How TikTok Saved My Sanity

Who’d have thought a simple 15-second video could be so powerful??

Lauren ThomasSep 17 · 5 min read

I was living alone for the first time in my entire life, just me and my cat, and feeling jailed in my 850 ft. apartment thanks to COVID. Feeling lonely was an understatement given that I was recently legally separated from my husband of 27 years, and the guy I’d been seeing decided to join the Army. The quarantine had just been mandated and after 6 weeks, I felt myself slipping into a depression. I’ve never been depressed a day in my life; I am the annoyingly cheerful co-worker who doesn’t need coffee to be extra-exhuberant at 6 am (or midnight. I work a lot of second and NOC shifts). This no-job, no-human-touch existence was taking its toll on this social butterfly. Bored out of my skull, I found TikTok like millions of others during COVID, and something about it really began to resonate with me. I realized that it wasn’t like the similar-yet-extinct platform “Vines” at all — there weren’t any skateboarding massive-fails that ended in broken bones or other dumb staged “accidents” making fun of people getting hurt. I realized TikTok did one of three things for me: it either turned me on (all the shirtless hot men!!), made me laugh (goofy and genuinely goofy) or it inspired me (lots of positive affirmations and girl-power videos).I realized Tiktok wasn’t just for teenagers; there was a smattering of 30 and 40+ aged men and women on there and even a hot 50+ woman that had thousands and thousands of followers and likes.

I had not gone out for 4 months; I had no life, no job, no man, nothing but boredom. No boyfriend, no sex. There was snow on the ground outside, my gym was closed, I mean, wtf did I have to look forward to? It had been so long since I’d even worn make up or gave a shit about my looks. My roots were showing, I needed a manicure and pedicure and a waxing. Like everyone else, I was gaining weight and a drinking habit to go with it.

Seven weeks into quarantine, I decided to join and make a video. (The platform is free). I decided to make a sort of PSA; it was a “mental health awareness” video. If anyone I knew found it, I wouldn’t be embarrassed. And I had exactly 6 “hearts” (likes) and that was fine with me.

The following night, two glasses of cabernet in, I thought, hmmm, I’m going to dress sexy and see what happens! I put on full make-up, a hot cocktail dress I used to wear out with my guy, and my favorite rhinestone stilettos. I scrolled to see what the trending song was, and made a “thirst trap” video of myself, the camera voyeuristically looking me up from heels to head to the sexy rap song “My Type”. I sent it to my 20 year old daughter (she’s my best friend) and told her, “Your mom is too old for TikTok LOL” and I felt ridiculous. She said, “OMG!!!!” When I went to bed that night, I had zero followers.

I woke up the next morning to a message from my daughter that said, “OMG MOM YOU WENT VIRAL! YOUR VIDEO’S GOT 14.1K VIEWS!” I could not believe it. I immediately went to my profile and sure enough, she was right: I went viral overnight. I smiled just thinking about how awesome and silly it all was. And at that moment, I knew I was hooked.

I began dressing up a couple times a week and writhing and posturing seductively to various songs. It felt so good to get dressed up and feel pretty again, and to have hundreds if not thousands of men tell me I was pretty. Many have commented that they “cannot believe I’m single”. Haha.

Making these videos has been a great boon to my ego and self esteem; when the one you love fails to tell you you’re pretty, or amazing, or make time to even text you back, it’s a pretty solid subsitute. And the followers kept increasing, and the likes and views and kind comments kept coming. TikTok has become my boyfriend, and he’s so much more giving and reliable.

I made my first video June 18th, and since then, I’ve made a total of 53 videos. I’ve got almost 5000 followers, nearly 20K likes all videos combined. One video has over 100K views. I have so much fun getting all dressed up and making them! It’s my reward after a long day at work or studying (I’ve since gotten a job and I’m in grad school). I never plan what I’m going to do; I let a feeling come to me or a song and I spend less than an hour total making them, and I always feel light and happy afterward. Having to keep coming up with new outfits, hairstyles and makeup has helped me take better care of myself. I even joined a gym and go 6 days a week.

I feel so much affection for my followers; they are so loyal to me, I’ve got thousands of comments from them professing their admiration of me from the sexiness of my legs to admiration of me as a human being who’s a residential mental health care specialist and grad student. I don’t have haters or men that are rude or obnoxious; amazingly, everyone has been so nice to me and enjoys watching my videos. Several have sent me DM’s that suggest I put my Venmo account up so men can send me money. This is not something I’d ever do; I am not a prostitute (I do not judge) but I’m not making these to make money. I’ve had hundreds of marriage proposals. They’re a substitute for real human interaction in the COVID world we live in.

I am grateful to TikTok and know Trump has threatened to destroy it; there is speculation that the company that created TikTok — ByteDance, a Chinese company, is a threat to the U.S. I pray a U.S. company buys it to keep it afloat. There are approximately 500 million users — it’s available in 39 languages and in 150 markets around the world. What I love about TikTok is it is culturally sensitive and diverse; everyone is welcomed — from the LQBTQ+ community to people of color. The lack of judgmentalness on this platform is what really inspires me — there is zero bullying and all shapes and sizes and ages are accepted and applauded. If ever there was a platform that screamed the Billy Joel song “I love you just the way you are”, TikTok is it.

It’s been three months since my first TikTok video, and I still haven’t gone out; dating during COVID is a lonely joke, and it will be a year until my Army guy will get leave time to come home. He’s half a world away. Who knows what state our relationship will be in then. We aren’t exlusive. In the meantime, I’m having fun making scandalous 15-second videos that have helped me lose weight, feel more confident, and have given me motivation to self-care. My depression has lifted and I have something to look forward to when there’s nothing to look forward to.

15 Ways Burning Man Prepared Me for the Big Quarantine of 2020

As I entered day 20 of my quarantine, I strangely started to feel like I’d been here before. That’s when I realized that in a way, I have! My experiences at Burning Man (I’ve gone twice: 2017 and 2018) have prepared me for this. The masks, the hand sanitizer, the toilet paper obsession, baby, been there, done that! I thought I’d pass along some of these handy-dandy 15 ways attending Burning Man helped ME cope with the Big Quarantine of 2020. They might help you too.

  1. Have a routine  

We developed a morning routine at Burning Man. We figured out a way to make a pot of coffee without electricity. We brought little squeeze bottles of Hazelnut instead of our Coffeemate. We made breakfast over a little propane stove, and afterwards, we washed our dishes in a make-shift plastic tub with water we’d brought in jugs (10 gallons per person) and brushed our teeth. We’d straighten our tent and sweep out the dust that had accumulated from entering and exiting and organized our clothes and supplies. Then we’d make a bike ride-run to purchase ice from the “Antarctica” building and bring it back and organize our coolers of food. We’d finish by noon and after refilling our backpacks with water and porta-potty supplies, we’d grab our bikes and venture out for the day. 

It’s important to create some sort of routine for yourself, especially if you’ve got young children. Structure seems to make us feel less out of control of our lives and also gives you a feeling of accomplishment and meaning to this extraordinary situation we are in.This isn’t a staycation. We didn’t ask for this. This may sound silly, but make your bed when you get up and right away you’ll be on your way to feeling you’ve got a little more control over your situation.This is your new normal. Unlike Burning Man though, we don’t know when this will end, but both require some stability.  Having some sort of routine has helped me feel a little less psycho. 

  1. Move that body!

There aren’t any gyms on the Playa, but Burning Man is 7 square miles. Whether you walk or ride your bike, you are getting plenty of exercise every day. I wore my tracker and was astounded we’d done an average of 10 miles a day. Even if the weather is shitty where you live (we’re on day four of straight wind and rain here in Wisconsin) you can exercise at home. My 90-year old father walks in circles around his living room. With his walker. My brother jumps rope. I saw on Facebook that a marathon runner did a whole marathon, circling his backyard 100 times. There are endless YouTube videos for yoga and all sorts of do-it-at-home exercises. I do crunches and stretching and try to get out and walk/run 4 miles a day. It’s not just good for your body, it gets those endorphins going and helps keep the depression at bay. Exercise is the absolute best way to cope with being quarantined. Remember, you’re not a convict with an ankle bracelet although many times it may feel that way. You CAN leave your house. Go for a walk around the block or the kitchen. Dance! Don’t let the Big Quarantine of 2020 turn you into a schlub. 

  1. Boost your immune system

The environment at Burning Man is incredibly harsh and there are very real threats to your well-being. The extreme heat during the day and lack of shade (remember, there’s no electricity so no air conditioners) so sunscreen is a must as well as making sure your Camelbak has enough water to sustain you at all times. The Playa isn’t sand as many believe; Burning Man lies on an inhospitable ancient lakebed made of a white, powdery alkaline dust. It gets into everything. Everyone’s walking around covered in it, but wearing some sort of face mask (bandannas, scarves) to keep from breathing it in. Protective goggles are a necessity too. You never ever leave your tent without them. There are vicious, blinding dust storms that literally come out of nowhere and you never know when that will happen. You have to be ready.

Going to one of the porta-potties is a fact of life at Burning Man; carrying wipes and hand sanitizer and a ziploc baggie to put them in is just how you deal. Chapstick is a must for those dried out lips from the harsh heat and dust. Every time you leave your tent, you’re prepared for anything. Sound familiar?? How many of us are walking around carrying the same items? Masks, bandanna,scarves, hand sanitizer! It’s crazy! Everything is a biohazard. Although Playa dust won’t actually infect you, you know better than to touch your face with dust on your hands or fingers, and hand-washing is challenging in an environment that has no running water, but you get ‘er done somehow. People know to pack LOTS of hand sanitizer.  Playa dust will also give you a chemical burn if it stays on your feet. You must wear shoes at all times. And like we’re doing now, you take them off and leave them outside. You don’t want to bring the dust into your tent if you can help it. And here at home, we’re leaving our shoes out in the hallway of our high-rise just in case there’s coronavirus somehow stuck onto the soles. Do your best to stay healthy because it’s been said that we will all be exposed at some point, and all you’ve got is your immune system to fight it off, not to mention just dealing with all the stress of lost income, too-much togetherness with roommates or family, or just the very real hell we are living in right now. Do all you can to get sleep, eat healthy, all that shit. Keep the negative to a minimum and limit your exposure to news.

  1. You don’t need “more” of anything.

The biggest lesson I learned at Burning Man was how little I really needed to survive and be happy. I will never forget after I got back from my first “Burn” and saw a dear friend of mine. She was very excited to hear about my adventure and before the words could come out, I burst into tears, threw my arms around her and said, “all I need are my friends and my family”. I feel that way right now. I can’t wait to throw my arms around some of my dear friends and family that I’m estranged from due to circumstances. “Going without” is when you appreciate what’s most important. Each other. 

Although it angers me to see stories of people hoarding food and toilet paper and even fighting in the grocery stores, I understand their panic. People feel out of control. And no one told us how much we’re going to need or for how long. But really folks, calm the fuck down. The stores are staying open. You aren’t going to run out. I have spent way less staying home. I’m not Uber-ing to bars and restaurants or going to shows or shopping. It’s extremely detrimental to our economy and our collective mental health.  I really miss my nightlife and going out with friends. At Burning Man, money is basically useless. All you can purchase there is ice for your coolers ($2.50 for a 7 pound bag) and there’s a little Burning Man coffee house in Center Camp. You already planned for 7 days in the desert and can’t go to the store for more. I’m sure all of us have enough in our refrigerators and pantries and shouldn’t be panicked about running out of anything. Even toilet paper is reappearing on store shelves. Go through your closets and get rid of shit you don’t need. Donate, donate, donate. Look up Marie Kondo on Netflix. She’ll help you.

  1. Lean on one another

At Burning Man, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or thirsty, or tired, or looking for someone to hang out with, there’s always someone willing to lend a hand or a hug. People are extremely giving and loving and affectionate if you just ask. We hunger for human touch and interaction. It’s just not natural living this way. When you’re feeling the soul-crushing nature of being quarantined, remember, PEOPLE. Call your friends, call your family. Reach out.  It’s become a “coronavirus cliche” but it’s true–we really are all in this together.

Thank goodness we have the technology to connect–apps like HouseParty and Skype and Zoom and FaceTime keep us all from feeling so alone. Can you ever remember a time when you felt something and realized everyone in the entire world is feeling it too? How amazing is THAT?! There is no shame in admitting you’re going cuckoo. We are all going cuckoo. Relationships are being tested like never before. Our collective mental health is in jeopardy. We are becoming terrified of one another’s cooties and I’m worried about the fallout in rising rates of depression, divorces, domestic violence and anxiety disorders. How about rising rates of OCD as we are all furiously washing our hands and agoraphobia as we have habitually become afraid of leaving our little padded cells? At Burning Man, it’s very common for people to “freak out” at least once due to the extreme conditions of the experience. How to cope? Lean on a friend if you’re having a rough time, and BE a good friend to someone else who might be. Just like now, everyone at Burning Man comes to expect freak-outs and we console one another and get through it together. Which leads me to….

  1. You will feel totally claustrophobic at some point and freak out.

It’s common to feel trapped at Burning Man; it’s a hundred miles from the nearest store (no Kwik Trips or 7-11’s you can just “run to”). For 7 days, you are stuck there. I remember being warned about feeling claustrophobic, and sure enough, it happened. The excitement started to wear off around Wednesday as the temps rose once again beyond a hundred degrees and relief was nowhere in sight. I became panicky and felt I was suffocating. I began to have a breakdown that totally freaked me out. I was shaking and nauseous and frightened and began to spin out of control. I had never experienced a panic attack and was quite shaken up by it. I got through it but I was terrified of it happening again. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Around day 8 of quarantine though, it happened again. I knew the signs but it was odd because the circumstances were so different. I had running water. I had electricity. I have heating. However, I didn’t actually know if I have enough food or toilet paper, because I don’t know how long I’m going to be quarantined. And when will I get to see my kids?? When will all the bars and restaurants open up again? When can we travel again? WHEN WILL LIFE GO BACK TO NORMAL???? WHEN WILL THIS END??? The walls started to feel like they were closing in on me. My head started to feel dizzy and I felt sick to my stomach. And I felt that same panic that I had felt at Burning Man and recognized what it was. I felt trapped. Suddenly my home wasn’t my sanctuary anymore. It was my jail. And that’s how it felt in that little tent. Ok so it was a big tent, but it was a TENT. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT 100 MILES FROM CIVILIZATION. I was overwhelmed with the lights and sounds and heart-thumping music and sick of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and everything being so damn hard and the oppressive heat! And the stink of the porta-potties! It hit me all at once and I was spinning out of control. 

What helped me then and what helps me now is reminding myself this is temporary. The cliche’d quote, “this too shall pass” is quite helpful when those suffocating feelings return.  Take a page out of the Burning Man playbook–hydrate first and foremost. Find a spot in the shade. Sit down. Breathe. It will be ok. “This too shall pass”. And, as in #5, lean on someone. Don’t suffer alone. Get out of your tent. Go for a walk, call a friend, pet your cat, watch or read something uplifting. Stay away from the news. 

7. For God’s sake, bathe.

At Burning Man, some camps set up make-shift “showers” with a gallon of water you let warm in the sun and “wash” your body with. It feels good to let the water run over your skin and everyone knows that a shower just makes you feel better.  Burning Man makes you appreciate how we take for granted the simple act of showering (and toileting). When you finally return home, the very first thing you want to do (next to going to the bathroom on a real toilet) is take a very long, very hot shower. If someone had been listening they’d have thought I was having sex in there with all the feel-good moaning going on. 

One of the most fun things in life is spending all day in your PJ’s and for us women, not having to wear a bra. Woo-hoo!! Not to mention not having to do the whole beauty routine of washing and styling your hair and putting on makeup. At Burning Man, you can’t flat-iron your hair nor blow dry it (no electricity) and you’ve got that “awesome” style in your hair from 7 days of dust in it. There isn’t any running water, so not-showering/washing your hair for days on end is just one of the things you give up at Burning Man, and I’m guessing, many of you are doing the same. Also, giving zero fucks about it. Getting past feeling dirty both at Burning Man and now, quarantining, is so similar it makes me laugh. 

I ask myself, “why bother if no one’s going to see me anyways?” But you know what? I’ve found it helps my mental health. I have found that when I have a day where I “just don’t feel like” it, it often turns into two days, then three, and then despair has set in.  The less I feel like showering, the more I know I need to. Just because no one else is going to see you isn’t a good enough reason to neglect yourself. While you’re at it, put on a little blush, eyeliner and do your eyebrows. Do it for YOU.

8. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I was pretty sure I was going to die the first year I went to Burning Man. It’s like one of those “Survivor” shows where you have a list of items you “must have” (tents, food, water, TP, hammer, etc). “Did we bring enough?”  “Did we bring the right things?” “What did we forget?” “Will I be able to handle it?” Same here. I wonder daily how long I’ll be able to handle this isolation.  I found it ironic that one of the things Burning Man has in common with the Big Quarantine is both share an obsession around toilet paper and water. Funny, here I am again mentally trying to calculate my food intake to poop-outtake ratio. It is not uncommon to see people dressed in tutus holding a roll of toilet paper on the way to the loos. Just yesterday, I saw a grown man walking down the street carrying a 6-roll of Charmin. I was like, “WHERE’D HE GET THAT??” 

My husband and I had 6 months to prepare for our first “Burn”. We had plenty of time to assemble everything we needed to bring. But with both, you don’t really know how much of it you will actually need nor what you wished you’d have packed. At least with the Quarantine, you can run to the store if you need something. But both do share a unique feeling of not-knowing what you’re in for. At first you get excited for the chance to drop out of society and reconnect with Netflix and your refrigerator and set your own “happy hours”. I “knew” Burning Man was going to be awesome because I’d heard and read and watched so many videos about it. And it is. The booming music, the lights, the vibes are all exhilarating. The art installations are truly indescribable. The costumes, the art cars, the fire-throwers, the makeshift bars, the PEOPLE. There’s literally nothing else like it in the entire world. However, Burning Man tests your very mettle: the extreme heat and cold, the strong winds, the lack of electricity and running water. Being isolated from the “Default World”. There aren’t any trees, no animals. It’s a man-made city in a barren land. I thoroughly believe the quarantine will test us similarly, albeit in different ways. The thrill of endless streaming and sitting and lack of interacting with the outside world is going to get to each and every one of us. Cabin fever. Monotony. Boredom. Lack of motivation. And don’t forget, there’s the nagging fear of, “what if I catch the virus?” It’s inescapable. Expect you’re going to be exposed. Do your best to avoid it and hope for the best. And remember, it IS temporary. “This too shall pass.”

