On Compliments

I won’t have been the first person to write this, nor will I likely be the last. I, like so many others, am just one of the many who – in shedding some of the (perhaps unintentional) burdens laid upon my psyche by the patriarchal system that dominates our society – has come to regard the “compliment” with unease.

More plain English?

Some compliments by some people make me feel uncomfortable.

Now, in a world unencumbered by the patriarchal system I’ve already alluded to, I wouldn’t need to say more than that. I should be able to say “X makes me feel Y” and “Y” should be accepted, respected, and boom.

And if, for example, someone were concerned about their “X” making me feel “Y” they might be driven to ask “but, why?”

And… you know what? That’s a valid question. It’s a question that does not dismiss my feeling of “Y”, but seeks to understand it. It may also be an attempt to validate it; but it certainly does not come from the position of denying its existence.

But that’s not what we get when we say things like “Your doing of X makes me feel Y,” where “Y” is not a positive thing.

What we get is “No, you’re wrong.” Or “Jeez, take a compliment.” Or “Fuckin’ feminists….”

What we get, frequently, is an invalidation of our feelings. So you know what we do?

We say nothing. A lot. We say nothing so many times.

We say plenty to the people who are willing to listen. We say plenty to the people who say “Oh, I know,” or even those who ask “But, why?” but until we know you’re one of those people, we just say nothing.

So, I’m going to publicly answer the ‘why’ for me. Why it sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable.

This is a society that has placed a high value on the way women look and act and behave, but predominantly it’s about how we look.

I can say “I feel like shit today, I’m so tired….” and someone’s response might easily be, “But you look beautiful.”

Like that’s going to make the shit-and-tired feeling go away, or make it feel less shitty or tired. Every time Erin Andrews, the host on Dancing With the Stars talks about how beautiful one of the female contestants looks I cringe. So often it was “Well, the judges didn’t score you very well, but you look HOT.”

When I was ten years old I started begging my mom to let me wear makeup. She told me I couldn’t – not until I was thirteen. On my thirteenth birthday, I asked if I could wear makeup. She said not until I’m sixteen. I said, “But wait! You said I could wear it when I’m thirteen!” She responded, “I didn’t think thirteen would come so soon!”

For years I wore makeup every day. All of it – the foundation and the powder and the gloss and mascara and the liner. And then, it was an uncle actually who asked me “why?” And I said it was so I could look pretty, and he said “you are beautiful without it. It doesn’t make you prettier. You don’t need it every day. Save it for the days you want people to say ‘wow!'”

It took me a little while, because at this point I was pretty darned pimpley and I really felt like I needed it.

But over time, I did lay off all the heavy makeup. I started really getting used to seeing my face without it. And you know what started to happen?

My mom started telling me to go put on some makeup.

Because it made me prettier.

And that was really important. Hell, just the other day she kept harping on how I had to do my makeup “really nice, like you used to do it – i know you know how” for my job interview. She even asked me for a photo as proof that I did it right.

Over the past few years, I’ve done a lot of work overcoming my addiction to validation. So many of us have this addiction – and it’s no wonder. We’re infused with doses of it from day one of our existence, and it only gets more prominent as we start to blossom. We crave that validation.

And it’s like, in order to wean ourselves off of it, we feel like we have to go in totally the opposite direction. Like, we purposely try to dress unsexy and let our armpit hair grow and behave in the most unladylike fashion we can. Quitting validation sometimes felt like quitting femininity.

But then something else happened. I realized that trying to hide my beauty in response to the patriarchy’s unwelcome valuation of it still gives my control over it to someone other than myself.

I started to see the power and in owning my own looks. Now, here’s the thing. I value them. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that being pretty isn’t something I am aware of or something I’m not appreciative of – but what I resent is that it makes a difference in how others perceive me. I like looking like me. I like that my partner likes the way I look.

But I hate that it has any bearing on whether I am qualified for a job or my family’s love or a stranger’s respect. I don’t look at other people and “rate” their looks or treat them differently to how I treat other people….

….unless I’m flirting with them.

Which brings me back to those compliments.

When someone who is not sexually interested in me (any gender) tells me that I am beautiful, it feels like a compliment.

