Motherly Advice

Imagine this:

Your baby is crying hysterically. She is in desperate need of a diaper change, but your dinner is about one second away from becoming charcoal. What’s a girl to do?

These were the scenarios that I would willingly place myself in as a child. Apparently, that is all that motherhood encompassed: cooking, caring for a child, and running out of time. With all those Shutterstock photos of mothers floating around, who could blame me?

 

This is a well-crafted definition of motherhood. Ultimately, that is also what I thought women amounted to: mothers (yet with pictures such as the one above, one has to question why so many girls dream of placing themselves in this situation).

When I was younger, I was certain that at this point in my life, the noble age of 25, that I would already be married with children. I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher (a genuine want), but motherhood appeared to be normalcy. There was not much of an option, since in my mind, it seemed mandated. Not necessarily forced, just expected. When planning my life, it was more of a fill-in-the-blank instead of a written response, there was no room for deviation. Most of the questions verged on “When?“:

“When will you get married?”

“When will you have your first kid?”

Never did the question “Will?” arise. I never questioned myself if these were aspects that I truly wanted in my life and that was because I did not know that these ideas were imprinted on, instead of manifested by, me.

However, now that I am of the age, the eight-year-old mother version of myself with her cabbage patch doll on her hip, would be aghast. No children?! How could this be? Where did you go wrong? You had hours of practice! All those moments wasted. All the instilled anxiety through placing yourself in dire situations were for nothing! The conversation would not be long between the two of us as she would scurry away to remove her perfectly cooked dinner from the oven.

In those brief moments, I would inform her that becoming a mother is a debate that has been ongoing, only heightening due to my sister recently becoming a mother. I had this notion that once I held and spent time with her baby, my inner turmoil would be resolved. As if the moment that I held her baby, he would look me in my eyes and determine my life’s course. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a sorting hat. After spending time with him, I only became more conflicted. I used to feel guilty over this, as if I was somehow letting down my child self. I am not sure why I believed that she knew what she was doing, since after all, she was the same person that thought three lines accurately captured a person’s hair and that throwing herself on the ground was an effective way to express her feelings.

Part of this conflict stems from the fact that through maturing, I have arrived to the conclusion that motherhood is a choice. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it actually isn’t. As girls, we are unwillingly and unknowingly drafted into motherhood. Toys are all geared towards preparing us – in fact, I, and many other girls, probably inadvertently studied more on how to be a mother than for anything else. For instance, these are some of the  popular toys from my childhood:

 

The truth is, I am not sure if motherhood is for me. I love being around children, and I value family, but I also have ambitions. I try to rationalize my ambiguity, but I shouldn’t have to. When I woke up today and got dressed, I didn’t have to approach others and explain to them why I opted for leggings rather than jeans. Yet I suppose the answer for both is comfort.

At this point in my life, I am comfortable with where I am, although it is not where I envisioned myself to be. I am not sure if I want kids, and that is okay. I know plenty of mothers, and they are wonderful women. I also know women who chose a different path, and despite what society attempts to make us believe, they are not any less of a woman. If I do have children, I want it to be because it was a decision of mine, not because I ascribed to an outdated chauvinist perspective on what it means to be a woman that my eight-year-old self too readily consumed.

You’re Present, But Are You Here?

If you could be a superhero, what powers would you have?

A question that we all know, and have most likely asked at one point in our lives. There is a thrill behind this question that derives from the anticipation of the answer. For some reason, it is very telling of a person once we hear their desired power. We also love to debate afterwards, desperate to prove to the other that our power is the clear superior choice. Upon seeing this question, you probably already came up with an answer, and I will contend with you that any power other than time manipulation is an absolute waste. Unless, of course, you are that one person who has to ruin it for everyone by claiming that you would want your power to be one that allowed you to absorb the power of others. If that was the case, take your non-imaginative self elsewhere.

I am a firm believer that time manipulation is the most superior power because it obviously trumps the other powers available.  It is clearly a jack of all trades. The other popular powers can easily be defeated through flashing forward to the future, or skimming back to the past. No matter what power, time can find a way to defeat it.

