So I recently read an article in The Onion and it upset me. Well I agreed with most everything it said, not surprisingly, but the fact that they wrote it upset me. Then I got to the end, the very last sentence, and that struck me as odd. I took a little bit of time to let it settle in and I think they’re actually in the same place as I am on this. Here is the article. Give it a read top to bottom and then let me droll on as I do about why I actually want people to write and say less.
First let me define a few words that I think get missed a lot but for my purposes today they’re actually pretty darn important. Okay, here we go.
Opinion: A view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. The beliefs or views of a large number or majority of people about a particular thing.
Belief: An acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.
Faith: Complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
Fact: A thing that is indisputably the case. Information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article.
Rights: That which is morally correct, just, or honorable: “the difference between right and wrong”.
Okay, so now we’ve all read the same article and probably have the same basic definitions of the above words. Let me back up a bit from my point and say a few words about the Christian Right. I’m Roman Catholic and I’m gay. I know this confuses a lot of people but it shouldn’t. Heck, I’m gay and I’m American. I don’t have equal civil rights in this country but does that mean I pick up my family and move to Finland? Heck no. I work each and every single day toward equality and sometimes all that means is I put in 110% at my job and do my all to be a good and upstanding citizen so that should anyone who works with me, knows me, be asked if I deserve equal rights I’ve left them no room to say no.
The religious leaders of the Catholic Church, the archdioceses, are not in agreement with most of the parishioners of the church just like most Americans favor marriage equality. That just means we continue to work within for change. There are openly gay priest and many, many congregations that welcome gay families. The problem is that we hear the loud outspoken voice of fear of change, fear of the unknown, which drowns out many quiet and welcoming voices of acceptance.
The Christian Right, like any extremist group, is a minority and does not express the views of Christians. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it many, many times again. Christian is a verb not a noun. When you preach hate you are not living Christianity. You must live it to be one not just put it on like a sweater on a cold day and walk around smiling and spewing vitriol. That is not even at the heart of the matter today. Today I want to talk about what God has to say on, well, on just about anything.
You see The Onion article upset me because it spoke for God. It was funny. Mostly I agreed with it. However the problem with the Christian Right (okay one of many) is that they speak for God. I have faith in God. I have my own personal set of beliefs. I also know that these are not facts and that facts and rights need to come first in society. I’d be more than happy to sit down and discuss in a civil manner my beliefs with anyone who has interest but I do not want to try and force my belief system on any or even force them to live by the rules that are the result of my belief system. For instance in the bible it says we shouldn’t work on Sunday. If I were to agree with that then I wouldn’t work on Sunday. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on Sunday and that doesn’t mean that I should be standing up and saying that God is saying He doesn’t want you to work on Sunday. Hey, if you really believe in the bible and all it says then believe that God will set a bush on fire or maybe a whole freaking city at this point and His words will come from that fired and say, “These places of business are now closed on Sunday as per the ordinance of God!” Unless you are a burning bush or the messiah you are not the voice of God.
So where do all of these people get off saying that they know what God wants. I’m not saying that they know God doesn’t want us to kill each other because it is one of the big ten no-nos. I get that. I don’t think that requires interpretation. I’m not talking about reading something word for word or even reading a verse from the bible and possibly helping with interpretation. I’m talking about religious zealots who say things like Richard Mourdock did here:
The problem isn’t that he feels any child is a gift from God. We should all feel that way about every life. If we did the world would be a better place. Okay, maybe not God depending on your religious views but we should all see life and each other as a gift. How much better would we treat ourselves and each other? The problem is that he has decided that God is not just a belief in his life but a fact in the lives of others. Then acting on God as a fact he has further decided to speak for God on this subject and wants to pass laws based on God’s desires.
