Category Archives: Life’s Work

History Repeating or Did the Movie “Baby Boom” Create a Generation of Women Like Me?

My mind is a bingo cage of mixed thoughts lately, turning in my head and reflected in my Spotify playlists.  My mixes used to win acclaim from my bar customers, perfected with obsessive attention, an outlet for my ruminating tendencies.  “May”, played over and over again while being authored, was never really complete until June, and then some “May” songs might carry over to  “June”, only to be deleted by the time “June” was complete, in July.  Everything from September on, including “Austin on a Rainy Day” and “Aquarius” are jumbled radio dial skipper collections of songs that don’t appear to mean anything together.

Before I moved in September, I told myself: “You’re going to get that alone time you’ve been needing, and you’re going to get a lot, all at once, in a place where you’re going to be… alone.  Like, really alone.”  It didn’t work out that way at first.  Work and travel and nesting and exhaustion and dates that wanted to give me their intro to our city and friend after friend and family member passing through town meant I just never felt lonely.  For months, I never felt lonely.

Recently,the reflective and lonely moments finally come.  I think about things like my Dad doing his taxes at the dining room table for weeks at a time when I was a kid (computer free, with a pencil and calculator), my see through Conair phone I bought when I was finally allowed to have it in my room, my amazement at the years of my life that have passed and the phases and houses and people I’ve been through.  My parents are preparing to eventually abandon their horse property in Colorado and people are getting older and I talk to my Mom on the phone and think, “this is so nice, just to hear her voice”.  Even that part of the conversation when she slows down and gets choked up as she delivers some bad news I haven’t yet heard.  There always is some.  And my real Dad, he’s been dead for four years.  Followed by a beloved nephew and my godfather and honestly, I just can’t believe how it all piles up.  For years and years.  I feel time rushing at me.

I feel creative lately and unblocked by fear.  I look back on the eight years prior to this relocation and wonder where that energy was spent.  Was I writing?  Was I playing guitar or writing songs no one would hear?  I remember fragments of working on scripts or the opportunity to write at work and, for too much time, my societally supported preoccupation with my romantic life.  Then more satisfaction of my artist brain actually at my job and the peace of thinking maybe I was doing what I was supposed to be doing and that was just to be a nice person and produce web videos.  Much closer than those memories is the fiery shit storm that ended in me leaving town and getting what I had wanted for a couple years: to move to Texas.

I’ve been incredulous at all of my life periods of intense growth and pain and 2016 fits.  However, it was one of the best years of my life.  I had more fun, felt more confident, was more me, born out of a pain I was so sick of feeling (again).  You know, just another breakup.  At thirty seven.  And you’re like fuck this shit.  I’ll do whatever I want, but like, even more so than before.  I took advantage of everything in front of me in the full power of my peak womanhood.  But then I got so tired.

This is the first time I haven’t repeated a pattern I did over and over again in my twenties.  It was:  1) Move to a new city.  2) Get a new boyfriend.  3) End relationship.  4) Move to another city (um,state) to avoid ex boyfriend.  5) Repeat.  In Denver, I lasted through over eight years and two (serious) relationships.   Frankly, though it’s been a blessing to be far away from the many former sex partners I left in that town, Texas, who I first loved in 2014, asked me in.  I wasn’t trying or looking to move, and was offered a job I did not apply for.  Also a first.  I got fucking recruited.  Thanks Austin!  (For real Austin, I tell you this every day.  We’ll always have this, Austin.)

Fear of getting in a relationship and that person coloring my direction here as in the past has overridden every man (man?) I’ve been involved with in the past six months.  I’ve been fighting it, because I truly understand how I’ve settled before.  And why be safe now?  One peripheral pattern did repeat, news about an oft maligned ex starting… ahem… a family.  This is the second time I’ve gotten that news soon after I was safely out of ex-shot.  And also the fastest one of my exes has managed to complete this move.  Which is pretty damned fast.  History, it repeats.  Especially when you are thirty nine.

The very first time I came to Texas, a man I’d idolized as a teenager and flitted around but never met said to me on a patio long after midnight: “You know, you get older and things keep happening all the time but it’s like the same things over and over.  Do you know what I mean?”  I was thirty six, had fantasized about him through my early twenties, in my thirties heard all about him through a friend he dated, and now here we were.  “Yeah.  I do.”

