Tuesday, February 09, 2016

On Being An Invisible Middle-Aged Woman

There's this saying, rumor, warning - that when women become middle-aged they become "invisible."
Younger people pass us by, men aren't catcalling us anymore, no one sees the 51-year-old woman.

That's what they say and I hope to God it's true. I've been waiting my whole life to be invisible.

I already try to keep myself as quiet and compact as possible anyway. I generally have everything I need on me so I don't need to make a big stink about finding tampons or lotion or whatever middle-aged ladies need (maybe not tampons then?). I don't wear big coats and big scarves and gloves, I am not "swarthy." I keep my elbows in and my mouth closed, the only thing moving all around on me, are my eyes.

I keep my clothes as indistinct as possible. A pair of jeans, a sweater, boots. Coat. Done. Nothing to look at here folks...

Really the only thing that stands out about me physically is my hair and a lot of times, if I'm headed out on a Margaret walk (which is really any walk) - I'll put it up, or in a hat, or out of the way, so no one notices me. It's not that I'm just hiding from leering men either, I'm just trying to sink quietly into the background.

I try to keep my body small on planes, trains and automobiles. I like taking up little amounts of space, it is not my goal to take over where I go, it's my goal to get smaller, quieter, less noticeable.

The less people see me (when I'm trying not to be seen, obviously I'm a tour guide, so...but you know what I mean) the better. I cannot wait until I'm completely invisible.

Because you know what else? You don't notice me taking photos in a building I'm not supposed to be taking photos in. I can do secret, fun things because no one believes a 45-year-old middle-aged woman is doing anything illegal or fun. I hide back and listen to conversations, I sneak into things, I sneak past things, I hear things, see things and notice things and I promise you would never look twice.

I like my autonomy, that's why I like Chicago - everyone's trying to be "seen" in New York or LA, I'm not interested in being seen, I'm actively interested in being not seen.

It's so fucking awesome.

I want my business and work to be noticed of course. But personally, not so much. That way I can concentrate on what I want, not worry about who's looking/judging/leering/staring.

Can't wait for the transformation to be complete....


Monday, February 01, 2016

Men.

It's such an interesting time for all of us now.

All this lady stuff, all this admitting of being afraid of men, of trying to stand up to that fear, of wondering if any of that is going to change ever.

I've been holding off on a lot of this - I lived a long time thinking I was not afraid of men. My mother LOVED men, always, I was never taught to be afraid of men by my mother. I have 3 AMAZING older brothers who are kind, helpful, hilarious, artistic, gentle and have saved me from all kinds of doom.

I have men friends too. Many of them. SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE MEN.

And then when women really started speaking up about all this, I never denied those were their experiences with fear and harassment, but I didn't feel the same way. Sure, I *used to* get cat calls and such and it pissed me off, but come on, par for the course.

And then of course I started looking deeper, agreeing that we are taught from a young age to be afraid. Then came the Margaret Atwood quote:

Men are afraid that women are going to laugh at them, women are afraid men are going to kill them.

Damn, that totally rings true, really as anything Margaret Atwood says rings true.

And I started to be mindful and began to notice my fear of men, which is if of course, ingrained, deep and scary.

It's fast, first of all. The judgement, the sizing up and down, the decisions of whether a man is "dangerous" is so fucking fast. All humans size each other up, but women have this extra layer of judgement we have to administer quickly. Is he smiling at me because he's happy, sick, malicious, a rapist, a priest? And then in SECONDS we decide how to respond to this, look away, smirk, sneer, look down (the most popular and least offensive choice) or god forbid, smile back. 

The other day I was the only lady in a movie theater with a dude.  I clutched my keys in my hand for the whole movie - the only weapon I had on me - keys held just right in my fingers in case this guy decided to attack in the middle of the movie.

The one I caught yesterday, the one that led me to the writing of this post - I saw a big guy coming at me and my ingrained habit is to look around and see if I'm the only one on the street and make a split-second decision of whether I should cross the street, or stand up and stick my chest out, or do the opposite and play small. I saw some other dudes up the street emptying a car trunk and I thought "oh okay, I don't have to be afraid of this man, because there are other men over there" and the absurdity of being afraid of one man and feeling safe because of others was so strange and weird and amazing and sad that I realized...

I'm just like every other woman out there. Totally afraid.

There's a whole shakeup with women in comedy, specifically improv, in Chicago right now. It's an upturning for sure. So many women speaking out about being harassed and pressured. I don't remember being harassed on stage. I don't remember men making me prostitutes in scenes and then shooting me, I just don't remember it that way.

But I do remember (and still see it as truth in a really weird fucked up kinda way) that the men were certainly in charge. I remember wanting to be cute and sexy for them so they would think I was funny and cast me in stuff. I remember how we made fun of men who "boob hugged" (that means the dude comes in low for the hug and then moves up so he can get a boob-rub). I remember thinking that that stuff never bothered me because I knew how to play with the big boys and I definitely remember other women feeling less than.

