Category Archives: Completely Unsolicited Advice

It’s Galentine’s Day and I’m a Feminist So Let’s Talk About Feminism

Today is Galentine’s Day.

You’ve never heard of it?

I’ll let Leslie Knope, my favorite character from one of my favorite shows, Parks and Recreation explain.

After all, she created it.

It’s about “ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair minus the angst, plus frittatas.”

So let’s start by celebrating Leslie, who is my hero even though she is a fictional character.

I love her because she’s smart, funny, ambitious, opinionated, tenacious and yes, just a little bit annoying in her idealism. But perhaps most importantly, I love her because she doesn’t apologize for being any of those things.

She’s a great role model for women and girls, and hell, everyone.

She’s also a proud feminist and so am I.

The fact that I identify as a “feminist” shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve said it probably hundreds of times before and one of my blog’s categories is literally “All the Cool Kids are Feminists”. It has been a category for years.

So this isn’t a new thing for me, what is new is this feeling I’ve had lately (that I am by no means proud of) that I shouldn’t say I’m a feminist.

That I shouldn’t say it because it might offend someone, because they might not understand.

People are not liking the word “feminist” lately.

When I hear the “F word” I think of someone who advocates for the equality of all people. (With that in mind, here’s a link to a old, but good article that explains  intersectional feminism far better than I ever could.)

When other people hear the word “feminist” they seem to hear “man-haters” or “whiners” or “Trump haters” or for some reason I really don’t understand “ugly, women who don’t shave their armpits.”

I’ll talk a little about these definitions.

But first I want to be clear about where I’m coming from when I say I’m a feminist.

I think a big part of why, as a society, we seem to have a hard time relating to each other lately is that we’re not even working with the same definitions of words.

We assume we know what someone means whey they say they’re a feminist or a Republican or a Christian or a supporter of Black Lives Matter.

We see a label and ascribe a definition to it – based on what we think it means, not based on what the person we’re talking to thinks it means. We make assumptions. (And we all know what they say about assumptions.)

Basically, we’ve become big fans of oversimplification lately. (Or maybe we have always been big fans of it but I just didn’t notice until now.)

But oversimplification doesn’t work because if there is one thing people are not — it’s simple.

People are confusing. They’re complicated. They are sometimes contradictory and frequently frustrating.

And though, on the surface that may seem like a negative thing, if you look a little deeper you can see it’s actually a good thing. Because people are complicated – that means their views are complicated too. That means things aren’t always black and white. That means there is usually more agreement and overlap in ideas than we give ourselves credit for.

Lately, it seems like if you say you’re a supporter of one thing, people automatically assume you’re against something else.

For example, if I say I’m a feminist (aka pro-women in this example) that must mean I’m against men. If I say I’m a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, that must mean I hate cops. If I say I’m not a fan of Trump that must mean I’m a whiny Hillary supporter who is just complaining because my candidate lost.

Sorry, it’s just not that simple. Life’s not that simple. People are not that simple.

Because, the thing is, I can be a feminist and love men and women. I can support Black Lives Matter while still believing that our law enforcement professionals are an incredibly important part of our society and we should value their work more. I can be a critic of Trump and Hillary.

People are complicated so we have to try harder to understand where they’re coming from and we have to try harder to communicate where we’re coming from too.

So here’s what I’m trying to say when I say I’m a feminist:

I’m saying that I believe traditional gender roles are limiting for everyone and there’s still more work to be done in terms of achieving full equality. 

Emma Watson (aka Hermione) explained the problem with traditional gender roles much more eloquently than I ever could in her speech to the United Nations in 2014. (It’s an old video and a long video, but it has an important message which I also wrote about at the time.)

She starts the speech by talking about what I’m going to talk about now – that “feminism” is not “man-hating.”

I don’t understand this misconception. If anything, I think feminism does a better job of honoring men than sexism does.

I’ll explain.

In a sexist world – things are pretty simple, by design. Men and women fit into very rigid gender roles that tell us what it is acceptable for each gender to do and be. (Also, it goes without saying, this is a very hetero-normative worldview.)

We all know these rules. We’re taught them from an early age. Men are to be smart, strong, ambitious, career-minded, brave and aggressive. Women are to be gentle, friendly, sweet, selfless, moral and focused on caring for others.

These roles or rules give both genders a raw deal. Because we’re all capable of being all of these things and we should all be free to be these things without judgement.

As a feminist, I believe that men and women are equally capable of making good decisions and treating others with kindness. That is the opposite of man-hating.

If anything, sexism hates men, or if not hates them, definitely thinks they’re dumb or less capable of basic decency than women.

Sexism operates under the idea that men’s bad behavior is something that can be explained away wholly by their gender. That’s why sayings like “Boys will be boys” are so popular. That’s why when men talk about sexual assaulting women we hear people talk about it as “locker room talk” that every man does.

Sexism teaches us that this behavior is a normal and it should be expected and tolerated because that’s just the way men are. It teaches us that men aren’t capable of being decent human beings and it’s up to women to preserve the moral integrity of society. That’s why women have to have stricter dress codes because you know how men are, always thinking with their penises.

Ummm no. Men are smarter than that. They’re better than that.

Not all men view women as solely sexual objects. Not all men sexually harass women. Not all men talk about harassing women in locker rooms. Some men just change in locker rooms and talk about normal stuff like people do, because some men are nice.

The average man is good and decent and that’s the way feminism views him.

I don’t think I’m more capable of making good choices than my male counterparts simply because I’m a woman – I think we’re equal.

That’s sort of the point.

Okay, now we’ve reached another point where I’ve seen a lot of disagreement lately particularly among women.

