I know How Cersei Feels

N7r29SbI try, on occasion to think about the kind of person for whom Game of Thrones is a deeply personal show. You know, nerdy types who value loyalty to the books above anything else. These are the people who spend hours online arguing because, Brienne was would have never told Podric to leave, and in fact was always quite polite to him! Whatever. In Game of Thrones death and dishonour come swiftly and often. And usually when you least expect it. It gives me The Feels when a character I like (and hope will survive) gets euthanized by George R.R. Martin. Watching my favorite hottie get stabbed in the gut a dozen times makes me feel sad. But watching the bad guy get it makes me feel happy. At least it should.

How long have I waited to see Cersei get what’s coming to her? A really long time. She is an awful human being who deserves everything she gets, and probably more. She likes killing people, torturing them, manipulating them, and fucking her own brother. And, she makes really bad decisions that usually end up biting her in the ass. That’s pretty much all you need to know about her. In the season 5 finale, Cersei is completely humiliated in front of the entire kingdom (stripped naked, hair sliced off with a razor for that I just had a bit of Lice look) and paraded through the town while a woman with a triangle, shouts “SHAME!” every five seconds from over her shoulder. This is the moment fans of the show have been waiting for. I should have been cheering. But I wasn’t. I felt bad for her. Why?

Before watching GoT, I logged on to my blog and found a comment waiting for me. I should know better, but I read it anyway. For every comment I get that is positive, I get eight that are mean. It was someone from Texas. Again. Texans are still raging because of an opinion piece I wrote about living in Austin. Two years ago. And I am still getting RUDE comments from Texans. The comment, which I am paraphrasing, went something like this:

“Alicia. Fuck off and die and go back to CA you dick addicted whore. Cunt. Fuck you, you trust fund, bitch hippie.”

I read the shitty comment and deleted it like I always do. I thought, “Nice try fucker! That’s never going to see the light of day.” And I would have forgotten all about it, like water off a ducks back. But, as I watched Cersei Lannister get what was coming to her, I felt a sense of kinship with her. I realized that folks yell the same things at me… online. The townspeople spat in her face. They called her a whore and a liar and a cunt. They screamed “SLUT!” at her and threw shit in her face. A man jumped in her path, naked, and shook his dick at her while screaming, “You can suck my cock!” Or something to that effect. She walked all the way through the narrow streets, enduring all of it because she had no other choice.

1434336782-cersei-mountain-game-of-thrones-finaleOkay… Ready? Here comes my theory. What you watched on the Game of Thrones season 5 finale was a great metaphor for what it feels like to be a female online. We get shamed. We get called horrific things. And it is humiliating. A woman should be able to go online and write, speak her opinion, without someone commenting on her looks or calling her a whore. Or worse. Every time I log on I am subjected to slander and misogynistic treatment. I’m sure this piece will piss somebody off and it will start all over again. If you are a woman and you choose to write something and post  it online you are agreeing to mistreatment. There is nothing you can do to stop it. Those cowardly assholes hide behind their keyboards and are protected by anonymity. The only protection us ladies have is to ignore them, or be vocal. Ignoring doesn’t solve the problem. They always figure out a way to get through. And being vocal just pisses them off more. Right, Anita Sarkeesian?

We just need a huge Franken-Warrior to protect us. Just like Cersei.

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What I Miss?

bill_cosby_1978025Sorry folks, a lot of life happened to me in November, but I’m back! And after a succesful NaNoWriMo to boot! That’s right, I won for the third time! (out of ten times trying.) NaNoWriMo takes up a lot of time and energy, plus I had my job to worry about, so I just couldn’t blog. But I came out of November with a whole novel! So I can’t complain. I did it! Thanksgiving, a broken tooth, a sprained hand, and some sort of stomach virus are not going to stop me. 

But so much has happened! If these stories had surfaced at any other time, I would have had a lot to say. But as it was, my words were otherwise engaged. So I thought I’d give my two cents on the big stories I missed in the last thirty days. I’m a little rusty,so be kind. It feels good to be back.

  1. Bill Cosby – Ever since women began coming forward accusing The Cos of sexual assault and rape, I have been wondering where his supporters are. Usually when there is some sort of scandal involving a beloved celebrity (Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods) that celebrity has his famous friends coming out of the woodwork to support them. Not so much with Bill Cosby. Raven-Symone has said to please “leave her out of it.” Whoopie Goldberg said on the view she found some of the stories “questionable”, and singer Jill Scott defended him on Twitter. Most stars have tried to dodge the story by saying things like, “How sad if this is true”. Sad? More like infuriating. These women deserve to at least be heard. If these allegations are true, and dollars to donuts they are, then it is infuriating that this man preyed on women for over thirty years and nobody did anything to stop him. He drugged women and then had sex with them, or touched them. Power and privilege can sometimes make a man into a monster. He shouldn’t get special treatment just because he was a great TV dad and comedian. He is an awful person and should be put away. It’s called serial rape. But famous men often get away with brutality and we end up blaming the victim. I think a full investigation should be made, and if Bill Cosby wants to remain relevant and free, then he should start talking. But his silence is so loud that the only option is to believe the 20+ women and their claims of abuse. Sometimes you have to kill your heroes.
  2. Philae’s Wild Comet Landing – Yep, scientists managed to put a lander on a comet. A comet! The thing used harpoons and everything! I half expected to see Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck emerging from it to help save the earth. Okay, so the mission wasn’t to save the earth, but it was pretty freaking dramatic. It touched down thrice and drifted for nearly two hours before resting on the comet. Now the thing is recharging its batteries and hibernating until it gets closer to the sun. I don’t know what it all means, but I do know that it is wicked cool.

