Raise your hand if you’ve ever been called “bossy”. Or “intimidating”.

Or how about “too” anything as in “too loud”, “too angry”, “too pushy” and, my favorite, the generic insult “too much.”

What these adjectives have in common, other than the fact that they’ve all been applied to me, is that they’re often used to remind (or force) women to remember accepted gender roles/norms. Being “too much”, bossy, or aggressive deviates from social expectations of the “nice” behavior that keeps folks comfortable.

I could get lost right here in a rant about the hegemonic, heteropatriarchy reinforcing the status quo, but I have a different point to make today.

My point is that when I coach women clients, or speak with women at workshops, invariably some version of the bossy accusation comes up. The women know these phrases are used as an attempt to diminish and silence them. It’s not a mystery. But it still stings.

The only thing that comes up more often is time management, followed by self-care as a close third. Because if you had better time management skills you would have some time for self-care right?!?

I know folks are working to shift the narrative on cultural norms and we’re all supposed to aspire to being a “Bad B**ch” or a #Bossbabe, but to me that feels like reinventions of the Enjoli woman with better memes.

Real women navigating insults and slights have to decide how to own the words and then strategize about when to ignore, when to reframe, or when to modify their behavior and language to make others comfortable.

Most simply aspire to being accepted, advancing, and achieving without censure or backlash for being insufficiently nice, agreeable or modest.

In the meantime, while we wait and work for the slow, societal shift away from sexism I propose the following solution.

A dance club.

Specifically a “Bossy Women’s Dance Club”. We would only admit women who have been consistently accused of being Bossy, Pushy, Intimidating, or Angry for a minimum of 27 years. Unfortunately, this means some members of the club will be in their early 30’s.

Feminist men of all ages are welcome if a member vouches for their feminism. Men will however pay an additional entrance fee equal to the percentage of the gender pay gap represented by their race.

A dance club would promote self-care with a triple whammy of “me time” in a nurturing, space with like minded folks, fun music to dance to (exercise!) and well made cocktails.

So as I wait for my angel investor to make the Club dream a reality, I make do with … Jazzercise.

I’ve attended Jazzercise in different spots since the late 80’s when leg warmers were all but required. I currently drive 30 minutes – each way – 3 days a week in DC traffic to get to a really great studio in Arlington run by a powerhouse of positive energy named Renee.

Jazzercise lets me sweat in a room without mirrors and pretend I’m still someone who could get into a club. It lets me worship at the altar of Mr. Worldwide with zero side eye & no discussion about the inherent cognitive dissonance necessary for my enjoyment of his beats.

Jazzercise is the perfect “self-care” for my bossy, middle-aged self because there’s no such thing as “too much” on the dance floor.

If you see me at Jazzercise I hope you’ll be pushy and introduce yourself.

Anyone needing an easy laugh should come to my Jazzercise class on days the instructor works in routines that require clapping. Since I have yet to master the ability move my feet and clap my hands at the same time, the result is an earnest yet ridiculous, Jerry Lewis-like flailing.

Thankfully there is never more than one of these per class.

A bigger issue than my lack of large motor skills is the way I lose my rhythm when someone in my family is out of sorts. My instinct is to sidetrack even my most important and essential activities to do whatever needs doing, or shore up whatever needs reinforcing.

Let me be clear that my husband and child are NOT standing in front of me screaming for me to be self-sacrificing. It’s my own super clever brain that tells me that I’m a selfish person (and a bad mother/wife/sister/friend/human) if I don’t put others first.

Work-life balance (ha!) is manageable if and only if (iff) nothing is breaking down, screwing up, or spinning out of control due to unforeseen circumstances.  So that means never.

I know this.

I teach this.

And under pressure I forget this as quickly as everyone else.

That’s one reason the tag line for my coaching & consulting biz is “Nothing endures but change. Be here now.” To remind myself and my clients that the only control we really have is over our own minds.

Whether you follow the Four Noble Truths, Oprah and her vision boards, a religious community, or just positive thinking – getting your head back in the present moment can help get you back in the rhythm of your life. And all its various beats.

For me, its remembering even if I can’t clap along I know the song won’t last forever.

A rhythm related side note: Once upon a time I watched My Sister Eileen (a mostly dreadful movie), and saw a very young Bob Fosse doing some of his signature moves, but because I had recently seen Cabin in The Sky I noticed that John W. Sublett (“Bubbles”) must have been an influence on Fosse. Its an amazing movie. There’s also a scene where Ethel Waters sings Taking a Chance on Love and Bill Bailey does the Moonwalk. Before Michael.

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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!

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Congratulations if you are able to read that word and not hear singing. Unfortunately I both see and hear Topol as Tevye. Always.

One of the things that didn’t occur to me until I was a parent was how much our actions around holidays shapes a feeling of tradition for our kids. Growing up I had a feeling of “the way things are, is the way things are” that didn’t shift until I started experiencing holidays outside of my clan.