Time is the only thing that keeps us going, and it is ultimately the one thing that stops us. We are obsessed with time. Always searching for ways to do more with less.

I would love to time travel. To be able to visit my past self and grant myself with advice. Some simple: cheetah print and velour do not make a good combination for pants. Some far more complex: stock up on naked chicken chalupas because there are some dark times ahead. I would travel to the future to answer questions burning inside me: Who will be our next president? How is Scandal going to end? Will we have VR theaters?  In the Year 3000, has much changed except living underwater?

Yet if there is one thing that movies have taught me, it is that time travel cannot happen (we all live vicariously through movies so don’t knock me). In the movies, science is never the issue. After all, why should it be? We have phones that talk to us, hover boards, and we can transmit information from a computer onto a piece of paper in a matter of seconds. Time travel cannot exist because we cannot handle it. In the movies, the time traveler always realizes that there are consequences for pulling at the thread of time. Nothing ever goes the way as planned, and the hero ultimately realizes that it is not the past or future that needs changing, but the present, and how they currently view it.

So why in a society so fixated on time do we choose to hope and reflect rather than live in the now?

“The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind.”

– Kiran Desai

The reason we adore the past is quite simple. The past is selective: “According to Alan R. Hirsch in his report, “Nostalgia: A Neuropsychiatric Understanding,” nostalgia is a yearning for an idealized past — “a longing for a sanitized impression of the past, what in psychoanalysis is referred to as a screen memory — not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process all negative emotions filtered out’” (Elite Daily). When we recollect memories, we manipulate them in the process, and because of this, that one memory of our birthday is a tad better than the actual event. In fact, each time we go back to that birthday, the moment changes up until the very point that it can no longer be classified as a memory. Realistic fiction probably. Memoir, not quite. We dream of the past because it is literally a dream.

“I’m looking forward to the future, and feeling grateful for the past.”

– Mike Rowe

We already know that the unknown intrigues us, which is a huge part in the future’s appeal. Perhaps the future fascinates us because of its potential, causing an “optimistic, extreme positivity bias toward the future. . .To the point that people “always say future events are more important to their identity and life story than the past events. Talk about being nostalgic for the future” (The Atlantic).  It reminds us that despite the helplessness we often feel, we can ignite change. Today might be horrible, but if we get through it, there is a better tomorrow. When I was at the tail end of undergrad, I was working part-time, attending school full-time, and student teaching. I would rush from my teaching site, to classes, to close up the store – just to get home to grade or begin an assignment due the following week. I told myself that it was temporary and promised myself a tomorrow where my life would not be like that. Here I am, 5 years later and my life is pretty much all work and no play. Where did I go wrong? Probably when I began investing all my time in the future without distributing any to my present. I viewed the present as a means to get to my destination. Yet the question constantly burning inside me was: Am I there yet? What future was I working toward? At first it was completing my BA, then my MA, then my first year of teaching, now until I get tenure. We like looking at the future because it gives us a reason to ignore the present. In the present, time is limited. Looking at the future, time suddenly seems limitless.

“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”

– George Harrison

Despite our longing for the past and dreams of the future, we are constantly advised to live in the present. Yet the present is not equipped with the nostalgic feeling that we find in either the past or future. Time is cyclical but not equal. We wish for time travel without even knowing that we already are time travelers: the present is a culmination of the past and future. The present is constantly fleeting and generating. In this very moment, the first lines of this sentence exist in the past while the rest remain in the present, as my next sentence exists in the future. That is, until I have completed it, and until you read it.

Time travel cannot exist because once it is apparent that we have a hold of the past and future, we will no longer crave it – just as we reject the obtainable present. I mentioned nostalgia in this post, but I think now is an appropriate time to examine its definition:

“a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homelanda sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time” (Dictionary).

It is pointless to reiterate how nostalgia and the past are linked, so let’s focus on the future. Although nostalgia is deeply rooted in what has happened, it’s connection to the future is simple. The future, since it is yet to exist, has been imagined. Notice the past tense? We will always yearn for the two, yet as the wise prophet West was once quoted: “You never know what you got ’til it’s gone, I guess that’s why I’m here and I can’t come back home.” It’s time to make the present our home while we still can.