So here it is people, the long and the short. We should not speak for God! You can believe in God all you want. God can believe in you also. I believe He does because I have faith. Here is a very simple test on the subject of speaking for God though and why it is off limits. You all know me and you know me pretty well. If you had to give a speech would you include in your speech a section about my opinion on a particular subject without first consulting me and asking my opinion? I don’t mean quoting me from something I’ve already written but just forming your own opinion on my opinion and then throwing it out there as fact? Of course you wouldn’t. I am not the Lord Almighty, creator of heaven and earth of all that is seen and unseen. I’m an obnoxious Norwegian girl from Brooklyn who has been in New Hampshire so long she’s almost lost her NY local girl rights. Still you wouldn’t speak for me so why do people think they have the right to speak for God? How the f@*k big are their cojones?!?
I don’t know that we’ll ever get the Christian Right much more moderate but I have no problem finger shaking at them any time they step over this particular line. I plan to do the same I catch anyone doing it. I have my beliefs and I’ll stand firm to them. They may not even be the most liberal in some cases or at least see as the most liberal but I believe I am backing them up with facts. I don’t think that is too much to ask. In return I ask that my beliefs don’t be mocked. I think too often we confuse the religion, the belief and the believer and lump them all in together.
As to The Onion article, yes it speaks for God. I don’t think there is a place for that even if I happen to agree and find funny what it is saying…even very funny. At the end this article has a line from Jesus saying he is in disagreement with God. That is what got my attention. We can’t speak for God. We don’t know. I think this article kind of said it all, that Mourdock was an idiot and no one wants women to get rape. However you can’t speak for God, no one knows. That is how I read it anyway. In the end you should read, think and speak for yourselves.
A co-worker was once telling me that she’d heard it said that marriage was a 50/50 relationship but in truth sometimes it was more like 70/30, 10/90, 80/20. I suppose that things broke down when the math didn’t add up to 100. What’s the classic couple’s arguments? “He/she wasn’t pulling their half.” It seems like the other partner usually feels they were pulling their half. So we do our part and when we don’t get what we expect in return we do less and less expecting the other person will notice. Hey, I’m guilty of it too. For me the philosophy is slightly different and I’ll discuss this further as I’ve seen it illustrated now.
SHRM released its job satisfaction results for 2011. About 83% were overall satisfied. Those age 67 and older reported being very satisfied compared to those in the 31-61 age range. There is no satisfaction difference based on job industry. I found that very telling. So you have people in high tech high wage industries with great benefits (401ks, insurance plans, vacation, maybe even pension) and folks making $10 an hour or less working in human services with no hope of advancement and both have equal job satisfaction. So all these tangibles, what one physically gets out of their job, doesn’t seem to be the satisfier but instead the intangibles that one gets out based on what one gets in.
It is said that 80% of life’s satisfaction comes from meaningful relationships. Now to delve into this I’ve looked at a philosophy called the 100/0 principle. I found it fairly similar to my own minus a stated expiration date on this process. I can’t tell you what my expiration date is but I can tell you I get to a breaking point and then I realize the other person has no interest in being in this relationship with me and I turn my energy elsewhere. There is a fine line between giving to someone and having someone take from me. Let’s discuss two basic other philosophies first
In the 0/100 principle we start at 0 and you have to gain a positive position to get things from me. Now I fully admit to not being the most trusting person in the world but there is a big difference between trust and kindness, friendliness. If you are entering into a more than casual and brief relationship with someone how difficult would it be if both people approached the relationship in this manner? Circling like two hungry dogs around a bone we growl and gnash our teeth vying for supremacy. Even if just one person takes this stance do you believe that you need to earn anyone’s respect in such a manner or that you deserve? Forgive another dog reference but my hackles are raised at the suggestion.
The next concept is the 100 to 0 principle. You start at 100 but if you don’t meet my expectations then you will get 0 in return going forward. How many messed up adults do we have running around because of that parenting style? In this manner you make your love and affection conditional. If love can be turned on and off like a faucet based on someone’s actions or “failure to perform” is it truly love? Yes so ability can go up or down in another’s estimation based on performance but that is not you as a person. When I drop off the boys at a party or a playdate I go over a few quick rules with them then I always have the same advice. “Make yourself proud with your behavior.” When I pick them up I ask, “Did you make yourself proud with your behavior?” Their actions reflect on them, affect them and will do so for their entire life. I am not their judge and juror. They need to know my feelings for them will not change no matter what they do ever(and we’ve gone through the “Even if I burn down the house?” “Even if I kill someone?” “Even if I kill my brother?” range of questions…that last one makes me a bit nervous some days). They are accepted without condition. They already have met the person with whom they’ll spend the rest of their lives so that person best act in a way he can respect.