The dichotomy of old life/new life, even compared to last year, when I bartended and lived “out”, even sleeping on top of my covers for weeks at a time to avoid washing sheets, makes me feel I’m barreling into my forties after two decades of my twenties.  I skipped marriage, divorce, childbirth and rearing, and will enter my fifth decade in what is now, I believe, an envied position.  Free of commitments, stretch marks, real estate, and tangible baggage.

Only very recently have my younger lovers just exhausted me with how… young they are.  I used to relate more to them.  I’m not quite up for dating men ten years my senior yet (with some exceptions), but less interested in the juniors all the time.  Maybe they’ll finally stop pursuing me.  I resonate most with the people, the women especially, who are like me.  Still seeking, finding new things, doing so solo, breathing it in, happy in their powerful autonomy.

I watched the movie “Baby Boom” recently, having not seen it since it was released in 1987.  It’s pretty tame, so I probably rented the VHS from Countryside Video, which was one mile from my childhood home on the edge of our mid century tree filled neighborhood. More reflections.

A couple scenes always stuck out in my head.  One, I actually always thought was from a different movie, “When Harry Met Sally”.  Diane Keaton (having not yet inherited the free baby she will soon get) is in bed with her live-in boyfriend.  They are quintessential 80s Manhattan yuppies, so, of course they “make love”.  The camera pans from the digital alarm clock to them.  There’s a transition, and then the camera pans back to the clock display – four minutes later.  “That was great,” they say to each other.  Even as a pre-teen I knew this was bad.  This meant the sex was routine and no one was excited about it.  This was not who I wanted to be.

The other scene that stood out to me was Diane Keaton making a million jars of applesauce.  I think this seemed pathetic to me, like she was now single and out of her mind making a bunch of applesauce by herself in the country.  Adult me had forgotten that she then became uber successful again and is able to turn down her former employers (who demoted her when she became a single Mom) once they try to buy her applesauce company.  By that time, she is dating a super hot veterinarian – ostensibly the only other single person in her small Vermont town.  But, he teaches at Bennington too, so, jackpot!  That’s some meant to be “if you build it they will come” type shit.

Few female fantasies could be more appealing to a woman like me.  I’ve worked hard for my seventeen year career, and, while I’ve enjoyed it and gotten to a certain point, it didn’t make me “Baby Boom” rich or anything.  I didn’t have a boring serious yuppie boyfriend but I did have some nice ones I rejected, and then a slew of more exciting better looking ones.  I’ve never been focused enough on marriage or having children to make that happen, and the idea of not ruining my figure, not having to find a suitable partner, and then just being given an adorable well behaved baby that happens to be related to me is pretty ideal.  I mean it’s really the complete have your cake and eat it too situation.  I’m not sure I could ever make the choice to adopt but if someone offered me an orphan I’d take it.  Just like if I ever end up pregnant I’ll take it.  I have an IUD.

Further than the baby without vaginal birth or C-section scars scenario, “Baby Boom” pre-dates a million Generation X Etsy dreams!  And not just Moms, because a lot of my friends (and like, we ALL single) made serious cash on Etsy (and I sold a few David Bowie felt Christmas ornaments back in 2006).  Diane Keaton is all “fuck you very much” to her old corporate bosses and then makes a fortune upcycling the apples that happen to be growing all over her property.  It’s the professional female urban dropout dream.  Be you, get it all, without ever having to plan or choose it the way you did your career.  Because, the Etsy money comes from the farm which came from the urban dropout which came from the demotion which came from the free baby.

So like, in my scenario, the urban dropout comes from career burnout or getting fired and I end up living in the desert and somehow  I manage to make money freelancing or start painting and it turns out I’m a famous artist and then there’s that orphan around too.  And I fall in love with a rancher.  The only rancher in the area who voted for Hillary Clinton, actually.

