Monday, October 3, 2016

Suicide Shaming: How Only Walkers WIll Understand

Staying single is a choice for many reasons; many of which I have chronicled for you  in previous tales of woe.  But this will likely be the tale to end, or even begin, all woes.

I like to refer to us as Suicide Walkers, because we walk the path of Suicide Lane the bane of our existence without most of our associates knowing where we plant our feet.  What I mean by that is this; it's mid-January, 3am and you're alone.  There's a few inches of snow on the ground, over top of ice, and more on the way.  Everyone on the block is at a gala for a local good Samaritan and you just broke your house key in the front door lock.  You are cold.  You are alone.  You have little hope of help, others are off helping a better person than you, and more cold is on its way. 

There is no protection, no shelter, hope, understanding, confidants, or way out.  This is the continual path of a suicide walker.  Except that its not a random, 3am incident that lasts until someone gets home.  Continual means unending, uninterrupted; therefore, we develop injury from incidents.  We incur numbness from the cold, scar tissue from the stab wounds of icicles falling all around.  You experience an incident.  We walk a continual path of ice.  This is the path of a Suicide Walker.  And this is why we walk alone.

A Moments Thought:

I don't know yet if I'm loved or lost
I do, however, know I'm long forgot
Each day, so long, deafened by the madness
Seeing no change in the plight of my sadness.
When music plays, it breaks me down
Realizing its one thing I'll never be allowed;
The other sounds, life moving on
Lets me know that it's fine, you'll be fine, when I'm gone.
There's no one left, beloved who will miss me,
Walking each day, an act so pointless, empty.
I no longer belong, actually, it's been some time
Since there was a place, or a moment, this world gave as mine
Alone; it doesn't matter.  Hollow is the part that allowed this soul to shatter.
Even if I somehow were surrounded,
I'd see not a moment's purpose, only chaos unfounded
As an accident, sometimes, I think we catch him off guard,
And as we wander thru our days, he renders us, just scars.
There was no time to etch a plan or fill you into the lines.
That's how some of us conclude it's just our time.
It isn't from a lack of trying, loving, or wanting life.
It's simply that we want too much, and end up with hearts afire;
Desperation becomes our pain, and our funeral pire
Because the only answer we ever find
That quiets the sobbing deep inside
Is "go ahead, give into it, it's only suicide."

The Easy Way Out:

This is hardly the easy way out.  If we could ask those of us who took this so called easy way out, "what was it like, how long did it take to finally do it," not one would come back and say, "oh it was simple, I just decided one day it was a good idea and so I did it."  This isn't quitting a job or taking a spontaneous trip to the Maldives.  This is suicide.  Hunter S. Thompson, famous, long-time author for the Rolling Stones wrote in his famed suicide note, "67.  That is 17 years more than I wanted."  A man of means, a man of worth, a man who anyone would say, lived his life, took, at least 17 years to commit an act he wished to commit so eagerly, because it was not easy.  Because it is the final page of his story.  A total guarantee that nothing again will ever happen to you.  No hell, no forgiveness, just black.  Suicide Walkers, then, have to believe, that nothing good is to come.  They've waited 17 years. 

But truth be told, it's one hell of a journey.  Suicide Lane has zero short cuts and zero street lights at night.  It's almost entirely uphill, until you approach these ridiculously unforeseen turns, then you trip over something, a rock, a pothole, who can tell, and you are catapulted hundreds of miles downhill, with no way to stop.  It's like Alaska in the winter time.  There's rarely light to guide you, and you worry that the sheer chill will stop your heart before you have a chance to make up your mind.  And while there are always other feet shuffling along the path, they're merely echoes in the distance; sometimes a scream when someone trips on that rock, or pothole, or whatever.  But they're so far away from where you're at, you don't bother to lift up your eyes to see if you can catch a glimpse.  Rather, you watch your own feet.  You have to.  They feel cemented to the earth as it is.  You're convinced you're not moving at all; so you watch them, every step, just to know that you're somewhere different than you were moments ago.

As your demons hover beside you on the trail, they're mostly silent.  The sight of them is enough to keep you going.  And though they rarely speak to you, they often trade tales to one another, for the sake of breaking up the monotony I'm sure.  There's no way to understand them, their language, why they're with you, but deep inside your abyss, their temporary shelter, you feel your urge growing to their tales.  They're feeding each other, promoting each other.  How, you wonder, can something so black, so decayed, give so much light and strength to another?  Such a paradox, the things you see on this path. 

The Fork in the Road

When did I get here?  Looking back, the image of my impulsive self seems so small.  I'd say I was a child, but you can't open the gate to Suicide Lane until you are of certain height.  Children have very little awareness of consequences; it's simply not a conscious choice they'd make.  I know though, I was young.  Younger than a person should be to see the things I've seen.  Maybe I had a little red stepstool with me so I could reach the latch.  There's no real way to pinpoint the day I came to the fork in the road, but I'm going to narrow it down to my 12th year, the first time I cried the words that would nearly become a mantra for my life, 'God just let me die, take me already.  Please I'll go to bed and just don't wake me up tomorrow."  I don't cry them out anymore but the words crossed my lips just earlier today.  And I realize it's been a long, dark, cold, creepy, isolated 24 years on this road.  But you kinda can tell when the path is coming to an end.  The horrors no longer make you jump.  The demons never shut up but you don't even hear them.  They're gaining some kind of momentum I suppose. Your heart doesn't race while you tread uphill; you've found your stride.  There are street signs, but it's just too dark to try and see what they're pointing at.  I am moving foward. 

