Last Thursday night I did something rare for me these days: I attended a work related social function. Granted I knew some of the women at this function and it wasn’t formal or cocktail attire but still I hadn’t been to one in well what year did the final Harry Potter movie come out. I had arrived and should have reached for the red wine but instead had a glass of Coke wishing a shot of bourbon was in it. The room was brightly lit, a long sectional adorned the reception area, and many smiling faces greeted me as I walked in, gave the Congrats! card and Orchid to the hostess. I waved hello to the woman I knew the most there and then all went downhill. I realized I wasn’t dressed up enough, didn’t curl my hair, didn’t touch up my make-up, wore boots instead of changing into pumps, looked fatigued and lost.. Lost because I only knew one or two women there, lost because many of the women were younger than me and were chatting and smiling and able to balance finger food and a glass of wine without spilling either. I began to get hot like I was on one of those whirly whirls at the amusement park spinning around in a circle and getting dizzy and disoriented. I thought has it come to this now. It’s better to feel invisible and fade into the crowd than attempt conversation with people who intimidate you. I felt like the 15 year old braces wearing girl who would walk to class in high school with her head hanging down.
After an hour there I fled. Music has always been a source of comfort for me. When I am happy, I flail my arms and snake my hips to “Dancing Queen”. When I am sad I listen to “Transmission” or “Love Will Tear Us Apart” staring at my bedroom ceiling. When I am rowdy, I listen to “Strangelove.” and daydream about a certain type of man. So “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5EXKDif44M) came on the car radio as I was driving home. When I first heard the song in 2004, I thought the lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong was writing a confessional song about his addiction issues:
“I walk a lonely road the only road that I’ve ever known.” Now I see he’s talking about insecurity, inadequacy and inspiration. Can I be a better version of myself? Why does the 15 year old rear her head now at 51? What inspires me to write this blog? What could I be doing now instead of the path I chose? Would anything I chose have made a difference? Am I just lonely and angry at my inabilities to fit in or do I really want to fit in? The chorus of the song may say it best for me:
My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
Til then I walk alone. …
A good friend of mine told me Saturday night when I vented to her what happened: Only you can be true to you.
Is there a go to song that inspires or triggers a happy memory for you?
Four tidbits happened this past week that made me sit up and take notice. First there were only 107 women in Congress before Tuesday’s mid terms. Now the first two Muslim women, youngest woman ever, and first Native American women are headed to Congress. Second, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a tumble on Wednesday night at work. She has a documentary coming out soon about her and a Hollywood feature ” On the Basis of Sex” due out soon. My heart skipped a beat when I heard she had fallen. My mom fell a few years ago and banged up her left knee. The implications of RBG’s fall were not lost on me nor should they be lost on any woman. Third, The Spice Girls sans Posh announced a tour next year. The Spice Girls were an uber popular girl band from the UK in the mid to late 1990s. I was in my late twenties for most of their popularity but I liked what they represented: be yourself and girl power. I even had a Girl Power Tee that I proudly wore. Fourth last week Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor for the last 13 years, announced that she would not be seeking re-election as leader of Christian Democratic Party where she’s been active since 2000.
What do these four events have in common: women.. strong women powerful women effective leaders in their field. In the midst of the maelstrom of accusations last year of sexual harassment and violence towards women in the workplace, women’s power to effect change and progress seemed to me to get lost in the riptide. By definition feminism means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” The word “female libber” used to connote for me a female that stood up for what she believed in, a voice for those women who couldn’t politically, economically and socially. Today I really don’t know what feminism stands for. Women should be paid equally as men. Women should have equal representation in the workforce. I have a top ten list of women I admire throughout history. They are very different in backgrounds, professions, culture, time periods but they are all leaders in their represented fields. I admire them because they exhibit strength, versatility, integrity, compassion all traits I hope I have and can live up to.
Do you have a top 5 or top 10 list of women you admire and why?
Tomorrow in the United States is voting day.. mid term elections on Nov 6. Some analysts say it may make or break this country. I tend to agree with them. I preface this entire blog post to confess I normally do not vote in any mid term elections only in the General Election every four years. Why? Call it laziness, call it ignorance, call it my vote is a throwaway vote, call it taking our democracy for granted. In an ideal system mid terms act as a thermometer of sorts. They take the pulse and mood of the country half way between the previous general election and the upcoming general in two years time. According to Wikipedia , the source for all knowledge these days it seems, about 40% of eligible voters turn out for mid term elections. 40%! Last general election in 2016 estimates were at 58%, slightly better and of course those numbers may be skewered because well computers are not all that reliable these days for accurate data. Too many foreign hands in the stew it seems.