Undressing my Wardrobe

The first shirt that I wore that showed off my figure was a red and white striped shirt that was like a crew neck with a button up underneath. I wore it to go out to eat with my family. And although I looked like a walking candy cane,  I remember my dad complimenting me and commenting on the fact that I should begin to dress more like this, more like a girl. Other than that outfit, I typically bought jeans from the boys’ department – carpenter, baggy, and just plain questionable. Not because they were “meant for boys,” but because of the prints on them: green graffiti lettering covering all the pockets. My shirts mainly ranged from 2XL to 3XL, and since I was very slender, I was always drowning in my outfits.

At the time, swimming was not an option. I wanted to remain unseen, succumbing to the ocean’s depths. I suppose my insecurities began around puberty, when I noticed that everyone’s body was changing yet mine seemed to be a bit behind. I didn’t feel comfortable, and perhaps I was trying to hide my body from the scrutiny of others.

When I wore clothing that complimented my frame, I was just reminded on why it should remain hidden. Once, in seventh grade, I wore a spaghetti tank top. Scandalous. The principal promptly approached me about my “inappropriate” attire. My mustard tank top possessed the power to distract boys from their studies. I was an unwanted condiment, and my principal made this very clear. The way he spoke to me marked the beginning of me mistaking my body for a sexual object.

That same day, I was performing a skit in drama class that I was really proud of, and all my drama teacher could remark upon was my potential in being a model. Rather than reflect upon my script, I noticed everyone’s eyes peer at my body. These incidents led me to believe that wearing clothes my size would amp up my sex appeal, so it was only natural for me to begin ditching my large clothes for tighter clothes as my interest in boys increased.

I had a black long sleeve shirt that I loved. It was very form fitting, and due to this, it was one of the few garments that I felt feminine in. Yet my middle school seemed to have a difficult time accepting the female form. When wearing the shirt, I was called to the social worker’s office at school and was interrogated about my eating habits, remarking upon how thin I looked. Feeling insecure and uncomfortable, I squirmed in my seat. At that moment, I remember wishing that I had opted for my trusty 3XL button up with a graphic of three guys break-dancing instead (fashion was never my forte). Her comment about my weight once again reminded me that my body had yet to experience the changes expected of me. She then asked if I wore black because I felt depressed. Depressed? I was wearing black to be the complete opposite! The year was 2007 but I was already emitting 2016 Kim Kardashian (just take a gander at her all black outfits of 2017. Was she ever accused of being depressed, or was she simply dubbed fashion qwueen?). Not to mention, did this woman even hold a degree? Is schooling needed for someone to make such an idiotic assumption? Was she hoping that I would respond, “Yes, black, the absence of color, symbolizes the absence of joy that I have in my life?”

Needless to say, after that meeting, I never wore that shirt again and went back to wearing baggier clothes as I entered high school.

When I first entered, I was often teased about my choices in clothing. This led to a constant battle that I was desperately attempting to win. Clothing became my armor in the war of words. When I was teased about my awkward physique – I searched for clothes that would compliment my figure, even if that meant constantly tugging down my dress. At 5’10, everything I wore fit awkwardly. If it was a good length, covering each and every inch of leg, it was also far too baggy because of how slim I was. If it fit my body perfectly and hugged my developing curves, it would be way too short. Wanting to prove my femininity, at least what I believed it to be, I typically opted for the latter during high school.

In addition to feeling out of place among my peers, this feeling traveled home. Among my sister and mother, I was the only one in the house who seemed interested in stereotypical girl things. I wanted to wear makeup, I wanted dresses, I wanted to be seen and admired. Due to this, I often found myself torn. I wanted to fit in at home, so I tried to reject outward notions of femininity, but I wanted to be desirable outside the home so I tried to over exert my false notion of femininity.

The clothes got tighter because I wanted to show off what little physique I had. My dad who once complimented my tight clothes now disagreed with almost everything I wore. He despised my V-necks, preaching to me about how boys thought, adding onto my misconception that my clothing defined my sexuality. Naturally, the more he resisted, the more I wanted those types of outfits: in my head, his disagreements confirmed that I was no longer a girl, but a woman. I was conflicted. I wanted to be seen as feminine by others, especially boys, but at the same time, I was not really interested in relationships or intimacy. In negotiating my identity, clothing was the currency. The less fabric I had, the more womanly I felt.