I still believe it is in our genes and our DNA to be afraid of men, women have been afraid of men since caveman and beyond - it is nature. I believe that. I'm not sure what standing around and telling men how scared we are is going to help anything, maybe it will. Maybe it'll change the comedy theaters, maybe men will be more careful, maybe women will fight back more and maybe in my heart of hearts, that scares me almost more, because there is a part of me, I don't know if it's ingrained conditioning or what, but there's a part of me that believes all of this will have an effect on the work.

Sigh. I don't know. I don't know what I think.

I dunno. Hang tight ladies. I guess that's it. Hang tight.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Defending My Life - To No One in Particular

A few weeks back, during a particularly nasty weather day, a friend made a comment on the ever-dangerous FB about how shitty the weather is. I got called out on this post because of my love for winter.

One thing I'm learning BIG TIME in meditation is how much I love to defend myself. Give me something to defend myself over? Holy shit, I'll be all over that. In my mind, I defend myself almost all day, for my opinions, thoughts. I'll have imaginary conversations with imaginary people - all defending myself.

SO! I did so here too. And the slush and the shitty weather were making it hard for people to walk and in my snarky honesty I posted about how it was good exercise, no?

And I actually got the middle finger - the written middle finger.

That's fine. Not the first time.

But this is where this comes from:

http://nutritiousmovement.com/blog/

This is Katy Says - she changed her name for the website, but I started following when she was Katy Says and so...that's what she is to me. DEFENDING WHAT I CALL THIS WOMAN...see?

Anyhoo, Katy is all about natural movement. She's really freaking logical and cute and interesting and I've been getting really into it. She's a big believer in walking a ton (ahem, yes, me too), she's a big believer in "working out like a fiend isn't really doing you any favors," which is always nice to hear. She's all about retaining mobility through your older years, and this is my job, so it's important to me too.

She believes in going outside, getting strong all day, loads instead of just movement (bike riding and swimming are "dessert" movements because there's no load) and I bought some of her videos for 5$ and they are awesome and have helped me tremendously. She also gives a lot of information away for free. Best.

Well, my girl Katy is big on going outside in winter. Lots of people are getting really into cold weather for your health. Katy is also really big on trying to vary your step, I walk on concrete for HOURS every day - that's not so good for me. Now I try and walk on the grass (good for your ankles), I try to hang on trees (hanging is also the new thing), so when it gets cold...

YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE COLD! It's GOOD for you. It's good for you to learn how to walk on ice and through snow and sleet, it trains your body in a whole different way.

You're supposed to be hot too. And carry different loads. And walk faster and slower and on a curve and over tree roots and you're supposed to lie in the grass and run through it barefoot and not wear high heels and watch your "treasured parts" on your bike (you're seriously smushing it all) and same with belts and bras even.

Anyway. That's me defending myself.

The next time it's gross out, maybe it's a challenge instead of hell?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Men, Power and Buddha in the Swimming Pool

I've been having big issues with men at the gym. Men, you and your big bodies are pushing us ladies around, your grunting and staring at me while waiting impatiently for a machine are really annoying.  I'm getting really tired of being physically manipulated by men I don't know.

It's been especially apparent in the pool - sharing swimming lanes with some dudes is oh so annoying. They flail and kick so hard and take up the whole lane with their bodies. They're loud and everywhere all at once. It really aggravates me.

Yesterday I got to the pool as soon as the gym opened, 8AM. After my swim I was headed to the Buddhist Temple for a little Sunday quiet time, so I was in this really quiet mode. Two guys came in, friends or partners, they were chatty, but they hopped right in the pool and started swimming.

One thing I love about swimming is how peaceful it is. I love watching other people swim because it's peaceful. The three of us were so peaceful in our 3-lane pool, we were just swish-swishing away. Cold, quiet Sunday morning.

And this dude comes stomping in. He's already taking up all the space with his stomps and he hasn't even gotten in the pool yet. Of course he settles down in my lane. Of course he does. Share the lane with the woman, because the other dudes are really *swimming*, obviously the woman-lane is for this guy. Dudes can push ladies around, so.

He has no goggles, no cap, no anything. He motions to me from the other side of the pool about which side of the lane he wants. Fine. FINE.

And he starts swimming and this guys is THRASHING. He's thrashing, he's kicking all over, he's doing the freaking backstroke at points, hitting me in the leg, taking up the whole lane with his breaststroke.

And every time he gets to the other side of the pool he stops and waits for what seems like the worst moment and then swims just ahead of me and kicks water in my face. The whole pool is slopping around, it's loud and I have to move against the wall every time this guy goes by.

I get really angry then and I decide to show him a thing or two about women. I start swimming like a fiend. I'LL SHOW HIM. I'm swimming fast and smooth, no rest at the ends, I'm just jamming...

And honestly? Kicking harder and in his face when I go by.

I'm so annoyed this guy has ruined my meditative swimming practice. I'm so annoyed, I'm purposefully making it harder him.  That'll show 'em, should have gotten in the men's lane.

When I'm finished, I take off all my goggles and caps and the guy says "how many did you get in?"

And I'm like, "I don't count laps, I just go for time. 1/2 hour or whatever."

