Mental Health

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It’s difficult to tell in this snap, but it’s really quite nice out for March in Massachusetts.  Not exceptionally nice like it was on Wednesday, but nice enough.  A bit of a cool breeze, temperatures in the high fifties at 9:30 in the morning, clouds, and a bit of sun.  It’s the sort of weather that makes me feel like all hope is not lost.  Winter will end, the Earth is not dead, and I don’t have to be a crazy shut-in who only talks to her cats.  A change is blowing in with the wind and I feel good.

But, for as good as I feel when Spring is knocking on the door, there are still things that bother me: Americans, for example, work too much.  I think we’re pretty much insane for working such long hours.  I say this despite being a bit of a workaholic: I’ve been known to only take breaks during the work day because someone placed a sandwich in front of me and said ‘Bex, you need to eat something.’ (Not too often, but it’s happened more than once.)  Regardless, people work too much.

A few years ago I had a temp job that got me up before the sun, and didn’t let me out until after it had set.  It was winter, so this wasn’t all that difficult, but, still, it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever experienced.  Except when I looked around the office at the people who actually worked there: there were employees who where already in the office when I arrived.  As the sun was rising over the Atlantic, they were already on calls with clients and customers.  These same people were still on calls when I left an hour after the sun had set way beyond the Berkshires.  Another temp and I rode the elevator together at the end of one day and we asked each other “How the fuck do they do this?”  This life was for neither she nor I.

Now, I’m not trying to be insulting or make anyone feel badly about their job.  If I have, I apologize.  A person is allowed to love their job, or choose to be at work before the sun’s up and stay until after it’s down. This is not a criticism of individuals, but of the system.  America seems to value working long hours and not taking breaks; and we are conditioned to expect to be punished for taking breaks while trapped indoors during prime tanning hours.  It starts in school when we can see the beautiful weather but are forced to stay inside.  Therefore, as adults we accept being trapped in cubicles, chained to desks, stuck in windowless rooms with bad lighting and poorly regulated air conditioning.  That’s why I was pleasantly surprised yesterday.

I’ve picked up some hours tagging and folding shirts in a warehouse.  It’s a pain, literally, to stand at a table and fold tee shirts all day, but it’s not the least exciting work I’ve ever done (that would be that temp job in the sales office).  Nor is it the most difficult.  It is physically taxing, but so was environmental ed. and summer camp.  It might be a bit more physically taxing because I’m older now and I’ve already put my body through years of environmental ed. and summer camp, but it’s nothing I’m not familiar with.  The other people who work there are pleasant, and there’s a window so we can see if it’s sunny or rainy.  In the afternoons, the older ladies who work there are replaced by a group of teenagers coming off their school day.

Yesterday, two of the boys were talking at the table behind me.  One asked the other why he wasn’t in school or at work the day before, the extremely nice day for March in Massachusetts.  The boy said simply that he had stayed home.  He told school he was “sick”, but in reality it was just that it was nice out and he spent his day outdoors.  The other teens were amazed and surprised.  One girl couldn’t believe his audacity.  I, however, couldn’t help being extremely proud.  This kid, all of sixteen or seventeen, understood that Wednesday was a Beautiful Day, and that Beautiful Days are meant to be enjoyed.  He’d even decided that this Beautiful Day was meant to be enjoyed out of doors.  The other teens went on and on about how crazy he was, but I couldn’t help but be impressed this kid chose his mental health over his attendance record, his grades, and a paycheck.  This kid has his priorities in order.

Take care of your mental health people, it’s more important than we Americans realize.

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Happy National Friendship Day: A Tribute

In the past two months I have written two short stories about a single woman looking for love.  One, specifically; the other, well, she sort of finds love by accident.  (Well, she meets a couple of dudes, we don’t know that she loves either of them.)  Neither of these stories would accomplish the wretchedly simple job of passing the Bechdel Test, a test I find important, but not as important as representing “real” women, whatever that means (see my post about Thor v The Avengers).  But neither story is about female relationships (although one could analyze the female relationships in the first story).  I tend to write about what I’m currently going through and my mind was heavily on my own hetero-romantic relationships while I was writing them.  Because those are in a constant state of flux.  I didn’t write about my female relationships because my female relationships are solid.

