Beauty, Ugliness & the Meaning of Life

I began writing this post once already and the Internet ate it. For a few minutes I was quite upset as I really liked the direction the post was taking. But now that the mourning period has ended, I have decided that perhaps those words were for me and me alone, and that because of their death, the evolution of my thoughts will have new life and I will be able to communicate with greater clarity.

Just a quick note: This is not a post about Frank’s book. This is a post about Frank and Genie (This ain’t no book cult after all – see what I did there Frank?). The book is all well and good and taught me a lot, however why would you sit with your nose in a book when its author is in the room and you can speak to them face to face?


 

frankeddiedeens This weekend Kent and I had the rare privilege of mingling lives with Frank and Genie Schaeffer as they stayed with us in our home. They were in town to promote Frank’s most recent book,
Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes in God.
Frank Schaeffer (son of evangelical royalty,
New York Times best seller and erstwhile architect an purveyor of the Christian Coalition and the Moral majority) and his lovely wife are among the most gracious, generous, unassuming and fun house guests we have ever had the pleasure of hosting.

 

This post is my attempt to allow you a glimpselilacs into the joy of this weekend in the same way that Frank’s painting of lilacs can transport me to my childhood backyard and the smell of spring. While it is a mere attempt to mimic the beauty, no painting can be spring and nothing I write can take the place of having been here.

 

 

f&gFrank almost always travels without Genie, as most groups do not choose to spend the money required to purchase the extra plane ticket or they somehow do not find value in having the spouse of the speaker at their event, I do not pretend to know their reasons. However, I can tell you that Genie Schaeffer is an endlessly interesting person and if you have read any of Frank’s memoirs like Crazy for God, you already know that. Genie is a pure delight and I feel very confident that Frank would agree that she is his “secret sauce”. By that I mean that without knowing Genie, you will never truly know Frank. Without her, he is an incomplete picture, as am I, without Kent. She is his muse, his greatest love and his anchor in a stormy sea. She is, as he says, the only person who truly understands him and knows with a knowing that only comes with experience what complexities of life have made him the man I now know.

 

As I mentioned before, Frank was in town to promote his book, and though we only brought together a whopping 30 people at most, Frank spoke to us with all the passion of a person who was in town (as Frank was in a former life) via a flight on Jerry Falwell’s private jet to be introduced as the keynote speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention by Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. And although Frank Schaeffer has held court with many, many famous and “important” people, he was most at home on the floor of the bar where we meet, building a castle of blocks with a 6 year old little girl. Why? Because, as he says, that is what is real and important. And believe me, Anika knew she was important to Frank. You could feel it.

 

IMG_8752My children who are 12 and 13 also knew that they were important to Frank and Genie. Do you know why? They took the time to see them­–to focus on them. They were never an afterthought to be ignored or talked down to. That is why my daughter’s lock screen now glows with the inspiration of the picture she took with Frank. When he heard she wanted to be an actress, they spent time one on one discussing Shakespeare. Frank challenged her and connected with her over her dreams. He recommended readings and movies and agreed to Skype with her to talk more about it after she read or watched. Frequently during the weekend when I would be looking for my son, I would finally find him sitting and talking with Frank and Genie in the backyard or showing Frank funny YouTube videos and Frank calling Genie over to watch too. “You have to come and see” he would IMG_8751say. One morning I even found Frank in the driveway feeding Caedmon the basketball so he could practice his shooting. When Frank or Genie were with them, they were the only thing that mattered. It was pure magic.

As for me, this weekend was transformative. We drank wine, we broke bread and though we did not call it communion, that is what it was. We talked about beauty. We talked about art. We shared music. We spoke honest words and we shared empathy. This weekend helped me along in my evolution. After all, life is about becoming not simply having the “right ideas”.

One thing Frank did say while he was here is that he tries to look at every situation and ask “Is it beautiful or is it ugly?” Does believing it help me behave in ways that are beautiful or ugly? Does saying it, or doing it make the world a more beautiful or a more ugly place? I will tell you this, Frank and Genie Schaeffer came to visit and they made our world more beautiful.

 

 

A Rude Response: Lessons in missing the point.

So there is a video that has gone viral this week of a Dad’s response to the song Rude by Magic!. So far I have had several people post links to it in my time line. The problem with both the original song and the tongue-in-cheek response to it is they both miss the point entirely.

Here are the lyrics to the original song:

Saturday morning jumped out of bed and put on my best suit
Got in my car and raced like a jet, all the way to you
Knocked on your door with heart in my hand
To ask you a question
‘Cause I know that you’re an old fashioned man yeah yeah

‘Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life? Say yes, say yes
‘Cause I need to know
You say I’ll never get your blessing till the day I die
Tough luck my friend but the answer is no!

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too
Why you gotta be so rude
I’m gonna marry her anyway

Marry that girl
Marry her anyway
Marry that girl
Yeah no matter what you say
Marry that girl
And we’ll be a family

Why you gotta be so rude

I hate to do this, you leave no choice
Can’t live without her
Love me or hate me we will be boys
Standing at that alter
Or we will run away
To another galaxy you know
You know she’s in love with me
She will go anywhere I go

Hook-Chorus-Chorus- etc

Here are the lyrics to the response:

Saturday morning came without warning
Woke me up from my bed
Seeking permission to marry my princess
Son, what’s wrong with your big head
It’s the first time I’ve met you, why would I let you
Run off with my baby girl?
Get back in your Pinto. It’s time that you go.
The answer is no.

