This is not a feminist rant… but please don’t ask me to smile.

I am not about to talk about how it is not in fact a woman’s job to look pretty for you, she doesn’t owe you a smile, and how she doesn’t care how much prettier she’d look if she were smiling (though I adamantly agree with and support those statements).

No, I’m just going to talk about the last time it happened to me.

Here’s the thing. I went to a Starbucks. I used the mobile ap to order a drink and a ‘snack box.’ When I got there, the barista said, “I’ve got bad news – we’re out of the snack box you wanted. The good news is you can have anything else you want.” Important note – I wasn’t upset by this. I didn’t have my heart set on the specific snack box I’d wanted (boiled eggs, some fruit, some peanut butter), I just wanted a snack. So I grabbed a cheese and fruit snack box instead and was perfectly happy with that.

We went over to the register so he could make the exchange and then he offered me a $4 ‘recovery card’ off my next visit. Cool! Now I’m actually pretty happy about the whole situation.

I noticed a tray of bite sized portions of some chocolate baked good and asked about it. He told me (double chocolate pound cake) and said they were offering samples and I could have one. Super cool!

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God, no, I’m NOT mad. I’m fine. Everything’s FINE.

At this exact moment, if you had asked me, I would have said I was smiling. At any rate, I felt confident I had perfectly pleasant expression on my face. I wasn’t sad or mad. Nothing I had said or done would have indicated I was unhappy in any way.

Important note – I could have been this kid’s mom. Important follow up note – I am not what most people would call conventionally attractive. I mention this because I’m pretty confident he was not flirting with me. I mean, anything’s possible, but… probably not.

And then he said, “The only price is a smile.” And I reflexively smiled (dammit).

Then I went to my table, watched some Netflix, ate my snackbox (cheese and fruit and crackers. Yum), drank my tea, and nibbled on the sample of cake (super tasty!).

And instead of enjoying my Netflix, all I could think about was why he asked me to smile.

When I got to my friend’s, I asked them “Do I look like I’m pissed off all the time?” I mean, I know I have resting bitch face. It’s a chronic, long term condition for me, but still. (the answers were “no, yes, and ‘only when you look at me,’).

Two days later, I’m still bothered by it. I mean… seriously… resting bitch face. I have it. But he asked me to smile at a moment that I thought I was smiling. Dammit.

So just don’t do that. Don’t do it for all the feminist reasons you’ve ever heard, but also don’t do it because it made me feel bad for at least two days because I wish I had a happy smiley face and I don’t and thanks for reminding me that I look mad all the time and that probably drives people away.

… shit, I wonder if that’s part of why do many people say I’m intimidating.

Anyway, please don’t ask a woman a smile, ok?

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Is this better?

 

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Donna’s Friday Morning Moment of Self-Awareness

I’ve got this gap between my front teeth. I hate it.

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I told you it was awful

A couple years ago, I was talking with some friends of mine about how much I hate seeing pictures of myself. Among the reasons for this aversion? That horrible, horrible gap.

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It’s not really that bad, but it sure feels like it. Fun with snapchat *awkward, nervous laughter*

 

See, when I was a kid, I had braces, and they fixed the gap, but then when my wisdom teeth came out, I guess my teeth spread apart some and now I have this gap between my teeth again. For a long time, I wouldn’t even smile with my lips open, because of that gap, but then several people told me I have a great smile so I have tried to get over it, but still, whenever I see one of these, pics, all I can see is that gap and…

That’s when one of my friends broke in on my story and said, “I’ve never noticed it.”

And I thought, “How many other people would never have even noticed this horrible, horrible flaw of mine if I’d just never told them about it?”

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No more fooling around. No filter. Totally natural expression.

I was reminded of this when the three brothers on my favorite podcast (My Brother, My Brother, and Me (MBMBaM)) did a TV show for Seeso TV.

The oldest brother, Justin, talks frequently about being overweight. He makes comments like “I’m living my life as an overweight man.” He talks about not being able to find clothes that look good – how his jeans are always cuffed because he can’t find jeans that are short enough for his chubby legs.