That brings us to the 100/0 principle. I give 100 and expect 0 in return. The concept is that people are so happy being with you, with all that you give, that they start to meet you with more and more in return and it becomes the 100/100 principle. It sounds ideal doesn’t it? Well it is idealized and it is a goal. It is also attainable though perhaps not maintainable. We can give 100% but not 100% of the time but if we give 100% without asking for or expecting anything in return our successful relationships will be there for us when we simply have a lesser capacity and our 100% that we give that day is 50% of our normal capacity.
I was sent a video once about a man who survived a plane crash and he says he now lives each day as if he could die in a plane crash tomorrow. He didn’t quit his job and work on his bucket list but he never takes a day or his family for granted. I can appreciate this. I believe that any day can be our last. I’ve lost many people from my life. My father committed suicide when I was younger and left me a note. That’s quite a legacy. Like everyone I have many other personal challenges. Showing your others that they are loved and appreciated doesn’t need to be grandiose. It can be something as simple as making dinner with a special dessert or just serving those things, clearing the table with a smile, writing a poem for someone, a note on the mirror or in their car, a few extra minutes snuggled up in bed because work can wait today, picking up flowers or some gift just because, or any of a dozen things you choose to do every day. Look your loved ones in the eye and say, “Let me do this for you because taking care of you makes me feel good.” Be sincere and loving and seek out love giving it without greed. There is too little of it in this world.
Now I said the 100/0 principle was ideal and idealized and I meant it. In my own personal philosophy I must draw a line where I feel I have given without expecting anything back but the other person has taken even more than I have offered. When I find the relationship is abused then yes, I draw the line. I withdraw emotionally giving only what I must. It is a sad day but we know time and energy are finite resources. The saddest part is that love is infinite so that love does not diminish. So loving truly still my energy goes elsewhere.
So the 100/0 principle. It is a challenge and one we have all no doubt taken up some days and put down others. I still struggle but I try. When I’ve come home after a long day and am met with questions asking for more work from me I pause before answering and then do my best to give. My advice to you is the next time you are feeling underappreciated, not met, in any of your relationships take a step back. Sit down with a mug of coffee, cup of tea, steaming hot cocoa, glass of milk or if you’re like tall water no ice and kick back your heels then ask the all important question, “What have I done for you lately?”
Okay so I’ve always had this dream, more of a fantasy, to have a secret lair. You know flip back the statue’s head and push the red button, pull out the book, use the candle affixed to the wall that is actually a lever and slowly but suddenly (funny how those two things can go together in this scenario) and a secret door opens. Oh there would a pole that you slide down to my secret lair because what’s a secret lair without a stylish entrance. Adam West taught me nothing else if he taught me about how crime fighting and style went together.
I’d have a Plexiglas cabinet containing my stylish and slightly sexy costume. Behind strong steel bars would be an array of dangerous looking weaponry. A big screen would be attached to my computer where it would be obvious that my crime fighting database was stored. Clearly this was the secret lair of a crime fighter yes? I mean I’ve always wanted to be a crime fighter haven’t I? Well duh?! I grew up on comic books and Batman and Wonder Woman tv shows. Wham! Ka-Pow! What kid of the 70s wouldn’t want to grow up to be a super hero? I’d strike fear into the hearts of criminals and the street would be a safer place because of me.
Okay, so that seems unrealistic right? This sounds like a total fantasy? Well let’s take it down a notch to the world of dream again with the secret entrance, sliding pole, computer, costume and dangerous looking guns. Yes, I’ve always had this dream and just yesterday I finally surrendered this dream. Now it isn’t gone, more passed down to the next generation. You see I told my son about this secret that has always been in my heart. He was excited as I knew he would be because I know my boy, my mini me. It’s now been inherited by the next generation.