Today is National Friendship Day, or some such nonsense, and it’s got me thinking about my most significant friendships.  Weirdly, or not so weirdly, the older I get the more important my female friendships are to me.  I still love my boys and my life would be sad without them, but it’s my girls, if ‘importance’ were a scale, who are the most important.  There are specific women from various points in my life who have greatly impacted me and continue to be my friends despite my wildly narcissistic and transient lifestyle.  And, the beauty of these women is that they are all different.

My oldest friend is someone who has always been supportive of me.  We met in the third grade in violin class and I have valued her opinion and her esteem and her friendship very highly ever since.  We had a small period of separation in college, but managed to reconnect afterwards and are still very close.  A very confident woman, she is also confidence-inspiring.  I never feel more encouraged, more empowered, than after I speak with her.  She took me clothes shopping for a “professional” outfit when I was temping, she sends me information on writing retreats and contests, she buys me dinner a couple times a year, and a birthday present even when I want to ignore my own birthday.  Always so career driven, she has served as an inspiration in my own professional life, making me believe I can forge ahead with the notion that I am a writer and might actually get paid one day to write.  I was happy to be a part of her wedding party when she asked.  She and her husband are one of the coolest couples I’ve ever met and have never, even inadvertently, made me feel badly about being single.  Their daughter is five months old and I know they are going to be excellent parents because they’ve been practicing on me for years now.  Every time I visit with them they feed me, give me career advice, and counsel me on my most recent romantic disaster.  When their kid is a teenager they’d be wise to remember how they’ve advised me over the years.

In high school I met my Best Friend (technically, all these women are my “best friend”, after all, like Mindy Lahiri says “best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier”, but this one is my Best Friend).  My Best Friend is a funny woman.  She’s very analytical, enjoys making lists, and loves setting “life goals” — she was the only teenager I knew with a five-year-plan.  We met in a church youth group when we were sixteen and have been friends from the moment she introduced herself to me.  I don’t really know what drew us together initially, but a desire for a certain sort of connection kept us together.  Best Friend is a friend with whom I can discuss Important Topics.  From the time we were juniors in high school, she has been the friend with whom I discuss books, articles, philosophy, current events, the political impact of music, education, careers, travel, and religious matters.  We rarely talk about boys, men, love, or sex.  It was never a subject either of us brought up in high school and we rarely bring it up now.  Only occasionally have those subjects arisen, and mostly when she’d first met her now-husband and wasn’t sure how she felt about him.  Our friendship not only passes, but defines the Bechdel Test.  Which is odd for a Best Friend relationship, one might think, in stories it’s always the best friend who the protagonist goes to for sex or love advice.  It’s an entire category of movie character, usually played by Judy Greer or Jeremy Piven.  But our friendship has never been of that sort.  In high school it was sort of a relief, because there were plenty of other girls who were happy to talk about those topics ad nauseam and nothing else.

College.  So many significant things happened to me in college.  One, I learned that I am smart.  Highly intelligent, even.  Not like Mensa intelligent, not like best-friend-from-college smart, but of above average intelligence.  I also learned how to drink alcohol, kiss boys, and to travel independently.  Sophomore year I met previously mentioned best-friend-from-college at our tiny college, in our even tinier English department.  Originally an equine major, she moved to the dark side after taking a seminar on Tolkien freshman year.  She and I wound up in almost all the same classes Sophomore year, including a Theater History class where, I feel, we really bonded.  Self-centered moron I am, I didn’t realize how close our friendship was until after the opening performance of Fahrenheit 451 when she ran up to me, gave me a huge hug, and told me how well I’d done.  Starting then our friendship deepened significantly.  We were travel buddies during our semester abroad, she was there the first time I got really drunk, the first time I got really hung up on a dude, the first time I went home with a guy.  And I was there for her when she underwent similar foolishness.  We saw each other be incredibly silly about men, and make unbelievably wise decisions about our education and work.  We are each other’s favorite theater-going friend and she is still one of the first people I will talk to about dating woes.  All the things that brought us together in college — literature, theater, writing — are still our favorite topics.  She is lovely, generous, and supportive.  I see her the least of the four women I’m writing about today and, therefore, I miss her the most.  But I am always incredibly proud of her.

