Proof of Life

I listen for my own breath, feel the beat of my heart.

I’ve been a hostage so long, no longer know my own name.

I must be real, must be a person. Am I right? I don’t know.

Racing thoughts, like the beating wings of a thousand birds,

Chase away any sense of Self, bring on the fatigue that I call Me.

With no true mirror to look for evidence that I exist, no clues of who I am,

I once again drift off into the abyss of the Land of the TV People

Where I find my home and family, where I live out my wildest dreams.

#The Get My WorkOutThereChallenge #DayThree

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

It is a fact: I am not a big fan of selfie-taking. I wish to put this disclaimer right out there at the forefront. (See my previous post “On Selfies and Vulnerability.”)

Nonetheless, I recognize that it has become a part of the fabric of our culture today, and I have tried to make my peace with it since it is clearly here to stay.

However, can we please, as a society, draw some lines, people?

Today, after my run at the gym, I was half-naked, air drying, when I noticed a fellow gym member taking a multitudes of selfies in the dressing room.

Now I know that people, for whatever reason, have come to believe that bathrooms are the ideal place for self-taking. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I even took one myself, which I never posted as it just seemed absurd to me.) It is a standard selfie location nowadays.

But, seriously, the dressing room at the gym?

I wondered as I watched her taking photos in front of the mirror – both aiming in to the mirror and also with the camera flipped standing in front of it – which meant that there was the possibility that I, in my half-nakedness, stood a chance of being in the background of aforesaid selfies, either in the reflection of the mirror directly behind her.

I have to say that I immediately felt my privacy had been invaded.

As calmly as possible, I walked over to her after I dressed and said I’d noticed he’d been taking selfies and that I was concerned that I may have inadvertently been in some of the shots topless. I was going to ask her to delete and retake if so, out of courtesy to my right to privacy.

Well, you would have thought I had demanded her phone and then smashed it.

She quickly swiped through the 8 shots she’d taken, none of which I could properly see because she as going so fast, though I did see that the top I’d been holding was in the background of 1 or 2, as it was a very colorful print.

She starting yelling at me then, telling me that she wasn’t taking pictures of me. I said I didn’t think she was taking pictures of me, but I feared my naked torso was in the background, caught accidentally.

She got even louder and angrier, and told me I was crazy. I asked to see the pictures again, she refused and continued to yell at me.

Someone intervened and asked us to stop yelling. She also tried to explain to the lady what I was concerned about, to no avail.

I went down to speak to the manager, who wanted to go find the lady, but while I was waiting to talk to her, the woman left through the side door. (I know this because when we went to look for her, another woman came forward and said she had seen her leave.)

All I really wanted from the manager was perhaps a sign to go up in the dressing room that selfies were not allowed in respect to the privacy of other members.

(Of course, as I asked for this, a part of me wondered if anyone really takes anything a middle-aged white lady says with a grain of salt. It is embarrassing to bring up in a world where so many are fighting for equality, but I will say it: women over 45 are, for the most part, invisible and/or treated like we are crazy much of the time. I am not saying we need a movement like many other much more maligned parts of society; I recognize the advantages and the privilege that my being a white, American, middle-class woman have afforded me. Still. Just saying. But I digress.)

To her credit, she listened and gave my concerns attention.

What I wish to propose here is that we, as a culture, recognize/remember that there are still places where photography is not legally welcome. Even in the Age of the Selfie.

Don’t believe me? While it is legal to take pictures just about anywhere, there is a line drawn. “Basically, anyone can be photographed without their consent except when they have secluded themselves in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as dressing rooms, restrooms, medical facilities, and inside their homes.”*

*Reference below.

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I think that a dressing room is a place where I can reasonably expect privacy, am I right?

Yes, legally I am. I am not just another crazy middle-aged lady ranting, it is illegal.

Now, I know this lady had no desire to take a pic of me. I have no fear that she is now circulating the photos on the Internet! (This has actually been a big thing and prompted Congress to address the issue of privacy by enacting the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004.

