You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down

hillaryThere have been a few things gnawing at the edge of my consciousness lately.

First the ever-present backlash against Hillary Clinton. I’ve been watching from behind my hand as she maintains a slippery grip on what seemed a surefire nomination–again. Then there is trying to make sense of the dialogue and anger directed at Beyoncé in response to her latest music video–a (frankly, gorgeous) four-minute homage to black.

And the more those things gnawed, the angrier I got. But why? I mean, I’m not black. I’m not really even a Beyoncé fan. Just because I like to sing and dance around the house to Single Ladies in my underwear doesn’t make me Beyoncé. I am a Hillary Clinton fan. But I’d be more than happy with a Sanders presidency if it came to pass, especially considering the alternatives. So why are all these things making me so very, very angry?

Because.

Because I feel like once again I’m watching Grandpa Establishment lean down and pat the  head of the marginalized. I feel like once again I’m listening to Old Man Establishment shush them and tell them there’s nothing to worry about, that it’s all in their pretty little heads.

Pick a group that traditionally has been or still is marginalized or oppressed. Oh, go on. Take your pick. Women? Blacks? Gay and transsexuals? Doesn’t matter which. Whenever a group or individual from one of those groups gets elbowed to the floor and dares to stand up and cry “Foul”, they are systematically and thoroughly shut-up and shut-down.

They’re shushed and told they’re imagining things; that the objects in their experience are better than they appear. Then they’re told to be patient, that change takes time. They’re scolded and called uppity or ungrateful. Then, my personal favorite, they’re told to take the high road. And if they don’t? They’re blamed for their own oppression.

It’s such a brilliantly convoluted tangle of reasoning no wonder most people find it easier to swallow than spit it onto the ground where it belongs.

To verbalize Ms. Knowles’ two rigid middle fingers at attention: fuck that.

The fact that you still hear, in 2016, that the United States isn’t ready for a woman president? What the hell does that even mean? Are there people who believe a woman would drop out of the G8 due to menstrual cramps? That she would gossip away nuclear codes and go shopping at Bergdorf’s during security council meetings?

When I hear people bandy that phrase about: The US isn’t ready for a (fill in the blank), I can’t even wrap my head around it because I don’t even know what it means. It’s nothing more than lip service and frankly, it’s not even good lip service. It’s like Kylie Jenner lip service. You’ll get better lip service on the street corner.

Beyonce

Are they ready for a video like Beyonce’s Formation? It won’t be understood, liked, or championed by a whole lot of white people. That’s OK. You don’t have to understand the experiences of others in order to accept them as equal, as legitimate. It is not up me or you to validate someone else’s experience in order to make them real, to make them valuable, to make them worthy of notice and change.

Part of institutionalized oppression like racism or sexism is denying the people who suffer a voice. It is about continually telling them they are wrong, they’re impatient, they’re ungrateful and they themselves are to blame. Over and over and over again until they believe it themselves.

And so folks will scream “Not everything has to be about race!”

But they are wrong, because of course it does. If your whole life is defined by the color of your skin, and those definitions are written and defined by someone other, than everything does need to be about race.

You can’t co-opt or minimize a movement like the #blacklivesmatter movement by clamoring all lives matter. By supporting that movement, you are not denying that other lives matter. You are not, by default, assuming that all law enforcement officials are corrupt and hell-bent on shooting the first black kid in a hoodie they come across on a Tuesday. If you think only that, you are missing the whole point. Voicing your support and championing a cause, as Beyonce is doing, is not cause and effect. It’s not black and white, even when it’s about black and white. It’s instead extending a middle finger to whoever is watching and saying, I am not afraid. You can’t keep me down anymore. I will rise.

And so folks will scream “Now that a woman can be president, it doesn’t have to be her…” And if you believe that, Donald Trump has a bridge for you. It’s right next to the wall he’s going to build to keep the immigrants out. I need Hillary Clinton to take a cue from Beyoncé and offer a middle finger of her own. I need her to stand up and say, I am not afraid. You can’t keep me down anymore. I will rise.

There will be plenty of time for women down the road. Plenty of time for black Americans down the road. Plenty of time for gay and transsexual and transponders down that long and winding road.

How long have women been led down that long and winding road? How long have black Americans been led down that same road? How long do you let yourself be lead down that damn yellow brick road before you stand up and say: No More. I will rise.

 

 

Expat Life Version 7.2.8: Survival Mode

1953_1_1Recently a friend confided to me, with a mixture of both surprise and exasperation, how difficult she’s found managing her time. A new job, two young(ish) kids, a house, a husband, a life, the whites, the darks, the ironing and all the rest.

It’s a lot to fit into the confines of the day, I assured her.

“But I didn’t have this much trouble back home,” she confessed, “and I worked more hours!”

Working less, kids getting older, life getting marginally easier. It stands to reason it would be a cake and Chardonnay walk in the park, right?

Wrong.

To quote my kids: “But why?”

Here’s why: As an expat, you expend slightly more energy than normal. Not necessarily on the big stuff, the stuff you’d expect, but on all the little things you go about in your daily life. Each interaction and action and corresponding reaction requires just a pinch more thought, a dash more understanding, a soupçon more interpretation.

Even though the individual amounts may be small, all the extra effort drains your battery faster than you’d expect. Just like the programs open and running on your laptop, the ones you don’t see or hear or use but are essential for running the programs you do use.

