Music Isn’t Marriage

From Mumford & Son’s music video, “Hopeless Wanderer”

A friend recently posted this article on Facebook and then all their friends piled on the Mumford Hatred Train toward Angrytown.

The gist of the article was: “The music Mumford & Sons makes is very bad…It’s so calculated that there’s absolutely nothing unexpected, organic, or progressive that comes from the music. The sound is so bland and average that it’s offensive.”

All I can really say is: Who cares? Go sit by an open window. Play with a puppy. Do whatever it is you need to do in order to calm down about other people listening to music that you don’t like.

I grew up on the Beatles, Styx, and the soundtrack to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I think it’s safe to say that while I was raised to enjoy music, I wasn’t raised with the knowledge of what was supposed to make it objectively “good.”

In elementary school I was encouraged to play a musical instrument, and I chose the trumpet out of rebellion (“The trumpet is for boys, you say? Step aside, please.”) Then I spent five years only enjoying the damn thing when I got a solo. So basically, the Apollo 13 Main Title.

All this to say, I never bothered to learn how to hear intricacies, and I don’t really care if a chord progression is particularly difficult. I don’t share your criteria for what makes music “good.” I only have two criteria for music:

  1. Can I dance to it?
  2. Does it make me feel emotions?

If the answer to either of these is yes, I like it. Does that make it “good”? No. But who cares?

Sure, Avril rhymed the word “dead” with “dead.” But I listened to that album nonstop anyway, despite the soul-crushing lyric. Who cares? Who have I hurt? Assuming that I listened to Avril “Let’s talk this over/it’s not like we’re dead” Lavigne on my own time, in my own headphones, purchased with my own babysitting money, what harm is there in the world? Four minutes wasted, at worst. Or maybe one more wealthy person who doesn’t deserve wealth. And if that’s what has your undies in a bundle, your efforts could be better spent on social change elsewhere, my friend.

Music isn’t marriage. There isn’t a finite number of songs you can like. Music is like friendships, and each one is great at certain times. Sure, some are best friends, some are acquaintances. But each friend has a time and place. Do I bring my quiet, bookish friend to a dance club? No, I bring the friend who buys tequila shots without asking.

The problem that maybe ultimately irks you is that I can like “terrible” music and still like Dr. Dre or Vampire Weekend or Metallica or whoever you think qualifies. You can’t stop me from liking both.

Sometimes bad music is fun. Sometimes I need a song that does nothing but tell me to put my hands in the air. You know why? Because I love being in a crowd doing synchronized dance like I’m in a teen movie from 1999. And the easiest synchronized dance move (even easier than Cha Cha Slide) is raising your hands above your head and then keeping them there for an extended period of time. Don’t take that away from me. Don’t take away my Ke$ha just because you need more substance in your music.

Some people like ICP. Some people like Nickelback. Some people like music that doesn’t do anything for you, Mr. Music Snob. Who cares? “Bad” music isn’t going to go away, so go sit in a corner, turn your Led Zeppelin up to 11, and quietly rock back and forth until the pain goes away. Quit putting your negative music vibes out in the world and let people love things you don’t agree with.

If you want to judge me for liking Mumford and Sons, I can’t stop you. I judge people, too. We all do. But I don’t go around screaming my judgments from the mountaintop. I keep them hidden behind eye rolls and passive aggressive sighing, like the WASP I was raised to be. The WASP who was raised on Rolling Stones and Raffi, and doesn’t care who knows it.

Why Some Christians Are Anti-Gay

I was raised at church. I spent Sunday mornings there, as well as a few days during the week for youth programs and the like. I consider the people from my church to be my extended family. They are good people. And, in fact, I consider many—probably most—Christians to be good people with good hearts. But some of them are anti-gay or anti-gay marriage (which, in my opinion, is anti-gay). People often assume it’s because these Christians think being gay is “icky” or they claim these people are just secretly gay themselves. No one seems to be talking about the real reason:

Anti-gay Christians are scared.

Being raised at church means I learned about Noah, Jesus and the Ten Commandments at the same time I learned how to spell and count. All of these things were taught to me by adults I revered, because you revere just about every adult as a child. This reverence translated to inherently trusting everything adults were telling me without question. 1+1=2, cat is spelled C-A-T, and God created the Earth. Fact, fact, fact.

One thing I was taught as a child was that God was spelled with a capital G. I’m not sure if an adult told me this was important or if I surmised it myself, but I became very afraid of accidentally spelling God with a lowercase g. Not afraid that I would be hit by a bolt of lightening, but afraid that I’d go to Hell. Spelling God with a lowercase g meant I had sinned. And because I was also taught that every sin was equal in God’s eyes, I knew that spelling it g-o-d was as good as murder to the Lord. I lived in perpetual capitalization terror.

