on coming up with a single fix that will be 100% effective, he says: "Many critics of masks argued that they provide only partial protection against the virus, that they often don’t fit well, or that people wear them incorrectly. But some protection is clearly better than no protection. ...'X won’t stop COVID on its own is not an argument against doing X.' Instead, it’s an argument for doing X along with other measures." Unfortunately, the article is long and somewhat repetitive. But even if you only read the first third of it, you'll get the idea. 

NPR's discussion of the history and future of plastic recycling. Turns out, the plastics industry has always known that recycling plastic isn't viable. It's far more profitable to create new plastic products than to recycle used plastic. The plastics industry spent millions on ad campaigns to convince us that recycling was going to work, even though they knew it wouldn't. This is one of the more disturbing articles I've read recently. We really, seriously need to use less plastic. Carry those reusable bags, people. Worth reading. Thanks to my friend Marina for the link.

I was going to do seven links to interesting articles as one of my "seven things" posts, but I got so depressed while I was looking up other articles, I gave up. It just makes me want to go offline and put my head under a rug. No matter what happens in the election in November, this stuff isn't going away. Maybe we can at least get an administration that doesn't lie to us, but the problems we're facing aren't going to evaporate either way.

One thing I kept running into was our current obsession with assigning the worst possible motivation to the "other side," whichever side you're on. One example out of dozens: if someone is opposed to health-care-for-all, it can't be because they're concerned about our staggering national debt, it's because they're racist and don't care about the health of marginalized people. You get yourself into an echo chamber where you only talk to people who agree with you, so you lose touch with the idea that people on "the other side" might actually have some legitimate concerns about the issues. These issues are complicated. If they were simple, they'd be solved already.

And the solid gold elephant in the room that is not recognized nearly enough: we're being coached into paranoia and distrust by media and corporate and political entities who are consolidating their power and/or making billions in profit from our distrust. People don't click on headlines that are calming and sane. There's no money (or votes) in de-escalation. 

Here was the one thing that made me smile today: The "Couch Choir" singing the old Turtles' song "Happy Together."

Friday, September 11, 2020

Tepid water, please

I've been such a grump this week that I thought I might scratch my own eyes out. In the midst of that, I wrote the post below. Last night, almost on a whim, I decided to drive to Missoula today just to get the heck out of town before I lost my ever-lovin sh!t. I was only there a few hours but other than a weekend trip to visit PellMel back in June, it's the first time I've been out of town since February. My mental status is much improved, so now I'm feeling a little guilty about this post, which is practically a rant. But at least I'm warning you if you're not in the mood to read my whine. 

Here is a typical situation that has happened more times than I can count over the past twenty-ish years. I'm sitting in a PTA/church/community/friend meeting and we need to make a decision. I actually enjoy listening to people's ideas and opinions, but once everyone has expressed their opinion and we're getting to the point where we're re-expressing our opinions, or re-hashing something we've been over eight times, or we're spinning our wheels because nobody wants to make a decision, I get impatient. Really impatient. So I say, "I think we should do xyz." Then suddenly, that is what we are doing. 

It's never my intention to bulldoze the group into doing what I want. In fact, I rarely care what we do. I'm just trying to get us past the endless discussion phase, and into the "let's make a decision and end this meeting" phase. I want to stop meandering around and get something done.  

Then later I find out that someone's feelings were hurt or someone thought I was ignoring them, or I was supposed to defer to someone (not necessarily the group leader) who is the queen bee. 

When I figured out that was happening (which took years, I told you I was clueless about social interactions), I started trying to be more clear. Instead of saying, "I think we should do xyz," I would very carefully make it clear that it was just my opinion, "Well, my vote is xyz, what does everyone else think?" That sometimes backfires because it can lead to reopening the endless discussion, but the intent is to prod us into moving on. 

Apparently, that still is not a good solution. I tried this a few months ago at a meeting which ended not long after. A couple of weeks later, one of the other women said to a mutual friend, "Bless her heart, Barb told us what we should do." I don't think she was especially angry with me, because I was standing right there when she said it, but still it surprised me. Is that how it came across? I thought I had said it so carefully.

I kinda feel bad that she felt that way, but I could not regret getting out of that meeting, which had already gone on for an hour. Somehow I give the impression that I am stubborn and uncompromising.* I don't usually care what happens--sometimes I don't care at all-- I just hate the infinity loop of pointless discussion. And somehow, even when I am trying extra hard not to sound opinionated, it seems that way to other people.