When someone who is sexually interested in me (any gender) tells me that I am beautiful, it feels like a down payment.

Maybe it’s not intended that way. Holy shit it probably isn’t intended that way! But that’s the system we live in. That’s how it works, and that’s how I interpret it.

I get that there are people with crushes out there on people who do not reciprocate those crushes. I get that it can feel awkward and weird to have a crush on someone who doesn’t crush back on you. I’m not saying don’t talk to them, or don’t compliment them…

…I’m saying that when it comes to me, anyway, understand that a compliment on my level of attractiveness to you can make me feel uncomfortable. I might say “thank you,” if I don’t think there’s any ulterior motive…but if I feel like a response might be leading you to think that I’ve accepted the down payment and we’re now negotiating terms?

I’ll probably just say nothing.

One final thought: If you think this is about you or something you’ve said to me in the past, don’t worry about trying to apologize or explain that your motives are not disingenuous. I’m not holding any grudges and I’m not angry with anybody. Just let this message percolate and keep it in mind the next time we have an interaction.

Good Girls Revolt (quietly?)

I spent the day yesterday watching the one season of “Good Girls Revolt,” an Amazon original that had sneaked under my radar when it was released a few years ago. It’s historical fiction based on the real-life 1970 lawsuit filed against Newsweek by 46 of their female staff for gender discrimination.

Only 10 episodes. Worth the watch when you have some time.

Anyway, as happens in most cases when there’s a female-driven ensemble cast, I find myself relating to pieces of each of them. And, as I’m pretty sure I’ve written before, I know this happens because characters in stories tend to be one-dimensional for a purpose, whereas real-life people can be unpredictable and have fluctuating wants/needs and personalities from day to day.

So, as much as I’d like to say I related best to the free-loving, fiercely intelligent, and sexually liberated redhead Patty, or the shy, stammering (until she gains some confidence) but passionate Cindy – I really felt kinship with the privileged, sexually and socially repressed, daddy’s girl Jane, played by Anna Camp.

It’s a character Anna Camp plays well…it’s similar to her role in Pitch Perfect, only set in the late 1960s and with far less puking.

There’s a scene in the last episode (spoilers) where she confronts her wealthy, privileged father and tells him she no longer wants to take money from him to support a lifestyle beyond her means.

He responds by trying to instill fear, “I won’t let you go live in an unsafe place” and then disregarding her ambition, “Okay fine, i’ll see you Thursday when you run out of money,” and then anger and projection, “What the hell do you mean you hired a lawyer to sue your employer – are you on drugs?”

Eventually he plays the hurt daddy card – the last possible card in the deck: “If you don’t need my money then you don’t need me. You don’t need anybody.”

Tearfully, she says she does need him, and somehow without saying it, she expresses that what she needs from him is love, emotional support, and to feel that he believes in her ability to achieve her ambitions.

And that’s where the break happened between this fictional character and my own experience. Because my dad didn’t respond to the tears, nor to the anger that followed. He still treats me like a first-class daughter, and a second-class human being. What’s more remarkable is how he still responds with pleasant surprise any time I show that I’m capable at anything.

What that’s caused is a break between the phi you all see here and the phi that is presented to my family. The part that sucks the most? I’m so proud of my accomplishments in this world, and they’re something I can’t share with them no matter what. They will never get to see what I believe are the best parts of me.

This morning, a friend of mine on facebook posted a status update lamenting that, when asked by a friend what she’s been up to, she felt she had to “self-edit more than half her life.” Because, since the election, she’s become a vocal activist, forming secret groups to help in the resistance, attending rallies and protests, informing herself, and contacting her representatives every single day.

“I am so much more than just a woman who goes to yoga, tennis and mahj, but some people just don’t want to or can’t know that. How long can any of us maintain this kind of charade….,” she asked.

And I wanted to respond, “Years.”

These things that drive us, that make us feel alive and give us purpose – these are the things we want to share with the world, and no-one more than those who mean the most to us. They are also the things that we feel we have to hide from those very same people because they won’t understand, and will belittle, ostracize, and reject us because it goes against their status-quo.