Some Christians are taught from babyhood that the Bible is inerrant, that it is 100% true and free from error of any kind because God oversaw the writing of the Bible (some even believe he took over the authors’ hands and wrote it Himself). It’s very hard to let go of that idea when it has been taught to you as fact since the time you were learning nursery rhymes, and were also told that it was a sin to question this fact.

So if these people start believing that homosexuality is not a sin, it forces them to admit the Bible may have mistakes, which means either God made a mistake, or God didn’t oversee the Bible. (There is another option here, which is to learn about historical context of seemingly anti-gay passages, but some Christians are either opposed to learning historical context [yes really] or their leaders have neglected to share this context with them). You see the problem: if the Bible has mistakes, how do we know what to follow? Which parts are the mistakes and which are correct? How do we ever know if we’re doing the right thing? What if there’s no Heaven? What if there’s no God? Things can spiral out of control pretty quickly if you let it.

This is a terrifying idea. Some Christians are afraid, like my God/god fear, that one misstep will be enough to land them in Hell. Since God knows what you’re thinking, He’ll know you’ve sinned if your mind strays just the tiniest bit from what (you’ve been told) is correct. He’ll know you are questioning the Bible and therefore you are questioning God. Basically, you’re done for.

There are plenty of other reasons people may be anti-gay. But for some anti-gay Christians, it has nothing to do with “ickiness” or “secretly being gay themselves.” It has everything to do with being terrified of going to Hell if they admit that being gay is okay and the Bible may be wrong.

6 Well-Meaning Things People Say To New Parents That Already Annoy Me

A note: I’m not pregnant, nor am I about to be. As a 28-year-old woman about to talk about babies, I know I have to make that caveat before your imagination starts to run wild.

I hear that pregnant people get a lot of unsolicited advice. A LOT. And from what I see on Facebook and hear in real conversations, I know it to be true of pregnant people as well as new parents. I’m sure these advice-givers are trying to be helpful, but honestly it already annoys me (God help me if I ever have baby hormones coursing through my veins because the phrase “I will cut you” is likely to surface). So instead of letting this rage quietly stew, I thought I’d share a few things that irk me when it comes to sage advice for the newbies.

Exercising Baby

1. Appreciate this time!

When my sister had her first child, it seemed like every picture she posted to Facebook came with at least one comment to appreciate her baby. I understand why people say this: the time goes fast and yet sometimes you just wish your baby could do things on its own. Then later, you long for those adorable, squishy newborn days. I get that. But guys, let’s just assume that new parents already know that time only goes in one direction and that human beings get older with time. Let’s assume they are appreciating their own children, because that’s what good parents do. Or at least, let’s assume that someone’s already reminded them to appreciate their baby today, so you don’t have to.

2. Wait until they’re a teenager!

Teenagers are the worst, amiright?! You know, I hated when people made fun of teenagers when I was one, and I still hate it. Teenagers are not all universally terrible. Yes, they have lots of issues to work through. Yes, the parent/child relationship goes through strain and will likely be different from the other side. But can you please not be such a Debbie Downer and let me pretend I am going to have a Lorelai/Rory relationship with my child? Maybe instead of just saying, “wait until they’re a teenager,” give me suggestions of ways to improve my relationship with my teen. What do you wish you had done? Talked to them about sex? Family dinners? Asked different kinds of questions? What can we do better except brace for impact? (Which is something new parents are already doing, by the way, so you don’t need to remind them. Just smile and nod when they talk about temper tantrums.)

3. You’ll never sleep again!

Won’t I? Golly. Thanks for letting me know; otherwise I never would have heard this one. Can I be honest with you guys and say that lack of sleep is seriously #2 on my reasons to not have a child (#1 is money)? I get real cranky without much sleep, and a future of sleeplessness freaks me out. Of course everyone also says it’s worth it, and I hear your hormones help you out here–good for many moms, but dads and adoptive parents don’t get to enjoy that one. But it’s #2! That’s how scary people have made this issue sound! Lack of sleep should not be a valid reason to not create/adopt a human life. So please, for my sake as a potential future parent, please stop talking about sleep and how little or how much you so happened to get. Instead of terrifying others with hyperbole about your zombie state, give tips and tricks on what helped you (remembering that people are different and just because it helped you doesn’t mean it would help me).

4. He/she’s already such a little heartbreaker!

Let’s not sexualize children, please. They have, like, 9 years to actually NOT be little heartbreakers. Let’s give that to them. Besides, calling babies heartbreakers is usually really heteronormative, which makes me uncomfortable. Also see: referring to a baby’s boyfriend or girlfriend. Especially see: referring to a baby’s adult boyfriend or girlfriend. Don’t be weird.

