Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Women of a Certain Age

I listened to a story this morning about women in the military. Now I was listening to the radio while driving on roads that were plagued with patchy ice, so my attention was certainly divided. I became alert, however, when the woman being interviewed - a woman credited with breaking through a glass ceiling or two in the 1960's and 1970's - talked about why women, while allowed to enlist, were not permitted to go very high on the leadership ladder. Ready? It was that by the time a woman would have served enough time to be eligible for such a promotion she would be at the age where she was entering or nearing menopause and would therefore be unable to be trusted to make rational decisions.

As a woman I was offended.

As a wannabe feminist I was outraged.

As a woman at that stage of my own life, if I cocked my head at a certain angle,I could sort of see their point.

Oh, and just in case it doesn't go without saying: This is stuff for the history books. I don't know much about the military and won't pretend to, but I do know that we've come a long way, baby.


Since the hormones have - to elaborate on the military theme - staged their final attack, they have won every battle and seem poised to win the war. Some days I can't be trusted to make a decision about what to make for dinner without crying - I certainly wouldn't want to be responsible for making decisions that involved people's lives.

Ah - but here's the thing.

Contrary to what Chaka and Whitney and Oprah would like me to believe, I am NOT every woman. When I have felt that I was unable to complete the requirements of a job in a manner of which I could be proud, I would quit that job. (Usually by giving notice. Once by walking out. Oops.) Some women don't have that luxury and I ache for them. Some women don't respond to those cues and I ache for the people they have to work with, for and around.

But that's me.

My experience has been rough.

I knew it would be - everything hormonally related has been rough for me.

Some people are like that.

Some people aren't. The girls who always got their period on time and never got cramps (well, maybe a little twinge right at the beginning - more a reminder, really, than anything else) and never got zits and CERTAINLY never got migraines. I imagine those to be the girls who end up saying, "I just had my period one month and didn't the next and haven't since" type of people when they hit menopause. I try not to hate those people, because it isn't their fault they hit the hormone jackpot. But sometimes it's hard, my friend. Sometimes it's hard.

Those women make it rough on the rest of us, too. They never have mood swings and are as clueless as to how to handle ours as men are. They never have hot flashes and always sleep straight through the night and are less than sympathetic when we're bitchy.

I haven't slept longer than 2 hours in a row since somewhere around 2003.

Just think about that next time you want to call me a bitch. It's not that you wouldn't be right, or justified. It's just that - well - I haven't slept longer than 2 hours in a row since somewhere around 2003.

So maybe one of the mucketies in the military in the 60's had a wife or a mother or a sister or a mistress (hey, who am I to judge?) who was going through it my way. If that was his model for all women, well - you can sort of see why he might not want us commanding troops.

I know not every woman has it this bad.

You know not every woman has it this bad.

But he didn't. That subject was so taboo back then, I'm surprised he even knew what it was.

Who can forget the 1972 episode of All in the Family when Edith Bunker was going through 'the change' and Archie gave her 30 seconds to hurry up and change already? (ok, who who is going through or has gone through menopause, or is a male in the age group of the preceding women can forget...) Which was silly. Because it took her the whole 30 minute episode. Minus commercial breaks.

Kitty took almost a whole season to navigate her way through it on That 70's Show.

So we were getting closer. But nobody prepared me for the better part of a decade...

Of not sleeping longer than 2 hours in a row.

And that's only one of the symptoms. That's the one I'm willing to lay out here, but along the road there have been many many dignity defying symptoms. I am having enough respect for you to keep them a mystery. You're welcome. (But they're bad. So, so bad. *shudder*)

Oh, and by the way - I know about all the hormone treatments and herbs and exercise and dietary changes and so on and so on scooby dooby dooby that are supposed to make this time more tolerable for me and everyone in my path, I've even briefly tried a couple. I can't really articulate why, but they're not for me. Besides, natural relief - in the form of making it to the other side - changing already - is right around the corner, right?




Oh, please, for the love of all that's holy, RIGHT???

