Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What Monsters Sleep Under Your Bed?

Recently, I asked an acquaintance what monsters sleep under his bed, and as one of his fears, he replied: "I don't ever want to instill fear in someone else."

His answer not only reminded me that oppression oppresses the oppressor, it also felt fascinatingly foreign to me. As a petite woman, I can't recall being acutely afraid of inspiring much fear.

At an early age, girls are often trained that we are prey. We need only open a volume of fairy tales to see how frequently we are victimized. Just in case we aren’t frightened by Little Red Riding Hood, the Charles Perrault version offers us a "moral" at the end, telling "young lasses," particularly those who are "pretty, courteous and well-bred" that they “do very wrong to listen to strangers." And seemingly "gentle wolves," he warns us, may turn out to be the most dangerous.

I’d like to think it’s possible to deduce from this "moral" that it’s providential to be old, ugly, loud-mouthed and rude, but clearly that’s not the message here. We are instructed to trust no one and go nowhere.

Eventually, we may grow annoyed that these "wolves" dictate whom we speak to; our comings and goings. We may resent that this moral burdens us with avoiding such indiscernible wolves instead of shaming and blaming the wolves themselves for their wolfish behavior. And we may even wish to bare our teeth and growl to keep any wolves at bay, which would imply - instilling fear in another.

So do I, as a feminist, desire women to be seen as a formidable force? Do I fear that abandoning anger means abandoning justice (since anger can be a catalyst for positive change).

Still, I know women are capable of waging a tyranny of fear, albeit on a smaller scale than men (who still claim the political and global arena), in households and workplaces. I’ve often interpreted such fearsome behavior as a manifestation of helplessness rather than power, but is it less reprehensible?

"I don't ever want to instill fear in someone else."

This answer intrigued and surprised me. I wouldn’t have thought of it myself. I would have considered instilling fear a luxury of the powerful.

But how can I discount the power of women so absolutely? And wouldn’t I desire to use whatever power I possess to instill peace, not fear, inside this fragile world?

And I can’t help but wish that Our President had "this monster" sleeping under his bed.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The State of the Undies

After the dissolution of a relationship, it’s quite natural to reflect upon the condition of one’s undies. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that if I had truly taken stock of the state of my undergarments, I might have foreseen what was about to come undone.

My underwear has been growing obsolete, nearly antique, and more to the point, I’ve prided myself on my un-trendy nature, seeing this as a sign that I’m not seduced by consumerism, among other things, to wear the latest lace-infested frilly thrill.

However, the other day, I found myself venturing into “Intimates” deep inside a department store. I quickly got lost among the stealthy under-wire and powerful push-ups, and only after a grueling expedition did I uncover the tiny rack of “natural” brassieres, which came in white and white.

Along my journey, I did don a few brawny bras. Since I was surrounded by their padded power, I feared a backlash if I ignored them entirely. But in the dressing room, I wondered:

If a man were to clasp me to his chest, holding me close, he could hardly compliment me on my bosom. No, he would be forced to utter: “What a magnificent bra you have! Who manufactured it?” Or if he didn’t know any better, he might inquire: “Are you wearing a bullet-proof vest?”

As you can see, Dear Readers, my mind has been preoccupied by questions of such import and magnitude these past days I’ve been away from you.

Please know that I’ve nothing against “pretty panties” (several cheered and amused me with their utter frivolity), but I’d like the freedom to choose comfort over crowd-pleasing cup-lets.

Are my Freedoms more important to me than Intimacies? Growing up, I witnessed an unbalanced marriage in which one held the key while the other sang like a caged bird, and in current events, I’ve watched Cindy Sheehan’s husband file for divorce after she started her “unseemly” protests against the war.

So will I (can I) conceal my unruly opinions, political power and artistic passions behind embroidery and lace?

In the end, I hope all of us take a stand, speak our minds, and cry out our truth, even when our truth is not cute and comes in only one color. Even at the risk of sending our underwear into sheer disrepair.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Compelled by curiosity (and foolhardiness), I placed a free profile on a personals site.

Yes, dear readers, I hear your outcry! It’s far too soon to track down true love! This is the moment to spread my wings and soar without a suitcase full of compromise and connubial commitments! Still, I couldn’t resist testing the webby waters of Internet, uh, Love?