5. Your social life is over!

Basically, see #3. Again, instead of hyperbole and projecting your personal regrets, give suggestions on how to keep a good social life going. Or better yet, offer to babysit.

6. My daughter won’t meet men until she’s forty because I have a shotgun!

This one is less about advice to new parents and more about parenting in general, but I think it fits into this list. I understand you’re being cute about protecting the little ball of adorableness that is your daughter. But here’s my issue: I am a daughter, so I ask that you spend less time joking about my protection and more time teaching boys how to not be terrible. That way I can meet boys without needing a mercenary to protect me. I actually just read an article at The Good Men Project about this last week from a dad who put it well by saying, “Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give…And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface.” Besides, this joke is TIRED. A man wrote a book about it, they made a TV show about the book, the main actor died, the main actress has been on a new show for 7 years, and you’re STILL making the same joke.

To be clear, this post is not my cry for further advice on parenthood. I’ll ask that advice from those I trust when (or if) I actually need it. I’m a little worried about posting about parenthood because I know it can drum up a lot of big emotions for people. But I did it anyway, so there you go. Now, this list only scratches the surface of well-meaning-but-kinda-annoying things people say to pregnant women or new parents. If you know any others, feel free to talk it out in the comments. (And if you’re looking for non-terrifying new parent discussions, start here.)

Goodbye, Saugatuck

Every summer since I was born, my family spent one weekend in Saugatuck, Michigan, at a private camp on Lake Michigan.

Emily 1.5 years

My first year at Saugatuck

Over 100 years old, the camp is made up of a few dozen wooden cabins filled with bowed twin beds. The cabins sit amongst dune grass and trees. Mosquitos and Daddy Long Legs run the place and there isn’t a square inch of the camp that’s free of sand, inside or out. It’s awesome.

My sister, my friend Elizabeth, my super awesome Tamagotchi, and me in front of our cabin

My sister, my friend Elizabeth, my super awesome Tamagotchi, and me in front of our cabin

It’s a church-affiliated camp, technically called Presbyterian Camps. The church I grew up in would go together. But my family always just called it “Saugatuck,” as if the whole town was contained within the boundaries of the camp.

The year my brother and his friend, Ben, shaved their heads

The year my brother and his friend, Ben, shaved their heads

The place holds years of fond memories for me. My brother (now 25) buried his last pacifier there. We would sing songs around a bonfire on the beach, staring at the stars we could never have seen from home in the suburbs of Chicago. We woke up to the sound of waves crashing on the beach only a few yards away.

My siblings and I outside our cabin, Rose 2

When I left for college, I stopped going to Saugatuck. At first because none of my friends were there any longer, and later because I was too busy, I suppose.

My senior year and second-to-last year at Saugatuck, sitting with my friend Sara

My senior year and second-to-last year at Saugatuck, sitting with my friend Sara

I hadn’t been for ten years when they announced they were closing. The Presbytery needed the money, and the camp was worth a lot. So my older sister emailed the family, asking if we’d like to go one last time. She brought her husband and daughter. I brought Joe, my boyfriend of 4 years, who happens to be from Michigan and has a deep respect for its Great Lake.

family at saugatuck

The camp hasn’t changed much since I left it—a fresh coat of paint and a refurbished cabin or two. I had expected the camp to seem smaller, and it did. But I hadn’t expected it to seem…less adventurous. As a kid, I was endlessly entertained by the camp. Running down the dune, digging a giant hole in the sand, running back up. At breakfast they had hot chocolate, and I was allowed to drink as much as I wanted. As much as I wanted! Me, a middle child! It was heaven.

My and my friends, digging another hole (I have a lot of pictures of me and sand holes)

That’s me with the short hair (of course)

But as an adult, I suddenly needed more to entertain me. A book, a deck of cards, a beer. Suddenly, grabbing a Sassafrass leaf and smelling it to see if it still smelled like Fruit Loops (it still does) wasn’t quite as awe-inspiring as I once thought it was.

My brother, getting ready to canoe

My brother, getting ready to canoe

It’s strange being able to visit a place that holds such strong memories of your childhood. I got to show Joe places that I barely remembered myself, and these memories were still so perfectly preserved: the dining hall still had the same brown tile. The walkways were made of the same wood. The smells were still there, right where I’d left them. It’s the closest to time travel I’ll probably ever get. I can’t show him my first day of high school. I can’t show him my 8th grade bedroom filled with newspaper clippings of Freddie Prinze Jr. I can’t show him what it was like to climb the apple tree in my best friend’s backyard. But I showed him Saugatuck and he knew that it was almost exactly what I experienced every year. This is where I played. This is where my memories are.

