Relationships

Shine Theory: If you shine, I shine!

Shine Theory is a term coined by Ann Friedman who wrote about it for New York Magazine. I listen to her podcast, Call Your Girlfriend (she co-hosts with her bestie Aminatou Sow and I love them both) and after hearing them talk about it I googled the term and read her article. I liked it a lot. I also read an interview of Jam Wilson for Styleite where the discusses Shine Theory and what she makes of it. Instead of Friedman’s “If you don’t shine, I don’t shine” she modified it to “If you shine, I shine” and I actually like that better.

It’s a well established talking point that women are taught that we’re always in competition with one another. I can’t speak for men, as I am not a man, but there does seem to be a tendency to compare ourselves to other women. I remember being much younger and immediately taking a dislike to any girl I thought was smarter, prettier, or more popular than me. I quickly came up with reasons to justify my dislike of her: she dressed like a tart (hello slut shaming!), she was stuck up, she was arrogant, etc. I basically reduced her to things that I now know are nothing but toxic garbage. I think it’s okay to be insecure at times but it is important to learn to recognize that insecurity and see it for what it is. There will always be people who we perceived to be more accomplished than us in something. Instead of begrudging another woman her successes we should celebrate them! Instead of making their accomplishments about us, and how they make us feel inferior we should work on silencing that negativity that sucks the joy and genuineness out of our friendships.

Powerful, confident women are wonderful and instead of cutting them down in order to make ourselves feel better we should regard them as mirrors in which we can see our own awesomeness and potential. I know that it can be a struggle to see those closest to you moving onwards and upwards but instead of snarking about them behind their backs how about we practice being legitimately happy for other women? I have friends who are at different stages in their lives, some are stay-at-home parents, others are working parents, some are authors in addition to the previous two, some are lawyers, teachers, PhD candidates, etc. They are all amazing in their own right and every time they achieve something I am genuinely happy for them and it feels great to be happy for my friends. To celebrate them and their lives instead of measuring up how their lives stack up to mine is one of the most positive things I can do.

What do you do when you meet somebody you find intimidating? Imagine they’re well put together, oozing confidence and poise. Do you recoil from them, thinking that you’re not good enough to befriend them? Do you immediately hate them, assuming the worst of them? Or do you simply see a shine that mirrors your own? We should all strive for the latter.

I recently interviewed and went on to secure a seasonal job at a nearby retailer. It’s a part-time thing I’ll be doing twice a week and I’m excited about it. When I told some of my friends I saw a wonderful example of shine theory. They were SO happy for me! They were as excited as I was for this new job. I cannot describe how wonderful it feels to have people legitimately share in your joy. I am at a point in my life where I WANT to see my fellow women succeed. I want them to reach that highest peak, get that doctorate degree, build that multi-million dollar dream house, all without any ill feelings. When you stop making other people’s lives about you, you become happier.

Something else I think ties into Shine Theory is perception. How we perceive ourselves and others is not necessarily reality. The person you think of as most confident might actually feel like they’re falling apart on the inside. The woman whose figure you envy might struggle with body confidence and even admire your own figure. The point is that we are all worthy and we are all good. Life is not meant to be lived in one way.

To me, Shine Theory is about uplifting all women starting with ourselves. Self-hate is real and I see it too often in women and girls. The worst part is that we take this internalized hate and project it outwards. I recently read a blog post that was talking about being thankful for girlfriends. It was a lovely post with good intent but it left me feeling bit off. The author mentioned that she doesn’t like drama but that a lack of drama is hard to find in women because women like to talk. This was such a backhanded jab at women and it really bugged me. Putting down other women in order to lift up your friends is the wrong way of cerebrating anything. Women being gossipy and drama-prone is such a tired stereotype. If it was an attempt at humor by the author it fell flat (for me). The idea that women make shitty friends because they are drama queens might be supported by anecdotes but in reality any human being is capable of pettiness. To be honest I once shared that perception about women but I have since learned that it starts with me. My attitudes, my beliefs about my fellow women greatly impact the interactions I have with them.

