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.

I was at a concert last night where the opening act was just dreadful. The young woman, on stage by herself with an electric guitar, was so nervous that it was hard to figure out how she got the gig.

She kept turning her head away from the mic so her very softly sung lyrics would go missing. Singing her own original songs she still hit dozens of wrong notes on her guitar. She forgot lyrics and lost her place and had a nervous laugh every time something went wrong. It was a mess.

The audience – while they did not boo her – did start checking their phones & heading to the bathroom half way through the first song. I heard one woman say to her husband “she wouldn’t last one minute on the Apollo stage.” I think 30 seconds would be generous.

When she started to tank I automatically tensed up and concentrated on her as if the sheer force of my attention would somehow reduce her humiliation. I know I don’t have magic powers but bad performances and other tense situations sometimes trigger this reflex.

In my previous career, when there was more art than money, I often drove on fumes while concentrating very, very hard so as to will my car home or to the gas station. I’m sure it was luck or a vaguely inaccurate gas gauge, but it always seemed to work.

I doubt my rapt attention and tense muscles last night had any effect on the nervous, under prepared singer but it gave me something to do other than be mortified on her behalf. I only went on stage unprepared once. That was all it took.

That was a hard lesson she learned last night and I sympathize.

I’m sure we can all dredge up a moment or two of deep humiliation at our performance, on stage, at work, in our personal lives. Those times when you know you have massively fucked up and you are the only one to blame. Its an awful experience but with hindsight its possible to see what was learned, what was gained from owning it and making amends.

My hope for that singer is that she adds that lesson to her song book and finds a way to get better at what she does. There is much to be gained from making mistakes, but very little from making the same mistake twice.

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This weekend I had to tell my husband that I don’t like James Brown. We decided to go to a movie the other night and he proposed the bio-pic “Get On Up” and I said something along the lines of “You can go to that one by yourself!”

It’s not like I was hiding the fact that I didn’t like James Brown, the topic just hadn’t come up in the 20 years we’ve been together. He was shocked.

Funk is one constant in the fluid musical landscape of my life. A thread that connects everyone from Sly to P-Funk, to Gap Band to Cameo and Prince. But the Godfather of Soul never did it for me.

Usually my husband and I share many of the same eclectic musical tastes diverging around the likes of Kraftwerk (him) and The Roaches (me). And up to the James Brown reveal we only had one other serious musical bone of contention – I can’t stand to listen to Bob Dylan.

I love Bob Dylan songs as long as someone else is singing them, I just can’t listen to Dylan sing more than three songs in a row. After the third song his signature sing-song whine sounds absurd and I start to laugh.

My family very kindly listens to Dylan albums when I am out of the house, for which I am grateful. I don’t want to ruin their enjoyment just because I can’t appreciate the vocal stylings of “the poet laureate of rock and roll.”

After “Get On Up” was proposed the other night I countered with “The Hundred Foot Journey.” This got me a counter offer of “X-Men” or “Guardians of the Galaxy”.  All three of us want to see “Boyhood”, but since the kid had other plans we opted for the popcorn movie.

I’m usually a big fan of sci-fi, action hero, gratuitous, stylized violence in the name of conquering evil but this story was unnecessarily complex as well as trite and unbelievable even in the world of sci-fi fantasy, so it was a dud. My husband tolerates some sci-fi for me but isn’t a big fan, so by the end of the movie he was both bored and irritated.

I used the opportunity to equated his complaints about futuristic, gobbledygook (Nebula, tool of the evil Kree Ronan!) with my lack of appreciation for Dylan. It’s just a matter of taste.

Here’s a song (and a Band) we both agree on musically. And a great movie too.

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I woke up humming the chorus from a song my Dad used to sing when he was happy – “Honeycomb won’t you be my baby, Honeycomb be my gal” – an old Jimmie Rogers tune. What I remember of my dad’s musical taste consists of Tennessee “Ernie” Ford, Boots Randolph, and a lot of Henry Mancini.