I do this too. As a podcaster, a writer, a blogger – non-visual mediums – I find that I will start stories much the same way when I want to talk about trying to find clothes that make me feel good about myself, or challenges finding a date, or the like.

But then…

I saw the first episode of the MBMBaM show.  Now, don’t get me wrong. Justin is overweight, he’s not one of those totally average people complaining about how fat they are. But his weight is not his most defining characteristic. It’s not the first thing I notice when I see him. In fact, the first thing I thought was “Why does he talk about his weight so much?” And this is coming from someone who’s overweight!

So, I don’t have a great insight here, really. Sometimes, like if I want to talk about having a hard time finding clothes, I’ve got to mention that I’m overweight, or you’re going to wonder “Why doesn’t she just go to the GAP?”

Which brings me back to the lesson I learned a few years ago about the gap in my teeth.

Maybe we should all spend a little less time pointing out our flaws to other people, because maybe we’re the only ones who noticed them in the first place.

In Defense of Garbage TV

I have a confession…red-rose-1347966141q6t

No, I can’t. It’s too horrible.

OK. Let me just get this out.

Recently… I started watching The Bachelor.

Whew. I got that off my chest. I feel a little better.

Now, this show is garbage. Purest garbage.

So why am I watching it?

Well… because a podcaster I like does a fancast for The Bachelor (called Rose Buddies) so I thought I’d give it a try. In other words, I’m watching the show as an excuse to listen to a podcast.

Still. It’s garbage. It’s fake, and awkward and really inappropriate in a lot of ways.

And I’m starting to find it therapeutic. It’s fun to flip off the TV every time the designated ‘villian’ is on the screen. It’s fun to protest when the bachelor gives her a rose week after week. It’s fun to bitch about why they don’t show more positive interactions between the contestants, or speculate about how much of what goes on is actually real and how much of it is producer manipulation. To speculate on who’s in the running to win and who’s just there to stir up ratings *cough corn cough*

I can’t actually scream “I hate you!” to idiots on facebook, but I can scream it at my TV. I can’t say, “OMG, you’re SOOOOOO STUPID,” to people in real life, but I can yell it at the bachelor.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s trash. It’s garbage. It’s sensationalist and ridiculous and more than a little sexist.

But one night a week I can forget about real life and real problems and that’s not a bad thing.

…I may have more to say on this topic later. 🙂

An open letter to Disney: Please DO recast General Leia Organa for Star Wars Episode IX #SaveGeneralOrgana

Losing Carrie Fisher was a tragedy. Please do not compound that tragedy with your handling of her character.

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I see three basic options:

  1. You can kill, incapacitate, or otherwise remove Leia from the story,  off screen.
  2. You can severely cut back Leia’s part and CGI her, as you did with Peter Cushing.
  3. Or you can recast Leia.

Here’s why I do not recommend the first two options:

Carrie Fisher cannot be replaced. We all know and understand this.

But, while Carrie Fisher is gone, Leia Organa is still alive*.

The thing you need to understand is how important Leia is to women who were girls when the first Star Wars movies were released. We’d never seen anything like her: confident, out-spoken,  competent, strong, smart.

For a girl growing up at that time Princess Leia was a symbol showing us that we did not have to be soft and compliant and submissive. We could be like Leia Organa. Be strong and own that. Be smart and own that. Be out-spoken and competent without feeling like there was something wrong with you.

I want the girls who will be women in a few years to have that same character, that same strong, confident, competent character to look up to. Absolutely, they have Rey, but Rey is young and pretty. Leia is mature and still not afraid to be in charge. It’s an important thing to see, an older woman whose appearance is a secondary concern.

Which brings me to the third option of recasting. There are plenty of actresses of an appropriate age to take on that part. No, they won’t be replacing Carrie — no one could — but they will be allowing Leia Organa to continue to live. They will allow you to continue to tell us Leia’s story.

Off the top of my head Meryl Streep and Geena Davis both could take on that part. Leia will forever be Carrie Fisher, but they could pay tribute to Carrie. Young women, whether they’re young now or young in their hearts, need General Leia Organa on the screen.

Please consider allowing Leia to live fully in episode IX of the Star Wars franchise.