  1. Access your inner warrior

Burning Man taught me to accept my circumstances and find a way to cope. The Big Quarantine of 2020 wasn’t something we all went out and bought tickets for, and none of us wanted this. It is out of our control, just like the dust storms on the Playa, but you gotta just ride that shit out. You do the best you can and if it knocks you down, you get back up. 

Those that are on the front lines putting themselves at risk to save us and our loved ones are the true heroes. Let’s keep this in perspective folks. The Big Quarantine is about helping save lives. It’s hard, it’s damn hard, but not as hard as some have it. I am grateful every day I stay healthy and my loved ones stay healthy.  We WILL get through this. We WILL cope. We have no other choice. And remember, if you’re sitting at home bored yet healthy, count your blessings. Many are not. Many are suffering from this virus and many will lose loved ones. We don’t know how long this will last or how bad it will get. Will I catch it? Will you? The unknowns can drive you crazy. I’m right here with you. Bob Marley is famous for saying, “You never know how strong you are, until strong is your only choice.” You got this. We can do this. 

  1. Cry it out

There are days you just have to have that big, sloppy, ugly cry.  Don’t hold back. These are scary times. There are so many unknowns and it can feel like one big waiting game. At Burning Man, you cry for totally different reasons, but I think both have in common deep feelings of gratitude, loss, grief, love for humanity, a deep longing for meaning and fear and acceptance of our mortality. We are absent of the distractions that many of us rely on to get by, and like Burning Man, we are thrown into a completely different lifestyle and world. Remember the movie, “Mad Max”? Burning Man is like that. As you drive onto the Playa, you immediately feel as though you’ve arrived on a different planet. Doesn’t your neighborhood feel that way now? I know mine does. It’s nothing like any of us has ever experienced. Everything shuttered and a lack of traffic. Schools closed. We can’t go to a movie, out to dinner, travel, fuck we can’t even get together with friends. We see more than two people together and freak the fuck out. I hate this “social distancing” as much as you do.  I don’t know when I’ll get to see my son. It’s heartbreaking what is happening. We have to adapt to this new world, and when the virus passes, we have the chance to start over. This is a huge re-set button for our entire human species. Just like Burning Man, it’s what you make of it. Resisting achieves nothing, but embracing all the emotions that flow are normal and natural and need to be expressed.

  1. Keep a journal

I love reading my journal from Burning man. I had so many “lightbulb moments” out there. You’re in such a unique environment and situation, that you have to capture them when they occur. Photos are great, but describing in detail how you’re feeling and what everything you’ve done and seen means to you is precious beyond reason. I remembered this and I started a “Big Quarantine 2020” journal just the other day and everyday I write a few sentences about how I’m coping. Someday, this will all be a very bad memory, and maybe I will have some lightbulb moments that I won’t want to forget.

  1. Live in the “now”

There is no Internet at Burning Man for a reason. TO BE FULLY PRESENT. It is honestly a breath of fresh air to be freed of the self-inflicted obligations of social media. You see people taking lots of selfies but it’s gratifying to know not a single pic is getting posted. And guess what?? This is when the emotions come, because you’re in the moment. It’s easy to fill our days with our phones and laptops and Netflix. I have been planning for weeks now a day to turn off my phone and laptop and just go inward for a day. I haven’t been able to do it yet. But I really, really think it will benefit me to just be present. Take this amazing opportunity to play with your kids if you have them, or your pet, and just languish in their beauty. If you’re lucky and have a yard, plant a garden. Stay up late and look at the stars. Find the joy, find the beauty. It’s there if you look.

  1. Let the little kid in you come out and play!

I’ve often described Burning Man as a “playground for adults”. It’s like you get to be 8 again only you get to drink. You can dress the way you want, wear your hair anyway you want. The other day I took all my makeup out and played with garish colors I’d never have the nerve to wear in public. I parted my hair down the middle and hated it and then curled it and then did it all over again. When I was done, I tried on clothes and played around with outfits just for fun and took a bunch of selfies. It was fun. You can start a YouTube channel if you want. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is you make time for fun. Start coloring again, do a puzzle. Make a mess in the kitchen. Create a new recipe, move all your furniture around, have a fashion show with your kids. Get on your hands and knees and garden if you’re lucky enough to have a yard. Pay with your pet. Create something out of nothing. If you’re lucky enough to have a partner, spray one another with whipped cream. Why are you holding back? What are you waiting for?!

  1. Laugh every day

Sometimes Burning Man was so hard I lost my sense of humor. Then I remembered I wanted to be there. I’d paid to be there. I’d asked to suffer. However, we didn’t ask for this, and I had a rough day a few days ago where I found myself slipping into despair. I knew what to do about it: I reached out to my network of “friends” on Facebook. I simply posted, “My sense of humor is gone today. I’m having a moment. Please send memes” and sure enough, I ended up with 97 comments. People responded with a mixture of some of the most hilarious memes and well-wishes. Making jokes and laughing doesn’t minimize the very real terror that’s going on in our world, but we have to cope. There’s nothing funny about the collapse of the economy and everyone being out of work. But we are all suffering together and how can you not find the funny in people hoarding toilet tissue?? Humor is essential to our mental health and also strengthens your immune system. Find the funny anywhere you can. Right now I’m all about the memes and the coronavirus parody songs all over YouTube. 

  1. Go with the flow and stay optimistic

Someone asked in a Facebook post today inquiring, “how are you extraverts doing in quarantine?” They’d said they were an introvert and loved the social isolation but realized how difficult it must be for outgoing folk. I responded it was a very real challenge. Some of us like to spend more time outside our tents than inside them, and that can be a very real challenge during this quarantine. When I’d get overloaded on socializing at Burning Man I’d simply go back to my tent. But I remember the last year we went, we had a dust storm that lasted for hours, and it was extremely frustrating. We were missing so many activities and classes that were scheduled and wouldn’t be rescheduled. We laid there, the tent shaking and dust flying in, and all we could do was literally pray our tent stakes were hammered in securely enough. When it wouldn’t subside, we realized the tent was secure, and decided to grab a deck of cards and a snack. The wind monster was vicious and unrelenting, and waiting it out was all we could do, so why not have a little fun?

The Big Quarantine of 2020 is eerily similar; our homes have become our jail cells. We feel trapped and out of control and can do nothing about the invisible enemy that threatens our very lives if we leave the safety of our “tents”. Waiting it out and finding something to do is monotonous when you think of all the fun you’re missing. The key is to find the fun and the enjoyment and the meaning right where you are right now.  Worry solves nothing. Worry changes nothing. Go with the flow. The news changes practically daily with governmental guidelines. Roll with it. We are powerless. You can hunker down in your tent and feel paralyzed or you can sit up and play cards and grab a bottle of wine. It’s YOUR choice. 

If you or someone you know is really struggling during this incredibly difficult time in our lives, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Also, most mental health care providers continue to provide services via TeleHealth.

Quarantining can escalate domestic abuse. Please get help if you need it at 1-800-799-7233

 

Breaking the silence

I didn’t report because the man was my first husband, and I didn’t know any better. Oh sure, on some level I knew that being forced to have sex against my will wasn’t “nice”, but I was raised to be a “nice” girl. 

Two-plus decades later, I am reminded of that relationship that I had buried.

A byproduct of the #MeToo movement, #WhyIDidntReport has become an national obsession. I have spent much time scrolling and reading through the heart-wrenching tweets of sexual assault victims from every corner of the world. And as I read through them, two over-riding themes seem to keep resonating with me and that is that victims often don’t report sexual assault because they feel one, that somehow they caused it and two, they feel ashamed–too ashamed to tell anyone.  Compounding this shame, victims often are not believed when they do have the courage to report. I’ve read way too many stories of male and female police officers who patronizingly say to victims, “it’s your word against his/her and no one will believe you.”

And then of course, the creme-de-la-creme is our own president standing up and mocking a sexual assault survivor on national television. (see https://youtu.be/AWv1ipoi-c8)

Is it any wonder victims just keep silent, until they can no longer keep silent??

Here are a few common responses to #WhyIDidn’tReport

1-the perpetrator was a family member

2- the perpetrator was a boyfriend/husband

3-the victim was a child when the abuse occurred and had no frame of reference to even suspect it was a crime

4-the victim had been drinking

5-fear of saying no (due to fear of being harmed further)

6-not realizing it was sexual assault until many years later with the perspective of time, maturation and knowledge (especially when others are brave enough to come out about their own stories–victims’ memories are often triggered upon hearing a story similar to their own).

And the most common mind-fuck of all are the perps who told their victims a variety of excuses to keep them from reporting:

1-“What did you think was going to happen?”

2- “It’s not rape if we’re dating/married”

3-“No one’s going to believe you”

4-“You’ll destroy this family”

5-“If you tell anyone I’ll kill you/harm your family”

6-“I’m your boss–I’ll fire you if you tell anyone”

7-“You asked for it…look at the way you’re dressed”

So it boils down to this: sexual assault victims often don’t report because they internalize that they caused it to happen, and in turn become ashamed that they “caused” it and simultaneously were unable to stop it, which causes the victim to feel responsible and therefore what’s there to report? That they had poor judgment?? That they got themselves into a situation where they “should’ve known better”??

We can use any type of sexual assault to make the point that from the perspective of the victim, they have to endure yet more trauma if the assault is reported. Have you ever stopped to really think about what a victim must go through to have a rape kit taken? Imagine you’ve just been sexually assaulted and have gone to a safe place. You tell someone. Hopefully this someone believes you and encourages you to call the police. The police show up and tell you you need to have a rape kit done to “prove” this assault took place by this perp.

The cop has probably advised you not to shower, not to even use the restroom as precious evidence can be destroyed. In your traumatic emotional state, you’ve got 72 hours to get to a doctor or hospital who’s trained to do this procedure. Not all are. You’ve been advised not to change clothes or even comb your hair. In this traumatic state you’re in, you hopefully have your supportive friend/partner drive you and take you to have the rape kit examination performed. They are encouraged to remain with you at all times during this  extremely invasive act. Thanks to the Violence Against Women Act (see https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s47enr/pdf/BILLS-113s47enr.pdf)  states are required to provide sexual assault victims forensic exams free of charge.

In addition to collecting your clothes and an all-over external body exam (for bruises, scratches, etc.) getting evidence for a rape involves a vaginal/genital and rectal exam. This can often feel like a second trauma, and any victim who is brave enough to have this done needs to have it taken seriously. I am mortified and angered that there is a backlog of rape kits that have been ignored and untested due to a ridiculous law that law here in Wisconsin that “doesn’t require the police to send in DNA samples when they already had a suspect, because legislators were more concerned about rapists who were unknown and on the loose.” (see https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.postcrescent.com/amp/483761002).

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford took a lot of criticism for “waiting 35 years to report”, and so may thousands of sexual assault survivors came forth to tell their stories of why they too waited so long to report. Without trying, Dr. Ford started a movement empowering survivors to be heard, thus the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag.

So much more can and needs to be done for sexual assault survivors. I suggest it starts in the home; parents, we need to be better communicators and teachers of both our sons and our daughters. Sex ed needs to go way beyond “the birds and the bees” to “no means no”. We need to have conversations with our children from the time they’re very little all the way through the embarrassing teenage years to educate them on how to behave in their personal relationships. Our sons need to be taught that girls want boyfriends and will often allow boys to go farther than they really want to so they don’t lose them, and our daughters need to be taught self-love and how to have healthy emotional boundaries. Our sons need to be taught that their bodies are their own; that it’s ok to say no to pressure to be sexual before they feel ready, and our daughters need to be told that it’s not ok to pressure their boyfriends for sex. We need to be constantly vigil for things that don’t add up: an uncle or coach or teacher or family member that’s overly involved with our child and be willing to risk being wrong to protect our children. We need to be on the lookout for female predators to protect our sons as vigorously as we do male predators and our daughters. AND IF YOUR CHILD HAS THE COURAGE TO COME TO YOU AND TELL YOU SOMETHING INAPPROPRIATE HAS HAPPENED TO THEM, FOR FUCK’S SAKE BELIEVE THEM!!! Do NOT betray them by saying Uncle Jerry ‘couldn’t possibly’ have done that to them. Or their new step-dad or step-mom, new step-brother or the friend of someone in the family. BE VIGILANT AND BE THERE FOR YOUR CHILDREN!!!

And we need our lawmakers to take sexual assault more seriously. Here’s what can be done RIGHT NOW:

1-Trump can make law RIGHT NOW cancelling all statutes of limitations on reporting of sexual crimes. So even if it’s 35 years later, the perpetrator can still be prosecuted.

2-Rape kits need to continually be tested whether or not the victim has given consent. This is a quandary not everyone agrees to, but IMO, victims often change their minds about pressing charges even after enduring reporting and doing a rape kit for fear of repercussions from the perpetrator. These victims need additional protection, not invisibility.

3-We need to change our collective mind-set as to what constitutes “proof” of sexual assault. It was reiterated over and over and over during the Kavanaugh hearing that “no corroboration exists” to “prove” Dr. Ford’s allegations against him were true. SEXUAL ASSAULT HAPPENS IN SECRECY. THERE ARE USUALLY NO WITNESSES. We need to have a different burden of proof other than “who else was there that can tell us this really happened?” because nearly 100% of the time, no one else is there. If victims don’t seek to have rape kits, yes, it often becomes a “he said/she said” issue and yes, the burden of proof lies in the accuser, NOT the accused. In this country we are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I don’t have the answer but we need to address this.

4-We also need to collectively realize that not all sexual assault results in rape. Dr. Ford never said Kavanaugh raped her. She said he “sexually assaulted” her. Sexual assault takes many forms. It can be attempted rape, it can be sodomy, it can be groping and forced kissing. (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_assault)

4-We need sex education classes in schools that do more than just talk about menstruation and secondary sex characteristics. Teens especially are thirsty for information on how to behave on dates, on social media, and at their jobs. We need to teach our children about CONSENT. We can supplement what parents teach and support parents by taking an active role in making sexual and social behavior a normal and common topic of discussion.

5-Lastly, GET OUT AND VOTE IN NOVEMBER!!! We need male and female persons to replace the GOP and it’s misogynistic attitudes towards women. Through our votes, we can change the future.

13 Myths You (Hopefully Don’t) Believe About Abortion

  1. Women “want” abortions. No woman “wants” an abortion anymore than we would “want” a root canal. But if you need to have one you should be able to get one. Period. Women seek abortions in a desperate attempt to end an unwanted/unintended/unplanned pregnancy. It’s the hardest decision a woman will ever make.
  2. If Roe v Wade is overturned, it will end all abortions forever. No law will ever stop women from getting abortions. It will only stop legal and safe abortions. It will make it harder and more unsafe, but not impossible. Abortions will never be stopped as long as there are unwanted pregnancies. It is legal elsewhere in the world. More women will die but they won’t stop trying to end their pregnancies by any means possible. (see https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/31/opinion/sunday/abortion-banned-latin-america.l)
  3. Outlaw contraceptives and you’ll reduce the number of abortions. The complete opposite has been proven to be true. The less available birth control is the more unwanted pregnancies will result. Duh. (see #11)
  4. Women can be forced by the government to remain pregnant. Only if they’re chained to their beds like in The Handmaid’s Tale. See Myth #2.
  5. The unborn baby has more rights than the mother. No it doesn’t and it shouldn’t. A living, breathing person should always have more rights than someone who doesn’t yet exist. A fetus/unborn baby cannot survive outside the womb before 24-25 weeks (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_viability). The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 1973 that “criminalizing abortion…violated a woman’s constitutional right to privacy” (Justice Harry A. Blackmun, January 22, 1973, Roe v Wade).
  6. Women who seek abortions are mostly teenagers. Of the 1.2 million abortions that are performed each year, roughly half are over the age of 25. Only about 17 percent are teens. About 60 % have given birth to at least one child prior to seeking an abortion. A disproportionately high number are black or Hispanic.
  7. Women who seek abortions are selfish.  Bringing a child into the world that isn’t wanted is an incredibly cruel and selfish act. Unwanted children are at increased risk of juvenile delinquency, psychiatric disorders and long-term resentment of the child by the mother (see https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6926988) Most women who seek abortions already have children and are concerned for the emotional and financial welfare of their existing children.
  8. Women who seek abortions are promiscuous, immoral sluts. If they are, then so are the men that impregnated them. Women cannot become pregnant themselves.  (check out this recent Twitter sensation https://www.scarymommy.com/twitter-anti-abortion-unwanted-pregnancies/)
  9. Men are not affected by abortion. Men are people too and have a variety of emotional responses to the women they’ve accidentally knocked up, but most not only encourage their partners to get abortions but feel guilty and relieved afterwards. Men and the women they impregnate should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they’re ready to become parents. Not the government. (see https://melmagazine.com/8-men-on-what-it-was-like-when-their-partner-had-an-abortion-4f55c9671d0 also https://www.google.com/am/w/www.vice/com/amp/en_us/article/m5794/abortio-affects-men-too)
  10. Pro-Choice means anti-life, anti-religious, anti-human-rights, anti-God.  The religious right made it a moral issue in 1979 with their self-named “Moral Majority” and Jerry Falwell. Prior to that it was little more than just another medical procedure. The evangelicals’ self-righteousness has no place here. We have the right to religious freedom which also means we have freedom FROM religion. It’s called the First Amendment.  To force everyone to live by YOUR beliefs, that’s call tyranny. If you are an evangelical Christian and find yourself with an unwanted/unintended/unplanned pregnancy, don’t have an abortion. I won’t tell you what to do with your body. Don’t tell me what to do with mine. How about “you do you, I’ll do me”???!!
  11. Women use abortions as a birth-control method. The majority of women who have an abortion have only one, but the more restrictions there are on available birth control methods, the more abortions women will need to have. A 2012 study of more than 9000 women found that when women use no-cost birth control, the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions fell between 62-78 percent (see “Trump Contraceptive Move Could Lead to More Abortions” https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/nca808581)
  12. Abstinence until marriage prevents abortions How many of you reading this are never-married virgins?? Yeah. I thought so. (see “Abstinence only Means More Abortions” https://www.google.com/amp/s/salutemag.com/2018/03/07/column-abstinence-only-means-abortions/amp/)
  13. If men were the ones to get pregnant, not women, they’d overwhelmingly support giving up their rights to control their own bodies. Did you laugh out loud just reading that???????!! Of course they wouldn’t. Nobody tells a man what to do. Men tell women what to do. America is a patriarchal society. Women continue to be treated like second-class citizens. Men would NEVER allow laws to be made to control their bodies, their lives, their choices, yet they think nothing of doing it to women. THIS SHOULD INFURIATE YOU.

