Can You Give a Compliment?

 

Have you ever made a man angry by accepting a compliment with confidence instead of demure, shy embarrassment or shock?

Yeah, this really is a thing. You can read about it in this fascinating BuzzFeed article, which goes into plenty of examples of various men getting pissed off when a woman says “thanks” or “I agree” instead of “oh my god, you’ve changed my life” after a simple compliment. You can probably come up with examples of your own.

For me personally, when people say I’m really smart, I say, “Yes I am,” because I’ve known that since I was 5. It’s not the most interesting thing about me, and it’s certainly not the number one thing I care about. People’s reactions when I say “Yes I am” tend to fall in one of two camps:

(1) They’re cool with it because they don’t take it personally that I’m smart, perhaps smarter than them. They see the real me and like me.

(2) They get hostile or have a need to prove their own intelligence, which means they both resent my intelligence and don’t actually know me, because I’m not a person who holds my IQ over anyone’s head. No one has to prove they can match wits with me. I wouldn’t even mention intelligence except that it fits this blog post.

But the real point is… you can learn a whole lot about how other people see themselves and the world by how they react when you respond to something they say.

It’s All About Power

downloadWe live in a culture where so much is about power, in so many ways. It’s an insidious problem not just because it’s so entrenched in everything we do, but because it can’t be eradicated until we learn to see power differently than the entrenched cultural norms teach us to do.

You see, there are essentially two ways to seek out power for yourself:

  1. You can seek it outside of yourself.
  2. You can find it within yourself.

Let me tell you from experience as a person who used to care a lot about what other people thought about me, and had to learn to let go of defining my self-worth in terms of what others think: It is an exhausting and futile way to be in this world if all you do is let other people determine how much agency and self-respect you have.

Your sense of being grounded and unmovable by the fickleness of day-to-day living has to come from a sense of having your own roots growing into the ground. Just like a tree, seriously. The tree’s roots come from itself so it can ground itself and create stability for itself. It doesn’t get roots from other trees, though some trees can gather together and strengthen each other, like palms do. Their roots grow together and create new trees. But the fact remains, each palm tree has its own roots too. You’ve got to build your own roots. Otherwise, you’ll be pushed around by every wind that blows up around you, and you’ll constantly feel unsettled and miserable.

How Power Struggles Screw Up Our Interactions

power 2Where you seek power (from outside or from within) is a key issue in so many power abuses and wrong-headed social interactions that plague our society. Imagine this:

You don’t feel powerful. You believe — because it’s how you have been taught, it’s what you learned on the playground — that your power, prestige, self-respect, confidence all depend on whether others approve of you and interact with you in ways that confirm your power. In this scenario, literally everyone else has some say in how much power you have. People more powerful than you can make or break you by accepting you or rejecting you. People less powerful can bow to your power, confirming your power. Or they can resist, shaming you and forcing you to shame them worse to restore your power.

This explains bullying, mean girls, narcissistic personality disorder, abusive behavior, road rage and so much more, doesn’t it? Even at a young age, kids are doing this to each other on the playground. The boy who is considered the leader can bring another boy into the crowd, giving him social acceptance, or he can declare the other boy the subject of ridicule, and suddenly the other boy is a reject. Other kids follow suit because they don’t want to be outcast too. Girls do this too. Boys do it to boys, and they do it to girls. Girls do it to girls, and they do it to boys. It infuses everything we do as we grow up unless we break the cycle.

What an exhausting way to live. But so many people live that way, because they haven’t learned another way.

So Break the Cycle, for Crying Out Loud

The other option for finding your sense of power is to realize that you exist in this world with a degree of self-agency or strength that comes from within, regardless of what happens outside you. At the least, you get to choose how you will react to what happens. And that means a lot, much more than many people realize.

Consider the a**hole who flips you off as he drives past you, shouting at you even though you haven’t done anything except to not meet his expectations, whatever they are. That guy can ruin your day if you choose to let it. Or you can choose to recognize that his problem is his problem…that he was angry long before he passed you on the road and he’ll be angry long afterwards, and you were simply a convenient target for him to justify continuing to be angry instead of dealing with his anger like a grownup.