This roller coaster continued throughout college. Wanting to be comfortable, since I worked and attended school full-time, I would often opt for practically over style. However, a massive part of me would make sure that my outfits were still flattering – afraid that constantly appearing in leggings and big cardigans would engulf the very existence of my femininity. Wanting to appear as an intellectual among my peers, I also stayed away from clothing that might be too revealing. An idea planted in my mind from high school -the more exposed a woman is, the less exuberant her intelligence. As silly as it sounds, that was a battle I fought everyday.

It was not until recently that I have come to peace with my femininity and sexuality. The two are not interchangeable and do not go hand in hand. I am a woman, but that does not mean I have to dress or behave a certain way. The fact that I like to wear a pencil skirt, or a bodycon dress does not diminish my intelligence, or make me slutty. The fact that I also like wearing over-sized bombers and crewnecks does not make me less of a woman.  Rather than drowning my body in triple x’s, or displaying my body as a commodity in super super smalls, I have found a happy medium. This is all figuratively speaking because I now own clothes in almost every size. My body is not a taboo that must remain hidden, nor an object that needs appraisal. I now dress in what I feel comfortable and confident in, which varies day by day. It was never my outfits that needed changing; it was me.

Unapologetically Pulling the Trigger

I was going to need a few more Hypnotiqs to fall for this guy’s shit. . .

For New Year’s, my boyfriend and I decided to visit the Poconos for a little getaway, with a possible potential of snow (joke was on me since a week after we returned, a bomb-cyclone visited NYC and now I am sick of the snow). During our first night, we attended a live performance from a band, yet during the performance, I had a nagging itch (and certainly not one that made me want to dance). The band seemed innocent, a bunch of elderly men singing covers of love songs for honeymooners so buzzed that they probably thought Stevie Wonder was actually performing, but it wasn’t the inability to hit every note that bothered me. It was the lead singer.

“How is everyone feeling tonight?”

Slow, quiet applause (I assumed that this meant content. Perhaps louder and faster applause would have implied happiness. Or maybe, and this is what my clap meant, I am hesitant to let you know so show me your vocals first and then I will decide).

“Alright, alright. Fellas I want all of you who is with a lady tonight to raise your hand.”

A bunch of people raise their hand enthusiastically (a teacher’s dream).

“Okay, okay. I want you to take your hand, and put it on your lady. And – and,” licking his lips as his right hand moves towards his left shoulder. Slowly, he moves his hand to his chest, “And place it right here.”

Laughter from the audience. Annoyance from me. Perhaps I was not buzzed enough to find the humor in this. I reminded myself that I was in a resort that was geared towards couples, until I heard:

“Mhmm. Mhmm. Oh, oh. So-sorry. I didn’t mean to touch myself,” he chuckled as he reached for the microphone to begin singing. In case my retelling is not clear, he pretended to be aroused as he instructed the men in the room to synchronize grope their women.

At the moment, I felt like I was being hypersensitive when I realized how uncomfortable the entire gesture made me feel. I looked around the room and none of the other women appeared bothered, so I attempted to shrug it off and continue listening to the music. Notice how I said attempted? I could not shake the discomfort, and the more I tried to neglect the feeling, the angrier I felt myself becoming.

Throughout the entire performance, he would begin each song with a disturbing monologue. It seemed like it was getting progressively worse. For instance, the last thing that I heard him say was during his attempt to get the women in the room to scream “Hallelujah” since you know, Uptown Funk wanted to give it to us.

“Girls hit ya . . .” he sang as he pointed the microphone to the audience.

“Hallelujah” (and I have never heard a sadder one).

“Aw come on, I need better than that. Girls hit ya . . .”

He was met with the same response. So naturally he did not give up and continue singing the song, instead he resorted to his comedic talent (that someone once made the mistake of telling him he had):

“Fellas, I know you gonna make your wives hit that Hallelujah tonight. Yo-you know, even if they still aren’t sure what’s going on.”