  3. Charles Manson getting married – Who the fuck cares.

  4. Fergusondemonstrators-defy-curfew-fergusonUnfortunately when the news came that there would be no indictment I wasn’t the least bit shocked. I lived in LA during the OJ trial and the riots that followed. This doesn’t feel a bit different. Except that OJ was a famous sports and film figure at the time and used those things to help him legally get away with murder. In Ferguson we have a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed kid and got away with it. It should have been cut and dry. I don’t care what the legal evidence was, the police officer should be behind bars, at least for some period of time. There was no question that he did it. Only a question of self-defence. A murder, even if it was an accident or self-defence, should be punished. The fact the officer is a free man today has sparked nationwide riots. Yes, the facts matter. And no, I was not in the courtroom to hear the facts. But, I do believe some sort of punishment was necessary. And we must also take into account that this wasn’t the first time an unarmed black man has been shot for no good reason. And recently! The the powers that be don’t do something fast, a full revolution is on the horizon.

    But I don’t think taking to the streets and reeking havoc is the right answer. It doesn’t solve anything. I’m all for revolution, but looting, robbing and arson are juvenile. Nobody will take you or your cause seriously if you are damaging property. It’s hard to have sympathy for someone when they are setting fire to a pizzeria. I say, take that anger and turn it into something useful. Take action, but in a civil way. Hell, find a lawyer and sue the city of Ferguson for hate crimes. Now that would be something. If we learned anything at all from Do the Right Thing, it is that letting people get really frustrated about unfair treatment never ends well. Espically for the pizzerias in the neighborhood.

And that’s all I got for now. I promise to be a better blogger until November comes a knockin’ again next year. But until then you can always stop by and say hello. I’ll be here.

Books: 13 Badass Babes From Literature

normanrockwell-4When I decided to make a list of kick-ass female characters from literature, I wanted to use only characters from adult fiction. This proved to be more difficult than I thought. It’s fairly easy to find awesome female characters aimed at making young girls believe they can grow up to do or be anything. Katniss, Hermione, Violet Baudelaire – all of them are awesome and smart and feisty. But they are also all teenagers. Every list I found of “The Best Female Characters in Books” was full of YA or children’s characters. Aren’t there any cool female characters who are all grown up? Answering that question proved a little harder than I hoped. It made me angry that every literary female cited was under twenty.

Unfortunately the adult world of literature favors men. MEN have adventures. MEN fight dragons. MEN go to war. And MEN live full lives. Perhaps it’s because girls are encouraged to be active, seek adventure, and be daring. Women are encouraged to make babies and seek a husband. How dull. How sad. But I managed to put together a list of thirteen of the most badass ladies in literature despite the stereotypes. The only criteria: 1. It must be a book that I have read. Personally. 2. Must be a book aimed at adults.

