Phil is retiring from the Air Force next year. Actually, early 2018, but with terminal leave and processing and all of that, we’ll actually be out of here at the end of 2017.
When we still lived in Phoenix and it looked like we were going to be there forever, we really didn’t question the fact that that’s where we’d stay. I didn’t care for it when I first arrived seven years ago, but it really grew on me. Desert living is the life for me, for real. I liked the weather, I liked the town we lived in, I liked the church I went to. I really didn’t like New Mexico, and continue to not like it. A lot of that may be a function of the fact that this base is literally nowhere – there’s a very small town 15 minutes away, and then it’s one hour to Las Cruces one way and an hour and a half to El Paso the other way and nothing at all in between. We have to travel for doctor’s appointments and swimming lessons, and this place has really just not grown on me at all. When we got here, we weren’t sure when he’d be getting out or if we’d have one more PCS before he was done, but it was pretty much understood we’d go back to Phoenix when it was over.
Once we knew that he’s going to finish out his 20 years of service and get out, it became a little less clear. We could really go anywhere we want, provided he can find a job. We’d also like to live near a base and VA medical services, just for ease of life. We’ll still have commissary shopping privileges and the same medical insurance, so that just makes sense for us. But that really does leave the whole country open, for the most part. We made a short list. Phil didn’t have a lot of preferences and I hated all his preferences (I do not want to live in California or the Pacific Northwest, I just don’t), so we came up with a short list: Phoenix, Denver, and Dallas. We were working from those. The main consideration was living somewhere where we – or at least I, because Phil is a bit of a hermit – know some people. Life got really stressful over the last six months or so and moving somewhere without some kind of support network, even just a few friends scattered around, wasn’t going to work for us. So those three cities were our short list.
To be honest, I was set on Dallas. I’ve got friends there, there are good churches there, and Kpop concerts come through there on the regular. Those are all equally valid reasons, every last one of them.
Last week, I posted an article on my cousin’s Facebook wall, something about public school, I can’t actually remember the exact topic at this time but at the moment it was really stressing me out. I posted it with a comment to the effect of, if we ever move back to Pennsylvania – and you should know, Pennsylvania is where my entire family lives, all of them, every list single person I am related to in the entire world lives within about 40 minutes of each other in North Eastern PA – I will home school Penny and my cousin’s daughter, Candy together and use my spare time to make them into a pop duo sensation. They’re only six weeks apart in age, and come on. Penny and Candy. They’d be a massive success.
To my surprise, though I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I know her, my cousin loved the idea and said she wished it could happen. And suddenly… it was a viable plan. Phil and I have always toyed with the idea of homeschooling Penny, but I work now and she really likes other kids, and for various reasons, it just didn’t seem like it was going to work for us and we were fine with that, because, you know, we think public school is just fine, too. Candy’s mom is a single mother and apparently has always wished she could homeschool Candy, but she works, of course, so it just wasn’t going to work out for her either.
But very quickly, we all thought about this, and suddenly decided, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to go back to PA where everyone lives and I’ll homeschool the girls together. I’m kind of conflicted about the homeschooling thing and I keep gut checking myself on it. Do I want to do this because I’m overprotective and want to protect Penny from SCHOOL DANGERS!! and bullying and other things? Do I want to do this because I think she’s a special snowflake who deserves or needs BETTER than what other kids are getting in public school? Those were things I thought about a lot before we came up with this plan, and I would be lying to say those things didn’t factor in a LITTLE, but not that much – because, like I said, we’d be fine, really, sending her to public school, and are going to, actually, for kindergarten and the first half of first grade.
It’s not really that I think she’s in grave danger going to public school, or that she wouldn’t get an adequate education in public school, or she would somehow suffer greatly if she went. I did absolutely fine in public school. So did my cousin. Obviously, that’s not always the case for every kid, but neither of us have any personal evidence or memories for why public school is NO GOOD.
I don’t think Penny is a special snowflake who needs more attention or unique teaching or anything like that. When I really sit and think about it, I think that if all parents could do something to put their child in a smaller class, with interest-directed learning that was engaging, on topics that interested them, with the ability to delve more into things that grabbed their interest, with less focus on statewide testing, more time to play, the ability to move at a pace that worked for the kid and not the whole class of varied learning styles, wouldn’t they? If a parent could place their child in an environment like that, if it was available to everyone, wouldn’t everyone do it? Or most people, at least. But in reality, it’s not practical or possible for most people. It’s like cloth diapering, I think – you could do it and it would probably be good, but it is just not something most families are set up to be able to spend their time and money on, for a whole lot of completely valid reasons.