My younger brother and sister outside the camp's crafting area

My younger brother and sister outside the camp’s crafting area

It’s also strange visiting a place and knowing it’s the last time you’ll ever see it. That doesn’t happen often. Leaving old homes for new ones, maybe. To save myself from the sadness of finality, I always tell myself I’ll be back for some reason or another. I visit a new city and talk about all the things I’ll do next time I go. At least in America (and in Terminator movies), we don’t often say goodbye. We say “See you later!” But the truth is, there are some places you’ll just never see again. Saugatuck is one of those places for me, and I know that without a doubt. And it’s weird.

Me and my older sister, in a hole at Lake Michigan

Me and my older sister, in a hole at Lake Michigan

As we were leaving, I watched two people hugging goodbye. One person was a returning camp counselor; the other was the camp’s cook. It was the longest hug I have ever seen. They didn’t move, they didn’t sway, they didn’t pat each other’s backs. They just stood there. It was the hug of two people who knew they’d never see each other again. Is that sad, or happy? I’m still not sure. We don’t always get to know that this is the last we’ll see someone, but these two got to know it. Would you want to know if it was the last time you were going to see someone? That it was the last time you’d be back?

Would you make the time count any better?

katie kite

I don’t know if I made the most of my final weekend in Saugatuck. My adult brain, in its need for something more to create an adventure, kept wondering what about me had changed. Maybe it was the years of feeling self-conscious in a swimsuit that kept me from digging a proper sand pit. Or a deadened imagination that required outside entertainment. Or maybe I’m just remembering my childhood in Saugatuck with rose-colored glasses, weeding out all the adventures from the small moments of boredom and quiet.

My sister, Hannah

My sister, Hannah

But however I remember it, that’s where Saugatuck lives now. I won’t be able to bring my children there, as so many generations have done before me. It’s part of my past, along with all the other experiences that only live in my head, never to be seen or walked through again. When the person who bought the camp tears down the cabins and puts fresh new homes in their place, Saugatuck will live only in my memory. I will show my children photos and describe those memories to them:

“Here’s the place where my dad showed me how to fly a kite.”

My dad (on the right)

My dad (on the right)

“Here’s the porch swing where my sister and I would sit for hours.”

swing

“Here is the village that raised me.”

adults

And my kids will see it, and Saugatuck will still be there, breathing deep gulps of air that smells like sand and sunscreen and oak.

That’s where Saugatuck will live.

lake michigan sunset

Gifs for the Heartbroken

How your heart (and brain and stomach and kidneys) might feel right now:

What you probably feel like doing when someone says “Just be happy!”:

You may think, how long until I get to feel okay again?

It might even feel like everything is crumbling and no one gets it and no one has dealt with what you’re dealing with.

But in truth, everyone has been there. Even people who are happy right now have been there, too.

And they all can tell you that it’s absolutely acceptable to feel however you feel. Whether it’s:

or

or just

Because we’re here to pull you up out of the mud when you’re ready.

Some people will be better at comforting you than others.

Just surround yourself with those who only make you feel awesome.

And one day your brain will be normal again.

You’ll look back and think, why was I even sad?

Then you can go seek out a love interest who makes you feel awesome, too.

In the meantime, seek shelter with those who love you most.

For we shalt protect you from harm.

And we will also sing as much karaoke with you as necessary.

Because that’s what friends are for.

Trust me.

On Gender Roles For Kids

My first published piece is on Role/Reboot!
I’ve been thinking a LOT about my childhood, in which I had spiked hair and a tail (oh yes, a tail. In my defense, it was 1991 and 3/5 of the New Kids on the Block had them). I think I’ve finally figured out what it was all about. (Click the screengrab below for the full post.)

Image

What To Do While You’re Unemployed

Dear Unemployed Emily,

I know unemployment is scary and depressing, especially because it doesn’t have an end date in sight. And I know it’s actually more embarrassing than scary sometimes, because it feels like if you were actually talented, you wouldn’t be so very very unemployed.

First of all, stop it. Breathe. You know that’s not true, so quit internalizing it. Second of all, I have made you a list. Speaking from the future, when you have a job again (oh that’s right it ACTUALLY does happen), there are a few things I wish I had taken advantage of when I’d had every day to do anything I wanted–as long as it didn’t cost money, of course.

Image

I don’t have any pictures of myself where I look particularly unemployed, so thank God for stock photography. This was the SECOND result when I searched for “unemployed broke bored.” You’re welcome.