You see building all of this takes money, disposable income, that I’ll just never have. I don’t know if my son will ever but now he has a goal. He has the same goal that I had. That one day he’ll have an awesome secret lair with all of the stuff I just described. That one day his kids will stumble upon his secret lair and they’ll think what I always wanted my kids to think. “Holy @$*%! My mom’s a super hero!!!!” That’s right. I know I could never really fight crime but I could have a cool place to hang out and make my kids think I do. Making them eat their vegetables, child’s play for Super Mom! Super Mom’s kids always have their homework done right after school. We never have any discipline issues in this house especially as they know one day they’ll be inheriting the mantle…if they are worthy. Mainly it would just be cool! So you dad works for Microsoft and makes X-Boxes, so what? Oh, your mom is in the CIA, pishaw! Lots of moms are in the CIA. Does she have x-ray vision?
I remember playing pretend as a kid and I’ll tell you, for a little while there in my head, I was super and I had powers. Why not be the mom who had powers too? That is the mom I am. I am the mom who has super powers with my kids and we right wrongs together. I am the mom who plays video games (though usually loses because the X-Box 360 has way too many buttons). I’m the mom who will do twice as many pushups as my son just to make him do pushups and make crazy grunting noises with each one just to make him laugh. When I fart I’ll burp out excuse me…got to teach them manners. I want to set the trend, be involved or give them space as needed. Will I succeed or fail? Yes. Then I’ll keep trying.
There is a line between mom and friend and I jump back and forth. When my son grows up I’ll help him with some crazy scheme to entertain my grandkids. Maybe it won’t be a secret liar but they’ll smile and they’ll be safe and loved. If he does get to be a superhero though I get to be one too but no capes! Those will kill you.
So within 24 hours I had 2 friends use the same exact word choice to describe my sexual orientation. They both said gay “lifestyle choice”. Now I’m not going to debate with anyone here if being homosexual is a choice (it isn’t, hahaha! you lose!) what I’m going to do is demonstrate that when we use words, societal normative words, without thinking about the meaning behind them we may accidentally offend someone.
Now how common is the phrase gay lifestyle choice? I hear it often enough in the media that my son can hear the sound of my eyeballs rolling in my response. Heck I’m pretty sure his are rolling in tandem with mine now. Let’s break down the two pieces of this that I found to be offensive. The word choice makes the assumption that anyone chooses to be gay. Again I said I wasn’t going to debate this but I’d like to state a few facts. Homosexuals or those in same –sex relationships have access to 1,138 fewer rights and privileges when married than heterosexuals. There are numerous other areas in which non-heterosexuals are marginalized such as adoption rights, work place rights, or something as simple as being served at an establishment. Our children are ridiculed and bullied even beaten as we ourselves are even to death at points. In some country homosexuals are jailed or even put to death. Now at what point does a child or an adult sit down and list the pros and cons of a life as a heterosexual and as a homosexual and decide that a life of civil injustice and brutality is a fair trade for the possibility of doubling your wardrobe? How many heterosexuals have you ever known that have admitted to having chosen to be heterosexual? Now I’m not talking about bisexuals who may have chosen to be in a monogamous heterosexual relationship versus a monogamous homosexual relationship. I’m talking about the ability to turn one’s sexual attraction for one gender versus another on and off like a light switch. Again, I’m not going to debate this I’ll just use the age old question. If you are straight at what point did you choose to be so?
Now we get into the word lifestyle. Please allow me to describe my wild gay lifestyle. Some mornings I get up at 4:30 AM and workout. On other mornings I sleep in until 5:30 AM. I make breakfast for my son and when he is in school I also pack his lunch. I work 5 days a week 8 hours (usually more) a day. I enjoy my job and work with some wonderful people. I do almost all of the grocery shopping in my household and also almost all of the cooking. Lately the laundry has also fallen under my realm. I’m in charge of checking English and history homework while my partner deals with math and science. Though we are both capable of doing all of these we just excel at some versus the other. I do the dishes sometimes and other times my partner does these. Now cleaning is not my forte, housecleaning that is. My partner does most of this but I’m great at taking direction. I do garden and this is a task we do together. I take the cars into the shop for maintenance and repair.