But this opportunity came up, and I can do it. I realize what an incredible luxury and privilege it is to be able to do it. The benefits of moving back to a state I hate and potential benefits of teaching Penny at home with her cousin have outweighed every other option we had on our list. We’ll feel less guilty about her not having a sibling, for one. She’ll be around all of her family who are head over heels nuts for her, for two. And three, no small thing, she’ll get to get her education at home in a way that works for her.
I’m not going to whip out statistics about how homeschooled children perform and socialize and all of that because I don’t really feel like I need to defend the decision – some people are going to think it’s ridiculous, some people are going to wish they could do the same, and some people already are doing the same, and that covers all the people. I’m not going to be changing anyone’s mind on anything. I’m not trying to. I’m just, you know, putting this update out there. On my blog. Like you do.
I think one of the biggest things for us in all of this, right now at least, is having a plan. Getting out of the military after 20 years is intimidating. We had our short list of cities, yes, but really no idea what our lives were going to look like in 2018. We made the list of potential cities and then stalled. Having a plan, an actual real workable plan that we’re all on board with, has kind of spurred us into action. We have something we’re working toward, and it looks good to us. Life after the Air Force is actually going to happen, and this is how it’s going to happen.
Anyway. That’s it. Going back to the east coast like I was certain I never, ever would. Coming for you in 2018, NEPA.
So I think I have a serious case of imposter syndrome. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, but I can’t be arsed to go look because I’m not impostering someone who makes efforts with her blog. I’m not even going to pretend on that front, sorry.
Anyway, I find myself doing things with the motivation of making people think I’m the kind of person who will do those things. Like at work. We have had a lot of turnover recently. Actually, turnover would imply that spaces have been filled with new people, but not so much. We’ve just had turn, I guess. A little lacking on the over part.
So I get called pretty regularly to come in to work to fill in for someone who called off or who quit or otherwise just isn’t there for who knows what reason. Our roster is pretty thin, so in a lot of cases I know if I say no, someone is going to be working all alone, or trying to get through the peak time with too few people. And logically I know that’s not my problem. A lot of times when I get called, the idea that if I say no, they’re going to be kind of screwed pops into my head, and I feel obligated to go, or else it will be my fault that they’re understaffed. But it really wouldn’t be. I only get one – or two, nonconsecutive – days off per week, and there’s NOTHING wrong with me having plans on those days, even if they’re just plans to sit at home and do nothing, which, to be honest, they usually are. And that the person calling me is just doing his job of trying to fill in the holes in the schedule, and if I say no, it’s his job to continue trying to fill it in or make do without. Still, though. Guilt.
More often than not, I do say yes. Sometimes it’s because, like last night, the person calling me SOUNDS SO SAD facing a night of working himself and having to close up himself. And in that case, I knew it would be the second day in a row he’d be in that position, because I was working in another location on Saturday and he came in there to tell me they had a call off, and could I… ? But I couldn’t, because I’m limited on how many hours a day I can work and I was already bumping against it, and even if I did stay to help out, I couldn’t close, so. Anyway, you don’t care about all of this. So I did go in last night when they called because of reasons.
Other times, though, when I have gotten a call at five fucking forty five in the morning asking me to come in and cover the coffee shop for the day, I have hauled up out of bed and been there within 15 minutes, and it’s because I want the people I work with and the manager to think I’m the type of person who would do that kind of thing. That I’m an employee they can depend on to help out, etc. So they call and I think, if I go in, they will think I am a good employee. And I go, and I think I have them fooled into thinking I’m a good employee.
But by going in at all, aren’t I a good employee that they can depend on? I think of all the times I’ve been called in in the three months I’ve been employed, I turned them down maybe two or three times. Actually, one time I had to turn them down twice in one day, because both shops needed coverage and the manager insisted I be called again, just to see. That was a rough day on my guilt-feelings, because I couldn’t go. But I almost always go. The calls have even begun to start with, “Hi, I am so sorry to do this to you… ” because while they try to schedule me at least two days off a week – which is tough because I work in two shops with different schedules – they know that with the number of times I get called in, I rarely get those two days. Sometimes one. Occasionally none. If they end up calling me in so that I work a lot of days in a row, they do try to juggle other people around to cover my shift on another day so I can get a day off and I do appreciate that.