1. Make a meal or dish that takes all day. Like fancy bread or baklava. Something with a lot of steps that you might have to do a few times to get right. Of course money is an issue, so do your research and find something that doesn’t take a bunch of expensive ingredients. What did the peasants make? Ratatouille? Make ratatouille.

2. Take your time at the gym. Lucky for you, you paid for a year membership before the layoff, because working out is about to be the only productive thing you do sometimes. Try all the weights. Do extra core stuff. Stay walking on the treadmill for half an hour longer because an awesome episode of True Life is on. What, you have somewhere to be? Get fit. Learn the meaning of the word sinewy. (Ew, maybe not. That word is weird.)

3. Explore new neighborhoods. Take public transit to somewhere you’ve never been and walk around. Bring some music or a new podcast and just walk. Take note of the places in these neighborhoods you want to revisit when you have a job and money to spend there (this will drive you less crazy than just drooling on each shop window).

4. Plan elaborate gifts. Think of those expensive or intricate gifts you can’t afford now, and save it as an idea for later, so you have a reserve of great ideas when you have money again. Then get creative with your gifts for right now. Maybe learn a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, like how to make candles or soap or jam or sculptures or embroidery or cement coasters, and make it for everyone on your list.

5. Create a Bucket List. Fill it with things you need money for, and things you don’t. Things you can do today, and things you probably won’t do for ten years. Try to get to 100. Then start crossing off the things you can afford to do right now.

6. Think of the job you’d do if a paycheck weren’t a part of it, and then do something about it. Teacher? Be a volunteer tutor. Author? Write a book. Artist? Make something! Actor? Do a community play. Yoga instructor? Social worker? Forest ranger? Whatever it is, find ways to hone those skills. At the very least, it’ll be something to fill your time. At best, you may discover things about yourself you never knew, maybe even switch career paths.

7. Go to the library. Read a book a day. I mean, maybe not a book a day because that sounds intense and you’re not a very fast reader. But how amazing does it sound to spend a rainy afternoon inside with a blanket and a book and a cat curled up in your lap/on your neck because your roommate’s cat is weird like that.

8. If it’s nice out, sit outside all day. Possibly with a bottle of cheap wine or beer. Read. Write. Draw.

9. If it’s not nice out, find a comfy coffee shop. Get a cup of tea or drip coffee for a couple bucks and camp out as long as you can stand it. Enjoy the quiet.

10. Clean. You will never have the chance to have such a clean home. Make that dump shine like the top of the Chrysler building.

11. Go grocery shopping for hours in the middle of the day when hardly anyone else is there. Look at every nutrition fact. Compare and contrast the amount of fiber. Enjoy the lack of grocery carts bumping into you. Stare lovingly at the ice cream and cheese and reassure them you will be back when you have money again.

12. Grow something. Use the internet to finally find out how to grow basil. Get a cheap pot and make it happen, cap’n.

13. Volunteer with something that makes you feel good. Find a place that needs people in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. Schools come to mind, but I’m sure there’s lots more. Animal shelters. See?

14. Listen to more podcasts. Find ones that will make you smarter. Find ones that will make you laugh. Find ones that will teach you French.

15. Find awesome new music through Pandora. Do not settle for top 20, there is so much awesome stuff out there waiting. Combine this one with #10.

16. Learn how to take better photos with your phone. Then go out and find cool things to photograph.

17. Try to learn something bookish every day. Pick a subject and then go on Wikipedia to learn more. Henry VIII. Butterflies. Underwater volcanoes. Go to the library and find a book about it, and skip around to the chapters that interest you because no one is making you read it cover to cover. Become your own personal Discovery Channel. Look at pictures of outer space. Look at pictures of tiny things under microscopes. Rediscover all the fun things they teach you about in elementary school.

18. Get political. You know that political thing you actually care about but don’t have time to know every detail and you can never really articulate your point when your uncle brings it up at Thanksgiving? Learn every detail. You don’t have to actually become a political person. But you always wished you knew more about Iraq vs. Iran. What’s up with using corn as fuel? And what’s the deal with Russia? Are we friends with them? Are we enemies? Find out.

19. See your family more. Go home. Stay the night at Mom and Dad’s. Go visit your siblings. Make them some of the fancy new food you’ve learned how to make.

20. Write lengthy emails. Become pen pals with your friends who live far away. Tell them stuff. Tell them everything. Foster these relationships. Why not?

21. Organize your digital photos. Label things. Put them in folders. Print out the ones you really like. One day when your children are looking for photos of you in your 20s, do not make it into an insane project for them.