I am just so tired.  I probably say that, or at least think it, a few hundred times a day.  Mental exhaustion-I literally wear myself out, just from thinking.  I never knew if this journey would be hard, I just hoped it would be short.  Maybe I can rent a golf cart or something.  24 years is a long time to do anything continually.  Try and remember that. 

I once recalled reaching the top of a hill.  I thought, is it possible I'm finally at the height of summer in the hellacious Alaskan mockery that I am seeing the light of day?  But I found no hope inside buried willing to rise up and convince me that this were true.  But there was water.  A pond at the other side of the brush.  The light was bouncing off of the pond and the trees, the dew, the crystalized rock embedded in the mountain off to the side.  I know I was smiling because of the pond, so capitivated that I didn't notice him take my heart from my chest, just to jump from the cliff with it to his own death. 

The Wizard of Oz kept running through my visual mind.  I had no heart.  If I swallowed a rock right now not only would it be alone, but you would hear every drop, bounce, ricochet, as it made its way through.  I am but a shell; hollow, void, nothingness.  Too, I haven't the courage to move.  Nor do I wish to.  Nor is there anywhere to go.  Dead end up ahead.

There's no place like home.  There is no home left for me anymore.

Supernova Center

Stars in the sky die, along with everything else coexisting in this vast, desolate expanse.  When a massive star dies, the gravatational impact on the star causes it to implode, or cave in upon itself, creating a massive, incomparable, glorious explosion of the star's mass.  I once heard it described as its "destruction creates its most beautiful and memorable moment of its entire existence."  Pictures of supernovas are among the most rare in the world.  Satalite reconfigurations capture a select few.  Those few, are changed forever.  I am changed forever.  In a lapse of a few seemingly insignificant moments, I witnessed magesty.  In a flash, followed by destruction, surviving in its loss.  I cannot surivive it at length.  I am a Suicide Walker, and my road is short. 

The memory is the only way you can survive, if you want to.  And I'm just not sure I do.  I'd rather become that star myself, shine for once, evade the dark for awhile.  I want to provide light for another.  I want to shine next to him.  Understand, I want to be light.  I don't want to be in the dark anymore.

Suicide Shaming

An interesting term we've all come to know so well is shaming.  When you shame someone, you make them feel guilty about a position or reality they hold dear.  Suicide shaming is particularly paradoxical.  If you want someone to live, don't make them feel bad about being suicidal.  They will distance themselves from you.  What you need to do is consider the story above.  Suicide walkers don't choose their path.  They are always on it.  They are always suffering.  They are always considering.  Your only hope of keeping them around longer, is knowing their pain is real, filling it with authentic, unconditional, real love, and being understanding of their plight.  Suicide is not a selfish act, nor is it about you.  If you want them back, or don't want them to do it because you don't want to lose them, then essentially, it is you who behaves selfishly.  Ease the suffering of your suicide walker.  Understand that they want to be loved, but that they will walk Suicide Lane alone.  If its 17, 24, 56, or 70 years.  The choice will be made, and it is their right.  So fill their life with love, fill everyone's life with love, and let it lie. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What Am I Doing with My Life?

During my teen years, I lived with my grandmother, a divorced, full-time laborer who took time for her family and her interests.  I suppose during those years, some of her lifestyle rubbed off on me.  She always seemed happy; she always seemed busy!  And she knew me better than anyone ever had. 

Many nights we discussed the possibilities for my life.  Of course, she was quite biased and believed I could be anything from a model to a corporate NY attorney to the next Hemingway.  But one thing she never doubted, was that I would do, whatever it was, on my own.  I had a few relationships at that point; tragic and sometime bordering on a Lifetime movie of the week, but they existed nonetheless.  I wasn't repellant or narcissistic or demonic in anyway.  Men came and went and I moved on. 

Once I became an "official adult," I was told the tales of the romances of my grandmothers life.  Two men entered it; two men left it.  One by choice, one by force.  The only overlapping in these tales was time and heartbreak.  My grandfather, hmm, to speak delicately of the deceased, was not a saint.  Handsome as they come in high school, often being remarked to be a James Dean body double, and you better believe it's true.  Women swooned after him, and from what I hear, he loved that!  My grandmother, on the other hand, if you think of the most shy, backward person you know, that would be her.  How they ever got together, I just can't figure it out.  I know I was told, but I believe I glazed over in amazement looking through old photos, trying to put myself in that lifestyle, so much so, that I never really heard. 

Regardless, it happened.  Quickly.  My uncle was born a mere 9 months after high school graduation, if you catch my drift.  The marriage was a pretty stereotypical 1950s standoff, though my grandmother did work outside the home.  Maybe that was some of the problem with the two of them getting along.  Over the years,  there were affairs, there were hospital visits (and missed hospital visits), and separations.  Until finally, one day, my grandfather left.  Yes, HE left her!  I suppose he finally found a woman who understood him, or could cope with him, better than my grandmother.  At that time, my grandma went into therapy, because the greater part of two decades just walked out of her life.  Eventually, she began seeing another man. 

