With You

June 14, 2017 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Today I’d like to talk about toxic masculinity. If you’re not familiar, toxic masculinity is a term that describes a whole range of what Wikipedia describes as “socially destructive behavior[s] among men”. In general, toxic masculinity is the idea that the way that we conceptualize masculinity in the U.S. is problematic at best.  It’s harmful to the men who perpetuate these ideas, the women who are treated as less than, and society as a whole.

Stu and I wrote a song about it!

For as long as I can remember, being called a girl was an insult, or at least teasing. Feminine qualities were not desirable, this much was clear. Unfortunately for me, at least as it relates to this conception, is that for as long as I can remember I have had plenty of stereotypical feminine qualities. When I was younger I did my best to suppress things like feeling emotional, crying, and any nurturing instincts I might have. I built walls. When I cried after we lost in the first round of Washington’s football state playoffs my senior year of high school, it was the first time I could remember crying since another kid broke my glasses in third grade. I’m sure I must have teared up at points in the interim, but going nearly a decade without a significant cry doesn’t seem healthy. I did my best to bottle up my emotional side.

I’m so thankful that one thing I did hang on to was my participation in the arts. Theatre is all about tearing down our walls. One of the reasons I wasn’t a better actor was probably because I didn’t do the real work of identifying where my trouble spots were. However, it gave me a line into and contact with people who were putting in the work of self-realization. Music has also helped keep me grounded in a more emotionally inclusive space, because it’s hard not to get emotional when you’re singing – or at least, it’s not hard for me. I’ve always been a person who feels things strongly and deeply. I’ve been fortunate to have things that have connected me to my emotions, even when I pushed back against my feelings.

Over the last several years I came to realize that not crying was the manifestation of some part of me buying into these toxic masculine notions – that crying was somehow a revelation of weakness. That notion is, of course, a bunch of bullshit. So I started practicing crying. At first, nothing happened. I would feel emotional, but I literally could not cry. I would be alone watching a movie, something sad or heartfelt would happen, tears would form behind my eyes, but nothing. It’s like when your sphincter clenches involuntarily. So I would practice letting go. Not holding it all in. Breathing into my emotions, into my feelings, into not hanging on my feelings but letting them come up naturally. Now I cry at everything, and I still kind of get embarrassed! When I say everything, I kind of mean it. I teared up during this trailer for Ferdinand the Bull. I mean, come on, he just wants to be himself. *sniff*

This is a mild example, but these things run deep. Toxic masculinity is correlated with increased rates of depression, stress, and substance abuse. It perpetuates misogyny and homophobia. It says that men have to be one way, when the reality is that men can be anything they want to be. We don’t have to trap ourselves in boxes and expectations.

This brings me to With You. It’s about the lack of intimate relationships that men often have with other men. It’s difficult to be close with someone if you can’t ever reveal your emotions. We have to work to be better, every day, to talk with our friends. Tell them we love them. Not pass on these kinds of toxic worldviews to our children. We have a long way to go, but I know where I can start.

 

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Don’t Need No Trouble…

May 15, 2015 at 2:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

…but sometimes trouble needs me,” goes the opening line of the second track off of The Weepies’ most recent album Sirens. Outside of this album perhaps being their best yet, and the fact that I can’t stop listening to the album (or getting excited about seeing them in June!), this line really resonated with me.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few days about how my life has shifted SO dramatically in the last few years. I graduated from college 4 years ago at 20 years old, burnt out, unsure of what was coming next, with big dreams and a big blank space where the future should be. Sometimes I feel terrified that I am still that kid with big dreams and a big blank space (although now I know it’s where I’ll write your name). In no particular order, though, I look back and see the things I’ve done over that time span: fallen in love, worked in retail, worked a graveyard shift (and stayed up for a personal record of 41 hours), had my heart broken, seen my parents get divorced, struggled as my brother was diagnosed with a serious mental illness, ran my first 10k & Half Marathon, traveled in Asia for 6 weeks, watched the Seahawks win a Super Bowl (and come within a yard of a second), managed 3 political campaigns, helped some wonderful students change their lives, got my car stolen, worked in government, made a host of amazing new friends (honestly, just SO MANY beautiful, wonderful human persons), wrote exactly ONE original song (and it’s not terrible!), done a whole lot of singing, lived at home, lived on my own, and lived at home again. I’ve been accepted into a great university with a full scholarship to a program I feel extremely passionate about. I honestly believe that even though there are days that I struggle mightily, I am in the process of becoming more the person I want to be.