The friend I’ve seen the most lately is technically my boss.  We work for a seasonal outdoor education program where staff live all together on site, and recently I’ve shared a house with my direct supervisor.  We started working together in the spring of 2014, before that we knew each other a little, mostly by sight.  That first spring we worked together, however, our knowledge of one another turned from knowing a little about each other, to knowing everything about one another.  Staff relations that season were a little tense and few came to our house (even though that’s where the food is).  The Boss and I found ourselves, many nights and weekends, the only two hanging out.  A fun, friendly, chatty woman she and I quickly opened up to each other about a whole many things.  I used to lament that I didn’t have any Sex and the City friends, no group of women with which to discuss life, dating, and sex over brunch.  Suddenly, amongst other things, I had this: a woman I regard highly to whom I could unburden myself when feeling emotional, or frustrated about anything (not just men or sex).  She is a friend who would drink whisky with me when I broke up with someone and get excited with me when I met someone new.  The twelve months I was 29 turned out to be a particularly trying twelve months.  I was getting down about all the bummed out things that happened, sure nothing good happened that year.  But then I remembered the new friendship I’d developed with my housemate and colleague.  If there has ever been a bright spot, it has been her.  I am certain I would not have struggled through certain things as well as I did if it weren’t for her friendship.  I am happy she is there when I need her and I am more than happy to be there when she needs me.

The Girl Scout Law commands that one tries her best to “be a sister to every Girl Scout”.  Growing up with three older sisters, Girl Scout sisters, and, once I started school, a number of girl friends, I’ve always felt that line applies to all girls, all women, I chance to meet.  Sometimes those relationships don’t last, but others remain strong even when far apart.  That isn’t to say the latter is “better”, or “more real” than the former.  As Cher Horowitz says “all my friends [are] really good in different ways.”  I love all my friends for those things that make them good.  These four women, in particular, are friends whom I am exceptionally lucky to have because my life would be significantly different without them.

Perspective is a funny thing: Mo’ne Davis shows Good Sportsmanship.

Huff Post Women picked up an article, written by a man, condemning the dude who used Twitter to call Mo’ne Davis a “slut”.  The writer commends Davis for being gracious enough to forgive the dude and speak up on his behalf.  But even though she’s forgiven him, the writer cannot.

I agree with the writer, it’s sad how often a child is the bigger person, forgiving an adult for their wrongs.  My hope is that anyone who thought it might be ok to call a 13 year old girl a “slut [or to make jokes that sexualize little girls (Seth MacFarlane)] will rethink their point of view when said thirteen year old girl comes forward and says, ‘You did wrong, dude, but “everyone makes mistakes”; I’m going to forgive you.’  And then help you get reinstated on your sports team.

“Lolita” photo from Styling Dutchman

This girl did not have to respond to that dude.  She could have responded with hate and condemnation.  But she responded with love and compassion.  She took the high road.  She showed Good Sportsmanship.

The writer of the article agrees, Davis acted appropriately, but is still outraged a) (and rightly so) that she was even in this situation and b) that her reaction (and everyone’s praise of her actions) is some sort of Uncle Tom nonsense.  He cites her forgiveness as another example of a black person “turning the other cheek” for a white person’s foolish mistakes.  Ah, perspective!  I saw it as yet another female “turning the other cheek” for a male’s boneheaded comments.  That is my perspective.  Way too often I’ve heard my young, male coworkers make comments about our female students dress, calling them “skanks” for wearing spaghetti strap tanks and using crude hyperbole to say “her shorts are too short”.

Women of all races, ages, and colors are expected to simply “accept” comments about their appearance, dress, and body whether it makes them uncomfortable or not.  Once, in a bar, I wore my father’s old naval shirt complete with patches and our name stenciled across the front.  A man I did not know, upon hearing the shirt’s history, commented “Wow, he must have been barrel-chested in his youth!”  I turned away, done with him.  He thought my reaction was extreme and tried to assure me it was a joke.  I said, “Yeah, I know; I’m not talking to you.”  There is possibly a version of this story out there where he is the innocent party and I am a stuck-up bitch.  I will not, however, apologize for not talking to what was probably a perfectly normal dude who happened to make a creepy comment.  This bonehead who called Mo’ne Davis a “slut” is probably a normal dude.  Normal Dudes don’t realize what they think are acceptable comments aren’t until someone tells them, and even then they don’t always get it.

Mo’ne Davis; photo via Black Celeb Kids

I think Mo’ne Davis is genuinely classy.  She is an inspiring young person.  But I also agree with the writer of the article, whether it’s institutionalized racism, or institutionalized sexism no one should be automatically expected to forgive and forget.  It is those that do who are truly exceptional.

Some 30 years later, I built a #Lego #SpaceCruiser!