Please let me explain where I’m coming from.

When I say I’m a feminist, I’m not saying that I don’t think men and women are equally capable. As I’ve explained, I do.

I am not saying men and women don’t have equal opportunities. In many ways, we do. We’ve come a long way.

Yes, we have the right to vote. Yes we have the right to pursue the careers of our choosing. Yes, we even have the right to be president.

But you don’t have to stop believing in something just because you’ve achieved some of your goals.

Life is more complicated than that. Equality is more complicated than that.

And we’re not equal yet.

Despite the fact that women make up more than half of the U.S. population, women are not equally represented in politics, business or entertainment.

These three groups shape our country’s laws and provide us with the products and media that are a large part of our daily lives.

And, just math-wise, it’s clear there’s not equality here.

  • It’s 2017, our country is roughly 240 years old and we’ve never had a female president. (This isn’t a pro-Hillary thing. I’m just saying it’d be nice of we had a lady in the White House at some point.)
  • There are only 20 women in the Senate out of 100 senators.
  • Since 1917, when representative Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to serve in Congress, 325 women have served as U.S. representatives, delegates or senators. (That may seem like a lot until you remember that Congress has 535 members and it’s been 100 years since 1917). 
  • Roughly 20 Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO. Yeah, just 20.
  • Women made up 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic movies in 2016.

There’s still work to be done. 

And that touches on another complaint I’ve seen about feminism – that women who call themselves feminists want to be handed things. That they’re lazy. That they’re whiners.

Maybe that’s what some of them are saying, but I don’t think that’s what most of them are saying and that’s certainly not the brand of feminism I support.

And, it’s not the kind Leslie Knope would support either. I don’t know Leslie, because yeah, she’s not real, but I’d imagine she’d be behind the “let’s get to work” brand of feminism.

So what does that mean?

To me, it means supporting other women (particularly politicians, if I agree with their policies). It means supporting the work of female directors and other women who make good entertainment about smart, strong, female characters. It means working with young girls to let them now that they are capable of being anything they want to be.

And it means, not tearing other women down.

Which is one of the saddest things I’ve seen come out of the recent debate about feminism.

I’ve seen women who don’t identify with the feminist ideology saying that feminists have attacked them, saying feminists have called them a disgrace to women or something similar.

That’s not what feminism is about and if people calling themselves feminists did that to you or made you feel that way, I’m sincerely sorry. But please know these people don’t represent feminism as a whole and they don’t represent me.

 

But then I’ve seen people on the other side, people who don’t identify themselves as feminists, imply that feminists are lazy, or whiners or ugly girls who are just sad they can’t get a date.

This is equally sad and it needs to stop.

The name-calling needs to stop.

Because if Mean Girls taught us anything, it’s that this type of behavior is the freaking worst.

It’s “girl on girl crime” and it doesn’t help any of us. Here’s a video of Tina Fey, I mean, Ms. Norbury, talking about it. And yeah, the video’s long but it has a good point.

We’re all better off when we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down and Galentine’s Day is a perfect time to celebrate that.

P.S. You can also celebrate but giving to some neat organizations for woman and girls.

P.P.S. I know it’s annoying that I keep plugging charities, but I don’t care because sometimes a little annoying is good for us. Leslie taught me that.

 

 

 

 

I Don’t See the Good in Trump, But I Want To

Sometimes your friend gets a boyfriend you don’t like and it bugs you.

And it keeps bugging you, because you’re convinced your friend deserves more – deserves better. You can’t reconcile this choice they made with how great you know they are.

You can’t, as much as you try, see what she sees – you just can’t find the good in him.

In the simplest terms, in the most basic example, that’s how I feel about Trump.

I think we deserve better.

But I know there has to be some good in him, otherwise so many good people wouldn’t have voted for him, so many people I love wouldn’t have voted for him. So, since I respect them and their ability to make an informed choice, I have to believe they found some good.

I just wish the good wasn’t so hard to find. Because, I think, all of us should be able to agree that the good is a bit harder to find than we may like.

If there is good, which I sincerely hope there is, it’s hard to hear over the bravado, narcissism and Trump’s strong and seemingly unrelenting desire to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

It’s not presidential, and that’s why so many people are upset.

It’s not just because we’re sore losers. (For the record, my candidate was Bernie and he was out a good long time ago.) But the thing is Democrats have lost before and admittedly, I was younger at the time, but I don’t remember it being like this.

Because as far back as I can remember, there hasn’t really been a candidate like this – one who says anything and everything he wants, seemingly without consequences (sometimes blatantly disgusting and terrible things. Here’s one.)

This kind of thing is new.

Some people (though they disagree with the contents of Trump’s speech) may still find the candor with which he speaks to be a good thing. They may find it refreshing or seemingly more transparent than the more polished and more artificial-sounding communication techniques of other politicians.

I get that.

Trust me, it was once my job to go through government forms, line by line, word by word, punctuation mark by  punctuation mark to make them more understandable to the average citizen. It was as mind-numbingly boring as you’d expect.

For that reason, I hate bureaucratic, nonsensical speech as much as the next person. Probably more.

But I don’t think you have to sacrifice  being respectful to be more truthful. You can be honest as well as kind. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

You can communicate your thoughts in a way that is clear without resorting to name-calling, ALL CAPS TWITTER ranting, or bullying.

You can make yourself heard and understood differently.

And that’s all that I’m asking him to do.

That is not a Democrats versus Republican thing, a liberals versus conservative thing, a generational thing, an elites versus working class thing, or even a dreaded political correctness thing.

It’s just manners. It’s just being decent.

And if we’re going to move forward in a more united fashion (which I sincerely hope we do) we could all stand to be more decent to each other.