So that is the backdrop that I have to consider when I think about my life, my insecurities, and my fears. I realize more every day about myself – both good and bad. We have to look in the mirror and accept who we are. There are so many parts of me that I truly enjoy, and a few (that of course the mind gives outsize importance to) that are quite discouraging. I want to be more generous, more open, less fearful. I want to have a better body image. I would like to not always feel like I’m the one who has to fix every problem. I want to write more often – to me it’s something quite therapeutic, but the words don’t always come out easily. I also think that in our society there’s a pressure to not be honest, the “facebookization” of the world where we only share the good things in our lives and hide the struggles.

Speaking of struggles, I’ve been trying to get back into running after the long hiatus in Asia. The first week went pretty well – minimal soreness. This week, though, I’ve had awful shin splints and my knees have been giving me a bunch of trouble. It might just be getting over the hump and back into running more consistently, but I’m wondering whether or not it might be because of something that happened in Thailand…

Kyle and I (after one night in Bangkok!) traveled down to Phuket to enjoy the sun, beaches, and to get Kyle a work visa (which is a story for another time). The second day we walked down the road to rent some scooters, because that’s the easiest way to travel around. Of course, yours truly has never ridden a motorcycle or scooter before, and these were much more in the vein of small motorcycle than Vespa. I had expressed some apprehension, but at the end of the day part of this trip was about pulling myself out of my comfort zone so I sucked up my fears (I have nightmares on an infrequent basis about crashing vehicles) and rented a scooter. We saddle up, Kyle starts to ride off, and the friendly guy at the scooter rental place shows me how to work the scooter. He says, “just grab the gas like sOOOOOoooooooo…” and I shot off like a rocket down the road after Kyle, his voice fading into the distance. That was my only lesson in riding. We get to the first intersection (did I mention we’re driving on the OTHER side of the road?) and I of course shoot straight through it, manage to stop on the other side of the road (we needed to take a right), get myself turned around, stop, and then lightly touch the gas, causing me to rocket forward and crash in the center of the the four way stop. The bike was a little scratched, nothing major. My knee was a little banged up, but not badly. I mostly was embarrassed as a bunch of other people stared at me. I picked the bike up and headed after Kyle. The thing about riding a scooter is that the balance is simple if you can ride a bike, and the actual driving is not difficult. However, it seemed that no matter how little I grabbed the gas I was either not moving or FLYING forward. This proved to be a problem after I crashed for a second time that day, smashing off one of the rearview mirrors. I was again more or less unharmed (I hurt myself way worse when my foot hit some coral), but I was worried that there would be no scooter left when we returned it in 3 days. The crashes were a bit painful, but more than that they were incredibly embarrassing. I was getting flustered, and that probably wasn’t an ideal environment to drive in when I wasn’t particularly skilled in the first place. So we returned the scooter, they were totally cool about it (just charged us the cost to replace), and I spent the rest of our time in Phuket right where I probably would have preferred to be in the first place: riding behind Kyle on a single scooter. We had a great time, and Kyle was gracious enough to give me very little shit about it while we were there.

In any case, my knees (the left one in particular) were quite sore for a week or so afterward. I was worried there might be structural damage – I’m pretty sure there isn’t, but running has sucked this past week. Just going to keep running and see what happens!

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