You say you want my daughter for the rest of your life
Well you’ve got to make more than burgers and fries
Get out your mama’s basement and go get you a life
Son you’re 28 don’t you think that it’s time?

Why you gotta call me rude?
I’m doin’ what a dad should do
Keep her from a fool like you
And if you marry her anyway

Marry that girl,
I’m gonna punch your face
Marry that girl,
I’ll make you go away
Marry that girl,
In the bottom of a lake.

You may not get this so let me explain
Cause you need to undersatnd
This is forever, she deserves better
She really needs a grown man
I know what you’re thinkin’
You think you’ll still take her
Give it your best shot
I may be a Christian
But I’ll go to prison
I’m not scared of doin’ hard time

Hook-Chorus

The answer is no
So why don’t you go away?

Did you see it? Or should I say did you not see it? WHERE IS THE WOMAN IN BOTH OF THESE SONGS?????  Both of these songs are about two men making a decision and coming to an agreement about what will happen in this woman’s life WITHOUT ANY INPUT FROM THE WOMAN. The most worrisome lyrics in both songs imply that this is some weak ass woman who has no clue what she is doing and needs the two men to decide for her.

 “Can I have your daughter?”
(Not can we have your blessing or your permission but, “Can I have your daughter” like she is property to be transferred.)

“You know she’s in love with me. She will go anywhere I go.”
(This can be a beautiful thing if you say to someone else I will follow you anywhere. However, in the song he is saying it more like, I can take her anywhere I want and she will go with me and you will lose her. It seems like a power trip.)

“I’m gonna punch your face
I’ll make you go away
In the bottom of a lake”

“I may be a Christian,
But I’ll go to prison.
I’m not scared of doin’ hard time.”
(So Christian dad just wants you to know (in all love) if you insist on marrying his daughter and “taking her” he will have to kill you.)

“you think you’ll still take her”
(Again with the “taking”, as if she is an object he can just take against her will. Obviously she is not thinking clearly if she chooses a mate Daddy doesn’t like.)

A while back I wrote a post called, Don’t ask me if you can marry my daughter. At the time it was a response to the rise of so called “Purity Balls”. In it I said, among other things,

My husband never asked my father’s permission to marry me. We also didn’t ask for his blessing. Not only that, I have a feeling if Kent would have asked him he would have said it wasn’t his decision to make.

Because it wasn’t.

It was mine. My life was mine to join to someone else’s. My future was in my hands. My heart was mine to give.

Once Kent and I decided that we were going to get married we told both my parents together. Simple.

My parents, wise as they are, knew that even though they had given me life, raised me and protected me, they did not have ownership of my heart and could not give the naming rights to whomever they chose as if I were a sports arena. They knew that even though they had dreams for me, and thoughts about how my life would turn out, those were not necessarily my dreams for myself. They knew that they had raised me to be independent, wise and trustworthy and they knew that they had given me more and more freedom to make choices, to try and fail and to try and succeed. They knew that if at some point I found the one person I wanted to give my heart to, that they had already done what they could to help me make the best choice. They knew that if I wanted advice I would ask them for it. And I did. Plenty. But they also knew, lovelies, that it was my decision to make. My heart. My future. My life. My choice…

I am proud to say, my husband and I are carrying on the proud tradition my parents started. We are our daughter’s parents, we are raising her to be strong, brave, independent, discerning and trustworthy. When the time comes I hope we don’t know about her proposal before she does. If her future spouse does come to us first, I know exactly what I will say, “She is not mine to give. Her heart is her own. You will need to ask her. It is her choice.”

 

 

I Hope You Find Magic

Image

 

I want to talk to you about love for a minute.

Can you remember the last time someone looked at you like maybe you were magic? Has anyone ever looked at you like that? If not. I hope someday someone does. I wish that for EVERYONE.

Can you remember the last time you looked at someone and thought for a second they might be magic? Maybe they are. Maybe you are. Maybe I am. Maybe all of of us are looking for someone in this life who if just for a split second looks at us and sees something so beautiful that it defies physics and belief and time.

Call me sappy, but people, hold out for that. Hold out lovelies, not for someone who is perfect, or that you agree with on everything or that you never argue with, but hold out for someone who sees magic in you. Someone who you look at and see magic even if no one else does.

I just went and watched the Fault In Our Stars with my daughter. It was stunning and beautiful and I don’t care what anyone says, I loved it and I want my daughter and my son to find a love who looks at them and thinks they might be magic even if they are in the middle of pain that demands to be felt.

Yes, life happens. Yes there dishes and for some, diapers. Yes there is cancer and death and just general fuck-up-ed-ness  that cannot be denied in this life. But it is a privilege to live it. It is a privilege to get to love someone. It is a privilege many never get. So if you find someone like this. Take whatever small infinity* you are allowed and live it with abandon.

