I recently saw a picture of Cinderella’s slipper with the caption “If Cinderella went back to pick up her shoe she wouldn’t have become a princess.”

Whatever your feelings about that ashy inspiration, I personally find it useful to occasionally look back and see what if anything I am learning. So 10 lessons in no order.

1. I got no chops.

I auditioned for a staged reading that sounded interesting and realized that whatever limited acting talent I once possessed has rusted to a point beyond embarrassment. I got nuthin but a decent reading voice anymore. I need to find an acting class and a patient director in 2015. Followed by a completely desperate community theatre.

2. Dancing makes me happy.

I always knew this but sometimes I forget to do it. Dancing by yourself, while slightly less enjoyable than grabbing a friend or stranger, is at least not the same slippery slope as smoking weed or drinking by yourself. Jazzercize – even though I can’t follow half the choreography – helps take the edge off the need to move.

If I were to resolve something it would be throw more house parties in 2015 so I can dance to loud music with other sweaty, happy people.

3. Talk less, listen more (in meetings and other difficult situations)

Whenever I remembered to do this I was always happier walking out the door afterward.

4. Not everything broken can be fixed.

‘Nuff said.

5. Everyone’s a little bit racist. (Including me.)

The first time I heard that song in Avenue Q I laughed so hard I could barely hear all the lyrics. Too bad it doesn’t get sung by school choirs like that annoying song from Rent.

If it was, if this song was considered appropriate content for school children and their parents, maybe we could start these desperately necessary conversations about institutional bias and white (and male) privilege from a different place. Just a suggestion.

6. Just because I can’t deliver what a client wants doesn’t mean I’ve failed.

Multiple clients this past year engaged me as a coach to help them create a road map for a new career or a new direction. The problem is you have to know where you want to go before you can decide how to get there. Sometimes when clients don’t know what they want, they think coaching doesn’t work. Unfortunately, I didn’t get issued a magic wand when I completed my training so I can’t make (vague and often unarticulated) wishes come true.

For the first time acknowledging my limitations feels like strength rather than weakness.

7. I am an optimist trapped in a pessimist body.

My daughter says people see me as “proper” (isn’t she polite?), I also get called “serious” and “intellectual” all the time. With a little push some folks might be persuaded to talk about my “Bitch Face.”

It’s obvious I’m not a smiley person, but it may be less obvious that I am a deeply hopeful person.  I really do think that individuals make a difference agitating for change in their communities and in the world. I think the world is full of good people doing the best they can. I believe I have a responsibility to stand up, speak up, lend a hand, hold a hand.

My hope for change and my committment to action just doesn’t show up on my face, or on my T-shirt. Its just how it is. And, once again, I resolve to smile more to help my face reflect my heart.

8. People change.

I am not  the same person I was twenty years ago and neither is my little sister. We may not have had much in common through the years but a conscious choice to see if we like each other now has led to a new circle of family that hasn’t existed for a long time. And I am grateful.

9. I am a writer.

This is a silly thing to have to learn but I have resisted ever referring to myself as a writer, no matter what I write or publish.

However, I need to write. I need people to read my writing. I want to spend more time writing in 2015  and more time acknowledging that writing is part of who I am.

10. Everyday is a second chance.

It’s all a do-over. Right here, right now. Life is what we make of it so live it up.

 

I know I learned more along the way but we have a party to go to where I hope there will be dancing.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!

brain

There are lots of ways to shut down women when they are speaking. For me the one that stings the most – even more than being called bossy, intimidating, strident or bitch – is the comment “Tell us what you really think.”

Not only does this remark effectively shut me up, it implies my strong opinion is laughable. Less valid because of how it’s expressed.

For good or ill I was born with strong opinions so I have been cut with this particular knife too many times to count. I take some responsibility because I know I do get going sometimes, hence the outlet of my Rant blog.

However, I’ve also spent the last umpteen years trying to squash my voice and style to fit someone else’s definition of acceptable. All that every got me was accusations of “cold and unemotional.” Can’t win for losing.

Just once I would like to hear someone acknowledge that when I am speaking strongly it’s because I care deeply.

