Monthly Archives: February 2017

No broughtupsy to be found

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Best piece of writing about KAC I’ve read, taking her to task for acting like a 10-year-old, far as I can see: feet on the couch, knees all splayed, playing with her phone. Says Awesomely Luvvie: “This woman ain’t got no home training. Not a piece of broughtupsy to be found. Does she have on shoes? That couch looks like it stains easily and I don’t know where her feet have been and what she’s trudging in. I’m just mad for whoever has to come clean … and so much more >

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Shame on me

Anxiety, anger and discomfort are our teachers. They tell us what is unresolved, what makes us feel insecure. This is where we learn about what we need to work on or understand better. Resolve these things, be at peace with them, and that’s one less demon in your life. Easier said than done (what isn’t, really?), but even thinking about them is helpful.

For instance, I feel resentful when I feel taken advantage of but I like offering help on my own terms. This must confuse people: I offer to give and but when favors are requested I get all pissy pants. I also feel resentful when other people are prideful about their children, their accomplishments, their lives. Like, oh yeah, my life is better, my kids are better, my job is better. Why? Because I think my stuff isn’t actually good enough or because I fear losing it all or because I don’t like to brag, I tend toward self-deprecation, I value humility. Fair enough, but who made me the boss of what others do or don’t say? So here’s what I’m trying: to listen to them but also to listen all those insecure voices in my head. I say hello to those voices, ask them to settle down, breathe, tell them it’s OK, that they don’t have to have an opinion about others and their stuff. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

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Yesterday I was thinking about shame. I was feeling shame, because I had people over to watch the Oscars and I didn’t like the dish I made and I had to go to bed early and I woke up feeling tired, even sick, and I skipped my spin class and when I got to work I wanted to hide, to not talk to anyone, to find someplace to take a nap. Turns out many, many people stayed up late to watch the show, drank too much, felt like shit. So be it. It passed. But the thing to dig into is this: shame? Why shame? Instead of moving on so quickly, focus on the feeling — not the party or the dish but the feeling.

Last night, walking home from the train station, I felt better. I was thinking about what I call shadow traits. I think every “good” trait has a shadow side that represents that trait out of control. For me: I have a strong will, determination and completion energy — if I start something I need to finish it. I don’t like loose ends.

All good, except keep an eye on what’s in the shadows. Intractability (once I make a decision, I don’t like to change my mind). Inflexibility (I get stubborn and dug into my way, even when shown a better way). Same thing for punctuality, a near holy virtue in my mind. Its shadow: risk aversion, judgment about lateness, small-mindedness, even pettiness about a minute late here or there. Blameful of myself when I’m a minute or two late (shame, shame, shame).

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Signs

img_2191I saw this on the sidewalk on my walk to the train station. The mute, hungry person was nowhere to be seen.

Then, a few steps around the next corner, a heart appeared at my feet, glowing in the early morning light.

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Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater: And five more things you should never say to a cheated-on woman

 

A friend has revealed her husband/partner/boyfriend had an affair. She is some combination of disbelieving, furious, shattered. You, as her friend and confidante, feel compelled to help her in some way. But inconveniently, you find yourself at a loss for words — although infidelity is so common, you are shocked too — except for a handful of shopworn bromides. Perhaps not so coincidentally, your friend’s wailed laments, on tight rotation as you two dive into a second bottle of Merlot, are starting to sound a tiny bit generic as well: “How could he…?” “…with such a total ho bag?” and “I thought he loved me.” Etcetera. Since she’s gone all Patsy Kline on you (except for that ho bag thing; where did that come from?) your also-predictable advice would be good enough, right?

I’m here to say no. I can’t claim to have written the book on infidelity but I have written a novel on the subject, published in blog format (right over here). As fodder, I read scores of novels about marriage, which is the same thing as saying I read scores of novels about infidelity. I simply can’t think of a story about a marriage that didn’t feature a betrayal of some sort, from flirty dalliance to full-on affair (feel ever so free to skip my novel — even my agent did! — but check out its bibliography here).