Herein lies the problem.  They were only separated, her and my grandfather.  To this day if you ask my grandmother about my grandpa, "I loved him, I don't care," is the response you'll get.  She doesn't lie about the things she endured, she doesn't try to justify them either.  She simply accepts the fact that she loved a man she couldn't have, understand, or settle with.  Well, my grandfather, at this point, was already living with another woman; but when he caught wind of the fact that my grandmother was seeing someone, all hell broke loose, and there was another separation.  Two, in fact.  Hers from the man she was seeing, and hers from my grandfather, in the form of a divorce.  He divorced her.  And somewhere around the age of 40, she was alone, entirely.

Once some time had passed, the divorce was finalized, and the two quit speaking altogether.  Eventually, my grandfather passed away, I was 11, and a reunion happened; my grandmother was no longer alone.  This was somewhere around the time that I entered and upset her world.  I guess my brother had some adventures with the two of them; I never had the fortune.  The relationship went into secrecy, and wasn't spoken of again, for nearly 20 years. 

I'll never forget the moment.  Driving down Wheeling Avenue, frankly, I thought she might be having a stroke.  The noise that exited her lips, the exasperation, shocked me, and I said, "what, what's wrong."  "Nothing, don't worry about it."  So I started looking around, wondering what I missed.  My first presumption was that my grandmother ran over an animal and I hadn't noticed.  She is the greatest animal lover I've ever known.  Coming home from the mall one day with my brother, she had hit and killed a squirrel.  Hours passed before the mourning ended.  She anthropomorphized every living creature, and today, she killed Rocky, or Bullwinkle, I don't know which was which.  Well I didn't notice anything and the conversation ventured off in another direction. 

I had always wondered why my grandma never dated, but we never talked about it.  I knew she was shy, and terribly insecure, so I had always brushed it off.  That night, I got my reasoning.  In 1993, NCR closed it doors after 28 years.  She had worked there the entire time.  At 53, my grandma got to start over in the workforce.  Not easy.  Additionally, that same year, maybe even that same month, a feisty redheaded teenage girl came to take up occupancy in her home.  Probably not easy either.  And so she told me this:
         "One night, shortly after you moved in with me, you and Mindy were in your room doing God knows what and the phone rang.  Well, I had been seeing a man, and it was him.  I just told him, my life is different now.  I have new things I have to take care of and it just isn't going to be possible for me to see you anymore.  And I hung up." 
I was just sick.  And I have a pension for saying anything that goes through my mind the second it makes its appearance.  "Why would you do that, I would never ask you to do that!"  And it's true.  I would never ask my grandmother to compromise her happiness for me. 

But in that, was the earthshattering awakening.  I was her happiness now.  And sometimes, you just can't share your heart with more than one person. 

I think back on that night a lot.  I hear that conversation in my head as if it had just happened.  And the lesson will never leave me.  Some people are meant for romance, some are meant for dreams, others are meant for something we cannot even see.  When my grandmother would talk about my future, saying she saw me as a big NY attorney, or as a famous writer, or big into politics, and those sorts of things, she wasn't talking about my career.   My grandmother was talking about my heart.  Like I said, she knew me better than anyone, and she knew how much I bled. 

My heart isn't anchored in this world like some, sitting with a net, ready to catch a mate and love them their whole lives.  I admire that, I do.  I know the work it must take.  But my heart isn't made that way.  I bleed for this world, the people in it, the breaks happening each second, the pain inflicted on the innocent, and the maladies we simply cannot stop.  Regardless of whether or not I can do a damn thing about it, it is the resting place of my beating, bleeding heart.  So no matter what I do, what career I pick, or if I ever pick one at all, know this, that I am using my heart, maybe even more than most people you know.  And one day I'll likely bleed out from the pain that I cannot make go away.  But I am, truly, very much in love; this world has my heart and my loyalty.  And I'm okay with that. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Invisible or Not, I Am Still Here, I Think?

My hand hurts.  I wrote this so fast, I'm curious to see what it says.  I watched a podcast today on "breaking through your inner glass ceiling."  What is your old story; who and what are you blaming for not accessing your own power.  I thought it over for a few hours.  This is what I've come up with thus far.  Maybe, just maybe, my old story needs an edit.  Maybe it will help to explain some of the reasons I've led a solitary life 

Simply enough, from the outside in, I am alone.  From waking, existing, breathing, dreaming, each of these, and everything in between, is done in complete absence of any other.  There are those who look in the windows once or twice a month, at best, to verify a shadow, or even a corpse, but they don't announce their presence.  I remain voided by the rest of the world.  For that solitary reason, I question, who would listen to my tale?  For god's sake, what could I possibly have to say?  Let's put solitary confinement on paper.  Let's map out the synapses of the bipolar for proper investigation.  Let us please detail the irrational brain of the occasionally suicidal, often medicated, and always leaving behind; so that we can know, maybe, what NOT to do, how NOT to live.  Why would anyone be interested in such an abstract existence?  I am barely interested myself sometimes.  For days upon days, my voice has reached only the ears of my cat.  And typically, he ignores me anyway.  But there are layers to this, obviously, right? 

My favorite hypothesis, or most readily identifiable one at least, is sabotage.  Self-sabotage.  I see success, peace, joy, love abound.  I'll taste it, sit a place at dinner for them all, partake in too much wine while we all eat, and be sure, that before dessert, I will let each of them know exactly why I am better off with them all. 