If you use this expression, the next time someone around you is vehemently expressing their outrage rather than ridiculing, consider instead an observation that the topic is important to them. Or maybe ask why it’s a hot button issue for them, there is sure to be a reason – do you want to hear it?  Or share your perspective & your reasons.

Anything other than effectively saying “Shut up” would be appreciated by me and all the other loud-mouth, enthusiastic, outraged women out there.

And I will continue my struggle to moderate my emotions to a level that is more comfortable for the world.

k10880029

While this title might suggest a lengthy post about the evils of drinking well liquor, it is instead an acknowledgment how easily riffs on the venerable Meyers-Briggs Type Indicators amuse me. It’s a weakness I know.

MBTI Types in a horror movie:
ISTJ: The one in denial that there’s actually a killer
ISFJ: The one who calls out “Who’s there?” as if the killer will answer
ESTJ: The one who tries to tell everyone else what to do
ESFJ: The one who screams at everything
ISTP: The one who finds a really good hiding place
ISFP: The one who dies first
ESTP: The one wondering around without a flashlight
ESFP: The one who tries to hook up with the killer
INFJ: The one who knows what’s going on but no one will listen to them
ENFJ: The one who says “It’ll be ok” even though they don’t believe it
INFP: The one who sacrifices themselves
ENFP: The one who figures out who the killer is a little too late
INTJ: The one who everyone thinks is the killer
ENTJ: The one who tries to fight back but ends up dead
INTP: The one who created the monster
ENTP: The one who makes it until the end

For what its worth I’ve been typed as ENTJ  or INTJ depending on the day. The chart below is also an amusing filter for viewing the evolution of Disney brand female empowerment (not feminism.)

tumblr_mxu10crcn81sr50suo1_1280

I am being forced to write this blog post by a friend who has suffered through an 8 week series of self-help workshops with me. I hope she is grateful.

We have endured seven weeks of trying to be a good sports. Seven weeks of googling every time the instructor said “in this study I read”, “according to a prominent thought leader”, and other things without concrete references, to see what Wikipedia page it was from.

There is still one more week.

The seventh workshop focused on gratitude. Five minutes in we were so far into Oprah territory with blessings and positive energy that I was expecting someone to run out with free copies of The Secret for the audience. Overall an odd experience for the middle of the work day, made tolerable by attending with a friend.

Said friend and I spend half the time texting snarky observations to each other on our iPads. The other half of the time is spent dissecting the “partner sharing exercises” we are supposed to be doing. Between the two of us (she has a psych PhD) we have been there and done that with the content they are presenting, which is, based on the nature of the series, simplistic.

They are very big on small wins. Formerly known as low hanging fruit (you can explore other business speak at a favorite website). So we are encouraged/assigned tasks which will help incorporate the “learnings” into our week and beyond. These are called “minis”.

I have to say I agree with the value of the stress management they are preaching and have used versions of these self-awareness techniques myself with clients. In private.

However. I fail to see the value of a) sharing feelings and personal stories in this casual way at work, b) why it always has to be packaged in nature based spirituality, and c) why they are promising that this simplistic stuff will make someone feel less stressed.

What if it doesn’t? What if people at work have no idea about the horrific crap going in your life that WILL NOT BE FIXED by platitudes? Does that make you a loser? I saw a woman cry after one of these exercises. There is something that feels vaguely like quasi-group therapy in these sessions that pings my professional ethics.

So week seven, a different kind of mini. We are told that practicing gratitude for ten minutes a week — why not 14 minutes so you can do 2 minutes a day? 10 divided by 7 is just irritating. Anyway, that 10 minutes of gratitude a week supposedly creates “micro, micro dopamine flow”. To which I said (in text) “bite my ass”.

A crude, yet simple reaction caused by the second micro in that sentence. If only she had stopped at one. Being grateful probably does activate your reward system. Maybe you can even create that feedback loop by faking it as we were encouraged to do. Maybe we really are stressed because we choose to be stressed. Maybe we are missing our bodhisattva moment by being closed minded.

I’ll give it a try.

I am grateful that there is only one more workshop in this series.

Damn. I do feel better!