Here's a sideways version of the same thing. We have a group of friends that we've known for years. When we get together, the women drink wine, and the guys drink beer (lots of good breweries around here). I don't drink wine very often because it gives me a headache, but I'd take a glass to be sociable and sip at it. Finally, a couple of years ago I decided it was silly to pretend I like wine when I don't, so I said something about how I really don't care for wine and I'd rather have a beer. 

The next time we got together with those friends, there was no wine. Everyone had a beer. Which was not my intent. I just want to do what I want, and have other people do what they want, and not get into this group-think thing where everybody has to do the same thing. 

I could go on and on. It makes me crazy. Don't change your opinion because of me. If you like wine, drink the damn wine. If you won't be who you are, I can't be who I am. I don't want a friendship where I can only be who I am at your expense.

Sorry. I'm starting to rant. Figure out what you think, and then own it. If you like wine, it's OK for you to drink wine even if it gives me a headache. And, going back to the previous situation, for the love of pete, it's OK for me to express an opinion without making an obeisance to the queen bee. 

That wasn't where I thought this post was going when I started. If you have any advice about how exactly one phrases an opinion without offending people, let me know. If it involves prefacing your words with, "Wellll, you know, maybe we could, I don't know, if it's OK with you, maybe we could think about possibly ...." I'll warn you in advance I'll be rolling my eyes.

Ignore me and have a great weekend.

* OK, ok, now that I'm back from my road trip, I can hear you laughing. I am opinionated and stubborn, it is true. But usually I only inflict it on Dean.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Friday deep thoughts

Mountain ash tree in our backyard
Maybe the only thing that is really true right now is that we are all alive. If I'm sitting here typing this, and you're reading it, we each have a pulse, and I can press a finger to my wrist and feel it. We're breathing. In. Out. In. Out. I can feel the keys under my fingers, I can see the cat sleeping next to me on the sofa, I can hear traffic in the distance through the open window, faintly taste the granola I had for breakfast. Maybe that's where we start. 

If you've been around for awhile, you've seen the quote below, because I think this is at least the fourth time I've posted it. It's my favorite quote from Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzburg, and one of my touchstones since I first read it a dozen years ago: 

"Faith does not require a belief system, and is not necessarily connected to a deity or God, though it doesn't deny one. ...faith is not a commodity that we have or don't have-- it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience.... No matter what we encounter in life, it is faith that enables us to try again, to trust again, to love again. Even in times of immense suffering, it is faith that enables us to relate to the present moment in such a way that we can go on, we can move forward, instead of becoming lost in resignation or despair. Faith links our present-day experience, whether wonderful or terrible, to the underlying pulse of life itself."  -- Sharon Salzburg, in Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience

"The underlying pulse of life itself." 

Have a great weekend. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The things I carry and the summer reading report

I've told you before that I have headaches that start in my neck and shoulders. So it should be obvious that I need to think about the stuff that I carry around all the time-- like my bag. But honestly, it hadn't even occurred to me until this week when I heard a podcast host mention in passing that she hated carrying a big bag because it made her shoulders hurt. 

So the next day, I got out my kitchen scale and started weighing all the stuff in my bag (enneagram 5, yup), and deciding what I could get rid of. I have always been an over-packer. I carry all kinds of stuff that I might need-- bandaids, eye-drops, migraine meds, advil, cough drops, post-it notes, a mini pad of paper, pens (several), two kinds of lip balm, flossers, 3-4 reusable shopping bags-- you get the idea. LOTS of stuff.

But it's all stuff I like having with me. I don't really want to get rid of any of it. My heaviest items were the things that are non-negotiable: wallet (11 ounces), phone (7 ounces), and checkbook (5 ounces). So I started by nixing the multiples--maybe I could get by with one shopping bag, one pen, a couple of index cards instead of a pad of paper, two bandaids instead of a dozen, etc. At first it didn't seem like it was going to make any difference, but it ended up being a couple of pounds lighter, and it's noticeable. Why didn't I think of this years ago?

It's occurring to me that under the circumstances (ie., headaches that start in my neck and shoulders), maybe I should re-think my philosophy of Personal Junk Transportation. Maybe I should keep the extra stuff in my car and just carry my phone, ID, and a couple of credit cards in one of those phone cases. Will be thinking more about this. If you have any good advice, let me know.

Hmmm. Also. Maybe I should join the 21st century and realize I don't need to carry a checkbook all the time. I only go one place that requires a check, and I always drive there so it could be one of the things I keep in my car. Hmmmm.