Because that’s the least we all deserve.

And it’s not asking for much.

P.S. I realize that all my recent, Trump-related posts seem cloying earnest and self-important. Sorry about that. I’m not saying I’m an expert in communicating respectfully – because, ironically, that’d be a rather jerky thing to say. (Also, I don’t believe that to be true.)

I’m just saying that I think all of us, including our incoming president, need to find a way to talk about politics more productively.

Because, for all the good and the bad, hopefully good, Trump is about to be our president, and we’re going to have to find a way to talk about it.

Let’s Agree to Disagree Better aka Let’s Leslie and Ron This

I don’t know if this has been going on for years and I was just too caught up in my own shit to notice or if this is really, truly new.

But, as a society, as a country, have was always been this bad at talking to each other? Have we always been so incapable of respectfully disagreeing? Have we always argued so fervently to be right rather than to be understood and to understand?

Because if it’s always been this bad, I hadn’t noticed and I’m glad for that, because now that I have, let me frankly say, it’s really annoying me.

And before you think I’m talking about only about politics here – let me be clear – this is not a blog where I’ll be picking sides and assigning blame. I’m talking about basic human decency here, just regular old everyday manners, just garden-variety being nice stuff.

Not to get all Hufflepuff with it (though,yeah, I’m totally a Hufflepuff) but can’t we all just be nice? Or, well, nicer, at least…

To be clear, I’m not asking for some sort of “everybody hold hands and let’s sing Kumbaya” sort of thing. (For the record, I would never do that because I hate that song and also holding hands.)

I’m just saying, we, (myself included) are probably going to need to practice disagreeing, because if the campaign season taught us anything, it’s that, these are divisive times and well, the issues we disagreed on then are probably not going to go away any time soon.

So maybe we should talk about how we talk about them. (That was sort of meta, but please just go with me here.)

If we don’t want to totally drive each other crazy during the next few years, we’re going to have to learn to respectfully disagree.

We’re going to have to try harder not to jump to conclusions about why people think what they think and do what they do. And instead, we need to simply ask them. Then we need to listen, really listen. Not so we can better counter their argument, but so we can better understand their argument.

It’s going to be hard. But I think it could be worth it, because we could actually end up learning something about each other and maybe ourselves in the process.

I understand I’m sounding very pretentious and self-important here and I’m sorry. I’m not saying I’m good at this stuff myself. I’m not.

I’m stubborn and dramatic and one of the most most irrational and (sometimes surprisingly scary) people you could ever get in a real argument with. But I’m just saying I’m going to work on it. Or at least try to work on it.

And yeah, I’m probably not going to be great at it but I’m gonna give it a shot.

Basically, I’m going to try to learn to disagree with people the way Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson do.

(Don’t be fooled by the photo of Leslie and Ron below. He’s just pretending not to like that hug.)

leslieandron-blog

If these two people (who are on the complete opposite ends of the political spectrum) can not only respect each other but also sort of be best buds, we can all probably manage it too.

P.S. Yes, I know Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson are fictional characters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all aspire to be as cool as them. Because, damn, they’re cool.

P.P.S. Here’s a video of Ron Swanson, drunk on Snake Juice, dancing. On a loop. Because I think we can all agree this is amazing.

 

Democrat or Republican, We Can All Agree on Love Actually; Plus Some Stuff about Trump

Disclaimer

Let me get a few things out in the open, right upfront, so I can be as clear as possible.

If you voted for Donald Trump I do not think you are racist, sexist, intolerant, or ignorant. 

Regardless of who you voted for, I still respect you and like you as a human being (you know, provided I knew, liked, and respected you before November 8). Basically, wherever we were before that day, that’s where we are now. 

You have a right to vote for whomever you choose for whatever reason you choose. I do not begrudge you that choice. You know why you cast your vote, I don’t.

I hope you don’t presume to understand why I made my choice and I won’t presume to understand why you made yours. That seems like a pretty square deal for both of us. 

So, just to reiterate, my problem is not with you, the voter. I’m not trying to offend you, hurt you, disrespect you, or insult your intelligence. And if I unintentionally do, I am sincerely sorry.

I just don’t like Trump, okay?

I just don’t, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

I sincerely hope you understand that my opinion of the man is separate from my opinion of you.

Because I think we need to find a way to start talking about politics again.  We should be able to talk about it, even if, hell, maybe most especially, when we disagree.

So that’s what I’m going to do now, after this, the longest disclaimer in human history.

End of disclaimer

I resent being told to “play nice” by someone whose entire presidential campaign was built on him being anything but.

I agree with the sentiment, of course, it’s a hell of a sentiment, I just don’t think that Trump is its most credible messenger.

Because I think most of us can agree that Trump’s campaign was not based on him being nice.

Political campaigns are rarely a friendly, well-mannered exercise, and in the 2016 election season, no one comes out clean. Everybody was slinging mud. Everybody’s dirty.

It’s just, Trump’s whole campaign persona seemed to center on him being proud of that.

That was sort of the point.

Trump’s campaign painted him as a maverick; a renegade; a tough, good, ole boy who tells it like it is; as a guy who says what we’re all really thinking but are just too afraid to say.

That was the brand. That was the push. And regardless of how much truth there is behind that image, there’s no denying that that’s the image Trump projected, promoted, and rallied people behind.

But now we’re supposed to forget that? We’re supposed to pretend the president-elect is a candidate for all Americans? Huh?

I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense.

This isn’t the Apprentice. Trump doesn’t get to do a mid-season rewrite and recast himself before the governmental version of sweeps-week.

That’s just not how this works.