 Restricting access to abortions and birth control simply endanger women. 

Source: https://yalelawjournal.org/feature/before-and-after-roe-v-wade-new-questions-about-backlash

So what IS Burning Man??

I should be packing right now instead of writing this.

As the days grow close to leave for our three-day road trip to the Nevada desert where Burning Man is held, there’s so much to do to prepare. First and foremost, it’s held in a barren desert 1584 miles away, and this is not the kind of camping you can just run to a 7-11 if you forget anything. The nearest store is 100 miles away. There’s no cell service. There are no trees, no insects or animals, and no campfires. No electricity, no running water. Just literally a 4-square mile flat surface covered in an alkaline baby-powder-like white clay dust called the “Playa” (Spanish for “beach”). You bring literally everything you will need to survive the seven-day extreme camping experience. Last year the highs were in the hundreds and the lows in the 50’s.

So there’s camping equipment, food and water for each person for seven days, proper clothing and all the necessities you can think of. Think “survivalist” and short of catching your own food, you’re in an environment that’s trying to kill you the entire time you’re there. We subsisted pretty much on canned tuna (out of the can, mind you, eaten with a cracker) and PBJ sandwiches and applesauce.

Last year, our first “Burn”, we had joined a small camp, but we were pretty much on our own. For example, one of the biggest stressors we had was our shade cover. With daytime temps at 102 for the entire week, and with sudden wind gusts of up to 75 mph, your shade structure will literally save your life during the day and if it comes out of the ground it will kill someone. Hammering into the rock-hard surface of the Playa is quite a challenge. We did have a couple wind gusts and our shade structure kept flying up in one corner or another and threatened to pull out completely.

This year we’re thrilled to share an established camp with approximately 200 campers and not even have to even think about a shade structure as it will be there when we arrive. We had biked past them last year on the way to the Playa and saw what an awesome set-up they had. Everyone’s tents were tucked safely under an enormous black tarp that was secured so well it could easily withstand the angriest dust storm. We contacted them and were excited and thankful they had room for us!

You may be asking yourself, “why would anyone go to such a place?” and, “What IS Burning Man??”

It’s not a festival or an art show or a hippy drug scene or a place where a bunch of bands play. It’s really indescribable, but I’ll try.

It’s a barren place where 70,000 people come from all over the world to create a city called “Black Rock City” just outside of Lovelock, Nevada. This city sits in a half-circle formation, with made-up roads and street signs and made-up addresses (this year, the theme is “I, Robot”, and all the street names are various robots from literature and TV and movies). Most people camp in tents but there are those who “glamp” instead and come in RV’s. There are always a smattering of celebrities who fly in to join established camps (we call them, “plug-and-play”) but to really get the most out of the experience, you should sleep in a tent you put up yourself.

I was trying to talk a friend of mine into going with me this year as I was able to acquire two extra tickets, and thought it would be super fun to go with friends. She said to me that it didn’t sound like a very fun “vacay” to her. And it’s funny how we all have our own ideas of what a “vacation” is. To her, it’s a five-star hotel with a pool and cocktail service; to me, it’s wearing pasties and goggles, using a porta-potty, not showering for a week and riding around on my fat-tire bike exploring the art and the Temple of the playa at Burning Man.

It gave me pause to think, and I’d say that more than anything, Burning Man is a spiritual retreat. It’s a place where there’s universal acceptance and love. It’s a place that’s “governed” by something called the “10 Principles of Burning Man” https://burningman.org/culture/philosophical-center/10-principles/

You don’t even use your “real” name. You are given a “Playa” name by someone while there and what you do in the “default world” (back home) no one discusses. You leave behind your “real” job/career, and all your baggage. You get to dress anyway you want. Ties and suits and the costumes we wear every day to be societally accepted are traded for pasties, tutus, Indian headdresses, T-shirts/shorts and often, no clothing at all.

Imagine a world where people give one another things and expect nothing in return. The first time I was given something was the first day we arrived; at the gate, we got hugs. We biked out to see the “Man”, who’s 75 feet tall and is burned the final day of the event, and we’d parked our bikes to go inside the structure he was built in. A woman was standing aside the entrance and asked me if I’d like a necklace she’d made. I said, “sure!” and she put it around my neck. It was so fun! I was like “wow!” And that was just the beginning.

My favorite gifting moment happened was one morning, I think it was our third day there, we were starving and hot and exhausted as we’d barely slept due to the constant thump-thump-thump of music all night long. We’d biked to get ice (one of two things sold there–ice for your ice chests to keep your food cold and coffee at Center Camp) and we were riding back down one of the “streets” and there stood in the middle of the street was a woman dressed as a wizard. I thought she was a mirage. As we approached, we saw she was holding out a platter of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. She was giving them away. She never said a word. She stood there smiling, and we took one each and said thank you, and I burst into tears. It was one of many gifting moments that brought me to tears. How was she able to bake cinnamon rolls in this unforgiving desert?? And how sweet they tasted in our much-weakened physical and emotional state.

One night we biked out to the “Ditrikt” area, which is where all the fun is–flame throwers, the “Thunderdome”, all the crazy and there was a camp that was offering free grilled cheese sandwiches! Sure we had to stand in line for about an hour, but we chatted with others in line and made new friends, and when that sandwich touched our lips, let me tell you, it was orgasmic.

Another time, a camp was offering a free slice of pizza. When you’ve eaten nothing but canned tuna for four days, let me tell you, it sounded like heaven. We waited in line again for a long time, but the caveat at this camp was you had to agree to let them spank you. Seemed a small price to pay.

I got to choose the weapon–a small board or a plastic wiffle bat? I chose the board. I was hyped by this point. It was no small spank. My butt cheek was bright red for the rest of the day.

Mmm. It was worth it. Pizza will never taste as good again as it did that moment.

And so on it went. Every day spectacular things like this kept happening.

So there’s the half-circle area where all the camps are, and all day long there are are events and activities offered by many of them, ranging from yoga at sunrise to “Strip Karaoke” (yes, I did that one hehe). You can attend a class on how to give proper oral sex to a woman and AA classes. There’s absolutely something for everyone. You’re given a booklet at the gate with all the activities and addresses and times for everything; it’s impossible to do everything you want to do because there’s just so many fun things all going on at the same time.

And then there’s the Playa, where all the art is.

The art installations are beyond phenomenal. Most are so gigantic, as you ride your bike up closely you become so awed by the enormity of them as well as their significance. Many you can climb on as if it were a child’s playground. One was a 2-story life-like doll with hair that flowed in the wind, who was led on a crane and spoke to the crowd as she danced her way across the playa. There was a castle shooting fire and a giant jellyfish made of stained glass that when the sun hit it just so, it was a kaleidoscope of colors. There was a 2-story sized metal hummingbird that had a lever you could pull up and down and make its wings flap. And many, many, many more. As you ride out with all the other 70,000 or so people to see all the art, it’s quite a spectacular experience.

As the sun sets and everyone’s bikes are illuminated , it becomes a whole different scene. My favorite are the art cars, or more commonly called, “Mutant Vehichles”, which often have a DJ spinning tunes with awesome sound systems. We didn’t realize this until the last day that they’re for public transport! You can leave your bike somewhere and just jump on and ride it and rock out with whoever else is riding when you jump on. My favorite was a “shark” car–like all the others, it was lit up with thousands of LED lights that blinked to the bass sound. We rode around a little and then jumped off and got on an art car that was an actual boat–a yacht and the theme was Jimmy Buffet and the DJ was of course playing nothing but Jimmy Buffett and they had a bar on board and offering free margaritas! So many smiles everywhere we went.

We heard everything from Frank Sinatra to Raffii and everything in between. Lots of EDM which I love. The pulse and energy of the playa is tangible. You can be anyone you want to be at Burning Man, and for me, being stretched emotionally and physically beyond what I ever thought I was capable of, was life-changing. I wrote in a journal every afternoon so I wouldn’t forget what I was learning about myself. There were so many amazing moments of pure joy and I didn’t want to forget any of them. In my suffering, I found a self-acceptance and love I’d never felt before. Who am I really with all creature comforts stripped away??

I came back a more grateful and alive person; I remember seeing my friend Kelly for the first time after we got back and when I saw her, I just threw my arms around her and hugged her and sobbed. I had a new appreciation for how much my friends mean to me. She was a bit taken aback and asked me if I was okay. I was more than okay! I was alive! I felt great! She asked that question I still can’t answer; “how was Burning Man?” and I just smiled through my tears.

My take-away from Burning Man is this–all we need is each other.  We don’t need “things”, we need experiences. We need joy and touch and fun and music and food and dancing and conversation. “Imagine”, as John Lennon wrote, “a brotherhood of man”.

I can’t wait to go back! I leave in 3 days!!

I’d better go pack now!

Ghosting ain’t nothing new

If you millennials think you invented “ghosting” well haha I’m here to tell you you did not. I’d say you have perfected it though.

Back in the day, if a man lost interest in a woman, he’d stop calling her. All we had back then were landlines, and then–answering machines! I remember when they were invented: it was so fun customizing your “greeting” and people got very creative. Everyone tried to be cutesy with recordings like, “Hey! I’m out doing something amazing and exciting and can’t get to my phone right now! If you want me to call you back, you have to leave me your number!” Because back then, there was no way of keeping someone’s number other than writing it down somewhere. My favorite recorded greetings were snippets of popular songs that I felt reflected my awesomeness, such as, “She’s simply Irresistible” by Robert Palmer. You know, a not-so subliminal way of reinforcing that dating me was a good idea.

Gone were the days when someone could lie and say, “Well, I tried to call you”, when the phone would ring and ring and no one would be there to answer. So now there was no excuse! If you called someone and they weren’t there, you could leave a message! This was exciting new technology! It was so fun to be gone now and come home to see the bright red digital number of how many missed calls and messages that were waiting for me while I was out in the world!

Some answering machines only allowed you to leave a 30 second message and others several minutes, and it was common for a person to have to call 2-3 times in a row to finish their message! You could make plans, cancel plans, and and it was the birth of ghosting. Suddenly we could talk into a machine and tell someone things we wouldn’t be brave enough to say to their face. Like, “hey, last night was great but my ex and I got back together.” Or worse, he’d stop calling. Simple as that. There was nothing worse than having a great date with a guy and then coming home from work or school and no “missed calls” from him. I remember that painful feeling well. I’d obsessively make sure the machine was plugged in and turned on, and days turned into weeks with no contact from said guy. I eventually got the hint, but not before I cried tears of anguish and frustration wondering what happened?? Did I misread everything??? How can I be beautiful and amazing and a great kisser on Saturday night but spoiled chicken by Monday??

The 21st century equivalent of “not returning missed calls” is called “ghosting”. And now we have texting, which to me, is really like leaving messages on an answering machine, except if you’e got your “read” on, that person knows whether or not you read the message and basically chose to ignore it. I remember well checking and double-checking to see, “is it plugged in?? Maybe he called and there was a black-out!” Or the dreaded, “did I even have it turned on???” Because back then answering machines had to be turned on and off–“on” when you left the house and “off” when you got home. And when someone called and called and you wanted to “ghost” them, you simply turned your machine on when you were actually home and “screened your calls.” And you’d sit there on your couch, watching TV, and hear the landline ring, and cringe while the person you just had a fabulous date with calls and calls and leaves desperate messages while you sit and listen, because there was no way to turn it off without them knowing you were sitting right there.

Pretty cowardly, weren’t we? We all did it. I did it mostly to debt collectors and cold sales calls. And my mother, rest her soul. Her timing wasn’t always good.

And so fast-forward to the 21st century where we’ve got the technology to ignore one another in many different ways–Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat for starters. We can “unfriend” and “unfollow” and ghost one another several different ways. Technology has given us the ability to treat each other shittier than ever.

I’ve done it myself–deleted, unfriended, unfollowed people who either never read the messages I sent them or took so long to respond I forgot I’d even written them. I assume I’m so far down their ladder of importance they probably wouldn’t notice anyways.

Going clean and swift with all methods of contact is probably the least confusing, the metaphorical ripping off of the Band-Aid. What does it mean when someone won’t return your texts, yet looks at all your Snapchat stories? Are they still interested or not? There’s this mucky-muck purgatory we get put in that keeps us from grieving and moving on. Do we hold onto hope that maybe you DID get arrested or in a major car accident and are physically unable to contact us? We go from being terrified something bad happened to you, to praying something actually did to explain your sudden lack of contact.

I really don’t get how hard it is to say, “hey, I met someone; if things don’t work out maybe we can chat again soon, you’re really awesome and I really enjoyed getting to know you.” Especially in a text, because it’s a way to let someone down easy and give them closure. It’s better than hearing nothing, and it’s a way to sidestep actual contact with another human being when you have to tell them something they don’t want to hear, which is, you don’t want to date them anymore. Make up a story goddamn it! Thats what white lies are for. Tell us you had a job change or hell, try the truth. “I really enjoyed our time together but I think maybe we want different things/met someone new/ we’re not a match.” Give us closure so we stop hoping and checking our fucking phones.

It’s cowardly and cruel and rude. There’s really no other way to look at it. Because if you’ve been dating someone, and it’s going really well (sex or no sex)–if you’ve got back-and-forth messaging going on and then POOF you disappear without a trace, that person is left holding their phone in their hand, staring at it constantly the way we used to stare at our answering machines, looking for clues. We’re left wondering what we did wrong. Why won’t you talk to me anymore?? Our self-esteem takes a brutal beating.

The “not-knowing” never really goes away. We get stuck in a limbo of self-examination and rumination, and the only way to really recover fully is to label that person a poor communicator at the very least, and at most, a douchebag. Otherwise nice people do this, and it’s frankly, shitty.

Basically ghosting is more about you avoiding feeling uncomfortable at someone else’s expense. It also is a sign of a lack of maturity; it confirms that you’re really not worthy of me anyways. I would never do that to someone I had an intimate relationship with, whether it was two dates or two months. Have the decency to end it like a grown-up.

I asked a twenty-five year old guy friend of mine what he thought about ghosting and said he does it too. Everyone he knows does it, but after talking awhile, I gave him pause to consider how the other person felt. He felt horrible, but said something really interesting–that sometimes (especially guys) ghost because in this right-swiping world, there’s just so many options, and he isn’t really “not interested anymore” but rather just distracted for the moment by someone more available. Or sluttier.

He said ghosting is a way to stop contact “temporarily”. So giving hope to the ghosted is intended. “I might come back” he told me,  and I said, “Yeah but would she have you after you treated her so terribly???”

He nodded and sighed, “Maybe the girl that gets ghosted is the one that got away.”

Hmmm.

“Monogamish”

I have always been interested in people and why they do what they do, but recently I’ve become curious about marriage, monogamy and non-monogamy. Why do so many marriages end in divorce? Is it just a matter of choosing the “right one” or are we being set up for failure? Maybe it’s because I’ve been married now (happily, I might add) almost a quarter-century. I look at my role models–my parents were married just shy of 59 years when my mother passed away. How happy were they really, I wonder? What goes on between a husband and a wife behind closed doors is what I’m really curious about. And not just the sex they’re (probably not) having.

What I’ve come to believe is that our Western view of marriage is actually harmful to relationships. Seriously, how can one person be “everything” to another human being??? We expect the Disney “happily ever after” which is nothing more than a set-up of unrealistic expectations.

Even though we live in a time of blended families and legal gay marriage, the belief that there’s just “one” out there for us that will “complete” us sets couples up for disaster. And holding hands with this belief is that we will never be attracted to another person of the opposite sex ever again now that “the one” has been found.  This person, this “one”, will be your best friend, your confidante, your only sexual partner. The person who helps clean up after sick kids and sick you. Brings home the bacon and fries it in a pan. You’re a whore in the bedroom and Martha Stewart in the kitchen. You’ll never gain weight or let each other down because you’re “in love”. These are just some of the myths and expectations that lead couples to think they’ve failed at marriage and lead them to divorce. How many of these do YOU believe????

It’s a fact that modern marriage does not work for most people. In fact, recent statistics show gay marriages are just as likely to end in divorce as heterosexual marriages (http://brandongaille.com) . So what’s going on??? Why can’t people stay married?

Maybe that’s the wrong question to be asking.  Maybe we should be asking whether people should get married at all; if maybe marriage is an out-dated concept (it IS an “institution” after all, and I don’t know about you, but just thinking of it as an institution kinda makes it sound scary). Think of it as it truly is–marriage is a business contract first and foremost. You don’t need a contract (hippies of yesteryear proclaimed this an unnecessary “piece of paper”) to have a romantic relationship with someone.

First of all, too many women focus on their Disney wedding and not enough about the hypothetical “happily ever after”.  Our society reinforces it with bridal shows and event planning and finding the ‘perfect dress” and the “perfect venue” not to mention choosing all the food and the song list for the DJ. How many couples sit down and actually discuss what monogamy really means to them? I know we didn’t; monogamy is our society’s default setting and it’s just assumed we all know what that means. Couples today have challenges my parents’ generation didn’t have (and mine didn’t until a decade ago) thanks to technology. What IS cheating today? “Liking” another girl’s Instagram pic? Wishing your ex a happy birthday on Facebook? Having coffee with an attractive married co-worker? The lines have gotten blurry and couples need to have these conversations whether they’re just dating or considering marriage. It’s not as black and white as it may seem.

