You’re Living in the Past–It’s a New Generation

So I was having a conversation on Friday with a neighbor about Miley Cyrus because I didn’t get what the big deal about her performance on some music awards show was.

I STILL don’t get it.  I mean, I get that she apparently, at one point, was some “sweet wholesome kiddie-show star” and now…well, she’s 20 years old or something and now she’s not.  She doesn’t want to wear pigtails and saddle shoes or whatever little girls wear these days and she wants to be an adult star.

So on this awards thing, she was singing and grinding and “twerking”  and being all sexy on stage, just like people in rock and roll do (Oh, Billy Squire. . .your uber-tight jeans haunt me to this day!) and maybe some people who were used to seeing her as a little kid were having a bit of a brain melt.  I suppose I get THAT.  It’s kinda like catching your parents having sex.  Like, you KNOW they’ve done it (the number of times equal to you + your siblings), but it can be a little squick-y to THINK about it.

STILL.

She’s a grown-up, so really…what’s the problem?  I watched two of her videos (I’ve never seen her perform as a child) and honestly, all I can REALLY say is, “Meh.”  They didn’t necessarily make me want to buy her records, but they sure didn’t make me lose my marbles, either.

She’s got one video where she goes through more costume changes than Cher show in Vegas and uses enough autotune that I thought she might have played that little robot girl from that sitcom in the ’80s I never saw.  From what I understood from a single viewing, she’s basically having a big house party while her folks are away and she’s gonna smoke and drink and do drugs and have sex with boys (and girls!) and even have some black people over because she’s an upper-class white chick and that’s what they do for fun and she can do whatever she wants, because she’s rich (you can tell, because she wears that makeup that never comes off, even when you go swimming) and this is the way you’re supposed to say, “fuck authority.”

Okay.  I don’t GET it, but it’s not the worst thing in the world.  I’m not 20.  I expect I’m not SUPPOSED to “get it.” But there sure is a LOT of vitriol about this video online.

So yesterday, I saw another video and again, there’s a LOTTA hatin’ going on, on websites where people feel safe saying horrible things about people they don’t know (and will never know) to millions of other people they don’t and will never know, MOSTLY about the fact that Ms. Cyrus is pretty much naked.

There were HUNDREDS of posts about how she’s “ugly” and “a skank” and “pathetic.” People were questioning her upbringing and seemed to be insisting that she should remain the sweet, wholesome character she played on television a decade ago, which makes me wonder if many of these people don’t know the difference between television and ACTUAL life.  They’re “hatin'” on her solely because she’s doing something that’s making them uncomfortable when all it appears she’s trying to do is make a career for herself  by NOT being some little kid that people were used to seeing on the Disney Channel.

Remember all the outrage when sweet, perky Mary Tyler Moore Richards Petrie played that cold, bitter woman in ORDINARY PEOPLE?

Me neither.

So I don’t get the hate about her doing “sexy” stuff on TV , singing songs about drugs , (gasp!) or getting naked.

The song itself is pretty much a very ordinary,  melancholy breakup song that 20-somethings relate to because when you’re that age, every breakup means you’re going to die and life will suck FOR-E-VER and, again…I get THAT.  I know 20-somethings.  (I WILL admit that I don’t get what the video itself has to do with the message of the song, (apparently the “wrecking ball” thing ISN’T a metaphor), but that’s not new in the music video business at all.  I didn’t get “Sledgehammer”, either.

She’s not the first person to push the envelope of “decency” or “good taste” or whatever the currently repressed and uptight society deems as “acceptable” and she won’t be the last.  And my guess is that she will survive whatever bad reputation she gets from her 20-something antics. Though musically, she might want to take a page from the book from another 20-something who also chose to say, “fuck the establishment” back in 1980.

AND without all the annoying autotune.

What the Hell Are You Ashamed Of?

“Curlers in your hair…Shame on you!” – Some old commercial, for some product I don’t even remember.