Trump’s built his brand and frankly, I’d almost have more respect for him if he at least had the courage to own it.

I mean, I hate his brand. I hate the war on political correctness (which I’ve said before is basically just a war on being polite and decent to people). I hate his “I can say whatever I want, however I want, whenever I want without consequences” mentality. I think it’s childish, dangerous, and cruel.

But that’s part of what his campaign was based on. That’s the caricature he credited for himself.

Now, after November 8, we’re all supposed to pretend that didn’t happen.

I’m not doing that.

Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe we should all strive to talk about everything (including politics) in a respectful way (which admittedly, I’m somewhat struggling to do here – sorry), but Trump doesn’t get to tell me to do that.

Because he doesn’t do it himself.

Trump is a lot of things, but let’s get real here – one of those things is a bully. The man’s a bully.

And I get why some people may find that appealing. I can sort of see how some people may find his candidness to be a refreshing change of pace from a political system that seems so alienating, manufactured, and dishonest to so many people.

I get it guys, I swear I do.

I can even understand why some people may have liked a man who promised to shake things up, who promised things that weren’t politics as usual.

It’s just, please understand, that’s the same reason people are so afraid of him.

I think most people who were against Trump are not upset because Hillary lost.

They’re not upset just because they’re just a bunch of whiny millennials. (Which really, can we please stop painting my entire generation as a bunch of trophy-seeking babies? We do not have the market on stupid covered. Stupid has been around for a good long while.)

I think most people are upset because they honestly don’t know what this new president will do.

And that’s a new feeling. It’s not politics as usual.

But wasn’t that sort of the point?

When your brand is shaking things up and bringing change, you can’t be surprised that people are going to have a reaction to that. A strong reaction to that.

People are going to say something.

People are allowed to say something.

Yes, they should try to do it respectfully, but people get to say something.

Playing nice does not mean keeping quiet. It does not mean being obedient and falling in line. Nor should it.

Yes, we as citizens, should strive for unity, but what’s great about America is, we’re allowed our dissent too.

We’re allowed to have differences of opinion, religion, beliefs, and politics, and we’re allowed to talk about it.

That’s not disloyalty. That’s not anti-American. That’s not whining.  That’s not unfair.

That’s just exercising our first amendment rights which is about as American as you can get.

(Though, obviously, because it needs to be mentioned, violence, vandalism, and burning the American flag aren’t okay. I would never think they were. That should be obvious. Just as it’s obvious to me that I shouldn’t paint all Trump supporters with the same brush as the worst of the Trump supporters, I’d ask you to please do the same for the left.)

But in general, when it comes to political discourse, Trump built part of his campaign on telling it like it is. He should be able to understand it and appreciate it when his citizens do the same.

Or to put it in school-yard terms, “You shouldn’t dish it out if you can’t take it.”

But that’s the thing with bullies, they so rarely know how to deal with that part of the conversation.

Which is why it’s so important for us to have that part of the conversation – because the bully needs to hear it.

Because maybe now more than ever in my lifetime, certain groups of people are going to have to try harder to be heard.

Though they should try to be respectful, they’re also going to have to be louder, more confrontational, and a whole hell of a lot stronger than before.

Because if there’s one thing I learned from Love Actually (okay, there’s a lot of things I learned from Love Actually, but this one may be the best one) it’s that bullies only respond to strength.

Hugh Grant’s prime minister taught us that.

He also gave us that really kick-ass speech about how great Britain is, which is completely unrelated to this discussion, but I think is worth the watch anyway.

But, the point is, to slightly paraphrase Hugh Grant’s prime minister: “Since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward, (we) will be prepared to be much stronger and the president(elect) should be prepared for that.”

Because being able to disagree with the government, and voice that disagreement, is an incredibly important part of being an American.

It’s the very thing that makes this country great.

That’s something we all should be able to agree on.

That, and that Love Actually is the funny yet surprisingly moving holiday classic we should all be watching right now.

Plus it has this scene of Hugh Grant dancing which is something we can all get behind.

Unity ya’ll.

Prove We’re Better Than the Worst of His Words

It’s no secret – I’m no fan of Donald Trump, our very-recently-announced president-elect.

I don’t agree with his policies and I think he is temperamentally-unsuited to be president of the United States.

But, I have been quite literally out-voted so it’s time to move on. Donald Trump is going to be our next president whether I like it or not.

It’s an understatement to say I’m disappointed. I’m more than that – I’m sad and frightened for our country. Trump has endorsed and celebrated so many things I disagree with, so many things that fly in the face of everything I believe makes this country great.

He has deliberately and repeatedly promoted divisiveness and an “us versus them” mentality that has made large swathes of the population, his future populace, feel unrepresented, and worst of all, unwelcome.

That’s not okay.

Now, let me be very clear here – I do not think that everyone who voted for Trump is racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. For me to label an entire group of people based on one choice is unfair and, frankly, the same thing I’m angry at Trump for doing, so I won’t do it here.

Besides, I’m sure several people I know and even love voted for Trump and I’m sure they had their reasons. They have their right to vote for whomever they choose for whatever reason they choose. That’s the beauty of being American.

It’s hard to see that beauty now though in what has been, let’s face it, a pretty gross last couple of months. We’ve been divided and angry and overwhelmed by negativity.

And now that the election is over, we can choose to act differently – regardless of who we voted for tonight.

We can choose to spread kindness and inclusiveness. We can choose to be better.

We can start now by reaching out to the same groups that were marginalized and insulted in this ugly campaign season.

We can let them know they’re not alone, that we support them, that, hell, there’s not even a “them”, there’s just an “us.” That we’re in this thing together.