  1. Jo March (Little Women) – Smart, impulsive, argumentative, tomboyish, and hot-tempered. Jo March loves life and wants to participate. Much like the author Louisa May Alcott, Jo was a rebel. She is forced to live a life that doesn’t suit her and soon yearns for more. She is a writer, and her main focus is writing. Not romantic love. Although she does have romance in her life, it isn’t what defines her. I love Jo. My good fellow. 
  2. Jane Eyre9780143106159She’s my favorite character of the Brontë universe. Throughout the novel Jane possesses a sense of self-worth and dignity.  She’s only a mouse, but underneath she is a tiger. Her integrity is tested over the course of the novel, and Jane must learn to balance the frequently conflicting aspects of herself. She’s self-reliant and never expects to be “rescued” from her circumstances. Jane Eyre has always been a hero of mine. A woman trying to find balance between her need for freedom and her yearning for love, and often voicing radical opinions on sex, gender, religion and social class. Bad. Ass.
  3. Elphaba Thropp (Wicked) – Even before this book became a hit musical with songs that annoy karaoke participants to this very day, I was singing its praises. Long before TV and movies got on board with the “new twist on classic tales” idea, Gregory Maguire had it nailed. He created a Wicked Witch of the West that was vulnerable, kind and funny. A true hero. She’s tough, smart, sassy and green. And like the song says, it’s not easy being green.
  4. Marian McAlpin (The Edible Woman) – Margaret Atwood tells the story of a young single woman who works for a market research company. Unable to foresee a fulfilling career, she begins to worry about her future and about what she might become. She soon realizes that her relationship with her boyfriend Peter is more serious than she would like. Yet when Peter proposes marriage, Marian accepts. A story I whole heartedly related to when I read it. Marian has an affair and develops one of the best eating disorders I’ve ever seen in print. A woman, like Emma Bovary in some ways, has to determine her own worth and her place in her own life.
  5. Miss Jane Marple – She’s not what you think of when you think of detective, but she’s one of the best. Long before Jessica Fletcher was out solving crimes, Miss Jane Marple was doing it better. A shrewd observer and a natural genius, Miss Marple proves herself a match for every murder she meets. Sure, I’m more of a Poirot fan, but even I have to give props to Agatha Christie’s tour de force, Miss Marple. A cheerful person who always expects the worst. How can you not love her?
  6. Scarlet O’Hara – A dark-haired, green-eyed, spoiled brat of a beauty takes center stage in this novel of the south. screen-shot-2013-06-29-at-4-32-01-pmShe’s not nice. And that is exactly what I like about her. Scarlet gets shit done. And if you are in her way, good luck to you. She proved to be strong, smart, and even a shrewd business woman who always gets what she wants. She embodies the old and new south, and struggles with those ideas internally. She adapts to what life throws at her and doesn’t just survive. She thrives.
  7. Mildred Pierce – At first glance, Mildred Pierce is a dumb woman who lets people manipulate her. But that’s not all Mildred Pierce is. The story takes place right after the depression in Southern California, and Mildred finds herself needing to work for the first time ever. Her spoiled daughter is embarrassed of her. Her best friend tells her to use her femininity to her advantage, use men for what she can get out of them. But Mildred instead chooses to start her own business, earn her own money and take control of her own life. Bad. Ass.
  8. Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights) – All that we know of Catherine is second-hand, filtered through diaries and memories. 2c0ad9efeee96800985915d822546939She is a literal ghost at the opening of the novel. She is a woman torn between two loves and two worlds – Edgar and Heathcliff. Her choice of husband is the turning point of the novel, and when the nastiness begins. She manages to become a “lady” – a snobby brat who gets her way – but underneath is still that strong, wild woman who wants love and freedom. She’s a ghost for the majority of the novel. That says something about the strength of her character.
  9. Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter) – A is for Adultery. The heroine of The Scarlet Letter is ostracised in 17th-century Boston for giving birth to a daughter out-of-wedlock. This story shines a bright light into the world of suffocating American puritanism that still exists today.  Hester endures shame and scorn for a situation she could hardly control, and a situation she was not alone in. It takes two to tango, ya know. Hester was forced to marry an old man and while waiting for him in to come to Massachusetts, she meets a charismatic minister and has an affair with him. I wonder who gets punished for that one? I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t the minister. Hester is an independent woman, and a free-thinker in a time when none of that was okay to do. If you were a woman.
  10. Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair) – A poor orphan of low birth, Becky Sharp is a born hustler and social climber who manages to raise herself to the upper limits of high society and wealth. Evil doer or misunderstood woman ahead of her time? 20111017071648-vanity_fair_coverThackeray never actually reveals whether she is guilty or innocent of the crimes that cause her reputation’s crash. Sure, she is constantly stealing from her creditors, allowing Rowden’s gambling to disrupt her friendships, and pulling con jobs, but somehow the narrator makes these sound comical rather than evil. I feel like Becky only committed crimes of circumstance or survival. Any woman in her place would do the same thing. Okay, she’s not the best mom in the world, but not every woman wants a child. And I don’t think Becky wanted to be a mother.
  11. Claire Fraser (Outlander series) – She’s a no-nonsense nurse and all around badass. Oh, and she also time travels. Cool, right? I read the Outlander series back in 1992, and I’ve been recommending them ever since. See, she’s married to a guy in the 20th century, but meets an even hotter guy when she is transported back to the 18th century. Claire has a quick tongue, a hot temper and she’s smart. Sure she gets into trouble, but watching her get out of trouble is half the fun. It was the first time I had read a book where a woman was having the adventure, time traveling, and making decisions that changed the course of the story. And history.
  12. Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) – Okay, she might be a sociopath, but given the circumstances of the novel, I feel alright with that. She’s a feisty, world-class computer hacker with a photographic memory, and she’s also the survivor of an abusive childhood. That’s why she’s anti-social. And why she has just a teeny, tiny violent streak. If you fuck with Lisbeth Salander, you better be a fast runner.
  13. Auntie Mame (Auntie Mame) – This is the story of a ten year-old boy who is sent to live with his zany aunt. And before I go any further, I want to state that I think the world needs more zany aunts. 1549471_10152037290632496_1516082930_nAuntie Mame is a worldly, hilarious, irrepressible, adoring, easily distracted, and all around awesome guardian of her little nephew Patrick. Mame’s life is filled with parties, travel, bathtub gin, caviar, Broadway stars and Indian mystics. The perfect environment for raising a well-rounded kid. No. Seriously. Mame believes in trying things, thumbing your nose at convention, taking roads less traveled because they’re bound to be more interesting, and being yourself no matter what the assholes of the world think of you. These are valuable lessons to learn at any age. My life motto is from this book: “Life is a banquet” she says, “and most poor suckers are starving to death.” (The picture here is my vey own first edition of “Around the World with Auntie Mame”)

Let Freedom Ring! (Unless you work for Hobby Lobby)

hobby-lobby-reality-check-Miss-R.EVOLuntionaries-FBI’ve never been a very patriotic person. Sure, I love being back in America, but I am not naive enough to say “It’s the greatest country in the world!” It gives me hives to see families wearing matching American Flag outfits, probably purchased at Old Navy, knowing they were made in Cambodia under sweatshop conditions. We certainly have a knack for celebrating freedom yet not actually believing in it. Woman in America are watching their rights be stripped away. Gays can’t legally get married. (There are 18 countries in which it IS legal, including So. Africa and Uruguay. But not America.) Let freedom ring! Throw on that flag shirt and light up the grill!

