Exes & Ø’s

exes

My father died last week, and after I got the news, I coped how I know best. I wrote about it, and the ensuing outpour of support was much more than I expected.

I thought that I would be socially punished for posting private things about my family and my time growing up. In part, this is why I hesitate when it comes to writing about my own experience, even though I have wells of information to draw from. So when friends near and far came out to give their condolences, I was truly touched.

Some friends reached out to tell me that my story reminded me of their own relationships with their fathers. Others just wanted me to know that they understood the complicated feelings I have for my father through my story, and others just wanted to check in and let me know that I always have an ear with them.

Even my former next door neighbor, a high school friend who doesn’t have Facebook, called to check in with me. However, as the days passed, it became more and more obvious that I had not heard from a very specific group: any one of my exes.

You see, I’ve had about, say, five great loves in my life, all guys who were friends first. Three of those men are people that, if they came back to me offering love and support and companionship for real, I would drop everything for.

At varying points in my life, these men, without fail, have popped back into my life. Some have come back after we dated, admitting that they took me for granted and wishing for a second chances. And the others, the ones that I never really ‘dated’ but were significant to me all the same, ‘bump’ into me socially, often pretending that they don’t remember the reason I severed ties with them in the first place, sometimes even giving me a really good reason why things went down the way they did. A  variation of, “You see? I’m not really as horrible as you thought, you just had the wrong impression this whole time!”

I’m sad to admit that it took until my late twenties for me to notice this pattern, that I was in these endless cycles with guys that are perpetually Not Ready For A Relationship but kept me on the back burner all the same, whether as a safe bet or a backup plan or just for the attention. And too often, when they came back into my life, I’d be so happy to hear from them that I’d be too willing to forgive and forget.

But I realized that nothing ever changed. In fact, I noticed something that made me stop in my tracks. These guys, these guys I loved with all their flaws, really thought they could say horrible things to me, treat me like an option and not a person, and all they had to do was wait until I’d be willing to forget.

On guy didn’t disclose that he’d been sexually active with other women when we had been involved, and when I called him out on it, he told me he was a shark, you see, and it was my own fault for not knowing. Another treated me like I should be grateful for the attention our entire relationship, only to hit me up a few months after his wife left him, asking me to come back to Hartford, as if I had been sitting by the phone for his call.

And the last one, the one that hurt the most, didn’t tell me he had been in a long term relationship the entire time we’d been messaging each other. His response? I only talk to you when I need a break from my kids (as if we hadn’t been sending each other explicit messages since we were both teens) and, anything I said to you was true at the time. 

(Plan another funeral, because I died from that.)

It seems to me that as a woman, giving love and being there for others are not just parts of who we are, but they are parts of us that are often expected and taken for granted. I have never been mistreated more than the times when I had uncontrollable crushes on guys that were just my type: Hispanic, tall, smart, and often, trouble.

Once I got to New York, I dated and hooked up with guys all over the spectrum, until the only common denominator was Hispanic, and I found that many of these guys fell within two different camps: the guys that are used to having girls tripping all over themselves to get to them, so they never have to make an effort, and the guys who wished they were the type of guys that had girls tripping all over themselves for them.

And it all came down to this: being taken for granted. Random disappearances or silences when bringing up something they didn’t want to discuss. Getting gas-lighted into taking the blame for something I couldn’t have known or something they did. Or being used as a temporary girlfriend while their real girlfriend was out of town. (That last one, by the way, is some scum of the earth behavior.)

We still live in a world that assumes that women exist to make men happy, and it’s a world that teaches women this expectation from puberty. I was not allowed to talk about boys or date, but my primary training at home was cleaning and learning how to be pretty and docile. The docility never took.

And the thing was, I was as boy crazy as the next girl. All I wanted was a boyfriend, and as I hit puberty, I thought I was so hideous that no boy would ever like me. The boys I liked were so mean that it only reinforced this idea, and when I finally met a guy who liked me, I was so relieved it was ridiculous.

But as I dated as a teen, I never understood why they boys I loved treated me like crap. I didn’t understand why the guys I loved did underhanded things, acting like it was my job to accept it once I found out. The big one was other women, and most often, I was the other woman without even knowing it. I realized then that relationships with these men were not really about love, but what I could do for them. The girl that makes me most comfortable wins.

I couldn’t be a part of that. As an adult, I made the decision to not be a part of that, understanding that it would lead to a very lonely life. But it would be a  life that belonged to me and no one else.