We have been brainwashed to believe that we are only capable of loving one person at a time, and that we are monogamous by nature. We are NOT, and that’s probably the biggest reason most marriages fail.  Did you watch the most recent “The Bachelor”? Did he not fall in love with two women???? And being that Disney produces the show (no big surprise there) he MUST choose only one. And all the scandal is about the damage he did in doing so–one woman’s soul crushing vs. the other woman’s joy at being “chosen”. I personally despise the show’s entire premise as completely unrealistic and ridiculous. However, I would give anything for it to end with all three of them getting engaged and living happily ever after. Not polygamy folks, polyamory. Quite different. I’m guessing Disney wouldn’t like that very much.

We try to fit into boxes that we can’t fit into and drive ourselves crazy trying to. Add the fact that we are terrified of telling one another we have the hots for the gardener or the hot new IT chick and you’ve got a simmering pot of shit waiting to boil over. “You must not love me anymore” we cry hearing this and run to the nearest divorce lawyer. This is why most people are “serial monogamists” and hurriedly seek a new relationship thinking they’ll find something different. Rinse and repeat.

I’ll never forget a friend of mine who’s husband punched another guy in a bar for “looking” at her, “his wife”. I was horrified. And this is what is reinforced in our society! Our spouses are our property–look at the verbiage we use! “Taken off the market”, “She’s mine”. It really doesn’t sound romantic to me at all to be referred to like a piece of livestock. We also think we have a right to know our spouses’ every thought. I know I did. We think we should have all their passwords and access to their phones. We don’t trust; we play detective instead. And don’t get me started on religions that punish those for “committing adultery in your mind.” Complete rubbish and completely disastrous to any marriage. Fantasy is healthy. Sharing fantasies is healthy and sexy.

Why get married at all? Do you believe that it’s necessary only if you plan on having children? Or do you believe that everyone “should” get married? Moreover, what does 4,5, 6 decades with the same person— “til death do us part”–really look like to you? And does that “piece of paper” really make a difference, other than cost you around $30,000??

I remember that feeling of having “joined the club” when we got married. Society sanctions marriage in financial and social rewards. “Just living together” belittles the emotional tie between two people in assuming that they’re not serious: “shacking up” as Dr. Laura would say, as if we’re still living in the 1950’s. Goldie Hawn and Ken Russell were the first celebrity couple to buck the system and lived together over two decades without the “benefit” of marriage. And they’re still together today. 35 years going strong. No “piece of paper”.

It’s my hope that today’s young couples who’ve been raised with technology, who’ve had multiple sexual partners before deciding to “settle down” are able to have the kind of conversations my generation didn’t think to have until we had to have them. In this right-swiping world we live in, where there’s more choices and opportunities than ever, it’s my hope that couples will decide for themselves what kind of a relationship they want to have. We need to support more and judge less. Why does a relationship have to end in marriage to be legitimized?  Why do couples ask, “where is this relationship “going”???  Does every relationship have value, or only if it leads to “I Do”??

We’re in the 21st century now folks. It’s time for our relationships to be more flexible and less rigid and expansive to include all types of partnerships, not just the “man/wife” and “gay/gay” models the political agenda is force-feeding you.

******

P. S.  I urge every one of you to read a great new book out called “Stepping off the Relationship Escalator” by Amy Gahran.   https://offescalator.com

You can also follow Amy’s blog at https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/79349178

Enlightenment

It’s time to write something! LOL I’ve had the flu AND pneumonia for the last 2 weeks and my friend asked me, “oh!! So you’ve had lots of time to write in your blog!!” To which I responded, “I WISH!!! It’s kind of hard to write when you’re curled up in a fetal position with a fever between 103 and 104 for four days straight!!” I’m on my second round of antibiotics with a new ailment–a terrible sinus infection, and my pneumonia wasn’t gotten rid of with the first round of antibiotics.

I don’t know about you, but when I get sick, I get spiritual. And fortunately, I really don’t get sick often. Which means I really don’t get spiritual often. I don’t get colds. I get sinus infections seasonally, but I’ve been a pretty healthy person my whole life.

Laying on the couch shivering, crying for relief, seeing the daylight outside and realizing how much I’m missing out on. I missed seeing both my adult kids last week; we had to cancel a gig, and I am supposed to be in beautiful sunny Southern California right now visiting my father and family and friends. But I’m not. I’m here. On the couch. And I’m super annoyed being sick and immobile.

I go inward. I realize I couldn’t do cancer. It’s given me such an appreciation for those who’ve suffered through cancer or any other chronic illness. I’m too much of a wimp. Because I actually felt like I was dying that first trip to urgent care. I gave up. I was too sick to care. I just wanted it all to end. Of course I just wanted to feel better but the mind goes to scary places with such high fevers. I hallucinated all sorts of strange things and places I can’t really remember now, but as I’m finally feeling better, I feel like I’ve been on a spiritual journey.

I believe the mind and the body are connected, and we don’t just get sick from “germs”. The immune system becomes compromised, and something’s gotta give. In my case, I think I was not only just having too much fun (what can I say? It makes life worth living!!) but also, stuffing down some feelings I didn’t want to feel.

So my body said, “hahaha Lauren, I’m going to MAKE you feel and think the things you don’t want to think and feel. You will do nothing but feel and think for two weeks.”

And it did.

Suddenly, I found myself crying a LOT. It was almost like I was pregnant again! Crying over every little thing, and coffee smelled and tasted horrible. And this is someone who drinks coffee all day long. What the fuck was happening to me??? Everything felt more profound than it ever had.

What I realized was, I hadn’t grieved enough over becoming an empty nester. I had tears, sure, when both my kids moved out, but the daytime silence must’ve been getting to me more than I realized, as I made sure I was home less often. Busy, busy, busy is the way I like to be, and I’m never bored. I have a full life–I love my band–I have a great group of friends and family and I’m never at a loss for something fun to do or someone fun to do it with. Spontaneous trips out of town, dinner out, a hike, a bike ride or just an impromptu trip to the mall, I’m always up for something fun to do.

But having been a stay-at-home-mom for 22 years, I hadn’t realized that I was directionless, as happy as I claimed to be. And we had decided to sell our home and move to the big city in a cute little condo, and I hadn’t let myself feel how sad saying goodbye to our home was really going to be. So the Universe directed me where I needed to go, and that’s where I’ve been for almost 2 weeks now.

Prior to becoming sick, I started doing a lot of cleaning and un-cluttering. There’s so much that goes into preparing a house for sale, and without realizing it, a lot of feelings had welled up that I kept down like holding a beach ball under water. Certainly they were destined to pop up. I started to think about how much I missed the simple days when my kids were little and I didn’t even know how much money was in the bank because we didn’t need any. We had so much fun anyways. Walks with little kids is miraculous and can take hours as they stop to notice every bug and leaf on the way. I used to take them to Pet Smart and we’d be there for hours watching all the birds and guinea pigs and mice and fish. And it was free.

And in realizing they were never moving back home I believe was the precipitous moment that caused that first domino to fall.

I know in my head that I’m so lucky to have raised two kids who are ambitious, smart, and love their independence. And when I’d get sad for them I would tell myself, “Hey Lauren, you could still have them here, smoking pot and playing video games.” So yeah, I’m SO proud of both my kids and know they’re just like me–there’s no way they’d ever move back. I never did and I know they wouldn’t either. And that’s a good reflection on my parenting that I did something right.

But I still miss them.

And it’s funny, when you’re in the thick of raising little kids, people tell you to “treasure these times because they grow up so fast” but your head is spinning because you haven’t had enough sleep for years, you need to go to the bathroom but you can’t, and if you do you always have someone with you. You neglect yourself for so long it becomes a habit. I remember those years quite well. I loved every minute of it and don’t feel like I gave up anything. I got to be their mom, every single day. It was me that drove them to school and it was me that picked them up. When they got sick it was me that took care of them. My husband and I agreed before we started our family that we’d never put them in daycare. And we never did. And I know we made mistakes and looking back, daycare wouldn’t have killed them. I should’ve made time for myself and not martyred myself like I did, but I didn’t know any better. But I don’t regret any of it.

So now I’ve got all this free time and this big house to myself, and it’s a double-edged sword. I love and value my independence and feel extremely lucky that I don’t “have” to work. I have the time now to work on my writing, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. But there’s this huge void in the silence as I accept that this chapter of mommying is over. I’m sure it’s not unlike retiring from a career you loved. Your identity is wrapped up in that job and when it ends, you have to redefine yourself.  Suddenly, a new purpose needs to fill that void.

So that’s what I needed to grieve, the loss of my 22 year career being somebody’s mommy. And I know that I’m still their mom, and they still need me, just not the way they did, and that’s the whole point. I raised them to NOT need me in their daily life anymore. They’re successful, independent people with their own lives now.  In the words of my daughter, we now get to be “best friends”. It’s wonderful. Seeing them so happy allows me to live my own life. I’m so grateful.

So I’ve sweated and sobbed and felt the pain of closing the happiest chapter of my life these last 2 weeks, and I’ve come out of it sober, caffeine-free, and seven pounds lighter. As the meds kick in, and the fevers have finally stopped, I am looking around me seeing the beauty of my life and the wonderful chance I have now to redefine myself and this next chapter.

Time to re-visit my bucket list–I’ve realized that I want to travel more. I want to go everywhere and do everything. I want to see animals and other cultures. I want to learn a new language and learn about Eastern religions. I want to live minimally and shed the things that no longer suit me.

We’ve decided to wait on selling the house. My husband admitted he had similar feelings of sadness cleaning his office. So many happy memories; were we really ready to let go? We will do the necessary repairs we’ve put off and enjoy a quiet home with nothing broken for the first time in decades, and when Christmas comes, there will be room for everyone. The condo will have to wait.

Thank you illness, for the spiritual path you led me on. I will pay closer attention to my feelings and try to feel them as they come up, however painful they may be.

The cure for bystander remorse…it’s never too late to do SOMETHING

I must’ve left my Spidey-Sense back in Wisconsin, because when I saw and heard an angry African-American man with a large front tooth missing yelling and scolding a group of us to “climb aboard this train”, I obeyed. After all, he was wearing a neon-green safety vest, and he was standing in the open doorway of the MARTA train. He must be the conductor we told ourselves. Being a typical confused tourist, we collectively entrusted him that yes, we did need this particular train to get to our destination, namely, our hotel.

“The Gold Line Goes to Buckhead and the Red Line goes to Noble Springs” or something like that he announced angrily and loudly for us to “get on here” as if we were unruly elementary school children. Being tourists there in Atlanta this last weekend, we appreciated the navigational help, even though he could’ve been a little nicer to us. We got on, and as soon as the train started moving, the joke was on us as this man was not a conductor at all, he was a street-smart panhandler whose M.O. was to round up a bunch of people who didn’t know any better into one train car with his “help” and then ask us all for a “donation”. I felt duped and stupid, and hoped that we indeed were even on the right train at all. (Fortunately we were). We chuckled at his chutzpah and gave him nothing as we saw a sign on the train that said “It is illegal to panhandle on this train.”

A few months ago, on a trip back to Southern California where my father still lives in the house I grew up in, I noticed that the panhandling there had also gotten more creative.  I’d just left the airport in my rental car, and I was sitting at a red light waiting to get onto the 405 freeway, glancing at my phone when something caught my eye. A wild-haired, thin young Caucasian man was walking in and out of the traffic lanes while strumming an acoustic guitar. It was quite a sight: he seemed oblivious that he could be hit and killed at any given moment, and snaked through the cars like a carefree snowboarder gliding down a mountainside. It was though he hadn’t a care in the world and was actually onstage performing for his fans.  The long light offered me the chance to marvel at his performance while I was terrified at the same time I’d be watching his sudden demise. Yes, we were all stopped, but I knew the light was going to change and I was scared for him because he didn’t appear to be paying attention!! He traipsed over to the median, never having made eye contact with any of the drivers, an open guitar case on the concrete with some coins and dollar bills visible. Wanting to hear his music but savvy enough to know better than to roll down my window, the light turned green finally and I drove off, deep in thought about this young man and who he was, how he got to the state he was in, and did he have any actual talent?

I then wondered, where were the window-washers? Oh how I hated them. You’d be stopped at a stoplight and suddenly seemingly out of nowhere someone would spring out in right in your driver’s side face with Windex and paper towels and they’d be cleaning your windshield. It’s frightening and an invasion of your personal space. You’re trapped in your car at traffic lights and being held hostage by someone who is now demanding money because they did something for you you didn’t ask them to do. The incessant panhandling is one reason I don’t miss living in California.

I will always be impressed though with Hispanics, because they’re too proud to stick out their hands and beg for money. They will always create something, usually of beauty, to sell instead.  You will never see a Hispanic person standing under a traffic light median with a sign begging for your money. They will set up a table by a well-trafficked walking path, with a tablecloth, and their wares. You will never see a cardboard sign.  I was in Mexico City once and the impoverished children I encountered peddled “chiclets”–chewing gum.  I’ve never seen a Hispanic of any age panhandle; they have too much pride and self-respect. It’s admirable and I will often buy a bouquet of flowers from a (usually older) Hispanic woman selling them.

Here in Milwaukee, you’ll see mostly young white men holding signs at traffic lights claiming they are veterans. I hate the feeling I get of being a smug, entitled bitch sitting there in my sports car waiting for the light to fucking hurry up and turn green. I had my years of handing money to beggars and have been lectured that most of them just go and buy drugs. I think, “get a job!” And don’t tell me you don’t think the same thing.

And then, about a half hour after the “non-Conductor experience”, I witnessed something I can’t unsee.

I’d never been to Atlanta, and we were there for a family celebration (my husband’s brother and his wife reside there). The beautiful downtown high-rises and fancy cars I kept seeing mask a dark underside I was soon to experience.

We were travelling via the “MARTA”–or Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority-a rail system that covers 48 miles and has 38 train stations. It serves approximately half a million people a DAY, and Wikipedia tells me that it’s the largest public transportation system in the United States not to receive state funding.

The one-hour ride was extremely unpleasant–the air smelled putrid with the stench of urine. I was immediately nauseated, and it didn’t help that we stood the entire trip, swaying as if we were on a slow roller coaster. I held onto the handrail with my arm because I was afraid to touch it with my bare hand.

The windows were fogging up due to the many souls breathing the confined space and the rainy conditions outside our cell. At every stop I gasped for the fresh air that would blow in as the doors blasted open and shut; people got out, and more came in. Seeing my desperateness to “hurry the fuck up and get there already”, my beloved husband, phone in hand, following the map on his MARTA app, would say, “fourteen more minutes! You can do this!” and counted down at every stop. I cursed him for wanting to save money by not Ubering instead.

At a stop with about a half-hour to go, an alcohol-infused, Beetlejuice looking older woman with bright, drug-store colored hair got on at the same time as a darling African-American little girl about eight years old with Minnie Mouse hair. She was just about the cutest thing I’d ever seen. She had a cute pink Barbie backpack, and I realized it wasn’t a school day. I smiled at her but she didn’t look at me.

She didn’t appear to be looking for a seat; instead, she opened up her empty backpack and to the encouragement of the foul-smelling woman behind me, she walked up and down the aisles begging for money, all the while the Beetlejuice drunk yelled at us, badgering us into feeling guilty enough about our own abundance into giving this darling little girl money.

“She’s just trying to make a living now, go on, a dollar ain’t gonna kill none of ya!”

“She’s doing God’s work!”

“C’mon now, open up your wallets now, a dollar ain’t gonna kill ya!”

“Greed is a sin!”

The crazy-hair drunk was relentless, and she made sure she got one last dig in for those of us who didn’t “reach into our wallets and give” as she exited the train. I was furious. Clearly it was a scam–they got off our car at the very next stop and I’m sure they got on another one in an attempt to use this little girl’s cuteness and innocence to get money for this drunk old witch.

Oh, how I wanted to turn around give that woman a hard shove! With every word she uttered, I fantasized about pushing her off the train at the next stop and grabbing that little girl and whisking her off somewhere far away from that evil witch. It took everything in me not to turn around and scream in her disgusting face,”Eight-year-old little girls shouldn’t be out “trying to earn a living” you drunk piece of shit! SHE’S A LITTLE GIRL! SHE SHOULD BE AT THE PARK ON THE SWINGS NOT BEGGING FOR MONEY FOR YOUR DUMBASS!” I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I searched for the courage to do SOMETHING.

It still upsets me to think about her. No child should ever be used to beg for money for an adult. This was child abuse plain and simple. I thought about how effortlessly this little girl moved about the train, holding her Barbie backpack open for strangers to put dollar bills in. It upsets me greatly knowing that she thinks this is normal behavior. I wonder, how long has this been going on? Since she was old enough to walk?? I’m horrified to know she might be being physically abused as well if she doesn’t collect enough to suit this horrendous woman (who, might I point out, had the nerve to call US “greedy” and “sinful”). I can’t stop thinking about her, and how many more little girls like her are being abused and used to panhandle because who can resist such an innocent little thing like her? This woman was nothing more than a fucking pimp.

But even without the obviousness of being played as a tag-team with that witch, I still wouldn’t have given the little girl any money, because I knew she wouldn’t have ever thought of doing that herself without having been made to by someone else. Even if the adult was out-of-sight, he/she would’ve been there at the end of the train ride, grabbing her backpack to see how much she collected. I was distraught at witnessing this, and feeling so helpless. I wanted to grab her away from that woman and take her to a police station. Why didn’t I? I was frozen. Frozen with shock and fear that this was happening, and of course, worried that if I said or did something, harm would come to me. So now I’m several thousand miles away left with nothing more than frustration and anger.

I want to tell Oprah. I want Oprah to come fix it. I have bystander remorse. Instead of asking myself, “What would Jesus do?” I ask myself, “what would Oprah have done?” Because I KNOW she would have done SOMETHING. But then again, she’s ‘Oprah”. If she’d interceded, she’d have been a hero. The drunk pimp witch would’ve thought she’d seen Jesus in Oprah’s form and repented.   I want Oprah can come to Atlanta and ride that fucking Horror Express and find that Beetlejuice woman and whisk that little girl away safe.