The New York Times Social Q’s column sometime in the last couple of months included the line – and I paraphrase – “every time we fail to acknowledge someone we know, civilization crumbles a little bit”. I couldn’t agree more.

I am generally a friendly person. I make eye contact, smile and say hello as I walk through my neighborhood. I chat with receptionists, cashiers and random folks on line at the grocery. But those rules don’t always apply in the neighborhood around where I work.

Walking to meetings its possible to pass a dozen people who know you by name, another dozen who know you by face, and not get a glimmer of a smile, let alone a greeting. Few people make eye contact except African-American folks who, regardless of status, invariably return my smile or nod.

I could understand the lack of interaction (maybe) if we lived in a city where every third person is potentially crazy town banana pants, but this here is a little bitty town so that excuse doesn’t really fly. Most of the time when someone passes without acknowledging me I make up stories –

  • ‘They must be really busy concentrating on their Very Important Thoughts…’
  • “Oh they don’t have their glasses on so they must not have recognized me…’
  • ‘They’re in a hurry (or late for a meeting) and didn’t see me…’ (I do this one so I know its legit).

But some days its hard to ignore the social snub and I think –  ‘They just pretended to not see me because … what? They don’t like me? They can’t remember my name? They’re an asshat?’

Either way every time it happens a bit of Turkish Delight chips off the edge of the world and nothing was done to stop it.

These social snubs happened often enough that I expect to be ignored (especially by people of a higher status), so I don’t initiate any contact and sometimes pre-emptively ignore people who’ve snubbed me in the past. I didn’t realize my part in this weird social norm until I participated in a diversity exercise last week where we looked at our partner and told them what we saw.

I’m trained to facilitate these kind of exercises and have done a lot of this work before, but it’s always worth doing even if just as a refresher. In this exercise your partner described what they saw when they looked at you, and then you told them what you wished people saw when they looked at you. Its meant to demonstrate the layers of self that are not evident in our skin, our gender, or even how we dress.

Like the fact that your class, religion, background and lived experience are not necessarily visible on the surface. What struck me, other than the fact that I was partnered with the most closeted man I have encountered in years, was that I had accepted the idea that people didn’t have to see me if they didn’t want to.

I was complicit in the snubbing because I accepted it as a social norm.

I decided later, as I fiddled around with my thoughts for this post, that I will no longer play this game. Like saying please and thank you for service, making eye contact and greeting folks you know is acknowledging their humanity.

I’ve relied on my personal translation of Namaste – “I see the human in you” – to pull back from vilifying people when I find them too hard to handle. So far I’ve only applied it to non-political, in-person interactions so don’t bother calling me out on past rants about the Koch brothers or other GOP mishegas.

Now I’m thinking I need to expand my translation to “I see the human in you even if you choose to not see me.” A little clumsy for a T-shirt or bumper sticker but it will help shore up my little piece of civilization.

lokumlar_boyut_s_ral__3

It happened again yesterday.

An acquaintance introduced me to her other friend, and when we got through names, titles and work places, I remarked that we did similar kinds of work. The mutual acquaintance immediately said “No. She has a PhD. She’s Dr. So-and-So.” As if this changed the fact that we had the same titles and did the same job.

I deal with this all the time in academia. A subtle or not so subtle belief that everything tastes better with a PhD.

I respect the work it takes for someone to get a PhD. I know it means they automatically have higher status than I do. I know it means that they know more than I do about any and every subject. I also know I will never have a PhD.

Once upon a time I thought I would get a PhD and teach, write and go to meetings for a living. And then life happened. I went in a different direction. I am not ashamed of my education or lack of a doctorate. Here I am and no regrets. And I still get to go to meetings for a living.

When all is said and done, some days it’s still hard to take the conscious/unconscious slights that come my way just because I don’t have a terminal degree. If I didn’t have a solid word-of-mouth reputation in my work it would be a sad state of affairs indeed. The higher ed system is a terminal case and the only cure for me is exit.