Shine theory resonated with me because it’s something I was already doing in my life and it took a conscious effort to make the switch from insecurity and jealousy to unwavering support and genuine enthusiasm for the accomplishments of other women. In a way it’s one of those fake it til you make it type of things because breaking years of bad habits is difficult and silencing the snarky thoughts you once voiced about women you resented instead of admired is difficult but it’s worth the effort. Even somebody you might not get along with should be celebrated for their achievements and perhaps this is not a person you would personally congratulate but you can silence the unkind words you would have expressed before. I don’t have to like you but I won’t put you down either.

As Jam Wilson said in her interview, “Shine Theory is all about supporting, uplifting, complimenting, and encouraging women who are just doing great. Whether that means she looks great today or she’s doing really well career wise, Shine Theory is celebrating other women for their achievements without jealousy or ulterior motives. I just want to celebrate women in any way I can!”

I don’t mean to end on a sour note but I figured that I would also add my opinion on disliking other women. It’s okay to not jive with everyone you meet. Shine Theory does not mean you have to be kind and friendly towards all women just because but I think it’s about being more intentional and mindful of what we put out there and why. We are all capable of differentiating between toxic pettiness and legitimate gripes we might have with an individual 😉

Lastly, I wanted to give a shoutout to my fellow book loving friend, Sarah who just launched her book rec blog Between Two Books. I am thrilled for her as she had been talking about doing this for a while. Please check her out if you’re looking for book recs. She has a reputation for picking winners 😀

I hope you’re all having a wonderful week. Remember to shine.

signature.blog

Advertisements

I need to talk about harassment

When I started this post I was sure about what I wanted to write and how I was going to write it but the more I thought about it the more discouraged I became. I realize when you take on a subject such a harassment you are guaranteed to alienate some people. Men, those who are even remotely interested in reading about harassment beyond refuting the accusations and declaring “not ALL men!”, might feel attacked and women might just not agree with your position. After all, you don’t have to be male to uphold male privilege. Regardless, those readers who are here in good faith will hopefully read with the intent of listening instead of responding.

Social media can be filled with land mines. Some people never encounter any of them. I have been on IG for years and this is the first time I have been harassed but I know that it happens daily to women everywhere. We might not see it, or hear about it but it’s happening.  It’s a problem. I have been called names on Twitter, from bitch to an ableist slur. I had one guy tag his response to me with the gamer gate hashtag in the hopes that they would come after me. How is that anything other than violence? I reached out to someone who told me about blockbot and I now have all known gamer gate accounts blocked just in case. If you’re wondering what my offense was to incur this, you are likely part of the problem. What these men do is search keywords and hashtags on Twitter in order to harass women, threaten women, dox women. If you ever come across any such account you will see their TL is nothing but the same spam message copied and pasted to different women.

I’ve been on IG for a couple of years and I enjoy sharing photos, especially of food. It’s a fun community and because I like browsing and sharing to hashtags and the like I have never locked my account. Last Saturday I participated in Dewey’s 24hr Read-a-thon and as part of the event I posted several reading related pictures to my IG including this one:

IMG_1018

Six days after I posted said photograph I received various IG notifications from the same account. They liked a few of my pics, left a comment on this one, and followed me. I was not inviting men to look at my legs. I was not looking for their gaze. But of course this is lost on this guy. Initially, I decided to accept the compliment and be done with it. Not surprisingly he took that as an invitation to take things further (because complimenting a woman is a social transaction that requires payment in the form of attention paid to the man that bequeathed such a gift) and asked if we could “have a nice talk”.  I ignored him.

IMG_1126

 

Moments later I received a private message from him. I honestly don’t know why IG even has this feature but nevertheless he thought it appropriate to send me a photo of his naked torso.

IMG_1127

IMG_1128

Notice how he downplays his actions. It’s nothing, just a picture. NO! It’s NEVER “just a picture” when it’s unsolicited. This is exactly the kind of behavior I am referencing whenever I speak about male privilege. He decided that he had the right to send me this uninvited.

I had clearly stated that I was not interested but again, unsurprisingly, he did not let up.

