Archive for the ‘self-analysis’ Category
Beginning scene formula for almost any 80′s horror movie ~ A buxom young woman is spending the evening at home with her equally shapely, and questionably legal, girlfriends…challenging her intellectually challenged peers to pillow fights, refusing to conform to society’s bra obsession, and contemplating the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Oblivious to her fatefully awaiting date with the grim reaper, she flaunts her barely there t-shirt and peek-a-boo panties. As she and her friends reenact every boy’s fantasized wet dream ideology of a girls’ sleepover, a crazed murderer lurks in the night, watching her every move, breathing heavily, and waiting patiently for her sexiest moment to slash her into pieces. He watches as she departs from the herd, disrobes, and heads for the shower, where she arches her back, washes her hair, and cleans only her breasts with the obsessive precision of this guy. Once she’s sure they can’t possibly get any cleaner and her back simply won’t arch any further, she deems her shower done. As she slips into as little as possible, an ominous sound outside her window beckons to her. Just when she’s convinced it was her imagination at play, she comes face to face with her serial killer Casanova. He stares blankly at her as she screams frantically into the night. As is the apparent norm for cinematic killers, he is locked in some psychotic trance. She seizes the moment to scream louder and, of course ~ while clumsily looking back over her shoulder ~ run! Squeaky clean ta-tas bouncing to the delight of every teenage boy and envy of every teenage girl glued to, ironically, the ‘boob tube.’ But the omnipresent slasher is two steps ahead of her, and no matter how fast she runs, how loud she screams, how much she begs…those impeccably clean knockers can’t help her now. She’s knocked her last knock.
Now for her friends. ~ End scene
1, 2…Freddy came for you. 3, 4…Let’s watch some more!
Horror movie mania is never more rampant than on Halloween. The need to scare and be scared always dwells within us. Hence, the overwhelming popularity of rollercoasters, skydiving, bungee jumping, haunted houses, and People of Walmart perusal.
We crave fear. But why? What is it about horror movies that keeps us revved up and brushed up on the infamous Zombie Survival Guide?
Theories on our fear flick fetish include our willingness to endure the terror in order to experience the euphoric relief when the credits roll. As one fear enthusiast and haunted house artist put it, “It’s a complete journey from anticipation to anxiety to experiencing the fear and having the adrenaline rush to coming down afterward.” In other words, it’s a drug…and we’re addicted.
Most recently, research on the root of our horror mania points to physiological and evolutionary causes. We love horror movies for the same reason we love any other death defying act. Adrenaline. The hormonal reaction we get from facing and surviving a physical threat is a physiological ganja hit. The ability to experience both negative (threat imposed by empathy for the victim) and positive (relief that we are physically detached from the threat) simultaneously is an emotional high for us. We get high on the fear. We come down on the relief. A hair- raising, nightmare-inducing horror movie is a roller coaster ride of emotion that delivers us safely back to reality.
Once it’s over and we’re still in one piece, we feel victorious and untouchable. We had the courage to come face to face with death, and we survived. Predator survival speaks to our primal roots. Our evolutionary predecessors faced physical threat on a daily basis. Competition for food, clothing, and shelter all required the occasional throwdown with nature’s superior food chain elite. The ability to outwit badass predators was the only way to keep the species thriving and jiving. So not only did we have to face it, we had to be good at it. Adrenaline junkies, we’re biologically hardwired to be drawn to danger and to, hopefully, rock survival.
5, 6…Death’s ass gets kicked!
Of course, as we age, we lose our hunger for horror. It’s no secret that the horror film industry relies mostly on young adults as an audience base. Teenagers, in particular, love a good heaping of horror hangover. Perhaps, as adolescents reach adulthood, they are subconsciously preparing themselves for challenges that lie ahead. Many years ago, those challenges entailed physical threats to survival. So, defense was a coming of age skill. Some psychologists say we dream “in order to rehearse behaviors of self-defense in the safety of nighttime isolation.” In other words, we practice our real life fight-or-flight what-if’s in our dreams…as a means of preparation. Perhaps our love for horror movies is cloaked in the same mental subconscious. Maybe we’re simply training ourselves just in case we ever end up staring down the hockey mask of a lunatic on an unfortunate Friday the 13th. On the off chance that we do, horror movies provide us a play by play of what may get us killed, and what may not. Once the movie is over, we feel more than just relief. We feel properly trained and prepared for our own possible brush with the likes of Freddy Krueger. And we know never to fall asleep.
So, like it or not, our love affair with scary movies is here to stay. Due to evolutionary cravings beyond our control, we will continue to force ourselves through haunted houses, jump from horrifying heights to uncertain death, and gather around movie screens to face off with the latest Paranormal phenomenon or asylum escapee with a chainsaw and a chip on his shoulder. Fear is a timeless fad.
Now to get some female writers for future horror flicks. I mean men take sexy showers too, right?
7,8…Fear is your fate.
9,10…It’s Fright Night again!
“I love horror movies because they’re really fun. They tap into those wonderful primal emotions.” ~ Margot Kidder
After reading a recent article in the New York Times, “Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry,” I was overcome by a myriad of emotions. Anger and empathy dominating them. Once again struck by the struggles of women who, bound by culture and fear, are forced to share their lives with men who lack the education and self confidence to embrace and appreciate the wild, fiery, passionate, dedicated (and, yes, at times dramatic and difficult) entity that is the female spirit. In attempts to thwart off his own handed-down insecurities and assure himself that she will never have the freedom nor independence to see a life outside the one he deems “honorable,” he robs not only himself of the limitless possibilities promised by her ravenous spirit…but he robs her of a spirit that defines her, empowers her, and inspires her. Leaving her trapped in a relationship void of love, in a body void of familiarity…where she can only be, say, or do what is dictated to her.
In spite of this centuries-old practice, some women still manage to find a way to thrive. To write.