Because the thing is, I don’t think we all agree with the nastier things Trump said. Heck, I don’t think even all of the people who voted for Trump agreed with all the things he said.

And now is our chance to prove it.

And we don’t need to do the stereotypical millennial thing where we blog about it (I recognize and appreciate the irony), tweet about it or just generally whine about it on social media.

We need to put our time and our money where our angry, post-election tweets are. We need to actually do something.

So today, take a moment to give  back to your fellow citizens who were most negatively affected by this election cycle.

Below is a list of state-wide and national organizations that support and/or empower refugees, Latinos, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, girls, sexual assault survivors, and interfaith organizations that prove that,  yes, people from all religious backgrounds really can get along.

No matter who our president is, we can choose to make our country a better place each and every day.

It starts now and it starts with us.

Yes, I’m aware that was corny as hell but if we can’t use corny as hell at a moment like this, when can we, eh?

Local and National Service Organizations to Check Out and Support

P.S. Just because I need a bit of encouragement and comic relief right now, here’s a little visual encouragement from Leslie Knope my favorite fictional politician (who I not-so-secretly) wish was real.

leslie-knpe

We got this guys, we’re what Leslie would describe as a bunch of “beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful muskox”- es? or oxen? basically whatever the hell the plural of muskox is, probably, just muskox. That’s what we are.

I’m About to Be 30 or Still 11, Depending on How You Look at It

I wasn’t good at being a kid.

To clarify, I’m not saying I wasn’t a “good” kid.

On the contrary, I was a freakishly good kid most of the time, weirdly good, unnaturally good, does-the-whole-family’s-laundry-without-being-asked-to-good.

(No one believes me when I say that kind of stuff. But if you were to ask my mom, she’d back me up. My brother would too though he’d probably tell me to stop bragging about doing the laundry, because it’s really not that big of a deal and I’ve been talking about it for close to 20 years.)

But, anyway, aside from some (to be expected and perfectly normal) occasional bouts of jerkiness in my early teens, I was an exceptionally well-behaved child.

Despite what my brother might claim, I’m not saying this to brag. For one, that’d be a really stupid thing to brag about and secondly, I’m not entirely sure it was a good thing.

If I could do it all over again, I’d tell Kid Me to loosen up, tone down the Type – A behavior a bit.

This isn’t because I want to make things harder for my parents, though it inevitably would. It’s just I don’t think I took full advantage of childhood the first time around, which is no one’s fault but my own.

I was weird and I had seriously screwed up priorities. When most kids were out, I don’t know, doing whatever normal kids do – playing or something, probably, I was busy scheduling my summer vacation days like some kind of deranged mini event planner on steroids.

Thanks to my general perfectionism (which has largely worn off with age as I’ve gotten progressively lazier) and my tendency to read discarded women’s magazines as though they were some sort of instructional manual on how to live a happy life — I was obsessed with productivity as a child.

I would schedule my summer vacation days like this — 8:30 a.m., wake up; 9:15 a.m., healthy breakfast (such as fruit); etc.

See, told you I was weird.

I wish I hadn’t been like that then but it’s too late for Kid Me now. I’m almost 30, like it’s days away, 30.

I never thought I’d be 30. I’m not saying that in some morbid way. I had no logical reason to believe I wouldn’t make it to my thirties. I just never saw myself becoming that age, because it seemed to me then that 30 was a proper, adult, age. A proper, adult age where I’d have, to not put to fine a point on it, my shit together.

And now that I’m almost here. I can say that I most assuredly do not, as they say, have my shit together.

Because at the end of the day, I basically feel like exactly the same person I was at 11.

I’m maybe one inch taller, a whole lot heavier, I can drive and I now talk about things like mortgage rates and retirement plans (with very little understanding of either) but other than that, I still feel, well, 11.

And I’m not entirely sure that is normal.

I realize I am now doing that thing everyone hates about millennials – our perpetual adolescence thing, where we whine about the realities of adulthood while we try to cling desperately and unsuccessfully to our youth when things were easy and our parents made all our hard decisions for us.

I realize this gets annoying which is why I’m now going to allow Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation (a.k.a. Chris Pratt) to talk for me so it’s less annoying and coming out of a better-looking face.

Watch this please.

This is how I feel.

I feel like Andy if you replace all of his references to his fancy London job with the words “life in general” and remove the part about him not knowing what is and isn’t a toilet. I know what is and isn’t a toilet. I’ve got that much figured out.

Also, I’m not a man and I’m not that much like Chuck Norris.

Other than that, though, Andy feels exactly like I feel – like I have no idea what the hell I am doing.

This is the part of my blog posts where I usually try to turn what I’m saying around and end on some perky note. But I’m too lazy for that now.

So instead, I’ll just say, in the off-chance you happen to feel anything like me and Andy Dwyer right now – just know that you’re not alone.

And in the words of my favorite, fictional heroine, April Ludgate-Dwyer: “You are awesome and everyone else sucks.”

At the end of the day, whether you’re 30 or 11, that’s pretty much the only thing any of us really need to hear anyway.

I Get It, We’re Scared. But That Doesn’t Make It Right.

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this post in June, but I think it’s fitting now. 

I’m an angry-crier. I can’t help it.

If you’ve ever seen me really angry, you’ve also seen me cry. The tears just flow out of my eyeballs like white-hot, angry feelings lava. I can’t help it. I can’t stop myself from caring all over the place.

I also curse a lot when I’m angry – a lot.

I really wish I was someone who could calmly and coolly argue my point when I’m angry. I wish I was someone who could give impassioned, articulate, cry- and curse-free speeches full of grace and panache.