 Summer Reading Report:

"Fascinating" and "thought-provoking" don't always go with "couldn't put it down," but that's how I felt about The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Ann Fadiman. It's older-- I think it was written back in the 90s-- but it feels like it was written last year (other than the occasional reference to a cassette deck and the lack of cell phones). Very relevant to some things that are going on now, and highly, highly recommended. Everyone should read this book.

The rest of these are grouped by mood, but other than that they're not in any particular order.

Other books from the "fascinating" category: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (interesting but got a little long for me), The Library Book by Susan Orlean (definitely not in the "couldn't put it down" category, but still interesting).

Really fun to read: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (high schooler deals with his first real crush and coming out), The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (fastidious, rule-following inspector for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth is sent on a new assignment where none of his previous experience seems to apply), With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (teen mom who is a gifted chef works hard to make her dreams come true), Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert ("open door" interracial romance), Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner (plus-size influencer is asked by her high school nemesis to be in her wedding). 

Mystery/Dramatic/Great Reading But Not Exactly "Fun": Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves (my first Vera Stanhope mystery and I loved it), The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (dystopian sci-fi), Celine by Peter Heller (a female P.I. of a certain age tries to find a missing dad), The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (didn't especially like this at first but by the end she had won me over), Network Effect (Murderbot Diaries #5, really should read the series in order, and the first one is short so it's easy to figure out if you will like it)(I do, a lot). 

Not for me: Mexican Gothic which I had heard was more eerie than horror. The podcast host who recommended it compared it to Jane Eyre or Rebecca, both of which I loved, but NO. I can't say more than that without spoilers but... well, ok, I'll put a spoiler at the end and you can see what you think, see below. It's beautifully written and once I was into it I had to finish it to see what happened but good grief, I could not read it before bed, which is my main reading time.

*****SPOILER ALERT****** for Mexican Gothic

Seriously. An ancient evil being who inhabits an elderly man vomits black fungus yuckiness into the mouth of our heroine-- how is that possibly not horror?? That was the worst scene but it wasn't the only one in that vein. Sheesh. Really wish I could un-read that scene.

*********END SPOILER***************

Friday, August 28, 2020

7ToF: an update on my efforts to de-plastic and de-Amazon my life, and a brilliant travel plan

1. You remember my New Year's resolve to cut down on single-use plastic (see the end of this post)? I'd give myself a B- on this so far. I've found some replacement products that are working well, and I've found them at Target, so you know that means that the anti-plastic movement has hit the middle class mainstream. So now I can usually (not always) avoid using ziplock bags. I'm partial to these brown paper sandwich bags because I can toss them and not have to bring home a dirty bag, but MadMax likes the reusable bags better (see photo).

picture of silicon and paper reusable bags
I'm pretty consistent about using reusable bags for shopping and carrying my own water bottle. But that's about all I've done. I need to get back to putting energy into this. I confess I bought some reusable produce bags that are still in the box.

2. I'm not doing so well on disentangling myself from Amazon (if you missed the post on why I'm trying to avoid Amazon, it is here). There are so many things that we just can't get around here even when there's not a pandemic, and the shutdown definitely made it worse. I buy local when I can, and I've ordered stuff from Target, Wal-Mart, etc. when I can't. But I've also ordered stuff from the Big A. ("A" can stand for whatever you want to insert there, depending on mood.)

3. On the other hand, I am doing much better about not buying books from Amazon. I think I've only ordered one physical book from them in the past six months. Bookshop.org is great, and they've become my go-to for ordering actual physical books. They redistribute their profits among independent booksellers. It's not as fast as Amazon, but I rarely need the books on my doorstep in 48 hours. 

4. I was so committed to cutting back on my reliance on Amazon that I bought a refurbished Nook, Barnes&Noble's e-reader, in an effort to quit buying new books for my Kindle. It works fine, but I have to tell you there is no comparison between a Nook and a Kindle. The Kindle is more thoughtfully designed, has better back-lighting, and feels about three times faster. So I'm conflicted about this. Kindle e-readers are a good product that I really enjoy and use the heck out of. I'm hoping that recent pressure from publishers and maybe even some thoughtful legislation will level the playing field so that I can keep using my Kindle without feeling guilty about it, because I do love it. It's complicated.