This ambitious group of Afghan women featured in the NYT article has found an emotional outlet in poetry. Writing as a form of escape, a form of complaint, a form of freedom. But they do so in secret because the act of expressing her feelings, her ambitions, her worries in written form is cause for extreme physical punishment at the hands of her husband, brother, or father. The men they dutifully answer to are threatened by such things, seeing her expression as a possible flight risk from her strictly defined domestic role. So, she isn’t allowed education or exposure to outside influences that may mar that role.
Feeding an unspoken fear as old as time…education leads to independent thinking. And independent thinking leads to rebellion.
Damn straight it does. Thank goodness!
Expressing oneself through writing is not only a source of therapy, expression, and self exploration for the writer, but also a source of strength, understanding, and inspiration for the reader. Though separated by oceans, cultures, and cavemen hell-bent against evolution, we all have the desire and the right to grow and learn by literary means.
To inspire. And to be inspired.
May these women continue to find both the strength and courage to inspire all women, as they have me.
I wish I may, I wish I might
Be a solitary bird lost in flight
Free to be, to love, to write
No glow of red, only green light
No tether, wrong, or right
Soaring high over mountains, cloaked in night
Shedding, ridding all semblance of plight
And fervently anticipating, with dawn in sight
A bold new rush of wind as I graze the sunlight
~ Chick Hughes
First comes love. Then comes baby. Then comes the all American question: Suburbs, maybe? Parenthood instantly propels us to superhero status…called on to protect and serve that perfect little mini-me. We do anything and everything to keep him safe. We put up baby gates, cover outlets, lock ourselves out of our own kitchen cabinets, and become human security blankets magically resistant to anything from the the boogeyman to the boogie wipe. But sooner or later, he’ll want to venture out into the wilds that await on the other side of the door we’ve so carefully baby proofed. Now easy peasy electrical outlet covers, cabinet door locks, and staircase baby gates are menacing streets filled with unpredictable drivers, strangers with candy, and shady slow-moving vans on the prowl. If you have kids, you got the memo. City bad. Suburbs good.
They say birds of a feather flock together. We parental birds make this suburban migration in droves for the well-being of our little people. So that we can shield them from danger. So that we feel comfortable letting them play outside without constant supervision. And so that we can put head to pillow at night knowing we’ve done one more thing to keep them from becoming the misery-spreading anti-family rebel with fangs that every teenager is destined to become.
It wasn’t long after I jumped on the manic mommy wagon that we did the inevitable and followed the droves. We bought…a neighborhood. I say neighborhood because, as any of you who have bought a home knows, it’s akin to getting married. You don’t just buy the house. You buy the whole damn neighborhood. The cookie cutter houses, the manicured lawns, the white picket fences, the neighbors’ dog doo on your shoes, the forced neighborhood how-do-you-do’s, and the futile attempts to avoid the obligatory gossip news. It’s a deceptively package deal. And the day we sealed the deal and moved into our white picked fence ~ homeowner’s association ~ gated community ~ neighborhood was the day we were to begin our purchased “safe haven” life. We were naively giddy with newbie enthusiasm.
They say it only takes one rotten egg to stink up the joint. And the stench was wafting in our direction. Pulling the overstuffed U-Haul up to our exciting new abode, we were happy to see a child’s birthday party underway…complete with the blur of running kids, the sound of contagious laughter, the rented bouncy house, and the child’s parents…a twosome that would soon make me grapple with why my dream of moving to the city was ever deemed a bad idea.
My first impression of him was one of “What..the.. hell did we just do?” And as time marched on, he managed only to validate that impression. Sluggish, overweight, beer in hand, a slight buzz, and an obvious itch to stir trouble. The kind of trophy neighbor a realtor pays to stay clear of the hood until the ink is dry on the loan papers. With a cocky demeanor, he strutted over to me, introduced himself, and proceeded to brief me on his wife’s name. He took a hearty swig from his beer, gave me a manly punch on the arm, and verbally trashed her like day-old empty beer bottles. On the outside, I was smiling and feigning understanding. On the inside, I was planning my escape route. He was, and is, your typical neighborly nightmare. After executing my escape plan, I turned to introduce myself to what I hoped would be his polar opposite, a fellow mom I could befriend. But when she refused eye contact with me, left me hanging, and darted in the other direction like I had bared my fangs and taken aim at her throat, I watched my white picket fence fantasy go up in flames. And I wondered who lit a match?
Days turned into weeks. Weeks into months. Being the new kids on the block, we were privy to our fair share of rumors swirling about the couple in question. All coinciding with my original impression. But I tried to keep an open mind. Remain neutral. I failed. Neutral is hard to pull off when I walk outside to hear him barking profanities in one of the faces of his many children, when I hear him -over my television- in the wee hours of the night standing in the middle of the street ranting drunken insults at a neighbor who is inside asleep in his bed, or when I realize that politely asking him to keep his large dog from peppering our front yard with T-Rex sized crappy patties signals -to him- a war of not-so-clever words that may end with his waving of the rebel flag and the threat of his 12 gauge shotgun between my eyes. Clearly, the last thing I want to do is enrage a drunk redneck exercising his right to bear arms.
Bumping into his wife at our nearby grocery store or in the neighborhood was a routine occurrence. Eye contact and conversation were still, apparently, off limits. Word of my Medusa stone turning abilities had somehow been leaked. Nevertheless, our kids had become fast friends and wouldn’t see each other without speaking. So completely evading the situation wasn’t an option and chance encounters with her became an awkward game of chicken. Who would speak first? Who would look down in avoidance first? She had mastered the role of chicken well.
I gave up trying to talk to her, settled in the notion that she hated me. But I do think about her often. As a woman, I wonder if she’s happy? Miserable? Afraid? Stuck? As a mom, I wonder if the kids are happy? Miserable? Desensitized? Resigned? If his drunken public persona is so unsettling to the rest of us, what was living with him like? I presumed happiness wasn’t an option. Maybe avoidance was her defense mechanism. A way to keep new unfamiliar people at arms length to project the perception that all was good. That she had everything under control. Maybe it wasn’t me she hated at all, but the threat of yet another neighbor witnessing the very things she was so desperate to hide. Not only from the outside, but from herself.