Success, you rue, I have gone this long without your friendship, why should we try to bond now?  You have never supported me in any of my endeavors, or did you forget?  What on earth makes you think I'll let you stick around now?  You are too abstract, even for the likes of me.  Which of us is a bigger fool for believing we could have made a go of it?  You're merely a temptress in disguise; and you have mastered the art of the makeover.

Peace, you have only brought me fleeting moments of wonder.  You slut, you tease me with your breath on my heart, long enough for me to turn around and see you turn away.  You're worse than success, like a gypsy in the wind; there is nothing to grasp ahold of, no way to keep you.  Has no one ever told you, no one likes a tease?  But to be fair, I haven't made a proper bed for you, have I?  So often, I invite you over, just to say there is no room left for another.  Depression arrived out of nowhere, on one of his roadtrips; I can't very well turn him away now can I?  And just yesterday, mania was here; you know the place is always a mess after she stays.  I wouldn't wish for you to see my home like this.  So you understand, don't you peace?  We will reschedule, I promise.  It doesn't make you any less important to me, I swear it.

Joy, you beautiful ray of light.  Can't you see how much I've worked lately  I need blackout panels to rest when you're around.  Sunscreen, a b-12 shot, sunglasses, a myriad of accessories to cope with your visits.  As you visit to infrequently to become accustomed to your sight.  Frankly, you wear me out.  Bringing with you flowers which need watered and weeded, solutions for problems that my subconscious has put on the payroll, uncomfortable anxiety I must either exude or sedate.  You have to prepare a person for jolts like that.  Otherwise, I'll just be hovering in the dark corner, foaming at the mouth, defensively blocking out the things I just witnessed.

Love, you sit at my table merely as the butt of a joke.  On occasion, I've let you stay over, for the sake of my cat really.  I have even allowed you to inject yourself into my veins, that I may bleed onto these streets in service for a day or so.  But the withdrawal has never been worth the thought of making a room up, just for you.  You are more trouble than you are worth!  The shaving and showering makes my bills just go up.  The primping and planning means I'll get to sleep less.  Striving for perfection, from someone who can't even define it?  Your standards, love, are much too high for a girl like me.  I'm too common.  Too plain.  Too dark.  You wouldn't be able to see where to put your things anyway.  I'd hate for you to stub your toe.

So I finish eating dinner alone, having run off the prospects of good company again.  I've waned into many moonlights without their side talk as background noise, without them keeping me up too late.  Without their pleadings to stay, "Just another day, please, we belong here.  If you keep us, we will prove it.  We promise, we're worth it."  No, I have never heard these willful promises.  Thus, I deteriorate each eve, into the dark, under the stars, alone.  No one wishes to hear my stories.

Too, society has whispered it's thoughts of me in my ears when I least expect it.  Sometimes in a dream, "Tiffany, you're no model, stop expecting someone to love you."  And I know it.  "Dear, you've destroyed your body, stay inside, so as to not cause trauma to an innocent."  And I do it.  "Precious, you're too sick.  It wouldn't be fair to burden yourself onto someone else, don't you agree?  That would make you a parasite.  And there are always ways to rid one of a parasite.  You don't want that now do you?"  And I don't.  Society is a vicious, co-dependent manipulator, and I know that too.  Yet, it echoes around me.  "My lovely girl, isolate yourself from the absurdities of this world.  You don't need any new battle scars.  Stay in, where it's safe for you my sweet."  And I do.  And I investigate the scars I have, knowing I am made up mostly of scar tissue now.  A new wound, and I wouldn't even bleed.  It is just layers of death here.  At times, it'll scream, "My great prize, reward yourself for your battle time.  Stay home, meditate, have some wine, and reflect on your actions, for success will stop by again.  You want to be ready don't you?"  And I do  So I thank it.  I thank it for motivating me to start.  Yes, to start only another manifesto that will endure childlike neglect and psychosocial abuse that will earn it a blue awareness ribbon and send it off to foster care with the others. 

I've produced many a child who've been taken by the system in my absence.  My discipline lacks greatly.  My motherly instincts were given to a proper gay man the day they made me.   It happens.  I hope they gain the right to adopt one of my desolate productions sometime soon.  The local homes are being overrun because of me.  There have been moments, after all the above has ensued, that society sits me down, as if to be the doting father to my buried seven year old self, and looks me right in the eyes just to lie to me and sternly declare, "You are loved, you are protected, you are one of the gifted ones.  We will always show up when you call out, and we will promote your success when you achieve it.  But you will not achieve it by going out with boys or partying on the weekends.  You must commit yourself to this life, to this gift.  Do you promise?"  I do.  "Okay, we'll be back to check on you soon and see how much you've done."  So I work.  I work and I pressure myself and I work and I wait, alone.  Years have passed.  The doting father has absconded, having gotten what he wanted.  No one else is here, in your space, just the imprint on my couch from your heavy presence all those moons ago.

