PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: Musings (page 1 of 6)

X-Ray Vision

When I was a kid, I thought the idea of X-ray glasses was SO COOL. Imagine, being able to see through  anything you wanted! Clothes, wrapping paper, notebook covers, locker doors, the list was endless. Now, of course, I think something like that would be more of a burden than a blessing; imagine if you could see someone’s soul, their fears, their desires, their hatred, before you even spoke a word.

I had my annual mammogram today, pleased that they were open on a Saturday, bright and early. In the hallway, I was delighted and surprised to see the woman who gave me my first mammogram there, 8 years ago. She wasn’t my technician today, but we greeted each other, and while I waited for my results, she stopped by the small chamber to ask me how things were going.

I said, “I’m anxious. It’s been stressful. This election season has been like none other.” And we did that careful dance of words, establishing that we were both on the same side, so we could speak more freely.

See, she’s getting ready to retire. She’s been doing this for about 40 years. That’s what first drew me into conversation with her – what she had to have seen over her career, the advancements in technology alone would be mind-blowing, and knowing that in this gig, you’re going to also have your share of heartache to go with the joy of seeing  some survivors return – and others not survive.  She’s thinking that after she retires, she’s going to try and find a job as a caretaker for people with early on-set dementia, because she watched her son’s MIL decline, and the care out there being expensive and hard to find. She is one of those people that shows you her soul quickly, and it’s the soul of a kind, caring, wonderful human being.

She also told me that in the past year, more women have asked to not have her perform their screenings. Oh, yeah, now is when I’m going to also tell you something else about her, something that shouldn’t have any bearing:  she’s black. And apparently, in these crazy times, people now feel even more comfortable saying to her face, “You can’t know what you’re doing, I want someone else.” Tears of anger and compassion flooded my eyes as I conveyed my horror and shock.  We spoke of how hatred and racism surely have to have been there all along, but marveled at how emboldened it’s become, and how acceptable it now seems to be to show it, speak it,  act on it. She closed her eyes, shaking her head and said, “You know what, all I can do is live my life. I’m a flawed black woman and I will stand before Jesus and be judged, just like they will, and they’ll have to answer for their sins, just like I will.” All I could do was murmur something at that point because I couldn’t scream the invectives and curse words and denials, that they needed their comeuppance on this earth, that they need to be shamed and excoriated for their flawed choices under the banner of hatred.  That they need to learn and be different. That they should have let this kind, capable, experienced woman perform their exam.

I hugged her, because she may not be there next year when I return, because her retirement is on the horizon, and she’ll be somewhere else, giving of her time and wisdom to someone who needs it, giving peace and comfort to that person’s family.

I see what we have become as a nation, and I don’t like it. Hatred may have always been there, but clearly the shame attached to it has been lost. And I’ve picked it up, because I am ashamed on behalf of those women who could be so racist and callous to someone so undeserving. I shoulder the burden of bad choices by others, because when I know a wrong has been done, I feel compelled to try and right it, somehow.

Still, I’m grateful I don’t have x-ray vision, to be able to see so clearly those around me, their basest fears under their sleeves. It’s enough to speak up when you see it and hear it.  Maybe find common ground or understand what the fear is that’s fueling the hatred.  I’m looking at my own fears, and it seems like talking to our elders is a good way to go: every person I’ve talked to this past week who is over the age of 60, has a calmer view on where the election could take us: no matter what happens, we’ll still be here. We’ll get through it. We’ll do what we need to do. We got through the last (X), we’ll get through this.  And in the end, we must only answer for ourselves.

Choose wisely, my friends.

For The Record….

I originally posted this on Facebook, and made it public, because I am so tired of how women are so casually objectified, treated, assaulted and demeaned. I wanted as many people to give pause and really hear my words, to reflect on what they believe, and how we can collectively take action to stop not only the runaway election train, but also just the everyday shit, the daily life, and that IT’S OK to demand to be treated better. As of this morning, that post has been shared 40 times, which pleases me mightily, because it means it’s resonated with other like-minded people, who are tired of the tilt and want to see the scales balanced. Since I own this domain, I wanted to place it here for posterity.