While I prefer to avoid them, my kids want to play with their kids, putting them directly in his path. So, here we are in a house, in a neighborhood, that we’ve bought for the peace of mind that our kids could play without threat. But within months of escrow closing, rumors of the unstable “father of the beer” were joined by those of drug dealing neighbors and the realization that registered sex offenders lived too close for comfort.
So it turns out our neighborhood is just a hood, like any other. A white picket fence is just wood and nails. HOA rules are only as good as a handshake and a neighbor’s word. An electric entry gate is easily broken away. And the people we’re so desperate to protect our kids from live on BOTH sides of the gate.
A gate that serves no real purpose aside from perceived status.
On my side of the gate, I continue to avoid him. There’s a tangible tension between us that is challenged daily by our kids’ friendship…a friendship that reminds me that young innocence without judgment does exist…prior to life’s jading.
She speaks to me now, although her dislike for me proves hard for her to hide. We fake it anyway, as do most neighbors. And every so often, I look out toward her house and wonder what I may do if I were in her shoes. Is she simply out of options? Or does she truly love him and lead a happy life? Am I being presumptuous in assuming her misery? After all, the only thing I really know about her life is what I see playing out in the streets of our little utopia.
And then I wonder if she wonders the same about me.
Is her perception of me just as haunted by questions? Does she see my skeletons peeking from my closet as I do hers? Does she presume to see through me as I do her?
Am I too living under white picket pretense?
Of course I am.
But at least for now, our kids are youthfully unaware of what lies beneath our pretense. And to them…
The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.” J.R.R. Tolki
He is. He’s not. They love him. They hate him. It’s too much. Pretending to be someone he isn’t is tormenting his psyche, imprisoning his spirit, and annihilating his self-esteem. He knows he’s different. He’s always known. Always shouldered the burdensome lie. But as most burdens do, this one has become too heavy to bear. His secret too difficult to keep. He’s a monster. Apparently.
A gay monster.
Morally corrupt, an evil volcano bound to erupt, disgustingly vile, and doomed to social exile. Or so says his family, his community, and his country. On the contrary, he’s no monster. Just an innocent teenager whose heart has been labeled “evil.” Who is he to argue with a country full of know-it-all “adults” who blindly submerge themselves in a delusional pool of perfection? Casting down judgment from the safety of their high horse. Adults know everything…and nothing. We’re pros at lying. Even better at denying. But as they say, practice makes perfect.
How can a sexual feeling he has no control over deem him unworthy of living? This feeling…this secret…this thing…he can’t control is controlling him. But he has no choice. This secret is one society has forced him to keep. So he hides. Hides behind his fear. Behind their fear. Behind the mask that grants him acceptance. And day after day, he looks at his world from behind the mask…meets his mother’s loving gaze…his father’s expectant eyes brimming with hope. Their eyes…pre-shame. How would their eyes change? If he removed the mask? How would they look at him…WOULD they look at him…if they knew? Would they hate him? Stop loving him? Be ashamed of him? Throw him away? What would happen if he dared be…
Supposedly, they know him better than anyone. Love him more than anyone. Is that love as unconditional as they claim? He wonders. Nevertheless, his dad’s occasional gay slur, his mom’s complete and utter denial of homosexuality, and his peers’ relentless jeering of any soul who dares to be different…all keep his secret tightly sealed behind his otherwise sexually perverse lips. He fears his coming out will incur a social debt he, and his family, may never pay. A debt charged by hate. Never courageous, ever contagious, that hate spreads…and embeds. Embeds deep into his heart and his subconscious. He hates himself. Because he knows what they don’t. Knows that the hate they will unleash is kept at bay only by his silence. His denial. But he’s finding that his silence…his denial…is creating a very private, very hostile world of hate. A hate all his own. So, he has a choice to make…his silence, his fear, and their ignorance…OR his courage, his freedom, and possibly, their enlightenment. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll outgrow their H8.
“Different” is defined as “not identical, not ordinary, unusual.” Don’t we strive to be unique? We do. But we don’t. We want to stand out in a crowd…yet, we want to blend in with our peers? Each of us is different, yet the same. Different in terms of sexual orientation, politics, religion, race, culture, opinion. The same in terms of humanity, tears, pain, fears.
A hater dwells inside each of us. We hate because we fear. That which we don’t understand, we fear; therefore, we hate. It’s self defense. The human brain has evolved to do whatever it takes to ensure survival. Only the strong survive, right? Innately, we know…to survive, we must be dominant. So, we fake it. We self promote…puff out our chest, beat it a few times, bare our teeth, scratch our ass, and assert our dominance. We convince ourselves that we’re better than the others…Our skin color is better. Our chosen religion is the “only way.” Our sexual preference is better. Better is…better, no? We need to feel superior…lest we fall lower on the food chain of life. Risk our demise. When our “place” feels threatened, we become aggressive. Hate becomes our weapon of choice. We tell ourselves, “they’re not like me.” We banish “the others” from our inner circle…from “us.” That cues our brains to begin devaluing “the others” and justifies bullying, hate crimes, genocide, terrorist attacks, and war. We stop at nothing to assert our dominance. To be right. To feed our need to be right, we surround ourselves with like people. People who share the same values, opinions, prejudices, hates…as we do. Because hearing the echo of our own thoughts empowers us…Ahhh, sweet validation. Validation…and, uh, numbers. In any war, sheer numbers leads to victory. United we stand, divided we fall?
We hate out of ignorance…out of self promotion…out of fear.
But what exactly ARE we afraid of?