Life outside your home zone requires a little bit more. You have to run a lot of extras in the background to make sure the Expat version you’re currently using is the most up to date and compatible with the rest of your life. All those extras are a drain.

When you’re living outside your own end-zone, you exist in a semi-perpetual state of hyper awareness with regard to the small, the every-day. The little differences, the not-quite-the-same norms, and the kind-of different rules that are innate to the culture you’re guesting in. You are more aware of stepping on someone’s foot when they don’t move out of your way on the sidewalk (have I mentioned the Danes seem to be constantly engaged in a country-wide game of chicken?).

bombe

There is the concentration required when you are driving on the wrong side of the road, whether it’s the right or not. There is the focus it takes to make yourself understood in another language, especially when you land in the emergency room or if you have a child with a fever. If you’re American, there’s the added burden of constantly converting temperatures and weight into metric so the rest of the world understands what you’re talking about. There is making sense of the strange-sensical. There’s often a open app for homesickness and an always-running niggle about ‘what next?” All of these things are things you normally don’t spend energy on when you’re inside your own culture, among your own tribe, when you’re ‘home’.

Thinking about all of that, even unconsciously, takes up a lot of valuable space and energy.

I think perhaps it’s why so many expats look forward to going home for big chunks of time. Not only to see family and friends and eat gut-busting amounts of their favorite foods, but just to let those busted guts hang out; to take a few weeks to shut down and reboot.

Being ‘home’ allows you to recharge your battery by only running the basics. There’s nothing major lurking in the background sucking your brain dry. Home is usually, blissfully, nothing more than Shopping V. 3.4, Eating V. 6.0, and Slothing V. 10.

Just like you often don’t realize how much power your computer is actually using until you start getting the black screen of death or the spinning wheel of despair, you probably don’t realize how much energy you’re expending on a daily basis when you’re living somewhere other than home. Is it any wonder then that sometimes the everyday seems a lot more exhausting than you would expect?

See, I got rid of the BakeSale App. That freed up some space.
See, I got rid of the BakeSale App. That freed up some space.

So what do you do? Most of us switch out the battery for a new one every few years. You reboot as needed. Sometimes you need to run Disk Warrior in the form of a vacation. Sometimes it helps if you close out a few dead-weight programs you forgot you had running, things like PTA Bake Sale V. 1.4 and Converting Currency V. 4.2.

Usually then you can free up some space for the latest version of Expat Life V 7.2.8: Survival Mode (tennis, massage and bonbon pack optional). And it’s always a good idea to shut down every now and again. I recommend doing it with a glass of wine. Perhaps a bag of Cheese Doodles. And if you need something to read, there’s a really great blog I know….

 

 

Call Me, Maybe?

To Call:Not to Call

 

Click for a larger image. More serious thoughts coming soon.

The Body (A Love Letter)

597896d44805c7a7ec065a52b2c24e5fWhat is the difficulty in stripping layers of cloth and standing bared in front of my own reflection? It should be easier to face a reflection in the mirror than it is to face the secrets of a soul; easier to bare a breast, a hip, an ankle than to see unmasked the wings and horns of a self.

And yet…

and yet…

and yet it almost never is.

Even after all this time and thought and searching and acceptance and writing I maintain a complex relationship with my own body. This husk of muscle and flesh and spark and firework, this weight of tendon and sinew and bone and passion. This body.

We circle each other warily. Often we are at war, waging battles against one another, laying siege. At times we live under the flag of an uneasy truce. But the peace is always tenuous. There is always a new front to be claimed, another battle on the horizon.

This body.

These legs. These crepe-skinned knees and flesh-heavy thighs. These legs which have carried me through four and a half decades, which have run me up mountains I thought too high to climb, which have scaled heights I thought impossible from where I stood looking up.

These arms. My God, these arms. These arms which are baggy and saggy and on their way to  bat-winged. These arms which have cradled and rocked countless babies to sleep, protecting and soothing. These arms which have carried the weight of what is needed to feed my family, which have wrapped around generations, pulling grief close, pulling joy closer.

These hands. Christ, these hands which have woven the threads of love and passion and family together into a tapestry of life. These fingers which fly clacking over keys and sometimes seem to know what I need to say before my own mind recognizes it.

This womb. This womb, that hollow source of heartache. This womb which eventually harbored and nurtured two little lives, which had the strength to push those lives into this world to stand on their own, apart.

These breasts. No longer high and mighty, these forlorn breasts. These breasts which nourished two sons; and these hips, always too wide, curved and rounded leftovers of my mother’s body which expanded to accommodate and grow new human beings.

This spine. This spine now just starting to lean. This spine which has stood upright in the face of change, of heartache, of sorrow and grief. This backbone which has borne whatever I have heaped upon it without breaking, without complaint or crack.4adc46e2384f59258e0c836bd3dd5e76

This body. This body which has starved itself and run itself ragged trying to fit a tortured and distorted ideal of its own making. This body, a safe haven for a lover to harbor in, warmth and depth in which to burrow. A lap in which to snuggle, flesh soft enough to absorb the sharpness around it.

This body which despite all of this still only loves itself part of the time.

This heart. This heart which bears the scars of breaking, which has been pieced back together and still beats in time with a love ferocious and fearless. This heart which still has not completely learned to love what has loved me back so fiercely all this time.

This body.