PS - less than 5 days left in February! Yay!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Heroes and Sheroes and Friends

I've been thinking a lot about heroes, and not just because I think more people should wear capes more often.

Although I totally do.

Think that, that is.



When I was still teaching, we talked about heroes and sheroes - because little boys have sort of always been brought up with hero role models, but little girls sometimes needed a little reminder that they could be heroes, too. I didn't want them sitting in a tower waiting for the kiss of a handsome prince to save the day. I wanted to encourage girl power without taking anything away from the boys. You want to play princess? Groovy. Wear the tiara. Dance at the ball in a twirly gown. But slay the dragon on your own, baby.

It went - ok.

I've been known to work up a good lather talking about Disney princess culture.

Someday your prince may come. Or he may not. Or he may come and go. Or there may be a stream of princes. Or maybe other princesses are your gig. It's all good. But NONE of it results in happily ever after. Happily ever after is a myth. Why do we insist upon teaching generation after generation of little girls otherwise? Happy enough most of the time would be a SUPER great goal to strive for. And it doesn't really take anything away from the story. We could still see them leaving their wedding in their carriage waving good-bye while reading, in some fancy pants royal font, and they continued to live happily enough, most of the time. The End.

I thought Shrek and Fiona took us giant ogre steps in the right direction.

I believe everything I am telling you.

So why did I tell you just a few days ago that I was disappointed that there had been no knight in shining armor? No hero?

I just don't know.

I guess it was so deeply ingrained in me to hold out for a hero that - even though I covered it up with decades of 'you go, girl' - when faced with a crisis, I still felt like a damsel in distress. I wanted to be rescued from the tower, I wanted love's true kiss, I wanted someone to say, "as you wish", I wanted to be swept away on the back of a stolen police motorcycle, I wanted someone to lift me up where I belonged.

Way to go, Paula!

Holy cow, that's romantic stuff! At least one of those references made you gasp a tiny little bit, I bet.

Me, too.


Where was I? Oh yeah - heroes. More specifically, being your own hero. Slaying your own dragons.

Well, here's the thing.

Dragon slaying is hard.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if we asked for a little help. Again - Shrek and Fiona setting a great example. Except they would never try to slay Dragon. But you know what I mean. It doesn't make you less of a hero if you ask for a little help. It makes you a TOTAL hero if you extend your hand and offer help when someone asks. But it doesn't make the one who asked in any way weak or frail or helpless. It just means they were smart enough to know when they were too tired to fight alone any more and they needed to call for reinforcements.


Be your own hero, but know your limits.

I've heard from a pretty good source that we all can get by with a little help from our friends.

Thanks, friends.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tammy and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month

I went to sleep with wild thoughts in my head and now there's an uncomfortable wildness to my mood and I could tell - it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month.

That's what it was, because the month came in on a huge storm that turned everything to cold and ice and gray and my heart feared that it would never see the sun again. But the storm subsided and the kids were going back to school and maybe there was light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how hypothetical or fabricated that light might be. Except the night that should've been filled with choosing outfits for that first day back to school and remembering to set alarm clocks was filled instead with ambulances and hospitals and I could tell - it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month.

I wanted to run away to Australia.

That's what it was, all right, because the officer standing in my living room told me that all of my sweet child's problems were brought on by me. I told him I was being responsible. I told him I knew a little something about child development. I think I told him those things - it's hard to remember. I know he dismissed me and blamed me. In my own house. I told him she was in the grips of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad monster. He laughed and called it the teenage trifecta.

I knew he was wrong while I wondered if he was right.

What if he was right?

Are officers that mean and disrespectful in Australia?

It was the beginning of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month.

That's what it was, because after the ride in the ambulance and the night in the hospital, they said, "we have bad news". I wondered if they couldn't wait to tell me the bad news when the sun was shining enough to help me hear it, but that's not the way hospitals like to operate. Maybe in Australia, but not here.