IMG_1162 IMG_1164

I blocked him after this exchange and I set my profile to private because it’s not uncommon for this kind of person to create another profile just to continue where they left off. One of the reasons this exchange disturbed me is because it makes me wonder how he would behave with a woman to whom he had physical access to. No means no wherever we are. Online communication is not exempt from the rules of consent. What I experienced is not an isolated incident. Women experience this and much worse every day. That is why I deem it of extreme importance to get conversations going about this. I refuse to be silent.

Harassment is part of the female experience. When I was in sixth grade a new student joined our class. He pulled my hair, hit me, and stole my pencils. When I finally complained to the teachers she told me that he just liked me. She invalidated my feelings and excused his behavior. I remember feeling confused and let down. I went on to “date” this boy. He forced himself on me and put his tongue in my mouth. When I struggled and pushed him away he was upset. I overheard him and his friends refer to me as a bitch for not reciprocating. I felt sick and not long afterwards I broke up with him.

At a Guy Fawkes bonfire I had a guy walk up behind me and pinch my butt. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me but he felt confident and comfortable approaching me like that. His friends laughed in the background. They didn’t touch me but are they any better than the guy that did? It’s too often that we sit in silence because we feel that it’s not our problem, it’s not happening to us.

In the backseat of a car while riding with two of my cousins I fell asleep. I woke up to my male cousin with his hand up my shirt groping me. I kept quiet. He realized I had awoken and removed his hand. Until recently I had never told my mom about the incident. A part of me felt I had been responsible. So well does society socialize women to take responsibility for the actions of men.

Dressing modestly never helped me avoid the situations I am sharing here. The fact is that only harassers, attackers, rapists etc. are responsible for their actions. There is always this habit to ask what did you do to invite this? The answer is always nothing. Nothing.

This post was difficult to write. More so than I thought it would be. Not so much because of what I am sharing about myself and my experiences but because a part of me is always worried about what other people will think of me and my opinions. I am working to overcome that. If you’ve read this far thank you.

signature.blog

Teaching consent is not difficult

Today I was in the middle of responding to a text message from my husband when my son started climbing all over me and horsing around. He was happy, laughing and having a grand old time. I asked him to stop but he was in his own world thinking it was just a game. I quickly thought about how often this very thing happens to us throughout our lives, people violate our boundaries and have no regard for what we want (or don’t want) in the name of playing around. My son is two and a half years old but his age is no reason to put off starting a lifelong conversation about consent.

I gently told him that mommy didn’t like what he was doing and that I had asked him to stop but he hadn’t. “No means no,” I said to him. He looked at me and apologized then went on to play something else. It was such a quick moment but I have no doubt that it was an important one. I don’t believe that we should wait to start speaking to our children about consent. Consent encompasses a lot more than just sexual situations. It means that we regard everyone as fully human and respect their likes and dislikes. It’s about taking feelings and preferences into consideration. Consent means that my son is never under any obligation to show affection to anybody. Even to me.

Sometimes I ask him for a hug and he says no. I don’t try to guilt him into giving me a hug. I simply shrug it off like it’s not a big deal, because it’s not. My son comes up to me and gives me hugs and tells me he loves me all on his own. There is no need for me to feign hurt simply because he decided in that moment that he didn’t feel like hugging me. If we manipulate our children into showing affection they will think that it is okay to manipulate others into showing them affection as well. Affection should be freely given, not coerced. Naturally, I don’t encourage him to kiss and hug family members unless he wants to. Saying hello is enough.

I remember growing up and being made to make physical contact with people who made my skin crawl. It was considered impolite not to. The social anxiety that this caused made me dread seeing family. I just didn’t want to hug and kiss people. I wish back then I could articulate this and furthermore I wish that I believed my parents would even care. Now I’m of the mind that when it comes to MY feelings you can fuck your feelings. We are almost universally socialized to take other people’s feelings into account over our own. In some cases it is down right dangerous to offend someone or piss them off. Women have been killed by men whose advances they rejected.