And that’s the America that I know and love. It’s the country that boasts the loudest and the proudest. With not much in recent memory to boast about. Let’s see… in 2014 we were number one in divorce rates, 23% of us can’t read, we are number one in defense spending, we make about the same amount of money as folks in Ireland, and we die just like everybody else does. And don’t get me started on maternity leave. We are not special, and we certainly are not the greatest country in the world. We just shout louder. We belittle those who disagree with us. We shun and disgrace the poor. We are pompous and arrogant. We don’t care about gays. Or women.

It’s hard for me to want to celebrate The Fourth of July when just last week the Supreme Court declared (in a 5-4 ruling) that for-profit companies can use religious objections to avoid paying for contraception coverage required under Obamacare. Hobby Lobby is a corporation. Corporations get certain benefits that people, actual human beings don’t: protection from criminal charges, tax breaks, etc. If Hobby Lobby would like to be a PERSON with religious beliefs, then Hobby Lobby should not get the protection of a corporation. It’s a case of you can’t have it both ways.

First off, The Hobby Lobby claims to be a christian company with conservative beliefs when at the same time they sell products made in China. This is straight up hypocrisy. The companies that HL deals with in China that have a reputation for labor rights violations and rock-bottom wages. Employees often end up working ridiculous hours in conditions you would never even dream of working under. They will never earn enough money to escape the cycle. Not to mention China’s dark ages, one child policy. This policy leads to the arrest of women and forced abortions. Not very Christian. Yet HL turns a blind eye to this.

tumblr_n816mzyt111r83d7lo1_500HL also invests in companies that make the morning after pill. This from a company who claims to operate in a manner “consistent with Biblical principles”. Whatever that means. Hell, Hobby Lobby cited their religion as defense to explain why they don’t sell Hanukkah decorations. But I digress. Hobby Lobby’s founders have made it clear that any abortion and certain contraceptives are unacceptable in their eyes. Yet HL invests in numerous companies that manufacture birth control (like Mirena and ParaGard). Can all companies claim religious beliefs as reason to deny coverage of other health care needs like blood transfusions, vaccines, or organ transplants? No. According to the decision, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, it’s really just about preventing women from accessing certain health care coverage.

‘Merica! ‘Merica! ‘Merica!

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote a descent and it is well worth the read. She says it better than I ever could. This ruling will impact millions of American women who don’t share their employers beliefs. This ruling tells me that some beliefs are more important than others and that men are still deciding what women can and cannot do with their own bodies. Some women take birth control to help them with blood pressure or acne. Some women need that medication. And you know what? It isn’t anyones business why they need it. Nobody is going through Sam Alito’s medicine cabinet deciding which medications HE should or should not be allowed to use. “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,”Ginsberg said. And she’s correct.

So have a happy Fourth of July. Enjoy your grilled hot dogs and potato chips. Enjoy the freedom’s that this country decided you could have, but remember all of us who don’t get the same consideration. We still live here too.

Zen Habits: Work/Life Balance

WorkLifeBalance3Yesterday at work I read a passage in a book I was returning to the shelves of the Business section. I tend to glance at the titles in this section or roll my eyes as I flip through the pages. For me, most of what is in Business books is just common sense. They try to market to specific types of people (Type A anyone?) by claiming to have the answer to all of your important questions. It is not unlike the Diet book business. Each new book claims to have the right answer for losing weight, but you’ll only have the answer if you read the book. I’ll save you some money – eat right, eat smaller and exercise. No book necessary. The same goes for business. If you need to read a chapter explaining how to return emails (to your boss, coworker, team…) then you are kind of dumb. But there are plenty of people who think I’m dumb, so I guess we’re even.

The book I glanced at was by a young (twenty-seven years old) entrepreneur who claimed to have the keys to success for todays ever-changing world. Or something like that. She knows what she’s talking about. You can tell from the smart yet chic suit she wears on the cover. She’s also standing outside on a corner like she’s going to hail a cab. I guess thats supposed to let us know she’s a Big City Business Woman and we can trust her. Anyway, I opened to a page about work/life balance. Or rather how the idea of such a thing is a figment of your imagination. Like the Easter bunny. Okay she didn’t make that analogy but she should have. She writes that her generation strives for work life integration. To not work an eight-hour day and then go home and forget about it. She says that work and life are the same. The. Same.

I threw up a little in my mouth. But I kept reading.