When they call, I usually go, and I think that they will think I am a responsible and helpful and dependable person to have me around, and maybe they do think that. I think they think that. My manager makes an effort to regularly tell me how much she appreciates me, and honestly, why don’t more bosses do that more often? It has to be the cheapest, easiest, least efforty way to boost employee morale. But at the same time that I am coming in and helping them out and making them appreciate me, I still feel like I’m tricking them.
“Ha ha ha, you think you can depend on me because I always come when you call. I’ve totally pulled the sheep over your eyes, you suckers.”
EXCEPT, by coming in when they call, aren’t I that type of person? Not tricking them into thinking it, but actually just the kind of person who will come in to help out whenever I can? They seem to believe it, so why don’t I? By taking all the actions a good, dependable employee would take, doesn’t that by default make me a good and dependable employee? Somehow I don’t think so. And it’s not like I have some secret non-dependable, crappy employee habits. I come in and do my work and I do it right so everyone will think I am the kind of person who will come in and work hard and do things right and can be trusted on all those fronts. What I don’t understand is why I am doing all this so they will think it, as if it’s not actually true.
It must be true, right? If I’m doing all the things, regardless of my weird motivation, I am that type of person. So where is the mental disconnect here? I do things for my friends so they will think I am nice and a good friend. I do things at work so my coworkers and managers will think I’m a valuable employee and pleasant to work with. So why do I think I’m doing all these things to convince other people, rather than just knowing these things about myself and accepting them?
I don’t really have a conclusion, as usual. Just throwing it out there so you can tell me all the ways you act toward other people so they will think something about you that you apparently don’t believe of yourself, but must actually be true, right?
HELP ME OUT HERE.
Do you know that book, the Five Love Languages or whatever it’s called? (It’s called The Five Love Languages, I just looked it up.) It’s this book that describes five different types of people and the way they show other people they love them? It was a big deal a little while back? Did you read it? If so, you’re probably going to want to skip this post because I’m going to talk about it having not read even a single word of it, and my inaccuracies and misunderstandings are bound to be annoying as shit.
So, I haven’t read the book. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it over the years. I’m sure we all have. It’s just never struck me as my kind of thing. I’ve heard people in some moms groups and whatnot discuss what they got out of it and how they found it very helpful, and I totally get that and I’m not knocking it at all, but just never read it. Actually, I’ve been waiting on a new, updated edition that might be more likely to contain my specific kind of love language.
Here I should probably note that I don’t actually have a real, whole concept of what a love language even is, but I’ve always assumed I don’t have one.
Except recently, some stuff has been going on, and some people have been really very helpful and supportive, in ways that is super kind and generous and seems to come very naturally to them, because they’re just the kind of people who behave in that kind of way toward people they like. It started me wondering what in the world I do to make my friends know I like them, aside from unreliably responding to texts and not asking them to please leave me alone. And I really couldn’t think of anything at all, which made me feel kind of bad, because you know, on my old blog, we talked a little about hesitating to text or whatever, or things along those lines, when in reality you should always just go ahead and send a message or send along the card you saw that made you think of a specific person or anything along those lines. That there’s two kinds of people, those who have those thoughts and act on them, and those who have those thoughts and don’t. Okay, I suppose there’s a third kind of person who doesn’t have those thoughts and thus can’t act on them, or has horrible thoughts and doesn’t act on them, or does act on them, and okay, fine, there’s a lot of people in this world, but the point is, if you’re having the thoughts and not acting on them, try to act on them. Just do it. If they’re good ones. That started out about texting people every now and then despite worries based in no facts that they might not want to hear from you, but obviously applies to a wider range of behaviors.
And I’ve been trying, really, to send a message to say hi more often, and I think I’ve managed it two or even three whole times since that post (usually to Arwen, because I think about her a lot, especially when I am struggling with my four year old, because I can remind myself that she has two, and it makes me feel better. Sorry, Arwen.) But I feel like saying hi to people is kind of the bare minimum in friendship, not so much an “I like you” as “You exist and I also exist.” So I realized I have no thing like those things that seem to come so naturally to other people.