For the Anna Camp character to risk losing her father’s love was heartbreaking for me. There was a time when I believed my dad would respond the way hers did – eventually realizing that his daughter is a person who he helped raised to be capable of more than marriage and baby-producing.

But my dad didn’t make that jump. And I don’t think he will.

And so I hide the best part of me from him, because …

…because I don’t want to stop loving him.

Angry White Woman

I’m angry.

I’m angry, and it’s not just because recent events have exposed my complacency with an imbalanced system because I was under the impression that “things will get better.”

I mean, that makes me angry. It makes me angry to have been so wrong. It means I was believing lies and avoiding truths.

There was a time when I was actively avoiding truths. I wasn’t pretending they didn’t exist, I was just putting on the blinders so I wouldn’t have to see them. I knew they were there.

Like those videos with the animals and the Sarah McLachlan song. I couldn’t watch them without crying and feeling completely heartbroken. So I’d mute the TV, go off to get a drink, or change the channel. I knew that my not watching wasn’t automatically saving all those animals from hardships. I knew that shit was still happening. All I was doing was trying to avoid the additional hardship of feeling helpless to do anything about it (other than send money).

Last year, I started doing a little more. It was either the #BlackLivesMatter movement or the Orlando Pulse shooting that woke me up a little and helped me realize that my blinders were a disservice to my convictions and the causes I believe in. They were making me complacent, and in some ways complicit.

Now, I’m no big social media star. My voice doesn’t have much range in the grand scheme of things, but it has some range.

So I started writing. It’s what I can do. Possibly not the very least, but pretty close to down there.

Then the Flaming Yam* became our national main course. I got really angry because it was pretty much proof that the reality I thought I existed in – the “things will get better” reality – was way off base.

I was so wrong. So wrong.

I tore off the blinders. I started to see, not just where the injustices play out in the media and in the lives of people I’ve never met, but even in my own family and in my own (in)actions.

I struggled hard last week – coming off the high of that incredible show of civil discourse in the March that exponentially eclipsed Captain Tangerine’s inauguration – I struggled with the heavy levels of criticism that came, not from those who oppose everything we stand for, but from within the community of my allies.

It was that feeling again. That uncomfortable feeling, but without the Sarah McLachlan song as a signal it was coming. Why? Because, in a way, they were right.

In every way, they were right.

Now, in reality – in my reality – I’d done as much for the BLM and LGBTQ causes as I did for the Women’s March.

I blogged about them. Again, pretty close to the least I could do. I didn’t show up in person for any of them, to put my physical whiteness on the line for the causes I believe in. I just blogged, under my pseudonym from the safety of my suburban home.

The difference, though, was my intention. If I hadn’t had to work that day, I had planned to go to the Women’s March in Los Angeles.

I had the intention of doing more.

So the criticism, while difficult to face – was right on the money.

For those who follow me on twitter, or who intersect with me on Facebook, you’ve likely seen a change. I’m a little more vocal now and there are a lot more political messages coming out along with the cute pictures of cats doing funny things.

But, I’m also done doing the very least I can do. Earlier this week, I rolled my window down and thanked a homeless man who rushed needlessly to move some things out of the way when I was driving past him. Before? I might have waved and smiled. I took a moment and viewed him as a person and not an extra in the story of my life. (That’s the writer in me that believes every piece of dialogue in a well-written story serves to inform the plot or move it forward, rather than the simple gesture of a hand wave that would have been forgotten by the next scene.)

I’ve RSVP’d and am planning to attend local marches and protests being organized to protest on behalf of a number of causes that don’t personally affect me. I am not black. I have great health insurance. I’m not at great risk of having an unwanted pregnancy. I have the right to marry because I’d choose someone that our oppressors wouldn’t find objectionable (polyamory notwithstanding). I’m pretty darned heterosexual, and as a widow, I’m given a bit more of a free pass for being an unmarried woman without children in this society.

I’ve gotten involved with my local Indivisible chapter and am planning to take a day off from work next week to join a group or citizens in a local visit to my republican representative in congress – a man who won by less than 2% of the vote in my district.

I’m reading a lot more, I’m fact checking a lot more, and I’m allowing myself exposure voices I care about who might not have the nicest things to say about me based on the way that I look.