22. Watch ALL the Netflix! How many times have you felt left out of an awesome inside joke for not watching a TV show? Have you ever seen Freaks & Geeks? Do you watch It’s Always Sunny? Do you watch Mad Men? Have you seen Arrested Development? Do you watch Downton Abbey? Did you watch Lost? Have you seen Dr. Who?” What else do you have to do (besides 1-21 above)?? Get your TV on!

23. Watch ALL the Netflix! (part 2) Movies! So many movies that are part of popular culture that you haven’t seen! Rocky! Funny Girl! Basically every Woody Allen film! Catch yourself up. I mean, you haven’t even seen Planes Trains and Automobiles, for Christ’s sake.

24. Learn about a different religion. Get an intro book about it. Or get the actual religious text if you’re really feeling like a smarty pants.

25. Plan a trip outside the US. But like REALLY plan it, as if you’re going to go soon. Go online. Find reviews. Go to the library and get books about it. Watch the Rick Steves episode about it. Find out the significance of historic buildings. Learn how to catch a cab. Find a good hotel. Write it all down and then, when you have money again (because you will), you’re ready to go!

26. Look for a job. Ugh, fine.

3 Ways I’ve Othered Women

Women are 50% of the world. Half. And yet so often, they are othered, which means that women are treated as outsiders, as the deviation from the norm (the norm being men in this case). This sounds like a terrible thing, and one we’d all like to believe we don’t do. But othering women is so prevalent, so omnipresent, sometimes I don’t even notice it’s happening. In fact, sometimes I’m the one who does it. Here are three ways I’ve only recently realized women are othered that I am just as guilty of doing.

1. Animals are never girls.

From The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

There was a story recently on This American Life about a duck and a girl duck.

Did you catch that? A duck and a girl duck. You know, like a human and a girl human. I am totally guilty of thinking this subconsciously, too: animals are male until proven female. When faced with an animal which has no visible signs (at least to my untrained eye) of its sex—like, say, a mouse—I refer to it as male.

“The mouse went that way! Get him!”

This goes for real animals as well as stories about animals, like the one with the duck. The problem with calling them “the duck and the girl duck” is that it sounds like 90% of the ducks of the world are male, and 10% are female, which isn’t true (I think. Technically I didn’t look this fact up). Especially in stories about animals, the main character is usually (dare I say nearly always?) a male unless the plot has a reason for it to be a female.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar: male

The Ant and the Grasshopper: male, male

The Poky Little Puppy: male

Yertle The Turtle: male

The only exception I can think of is Stellaluna, a female bat. Does anyone know of any others?

Why are men the norm, and women the proven? Is it just because we need more lady authors and illustrators (like the one who wrote Stellaluna)? This is probably true, and maybe this has already happened and newer children’s stories feature more female animals. But I think it runs deeper than that. I think it’s because we all still think of male as standard, me included. But women are 50%, and it’s wrong for us to do that. I don’t know how to stop it, but I bet recognizing this fact is the first step.

I think I may look further into this. I see a trip to the library, a pie chart, and an interview with my sister (a 1st grade teacher) in my future.

2. Unisex = Men’s fit.

A “unisex” (aka men’s) size chart

Working in the tech industry, I’m often given unisex-sized shirts. Which is awesome. Free t-shirts are awesome, and it gives me some pain to complain about them. But let’s break down what “unisex” means:

Despite the definition of unisex meaning “designed to be suitable for both men and women”, shirts in a unisex cut are actually fitted the same as men’s, just with a larger size range, going all the way down to XXS. So then what differentiates women’s fit? With women’s fit, the shirt will likely be longer, with shorter sleeves, a wider neck line, and fit for someone with curves.

But women are 50% of the population. And only recently I’ve realized that it makes just as much sense to make unisex shirts fitted for women instead, and then describe men’s cut as a special shirt with longer sleeves, smaller neckline, and fit for someone without curves.

“But we can’t force men to wear women’s shirts! They’d look ridiculous!” Really, that’s another post for another time. (Or a conversation that’s already been had?) But what’s the difference between making 50% of the population cross-dress with shirts where their boobs and hips don’t fit the clothes, instead of making the other 50% cross-dress, wearing a shirt with a little extra fabric in the chest and hip area?

If we can’t (read: won’t) change the gender that gets to fit into unisex clothes, at the very least can we recognize that we consider men’s shirts as the standard, and women’s shirts as a special fit? Let’s stop pretending women are being graced with a compromise by offering unisex sizes. Women don’t wear a special type of shirt, we wear 50% of the shirts (consumerism arguments aside).

3. Women are always cold.

Are women colder? Or are men warmer?

