Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shift in Perspective

     I hate October.  I hate it.  For as long as I can remember, I have associated October with trauma.  All of my deepest wounds and losses have come in October.  Usually they've hit me with such intensity that if I were to write the story of my Octobers as a screenplay, HBO would pick it up as a dark comedy.
     No.  Seriously.  As an example:  There was a single day in an October where I was sitting in the ER with Thing 2 when my stepmother called to tell me my father was rushed by ambulance to another hospital.  A few hours later, my father-in-law called to tell us that My Personal Chef's mother was being rushed to yet a different hospital.  All life-threatening.  All on the same day.  All in October.


     Then October, 2013 rolled around.  It's been good.  Very good, in fact. For starters, it's beautiful.  Living in New England, I've been blessed with some of the most incredible fall foliage on the planet.  This is the river that runs through my neighborhood:

     Add to this lovely environment, are all these people I love that have filled my days with joy.  With the Official Fall of Fabulosity To Do List,  I've intentionally been making sure that we do things that are memory making. There's been trips to two different country fairs.  High-spirited dinners out with friends have fed both body and soul.   The impromptu birthday party with my sisterfriends was nifty. Trips to the library and bookstores and the post office all made me smile.  (Yes, the post office--I  simply LOVE to send mail to folks and there is a brand new baby in the FabFam that needed a personalized gift shipped to her in sunny Florida.)  
     The Evil Genius and I went to a local museum, and a Harlem Wizards show basketball game last weekend.  A pack of us ran the Color Run 5K, too.  Something about tie dying a tee shirt while wearing it just tickled me.  Seeing my sisterfriend, husband and youngest son complete their first 5K ever was pretty satisfying, too. 

     I had the extreme pleasure of spending a lunch hour at the Sachuest National Wildlife Refuge one afternoon this week.  It's a point of land at the very edge of Aquidneck Island past the last of the Newport Beaches in Rhode Island.  Miles of trails wind along the rocky Atlantic shore, bordered by thicket and meadow.  The weather was spectacular.  It was unseasonably warm, but a late afternoon storm threatened to come in off the sea, so the skies were brilliantly purple and grey. The views, at every turn, alternated from life-affirming to breathtaking. A chance encounter on the trail with a middle-aged couple in full formal wear (beautiful teal ballgown and a well cut tuxedo with a calla lily boutiniere) just delighted me.  I can't think of a   more perfect day or a lovlier place to have eloped.

   There's still more.  There was dinner with my cousins and my mama and Thing 1.  The Red Sox are in the World Series. My Personal Chef and I trekked to a restored theater with friends to see the 1923 silent movie "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."  Lon Chaney, a mighty Wurlitzer, friends, popcorn... What's not to love?  

    So. Much. Joy.

     And still, it wasn't until sometime yesterday that I actually exhaled and let go of all that dread. It's like I have been expecting the gates of hell to unleash their full fury upon me at any moment.  I did exhale though.  I'm working on letting go of that fear.  And I'm mindful of all that is wonderful around me.  October, you will not get the best of me this year.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Girl Talk: Boys Dish to Me About Girls

     I have had several conversations recently with boys and men about their engagements with females.  It's been a fascinating experience.  Ultimately, it's helped maintain my faith in humanity.

     For starters, there are the twenty-somethings that drape themselves on my furniture and eat all my food.  They're all complete bananaheads.  (I mentioned they are in their early twenties, right?)  They have no real clue about where they are going in life, but hey, they are making great time...  Ah, the divine oblivion of youth.
    They are forever talking about girls.  They are quick to judge, quick to change judgements, quick to say something stupid, quick to call each other on the stupid things they say.  Usually, I remember that they are just learning how to be young men, so I let them blather on.  Once in a while, though, they are way off base, and I have to redirect them by raising my hand up in the air and proclaiming, "Mother, sitting right here!"  Usually,that prompts an apology and a change in subject.
     I've come to the conclusion that for the most part, the young men in my life have been taught that young women should be treated with great respect, and by and large, they have caught the jist of the lesson.  It's heartening to see. I've witnessed the guys policing one of their fellow friends when he's crossed the line and said something abhorrent.  I've witnessed them standing up for a young woman being harshly treated. I've even been asked for advice by several of them on how to be supportive of a female friend they were concerned about, when her risk-taking behavior escalated.  They aren't "bad boys."  They're just hormonal balls of stupid.  I'm reasonably confident that they will grow into men who will treat women respectfully, equally, appropriately.

     Then there are the men in my peer group.  Primarily, these are men I'm related to, are friends with, or work with.   So, I get that there is a predisposition for them to get along well with me.  It's harder to discount the value of someone you actually know. I'm not one of "THEM."  They are still products of their generation, though.  And they grew up in changing times. Some of them, like me, were raised to believe women could be anything they wanted to be.  Some of them, though,  were raised to conform to specific gender roles and the corresponding ideas about those roles.  And they all interact together everyday--with each other and with women. It can get messy and complicated.
     We've talked together about this in a number of settings.   As an example, for this year's Fantasy Football Draft, I was consulted before it was decided to meet at Hooters.  The stated motivation for going to Hooters for the draft was a special they were having that absorbed a lot of the costs that we usually take on.  I believe that to be sincere.  Had I stated that I was uncomfortable with the venue, the entire group would have gone someplace else.  That I was asked made me feel valued and respected.
     The night of the draft, I walked into a conversation several of the guys were already having about the venue.  All of the men were in their 40s or older.  All of them found that THEY were uncomfortable with the sexualization of the young waitresses. It pleased me, a lot, that they came to that conclusion on their own. I might have ribbed them about the choir of angels coming down to recognize this moment...
      And  no, it wasn't staged for my benefit.  The guys were still talking about it back at the office a few days later, and when one of the men (who was not at the draft) made a callous remark about his attraction to young waitresses, the other guys pounced on him.  There's hope for us all, I think.
     That being said, men are still hardwired to be sexual beings.  At that same draft, where the fellas had their beautiful moment of enlightenment, a coworker inadvertently admitted to finding me attractive.  It was clear from the context of our interaction that he was not objectifying me, he wasn't being disloyal to his wife, he wasn't teaching his daughter that she was inferior to her brother, he wasn't being a douche.  He was just being a man, in all his human glory.  And we both laughed (and laughed and laughed) about it, because damn if it wasn't hilarious.

     This humanity of men was explained to me pretty eloquently by an elderly friend of mine this past weekend.  At 87-years-old, Fred has covered the full-spectrum of life's experiences.  He's kindhearted, smart, and generous.  He's also crochety and opinionated and he's a shameless flirt.  I'm very fond of him.  Over the weekend, he and my Personal Chef jokingly came to an arrangement where my husband would "lend me" to Fred if he thought he could catch me.  Nothing like a little inappropriate humor to liven up a Rotary event, eh? Now, nobody for a minute thinks that I'm going to have an affair.  Still, it brightened Fred's day considerably. He noted to me that all men want to be considered desireable for all of their lives.  It is his  belief, in fact, that it is that which is the primary motivator for men's behavior.  Men participate in sports, strive to succeed in business, engage in community service all in order to attract the attention of a potential mate.  To listen to his pack of Old Guys discuss this at length was very eye-opening.

    What does all this mean?  I'm pretty sure it means that boys will be boys, but that they don't have to be tools while they're at it.


Apologies for Going MIA

     A snotbomb struck our house two weeks ago or so and it's been a thermoMuclear disaster here since.  We're finally coming out of the bunkers to rejoin the survivors.