On the outside of myself, there is absence.  A mere void of a life that could have been a beacon in the night sky for others.  But, I've broken off each living branch which ever attempted to find life in me and gave it only a piece of my rot.  The decay has become visible.  And this is only me, from the outside.  The inside, well, the inside, I'm not certain even I have the compass to navigate such depths with no fire to shine through me.  I fear it boarders on qualifying as an abyss.  No oxygen to keep a fire going; just layers upon layers of rot, of black, of deadened versions of my old self.  And I have no compass.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Because I Can

What the single life buys me:

1.  I can sleep diagonally in my bed anytime

2.  I can go to bed whenever I want (actually had an ex who would expect us to go to bed at
the same time, gotta say, I never understood that one)

3.  I can sleep on the couch if I feel like it, not because I have to (Sleep is very important to me)

4.  I don't have to get up when you get up either

5.  I can stay "ugly" all day long, pjs and no makeup, bring it on

6.  And no shower because who's gonna smell me

7.  Shaving, forget it

8.  I don't have to compromise on what I want to eat

9.  Or where I want to eat

10.  Or when I want to eat (food is also very important to me)

11.  Having an "individual" bank account rocks; Because

12.  I don't have to hide spur of the moment buys

13.  I don't have to save to buy you corny, made-up holiday gifts

14.  I don't have to hide gifts so you won't find them

15.  I don't have to pretend to like the gifts that you didn't think too hard over buying me

16.  I don't have to help you with bills

17.  I will never again have that sick feeling where you wonder whether or you will quit your job and make our lives a struggle because I take care of my own sh**

18.  I don't have to share, anything, ever.  Not my car, my money, my food, my bed, my hot water

19.  I can use all of the hot water in the shower, or bath

20.  I can stay in the shower or the bath as long as I want to

21.  I can leave the door open when I go to the bathroom without regret

22.  Lord, I don't have to pretend to like your friends! hallelujiah

23.  I don't have to pretend your jokes are funny when they're clearly sexist or so completey close minded that it actually astonishes me

24.  I only have to pick out my own clothes

25.  I never have to hear "you're wearing that to my family's" ever again

26.  When I work overtime, because I'm like that, I don't have to be on the defensive as to my whereabouts

27.  I can get up and go wherever I want, whenever I want, with whomever I want (or do nothing at all because that sounds way more like me)

28.  I can gain weight and not feel guilty

29.  I can donate my life insurance to a worthy cause instead of having to leave it to you

30.  I don't need legally signed permission to add a non-spouse as a beneficiary to any existing financial account I may have

31.  I can blow my whole tax return all by myself if I want

32.  I can binge on chick flicks for days at a time 

33.  I can leave my phone face up wherever I go

34.  I don't blow up my friends' facebook with sickly pictures of us pretending to be over the top happy

35.  I don't have to watch you be upset if I get sick again

36.  I can have a perfectly normal feminine meltdown without concern for your safety

37.  I can accept free drinks

38.  I don't get woken up, with anything sticking in my back

39.  My shampoo and conditioner last me twice as long!

40.  My dishes can sit until I need them for survival

41.  I can throw away my "lady-like" card any time I want to

42.  Silence, any place, any time I want it, it's mine

43.  There are no pety anniversaries to remember

44.  I don't have to pretend to like basketball

45.  I can root for the football team of my choosing!

46.  My underwear can come from walmart (if I shopped there but I don't)

47.  I don't have to worry about your medical history (one ex had his very first seizure on me driving down the interstate at 6 am, that was not fun)

48.  I won't be pressured by your family to  have beautiful little grandbabies for them

49.  We won't fight over who's family's house we're going to for the holidays

50.  There is no fighting!!!

And this is just the beginning.  Spoiler, I started with my favorite :)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

How Music Gave Me Strength

I was lucky.  I was born into an era when women were allowed to speak their minds without much in the way of "excessive" criticism.  They methods by which they have done so over the years has changed dramatically; initially women's magazines created a sense of community among women who didn't get out of the house much.  Later, when women were allowed to receive an education regularly, books and letters became a popular medium.  One forum to which we have always had access, though, was music.  Initially, women's subject matter revolved solely around love, romantic love, and the void that existed without it and the genre was entirely adult contemporary love songs.  Music has remained one of the greatest outlets a woman has had to express herself, regardless of what she is expressing; but luckily for me, when I was born, music was changing. 

For years, men sang songs about anything and everything under the sun.   Frank Sinatra, "I Did it My Way," Elvis, "Jailhouse Rock," Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison," "Money, Sweet Home Alabama, Smokin in the Boys' Room," I mean this list could last for all of eternity.  But when we turn to the music put out by the women in comparable generations, two things become very apparent:  1.  There are by and large only a small percentage of women singers when compared to men, and 2.  Women's music was always about love.  Finding love, losing love, looking for love, surviving love.  Even when you had the occasional icon who possessed the guts to go against the grain, for instance, Janis Joplin, before it was popular to do so, she still sang about losing love, even though she was tough enough to handle it.  This was, though, a forward motion.  She dared the one who hurt her to "take another piece of my heart."  Love was life for women.  Identified and vocalized in 1963 by Betty Friedan in controversial book The Feminine Mystique, as she studied throughout the 1950s, the entire purpose of a woman's life was to catch a man solid enough for husbandry, in order for her to become a wife and mother.  As if one role wasn't enough.  If a woman was encouraged to go to college or trade school by her family, it was to nab herself a better class of man so that her life could take an upward turn.  She would be better taken care of by a man with an education. 