I inherited some of my parents albums when they got rid of the giant record player console that dominated their living room for years. Before everything was ironic, I saved from the scrap heap  a Reader’s Digest Montovani boxed set, John Phillips Sousa’s Collected Marches, and the classic 1970’s albums Hi God and Hi God II.

Currently, music in our house is dominated by vinyl. A full circle from the first generation iPod that sits like a white brick in the bag of “someday soon I will recycle all these broken electronics”.

Albums never left our living room even when the record player no longer worked. Since being replaced by a fancy new record player more than a year ago, the albums progressively took over the bookcases and the floor until my husband made some judicious choices about what could be rotated out and stored in his office.

Then my daughter started buying albums.

Her eclectic taste in music is encouraged, expanded and indulged by her father who likes nothing better than spending an afternoon record shopping. Her taste for funk and 90’s club music she gets from me. The regrettable attachment to Bob Dylan is solely her fathers doing.

All joking aside, they share a passion for music in many forms and genres.  And they share equally strong opinions about the merits of various albums – “London Calling is better, obvi” – which makes for a very different definition of  “Dad music.” Which speaks to the truth of a tumblr I follow Dad’s Are The Original Hipsters.

Plus, I never have to change the album.

5917Check out the screaming girls in this Jimmie Rodgers clip.

Digging through the CD case that was tucked in the door of the car the other day my daughter found a CD from when she was small. It was a “mix tape” made as a gift for her by her dad’s friend who has a child a few years younger than her. It was equal parts corny and delightful to listen (and sing along to) to songs we forgot about as she moved on to her own musical choices. Not to mention Pandora and iPod genius mixes.

She has always had eclectic tastes in music, probably because her father made her CD’s with music ranging from punk/rock/jazz and everything in between. Joe Strummer, The Specials and Squeeze were early favorites, which meant we were spared the cruelty of Barney, The Wiggles and Disney Radio.

The “La La La La” song by Barenaked Ladies was one of the songs on the “Joey Mix CD” that we listened to the other night. It does “unexpected” things with the letter “L” like singing about linoleum rather than lullaby’s. This popped in my head today as I was reading an essay on language by Joshua Foer in the New Yorker (you can read it here). The thing that hooked me, and made me start humming the lemon song, was the premise that language could (or should) be “cured” of its inherent flaws so that communication would be logical, efficient and precise.

As someone who spends a lot of time talking (and writing) I can’t say precision has ever been my uppermost goal. Maybe it is a symptom of the language, but my drive is to usually word choice that creates feeling. Data is never as powerful as metaphor or story – no matter what our mouths keep saying – our brains know better.

Communication by language is so much more than just the words. I understand the desire for precision for certain topics, philosophers are notoriously obsessed with describing reality with precise, neutral language, but that’s what I thought Latin was for. Language conveys history and values along with ideas. Imperfect slices of the evolution of a society, the adoption of “accepted” knowledge and advances in science, are all reflected in language, dialect and common usage.

Its a fascinating topic, thinking about the purpose of language. Linguistics in general, semantics in particular. I didn’t realize before how attached I am to my language evoking feeling and connection. I think of myself as fairly logical, but I guess the swirly, word soup in my head is closer to the whimsy & charm side of the scale than the precision & efficiency end.  I think in the work I do the emotional connection (forged by words, anecdote, metaphor) is actually what greases the neural pathway to allow new behavior. It’s all self-motivation of course, but the language is a trigger.

Much to think about. Including how children’s songs about lemons fit into our conception of the purpose of language.

CODA:
I neglected to click “publish” after proofing this post yesterday because I needed to take my daughter to her school spelling bee. Which she subsequently won. As much as I like writing I can’t spell to save my life so I take no genetic credit for her spelling skill. Her father and I are very proud of her accomplishment.

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.

------maxH------

No this is not a blog post about President Obama’s attempt to re-frame his “late to the party” support of Gay marriage.