Religion scares us ~ We convince ourselves that our religion, or lack of, is the only one. Being wrong on this playing field carries heavy penalties. The gnashing of teeth, burning in hell, fire and brimstone kind. We’re right. We have to be - if we want to survive death. So, we condemn other religions as a sort of self-soother. We’re entangled in a desperate attempt to survive not only this life, but any possible after-life. Self preservation at its finest.
Race scares us ~ Conquering survival of the fittest means convincing ourselves we’re superior. Telling ourselves this skin color is better than that. As long as we feel superior, we’re good. We don’t feel threatened. But as soon as our superiority is threatened, hate jumps to our defense…snarling through it’s terrified teeth.
Sexuality scares us ~ Homophobia is no different than any other fear…it’s a protection of one’s ego. Like bullies in school, we pick on “different” because understanding it could lead to our social death. And condoning it could threaten our own sexuality…or at least others’ perception of it. Like teenagers in school, we long to fit in. We long to fit in because it’s a sure road to survival.
Survival means war. Or so it would seem. Not only do we wage war against “different” locally…but being the ambitious go-getters that we are, we take on other countries. We murder over power, religion, greed…all in an attempt to be dominant. To survive. But maybe true survival lies in education, not termination.
After all, ignorance is the root of all fear. And fear is the root of all hate.
So educate! Rip fear out by the root! Celebrate humanity…all its differences, all its imperfections, all its love.
Think with heart – not with hate.
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” ~ Marie Curie
There’s a popular notion spoon fed to us by barbie media…willingly embraced by the conservative woman, vehemently rejected by the liberal woman, yet, on some level, wrestled with by every woman. Open wide! The notion of “happily ever after.” A studly white knight on a horse who whisks us off to the land of eternal bliss. Rescues us from…reality? As “Sex and the City’s” most beloved princess, Charlotte, so shamelessly put it… “Women really just want to be rescued.” Now chew on that. According to princess pop culture and every wedding coordinator taxed with the job of creating “happily ever after,” women do indeed want the fairy tale. A prince charming who will sweep her off her feet, wed her in an over-the-top elaborate princess style shindig her friends will never match, give her to-die-for genetically endowed cooing babies, and take care of her forevermore, forevermore… forNevermore?
This notion proves to be very enticing…that is, until the honeymoon is over, she ages, her prince charming drops the charm, her adorable grown “babies” are mouthing off to her, fighting, and turning her into a screaming referee with a “Your face is gonna get stuck like that!” complex. Add to this dwindling romance and escalating financial stress. And suddenly, she doesn’t feel so princess-esque anymore. In no “happily ever after” does mass media suggest the princess will later be spending her days cooking, cleaning, and refereeing while dragging the tired exhausted shadow of her formerly hot ass around the house in a sloppy pony tail and holey sweats! As if! Cinderella was rescued from her shabby clothes and household chores. Hmmm…now that she thinks about it, she’s not feeling so rescued after all. The media has patronized and misadvised her. What the hell happened to her fairy tale? Or was the fairy tale just…a tall tale?
From the moment we take our first step or utter our first syllable, we’re slammed with one fantasy of “happily ever after” after another. The Disney animated princess…Barbie…or better yet…the animated Princess Barbie! Blurs of blond-haired blue-eyed beauties winning over their prince with one flutter of their exaggerated eyelashes, one toss of their synthetic hair, and not one ambitious bone in their “made in china” bodies. All hail the media! As little girls, we aspire to be “pretty in pink” princesses. Why? Because we’re encouraged to, of course. This parent trying to “out-love” that parent by indulging us in over-the-top princess birthday parties. And our parental crowning doesn’t stop there. In case the metaphorical crowning wasn’t enough, we’re encouraged to tan up, wig up, and dumb down to walk “beauty” pageant runways straight out of the womb. All in hopes of being adorned with the awe-inspiring symbol of beauty itself…the over-sized tiara…the bigger, the glitzier, the better. As we grow into young women, we aspire to find our handsome prince charming, become Mrs. Charming, and live “happily ever after” …replacing the tiara with a diamond ring intended to represent just how “BIG” he loves us. Finally, as newlyweds, the pressure is on to help populate our tragically underpopulated planet. One baby, two, nineteen...and counting? It’s our privilege…our duty, no?
When we do finally get word that the stork is circling overhead, we rejoice over the success of our dutiful whoopee. Baby on board! It’s at this moment that our fairy tale is complete. Or at least the one set in motion by June Cleaver and popularized by the mass media.
No sleep, dirty diapers, and non-existent sex life aside, there’s a flaw in Cinderella’s perfectly stitched gown of happily ever after. Ambition! Today’s woman goes to college, becomes educated, and adds successful career to her dreamy fairy tale checklist. She dreams of all the things princess pop “cult”ure has washed her brains with. But princess pop culture has an elephant in the room…and that elephant is college educated and dreams of changing the world…one poopy diaper at a time. Apparently. She wants to marry the perfect man, raise the perfect children, and attain the perfect career. She can have it all, right? When she first embarks on this feat, she fails to see the practical conflict of her maternal and professional ambitions because she’s young…because she has no concept of “can’t” …and because no one warns her…no one exposes the “fairy tale” for the lying sham it is.
Happily ever after is a myth.
It is an elusive sasquatch creeping into our adolescent psyches touting its over-sized existence, yet failing to produce cold hard proof. But experience will educate her…reveal the truth. She CAN marry her prince charming. She CAN have 2.5 kids. She CAN have a reputable successful career. Disclaimer: The simultaneous combination of the three may cause spontaneous combustion! And extinguishing the problem will leave the bigfoot supermom drowning in the puddle of despair she fears most…Failure.
