Not Even If You Were Santa Claus…

Yesterday morning I went to my usual diner for breakfast and found that it was PACKED.  The only place left to sit was at the bar, next to another regular who I find to be obnoxious.  He’s a 50-something man constantly flirting with the 18-year-old waitresses.  He ick’s me out.

I was hungry though and it was 3 hours past the time of my normal first cup of coffee.  I hadn’t yet spoken to another human being and I was grumpy.  I needed caffeine.

As I went to sit down Mr Ick informed me:”That seat’s taken… You’ll have to sit here” and gestured to his lap.  

Before my mouth connected to my brain the response “Not even if you were Santa Claus” had slipped out.  

His face turned bright red, he stuttered something about not being a fat old pervert, and refused to look in my direction for the rest of the morning.  I ate quickly and ran away.

I was really uncomfortable and spent breakfast wishing that I: a) hadn’t said it, or, b) had had the brain power to soften the blow.

But why?

Why can’t I go to breakfast and just eat?  Why does this man who is old enough to be my Father get to make a pervy suggestion and then be angry that I shot him down?  I know that it was entirely in jest, I know that he is just a total flirt… But why should I have to put up with that?

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Women have come a long way in our society.  A man who, 50 years ago, may have been pinching the bottoms of the waitresses now just flirts with them.

I don’t think we’ve come far enough.

I am a 31-year-old, overweight woman who rarely wears make-up, lives in a uniform of jeans and t-shirts and I still get comments like this several times a week: “Smile honey”, “You have such a pretty face“, “You just look so nice all the time, it’s hard to take you seriously”.  My looks and “niceness” belong to everyone and are open game for comments.

And the reason that I point out my appearance flaws is this: If someone like me is getting several comments a week what is life like for someone who is more traditionally beautiful?  I remember being a pretty young woman… It was constant.

Not only was it constant but I was expected to smile, giggle and feel good about myself through it.  A less than positive response to a “compliment” made me a bitch.  It is no wonder that so much of my self-worth got mixed up with how I look.

I love it when J tells me that I am beautiful.  But he’s as likely to tell me that at 6 am when my hair is a straw nest, my eyes are puffy and my breath is bad as he is to tell me when I’m all dressed up for a night out.  He’s telling me because he sees me, under the skin, and he thinks that I am beautiful.

I still tell little girls that they look pretty: “I love your hair” or “What a great dress”.  I’m trying to stop because what I should be say is: “You did such a great job reading that story” or “You are a really talented artist” or “You are so smart”.  We should tell them that who they are is important.  And that it isn’t okay for people to just see the surface.  That they have the right to shoot someone down if what that person said made them feel uncomfortable.  

I should tell more men that I don’t want to sit on their lap instead of giggling, responding “maybe next time”, and curling into myself a bit.  In the 18 years or so since puberty I’ve gotten really good at making myself smaller, invisible.

I’m 31 and I don’t really know how to deal with this.  I don’t know what I will say to my (imaginary, potential, future) daughter the first time that she comes home and tells me that a group of boys honked their horn and cat-called as she walked home from school.

Will I tell her to ignore it?  Will I tell her that the first time I flipped a car-full of boys the bird for doing just that they turned around, and drove behind me, slowly, for my entire walk home and I was terrified?  Will I tell her that it is better to smile and laugh because that is what will keep her safe?  How will I explain the mixture of elation (someone thinks I’m pretty!) and vulnerability that that experience will inspire in her?

Will I be able to explain to my (imaginary, potential, future) son why it isn’t okay to do this when he is in a car full of his friends and they are all doing it?  Will he experience the same thing in reverse?

Will I tell her that the boy who hit her on the playground did it because he likes her?

It’s complicated and it’s woven into our lives, into the stories that we tell ourselves and our children, in ways that we don’t even know.

But I guess baby steps are the only ones we can take right now.

My suggestion ladies?  The line “not even if you were Santa Claus” seems to work really well for those come-sit-on-my-lap moments in life.