According to the West Virginia State Privacy Office website: “The Video Voyeurism Prevention Act prohibits the photographing or videotaping of a naked person without his or her permission in a gym, tanning salon, dressing room or anywhere else where one expects a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Violators can expect fines of up to $100,000 and/or up to a year in prison. This doesn’t necessarily make it illegal for someone to snap your photo without your permission though. For instance, if you’re just walking down the street and someone takes a picture, they’re well within their rights no matter how violated you might feel. If you see someone taking your photo without your permission, it’s your right to ask him or her to stop. Never take photos of people without their permission, and try to be aware of your surroundings.”)

So I do have the right to not be those photos, and I could (and perhaps should) have called the police. Now, not if she had been willing to have a discourse with me. But as she felt no social obligation towards my concerns or privacy whatsoever – perhaps.

After all, we are all living on this big ball together, right? We do have to work together to some degree, don’t we?

How about this: I’ll put up with your self-taking everywhere else if you respect my privacy in restrooms, dressing rooms, medical facilities and inside my own home. If you just HAVE to get that shot of yourself in one of these places, just make sure that no one else is in your background, okay?

Sound good?

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word prompt: fact

SaveSave

Untamed*

I rise today,

All-powerful One

Mark the date and time

For I am done

I wanted to work

So I appeased

To follow my dreams

I scraped my knees

If you really don’t know

Somewhere deep inside

How wrong it has been

Then why did you hide

But this is not about You

You’re just one of Too Many

Time to change the conversation

To solutions, not controversy

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: tame

*I am tired of the news stories re: the Harvey Weinstein “revelations” focusing on who knew what. Why no discussion of legal ramifications? It feels so insane that we hear about these people in power abusing their authority to sexually harass women (and men) and all they get is fired? Or it becomes a business story – how will the company go on? To me, the whole point is being lost. The conversation needs to be this: why does this keep happening and how can we, as a society, take responsibility for a culture that still allows for it and is somehow even supporting and creating it? Finger-pointing to individuals misses the bigger picture. I had to say something to find some sanity in this very dismal repeating story that keeps getting lost in the stories around the story.

Sexual Healing

Growing up in the 70’s, my sexuality was shaped by what are now considered to be pretty tame resources.

Remember that this was before the internet brought free porn into our homes, and nudity and sex acts were the norm in film and television.

It’s true: “free love,” second-wave feminism, women’s liberation, and the sexual revolution were making major strides in the 1960’s and 70’s. The 70’s saw many influential innovations. Edible underwear was invented. (Still being sold today.) Video Home Systems (or VHS) and Beta Systems were made available to buy in the mid-late-70’s, which the porn industry apparently mavericked for their retail use.

Like many middle class Americans, my parents didn’t have a VHS machine until the 80’s, so videos were not available to me. (We were also the last family I knew to get cable. My parents were against paying for TV for some reason. Maybe there were late night cable porn resources around in the later 1970’s, but not in our house.)

Despite there being many women who were battling for my future and the future of many young girls like me against the woman-as-sex-symbol stereotype, I remained steeped in the cultural and mass media imagery, messages and attitudes that kept that stereotype alive and well. And boy, did it all do a number on me.

I grew up in Houston, Texas, in a mostly white, middle class neighborhood.

Other than my brothers and the time this one guy was driving around the neighborhood without pants on, fondling himself, asking kids for directions, who I had the misfortune of being “exposed to,” I was not exposed to male nudity as a child.

But female nudity abounded, and shaped not only how I thought about myself and my body, but how I thought everyone else thought about me and my body.

So much so that the “me” in the sentence above and “my body” became synonymous in my mind. I WAS my body. My body was me. As in, I based my entire self worth on my appearance and whether or not I felt men were attracted to me.

(I still struggle with this encoding. But I digress. More to come on that later.)

Though I was born into the “Golden Age of Porn,” the “porno chic” years of 1969-84, I was not exposed to any of the films that were made famous during those years, notably Warhol’s Blue Movie, Mona, later The Devil in Miss Jones and Deep Throat. (They probably didn’t make it to mainstream theatres in Houston at the time, but even if they had, I’d never have gotten to see one.)

But we had magazines. Playboy and Hustler. Others. It was the photographic depictions of women in men’s magazines that primarily influenced how I saw myself as a woman.