Every generation has its battle. I am not a historian by any stretch of the imagination, but I look back at the women who paved so many roads before me. The ones who were imprisoned over their fight for the right to vote. The women who fought for equality, who have fought for equal pay (still not there), fought for freedom over their own goddamned bodies (still not there), fought for freedom to not be raped because of what they wore, what they drank, where they were (still not there). Fought for the right to raise their voices to be heard (still not there), fought to be respected in the workplace and the opportunity to rise to the top (still fighting for share).


And I look at my own life. The shock of being grabbed and groped in high school – in between classes! The shock of my high school chemistry teacher and english teacher making comments about the size of my breasts.. The shock of my government teacher bragging about his college sexual conquests, right there in class. The shock of saying no and still being raped. The shock of being told to be quiet, to dress a certain way, to be admonished for speaking up. The astonishment of a male coworker leaning in as if he could just kiss me because he thought he was entitled to and I was just…there to receive it.

After all these years of this, I’m out of tolerance. I’m simply bankrupt of patience. So when I hear a rich and famous and powerful man say he can grab women by their pussies, that he just can’t stop himself from kissing them if they’re pretty, I want to set the world on fire with my mind, out of hope in reducing the landscape to ashes, that from the smoke, the phoenix of equality and respect could somehow rise. Because, sure, I’m not at-risk for a Trump assault, after all, I’m a fat pig by his standards. But I am not unworthy of respect or decency. I am not reduced to an object to be possessed, or labeled in two-dimensional slurs. I am an intelligent human being who is contributing to society and worthy of respect and decency. And the fact that my generation is STILL FUCKING FIGHTING FOR THIS is what makes me insane with anger. I have plenty of self-respect, and it doesn’t make me a crazy bitch to expect it from the world around me. I’m not here to decorate your world, I’m here to contribute, I’m here to speak up when others feel afraid, and by god, I am going to vote and do whatever else it takes to not lose more ground for all women in this country.

I’m not here
To decorate your world.
If you don’t think I’m pretty?
I don’t care.
You may sneer at my size
The space I consume,
And to that I say kindly,
Go fuck yourself.
The beautiful thing about getting older
Is no longer caring
What a stranger thinks.
It’s hearing crazy responses
And instead of taking them inward,
As a fault of my own,
I think, instead,
“What’s your damage?”
Your words fall into the chasm
Between where you want them to land
And where I actually stand.
I just don’t care
Because I know myself.
I finally do.
I’m here to tell you
It is beautiful to be
Exactly
Precisely
Unabashedly
Me.

Truth #2

When everyone around you is wrong, the odds are high that the problem actually lies within you.

Reflect. Identify. Resolve.

Truth.

When we embrace the parts of ourselves that we feel are the worst elements, the ugliest pieces, the parts we ignore because they are so painful to acknowledge, once we look at them and wrap our arms around them in unconditional acceptance and love, that is when we truly find freedom.

Unspoken

Unspoken

The spaces between us
Pile up with words
The silence collects them
Filling the room

None pass our lips
They accumulate in time
From our hearts
From our brains
Fear and circumstance
Leave everything unsaid

For every word that’s unspoken
Lies a matching response
They stack up in pairs
Nouns verbs all their mates
Full sentences of expression
Longing for breath
For the fullness of speech
Longing
Crushing
Invisible but
Tangible in the
Ache of
Never being voiced

Truth
In its purest form
No fear of reaction
Reprisals
Rejection
Still remains

Unspoken

True Martyrdom

In-between meetings today, I saw reports that the suspects in the Paris massacre were killed, just as they hoped to be. They had stated they wanted to die “the martyr’s death.” As I have done my entire life, I consulted the dictionary, because I have sat here muttering at my computer screen that these acts of terrorism have nothing to do with a deep sense of strength or pride, or the Muslim faith, and everything to do with cowardice, fear and a cult-level brainwashing.

The first two definitions are:
1. a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
2. a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: “a martyr to the cause of social justice.”

There are two additional definitions of being a martyr, both defining one in that insufferable way, where you just want to tell someone to build a bridge and get over it (“it” usually being themselves.) That’s not what we’re talking about. You either suffer for a greater good, as an icon in society, or you believe so deeply in your faith that to do anything else would be a dissolution of self. But are these people, with their AK47s, killing people because they draw blasphemous cartoons, are they adhering to a religion? (RELIGION?) Is terrorism a religion? Because when I think of someone who died as a martyr, I think of Benazir Bhutto. A woman who knew she would die, just as her father did, but felt so compelled to help the people of Pakistan and bring them greater freedoms, that her ideals could live on, long after a bomb tore her body apart.