Or, as the brilliant Helen Mirren puts it…

 

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Mindy Kaling… Will You Be My Best Friend?

Or my anything. I think I’m kinda in love with you.

A couple of days ago I made the mistake of reading Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison.

Now, if you don’t know who Holly Madison is… You’re not alone. Holly Madison was Girlfriend Number One of Hugh Hefner for 7 years. Holly Madison had a couple of reality shows and a Vegas show after that. Holly Madison was present for several years when I was young and “impressionable”. I have a vague memory of watching a TV special highlighting Playboy which showed Hef and his (then) 7 girlfriends. I remember defending the lifestyle (“maybe they all really love each other”) to my Mom. If you know my Mom you know how that conversation went.

Holly Madison’s book wasn’t good. It wasn’t smart or self reflective.  It wasn’t the expose that it was lauded to be. It struck me as catty, as unnecessarily unkind to the other women featured on its pages.  It struck me as having very little soul. It bored me.

(It also caused me to google each photo shoot mentioned and spend an obscene amount of time looking at naked Playboy Bunnies which is never good for ones mental health).

I didn’t like it.

Wanting to refresh my brain and like women’s memoirs again I immediately picked up Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?.

I’m not even done reading it and I’m kind of in love.

(Mindy, call me!  I’ll be your bff forever!).

Mindy’s book is the perfect kind of memoir. Funny, self deprecating and, most importantly: smart. Mindy sees the world and in an understated way really cuts through to expose the core of what she sees.

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Mindy is an apologetically intelligent woman who talks about makeup and clothes and shopping and seems to bridge both worlds.  I don’t think know how to do this: be “girly” one moment and then say something really fucking smart the next and just be both of these things.  A smart girl.  Mindy Kaling seems to be able to do this.

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Mindy Kaling went to Dartmouth. I know less than nothing about American universities but I’ve heard of that one… So it must be a good one, right?

Mindy Kaling says stuff like this:

Me, on the other hand, whenever I lose, like, five pounds, I basically start wondering if I should try out modelling.

I’m the one who looks at the infant, smiles nervously, and as my contribution to small talk, roboticlly announces to the parent, “Your child looks healthy and well cared for.”

I love romantic comedies.

And I read Mindy Kaling say stuff like that and I’m like, yeah, dude, totally!, someone who GETS me.

I identify with her in the same way that I identify with Lena Dunham. It’s just that I think Mindy would UNDERSTAND the fact that I’ve never had a one night stand and LD would be like: oh, we’re soooo going out tonight. Tell J not to wait up.

(I love you too Lena).

Mindy Kaling has this wonderful ability to make you see yourself in her writing. I’m pretty sure that my Dad wouldn’t feel this way. But for a thirty-something woman?  She’s on point.

Mindy Kaling, you’re my hero.

Everyone else you should probably read her book.

I’ll leave you with this piece of infinite wisdom…

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Gilmore Girls Wasn’t Perfect… But It Certainly Did a Few Things Right…

I love Gilmore Girls.  I started watching it in 2000, when it first came out, and I was a devoted follower until the very end.

Ask my Dad.  He always had to leave the room when it was on. He couldn’t stand their fast, “ditzy”, talk.

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But, Dad, this blog post is going to prove you wrong.  You’re going to like those Girls by the end of it.

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The Gilmore Girls taught me about being a woman.  More importantly, Gilmore Girls taught me that it was okay, nay critical, to be a smart, informed, opinionated woman with a high concept of her own worth.  This was tough to find in the media.  You had Buffy, Willow, Rory, Lane, Paris… And?

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I think that seeing oneself reflected in the media is important as a girl.  As a white, blonde girl I saw myself all the time.  But I saw a brighter, shinier, zit-free, boy magnet, fashion plate version of myself.  The version of myself who would rather read a book than go on a date (not that many were asking) wasn’t represented and even if she was she wasn’t often portrayed as okay.