There are a lot of smart, dedicated people out there. So in this season of graduations I applaud the accomplishments of everyone getting a degree.  I am sure I missed a few:

  • general equivalency degree
  • high school diploma
  • associate of arts
  • associate of science
  • associate of applied science
  • associate of occupational studies
  • bachelor of arts
  • bachelor of science
  • master of arts
  • master of science
  • master of business administration
  • doctor of philosophy
  • juris doctor
  • doctor of medicine
  • doctor of dental surgery
  • O.W.L.S
  • N.E.W.T.s

Worthy accomplishments all.

images

 

Been thinking a lot about obligations lately. What you owe to colleagues, family, friends, society – why and how the calculations are made. Fortunately, when I get caught in a very sticky problem I have a hierarchy of defense mechanisms that kick in:

  • Invariably I start by talking it out. Haven’t met a problem yet I couldn’t talk to death.
  • If/when rigor mortis fails to set in (some problems are zombies),  I start researching. Surely someone somewhere has done a meta analysis of all the research and possible solutions. Which I can then adopt.
  • If the problem refuses to yield to the sheer weight of expert opinion, I then try to translate it into a formula in the hopes of discovering rules. The formula stage is usually evidence that the problem is either long-term or I truly have no clue.

Currently, I’m working on a formula for “Obligations”.

Everyone has some version of the “me & mine” mindset that would kick in during times of natural disaster, revolution, or Armageddon, but other assorted obligations shift and change over time.

Some of these obligations are steel cables from the past, subterranean and invisible until some event pulls them taut. And that is the formula I can’t quite work out. How much does the past obligate me in the present?

I have managed to climb very far from where I started in life. Some family & friends who were there with me have not. Calls from that past come more infrequently now but the steel cable of obligation reels me in so quickly its staggering.

Some twisted sense of survivors guilt, plus my mother’s catholic (guilt) training, makes saying no almost an impossibility.  Someone else always has it worse. Your success means you share and help.

Thankfully my long-suffering and understanding husband has a more realistic perspective that keeps me from going into debt to float people as I have in the past.

It’s hard to be on either end of that cable.

I usually have an image  or song at the end of my posts, and I was tempted to put a photo of Richard Harris from his famous scene in “A Man Called Horse”, but that’s a bit dark even for me. So instead I leave you with 3 minutes and 30 seconds bittersweet by an under appreciated and brilliant artist you should check out if this is the only song of his you are familiar with.

bittersweetpic2
As bittersweet vines grow, they will tend to strangle whatever they are climbing on. It is extremely aggressive, often growing sixty feet or more in a single season, and spreads rapidly from any bit of root or stem severed from the plant so removal by pulling is nearly impossible. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous.

 

My husband and I have a mixed marriage when it comes to our attitudes about our books.

I tend to only want to buy new books when I have already read it and want to own it, its a favorite author, or my daughter asks for it.

My husband will buy a new book at the drop of a hat. He takes risks on authors he’s heard of in passing, or based on reviews, or even browsing. I have a hard time buying a completely unknown book unless its used.  I don’t begrudge a penny spent on any book, new or used, I’m just pointing our the difference in our acquisition habits.

Now I’ve discovered we have differing views and habits about the library as well.

When I was a kid summer was all about riding my bike to the library and checking out the maximum number of books at once and reading until my vision went blurry. A particular childhood bliss impossible to recapture.

I racked up a lot of fines in those days with little money to pay them. I remember getting my sister to check out books for me when my card was blocked and then ultimately, I am ashamed to admit, posing as my twin and getting a second library card. My card used my childhood nickname, “Amy”, so I got a new one posing as my sister “Amanda”. I probably still owe on some of those books.

Even though our house is overflowing with books, both purchased and from the library, my husband and I rarely read the same ones. We recommend authors to each other which are regularly, if politely, ignored.

For example he will read biographies, which don’t hold my interest beyond the photos. I can only remember finishing two so far, “The Life of Johnson” (assigned) and Diane Rehm’s “Finding my Voice” (don’t remember why).

So while he can’t quite get into Octavia Butler or Plato, I have yet to enjoy Melville.

Currently, on his recommendation, I’m reading (and enjoying) the Nick Hornby book Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade of Soaking in Great Books. There is quote that nicely sums up the underpinnings of our booky household for all three of us –

“All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal … With each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”

We are our books and our books are us. 17707873

What brought the mixed marriage of our “book personalities” into sharp focus for me was an argument we had recently about library books. The Hornby book I mentioned is from the library. He checked it out, finished reading it, and now I am reading it.