So I only ask that you think a little longer about it, and when you hear the reports that these men died as martyrs, to consider that those were their words, not necessarily the definition of martyrdom. Because – it is my opinion – this is the face of a martyr, a woman who gave her life to make her part of the world a better place, not through murder or destruction, but cared to the point she was willing to die if necessary so she could continue to work for the people of Pakistan. And her sacrifice should not even be in the same stratosphere as the terrorists who died today.

Benazir Bhutto

A Midwestern Musing

Tonight’s World Series game is of utmost importance. In order for the Royals to stay in it and to have a chance to win it, we must win tonight. Game 6. We’re nauseous.

Plenty of people around town are filled with excitement, enthusiasm and yes, even a little queasiness. Because we’re from the Midwest. Yes, we’ve trumpeted and written and shouted, “TAKE THE CROWN!” with all the gusto you’d expect from a drunken NFL fan. But what it really comes down to is this: we just don’t “take” things. We’re too damned polite.

Growing up in Iowa and my post-college years in Minnesota, I observed the humorous behavior around offering dinner guests dessert: It actually requires offering said dessert three times before it becomes ok for the guest to accept.

“Piece of pie?” your hostess trills.

“Oh gosh no, I couldn’t,” you politely respond. (We don’t want to create more dishes to wash, overstay our welcome, or in any other way inconvenience you more than our presence already has.)

“No, no, come now, you have to try a slice!” your hostess then will exclaim.

“Oh no, I am so stuffed on that amazing dinner! I can’t imagine another bite right now,” you murmur, because the second offering means the first one was genuine, and now you’re shifting in your chair and wondering if there’s whipped cream.

“I insist. Just a small slice? Say you will!” she says, and you then acquiesce, because now you are actually helping out, you have been offered pie three times now, so you know the sentiment is genuine, and you are ready and excited for pie, and sure you’ll have a cup of coffee if you’re making more.

This is us. This is Kansas City. We are proud of our city, proud of our roots in agriculture and industry, proud we finally got an IKEA and proud of our teams. But never TOO proud. Of course we recognize injustice and bias. We rant and rave and rage at the Joe Bucks of the world, the announcers who seem to equally marvel at and ridicule our cowtown baseball team, and seemingly heap adoring praise on the other team’s players. The sportscasters who mildly mix up Alex Gordon with Eric Hosmer (HOZ!) but don’t bat an eye while they recite reams of statistics about Madison Bumgarner’s history and pitches. But we’re nervous. If we don’t win, will all these people who seemingly look down their noses at us, for being less “Cosmopolitan”, for being less “Coastal”, will this just prove them right? Well, no, but it won’t help us prove them wrong, either.

And we WANT this. We want it so badly. We don’t want to wait and we don’t want to lose. We want to win. Because we exist in flyover country every single day, we know the metropolises on either side of the country don’t think about us and our contributions, that our fields provide food for the world, the fact our hustle and bustle doesn’t have high-speed trains or subway systems. Oh sure, we’ve got our foodie spots and our microbrews and we even have sushi. But we’re used to not hearing a lot of ringing praise, and truth be told, a whole lot of praise can make us look at our shoes and shuffle a little bit in embarrassment. And this is why we’re queasy. Because underneath all of this, we WANT THIS. We want it so BADLY. It’s attention but it’s also redemption and it’s validation of all the things WE know to be true and believe in.

So maybe we won’t TAKE the crown, in the sense we ride up on an Arabian horse, snatch it & gallop away, but we sure as hell want to EARN the crown, because our pride knows no bounds when it comes to our team and our city. GO ROYALS!

The Beauty Myth/Mystique

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so they say. Does that mean we can “behold” ourselves, clearly and rationally? I don’t know. For me, the answer is usually, “No,” since I’ve got more than half a lifetime spent with criticisms and measurements and definitions of beauty that only revolved around a number on the scale, which can really torque with the way you define your own sense of worth in the world.