Other people’s marriages are so various, so unknowable. So are their affairs. But somehow the comfort and counsel offered to the cheated-on women tends toward the boilerplate, with each utterance a Pinterest board waiting to happen. What follows is my list of what not to say to a cheated-on friend. Disagree with me? You’re a ho bag! No sorry, that must be contagious. What I meant to say is I’d be grateful for any and all comments, below.

  1. Once a cheater, always a cheater

There already are Pinterest boards devoted to this one. Here’s an analogy as rebuttal: as an adolescent, I shoplifted Bub’s Daddy bubble gum, rootbeer Lip Smackers and other 70s-era dime-store items. As an adult, have I pursued a life of petty crime, unable (or unwilling) to stop myself from pocketing point-of-sale merchandise at the CVS? No, I haven’t. In fiction, however, cheaters cheat chronically and ceaselessly — but is this mostly because this makes for a better narrative arc? Put another way, where would the novel go if, after the affair, the cheater stopped cheating and the reunited couple lived happily ever after? In real life, people change and marriages heal — it just doesn’t make for a very interesting story so it’s not one people tell. Bottom line: Maybe the cheater’s drug of choice — cheating — will be impossible to quit. And maybe it won’t. But you it’s not your job to serve as judge and jury on this matter.

  1. Leave him.

This is the advice attached to “once a cheater” and it’s just as readily proffered and just as unhelpful. I get it: “should I stay or should I go now” is not a comfortable place to live. Any action, no matter how hastily considered, might seem preferable over the purgatory of indecision. But as above, this is better left unsaid, not because leaving is wrong but because rushing to decide is wrong.

  1. You need to think about the children.

No she doesn’t. That will tip the scale toward staying and, you’ll recall, now is not the time to decide. Now is the time for her to think about herself.

  1. Turnaround is fair play.

Fantasizing about stepping out with another man makes for an excellent Gloria Gaynor song. Queue it up, shout it out: “… I’m saving all my lovin’ for someone who’s loving me!” But remember that while this “taste of his own medicine” advice sounds galvanizing and empowering it’s actually just more telling her what to do. Which you’re not supposed to be doing.

  1. He’s a selfish asshole.

He is. Or at the very least he acted like one. But let her say that — and no worries, she will.

  1. It was just sex.

This is not counsel as much as it is comfort — or it’s supposed to be, minimizing the cheater’s relationship, if in fact it was just about sex and not a love affair. First off: “just” sex? Can you name another human act that has the same power to start or end a relationship? An act that’s as intimate, as magically delicious for him, as torturous for your friend to imagine (and she is imagining it)? Secondly: the cheater is very likely already minimizing the shit out of his affair so consider that task handled.

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Refugees Welcome

 

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Refugees Welcome: #NoBanNoWall

Read more on Tue/Night >

 

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Nevertheless, she persisted (the t-shirt)

First a rebuke, then a rallying cry, now a t-shirt.

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Activism, by Fruit of the Loom

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The Ladies Room: 8 Things I’ve Learned From Working With Millennial Women

I am a VP and editorial director at a large media company. Now 56 years old, I follow with interest debates about whether women at my level do enough to help millennial women climb the corporate ladder — a heated and sometimes fractious discourse that covers why they do or don’t, if they should or shouldn’t and so much more. Famously, there’s Madeleine Albright’s “special place in hell” arguing from the “should” camp (although she’d later characterize the statement as “undiplomatic”). There’s Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s supposition that women feel obligated to not show a gender bias leading the “why they don’t” discussion.

And then there’s the less discussed but pervasive—and patronizing—attitude of a certain kind of senior leader toward her younger female colleagues. The sentiments shared with me, because I am old and it is assumed I will feel the same way: They are entitled, brash, not deferential enough toward leadership, look at their phones when I’m talking in meetings and let’s not even get into what they wear to work. As a theme, the objections are mostly about ignoring social queues and not adhering to “normative” workplace behavior.