The working mom tries to do it all. Rushes the kids to daycare, drags into work, tries to be all she can be professionally while juggling the disapproving sneer from her boss and phone calls about sick or misbehaving kids, scrambles to pick up the kids on time..and races home to complete homework, baths, dinner, laundry, dishes, bedtime, and sex like a Stepford wife on speed. A forced smile through it all. But behind that robotic smile lurks a bottomless pit of guilt, self-doubt, exhaustion, and a persistent sense of failure. For no matter how much she does… it’s never enough. So, she pushes herself to the brink of insanity, and then she dares to push a little more. As she continues to spread herself too thin, she begins to feel her world crumbling around her. She loses her bearings. She feels…lost. But lacks the “me” time to find her way out.
Maintaining a full-time successful career while trying to slay the child-rearing dragon is a feat that will eventually leave her charred and begging for mercy. Consequently, some modern moms are opting to put a career on hold, stay home, and take on the dragon full time. Seems the easier option…for now. But is the dragon’s head the only trophy she seeks? The reality: a stay home mom may slay the child-rearing dragon with ease…but it’s the demon in her own head that proves to take her down…the struggle between herself and her myth.
The college educated stay-home mom is riddled with unfulfilled professional ambition. Her own personal fairy tale hell threatens to bring her sanity to its knees. On one hand, she weighs the commitment to her children…to be available whenever they need her…as a nurturer, a teacher, a playmate, a friend. On the other, she weighs the desire to work, have an identity, make her own money, be successful, and make a difference in her corner of the world. All the while, the weight of both relentlessly crushing her.
How does she do both…and do them well?
If she opts for the 9 to 5 career, she sacrifices fleeting time with her kids. They miss out on parent-child events at school, afternoon soccer, baseball, dance, help with homework. They become latch-key kids. They see her for two chore-filled hours a day before they must sleep to prepare for the next day, another in which she will play a minor role. They act out because they feel last in her list of daily priorities. Guilt consumes her. However, if she stays home and forfeits her career, she sacrifices herself. Disappoints herself on a daily basis. Begins to drown in her own pity pool of missed opportunities. Watches the professional life she planned and dreamed of in college slink off into the night robbing her of self-confidence and leaving her a stranger to herself. Mid-life looms…she wonders… “What now? Who wants to hire a mom who has been at home for so long…college degree or not. I have a resume filled with diaper duties and fending off cooties…and Dora the Explorer as a reference.” Her struggle continues.
Regardless of the choice she makes, her maternal side and her professional side remain in a perpetual tug of war.
Ambition proves to be her double-edged sword. She struggles daily not to disappoint the supposed “fairy tale” she’s created…and, at the same time, not to disappoint her “me” she’s yet to create. But at the end of the day, it’s her “me” she’s yet to create that seems to be falling by the wayside. She wants it all, damn it. A prince charming. Happy kids. Love and success for them all. But she also wants…HER. Her career. Her success. Her happiness. She wants to look in the mirror and recognize her once ambitious face. To be proud not only of her family, but of herself. To make a difference in the world she’s introducing to her children. To set a feminist example for her daughter…convince her she can do anything she sets her mind to. The sky is NOT her limit, for beyond her sky lies an unknown and unexplored universe. But a paradox presents itself. As she preaches unbridled ambition for the taking, she does so as a mother who has done the opposite…
telling her daughter to take on the world and let nothing stand in her way, but showing her to sacrifice it all to raise a family.
So she wonders…is she teaching her to be all she can be? Or is she simply perpetuating the fairy tale hell?
How can she possibly teach her kids to raise their hands and reach for the stars when she’s tied her own hands behind her back? How can she manage to satisfy the dreams of both herself and her kids? How can any mother?
Mirror, mirror, on the wall…
What DO women want? DO we want the fairy tale? Or does the fairy tale want us?
“Obsessed by a fairy tale, we spend our lives searching for a magic door and a lost kingdom of peace.” ~ Eugene O’Neill
Coming home to a dark house, she wonders if he’s home. She opens the door to a dimly lit room and a trail of rose petals leading her to a Hallmark moment table adorned with wine, candles, and perfected place settings…a romantic candlelit dinner…a.k.a. the bait. Before she can take it all in, a glass of wine finds its way into her hapless hand. The day’s surplus problems race from her mind like children caught red-handed snooping through their dad’s forbidden box of “good articles.” It’s then that she notices a chocolaty drizzled message on her dinner plate: “No clothing. No option!” As she grapples to take in his strategically premeditated romantic gesture, he puts the last piece of the get-laid-tonight puzzle into place…and permeates the room with her favorite romantic love song. One sure to make her knees weak and her loins ache. Music and wine are intoxicating her. The puzzle is complete…now it’s time to “tear it up!”
the hunted ~ “Why sweetie, what a romantic candlelight mood!”
the hunter ~ “The better to relax you with my dear…”
hunted ~ “Why sweetie, what an interesting dining attire rule!”
hunter ~ “The better to see you with my dear…”
hunted ~ “Why sweetie, what delicious wine!”
hunter ~ “The better to woo you with my dear…”
hunted ~ “Why sweetie, what erotic music you’re playing!”
hunter ~ “The better to DO you with my dear…”
And the ravenous wolf devoured her…but not before she left her own passionate scratches of defense tatooed across his back.
Turns out music and sex have more in common than “I Want to Sex You Up” lyrics. They both cause the brain to release the chemical dopamine that’s responsible for making us experience pleasure and reward. While we’ve known that both eating and sex get our dopamine juices flowing, scientists now have proof that music is also a dopamine doozy. Studies prove that all types of music…from classical to punk, from jazz to bagpipes, from hip-hop to tango…all tickle the dopamine fancy. The studies were performed without lyrics, so it seems the music alone gives us the same high as sex. But it should come as no surprise that music provides such titillating pleasure, seeing as how most musical lyrics are consumed with love and sex…having always played up to our lovesick heartaches, heartbreaks, and booty shakes. So, sex and music undoubtedly go hand in “band.” The question is: Why do we sing our hearts out about our sex drought? Is it simply an outlet, or is music a subconsciously primitive means to a consciously sexual end?