ETA: Sigourney Weaver, Kate Mulgrew, Ellen Barkin, Kathleen Turner, Dana Delaney, Linda Hamilton (!!!!)… the list goes on.

*I know it’s possible Leia dies in episode VIII. I certainly hope not.

A totally uninformed opinion about Passengers from someone who hasn’t seen it and my thoughts about it as a writer

I haven’t seen Passengers. But I’ve seen a lot of pearl clutching posts about that AWFUL TWIST.
So, I gave in and read them.

Digression – many, many years ago I watched a made-for-TV movie starring Teri Garr [Intimate Strangers, 1986]. She played an army nurse who’d been taken as a POW and suffered horrible PTSD upon her return. The entire movie revolved around the slow reveal of what had happened to her. The reveal: She’d been raped one time by one of the guards. And, call me a cynic if you will, but I had kind of assumed that all along. It wasn’t a reveal, it was a given based on the way they’d characterized her captors. It was kind of like showing someone coming home after ten years in prison and then revealing that while they’d been in prison they’d occasionally been locked in small rooms. Not to say it’s not traumatizing. Just… you’re not surprised by that reveal.

Which brings me back to…

SECOND-HAND SPOILER WARNING

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Apparently, Chris Pratt’s character and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters do not wake up at the same time on the ship’s 120 year journey to another planet. Pratt wakes up earlier, spends about a year alone, begins obsessing over Lawrence — still asleep — and then wakes her up so he won’t be alone.

 
Yes, I agree this is a bad thing. But I wasn’t surprised to hear it.

 
When news got out and people began to complain about it, Writer Jon Spaihts had this to say, “It’s not as if it’s an accidental oversight of the film, where we, through some cultural blindness, have failed to see the appalling nature of our hero’s actions. It is the subject of the film. [emphasis mine]

 
Director Morten Tyldum added, “…I think that most of us, if we had the choice, would have done what Chris’s character do. We’re lying to ourselves if we’re saying that we won’t. And I think also that Jen’s character and her stance, the moment he walks out [of the ship] and may not come back, she understands that, knowing she will be alone on the ship. And she understands. She completely understands why he did that.”

 
I get that. I totally get what Spaihts and Tyldum are saying. They made a film about what a person would do in this horrible situation, gave us Lawrence to react to this situation, and then put her in a position to understand that she would have done the same. It’s a good story, exploring emotion, human nature and the need for companionship. But apparently, they didn’t communicate that story to their audience. Instead, they gave their audience a creepy stalker story (apparently).

 
It doesn’t really matter what story you intend to tell. What matters is the story you do tell.

Political Post #1 – Echo Chambers and how to stay out of them

I had planned to wake up November 9 and make a post on Facebook along the lines of “If you were surprised about the results of the election, you might be living in an echo chamber.”

Then I woke up November 9.

And I had been surprised about the results of the election.

…(So thank God I didn’t confidently make that post before the election – I don’t like the taste of crow or humble pie.

But here’s the thing: I do not live in an echo chamber. I go to great lengths to make sure I don’t. I know most of my friends lean left, so I know I’m in danger of creating a Facebook environment where I only hear thoughts I agree with. I’m aware of the danger, and I actively try to avoid it.

Check your news sources.

I get my news from a variety of sources and I make a point of avoiding news from biased sources.* The exception to that is if I don’t understand a particular reaction from one side or another, in which case I will seek out those biased news sources because I know they’ll explain the offense to me. For instance, some time ago, a lot of my friends on the right were clearly furious about a new bill. But it seemed like a perfectly reasonable bill to me and I just could not understand why they were all so mad. So, I went to FoxNews.com and rather quickly understood what the problem was (I don’t recall what the bill was, so I can’t recall what the problem was. Big government, maybe?)

*I know a lot of people will argue that all media is biased. I’ve had that argument sooooooo many times! But some news is deliberately biased – Fox News, breitbart.com, infowars.com, Drudge Report, Huffpo, Politico, MSNBC, et al, while other news attempts to be neutral and unbiased. Seek out neutral news sources.

However, even for the most neutral news media, news is now profit driven, so their editorial decisions are slanted towards what will get the most viewer/hits. Which can definitely create the appearance of bias.

