Social Vigilantes

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I’ve been learning lately that there are two kinds of people around me: people who try to stay “up on” our culture, and people who, for myriad reasons, do not.

Really, keeping up with the times is nearly an impossible task, because as soon as you know something, it’s gone. It’s like a fighter jet going overhead. By the time you hear those engines screaming, the plane itself is probably out of sight. When you find out something or someone is cool, it’s probably not anymore. Finally hearing about Lin-Manuel Miranda? He was definitely last year. And wondering where Sean Spicer ended up? His 15 minutes were over before Melissa McCarthy got her wig off. And by this time, the majority of America has zero clue where their eclipse glasses ended up.

We’re short on memory around here.

The things that last a little longer tend to be conceptual, rather than tangible.

And right now, in our culture, the concept that is cool is social justice.

Hold up. I know some of you are feeling salty right now, and about ready to throw some serious eclipse my way for that statement. Tbh, I was scared to say it. But I’m p sure it’s true. So…sorry not sorry. (Pro tip: this paragraph will tell you which kind of person you are.)

See, I truly hope that the majority of people who are into social justice right now are in-it-to-win-it because it’s the right thing to do. But having lived among humans for some time now, I realize that’s not going to be true for everybody.

And just because something might be the right thing to do, doesn’t mean it’s got its own bandwagon going down the street. We are pro Black Lives Matter and we buy Fair Trade coffee, but when was the last time any of us took in someone off the street so they weren’t cold and hungry at night? Have you checked your clothes to see if they were made in a country that allows child labor? Yeah, me neither. Do I even know which countries allow child labor? Sure don’t.

Truth be told, we’re not all that committed to the social justice bandwagon, as a culture.

ThinkstockPhotos-586055578So we’re all talking about the same thing, let’s define justice real quick. According to the googles, something that is just is based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.

Are we, as a culture, invested in what’s morally right and fair? Well, we do promote, vote for, buy tickets to see, and retweet things related to social justice. But the other people and things we promote, vote for, buy tickets to see, and retweet are not all that morally right and fair. People with personal integrity no longer do better than people without it. And actually, when it comes down to it, a good portion of America no longer believes in morals. Most Millennials and almost all of Generation Z believe that truth is subjective. So how could we possibly promote justice, if there’s no moral “right” to line up with?

So, what happens when you push for justice, but also emphasize that truth is subjective?

ThinkstockPhotos-200288923-001.jpgVigilanteism.

Don’t believe me? Think about this: the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made over $12 billion in the last ten years, telling stories about vigilantes. TWELVE BILLION DOLLARS. And that’s just the movies, not the shows. DC Comics is literally promoting the Justice League right now. It’s a group of people who bring justice, according to their own view of what is morally right and fair. Now, I love Wonder Woman, but even I can see that if she operates only from what she believes is right, it might cause problems.

Two weeks ago, a man drove from Ohio to Charlottesville to hurt other people, because he believed he was doing the right thing, that what he was doing was just and fair. This was just the next in a line of people acting out in violence in the name of their own view of justice.

And if we, as a culture, are not committed to rewriting the script on what actually is just and fair, how can we fight back? How can we truly promote and battle for social justice? Until we commit to establishing what justice is, aren’t we just riding on the bandwagon, until the next cool thing comes along?

I include myself in this. I’m on the bandwagon. And honestly, I’m not sure how to change from riding to fighting. But I’ve learned that when I don’t know where to start on a big problem, I just need to take one step. Do one little thing. And then the next little thing.

ThinkstockPhotos-537604426So I’m going to start by choosing to speak about these things, even when I am afraid that I am going to say something wrong, something hurtful. Even when I might make a total child-of-a-horse-and-a-donkey of myself right up here in front of y’all. Or when I say something insensitive and ignorant, because my privileged, middle class, American, white self doesn’t know any better yet.

I’m going to speak when I’m scared to speak.

What about you? What’s your first step?

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Checkpoint Reached

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When your counselor emails you to make sure you’re still alive, you know you’ve been gone from your “normal life” too long. And she’s probably not the only one wondering that.

Yes, hi. I’m still alive. Been traveling. What’s that? Oh, thanks! It’s my summer hairstyle. Keeps me cool, ha ha. I agree, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted. Hey, you’re looking good! Have you lost weight? No kidding! No, that’s okay, if I want to learn how to live on sunflower seeds and paste, I know who to call. How’m I doing? Well…

I went to Florida. And then I went to New York. And then I moved to a new house. And then I went to Colorado for two months. And then I went to Chicago. And now I’m finally home, in my new house, trying to figure out which drawer has toothpaste and which one has pesticide, while I schedule 1,486 doctor/dentist/psychiatrist/sleep doctor/therapist/car mechanic appointments. Oh, and I’m now a team leader at work. Which is AWESOME, but…umm…I don’t have time to work right now, so…

…So I’m doing alright, I think.