So I keep reading a LOT about “slut shaming.” Maybe I wouldn’t, if I stayed off Reddit or Facebook, but it seems like this some kind of “big thing” and I’m supposed to vehemently against it because omigodfeministrapecultureyempowermentaddayaddayadda.

But you know what?

I. Don’t. Care.

Because the ONLY person who can make me feel ashamed of myself is ME

So, my personal take on slut-shaming is that I don’t give a flying fuck about what people think about my choices/lifestyle/behavior.  If some pork-sword wants to think I’m a slut for whatever reason he/she might configure in his/her head…FUCK him. If someone who CLAIMS to care about/love me starts in about it, then I’m going to need re-evaluate if I believe that person really DOES love or care about me at all.

Long ago, I gave up worrying about what other people say about me. I dealt with all that crap when I was a pre-teen/teenager when people made fun of me because I was fat or because I was a “tomboy” or because I wasn’t popular or my clothes/hair/whatever were “weird,” and  what I’ve learned from quite a bit of living is that there are ALWAYS going to be assholes who judge you because you’re not like them and they’ve got nothing better going on in their lives than to try to fuck with you.  However,  by the time I got out of high school I learned that *I* am in control of my self-esteem; not my parents, not my friends…and certainly not strangers.

So when someone gives you shit about you bouncing your booty in public or wearing a t-shirt that shows off your tig ol’ bitties or the fact that you’re fucking three different people at a time, ask yourself if you’re feeling ashamed because someone ELSE says you should be…or because it’s making YOU feel bad about YOURSELF.

You have a choice to NOT CARE what anyone thinks or says.

If you ever feel “shame” about something you’ve said or done, only you can decide if you want to change that.  Maybe you hurt someone you love and you’re ashamed of that.  Well, fuck yeah…make that right.  Maybe you were an asshole yourself.  Maybe you SHOULD feel some shame about that.  Fix it.

But if your church or religion or your parents or your significant other or random douchebags on the internet are are telling you should be ashamed of who you are, it’s probably time to find another organization or nicer people to share your life/time on, rather than being evaluated about stuff by individuals in some pretty thin, glass houses. Ask yourself WHY you want to around humans who don’t think you’re good enough for them.

Yes, it would be nice if we could FORCE all the assholes to be, well…NOT ASSHOLES.  But that isn’t going to happen.   But luckily, you have a choice to NOT be around those people.  Words and judgements only hurt of you allow them to hurt you.

The “solution” is to live a life of which YOU are proud; whatever that is.  Don’t expect or insist that the world at large accept you.  Accept YOURSELF and choose to live without shame.  If you don’t FEEL shame; then “slut shaming” ceases to exist.

Happy Birthday.