Don’t prune your friends list

I make a point of not silencing people with different political views from me. I have a lot of friends across the political spectrum and I like it that way. My only rule, oft repeated is, “Don’t be an asshole.” As long as people who disagree with me can discuss that in a civil fashion, we can be friends. More than once I’ve asked the people who do agree with me to settle down. It happens.

PS – several my friends have done exactly this after the election – unfriending/unfollowing anyone who voted a certain way. It’s your Facebook, you can do whatever you want with it. I can certainly understand the appeal of being surrounded by like-minded folk.

I’m just talking to people who don’t want an echo chamber. At least one of my friends said explicitly that they did want an echo chamber. That’s cool, I’m not judging you.

Check the sources.

When I see a news story that seems too good to be true (or too bad to be true), I research it. I check a lot of different news sources. And if the only sources for that news are highly biased, I’m a lot less likely to pay attention to that particular bit of news. Beware – BEWARE – of the plethora of fake news sites that make up purest BS and send it out into the world to garner clicks.

Don’t be too quick to hide pages you don’t like.

I do occasionally block posts from certain pages on Facebook. I hold pages subject to the “Don’t be an asshole” rule. As long as you’re not an asshole, you can post memes I don’t agree with. If you are an asshole, you can still post them, I just won’t see them.

 

 

Even with all these efforts to avoid an echo chamber, I was still surprised about the results of the election.

 

It doesn’t help if the media is wrong. I was surprised about the results because even Fox said Trump was losing. The far-right media was still insisting that everything was rigged. Even project 538 – which has been uncannily accurate the last two elections, was way, way off this election. I think rather than biased media or any kind of echo chamber, we were seeing sort of a Bradley Effect . I think people were ashamed to admit they were planning to vote Trump, and therefore lied to pollsters (I could ask why you would vote for someone who was so awful you were ashamed to admit it, but that’s another topic). I think a lot of people who said they were for Clinton didn’t show up to vote while most of those enthusiastic for Trump did show up to vote.

 

At any rate, I encourage everyone, righties or lefties, to venture out of their comfortable bubble filled with people who think just like you. For one thing, it’s never a bad idea to understand others. People are still people, even if they have different views than you.

Try to get your news from neutral media. Go to Google if something seems too good to be true. And try to remember that we’re all people, and most of us believe that what we want for the country is what’s best for the country.

And, if you’re thinking of  adopting the “Don’t be an asshole,” rule, I can tell you that a chamber which does not echo with the sounds of assholes is a nice place to live.

How I manage Social Anxiety

Yesterday, some friends invited me to join them for the evening at a food truck festival. I gladly said yes!

Now. It’s 20 minutes before I need to leave and I am frantically seeking excuses to cancel.

Here’s what’s happening in my brain:

  • It’ll be awkward.
  • I’ll say the wrong thing and they’ll never invite me again.
  • What if I’m overdressed?
  • What if I’m underdressed?
  • What if my bad knee starts hurting so bad that I have to sit down and then I ruin their fun and they never invite me again?
  • What if I overspend?
  • What if I overeat?
  • What if I get food on my shirt?
  • OMG, I should totally change my shirt, I look fat.
  • Well, I look fat in everything. I am fat.
  • I shouldn’t go because someone will take a pic of the fat chick eating food-truck-food and it will go viral on social media and I’ll become a global laughing-stock.
  • I should cancel.
  • I’m going to cancel…
  • Wait…. what if I cancel and that hurts their feelings and they never invite me to anything again?
  • What if….

 

Now, I could go on, but I think you get the point.

 

I have social anxiety

vincent_willem_van_gogh_002I pretty much expect every social event to be a disaster, starring me. I spend huge amounts of energy looking for reasons to cancel my social outings. Usually, I talk myself out of it. Sometimes, the anxiety wins and I stay home.

The other day, a friend asked me how I managed my social anxiety. I know why she asked me that. People generally tell me that they admire my confidence. That I’m outgoing and just seem like a strong person.

I’m not, though. I’m a wreck. I’m a mess. I’m a gibbering ball of nerves and insecurity. However, it’s important to me to seem strong and confident, and apparently, I’ve done a good job with the pretense.