5. One of my Instagram friends posted a picture of a trip to Barbados that she took a couple of years ago, mourning our inability to travel. I was suddenly struck by an intensity of longing to go somewhere that was so strong it was almost physically painful. God, I miss traveling. SO. MUCH. But then I had a brilliant idea. For me, about half the fun of travel is planning the trip, so what if I go ahead and plan a trip? Maybe we'll never actually do it, but I can order the books and do internet research and make a plan. I'm so excited about this. It is actually pretty difficult to get to the Caribbean from here (as opposed to Hawaii or Mexico, which are two short plane flights away), so maybe I will even take advantage of the fantasy aspect and plan a trip to Barbados. Or Turks & Caicos. Or St. Lucia. I don't know. I'm just getting started. 

6. A friend of mine told me recently that her GI doctor told her she should be taking a probiotic. I nodded along, half-listening, because I've been taking a probiotic off and on for years. I even buy the refrigerated kind. But then she said he told her it has to be a particular brand, Culturelle. And then she said, I've been taking it for a month now and it's like my metabolism is working again. Well, enough said, because we all know what it feels like to have your metabolism slooooooooow doooooown. Good grief. So I trotted off the next day to Target (they also have it at Costco, I haven't looked anywhere else), and I've been taking it for three weeks now, and I have to agree. I have no studies, nothing but my friend's anecdotal evidence and my own. But it's definitely worth a try. Also, it doesn't have to be refrigerated, so I actually remember to take it since it's in the same place as my other meds/vitamins.

7. This week's movie worth re-watching: Galaxy Quest. If you didn't like it the first time, re-watching won't change your mind, but it's one of our family favorites and it had been too long since we'd seen it. By Grabthar's hammer, what a savings. oh lord, do I love Alan Rickman. I could go on and on about lines that have entered our family conversations, sometimes without us even remembering where they came from. Those poor people. Could you fashion some sort of rudimentary lathe? Hey, I'm just jazzed to be on the show. That was a hell of a thing. And of course, Sigourney Weaver's classic, Look, I've got one job to do on this ship. It's stupid, but I'm going to do it.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Dentists and shaming and another book on racism (too long)(again)

1. The dentist we'd been going to for years retired a couple of years ago. The younger dentist who bought her practice seemed perfectly competent, but every time I went in for cleaning or a checkup, I left feeling demoralized and shamed. She was very good at a sort of patronizing disdain that made me feel like my lack of perfect teeth was a moral failing. I thought it was just me being hypersensitive, as usual.

But after Dean and MadMax, without prompting, reported that they were starting to dread going to the dentist because she was so negative, we finally decided to switch. We love the new place. They're positive and encouraging, and even though I haven't changed a thing about how I clean my teeth, they frequently praise me for doing a good job. Thank you for being my easiest appointment of the day, my hygienist told me after my appointment last week.

2. I know you don't care about our dentist, but I'm making another point here. Last year I wrote a couple of posts (here and here) about understanding conservatives. I quit writing them--even though I could have gone on and on--mainly because I was so far out of my league, but also because I got so disgusted by some things conservatives did last year that I decided I was done defending them. But I have to say, here is another thing that drives conservatives nuts, and that their leadership is now capitalizing on: why are we (liberals) so damn negative? I have my theories about that, and maybe I'll write them out some other time. But it seems like liberals are always playing the moral outrage card, the finger-pointing card, the look! I found another way you're wrong! card. 

(For the record, this is not intended to be about the current argument about who has the most positive, hopeful convention. This was mostly written before either of the conventions, although I edited it today. Since I'm not a political junkie, I don't pay all that much attention to them, honestly.)

I am so tired of reading/listening to criticisms of our current president. I don't like him, either, but we're not changing any minds. Could we move on already. I think the lines are already drawn here. Either you think he's awesome, or you think he's ridiculous but he could be a decent president if people would just let him work, or you can't stand him (me). Continuing to harp on how horrible he is is a waste of energy when we really need to be working on other things--positive change, for one thing.

3. I read another book about race a couple of weeks ago (I'll put the title in the first comment). I have mixed feelings about it. It was recommended to me as the one book about race that people should read if they're only going to read one, so I thought I should read it, even though it wasn't (and isn't) the only book about race I've read or will read. 

But I'm not sure I would recommend it. It was the "free" book at our library's ebook site last month, and everyone I talked to that tried it said they couldn't finish it because it was so relentlessly negative. The author would say that is the fault of the reader because of tone policing and white fragility and white apathy and all the other things white people are when we're at our worst, but I think there's a difference between tone policing (when I tell you to phrase something more politely and respectfully so you don't hurt my feelings)(i.e., making it about me) and writing with some awareness of your audience and how to reach them. Knowing your audience is a basic skill of anyone who is trying to communicate with the public. And if the majority of people who pick up your book put it back down again, you've missed your mark.