*Go see the movie and you will understand what I am talking about. And yes, this movie is for you. I don’t care who you are.

#YesAllWomen – Sharing Our Stories

sheissomeoneFirst off let me say to all the amazing men out there I know you exist. I know how great you are. I am more thankful for you than I am able to express. Thank you for standing up and speaking out when you see women being mistreated. Thank you for being one of the good guys. I love you for it. I want to reassure you, #YesAllWomen is not about you guys. What it is about is telling our stories. About knowing we are not alone. It is about not being ashamed because these stories are not our fault by bringing them out of the dark and saying yes these things happen. All the time. Sad to say, we have gotten used to it. We expect it. That makes me sad and angry.

Flashback…a few days ago I wrote a post called Sexual Assault and Me. At the time I asked for other women to come forward and tell their stories. I wanted people to know that this goes on way more than most people realize. I wanted women to know they were not alone and I wanted the men who aren’t at all like that to know what the vast majority if not ALL women go through.  Little did I know what was about to go down in Isla Vista, CA or on Twitter in the form of #YesAllWomen. Following you will find the stories some of my readers sent in to me after my initial post. I have listed them as they requested. If they wanted to be anonymous I changed their names. All stories are used with their express permission.

NOTE: Usually I allow all comments to remain on my posts. On this post however I will not tolerate or publish anything that attempts to harass these women in any way shape or fashion.

 

Sara from Florida – age 25, single, college student, 4.0 GPA, health unit coordinator

I’m going to write my story. I’m unsure at this moment how vague or detailed this may get, I’m just going to spill on this keyboard.

I was 8. My grandpa left his computer room to take a shower. I asked grandma if I could go play games. I type http://www.msn… And before I could even get to “s” I see, “www.momsthatfuck.com” and, “www.milfshardcore.com.”

I was 9. My parents were divorced. My mom was dating a man. He called me butch and laughed because I liked to play sports and play outside with my friends, who were mostly boys.

I was 17. A kid in my section of band “pantsed” me and called me hot, and said, “We should do it.”

I was 17. My mom’s ex drank too much like he did every night. He made fun of the adolescent zit on my face and called me a lesbian. My mom stepped in to try to make him stop and he hit her. I hit him right back and he knocked me onto the ground and kept hitting me. Then he went back to my mom as she was crawling out and kicked and hit her. We finally got out into the garage.

I was 18. I just started college. I started wearing my hair down all the time and wearing mascara – I think that’s when boys started noticing me – because before I didn’t, and I only had one real boyfriend before that. He got me alone in my dorm one night and forcefully fingered me for a brief couple seconds as I cried and pushed him off. He stopped and said, “Gosh, don’t be a prude. This isn’t going to work,” and stopped talking to me.

I was 19 and attending Bible college. I was walking into a convenience store, and I heard, “Damn! Look at that ass. Lemme go yo number, girl, hook a brotha up!” My reply, “Sir. I’m about to pay for gas in my own car – where is yours, and no, I will never give my number to someone who won’t respect me. Mind your own business or find it elsewhere.”

I was 20. I went to a place called Cowboys to two-step with my best friend. A guy grabbed my chest while we were dancing. Same night, a guy pushed me into a corner and attempted to kiss me. I slapped him.

I was 20. A youth pastor of mine who was now a pastor of a church and married with a kid became really close to me and my best friend. Long story short, he got weird, lied to me that him and his wife were divorcing, and came onto me; twice. He was my best guy friend, spiritual leader, and father figure. All that was shattered. We no longer speak.

I was 21. I took a trip with my best friend to Tennessee. We went out on the town and drank a bit, as most girls our age do at 21. We met cute, nice guys we spent the evening with. Long story short – we were given the date rape drug, Rohypnol. My best friend ended up passed out in her own vomit, and I was raped by two guys. One outside a car on concrete of a construction site they were working at, and the other in the same bed as my best friend.

I am 25. I’m now dating a girl, that I’m 1,000,000% sure I’ll be with the rest of my life. A creepy man that sees me every Friday and sweet talks me comes up and asks finally, “So, you have a boyfriend?” I told him I’m dating a girl and his reply was, “WHY?! A damn, fine girl like you? For what?” “Let me be your man. Let me be your man for a dinner, and you be my girl for a dinner, I’m different than those other guys.” ….Clearly you’re not if you’re asking me to cheat on my girlfriend.

There ya go. That’s not even the full of it. Just the “big stuff.” This doesn’t include all the times I’ve been shouted at, stared at, honked at, or treated like I was some piece of meat that once you eat you’re done with. I’m not saying I’ve been perfect, but you can maybe see how this skews with the way a girl thinks.

 

Anna from Texas – Married mother of two, Compliance Assistant, age 26

I keep struggling with hitting send. With being open. I’ve only told three people I actually know. My husband and two of my closest friends. And now you will make four. But I keep being drawn back to your post, and I know that I have to contribute because what you have to say will be important. Maybe it will give someone hope or a voice…So if you were looking for more depth than this, I can certainly try. But please keep me anonymous. I know I’m not supposed to be ashamed, but…I am.