Weeks ago I wrote a rant about Lego inwhich I questioned why the Lego Friends line is so drastically different from the standard Lego toys.  I also shared how I didn’t know Lego came in kits until I was in middle school.  The reason for my ignorance being the Legos in my household were almost entirely hand-me-downs from my brother who had long since mislaid the instructions for the the 1980s era Space Cruiser Warner Bros. recently reminded us of in The Lego Movie.

My brother, clever young man that he is, found the instructions on the Internet and shared them with me challenging me to build the Space Cruiser.

My first challenge was finding our old Lego collection.  As stated in my earlier post, a time came when my mother took the remaining Lego bricks and tossed them all into a plastic bin that previously had been used for transporting cupcakes, mixing and commingling what was left from all the kits that had ever entered her children’s lives.

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Finding it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be.  Since all the grandbaby moved out of their house, my parents have relegated all the toys to one corner of the family room.  The bin was under a table chest in the corner along with the puzzles, blocks, and Lincoln Logs.

Challenge Two: Uncover what’s left of the figures.

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The Spacemen have long since lost their faces.  One of them used to have a mark where a face once was, but now they are entirely missing.  (The Policeman was from a kit I got as a child, therefore has been handled the least and still has his face.)  The Spaceman logos on their chests are all but entirely gone.  Out of five figures there are four hands between them; one head and helmet are long gone; and the figure not pictured, in my memory, has always had only one leg.

Once I determined I had most of the pieces I’d need to build the Space Cruiser,

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it was time to get down to business.

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The Instructions were really sort of difficult to follow some of the time.  It certainly didn’t help they were smallish images on the computer rather than a paper I could handle and get close to without feeling like I’d done something terrible to my eyes.

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Slowly it started to come together.

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Despite the pieces being a minimum thirty years old a surprising number of them in very good condition.  The thrusters, for example, still look great!

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(I used these pieces as lampshades.)

The pieces in poor condition are primarily the pieces you’d expect to be in shambles after cycling through five children and a couple of grandbabies.  The pieces that attach the thrusters to the back of the ship, for example, look like this:

wpid-20150318_215252.jpgHinged pieces, they were meant to attach to the top of the back with these bits hanging down, onto which the thrusters would attach.  Alas, they’ve been broken most of my life.  Therefore, the Space Cruiser must go without it’s thrusters.

Quite frankly, I had to get real creative with multiple parts of the ship.  I borrowed from other parts and substituted many pieces where I could get away with it.  I had to rebuild various parts more than once, and get creative with broken parts.

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In the end, it didn’t turn out so badly.

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Still had plenty of missing pieces; I couldn’t get around not having one entire section of that windscreen.  I’m afraid it wouldn’t be a very effective Space Cruiser, but as it doesn’t have any thrusters, it’s not like it’s going anywhere anyway!

#LegoFriends: For Boys and Girls.

Someone gave my niece a Lego Friends kit for Valentine’s Day.  Lego Friends, for those of you who don’t know, is the “girl” line from Lego.  The Lego people are all girls and the kits are all geared toward “girls’ interests”.  Now, I, personally, have never had any desire to climb up onto a large quadruped or build a hotel, but Lego must know what they’re doing, right?

The kits aren’t really any different from the rest of Lego’s kits.  Buildings, cars, boats, etc.

There’s really nothing offensive about Lego Friends, not in actuality.  The line actually opens up options for people inclined to build Lego kits.  Friends provides builders with swimming pools, horse stables, hair salons, and veterinarian offices.  After all, not everyone wants to build Police stations, Fire stations, speedboats, and construction sites.  Lego Friends works to reach a certain demographic heretofore not included by the toymakers.

A little personal history: I didn’t know Lego made kits until I was about ten years old.  I knew Legos, I played with them often.  We had a Tupperware container (a large one meant for cakes) filled with bricks and five or six Lego people in various states of disarray.  I built all sorts of things throughout my childhood, both with my sisters and alone.  Our Lego people were a little sad; some were missing hands, some of them had their faces rubbed off, one was even missing an entire leg.  All of their hats were broken, the ones we still had.  They were the 1980s Space Adventure Guys, the one The Lego Movie portrayed as an excitable fool.  The space ship building kits were long since incorporated into the general Lego brick collection, their instructions lost to the annuls of familial history.  Sometimes we still built flying machines with the wing pieces, but never once in my memory did I see the pieces assembled as intended in the kit.

Mostly my sisters and I built houses.