She contends that for women, the balance of a home life and a work life doesn’t exist. Something has to give. Women cannot balance a successful career and be a wife and or mother, girlfriend, whatever… without giving up something, or saying “No” to opportunities. Um… No shit! Who says “Yes!” to everything? I guess realizing that at age twenty-seven is alright, but did you need to devote a chapter in your book to it? The trick is saying yes to the right things for you and your priorities. If your priorities are career driven, then say yes to things that will help your career. If your priorities are family, travel or whatever else, then say yes to the things that help that vision. Taking short cuts isn’t the answer.

woman-entrepreneurThe lady entrepreneur continues to write about how she has integrated her work life with her life life by getting  a nanny, ordering groceries on-line and having them delivered, and hiring someone to walk her dog for her. I put the book down. That is not achieving balance. That isn’t even integrating. That’s just delegating. Nice try. But I ain’t buyin’ it.

Success and fulfillment are different for everyone. Many people gauge their success by how well they get paid, their title at work, or their position. Others by how their life looks from the outside. Do you have the right things? If you have the right things people will think you are successful. It seems to me that the author of that book thinks this way. Money, fame and power are what matters. What people think matters. You can claim to have it together, but when you are living your life by proxy, I don’t believe you. Bringing your work home with you is fine if you are single and live alone, but it’s just cruel if you live with other people. Or cats. Nobody wants to be around the person who is constantly checking their iphone, constantly talking about work, or is obviously not present when you try to have a non work related conversation.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Neither failure or success has the power to change your inner state of being.” The most successful people I know do not look at failure as failure and success as success. They do not let outcomes change their state of beingYou can see if goals are being accomplished or not, but that shouldn’t have any effect on your inner state. Telling women to delegate their lives away isn’t the answer. We should make time to walk the dog or pick the kids up from school. We should be capable and willing to buy food for ourselves in a store or market. When we disconnect from our lives to the extent that we buy our food from a touch screen and have it left on our doorstep we’ve gone too far. When the nanny picks up the kids from school, feeds them dinner and you simply kiss them good night, you’ve gone too far. Perhaps we need to look at our priorities a little.

For me, being happy at work and at home meant changing my perception of the world around me. There was no other answer. The truly successful, whether a CEO, a lawyer, a bookseller, or a stay at home mom, are the people who create a life full of joy and accomplishment. These people are not controlled by environment or opinion. Truly successful people are self-reliant, they know where they are going in life.  Even if outward appearances do not agree. They choose where to focus their energy and their thoughts. Tolle also says that pleasure is something you get from the outside and joy comes from within. I think success is finding joy. Who cares what you do for a living if you’ve discovered joy within yourself? I try to remember every day, that looking for happiness is the antithesis of happiness. It helps. And it makes me happy.

Being a Woman Isn’t A Competition

Apply-Make-upThis morning I read an article over at HuffPo called “I Can’t Wait Not to Be Sexy Anymore” by Anastasia Basil. I kind of knew what I was getting into when I read the title, but I guess I just wanted to be annoyed this morning. It starts out like this:

“I’m EXHAUSTED. I’ve been tweezing, shaving, moisturizing, defrizzing, flat-ironing, bikini-waxing, hair-dyeing, gym-joining (notice I said gym-joining, not gym-going?) exfoliating and manicuring since 8th grade, all while sleeping on a silk pillowcase to reduce wrinkles. I’m ready to grow a beard and just RELAX.”

I absolutely hate this kind of thinking. All of these things are optional, right? So do them or not, but shut up about it. And I’m sorry, but none of those things are exactly exhausting. First world problems. She goes on:

“There comes a time in every woman’s life when she has to stop competing with sorority girls, simply because there aren’t enough hours in a day to wax all the hair from a perimenopausal body AND hit up three different Dollar Stores in search of matching birthday party favors.”

For reals? First off, the author gets the entire concept of being a woman wrong. If you are competing with other women, you are just adding to the problem. I am myself, and myself is pretty awesome. I don’t need to compete with other women, and I certainly don’t compete with college co-eds. They are like little lost deer in skimpy outfits. In fact, I met a sorority girl just the other night at karaoke. She thought I was “so cool” and had “amazing hair”. She was correct on both counts, and I thanked her for it. She wanted my number so we could hang out. But she was wasted and I don’t have a phone. The point is that I’m a smart, capable woman and she saw that. Younger women are not the enemy. They are just younger. It isn’t personal.

If a grown ass woman and mother feels threatened by the supposed sexiness of a sorority girl, then she has bigger problems than her time management. The problem isn’t the sexiness of other women, the problem is YOU deciding to compete in the first place. Women shouldn’t compete with other women. We should support each other. I’m not saying you have to get along with every woman you meet, but you don’t have to look at them as a threat either. What a waste of time.

“When I’m getting dressed in the morning, I think: My boobs had their day in the sun. They turned heads, they nursed babies and there was a time when they did not require a harness that would fit a dairy cow… Helloooo strappy, push-up bra with moisture-wicking foam support pads and matching cheekini tummy-tucker.”

I absolutely cannot stand the whole self-effacing Mom thing. Stop making excuses for giving up. And stop complaining about being out of shape and not doing anything about it. If someone else had compared this woman to a cow, I bet she’d be pretty pissed. But she does it and it’s supposed to be funny? It isn’t. It’s sad and super unfunny. If you feel the need to wear Lycra and spandex every time you go out of the house, don’t blame me. Or your kids. Or your husband. Or all of the other women in the world who are younger than you. You don’t have to be uncomfortable. There is no law stating that you must have perky boobs and a flat tummy in order to go on a date. And for god sake, please stop telling the world about it. No one even noticed the way you looked until you pointed it out and gave them a map of your (supposed) flaws.

