Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine for the Romantically Challenged.

When growing up in the working-class suburbs of Philadelphia, I was never really wooed or romanced.   The guys I grew up with and dated were a blast to hang out with, could make everyone laugh, but romance was not on their radar.  Part of the problem might have been that we girls, did not take romantic gestures well.  If one of the guys we hung out with gave me flowers, I probably would have responded with “Whattiya, goin' to a funeral?” It was a good defense mechanism because vulnerability was not a good thing to show since it could then be exploited.  

After getting together with my husband, that changed.  We were a little older and wiser.  He was not sappy sweet, but was and still is - what I consider - romantic.  The Hub has shown me romance many ways over the years.

A time that stands out is one particular romantic get away.  This was before kids and before marriage. We took the train to a romantic B&B in Mystic, Connecticut. We had a beautiful room with a private bathroom and a fireplace.  We went out to dinner at a quaint 250-year-old building.  We shared a delicious candlelit dinner.  After dinner, we walked downstairs to the restaurant's Pub.  It was one of the coziest pubs you could ever walk into.  It was small with low, beamed ceilings and the large fireplace kept it very warm.  We sat at one of the rickety old table and chairs and had a few pints. We talked for a bit, but I wanted to get back to the room so that we could get out early the next day and see some sights.  I was so uptight then, and possibly still am to an extent, totally.  I have to work on that.  We get so few times together that I need to just let loose and not worry so much.  But NOT TOO MUCH, cause I can’t handle myself (as seen here.)  Anyway,  If I could go back to that little pub with The Hub and sit for 3 more hours I would.  

We went back to the room and I decided that I was going to take a bath in the neat, claw foot tub.  There was no question that we were having sex that night, because, well we were not married and did not have any kids.  So while I was taking a bath, The Hub (who wasn’t technically ‘The Hub,’ yet) started a fire, opened and continued to drink a bottle of wine.  

After my bath, I put on something slinky. As I opened the bathroom door, my eyes started to tear.  No, I was not overcome with emotion.  I stepped into the room to barely see The Hub, looking suave, sitting next to the fireplace with a drink in his hand.  He was smiling with a come-hither look.  He was also as lit as the fireplace.  He had turned the lights off but I could still see the smoke hovering around the wainscoting of the room.  

My calm response was “What the fuck, dude? Is the flue open?”  He looked at me and said, “Well yea, of course the flue is open. Whattiya think I’m an idiot?”  Coughing, I ran to the fireplace and said,  “If the flue is open, something is wrong.”  Then he started getting pissed.  His romantic plans had been ruined by my nagging need to breathe oxygen.  I was getting nervous and he was annoyed that I was not sufficiently wooed. He was trying to stifle his choking, as I reached into the fireplace and pushed the iron bar that opened the flu.  It was like a vacuum the way the smoke was sucked out of that room.  I turned on the lights to see if there was smoke damage to the beautiful canopy bed or the antique furniture.  It was all good.  But to be safe, we started to open the windows to make sure we could maximize the clearing of the room.  

It was February, in Mystic, Connecticut and really, really cold. The room temp dropped quickly.  The slinky lingerie came off quickly and I was under the covers with sweat pants, a sweat shirt, a hat, and gloves.  There was no sex. His romantic gesture was foiled. The Hub was pissed. He refused to even admit it was cold in the room.  He continued to sit in the chair by the fireplace and polish off that bottle and possibly another.  Somehow in his mind, this was my fault.  I, on the other hand, was not mad. OK, maybe a little mad but I was madder that he was mad.   

I do remember laying in that bed, as the smoke billowed out of the windows, thinking how nice it was to have someone in my life that actually wanted to be romantic with me.  I remember smiling and trying not to laugh, until the next day when we both laughed quite a bit. 

I was really uptight back then.  I still need to work on that but I think if the scenario played out now, we would have started laughing even before I opened the flu. Then we would have definitely had sex - if we weren’t too tired.The Hub has my heart.  We laugh a lot and he still shows me romance in so many ways:    

When we are talking and he will mindlessly play with my hair. 

When he makes sure the garage light is on, if I am coming home in the dark.  

When he starts my car on cold mornings so that it is warm when I get in.  

When he knows that I am upset, before I do and checks me with a “Yo, ya aight?”  

When we are driving together and he reaches for my hand.  

When he envelopes me in a huge bear hug and we both simultaneously take deep breaths.  

When he says, “You look pretty!”  even when I am not feeling pretty.  

When I am sick and he says, “Wow, you look like shit!, why don’t I take the boys out for the day and you get some rest?”   

When he asks me not to kiss him, because I may start “the launch sequence.”

When we watch a movie and he asks me to pause it several times to tell him what is going on.

When he asks my opinion about work issues.   

When he eats a meal that I make and sits back and says, “Good God, woman! That was  awesome!” 

When we quote movies together.

When he reads my writing. 

When he compliments me on how much I read. 

When he says, “You are such a good Mommy.”

There are countless ways The Hub is a romantic.  There are countless ways I am thankful for him. I am truly grateful for my romantic husband, who shows me love, every day.   So this post ends on the sappy side, and I am not going to respond with a snarky, cocky comment.  But if you have one, feel free!  

Happy Valentine’s Day. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Teach Your Children Well

This blog seems to be all over the place, but I think I bring it together in the end. Just be patient.  (You will all be happy to know that I am looking into taking some refresher writing courses!)

I have been kicking around this blog topic of the how society views girls and women for 2 months now, when I just recently came across this post.  It broke my heart.  If you did not watch the video, it is sad tale of a young girl who made some poor choices, came across some very disturbed and mean people and she suffered tremendously.  The saddest part is that after she made this video - a plea for help - she took her own life.  