My father was a big believer in “there is only one right way” which, in retrospect, probably afforded him a feeling of control in a sometimes chaotic world. But it didn’t leave any space for the opinions or disagreement any of his six children. Come to think of it that may have been part of the motivation behind his attitude. Holidays were often…tense.

For many years after my husband and I got together we continued to observe holidays with both families in the manner dictated by their tradition. We were spared the two stop issue many couples face by virtue of his family being Jewish and mine being Catholic. When our daughter came along the holidays became about her. The traditions slowly crept in the way that they do, adopted, adapted and invented.

One way we acknowledge our differing traditions, and our whole-hearted lack of religious observance connected to any holiday, is by celebrating the Winter Solstice each year. The shortest day, the longest night, the Solstice has been used to mark the season since ancient times.

And now its our tradition – the light returns and so we dance!

Since I will be too busy dancing naked in the moonlight to post to my blog tomorrow – Happy Solstice to All!

(Some people still think “pagan holiday” when they hear Solstice so I included the de rigueur Stonehenge at sunset. And no, there won’t really be any naked dancing.)

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It was my birthday the other day. Normally I’m not one for taking stock on anniversaries, but a number of things swirling around have left me in a pensive mood. In addition to being a year older, my daughter recently attended her first semi-formal dance.

Short dress, high heels, boyfriend at the door, the whole magilla. Nothing too terrible there. She looked very beautiful, sweet and appropriate to an 8th grade dance. Continue reading

Every once in a while a song on the radio will bring up a dormant memory that catches me off guard. The other day, listening to Casey Kasem’s Flashback Top 40, the Doobie Brother’s “Black Water” came on and sent me back to an impromptu lawn party in 1974.

My brother must have just bought the album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. He didn’t buy singles. Singles were for girls.

“Black Water” was (and is) a bouncy, bluesy, sing-along kinda song. Everyone liked it. This particular summer day my brother somehow convinced my mother to let him open the front windows and turn the stereo around so the speakers faced out. This was no small task as we had a giant console stereo with built in speakers that held all of my fathers Mantovani & Tennessee Ernie Ford albums in a cupboard underneath.

Once the album was playing my brother pulled my mom off the front porch to dance on the lawn. Our front porch was a neighborhood stopping place which meant in no time a dozen teenagers, and a pack of little kids, were out on the lawn. Any of the neighbors still inside came outside and everybody outside joined in, dancing and singing.

My brother must have pulled out Toulouse Street and other albums because I remember dancing to “Jesus is Just Alright”, “Listen to the Music” and “China Grove” before the party ran out of steam and my mother retreated to the porch glider.

I remember the cover of that Toulouse album because the band members looked like my brothers (and the inside of the album was racy). Actually, the Doobie Brothers looked like everyone’s brothers at that point in the seventies when long hair, mustaches and beards were de rigueur. It was a fashion moment I hope we never see again.

But I’m glad I remembered that lawn party, long hair & all.

“Well I built me a raft and she’s ready for floatin’…”

Given that the sun is shining at the moment I’m refraining from ranting about the unreasonableness of House Speaker John Boehner or how much I miss Tip O’Neill (for his ability to be friendly across the aisle even in the worst of times.)

I am trying to get back to normal after an intense, work-flooded couple of months, and, like a lot of people, am having difficulty getting out of my head. Its amazing how easy it is to ignore your physical body and live life between your ears. Ignoring my body isn’t just a matter of eating too much crappy food and guzzling gallons of coffee, its also forgetting to stand up from my computer for 6 hours in a row.

I also develop rock hard shoulders that make Massage Therapists weep with frustration as immovable muscle thwarts their efforts. I have yet to get a massage that didn’t end with a comment along the lines of “You know if I could work on your shoulders more regularly I could get those muscles to relax.” Sez you. 

All joking aside massage is an effective way for me to get my head out of the game and back on my body. I guess paying someone to rub every inch of my body is kind of hard to ignore. It’s tricky to mentally track your To-Do list while groaning in agony/pleasure as someone attempts to unknot your trapezius.

A cheaper, quicker (and therefore short-term) way I exit my brainpan is through music. A sad commentary on my life: I was in my late 30’s before I could afford a car with decent enough speakers to make me happy. I do however, now own a vehicle with an excellent sound system. I need that thump. It’s amazing how quickly I can tune in and be present if I can feel the bass. It’s like a heartbeat, difficult to ignore, easy to slide into.

Of course my rocking out to what we used to call “Fuckin-A” music probably embarrasses younger folks around me, but that’s their problem. I need the Stones & old funk & Fatboy Slim like they need…whoever. Leave the old lady alone.

It’s really their fault, the young club goers. If I could go somewhere and dance to house music for 6 or 7 hours I could be more composed and circumspect riding around in my car. But I can’t cuz I’m old. What I need is an old folks Rave that only admits women over 40 & men under 60, starts at 8:30 pm, and plays only music with 120 – 140 BPM until 11pm when it switches exclusively to rock & funk made between 1967 – 1987.

Until that old-people Rave is a reality I will rely on my car speakers to transport me out of my head for a few minutes a day. Here’s a song that needs good speakers. Turn it up.

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