When I was sixteen (nearing my 17th birthday), my boyfriend raped me. Nobody ever told me your boyfriend could do that. I was so confused (and I think also in shock) that I stayed with him, thinking I could hold onto my ‘purity’. I don’t exactly know what you’d call what he did to me for the rest of that relationship – there were other times that he assaulted me, but there were also times where I just did whatever he wanted because then he wasn’t hurting me, I could at least pretend I actually wanted it. During that relationship, I started drinking, and spent a lot of time with him and his (‘our’) friends. I was drugged at a party and made to do sexual things with the friend of one of ‘our’ friends. I also woke up once to find my ex’s best friend kissing me with his hand in my pants. I wasn’t safe anywhere in those days. Then, and in the years that have followed, I have also been on the receiving end of many comments, proposals, and unwanted touching/groping. Waiting on dirty old men and them commenting on how they hope I give better head than the beer they got. The guy in the chuck-e-cheese costume grabbing my ass at my ex’s niece’s birthday party. A man walking up to me at a club and just grabbing my breasts saying “better protect your assets, baby.” A bouncer at a club putting his arm around my waist and “wishing I wasn’t happily married so I’d let him F— me.” So many more… Why? I’m told I did nothing wrong, but now I question everything. My instincts, my judgment, where I go because who might be there,,,especially having multiple experiences. It makes me feel responsible to some extent, I guess.

 

Priscilla from Hyderabad, India  – age 32, married to an equally amazing man

Hey, just wanted to share mine & my family experiences of sexual abuse to help your post. My mom was a single parent so we all were obviously more prone to abuse without a man in the house, including herself. The only proper man in house when my dad left was my wee brother . We are 4 sisters and we faced almost everything you had mentioned in your question, started as young as 8 yrs. My mom faced sexual advances from our rented flat owner to men in our colony. Random men used to flash their private parts at us and also men we knew at shops to which we would go regularly. While taking walks young boys would just whack us on our private parts and ran away, celebrated as it was some achievement. Men we knew from church used to come home in the name of God and touch us inappropriately. I hope this was of help, sorry if it was too much but it is the truth. Thanks for asking I feel lighter.

 

Amber – I am 28 years old. I work part time as a payroll administrator.  Most of the time, I am home with my 3 year old daughter Sadie. I have been married for 4 years. I graduated from Ferris State University, where I met my husband, David. I live in Holland, Michigan.

Hi, I read your post about sexual abuse. Thanks for sharing and I hope you are doing well today. It’s such a tough subject. I would like to share some of my unwanted advances. Most came from family. Some worst then others, like incest at a young age. I hope you don’t mind me sharing. It helps me when I write about it.

First memory was being about 8 and having my uncle rub the front of my pants (crotch area) while we watched a movie. He had a blanket over us. I just thought, whatever.

Same uncle, smacked me on the butt for several years. At least till age 13. He did it whenever I walked by him.

My older brother who was in college at the time touched me inside my pants a few times. He told me once that he was checking for hair. What difference did that make I don’t want to know.  I was about 11 years old. He also asked if I would have sex with him when I was a teenager.

My 14 year old cousin showed me his penis when I was 9.

My best friend’s dad called me “beautiful” instead of Amber throughout my teen years. I didn’t feel comfortable about it at all.

Throughout high school, students grabbed me.

As a waitress, many times I had customers write things about my looks on receipts. I hated it too.

I was basically hired out of college because my new boss said I would “turn heads.” He offered me a raise a few weeks in if I slept with him. The man had a wife and 3 kids. I quit that same day.

I walked past a car a few weeks ago that had a man masturbating in it. It was an obvious set up for me to see him.

Now the real bad stuff.

I was chased by an older man once while I rode my bike. I was 12 years old I think. He screamed at me to stop. At one point, I was only about 5 feet ahead of him. Nobody else was around. It terrified me so much. I thought I was going to die if he caught me.

My father, who was a Reformed minister, use to pull me into his bed sometimes when I was young (about 7 or 8) and spoon with me. He was naked, I was happy to get attention from him at that age.

When I was 11, my family took a vacation to a lake that was only about 2 hours from our house. One Friday night my father asked if any one of us kids would go home with him that night so he could study Saturday morning. I volunteered because everyone was coming home anyways Saturday and heading back out Monday. On the way home we stopped for ice cream. He pulled into an empty parking lot so we could eat the ice cream. I was wearing shorts and dad was stroking my leg. Once we got home, I headed off to bed but my father stopped me and offered to rub my back in his bed. So I jumped in his bed and was given a back rub as promised. But it was a trap. I remember being 8 years old and not being able to get out of my father’s bed. Now I was 11, nobody else home. His hands began to wonder and my clothes were “getting in the way.” I was fondled and given oral sex, at just 11 years old by the man I should be able to trust more than any.

Thanks for listening.

 

Mandy – book nerd, lover of music, age 36 from Texas

Wow, you got me to thinking. I myself was molested at the age of 5 or 6 by a cousin, and nothing was done. Because “we” didn’t want to upset the family. I still struggle with this. I have forgiven my cousin, but struggle forgiving my mother for not wanting to do anything.

