Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Boys Will Be Boys and Girls Will Have to Be Boys...

Usually as a means to avoid elevating my blood pressure I have stopped watching the news. I will get the headlines that I need, the information that is pertinent but I refuse to have cable news on 24/7 which does nothing but sensationalize events. It also doesn't help people like me who hear the word "recalled" and think "My God! I may have ecoli!!" even though I haven't eaten meat in years. We're sensitive to fear mongering. And by "we're" I basically mean "me."

But today I wasn't in charge of the television in front of me and I could only read the headline on the bottom of the screen which read: "Kerry Tells Snowden to 'Man Up' and Come Home." I read it a couple of times because, in general, sight is not my forte. But I didn't misread anything. A government official in speaking out against a national security threat said "man up." Let me be straight- this has nothing to do with political affiliation. I don't care if it was a man, woman, or Muppet behind that microphone. All I hear are the words and those are enough for me to have a reaction... and that reaction doesn't include my feelings on a NSA leaker.

According to the dictionary, "to man up" means "to be brave enough or tough enough to deal with an unpleasant situation." It is considered "the phrasal verb of 'Man'." Just sit for a second and take that in... A couple more seconds... I'm not going anywhere.

Now let me throw this one at you. There is no dictionary definition for "woman up." There is an Urban Dictionary definition which I won't click on. The fact that the definition only exists on that site says more about the situation than I could.

So how's your blood pressure now?

In order to step up to the plate, take responsibility for what you have done, stop evading the inevitable, and become a brave/tough individual, whether male or female, one must "man up." And even more so, this is being used as a term in messages of national security.

I'm just going to call it right here and now: Bullshit. (Sorry mom. I'll take my soap later... Dove, if you don't mind).

The year is 2014. I think we can have a better term to use than "man up." I am not the conductor of the Politically Correct Train by any means but some phrases just rub me the wrong way. We are trying to crack down on using phrases such as "that's so gay" and "retarded" but we fail to realize what exactly "man up" really means. It means that the only way to show courage and strength is to demonstrate the characteristics of a male. And that's not fair.

While I was sick and during my current recovery I am using the phrase "fight like a girl." Because, breaking news, girls have the ability to be courageous, brave and strong. These are not traits merely possessed by the male species despite what many believe. Moira Smith, a decorated NYPD officer, selflessly gave her life saving others on the morning of September 11th. She was a hero and a woman. Malala Yousafzail, as a female teenager stood up to the Taliban in Pakistan to defend her right to an education. She showed bravery and courage in the face of death at the hands of terrorists. To be more detailed, if Malala had "manned up" she would have emulated the gender that was persecuting her in the first place. If Clara Barton had "manned up" she would have been on the battlefield dying along with the soldiers instead of putting her life on the line to save theirs.

These are just a few examples of the hundreds of women I could mention that never had to "man up" to do anything. They exuded their own courage. They demonstrated their own heroism. They were "tough enough" as women to do what they felt was the right thing to do no matter what their gender.

It is time we start changing our thought process when it comes to gender lines. And I think it would be a great stepping stone if the American government could at least refrain from using the term "man up." Women no longer want to be shown as the damsel in distress waiting in the wings for a man to rescue her. They are no longer (and never were) the victim and should not be subjected to terminology that makes them out to be one. Let's change the language and let's change it now.

Perhaps, if I were to go out on a limb here, I could simply start using the phrase "woman up" in times when someone is sick or injured. Eluding to the fact that a woman can withstand the incredible pain of childbirth means that your broken leg out there on the football field is nothing more than something you should just stop and "woman up" to. You didn't just deliver another human being with several pushes.

But I'm not going to do that because I'm not going to prolong the archaic demoralization of women as the weaker gender. We all know it's wrong. We all know it's unfair. And we all know the time has come to stop using the phrase. Who's in?

And so ends another soapbox rant that my brother feels is one of the main reasons to my current status as a single 29-year old female. Perhaps I have the inability to let my guard down and allow men to do things for me. But with all due respect, you may have opened that jar of jelly after I struggled for a good 10 minutes but I definitely loosened it beforehand. I may have to get another cat... and a housecoat. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pomp and Circumstances You Didn't See Coming (And what is "pomp"?)