I also realized that this is a way of life for many, many mostly African-Americans who live and work in Atlanta. I realized that these working poor don’t have a choice to Uber instead like I do. And if this was how I had to get back and forth to work everyday (I saw a young girl with a McDonald’s cap and work uniform on) I’m both glad that there’s reliable public transportation that’s (hopefully) affordable, but on the other hand, reading that MARTA doesn’t receive state funding, maybe that’s where the solution begins. Cleaner trains and security guards making sure little girls aren’t being pimped. In other words, ACCOUNTABILITY.

With it’s warmer climate, Atlanta suffers like any other big city with its share of panhandlers.  I can handle white men pretending to be veterans and homeless hippy musicians begging for money, but not a child. That’s something that shouldn’t be tolerated.

I think I will write a letter to someone so they know this is going on. I may be a few thousand miles away, but I can still effect change.

You deserve so much better, little cute Minnie Mouse girl.

Too sexy for your shirt

Have you ever noticed how so many women begin to give up on themselves as they move from their forties to their fifties? For many women, it starts earlier. I’m going to make a huge generalization and say that the women who mostly tend to “let themselves go” are married women.

I don’t want to address how married men let themselves go to as they age. I’m a girl and I’m going to talk to you married girls about why you might be a bit timid to let your sexy self show after you’ve been married for a time and probably are up to your eyeballs in everything housewifey and children-y, and you find yourself living vicariously through your Pinterest page.

I was playing tennis yesterday (as I do four times a week: I’m obsessed) and suddenly, as I’m crouched, waiting for my opponent’s serve, I became aware of the fact that we four all had ponytails. And we all had brightly colored skirts and tops. On the court next to us, in contrast, were four women in their 70’s- (badass tennis players, I must add)–hair grey and chin-length, outfits grey or black.

I continued to observe them and us as we played, and I couldn’t help but make some interesting comparisons which of course spilled over as I went about my day after tennis. Everywhere I went–the grocery store, the mall—I began to check out married women and make little mental notes as I went along on how they presented themselves. Now don’t judge me harshly here–short hair is darling and grey can be too. I even saw a super hot woman who must’ve been pushing 70 at a wedding last October who had waist-length grey hair. It looked like spun silver and I wanted to touch it so badly. What I’m saying is, she’s the exception. Something starts to happen to (especially) married women in middle age.

It’s a cliche, isn’t it? How women say things like, “oh, I gave up heels years ago”. And it’s not because of illness or deformity. It’s a decision. I’m not sure when that line gets crossed, but suddenly, women are wearing “sensible” shoes ALL THE TIME. And “sensible shoes'” sister is “sensible bedtime.” I sing in a rock band, and I can’t tell you how many times when I’ve been asked what time our shows start (usually 10 pm) I’ve heard (married) women–some younger than me!–say, “Oh, that’s too late. I’m usually in bed by 10.” REALLY?? ON A SATURDAY NIGHT??? WHY??

It’s like we just give up. Dressing up and going out at 10:00 o’clock at night is too much work.  It’s easier to just stay home in our jammies on the couch. And don’t get me wrong–that’s just about MY favorite thing to do too–but if I didn’t get out of the house all dressed up at least once a week I would shrivel up and die. I know I would.

When and why do married women in their late 40’s and early 50’s begin to act like they’re headed for a nursing home? Girl, I beg you to take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. Do you like what you see? Do you think, “this girl’s hot!”? If not, why not? I’ll be you’re hotter than you think you are. Who says you have to wear “sensible” anything? Who are you trying to please? I’m aware we live in a society that says a married woman must remain sensible at all times. I’m here to shake you up and say, “WELL FUCK THAT SHIT!”

I have a BFF who was married for 30 years. Very religious. She colluded with her husband to make sure she was a sensible woman at all times. And he cheated on her with his secretary. So cliche. And guess what??!! Now she’s a hot divorcee. She lost 25 pounds, dyed her hair blonde and got a boyfriend half her age. Alternatively, I have another BFF who wore leopard pumps right up until she gave birth to her and her husband’s fifth child. I give her major props for that balancing act. And the confidence to turn a blind eye to all the stinkeyes she got and continues to get. Why do (married) women think a mom has to wear flats to be a “good enough” parent? Where does this judgmental mindset come from???

To me, “sensible” means “invisible”. Women who dress sensible 24/7 are, in my opinion, trying very hard not to be noticed. And as someone who gets a lot of attention for the way I dress, I know what that feels like to be looked at all the time, and it’s not always positive attention. I get stinkeye from married women who cluck their tongues at me possibly because “who am I trying to impress”? Guess what? I’m not trying to impress anyone dear. I LIKE DRESSING THIS WAY FOR ME. I wear what I wear because I like to feel pretty and girly and what’s more fun than being a girl???!!

It’s a known-fact that many ill-thinking hair-dressers encourage middle-aged women to cut their hair to look more “sensible”. I remember an article I read on Facebook that went viral about a hair-stylist who said to her now ex-client, “Happy 40th birthday! Time to chop off your hair!”

And how many of us think we need to “grow old gracefully”? I don’t believe you get more points in heaven for not fixing ourselves up. What if I choose not to be graceful about aging? Does that make you better than me? Even my teenage daughter knows I’m going to be the “old woman who wears purple”, but it will be my hair, not a hat. Even if I have bad luck and get cancer and have to wear a prosthetic leg, trust me, it will have a 5-inch stiletto on it in the nursing home. Grey hair?? NEVER!! And my nails will always have glitter polish. That’s just who I am.

I don’t know why many married middle-aged women hate me for the way I dress. Why does it make them uncomfortable? Is it because their husbands secretly think, “damn, wish I could see my wife’s cleavage once in a while!”? I even got bullied once. Grown women laughed and made fun of me one night last summer at a trendy bar we go to often. I became aware of them and asked my husband, “is it my imagination or are those women laughing at me?” He responded, “it is not your imagination”, and proceeded to flash them a stinkeye of his own. I was literally shaken. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.  I decided to confront them. I was going to walk over to them and say, “Hi there! I saw you starting at me so I decided to come over and introduce myself.” And just as I worked up the nerve to get off my barstool, they made a fast bee-line to the door.

I’m sure you’re curious what I was wearing that caused all that commotion. I’ll tell you. It was a turtleneck. Hahah just kidding it was a slinky spaghetti-strapped off-white cocktail dress. Oh, and no bra. Guess I was just too slutty for my age and they thought I should’ve been wearing something much more sensible. After all, who was I trying to impress? I already had a husband!! “SHE MUST BE A SLUT!” LOOK AT HER!” “JESUS CHRIST!” “WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS GOING OUT IN PUBLIC LIKE THAT!?” I honestly can’t believe I have that much power; that I “ruined” their meal or whatever the fuck. I didn’t even notice them until they were so obvious they were impossible to ignore. Grown-ass women! Bullying another human being! This wasn’t elementary school playground teasing. These were women who were probably grandmothers and should have known better! How rude and pathetic!

I just have to say for the record that I am sensible enough to wear running shoes when I’m in DC or going to the museum. I learned in junior high that my favorite white go-go boots were not meant to be worn at Disneyland, and I suffered greatly. I actually cringe when I see a hot woman in high heels on an airplane. Jesus girl, I know you wanna look good coming off the jet but change when you land before your bae sees you. Heck, stuff them in your carryon if you must. I’m sure the flight attendants are with me on this one. God forbid we need you to help in the event of a water evacuation!!

I ask myself, “why would any woman want to be invisible?” I get it though. It sure beats getting bullied and enduring stinkeyes. But the common denominator is, the perp is a married woman! Why would this be?? Why would I be such a target for someone who’s married? I’m married too by the way, and happily.

Since I’m not trying to steal your husbands, something else must be going on. I think I’m hitting a nerve.

I think I anger some women for “trying too hard”, because then it reflects on their “not trying hard enough”. I also think there’s something about an older woman being sexual that makes many married woman turn angry. Society reinforces that unmarried women can be sexual but from middle-age on, turn that shit off! EW!!!!! She must be a slut. Unless she’s trying to snag a man, then it’s okay. How unfair is that??

Why is it though that marriage turns hot women into frumps? And don’t tell me it’s lack of money. I shop at mostly consignment stores because that’s where I find the dresses I love. I will confess to splurging on my hair–touch-ups every five weeks. It was my teenage daughter though that showed me how to wear make-up appropriate for my age (read: “no black eyeliner Mom unless you’re onstage!”)

I am sincerely curious as to when this shift begins, and how it continues. I honestly think that since this is a predominantly married woman’s predicament, I have to conclude that when you’ve been with some for two decades, the shine has worn off, and the security of knowing this person finds you attractive no matter what you’re wearing becomes your autopilot. When you no longer “need” to dress up for your dinners out unless it’s accompanied by a trip to the theater, it’s easy to get into a rut of just not bothering to do much more. Older married women can be some of the most conservative women on the planet. And it doesn’t help that aging leaves many of lumpy in the process. Because to suddenly decide to dress “hot” or sexy, one must face the reflection in the mirror. And let’s face it–society is not gentle to the female gender. We have to be perfect in every way: body, skin, eyelashes, a Rachel Ray in the kitchen, Claire Dunphy mom and a Jenna Jameson in the bedroom. It’s all too much and for some of us, it’s easier to just throw in the proverbial towel. Where do you begin?! It’s daunting for sure.

Oftentimes, these married women become divorcees, and that’s when they often transform into Hot Divorcees. Isn’t that a cliche? If you’re a divorcee, you’re hot. Why aren’t married women thought of as “hot” too? It’s because everyone knows that a divorced woman has to “put herself out there” to “catch a man”. So the message is, unless you’re fishing for a husband, there’s really no reason to shop at Victoria’s Secret anymore.

Yes, this is the message society is shouting at us. Once you’ve been “taken off the market” why bother with the annoyance and expense of stilettos, thong undies and make-up from Urban Decay? You’ve snagged your guy and the chase is over. There’s no need to impress him anymore, he’s already yours. Why is it only okay to dress provocatively if you’re single? I really want to know.

I’m not saying you have to go around dressing like me, but I urge you to ask yourself why it might bother or upset you if I do. Or what stops you from showing a little side-boob? How many red lipsticks do you have compared to nude colors? Do your clothes hug your curves or hang on you like a potato sack? Is everything in your closet monotone? Why do you keep your hair short, because it’s more flattering on your or because you think you’re “too old” for long hair? Does feeling sexy make you uncomfortable?

For my BFF, she now realizes that her husband was afraid if she presented herself as sexy and attractive, she might leave HIM, which propelled him to cheat on her first. Many married women would prefer not to have their loyalty tested by “false advertising”. Do you not trust yourself if a man does come on to you? Are you hiding behind your turtleneck because you’re afraid you wouldn’t be able to handle a handsome man’s glance?

Am I hitting a nerve? God I hope so. I live to hit nerves.

We women deserve to feel good about our bodies and the skin we live in. If you’re dressing to be unnoticed 24/7, it’s likely you have body image issues and hiding that gorgeous bod of yours because you don’t feel good about yourself. This isn’t about snagging a man or being sexy for anyone but yourself. If you have to, get yourself to a therapist to uncover why you might be so critical of your physical body. It’s not about weight or height or breast or waist size. Beauty comes from within–it’s a confidence that says, ” I’m absolutely okay with the way I am and I embrace myself'”. It’s not a dress size. I’m no longer a size 2 and that’s okay.

Seeing my husband’s face when I dress up for our date nights is an added bonus. I love to see that spark and he likes the confidence he sees in me when I feel good about myself. And don’t forget, our Significant Others don’t love us unconditionally folks. Only your mom and your pets love you unconditionally. I want to feel like I’m someone I would go out with! To me, dressing up and taking care of myself is one part of being the best me I can be. When I feel comfortable in my own skin, I can be present for YOU.

It’s a freeing feeling never having to compare myself negatively to any other woman, nor feel diminished by her beauty. When you feel good about yourself, there’s no reason to put anyone else down for any reason. It’s sad those women weren’t nice to me instead–they missed out on us buying them a round of drinks and sharing some laughs. How hard is it for you to say (as I do quite often) to married or unmarried women, “You look gorgeous in the dress!”? Next time try it, especially if you’re feeling a wee bit jealous. If you’re looking at a woman and think, “damn, I wish I had a collarbone that sexy” tell her! Don’t keep it to yourself and turn it into a put-down of your own lack of a sexy collarbone. You’ll find you’ve made a new friend in the process, and trust me, she will thank you and probably compliment you in exchange. We women need to lift each other up at every opportunity.

Now go and be your sexiest self. And if some hot young guy gives you a wink, don’t be surprised. Smile and know that you still got it girl! You always had it baby. You just didn’t realize it. Now you do. GRRRRR!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Clown shoes not necessary

The week between the day after Christmas and New Year’s Eve seems to be a time of self-reflection for me. I’n not sure if it’s the post-Christmas blues, but I get this melancholy slump that leads to a feeling of hope.

It’s also the time to present my New Year’s resolution.

I think most of us can say that resolutions aren’t easy to accomplish, nor do they happen overnight. I don’t honestly set up to “find” a resolution; usually there will be something niggling at me that I suddenly can’t turn my back on, like a pan of pasta boiling over.

I have long ago ceased the tired “lose weight and exercise more”, since I’m pretty happy with my physical self.  The last few years I’ve been making resolutions that focus on my emotional self, and basically, how to be a better human being. My looking better doesn’t make the world a better place, and honestly, self-acceptance comes in many forms.

The last two resolutions I made were to answer my cell phone every time it rings and stop being late everywhere. As you can predict, I’m about 50% more successful than I used to be on both of those. My father won’t talk to me if I’m driving, so I don’t answer his calls, nor do I answer the ones whose numbers I don’t recognize. Otherwise, I DO try to answer them as they come in. My reason for this resolution was to save time and stress by not having to call people back. “Just answer the damn phone and get it over with!” became my mantra. If it’s a friend, well, that’s a no-brainer,  because of COURSE I want to talk to them. It’s the other 90% of phone calls that are confirming appointments or other related tedious calls that when I see them come in, I tend to roll my eyes and think, “I’ll call them back later”, which never comes.

My resolution to overcome my constant struggle to be on time is on-going, as my ADHD causes me all sorts of distractions and mental gymnastics to read a clock the same way everyone else does. I’ve learned to manage it better though using a football analogy—you know how in football fifteen minutes on the clock can turn out to be anywhere from 30-45 actual minutes??? In other words, fifteen minutes is NEVER fifteen minutes on a football field. So when I say I’ll be ready in fifteen minutes, my family and friends know that could be anywhere from 30-45, but honestly, nowhere near the actual fifteen minutes I claimed it would be. The problem is though, when I say it, I honestly think that’s how long it will take me, but it always stretches out to be 30-45 minutes.

I feel badly for the people closest to me. I’m sure I drive them crazy.

I’ll be you’re curious what emotional inadequacy  I’ll be addressing this New Year’s! LOL There are many things about me that need to be siphoned off and hosed down but what’s been bugging me the most about myself lately is how I really don’t have a great sense of humor.  I want to learn to “find the funny” in situations I now take too seriously, including myself.

It became apparent to me that I’m a pretty sensitive person, and I don’t think highly sensitive people can be highly humorous at the same time. Unless you’re a comic and then you’ve turned your defensiveness into a well-paying career. I realize that growing up the only girl with three brothers who teased me and made fun of me endlessly made me into someone who always feels like I have to defend my right to even breathe. When your very being is constant fodder for someone else’s entertainment, it takes a toll. I know now it’s something people refer to as “sibling rivalry”, and my brothers and I get along very well now and we’re very close, but being who I was, I took it all to heart.

It has always upset me that I don’t get jokes, and I don’t “get” the subtext of many conversations. I’m the person that things fly right over my head like the proverbial 747 jet. Days later it will come to me, and like a slap to the forehead, I’ll be incredulous: “Is THAT what he meant??? REALLY????!!!” and I’ll be as shocked and surprised as if I just landed on Mars. I’m not quick-witted and I take everything literally.

And I don’t believe I’ve been picked on for a couple of decades, so this realization of the origins of my lack of sense of humor has been quite troubling and insightful at the same time. What started as a coping mechanism has resulted in a personality trait that I’ve been told is unchangeable.

I believe that anything is possible. Like I said, first there has to be an awareness, like Dr. Phil says, “you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”. As much as that bald man bugs me, and as much as I dislike him, he’s right about a few things and I believe that’s one of them.

“Milwaukee Comedy” has workshops for people who want to become funnier. I have already looked into it, and I am excited to give it a try. It’s not about telling jokes: it’s about “finding the funny” in ourselves and situations that I’m unable to recognize. I have always admired funny people. I adore them and who doesn’t enjoy being around people who make you laugh? I want to become one of them.

The threats are gone; I’m no longer someone’s kid sister to kick around, yet I carry my sword constantly just in case it’s needed to fend off someone’s arrows. It doesn’t mean I allow mistreatment; no one’s mistreating me anymore. I don’t need to walk around feeling defensive anymore. No one’s attacking me, yet if someone calls me on my lateness, my messy desk, or my inability to go anywhere without lipstick, the shield is up, and I realize I react as if the comments were daggers.

I know my family, I know my friends, yet I take these not as poking fun but as if they’re  putting me down in a mean-spirited way. And that’s proven because when I take offense, they’re left feeling badly as if they were disparaging me in some way. I don’t like being the person who “can’t take a joke”. It’s frustrating not knowing the difference between a superfluous comment on my sloppiness and being bullied by a stranger. I’ve had both, and they feel the same to me. Just writing that was a huge light-bulb moment for me. WOW. Can you even imagine how it feels to be me? Ugh all I can think about is how annoying it must be to be my spouse, or friend.

I have already taken the first steps towards accomplishing my resolution to take myself less seriously, and those are: 1. Acknowledging there’s a problem 2. Accepting that it’s affecting my life in a negative way 3. A belief that it is possible to change and 4. A willingness to be uncomfortable.

I asked my hubby to join me in taking the 6-week Saturday morning workshops starting in January, and he’s agreed it sounds fun.

I think for me, it will be the beginning of a transformation that will make me a happier person. And in turn, by being less defensive and more self-deprecating and self-accepting, I believe it will deepen my relationships.