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I think I’m doing alright, mostly because I know that this is a new season, and that it’s okay for me to be ridiculously tired from all the things I just did. I’m realizing that seasons can be natural checkpoints, and that checkpoints are a great time to pause and rest, as well as to assess the things I’m carrying around with me and see what I really need.

For instance, I don’t really need a mandolin AND a ukulele, neither of which I play. Ever. Probably a good time to drop one or both of those.

Neither do I need to go to a doctor I really dislike. Ain’t nobody got time for cranky men giving you a pap smear.

But I do need a consistent, physical activity in my life. So I need to find one of those again.

How about you? As we head into a seasonal change, a checkpoint, what do you need to drop, and what do you need to find for this next season?

Snow Leopard Friendships

 

Sometimes in life, you have to spend months, even years, slowly and patiently developing a friendship.

Perhaps you interact occasionally at group functions, knowing each other from a distance, and then over time come to realize you could be friends.

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Or perhaps you even dislike each other, avoiding or fighting constantly, until, after so many awkward or even hostile moments, you realize that the things you like about each other overpower what you dislike. Or even that what you disliked was actually just what you didn’t understand. (Fearing what you don’t know, and all that nonsense.)

I’ve had those friendships. In fact, lately I’ve considered taking a photo every time I meet someone new, in case that person eventually turns out to be a good friend. But the awkward factor would probably be too high. “Would you mind if I photographed you in case I like you later?”

These friendships can be especially deep, because you have years of shared experiences and mutual friends to enjoy together. They are time-consuming but incredibly worthwhile relationships to develop. Don’t be afraid to invest in those kinds of friendships, even if some of them don’t turn out the way you expected. The ones you gain will make up for the ones that drift away.

That’s the lesson for this week; that’s where the universally applicable part of this post ends.

Because every once in a while, you find someone that you immediately become friends with, and really there’s nothing you can do to make it happen except be in the right place at the right time, and jump in when the diving board appears. (Mixed metaphors, you say? Come on, you knew what I meant.) It’s a rare but amazing thing. Like comets. Or snow leopards.

For me, lately, I’ve been incredibly grateful for one woman who appeared in my life in August, pretty much permanently. She’s funny, she’s deep, and she gets my nerdy references to everything from Milo and Otis to Star Wars. We went on tour together during a particularly rough season for both of us, and were able to laugh and cry through it together. I appreciate her friendship probably more than I can say, and I’m fairly good with words.

And at this point, it’s permanent. She’s stuck with me. Forever. Sorry, Aech.

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So maybe there is another universal thought here: if someone comes along and you instantly become friends, jump in. I mean, boundaries are a thing. A big thing. We can talk more about that later. But I’m just saying, don’t be afraid to make friends, even fast friends. Because they’re pretty great.

Isn’t It (Not) Ironic

 

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One of the worst sounds in domestic life is that of a single sock hitting the floor when you have a full armload of laundry.

You’ve got it all under control, you’re taking care of business, and then one damn piece of fabric gives up on fighting gravity and suddenly you’re cursing your entire existence, exasperated by how impotent and futile humanity really is.

No? Just me? Oh, come on, be honest. You’ve wanted to swear at a stray sock or your husband’s underwear at least once. Life is hard enough without having to chase after stray undergarments while a white-hot pants-button brands LEVIS on your forearm.

I’ve said it before: it’s the little things in life. Usually I say that in a positive way; the little things are worth noticing, enjoying, breathing in. But the opposite is also true; the little things are able to make you angry, frustrated, and hopeless. And it can seem completely arbitrary. Sometimes, a little thing is no big deal. Sometimes it’s the best part of your day. Sometimes it’s the worst part of your day.

I decided to do some baking recently, and while using a stand mixer, I accidentally turned it on high before all the flour had mixed in, and flour flew everywhere. On me, the counter, the fruit on the counter, the floor. And it was funny. A friend took a picture, I swept the flour up, I moved on.

Last week, I realized I couldn’t find my favorite shirt. I’ve had it for a couple years now, it has some paint on it, and it shouldn’t be a big deal. But yesterday, when I spent some time looking for said shirt to no avail, I started thinking feeling like the entire universe is out to get me.

ThinkstockPhotos-153017775It’s like having ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. Which is not irony, by the way, it’s just the way of the world.

We are not in control.

 

In fact, there are really very few things within our control, and even our emotions are not always one of those things. How you feel is how you feel. You can develop ways to deal with and move beyond those feelings, but you still can’t control everything.

