2017 is too late in time to use "So simple even you can use it," when trying to sell people fancy grills at Home Depot or anything, for that matter. I said to the grill salesman, "You're going to want to amend your sales pitch for present day" and refrained from screaming, "I have two Master's degrees!" because it doesn't matter how educated we are — something doesn't have to be simplified for a woman of any education to use it, which I thought was obvious, right? Also: it’s not, like, a funny throwback joke, either. Unless we, like, know each other and share a common understanding and backstory. Yes, I'm lucky I get to shop places. Yes, I'm lucky to get to share it here. Yes, this sexism is small compared to a lot of other sexism. But it's part of the bullshit slurry.
And then when we got home our (well-meaning) neighbor asked (in response to us being in a band), "oh, what do you like sing or something?" My lady parts couldn't possible hold, handle, or operate a grill or a musical instrument. Wahhhhh. Just...twice in one day.
It’s funny, too, because I was just going to simply post this video of me reading my column this week, “Cut up on the glass ceiling,” about how we’ve come a long way, baby, and all that, but that our businesses (and it seems lots of other things, for that matter) are firmly set in yesterday’s sexist ethos, even if our (tiny, adorable) feet are twinkle-toeing forward.
So, thanks, Home Depot guy, neighbor, Universe, for giving me a way to bring you a cohesive post this week! Women: Reframing fucked up shit since the beginning of time.
With no further ado, here I am reading this week's Full Frontal column from the Newport Mercury! It's also about sisters doing it for themselves (and trying to get others to do it for them, too) and being called "crazy."
Just because it rhymes doesn’t mean people should always be friends to the end. Sure, “friends until the point you stop enriching each other’s lives” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but it makes more sense. I’m all for being amicable and great with people, but one has to remember that relationships end. And, oh, what is right for oneself? That pesky number one.
I ran into an old friend with whom I’d had an ugly falling out some years ago. And when we saw each other it had been so long we just talked like old times and silently buried the hatchet (not in each other’s skulls). I had another situation with an ex-friend who came back into my life as well. I could remember the event, but couldn’t pinpoint what had happened to make me feel so wronged when the rift happened.
I keep thinking about Season 1, Episode 3 of Chef’s Table which shows Francis Mallmann’s life of freedom in Patagonia and his travels. People have a lot to say about Mallmann (and his parenting style), but as a recovering people pleaser, I appreciate the ability to emulate his integrity and candor, if only a little.
Mallmann says: “I seldom invite people to have lunch or dinner with me, but they’re really chosen, because I can’t spend time with people that I don’t enjoy. I can’t do it anymore as theater. I make choices and that’s a beautiful thing about growing up: learning to say no. In a nice way, you say no. I have this friend of mine, he was on the land in fact 30 years ago when we first started, and we parted, we just went different ways in our lives. Once he came back to me and he said, ‘Francis, you don’t like me anymore.’ And I said, ‘No, it’s not that I don’t like you, we’ve chosen different styles of life. I still have these beautiful souvenirs of all the things we did together, and how close we were and so on, but the truth is, it’s not that you bore me, but I don’t enjoy talking to you anymore. And I don’t want to fight with you, but you know, there’s nothing in common between your life and mine nowadays.’ I would have never said that to him, but he asked me, so what could I say? I said the truth. But you know, growing up has a bit to do with that. To be able to tell the truth. To show who you are. Even if it hurts.”
I also appreciate this, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer: “I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.”
Scoop that up in your people-pleasing spork and chew on it. I certainly am. Doesn’t it make sense to consider our own integrity at least as much as other people’s feelings? Maybe it’s the path to not being codependent. Truth, integrity, more meaningful relationships (and happier meals).
(This Full Frontal column originally appeared in the Newport Mercury.)
Some EXTREME EARNESTNESS for you on Saint Patrick's Day. Makes me think of my beloved Granny.
And here are the robots!! Wicked Jetsons-y, but, you know, political.
Text “Resist” to 50409 and it takes it from there and sends faxes to your Senators! I’m enjoying using it in conjunction with the Daily Action Planner! You get texts from those Daily Action peeps about what to do each weekday and either make the call (Daily Action provides the phone number and everything) or use that action to get ResistBot to create a fax for you. Easy peasy Trump-y sleazy.
Because: defunding Meals on Wheels? SERIOUSLY? That was just my last fax.
Here's a little efficient German on-point downloading music for ya. I can't believe this song is 40 years old!
Yesterday I posted a super short clip of me playing the guitar on Instagram. It’s a little ditty I’ve been writing and noodling on. This is of note because I fought myself to post it. All of the requisite inner mean girl shit went through my head: “It’s not good enough.” “You filmed this from below, so your face looks fat — remember what that aesthetician said, who is long gone, but whose words stick with you forever: ‘I ask myself, her body isn’t fat, why is her face so chubby?’” “Who do you think you are, posting this. It sounds like a total rip off of another song.”