 

The Leahey Plan for dealing with Social Anxiety – Fake it till you make it

(you can actually stop reading now. That is the entire secret)2153602543_91bc39b403

 

Step one – Act the part

Learn about body language. Seriously. Learn what the signs are of someone who is confident, comfortable, casual (or whatever image you WANT to project). And make an effort to project that. When I’m in public, I lean on the doorframe or wall. I put hands on my hips, or in my pockets. I assume a casual pose: weight on one hip, ankles crossed. If I’m sitting, I lean back in the chair or lean forward on the table with my hands loosely clasped. If I realize that I’m showing signs of nervousness, like fidgeting hands, I change posture so that my hands are behind my back or in my pockets.

 

Why? To fool the people around me? No, to fool myself. Research has shown that your own body will believe what your body language tells it. In other words, you can literally fake it till you make it – fake being relaxed, calm, and confident until your body believes it and you feel it.

 

Step Two – Dress the part

The other day I was going to meet friends and I knew there might be tension among us. There’d been some disagreements, some harsh words, and I was tremendously anxious about what might be said when we got into a room together.

As I got dressed that day, I opened the closet. My eye fell on a pink flowy thing with a peasant neckline, soft drapy fabric, ruffles, and a pretty floral design. That top makes me feel pretty, feminine, and soft.  I decided I wanted — no, needed — to look and feel strong and confident*. So, instead, I chose a bright colored shirt over a bright colored tank top. That particular outfit makes me feel strong and confident. And also pretty.

*Some women can and do feel strong and feminine at the same time. I don’t. I’m not trying to invalidate anyone else’s experience of being a woman. This is mine.

 

Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about power ties or any particular color or item. I’m talking about what makes you feel good. Ignore articles that tell you you can’t wear a miniskirt after 35 if wearing that miniskirt makes you feel good. Wear butterfly clips in your hair, torn up jeans, menswear, bright colors, pastel colors, stiletto heels or comfy flats. I’m talking about what makes you feel like the kind of person who doesn’t worry about being around people.

 

Step Three – Be stern with yourself.

What do people who aren’t social anxious do when people invite them places? They say yes! So do that. Fake being that person who is cool with accepting invites.

I made a rule for myself that I will accept any reasonable invitation.

What does “reasonable” mean?

First, is it something I feel safe doing?

“We’re going to strap on fresh killed pork and go swimming in shark-infested waters, wanna come?”

That would be a no.

“We’re gonna go see a movie about sharks. Wanna come?”

That would be a yes.

 

Is it something I can do? I have severe osteoarthritis in both knees. That means that walking hurts, standing hurts, and climbing stairs is nearly impossible. So…

“Wanna come on a seven-mile hike in the mountains?”

That’s a no.

“Wanna come to a food-truck festival?”

There’s a reasonable expectation of being able to sit. So yes.

 

Is it something I enjoy?

“Wanna come to a country music festival?”

No, I do not.

“Wanna come to a Beatles cover band concert? They’re super good.”

Yes. Yes I do.

 

Step three and a half

…and then don’t let yourself back out without good reason.

That’s the tricky one, guys. That’s the one that you really have to force yourself to follow through. I can’t tell you what will work for you, but here’s what works for me.

I remind myself that I’m doing this FOR ME.

I remind myself that if I keep canceling plans, eventually I’ll have no plans.

I remind myself that I will have fun once I’m there, because I have super cool friends.

I remind myself that sitting and playing on my computer is something I can do at any time. Going to a food-truck festival and hanging out with my friends is something I get few opportunities to do.

Usually, that works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

 

Step Three and three quarters

If it doesn’t work… if you still end up cancelling your plans, apologize. If you’re good enough friends to be all self-disclosing, tell them the truth: the anxiety won this time. If you don’t feel that comfortable, then make up a polite fib, but don’t just flake. And tell them you look forward to next time .

 

tl;dr version:

  • Fake it till you make it.
  • Act confident
  • Dress confident
  • And accept those invites.

 

…and a final note – acting confident and dressing confident is not about manipulating other people. It’s about manipulating yourself. Convincing yourself that you are strong and confident.