Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Kind of Girl I Am

I’m the kind of girl who didn’t have girl friends as a little kid. All of my friends were boys and I was having coed sleepovers from the time I was 3 through college. I enjoyed spending time with my father more than my mother and loved to play and watch sports and get dirty. As I got older I realized a lot of girls were tomboys and I wasn’t that unique. But event though I got more girl friends I never became as comfortable with women as I am with men.

I am also the kind of girl who likes to wear cute clothes and pretty dresses and have people tell me how fabulous I look. I have an extensive jewelry and accessory collection to coordinate with all my outfits and love to shop (alone of course or maybe just with my husband early in the morning before the mall is crowded). When I was younger, I felt like I had to be either the tomboy or the girly girl. Depending on which friends I was with, I only exposed them to one part of my personality.

Somewhere along the way I started to separate other items that were unrelated to being feminine or masculine into each column. The problem with being a straight woman and having all of your closest friends being male is that you end up falling for them. And depending on which you they got to know, you can spend years in a relationship and not have that person know important details about your life. I remember that my boyfriend in college didn’t know that I did volunteer work. I participated in an all-night volleyball tournament at a local high school to raise money for a local charity and I actually lied to him about where I’d been that night. In my silly little 21-year old brain volunteer work was feminine. My boyfriend and I played on the same intramural sports team and spent a lot of time hiking and doing outdoor activities. He made jokes when I wore dresses to class; there was no way I could let the feminine me out.

Another problem with dating someone after being their best friend for years is that they say things to you that they would never say to their girlfriend but have no problem saying to their best friend. So they talk about how hot other girls are and forgot to treat you like a girl. They stomp on your self esteem on a daily basis and then wonder why you’re moody. They don’t remember your birthday or buy you romantic gifts because you’re still one of the guys even though they have sex with you and sleep next to you every night.

Or worse yet, they fall for you and you don’t return the feelings. So you lose your friendship to this horrible awkwardness and you can never get back what you had. And by no fault of your own you are the bad guy and all of your friends feel bad for him because you broke his heart. Some of your other friendships also suffer because they side with your friend. They never think that maybe you are hurting from the position that you were put in. And when you fall for one of your friends and he doesn’t return your feelings the same thing doesn’t happen. It’s a total double standard.

Five years ago, and four years after my last relationship, I was lucky enough to meet my husband. I feel in love with him the moment I met him and we became best friends and a couple all at once. He knows all sides of me and helps me to feel more confident in myself than I ever have before. When I met him I left behind a lot of the baggage that I had collected over the years. Unfortunately, Facebook has brought a lot that baggage back.

All of these people that I haven’t talked to in years, and truly, I didn’t think I would ever talk to them again and I was okay with that, are back in my life. Old boyfriends, high school friends, distant relatives…everyone. I love Facebook because it helps me to connect with people that I care about that live far away but while I’m sharing with them all of these other people are peering into my life and learning things about me that I would never have shared with them.

So I get defensive when they make ignorant comments because I feel like I have defend myself but then I get mad at myself for letting them get to me. If I go off on them about why they’re wrong, years of pent up emotions and grudges from 15 years ago will also come up and I’ll look like a complete ass that has been holding onto all of those feelings for years. But that’s not completely true. I had buried those feelings and those incidents years ago and moved on to other things. But because there was no closure, there was no incident where I got to stand up for myself and set them straight, I automatically go back to that time and the feelings that I had at that time.

Alas, I love Facebook and am addicted to it so I must deal. I have to remind myself that their dumb comments on my page are not important because in the grand scheme of things they aren’t important. My true friends, the people that I love and who know me aren’t the ones who are saying those things. And if they are, then I get to tell them off because I’m going to have to deal with them for years to come and I will not let another minute of my life go by without being my true self or letting others make me feel insecure. Grr.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Olympics and The Census Make Me Sad

I know what you're thinking: What could be negative about two such positive events. At the surface these are very happy events that lead to nothing but good things. But, as usual, if you look deeper there are negative things that aren't talked about nearly as much as they should be.

The Olympics brings a lot of money and pride to the host country. It makes people proud of their countries and gives people in niche sports a chance for fame that they might not have had otherwise. One of the coolest events in the Olympics is ski jumping or aerials. This is the event where the competitors ski down a steep hill and up a giant ramp to propel themselves in the air and do back flips and other tricks. Unfortunately, the International Olympic Committee does not allow women to participate in this sport on an international level.