Ideally,  I’d be someone like Dorothy Zbornak, the Golden Girl who was known, in part, for dispatching  indignant speeches with her signature seriousness and sass. (Here’s a video demonstrating Dot’s badassery.)

But unfortunately, I’m no Dorothy, so when I’m really mad about something, I’m forced to write my argument down.

And that’s why I’m writing today — I just can’t take it any more. Trump’s not okay, guys. The things he’s saying, the ideas he’s spreading, the fear and hatred and bigotry he is promoting (overtly and implicitly) is not okay.

It’s WRONG. (As a former reporter, I hate unnecessary capitalization and bold font but I’m keeping it here anyway because I mean it that much.)

I understand we’re living in frightening times. The latest tragedy – Orlando, is horrifying and sad beyond words, beyond reason.

And I don’t know how to change it. I don’t know how to stop it.  I don’t have a solution.

But one thing I do know is that we can’t let our fear make us turn on each other.

I know at times like this, it can be reassuring to hear political leadership throw out ideas, any ideas, to protect our safety. I understand why some people may find a sense of security and direction in some of the things Trump says.

In a way, I see how his comments on banning immigration from primarily-Muslim countries could bring comfort. He’s saying something, anything, and at this point people are grasping for a plan, any plan, to combat this terror. I get that.

But I don’t think this is the right plan. We, as a country, shouldn’t blame the sins of a radical minority on the entire Muslim population. It just doesn’t make sense – numbers-wise, it’s illogical.

As Aniz Ansari recently pointed out in his New York Times Opinion piece “Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family“:

“There are approximately 3.3 million Muslim Americans. After the attack in Orlando, The Times reported that the F.B.I. is investigating 1,000 potential “homegrown violent extremists,” a majority of whom are most likely connected in some way to the Islamic State. If everyone on that list is Muslim American, that is 0.03 percent of the Muslim American population.”

Admittedly, I’m not great with math, but even I can see that 0.03 percent of a population is an extremely small proportion of that group.

That means that the extremely vast majority of Muslim Americans who Trump regularly demonizes, have absolutely nothing to do with Islamic extremism.

Islam is just a religion and for the most part, its practitioners in America and elsewhere are just everyday people frightened, confused and saddened by the recent violence.

Muslim Americans are just regular people. (Here’s a video to remind us of that.) They’re not “just like us”. They are us. They’re Americans who deserve the right to practice their religion without being seen as “outsiders”, as “others” or as Trump so often paints them “as potential threats.”

At various points in his presidential campaign, Trump has advocated for the following things: doing surveillance on mosques, indefinitely banning Muslims from entering the country and seriously, I’m not making this up: compiling a national database of Muslims living in the U.S.

All of these suggestions terrify me.

They don’t scare me because, as Trump might allege, I’m a “bleeding heart liberal” or “obsessed with being politically correct.” (Though I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m convinced that being politically correct just means you know how to act like a diplomatic adult. Being diplomatic is a quality, I, for one, look for in my preferred presidential candidate, and basically all adults I don’t think are jerks.)

These ideas scare me for almost the exact opposite reasons Trump might suggest .

Politically, and as a person, I like to see myself as a mixture of Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation though obviously, I’m not nearly as cool as either.

I’m someone who will cry when given a thoughtful gift or small compliment (Leslie) but I’m also someone who will become furious when someone (particularly someone who knows absolutely nothing about me) tells me what is acceptable for me to feel, think or believe (Ron).

And in this instance, it’s not the Leslie Knope part of me that’s more outraged, it’s the Ron Swanson part.

Because the government doesn’t get to tell you what religion is acceptable. Donald Trump doesn’t get to decide who I can worship.

In a country that prides itself, and was founded on, the ideas of freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion – an entire group of Americans shouldn’t be signaled out and vilified simply because of what or how they worship.

Sure, Trump’s suggestions may not scare you now because at the moment they may not affect you. The government may not want to monitor your churches, keep a list of your fellow parishioners, or tell people like you not to enter the country.

Trump’s ideas may not affect you now, but that doesn’t make them any less scary. It doesn’t make them any less wrong.

Is this really a precedent we want to set? Do we really want to start singling out our citizens based on their religion? (Because in the course of human history, people have done that many times before – almost always with horrifying results).

Do we want to chip away at the freedom of religion, one of the very freedoms that makes this country great, just because we’re scared?

Is that really something we want to do?

I hope not. I think we’re better than that. I think we’re braver than that.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know the secret trick to make us feel safe. But I do know that turning on ourselves, on our own citizens, on the very freedoms that make our country great -is not the answer.

It’s just wrong.

Update, 1-29-2017: If you’re upset about the recent immigration ban, or even if you’re not, donating to organizations like Lutheran Family Services and Lincoln Literacy is a good way to spread a little love right now. Because, unless we turn our words into action, unless we put in the work, we’re not doing enough. 

5 Things That Don’t Suck or How to Combat Rain, Assholes and Assorted Bullshit

I’ve been kind of a Negative Nelly lately – a real Debbie Downer.

Thanks to some long-term (or in my opinion, long-term), annoying but not super serious health problems, I’ve been feeling a bit bummed out lately.By lately, I mean this year and most of the last one.

Sorry, I know I’m doing that thing where people bring up vague health problems on social media but then don’t fully explain them. A lot of times when this happens it seems like people are doing this because they actually want you to ask and are just being all cagey to be mysterious.

I’m not doing that.  I’m about as far from mysterious as you can get. I’m more of a “Hey everyone, here are my unfiltered thoughts” kind of person. I wouldn’t know how to be cagey and mysterious if I tried. And I’m not trying to now.