I grabbed my coat. My boyfriend and I left. At first, I apologized to him. I felt bad because there were so many couples watching the performance yet I was the only woman who seemed to be so offended that I had to remove myself.

But what was I apologizing for? I did not cause a scene, although looking back on it now, I would have certainly been justified for doing so. I was afraid that I would be judged and labeled as a prude because, as I have heard before, I “wasn’t able to take a joke” at the moment. Yet the last time I checked, jokes were meant to be funny. Instead, I was being exposed to misogynistic microagressions that were meant to be presented in the form of a joke. I am tired of uncomfortably laughing at jokes like this because I am afraid of offending the person who is subjecting me to them. If the person feels like their “joke” is appropriate enough to tell, my response should be appropriate enough to experience – without any apologies. Through allowing comments like this, we are allowing these microaggressions to thrive and develop into the gruesome aggressions that we read about daily. Through providing our ears, we are allowing an unwanted visitor to enter our homes and become a tenant. It is 2018, we should no longer be oblivious as to who our visitors are! I will no longer subject myself to anything that makes me feel that I am less than because I wasn’t born with a penis.

Some people reading may be chuckling and thinking that I am overreacting, that I am simply some man-hating feminist who has been triggered. Which you are absolutely right. I am a feminist. I do hate men, but only because I hate people as a whole (this is partially a joke in case you, the reader, are also getting triggered). What is so bad about being triggered? To be triggered, I have to care enough about something. To be triggered, I have to be aware of my surroundings. Being triggered is what allowed me to pull the trigger and walk out of that shit performance.

I googled the band while I was writing the article, and while I can not say that I am surprised, I am disgusted that what I experienced is his signature material. I am not surprised because just like originally I feared, countless of women, and even men, may have felt uncomfortable yet chose to laugh because it was easier. Seeing the laughter, the singer continued to deliver his comedic gold. However, if more people expressed their discomfort,  I am sure that he would find that when he rubs his gold, he would simply find pyrite. Finding a piece of shit on the floor and concealing it in shiny wrapping paper does not make it any less of shit, rather it is more telling of the person who attempted to disguise it. He may not be aware that his “jokes” are offensive, but the very fact that he doesn’t know this, reveals that he is no more of a man than he is a comedian.

 

Kindness’ Legacy

We were discussing legacies in our English class, so our English teacher accordingly asked us what legacy we wanted to leave behind. I half-listened to the responses because most of them involved being rich or becoming famous – things that did not really interest me. I also half-listened because my anxiety began to drown out voices. My response was way different. Mine did not align with everyone else. Once again I somehow managed to make myself the odd one out. I had two options, share what I truly wrote, or lie and appease my peers. I went with option A, and I regretted it faster than the time that I decided to cut my beautiful prom dress so that I could wear it during all the times that I would go clubbing (currently at a grand total of 1 time, and by that time, the dress was discarded).

I read my answer, “I want to save someone.”

She, the girl who found amusement reminding me that I did not quite fit in, laughed. She snarled her lips: “Who. Does. She. Think. She. Can. Save?”  The mere thought of me having the audacity to think that I could assist another human being caused her to laugh: “Her?” An echo of laughter followed hers, so I tried to clarify. I did not mean physically save someone the way that a doctor, nurse, firefighter, or police officer would – although I do not see how that would be amusing. I meant, emotionally and mentally. I meant that I wanted to be the person that could help someone else. I wanted to provide someone with the proper tools and support so that they could make a difference in their life to achieve their potential. I meant that I wanted to be someone who would hear a student say that for their legacy, they wanted to save someone, and I would commend them. I would protect them from any mockery because I know that children can be cruel. I would uplift them because I know that, although the bully might forget their actions, their victim will replay it over and over in their mind until they have twisted it enough to believe that they actually deserved it.

During Senior year, she was going through a rough patch. She asked me for help with something, and I remember that my gut told me to deny her. I remember that so vividly, the anger swelling up my bones, the burning in my throat, but I also remember going against my gut. I remember agreeing to help her. I remember helping her. I remember that she never apologized for the incident. I do not remember what she needed help with, but I do remember that I certainly did not regret helping her because it taught me a few things.