EXCEPT TODAY. So, for the holiday, Bite Beauty does these double ended lipsticks. They’re really small lipsticks and there’s one color on each end, and they’re really inexpensive – only $14 (link). So it’s a great way to try a couple of colors or try out the line without a big commitment. During the Sephora sale, I bought one and I ended up really liking it, so of course started angsting over whether I should have bought more when they were 20% off, or if, since they’re so inexpensive, I should grab one or two more before they’re gone. I was looking over the colors Bite offers in general, and I saw two (Mulberry and Shiraz) that I thought would look really nice on Miranda, and I reminded myself to text her later to tell her, “Hey, I saw this thing I thought you would like.” (I haven’t done that yet. I will as soon as I finish this. Really.) And I realized I do that ALL the TIME.
Apparently, if I like a person, I will remember their preferences or random things they said down to creepy, obsessive detail and file it away so that later I can suggest something they should buy. One person mentioned issues with a certain brand of skin care, so when I came across one that was similar in effect and quality, I told her about it. A creepy number of months later. Two college friends still go to a lot of sporting events at the school, so when the Finish Line does their super cheap college hoodies sale, I always remind them. Twenty years ago my mother mentioned she couldn’t find a cherry pitter, so I still consistently look for one whenever I’m in a kitchen store.
So, if I like you, I will suggest things for you to buy based on details you probably forgot you ever mentioned by the time I find the perfect thing. I don’t know what love language that falls under, because like I said, I never read the book. I think it’s probably along the same lines of a cat bringing you a dead bird, but instead, I will text you out of nowhere to tell you that one shirt you liked that one time is on clearance on a random website.
Anyway, that’s all. I’m sure if I read the book I could fit myself into one of the categories, but then I’d probably feel obligated somehow to take other actions that would fit into that category to make sure the people I like know I like them, but I’m pretty content with this. If you’ve read the book, did you find you fit into one? Or do you just have a single thing? Can I gather up some minor detail about you only to come back to you with something you can buy six months from now?
Of course life kicks me in the ass right when I start a totally ambitious (not actually bitous at all, except in my own head and determination to be bitious) new blog, because, I don’t know, Murphy or something. It’s pleasant to think that the universe acts in response to my own actions, but have you noticed we only really think that when something goes wrong? Like the universe is just waiting to fuck with you. Like the universe is sitting around looking for people who did some innocuous thing like wash their cars, then sends a flock of birds to shit on it. No one credits the universe in that same kind of way when good things happen. Like oh, I did my hair today and it looks fabulous, but it rained, but I totally remembered my umbrella. THANKS, UNIVERSE. So the whole thing kind of falls apart, I guess, unless you want to believe the universe is a total fuck with you for the hell of it kind of guy. Which I guess most of us kind of do, and you know what, that’s a pretty dim outlook, so let’s just not do that anymore. My life didn’t suddenly get crazy because I started a new blog and the universe thought I was getting uppity. It just got crazy because it did.
Anyway, I was in my car yesterday and I was listening to the radio – satellite radio because we get about two stations on the regular radio where I live, and if you live in the kind of place that is so remote as to only get two stations, you can assume you’re probably spending a long time in the car to really get anywhere, so it’s kind of backwards, because you’re in exactly the kind of place that needs more than one station. That’s how we justify paying for Sirius, anyway, not that you care, but the point is, it’s satellite radio and I don’t know where it comes from, so I don’t know where this commercial is based, so I don’t know if you’ve heard it or not. But maybe you have!
So in this commercial I heard (some stations on Sirius have commercials because they’re just regular stations or whatever from big cities, but others don’t), they said something like “hashtag fbf.” Obviously that would be more accurately written as #fbf, but that’s what I heard. And, you know, I do the whole Internet thing, so I’ve seen that hashtag around. I’ve also seen #tbt, which has been around a really long time, since the dawn of hashtags, maybe, back when people USED HASHTAGS PROPERLY, not the kind of garbage people are doing today, where they put phrases in their hashtag that should just BE PART OF THE TWEET, and I don’t know, abuse of systems that have no actual basis in any kind of authority or necessarily need to be any kind of strict really annoys me because I’m that kind of pedantic person. And #tbt is Throwback Thursday, when you post a picture from a long time ago, like when you were a kid, or when you were in college, or to that day last week when you thought you looked particularly good. And I gathered from the kind of pictures that I’d seen people posting under #fbf that #fbf meant basically the same thing.
And you know what? I thought it was so obnoxious. I mean, I never called anyone out on it because I’m more of an internal pedant, but come on. If you missed posting the picture on Thursday for Throwback Thursday, just wait until next week. Why do you have to make up a whole new thing? I mean, Frowback Friday? It doesn’t even make sense. Just wait. It’s seven days! You can do it!