Really.  We had  a large, green baseplate that we would line with multicolored one by whatever sized pieces, We’d make doorways and section off rooms to create bedrooms, kitchens, and living rooms.  Red slanty pieces and flat four by eight pieces became beds, sometimes bunk beds.  Often there was a room that was built up with two by four and two by two rectangle and square bricks, the bed would pull up revealing a hole underneath it for storing treasure and secrets.  Once we’d built the houses, we’d play with them.  The Lego Space People being boys or girls as needed, doing whatever whimsy popped into our childish minds.  (We did the same things with our blocks.)

By the time I realized Legos sometimes came in kits with instructions to make specific things, I was already phasing out of Legos (which, unfortunately weren’t replaced by robotics kits or other more sophisticated building toys).  I was in middle school, and it was dawning on me: other kids had Lego sets.  What a concept!  Youngest kid, it never occurred to me to ask for more Legos.  As far as I was concerned we had exactly the right amount as I was always able to make whatever I thought up.

Fast forward twenty years, my nieces and nephews are discovering the world of Legos.  My six year old niece is happy to sit in her play area and build tall Lego cars complete with bathrooms, but she will also, Emmet-style, flip through the instructions and build exact replicas of what Lego intended those 250 pieces to make.  Both are admirable and I commend my small friend for her ability to do both open-ended play and structured play (is that the right term?).

That being said, I think Lego Friends is stupid.

Reason 1: It’s specifically marketed toward girls.  I’ve already mentioned I was never a horse girl.  In fact, I only knew of two girls growing up who had a deep interest in riding horses.  Two out of the dozens of girls I knew from school, church, Girl Scouts, and summer camp.  It’s possible some of the others were interested, but their families were too poor to support such an activity (we were a mixed community, socio-economically speaking).  But only two girls in my memory took horseback riding lessons and/or rode regularly.  Neither was I all that interested in Princesses or shopping or malls or hair salons or horse shows (there’s a lot of horse related Lego Friends stuff).  I wasn’t that kind of Girl, and I’m no original: there must be plenty of girls turned off of Lego because of what Lego is telling them their interests should be.

And what about the boys?  The boys who would love a Lego hair salon set, but feel like they aren’t “supposed to” want the hair salon Lego set because it’s a girls toy and therefore “unmanly”?  Because it’s one thing for a girl to want to build the Lego Millennium Falcon (who doesn’t want to build the Lego Millennium Falcon?), but for a boy to want pink riding stables would be a bit…. queer.

Reason 2 (somewhat related to Reason 1): Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink!  I like pink.  I did not like pink when I was nine years old.  I put up with it… because I was a girl… but I preferred purple: the color of royalty (yeah, I was that girl*).  When I was Lego building age, marketing things in pink would have made me wrinkle my little nose and heave the sigh of a thirty year old spinster who’s seen it all.  My cousin’s daughter, a charming young woman, began her pink-hate at the tender age of three.  My lovely, well-meaning mother gave the child a casual pink summer dress for her birthday that year.  The kid took one look at it, wrinkled her little nose, and dropped it on the ground.  This pink marketing crap is equally lost on her.  A boy one of my sisters used to babysit, however, loved him some pink.  In fact, his most treasured toy was a Barbie hair styling head.  Had the Lego Friends line been a thing when he was little, he might have been attracted to their bright colors and “fun” things to build.

Reason 3, and probably the biggest peeve: No crossover.  Or limited crossover, at least.  I’ll start here: I don’t think Lego Friends is an entirely evil concept.  As already stated, I think the Friends line fills a gap previously unfilled.  The kids who don’t want to build Lego emergency vehicles, and space ships need something to build too.  And if a child is interested in Horse Shows and building Legos, then why shouldn’t he or she have a Lego Horse Show kit?  And if a kid needs their doll to come with a name and a vague backstory, why not have them come with names and have families and all that?  (Instead of, say, encouraging the child to make up their own — ok, maybe I’m not as cool with that aspect…)  Some kids need a larger story in order to have effective play (some big kids need that too ;).

But why do the Friends characters stand head and shoulders over the regular Lego people?

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These two are the epitome of a middle school dance!  One of his friends asked her to dance with him, she says sure, then proceeds to awkwardly pretend she’s about to make small talk while she stares over his head, and he pretends he’s about to make small talk while awkwardly stares as her developing breasts.