My first memory of seeing and being influenced by a photo of a naked woman was actually a record cover, and this woman was not exactly naked. It was the cover of Herb Albert & The Tijuana Brass album “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” (1965.)


This was one of my parents’ favorite albums to play. I heard it often from an early age, and I loved dancing to the music, making up dances to the songs, which were saucy, sexy jazz concoctions.

But more than that, I was obsessed with the woman on the cover. I was attracted to her. (Maybe it was the appeal of the whipped cream. I was already way too into food: my eating disorder was gesticulating already.)

But it was more than that. On some level, I knew she was considered exciting, attractive and desirable, and I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

Also, TV shows such as “Love, American Style” Rowan & Martin’s “Laugh-In” were popular during my early years. Both had racy sexual references and innuendo and young women dressed in sexy outfits. From these shows, I learned that if you were sexy and young, you got positive attention from men. Think young Goldie Hawn dancing in those strobe lights in that green bikini with her painted body. The young women on the show actually wore babydoll dresses and Mary Janes because those were in fashion. Talk about confusing messages!

True story: If little me was asked at the time (when I was 4 or so) what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said “a go-go dancer.” I even had little patent white go go boots at 3!

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These were my role models. This was the kind of woman I wanted to be!

Later, I found my brother’s girlie mag stashes and would go in when they were out to pore over them. I was fascinated by the women’s bodies, so different than mine. I knew that I fell way short, but I remained hopeful that maybe someday, with enough hard work, I could create a body close enough to rate some man’s favor.

When I was old enough, I started to read the articles (yes, I really did) and the infamous “Letters to Playboy.” These were my education in what was interesting to men about women. Through them, I discovered what men really thought about women. What they really wanted of us. And it all had to do with our bodies.

I learned that I was here to be attractive to men. That what I looked like and how attractive men found me was my purpose on this earth. That there was little value to me other than my sex appeal, and that if I wanted any happiness on this planet, I better work hard to be and stay appealing to men.

And so I did. I became the perfect female consumer. I bought into it all hook, line and sinker. The beauty products, the clothes, the way of being in the world.

I transitioned from my brother’s hidden away men’s magazines to the magazines of my adolescence. Though they were women’s magazines – Teen, Cosmo, Glamour, to name a few – the messages of their content were actually perfectly aligned with the former’s messages about the female role in society. In these magazines I found my road map, the formulas for winning and keeping a man, 100 ways to keep him satisfied in bed, and how to stay looking young and sexy forever.

Every issue of these magazines had different versions of these same themes, over and over. (And if you buy these kinds of magazines today, they still do.) And I bought them and bought into them all, every time.

How I related to boys and then men was all shaped by that early imprinting. I look back and feel like I didn’t really get to have real relationships with men (and women — since they were always the competition for the men) until much later in life. Because through all my dating and early relationships, I was living from the outside in, trying to be the women I had seen in those magazines pages. Trying to find and live the life promised to me in the ads in the magazines and on TV if I succeeded in making myself into one of those women in the pictures.

It took several years after moving to NYC as a young woman for me to learn how to leave my apartment without make up on.

It has taken many more years for me to unravel all of that social and cultural conditioning to find within my own idea of being a woman, of my own sexuality, of what I feel is my intrinsic value and purpose on this planet. It turns out, none of it depends on what men or society think of how I look.

It has been a tough going, this “unlearning.” I was thoroughly brainwashed. I drank the Koolaid. Despite years of hard work to reprogram myself, I still find little pockets within me that harbor beliefs like that Victoria Secret models are better people and deserve more than women like me. Or that if only I looked like this model or that model, my life would be perfect. Little pockets of self-hate that dismiss my worthiness as a human because I do not have large boobs and perfect thighs.

There’s still a part of me that is scared writing this blog post. That I will be labelled as “ugly” just thinking these thoughts/going against the grain.

I take those parts by the hand when they reveal themselves to me and I whisper the truth in a loving tone and tell them I am so sorry they have ever felt anything less than beautiful just as they are, inside and out.

Today, I try my very best to love my real body. I pour my resources into that. (I no longer buy those magazines nor do I need they ideas they sell.)