But right around that time, when women's' voices began to crack, mics were turned up louder, and different themes came out to play, the role of a woman in the world took on a new look as her expressions became accessible anywhere, anytime, through her music.  Though many people consider Aretha Franklin's "Respect," and iconic song for her era, a woman demanding respect, the lyrics actually paint the picture of a woman begging her man to stop cheating, stop lying, stop running around.  Come home at night to me, give me a little respect, and I'll give you everything I have.  Don't want to believe me?  Give the lyrics a read through.  "I'm about to give you all my money, all I'm asking for is a little respect, when you get home."  She doesn't even ask him to come home right away, just when you do, be nice to me please.  This is not the movement we needed to make.  Shortly thereafter, we began to get some stronger voices, from women demanding a life of her own, and melodically declaring there was more to life than landing a man. 

Stevie Nicks, I might swear she changed everything for us.  Stevie Nicks had the gull to sing about herself, her power, her life, her wants, damn near 40 years ago, as she led a group of mostly men to the forefront of the music industry.  Her mere presence allotted us a step forward.  She didn't constantly drone on and on about needing someone by her side.  In fact, when she did sing about love or relationships at all, she was in charge!! What a concept.  "Silver Springs" declares that "you will never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you," almost as if to say, you, the man, will be the one who suffers, I, the woman, will be fine.  "Gypsie," a personal favorite, talks about a woman's power to walk away, live her own life without the presence of a man.  The video ends with a group of females in a utopia, in an array of colors and lights, while the men remain traditional, suited up, and in black and white.  "Rhiannon," declared to be about a bonafide witch, taking claim back over the term and presenting it as something to be desired.  Rumors began about Nicks herself being a witch, something she's denied only once, then allowed the gossip train to run.  In 2014, she played the role of a "white witch," as herself, on the tv series American Horror Story; a legendary one at that, one who the other witches looked up to for years and saw as an icon. 

Soon after, bands like Heart, Joan Jett, singers like Annie Lennox, Madonna, Janet Jackson introduced women to an entirely new arena of what it can mean to be female.  "Bad Animal," by Heart, states that "(I) Got to swim upstream, got a rebel seed."  Janet Jackson came out with "Rhythm Nation," a song that brought all people together, men and women, black and white, to "break the color lines; Let's work together to improve our way of life."  Madonna, a beast in her own right, focused on the woman's perspective almost entirely.  With songs like "Material Girl, Express Yourself, Who's That Girl," she put the female view at the forefront, showing women that it was not only okay to have an opinion, but that you should own that opinion and make yourself visible because of it.  Not only did she take strides with women's roles in her songs, but also in her physical presence in the industry itself, almost demanding confrontation with every stigma held against her.   

And then the 90s came.  Rage girl defied all logic and songs became about patronizing the lovey-dovey icons we were used to and becoming our own women.  To start the decade off right, "I'm Just A Girl," by No Doubt, androgynous Gwen Stefani facetiously reminds us that being a "girl" is just as good as being a guy.  Starting with making everything pink for us from birth, all the way up to the legal rights we still don't have, she sarcastically points out that we still look at being a girl as a position of weakness.  She says she's sick of it, gone numb, and not giving in anymore, all the while, playing with a band of men to back her up.  Stefani is easily one of the greatest female musical icons women have ever had in the fight for gender or relationship equality.  Married to a man of equal hype, she marched on with her own career, had children, and never stopped singing about the life she enjoyed.  Her music was always whimsical and topical, and while she sprinkled in songs like "Don't Speak," to remind us of our occasional vulnerability, she always came out on top.

Alanis Morissette, however, will remain the voice of a generation.  In 1994, the lives of women and young girls changed forever.  "You Outta Know," came out of nowhere and told us that we had permission to be loud, vengeful, angry, and proud of it.  No one will be better than me, she let us know; and with the imagery of the video, not clearly showing her face, blurring the entire video as if to remark that appearances aren't relevant, romping around in a dusty desert, changing out of her feminine dress and heals into a white suite and tennis shoes, and later into, of all colors, a blue shirt, and combat boots, Morissette comes out of the park swinging in the face of femininity and love, cussing it out and telling us we're better than that; it's not a requirement for us to live.  We can hitchhike and walk the road alone, as she does throughout the video.  Her career continues on with the majority of her songs being about universal love, charity, indifference, religion, change, and learning your way through life; the minority of her music focuses on the volunteerism regarding romantic love.  Songs like, "21 Things I Want in A Lover, Are You Still Mad, and Right Through You," keep Morissette in control of the role that romantic love plays in her life, when it does at all. 

Today, singers like Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Pink, and so many others, allow women to be whatever type of individual they choose.  Clarkson has taken a stand against Hollywood and the entire music industry around the ideals of what a woman is supposed to look like after gaining a few pounds and having a child.  Her career has ran for over a decade at full force and she has literally told them to fuck off, she will do what she wants.  While her music is more on the traditional side of femininity, she still takes a path of "since you've been gone, I've been free for the first time," as well as songs like, "Breakaway," and "Stronger," sustaining her spot as a genuine female icon for the ages. 

Lady Gaga, with "Born This Way," and a plethora of others you may as well simply list all of her titles, adamantly declares that everyone is important and everything matters.  Love is one emotion, not the only emotion, and we should use it often and give it away freely.  She fantastically and outrageously demands that she will not succumb to traditional roles, and that her fans, her "monsters," need to take control of their identity and be whomever they truly are.  Conformity is not an option.  In this season's American Horror Story, she performs a makeover on a man who firmly believes he is a woman, and allows him to live out his notions of gender and sexuality in her world, as a woman.  Though it's a character she simply played on tv, it seemed a little like typecasting.  Gaga has carved out an entirely new path for any person to walk along, and visibly created a new mold for the likes of love and sexuality.  She has taken onlookers to a new level of individuality; so like her or not, her uniqueness is one for the record books.  She made it to the top, and she did it "her way." 