I have always accepted and reiterated the common mantra that “women are always cold.” (Learn the quick science why here.) But women are 50% of the population. So maybe I’m not always cold, but men are always warm. Why do men get to be the “standard” internal temperature to which I am compared against? In fact, when you google “men are always warmer,” most of the results that pop up still flip the conversation back at you: “Why Do Women Often Feel Colder Than Men?” says the first result.

Whether I’m cold or men are warm, the argument that comes after, which I have also always accepted, is that we have to keep the temperature lower because: “You can always put on more clothing, but you can’t take it off.” Yes and HOW FUN it is for me to bring an extra scarf (literally–I bring two scarves) to drape on myself on the frigid bus, to wear a blanket on my lap looking like Whistler’s Mother, to wear the same jacket around work every day because, guess what? Cold weather clothing is expensive and I don’t own that many jackets.

Joe is always surprised to touch my nose and realize how cold it is. Yes, when I am cold, every piece of me is cold. Including my nose. I suppose you can always put on a ski mask, but you can’t take one off.

I would like to suggest that we turn up the heat to a comfortable 72 degrees and instead of forcing me to wear a hoodie in the summer, men can come to work in the winter with a pair of shorts to change into. That’s not professional? Neither is wearing gloves to meetings, but that’s what you suggest I do by saying I can always add more clothes.

Let me put it another way: if “you can always add more clothes” was a valid argument for keeping the temperature lower, you wouldn’t constantly hear women complain about being cold, because they would add more clothes as suggested and be done with it. And yet rational, intelligent women sit with their arms wrapped around themselves, their teeth chattering.

I understand that turning the temperature way up would make some men (and women) sweat profusely, which is also not the best solution (yikes). But why can’t we turn up the temperature just a LITTLE bit and we can ALL wear layers? Or you can buy a little desk fan and meet me in the middle.

Women are 50%. Fifty. How many times have I said it now, eight? I’m repeating myself because I think it’s such an easy thing to forget. Women have every right to the things they want as men do. Don’t forget it, and don’t be afraid to flip an argument on its head to see its inherent bias.

A note about this post: you’re going to hear some feminist-y things on Dear Me, discussions I’d like to have with both men and women. After all, as Jackson Katz says, “gender issues” is a topic for all of us. But this blog won’t center on feminism, per se, mostly because there are other blogs doing a great job of it already. If you’re looking for said blogs, I’d check out Feministing, Jezebel, Role Reboot, and Rosie Says to start. I’ll be throwing in a few things from time to time, and hopefully you’ll follow along with me and contribute smart, kind thoughts to the conversation. You don’t have to agree with me, but I do ask that your comments stay civil.

An Updated Graduation Speech

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Graduation, 2003

In 2003, I gave a speech at my high school graduation. Instead of asking the valedictorian, my high school allowed all students to try out their speeches, and then chose their favorite three. Which was lucky for me, because I just so happened to be a much better writer than I was a student.

Now that it’s 2013 and 10 years later, I wanted to write a new graduation speech. What would I say to my graduating class in 2003 if I knew everything I knew now?

I kept trying to write something epic. Something that would speak to every 18 year-old out there. I would start and stop and abandon every idea I had. If this were olden times (aka 15 years ago), you’d see me with pencils sticking out of my hair, balled-up paper strewn haphazardly around a small wastebasket. But instead, you’ll just find a folder on my desktop called “Blog”, filled with abandoned attempts and halfhearted outlines. One day, I realized something: if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 20s it’s that I was never as alone as I thought I was. So I’ve decided that I don’t need to speak to every graduate out there; I just need to speak to myself—my 18 year-old self—in hopes that I’m right, and it wasn’t just me learning these lessons…it was all of us.

Dear Graduating Emily,

I’m writing you this note 10 years in the future. I may fool myself into thinking I am a totally different person now than I was at your age, but we’ve lived the same 18 years. Which means you actually know me better than anyone else, I bet. And I know you better than anyone else, that one’s for sure.

So what? What can I tell you, ten years into the future?

Hmm. September 11th already happened for you, so I can’t warn you about that. That was crazy though, right? Christ. People still talk about it now, don’t worry. We didn’t forget. I recently rewatched the Daily Show episode from right after 9/11 and it brought me to tears like I was a Junior all over again, watching it in that room in the library. What was that room called? Anyway, in 10 years you’ll forget the names of a lot of rooms. But you won’t forget that day.

Good TV will come in waves. You’ll get really into Sex in the City after it ends and decide you are a Miranda with a little Charlotte (sarcastic with innocent tendencies). Eventually you’ll be able to apply Friends to your life. That will be super weird for you–especially the Gandalf episode, remember? Anyway.

You’re going to go through a lot of stuff with Travis. I’d tell you all about it here, but I think it’s better if you live it, because it really does make you a better person. And a better girlfriend to the boys who come after him (spoiler alert).