Then the commercial went on to say something about Flashback Friday.
And listen, I have to tell you, I did not just have my pedantic annoying thoughts in the 4 seconds between when the commercial said “hashtag eff bee eff” and “Flashback Friday.” No, I have thought this forever, or at least since the first time I saw #fbf, and this commercial just revealed the truth to me, and I was suddenly extremely grateful that I usually keep this petty pedantic shit to myself (except for the difference between the required eating methods for string cheese and Kit Kats, something I WILL NOT DISCUSS HERE SO DON’T EVEN TRY BUT YOU’RE PROBABLY WRONG and someday I will surely tell you that at great length), because you think there is nothing worse than a pedant, but there is, and that’s a pedant who is WRONG.
So that got me thinking about times I’ve jumped on someone for some petty thing, something I was actually totally certain I was right about, and turned out to be TOTALLY WRONG. I couldn’t actually think of any, which is not evidence that I HAVEN’T done it, but more likely evidence that my mind has completely blocked it out to save me from reliving the shame over and over, like you do with embarrassing moments, and then have to say something out loud or sing a song or something to try to force your mind to STOP REPLAYING IT.
As usual, when I think of something terrible I’ve done (or have most likely done in this case even though I couldn’t think of an exact example at the moment), I immediately want everyone to tell me of all the times they have done the same or similar.
Oh ho ho, see what I did there with the title? You don’t yet, but you will in a second, and you’ll understand why I hate myself.
If you follow me on Twitter or you followed my old blog, you know I’ve been on a diet for a while. It’s been pretty successful. I don’t really want to get into the hows and whys of the success, because, I don’t know, it was just a combination of health stuff and just hitting the point of ready to be on a diet. Kind of like quitting smoking. I halfheartedly tried to do it a bunch of times, but one day I was just actually ready to do it, so I did. So now I’m a non-smoker (6 years now!) and I have also lost 40 lbs over the last 6 months.
I haven’t found it difficult to lose the weight – that is, the diet that finally clicked for me isn’t one I find super challenging and it doesn’t make me sad. I don’t feel starved or deprived and I’m generally doing all right with it. It’s called keto, and there’s tons of information out there if you’re interested, but basically it’s super low carb, which automatically means it’s not for everyone. I absolutely do not think extreme low carb is sustainable for everyone or even most people. For me, though, just a week or two into it made it very clear how my body deals with carbs: poorly and in huge amounts. It’s worked well for me, and that’s that.
So here’s the thing. I have a kid, right, like a ton of you do. And I’m conscious about her health. I’m aware of the childhood obesity crisis. I’m also aware of how fraught weight issues can be for young adults and adult adults and how much of that can start from what you see and hear when you’re younger. I’m not concerned about Penny’s actual weight number right now – she’s a healthy weight for her age and size, she’s super active, gets plenty of running around every day along with organized physical activity. She eats a standard four year old diet – not exactly what a nutritionist would assert is necessary, but it’s not entirely candy and air. She’s got good eating habits, too. She stops when she’s full, no matter what she’s eating, and drinks plenty of water throughout the day. As far as feeding her goes, I’d say we’re doing solidly average as parents.
For a long time, I was really careful not to say the word “diet” around her. I don’t think it’s wrong for her to know I’m on a diet to lose weight, but she doesn’t see my body as anything but her mother’s body, so I didn’t know quite how to frame “mine isn’t okay but don’t worry about yours and if yours ever looks like mine it’s not anything to feel bad about except maybe you might want to lose weight because my body is not an exactly ideal situation but whatever happens you are still an absolutely fine person with no moral failings related to food because that is not actually a thing even though I kind of feel like it’s a thing for me but you’re a blank slate on this front so let’s not put ideas in your head.” Basically, overthinking it entirely to the point where I just said nothing.
She is a nice kid, so she offers to share her food a lot. “Look, Mama, I have two M&Ms, one for me and one for you.” And I’d say, “Oh, no thank you, I’m not hungry right now, but that’s nice of you.” Or she’d say, “Mama, look, Daddy got pizza for all of us, come have some with me,” and I’d say, “I don’t feel like eating pizza right now, I’m going to have this chicken.” And I’m fine with the chicken, I really am. My lack of pizza is not the issue. Sometimes I’d say I don’t like this food or that food, or I don’t feel like eating right now, or that I try not to eat when I’m not hungry but maybe later.