Their first excuse was that not enough women competed in the sport to make it into the Olympics. But there are more women ski jumpers than there are skeleton racers based on the national and world championships that are held in each sport. A few male ski jumpers have mentioned that the event is not healthy for women. Are you serious? Didn't they used to say the same thing about women in the distance running events? Did we suddenly go back into the dark ages? Many of the female ski jumpers believe that it is a simple case of sexism. It is possible for a female ski jumper to get as much air as her male competitors and; therefore, earn an equal or higher score than her male counterparts. The male ego just can't handle the thought of losing to a woman so they just won't let them compete. All but one of the people on the International Olympic Committee are male and in late middle age to old age. I don't think we're going to see any changes here until the regulating body is as diverse as the competitors.

The government will tell you that the main focus of the census is to make sure there are plenty of resources available to all of the citizens of the United States. It makes sure there are enough schools and public services but it also identifies trends based on race. It tells you how many people of each race live below the poverty line and, in turn, reveals possible trends of racism in certain geographical areas. It is also meant to provide an accurate make up of the population of the United States by race. Unfortunately, the race categories on the census are horrible inadequate.

If you are an Arab American or an African American from a northern country you likely have white skin. The census would like you to check the box "Caucasian/White Non-Hispanic" on the census. Because in this country the color of your skin is your ethnicity. There is no focus on the country that you come from or the culture that you would define as your own. So when the census folks predict that by the next census, 48% of the US population will be white they mean that those are the people who have light skin can for white Americans, privileged Americans. The actual demographics of this country will never be known if the current system isn't changed.

I have not completed my family tree yet but the research that I have done so far has shown me that you have to go back more than 200 years to find the first one of my ancestors who was not born in the United States. Part of my ancestry is Native American which means that all of my ancestors from that section of my family were born in this country. But my skin is brown so I must check the African American box. I don't expect there to be a German, African, Native American box on the census but I think we could do a lot better than this in a country that is as diverse as the United States.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Racism in Black Media

Last month Reggie Bush was on the cover of Essence magazine. He’s a professional football player, young, attractive, great body. Makes sense to me. Apparently a number of Essence subscribers disagreed. You see, Reggie is dating Kim Kardashian, who isn’t black, and that apparently should have eliminated Reggie as a possible cover choice for Essence, a magazine that focuses on black women. The upsetting part is not that one person was upset, it was that dozens of people were upset enough to write a letter to the editor or blog about the poor choice of Reggie because he doesn’t love “our women” or support “our community” so he shouldn’t be featured in “our magazine”. Sounds like a whole lot of racism to me.

The great thing about Essence is that there are articles on beauty and wellness that I can relate to. If I pick up a Cosmo or other popular women’s magazine there are rarely people in there who look like me. As a result, all the advice about the best makeup and hair doesn’t apply to me. Essence also features articles on social issues and celebrities that just don’t appear in mainstream magazines. Unfortunately, Essence often has a lot of subtle and not-so-subtle racism in every issue.

I wish the editors at Essence would take a stand and tell these readers that they are wrong. Society isn’t going to change until the media hold black people to the same standards that it expects of white people. Can you imagine the outrage if Cosmo published an article about how horrible interracial dating was and how black people should stick with their own kind? These same black people would have been calling for the editors of Cosmo to be fired for publishing such racist comments. That it is 2010 and there is no place for racism in this country. I don’t understand how they miss the hypocrisy in publishing an article about how minorities can’t find jobs because people discriminate against them on one page and then on the following page publishing a two page rant from a blogger about interracial dating and how much she hates it and the people who participate in it.

Who someone dates or marries has nothing to do with how black someone is or how supportive that person is of the black community. I spend time with people that I share common interests with; the color of their skin has never been something that I consider in any of my friendships or relationships. The thought that I should have put my efforts into finding the best black man for me rather than the best man for me is ridiculous. Aren’t these same people discriminating against other races when they only seek out relationships with people of their race? When they go on E- Harmony they rejecting messages from anyone that doesn’t share their skin tone despite any personality traits and hobbies that they may share with that person and then they go out with their girlfriends and complain that they don’t have any luck finding a date. Well get your head out of your ass, step out of that little tiny box you’ve been living in and open yourself up to new people and new experiences.

Maybe if I would have grown up in one of the many urban areas in this country where some of the schools have a 90% black student body my views would be different. But I doubt it because my parents aren’t racist and I was raised to judge people by their behavior and not their skin tone. It is hard to believe that in 2010 there is this much ignorance in people my age. If you don’t want people to discriminate against you then stop discriminating against them. You are part of the problem and the sooner you realize that the sooner we can move towards true racial harmony in this country.