But having said that, I did finish it, and now that I've had a week or two to think about it, here's what I think: if you can go in with your armor on, realize that a) the author doesn't live in the US and thus is critiquing our culture from the outside, and b) that she makes sweeping generalizations that aren't always accurate, it may be the best way to quickly get a grip on white culture from the perspective of a person of color. 

It's not very long, and in spite of her insistence that you spend time journaling deeply every day during her 28-day program, you can read it fairly quickly. Instead of reading one chapter each day, I read two or occasionally three. I'm sure she would say I missed the whole point of the program because I didn't read it the way she wanted me to, and maybe I did. But I learned a lot--about racism, about myself, and about her-- and I've never, ever been one to follow someone else's arbitrary rules for me blindly, whether they are my parents, the evangelical church, or an author I've never met before. 

So, the pros of the book are: it quickly and neatly identifies the ways that white people marginalize people of color. It avoids stories and anecdotes and just goes for the bullet point info that she wants you to know. And she is excellent on several points (her explanation of the problem of cultural appropriation clarified some things that had confused me in the past, for example). 

The negatives: She assumes that white culture is far more monolithic than it is. She doesn't recognize, even slightly, that there are differences in different regions of the US, and that there is a difference between someone who truly believes that white people are the superior race, and people who are fully committed to racial equality but have lived with blinders on and need to learn. She actually says at one point that if you find yourself arguing with her, you are participating in white supremacy. (So we're not even allowing discussion anymore? She is setting herself up as the arbiter of what's inside my head?) 

She is relentless in shutting down every "good" impulse I (as a white person) have ever had about ways I want our culture to do better-- it's white centering or faux allyship or white saviorism or, or, or. She does finally in the last pages outline a way forward--and by then you're pathetically grateful for it-- but only after she has shredded every idea that you might have had about helping out. 

And you know, maybe she's right. Maybe the only way white people can get it through our thick heads, through the layers of assumptions and ignorance and blindness, is to relentlessly beat us over the head with it. But if you find yourself despairing and discouraged as you read her book--as I did-- try switching to a different one instead of just giving up. 

There are plenty of great ones out there. I personally find the information easier to digest and comprehend when it is accompanied by stories and/or personal narrative. Try the ones I mention in this post, or Black is the Body, which was the one I read after the one I'm discussing. I have books by Ibram X Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates coming up and I'll report back.

I guess I'm glad I read it, but I came out of it exhausted and depressed (instead of feeling energized and ready to march, as I did after the manifesto at the end of Michael Eric Dyson's book What Truth Sounds Like). And she would probably say, well, people of color are exhausted and depressed all the time, so it's only fair.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Mentor in training

Another memory: about ten years ago, I was eating dinner with a group of friends, mostly my age except Liz, who is about fifteen years older. My friend Ann was struggling with how to deal with an opinionated and adversarial daughter-in-law after her son's marriage a few months earlier. (We've all heard about dealing with your mother-in-law, but more and more of us are discovering how difficult children-in-law can be, yes?) 

Liz, my older friend, had kids who had been married for years, but she listened without comment while we all commiserated with Ann over how difficult her daughter-in-law was being. We encouraged her to stand up for herself, not let the young woman manipulate her, etc. We were being supportive, because that's what you do with your friends.

Finally, Ann turned to Liz and asked her if she had any advice, since she'd been dealing with this for years longer than any of the rest of us. Liz said, a little sheepishly, "I think you should let it go. You're in this for the long haul. They've been married less than a year, and she doesn't know you or trust you yet. If you make a fuss about this now, it could be years before she gives you another chance."

Which led to dead silence because of course Liz was right. Then we all started laughing, because we were so far off base in our response. Why did I think Ann needed my opinion? My kids aren't even married!

Maybe I'm making too much of this, but it keeps coming to mind when I think about being a crone/wise woman. Liz listened. She didn't jump in with her opinion. She waited until she was asked for advice. (Oh, lord, do I have a hard time with that one.) She stated her opinion and her reasoning without making it sound like she was the ultimate arbiter of the right thing to do. She was talking about a subject where she had direct experience, and she knew what she was talking about.

In other words, she was helpful instead of overbearing. I could choose a worse role model.