So here is where I am at with consent. I will respect my son’s boundaries (although he’s not getting out of baths and naps!) and expect him to respect others’. This education has to start at home and it can’t wait. Children are never too young to start learning to respect and be considerate of others. Empathy, especially in boys, is important to nurture. No toxic masculinity here,  that is trash.

signature.blog

Changes and making friends

This post will probably be all over the place but I wanted to sort out my thoughts and feelings by way of a blog post. I have a love/hate relationship with change. Big, sudden changes that I am not anticipating tends to rattle me in a negative way but I do enjoy change. I think that even small changes can have positive effects on us. Every now and then an article will pop up about the benefits of making big changes in your life. Moving to a new city or even country is touted as an important part of our journey of self-discovery. Many people feel this is so and use their own experiences as anecdotes of this. While I do agree that having lived in Botswana was a very positive, and privileged time in my life I don’t think that it’s for everybody. Obviously, at the time I was a child and did not have a say in the matter but regardless of how difficult the transition was for our family I cannot deny that the move afforded me many opportunities I probably would not have had otherwise. For one I became fluent in English. I also took five years of French. I also got to experience different cultures and had many friendships with kids from around the world. I learned all about the bush, went camping, had the pleasure of diarrhea while camping (while in the middle of a Kalahari thunderstorm) and got to visit beautiful places around Africa. Those experiences made me who I am today. Traveling opens our eyes and our minds. I firmly believe everybody should do more of it but I also realize that it’s easier said than done. For one thing traveling costs money and lack of money is prohibitive for many.

For me, change can be very exciting and even small changes can have big effects in our lives. I recently sold our guest bed and desk in order to turn Diego’s room into a toddler room. It has been very exciting to see the transformation and the fact that our living room no longer resembles a disaster zone is an added bonus. When there is clutter and mess around me I feel frazzled. Sometimes I can’t tell this is so until I tidy up and a sense of calm washes over me.

This month I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo (I have written 16,698 words so far!). This is also a change. I added something to my plate which will challenge me. It has challenged me to change my routine and it has also challenged my writing and my creative mind. I am not writing this novel because I have any hopes to ever publish it, nor do I fancy myself a great author but it’s something different and an exercise in starting something and finishing it. Meeting my daily writing goal fills me with an immense sense of accomplishment. In fact, this sense of productivity is what prompted me to finally convert Diego’s room. I am getting things done, why not do this, too?

Changes  can tie into each other. Changing around some furniture might make you see the space in a whole new way and that will prompt you into something else. My point is, that even small, seemingly unimportant changes can have a big impact in our lives.

One of the biggest changes of the past two years was having my son. The impact of my pregnancy was huge. I stopped working and became a stay at home person. I look at motherhood as an addition to a house. It’s still the same house but with something extra. This ties into another thing I’ve been thinking about and that is friendships  between child-free women and moms. I was perhaps a bit naive to think that having a child should not make me an undesirable friend but it turns out that for some people it does. The complaint is that parents do nothing but talk about kid things with other parents. I have many friends who don’t have children and I don’t feel like our friendship has suffered but maybe I am wrong. Do they perhaps see me differently? I don’t feel like my identity is wrapped up in the fact that I am a wife and mother. I’m still me. I still have other interests besides my son. I love him dearly but I don’t need to monopolize conversations with tales about him. That’s just not who I am.

For me, being a mom felt lonely in the beginning. I hadn’t realized how most of my socialization came with working. That’s where I met my friends. We had lunch together daily and even hung out on weekends. Now some of those friends have moved to other states and others I simply lost contact with. I remember trying to engage with a few but I quickly learned that out of sight out of mind was true. We didn’t see each other everyday and maybe they assumed since I had a baby I had ceased to exist. Most of my friends are now living inside my phone. In my messaging apps and contact list. I don’t get to see them in person often. I haven’t joined a mommy and me group (I fear I won’t fit in since I’m not an overachieving mommy) and Diego is not yet in preschool. I also dislike the idea that all women with children should be lumped together. I don’t need playdates for myself.

I have made a lot of friends online, which I never thought was possible. These aren’t just people I occasionally shoot the breeze with, these are wonderful women who share their lives with me. We exchange packages and even meet each other in person. Some of them have kids and some don’t. It’s not something that ever makes the slightest bit of difference to me.

People change all the time. It’s part of life. Some of these changes cause us to drift apart but that’s not necessarily the case. I remember when my friends started to have babies and I recall feeling very much left behind. Even though at the time I was not sure that I wanted to have a child the fact that my peers had taken the plunge made me scrutinize my own choices.  I quickly learned that there was nothing wrong with my life. I was traveling my own journey. Being genuinely happy for our friends is wonderful. Leaving doubt, and self-judgment behind is liberating.