As a fellow blogger wrote, “they don’t know what’s in my heart.” They don’t know that I identify culturally more along the lines of Latino than Caucasian. They don’t know my first language was Spanish and my parents were immigrants from Latin America, and great grandparents were from Syria and Egypt. They don’t know this by the way I look.

But for how long have they endured living a life where they are under constant scrutiny and prejudice for the way that they look? For how long have I benefited socially from the paleness of my skin and the blue of my eyes?

Maybe it’s time I walk a little in those ill-fitting shoes.

I’m “leaning in” to my discomfort.

I want to thank the people in my life who listened to me as struggled with this over the past week. I didn’t come to this conclusion right away. I had to do some soul searching and a whole lot of listening before I figured out why their truth was so hurtful, even though I knew it was true.

But mostly, I want to thank this woman for posting this video on facebook. This is the one that helped me come to terms with my discomfort. I hope you’ll watch it. I hope you’ll listen.

And I hope you’ll join me in doing a whole lot more than the very least we can do.

(Flaming Yam* taken from a comment someone left on a blog. I can’t take credit for it, but holy shit it gave me a good laugh this morning.)

3:00 AM; November 9, 2016

I went to sleep when my candidate suggested that we do so. I can understand her not wanting us to be awake to bear witness to the hour in which she conceded this election to a reality television show star.

But, I woke up a few hours later and couldn’t help it. I refreshed the NPR page and saw that the nightmare was, in fact, a reality.

There are those who earnestly voted for him. And there those who refused to vote for either of them. Some of the former are people who fall into the category of “people I love,” distasteful as it might feel at the moment.

I keep hearing Haley Joel Osment’s voice in my head: I see racist people. Some of them don’t even know they’re racist.

Those same people are now calling for the “reunification” of the America they worked so hard to divide and segregate. They’re also the ones daring to question Secretary Clinton’s class for not making a public concession. WAIT, WHAT? NOW ‘CLASS’ IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?

There’s so much I want to be able to post on Facebook, but I have to be more careful and measured there, as the bonds of family could potentially be at risk. I did manage this, though:

I will defend my rights and the rights of the people I care for. Understand that I will not be forgiving of those who work for or support the dismantling of hard-won rights of women, the LGBTQ community, or people of color. In the coming years, watch what you consider to be a “joke” because we won’t be laughing. “Locker Room Talk” will not be tolerated. “She can’t take a joke” will not be tolerated. Hate speech will not be tolerated. I am setting my boundaries as a woman and as an ally to those who are frequently marginalized by a society that decided it no longer had to hide its ugly side. Be mindful of these boundaries if my continued presence in your life matters.

And it goes for people here, as well. Most of those who remain on my friends list now are not people who would give me cause to worry about any of this; but a few months ago I did unfriend someone for making a joke at the expense of trans people.

I see the emboldened already calling for us to get to work to make a difference in two years during the midterms and again in four if/when this country holds another election. And yes, …absolutely, yes. This experience, this election, has been a wake up call for me. I now see a truth that I was blind to before, and I saw it months and months before yesterday’s election.

This country is racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and intolerant.

I didn’t want to believe that and my head was in the sand, but it is no longer.

We got passive. I got passive. I relied on shit just working itself out.

I want to be wrong about this. I want nothing more than to be absolutely wrong about the doomsday scenario that is playing out in my head under four years of a reality show regime.

Fuckin’ rub it in my face if I am and I will gladly take it because this is one instance where I REALLY don’t want to be right.

I am scared. I know so many of us are. But, as I said earlier tonight – the scared will only last so long. Soon, the anger will set in – and with it, the drive to push back and reclaim the relationship I want to be in with my country.

Until then, for those who are frightened and for those whose lives are far more at risk in the upcoming four years because your outward appearance doesn’t blend in as well as mine does; know that I and so many others like me are in your corner. Call upon us as allies and let the strength of our voices together keep you as safe and protected as we can.

With love,

phi

Walls of Jericho

But my life turned out okay, didn’t it?

That’s the answer I’d expect from some people after I write the post I want to write. This wouldn’t be the response I’d get from the people who already “get it.” It would be from the ones who regularly refute the premise, but for some reason, they’d be more inclined to listen to me even if they’d continue to disagree with me.