Why aren’t these characters the same size and shape?  There isn’t a chance the Friends character will fit in the Regular character’s spaceship, or airplane, or Batmobile.  She’ll have to sit awkwardly half out and the kid will probably spend most of the play session putting her back into the vehicle while she tries to swoop in and blast the oppressive Storm Trooper out of the sky and off the Rebel’s tail!  Making the Friends characters entirely different from the standard Lego person further removes the Friends line from the rest of Lego.  And, really, aren’t the two already segregated enough?

Why is the Lego Friends line only marketed to girls?  And why is acceptable for girls to have the other Lego kits, but “wrong” for a boy to have one of the Friends kits?  Why even make a distinction like that?  A Lego ad from the mid 80s has been getting a lot of attention lately, you know the one: adorable redhaired kid with her Legos and the tagline: What it is is beautiful.

Is that girl ever upset with the current marketing trends Lego has fallen into?  She’s so annoyed, grown person and practicing doctor, Rachel Giordano participated in this comparison advertisement:

Giordano’s ad was, in fact, one of many Lego produced in the 80s.  The others were equally neutral and non-gendered.  They even provided encouragement to build whatever the fuck you want to build.  Mazel Tov, children!  Build away!

What happened Lego?

Eventually, in the lives of the individual toys, none of this will matter.  Eventual the parental person will become sick of all the kits winding up loose and underfoot (little bastard pieces hide out in the carpet fibers just waiting for the unsuspecting barefoot adult to come ambling along, plotting little plastic fuckers…) and will toss all the Lego pieces into one bin (“There!  Doesn’t that make everything easier?”)  the Friends line pieces and the Regular Lego pieces become homogenized in the large Tupperware cake bin.  The youngest kid, unaware of “sets” and “kits”, will build houses and cars and spaceships that fit the people characters no matter their size and they’ll put the Friends hair on the Regular Lego person and the Regular Lego Person hat on the Friends character, never thinking there’s anything wrong about it until they’re thirty and they ask themselves: Yeah?  Why is the Friends Character a Lego-Foot taller than the other Lego People?  What the fuck, Lego?

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**My six year old niece put the Friend hair on the Regular Lego Person, showed it to me and snickered. Snickered. She thought it was so funny!  True Story.  I put the hat on the Friend character.

*If you do not know what sort of girl I mean, it’s this: I was the girl who didn’t want to be a Princess, I wanted to be a Queen.  It was my understanding of the hierarchy that princesses would maybe one day be queens, if they married the right prince, but most likely they’d remain just a princess with few duties but to look pretty and sing or weave tapestries or some shit.  But Queens, them bitches could make decisions and effect change.  Queens had power.  Why be a useless princess, I thought, when I could be a Queen.

Ages Unknown

I wrote this a few days ago, irate that Boko Haram is using abducted girls as suicide bombers, but it’s not quite right.  I don’t know exactly what it needs.  So I’m asking you, friends, for any feedback regarding style or form.

Ages Unknown

Today, my niece,
Age 6:
Gets up;
Eats breakfast;
Brushes her teeth;
Asks her mother
deep questions about
how the world works;
And gets on the
school bus.

Meanwhile I sip my coffee and read the news,
horrified by what I learn.

Today, my niece,
sporting her Ramona Quimby bob,
plays with her friends:
they build imaginary nests
under the playscape
pretending they
are dragons
roaming the countryside.

Meanwhile I wonder what makes a person believe
actions such as these could ever be acceptable.

Today, my niece,
curious like the cat,
learns beavers
eat wood and bark;
“tabs” are better for trees
when supporting tree houses;
and before the invention of lip balm
people used ear wax.

Meanwhile I am sad for the mothers and aunts
who might never know if she was one of them.

Today, my niece,
bright eyed, and full of life,
“borrows” my headphones and ipod
to listen to 2CELLOS.
She looks at books
while bobbing her head
to covers of Michael Jackson,
U2, and Nirvana.

Meanwhile I marvel at how
World Leaders,
quick to help those
who don’t need it,
are able to leave the powerless
unaided, in the dark,
subject to such a fate.

Today my niece
eats hot dogs
and macaroni and cheese
for dinner;
she runs around the living room,
jumping on the couch
even though she’s
not supposed to;
she reads her school books,
slowly sounding out
the words
she doesn’t know.

Meanwhile, I read:
Girls,
ages unknown,
kidnapped from their schools
months ago,
are loaded into a car
strapped with explosives.
Their charred remains
indistinguishable
from each other
now decorate
a village square.