To me, change and friendships have an obvious connection which is why I decided to write about it. Changes in my life have brought new, amazing people into my life. I did lose some along the way but the people that truly matter to me have all stuck around. I still keep in touch with a few high school friends. Perhaps not as often as we’d like but we reach out to each other from time to time and it always feels like it always did. Those friendships are special to me.

Back on the topic of inciting change in our lives, travel and a move are obvious big ticket items but how about reading? Reading allows us to travel for free. Most libraries have e-books now which means you don’t even have to leave your house in order to borrow a book. My goal this year has been to read more diversely. I had been reading a lot of fanfiction and a lot of romance and I was itching for something more. I will pretty much read anything but I had fallen in a rut reading the same stories written by the same people. By becoming more aware of what I was reading I have been able to discover new voices and perspectives.

I have also tried out a lot of new foods this year. New recipes that have expanded my skills in the kitchen and challenged my abilities. These changes did not take me far from home but they took me far in other ways.

My take aways from this venting session: it’s difficult to make friends as adults. I believe that having or not having children shouldn’t affect a friendship, unless it does… Change is necessary, big and small changes matter.

How about you? How do you feel about change?

signature.blog

 

 

 

 

Should you snoop on your husband?

Every week  I see these lists about what wives should be doing to keep their man interested in them, in their marriage. I also see the running joke that some women post with regards to keeping tabs on “their man”.  I can’t tell who is kidding and who is being dead serious but what I do know is that I find nothing funny about being in a relationship where any kind of snooping is the norm. My main reason for not snooping on my husband is simple: I don’t feel that it’s my responsibility to ensure his fidelity.  Being in a relationship is a choice and I trust that when we chose each other he was as serious about us as I am.

Of course if one suspects something is going on then by all means do whatever you have to do. Life is too short to be surprised with the clap, or herpes, or something much, much worse! When we talk about infidelity I often see people blaming the victim. She was a bitch, frigid, too fat, didn’t cook enough, didn’t dress the part etc. I am sure we’ve all heard something along these lines. Now, I am not saying that some people don’t sabotage their own marriages/relationships but the action of straying is one that I believe is done deliberately. Long term relationships with a person who is NOT your significant other take work. It takes work to sneak around, lie, cover your tracks etc. Basically, it’s a lot of effort to engage in something that is not worth the hurt it will cause.

I am not an expert on marriage, but I am an expert on MY marriage. I trust my husband. Some may find that naive. All men are trash after all. And yes, they certainly can be but snooping is a sign of mistrust and that is no way to live. My husband and I do not share Facebook accounts, the only passwords we share are ones to our online banking, and we don’t go through each others phones. Could we? Yes, we could. I don’t have my phone locked with a password, and my laptop is always signed into my email accounts and other social media. We trust that neither of us has anything to hide and that neither of us will snoop around.

My husband and I are two separate entities. We feel united as one but we still have our own space. I think that’s important, healthy and necessary. I should be able to vent to my friends about things, share stories and basically say whatever I want in private. Privacy is still essential within a marriage. Privacy is different from secrets. If you have you hide it you shouldn’t be doing it. That is my motto.

As for keeping him interested, well, firstly he needs to want to. I shouldn’t be having to convince him everyday that he picked the right peach. I am interested in him, in his day, in his thoughts and in his feelings and let him know as much. I try to be the best me I can be, but you guessed it, I am not perfect. I can have a quick temper and I can be callous. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns around here but what’s important is that we try. Everyday, we try.

Something that we’ve gotten into the habit of doing is sharing our favorite part of the day. I’ve also noticed that we thank each other for little things that seem inconsequential but aren’t. That feeling of gratitude is such a nice way to end the day. It doesn’t happen everyday mind you. I don’t want to give the wrong impression here. We do things that work but we also do things that don’t work. Most of the time we are happy and I think that’s what matters.

So, should you snoop on your husband? Unless he’s given you reason to my answer is no.

What about you, how do you feel about snooping?