I remember in the 1980’s and 1990’s the Rock The Vote Campaigns. Now rockthevote.org wants you to pledge to vote (I did by the way) and host polling parties. All well intentioned IF citizens actually VOTE tomorrow. Our democracy’s central nervous system is checks and balances. One branch cannot gain total control over another branch or tyranny, autocracy will result. What if our checks and balances system has become corroded or worse is imploding? What if we have three branches of government controlled by One Party? Controlled by a President who engages in economic, political, and foreign policy through Twitter? What if the 22nd Amendment is abolished? What if the 15th Amendment is abolished or another amendment decides to delete “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Scary thoughts at least for me because my biggest fear tomorrow is that this time around the mid terms will determine the outcome in 2020. This feeling of apathy in the air is rampant and like pestilence will spread and blanket our country for another 4 years and then good bye 22nd Amendment hello Putin number 2.
Voting is The most tangible way to keep democracy thriving. Maybe we are apathetic, numb, overwhelmed, fatigued, saturated but I do know that tomorrow when I get my “I just voted!” sticker it’s one step closer to keep our checks and balances system alive.
What are ways to be heard politically, socially and/or economically where you live?
I recently babysat my twin 8 year old nieces. We had a rather enlightening conversation that I like to share:
Niece A: “Aunt Michele, Aunt Michele when are you getting married?”
Me (stunned taken back):”Um, err, um why do you ask A?”
Niece E: “A and I want to be flower girls at your wedding. When are you getting a boyfriend?”
Me(stammering nervously with my right foot): “Um well yeah know E women don’t need to be married these days.”
Niece A: “Aunt Michele you’re pretty, you should wear lipstick like mommy does and you’ll get a boy to like you.”
Niece E (jumping in): “A and I want cousins to play with.”
Me (holding back tears): “Yeah well. girls maybe some day….”
The conversation got me thinking about my younger self. I grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. My middle and high school years were primarily spent listening to a lot of what they would call easy listening and Top 40 pop music today as well as a lot of British New Wave music. I used to hide in my sister and my bedroom and read and jam away for hours. Music really captivates me. It makes me feel alive inside and happy. My all-time favorite group is ABBA. Their music personifies for me feelings of euphoria and confidence aka “Dancing Queen”. One of my favorite movies that really hits home for me is Muriel’s Wedding (1994), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0ll0598/?ref_=nv_sr_1. Muriel played by Toni Collette is lost. She’s unhappy how she looks, directionless professionally, and feels she’s a disappointment in her father’s eyes. Muriel meets Rhonda played by Rachel Griffiths, a free spirit on holiday and Muriel moves to Sydney under auspicious circumstances. Muriel becomes Mariel because Muriel/Mariel wants to get married. Well she really wants a big wedding to invite all the girls who ostracized her to show them she’s become Mariel. Mariel thinks marriage will solve her self-esteem issues. It will make her stop listening to ABBA music her escape drug and give her a sense of belonging and self-confidence to find who she really is. For me that is the central point of the movie: we all want to belong and find out who we really are. The movie does a great job of exploring whether having a partner, a life mate will bring fulfillment. For me it did not. The notion that marriage will be the cure-all for one’s lack of self-esteem is archaic in 2018 but is it? Yes many women and men are tied to their professions and don’t want to get married or don’t find it desirable to have a life mate. I freely admit that I envy my brother and his family. Halloween night they all four dressed as some sort of Storm Troopers from one of the endless Star Wars movies (maybe Phantom Menace?) but this is one of their bonding tricks and it works. I love hanging around my nieces because they remind me of the younger me when I thought marriage was the cure-all of my life.
I’m not Muriel anymore. I’m not Mariel anymore either. Now I’m Michele.
Yesterday I saw The San Francisco Ballet Company perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC close to where I live. I took ballet lessons with my sister for about 2 years when we lived in Chicago in the mid-1970’s. I love ballet: first position, second position, third position, fourth position, plié, pirouette, demi-pointe. I’m 5’5 and had thin, lean, muscular legs. I loved wearing the tights, leotard, ballet slippers. My body felt free and flighty like I was walking on air. Now I see almost every ballet company that comes to DC. My favorite two are Bolshoi and Mariinsky. Ballet taught me balance and structure and perseverance.
I recently revisited the 1992 Australian movie “Strictly Ballroom”. The story centers around Fran, an ugly duckling beginning dancer who wants to get noticed. Scott, the male lead, is an up and coming ballroom dancer who wants to go rogue and dance non-conforming steps. He initially teaches her how to properly ballroom dance but then she says she “makes up her own steps too.” Both characters strive to be their true selves. I think this blog has helped me to start to feel the way I felt when I took ballet. To feel unencumbered and creative about things that matter to me. There are so many global issues going on in the world that are worth discussion and deconstruction and delving into.