A sock falling onto the floor may always make you want to put your fist through the nearest wall. But it doesn’t have to ruin your day.

Just like enjoying the little things can be delightful, accepting the little things can be freeing. It’s just the way of the world. You are not in control.

Let’s pick up the socks and move on.

Flirting at Walmart

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One evening last week, I was planning to go to the gym and then go to KJ’s house for dinner and a movie. She very considerately offered to let me shower at her house in between, so that I wouldn’t have to go home and then out again.

Things you need to know:

  1. I have been blessed with a pale face that turns the color of tomato soup as soon as my heart rate rises above two or three beats per minute.
  2. This particular day was a high cardio day at the gym.
  3. It had been raining in Indiana for almost a week straight.
  4. I had just purchased new rain boots (specifically for our 100 Hole Golf Challenge at work, but that’s another story.)
  5. KJ lives two minutes from a Walmart Neighborhood Market.

So. I wore my new rain boots to the gym, changed into my CrossFit shoes there, worked out, put my rain boots back on, and then drove to Walmart to pick up a bottle of wine and a pint of ice cream to contribute to dinner, since KJ was cooking.

Once I arrived at Walmart, my face still brick red and sweating profusely, I headed past the checkout lines toward the frozen food.

When the first gentleman addressed me, I looked at him to see if I knew him. Why else would someone say, “Hey, girl,” when I was in that state?

I did not know him.

“Hey,” I said, and kept walking. I only went a few more steps before I heard a wolf whistle come from the chip aisle. Really? I looked and saw another gentleman, a man you would expect to see at Walmart, looking back at me. I kept walking. During the no-more-than ten minutes I was there, at least five (I wasn’t counting because I didn’t expect it to happen, let alone to continue) different men either made comments or gestures in my direction.

Now, I do consider myself to be a feminist. I get annoyed when people don’t respect me, and straight up angry when people don’t respect the amazing women I know. But this particular situation just baffled me. Really, guys? You want a piece of what’s happening here? If I was in a grocery store and saw a woman buying a pint of ice cream and a bottle of wine, I sure wouldn’t mess with her. Even if she wasn’t dressed like this:

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Not only that, but we had been practicing double-unders at the gym (jumping rope where the rope goes around twice for every jump) and I’m very bad at it, which means I had red welts all over my hands, arms, and legs. IMG_0142

Now don’t go getting worried about my self-image. After a lot of years of battling doubt and fears, I have reached a fairly healthy place, where if my body feels good, I feel good about however I look. Part of that has been a process of accepting that strong can be sexy. I’m not a magazine model and never will be, but I can deadlift 200 lbs on a Monday morning and then just go to work. I like being that kind of girl.

So it’s not that I don’t think I’m the kind of girl who could have 5-7 men notice her in one trip to Walmart. It’s that I was so clearly not asking for it, in any way, shape, or form.

In conclusion:

Can we all just eliminate the, “she must have been asking for it or dressing like she wanted attention or behaving in a way that invited that” argument from our defense bank?

And can we all acknowledge how AWESOME my new boots are?

 

Frog Hunting – Episode 2

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Note from the author: This is a follow-up to the post “Frog Hunting,” which you may want to read first.

 

After six months of unsuccessful attempts to meet men online, I canceled my online dating account.

Then, after eight months of unsuccessful attempts to meet men in person, I joined a new dating app.

And it’s been chaos ever since. In fact, I had to put a hold on my account because I was talking to too many men at once. Believe me, that is a sentence I never thought I’d say. Last month, there was a moment when I was actively trying to schedule four dates at once. I submit this as proof that not only is there a God, but he has a spectacular sense of humor. (I also submit those monkeys with the crazy noses, because COME ON.)

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I’ve only gone on five dates so far, and all of them have had some special moments, as most first dates do.

But there’s really only one that I need to tell you about. And it’s a bit of a long story, but that’s necessary for you to get the full effect. So bear with me.

 

I met this gentleman (we’ll call him Gary) for a beer at a local brewery. ThinkstockPhotos-517501476

(For the record, the beer was excellent. I would always recommend going somewhere you like on a first date because then even if the date is terrible, you at least get to enjoy some aspect of it.)

Gary is a good-looking man, and his dating profile is full of photos from his military days, which adds a level of attractiveness that I’ve never actually understood. Talk to the Bennet sisters or Debra Winger if you need further clarification on that point.

Anyway. We shook hands, sat at the bar, and started chatting. He seemed nice, genuinely interested in what I had to say, and like a financially viable adult, which at my age is 80% of what makes a guy worth dating. I had already learned from our online conversation that Gary was new to Indy, that we had some hobbies in common, and that he worked for a popular mattress company.