In fact, this is essentially what is happening when a women gets a compliment, says thank you (which is polite, yes?), and is then judged or attacked for saying thank you. It’s like a drive-by road rage incident, and had nothing to do with her. Some women understand this, and they just keep trucking along happily, which is the right response. (Though it is definitely tiring to have it happen to you day in and day out.)

When a Compliment Is Not Actually a Compliment

slider4

Great article from a woman’s perspective about learning to say thank you

When you see a man giving a woman a compliment and then taking it back because she agrees with what is being said, it was never actually a compliment to begin with, was it? It was never meant as a genuine expression of admiration and appreciation and respect. Instead, the comment was born out of anger, resentment, jealousy… It was born out of a feeling of powerlessness that the guy is trying to resolve by asking someone to feel more powerless in his presence and to acknowledge that he has more power, even if only a little bit. When that script doesn’t get followed, the rage comes to the surface instead of bubbling below it, because he feels it is being confirmed that he doesn’t have power.

And because the rage comes to the surface and gets expressed, it feels like what it is — a form of abusiveness. Because when you give a compliment to someone only to get a specific reaction from them that meets your needs, not theirs, you’re acting in a way that is clouded by your own distortions of life. You’re thinking about you, not the other person. You want to receive something, and you feel like you have to manipulate someone else to get it. That’s abusive. It’s passive aggressive. People don’t like this, for obvious reasons.

The solution is pretty simple, really. And it applies to both men and women, and to more scenarios than just this issue of accepting and giving compliments:

Learn how to find your sense of power, confidence, strength and respect from within yourself, and how you see yourself, not in how other people see you, speak to you or react to you. You don’t have to wait on anyone else to confirm or deny you are worth something. You you don’t have to agree with them when they tell you that you aren’t worth anything. And you can learn to deal with frustrations without hurting other people.

Oh, I know, I know… I could go on about toxic masculinity, or the patriarchy. I could explain that it’s #notallmen, though it’s certainly a #lotofmen, more than it should be. I could talk about how this problem hurts men as well as women. I could talk about all kinds of things. But ultimately, changes like this have to happen inside each person as they make the decision to stop giving their power over to the reactions and responses of others.

Now imagine this: You say to someone, “Hey I like this thing about you.” And they say, “Yeah, so do I.” And so you say, “Awesome! We have something in common. Let’s keep talking.”

Not a bad alternative, to say the least.

PS. If you like talking or thinking about stuff like this, go listen to Collective Snark’s podcast episode on How to Talk to Girls, and Guys, and Anyone in Between. It’s good stuff.

We All Have a Dream

unnamed“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed – we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the US, and as usual, I’m seeing plenty of MLK quotes pop up in people’s social media feeds. There is nothing wrong with quoting the man; he was a genius speaker and writer, and his words are filled with a weightiness that moves us all to do more.
I just wish we read more of his words than just a few “I have a dream” quotes. I wish we had to read him in history and English classes today, as part of American literature canon. I wish we remembered as a nation that Martin Luther King, Jr. was both incredibly dedicated to a higher morality, and also incredibly radical in challenging a status quo that has lent itself to injustice for generations in our country, much of which still exists despite the great strides we have made as a nation to do better.
arc
 
Today as you see those quotes and watch some news coverage and maybe attend a parade, I hope you’ll use this opportunity to read more of MLK’s words, many of which are revolutionary and all of which demand a higher responsibility and morality from each of us. Let him challenge you to pursue truth, justice, wisdom and stand for what is right and humanizing to all around you.
 
It may be that we’ll never change the world. Injustice seems to be a problem that plagues the human race, and our generation is no stranger to it. But we can change ourselves and we can change things for the better for everyone we encounter.
But only if we choose that path every day.
 