I think, though, at some point, Phil told her “Mama isn’t going to eat that because she’s on a diet.” Or she heard me say something to him, or something like that. Now she has questions. Not super deep ones or anything. Just like, “We’re having pizza, are you having some?” No, I’m not going to have pizza. “Is it because you’re on a diet?” I just don’t… I don’t want pizza. “Do you like pizza when you’re not on a diet?” No — I mean, yes — I mean, I DON’T KNOW.
STOP ASKING ME ABOUT PIZZA.
She said something the other night like, “I don’t have to be on a diet like you because I’m a healthy girl.” And I said something stupid, probably, and half-stuttered in response like, “Right, you’re very healthy, and I want my body to be healthy, too.”
The thing is, I know it’s my responsibility to teach her about making healthy choices and all of that, but the whole thing is so fraught with kids. I mean, they don’t know it’s so fraught, yet, but I do, and it’s been on my mind a lot. It’s very possible – very likely even – that I’m entirely over thinking this. And I think part of my issue has to do with the fact that my diet is so extreme. I don’t know when I’m supposed to start talking to her about maintaining a healthy, active body. I don’t exactly know how to do that in a way that doesn’t place a value on weight, or in a way that won’t make my words stick in her head if she does put on some pounds through puberty or as an adult. I know a lot of us can remember the exact words and phrases and expressions of our own mothers in these situations, and even knowing full well it wasn’t meant to be something mean or that stuck in your head forever, you still hear the exact tone and inflection whenever something to do with your own body comes up.
It’s especially difficult because if I talk about my diet with her, I want it tied strictly to health, because justifiably or not, I am totally all right with myself otherwise, as a person and as a parent (well, you know, as much as you can be all right with yourself as a parent) and all kinds of other things. I am basically my favorite person. So in talking about what I eat for my health, I run into the particular problem of my diet – just about everything I turn down or don’t eat or say “no, thank you” to is stuff she enjoys the hell out of. It would be one thing if it was cookies and cake and ice cream, and I could say to her that I’m just not having those once in a while treats that you have. But it’s bread and potatoes and corn and pizza and bananas and tons of stuff that she loves to eat and there’s no problem at all with her eating them. I don’t want her to think her favorite foods are something negative she should avoid if she wants to be healthy. And that’s not even really getting into the whole thing about talking to a four year old about weight in a way that doesn’t give her a negative self-image or a negative attitude toward weight in general.
I said this isn’t a heavy post up there because I don’t think it has to be. I think if this is on my mind, plenty of parents are running into the same issue or have run into it and dealt with it before. I don’t really know if there are any answers that work for every situation and every kid, and it’s more something you have to come to on your own, so really this was just a pointless meandering ramble like most of the stuff I put here, but my own pointlessness aside, I’d kind of just like to know if this is something that’s come up in your home now or in the past, how you’re dealing with it, or generally just what you think about the whole issue of raising healthy kids, both physically and mentally, when food and diet issues are alive in the household. Even if it’s this same kind of rambling baloney about your own ideas or situation. It’s been on my mind a lot lately, and I just feel like talking about it.
This is something I’ve talked about before, which makes it a simple post to write, because everything I want to say will come easily to me, and I’ll be really impressed with how freely all of my ideas are coming out just the way I want them to, conveniently completely ignoring that fact that I have expressed these exact thoughts in this exact way several times now. If originality was required on the Internet, most of us would have to pack it up and go home, and I have no intention of doing that, so reruns it is.
From the title I think it’s pretty clear what this is going to be about. You’ve definitely heard someone say they’re “bad at being a girl” before. I get that it’s supposed to sound self-deprecating, and I suppose some people really do think they’re being self-deprecating, but it doesn’t always come across that way and maybe you – if you’re one of the people who says it regularly – should stop it right now. It rarely comes from someone who feels genuinely bad about their own femininity or lack thereof, you know?
Obviously I talk a lot about makeup, because it’s a thing I like to do. I like to buy it and own it. I like to use it. I like to arrange and rearrange the collection I have. I like to know about new releases and limited edition products. I read articles about makeup. I watch videos about makeup. It’s a hobby. I do all the same things with makeup that anyone else does with their own hobby. I spend time on it, I enjoy it, and what I lack in skill, I make up for in enthusiasm. Like anyone at all does with something they really like doing.