I’m just bringing up the health problems so I can put this blog post in context. So I can explain where I’m coming from.

Where I’m coming from is just this side of depressed. Actually, screw it, I’ll just say it, I’m kind of depressed.

It’s been a long year and I’m tired and every once and awhile I get really fed up with my situation.

But the thing is – at one point or another, we all do. At one point or another we all go through something that really brings us down.

I think it’s best explained by a quote my favorite author Jenny Lawson, attributes to her grandmother in my favorite book, Furiously Happy.

“Into everyone’s life a little rain must fall – rain, assholes, and assorted bullshit.”

Jenny admits she’s paraphrasing her grandma there but either way, Jenny and/or her wise granny make a great point.

We’ve all got our rain, assholes and assorted bullshit.

So, if you’re dealing with some rain, assholes or assorted bullshit now, you’re not alone. I am too and here are five things that have helped me through it.

Or, 5 Things That Don’t Suck

  1. The book Furiously Happy (which I already mentioned is by Jenny Lawson). In it, Lawson talks about her lifelong battle with mental illness and a host of other disorders and diseases that would bring any other mere mortal crashing to their knees in fits of despair. Instead, Lawson uses all of it to write a refreshingly honest book that is also somehow laugh-out-loud funny. (And I’m not just saying that. I really did laugh out loud. A lot.It was sort of weird.) Lawson is my hero and if you read it, she’ll probably be yours too. Or at the very least you’ll want to attend her midnight cat rodeos – trust me, that would have totally made sense if you read the book.
  2. Dogs. Dogs are the best. This is a fact. Okay, so it’s not a fact but they’re pretty damn great. Here’s a picture of my dog sleeping while simultaneously being adorable so I can prove to you how great dogs are. If you don’t have a dog, feel free to bask in the awesomeness that is my dog for a moment. She’s the freaking best, right? Dog
  3. Therapy. There’s nothing wrong with talking to a therapist. That’s why they’re there. That’s their job. Going to a therapist doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you crazy. It just means you weren’t feeling your best and you took a logical, healthy step to address and improve that situation. You shouldn’t feel bad about this just as you wouldn’t feel bad about going to a doctor for any other health problem. I kind of wrote a whole blog about this, but it’s worth repeating anyway.
  4. The show Moone Boy.It’s about an awkwardly adorable (awkdorable – can we make that a word?) boy in Ireland in the late 80s/early 90s and the adventures he has with his imaginary best friend, Sean Murphy, played by Chris O’Dowd (the cop from Bridesmaids). It’s on Hulu. It’s so cute it’s almost unbearable and it’s going to blow your mind. You’re welcome.
  5. You. You don’t suck. If you read this whole blog post, I think you’re pretty great and I officially will not count you on my “rain, assholes and assorted bullshit” list.

Thanks for not being an asshole, for that, I hope that you can handle all the rain, assholes and assorted bullshit that comes your way. And if you do have any trouble with it, I hope this list helps.

If you need me, I’ll be watching Moone Boy for the hundredth millionth time.

It just doesn’t get old, much like reading the book Furiously Happy.

Which I also believe I’ve mentioned, but you know, it’s worth repeating.

If They’re Having a Baby They’ll Tell You So Please Stop Asking

I ask a lot of questions.

I do this for three reasons:

  1. I’m nosy.
  2. I’m generally awkward in conversation so I tend to ask questions to fill in the spaces where I would otherwise just be standing their saying “umm” over and over and basically making an ass of myself.
  3. I, (for reasons, I’ve never been able to fully explain) generally care about inane things like near-strangers’ favorite foods, favorite colors and middle names. (This is weird, I know. At this point, let’s just consider this the weirdness disclaimer for this post. I’m weird. We’ve covered that, now let’s move on.)

So, it’s out there, I ask a lot of questions and sometimes I may even ask a question that is really none of my business. Sorry about that. If I ever do that to you, please feel free to tell me to mind my own business. I was probably just asking to fill in the awkward pauses of our conversation anyway, so it’s unlikely I’ll even care.

But despite all of my nosiness and admitted social awkwardness, there is one question I never ask.

It’s a question I get often from near-strangers. As a married, near-30-year-old woman who doesn’t have children, I hear it a lot: “So, when are you going to have kids?”

This question, frankly, annoys the hell out of me.

There, I said it – this annoys me. A lot.

I know it shouldn’t, but it does.

I know that the people asking me this question don’t mean to offend me. I know they just think they’re making conversation. I know they think they’re asking a question as innocuous as what my favorite color is.

Rationally, I know that they don’t mean any harm and are truthfully just trying to talk to me about what they think is the next logical step at this point in my life.

I know that, I get that, but it still annoys me.

It annoys me because it means near-strangers are assuming they know something about who I am and what I want before they even know me (and likely, before they even know my favorite color because apparently no one else asks that).

It annoys me because, call me a prude all you want, but I think this sort of thing is kind of personal. Try as I might, I just don’t understand how it’s socially acceptable for near-strangers to ask you when you are going to have kids but it’s totally taboo to ask the same people “So, are you two using condoms these days, or what?”

I say if you’re going to ask about people’s reproductive activities, you should have to go bold with it. If you don’t know someone well enough to ask them the condoms question, I don’t think you should ask them the “So, when are you going to have kids?” question.

Ultimately, whichever way the question is phrased, it’s just an annoyance to me, a pet peeve which can be easily ignored.

But for some people, it could be more.

It could be hurtful.

Think about it – if a couple is trying to have a child and having a hard time of it, do you really think they want near-strangers to ask them: “So, when are going to have kids?”

I don’t know. Maybe they would like to talk about.

But what I do know is, they should be the ones who get to broach the subject, not you.