That’s what I love about Martin Luther King, Jr. He reminds me to choose a demanding path toward ethical living and justice every day, tempered with mercy and humility, even when it’s hard or unpopular. It’s something I need to be reminded of, since it is so easy to become complacent with the daily grind of work, errands, groceries, and bills that I forget about others around me who may be suffering.
MLK was really good at reminding us to look at things not from our comfortable position but from the uncomfortable point of view of those who are rejected, downtrodden, held in contempt, powerless… It’s an incredibly humbling thing to let go of your own opinions to truly live in someone else’s shoes for a while.
quote-martin-luther-king-jr-we-may-have-all-come-on-different-100780
And it’s not only humbling; it creates empathy. It’s only when you’re willing to see life from the point of view of others who are different from you that you can empathize with them and maybe help make their lives better. It takes courage to do that, because you never know what you’ll find out about yourself when you empathize… Perhaps you’ll discover you’re more selfish than you like to admit. Perhaps you’ll discover you’re lazy or uncaring in some ways.
Perhaps you’ll discover how very lucky you are that you were born in your particular skin in your particular country in your particular century, and that without that luck, you’d have a very different life.
It’s a reality check we all need once in a while, especially if we want to make the world a little bit better just by our being in it. I think that’s worth something. And Martin Luther King, Jr. certainly believed that too. It’s what he lived and died for. Let’s honor that memory by doing the same.

Women’s Health Care Is NOT Negotiable

Warning: This is a rant. It contains spoilers of Downton Abbey and the Star Wars prequels, NSFW language, and mentions vaginas, sperm, birth control and women’s reproductive health.

So, I’m finally getting caught up with Downton Abbey. (Don’t judge, we all have our weaknesses.) I’m in season 3 right now, which is apparently the year the writers took on the challenge of shoving in every possible soap opera plot known to humankind in 9 episodes. And they do, believe me. But I’m not here to talk about all those plots, just one…

I’m talking about reproduction. And how women take the blame and bear the repercussions of it in so many ways that men can still avoid, even when we live in what we like to think of as a modern, enlightened millennium.

ethelOne plot from season 3 of Downton Abbey revolves around a young maid who sleeps with an unmarried young major who is convalescing from injuries he got in WWI. And as you’d expect, because she’s not using protection and neither is he, she gets knocked up. And as you’d expect, she has the baby. And as you’d expect if you’re a woman living in this world and know the score, the major won’t take responsibility for the baby he helped create. So the mother of the baby is kicked out of her job as a maid and forced to live in poverty. You’d think this would seem archaic, outdated…because we are so much more enlightened now (*sarcasm*). However…

I rarely get into this on the blog, but I work for a faith-based nonprofit at the moment. For the most part, I’m okay with that. It has its quirks like any other job. However… I just received a letter that my employer officially received an exemption under the health care laws so they don’t have to pay for birth control pills for their employees.

Never mind the fact that it is highly unlikely any of us will be running out to swallow down Plan B pills anytime soon, because that’s not what you do when you join a faith-based organization. Never mind that we won’t be running to the abortion clinic anytime soon. Never mind the fact that birth control pills give many women the ability to control serious menstrual problems and improve their lives, enabling them to actually make it into their damn job instead of being stuck at home, bleeding out.Never mind all that.

I’m going straight to the heart of the matter. Birth control pills should be available for free to all women of child-bearing age, whether married or single, young or old. Why? Because the fact is, no matter how archaic and old-fashioned that plot point in Downton Abbey should seem, it’s not archaic at all. This is how we still live. Two people have sex. Only one pays for it unless you force the other to pay for it (literally, through paternity tests) in a court of law.

And it is bullshit that we still live like this.

In Downton Abbey, the grandparents of the child step in to offer a dubious deal. “We’ll take the baby,” they say, “but you, poor tramp of a mother that you are, have to give up all claims to the baby and can never see him again. Because you’re a slut. Shame on you.”

Yes, right. Shame on her. Everyone blames her. And yes, she was pretty damn dumb to think that entitled ass of a major would be responsible. But how about shame on him? Wasn’t it his penis and sperm that caused the problem? No sperm, no pregnancy. And if only one half of the species carries the sperm, maybe that’s the half that should be responsible for what the sperm results in. Or at least half the responsibility.

But if you want the female half of this species to bear all the responsibility, then you better damn well let us do it. That’s why we need birth control pills. Either you expect men to be self-controlled and non-sexual the way you expect women to be, or you let us both be lascivious and we both accept responsibility for the results. Fair is fair.

amidala

(c) Lucasfilm/Disney

How does this relate to the Star Wars prequels? Oh, I’m just going to share with you a link to a Motherboard article that describes in detail how the lack of adequate women’s health care basically led to Amidala’s death. Think about this… In a science fiction future where robots are self-aware and ships can jump to hyperspace, no one can figure out how to give a woman a test to see if she’s carrying twins, for crying out loud. How the hell is that possible, unless she never went to see a damn doctor the entire time she was pregnant! What the hell, Star Wars?