And then they’d remind me that despite all that had happened my life turned out okay, didn’t it?

And to them, I’d just want to say that yes, it did. It turned out okay. And that still doesn’t make it right. That still doesn’t make it an acceptable loss.

It’s hard to imagine there are still people in the world who would ask the question “if it were true, why did they take so long to say anything about it?”

I keep waiting for my parents to ask the question so I can remind them what happened the two or three times I told them about it right after it happened.

You weren’t there, so I’ll tell you.

Nothing. I was told not to make a fuss. I was told not to make a scene. In one case I was told I was overreacting and exaggerating despite having a male family member corroborate my story. And when I refused to be near or friendly with the person that was making me uncomfortable, I was chided and accused of being rude.

It was happening right under their nose, not just once. Not twice, but THREE times. Though, one of those times I was all for it; but looking through the lens of maturity now, they should have said something. It was highly inappropriate.

But, of course, they didn’t want to make a scene.

Yes, my life turned out okay. Just like when my dad sold my car without talking to me about it first, and…well, I mean, I love my Prius now, so that turned out okay, right? Why would I still be upset with him for doing that without talking to me about it first if it all turned out okay?

For millions of others, that’s not the case. They don’t end up “okay.” And even if it were…even if everyone who ever got groped without consent, or raped, or had their personal space and personal agency violated in anyway turned out okay it would STILL not make it okay for that shit to have happened to them.

So, why don’t they speak up sooner?

Are you listening? Or did your wall go up as soon as you figured out what this post was about?

If I include a pretty picture of me, will you read it?

Today I posted a link to an article on Huffington Post by a woman has made a valiant effort to convey what it’s like to live as a woman (and I will add my personal amendment to include those who present as women).

It was a shared post from a man who urged other men to read it all the way to the end. And, just in case they wouldn’t, he copy/pasted the portion of the article he wanted them to read.

On Saturday night, after a few drinks and a lengthy conversation about sexism and women’s issues prompted by the “grab them by the pussy” recording, my brother walked me to my car and said “I really don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.”

So when I shared that article, it was with the hope that some of the male (or male presenting) folk in my feed would take a look and try to understand.

So far, the only people who have loved or shared it are all women.


Prior to the wedding, I’d gone in for a wash and blow dry since I didn’t have my house available with the continuing water heater issues.

The woman who took me at the last minute, upon hearing that I was going to a wedding, offered to do something “more fancy” with the blow dry. I was game, so I told her to go ahead.

She ended up doing this terribly over-teased and over-sprayed gravity-defying …..thing to my hair. Someone in the waiting area actually told me I looked like Adele.

I was laughing about it, so I posted a picture on facebook. After all, it’s just a family wedding and I still had a few hours for gravity to do its job and bring my hair down. (There is NO curl that will ever stay put in my very fine, straight, hair.)

The photo got a couple laughs from my friends, and upon my arrival at the wedding more than several comments of people who were cracking up about it on their way to the wedding.

But, by the time I had my dress and makeup on, my hair had deflated significantly. It still was a little overdone, but not quite so comically. I posted an updated photo.

That one started getting all the likes. Even my dad did a heart love on it, and he hasn’t been very active on any of my posts lately at all.


I know facebook isn’t necessarily the proper venue for political statements. Neither is Fetlife. But what they are for me are places with an audience. This morning I saw a post from someone who was told his posts were “too vanilla” for Fetlife. I was a little shocked.

Nobody’s ever told me my posts are tooanything except frequent. And yet, others were commenting on that statement this morning saying that they too had been told they weren’t writing correctly enough for this website.

There were several reasons why I deactivated the option for my posts to trend, not the least of which was the reality that most of the time – it was the ranty stuff that would get pushed to the top of the K&P leaderboard. Then I’d have all these people who never read anything else I have to say making assumptions about who I am and what I’m about based on 500 words out of the 500,000 I’ve probably shared on this site.

I won’t make sweeping generalizations about what trends here. I won’t say that everything that ever makes it to K&P is crap. I will say that I’m not always thrilled with what general populations deem worthy of acknowledgment and what they would rather pretend doesn’t exist.