I love being in my body, and I love my awakening true sexuality. I love feeling desirable. (Who doesn’t?) But I no longer seek to feel this feeling from outside of me.

Today, feeling attractive and desirable is on my terms, made from an internal collage made out of my true essence  – what I like and feels good to me. This inner imagery replaces the old template.

There is no longer a buxom babe at the centerfold of my spirit, beckoning to me with promises of happiness and fulfillment if I am able to become her.

There is me, and the unique beauty that I bring to the world this time I am here.

Like many women my now-age, I look back at the loss of all that time trying to be a sex symbol as a tragic loss of my life’s precious energy.

I waste no more such precious time today.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: edible

Old Baggage

When I was in junior high school, I begged my parents to go in on a purse that I was desperate to buy.

Not just any purse. It was a Gucci Speedy/Doctor bag. (We didn’t call it that then. I only know that’s its name from researching this…it is now considered vintage! Ouch!) It probably cost a couple of hundred dollars, which was a lot in those days (at least to my family) to pay for a purse, or anything, really.

Everybody had one, or so it seemed to me.

I went to a large public high school, so there was a mix of economic and racial backgrounds, kids from many different backgrounds.

On any given day you would see the many different lifestyles reflected in the fashion of the different groups. Sometimes what a kid was wearing reflected their socio-economic status, but not always.

There were “Stoners” (or “Partiers.”) The “Kickers” (this was Texas after all — so these kids were cowboy/farmer types.) It being the 80’s, there were the “Punkrocker” or “New Wavers.” ( I know, this is beginning to sound like the movie “Pretty in Pink.” That movie resonated for a reason, right?)

It was the height of the Preppy or Preppie craze, and though Houston, Texas was not NYC, we did get the fashion trends, albeit maybe a season or two behind. So the other main group was the “Preppies.”

The majority of kids in the Preppies definitely came from upper middle class to wealthy families. Looking back, for a public school, there were quite a few kids that came from great wealth.

I didn’t really fall into any one group. While my family was white-collar, sort of upper middle class, my father, having come from next to nothing, wanted to be sure that we were not spoiled. We never wanted for anything, but we lived fairly simply in comparison to some of the other kids in my school.

I was never one of the popular kids. I was an outcast until I lost a bunch of weight at 14, when suddenly I became of more interest to the “in” crowd. Though my outsides changed, my insides were the same. So though I was allowed around the in crowd now, I never felt a part of it.

There were others like me. We found each other and created our own group. We didn’t have a name, at least that I know of.

We were sort of mysterious: people knew we had fun going out to clubs and bars and hanging with older college kids. Though we had friends across all the groups, we would hang with just each other outside of school. We dressed in a mix of all of the fashions of the day.

But back to that bag. The bag that “everyone” was getting. I just had to have one. I had some money from babysitting, but not enough for THAT bag. So through the implementation of Chinese water torture on my dad, I promised over and over dramatically that “I would never need to buy another purse again for as long as I lived if I had that bag!”

Eventually, I wore my parents down. I got THE bag.

I have no recollection as to whether or not obtaining the bag actually brought me any pleasure whatsoever. I ‘m pretty sure that the amount of time I actually used it was very brief, much to my father’s chagrin.

Years later, after my Mom died, when we were sorting through some of her things, my Dad reminded me of that bag and that promise. We laughed about it, but I felt a cringe of guilt at how easily I had let go of that bag after having fought so hard to get it.

I think it’s because I really had no connection to the bag itself. Only to the way I wanted to be seen carrying it. The lifestyle to which I wanted to be associated. Which was not reflective of my own style at all, or even who I really was or even wanted to be.

But I wanted to feel like, or to be wanted by at least, (or to be seen by others as being wanted by or as one of “them,”) those popular girls, and so I got the bag. It didn’t make me feel any more a part of the “it” group than I ever had. I was an outsider and I always would be, bag or no bag.

It makes me sad that the girl I was then didn’t feel good enough in my own esteem to have seen that bag for what is was: a status symbol. It wasn’t the bag I really wanted. I wanted status. How I wish I could go back in time and tell that myself that being an outsider was actually pretty cool. Now I know the kind of status I needed would never be able to come from anything outside of my own heart. I wish I hadn’t sold myself so easily and so cheaply.