The conversation has been rolling around in my head ever since someone posed the question, “What if I have an ugly baby?” It was semi-in-jest, semi-serious, as the person has a friend with a pretty grizzled up baby with – as they say – a face only a mother could love. Is that really possible, though? And if you had the proverbial Ugly Duckling, wouldn’t you still love it with all your heart?

Growing up, I got a lot of, “Well…you’re ok from the neck up and the knees down,” or just an easy sort of shorthand, “You look fat.” I suppose now, I see if people will love me in spite of my copious extra adipose, or if they, too, will use it as a bludgeon and a barrier, a blight against me. Truth be told, I often find myself looking at myself and thinking I have a bit of a drag queen in me (maybe it’s my attitude seeping through), if only because I see my father’s features and having only known them as masculine, it’s hard to make sense of them on a female face. All I know is that it’s rather exhausting, and yet I still wish to be… pretty? Attractive? Somehow acceptable on only the surface, while rejecting the notion that surface definitions are the most shallow, that count the least, that in the form of rejection shouldn’t hurt, shouldn’t haunt, shouldn’t resonate with the old stuff I’ve pushed far below, because to have it out and riding shotgun is a horrible way to live.

The conversation at work grew painful, because my own upbringing, combined with that Upper Midwestern stoicism that tells you any semblance of vanity and self-worth are terrible character flaws, leave me feeling like the proverbial ugly baby myself, and I get defensive, because going through life having people eyeball you for being the fattest person at the nail salon or have kids point at you at the grocery store tends to eat away at the Teflon armor. It was even more challenging because my crankiness came off as fishing for compliments, and let me tell you, Upper Iowa Minnesota Jen wanted to run into traffic to escape, it was that horrifying. Anyway. I think we have to draw our confidence and self-assurance from more than just the mirror, but not necessarily to the exclusion of the mirror? Somehow throwing the ugly baby out with the bathwater feels like overkill.

So as the clock continues to tick, and the wrinkles around my eyes deepen, I’m sure of only one thing, and it’s that I have to be ok with me. As I am, as I was, as I will be. I may color my hair, use some products that promise to defy aging and peer at my face as I see my father’s eyes staring back at me, looking for what new mark of life’s process is stamped upon my skin. I actually surprised myself, because I was trying to figure out how in the hell my laptop camera actually took a picture and unprepared, I got one. This is me. Minimal makeup, no gigantic smile. Just… puzzling and thinking. I think a lot. Sometimes too much, but I still like doing it. And most days, I like me. Despite what all the old voices – and sometimes new – may try to tell me. Because the Beholder doesn’t always care, even if they should.

Pondering PlazaJen

I Am Not Nice.

Well, that might be overstating things, but yesterday at lunch, my co-worker relayed the story of his friend who will be engaged soon, and the fact that her sister spilled the beans after shopping with the fiance, and then told the not-quite-yet-bride-to-be that the ring choice would “grow on her.” Because the sister is a royal fucking cuntbitch (CB), as I was quick to point out, and the sister has been jealous and sabotage-y of NQYBTB throughout the relationship because she wanted a boyfriend and SHE wants to get married first and SHE never obviously grew up listening to Marlo Thomas and Friends singing “Free To Be, You and Me” in which we learn that bitches who insist on “Ladies FIRST” and behaving really selfishly will ultimately get you eaten by tigers. or Lions. Or something, but it would be a horrible, mauling death. With the exception of Queen Latifah and her awesome song “Ladies First,” because nobody fucks with Queen Latifah.

So after hearing this story, I ripped into the CBSister, because that is some lame shit, putting your own insecurities and problems with the world onto someone else’s joy, and how lucky she is that I’m not CBSister’s sister, and he could only respond with the fact that NQYBTB is just hoping she can grow onto this ring whenever it happens and she’s not mad at her sister. To which I responded, “NQYBTB is a HELLUVA lot nicer than I am,” and was met with vigorous nodding.

I’ll own it. I will say, in my defense, I do not like hurting people and I work hard to be diplomatic and empathetic. But the flip side is that I’m blunt as hell and unafraid to call people on their shit, if they’re being extra shitty. Guess that just means it takes a strong, secure person to be my friend and stay in my life! I think Queen Latifah and I could kick it for sure. AND Monie Love. Where did she go? I loved her.

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