Pink, possibly the strongest of them all, has gone so far as to playing the male role in her videos, declared herself a rockstar in spite of rejection, and told the world she's "fucked because I live a life of sin."  She has let women know that they are "fucking perfect" just the way they are, that she will send a man home alone with his hand before she will bow down to his needs, and questioned how powerful we can become as a group in "Are We All We Are;" a song where she declared that it took her "four (years) to get through the lesson that I had to do it all my own.  Three, that's how many Hail Mary's they would pray for me thinkin' I was gonna end up all alone."  In true militant style, Pink salutes the crowd in her performance, noting that stereotypes expect a man to carry her, but in her reality, they, her fans, the crowd, are one, and they will all make it together in this life, regardless of their status.   

At one point in the new millennium, even Christina Aguilera took part in smiting love for a stronger role in her song, "Fighter."  Getting down and dirty in the video and playing to images that keep men attracted to her "style" didn't take anything away from the fact that she waved the middle finger to those who tried to hurt her.  As the strongest of women do, she took the high road, pointing out the flaws of  contemporary love, "After all of the stealing and cheating you probably think that I hold resentment for you, but oh no, you're wrong.  'Cause if it wasn't for all that you tried to do, I wouldn't know just how capable I am to pull through so I wanna say thank you cause it makes me that much stronger," and continues on to the benefits she gained from a stale encounter. 

Even in the immediate present, singers like Jessie J and Sia are continuing the good fight with songs like "Masterpiece," where JJ tells the world how incredible she is in style, and though she's not perfect, she damn sure is good enough, and will keep getting better, while Sia tells us that "you did not break me, I'm still fighting for peace."  We have women to lead us into a future that is void of demands for incredibly specific types of relationships.  These women have sang to me for decades; I am so thankful that I have listened.

Music is only one aspect of our culture that impacts the way we envision our world.  It has always been very prevalent in mine, however.  Music is a necessity for my sanity.  As Bob Marley once said, "the thing about music is, once it hits you, you feel no pain."  Music is a powerful tool to help us through anything. It allows you to channel the emotions of another human being, expressing themselves in one of the most powerful ways, and experience a level of catharsis you wouldn't know how to access otherwise.  Music alleviates your pain for you, heightens your awareness of experiences and perspectives you may have never known about, and deepens the emotions and stance you have decided to take on a particular issue because it connects us to one another.  The way Betty Freidan pointed out that magazines once created a community for women to share the lifestyles they led in such a disconnected way, music now has entered an era where people who have never met embrace one another and create communities of new expectations and ideals.  And with the women I have listened to over the years, the music that I have been drawn to, has allowed me to understand that I am good enough, complete even, on my own.  So where music can bring us together, it can also tell us that we don't have to be part of something to be beautiful.  We are complete entities, entirely our own. 

More and more, we receive images of women with careers and kids, careers and no kids, kids and no career, marriage and career and kids, marriage and career and no kids, and the gamut of combinations on lifestyle choices, because we have entered an era where those choices are now fully available to us, with limited judgment.  I say limited for a reason.  I still hear it all the time.  "When are you going to have kids?" "I have someone to fix you up with."  "Why don't you want to get married, again?"  It's incessant.  And it's incredibly annoying.  Have I not proven it enough to the people in my life that I am strong enough to make a decision about my interpersonal relationships with limited interference?  That is what astounds me so; in all other areas of my life, I have been found to be intimidating, scary, standoff-ish, and a thousand other words, to such a degree that people don't approach me about most things until they have gotten the opportunity to get to know me.  However, as strong as that personality trait is of mine, the stigma of a woman and man being together, happily ever after, is so much more powerful that vague strangers have the gull to ask me about my relationship status.  These people believe they know what is best for me.  Why?  Because for the last couple millennia, women have been told that their purpose revolves around the pleasure of a man.  We are here to serve.  From biblical reports of being created from a man, to laws regulating domestic abuse through the 1960s, women have been conditioned to believe that alone, they are lost. 

Contemporary musicians are encouraging us to look for a different answer.  BeyoncĂ© says today that girls run the world.  Even Grace has remade the classic, "You Don't Own Me," with a modern twist, a man interrupting her, telling her he's good enough for her to settle down.  She continues to refuse.  Finally he realizes, "she will never, ever, ever be owned."  It's about time someone said it out loud.  The fact that it is a male rapper is just icing on the cake. 

My declaration isn't that love is a terrible thing.  Love is incredible when used for the right purposes; and in that regard, it should be used all the time, toward everyone.  Love has been so widely discussed because of its universality.  We all understand the need and the desire to have it in our lives.  Maybe if we began treating one another as divine creatures, worthy of unconditional love, rather than judging the deservedness of romantic love, we would all begin to benefit and find happiness with ourselves.  Women in music have figured this out, and they have taught the lesson to at least one of their listeners.  They're telling us we're perfect the way we are, and that we should find out what type of life we want, and simply create it.  That's been my plan all along.  Love has gotten in the way a few times.  Promises of intermittent joy don't make up for the time I have lost looking for my smile in another person's spirit.  Frankly, I think it's a lot easier to find those smiles inside of yourself.  No one knows you better than you, ultimately you have the upper hand in your happiness.  If you get stuck, have a bad day, or just feel down about yourself for any reason, turn on some iconic chick rock and listen with your spirit.  In the words of Jessie J, remember your worth; "I still fall on my face sometimes and I can't colour inside the lines, cause I'm perfectly incomplete; I'm still working on my masterpiece."