How many other women like me internalized this message of having it all and an inability to choose anything other than your own success, or, your eventual fuck you to the patriarchy and/or unforgiving rat race?  My latchkey kid generation, raised by Diane Keaton’s (roughly): isn’t that who we are?  Kind of trying to have it all without settling for anything?  And maybe giving up on part of it and reinventing our ideas of success when the other part becomes more important?  Maybe that’s just what people do all the time. But we’re not that far away from not even having these choices (for example, from when birth control was illegal and women couldn’t have a credit card).

So, same things happening over and over again… I may, or I may not.  As I mentioned, it has stopped making sense.


This Feels Personal

My therapist, via phone from Colorado told me today, “try not to think of it as personal; but it’s divisive” after I told her about realizing a former friend had unfollowed me on two social medias.   I was hurt, not knowing when it happened, as I’d dutifully liked probably every baby photo this person posted.  I realized this on election night when this person posted an illustration of the president-elect riding a tank, holding a large gun with an eagle flying above him.  I’d done much in the past to lift this person up with me professionally, and what I got for it was someone who treated me disrespectfully in work situations and could not cease “locker room talk”, also in work situations where, if anyone was the boss, I was.

I’d thought my forgiveness was mutual, but I guess I underestimated how much I’d been disliked as I grew and evolved in my former role at work.  An evolution that meant taking responsibility for my own actions, which meant not being friends with people who couldn’t understand the boundaries, couldn’t sit with me at lunch and goof and know a little bit about my personal life and then not be completely inappropriate in the moments when I was running the show.

I don’t usually post much on “the book” but I lost my shit on election night.  It felt good.  I had woken that morning thinking: “This is the day the first woman president is elected.  I can’t believe I just had eight years of democratic rule and I’m getting eight more years – from a woman!”  I pictured the situations where I may have been made to feel like a dumb chick, and how I could feel safe in the knowledge that our country was under female governance.  Finally, no one could be validated in sexist behavior anymore.  Hillary was watching!

As the horror of Tuesday unfolded, I, like my friends, raged online about the stupidity of my fellow Americans, the shocking reality that such a truly awful, unqualified person could be elected to the highest office on the planet, the reality that it makes hating on everyone who isn’t a straight white male okay for the insecure fuckers that need to feel reassured in their patriarchal entitlements.  I unfriended several people out of my own fear of being trolled by my larger online friend group after one person from high school I hadn’t marked “acquaintance” snuck through, and I heard through my sister that my angry post reached and potentially offended at least one family member.  Why am I not allowed to be offended by their voting for the abhorrent Republican candidate then?

And here’s why I am offended: As a woman, I’ve been treated disrespectfully by colleagues in professional situations where it was imperative I be in calm control, and it shook me to my depth to know they were clearly not supporting me. I’ve been told that it was my fault they related everything I did to my need to find a man (as a single woman in her 30s) because I’d told them about my personal life and dating experiences (because I thought they were my friends).  As a teenager, I was groped in the dark in a costume closet at my high school by two guys I also thought were my friends.  They flip the light off in the closet as soon as we are in it and start grabbing me.  As a teenage girl, you don’t know what to do in these situations.  Part of you wants attention from these guys who are your friends, but not this kind?  You tell them to stop, and then you never tell anyone.  As a twenty two year old living in New York City, a man begs to go through the turnstyle with me on the train.  My metro card isn’t scanning and when it eventually works, no one else is on the platform and he squeezes in with me.  Because, I am scared to say no, to be disagreeable despite my deep discomfort with his request.  Naive as I am when he didn’t steal my wallet I feel I just helped a teenager who is trying to get somewhere.  I turn around and look at him and he is masturbating as he says “thank youuuuuu…”   In Detroit, at age twenty-nine I am at a red light in a car I’ve just bought, a man pulls up next to me and masturbates with his back arched so only his penis is in the window.  When I back up to get away from him and (hopefully) turn right and drive away he does the same and is aggressively next to me again.  And we just elected someone who is on tape saying he forcibly kisses women and grabs them by the crotch (nevermind the piles of other accounts out there of inappropriate behavior towards women and girls).  This might be a joke for a non presidential candidate, but like Bill Clinton was skewered for smoking pot, a presidential candidate is held to a completely different set of standards.  As a reality star the president-elect can be an asshole.  As a president you most certainly can not.