After my Dad died, I found that old Gucci purse in a box in the garage, where my Dad had kept it for me all these years. It was in mint condition, barely used.

Maybe you are hoping I’ll say I started to use it again. Or that I sold it at a profit on Ebay.

I gave it to the Salvation Army, where I hope it became a found treasure for someone who really wanted it for its beauty. I hope it is being put to good use in the world, as should all things.

Today I carry a very practical Lug Moped Day Pack bag as a purse. It costs about $35.


It’s light, leaves me hands free and has just the right ratio of open pockets, zippered pockets, divisions and space. (As it turns out, I am quite finicky about a handbag’s function, would love to design my own ideal bag, but this is as close to my ideal as I have found to buy.)

I have no interest in designer handbags. I may admire their beauty sometimes, and be amazed at and appreciative of the women who pay for them, love and carry them. But they were never my style and probably never will be.

I can live with that.

#purses #handbags #self-love #Iamnotmybag #theeighties

Inspired by The Daily Post word prompt: lifestyle

Danger Will Robinson!

If you are old enough to get the reference of the title of this blog, you may share my opinion on the word “someday” because you’ve lived enough days to have noticed a few things.

If not, here’s some context. Will Robinson was a character on the series “Lost in Space” that ran in the 1960’s. It was long in reruns by the time I watched it: my high school friends and I would watch it on Saturdays, hungover, laughing at the campy melodrama. It had a robot in it, and in one particular episode, the robot warned Will of impending danger. (I also remember one episode where I think the robot actually said “take a chill pill” too, but we might have been playing a drinking game then so who knows if that really happened.) But I digress.

I believe that there are some words and concepts that are dangerous. “Someday” is one of those words.

An adverb, it is defined as: at some time in the future. As in: I know someday my whole family will be together and happy.

It is a word to hang your hopes on.  Hopes for dreams coming true: “I’ll be a star someday.” Hopes of people’s poor behavior righting itself: “Someday, they will treat me better.” Hopes of exacting revenge: “Someday, they will be sorry.” (These are completely random examples, of course. Totally random samples.)

Seems pretty innocuous, right? What’s wrong with a little hope?

The problem happens when you start living so much for “someday” that you stop living this day.

I know firsthand that it’s possible to live from a deeply buried “someday” mentality and not even realize it. To live floating so much on that hope of the ever-elusive day in the future that life becomes the way you so desperately want it to, that life becomes a stream of yesterdays that weren’t really todays at all because the siren call of “someday” muted the music of the moment. I couldn’t even see what was because I was so fixated on and attached to visions of what I wanted life to be. I landed shipwrecked on the boulders of la-la-land, which before last year used to be a term that described “a fanciful state or dreamworld.” To put it another way, I awakened to the ugly and hard truth that I was way off course.

Once I realized that I was living from this hidden “someday” philosophy, after the shock wore off, and the anger, I had to forgive myself. After all, I was conditioned to live the world of “someday.” I grew up on fairy tales filled with songs like “A Dream is A Wish Your Heart Makes.”

And “Someday my Prince Will Come.”

I literally took these songs to heart, and they shaped my view of the world.

I am not blaming Disney! (But there is something to be said about the powerful affect of replaying songs hundreds of times. Don’t they use that technique to break prisoners? Isn’t that a kind of brainwashing?) I love those songs.

But they promise. And “promise,” like “hope” and “potential, ” are words and concepts that can be used for the better or for the worse. They are potent. They are to be measured for use.

These days, I watch myself. I steer myself away from using words like “someday.” I practice gratitude for today, this present day. For what is, not what I wish will be. Yes, I have wishes and dreams. But I also have goals and action plans. I am not adverse to a little hope in my heart. I love me a Disney movie and sing those songs right along with the best of them.

But I live in today. My yesterdays are well-lived and appreciated. My tomorrows are what my todays become. They are the result of today, not the point of them.

My “someday” is now.

#livefortoday #carpediem

via Daily Prompt: Someday