When I was in 7th grade my teacher (a man) loved to go around touching the girls. Anytime I would tell him to stop, he would laugh it off or threaten me with going to the principal. I went to a Christian school, during this time, and even the principal (a preacher) thought it was ok to touch us and make comments about us. He would line the girls up both in junior high and high school against a wall, and encourage the boys to “rate” us. He encouraged them to make comments about our butts and breasts. He constantly told us our parents were wasting money on our education, because we were girls. He even would comment on the bodies and berate the female teachers. These women were members of his church. He taught the boys it was ok to do as they pleased to girls, and he would tell us girls we were less than the boys. I endured 2 years of boys touching my breasts and butt, and also thinking it was ok to stick their hands up my skirt. I got in the habit of wearing shorts under my skirt. (we had to wear uniforms) I went to this school for my 7th and 8th grade years, after that I begged my parents to home school me. I never thought of telling my parents everything that went on, because I knew they wouldn’t believe me. After all he was a preacher. Several years later this man was arrested for having sex with some of the high school girls. When it made the news I decided to tell my parents everything that happened. They were shocked and also admitted they would have had a hard time believing me before he made the news.

When I was in my mid 20s the church I attended had a youth director that would constantly come up and touch me. In church. He would come up and grab my hair and start smelling it. Or he would grab my hair and rub his face in it. This would happen in church but he was a man of God, so it was ok. When I would say something to him, he would laugh it off and say I was overreacting. If I was sitting down, he would come over and sit in my lap. I wasn’t the only woman he was doing this to, but he was a man of God, so we (the other young woman and me) were being told that we were being a hindrance to him. He comes on to us and touches us, and WE were the one being accused of the wrong doing. This is also another case of years later he being caught sleeping with the high school girls.

I had a male friend that thought it was ok to touch himself in front of me. And make comments about my body. When I would say something he would get mad and threaten me. He was also a preacher. I’m also no longer friends with him.

This list could go on and on. Even now I get comments about my body. I’m tall and overweight, and I get mainly men wanting to say stuff about my body. Total strangers. Thinking it is ok to make a comment about me. I have had total strangers tell me to send a nude pic of myself. When I use to write letters and send care packages to the troops, I would have them write back wanting nude pictures or even wanting me to “talk dirty” to them. I wasn’t the only one that happened to. The organization I was part of had that happen to many of the women sending care packages, but it was ok because they were soldiers. I feel that is crap. Thanks for serving our country, but that doesn’t give you the right to be a perv.

For so long, I blamed myself. Or I thought I was being silly being upset. I was overreacting. Even with being threatened with violence I thought I was making him do that to me. It was my fault. I kept trying to make myself act right, so my friend wouldn’t be mad and hit me, or to have a thicker skin, and not be so sensitive. Or that this is the way it is, and I have to deal with it.

I’m now in my 30s and have decided, it wasn’t my fault, I’m not overreacting, and I don’t have to learn to deal with it. This crap has to stop, and from my experience, we as women need to support each other not tear each other down.

I don’t know if this was exactly what you were asking for. I probably sound more like I’m rambling, but when I start talking about this, it brings back a lot of anger. I can’t quite always get my thoughts together.

 

Shawna from Texas – age 38, single mother of three, accounts payable lead

I’m just going to give a bullet style run down of unwanted advances that I have received over the years:

* Without going into details, I was sexually abused between the ages of 11 and 15.
* My sister’s ex husband (who I thought of as an older brother because he was about 18 or 19 and I was 15) tried kissing me a couple of times and I had to literally push him away from me.
* When I was about 31 my sister’s ex boyfriend drunkenly told me that if he could pick between my sister and I, he would choose me because he was physically attracted to me.
* When I was about 30, I was in a club with my (then) boyfriend, sister and several friends.  My ex boyfriend and I used to work with local rappers and they had a gig at a club in Fort Worth.  I used to do the photos and graphic art work for the company and artists, so I was walking around taking pictures.  A guy and his friend started following me everywhere I went and I just said “no” hoping they would go away.  They didn’t and I then held up my finger to show them my engagement ring and again said “no”.  One of them cussed at me and started walking toward me in an aggressive manner.  They ended up walking off.
* When I was about 20 and at a club with my ex husband, my sister and her ex husband, my sister and I were walking out of the restroom when a guy asked me to dance.  I told him no and started to walk off.  He grabbed me by my arm and said for me to go with him.  I told him I was married and he got in my face and called me a bitch.

There have been many more instances over the years, but these are the ones that stand out the most.  If you have questions or want additional information just ask.

These are but a few stories from women I know. I am proud of them for finally giving voice to their stories so that they can leave them behind. May your bravery allow others to do the same. And may their telling help them to stop happening to future generations.

 

Other related articles:

#YesAllWomen By Phil Plait

An open letter to all my male friends by Estelle Tang

The #YesAllWomen Tweets You Need to Read by Margaret Eby

#YesAllWomen, a Response to California Rampage, Reaches 1 Million Tweets By Sheila Cosgrove Baylis and Kelli Bender

#yesalpeople by Nanette Irvin

#allmencan on twitter

 

Why is This Kiss News?

controversial_kisses_trek

 

Oh wait, that’s not the picture everyone was talking about? Nope, it isn’t. But it might as well have been. More about that later… Yesterday, someone (or rather, many someones) asked the above question on the interwebz beneath a picture of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend when he was selected by the Rams. “Why is this news?” The collective cry went up on social media. People called it all the usual descriptors “disgusting” and “abomination” being among the favorites. Some people lamented that “There are children watching.” Some wondered, “Why would ESPN would show such a thing?” And again many asked, “Why is this kiss news?”