Old age, I give you my face to wrinkle and my body to sag. If that’s the currency required to watch my kids grow and to continue shopping for holiday-themed shirts, then I’m truly happy to part with the time-sucking struggle for ever-lasting youth.”

Everlasting youth? Currency required? Let me fill you in on a couple of things, lady. First, you could have parted with the “time-sucking struggle” at any moment in your forty years on the planet. There was no one holding a gun to your head, forcing you to pluck your eyebrows and shave your legs. There was no villain behind the scenes pressuring you to get a gym membership then restraining you so that you could never go. It was all your own doing. All your choice.

And for me that what it all comes down to – a choice. You can choose to play the game or not. It’s up to you. There are always going to be younger women than you, no matter how old or young you are. Be their friend, not their competition. Be their mentor, not their mother. Be the example, not the side show.

Weddings are Bullshit

ew03-laurie-1Weddings are expensive. Depending on where you live in the US, getting married will cost you between $10,000 – $30,000. That’s not including the dress. That is quite a lot of money to spend on a one day party for yourself. How expensive your wedding is depends on a lot of variables – venue, food, drinks, invitations, the amount of people coming, DJ, rings, limo, flowers, and of course how totally out of control the Bride to Be and her mother are. None of these things are exactly necessary. The wedding “business” is booming because young, American women insist on spending all of their money (or more likely their parents money) on a party they insist will be “the best day of their life”.

Just look at Pinterest and you’ll see board after board of Wedding Porn. Some it from women who are not yet engaged. There are a ton of TV shows dedicated to  weddings and wedding planning – “Say Yes to the Dress”, “Four Weddings”, and my personal favorite “Bridezilla”. That’s right, a show about woman allowed to act like a bitch all because she’s getting married. The groom is usually cowering in a bar someplace wondering what the next three decades are going to be like. Somewhere along the way weddings stopped being about the couple and started being about The Bride, and her special day.

Dress - Price upon request

Dress – Price upon request

The social pressure to get married have an “amazing wedding” is part of it. Aside from Pintrest, film, and TV – you have Facebook. Last week I saw at least a dozen Instagram pictures of weddings and receptions all in fantastic locations. One set of photos had the most unhappy looking couple I have ever seen. The bride couldn’t hold a smile if it was stapled to her face. The groom just looked blissfully unaware of how completely unhappy his bride was. But it was in a beautiful setting. I guess that’s all that matters.

Young women today are focused on The Wedding and not The Marriage. Marriage isn’t one big party. Marriage is a commitment – financially and legally. Does it make any sense to spend 10,000 dollars on a one day party and a week long holiday in Hawaii only to take out a loan for a place to live? No. No it doesn’t. Women in Prague rent wedding dresses. Whenever I told Czech women how much American women spend on their wedding it only confirmed their belief that all Americans are crazy and rich. When I told them most of that money is put on credit cards they just laughed. “Who would be that stupid?” Who indeed.

Marriage is a legal and financial commitment. Marriage takes compromise, respect, a sense of humor, the ability to accept that you are not always right, and honesty. No matter how many people come to see you get drunk in a $2,000 gown, after the glitter fades it will be just you and your new spouse. I sure hope you don’t start your new lives together in debt because you wanted to have a special day. My advice? Save that money for travel or a home. Spend that money on something for your future together. Spend that money on something both of you really want or need. Because let’s face it – the wedding day is just for the Bride. And that’s ain’t fair.

Why I quit Facebook

super-hero-facebook-likes1I quit Facebook yesterday. I came home from work and deleted my account. Someone posted something stupid and it made me mad. It made me mad all day. It made me mad all day until I realized I had a choice. I’d let someone who I hardly know infuriate me. I gave someone who isn’t a part of my life, power in my life. No more. I’ve been threatening to do it for a while now, but I just couldn’t commit. I had justification – My blog is connected to Facebook. Being a writer was a great excuse for “needing” a Facebook account. It is easy, free and convenient. But that is just an excuse. This blog has a few hundred followers outside of Facebook. If someone misses me, they know where to find me.

My FB lifestyle was not jiving with my personal beliefs, and who I am in “real life”. I am tired of holding my tongue and I am tired of getting upset. I shouldn’t have to delete “friends” because they use sexist language, are idiots, or I haven’t seen/spoken to them in years. What a pain in the ass. I realized that it is far easier to just remove myself from the equation all together. I am tired of being attached to Facebook and I am tired of looking at pictures of your dog, your kids, your lunch and your neighbors pet chicken. I don’t care what you are listening to. I have no need or desire to play Farmville with you, nor do I give any shits at all about where you have checked in. Your score on Bedazzled doesn’t interest anyone and thank you so much for posting the score of Jimmy’s soccer game. I was totally losing sleep over it.