If anything, I’ll hope to be a lot more fun to be around. That, in and of itself, will be worth the effort.

 

Yeah, but were you groped by a Munchkin?

It seems every day there’s an announcement of yet another high-profile celebrity being fired over accusations of sexual misconduct in the workplace. When the “MeToo” campaign swept Facebook, I had to stop and think, “have I been sexually harassed in the workplace?” I got to thinking about my own work-place experiences with men over my lifetime, and sadly, I too have been the victim of inappropriate sexual advances by several men in positions of power, mostly within the entertainment industry.

It’s curious  that I had to really think about it, because as a woman, I was raised to be a “good girl”, which means, ‘Don’t cause a scene” and “be nice”. I also took it to mean, “don’t call attention to yourself” and apparently, “Don’t fight back, it’s not “nice”. And I am grateful that nothing as egregious as being trapped in a hotel room with a Harvey Weinstein pulling out his wanky happened to me.

My final semester in college, I took an internship at CBS Studios in Hollywood, California, and worked for a brand-new soap opera called, “The Bold and the Beautiful.” That internship led to a job there as a Page, which was the most fun job I’ve ever had. There were about 30 of us, all making minimum wage, dressed in our polyester suits with the CBS logo on them. We were mostly all television and film students or recent graduates, and we all longed for a job in the industry. Getting a job as a Page gave you unlimited opportunities to see how a television show was put together, and see first-hand the creative input from supremely talented individuals. It also gave you a front-row seat to the darker side of what’s it’s really like to work in Hollywood. We all wanted to be stars, we all wanted to be “discovered”, and these predatory men in positions of power knew it.

The inappropriate sexual advances of a few men at CBS was insidious, and it upsets me greatly now. I had to ask myself, “should I too come forward and accuse my own abusers?” What good would it do now? Are any of them even still alive? It’s regrettable that as a woman, raised to be a “good girl”, I never did anything about the inappropriate sexual advances done to me, other than think, “he must like me a lot to do that”. Isn’t that pathetic? Rather, as a woman, I came to expect such behavior as typical of men in power, and as a woman, it was considered something along the line of “flattery” if they saw you as a sexual object. After all, didn’t we “ask” for it by being attractive?? I didn’t view the hand on my ass, the innuendos, the offers to accept gifts, car rides, dinners, weekend-trips, the creepy looks up and down at my body, the unwanted hugs, the overall general feeling of unsafetyness as anything other than the price of being a woman in a business that made stars overnight. And like most of my cohorts, we all dreamed of getting  that big break.

My co-workers and I talked often about the stuff we saw going on, and we’d joke about a certain producer or celebrity that was well-known for making advances on the female Pages. We’d joke whether or not any of us was left out; in other words, we knew we weren’t “special” but it was often a rite of passage for a new female Page to be “initiated” for example, by an invitation to the Magic Castle by a particular older male stagehand. As far as I know, most of my female co-workers declined his offers, but I know that I was tempted because this was Hollywood!! I wanted to experience bright lights and the big city!! He was more than twice my age, and although I was afraid to say no, I did so. Something about his invitation felt slimy. I seriously worried about my reputation having said “no” to this powerful man. He’d worked there for two decades and was on a first-name basis with everyone, and was very well-liked and respected. I actually worried I’d harmed my future by saying “no”.

We all had heard how legendary host of “The Price is Right” Bob Barker would go into a particular models’ dressing room before the show. “TPIR”, as we called it, was one of the most frequent shows we Pages worked on. It took a crew of about 15 of us for each show, and because it was clearly the biggest money-maker there at CBS, we all knew it was an honor to work it. We were in charge of the audience; bringing them in for the shows, checking all their ID’s, drawing the infamous price tag-name-tags, making sure the ones chosen to be selected stayed in their seats, even after the customary seven-plus hour wait. We taped two shows a day, Monday through Wednesday.

Bob was such an icon, and we all feared and admired him from afar as he was not known to fraternize with us lowly pages, but to think he was a sexual predator?? At the time, I was as naive as the cliched Dorothy from Kansas. Surely they had a relationship?? And as we all know now, the model was Dian Parkinson, who sued him and the show in 1994 as well as Holly Halstrom in 1995. Bob apparently took full advantage of his “Barker’s Beauties.” We were disgusted but we’d heard the rumors. Pretty much everyone else on the set treated the Pages with respect, as did most of the actors on the soaps (we also worked on the set of “The Young and the Restless”) and most of the stagehands and various employees of the other shows and stages.

But it wasn’t unusual to be confronted with a flirtatious well-known male actor and wonder, “if I go to dinner with him, will I get a part on the show?”` I saw more than one of my female co-workers suddenly be associate-producing without a fucking internship first. Was I just jealous or had they actually sold themselves to the devil?  The Hollywood “casting couch” was well-known back then. The thinking though was that girls who wanted to become stars went willingly. My fellow pages and I were well-aware that we who said “no” were going to have to work even harder and “pay our dues”, and we were okay with that. I knew I needed to be a person of integrity.

We’d talk about them behind their backs of course, because we knew they weren’t any smarter or talented than us, they just took the bait to get ahead. It was the same for a few of the actresses as well; we all heard about the ones who “slept” their way to the top. If you were someone working in Hollywood and planned to get anywhere in the business, you had to have a conversation with yourself about whether or not you were going to be one of them or not. How badly did you want stardom? What price were you willing to pay to get there? Oftentimes, this conversation in your head didn’t occur until you were being propositioned.

In 1989, MGM Studios had a lavish “Wizard of Oz 50th Anniversary” promotion at the studios. Everyone still alive that had been associated with the film was there. It was a big celebration. Who didn’t grow up watching “The Wizard of Oz”?? And I have a picture taken of me arm-in-arm with the last surviving Munchkin, Jerry Maren, who is still alive today at age 97. (see below). In the pic, you see his arm around my waist, but prior to the photo being snapped, he grabbed my ass and pinched it hard. The look on my face says it all. “What the fuck????” Once again, disbelief, and powerlessness. Let’s just say I wasn’t surprised to hear that Judy Garland’s ex-husband had a memoir posthumously published in February of this year that she was repeatedly groped on the set of the film by the Munchkins. Of course, Jerry denies any wrongdoing. I wish I’d had the chutzpah to slap him across the face, but no, I was a “good girl” and instead told myself I should be “flattered.” I wasn’t. I was mortified. And angry, mostly at myself for saying and doing nothing.

The whole Facebook and Twitter “MeToo” campaign has illuminated that nearly every single woman alive has had to endure some version of sexual harassment by men. And it’s not just in Hollywood; we’ve seen it in the White House and the newsroom as well as the boardroom. Twenty years of waiting tables, I’ve had my share of abuse by male customers who’ve called me everything from “hey baby” to “hey you” and a boss who told me once to “smile more” to get bigger tips rather than pay me a higher wage. It’s absolutely mind-boggling that sexual harassment is so pervasive. It sickens me now that I didn’t either have the courage or the tools to respond appropriately in those situations, but it does help now to know I’m not alone.

For those of us who’ve worked in the entertainment industry, it’s not surprising at all. I’m so thankful for all the brave women and men who’ve stepped forward, and that this will hopefully mark the end official end of the era of the “casting couch”.  Sure, maybe there were plenty of women who consciously chose to trade sex for a part or job, but it’s possible that they just didn’t know any better. The workplace that rewards a person for their own victimization is not a healthy, respectful climate.   But there will always be free will, and if a woman makes a conscious decision to use sex for gain, she should be allowed to do so. She just can’t take it back later if she doesn’t get what she wanted and call it “abuse”.

Munchkin
Me in 1989 with Wizard of Oz Munchkin Jerry Maren.

munchkin2
From The Wizard of Oz, Jerry Maren, member of the Lollipop Guild.

The Man burns in 16 days!!!

“THE MAN BURNS IN 16 DAYS!!”

SIXTEEN DAYS!!

We’ve been preparing for this “camping” trip since we bought the tickets in March.

It’s interesting how many people here in the Midwest have never heard of Burning Man. Growing up in Southern California, it’s as well-known as Vegas and Tijuana. (I’m sure you’ve heard of Vegas…Tijuana is a well-visited tourist trap on the border of San Diego and Mexico). Those that have heard of BM usually have the same reaction that I did initially–“isn’t that a hippie festival with lots of sex and drugs??” Just like the evening news shows only what’s most shocking to get your attention, the perception of the 7-day event has gotten boiled down to frivolousness.

It all started over an alcohol-infused July 4th party at a friend’s a year ago. We’re a fun group of over-grown middle-aged teenagers, and we were discussing our bucket lists. It was fascinating to hear how different each of our lists were. We decided right then and there that we would not only write down the #1 bucket list item on each of our lists, but that we would, in solidarity, do everything possible to help one another make their number one bucket list dream come true. Mine is learning to scuba dive; another’s is singing karaoke in a crowded bar; another’s is running a half-marathon; and so on. And my husband’s was “attend Burning Man.” We went around the group one-by-one, describing our choices and what they meant to us and why they were important to us.

I am a firm believer in validating people’s feelings and experiences, mostly because mine weren’t growing up. Years of therapy have made me aware of how necessary it is to validate one another on this planet. I have taken to heart each of my friends’ bucket list choices but unfortunately, we have not progressed to crossing any of the choices off any of our lists as of yet.

We are about to cross off a big one–I’m attending Burning Man with my husband next week!

In the five months that have transpired since we purchased the tickets (which, by the way, are incredibly expensive and almost impossible to get–30,000 tickets sold out in 35 minutes this past March) I have watched countless YouTube videos and read even more articles on “Surviving Burning Man” than my teenage daughter has watched episodes of “Futurama”. My emotions about BM continue to see-saw between utter panic and unbridled excitement. It’s a bigger-than-life adventure, and if you Google anything about BM, watch the videos of the art.

The biggest problem for me when people ask me “what’s Burning Man?” is trying to describe it. It’s not a festival. It’s not a sex-and-drug hippie free-for-all. What it is is hard to describe, and since I haven’t gone yet, the best I can do is explain that it is a camping trip like no other.

It takes place in a remote area somewhere in Nevada. People come from all over the planet to create a man-made city called Black Rock City that exists only one week a year. It is a journey of self-reliance, as there are no trees, no stores, nothing to buy or rent. You set up your camp and bring everything you need to survive in the harsh atmosphere of the “Playa”–the surface of the campground is a powdery dust made of alkaline and the temps reach in the hundreds during the day and dip to the fifties at night. Each person is recommended to bring a gallon and a half of water to drink a day–that’s about 20 gallons for the two of us–not to mention food for seven days. There’s no campfires allowed, and the most important of the 10 Principles of Burning Man are “leave no trace”. There are no trash cans.

The emphasis is on giving and participating. It’s not something you just go to and sit and watch. “Radical inclusion” is what it’s called, and my gift will be free life-coaching advice. Kind of like a Lucy from Peanuts giving psychiatric help for five cents. She’s no more qualified than I am but I’m planning on getting my certificate this fall.

All I know is, after hundreds of hours of Googling and YouTubing, it’s what you make of it. Burning Man is an ideology of leaving behind all competition, technology, and conveniences for one week to reconnect with your soul and your fellow man. I think of it like a shortened “Alone” (the History Channel series) but more fun and I won’t have to scavenge for any limpets.

The “man” in Burning Man is a gigantic effigy that stands for whatever you want it to stand for. To me, it means something similar to what Jack Black as Dewy Finn refers to in “School of Rock”: “…the world is run by The Man. The Man, oh, you don’t know the Man. He’s everywhere. In the White House, down the hall….M.s Mullins, she’s the Man. And the Man ruined the ozone, he’s burning down the Amazon, he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! And there used to be a way to stick it to the Man. It was called rock-n-roll, but guess what oh no, the Man ruined that too with a little thing called MTV! So don’t waste your time trying to make anything cool or pure or awesome ’cause the Man is just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul!”

The night before the final day, the Man at Burning Man is set ablaze. And whatever that means to each of us who will be present to see it destroyed will have an emotional reaction that I imagine will be indescribable. I can’t wait. It’s at the end of the event for good reason.

The following day, the Temple burns. The Temple is also constructed to be destroyed. People visit the Temple as pilgrimage for many reasons, such as pray for lost loved ones or to seek forgiveness for transgressions. Thousands and thousands of notes are written and left inside the Temple and on Sunday, the last day, the entire enormous structure is lit afire. I’ve heard that it is just as emotional as burning the Man.

Aw we continue to pack and gather up everything we’re going to need to survive not only a week in the desert but about 30 hours in the car each way, I have moments of sheer panic as well as excitement. I’m not a fan of port-a-potties but hey, it beats pooping in the bushes, so there’s that. I look forward to time alone with my husband on the road trip of a lifetime. We are two weeks away from becoming empty-nesters, and frankly, the timing couldn’t be better for us to go on this journey.

And yes, there will be AMAZING art, there will be music, there will be people who take drugs (unfortunately)and there will probably be half-naked people.
But that’s missing the point. For a princess like me who doesn’t really like camping at all, even with modern conveniences like having a shower nearby, this will be the ultimate test of my mettle. How flexible will I be, how resilient? How will I cope with all the challenges of self-reliance? I’ve heard that emotional breakdowns are common on the Playa and I’m already planning mine. I need to think ahead how I will handle the hard things. I already know there will be lots of fun things to do–making friends, visiting the different camps that offer everything from bracelet-making to “free hugs” to the infamous orgy-dome. With 61 pages of themes to choose from, if anything, we will have an intense case of FOMO because a week isn’t long enough to do and see everything.

Black Rock City will be an experience like no other, and I’ve heard that it’s so amazing people actually have a hard time transitioning back into mainstream society once it’s over. For all I know, I will be one of those people.

Having an open mind and a positive attitude is the most important thing I need to remember to bring to Burning Man. It’s as important as bringing enough food and water.

I plan on leaving my laptop at home and allowing myself to be in the present. I plan to write more on here when we return of course, and share my experiences with you. But for one week, there will be no cell phones, no TV, no news, no contact with the outside world whatsoever.

I CAN’T WAIT!!!!

Feel free to visit these sites to get you started. Maybe BM should be on YOUR bucket list!!!

burningman.org

Sex and Death

When you heard rockstar Chris Cornell died with a “band” around his neck, did you immediately think what I did? That he didn’t commit suicide but rather died accidentally performing auto-erotic asphyxiation?

Oh come on now. Admit it, you did think of it.

And if society did its job, you felt guilty about it. Because “oh my god what would people think if he died masturbating??” So along with the media, you jumped on the suicide bandwagon, even though everything (so far) pointing to intentional suicide is negligible. Why is that?

Because as a friend told me last week that “it would be too embarrassing for the family if the truth got out that he died jerking off.”

So, if that’s what really happened in that room that night, it’s better to cover it up and lie about it because accidentally dying by masturbation is so much worse than
purposefully strangling yourself to end your life.

I beg to differ.

His wife has publicly “adamantly” stated that he was NOT depressed or suicidal. Family representatives called his death “sudden and unexpected.” In tandem, the “cause of death has been determined as hanging by suicide” was declared by the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, pending further investigation and toxicology reports.

I’ve lost someone to suicide, and I can attest that I would’ve much rather had my brother die in the midst of an orgasm than having shot himself in the face, which is what he did. His death was also “sudden and unexpected”, but the evidence proved it was indeed suicide. We can’t know yet whether or not Cornell intended to die that night, we have only the facts that he died with an elastic band around his neck and that he was alone. Everything else is speculative at this point, unless and until toxicology reports help paint a clearer picture of what happened in that Detroit hotel room that night.

To me, dying by auto-erotic asphyxiation is no different than dying in a car crash, accidental fall, or work-place injury. It is no different than if a man keels over from a heart attack during sex with his wife. People die accidentally all the time. Around 117,000 a year according to statistics.

When a person intentionally dies at their own hands, the pain they were trying to escape from is immediately transferred to their surviving loved ones. I know. I’ve been there. Suddenly, all you feel is pain. Their pain is gone, and yours has just begun.

The shock of finding out that the person you loved was so distraught that they saw no hope at all is overwhelming. The realization and hopelessness of not having “been there” to help prevent it “if only we knew.” The helpless feelings that will never go away. The nightmares of their last moments inflicting a most gruesome act upon themselves. The unanswerable questions of “why” that will never go away. These are burdens bestowed upon the grieving thanks to the selfishness of the act of suicide.

The underground buzz is that Cornell may have actually accidentally died from erotic asphyxiation. This isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Cornell was a good husband and father. He wasn’t with another woman (if he HAD been he might be alive today). He was alone in his room. He’d just had an amazing concert in front of over 5000 people. Maybe he wanted to masturbate when he got back to his room. And maybe being a sober addict, he needed an extreme form of stimulation due to fallen dopamine levels. We don’t know. I’m not attempting to solve his death here. I’m just frustrated that we seem to feel way more comfortable believing a man was psychologically unbalanced or mentally ill than died having a little unsafe sex. Why isn’t the media blasting PSA’s about the need to always make sure you have a “spotter” if you’re into AEA? Why are there only more postings of the suicide hotline and tips for managing your depression? In this sexually crazed society that contradicts itself with sexual images fucking everywhere, wouldn’t it be prudent to at least acknowledge what we’re all really thinking? It’s called “the elephant in the room” for a reason.

If Chris Cornell died by AEA, he wouldn’t be the first rockstar or celebrity to do so. Michael Hutchence of the successful 80’s band INXS as well as David Carradine and Robin Williams. By the way, it’s important to note that the cause of death in Hutchence’s case was covered up for years as a suicide, only to be admitted as AEA by his mother years later.

I’m disturbed that I live in a world that is so repressed that it collectively believes a self-inflicted intentional death due to a person in utter despair is more readily accepted than an unintentional death due to a person in a sexually euphoric act. Why does there have to be pathology? Why do we always have to place a judgement on everything? We “understand” that Cornell might’ve been depressed and had a “good reason” to end his life that night, and as long as the media perpetuates this theory, we will run with it. We can all “understand” that as a sober addict, he may have “fallen off the wagon” and “didn’t mean to die.” We can also “understand” that depression is a serious mental illness that often leads to suicide.