It's that time of year again where schools hold their commencement ceremonies and little people run around in silky gowns and huge smiles. Many moons ago in the days of yore, I was celebrating my graduation from college. A time filled with hopes and dreams. A time filled with well-wishes and an uncomfortable cap. There were cards saying "congrats to the grad!" and there were dinners for celebrating. But as I sat in that huge auditorium, chewing on my tassel out of pure boredom, I had no idea that I was just receiving a piece of paper. Four years of exams, projects, internships, deadlines and a thesis (yes, for a Bachelors! I didn't think it was fair either)... was just the beginning of the education I was about to receive.

My parents were famous for always telling me "stop acting like a know-it-all because you truly don't young lady." Well, I was certainly hellbent (can I say that?) on making sure they knew I did know it all. In reality, I knew so little. When my parents were 20 they were married with a child. By the time they were 30 they were still married, holding down jobs and feeding 3 kids. They worked for every single penny they had. I don't know how they did it since there wasn't a lot of money in being a nurse and a police officer but we never went without (I'm almost 30, single, and my cats go without unless they remind me). Neither of them went to college. And here I was sitting at the age of 22 with a cap, gown and piece of paper telling me I was ready for the big world. That piece of paper should have come with a sticky note that read in bold: "JUST KIDDING." 

Today I went to a party celebrating the college graduation of a beautiful girl. I adopted her as my own "little sister" when she was in 8th grade and have been there as her "big sister" ever since. I know many of you are wondering why someone would look to me for guidance, boy advice and mentoring and I honestly can't give you an answer (and I judge you for wondering). But she did and I was honored to take on the role. At her party was a table filled with presents and cards. She continuously heard "Congrats to the grad!!" and the follow up question by every single person who walked up to her was: "So what are you going to do now?!?"

If you had asked me that at the age of 22 I would have said: "Work in politics. Run for office. Have 2 children. Marry a gorgeous man. Be a size 6. Save the pandas. Write a book. Solve world hunger." The reality of the situation is I have done absolutely NONE of those things since graduation. And I don't plan to either (I will NEVER be a size 6, let's be rational here kids). And the pressure of having to answer that question right after taking off your cap and gown is overwhelming. But she gracefully answered the question every time with her aspirations for the future. 

Sitting on that table of Hallmark cards was a handwritten letter to the graduate. The letter's author stated how proud she was of the graduate and how there are so many doors open to her now. But it also told her that life is now just beginning. Those 4 years spent inside the confines of a college campus merely held her hand as she left the proverbial nest. Now the real test of knowledge and wisdom came into play. The fear that comes from turning on the light switch and the light not coming on... Did I manually turn off the lamp or did the electric company win this month? The sound your voice makes when you ask the check-out boy "how do you sleep at night??" when he tells you the total of your groceries. The happy dance you do when you save 40 cents a gallon with your fuel points. The satisfaction of handing in your rent check knowing it won't bounce because you just raced to the bank, made a last minute deposit, flirted with the teller to make sure it processed that business day and raced back to hand the check in before it was deemed late. And the crack in your voice when your parents ask you "How are you doing?" and you want to tell them everything is fine and you're doing amazing on your own but really you would give anything for a piece of your mom's lasagna and have your flat tire fixed by your Dad. 

They didn't teach me how to do my taxes before they handed me that degree. They didn't teach me that showers cost money and therefore dry shampoo will become your best friend. They didn't teach me that when I have a problem I can't just walk into the Dean's office and make everything okay with a change in a schedule or an excuse note. They gave me books but I didn't learn. I didn't learn what it meant to be an adult. I learned what it meant to be "free" from my parents but I still didn't know that you should really separate your colored wash from the white wash (sorry mom). 

So somewhere on that table full of $3.99 Hallmark cards of congratulations, there was a letter of truth. A letter that I am proud to say I wrote to the graduate to let her know that the world is a really scary place. It's a really hard place. It's a trying, testing, and stubborn piece of work. But every electric bill you might miss or every microwave dinner you eat wishing it was home-cooked goodness is one "class" closer to graduating... A graduation that doesn't require a piece of paper but full knowledge in: Life. The hardest class you could ever sign up for but the most rewarding one you can ever pass. And hopefully you'll make the Dean's List. 

Really try to make it on there. It's great for your credit score. Which, again, the "Powers That Be" never tell you is more important than your silly GPA. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Life After Gladys

I don't know if the saying is worthy of a bumper sticker or not but I can honestly state that I wasn't scared because I had no idea what to expect. Perhaps that's the bright side of ignorance? How can you have fear when you haven't come to terms with whatever it is you're about to go through? And with that, when you are constantly being told how much you're loved, prayed for, and thought of, you lose track of what exactly is going on that's negative.