I went searching for a photo of myself, but too many included my spousal-departus… until I recalled these iMac images.

All of these were outright rejected, however, by my new relationship consultant (aka my bachelor brother) who insists that no one wants to court a cartoon, particularly a creepy-looking one.

But whenever I contemplate photos of myself, I wonder: “Is this me?” and I never seem to find an image that resembles “who” I am. In the end, I resorted to a recent, but rather theatrical photo (which feels no more like me than the cartoons!), and within moments, I attracted every tank-topped, tattooed biker within 50 miles, asking: “Wanna go for a ride?”

And then there was the 60ish man who wanted to retire with me to Hungary. And the 40ish man who asked (without any preliminaries) if I was gonna be free tomorrow. Free for what?! Perhaps he meant, “Will I be free from jail?” (Answer: yes). Perhaps he meant, “Will I be free from societal pressures?” (Answer: I'm working on it). But when I wrote back that I was free for cyber-communication only (nothing non-virtual just yet), he was no longer free for me.

One of the most striking comments I received came from a long-haired hippie (standing next to his sweetheart-I mean, motorcycle). In respect to my photo, he asked: “Why do you look so sad?”

Because I was sad, I realized, and after that, I pulled down my profile, ending (temporarily, at least) my premature excursion into the realm of online match-making.

I cannot say I learned much from my brief foray into this brave new world, but upon reading several profiles of men-seeking-women, I found age requirements / discrepancies disturbing. So many men above the age of 40 are only interested in meeting women below the age of 35. Chauvinist much?

And while some profiles seemed heartfelt, others were full of - shall we say? - downright absurdities.
  • “Everybody tells me I’m really handsome.” Gee, that’s handy info, especially with your photo right in front of me. At least, I know your modesty won’t blind me.
  • “My friends all say I’m a nice guy.” Hmm, would they really be your friends if they said you were a jerk?
  • “I only want normal girls.” Excuse me, Sir, but could you describe “normal” for me?
  • “I want a girl who’s both sexy and professional.” At the same time? Like, er, a prostitute?
  • “I want a girl who knows exactly who she is.” Okay, I get the idea here, but if this guy believes he knows exactly who he is, I think he’s in for a big surprise someday.
And all too predictably, too many men have photos with their cars! Well, next time I need to buy a car, I know exactly where to go.

However, I do admit that describing oneself (for romantic purposes) isn’t easy. When asked what I was seeking in a man, I found myself writing…

“Someone who enjoys questioning themselves as well as the world around them, and who shares a desire to communicate openly and honestly ... (Hmm, I don't suppose anyone requests cads or con-artists, do they?)”

Yes, go ahead, laugh at me. I laughed at myself!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hunger for Home

As a teen, I couldn't wait to escape this thing called home.

"Shape up or ship out," I heard more than once back then, but I hadn't finished building my boat. I had no sails yet. I had only a flimsy raft that wouldn't stay afloat in the unpredictable currents of the world.

When I left, at last, home changed meaning for me. My circle of friends became my home, and this home was a much stronger fortress than any sheetrock or cement foundations; a much cozier hearth than any woodstove or fireplace.

This home was not stagnant, but always evolving. Many of us embarked on journeys (adventures, careers, love), and our home shifted in shape: a triangle; hexagon; octagon; and sometimes, it even elongated to the point of breaking; losing touch.

When this friendly home seemed to grow tenuous, transient, too intangible, I was struck by an unexpected hunger for home. The very sort of home I once longed to escape. The shelter of a roof, the shield of a wall, the sturdiness of a wooden floor beneath my feet. I started to crave a sweet abode, knowing all the while that such an enchanted cottage is only an illusion of familiarity, consistency, permanence.

"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in," says the Wolf in the Three Little Pigs, and whether this "wolf" is an earthquake, a hurricane, or a torrent of human emotions, it can create a fracture in our ostensibly solid house.

“Home is where the heart is,” according to philosopher Pliny.

If so, our heart is the stronghold we often seek elsewhere. If so, our heart is the place we must strengthen, furnish, cherish. If so, our heart must direct any disrespectful guests to the door, since this heart is our one and only true home.

I'm heading now, after a turbulent voyage, to be at home with my heart.