In a universe where men are clearly in charge and women are often helpless even when as a queen they should be powerful, I suppose it’s not surprising that a bunch of medical droids programmed (no doubt) by men can’t figure out what’s wrong with Amidala. “She’s medically fine,” they say. “We don’t know why she’s dying.” She’s dying of childbirth? Seriously?

(Oh, I know there are other interpretations of what happens to her. Maybe the emperor is draining her life force to bring Darth Vader back from the dead. The Motherboard article disagrees, by the way, and gives an interesting alternate view of what happened.)

Here’s the thing… It just makes me so damn mad to know that after centuries and centuries of what we’d like to call progress, women and childbirth still carries this freakish, shameful scarlet letter of a curse that is absolutely ridiculous in this day and age. We shouldn’t even have to have this conversation today. This post shouldn’t even be necessary. But it is. Which makes me incredibly angry and sad.

It makes me think that even if it wasn’t Hilary who ran this year… Even if some woman who was universally loved and respected, that paragon of womanhood still wouldn’t have been elected as president. Because she’s a woman. And we can’t even trust women to take birth control today, much less run a country. Yay America.

Oh and one final word… Women like sex as much as men do. We shouldn’t get punished for it. Deal with it.

Sci-fi lovers, rejoice! Recursor.tv is live

ninaSo… I’ve been working on a thing.

Actually, an old friend from middle school is now out in L.A., and he’s been working on a thing. He just launched an online sci-fi video and news curation site called Recursor.tv. And I’m the editor of the news section!

Yeah, sure, this is shameless self-promotion. But let’s also call this some important news for everyone who loves science fiction. Recursor is the first online video site dedicated solely to high-quality sci-fi. Remember the Science Fiction Channel before it turned into SyFy? For reals, people.

Recursor is all about promoting indie sci-fi, the kind of stuff that filmmakers make because they love the genre and love the craft. The realm of doing VFX isn’t just in the hands of ILM anymore. People can and are doing special effects…really good ones…on their computers and even smartphones. And the storytelling is really good too.

I’m really excited about the potential of Recursor – and other sites like it – to give indie authors and indie artists yet another legitimate outlet to reach their fans. And if you’re into sci-fi creation…whether script writing, art conceptualization, filming, production… then be sure to like Recursor’s website and Facebook and Twitter feeds, because there’s going to be a contest coming up that lets you participate in the creation of an indie film.

For more on Recursor, check out this Forbes article. Or this Digital Trends article. Or this ScienceFiction.com article.

Know anyone who is making indie sci-fi films right now? Or know anyone who works on technology that turns science fiction into science fact? Then reach out to me, because I might be able to highlight those friends of yours on Recursor.

And if you just love good sci-fi, check out the first three episodes of Recursor’s new show, Nina_Unlocked, about an AI military assassin who reboots herself and is now trying to figure out her new identity.

A Shout-Out to Purple Ink Pal, Robert Soul

robSo, our Purple Ink pal, Robert Soul, has a graphic novel coming out this month. He was recently a guest on the Wordy Girls Rule podcast, and here’s a link if you’d like to check it out:

Wordy Girls interview Robert Soul

Mr. Soul has also contributed to our Dark and Dangerous Things III anthology, which also contains award-winning short stories by two other pals of ours, Adrean Messmer and Jack Burgos.

Haven’t read it yet?!? Get your copy now. We think you’ll like it. 😉

We’ve Got a Full Fall Schedule!

Guess what? Purple Ink is rocking our way through the fall season. Here are some places you can come out and see us in the next couple of months:

October 8, 2016 – We will be at Tulsa bookstore and art deco destination, Decopolis, for a book signing during their October Bookfest. Find us there from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and then head to a downtown bar for a beer and a chance to read our books. Plus, you might just catch M.A. Chiappetta dressed as a flapper, ready to take selfies with you. Is there a better way to spend an evening? We think not!