But why can’t we “understand” that some people get a kick out of auto-erotic asphyxiation and sometimes it goes awry and that person stops breathing, simple as that? People bristle at any sexual act that doesn’t take place within the confines of a one-man, one-woman marital bed. Holy guacamole should a little kink be the cause of a rockstars’ untimely death! And God forbid that at that moment of suffocation, he was orgasming? Say your Hail Mary’s just for thinking such a thing!

We can’t “understand” because we’ve been brainwashed not to. We’d rather leave his mourners with the belief that he was a true rockstar, the kind that make mythical legends. A tortured soul to the very end. Romantic.

This is sick thinking. There’s nothing romantic about suicide. But if we’re going to romanticize Cornell’s death, why can’t it be “romantic” that he was making love to himself and accidentally died? Why is this so hard for us to wrap our heads around?

Chris Cornell’s state of mind that night prior to his death is being analyzed and combed through as if it were lice on a child’s head, picked off and examined one by one. We will never know the answers, no matter how much forensic evidence reveals.

I truly believe his wife and children would benefit more if they were left with thoughts of his last moments as those of pure pleasure than of despair and heartbreak. They wouldn’t go on living broken themselves, torturing themselves forever how it was their fault, that somehow they failed him in his darkest hour.

Because sometimes, shit just happens.

13 Things You Can Do Right Now

If you haven’t spent 13 hours watching “13 Reason Why”, this blog post is for you.

And if you HAVE watched it, this is also for you.

Because I’m a grown up, I wasn’t able to binge-watch it like my teenage daughter did. But I knew I HAD to watch it in its entirety for three reasons–namely, it’s the most talked-about show right now, SOOOO talked about I got an email from my daughter’s school principal about their concerns about the show, and I lost my older brother to suicide 19 years ago.

I HAD to see this show. I had to see it for myself. I wasn’t content to let other’s opinions of it define its meaning for me. I had to watch every minute (without looking at my phone the way I often do while I’m watching TV) and missing a single word or eye-roll or nuanced glance. This show is apparently THAT important.

It took me a little over two weeks to watch it all. When I got to the penultimate episode, I knew the punchline would be huge, so I waited a couple days until I had complete and uninterrupted privacy to watch the final episode.

It did not disappoint.

For those of you who haven’t seen the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, a teenage girl in her junior year of high school experiences a series of unfortunate events as well as the usual teen angst (first job, being a new driver, problems making and keeping friends, high school, dating and boys) over the course of about six months that leave her feeling as though life is not worth living anymore, and chronicles her “13 reasons why” she feels this way in a series of 13 audiotapes she very methodically recorded and distributed prior to her actually committing suicide. Each tape focuses on a particular person in her social circle and she “talks” to each of them one-by-one. As these targeted folk listen to “their tape”–(“I’m number 11”, teen Clay Jensen fearfully admits), each person hears her voice from the grave holding them accountable for their part in “making her do it.” And one-by-one, we see how this information wounds them.

She’s dead and gone, and so many people are left suffering. This is where Season 2 will most likely pick up. Could they have stopped her? Would she be alive today had X-happened or not happened? Why didn’t she say something? How could I not know she was in so much pain? What kind of a lousy friend/boyfriend/sister/brother/spouse/mother/father/teacher AM I?? What could I have done differently? AM I responsible for their death? Is it true it’s my fault? If I wasn’t alive would they be alive now? The regrets of the living are too numerous to list. I KNOW EXACTLY HOW THEY FEEL. THE GUILT AND PAIN AND SHAME OF FEELING THAT YOU ‘DIDN’T SEE IT COMING’. THE HOPELESSNESS THAT THERE’S ABSOLUTELY NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT NOW. YOU CAN’T HELP THEM. MAYBE YOU COULD’VE WHEN THEY WERE ALIVE, AND THAT WILL TORMENT YOU FOREVER.

The show does an outstanding job of showing how deeply affected these kids and other assorted people (teachers, the principal, parents, etc.) are by what their fellow student did. SO affected, in fact, that the series cliffhanger ends with the character Alex (who’s mentioned on one of the tapes) apparently so distraught he shoots himself in the head.

Aside from the trail of broken hearts and souls left in the wake of the tornado that is suicide, it’s really important that you know that there is nothing you can do to prevent someone from killing themselves. It is a huge disservice to send a message that “if only” you did this or did that, that that person would be alive today.

Many people have claimed the show “glamorizes” suicide. If you haven’t sat through the final episode and shook with horror and disbelief watching “Hannah” take the razor blade she stole from her parents’ little mom & pop store and slowly rip the flesh on her arm, all the while shuddering and screaming out in pain as she does so, and then repeats it on the other arm, immediately bleeding to death; then seeing her mother finding her and holding her in her arms, pathetically,heart-wrenchingly begging, “you’re going to be okay baby” as I began sobbing myself, then yes, you go ahead and think that. There’s nothing glamorous about this at all. Trust me. It was more disturbing than anything I’ve ever witnessed.

The show does an amazing job of showing us how teenagers think differently than we adults do due to the fact that the pre-frontal cortex in their brain is still developing. This is the part of the brain that “gets” that actions have consequences, sometimes irreversible ones. Being a parent myself, I somewhat jokingly told both my kids when they were that age (one still is), “I will be your pre-frontal cortex for you. Yours in still under construction.” I have had numerous conversations with my teens that I understand they are going to make mistakes, hell, as their parent, I myself am making mistakes constantly and hope they don’t end up on some therapist’s couch someday about them. I tell them my role now is to help make sure they don’t make the “big” ones. The irreversible ones. Pregnancy, STD’s, DUI’s, drug and alcohol related anything. And yes, suicide has been discussed prior to this show. Having lost their uncle to suicide was something that has been discussed since they were very young.

I didn’t want them to know about their uncle, because as the show states in the commentary at the end, ironically, once a suicide has occurred, it is 50% more likely to occur within the radius of people most closely affected by that suicide. Hence, in the show, “Alex” has apparently succumbed to an attempt. Why would that be?? Mostly, because now it is an option.

It’s a lousy fucking option.

I began to feel that suicide is a selfish, chicken-shit way to deal with your problems. Yeah, go kill yourself and throw all of it on everyone who cares about you. Now your problems are OUR problems. Thanks a lot. The show does a great job of showing how “Hannah” does exactly that. And let me tell you, if the show continues to be written as well a it has, the grieving should next move into the grief phase of “anger”. Oh, I was so angry at my brother for killing himself. What an asshole. REALLY???!! Suicide?? What a sissy. How dare you!! Look what you did to Mom!! Look what you did to Dad!!Look what you did to ME! Look what you did to your brothers! Your nephew will never get to know you! I think I spent at least three or four years thinking my big brother was nothing more than an asshole for killing himself. I am still angry at him. His nephew is graduating college! The niece you never met is graduating high school!! WHERE ARE YOU GLENN?? WHY AREN’T YOU HERE FOR THIS!!?? YOU’D BE SO PROUD OF THEM!! The anger is always there below the sadness. The injustice of it all.

“Hannah” did not have thirteen reasons to justify taking her own life. If you haven’t watched the series you might be inclined to believe that’s the point of the show. It is not. The point is that thirteen people mistreated her in a variety of ways, and she felt unable to cope with the things that happened to her. She desperately looked for a way to climb out from her dark hole. She CHOSE to use what I call a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem.

Because that’s what it is. A “temporary problem.”

I’ll tell you one reason why “Hannah” chose to kill herself. She’d lost hope that her life would ever be any different. She truly believed—as many teens do—that her problems were NOT temporary. We grownups have the gift of experience and age to see that she is so young and has her whole life ahead of her. There’s life after high school!!! Most of us barely keep in touch with the people we went to high school with. If only she could see that!! I believe she didn’t see it because along the line, a variety of people did not validate her feelings. Teens feel that parents, teachers, even their friends “won’t understand”. I see why they might feel that way.

We parents especially have a way of belittling our teens’ problems because one, we are older and “know” that they’re temporary problems and two, their unhappiness makes us extremely uncomfortable. We do them a huge disservice every time we metaphorically pat them on their heads and tell them they’re going to be okay. How diminishing it that! If your teen is holed up in her room because her boyfriend dumped her, she’s hurting every bit as much (if not MORE so) than you would be if your boyfriend dumped you. Teens feel everything more intensified than adults do. The pressures of grades, social media, you name it, it’s harder to be a teen these days. (It always has been, but we didn’t have cell phones and social media). Cyber-bullying is a REAL THING. Navigating a life seen through a constant social media lens has got to be difficult to say the least. We can’t possibly know how it feels to have to sit in class day after day with people we wouldn’t have anything to do with once the bell rings at 3:00 o’clock but thanks to social media, there is no “end-of-the-day” bell. Kids comment publicly their likes and dislikes and everything they do and think is fodder for public discourse. How any teen can keep a good sense of self-esteem in today’s world is really a marvel. Our teens are like salmon, swimming upstream constantly. Think of how tiring that would get. It’s not hard to imagine a few wanting to just give up and float to the bottom.

In the Netflix show, the first episode shows how Hannah’s helicopter mom grabs her phone and talks to the boy she’s talking to to make sure it’s “appropriate”. Of course “Hannah” lies to her mom. This scene bothered me in so many ways but the gist of it is, we parents feel so helpless. Teens lie. How can you know when they’re telling the truth? We can’t bear to believe “our kid” would lie. And they’re good liars. And for the most part, they ARE “”good” kids. We walk a delicate line between giving them the privacy they crave and invading it to keep them safe. We try so hard to do right by our teens. Often, we fail.

One of the hardest things about being a parent is the realization that you once began so close–aside from having that child inside of me (you don’t get much closer than that!)–I remember not even being able to go to the bathroom without a child with me, sometimes, holding one on my lap. You go from knowing everything they’re doing 24/7, every morsel that goes in their mouths to everyone who has contact with them daily, to knowing only what they want you to know.

What was also missing for “Hannah” was truly knowing her worth. Not only had she lost hope that her situation would ever get any better, she lost her sense of worth. She was unable to see that she wouldn’t always be 17, and that the “world was her oyster.” She felt no one cared about her anymore, and she stopped caring about herself. The things that happened to her made her doubt her own self-worth. It’s often heard that the suicidal tend to believe others will be “better off” without them. To the non-suicidal person, this sounds crazy.

I firmly believe that anyone who’s suicidal is clinically depressed. Contemplating suicide is not done lightly or off-handedly. It is usually the culmination of many things, as “Hannah” expressed, that “just add up”. Suicidal people aren’t thinking clearly. They’re thinking from their pain. Have you ever tried to have a rational conversation with someone who’s had too much too drink? Whatever you say is not being heard clearly. I believe that’s the same with someone who’s suicidal. You can talk all you want about having “something to live for”, “don’t do this to me”, “it will be all okay”, but the messages aren’t getting through.

Especially if you’re not aware that they’re “drunk” (suicidal) in the first place.

Sometimes we can’t know what we can’t know.

But we can live our lives better. Like “Clay” says at the end of the series, “we have to do better.” He’s absolutely right. We HAVE to do better.

We have a responsibility as a society to treat each other better and to give a shit about one another. Yes, we as parents have a responsibility to try to be good parents. Yes, we as friends and co-workers and relatives and spouses we have a responsibility to be kind and loving in our daily lives. We as human beings have a responsibility to not put others down, and live by the Golden Rule. We live in a bullying society fueled by impossibly ridiculous standards we think we need to live by. The pressure to conform is not confined to the high school years, and anyone who dares to live outside the proscribed lines is considered open season to pick on.

I beg each and every one of you reading this to start paying closer attention to one another. If your teen/friend/mom/sister/brother/co-worker expresses a negative emotion, don’t invalidate how they feel and blithely say things will be better. They may not think so. Eye contact, a caring hand on a shoulder, a smile that says “I care” go a long way. If you see someone being mistreated, DO SOMETHING.

We need to hold our teens when they’re sad, not give them a pep talk. This is dismissive and invalidating and frankly insulting. Give them your attention when they’re talking to you. Validate them as human beings independent of you and remind them that they’re capable and know what’s best for themselves. There’s a delicate balance between knowing when to step in (“do I call the friends’ mom?” “Do I call the principal/teacher?”) and micromanaging their lives. Ask your teen what they need. Do they just need to vent? You know how good it feels to be able to just dump your shitty day on someone who will let you get it all out without offering solutions. This is called “active listening.” We need to know when we’ve made them feel inadequate. We can unknowingly send the message that they are incapable of knowing how they feel and need someone to make their decisions for them. This is crippling.

You were 17 years old once. Try to remember how insecure you felt. Remember the pimples, the self-absorption that comes from the embarrassing physical changes in your body. Try to remember how it felt to not be invited to prom, or a party, or sit alone at lunch. Try to remember how it felt to be ignored or belittled by your parents and boys you liked that always liked your best friend. Magnify that by a million, because your teens don’t get to leave everything in the classroom like we did. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook all recording it all for posterity. The double-edged sword of technology.

Don’t be afraid to ask how they’re feeling. You know your kid better than anyone. Pay attention. It’s been said that 90% of all communication is non-verbal. I think we parents are guilty of seeing what we want to see sometimes. I know I’ve been guilty of it myself. I shudder to think how inadequate a parent I’ve been at times, caught up in my own drama and life and adult problems. I hope my kids know that they are truly loved for who they are, good grades and successes notwithstanding. As the amazing human beings they are. I hope they know that the world is already a better place just because they’re in it. They don’t have to “do” anything to have earned that. Whatever accomplishments they aspire to is whipped cream on the proverbial hot fudge sundae.

It doesn’t end when they turn 18. My brother was 40 years old when he gave up on life.

“When you know better, you do better.”—Maya Angelous

Now go out and do better!!!!!

Rub a dub dubb thanks for the grub

It didn’t happen often, and if it did it was usually a family of four or more and it was usually Sunday Brunch. I’d be walking at my usual brisk pace, glancing at all my tables checking on them one-by-one, every one at a different stage of their meal. Of the usual five tables I would have, one might be finishing dessert, one might be eating their salads waiting for their entrees, another might be waiting to order, one might be waiting for me to bring them the extra ranch on the side I’d forgotten, and one might have just been seated. Then came the crucial two-minute window check after a table had received their food to make sure everything was cooked to their satisfaction…… and WHOOPS!!!! I’d come to a screeching halt mid-sentence, “How’s everthi…..” when I’d see bowed heads and quiet chatter. I’d spin around and walk away as quickly as I got there. I learned it’s not polite to interrupt people when they’re praying.

I have never been one to thank a God for my food. I always thought it was a bit silly. I’d snidely wonder if they were praying they wouldn’t get food poisoning. And the fact that it wasn’t very common also made it seem that much more fringe behavior. Just like seeing a mom who’s breastfeeding her baby, many diners squirm seeing other diners pray. I don’t know why, but for some reason it makes people uncomfortable. At least in California. And honestly, I’ve been in Wisconsin now for almost seven years and I dine out a lot and have NEVER seen anyone praying over their food.

I really hadn’t given this whole “thanking” for our food business a thought until I saw an episode of the History Channel’s show, “Alone” recently. The ten contestants– whom are highly trained survivalists–are dropped off three and a half miles away from one another to survive as long as they can with minimal possessions in extremely remote areas. The contestant who “taps out” last wins a half a million dollars. The areas in Patagonia where they’re living is so remote there is no human population at all. They are completely and utterly ALONE as the moniker attests.

Maybe you’ve seen the show. If not, I’m sure you’ve seen the Tom Hanks movie, “Castaway”, where he’s marooned on a desert island after the plane he’s in crashes and he’s the only survivor. Tom Hanks’s character Chuck Noland survived four years: the contestants on the current “Alone Season 3” have managed to survive 73 days thus far. The season finale is tonight and I couldn’t be more on edge and excited.

In “Castaway”, Chuck Noland is suddenly catapulted into this crazy situation. And that is the biggest difference between the movie and the reality show (other than the obvious). Tom Hanks’ character got on a plane as a passenger. He had not signed up for this adventure; rather it was thrust upon him. He opened boxes of cargo from the FedEx plane that he’d been on and found at the crash site and MacGyver’d his way to four years of survival until he was rescued. The “Alone” contestants CHOSE to be stranded on their desert isle. They have a walkie-talkie at their side 24/7 whenever they feel they can’t handle it anymore. There wouldn’t have been a movie had Chuck Noland been able to “tap out”.

I had never heard of a “highly trained survivalist” until I saw this show. And as a huge fan, I’ve watched all three seasons now, and I know I wouldn’t last longer than a week. I couldn’t catch my own fish and even if I could there’s no way I could bash its head with a rock to stop it from being alive, gut it, and then cook it. If there’s “roe” in the belly of the fish, I’ve watched contestants just take an index finger and scoop it out and shove it into their mouths. So disgusting. And lest you think, “well, I’d just eat plants”, if you’ve watched as many episodes as I have, you would learn that there isn’t enough protein in plants to survive in the wild. I have learned a lot about nutrition! It’s animal protein that allows these contestants to go the distance. The half-million-dollar carrot is a huge motivator.

So is survival, as demonstrated in the Tom Hanks fictional version. He’s trying to stay alive long enough to be rescued; these are contestants whose version of survival is equated with “becoming rich”. Not quite the same thing.

UNTIL TRUE STARVATION SET IN. It becomes less about a monetary prize and more about not dying.

My heart swelled and I burst into tears witnessing a contestant become extremely emotional watching Episode 6 a few weeks back. Carleigh, a 29-year old female survivalist from Alaska–whom I’ve been rooting for–was having trouble catching fish. The temperatures had dropped significantly, and she had suffered many failed attempts. She was, as all the contestants were, literally starving. In the episode, she walks out in her layers and layers of protective clothing for the umpteenth time to the rocky area where she puts her line once again into the freezing water, trying not to fall in because that would cause hypothermia instantly. Fragile and weak from starvation, she mumbles how desperate she is to catch a fish. It’s the only protein available and she hadn’t caught any in over a week. If she doesn’t catch a fish “today”, she will have to “tap out” and go home. And that is the LAST thing she wants to do. She’s gone this long–73 days–and mentally she’s handling the cold and isolation quite well otherwise. She’s just, well, starving to death.