(as always, the names in this story have been changed)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

exactly how experienced are we?

Here's a memory: my grandparents were disapproving-- in the purse-lipped, silent way their generation did so well-- when I proudly told them I often paid my own way when my boyfriend and I went out on dates. Their values for dating were completely different than mine. They couldn't imagine dating outside of courting-- looking for a potential spouse-- for one thing. And for another, when the man pays, it shows that a) he is financially stable enough to afford it, b) he will (presumably) take good care of his future spouse, and c) he knows how to toe the line in a way that shows respect for the values of his elders. 

But I had been introduced to feminism by a bunch of feisty Californians, and even though it was the 80s, I was still in 70s second wave feminist mode. I didn't need a man to pay for me. I didn't need a man to support me, and I certainly didn't need to make my decisions based on an outmoded set of rules that no longer applied. 

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I think about how my feminism is different than the feminism of women 15-20 years younger than me (and yes, it does shock me to realize that someone who is 15 years younger than me is in her mid-forties). Because probably when I gently (and unforgivably) point out the errors in their thinking, they're probably having the same reaction to me that I had to my grandparents back in the 80s. 

There are a whole cascade of things that are just so different now. We refused to wear a lot of makeup or dress in provocative ways, because our mothers had to do that stuff to be attractive/acceptable to men, and we sure as hell didn't need men's approval to feel good about ourselves. We were more than happy to use convenience food products or store-bought food because we weren't going to be trapped in the kitchen the way our mothers were. 

Aside: whenever someone goes off on preservatives in food. I have the hardest time not saying do you think Lewis and Clark, or Ma Ingalls, would have been interested if you'd told them that they could stir something into their food and never have maggots or moldy food again? Because, seriously.

But what we discovered when we jettisoned all of that happy homemaker stuff is that some women--maybe even most women, and a lot of men-- are happy homemakers. There are thousands, maybe millions, of people who get a huge amount of satisfaction out of making oreos from scratch and whipping up their own homemade ketchup and knowing that their children have never had a happy meal from MacDonald's. 

Me? I thought about buying stock in MacDonald's (symbol: MCD). I could sit and read a book while my kids played for an hour and half in the germ-filled ball pit and everyone was happy. I had a hard time limiting it to once a week. And also, I don't remember them ever getting sick from it, germ-filled as it may have been. In fact, they have the impressively robust immune systems.

It's just a different world out there. So when I said a couple of weeks ago that being a crone meant being experienced, what does that even mean? What good is experience if it's completely irrelevant? Because if we're going to be wise women, we need to have something to offer, don't we? 

I think this exact dilemma is what has led a whole bunch of the people who are 10-20 years older than us to turn their backs on any kind of mentorship at all. They're headed out to their second vacation home or their monster RV, and don't call us, we'll call you. 

That's what I'm thinking about right now. More thoughts to come. 

And by the way, thank you for clicking, if you did. The tally was considerably more than I was expecting in my worst moments, but not quite as many as I was hoping for in my more extravagant dreams. So what I decided was to keep posting until I finished my current crop of ideas and then decide what's next. In other words, nothing has changed. Ha. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

a pseudo-survey

The short version is: please click here if you read this blog, either regularly or occasionally. (That's all you have to do, just click-- there's no real survey.) For more info, read on.

I'm trying to decide if I want to continue blogging, and those of you who have been around for awhile know that this happens every so often, and usually even if I think I'm going to quit, after a few weeks I start back up again. But really, having a blog--even when I'm not posting very often-- is always there in the back of my mind, and maybe it's time to free up that energy and use it for something else. I'm not sure what, but I've always liked to jump off a cliff without knowing where I'll land.

Since most of us (including me) use some kind of reader app for following blogs without actually visiting the blog itself, it's hard to get an accurate idea of how many readers I have. Blogger/Blogspot, the blogging site I've used for more than 15 years now, doesn't have the most sophisticated stats page, so I don't know if you've read something unless you click through to the actual site.

So this is kind of a pseudo-poll, because if you, just this once, click through to the website, then I'll have a more accurate idea of how many people are reading this nonsense and I can figure out what to do. It's anonymous because if the service I use (Blogger) has a way to track where pageviews come from, I don't know what it is. And if you're actually reading this at the website, then you don't need to do anything because you've already triggered a pageview.

On Feedly, there's a button at the bottom of every post that says "Visit Website" so you could click on that, or you could just click on this: To Square a Circle (Barb's blog).