So why am I pissed right now? Because giving condolences after someone’s father dies is a sign of sincerity. If any of those guys who lied to me, treated me like I should be grateful for the scraps of attention they paid me, side-chicked me, or kept me in the dark like a fool, if any of those guys had made the slightest effort to be there for me, then I would have known the gesture to be true, because it had been for me, not for them.

Not one of them did. And I won’t forget. Just ask my dad.

Are You Happy?

In my last post, I posed some questions that are key for self-actualization. They are:

  • Are you doing the right thing?
  • Are you a good person?
  • Are you making the right decisions?
  • AND: Are you making a positive impact for the world around you?

But I forgot the most important question of them all, and I want to talk about it more about it today.

Are you happy?

You can answer all of above questions and still not be happy, and that can lead to some interesting behaviors in people. Imagine having everything you could ever need, and still not be happy. Imagine never having to go without, and still feeling like something is missing.

You might think, what the hell is wrong with me? Or if you’re not thinking it, other people in your life are probably telling you. What are you, ungrateful? Don’t you know that kids in Africa don’t get to worry about being happy? Do you want to go to Africa, huh? Do you?

It’s a ridiculous question, and answering it honestly requires in-depth, personal analysis, and the right words to answer comprehensively, and even then, the answer can vary from day to day.

And in today’s socioeconomic climate, happiness doesn’t seem to be an attainable goal anymore. How could it be, when you can barely find stability, love, or a decent job that covers your basic living expenses?

Well, being unhappy even though there is nothing particularly wrong is still a legitimate feeling. It can even be a symptom of a mental health issue, and should not be ignored. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, and bi-polar disorder are all in your head, and are still very real diseases that require treatment. But what if your unhappiness is not chemical, but social? Enter Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

maslow-pyramid

 

The Hierarchy of Needs is a theory not only explaining, but also validating, universal human needs that everyone has. Once we’ve adequately met a level of need on a more or less stable basis, we as human beings subconsciously or consciously start to focus on meeting the next need, and yet, it’s still missing some key details that are essential to today’s society.

If you were out in the wilderness and there are no people around, then sure, your basic needs would be food and water. But if you were homeless in a city like New York, your very first, basic desire would be to clothe your body and protect it from the elements. You wouldn’t get very far naked, and because global warming is real, you’d surely die from exposure without clothing first.

Once you’ve covered your naughty bits, then it’s food and water and rest, and on and on, right up to self-actualization, where our needs become more about finding our place in the world. Meeting that need requires a level of self-awareness that, well, everyone could use help with.

But the thing is, our society itself is going through a phase of self-actualization.

The internet and other methods of communication has connected us with the rest of the world in a way that is unprecedented. People today have access to more information than we’ve ever have. People across the world are the most educated that they’ve ever been, in record numbers no less, and because societies are essentially mirrors reflecting the people in them, our societies are reflecting the tension between the old and the new.

Across the world, entire countries are fighting back against dictatorships because they know they deserve better. Women in Ireland are protesting ridiculous abortion restrictions that do nothing to protect children and very much punish women. And here in the United States, what we are seeing is a clash between the American Way that politicians used to exploit their voters, and actual progress (soooo much on that later).

That is both fantastic and scary. Fantastic for those who have dreamt of hoverboards, and universal incomes and a world without HIV, but scary for those who hate change. A new world, a peaceful, interconnected and collaborative world is akin to fascism to those who had or have privileges that others who aren’t like them don’t.

A new world, a peaceful, interconnected and collaborative world is akin to fascism to those who profit from things staying the same. 

Waxing poetic about the way things used to be doesn’t cut it anymore. Wishing we were in the 50’s when men were men and women knew their place doesn’t cut it anymore. Staying ignorant, and making decisions based on what you believe versus what you know doesn’t cut it anymore. It is now the responsibility of every citizen with access to a phone or a computer to educate themselves about the world in order to make the right decisions, which is why I think the Hierarchy of Needs should actually look something like this:

maslow-in-the-internet-age
Although, no matter what anyone tells you, you wont die from lack of sex.

This meme, I’m sure, was probably created as a joke (again, you won’t die if you don’t have sex. Tell your friends) but I think it’s a very valid representation of what world we are headed towards. No one is in a bubble anymore, and  what happens in Syria, Britain, and Iraq affects the entire world.

Developed countries and world leaders have to decide what kind of society we want to be, and what kind of society we want to leave for future generations. And we, as the people in functioning societies, have the responsibility to demand that our leaders make the right decisions for all. You can’t do that  if you do not stay informed. But what’s most important, you can’t do that if you do not know if you’re happy with your life. Why?

Because how you feel about yourself directly affects how you feel about the rest of the world. If you are not happy, why would you want anyone else to be? If you do not value happiness in yourself, how can you value it in others?