As of right now, 4 women have liked or shared the post I shared about what it’s like to live as a woman.

20 have loved the picture of me with my hair and makeup all done up. Eight are men. Four of those men and two of the women are Trump supporters.

I am not surprised.

But I am disappointed.

I guess I lost my sense of humor

I started paying attention to the news again.

About a year ago, I saw a friend of mine post a joke about Donald Trump running for president. Turns out, that wasn’t a joke.

And I thought, “Well, fuck…I sure have been out of touch.”

I had. On purpose. After my husband passed away, I really couldn’t deal with the world’s problems, so I shut them out. Stopped watching/listening/reading about what was happening in the world.

Managed to miss out on a lot of big stories – terrorist acts, big fires, crazy people running for president….

I went back in slowly. An article here or there; nothing crazy.

And now I’m full time listening to public radio in the car. I have Alexa read me the headlines every morning. I’m clicking on articles in my facebook feed that I would have scrolled right past before. It’s not just politics, either. All SORTS of things interest me. There was a story on NPR on the way home about gender testing in the Olympics. There was one earlier this week about athletes’ pay being comparable to actors, as they provide entertainment in a multi-billion dollar industry. And the one about rampant wage theft in the restaurant industry. And the story about the man sentenced for traveling to a Cambodian brothel dozens of times to sexually abuse children.

The result? I’m starting to identify in ways that I was brought up to disregard. The biggest one was feminist. Feminist was a pejorative term growing up. They were uptight women without a sense of humor. I’d forgotten that this was a thing I was raised to never become. To be a feminist was to be a punchline, a trope for unlikable….

AND ABOVE ALL ELSE, ONE MUST BE LIKED!

I’d not realized this until a few weeks ago when my mom used the word as an insult. Women’s rights are okay, she said, but feminists take it too far.

Look, I don’t know where this arbitrary line of “too far” is, but I’m pretty sure there are a lot of feminists (of all genders) that advocate on behalf of women’s rights on the relatively benign side of that line.

I mean, (arbitrarily speaking), there will be activists in any endeavor that take things “too far” – whether it’s animal rights, human rights, reproductive rights, or environmental causes.

I’m not the type that’s gonna chain myself to a tree, throw paint at a coat, or commit a felony on behalf of a cause I’m passionate about. That doesn’t mean I’m not part of that cause. But, to define any cause by the actions of the people who take it to an extreme (again…arbitrarily, because my extreme may not be your extreme, etc. etc.) has the effect of turning a word like “Feminist” into an insult passed from one generation to the next.

The first time I saw the abbreviation SJW (Social Justice Warrior) I didn’t know what it meant. For a long time, I thought it was the abbreviation of someone’s online handle. I didn’t know who this SJW person was, but I knew a lot of the popular folks on the internet REALLY hated them.

Took a while before I discovered it was just a label. Even then, the tone with which it was used was one of disdain and ridicule. Oh, those pesky, humorless, drama-mongering SJWs!

The people we label as “Feminist” or “Social Justice Warrior” are frequently speaking on behalf of those who are too afraid to speak for themselves. Those who feel that they must follow that one simple commandment: TO BE LIKED.

Which, of course, for women means to be docile, compliant, and agreeable.

Today I saw someone made a joke about SJWs. They were the punchline. The joke made a mockery of a type of person I care deeply about – a type of person whose voice is frequently erased in the din of activists clamoring for attention to their causes. A person in my life who has a name.

And it struck me…..

It’s cruel. It stings to be on the receiving end of a joke aimed at belittling or mocking something that is part of your identity. It’s not that I don’t see why the joke is funny, it’s that I see all the reasons why that joke is NOT funny in the tears of my friends who are good, kind, honorable people who have done nothing to hurt anybody else.

So there it is. I guess I’ve lost my sense of humor, because I’m drawing my arbitrary line at jokes that hurt people for the sake of belittling, undermining, or erasing their humanity, identity, intelligence, or to further the notion that to be a “Feminist” or a “Social Justice Warrior” is an insult.

Any “Status Quo Warriors” who step over that line have, in my eyes, gone “too far.”