Although I am happy that the President publicly endorsed gay marriage, I think it’s a crappy circumstance of politics that we expect every decision to be a static reflection of a public persona. Stop and think for  minute – what if you were held to all the opinions you vociferously expressed twenty years ago? I like to believe that my thinking has not only evolved but become more sophisticated and nuanced, but what do I know. Continue reading

I am driving my father-in-law Sheldon’s car. Not his actual car as he passed away a few years back and no longer drives, but the car that he would be driving if he were alive.

This is a rental because I get to drive all over rural America for my work this month, and each time I do I rent. It ends up being cheaper and I don’t have the wear on my car. This time I have a 2012 Chrysler Altima 300 Luxury Series sedan – the car that practically drives itself.

I got the super premium upgrade because last week when I had to drive 2 1/2 hours (each way) with my current project team and I needed a mini van, which I dutifully ordered 10 days ahead of time. Which Enterprise called me on my cell phone the day before to confirm that I still needed it. Which was not ready and waiting for me when I arrived to pick it up.

The guy tried to hand me the keys to a 15 passenger panel van instead of the tricked out minivan with the captains seats for all the comfort of those I was toting around. Being short of temper I snapped at him that this was not an Orthodox Family Outing, I was driving senior executives and I expected the minivan I ordered.

So they offered me a van that was at another dealership and what choice did I have I let the guy drive me to the dealership 10 minutes away. I had one hour to get the car, go home and put my suit on and gather my files & briefcase. This whole transaction usually takes 10 minutes because the rental place is so close to my house. So off we go to the other rental place 10 minutes away. Except the rental boss calls the guy while he is driving me and says that place no longer has a van so now we have to go and additional 10 minutes. So now I am 30 minutes into my hour with no hope of being on time. Still trying to roll with it, make some calls and tell people I have a problem, and tell the kid to call ahead and make sure this van is ready to drive away the minute we get there.

Then he gets lost.

Because you see he’s never been to this location in the middle of East Nowhere so we get on and off the highway a couple times before he actually finds it. And there it is. The most piece of shit van I have ever seen at a rental place. It rattles. It makes clicking noises. And it smells like candy-coated smoke. I turn it on and the Change Oil light comes on. No kidding. And it has pickup like I’m dragging a U-Haul. But I am stuck so I off I go to run the red light camera gauntlet back to my house, pickup my team and drive for five hours in the nasty van.

So today I was treated to the super upgrade as consolation for the Van Incident.

This Altima is some kinda thang. Its like that Knight Rider car from the ’80s but better. Its got leather everything and is silent as the grave with the windows up. The windows open and close themselves because holding that button the whole time to make the window go up is clearly taxing. The lights and wipers “sense” when they need to come on, the cup holder keeps your beverage hot or cold, it has voice command for using your phone, changing the radio station, picking songs on your ipod, all controlled by a touch screen as big as an ATM in the center of the dash.

I could go on but there are too many features. You can see the crazy luxury at Chrysler if you like.

The reason this car made me think of my father-in-law Sheldon is because he was a man who could really appreciate both luxury and laziness. He would have loved this car. He would have pre-ordered this car last September and gleefully listed its qualities and features to anyone who would listen. Of course its really safe too. You need a lot of air bags to protect people who no longer know how to turn their wipers on.

The thing I covet from the car, other than the 100% silence and feeling like I am in the Mafia with the tinted windows, is the Satellite radio. If I was filthy rich and could buy whatever I wanted, I would pay for Satellite and have 150+ stations to choose from. I always liked the radio best. Punching the buttons, hearing the DJ’s, stumbling on something you forgot or never knew. On my drive I heard Wet Willie, Dan Hicks and Boz Scaggs mixed in with De La Soul, AC/DC and Pittbull. And I thought about Sheldon.

Sheldon was a hoot. I miss him. And I liked driving his car.

As we inch ever closer to Christmas and Hanukkah I confront the age-old problem of how to conduct religious rituals without religion.

I was raised Catholic, my husband was raised Jewish and we are both Atheists. Our daughter identifies very strongly with the Jewish side of her family and considers herself Jewish for all intents and purposes. She intermittently makes noises about a Bat Mitzvah, but that goes away as soon as she is reminded of the amount of study involved and that she would actually have to attend Temple.