It’s not lost on me that Hillary’s email scandal (an actual non scandal caused by the carelessness and technical inefficiency of her aides and herself) was brought up AGAIN because of Anthony fucking Weiner.  More than once in the debates her opponent brought up Bill Clinton and his conduct in the 90s.  We are talking about male sexual transgressions.  But what about Hillary herself?  She’s got nothing like that on her record.  But it seems our president-elect’s wife can have all kinds of trash in her past (nothing I’d actually skewer a woman for, but I’m making a point).  It’s okay, because she is married to someone who hates women, and clearly he owns her and nothing she does matters anyway.  Therefore, Hillary is repeatedly denounced for Bill’s affair.

It hit me in the days before the election how much Hillary had been through, how tough she is, how much people dislike her for it.  And that she kept trying, and kept working.  And why is it always brought up that she is hungry for power or something?  Don’t all politicians have to be hungry for power?  Otherwise how can you do that job?  But people find this so distasteful in a woman.  What the fuck is her opponent if not hungry for power?

I was up till 3:30am on election night.  When the news announced that Hillary had called to concede, I broke down.  I was hopeful to that point, I really was.  To think of her, a dedicated public servant, a scholar, a legitimate politician, a Secretary of State (!) having to call and concede to this gross epitome of every wrong thing about the United States, in addition to a blatant sexist, racist, xenophobic caveman – it killed me to think about.  This was around the time of the realization of my social un-friending.  It’s the constant decision of a woman like me – will I be successful, or will I be liked?  Will I be angry, or will I be liked?

Wednesday, she delivered her speech as the bigger person that she is.  I saw myself, in my idolization of boys as a little girl.  Not only could they pee standing up, but they seemed to have all the glory (except for maybe Wonder Woman and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders). In kindergarten, like the “In A Sea of Princesses Dare to Be Batman” meme, I actually was batman for halloween, in a too big costume I could barely see out of in the school parade.  As I got older, I looked up to rock stars.  Why was it ok to look so cool if you were a guy but unladylike if you were Courtney Love?

I thought of when I went to the college radio station at eighteen, and, intimidated by it being all boys, I decided not to try and have my own show (I later made a couple guest appearances on male friend’s shows).  I thought of the times I’d been embarrassed or disrespected by coworkers.  The high school friends grabbing me in the closet.  The subway, the stop light, and the time I walked into a newsstand in New York and a faceless person (I was too shocked to turn around quickly enough) put their hand up my summer dress and grabbed a handful of my ass.  The time my ex boyfriend told me that when he first met me he thought there must be something wrong with me since, at thirty six, I hadn’t been married or had children.

And mostly, the time in elementary school, when I’d finally gotten the ball in bombardment (like dodgeball but both sides throwing balls).  A popular, athletic boy said “give it to me!” and I didn’t.  I remember being thrilled with the ball actually in my hands, the power to finally throw it!  I threw the ball myself.  I hit no one; I wasn’t that strong or fast.  The gym teacher (who enwrapped girls in awkward and uncomfortable bear hugs as they left the gym) said “why didn’t you give it to Brandon?”  Oh, how they program us when we’re young.

Hillary was me at that moment.  Every time someone had told me I couldn’t do something, and it was implicit.  Because you’re a girl.  And could it ever be so blatantly obvious, as she had to concede to this utterly unqualified buffoon, that ultimately, it had so much to do with this, with her being a girl.  Even if that’s just because people don’t like girls like her.  Another woman steps aside and lets a less capable man take her place.

Some people have said to the numerous protests going on: please stop.  Give the guy a chance.  The peaceful transfer of power is so important.  But I say:  BRING IT.  If this is what it takes to uncover what’s really going on here?  Let us rage.  Let each person scream to the world that they are no okay with the hate speech that the president-elect normalizes.  Let us scream to the world that it isn’t okay for the country to AGAIN be subjected to rule by a candidate who doesn’t win the popular vote.  Let us, as women, stop worrying about being liked, and be okay with being angry. And let us not give up.

Note: I don’t in any way claim that my plight as a white woman is anywhere near that of a woman of color, a black man, a Muslim, a refugee, etc.  But it’s how I feel how horrible this result is, and have empathy.
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