Now if you are heterosexual and reading this I know many of the terms I’ve used may have confused you. Let me see if I can explain some of these. Laundry is something homosexual people do so that we can clean clothes we’ve worn and wear them more than once. When I reference “doing dishes” it is a very similar process to laundry but with flatware and our dishes for eating. You saw what I did there right? Okay, so my wild gay lifestyle is not so very wild. I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink alcohol. Actually I pretty much only drink water and the occasional caffeine free herb tea. My eleven year old son actually enjoys a spot of tea also especially on a chilly New England night. I have a lot of food allergies so I don’t even eat out much. I’d rather invite a friend over for a home cooked meal or if I do go out sit in a quite bookstore and enjoy some nice conversation. My son likes videogames so I play them with him as does his other mother or “Mama Boo”. We like to go for walks and are taking up kayaking. The point if you look at the things we do they are the same as a good number of the things that your average run of the mill New England family does. By saying we have a “gay lifestyle”, by saying anyone does, you define homosexuals as living innately differently because of their same sex attraction and that just isn’t so. Being gay doesn’t make me want to climb a mountain, or ride a bicycle. It just means that I’m sexually attracted to women and not all women, I’m actually pretty damn picky thank you very much. I prefer a certain body shape and I’ve learned that when all is said and done I like brainy women (can I get an Amen!) because if I can’t have a good conversation what’s the point? The moral of that story is if you want to see my eyes light up throw on your librarian glasses and meet me in Barnes & Nobles in the non-fiction section.
Yes, words matter and we know this about certain obviously hurtful words but there are others that seem harmless on the surface but aren’t. These are insidious and used by well meaning kind people so please spread the word and if you are one of those well meaning people, educate yourself. The words are not bad in and of themselves but in certain context, very destructive. Also please don’t be offended when your friend takes offense and points out your ignorance because of your word choice because you know what, you are ignorant. I’m ignorant too. I’m ignorant about far too many subjects for me to list them here today. I don’t have to like it but the only way to battle ignorance is with knowledge and for me to throw my arms wide and say if I offend I apologize and please, please educate me because I don’t do it with spite perhaps a little arrogance at times but never spite. I am a well meaning idiot with the paving contract for hell and if you work in my crew then let’s work together to make an inclusive family of humanity that raises our children to think and speak with their own words even if it is their own idiotic words. At least let’s be original idiots.
I was reading through a blog that a friend sent me and this one article caught my eye:
The title and concept are both simple enough, Ask For What You Want.
We teach this to our kids don’t we? “Use your words hun.” Do we practice what we preach though or do we say things like, “Well he knows what I want he just isn’t doing it.”? Are we punishing our partner for not being a mind reader? Do we sit down with our friends and complain about that SO in our life and how they just aren’t fulfilling our needs while we are too scared to state them clearly instead dropping subtle (or not so subtle) little hints around? Do we gripe to our friends that we have no idea what our SO wants but damn, they’ve been in such a mood of late?
How about we try this exercise. Take out a piece of paper and write down five or ten things that we think are critical things we want from our SO. Maybe they are as simple as five minutes in the morning to talk or snuggle in bed so we start the day feeling connected and important. Maybe they are a phone call or a text during the day just to say, “I love you.” as it would really put a smile on your face and lift your mood for the whole day. Be realistic with your requests and maybe you should start small. A dozen roses every week might break someone’s budget and if your guy is a roofer you can’t expect several texts/phone calls a day. Heck, just an “I Love You” can be a challenge for some people. Still, if it matters to you then you have the right to ask for it. More than the right, if not getting it will cause negativity and resentment in your relationship than you have the responsibility to ask for it.