More visits to doctors and therapists and specialists - it seems like there is a visit every day! I drive and I write checks and I hear bad news. I said, "I feel like a wallet with wheels!" Nobody responded. I yelled, "I am taking my wallet and my wheels and heading for Australia!" Nobody knew what to do with that. I screamed, "I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month!" Nobody seemed to listen.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month, all right, because in the middle of the appointments and the accusations and the guilt, the guilt, the guilt, I got myself involved in an online argument with someone I didn't even know. He said horrible things and I didn't respond to them, but I carried them in my heart. I waited for a knight in shining armor to come to my emotional rescue, somebody who knew right from wrong and could sort it all out, but nobody did. Knights show up for beautiful princesses, not for useless middle-aged mothers in crisis and ESPECIALLY not if those useless middle-aged mothers are fat, because everyone knows that's the most useless kind of all. Besides, the good potential knights gently informed me, you can't fight with an asshole and you never win with an asshole and he's an asshole, what are you gonna do? (Castles don't even have phones, asshole.) The good knights wisely rose above it. I knew it was the wise thing to do, but I couldn't do it, even though I tried very hard. I struggled and strangled alone.

I knew he was wrong while I wondered if he was right.

What if he was right?

Are assholes that mean and disrespectful in Australia?

What a terrible, horrible, no good, very fucking bad month!

That's what it was, because I took an additional part time job. Very menial. Very humbling. But I took it because ambulance rides aren't free and all the doctors and therapists and specialists say we probably haven't taken our last. But when I went to do the job today, it was like the instructions were written in Swahili, which I don't think they even know how to read in Australia. I couldn't make anything make any sense. I started to sweat. I started to shake. I couldn't think and I couldn't work and I wasn't even sure I remembered how to breathe.

So I left.

I sent a conscious message for each step to my brain and I walked right out to my car and drove myself home.

It was irresponsible.

It was unreliable.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing to do, and I did it.

Because I couldn't remember how to do anything else.

I let people down.

I simply - couldn't.

Do people have panic attacks in Australia?

I have had enough of this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month.

And it's only half way over.

I guess some months are like that. Even in Australia.

Friday, February 11, 2011

lol your fat

That's the sort of retort big gals who try to take a stand for themselves get a lot of. No capitalization or punctuation and the wrong form of you're - the people who make these retorts aren't usually guilty of having a place reserved for them in the brain trust. Somehow, poking fun at their lack of skills with punctuation and grammar doesn't provide much consolation.

The damage is done.

Who's likely to find wider acceptance in the world - someone with a healthy respect for the proper usage of language or someone who dots their (they're? there? giggle, giggle, I never know...) i's with hearts, but rocks a bikini?

Don't bother to answer that, it was rhetorical.

Now I don't mean to imply that brains and (traditionally accepted) beauty are necessarily exclusive of one another. Of course they are not, to imply otherwise would be grossly unfair. I simply meant to illustrate that if it were an either/or situation, beauty would be the route to take for wider acceptance.

It's not a road that's open to all of us.

Does that make us less worthy of respect?

Does that make us simply less?

It shouldn't.

But I wonder.

Because some casual, careless comment forces me to wonder every single day.

Does it?

I have been trying to be nicer lately. I have been trying to stay away from the mean, sarcastic form of humor that I was once so drawn to. I have been trying to surround myself with nice - I have been trying to be a nicer person. I sometimes fail - but I am trying. There's something to be said for that.

I have a great deal of respect for nice.

There is nothing respectable in mean.

Sure, it'll get you the fast, cheap laugh.

But knowing I made someone laugh with a casual one-liner would never pass as an excuse or a consolation for knowing that I made someone cry.


Obviously, someone said something mean to me today when I was not expecting it - they caught me off guard and threw me into a tizzy - which, admittedly, is not a difficult thing to do these days. So here's how I'd like to retaliate: I'd like to catch someone off guard and say something sweet to them that they're not expecting. I bet that could cause a reaction that could have a lasting effect, too. Will you try it with me? Something nice - something kind - something affirming - to someone who will never see it coming - we'll combat senseless meanness with sweetness.

Do it for me.

Let me know how it goes.

Reverse bullying. Let's make it a trend.

lol your nice