She probably does not even remember either event that I just discussed, but that is okay. That is actually the point. I believe that we should all help one another in anyway that we can. We are all existing and experiencing this life at the same time, so shouldn’t we

DSC_0278

I took this during the Coney Island Mermaid Parade two years ago, and I imagine this is Kindness in human form.

try to help make it easier for one another? It doesn’t have to be some grand gesture, like a massive donation to charity (although those are certainly always appreciated). In fact, smaller deeds are preferred in my book because those are the ones that we often do without thinking – they are often impulsive. When driven by impulse, we have no ulterior motives, we are genuine. Think about the time where you saw someone with their hands full, struggling to open the door, and you decided to hold the door open for them. The person most likely thanked you enthusiastically. Or what about a time when you were driving yet you ushered a pedestrian to cross – do you ever realize how incredibly thankful they seem as they raise their hand, smile, and shimmy across the street? I’ve always find these moments bittersweet for it is sad that these gestures, they cannot even be called gestures because they are too small to be considered one, interactions show how surprised we are when kindness is presented to us. We show immense gratitude to things that seem like common courtesy because we have somehow found ourselves in a self-centered society.

That needs to change.

We can start a ripple effect – it is not about receiving credit for helping, it is about igniting the desire to help others. Kindness is the smartest investment that you can make. At first it may take a while to increase, but after purchasing multiple stocks, you will find that you are rich. Yet it does not only affect you. The beautiful thing about kindness is that it influences other investors and spreads like wildfire.

SHIT I’m Tired of Hearing . . .

Girl Talk: We have all been there. At work, at school, on vacation, on the subway, at home, at the store, at the gym, anywhere, someone (typically a man) has said something that, for some reason, ran through the filter of their brain but still made it out of their mouth. I cannot speak for the entire female population (because I am not a man) but I typically respond at first, and then sink into a black hole of despair, close my mouth, widen my eyes, and internally scream since (a) the person rarely realizes their mistake and (b) I know I am going to hear the same shit again tomorrow. In an attempt to save myself (and hopefully others), here is a list of things that I am tired of hearing.

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Aggressively, he turned to me, “Why do you have to do that?” I don’t understand the need to justify myself, but I did it anyway (out of habit): “Well he paid for my nails and haircut today, so the least I can do is pay for the groceries.” Even though I said this, he wasn’t listening because his mind was made up. Because he is a man. Because this is a man’s world. Ignoring me, he took the money from my boyfriend, as if mine was tainted:

“That is the man’s job. To take care of the pretty lady.”

Haha, of course. Silly me. I jumped over the counter, pushed him aside, and shoved my money in the register – or should I say, I would have done that but I just got my nails done and I am a pretty lady after all. Instead, I gave the money to my boyfriend as we exited the store and allowed the cashier to believe that it was the 1950s and I was rushing home to get my pot roast out of the oven. It is almost as if the cashier was the man who wrote the well-intended, yet tragically flawed, article, “Should a Man Pay for Everything?” You know, the article that outlines and advises men to follow THIS scenario:

“You: I’ve got this one.

Her: [Possibly looking shy and a little nervous]: No, let me pay for at least half.

You: [Smile and say in a joking manner]: Hmmm…actually, maybe you should pay for all of it because you were such a chatterbox over dinner. I had to sit here listening to you for like an hour. So, you pay for it.

Her: [Most likely laughing and blushing]: Um, okay…really?

You: [Smile and say] No, I’m just kidding. I love talking to you…you’re beautiful and interesting, so I’ll get the check this time. We can split the bill next time.

Her: [Giggling and blushing some more] Okay.”

If only the cashier engaged me in such pleasant banter, followed by compliments of my appearance! Let me revise the conversation to make it more suitable:

Her: I got this one.

Him: Wow, thanks!

Everyone Else: Minds their damn business.

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The mistake that I made was working out alone, without headphones. I had just finished a set so I thought that it would be perfectly acceptable to take a break and let myself breathe. Once again, silly me. I saw a man, most likely in his late 50’s approach me. The second mistake I made was allowing eye contact:

“You need help there?”