And he says, "I just started swimming and man, every lap is like a mile to me."

And my whole body let go.

He was just starting.

This is a struggle for him.

He was probably too embarrassed to go swim in the lane with the smooth "dudes." No wonder he came into my lane.

Every lap is like a mile to him.

Fucking guy doing his best.

And we chatted and we talked and I opened up and felt awfully about what I had done. And then I realized how nice it is that I cared so much that this guy was just starting - so I didn't beat myself up over it - but MAN OH MAN, you just don't know what is going on with people. He wasn't man-bullying me around - he was trying to fucking learn and get better.

I told him to stick with it.

Then I went to my Buddhist service, sat quietly, thought about him, wished him well and then I saw an old, dear friend I haven't seen in many years and it was just about the greatest morning I've ever had.

There it is.

Friday, January 08, 2016

50 Shades of Whatever the Fuck

About two years ago, after taking a really solid look at myself - I decided something.

I decided to let my natural hair color grow in.

Like most ladies, I have been coloring my hair for FOREVER. I started in college, just for fun and then eventually I noticed gray hairs in the roots and then I started to color it because OH MY GOD I CAN'T LET MY GRAY HAIR GROW and I'm still so YOUNG.

I also color my own hair most of the time too, for reasons:

The time in the salon.

The small talk.

The fact that it takes 2 hours to get my hair colored and cut.

The small talk.

The $$.

The small talk.

And you know when I color my own hair I'm a big spaz right? And there are like, clumps of color in one part of my hair and none in the other and it got so bad, it really did. 

And I thought, once I turned 40.

But at 40, I couldn't let it go.

By 43 or so, my caring so much what I looked like started to fade. My hair was starting to fade. I was getting sick and tired of the television telling me what I should look like (can your hair pass through the head of a pin? NO??!?!?! YOU ARE FLAWED) and I had a friend stylist who told me truths about my hair.

So I started growing it out. I got my hair cut pretty short, then my salon friend put a few highlights in and we started the process.

And it all comes full circle 2 years later, when my sister-in-law asked me in all honesty, who was coloring my hair because it looks awesome?

And I jumped up and hugged her and shook my fancy hair all over her face.

I didn't, but I could have.

And now my hair is my own color, the color it's supposed to be. Now I spend 20$ every 3 months to get a great haircut at Supercuts and they never make me talk to them if I don't want to.
It's long too, past my shoulders, and it's 80,000 colors of blonde and gray and brown and I love it.

I recommend it ladies. There's more to it than just the $$ or the small talk (not really, the small talk is the ultimate victory, but this has to have a moral ending) but I'm not fucking around with that bullshit anymore. Ain't no one telling the Hixx what hair color she should have or that she should put her hair through pins to be a success.

If you're thinking about it? Try it. Just try it.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

It's 10AM on Sunday. I had an 8AM downtown tour (it was AWESOME, they always are, I'm telling you, go on an early morning tour) and I was really surprised how many drunk people there are at 10AM downtown on a Sunday.

It is a holiday weekend, but wow. In just the Metra station, I have seen drunk boys in the Popeye's yelling at middle-aged women (me) passing by. Then in the Starbucks there's this girl...woman...20-something, she's got a breakfast sandwich and a coke and she's in this huge leopard coat and she has copper red dyed hair and lots of eye makeup on and she's taking up space with her energy and she's talking on the phone.

And she has ended up in Chicago, she has no idea how. I can tell she's drunk and she's telling her friend that she ended up here, she doesn't know how, she's drunk and she's getting back on a train to Indiana at 10:45.

We were watching Maury the other day and all these men and women were yelling and screaming and punching and I just find it so hard to believe that people lead lives like this.

My life is so not like this.

And I know I won the lottery, I know I did. I had a nice family and a nice education and nice friends and I have a nice husband and I am absolutely the 1%.

But also, Margaret herself, is a really middle-ground person. I protect myself from "feelings." It's part of the reason I don't want children, that's too much emotion, I'm not interested in that. And sometimes I wonder, sometimes, if my life is boring, or maybe I'm not tasting enough or "loving" enough or experimenting enough or stretching life to it's edges enough...

and then I hear leopard-coat girl saying she ran out of her house because she couldn't take it anymore and got drunk and doesn't even know Chicago and no, there is no one to pick her up at the train station in Indiana once she gets there....

And I'm, not grateful, but aware that lives like that, that much emotion and chaos, do really exist and how aware I am that my life is not like that. And more and more, as I get older of course, it gets less and less like that every day. Boring? Maybe. Safe and sound? Absolutely.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ram Daas Slams It DOWN

Don’t treat yourself so gingerly; you can let go of stuff. Sometimes it takes three breaths instead of two to do it, but you can do it. Be a little tougher and don’t cling to stuff. People go around carrying everybody’s stuff all of the time. I just pick it up and put it down. Pick it up and put it down. That doesn’t mean I’m not compassionate, it doesn’t mean I don’t love people. But holding onto people’s suffering is not compassionate… for them or for you. That’s what is so bizarre about it.