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It’s important to note here that Gilmore Girls has been criticised, and rightly so, for being oh-so-white and middle-(to-upper)-class.  The show could have done so much more to be diverse, to be LGBTQ friendly.  The show was smart enough that it could have done these things well… And they didn’t.  And that is disappointing.  This show has the feel of Friends in that it is about one particular type of person and pretends that no other exists.

That being said, and maybe you’ll move on here because you no longer have an interest in it, I’m going to tell you why Gilmore Girls was, and is, important to me.

Gilmore Girls was a show about a young girl and her Mother.  Its setting was a town so vibrantly created that Stars Hollow was a main cast member itself.  It had quirky characters, it showcased the importance of home, and the heartbreak of growing up and away from that home.da5dfb964ddfc2ee9d87622120f0e9da

It showed two women looking for love in a way that was natural and necessary (finding someone to love is one of the most natural and universal experiences in life, is it not?).  It never showed them as desperate for, manipulative of, or pandering to, men; as TV so often does.

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The Gilmore Girls knew their worth and expected to be treated well by men.  In the first episode Dean picks up Rory’s box of books and they wander down the street without any comment or offer by her to carry them herself.  (This scene has always bothered me, I have a rather visceral reaction to it, a feeling that Rory should carry her own books.  I need to learn to let men do for me).  Dean is expected to do those “manly” tasks: to change the water bottle, kill the spiders, and help around the house.  There is no small degree of irony in these expectation, southern bell impressions aren’t infrequent, but they don’t apologize for expecting this.  They can do it themselves.  Dean was going to do it for them.

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These women know that they are the prize and that men should treat them as such.  They expect anniversary dinners, doors to be opened, flowers to be given.  They give back what they are given in full measure.  The men are equal to the challenge.  These men are smart, confident, strong.  They stand up to the Gilmore Girls, they challenge them, they are equals.  These men are interested in the Gilmore Girls because the girls are smart, because they are confident, because they are perfectly whole human beings, with or without a man.

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(Can I be honest here and say that I can barely even handle this quote? Like, it makes me freaking giddy and nauseous. I remember the first time I saw this episode and I literally had to walk around the house for a minute to calm down after he said this, it was that good).

Gilmore Girls taught me that it’s okay to be without a man.

...But that it's also okay to feel the pain...
…But that it’s also okay to feel the pain…

Gilmore Girls taught me about family.  That it’s okay to spend a night fighting with each other, room to room, arguing.  That family f*cks up.  That feelings change.

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Even this, a rare moment of support from Emily, is so beautifully and simply done.

Watching Richard grow to love and respect Rory throughout that first season is such a wonderful experience.  He goes from being a rather indifferent Grandfather to a man who worships this girl and sees all the potential in the world in her.  We should all be so lucky to have a man like this, even if he comes into our lives at 16, or 40, rather than birth.

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(Can we all just take a moment here to mourn the loss of Edward Herrmann?)

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Gilmore Girls had women and men of all shapes and sizes on the show without comment.  Without apology.  Without making fun.  Melissa McCarthy was in Gilmore Girls long before she was a Bridesmaid and she was pretty, she was well dressed, she was funny.  She was able to do physical comedy without needing to be made ugly, without her weight being the point.  She was just a woman doing her best.  She was loveable regardless of extra pounds.  I don’t remember even noticing her weight when I was first watching the show – I just loved Sookie.

Gilmore Girls taught me that life will change us. Through the story line surrounding Emily we saw a woman of a certain generation and class question her life and her contributions.  We see her grow beyond what she always thought, and was told, she was, to be a more rounded person.  She doesn’t grow as far as we might like.  She encourages Rory to marry Logan, she can’t quite get past Luke being “just” a diner owner to see the gem of a man beneath his plaid shirted self.  But she does grow.  She does believe that Rory can do anything.  She believes that a woman should be educated, smart and independent.  She questions her life as “the woman behind that man” and that is enough.

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Gilmore Girls taught me that my heart would be broken, that I would make mistakes.  It told me that I would be okay.

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Gilmore Girls didn’t do everything right.

But it really helped me to be okay with me.

And I’m grateful for that.