She likes the ritual of the Hanukkah candles, eating latkes, and of course the eight (small) presents she gets.

She likes decorating a Christmas tree, eating the cookies and All That Music! She keeps asking where her Advent calendar is. I forgot to get one. I can usually find one for $1.99 at CVS, but didn’t see them this year. In her mind that cheap, graying chocolate from the advent calendar is part of the Christmas ritual. Maybe I’ll try Walgreens.

This morning she negotiated the date for decorating the house. I am usually very firm about only 14 days of visual chaos, but Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year so the house will be blue & white and red & green for 19 days.

So like people all over the world, we will open presents Christmas morning, go for a movie & Chinese food, and then light the Hanukkah lights Christmas night. If folks don’t know us they might even think we were religious.

There is an American reporter on NPR, whose name I always forget, that inexplicably speaks in a BBC cadence. He is not English, nor does he have an English accent. I am so embarrassed for him that I immediately change the station, no matter how dire and important the news he is delivering.

Seeing as I live in a Rock & Roll town, this means that I am now listening to either Pink Floyd or Led Zepplin.

I grew up listening to WXKY 1260 until WMMS took over the air by playing whole album sides – I think WXKY’s record was three songs in a row. From 1975 – 1981 I probably spent more time with Matt the Cat, Kid Leo and Denny Sanders than any blood relative. Somehow all that music, all those artists and styles, from all those years have been boiled down to a 2011 mix of four albums:

  1. Dark Side of the Moon
  2. Wish You Were Here
  3. Zep IV and
  4. Physical Graffiti

These were great albums. Even mentioning them I can picture the album covers which, of course, were studied for hours. As much as I enjoyed them, I am puzzled by being back in 1977 every time I turn on the radio.

There was a point around 1979/1980 where groups of friends began to split into musical sub-groups. I remember this wedge because of heated arguments about Adam and the Ants and Sugar Hill Gang. That was the first time everyone in my crowd did not immediately like or hate the same music. More divisions followed – Iron Maiden v Talking Heads, Judas Priest v the Clash, Tom Petty or U2. And what the hell was Bruce doing with Nebraska?!?

It was a time when music was much more elemental in my day-to-day life. Now it is a pleasure but not a passion.

I had another Groudhog Day moment the other night when I was having dinner at Lola and realized the ambiance music was all Floyd, Zepplin, Edgar Winter et. al. It did not enhance my meal, but it did remind me I was in Cleveland.

It would be great if once in a while all this nostalgia radio pulled out something that didn’t just take you back but let you rediscover. Or in the case of the 20-somethings at the Lola bar – discover.

Here is a favorite track of mine from vinyl that was borrowed from me and never returned. I might just have to go buy it on iTunes.

I decided on the perfect song to be played at my funeral – Praise You, by Fatboy Slim. I want it played as everyone is leaving said good-bye event, with supplemental bass speakers and increasing volume until all attendees are driven out the door. Simple, upbeat and encourages folks to dance as they exit. It would be really cool if it could be played from rooftop speakers on the hearse for the drive to the cemetery, but there are probably noise restrictions. And then Three Little Birds played graveside. My life in two songs.

I was never much for planning the perfect wedding daydreams, or playing “how-many-kids-I-will-have-and-what-I-will-name-them”, but I can get into thinking about my funeral party. Probably because I don’t have to do anything except die. No small talk, no food prep, no clean up. With the bonus of not having to come up with the right outfit. And then changing it five times before I leave because its not quite right. A real low-pressure event when all is said and done.

Sometimes I think about what people might say at my funeral, beyond the required social niceties. Will they tell the truth? Will they remember how prickly and difficult I can be? How much I liked to dance? My appreciation for and skillful use of black humor? Will they mention my profound lack of patience for assholery? (BTW anyone caught mouthing cliches like “She didn’t suffer fools gladly” needs to have a drink spilled on them.) What is my “legacy” if I die tomorrow?

The best I can come up with is another song lyric. Lyle Lovett – “She wasn’t good, but she had good intentions.”

Listen to Praise You.