Friday, January 22, 2016

"Single" Is Not A Four Letter Word

Single is Not a Four Letter Word

The most offensive thing I have ever seen in my entire life is a book called “Find a Husband After 35 (Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School)”.  Rachel Greenwald, a prolific writer on the subject of dating and the ever so popular topic of how to get a man by whatever means necessary, wrote this book about ten years ago, helping the defenseless women who have hit that horrific age of 35, when everything metaphorically, or literally, goes downhill and you no longer have anything to offer the world.  This woman purposely set out to apply her hard fought Harvard elitist education to help poor, single women fulfill their destiny, in becoming someone’s property.  We’ve got to have goals right?  I guess at Harvard, they don’t go over the history of marriage in Eastern traditions and the mere 100 year old romanticized notion of marriage in a Wasp society hasn’t been tainted with the truth for New Englanders, or else, let’s face it, why would she be encouraging us “senior women” to get hitched?  I mean, since we’re old enough to need her help, all of our fathers are probably dead, so a dowry isn’t real likely in getting one of us as a prize.  So what’s the point? 

She is not alone, however.  Apparently, everything a woman over 35 attempts requires a book or self help guide, directing her in the proper ways to lose weight, have a baby, or make oneself look younger.  Just do a search on Amazon.  Go ahead, I'll wait.  Men, however, only appear to have one book on the topic of being 35, “Date Younger Women: For Men over 35.”  I take it back; that’s the most offensive thing I’ve ever seen. 

When I began approaching “35,” I wasn't thinking, "OH MY GOD I'M GOING TO DIE ALONE!!!"  What I was thinking was more along the lines of how I have to check a different box on those stupid medical forms now, and I have to say I’m in my “mid-30’s.” and not my early anything ever again!  I had no idea that the entire world saw me as the plagued demographic, female-like lepers and hermits walking the path toward eternal spinsterhood, the darkest of all evils with my many a cat in tow.  (Yes, I have a real cat, but it’s utterly irrelevant).  I wasn’t worried about finding a man, or if I had wrinkles that made me look like the witch from Looney Tunes, or the complications of having a baby after 35, which is seemingly only an issue if you are not famous, since the women of Hollywood have babies over 40 every day and it’s a non-issue; though, it is celebrated as the greatest feat ever, so kinda the same thing.  "Gwen Stefani pregnant at 46!" has recently made headlines, as opposed to Blake Shelton knocked up Gwen Stefani at 39, his swimmers are still stronger than ever! (It's a miraculous conception that all of her eggs haven't quite dried up yet rendering her completely useless!) 

I was married, once.  In my twenties.  And I was a very different person then.  Thankfully, divorce is an option.  Because marriage is set out to be such a high priority goal for women, starting at such a young age, women who haven’t matured, found themselves, or even ever had time to be alone, marry every day to men they feel will protect them, honor them, and never leave them, because that would be just ghastly.  But one thing that is rarely, if ever, pointed out in the discussions on the necessity of marriage is that we have romanticized the notion surrounding marriage for the last 100 years, making a partnership into something intimate and long lasting, but we haven’t adjusted our ideals of marriage against the changes in the way men and women relate to one another on a regular basis.  The Grace Kelly’s, Audrey Hepburn’s, Rock Hudson (yes, I know), Cary Grant’s of the world no longer exist.  We are not those people!  The moral yardstick against which we measure ourselves to these romantic masterminds no longer exists.  That is why we end up failing, miserably, constantly, and creating offensive self help books for women who have changed, and may not want Cary Grant showing up at her door with flowers to take her for an early night of dancing and a late carriage ride through the park.  Women have changed. (And frankly so have men).  And I am damn proud to be one of the women who, I prefer, have evolved.  I face better choices, more choices.  I get to face them on my own, and there are some of us who's own mothers can't say that.  We are miles away from where we need to be, but we are light years from where we once were.  Thank some deity unknown that I was born when I was, I could not have conformed to the likes of any other era.  Hell, I struggle enough with this one. 

I started this blog when I was in a dark place.  Everything was ending for me.  And so I wrote it out.  And I am glad I did.  It was very cathartic.  But the cloud has lifted and I can’t write about things ending all the time anymore.  I decided to change it up, write about something I do know very well, and that affects me every day of my life; being a single woman, by choice.  The stigma surrounding the choices I have made for my life over the past few years astounds me still, and I want to share them with you.  I want to create a discourse for the “single” life and make an attempt at taking it out of the category of “bad words” and putting it into a category of “neutral words.”  I am a single woman.  And that is not a dirty word.  This new blog is going to be my journey of self-discovery of my single-dom, how it came to be, and how I knew it was right for me.  Please join me.  It isn’t a propaganda piece on trying to make everyone against marriage, I swear.  It is a piece that will try to help you understand yourself better, and become more comfortable in your times alone.  Always remember, there is a big difference between being alone, and being lonely.  And once you know yourself, and learn to love yourself, there really is no better company to be had.