And then it came due before I was finished. I told him to renew it, but he wanted to return it in case someone else is waiting for it.

Now that I can renew with the click of my phone app, as opposed to the old in-person system of my misspent youth, I regularly renew books up to the five renewal limit if I am still using them. And then I pay the fee if they are late.

I think of it as rental. Five cents a day is worth every penny for me to finish a book I haven’t yet decided to buy.

Mr. Man’s attitude is that the due date is a social compact with the library, so you should return your materials. He thinks I’m wrong to see the fees as rental. I say I’m helping the library buy more books with my fines. I see no harm in my practice. Which makes him indignant.

I confess this may be a case for a higher moral authority. Does Judge John Hodgman make house calls? Can he be objective about this kind of mixed marriage? Maybe the Head Librarian of the Library of Congress can weigh in?

Meanwhile, I think I’ll pay my library fines before they freeze my card…

Old books

I’m not a terribly sports oriented person. I don’t like watching professional sports other than tennis, and always preferred pick up games to organized teams. I’m equal parts overly competitive with games and bored by watching rather than playing.

I know just enough about professional sports to not embarrass myself in casual conversation, but not enough to actually care who wins or loses. Yet even with my non-sport attitude I could see the tremendous utility of the referee hand signals a clever student created for the American Philosophical Association. Well done Landon Schurtz, PhD. Wherever you ended up teaching adjunct classes, the students are lucky to have you.

I can see a potential for Roberts Rules of Order hand signals to be used during congressional debates so folks watching can follow the action. An Official Congressional Referee armed with the ability to call penalties for poor logic might raise the level of debate. At minimum seeing yellow flags hit the floor would be entertaining.

Unfortunately, they would spend the next hundred years debating what offense of logic in debate would red card a senator or representative. And yes, I do know that I just mixed football and football.

signals21

There has been a lot of discussion lately about poverty in the US both because of the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s War on Poverty, and the proposed extension of federal unemployment benefits. An unfortunate amount of the analysis centers around why LBJ’s war failed, and stresses and how social programs like welfare and unemployment benefits cripple a persons natural drive to succeed.

At the heart of the belief that handouts hurt is the old “bootstrapping” narrative. The rags to riches, work hard and pull yourself up by the bootstraps, anyone can be a Rockefeller stuff of American legend.

This kind of twisted, blame the victim argument really gets under my skin. Not only is it not logical – by the rules of logic not just my opinion – but it is also usually spouted by millionaires. In this case millionaire politicians  – 1% of Americans are millionaires, but more than 50% of Congress are. Go figure.

I find myself irritated by all the talk about poverty and no talk about poor people. I’ve seen working class, lower-middle class and the working poor all used to describe the same income brackets. That would seem to indicate that there is still a stigma to being called poor.  Of course stigma is minimized if you are “hard-working”, “upstanding”, “church-going” , or other kinds of credit-to-your-station adjectives.

Maybe referring to poor people as the Un-Wealthy would be more in line with current attitudes. Or better yet Pre-Wealthy so we can still incorporate the idea that just a little more effort on their part will propel them to the promised land of the middle class.

As the Senate debated the extension of unemployment benefits the people affected become in Janice Yellen’s words “less employable”.  Talk about a downward spiral.

Studies are showing that the longer you are unemployed the less likely you are to actually get a job. Not having a job is being used as criteria to screen applicants. And its legal for hiring managers to do so. If you don’t have a job there must be something wrong with you so why would we hire you? What part of that is being lazy, unmotivated or entitled?

While the unemployment extension bill is not 100% dead yet it is certainly on life support. Maybe 6 or 7 of those wealthy GOP senators will be persuaded over the weekend to stand up for the un-wealthy. It’s not too late for me to suck up to Rob Portman is it?

A logic refresher since I promised myself I wasn’t going to rant about bad reasoning. Today.