 

jackie-robinson-e1399921380815Why is it news you ask? I’ll tell you why it’s news. First, it is news for the same reason Captain Kirk kissing Lieutenant Uhura was news; it makes people uncomfortable. It makes people uncomfortable now the same way it made people uncomfortable when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. People say the same things: it will ruin team chemistry; it will make the locker room awkward; it just isn’t natural. As far as the first two go, if you have played a sport or participated in gym class or belonged to a health club, you have already shared a locker room with LGBT people. Get over it. If you are worried about it, here is the link to a very handy article published by The Huffington Post a while back called, How to Behave Around Your Gay Teammate in the Locker Room. As for the last one, “it isn’t natural”, tell that to the 9 million people in the U.S. who identify as LGBT and the 1,500 species of animals that exhibit homosexual behaviors.

Second, it is news for the same reason as it is news when any other public figure (and sometimes regular folks) kisses…9 times out of 10 they are celebrating something. Think about it. People kiss when wars end. People kiss when their team wins. People kiss when they win anything: awards, games, elections, promotions…anything. People kiss when they have a baby and when they get married. People even kiss on the cheek to greet friends or when they are introduced at a party. People also kiss for weird reasons and make the news: when there are riots, when they start college or when they set world records. People kiss. It makes the news. It happens, literally literally (just for you Josh Mitchell) every day. Just most of the time people don’t notice because it doesn’t make them uncomfortable. I am hoping someday soon the picture of Michael Sam and his boyfriend kissing will seem as normal as these pictures of other athletes celebrating their victories…

 

kel brookSanyaRichardsRoss:aaron ross St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Pujols kisses his wife Deidre after the Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers to win MLB's World Series baseball championship in St. Louis Chris Bosch Short Track Speed Skating - Winter Olympics Day 3 kyle busch bubbawatson Elway

Or these politicians…

inaugral ball mitt romneyLauraPresKiss

Or these entertainers…

SJP and MB at Oscars Perry:brand grammys brad and angie SAG awards jayz-and-beyonce-pda-kiss-grammy-awards-2014-lead matthew mcconaughey best actor oscar

Or these everyday people…

Vancouver_riot_kissing_couple vj

Listen lovelies, people like kissing (we even like pictures of animals “kissing”). They like to kiss and be kissed. And yes, many even like to see other people kiss. I have a theory as to why. Kissing is an outward sign that love still exists. Kissing means there is still hope for humanity; there is still hope that we can love and be loved. It is a sign that there are still things worth celebrating. And in times of uncertainty and fear, kissing is a sign that love can still win. For me that is what the Michael Sam kiss and all these other kisses represent. And that my friends is why kissing and this specific kiss are news. Good news.  http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/05/10/michael_sam_kiss_the_st_louis_rams_pick_the_openly_gay_missouri_star_in.html

Can We Please Stop with the Technology Shaming/Scolding?

10305056_856003017760296_672094775602630175_n

What is this guy looking at, the world?

Okay, we’ve probably all seen it by now, the latest viral video making the rounds telling us how we are missing our lives, becoming hermits, incapable of “real” relationships and becoming less socially adept because of smart phones, Facebook and twitter. If you have yet to see the latest one (in a long line of them), you can watch it here. My favorite part about these memes and videos is the sheer irony of them being made specifically for people to post and share…ON SOCIAL MEDIA. WITH THEIR SMARTPHONES!

But first, a disclaimer: This post is not a rebuttal of Mr. Turk’s video. Nor is my intent to say we do not need to put down our technology and spend time with people face to face. It is important NOT to prioritize online activity over your partner, children, friends or other relationships. This post is  however a plea for us to stop picking at the speck in our neighbor’s eye while we have a plank in our own; for us to keep the baby and pitch the bath water; to eat the fish and discard the bones. As with so many things in life it all comes down to how you relate to something more than the thing itself.

Throughout human history people have loved scolding each other and themselves about the use of the latest technology.  Consider the following about the automobile:

The regime of mass car use is an offshoot of our historical aversion to civility itself. The car allows Americans to persist in the delusion that civic life is unnecessary. As a practical matter, this regime is putting us out of business as a civilization.  -James Howard Kunstler

“I’m not sure he’s wrong about automobiles…With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization — that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men’s souls… I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can’t have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones…I shouldn’t be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree with him that automobiles ‘had no business to be invented.’”  -Booth Tarkington

Every man on horseback is an arrogant man, however gentle he may be on foot. The man in the automobile is one thousand times as dangerous. I tell you, it will engender absolute selfishness in mankind if the driving of automobiles becomes common. It will breed violence on a scale never seen before. It will mark the end of the family as we know it…It will destroy the sense of neighborhood and the true sense of Nation.  -R.A. Lafferty

Cars, air travel, the telephone, the newspaper, the radio, electric lighting: They all were said to be the end of civilization as we know it. And you know what? They were. Everything ever invented and everyone ever born changes the world as we know it. Change is continually happening and continually feared. All these inventions plus computers, iPads, smartphones, televisions, texting and social media have the potential to be used for positive or negative ends. JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE. What is important is how we relate to these things individually and collectively. Listen, our phones are no different when it comes to the commuters in the picture at the top of this post than newspapers were to an earlier generation. Look at this picture…BOOM. Historied.

newspapers

What is this women looking at, the world?