sara

On a very cold Iowa winter day about thirteen years ago, two new clients were admitted to the rehab facility where I worked. Two beautiful teenaged girls, both from rural Iowa, both very good kids, both severely brain injured from weather related car accidents. The girls were housed in side by side rooms in the wing reserved for the most critical patients. Both girls had very low Glasgow scores, meaning they were considered to be near comatose, and they required round the clock care.
Early on, I remember being struck by how similar their cases were, how sad the circumstances were, and thinking that if something remarkable didn’t happen, they would be forever linked in my brain.
In medicine remarkable means something different than the way you and I use it. It just means different from the norm, something that would jump out from the file and make a professional take notice. It could be amazing, or it could be very unpleasant.
I remember the last time I cared for the client in Room 1. I always spoke to every client with the assumption they could hear and understand me. On more than one occasion, I was SHOCKED when I got their first groggy response after a significant length of time in a non-responsive fog. My co-worker and I pleasantly chatted with the girl as we cared for her, and I cracked a little joke. We were absolutely sure we saw a small smile in the corners of her mouth. The next time I entered the room, she was no longer breathing. We started CPR and called 911. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
I walked into Room 2 crying. I looked at the girl that to a casual observer could have been the same patient, and wondered what her fate would be.
Then something remarkable DID start happening. Over the next few days and weeks, she started stirring, then responding. Soon doctors were able to remove the tracheotomy that helped her breathe, and later the feeding tube that kept her nourished. Don’t EVER be fooled by what you see in movies, no one just “wakes up” from a coma. It is a long, difficult process with giant leaps forward followed by heartbreaking setbacks. But the strength of this girl was incredible, she started overcoming every obstacle between her and the life she used to know. Her full teenaged girl personality started emerging, the good and the bad. We all shared in her tantrums, her crushes, her love of music and chocolate…
My heart ached for her when the state tournaments came to town. All of her friends, decked out in their cheer leading gear came to visit unexpectedly. My client was in physical therapy, trying hard to regain the body all these girls took for granted. She broke down and refused to see them. I remembered the lack of self confidence we all have at seventeen. I remembered being embarrassed running into friends from school when I didn’t have make up on, or my hair done, and I understood. She just couldn’t let them see her like that. They were living the life that she took for granted until one fateful night, and she was no longer one of them. While watching her miraculous recovery, and falling in love with who she was now, we had lost sight of who she had been before. I think in some way she had too, until it was unexpectedly there in her face.
After 231 days in a life changing rehabilitation center, she was discharged. She called me the following year to let me know she had started college. If you saw her today, you would understand that she has a disability. You would recognize the difference in her gait or her speech pattern, but you could NEVER comprehend what she’s been through. I don’t pretend to know, and I was THERE.
Today she celebrates her 31st birthday. She works, has relationships, and participates in a community that loves her very much. But I can’t call this a miracle. As thrilled as her family was, and continues to be, that she survived and thrived, this is not the life that they expected, or the life that she deserves. This is not the work of a divine power. What kind of higher power looks down on two young women with the whole world beckoning them,and takes that away? Why would a god decide one family gets to keep their child and one does not?
I have said several times that if I never do ANYTHING else good in this world, my time at that facility was enough. I was so proud to be a part of this girl’s recovery, and others like her. I remain forever linked to the families I came into contact with, and not a day goes by that I do not remember them fondly.
But again, I was THERE. These success stories are due to an incredible fighting spirit, skilled medical professionals, modern science, and people helping other people. And some other intangible factor… something that makes some of these people survive, and others with almost identical injuries die. In this crazy, complicated world we may never know what that other factor is. It creates such joy for some, and lasting heartache for others. Today I choose to celebrate the joy. I am forever grateful to have seen people helping other people heal. It changed me for the better, and helped me become the humanist I am today. Happy birthday client from Room 2. Your very existence should continue to inspire us all. Every time I come to the aid of a fellow human, I do it for you, and those like you. I don’t need a higher power to tell me it is the moral thing to do.

“Are you Christian, or do you hate Christmas?”

GrinchHumanism and Parenting:

I remember the day it hit me. My son was preparing for his First Communion, and listening to some bible story about locusts and water turning to blood. He sat there listening intently, rapt and innocent. I had stopped believing in that stuff long ago, yet here I was forcing him to listen and believe. I’d taught him to be obedient and respectful and it broke my heart that he was accepting this as fact. I sat in a church and silently promised myself this would be the last time. He was trusting me to lead him in the right direction and I felt very strongly that I was letting him down.

I raised my children in a church environment because that is how my husband and I were raised. Quite frankly, for the first 10 years we were parents, that is how everyone around us had been raised and they were passing those beliefs along to their children. But after many late night talks and careful contemplation, my husband and I decided we were good without god and our children would be too.