Two days in and I must say, I feel lighter. I have so many better things to do with my time. I thought I would feel uneasy or nervous, but I don’t. I feel relief. And I don’t suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) so I should be alright. FOMO is the #1 reason people keep their FB accounts while posting about how much they hate Facebook. How often do you check your FB? I bet it is at least in the double digits. Every single glance at all the badass things your friends (and enemies, let’s be honest) are doing just fuels the fire. You start wondering why you aren’t doing badass stuff like climbing mountains, getting married, or getting wasted with a group of Russian tourists.

Start playing the comparison game and you’ll lose every time. That’s how the game works. It starts innocently enough… maybe just a little filter on that picture of your hamburger to make it look brighter. Then, maybe  a second filter to show each and every seed on the bun. By the time you are finished, your photo looks nothing like that thing you ate which gave you indigestion. The only way to win is not to play at all. It’s a losing game. Everybody will always be thinner than you on Facebook. They will be smarter than you. Their Angry Bird score will be better than yours. Their friends will always be hipper than your friends. Their Instagram account will have cooler shots than yours. They will get married before you. Their kids will have cooler names than yours. Their dog will be cuter than your dog. Their cat will be more popular on Youtube than your cat.

You will always lose at Facebook.

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Crawdads (Austin, TX) Alicia Brooks photo

But it doesn’t matter because it’s all a lie. All of it. Take my profile for example. Just recently I posted this picture. Looks incredible, right? Well, here is what I didn’t tell you. That picture was taken at the world’s most boring party. The food you see was not seasoned – at all – until it was thrown in the bowl. Then about six different people took turns salting it. The conversation  was about as exciting as the food. The highlight of the party seemed to be when the host dared a guest to let a crawdad latch onto his nipple… for $5. I kid you not. But, I knew that I could take a very cool picture of the food and nobody needed to know the rest. Facebook is a facilitator of lies.

Everyday we are presented with an endless montage of small excitements disguised as every day activities. We judge ourselves against the carefully cultivated and created profiles that people present as truth. That is absurd behavior. Facebook is the ghost in the machine. It works on your behalf when you are not there. It actively distorts us to our friends, and worse yet to users whom we have never met. Facebook is exploitive and unnecessary. It makes us yearn for approval in the form of “likes”, the more the better. As a writer I began to see my worth in the amount of likes or views a piece got. How backwards is that?

So, I guess I quit in pursuit of happiness. Facebook was affecting my moods and my life so I am taking a sabbatical. How can I attempt to live a minimalist life with the clutter of Facebook in my… face? It might be a week, it might be a month, it might be longer. I don’t know. All I know is that when and if I decide to go back, it will be with a new outlook on the tool. And it is a tool. Just more for the folks at Facebook than for you. I’m not here preaching for you to quit social media sites. Do what you will. I’m here saying take a look at what you post, how often, and how often you are posting. Be aware and maybe take a day off and see how you feel. I feel like I just sprouted wings.

Paleo is Just Bad Science

Renegade-Diet-Review-Paleo-ProtocolsIf one more person at work asks me if I am “On Paleo” I might scream. No, its not a drug, it is the newest Fad Diet. And everyone know that Fad Diets come with groupies. This diet is not different than the others in that it tells you that restricting certain foods will make you lose weight. No shit, Sherlock.

The Paleo diet maintains that healthiest way to eat is to avoid the ground grain products that were unavailable to our cave man ancestors. People all over the world are changing the way they eat because some dude name Dr. Loren Cordain. PhD, of course. I think he’s a total nut who is selling folks a bill of goods.

Author Laura Miller agrees with me. At least about the diet. She states that thinking the human species hasn’t evolved in billions of years is just plain silly. Humans (and animals) have been evolving and changing for a really long time. She also points out that many species evolve quite quickly (humans being one of them) so basing a diet on “science” of evolution doesn’t hold water. Think about it. Humans have been grinding grains for close to 40,000 years – that’s a really long time to not get used to something. There are a great deal of foods that are included on the Paleo Diet that were NOT around in the hunter gatherer time. Foods such as the Brussel Sprout are only a few hundred years old. They were first written about in 1587, around the time Mary Queen of Scots was executed. That’s a far cry from hunter gather time.

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Of course, people claim that the diet “works”. Yeah, maybe it does, but that doesn’t mean it is good for you. Bulimia “works” too, but I’m steering clear of that as well. The reason the “diet” works is because you are severely limiting your calorie intake. Anytime you put restraints on what you consume, you will lose weight. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that. Wanna lose weight and keep it off? Exercise  30 minutes 5x a week, and watch your calorie & sugar intake. Easy.

The Paleo concept is an idea with very little basis in fact. It’s a gimmick to get you to buy the book. If you follow his plan you’re cutting out low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt (calcium), lentils and black beans (some of the healthiest stuff around), whole-grain carbs and heart-healthy oils. Sure, our bodies weren’t originally designed to eat these foods, but we (and every other species that is still in existence) have evolved since then.

e76f12b58f27ebddca23ef9e2c51e9f9If you feel the need to lose weight, you don’t need to follow a diet that restricts carbs, or limits grains and legumes (both of which are healthy for humans to consume).  Here is my easy 5 Point Plan for weight-loss.