We humans enjoy beating ourselves up for things. It makes us feel better somehow to practice self-flagellation (extreme punishment or criticism of oneself) even when we have done nothing wrong. We watch a video or read a meme about how [fill in the blank] is ruining society and we think, yeah that’s bad often without actually examining ourselves or the facts. My friend Michelle A. posted a great reaction to the Gary Turk video a couple days ago in which she said,

Facebook has changed my life for the better. I have used it to encourage others, stay in touch with people I would have otherwise lost, tell funny stories and share pictures with family and friends. I have prayed with people over the phone I have met up with people I hadn’t seen in 15 years and we don’t miss a beat because we know each other’s Facebooks. I have logged my sons special moments I have had spirited debates and long phone calls and loved the downtrodden. It is growing my business so I can change my family tree. I put down the phone and my kids play outside, play with play dough, take walks, see friends and have fun. It’s not the app that’s the problem. It’s user error. To those with a dramatic goodbye letter to Facebook I shrug my shoulders.

Another friend, Matt eloquently pointed out (also on Facebook btw),

With all due respect to Gary Turk and his “Look Up” video, the reality may not be as simple as he puts it. Take, for instance, these Pew Survey results: “The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American.”

Let’s have a look-see at those Pew Survey results, shall we?

Controlling for other factors we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.

We looked at how much total support, emotional support, companionship, and instrumental aid adults receive. On a scale of 100, the average American scored 75/100 on a scale of total support, 75/100 on emotional support (such as receiving advice), 76/100 in companionship (such as having people to spend time with), and 75/100 in instrumental aid (such as having someone to help if they are sick in bed).

Internet users in general score 3 points higher in total support, 6 points higher in companionship, and 4 points higher in instrumental support. A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day tends to score an additional 5 points higher in total support, 5 points higher in emotional support, and 5 points higher in companionship, than internet users of similar demographic characteristics. For Facebook users, the additional boost is equivalent to about half the total support that the average American receives as a result of being married or cohabitating with a partner.

In addition to all that Facebook users have revived more dormant relationships. As is often the case, there is so much more to things than meets the eye. So perhaps we should do ourselves and our friends a favor the next time we feel the need to pass along a “convicting”, tisk-tisk, fear-mongering or guilt inducing meme/video and examine our motives. Evaluate our relationships to the people in our lives. Ask for their input. Make adjustments if necessary. But perhaps we should not assume that everyone has a problem just because we do. Maybe we shouldn’t pass something on just because it makes us seem more evolved (Sometimes that backfires and just makes one look like one of those people who dislikes something because it is popular. Not unlike the Michael Jackson backlash after Thriller when I was in junior high or the way some of the hipsters of today reject something popular just to seem cooler than thou). Or maybe we should cut each other a little slack. Stop hating on each other. Stop shaming each other (or our kids) every time we look at our phones. Instead what if we could teach our kids how to have a healthy relationship to their tech by modeling a healthy relationship to our tech. And lastly I hope we can all agree to stop saying, “Those aren’t ‘real’ relationships.” Because, they are. Social media are certainly not the only way nor should they be the only way we connect to, relate or are there for each other. They are also not always the best way (although when I needed a bed for a teenager who was staying with us for six months I had offers for about 10 within 30 minutes of putting it online). In the end however, social networks, smart phones and iPads are a valid and often effective way to meet, connect, reconnect, reach out, ask for help and/or offer help. Let’s make sure we are using them for good rather than abandoning them or demonizing them out of fear.

 

Below you will find some excellent articles on the positive effects social media are having on teens specifically.

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/oct/05/teens-social-networking-good-for-them

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-j-siegel-md/why-our-teenagers-feel-connect-on-social-media_b_4480817.html

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/21/living/social-media-positives-teens-parents/

http://www.parentfurther.com/technology-media/social-networking/benefits

And yes, I wrote about something similar a while back…https://wordofawoman.com/2013/10/10/the-e-villes-of-smartphones-and-social-media/

My Privilege

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 12.49.31 PM

You may have seen a Buzzfeed quiz going around lately titled “How Privileged Are You?” Well, I took it and above you can see my results.  ^^^

Funny thing about privilege, growing up I didn’t know I had it. Now, however, I understand that by virtue of the color of my skin, my sexual orientation and my family history, I have benefitted tremendously from the simple circumstances of my birth.

Don’t believe in privilege or simply don’t believe it has that much of an effect on life? I humbly submit that you may be more privileged than you think. That is the thing about privilege, it is a filter through which one sees every facet of life, and it is a filter that is inborn. It is only through education and relationships with others who do not experience the benefits our privileges provide that we are able to begin to see the need for change.