Darwin believed the latter. His sexual selection theory suggested that music evolved to serve the same function as the rest of the animal kingdom…to mate. He viewed animal musical behavior such as the mating songs of birds, frogs, alligators, and whales as equal to the evolution of music for humans. Evidence of music dates as far back as the Paleolithic times, during which the first flute was created out of animal bone. In a time when survival and procreation were the only things on a busy caveman’s to-do list, what reason at all would he have for attempting to create music? It wasn’t necessary for food, fending off predators, or getting those pesky animal hairs out of his teeth. So, why spend time he could otherwise be hunting creating music? Why…to get the girl, of course. Darwin dubbed it a do-the-dirty methodology. He theorized that sounds generally evolved for the sole purpose of sex, which explains why music is a part of worldwide culture. But those sounds have continued to evolve along with human beings. With evolution, we’ve learned language…and thrown that lusty language in with our musically sexual quest. Interestingly, with the rise of feminism, men aren’t the only ones using music to their sexual advantage. “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”
Darwin’s sexual selection theory has historically been dismissed by some scientists. But if food, sex, and music all cause our brains to release dopamine, we have to wonder…why? Food, sex, and music have one common thread…they’re a means to an evolutionary end. Like the rest of the animal kingdom, we have but two evolutionary duties in life…survival and procreation. Food is a means to survival. Sex is a means to procreation. Music is a means to sex, it seems. Maybe we subconsciously use music as a mating dance just as the rest of the animal kingdom. Is it possible our brains have evolved to enjoy the things we need in order to survive and procreate. We eat a slice of steamy cheesy pizza…we feel pleasure because eating is necessary for survival. We hear climactic music, we feel pleasure because we anticipate sex. We have climactic mind-blowing sex…we feel pleasure because we may now procreate. Survival…check. Procreation…check. The continuation of the species…check. All in a hard day’s work for primitive caveman…or modern He-Man.
Yes! It seems, when it comes to music, the beat isn’t the only thing getting our booties bumping.
So, next time you see young girls swoon over the latest heartthrob boy band, or some unsuspecting woman throw her panties at a rock band with mile-high hair, makeup you could carve your name in, and a sickly toothpick frame…reflect on Darwin’s theory. And know that music just has that “feel good” effect on us. You could try to pull her from the wolf’s sexually hypnotic grip…enlighten her…warn her…
“Hey girl! He’s just trying to get to your nitty gritty with his witty ditty!”
But chances are she’s aware and dancing along to the ditty for HIS gritty.
In one year and out the other. We welcome each new year with pledges…promises…resolutions. We await the first exciting moments of 2011…the infamous NYC ball drop against the vivacious single-life backdrop, the eagerly anticipated first luscious lip-lock of the year, the glass of bubbly responsible for making us…uh… “bubbly.” As we anticipate these iconic symbols marking the onset of a new year, we dance a flirty samba with the new year’s most intoxicating, most alluring symbol of all…Hope. We reflect on good memories, bad memories, accomplishments, failures, regrets of one year…and limitless possibilities of the next. Fingers crossed!
In the days leading up to that momentous midnight marker, we imagine an “ideal” us…the us we’d like to be, but recognize as “lost” in some sideways universe. We’d like to stop procrastinating, get our butts on that treadmill we’ve been passing off as interpretive artwork in our living room, lose 2 jean sizes, stop smoking, eat healthier, get out of debt, go back to school…essentially, conquer all of our weaknesses, forsake all traces of imperfection, and become “master of our domain.” Of course, this is about as likely as waking on Christmas Eve to find St. Nick making whoopee with the Easter Bunny on our couch, our love for candy forever tainted. The sweet tooth may never recover from that Santa marshmallow “peep.” We’re all painfully aware that an ideal us will never materialize, but we can dream…can’t we?
We dream, therefore we survive…and thrive.
We look forward to the upcoming year with hopes and ambitions to somehow tap into our “ideal” selves. How do we become tangibly close to our mirror ideals? So close we fool even ourselves? Simple! We make resolutions. We determine the one or two things we’d love to change…and we assert that we will, indeed, change those things…change us.
We mean well, but that’s where we draw the line…somewhere between hope and intention. Psychologists say of those who make New Year’s resolutions, an estimated 80% fail to follow through with them. Why? Because we never intended on follow through to begin with. New Year’s celebrations are about hope…not intention. We hope for changes, but don’t really expect them and aren’t committed to executing them. That’s work, after all. We can pay to have ourselves lifted in the rear, but shifted into gear…not so much. Luckily for us, the declaration of intended change, alone, gives us what we seek…immediate gratification for our self-perception. Much in the same way as the glass of bubbly, the first kiss, and the firework eye candy provide immediate gratification for the senses…taste, touch, and sight. Once we “decide” to change, we feel empowered, walk taller, and emanate success. The false intention to change is like a drug to us. A hallucinogen. It’s an illusion…granted, a fun illusion, one that allows us to feel superior to our old selves…but an illusion just the same. And like a hallucinogen, the illusion is fleeting.
So why bother? Are New Year’s Resillusions worth the consumption of our brain cells?
5…4…3…2…1…Yes! We need our illusions. Ironically, they protect our sanity, stroke our egos, boost our self-esteem, and sometimes, nudge us in a productive direction. The assertion that our present self is as good as it gets is downright depressing. It keeps us from pushing the envelope. Drowns us in our own personal whirlpool of self-doubt. In essence, we surrender to our own negativity. But positive thought, hope, and ambition…even in deceptive form…keeps us pushing the envelope. Whether we barely make contact with the envelope…or push it into oblivion. Once it stops moving, so do we. In order to improve our present self, we need hope for our future self. So lick it, seal it, and give that envelope hell!
And before you begin the countdown to a new year of possibilities, dare to make New Year’s Resillusions. Dream… and dream big. Because, as we all know, size DOES matter!