And on and on. AND ON. My therapist would call this “self-attack.” Mostly I observed the thoughts without engaging with them emotionally, except for the occasional chuckle. The fact that I’m not dissolving into a puddle on the couch or mouth-first into a sack of cheeseburgers is huge, and precipitated wholly from pushing myself little by little to share and making my own voice louder than those inner (and outer) voices.
The inner critic. It reminds me of this guy in the video clip here. An acquaintance brought this guy to my attention recently, to my husband’s chagrin, because now, while walking around the house, I quote this guy randomly shouting, to no one in particular, “You’re a DISGRACE!” and “You’re FLAT!” I’ve even freaked out the cat: “NYU Film School graduate, SUCKA!”
So, the big triumph here is that, in spite of all the shit that could have kept me from posting a clip of me playing, I posted it. The reason I recorded it in the first place is that I have noted for a long time that whenever people come to our house they automatically assume the guitars belong to my husband. Some of them do. A couple of them are both of ours, and a few of them are mine. I’ve been playing guitar (my inner critic yells: “merely passably!”) since I was 16. I taught myself. I also took piano, flute and voice lessons when I was younger. I share this only to show that even with schooling, etc., I still have a trip about sharing my stuff in the world.
Who among us does not? Recently Lorraine Watson, a woman I met through one of my friend Casey Erin Wood’s video courses, sent out a heartfelt newsletter about perfectionism, which I can also relate to so hard. And, I’ll admit, I have used perfectionism as an excuse in a self-congratulatory way. But I’ve learned to say “fuck that noise,” get over my bad self, and post a 51-second video.
I don’t want to paint us all with a binary gender brush, and I’m merely speculating here, but I can’t help but wonder if people assume the instruments are Brent’s because we women musicians are less visible because we feel we need to be that much better at everything before we share it with the world? Since there is this gap between women and “boy’s club” shit, like many industries, including music, you just won't see as many women doing those things because we can be wildly self-deprecating. We won’t show up until we’re doing it perfectly (which doesn’t really exist) backwards in heels, as Ginger Rogers said about how she does everything Fred Astaire does, but “backwards in heels.”
My sister still remarks on my perfumery website, that it was like nothing was there and then a five-year-old child in the form of a website and business was just born. And I argued with her that I worked really hard on that business and that website, but I just didn’t talk about it until it was finished, which is why it may have seemed like it materialized out of nothing with no effort. They say behind every good man is a woman or some shit, but also, behind every good woman’s project is that same good woman toiling away to make the thing as amazing as possible, and making it appear as if it was nothing. “This old thing?” Maybe we do this so “they” won’t ever see us sweat, bleed, cry, be “hysterical” or find yet another reason to discount us (or pay us discount prices).
If we make it as perfect as we can, daddy will love us. Isn’t that really the gross bottom line? The patriarchy-daddy. Ugh!!
So! That’s why a 51-second video clip is a mini-triumph for me. And the small angry man who is the inner critic has a slew of things he might try to say to me to argue against that point as well. But I really believe the simple act of showing up, however that looks, however that is, whatever it’s going to be, has its own trajectory and strength that even I (and my inner small angry man) can’t measure. And that, my friend, is not a DISGRACE at all.
This is such a weird time. In the world, seasonally — as the light starts to come back and we feel we need to do all the things and understand how to express all the things properly — it’s a seismic lurch toward progress in a culture that looks like it’s taking a giant leap backward. It’s dizzying. It’s exciting, too — we are making so much headway in discussing race and civil rights issues, picking up the torch for our fellow humans, from trans rights, to reproductive rights, to refugee safety and stability. The very important list goes on. And we’re doing it while suffering the aftermath of losing friends and loved ones with whom we cannot come to an understanding, to put it mildly. So, let’s give ourselves — and each other, for fuck’s sake — a break.
I was talking with a good friend recently on how to “do” our current cultural situation properly as intersectional feminists, artists, and heart-driven people. It can get difficult unraveling, in our often very academic northeast culture, when is a good time to set a boundary with people trying to teach you something, or if we’re just exhibiting white fragility. My main thing is this: don’t tamp down your light, don’t make yourself smaller for anyone, squishing ourselves down doesn’t make anyone any less marginalized. Do your best, listen, but don’t feel like a shitty person because you don’t want to be someone’s “project.” Or like you're going to do something wrong. If you feel someone is looking over your shoulder at every turn, tell them.
I’ve noticed, in our very academic culture, some people using our current cultural upheaval as an excuse to police each other. It’s like using the patriarchal mindset (thanks for clarifying this term, versus “patriarchy,” Danielle LaPorte) to try to implement equality. It is better than hiding under a rock — we can always learn from each other — but it isn’t sustainable.
When you remember that we are all in a time of upheaval and we all have feelings, it helps. Yes, I understand my white privilege and fragility must constantly be checked, but I’m also a human in the world who needs to move forward, too. Sometimes it’s going to be messy and sometimes mistakes will be made.