It should (but doesn’t) go without saying: what’s “normative” changes constantly. I try to remember this when I find myself rolling my eyes at generational differences in the workplace. It’s also worth knowing they’re rolling their eyes back. I’m thinking of the time I referenced “the ladies room” only to overhear one female employee grousing to another: “why the f***k is a grown-ass woman talking about a ‘ladies room?’” The truth is, adapting to a changing world is how any of us survive— in the workplace and on the planet. And I don’t intend to stop adapting now, even if the change agents are women 35 years younger than I am. A partial list of what I’ve learned: 

  1. Casual references to calories, dieting and “I feel so fat” are not OK

When I was the rising generation, a certain kind of striving-to-be-inclusive female boss would attempt to cozy up with “just us gals” chat like this. Fifty-something leaders, myself included, need to celebrate body positivism as a great leap forward.

  1. Pronouns matter

I got into a ridiculously heated discussion over using they/them when referring to an individual, so as to honor their not choosing to use he/she/him/her. My wrongheaded objection was based grammatical — an individual can’t use plural pronouns, I said. I was so, so wrong. The argument ends here: yes, they can, whatever Chicago Manual of Style might think.

  1. (Office) Clothing, optional

Women miss the point when they judge each other on clothing choices: bared midriffs, ripped jeans, lacy bralettes worn over tops. Too long, we’ve had men characterize us by how we dress. Let’s not do that too each other, OK?

  1. Don’t use prissy punctuation on Slack

I’m an editor. I like a well-placed semi-colon and the proper use of a one-m dash. But Slack (or a text) is not the place for them.

  1. Stop all that ‘splaining

Sometimes, when you’re the boss of people in the room or simply when you happen to be the one talking, you talk over people about something you know less about than they do. This is a kind of abuse of power, at worst, and borderline offensive, at best. And by “you” I mean “me.”

  1. Girl, not interrupted

I’ve been stunned—in a good way—at my younger female colleagues easy deflection of manterrupters. It’s not harder than this, as it turns out: “Give me another sec, I haven’t finished my point, Andrew.”

  1. I am not her mother

There’s slightly icky workplace type called the Office Mom, who helps the young’uns personally and professionally (whether they want her help or not). It’s all too easy to see your daughter or son in like-aged colleagues, but they’re not actually your children, let us remind ourselves to remind ourselves.

  1. It never was a dress

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Put another way, it’s best to steer clear of anachronisms like “the ladies room.”

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Things I Can Never Remember

How to pronounce deus ex machina (doesn’t come up a lot, but still)

Which direction to cross myself in a Catholic Church: left to right, right?

How to spell commitment without autospell’s help: how many t’s, how many m’s and don’t read too much into this.

The rationale for the Electoral College

To remove my mascara before I get into bed, after which time it’s it’s far, far too late

Not to drink a third glass of wine

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Jackie/Power

 

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I had resisted seeing the movie Jackie for reasons I can’t recall: it felt like a vehicle for Natalie Portman? The movie trailer looked kitschy?

But it informed my thoughts about women and power — and how during that time women were allowed to use power in only the most non-threatening ways, which sort of negates it, doesn’t it? Jackie had the makings of a powerful woman. She was high born and well-educated, taking a job as a reporter. She was beautiful and married Kennedy and would define the style of her time. There is one scene, near the end, when she watches as Jackie-like mannequins are unloaded from the back of truck, bound for Bergdorf’s windows.

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Jackie, Jackie

But she suppresses her intelligence and confidence. Doubts her future and (although the movie doesn’t show it) flings herself into the arms of another powerful man.

Where is my husband? She asks, a little wild-eyed, during the famous, televised tour of the White House. She looks like a flight attendant, no, a stewardess, with her small steps and straight spine.

I’m here to serve you, her expression says.

When asked a question that strays from the subject of White House décor, she demurs: Oh that’s complicated, isn’t it?

When traveling with the President and their security detail, she is hesitant, looking over at him as she moves through the crowd.

But there’s scene on a dance floor, when she is wearing a flaming red dress — representing passion? Anger? Seduction? — looking assured and confident and powerful, twirling in her husband’s arms as the soundtrack plays Camelot: Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.

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