There’s this thing, though, about talking about something so distinctly feminine publicly. Like on Twitter or something – it’s always Twitter – when you get 450 responses deep into a discussion about various holiday season makeup set releases. IT’S THE BUSIEST SEASON. You will end up with someone who joins the conversation to let you know that she doesn’t understand anything you’re talking about, and the specific reason she doesn’t understand is because she’s “bad at being a girl.”
No, the reason you don’t know anything about makeup isn’t because you’re bad at being a girl. You don’t know anything about makeup for the same reason I don’t know how to knit. I don’t care to. I tried a couple of times and wasn’t good at it. I didn’t enjoy it enough to keep working at it to get good at it. I’m not good at knitting because I’m not interested in knitting. It has nothing at all to do with my vagina or my gender.
There are a lot of stereotypically feminine things that I’m not good at, not interested in, or both. I don’t wear jewelry because I don’t actually know how and have never cared enough about my inability to wear jewelry to do something about it. My house isn’t decorated because I don’t really have a knack for it and have never felt any particular need to figure out what I liked and how to make it work in my home. I don’t dress very well – I know it’s possible, but I know it requires effort I prefer to focus elsewhere. I’m not a very good cook. I was a terrible cook, but I kept at it til I got to a point that I wasn’t throwing multiple dinners a week into the trash, and that feels like a good spot for me.
You’d think this would be kind of like a pep talk – hey, you, sad lady! Even if you don’t like makeup, you’re still plenty girly! And maybe it would be, if girly (and stereotypically feminine interests) didn’t still carry such a negative connotation. Especially something like makeup, that’s not only usually a female habit but also a frivolous one. It seems like very few people who say they’re “bad at being a girl” are truly lamenting their inability to properly function as a female person, but are instead separating themselves from a “girly” stereotype.
It usually sounds like this: “Wow, you spent how much? I think I only own mascara and it cost $3! I guess I’m bad at being a girl.” Or like this: “I’ve never taken more than 5 minutes to get ready, because I’m bad at being a girl.” Or something like this: “I wish I had time to sit around and play with makeup, but I’m too busy. Just bad a being a girl!”
It’s not everyone, it’s not all the time, and it’s subtle, but it’s there. It’s a devaluing of the way someone else spends her time and money specifically because the way she spends her time and money is feminine and frivolous. I feel like this doesn’t happen with other hobbies as much. I mean, I don’t understand at all why someone would spend $40 on a functionless shelf decor doodad. It makes zero sense to me. I would never do it, because decorating with doodads is neither something I enjoy nor a priority in my life. I have a set amount of time and money and it’s hard for me to imagine dedicating any part of either of those to something that has no meaning to me. I imagine many other people are the same way about decorating, but you rarely see someone conflate their lack of interest or skill with home decor to being bad at being a girl.
When you think about it, how many ways do adult women spend their time that you’d classify as “girly” pursuits? Not feminine, but specifically girly. That word. Is knitting girly? Is cooking girly? Is decorating your home girly? Maybe, but would you ever really use that specific word to describe it? No. Because there’s being a girl, like with a vagina or otherwise female gender identifying, and then there’s being girly. One is just a thing, and one is a negative thing. You know as well as I do that when a woman takes the time to point out that she is not that girly, it’s not as self-deprecating as it’s meant to sound, because most of us still pretty much don’t see girly as a positive trait.
There are probably people who really do wish they were better at doing makeup, but spending the time and money required isn’t a priority. There probably is some place that time and money does go, though, and if the situation was reversed, it would probably seem strange to have someone into a different hobby say, “You know, I wish I could ride a bike, but I’m just terrible at it. Guess I’m bad at being a girl.” Because, what? No. That has nothing to do with being a girl. But it’s just as ridiculous as saying the same thing about makeup. Or hair. Or clothing.
“I guess I’m bad a being a girl. Not like you. You’re clearly very good at being girly, what with the way you spend your time and money on this girly thing.” This is what it comes down to for me. This is what it sounds like. I’m sure there are a few people who still, as adult women, fall back on that little conversational crutch of “oh, just bad at being a girl,” and I know that it really is intended as self-deprecating. And I know there’s an even greater number who know full well they are not being self-deprecating when they say such a thing, and will defend saying it til they’re blue in the face, and I don’t know who they’re trying to fool, me or themselves, because you all know and I know why people say that line and it’s not. cool.