Aristotle-logic-figure-1

Time off means different things to different people. For me, stretches of “free time”, also known as “Holidays”, usually mean “Project Management”. Winter break projects usually involve paint, furniture rearranging and closet cleaning. Spring break is generally a major area like the attic of basement, or weather permitting, outdoor work. When you own a house there is always something that needs doing and packing it into weekends doesn’t quite cover the punch list.

The slop sink that I intended to replace before we moved in nine years ago still reproachfully lists and overflows. At least its on the list.

This year my time off was more of a time out.

2013 was a tough row and though I had good intentions of being productive during this break, I just powered down instead. Turned off my email, put my cell phone in my upstairs office rather than my pocket, stopped checking facebook. Even stopped posting to my blog. What I did instead was lounge around the house reading books, went out to the movies, had long, rambly conversations with my husband and daughter, and ruminated.

I don’t know about other folks but I need space and time to do any serious thinking. I know and rely on my capacity for fast processing, organization and quick decision-making every day. These are skills I use like whipping up a weeknight dinner without a recipe. But ruminating is more like bread baking.

Bread needs to be mixed, left to rise, kneaded into itself, divided, rested, baked, cooled and stored. A few simple steps over a good space of time. That is luxury: the time to pay attention.

My time out is almost over and I am trying to not jump the gun and feel it slip away before it’s actually gone. It’s an unfortunate habit of mine to feel bad that vacation is ending before its ended. I can’t be the only one who does this.

While it has been very useful to be quiet, I find I still have so many things I need to say, to myself, to you.

And so begins 2014.

Happy-new-year

Sometimes the future arrives when you aren’t even looking.

The other night we attended the fall concert at my daughters high school and I got to see the future up close. The school has a tremendous music program so the evening included chamber music groups, concert orchestra, concert band, symphonic winds and two jazz ensembles. And they were all outstanding.

In the concert band trombone section a girl who identifies as a boy was allowed to wear the jacket, trousers and bow tie boys uniform rather than the floor length black dress that the girls wear. No one blinked when she made the request. No one remarked when she performed.

Later during the jazz ensembles I remarked how the pretty (and talented) drummer would be a good match for one of the boys and my daughter said “No, she’s a lesbian.” And no one blinked.

I remembered the boy in my daughters middle school that came out as bi-sexual in seventh grade and the girl who came out as a lesbian, and thought this is why I live here. This is my community.

In this one place, for these children, it is okay to be gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. There may be other problems in their lives but hiding part of who they are at school is not one of them. That’s some kinda progress.

And I am thankful.

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and continued progress.

20131130-080643.jpg

I was rummaging around in envelopes of old photos when I came across one of me ironing when I was a child. I am three or four years old, in the kitchen, happily ironing the quilt my grandmother made for my Mrs Beasley doll. I distinctly remember getting this ironing board and iron for Christmas.

Normally, a photo of me performing this gendered work would have only registered as cute and ironic given the fact that my husband now does this chore for both of us.

Instead I had an epiphany about value. Staring, and staring at the triptych of images I could see how the seeds of both my feminism and self-sabotage were planted with that child-size electric iron.

At a lecture I recently attended the presenter talked about how women are taught their value. As children girls are usually praised and complimented for learning tasks or completing chores, while boys are generally paid. This system is roughly Men work for money and Women work for love.

She gave examples of babysitters who when asked what their rate is, reply “pay me what ever you think is fair.” These examples where from her personal experience in the last several years, not the distant past. She went on to point out how leaving payment up to the client teaches them (and you) that you have no value.

This is something I carefully coached my daughter about when she started babysitting so she would state her rates upfront. I even helped her figure out how to inform clients that she had an increased rate now that she is in High School. I am helping her learn her value.

Unfortunately, as I stared at those pictures of me ironing I realized I had failed to do the same for myself in my coaching business.  I set my rate but immediately discounted it because of the need to rapidly accumulate hours for my accreditation. I finished my certification but have yet to enforce my rates. I was horrified to realize this.

I am now determined to not only set and keep to my rate because what I do has tremendous value to my clients, but I am also going to establish standing days and hours for appointments. Not that I won’t be accommodating, but I need to set clear boundaries. For myself.

Because I know what I am worth.