One of the themes of the ballet performance yesterday was to open your eyes and remember when there was human contact and no cell phone screens. To interact, to touch someone, to feel alive through creativity.
My mom is an immigrant. She was born in West Germany and met my dad, an American, when he was stationed there in the U.S. Army in 1963. My mom grew up during WW2. Facing surmounting political, military and social oppression (ie war) she and my grandmother fled to Poland until the end of the war.
There’s a caravan marching north right now. The caravan is made up of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador headed via Mexico to the United States. The caravan is designed to protect large numbers of migrants from perils like robberies, rapes, assaults that they could experience travelling alone if they ran into smugglers, drug cartels, and immigration/police along the migrant trail. I’ve asked my mom on several occasions when she’s chatty about growing up during WW2 as a teenager having to pack up minimal belongings leaving behind her books, toys, clothing, and flee to a foreign place. Although she doesn’t like to discuss this part of her life, the few times she has been candid with me she’s said her and Oma (her mom) were heading away from fear to something better. So lately I’ve wondered how these migrants many boys and girls similar in age to my mom back then feel carrying what they could in hopes of something better. What was the last straw that made them join this caravan? For my mom it was impending destruction of her city. She and my Oma didn’t have a caravan to insulate the two of them from the perils of her migrant trail but they were welcomed in Poland. Pres. Trump’s response to this caravan heading north: GO HOME.
In 2015 there was a wave of immigrants heading into Europe from Syria, Iraq, and numerous countries in Africa via the Mediterranean Sea landing primarily in Greece then heading north into Germany, Austria, and if northward into Sweden. At that time Germany’s Angela Merkel’s response was: WELCOME!
How are the two situations different? Obviously one by land and one by water. One was organized to safeguard men, women and children travelling together. The other scattered migrants from different countries, different languages mainly hiring smugglers to transport them in dilapidated, overcrowded boats across the Mediterranean Sea to a safe harbor (s). But the common link between these migrant groups and my mom and Oma’s journey: to find something better…
Should the caravan see a Welcome sign into the United States, Go Home, You Can Stay But.. or
I grew up in a family of five: dad, mom, younger sister and younger brother and one of our bonding tricks my dad used was to take us to the movies. He loved the movies as a child growing up and it was an inexpensive (in the late 70’s and early 80’s) way of doing something as a family. One of the movies we saw when I was 9 was Bambi. I remember this movie distinctly because it was the first time I had ever seen a living creature killed in a cruel way.. When we walked out of the theatre I was crying, my sister was crying, my brother looked like he’d been crying and my mom got upset with my dad for taking us to see “such a sad story.” There have been other movies that have had THAT level of bereavement and empathy garnered from me: Turner and Hooch (1989) and Marley and Me (2008). One I knew what was going to happen and one I did not. So I generally stay away from these movies unless I am convinced that “I just have to see it”.
So last week I was traipsing along trying to ignore some of the headlines going on in the U.S. especially Washington where I live when I received an e-mail that stopped me dead in my tracks. Generally I LOVE e-mails. I mean I am an e-mail worshipper. I don’t care if it is junk (Spam is the technical word right?) or promotions or what’s new on Netflix or IMDB or Hulu or now E-Bay I’m a happy camper because I got mail! But this particular e-mail was so disturbing that it has taken me a week to formulate what I wanted to say. The e-mail was a request to sign a petition to force an Idaho wildlife and game commissioner to resign because he had posted a picture of himself with a family of 5 baboons that he had slaughtered in Africa. A baby baboon was front and center with an arrow pierced through its heart. I gaped at that picture for what seemed an hour just crying, crying like I did when I saw Bambi, Turner and Hooch and Marley and Me and even E.T. I kept thinking why man? What sort of pleasure or reward are you seriously getting from killing this family of harmless and defenseless creatures? The image brought back the huge outcry and media attention of Cecil the Lion who was impaled and then hunted and ultimately killed by a dentist in 2015. Then people sat up and paid attention. I kept waiting all week for some sort of mainstream media outlet to pick up this story but all I heard was Kanye West at the White House.
I kept racking my brain why big game shooting is popular. I mean yes Africa is ideal to go and shoot em up because that continent is dealing with famine, civil wars, remnants of colonialism, pirating, extremists, kidnapping children, rape so there’s all that on the plate there. But I finally realized that the problem isn’t just this overabundance of gun toting, passive aggressive people who get their kicks from playing target practice on defensive wildlife but APATHY.. Guns are rampant here in the United States and in Europe, Africa, Middle East because they are accessible. Got enough on our plates, can’t handle anything more right now so killing a family of five baboons is just another day…
Where do you think this resurgence of gun use globally has originated from and do you see an end in sight?