It really all comes down to the bigger problem of why feminine or girly pursuits are considered “less than,” even to the point that women themselves feel the need to vocally separate themselves from being considered girly. That’s getting into deeper thoughts than I’m really capable of. Maybe some of you are. For now, though, I can say, no matter your intentions when you say, “I guess I’m bad at being a girl,” it’s not a cool thing to say. At best, it perpetuates the “girly as lesser” trope. At worst, you’re deliberately being kind of a dick.
So if you know me at all – and some of you do and some of you kind of do and some of you don’t, but that’s fine – you know that I’ve never been entirely amused by short jokes. It’s not that they hurt my feelings, it’s just that I don’t get it. I’m not very tall. How is that hilarious? I do understand that sometimes it’s funny to see a shorter person try to get something off a high shelf, but I think that’s equally funny as watching a tall person bang their head on something. It’s just a thing. It hardly seems like a humorous thing in general, more only funny situationally. But whatever. Some people like to make short jokes. Fine.
I can tell you I am just not especially sensitive about it. Even I find this picture of me and some of my friends from last weekend hilarious. (Hello, friends!) Hilarious enough that every time I am with them, I take a similar picture. I’m just saying, I’m not uptight about not being very tall any more than they are about being especially tall. Which they all are.
And here is the thing I have been thinking about. Have you ever gotten in a short battle? Battle is probably the wrong word, but this is the Internet and it’s made for exaggeration, so just run the word “battle” through your Internet hyperbole filter to come up with something more appropriate on your own. So you’ll be on Twitter or something – it’s always Twitter – and talking about, maybe, pants. Pants is a good one because Twitter was made for helping others shop. And you – or me – offhandedly mention, “Well, it’s a little hard to find pants in stores, because I’m short, but a lot of retailers carry extended sizes like ‘extra short’ online.” (They do! That’s a thing!)
And you think that’s nothing, because it’s just true. You’re (I’m) short. It’s just a thing. It’s a fact. It’s not really up for debate. There is average, and then people who are above average are tall and people who are below average are short. It’s just numbers. But there will always be someone who wasn’t even involved in the conversation at all who will then jump in and say, “Well, how short are we talking? Because I’m eight and a half inches tall.”
And they’re not saying that because they have a hot pants tip for you! No, they just want you to know. Like, “HOHO, IN YOUR FACE! You think you are short? WELL I’M ONLY VISIBLE UNDER A MICROSCOPE, so what do you think about THAT?”
There’s that person, right, who needs to jump in to let you know that even if you thought you were X, they are MORE X, therefore… ?
And that’s where I get lost, because what exactly is the point there? Am I suddenly NOT short because you drink your tea from a thimble? That’s not a thing. I am still short. You being much smaller does not suddenly make me 5’10”. And they wait! They wait for someone to mention being short – WHICH MANY PEOPLE ARE, IT’S NOT A THING – so they can jump in to tell you what short actually is. What am I supposed to do here? Acknowledge your tininess? Present you with a medal for shortness? I guess this probably happens to tall people, too. You’re a lady and you’re 5’10”, maybe 5’11”, and you say, well, I’m tall, and some other lady snorts at you and is like, well, I’m 6’2″, so you’re actually not tall at all. BUT YES A 5’10” WOMAN IS QUITE TALL.
I feel like it’s kind of related to pain olympics, you know, where one person says I don’t feel well and the other person says, “I DON’T EVEN HAVE KIDNEYS” and you’re kind of supposed to be shamed into thinking actually you don’t feel so bad at all because at least you could pee your pants if you wanted to. And the winner of the pain olympics is the one who feels the absolute worst, so worst in fact that everyone else is forced to acknowledge that they actually don’t feel terrible at all. I guess it’s something like that. But no matter how short another person is, it can’t make me not be short anymore.
Or maybe it’s that there are people who need you to know that they are the very most of something. I am the most sick, I am the most weird, I am the most short. Which is now leading me down this whole path of wondering what’s wrong with just being normal? Because isn’t there always going to be someone sicker and someone less sick, someone weirder and someone less weird, and someone shorter and someone less short? I guess maybe it has a lot to do with people who haven’t ever really been able to totally shake the phase of feeling that being average or normal or standard is absolutely the worst thing that you can be, and I get that, but I don’t get it because I don’t feel that way.
This started out with me being annoyed about those people who always want to jump into conversations out of nowhere to make a pants discussion into a battle (“battle”) about who is the very smallest, and now it’s gone into a whole new thing I’m not prepared to think about this early in the morning, so I’ll just stop here.