October 21-23, 2016 – Join the Purple Ink Writers and friends at Wizard World Tulsa, a Comic Con of epic proportions. For the third year in a row, Inkers M.A. Chiappetta and Donna A. Leahey will be appearing on various panels throughout the weekend with a variety of Inker pals. And we’ll be selling our books alongside Inker pal Robert Soul in Artist Alley, so come by and visit our booth and let us sign your copies of our books.

November 12, 2016 – Margaret Perdue, Donna A. Leahey, and M.A. Chiappetta will all be speaking at the first ever Writing Well Workshop, hosted at Oxley Nature Center in Tulsa. Please visit the website for more information and to register. We’d love to see you there!

Why I Can’t Read Books Anymore: Remember the Ladies part 2, Star Trek, and Other Stuff

A few weeks ago, I promised a part 2 of the review for Remember the Ladies, a book set in DC around the push for the women’s vote, by Gina Mulligan. But I can tell you right now, this post is going to morph into something other than a review. This is going to be a discussion of why I can’t read books (or really, put up with stories) the same way I used to.

And I wonder if you feel the same way… Or whether I’m just turning into a crazy cat lady, without all the cats!

Now, I’m not going to lie. Remember the Ladies has been hard for me to review. One obvious reason is that, as I mentioned in part 1 of the review a few weeks back, it’s a hard story to really love. The characters are largely unlikable, certainly hard to root for. The plot, at points, seems hard to believe. There are a few moments when the villain of the piece goes over the top in ways that feel more Snidely Whiplash than necessary, and it didn’t work. Yet it’s a story I really wanted to like because of its subject matter – empowering women, women in politics, and so on.

But an even bigger problem is simply that it was hard for me to keep reading, period, because I have problems finishing any books these days, period. I’ve been having that problem with all kinds of books lately, not just Remember the Ladies. Equal opportunity suffering, all around.

This never used to be a problem. I used to read avidly, constantly, but these days, a lot of books leave me feeling let down, distracted, or even worse, disgusted by the poor writing and plotting. Somehow…through age, osmosis, or what have you… I’ve become tougher and more critical and more easily bored by books than ever before.

I wish I could give you a clear cut reason why that is. As I become busier with other parts of my life, it’s much harder to be patient with books that don’t hold my attention. I resent the infringement on my time that less than stellar writing tries to demand of me.

No doubt I’m as influenced as anyone else by the ADD culture we live in. Everything moves so fast…movies, TV, my iPhone…that if I don’t feel immediately hooked fast by a piece of writing, I put it down. Gone are those Romantic and Victorian days when a writer could take three chapters to get to the main point of the action, because I can’t take it.

This malaise that’s fallen over my relationship with entertainment extends to movies as well. They’re shorter than a book read, sure. But they are no less guilty of boring the hell out of me at times. Am I more impatient? Am I a tougher critic? Does it have to do with all the writing I do, as well as all the editing and critiquing? Maybe I just can’t sit through anything without being utterly distracted by the plot holes.

It’s happening with old movies as well as new. I just tried to watch The Wild Bunch this weekend. A classic Western in many ways, right? It was nominated for awards, I know that. I have no idea why, though. I was halfway through it and still couldn’t figure out what the point was supposed to be, what I was supposed to get out of it, so I gave up.

I feel the same about the latest Star Trek movie. Discovery, I think. What I discovered was that JJ Abrams and Hollywood can’t find a new damned plot for these movies to save their lives. All the same elements were in this movie that were in the first two, only watered down. It’s like someone said, let’s just rehash what worked, only this time let’s see if we can make it not work. And I like Star Trek, including the reboot. So what’s my problem? I can’t explain it.

It’s hard to be surprised, astonished, and better yet awed and moved, by fiction these days. And I suppose the problem is mostly me. I don’t know why. It makes me unhappy and uneasy to think I have become so hard to please.

Do you find this is happening to you? Or am I alone in this funk? It’s okay if I am. I wouldn’t wish this criticality on you. But what is clear is, I probably won’t be reviewing much fiction on the blog for a while. I’ll have to find other topics.

Sorry, books and movies. It’s not you, it’s me. Well, maybe it’s both of us. Sigh.