Amanda ironing 1968_1 Amanda ironing 1968_2 Amanda ironing 1968_3

I got into an interesting discussion with my daughter about the custom of women taking their husband’s name when they get married. She was for, I am against. My position is that if the name change were more than a custom it wouldn’t be optional, it would be required or automatic.

When we got married neither my husband nor I changed our names. This was not a difficult decision. I suggested that I would be willing to add his name to mine if and only if he added mine to his. The deal breaker to this potential compromise, other than the fact that a man has to actually petition the court to be allowed to do it,  is the amount of effort it takes to legally change ones name. In addition to having to print all new stationary you need to notify:

  • Federal agencies: IRS, Social Security, passport
  • State agencies: BMV, voter registration,
  • Businesses: insurance companies, banks, credit cards, credit reporting agencies
  • Groups: charities, memberships
  • Employer
  • retirement plans & investments

One big hassle that for practical purposes makes no sense.

The philosophical issue is much more complicated for most folks. My birth name is a through line for my identity and is separate from any joint accomplishment with my spouse, namely creating a child.  Keeping my name doesn’t indicate I am less commitment to my marriage any more than my husband keeping his name signals lack of commitment on his part. And our daughter has four names.

My Aunt famously asked me what would be on our checks if we have two different last names to which I replied ‘we each have our own checking accounts’. It honestly didn’t occur to me to have a joint checking account with my husband until several years ago at which point we had checks printed with both our names. Problem solved.

Everyone has their own reasons for keeping or changing their name. In addition to societal pressure there can be family, peer and religious pressure to change or not change your name. I think it also makes a difference if you have “made a name” for yourself before marriage.

I don’t have a problem with either choice but I do have a problem with folks assuming there is only one right way. Taking the husbands last name upon marriage is not done in all cultures and countries. Just like having the right to have an identity is not done in all cultures.

Ask women in Saudi Arabia who only gained the right to have their own ID card in 2001 and who still can’t travel abroad, open a bank account or work without permission from a male relative how they feel about identity. While Saudi Arabia is the most oppressive country in the world when it comes to women’s rights it still serves as an example of how identity can be tied to other personal rights.

Like abortion.

In my view its a slippery slope from not being expected to have a unique identity to being considered an incubator for fetuses. My name. My body. My choice in both cases. And I will fight till the day I die to protect my right, my daughters right, and your right to continue to make these choices for yourself.

Context matters. Until it doesn’t.

Watching and listening to the story unfold of how NFL player Richie Incognito bullied and used racial slurs against teammate Jonathan Martin, I noticed a theme in the commentary and reactions about how “context matters”.

Not quite “boys will be boys”, the explanations and defense of the NFL locker room culture sounded almost antiquated. Most apologists have couched what sounds like hazing, threats, bullying and racial slurs in the context of team camaraderie that only the initiated can appreciate.

It didn’t take long for those “the way things are” arguments to sound ridiculous despite their apparent accuracy.  The truth of the NFL culture (in or out of the locker room) permitting and, if Incognito is to be believed, even encouraging racist, bullying, and harassing behavior goes beyond what most people can justify or excuse even from a violent and aggressive sport.

I have to stress the word “most” because fans commenting on stories think this is the stuff that’s turning America into a bunch of sissies. Being “overly sensitive” to abusive behavior when, in the context of the physically and verbally violent sport of football, the abuse has been historically accepted and expected. Again and again context is the excuse.

I feel sorry for Incognito. The cultural change in the locker room, as small as it may end up being, will be the hardest on guys like him. The new expectation that things do not cross a certain line when players are busting each others balls will be tough to figure out when there was no line before.

The idea that you could be considered a racist if you use racial slurs will be the new context. And a reason is not an excuse. That may be a bit deep for most folks, but I’m putting it out there anyway.

The context arguments reminded me of a scene in the movie Babe when the cow says, “The only way you’ll find happiness is to accept that the way things are is the way things are.” The duck (who is fighting becoming Christmas dinner) says “The way things are stinks!” For whatever reason Jonathan Martin, like the duck, could no longer accept the way things are.

I hope the NFL follows suit.

ajhs-85