Even if you don’t mean any harm.

Even if you’re just curious.

Even if you just want to share in the happiness of their possibly-upcoming bundle of joy.

Whatever your reason for asking, I still encourage you not to.

Because you don’t really need to.

If someone you know is expecting a baby, they will tell you at a time of their choosing probably with a cute baby announcement on social media where they set out their shoes alongside a teeny-weeny adorable set of baby shoes or something.

(Sidenote: Baby shoes are so freaking cute. I don’t know why. They’re just regular shoes but smaller but still there’s something about them.)

Anyway, when that time comes, you can share in the parents’ excitement and their joy.

Because, odds are, if you really need to know about someone’s pregnancy or their baby, they’ll tell you.

You don’t need to ask.

2015 Can Suck It Or Five Things I Learned from My Worst Year Yet

New Year’s is a time of reflection.  A time when you look back on the preceding year with a sense of  nostalgia.

I’m not going to do that. My 2015 sucked.

I can honestly say that in my 29 years on this earth, this was my worst one yet.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful here. My life is great and I’m thankful for it every day. If anything, this year only sucked so much because I’d previously had it so great in comparison.

I won’t go into extensive detail here because in general, I try to avoid going into personal detail when writing to possibly complete strangers.

But I also don’t want to do that vague thing where people talk about some mysterious, undisclosed health problem without giving any details but it’s clear they want you to pump them for more information. I don’t want you to do that. That’d be weird and I wouldn’t tell you anyway. So, please don’t. Thanks.

(So now you’re thinking why did I even bring it up if I’m not going to say anything about it? Good point,  You. I bring it up because frankly the rest of this blog post won’t make any damn sense if I don’t mention it. So there you have it, there’s a sort of explanation. Now as I was saying…)

What I will say is this – it’s been a weird year full of doctors’ appointments, medications, physical therapy and one quick, not very serious surgery. And now months later, I’m finally starting to feel like myself again (yay!) which is good because if I haven’t mentioned this before, I really like me.

What I haven’t liked is my year. Because (just to reiterate) it sucked. But I’ve noticed that when sucky stuff happens to wise-sounding, philosophical-type people, they try to learn something from it. So, I tried that too. Because it’s always fun to pretend to be something you’re not every once and awhile.

Anyway, here’s what I came up with:

1. My family and friends are awesome.

I truly could not have made it through this shit without you. ( I’m not just saying that the way some people say it, offhandedly, just to be nice, even though they know full-well they could have handled it all on their own. I couldn’t have.)

In particular my husband, mom, brother and Beth (she knows which one I’m talking to)  were all support system superheros who were often at their empathetic and encouraging best just when I was at my weepy, weak worst.

I don’t say it enough (and I never say it in blog form) but you’re the best. Seriously. I’m thankful for you every day. Even if I forget to say it sometimes.

2. You never know what someone is dealing with, so try to be nice. Always. Even when you really don’t feel like it.

Speaking from someone who now understands, you never know how hard it was just for someone to leave the house that day, so cut everyone some slack and just be kind. Life’s hard enough without us making it any shittier for each other.

3. Always trust in your gut and stick up for yourself. 

I went to more doctors appointments than I care to remember in 2015 and some of them really sucked.

In particular I was not a fan of one doctor who told me my very real physical ailment was anxiety and I’d quickly feel better if I’d just stop thinking about it so much.

Here’s the thing – when something is wrong with you, you kind of think about it. Because something is wrong with you and you want it to be fixed. That’s sort of why you went to the doctor in the first place.

So basically if this ever happens to you (which I really, really hope it doesn’t, because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone), do what I did – get a new doctor ASAP. One who actually wants to listen to you and I don’t know – actually help.

(Brief sidenote so I don’t sound like a total ass: I don’t want it to seem like I’m downplaying the severity of anxiety. It’s real and it sucks and if you have it, you should see a mental health professional because mental health is just as important as what we typically think of physical health and it should be treated as such. I just wanted to be clear on that. I’m even clearer here when I wrote a whole blog about it.)

Anyway, the point is I didn’t happen to have anxiety. I happened to have another problem entirely. A problem this doctor for some reason couldn’t diagnosis at the time but instead of just admitting that, she made me question myself and my understanding of my own body. It sucked. I hope this never happens to you.

But if it does, I hope you trust yourself enough to not take that kind of weak-ass shit as an answer. Doctors are supposed to listen to you. They’re supposed to help you and if they can’t, they should guide you to someone who can. Don’t settle for a doctor who does any less.

4. Jenny Lawson is my hero. She should be yours too.

Jenny, the Bloggess, is a writer who talks about her struggles with mental health. It sounds like kind of a drag, right? Wrong. Somehow she makes this stuff both heartwarming and hilarious. Yes, hilarious.

Not to oversell her here or anything, but I think the written word may have been invented just so Jenny Lawson could write books.

Look her up now and then buy everything she has ever written. Don’t get it from your local library. Buy it. This is not a time to be cheap. This stuff is priceless.

5. There is a light at the end of every tunnel.

Sure, sometimes the light is super far away. Way, way farther than you really want to go. Farther than you ever think you can possibly reach.

And sometimes the light is not only far away, it’s really dim. Ridiculously dim. So dim you wonder why someone even bothered turning it on if it was going to be so damned useless.

And sometimes, the light is also covered in bird shit. Because, really have you ever seen something that’s outside for long periods of time that isn’t covered in bird shit?

Anyway, I digress, the point is, there’s a light (albeit a possibly bird-shit-covered, far-away, dim one).  But it’s there.

There is hope. Don’t give up.

2016 just may be our year.