We teach our children morality. Be kind, treat others fairly, be honest. Not because you fear eternal damnation, but because you would want to be treated that way. We made it clear that we no longer believed in god, and gave them reasons why. We continue to encourage them to explore, question, and draw their own conclusions. I’ve been careful never to criticize their friends’ beliefs, unless they were hurtful or hateful toward others. For a while one of my daughters chose to attend church with her friend. I even drove her to and from services, but after awhile she decided it wasn’t for her. She told me that she was mainly going for the boys and the snacks. It crossed my mind that it would be rather ironic if she was secretly a believer, and just told me that to appease me. After all, when I was her age I went to church for the boys and the snacks and told my parents I was doing it for the lord.

My children are free to choose whether or not to participate in holiday activities at school, the pledge of allegiance, or holiday gatherings at friends’ homes. As long as they can present me with an honest reason one way or the other, I will support their decision.  Which brings me to the title of this blog: When planning to get our sons together, a very well meaning mother of one of his friends invited us to a Christmas gathering at one of our favorite local charities. She stopped mid sentence and asked, “Are you Christian, or do you hate Christmas?” I was a little caught off guard as I hadn’t realized those were my only options. I explained that although my family was not religious, we enjoyed holiday festivities and were big supporters of the hosting charity, Opportunity Village. Our sons have remained good friends.

I think the best thing you can do as a humanist parent is to raise honest, kind children. Let them lead by example, and show others what true compassion is. It can be difficult. There have been families that have not allowed my children to socialize with theirs, and my daughters have both been called “bad influences” due to their beliefs about equality, and the lack of religion in our home.  My children are free to share as little or as much of our family’s beliefs with their peers, as long as they feel comfortable and are being honest and respectful. I hope that my children can find comfort in the fact that I will NEVER choose obedience to an abstract deity over the tangible, unconditional love of my family.

Your Flight Attendant Knows Best

Many of us are caregivers. We take care of our children, our parents, our friends and spouses.  Some of that responsibility is thrust upon us through circumstance; some of it we take on because, well…it’s just who we are.  When they’re in need or when they hurt, we’re there to listen, to bring a pot of soup, or to comfort them when they’re sick or lonely or afraid or depressed.  And people learn to depend on us.

“Please secure your oxygen mask before trying to assist others.” – Every flight attendant in America

A lot.

And at some point, we’ve probably felt like it’s becoming “too much.”  We can’t stop caring about and for all those others because they depend on us.  But we can feel ourselves being pulled in every direction and it can become overwhelming.  We convince ourselves that we can’t say, “no,” to anyone, and well. . .we can sleep when we’re dead, right?  They need us, after all.

We can feel ourselves becoming overwhelmed.  The problems and ills of all the people we care about and care for pile on top of our own.  Perhaps they’re even taking priority over ours.

Well, guess what? Our flight attendant was right.

Every time we take a plane trip, before takeoff, the flight attendant gives the safety speech.  He or she talks about fastening our seatbelts and keeping our seatbacks in an upright position.  And then the flight attendant tells us what to do in the event of loss of cabin pressure.

“An oxygen mask will drop from overhead. Always fit your own mask before helping children, the disabled, or persons requiring assistance.”

ALWAYS FIT YOUR OWN MASK BEFORE HELPING CHILDREN, THE DISABLED, OR PERSONS REQUIRING ASSISTANCE.

And there’s an extremely good reason for this.  Because if we don’t put OUR masks on first, there’s a very good chance we won’t be able to assist anyone else.

Many of us try (and I mean, really try) to be everything to everyone ALL. THE. TIME.  It’s a noble endeavor, but not realistic and ultimately, not healthy for us and not for the people we think we’re helping.  We need to force ourselves to remember that there will always be those who need us and we, because of who we are, will want to help and be there for them. But in order to truly be able to be there for them, we have to realize that we can only do that when we take care of ourselves first.

It’s not “selfish” to say, “No, I can’t help you right now.”  It’s okay to say, “I have to have time for myself right now.”  The sky will not fall if we say, “I can’t volunteer for this today.”

It’s about saving ourselves, so we have the strength to be the caregivers we want to be.