Confused, I responded “No, thank you.” I immediately became mad at myself: Why did I respond so politely? Why was I thanking him? Nothing about my stance nor my expression signaled that I was in distress in anyway. Yet this is how I responded because this is how I am conditioned. Reject them politely. Do not anger them. Ignore that you are offended. You do not want to offend them. I look down, waiting for him to walk away. As he comes closer, he lingers: “I’m only joking.” I turn around, lips pursed, eyebrows slightly raised, eyes squinted, and nostrils flared with a deep sigh that contains: “he did not just . .  .”  Another thing I am conditioned to do, turn my words into breaths so that I can remain quiet to ensure that he will leave.

You see, I get that you are joking but the only funny thing here is the fact that you thought you had comedic gold when you were just offering me up some coal. It’s funny how you believe that, even at your age and position, you could offer me more help than I can for myself. Oh, you know a joke is hilarious when you have to announce that it is a joke. What is even funnier is the fact that according to a survey conducted by Stop Street Harassment in 2008, 23% of women paid to exercise in a gym rather than outside since they had a (justified) fear of street harassment, yet I pay $30 a month to be exposed to your comedy hour. Anyway, to my response: I kept my lips pursed, nodded my head, and avoided eye contact as you disappeared believing that you had accomplished your mission. Whereas I had officially ranked you after Gabriel Iglesias on my humor scale.

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I work as a teacher. I love my students dearly. I probably care about them a bit more than I should, but I suppose I am just a bit sentimental. Time and time again, I always hear someone saying:

“It’s those motherly instincts.”

I am nobody’s mother. I do hope to be one in the future, but this is a decision that I have made, not a destined life path. The same people that claim my motherly instincts are the reason behind my profession are (a) not aware that there are amazing male teachers *gasp* and (b) the ones who question a woman when she is going to have a baby rather than if she is going to have one. According to Ragsdale’s “The Maternal Myth,” “To qualify as an instinct, the behavior should be automatic, irresistible, triggered by something in the environment, occur at some particular time during development, require no training, be unmodifiable and occur in all individuals of a species” (Psychology Today). Keep this definition in mind and pair it with the nurturing essence that people categorize as maternal. Based on this belief, a father simply cannot care for his child – he is not nurturing, he does not have maternal instincts, the child is in grave danger, the wife must remain at home so that she can care for the child, this is the law of the land – this is the law of 1950. As we are in the year 2017, and I bust my ass to succeed in my career, I would appreciate it very much if you accredited my success to my intelligence and work ethic, or your primitive mindset will activate my primal Fight instinct.

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Anger. Annoyance. Frustration. I am sure that these are feelings that are not unknown to you. I am sure that you have felt them before, yet for some reason, when I am mad, there is always a question behind it, and no, it does not involve my well-being, instead it is:

“Are you on your period or something?”

You know, since women lose complete control over their emotions when they have their period. Having cramps is uncomfortable, and I may be irritable because of it, but I do not undergo a metamorphosis and turn into someone with no emotional regulation. I cannot count the number of times that I have heard this question directed towards me, or towards someone else. In fact, when I was younger, I internalized this belief and even asked this question myself. Thankfully, I, unlike some, learned from my mistake by noticing the discrepancies among how we treat feelings in relation to men and women. How come men can be short-tempered at times without experiencing a monthly phenomenon that transforms them? It is as if these emotions are not accessible to women – as if these emotions can only be achieved once a month when the planets align on the 28th day of the cycle. As if our period is some omniscient creature in the sky determining our interactions. I am sorry that it is not clear that my annoyance is a direct response to your stupidity. Period.

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In middle school, I wore a spaghetti mustard-colored tank top. Although this was before mustard was deemed a worthy yellow to be worn, I was surprisingly not policed by the fashion institution. Instead, I was confronted by my principal because I was dressed inappropriately since he said:

“Your bra strap is showing.”