Resolve to hope.
Happy New Year!
“Hope is the dream of a soul awake.” ~ French Proverb
Beauty. Society contrives it. Cover Girl revives it. Our eternal quest drives it. It’s possibly the most sought after, most elusive Godiva truffle in life’s box of Hershey’s chocolates. Unfortunately, every box of chocolates has at least one poser…appearing deliciously scrumptious on the outside, but revealing its bitter treacherous flavor upon cracking its beautiful shell. Women, and increasingly men, will do anything to attain “beautiful” status. Diets, creams, Spanx, injections, surgeries, implants, human microwaves, electrical facials…body parts return and exchange at the customer service desk of our local Body Shop. “You hate it. We fix it ~ More bod for your buck.” And that’s just America. Other cultures are equally extreme when it comes to achieving beauty. That’s right…the quest for beauty doesn’t discriminate based on gender, skin color, religious beliefs…or planetary location. It’s a global phenomenon, and we’re but its mere minions. So, what IS beauty? Who defines it? Cosmo? Vogue? Playboy? Modeling gurus? Photoshop? Culture? And why are we so eager to conform? Why do we refuse to think outside the “beauty box?” The recipe for beauty is spelled out for us through pop culture. But maybe we should alter the ingredients, shake things up a bit…add more spice, more variety…see how the flavor changes.
Psychologists say we’re born with an innate knowledge of what’s beautiful…and what’s not. When shown different facial images, babies show a preference for attractive human faces over unattractive faces. They linger and look longer at faces adults would consider beautiful. Why? Because babies, like adults, prefer symmetry. Whether it’s patterns or faces…they choose to gaze upon symmetry. And symmetrical faces are synonymous with beauty. So, some experts hastily conclude that we’re born armed with a universal definition of beauty.
I’m skeptical. Do we like beauty because of symmetry, or symmetry because of beauty? Which is the predictor of the other? Whatever the “chicken and the egg” answer, one’s idea of beauty is much broader than symmetry alone. According to the Journal of Psychological Science, our idea of attraction seems to follow a prototype…a look we’ve come to anticipate after seeing it repeatedly…something familiar to our brains. They reported that what we find attractive is whatever requires the least amount of effort for our brain. If we grow up around a particular impression of beauty, we’ll likely maintain that impression throughout our lives. This theory would certainly explain the cultural aspect of defined beauty. Our lazy brains are forcing us to take the easy way out and conform to “beauty in a box.” Guess it’s too much effort to run the brain around the block every now and again.
Beauty, when allowed to be, is an abstract individual concept. But because we need a concrete tangible outcome to strive for, we’ve boxed it in…narrowly defined it and labeled any and all differing physical attributes as “unattractive.” Pity. It limits not only our own beauty, but our dating pool as well. And we’re not alone. In any corner of the world, we find a localized limited definition of beautiful…one boxed in by the boundaries of that particular culture.
~ In Japan, beauty is…smooth, extremely light skin tones ~ porcelain-like. Japanese women feast on collagen-infused foods to lighten their skin, scour the market for the best face whitening creams money can buy, and apply nightingale bird feces as facial masks. Wait…porcelain-pooping birds?
~ In Thailand…very elongated necks. At 5 years of age, young girls begin wearing brass rings around their necks and add more rings as they age. As their necks elongate, they’re considered more and more beautiful. Sounds awkward…but hey, with an elongated neck, they now can “look down” on their suppressors.
~ In New Zealand…lip and chin tatoos. The most desirable women have full, inky blue lips.
~ In Ethiopia…scar patterns on the stomach. The elders make cuts into young girls’ tummies to form patterns and prepare them for their impending man hunt.
~ In China…tiny feet. For centuries, women have bound up their feet to attain this “ideal” …but only managed to deform them in the process. Foot binding is no longer in practice…turns out walking did trump beauty after all.
~ In Iran…a perfect nose. Women aren’t allowed to appear sexually suggestive and must cover every part of their bodies except the face. Because the nose is the only thing to flaunt, they flock to plastic surgeons to get pricey nose jobs. And because the surgery is considered a privilege, they wear the bandages longer than necessary as status symbols. Iran is the “nose job capital of the world.” Seems you can’t suppress sexual competition after all. When all else fails, the “nose knows” how to get a man.
~ In West Africa...full heavy figures. Thin is considered sickly and undesirable. Plumpness, stretchmarks, thick ankles, big butts, and juicy arms are what land a man. Young girls are force fed to fatten them up and make them more attractive to men. Baby got back!
It’s obvious we don’t share a universal idea of beauty…preference for symmetry maybe, but that’s where it seems to end. Blonde, tan, and unrealistically thin may represent American beauty, but it would be repulsive in some cultures. Beauty means something different according to who you ask and where you ask it. For the most part, it seems beauty is largely defined by our Cultural Beast and propagated by mass media. And, mass media is our reference point for beauty, unfortunately. Self-mutilation, self-degradation, self-starvation…it seems there’s nothing we won’t do to attain that “beauty.”
In our perpetual attempt to open life’s treasure chest of love and approval, we find beauty is the key. So, we conform…or contort…ourselves to get our hands on the “key.” We want to feel beautiful, and we take extreme measures to fit into our cultural “beauty box.” But once we box ourselves in, there’s no room to grow. We become stifled and confined. True beauty comes from within. It’s dark in a box, and if we’re miserably squished into a dark space, our beauty can’t shine through. However, outside the box, away from the confines of the Beast, our beauty can grow…evolve…change…thrive.
So, don’t box beauty in and tell her what she SHOULD be. Open your mind and let her show you what she CAN be. Define your own beauty.
Challenge the beast.