A quick note: I am by no means an expert in this area and it is really only in the last few years that I have begun to be educated on this topic, even having been raised by parents who taught me that men and women, rich and poor, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc., were all equal in the eyes of God.

Another quick note: you can be privileged in one area and completely not privileged in another. I think of it kind of like a continuum. That is why I kind of appreciated the BuzzFeed quiz, as non-scientific as it is. Yes I am white but I am also female. Yes I have money now, but I didn’t always. Here’s the thing though, the statement above is pretty right on. I have had a few struggles in my life, but I have also had many, many advantages that had ZERO to do with me and everything to do with who, where, when, and to whom I was born.

I would now like to share with you an excerpt from The President’s Devotional by Joshua DuBois,

NOVEMBER 5 – KEEPING WATCH

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)

As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we must be most aware of the change in the air –however slight– lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.  –Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglass, letter to the Young Lawyers Section of the Washington State Bar Association

Let’s keep watch. Let’s perceive the slow creep of oppression, wherever it might move. Let’s be aware of the darkness in our world–or even in our own soul–that seeks, like fungus to grow.

When we see it, or feel it, we pray that Christ would come into it and strike it out, making us new. We will not be victims. Nor will we be oppressors. No–today, we will keep watch.

Dear God, open my eyes not just to blessings but also to the potential of evil in the world. And when I perceive it, help me move against it. Amen.

We read this installment with our kids a few weeks ago and I was reminded of a Facebook post by my friend Markeetia McKinnis, which I shared with my children and husband on the spot at the breakfast table. As I read it aloud again, I couldn’t make it through without choking back tears. You see, this post helped me be more aware of my own inborn privilege and that of my children. Sharing it with them and with you is a small way in which I can strike out the slow creep of oppression:

As I wind down on this last day in Black History month, I reflect on how far the world has changed from when I was little black girl growing up in Mississippi to now a black mother of three residing in Texas. Some changes for the better….progress. Some changes for the worse. BUT, It is true, we are a different world. We have become a better people. We can now all drink from the same fountains. Attend the same schools. Aim for the same goals. Play the same sports….Through the worlds view, we are better. Even through this black mothers view, I feel on the majority of days, we are better. AND then there are those days when you’re driving with your husband and you’re stopped and the white officer calls him a boy in front of your kids. Or the day when the black President is re-elected and your kid comes home from school with tears in his eyes because he’s heard the N word for the first time. [her children attend school with my children at a private Christian school].Or the day you have date night with the hubby and you walk into Neiman’s and you’re followed around the store. OR the day when you’re out with your husband and people keep stopping you, because they think he’s a ball player. OR the day when you’re sitting during your kids American program feeling proud and then you realize that NOT ONE single black person was characterized during Black History Month. OR you realize that schools don’t even celebrate black history month anymore AND…..these are the days when you realize that despite how hard you’ve tried…this is your reality and you MUST educate your children…your black children. Because the reality is they are not only Americans….They are BLACK Americans. And unfortunately, they have a past that will follow them to heaven. So, you brace yourself for the why’s and the tears and the pain in their eyes….knowing that you can’t change their past. It is very much who they are. And unless we do them an injustice, we as their parents have to educate them on a world we as black people did not choose, but found ourselves being thrust in. A world that says it sees no color, but for the Black American that is so NOT our reality. I have had many tasks thrust upon me, but being a black mom is by far the most challenging. How much do you share? What EXACTLY do you say? I still have not quite figured that one out yet, SO I take it day by day and lesson by lesson. Allowing God to guide my heart and speech….Lately, I have taught them that they are who God says they are, not man. They are more than a color. That’s offensive, not cute. They are not brown, they are black. There history is more than just Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. They are walking on the backs of some of the greatest inventors and scientists in the world. They are more than just basketball players and runners, they are leaders and world changers. They are not projects, they are humans with hearts and desires. In the same breathe….as age appropriate as possible, I have taught them that they are the kid in the store with the hoodie on. They can’t do what everyone else does and get away with it. They cannot go everywhere, with everyone…even if all of there friends go. The same rules just don’t always apply. They are not rap music and slang talk -don’t allow people to disrespect you by assuming as much. They are not a statistic or JUST an athlete. They are the HEAD and not the TAIL. They are kings and queens. They are worthy….. I am slowly teaching them to “respect the struggle”….day by day…. #momminute #blackhistory #raisingblackkids#myworld

So, here is the thing, if you are a man you are privileged in some ways that women are not, no matter what race you are. If you are white you are privileged in some ways that minorities are not, even if you grew up poor. If you were born in the United States you are privileged in ways most of the world is not, no matter what other disadvantages you have had. There are so many more ways in which to be born privileged. I have been trying lately to examine my own filters. I think the quiz above can help you get started. Another thing you can try is if you are a man, ask some of the women in your life to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being a woman. If you are white, ask some of your friends who are not white to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being a person of color. If you are straight, ask some of the LGBT people in your life to tell you about all the times they have been harassed, molested or discriminated against for being LGBT. Then listen, and believe what they tell you. You might be surprised at what they have to say. It isn’t a lot, but it is a start.

For some other good educational reading on this topic…