What I soon learned in person as we talked about sports and local restaurants was that his job perfectly described his personality: a snore.

Trying to see if the soporific quality of his conversation was due to the topics at hand, I asked him, “So, Gary. Are you a church-going man?”

He smiled. “No, not really. But I’m very religious.”

He said something after this about growing up in the Methodist church, but I was so busy trying to figure out how you could claim Christianity as your faith, be religious, and still not go to church, that I totally missed what he was saying. I tuned back in when he said, “But actually, I’ve started a new project lately!”

Anticipating some clarification on his spiritual situation, I said, “Oh?”

“Yes! I just purchased a snorkel mask and wet suit in order to snorkel the White River to find snails. I’m planning on starting my own snail farm! I’m a big escargot person. Do you like escargot?”

You guys. He was so excited about this. It was the first inkling of emotion he’d shown in half an hour. (But can we also point out the inherit hilarity of saying you’re a “big escargot person?”)

“I…I guess I’ve never tried it,” I said, as my brain struggled to discover the line between the Methodist church and the culinary delicacies of the White River.

He smiled a genuine smile. “You have to try it! I usually get my escargot from Walmart.”

Struggling to keep up, I tried to match his humor. “Oh! You know, one time I was in Walgreens and they were selling sushi. I could not figure out who would buy sushi from Walgreens in Indiana!”

He shook his head. “Yeah, that’s weird. But the Walmart escargot is really very good.”

He was serious.

“Oh.” I said. It occurred to me that I’d been saying this a lot. I didn’t seem to be successfully participating in this conversation. I tried to engage.

“And…the snails in the White River are…escargot material?”

ThinkstockPhotos-178580834“Definitely!” he said, and launched into an explanation of the origin of said snails. I admit, I didn’t fully follow, because his voice is incredibly monotone and I am not a robot, but I gathered that at some point a group of famous Chinese snails ended up in Lake Michigan (“They must have been really lost,” my friend Emily said when I told her this) and traveled down the White River into Indiana.

You guys, the White River is not glamorous. It’s sort of like the Hudson. Necessary for the economy, nice to have, but I’d never get in it. I don’t care if those snails had Scottish accents and looked like Matthew McConnaughy, they can stay in the White River as far as I’m concerned. (By the way, Matthew’s been looking sort of weird lately. Maybe I need a new “hot man” to reference. Let me know if you have suggestions.)

Anyway. Feeling way out of my depth (pun intended), I decided to change the subject. I asked him about his cat, which I’d seen a picture of on his profile.

I kid you not, people: Gary spent the next 15-20 minutes filling me in on the diseases and other physical issues that his cat has had over the last few years. Once he started talking about how he spent a year picking scabs off this poor cat every night, I finally pulled out my phone to check the time.

“Well, I should probably get going. Thank you for the beer!”

We parted ways without talk of another meeting, and when he texted me the next day to schedule a date, I politely declined.

See, the thing is, I do some weird things. Last weekend I spent approximately 20 hours learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. But I am not under the impression that this hobby makes me more desirable toward men. Snail farming, while…unique…is not a chick magnet. Perhaps I should have explained this to him at the time, but I was too busy not gagging on my beer during the flea and tick conversation.

 

Moral of the story? I don’t actually know. Why don’t you tell me?

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Fear Factors

Oh, hey! Haven’t seen you in a while. How’ve you been?

I purposely did not post for the month of March because I was out and about, running communication stuff for a large conference, and trying to do any extra writing would have likely resulted in spontaneous human combustion.

Then, when I returned, I fully intended to start again. But I got scared.

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Two fear factors:

  1. Once I stop something hard for a while, it gets incredibly difficult to start again. What if it’s too hard? What if I’m not good at it? What if it hurts? That’s true of most things – working out, playing music, being honest. The gap between my last victory and today grows too large for my memory to throw me across.
  2. I’ve experienced some weighty relational tensions in the last two months, and I feel too vulnerable to bear my soul to the public. What if people who are upset with me read it and think it’s about them? What if it is about them? As an introvert and a people pleaser, my worst-case-scenario involves me being honest, someone misunderstanding my honesty, and said person becoming upset because of the misunderstanding. (This falls right after the scenario in which I am late for an important social event and get kidnapped by giant spiders.)

So, now what? You know why I’m afraid to write. What do you think I should do?

Yeah, I was afraid you’d say that. ThinkstockPhotos-638654162

Sigh.

Fine.

Here I am, starting again.

As a reward for coaching me through my fear, next week I’ll update you on my dating life. (Teaser: there are snails involved.)

If there’s something you are dreading or putting off this week, join me in doing it anyway.