More than one guy who looks like Matt Damon will hit on you. Which is weird, since you’ve always been a Ben Affleck girl.

Remember how you and Michelle would plot out your lives and declare all the things you’d have by the time you were 28? The picket fence, the husband, the kids…all those things are nice to have. But you don’t have them by 28. And it’s okay, because eventually you kind of realize that when things last forever (like marriages and kids and mortgages), you don’t have to hurry to make them fit the life you have. Plus, the life you have is great anyway.

I know it seems right now like college students know everything. They absolutely do not. They just have more light beer and hoodies than you.

Eventually you’re going to figure out how to eat better and exercise. It’s not going to be easy. Ever. And the learning process will involve tears and adult temper tantrums with Mom and Dad (one involving the size of the fruit Dad bought for you. Yikes. You aren’t at your best moment there.) But you kind of work your way into it.

Take off your makeup at night. Last night’s eyeliner does not count as Second Makeup the next day. Wrinkles are a thing.

You don’t end up famous. Not that it’s your plan at 18, I know, but it’s in the back of your mind. That one day you’ll be beautiful and skinny and perfect and you’ll be discovered in a grocery store or just somehow you’ll magically get in with the right crowd and be whisked away to Hollywood. I want you to know it doesn’t happen, because I think it might allow you to make different choices. Your life is not likely to involve a lot of glamour. But it will definitely involve a lot of cheese and laughing with friends, and it turns out? That’s much more your style anyway.

You will try wearing thongs. You will give up on thongs. This probably summarizes what it’s like to go through your twenties.

Eventually you’ll figure this out on your own, but I’m going to throw this out there right now anyway and maybe you’ll figure it out sooner—sometimes you have to make things happen for yourself. Which I know sounds like something for a poster with a kitten on it, but it’s true. To quote Phoebe, “YOU are the boss of you.” (oh yeah, you still quote Phoebe in ten years. That woman is timeless.) Mom and Dad, your teachers, your bosses—none of them can get you a job or know that you need a new apartment or a doctor’s appointment. You have to start figuring all that stuff out on your own and then making it happen by asking for the things you want. And if you find you aren’t happy, you’re the one that has to change it. Not your friends, and DEFINITELY not a boy. Emily. I’m serious. Look at me, Emily. Not a boy. You hear me?

Ugh, you will never really figure out your hair. Sorry. It’s unfigureoutable. So just enjoy it now before the grey settles in, because then it REALLY becomes annoying. Not trying to be a downer, I just want you to enjoy what you’ve got. That goes for the rest of you: your eyelashes, your stomach, your butt, your boobs. Quit waiting for the day when you’ll magically be perfect and enjoy the stuff you’ve got going on. Because you have a lot of stuff going on. I remember, I was there.

Oh, except your boobs—that you can change by boycotting Victoria’s Secret forever and getting your bras from Nordstrom. Do that IMMEDIATELY. Do not wait for Laura to tell you about it in four years. I don’t care if I change the course of history by telling you this. Time waits for no Victoria’s Secret boycott.

You will stop going out all the time, and that’s okay. Even though you currently find that prospect really lame. Eventually you learn to appreciate nights spent in with a movie, some wine, and a cat.

You get a cat. She’s hilarious and yes OBVIOUSLY she has her own voice and personality. She is not the cat you expected to find, but she’s actually perfect for you. This also might summarize what it’s like to go through your twenties.

You have not yet learned to play the bass guitar, but it’s still a dream. I’m 28, dammit, not 82. You’re still allowed to dream at 28.

Take a Women’s Studies class in college. I don’t know why I didn’t take one, so I’m telling you to do it now. You make pretty good class choices, otherwise, probably because for once you bother listening to yourself.

Try to listen to yourself more.

You will learn about heartbreak. You will break up. You will be broken up with. You will listen to very sad songs (and not just NSYNC ones) on repeat for days. You will forget how to eat for a little while. People will tell you that it gets easier, and you won’t believe them because you don’t see how that’s possible. It gets easier.

You will learn about romance. You will have more first kisses. Some will be forgettable, but some you’ll remember for years. There was one…nevermind, I’ll let you live it. Oh man. It’s coming. I’m so excited for you.

I’m only 28, I’m not really in a position to be handing out life wisdom yet. Let other people do that. Ask for advice. Find out what Mom and Dad would do. I only have ten years on you, so I don’t know what will happen for the other 60 or so (God willing). One of the most important things I’ve learned in the last 10 years is to accept that I actually don’t know much yet. You have a slightly longer way to go, but it’s okay, we’re in this together. We’re doing pretty well so far.