So ask yourself, are you happy? And be honest with the answer. A few examples:

  • Maybe your job is shitty, or it wasn’t what you thought it would be.
  • Maybe you’re married to someone who you’re not in love with anymore.
  • Maybe you live in a town that is severely depressed after the main employer moved overseas.
  • Maybe you’re a woman in a man’s body.
  • Maybe you don’t want to be a Harvard Man like your father or your grandfather, and you just want to paint for the rest of your life.
  • Maybe you realized you don’t want to be a mother.
  • Maybe you want love, and your only option is to settle.
  • Maybe you’re polygamous at heart, and your partner isn’t.
  • Maybe being a “blue collar man’s man” 24/7 is exhausting for you.
  • Maybe you’ve had everything handed to you, so you can’t relate to others that haven’t.
  • Or maybe you’ve had to fight for everything you have, so you have no patience for those without internal lives.

These are all legitimate grievances, because, again, we are all different. And though you might not relate or understand, other people’s grievances about their lives are legitimate too, because:

  1. They’re real to them.
  2. You don’t know their lives, and
  3. You shouldn’t have to experience something to understand that it’s valid.

And therefore, what I am trying to say is that your feelings are valid too.

So what am I trying to say? That sociology is a scientific method that can help you analyze your reality, both internal and external, and how it relates to the rest of the world.

And as I continue these posts, I want you to apply that self-understanding and see how it affects your view of the world, because I want to live in a world with hoverboards, and universal incomes and a world without HIV.

Don’t you?

 

 

 

 

Condition, Rinse, Repeat

So it usually goes like this:

You’re born. At some point between drooling down your chin and learning how to walk, you realize that there are people who are constantly around you and watching everything you do. Bigger people, sometimes meaner people that are always saying no and telling you what to do, or sometimes nicer people that still tell you no and tell you what to do, and you have to listen because they said so.

And then there are more people, and more places, bigger places, and you realize there are some people who don’t tell you what to do. Some of them ignore you and pretend you do not exist, or are outright mean because you’re small and they’re big. And at some point you realize that not everything revolves around you. In fact, a lot does not revolve around you, and the bigger you get, the more you realize that you are not, in fact, the center of the universe, and probably never were.


And then you get bigger, and the things they tell to do start to make more sense, and somewhere around your teens you start to feel like some of it is crap, but you can’t put your finger on it, and the more you try to argue against it, the more people laugh at you, talk down to you, or dismiss you, and the more powerless you feel, so you become kind of sullen and morose.

Or, you’re happy because the crap works for you, and everyone is so proud at how good you are at following the rules. And sometimes during family get-togethers, you’re the center of attention because of how good you are, not like your emo cousin with the black nail polish. And you’re kind of full of yourself because you get it, and as long as you get it, you’re fine.

OR, you think it’s all crap, but you play along, because that’s how winners get ahead, and you know the rules really don’t apply to you, but you follow them as best as you feel, because that’s how you play the game. And if you mess up, you know what to say to get out of trouble. And if someone doesn’t play along the way you like, you know what to do to get rid of them. And you know who to kiss up to, and what to say, because that’s how you succeed. By playing the game.

I know this is an oversimplification, but there’s a point, I swear.

For some people, their lives usually follow this format pretty closely, with minimal disruptions in self-awareness or habits. But for a lot of people, more and more, there’s a stage that starts right around their 20’s where their entire realities come crashing down. The reasons are wide and varied, but some common ones are:

  • Going to a college or university that provides a different cultural experience than back home.
  • Making friends with people from different backgrounds.
  • Moving to a new town.
  • Getting pregnant/getting someone pregnant.
  • Being sexually harassed or molested by someone you looked up to and trusted.
  • Finding out your parents were waiting for you to go to college to finally get a divorce.
  • Discovering you’re gay or someone you know and respect is gay.
  • Finding out you were adopted.
  • Loving something that is considered “gay” when you’re a male.
  • Loving something that’s considered “for boys” when you’re a female.
  • Learning a social science.
  • Gaining first-hand knowledge that the poor/disenfranchised/ incarcerated/abandoned/insane are people too.
The list can go forever, but the point is this: things will happen to you in your life that will make you question everything you believe in. It’s unavoidable, and it’s traumatic every single time. But once it happens, you have a choice. You can let it change you, or you can ignore it, and depending on how you were raised, your belief system, and the very people around you, the outcome can be great for you, or it can add onto the trauma, and stunt your growth as a person.
What I just described looks kind of sort of like this:

A part of sociology is the study of how individuals interact with, and are shaped by the institutions in their lives. These institutions include, but are definitely not limited to, your family, friends, school, government, community, church, sports, etc. It’s called Social Conditioning, and these institutions have a HUGE part of shaping who you are. Depending on where you are, some circles (institutions) are bigger or closer than others. Examples:

  • You were a foster kid.
  • You were the parent, while your parents were more like teenagers.
  • You come a big family and you had to share everything.
  • You were an only child and never had to share.
  • You’re from middle America and the only “social” place you know is your local church.
  • You grew up on a farm with no TV.
  • You grew up in a bad neighborhood and could only watch TV.
  • You were the kind of girl that’s been in beauty pageants since the age of five.
  • You’re the kind of guy that’s been playing in sports teams since the age of five.
  • You’re Jewish and your dad is the local rabbi.
  • You’re born into a long line of police officers.
  • You were born into a long line of politicians.
  • Your daddy, grandpa, and great-grandfather were all Harvard men.
  • You’re old money and just talking about the M-word is crass.
  • You’re the longtime maid of a family who thinks mentioning money is crass.
  • You’re the daughter of a maid to a rich family while you’re broke af.

See how these examples can produce VASTLY different people? Whatever the background, if you’re that person in your 20’s (or whatever age, really) realizing that everything you know is a big lie, or you’re having trouble just keeping it together even though you’re sure you followed the rules and you don’t know what the fuck is going on, that’s where people like me come in.

Just like we are thought many rules throughout life to help us navigate the experience, we are also taught many lies, often well-meaning, to keep us safe. But a lot of us were taught many lies in order to keep us complacent, subservient, or under some sort of social control. And realizing that can sometimes be much more traumatic than the experience itself.

But that doesn’t mean the end of you. In fact, it can be a beginning. It can be a very painful, difficult, and traumatic beginning, but it’s a beginning all the same, and making that change, I assure you, will be the best thing that happened to you.

So ask yourself the questions I asked before:

  • Are you doing the right thing?
  • Are you a good person?
  • Are you making the right decisions?
  • AND: Are you making a positive impact for the world around you?

And allow yourself to accept the no, because that’s how you grow. And you can begin again. You can. You can. YOU CAN. And don’t believe what other people tell you. When you’re living the wrong life, life feels LOOOOONNNG. It’s only short after it’s over. But I assure you, realizing your truth is the way to grow. And once you realize your truth, you can re-condition yourself in the image that you think it’s right for you.

What am I trying to say? Nothing that the School of Life hasn’t been navigating in depth better than I have in this article. You should check them out.

And what was the truth that I had to realize? That being a good girl was not going to protect me. And it was devastating. And it took years to get over. And that’s okay, because you know what? Because being a good girl wasn’t a good fit for me anyways.

And on that note, have a great weekend! 🙂

Boobs, Language, Sociology, and Why They All Matter

So…

I tend to remind people, constantly, and usually during arguments about social issues, that my bachelor’s degree and general interests lie in sociology, and that I have about ten years of social work experience working with people from all walks of life.

This isn’t me JUST feeling myself and parading around my credentials whenever I want. It’s partially that, but it’s also my attempt to remind people that reading about, studying, analyzing and dissecting social behavior is life. And I think, often, when we discuss politics, media, language, and even economics, we take sociology and social sciences for granted. Specifically with articles like this one.

Now, you can chastise me for getting my news from humor websites like Cracked, (Or liberal news media like Jezebel, or Vice), but I can argue that getting information from these sources is also a sociological and widespread response, and I think often, when we argue one on one, it’s very easy to ignore and overlook the big picture.

Like this one

But the thing is, everything that involves human behavior is sociology. Before primate humans had spoken language, they had to find other ways to communicate, to convey thoughts and feelings and urges, and our ancestors used what was available to them, including our own physiological abilities to communicate non-verbally.

Nonverbal communication continued to be important during times when our survival depended on trusting and trading with other people from different cultures who spoke different languages. And it was particularly important during times when women were considered sluts for exposing an ankle in front of mixed company. I say this jokingly, but I’m serious. Blushing, blinking and smiling coyly were my primary methods of communication when I was 12 and my parents were like, right there. 

Nonverbal communication and body language are still important forms of communication. Just because you can’t measure it on a scale, it does not mean it’s not real or important for our survival. Sociology and human behavior are also important when it come to politics, economics and unrest.

You can’t have a stable political climate if you do not participate. You can not have a healthy economy if people don’t have money to spend. And you cannot have peace when there are massive gaps in social wealth.