Kids should not be defined by the mistakes they make. Unfortunately, In this day and age, those mistakes stick around for a lot longer due to social media. Digital images are out there, forever.   I have said many times, that I am so thankful that there was no such thing as social media when I was a teen.  It honestly, would have ruined me.  I can not imagine having to relive my past bad choices over and over.  

I am a mother of boys.  Being a woman, I want to raise boys that respect and view girls as their equal.  There are definite differences in boys and girls, and those differences should be acknowledged, respected but not the constant focus.  

Being a girl was not easy.  It was a constant oxymoron, wanting to be thought of as cool and cute, tough and sweet,  hot and fun to hang out with.   Being overly concerned about  appearance and impression.  Wanting to know what others (mostly boys) thought.   Am I pretty? Do they like me?  What can I do to make them like me?  What do boys want? Who can I trust?

In my awkward pre teen years I was not so attractive.  I was off-the-charts short, painfully scrawny and had a big, honkin’ Roman nose. I really wanted to hang out with the guys.  They just seemed to have more fun and laugh a lot more than the girls did.  I acted like one of the guys so that I would fit in.  I cursed like them, I played like them, I tried to be as tough as them. I wanted them to treat me like they treated their guy friends. I wanted them to like me.  Which, as adolescence hit, turned into wanting them to LIKE me. 

I remember feeling alone and extremely self conscious. I also felt very sexual but so conflicted. It is something that girls are trained not to talk about or think about.  Little known fact #1: when girls go through puberty and after, we are just as sexually charged as boys of the same age.  

Society allows boys to constantly be thinking about and wanting sex.  Girls, physically, are going through the same things but are not allowed to show it in any way.  The girls who do, are labeled, and that label does not come off.  I remember thinking how important my reputation was.  Again, worrying about what others thought. Not only my reputation as someone who was not a tramp, but as someone who was fun.  Reputations really stick to girls. 

There is no doubt that girls with bad reputations did have it rough. They were strung along by guys, picked on by girls and ostracized by both.  But it was just an superficial image of who they were.  It was not the whole picture.  

It was the typical double standard. Boys could want sex, get sex and dog many girlfriends at one time.  Girls could not.  Period.  If we did, we had to hide it.  We had to be stealthy.  Make sure they guy would not talk. Only tell the closest of girlfriends.  This is where we found out that girls really had a tough time keeping things to themselves.  We kept any and all sexually related questions/confusions/conflicts to ourselves.  I am not sure much has changed since I was a girl.  

If we could allow girls -from a young age- to stop concentrating on what others think of them and start them focusing on what they think of themselves.  Just being pretty or likable or fuckable is not and should never be, enough.  But for so many it is.  

We are taught to think that attractive “female” attributes, in all forms, whether it’s being pretty, or polite, or submissive, or accommodating, or passive, or sweet, or innocent, are the primary things women should attain in life.  We are taught that our own hopes, dreams, fears and passions are secondary to what others think of us.  

We are told:

Don’t be a bitch (which usually means, Don’t speak your mind.)  

Don’t be pushy. 

Don’t tell people what you really feel.  

Never step on anyones toes.  

Always be helpful. 

Don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. 

Don’t be aggressive. 

Be sweet. 

Be kind.  

Be nurturing.

Put others ahead of yourself. 

Don’t be too smart.
It is exhausting. Especially when any these demands are not in your nature.  As females we were not put on this earth only to be of service.   As advanced as society gets this still seems to be an underlying standard.  Women’s lives, our very existence, is put aside so that men and society can shape us into some sort of ideal.  This is an unattainable version of: part Virgin Mary, part super model, part porn star, part girl next door.  

Back to raising boys.  One thing that I try to teach them is to be as respectful of their own bodies as we teach girls to be.  It is often joked about for a teenage boy to be locked in the bathroom for hours doing “god knows what.”  But you would never hear of someone joking the same way about a girl.  It is disrespectful to the boy.  It is an invasion of his privacy.  It also makes him believe that there is nothing sacred or private when it comes to his sexuality.  Which may lead him to show the same disrespect to all sexual encounters. 

We expect young men always to be after sex and admonish young women who show any interest in it, at all.  There has to be a balance.  There is no need to assume that every young man constantly wants sex just as there is no need to assume every young woman abhors it.  We are all sexual beings.  There has to be a healthy respect for physical and emotional needs and boundaries.  One must not outweigh the other.  

My boys are young, but I want them to be able to trust The Hub and I to be able to talk to us about anything.  First Born has already approached us about things he has heard on the bus.  (mostly vulgar names for body parts.) I was very proud that, although he was reluctant at first, when he realized that he would not be in trouble for talking to us about it, he was very open and honest about what he was hearing and the questions he had.  

The pre teen and teen years scare me.  I am not looking forward to heartbreaks and angst. But throughout it all, I want my boys to make the best choices about those they allow into their inner circle and those that they don’t.   I want them to surround themselves with those that make them happy, and allow them to fully be themselves, even when they don’t know who “themselves” are yet. And I want my boys to do the same in return.  I also want them to view girls and boys in the same light.  I don’t want them to put unrealistic expectations on girls, or think of them as a separate class.

Back to that poor young girl Amanda Todd, from the begining of this piece.  She needed people to stand with her.  She needed boys and girls, who knew what it felt like to be scared and to have made bad choices, to have her back.  If those that are on the fringe, bound together, maybe less bad choices would be made.  Maybe there wouldn’t be a need for young girls to crave and do anything for attention and love.  

Maybe if we as a society did not expect the worst of boys and men, but held them to a higher standard, they would not do the things that - not only - ruin other’s lives, but also ruin their own.  Maybe if we as a society did not make girls feel, less than, because they are not living up to some ideal, they would not do things that - not only - ruin other’s lives but also ruin their own.  Maybe.  I could be wrong, but I think it is worth a try.