Today I ask my niece,
age 6:
“If they said you could
skip first grade,
would you?”
She tells me she wouldn’t,
because
she “wants to learn more”.
Just like those girls,
ages unknown.

I Am Malala

I Am Malala

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Finished 7.2.14

At fifteen years old, Malala Yousafzai was known for speaking up for the rights of girls to get an education in a hostile region that was torn by war, unkept political promises, and contradicting religious lessons. She became known internationally when the Taliban put a bullet in her head. But what the Taliban really did that day was widen Malala’s audience. Because Malala does not want to be remembered as “the “girl who was shot by the Taliban”, but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which [she] want[s] to devote [her] life.”

Here’s all I really have to say about this book: it was written by a teenage girl, keep that in mind, when you read it. It’s written by a teenage girl who has lived through dictators, unimpressive policy makers, poor leadership, severe earthquakes, massive flooding, extreme sexism, very real violence and fear, intimidation, political upheaval, terrorist attacks, and the seventh grade. Her information, events she lived through, were very much news to me and I was constantly amazed that these things happened also in my lifetime and I’ve heard nary a word about many of them.

Her cause is very real. Both in her country and in many others around the globe. Even in first world countries, like the United States, children fall through the educational cracks. The students who come through the Outdoor School Program where I work are mainly middle schoolers, we are amazed week after week how many students can barely spell, and the ones who don’t have a solid grasp on reading. Our program does not require our students to do much reading or writing at all and most of our students flourish in experiential education, but we know they will be greatly hurt because their reading skills are poor-to-non-existent.

I echo Malala’s call that education be a right granted to all children, not just those who can afford it, and not just to boys. Helene Gayle, CEO of CARE, a US based organization dedicated to fighting poverty and empowering women world wide, is cited saying “If you educate a girl, as the saying goes, you educate a nation.” Because, as global action campaign, Girl Rising’s slogan reminds us “One girl with courage is a revolution.” If we educate our girls, our quality of life will go up; if our quality of life goes up, we will have less poverty, more peace, and a better world.

It is up to all of us to make this happen.
Help us educate our children. 

I am not your Manic Pixie Bookworm | Kaite Welsh | Huffington Post.

I am not your Manic Pixie Bookworm | Kaite Welsh | Huffington Post.

I wrote this earlier today on Literary Bex (the Tumblr), and decided it is also appropriate here as Literary Bex (the WordPress) is meant to be about writing, and to be a place to write things I feel strongly about that aren’t strictly books.

Being a reader is super weird when it comes to dating, she is not wrong. I have had men either really want to delve into my reading life and become a part of it, or they are overwhelmingly terrified of me because I have a larger vocabulary than they. Either way, both find it sexy that I am “a reader” but, like Welsh says, either way they are objectifying my intellect rather than just appreciating my intelligence. Welsh writes, “I don’t need a prize to congratulate me for doing something I learned when I was four.” That prize certainly isn’t going to be a man who desires only for a girl who can carry a conversation, not a woman with whom to share his life.

The fact that we read isn’t cute; it isn’t sweet; and it certainly isn’t adorable. There are girls across the WORLD who are never given the opportunity to even learn how to read. Their only function in life is to clean, cook, and bear their husband’s babies (preferably boys). They are not even considered people. The irony being, those who get the hots for a girl solely because she reads are also not seeing those women as people. Objectifying “reading” takes away it’s power. Being able to read is the difference between autonomy and disenfranchisement (i.e., American slavery). A woman with the ability to read is potential powerful. If she can read, she has the opportunity to know what is going on in the world; she has the opportunity to better understand her world. A girl who can read has the potential to affect change in her community. She can read policy. She can read laws. She can discuss with others what she has learned from her reading. She can understand injustices. Because she can read, she has the opportunity to do something about it.

Reading might be sexy; because reading means a person is curious and therefore thinks. But reading is so much more than that. Reading is power. Reading is powerful. Reading is empowering. Because I was taught my letters and subsequently encouraged to read, I know that I am more than a symbol. I know that I am more than a stereotype. I know that I am important because I am a Person. I will continue to read, a skill I was taught at age four, so my mind stays sharp, so I can continue to learn about my world, so I can best understand what I can do to change the injustices I see.

I do not read to get your attention. I do not read to get fucked. If I did I would just get fucked over. Because I read, I know what I want from my partner, I know what I want from my life.  And I do not want someone who will fuck me over.

I read for me. I write for me. I do not do these things for you.