I have some ideas that might help us navigate this time a bit better and support each other instead of hit each other with rulers to prove how smart we are:
• Don’t police the shit out of each other.
• Not everything has to be a teachable moment in which you teach someone or in which someone teaches you something. Yes, life is a string of teachable moments, but when you live in an academic culture it is easy to get sucked into a cycle of over-analysis and forget that people need help beyond you policing or being policed. Set boundaries with those trying to teach you if you’re uncomfortable and if you constantly find yourself needing to teach those around you, take a step back and ask yourself why.
• Approach people you consider making “mistakes” with love and care, if you can, knowing you are helping create a (much-needed) better world. Teachers, you are the stewards of the new world. You have information to impart — this is a call to service, not to power.
• We are trying to help the marginalized. Forcing someone else to feel smaller doesn’t help.
• Be careful not to bring a patriarchal mindset to feminism. In that we don’t want to act like big dogs to make other people feel like little dogs so that we can feel better ourselves — certainly not now, not during such an important time.
• Cut out the infighting, for the love of humanity. I want to get in fights too sometimes. And there is something to be said about discussion and moving forward with nuanced improvements. But using this time’s very ripe change-energy to bicker is irresponsible.
• You’re smart. This doesn't have to be your time to prove that to everyone. We already get it.
• Not everyone is up on the lexicon yet. Not everyone knows the correct pronouns to use, but if they want to learn, make them an ally, not an enemy. Not everyone is stupid because they don’t yet know the vocabulary. Let’s not alienate people who well-meaningly want to help by calling them “fucking idiots” or the like. We have a man in power right now who refers to everyone as “losers.” Let’s not co-opt his patriarchal mindset, energy, way of speaking to our fellow humans. Well-meaning people who want to learn aren’t “fucking idiots” because they don’t know the whole thing yet. We’re moving forward together. This shouldn’t be a way to put our dicks on each other.
• Also: People are angry and should get to express themselves accordingly. Passion is important and should also not be diminished. Don’t tell someone they shouldn’t be so upset. Listen to people’s feelings around what they’re expressing. Allow this time for unburdening. We are all teachers and students and friends and therapists right now.
• Listen, move forward. Check yourself first. Put on that g-d oxygen mask first before assisting others. That includes checking in with your feelings and need to teach and your need to learn.
With so much love (and, admittedly, a little salt). Dance it out, yoga it out, Qoya it out, massage it out, relax it out, walk it out, free weights it out, breathe it the fuck out. And start again.
Would love to hear how you're doing with all the stuff. Including, like, "I made an awesome grilled cheese sandwich." I want to hear about that sandwich. I should probably eat something. Will Sasso's character in Best in Show (2000) has it right for life, for our current sitch, everything: "If you get tired, pull over. If you get hungry, eat something."
Wham bam, thank you, Mammogram.
I was pretty nervous going for my first post-DCIS surgery and treatment routine mammogram and waiting for the results, but I'm happy to report it's all good! Phew! Breast MRI in 6 months, mammo in a year and so on and so forth. (Lumpectomy/radiation-treated breast was quite a bit tenderer than the other, for what it's worth, in case someone recently diagnosed or going for first post-treatment mammogram is curious. Don't hesitate to ask.)
Yesterday one of my favorite radio stations, KEXP in Seattle, was doing this awesome Music Heals show all day in conjunction with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center. I wrote in to share my story and request a song, as that's what they were asking people to do. It was a beautiful show, with many people writing in to tell poignant stories about cancer and music healing. Because hot damn, does music ever heal.
I requested Beach House, because not only am I madly in love with them, but I listened to them nearly every day when I was having radiation therapy for six weeks. The sound system in Radiation Oncology is surprisingly good. Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett also sounded fantastic in there while I was getting zapped.
Obsessed with this Beach House song and video, by the way, and want to live in it forever:
The radiation machine is very futuristic, which is heartening, as you wouldn't want it to be two rocks being rubbed together or a slingshot with lightening coming out of it. Honestly, though, I had no idea what to expect before going in there for the first time. Here's what the machine looks like:
I'll keep this one short as I'm heading to New Jersey to visit my family in a little bit and need to finish packing. Speaking of family, my sisters and I texted back and forth a lot yesterday as I waited at Mount Auburn Hospital's Hoffman Breast Center for the results of my mammogram. I was, understandably, nervous. My intuition told me everything was OK, but you can't help but worry when your first mammogram, only a year ago, was not a good one. I joked with my sisters about how dense our breasts are and my sister Nancy wrote, "Mine are like Valley Girls!" Ha!
Humor. As healing as music. And love and connection with people who see you, care about your wellbeing, and are there for you. Sounds like a cliché, but is true. I feel lucky that I have all of those things and people.
How was your week? Did you get any body parts pressed into any machines? I hope you are well and laughing and healthy and happy.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.