And either not enough people are saying it, or not enough people are listening. So I’ll make it easy. Let’s start with the Cracked article:

Why do human females have large breasts?
Because sex is gross and the more self-aware you become, the more you realize how gross it is and our bodies had to make it appealing somehow.

Why do cats purr?
To cute their humans into submission and make them think it’s their idea that they have a cat.

Why do we reproduce sexually? 
Bonding, bitch. It’s harder to walk out on someone when they’ve licked your ass.

Why do women menstruate? 
Built in clock. Way to have control over pregnancy. Monthly NOT PREGNANT party complete with cramps.

Why do we hiccup? 
Nerves/ ate too much/ probably nerves.

Why do we blush? 
Because actually saying you’re embarrassed is embarrassing.

Why do we have pubic hair? 
Because it’s pretty much an arrow to your naughty bits, and a preemptive warning that it’s gonna get musky.

Why do we kiss?
Seriously do you not know how fun kissing is? Also, bonding.

Why do we cry? 
Less violent emotional release. Also, social cue.

Why do people sneeze when looking at the sun? 
Probably a reaction to the vitamin d. (Phrasing)

Why do tomatoes have more genes than humans? 
Got me there.

Why do we have sinuses? 
Sense of smell is also connected to memory and emotions. It’s not a real answer but when you add these factors you may get a more concrete answer.

Why do we sometimes twitch in our sleep/jerk ourselves awake? 
OK, OK, so you’re going about your day just fine, and then you like, go to lie there prone for HOURS, and someone could theoretically come and kill you. You don’t think your body knows that? Have you considered that your body is trying to save you??

What is 98% of our DNA supposed to do? 
Clearly shit we don’t know and is probably still beyond our grasp.

What causes the nocebo effect?
Ok, so one time when I was like, 6, I was playing sick. I’d found a small hand towel and thought it would be funny to douse it in alcohol and pretend to have a fever. And can I just tell you, I had the WORST fever I can remember. What I mean is, the brain is a powerful thing. Ever wake up one morning and remembered something shitty, and it just ruined your whole fucking day/ week? Yeah. That powerful.

Why people taste things differently? 
Because we ARE ALL DIFFERENT.

What drives tectonic plates? 
A guess? Momentum.

Why do humans have chins? 
Because thinking of Nick Bateman is what gets me through some days. Seriously, humans base like 90% of their decisions on attractiveness. Strong jaw? Ohhh, baby.

Why are most Caucasian babies born with blue eyes that get darker with age?
Hmmm, dominant genes taking their time to kick in? (I said I was a sociologist, not a geneticist)

Why do humans smile? 
Because I don’t wanna lose my pride but I can still cut a bitch.

Why are only 10% of people left-handed? 
Well, as a lefty who had her arm tied down with a fucking brace in fucking KINDERGARTEN  because it was a bad habit that needed to be corrected,  I can assure you that left-handed people were being persecuted as recently as the 80’s. Recent studies have shown that this number is evening out the more we stop being assholes.

What causes static electricity? 
Pass.

Why do we have allergies? 
Because our bodies are bitches that think they can just up and decide, “Nope, I don’t like that,” at any time. Like in the middle of a date. Having a banana split with mixed nuts. Right before a movie. And next thing you know you’ve snapped the straps on the borrowed shoes you’re wearing.

Why do people have different sexual orientation? 
Because attraction, arousal, and interest are all determined by several factors over a wide spectrum.

Humans have been spending so much time focusing on what we can’t do, and what we shouldn’t, and a lot less on what we can and what is possible. The thing is, as a species, we are no longer struggling to survive. We’ve conquered the elements and we’ve conquered the land (often from other people) and we are reaching, what I’d like to believe, is the Thought Revolution.

Do you feel like you hear more and horrible news every day? Do you think people are just getting worse no matter what you do? That feeling is not just in your head. Science has proven that the more empathetic we become, the more we perceive that the world is getting worse. The trick is to acknowledge that empathy, but to not led the existential dread set in.

Seriously, don’t let it.

And the big picture is, that’s exactly what our society is going through. People are being forced to look to themselves and their peers and really consider, Are we doing the right thing? Am I a good person? Have I made the right decisions? And those questions are scary. The answers can be even scarier. And it can be really, really easy to just ignore it. The problem is that at this point in our society, ignoring our internal lives is just not smart. Our future may depend on it.

So what am I trying to say? Nothing that hasn’t been said a lot better and more succinctly than in this video:

And also, that maybe I’ll be posting more regularly because, holy shit, someone has to be the voice of reason. The fact that it may be me is a joke onto itself.