This is another place where gender roles play havoc with us. If a guy is upset the classic guy responses are to say it, yell, maybe even take a swing at the offending party…of course only if it is another male. If it is a woman a guy never raises his hand right? If a guy hits a guy it’s a fight. If a guy hits a woman it’s abuse. That’s a different blog entry though. At any rate society tells men that if they are upset they can express this emotion. Love, now that is another issue, but let’s just stick with anger or being upset. Horny too, guys are allowed to be horny. Heck, that’s healthy, off subject, but healthy unlike those slutty women. Angry guys, yup they can be angry and say it, express, and then get over it. Women however, we’re all passive aggressive. We’re sweet to your face and nasty behind your back because of something that might have happened at one party once, maybe, or so someone said, and it might have been because of a dress you worse or something else asinine. Now put us in a relationship with a man and years of being trained how not to ask for something but just stare eagerly at it like a dog peering over a table at you while you eat, well, pretty much anything which is better than what he has but don’t worry, he’s fine with dry dog food, he just wonders what it smells like, and did you drop a crumb…well if you’re offering but remember it was your idea.
Now this is how girl communication is explained to me. You see, I don’t know how to speak girl which kind of makes me an awful lesbian I guess. When something is clearly wrong with a girl and I ask her if she is okay and she says, “I’m okay.” I accept that.
All I can do is stare back and then shrug and say, “Well if you say okay I guess you’re okay.” To anyone who dates women open up the dictionary, look up the word okay, then throw that book out the window. That is not what the word means…apparently. However this is not your fault. The word has one meaning but the pleading look in her eyes, the tilt of her head, the sigh that follows some five seconds after your acceptance of her words, those all layer on top of that definition like the accent aigu in French pronunciation. None of that, however, does Mr. Webster tell unto you.
This all leads us back to the beginning of this post. Ask for what you want. It isn’t Webster’s job, or anyone’s, tell explain what you really mean or want except for your job. You are responsible for your own communication, your won happiness. Yes, it takes two but stating your needs clearly, stating them again when they change or when you get a better understanding of them, that is your part. Asking if your partner understands what you are requesting and asking what they want, the ball is in your court also. If you want your partner to spend more time at home with you tell them that. Don’t treat them poorly every time they come home after being out because you’ve missed them and resent that they’ve been away. That message states, “When you come home I’m going to treat you like crap so stay out as much as possible.” If you ask for a need to be fulfilled and your SO says no look for a compromise. Maybe there is something in the middle that will work for you both.
We’re adults with big boy and girl words. How often do we say this to our kids? We can do as much. We can do more. In dealing with a need to make a successful relationship with our partner, the person with whom we should have the most love and trust, why shouldn’t we be able to state our needs and maybe even some wants? This is it folks the easiest place to start. This is the safest place to begin this exercise. If you two fall off the bandwagon climb back on again and work on this until doing what is right for each other gets easier. Then start doing this with others in your lives. Do it with other family members and close friends. Soon you’ll start doing it at work. Someday you’ll ask for what you need in someplace radical like the grocery store. Please try this then report back. I’d love to hear some success stories. I truly believe I will.
I love me some Joss. I do. The above quote encapsulates the essence of the problem: I write them because you still think it’s remarkable that someone is. And that’s not okay.
That said, it’s glib, and it’s short. This is the kind of statement that, when reduced to a meme, is just something for people who already agree can nod sagely at. It doesn’t explain it. It doesn’t offer insights. It makes it so that I, a humanist with an interest in realistic equality, can purse my lips and go, “Yes, exactly that.”
There’s nothing wrong with that. We need pep talks. We need reminders of why we believe what we believe. But like Dan Savage and his rants against Christianity, this isn’t going to win anyone over. It doesn’t teach anything or explain anything. It’s a meme to repost on Facebook. It probably won’t spark awesome discussions.
This article might. It’s a fantastic insight about a male writer who writes realistic female characters. He explained it the best in one line:
Q: How do you write such strong/well-realized/positively portrayed women?
A: I don’t. I write characters. Some of those characters are women.