SHIT! Thank you for letting me know! I forgot that a visible bra strap is worse than looking directly at a solar eclipse. Although this was my first time hearing such a remark, it was certainly not the last. To be honest, I am not quite sure what reaction people expect from me when they tell me this. I think that they are hoping that I will end the madness and come to my senses before the disaster reaches its peak and is past the point of return. In reality, they are simply enforcing (without even meaning to sometimes) that a girl’s body is objectified. That a girl cannot have her bra straps showing because it serves as a reminder that a girl has breasts. That a girl cannot reveal that she has breasts because it is not modest.  According to Laura Bates, interactions like the one that I had with my middle school principal lead to “several big questions[:] [1] Are we saying that girls’ bodies are dangerous and sexual, even if they themselves don’t choose to seem them in that way? [2] Are we really saying that boys can’t control themselves and girls are responsible for covering up because otherwise the guys won’t be able to help themselves from looking/harassing/groping? [3] Who is being ‘protected’ and why?” (Girl Up 67). And the answer to question number three is certainly not a bra strap because those things are hella sturdy, but perhaps the male fragility is what’s being protected.

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When I told the principal that I did not have a sweater to put on, he commanded me to go to my gym locker and throw on my gym shirt since my current outfit was:

“distracting others.”

Yes, sir – but the fact that you made me retrieve my gym shirt made me miss class. But sir, the fact that I had to wear my gym shirt the entire day distracted me. But sir, the fact that my peers were able to somehow find their way through the halls despite my hazardous shirt seems to suggest that perhaps it is only distracting to YOU.  As Valenti adequately notes, “‘It’s not the responsibility of female students to mitigate the male gaze. You find female bodies ‘distracting’? That’s your problem, not women’s” (I Am Not A Slut 152). Yet at that time, I did not have the sense of the world that I do now. Instead, I immediately felt ashamed of my body. Not to mention I was incredibly embarrassed because I had to wear my gym shirt the entire day at school, which caused a stigma. I was wearing my gym shirt because I was dressed “inappropriately.” Without even knowing the word yet, I felt like a slut. We discipline girls because we believe that their bodies distract our boys, but we seldom teach our boys not to objectify a girl’s body.

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We have all seen the jokes behind a guy, with good intentions, reaching out to a girl and her automatically assuming that he is trying to flirt with her so she responds with the notorious: “I have a boyfriend.” I admit that I find some of them funny, and that sometimes the phrase is not needed but I do want to call to attention the reason why we even feel the need to use this phrase. You know, since the word “no,” or the blatant response, “No thanks, I am not interested,” is not a clear indicator that a girl is not interested in a guy.

When I used to manage at a retail company, I would walk over to the pizza shop to grab a bite to eat – since I am human and I need food in order to survive. Yet I often questioned my need for survival because of one worker who apparently loved being sleazy as much as I loved a greasy lunch. Every single girl that worked with me knew who he was because he tried the same tired tricks on all of us. It would begin with a simple compliment, and always led up to him asking to hang out. I would always politely decline, yet one day he finally asked me:

“Is it because you have a boyfriend?”

Something that has always bothered me. Why not ask me of I had a boyfriend before asking me out several times? Why ask this question after constantly making me uncomfortable? Because even though I never flirted or showed him any interest, he refused to believe that I was simply not into him. For him, there had to be something else. Yet being single or taken did not determine that I did not have any interest in him. I have never walked into that pizza shop and asked for a single order of pancakes, because no matter how bad I may have wanted it, it was not available. So for the pizza guy who was constantly trying to order a stroke for his ego: I was never there for you to believe that I would have been into you “if it weren’t for my lousy boyfriend”(cue Scooby Doo villain voice), I was there for the 2 pizza slice and 1 soda can lunch combo.

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Unfortunately, some of you reading this article will leave with this ridiculous notion that I am some man-hating feminist, and to that, all I have to say is: (a) you are probably a man, or (b) you are a woman in denial who has yet to discover the sexist world that you live in so you rather tear down enlightened woman due to the fear that if you agree, you will look like some man-hating feminist (which if that is the case, please return when you escape the darkness).

In this day and age, society would like to believe that it has evolved past these “trivialities,” but as someone who was able to compile a lengthy article that documented and analyzed multiple occurrences, it is very clear that I highly disagree. This article is meant to illuminate how some of us have internalized, and later project, very sexist notions – but then again, I am just a pretty lady who gets to hear this shit everyday.