On the morning of April 25th at about 6:45 in the morning (obnoxious hour, believe me) I think everything came rushing to me that was about to happen. That IV in my arm was about to have something put in it to knock me out cold. That air tube was going to go over my nose and make sure I kept breathing. That finger clamp thing, well, that was just going to keep me looking like E.T. ready to make a phone call. I took a cell photo pic with my mom as they began to wheel me away into surgery and I remember them just pushing me down the halls into an operating room with a huge light over my head. There was beeping. There was the clanking of metal (and I'm assuming rather sharp) objects on a tray. I was officially scared. I was scared because I knew that within the next couple of minutes I was going to be cut open and I don't even handle splinters very well so this was not going to be pretty. I was scared because my life was in the hands of some guy who put me to sleep and I was already incredibly difficult to wake up without medicine! I was scared because I knew my mom was in the waiting room, as a nurse, knowing exactly what was going to be done to her daughter but not having a single opportunity to do anything about it. And I was scared because I was 100% out of control of everything around me. I started to count backwards from 10...9.... Sure I'll play along... 8...

And: Unconscious.

I woke up in recovery with the oxygen on and the IV dripping. A sweet nurse was trying to get me to open my eyes. I had this idea when I went in for the surgery that I would come out with a few stitches on my side and call it a day. From my inability to move, I was thinking 1) These are some good meds and 2) I think they tried to fillet me with a scalpel. So I did what any strong, independent woman would do when she woke up in a strange place, dazed, and hooked up to wires. I cried out for my mom. (Did you think I was going to say I ripped the wires off, unplugged the tubes, grabbed my coat and waddled out of there? Ha!)

I know I was awake but I'm also pretty sure I was still asleep at the same time when my mom approached. I heard her telling me that Gladys was a much larger tumor than they thought. The incision was larger than they thought. The amount of stitches were more than they originally thought. But they are confident they got everything out and there are no cells remaining. Am I right, or did they do a lot of "pre-thinking" that  was really way off base? I can understand a pitch thrown a little up and out but come on this was verging on an intentional walk, right? But I was awake and alive and that's all that mattered.

After fighting with both the nurse and my mom (believe me, that's a recurring ritual that happened the entire week my poor mom stayed with me) to let me take the oxygen tank/tubes home with me (hey, an asthmatic has got to try!) I was put in a wheel chair and sent on my merry way. Still, basically, clueless.

I was clueless to the fact that when someone tells you to do something so you don't make yourself sicker you should probably do it. I was clueless to the fact that Little Miss Independent can't do certain things and must ask for help. I was clueless to the immense outpouring of support that was coming in through phone calls, apartment visits (I was playing Weekend at Bernie's), social media messages, and prayers. I was clueless to what recovery from this surgery would entail. I was clueless as to how long "we'll get the cancer test results next week" really is in hours and minutes. And I was clueless as to how this entire adventure was going to change my life.

Gladys is gone. Now there is a large scar that marks the spot where she was permanently evicted. While it appears we've conquered Gladys, upon further appointments I've learned that the probability of me developing more tumors like her is high. And even though my mom told me to take "deep breaths no matter how much it hurts"... I didn't. And it resulted in another emergency trip to the hospital where I was told I had developed pneumonia and pleurisy. (The nurses at the ER knew me by name... Yeah, that's how I roll kids).

But I will never complain. I may whimper. I will throw my fists up in the air with anger at the abrupt ending to my bikini supermodel career (and then subsequently eat cake to help that pain). But I refuse to complain. There are too many people out there who have not been and will never be as fortunate as I am right now. And for that, I am so very grateful.

As I sit here tonight writing this I've lost my job. I'm single. I'm almost 30. The Yankees lost 12-7 in the Subway Series (I take those losses very hard, dang it!). I take a lot of medicine. And I'm living on Easy-Mac. But I'm lucky. I'm so incredibly lucky because "Life After Gladys" has taught me so many things. It has taught me that I have little pain tolerance. It has taught me that I have the greatest friends and family in the world. It has taught me that I am surrounded by so much love and strength. It has taught me that you can't take on this world as "Little Miss Independent" all the time. And it taught me that my life is just beginning a new chapter.

Frankly, I am not entirely sure where this new chapter in my life will take me. But it took losing something from inside of me to learn what I am really made of and who I am made of.... I'm made of Love. Laughter. Friends. Family. And Sugar. I intend to fill that empty hole Gladys left in my side with those same things. Losing her just made more room for: Fabulousness.