And to her and our delight, she catches a large fish that appears to be a trout. She is SO grateful, she bursts into tears. She crouches down on the rocks and sobs, holding the fish up lovingly to the camera and says through her tears, “I am so thankful for this fish.” It is sunset, and it’s the first night in weeks she won’t have to go to bed hungry. She tells the fish how beautiful it is, and thanks the fish.

I have to admit, that one scene had a profound impact on me, so much so I had to share it with you. I joke from week to week that I wouldn’t last a week out there; the only thing I’d be good at would be talking to myself. And it made me question when was the last time I was truly grateful for the food I eat? When was the last time I closed my eyes and held my food in my hands lovingly and even took a second to think of how it got to my plate?

I’m not a vegetarian (even though I don’t eat red meat) and I feel ashamed now that I have never thanked the chicken or pig or turkey for giving its life for my consumption. And I’ve always said if I had to catch it and kill it myself there’s no way I could do it. When our food comes packaged so cleanly and sanitized it’s easy to forget it was a living breathing animal. I’m not the only one who doesn’t really take a moment to think about how it got there. There would be no obesity, gluttony or eating disorders if we all stopped and considered how our food gets to our tables.

As I eagerly await tonight’s season finale, I take away a feeling of gratitude that I live in a world of abundance and I’ve been lucky enough not to have been born into poverty. Many will go to bed tonight hungry. I’ve got enough food in my house to last me months if I stopped going to the store. I probably throw out more uneaten food than homeless people eat. It’s so wrong, and today it stops.

We need to close our eyes and bow our heads and thank the animal for giving its life for us. And don’t forget to thank the plants too.

I Resolve to………

I’ve always been one of those people who makes new year’s resolutions. I know, I know, you don’t, and most people stop making them after a lifetime of failing at keeping the ones they’ve made. But for me, there’s something about a fresh new year that fills me with hope and energy and the motivation to change things in my life that aren’t working for me.

From the word “resolutions” is the root word “to resolve”. Dictionary.com defines resolve as “1. to find a solution to a problem and 2. to decide firmly on a course of action.” Since resolutions tend to be little more than empty promises we make to ourselves, I take the definition to heart. But before a solution can be found and before a course of action can take place, the first thing that has to happen is a long hard look at oneself.

One year, I made a resolution to answer my phone every single time it rang. It’s crazy to think that the girl who had to have her own pink Princess phone at age 16 and got yelled at by her mother to “get off the phone!” more times than I can count hates to talk on the phone now. I had a really bad habit of looking at my phone and thinking, “UGH I’ll call them back later” and of course, never call them back. Unless it was a family member or my BFF, I would always let it go to voicemail. Or, in the olden days, the answering machine. And I would say now, years later, it’s still a challenge to me to just answer and deal with the person I don’t want to talk to. It gets it over with instead of churning inside me all day that “I need to call X back.” Procrastination is a whole other subject.

I’m also a chronically late person. I absolutely abhor this about myself, and for many years, felt completely unable to change until I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD last year. Suddenly, my whole life made sense to me. I realized that my concept of time really WAS different from most people’s. I joke that if I say I’ll be ready to go somewhere in 10 minutes, I’ll add, “ten minutes in football time” which gives me an out. Being on time is one of the hardest things for me to do, and it’s something I struggle with daily. I can get so wrapped up in an activity and forget completely anything else going on around me. I never once forgot to pick up my kids from school, but just ask them, and they’ll tell you how more than once they were the last kid still standing waiting for their parent to pick them up. Humbling.

There’s a misconception that resolutions are like watering your houseplants–tend to them once or twice a week and you’re golden. Au contrare my friend, resolutions are more like walking around with a paper cut that never heals. It’s constantly there to annoy you and remind you you’re a bit of a wanker.

I think through my resolution thoroughly, and I don’t always start exactly on January 1st. I get myself mentally prepared before I make any physical changes.
In trying to be on time, I walked myself mentally through how that may feel. Last year I let everyone know my resolution was to stop being late. I apologized to those who were affected most by it, and let them know I was going to take responsibility and accountability for my lateness. I was shocked to see how much it affected my loved ones. And here I thought it was a victim-less crime to show up 5-10 minutes late all the time.

I asked myself tough questions. “How does being late affect the people around me? Do they even notice??” (Um, yep). “How would being on time be an improvement for ME?” And “how does being late affect my life negatively?” And then further, “WHY am I always late?” and “What steps do I need to take to be on time?” And lastly, “What does being on time feel like?” vs. being late? These are hard questions that all had to get answered in my head before I could even embark on making any physical changes.

I didn’t realize when I vowed to “stop being late” that I honestly did not know when I was really supposed to show up!!I went too far at first and was chronically early. That was a mistake! Because it gave credence to my lateness. If I showed up to tennis early, the courts were still being played on, and I just sat there and waited for them to finish. To me, this was a colossal waste of time. I hated feeling self-conscious getting to a restaurant 15 minutes early and sitting alone. I couldn’t see any benefit to being early.

But I learned that there are degrees of “on-time-ness.” I watched the people around me for clues. It seemed that a five-minute window of earliness is most acceptable. Any earlier than that, well, you’re just a goody-two-shoes. Same with the five-minute late window. Any later than that, you’re just an inconsiderate louse.

I wish I could say I’m “fixed” and I’m now never late. Far from the truth, I’m disappointed to admit. It’s an on-going challenge. I would say that at least I’m more aware of why I behave the way I do, even if I have difficulty changing. I understand how my ADHD affects my thinking and actions and overcoming those mental challenges are difficult but I won’t allow myself to make excuses. If you are one of those people whose been irritated with me for showing up late, please know I’ve already beaten myself up over it.

The thing is, people do what works. Most of the time I’m only a few minutes late, and nobody really notices(I tell myself). There’s a payoff with everything that we do. So, how does being late benefit me?? THAT’S a hard one to answer. Since I honestly can’t find a single reason that being late is a good thing, why do I keep doing it??? Dr. Phil says people that are late are rude and attention-seeking, as in, “the party don’t start til I get there.” Could that really be ME?? That’s a hard truth to face. Am I acting out subconsciously?? ME???!! RUDE??!!! BRING ME A KNIFE WITH WHICH TO STAB MYSELF IN THE EYE!!!!

And that’s what keeping resolutions feels like. It’s facing the darkest parts of ourselves, the unlovable parts of ourselves. It’s seeing ourselves from a distance, and not liking what we see, and having the courage to admit our less-than attractive qualities out loud, and not just saying, “Love me or leave me, it’s just who I am” but saying, “Yikes, you love me despite this annoying thing about me?? Thank you! I will work to change it!!!!”

I’ve seen people laugh at hearing someone say they’ve made resolutions. I beg you to have compassion, and instead offer your encouragement. We all know how it feels to fail at something, which is why most of you scoff at making resolutions. It’s a fact that gyms fill up in January and empty out sooner than June. We’ve all been there, so don’t kick a friend when he’s down. Applaud him when he’s successful and hold his hand when he falls. It takes courage and hard work to change. Keeping resolutions is two-steps forward, three-steps back much of the time until the new habits settle in.

I know you’re dying to know what my resolution for 2017 is, but I haven’t nailed it down yet. I’m trying to distinguish goals from resolutions, because to me they’re very different. I have a goal to write more often and actually finish a book, but to me, that’s not a resolution. Also, I have a continuous goal to “get more organized” but to call it a resolution is inaccurate. I delve into my character, who I am vs. who I want to be, and that’s where I find it.

I’ll get back to you on that.

Use your voice and make a choice

Never in a million years did I think I’d find myself standing in line on a breezy evening to see Donald Trump, but alas, there I was. Tickets were free, and like the game shows I used to work on at CBS Studios in Hollywood, admission was first-come-first-served and more tickets than available space had been given out.

We arrived two hours early assuming that was plenty enough time. We were quite surprised to see the line was at least 500+ people ahead of us, and snaked around the parking lot into a muddy field my heels later sunk into. There were helicopters hovering above us–one a news copter covering the story and the other were police. There were armed guards peering out of every window of the facility watching us, and many more bullet-proof vested officers surrounding the entrances. A half-dozen protestors were calmly waving signs and were cordoned off away from the rest of the crowd. As we drove into the parking lot initially, I told my teenage daughter that I would’ve felt more comfortable if she’d let me out right there so I could join them!

I felt traitorous standing among such a large group of people I vehemently disagreed with, most of whom were wearing various Trump-supported T-shirts, ball caps and pins. There was a smattering of opportunists who walked up and down the seemingly never-ending line peddling homemade pins and T-shirts, my favorite of which were the ones that said simply, “I’m Deplorable”, in reference to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Cinton’s verbal attack on half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” I liked their sense of humor about it.  I had to chuckle.

Being at the Trump rally felt a lot like an out-of-body experience. I was incognito; definitely #NotAFan. I was accompanying my teenage daughter whom I presume must be in her rebellion phase. Not old enough to vote yet, but extremely passionate in her support for the Republican candidate. When she expressed her desire to attend the rally, I jumped at the chance to go with her, mostly because I feared for her safety. And seeing all the armed guards surrounding us, my worries seemed justified.

My daughter and I have had hours and hours of in-depth and lively discussions regarding this presidential campaign, and let me tell you, this 17-year-old is incredibly informed. Encouraged by curiousity and a global events class in school, she’s spent hours thoroughly reading all the candidates websites (how many of us have done so??) and contrasting and comparing them.  She is well-versed in the origins of ISIS and even I didn’t know what the acronym ISIS and its counterpart ISIL (used by Obama) stood for until she told me.  (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and Islamic State of Irag and the Levant). Do you know what the Levant is?? I did not. She explained to me “the whole group of countries ISIS occupies including Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Isarel and Jordan.”

She and I have sat together and watched both the presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate, grabbing the remote constantly to stop and pause it so we could both defend our candidate and simultaneously grab our phones to fact-check as they slugged it out against one another. Thankfully, she and I are much more civil to one another!

She and I may disagree on the candidates’ stances, but one thing I can say about her is she does her research. She is well aware of the media bias, and takes everything the talking heads on TV say at face value. She is a master fact-checker. She knows the Constitution inside and out, and understands how the government works. She is highly frustrated with her friends that have turned eighteen and are apathetic and don’t plan on voting because they “don’t like either of them.” She preaches how important it is to have a voice and make a choice, as whomever is elected will make decisions that will affect our lives in many ways for many years, namely, as I pointed out to her, as they will most importantly be nominating justices to our Supreme Court. She cannot fathom someone having an opportunity to affect the outcome and not giving a damn.

We were about a hundred or so people back from the front of the line when we saw the crowd start to turn around and come back towards us. Their disappointed faces expressed what we feared, and that was that the venue had reached capacity and we weren’t going to be getting in. There was no big announcement, no “Thank you for coming and we are sorry we can’t accommodate you all. We hope you’ll remember to vote for Mr. Trump and here’s a free pin for your time” on a bullhorn as I’d have thought would be nice, considering we’d been there over 2-1/2 hours in the cold. But nope. Nothing. And thankfully, as calmly as we’d all stood there, we’d begun to turn around and head back for our cars. It was at this point that I realized there must’ve been at least 600-700 people still behind us in line! I later heard on the news there were actually over a thousand of us turned away.

I heard yesterday that Trump was so pleased with the turn-out of supporters for him that he is returning for another rally somewhere in Wisconsin. My daughter explained to me how Wisconsin is a “swing” state, and typically votes Democratic, but if Trump can get the ten electoral votes here, it would be the first time since 1984 thanks to Ronald Reagan. And it’s no coincidence I told her, that Trump and his VP running mate Pence blurt out Reagan’s name at every opportunity.

If Hillary had come to Wisconsin, my daughter said she’d “absolutely go” with me. And actually, the day after the Trump rally, Anne Holton, wife of VP nominee Tim Kaine, was in Milwaukee at a Clinton supporter event. I signed us both up, but we decided not to go because it just didn’t sound interesting to hear the VP nominee’s wife talk, and my daughter would’ve missed an entire day of school.  I admire my daughter for her open-mindedness and willingness to learn as much as she can about both sides.

Truth is, one of these two nominees WILL become our next President, regardless of how we grunt and groan about the two choices it’s boiled down to now. Four years will come and go, and what about the next election? If you feel disenfranchised, I urge you to get behind a political party or candidate you believe in, or work to change the system. You have more power than you think.

Will I got to the next rally with her if it’s nearby?

You betcha.

 

 

 

You can’t make me!

Growing up the only Jewish girl in my neighborhood, certain times of the year were always very upsetting for me. Back then, it was “Christmas vacation” not “Winter Break” as it’s called now (thankfully!) and it was “Easter break” not “Spring Break”. So when my friends begged me to go to church with them and “be saved”, I enthusicastically went along. Of course, there was a cute boy involved.

I was about fifteen years old, awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin and unfortunately, not very versed in Judaism. My parents raised us “just Jewish enough” to make it extremely difficult to go from “Jesus was a carpenter and that’s all” to “Jesus is the son of God”, but not Jewish enough to be able to defend those beliefs. We never went to synagogue, even though my grandfather spoke fluent Hebrew. We did however celebrate all the Jewish holidays, and I loved Passover because I got to drink Manischewitz Concord Grape wine. I never had a Christmas tree, never dyed eggs at Easter nor believed in Santa Claus.

I don’t remember how I got to the church that night because we were all too young to drive.  NO WAY would my mom have let me go to church! It was a weeknight, so I’m sure I told her I was going to a school-related function. This was when the “born again” Christian movement had quite a stronghold, and again, I felt left out. I was very excited to become “saved” and knew if I could just believe, I’d finally fit in somewhere.

I felt like I was cheating on my religion just sitting there. I was so uncomfortable. It’s like I had a crush on a new boy but hadn’t yet broken up with the current one. What if someone saw me? My secret would be out. What was a good Jewish girl doing in an evangelical Christian church??? It was a risk I was willing to take. My friends all had shiny happy faces, eager to see their friend “saved”. I had no idea what I needed to do to get there, but I was very willing.

The preacher, or whatever he was called, got up and spoke. I don’t have any recollection of what he said beyond calling those of us who had not yet accepted Jesus into our hearts to come forward and kneel, and ask forgiveness for our sins. Do WHAT???!! Get up and stumble across a dozen knees saying “excuse me” like I was in a ballpark to get a hotdog? Go up in front of hundreds of people and be noticed?! And have my sins on display for everyone to cluck their tongues at?? And as I sat there, starting to feel nauseated and embarrassed, my friends nodding and elbowing me to “go on, go up and get saved!!” I realized I didn’t have any sins I needed to be forgiven for, except maybe lying to my mom where I was. I felt ridiculous and frightened.

They were the tensest moments of my young life. I was trying SO hard to feel something. I didn’t. I didn’t feel Jesus, I didn’t feel like I needed saving. I was so frustrated with myself. What was wrong with me??? I couldn’t do anything right.

I froze in my seat, and despite the elbowings and encouraging faces of the cute boy and my friends, I couldn’t move. I stayed in my seat, and fought the impulse to just go with it to fit in. I just couldn’t do it, no matter how badly I thought I wanted it. My feet wouldn’t budge. It would’ve been disingenuous, and even at the ripe old age of 15, I couldn’t pretend to be something I wasn’t. It was a long ride home, my friends disappointed and worried about me because they wouldn’t see me in heaven after all. I just shrugged my shoulders.

I don’t think I ever confessed to my parents about that night, but if I had, I’m sure they’d have been proud of me for standing up for myself, especially in the face of peer disapproval. For a teenager, fitting in is paramount, and we are all biologically designed to seek connection.

But we shouldn’t have to abandon ourselves to be accepted.  Those “friends” weren’t friends–I soon learned they were sent by their church to proselytize and get new members. I saw how they left me alone after that and went after other kids instead.

And I realized that being different was okay. I tried to change, I tried to drink the Kool-Aid. I had the cup in my hand–it was up to my lips, but I just couldn’t do it.

To thine own self be true.

 

 

Dislike and don’t share

We all know that the more we try to convert someone who doesn’t want to be converted, the more that person is likely to dig their proverbial heels in tighter. Whether we are trying to talk someone into eating healthier, changing religions, or choosing a particular presidential candidate, it’s just futile to try. It’s like receiving unsolicited advice. It’s icky, rude, and unwelcomed.

With this in mind, I have refrained from posting my political beliefs on my Facebook not because I worry what people might think of me (those of your that know me know that I don’t really care what others think of me! I’ve outgrown that thank God). I have refrained mostly because when I see others’ political posts, I just keep scrolling. Just like when I see posts about religion and “like and share if you love Jesus” or “like and share if you love tacos”.  Even “If you love your daughter like and share.” Well my daughter already knows I love her, does it mean I stopped if I don’t “like and share?” Who cares??! No one cares. And if I don’t like Jesus or tacos and don’t “like and share”,  does anyone notice I’ve ignored your suggestions? Of course not, because we all just keep going along our merry way.

I learned my lesson about posting my beliefs after one of the many tragic shootings. I realized nothing I said was going to change anyone’s minds. I only incited hatred and vitriol, not open-mindedness.

I think that’s what prompted me to start this blog. There is a time and a place for everything, and maybe Facebook isn’t the place for rants and raves. Sometimes they’re fun to read–sometimes they’re witty, sometimes, they’re snarky and mean, but I’ve seen posts that go back and forth endlessly without accomplishing anything, but for some reason, you keep reading them.  It’s kind of like passing a car wreck and hoping you don’t see any blood, but secretly hoping you do so it makes being stuck in traffic more exciting.

Like all of you, I have loads of opinions on things and I expect many of you to disagree with me. How boring it would be if we all thought alike??

Hope you enjoy my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Lauren’s blog!

This is the post excerpt.

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my blog! I’ve been writing several blogs over the years: two are private and one well, I just outgrew it and realized it was too milquetoast even for me. I’m brazenly going where I’ve never gone before. I’ve held back for too long my true thoughts and feelings on many things, and I’m just bursting.

I LOVE feedback so please don’t hold back. I can take it. If you agree with me, AWESOME!! If you don’t, well, I’m hoping my writing will sway you to at least have an open mind and consider another way of looking at things. We learn from each other.

Enjoy!