  • Decide that you are ready to make permanent changes in your life. Yep, life. Loosing weight should be about changing the habits that led you to lose weight in the first place. It’s not about “giving up” foods of any kind. If you think you are not ready to stop eating ice-cream out of the container, then you are not ready. You need to be in a head space of moving forward and of positive change.
  • Once you have decided that you are serious you may begin to make small changes. When I dropped a significant amount of weight I made 1 positive change per week until I got in the habit of just knowing how to make good choices. For example, the first week I cut out all soda. I switched to fizzy water with fruit. Next week I walked for at least 30 minutes daily. You get the picture. You don’t have to make yourself crazy, or into a cave person to see results.
  • Portion control. Do it. Food served and prepared in the states is so big, it could be used as two (sometimes three!) different meals. Eww. If you ordered fries, don’t eat them all. If you want dessert, share it with a buddy. If the plate is as big as your head, then don’t eat everything on it. At home, get smaller plates so you feel like you are eating more.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise! In order to loose weight you must burn more calories than you consume. It’s that simple. If you are not exercising you probably won’t lose much weight. You also need to lift weights, or do some sort of resistance training. Remember, there is no such thing as “spot reduction” so stop running the treadmill for an hour, doing crunches and walking out the door. You need to work your whole body.
  • Eat enough calories. I see women all of the time who think that by starving themselves they will loose weight. Yeah, you might. But you’ll also be loosing lean muscle mass, which is want you want to keep. Diets that severely restricts caloric intake result in loss of lean body weight as opposed to fat weight. This can result in a person who isn’t overweight, but has a high body fat composition. Not my idea of healthy. Just be mindful of what you eat, when you eat it and how you feel about it. Keep a food journal if it helps. I used an online food tracker at myfittnesspal.com to help me see my bad eating habits and take the necessary steps to 86 ’em.

I hope you enjoyed this little rant. And I hope that maybe you’ll do a little research of your own, if you are so inclined. The idea is balance, not restriction – with food and the rest of life.

And, in case you are wondering – I do know what I am talking about. I am studying to be a personal trainer which means I have read tons and tons of material about the human body and what it needs to perform, what it needs to drop weight, and what it takes to keep it in good condition. 

Top Video Vixens of the 80’s

I came up in the 80’s. I saw The Goonies first run, I remember the crazy madness that was Cabbage Patch Dolls, and I was there for the birth of MTV. I remember when it actually played videos! MTV in the 1980s was uncharted territory. Here was a channel that was taking the late night video craze and doing it 24/7. They had new faces hosting new shows. These folks became household names over night (Downtown Julie Brown still gives me nightmares) and launched what is now a multi million dollar corporation. It was awesome. It was pure entertainment without pretension. The V-Jays didn’t know what they were doing and the artists making the videos didn’t either. It was a perfect storm of an adventurous spirit and just not giving a fuck. Before The Hipsters ruined music with their irony, we had videos that were just plain weird. Or funny. I miss that. But I digress.

The 80’s era MTV Video gave us the Video Vixen. This was what super models did before there were super models. We knew their names and which rocker they were rumored to have been seen with at The Viper Room. It was a simple equation: A hot girl + a fast car + awesome song = a totally awesome 80’s video. Their job was an easy one: Look Hot. Mission accomplished.Yes it is sexist, and no it didn’t ruin my life. Get over it.

  1. Tawny Kitaen – (Whitesnake “Here I Go Again” 1987) It’s hard to have sexier hair than David Coverdale, but Tawny Kitaen managed to do it. Maybe it was the rolling around, in and on top of cars that gave her hair that extra special 80’s bounce. Or maybe it was the fact that she was doing it in lingerie. 
  2. “The ZZ Top Girls” Jeana Tomasino, Kymberly Herrin & Danièle Arnaud – (ZZ Top “Legs” 1984) I think I can trace my love for shopping montages directly back to this video. I had more than a few fantasies of being picked up in the “Eliminator” and going on a grand shopping/make-over excursion with my three new best girl friends. Complete with Bobbie socks and stilettos. zz_top_legs_official_music_video
  3. Lillian Muller – (Van Halen “Hot For Teacher” 1984) – Not only was this lady unbelievably hot in a blue string bikini, she was in her thirties when she did it. That’s kick ass. And, this is one of the all time great videos of ever. David Lee Roth is sexy and fun and funny. And Eddie Van Halen shreds that guitar. I always looked forward to the new Van Halen videos. 
  4. Christie Brinkley – (Billy Joel “Uptown Girl” 1983) Hot and classy. That was Christie Brinkley. In a video that proves white people can’t dance, Christie shows up and makes you feel like anything is possible. A schlub like me can get a swimsuit model! All I have to do is write her a song. And they lived happily ever after. Until they didn’t. 
  5. Pat Benatar – (Pat Benatar “Love is a Battlefield 1984) Yup. I went a different route with this one. I could have gone with the chick on the boat in Rio, but I decided it would be more fun to go with a sexy video babe who also happens to be the singer of the song. Looking sexy with a gaggle of sexy dancers behind her proves Pat Benatar is more than just decoration. 
  6. BONUS! The Palmer Girls – (Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love” & “Simply irresistable”) How could I forget these sexy, multi talented set of lady parts? I recently dressed as a “Palmer Girl” for an 80’s party in Prague. It’s a look that launched an era of severe make-up, tight dresses and high heels.