“Beauty is not caused. It is.” ~ Emily Dickinson
Girlfriends? Boyfriends? Or just friends? Can men and women be friends without benefits? We seem to think so. However, I’m skeptical…for this is a question that, in all marriages, may just come “up” more often than he does. Can my sweetie be “just friends” with a person of the opposite sex? Well…maybe…if that person has a third eye, ear, or boob…and the extra boob disclaimer is iffy…that could backfire. We first need to define “friend.” A friend isn’t one of the hundreds of faces and statuses we see daily on social networks. It isn’t a co-worker we see only at the office and speak to in passing, or even chat with in spurts. And it isn’t the doorman, delivery man, or handyman we see and touch base with a few times a week. Discussing mundane details regarding the sweltering weather or the day-to-day details of our riveting existence does not a friend make. These are acquaintances, at best. Then there are the friends we grew up with and still consider great friends, but only speak to occasionally and see even less. With very little time to nourish the relationship…of course, we can manage these “friendships.” And sometimes, not. The “friend” I’m referring to — the one that blurs the line — is the one with whom we share our deepest secrets and feelings, hang out with regularly, grab a bite or a movie with, or call when we’re upset or excited…the one we look to for emotional support. Our shoulder to cry on. Our ear to rely on.
For THIS is the male/female “friendship” standing trial. The charges: providing a pick-me-up, tripping us up, and ending in breakup.
We’re so sure we, ourselves, can successfully have platonic friends…yet not so sure about our spouses. If our partner does develop a close friendship with someone other than us, we can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy…wonder why he/she needs that friend (aren’t we enough?)…obsess over just how “friendly” they are, or will be. Before long, our imagination has eaten away at our brain and sanity like a nosy live-in mother-in-law on steroids.
However, psychologists now say a successful cross-sex friendship is not only possible, but beneficial. Possible out of necessity…the idea that men and women couldn’t be friends, they say, came into play before women entered the workplace and had no reason, aside from romantic, to hang out with men other than their husbands. They say men and women have been forced to successfully manage friendships due to working conditions. Forced to…yes. Successful at…questionable. (So, according to this theory…if we force a sexual tension, the tension will dissolve? I think workplace affairs have “blown that willy” out of the water.)
Experts say a cross-sex friendship is also beneficial to both men and women. Men find they’re able to confide in and open up to a female friend in a way they simply can’t do with another guy. This freedom to confide gives men a “shoulder” and benefits them emotionally. Women, on the other hand, find they can be more laid back with a guy friend…walk on the lighter side a bit. She’s able to temporarily escape the drama that lurks among women like the grim reaper…eager to take our souls over just one wrong word at just the wrong time. Breaking news: Women are sensitive and easily offended. These benefits, though, are undeniably evident. It’s also reported that in order for us to manage this successful cross-sex friendship, certain precautions must be made. We must be up front, open, and honest about our friendship. Address a possible sexual attraction. Agree on how to handle that attraction. Negotiate what the relationship means…define it. And establish boundaries. If we define and manage it, psychologists say, a platonic friendship is very much possible. Men and women can, in fact, be friends.
The defense rests.
How very optimistic of them. Life always goes according to plan, doesn’t it?
And now…the prosecution. The psychologists have determined one thing…yet, proven another through studies, interviews, questionnaires, etc. One study consisted of 150 professional men/women. Sixty-two percent of them reported sexual tension present in their cross-sex friendships. Men claimed that sexual attraction was a prime reason for initiating a friendship in the first place. Hmmm, really? A separate study questioned 1,450 members of Match.com. The answers were oh so contradictory and proved us to be optimistically hypocritical.
~ 83% believed men and women could be platonic friends.
~62% say they’ve been engaged in a platonic friendship that has crossed the line.
~94% say it’s possible to fall in love with someone who starts out as a friend.
~71% hope that once they find a romantic partner, that partner would have been a friend first.
So, the majority asked declared with certainty that men and women could be friends without sex ever entering the equation; however, this same majority admitted to crossing the line, falling in love with a friend, and hoping to marry a friend. Get a calculator! This doesn’t quite add up. Wishful thinking, perhaps?
Cosmo has done its own informal questionnaire. Findings confirm that most men wouldn’t mind if a platonic friendship moved to the next level. It also found women truly believe they can be friends with the opposite sex…believe being the operative word. Eighty percent of the women interviewed underestimate just how often their male friends are attracted to them. I’ll now refer back to the previous result in which men declared a sexual attraction to be the main motivator for initiating a friendship. It seems we attempt to be intellectually driven, but remain a slave to our loins. Our minds may be evolved, but our animal drive to mate refuses to make the transition. Damn sex drive!
Psychologists also say that males and females participate in “voluntary gender segregation.” This refers to our tendency to group up with members of the same sex. “NO GIRLS ALLOWED!” Sound familiar? From the time we’re tots, we gravitate towards same sex groups. We tend to stay in these groups until we reach puberty, lest we catch “cooties.” Our main motivator for leaving and seeking out members of the opposite sex is our looming sex drive. Once we settle on a mate and marry, we once again find ourselves gravitating towards members of the same sex for recreational fun. And achieving and maintaining a “friend” of the opposite sex becomes more difficult…why? Jealousy! We know what that “friend” is thinking, don’t we? Because that’s what we’d be thinking…though we’d never admit it.
So, can men and women be friends? We seem pretty enthusiastic, in theory, that we’re perfectly capable of separating romance and friendship. But, as the studies indicate, that very thin line can blur quicker than the vision of a drunk on a tilt-a-whirl. When it comes to applying the theory and taking one of two routes, the libido seems to be the path of least resistance. Plenty of short-cuts and few stop lights.
When put on the stand and asked the infamous question, “Can men and women be friends?” we say “Yes, absolutely, men and women can be friends. Sex won’t get in the way.” But are we kidding ourselves? Are we denying our own animal instincts? Convincing ourselves we’re better than that. Are we better than that? When it comes to the case of male/female friendships…are we perjuring ourselves?
Can men and women be “just friends?” It seems the jury is still out. I think not. But you decide.