Sunday, August 25, 2013

I Am Woman Hear me...Whisper

Last week, a random sampling of five women from my neighborhood met up for lunch and a swim before saying a final farewell to summer. The hostess extended the invitation to a couple of friends and basically whoever had been standing within earshot. I had been standing within earshot and decided on a whim to join.

I had never been to the hostess' house. She was a mild acquaintance, but her invitation seemed sincere. I had a great time. The next morning, before eight, I got a text from a close friend who wasn't at the lunch/swim asking me how it was, with ample excuses as to why she couldn't be there. The purpose of the text was to put me on notice that she too had been invited, lest I think poorly of her social standing. 

I hadn't asked who had been invited--didn't care. And my close friend knows deep down that I don't care and never take attendance at events. But still, she had to make sure I knew she had been invited. I couldn't fathom why.  We've long since left high school, even our youngest children have  long since left high school, where social standing is the currency of life. I'm perplexed as to why a woman who runs her own thriving business and has successful children and a wonderful marriage cares what I or anyone else thinks about them? By all accounts, she should have been a lot more self-confident.

It got me wondering. Had the women's movement sputtered out somewhere around the 2000's? Was the "stand by your man" mentality of Kathie Lee Gifford, Hillary, Huma and Silda Spitzer a symptom of the times or a harbinger of times to come?

Sex and the City has been running on a loop on basic cable for the past year or so and lately I've been setting my DVR to catch up with the "ladies." As much as I've been enjoying watching them, I have to admit to being shocked. Not by their open-minded approach to sex or their fearless approach to any topic, for that matter, but by the way they fiercely protect their independence in a confident do-not-mess-with-me-honey kind of way. To coin an outdated, oft-used phrase of the seventies, with the exception of Charlotte, these women were "ball-busters." They have too much self-respect to allow themselves to be treated disrespectfully or to have their achievements undermined.

Frankly, I'd forgotten women could be like that. 

Many women in power, at least to me, seem so...apologetic. From Sheryl Sandberg to Uma, even to Hillary, the tone isn't the strident voice of the seventies I grew up hearing, its more like yeah, OK, I'm smart, but I need you not to feel threatened by that. And truly the tone today doesn't need to be tough or divisive to further women's empowerment, but it does need to be sure and unwavering. It needs to be confident. Yes, we've made tremendous inroads, but it feels as if we've hit a road bump. Hillary does, on occasion, lob a couple of phrases into the atmosphere about female empowerment so as not to completely lose the women's vote, but it always feels...staged. Too bad on you, Hillary, I'm too smart to be played.

I watched and enjoyed Ms. Sandberg's TED talk. I took away a lot of interesting tidbits, but it was a pretty passive presentation. In Yiddish words, we'd say she was pareve--bland. There was no passion or urgency to her message. She basically implored, no, begged women to reach for what should be rightfully theirs. Huh?

I cut my teeth on Helen Reddy's trailblazing song, I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar, now, it seems that women are too aware of how others are perceiving them and are taking great pains not to come on too strong and offend anyone. Pooh that.

As Ms. Sandberg says, most women still feel its too important to "be liked." 

Yes, I'm aware Lady Gaga sings a message of some sort, but frankly sometimes its hard to discern that message is actually from a woman, so elaborate are her stage get-ups. Yes, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, they do speak up, and that's a good thing, but for the most part, too many women have taken a step back and prefer to apologize or stammer and wonder too often how they're regarded by others. Even Lena Dunham, a highly-accomplished and successful writer and producer always seems to cave into herself as she whines her way through her titular show Girls. I tried to watch it, but could barely get through an episode. Lena, where's your self-confidence?

Note to Lena: set your DVR to old SATC reruns.

Sure, there are powerful women, but the interesting thing to me is how politely politically correct they are. I grew up hearing and watching women like Bella Abzug(I'm truly dating myself) wear whatever they wanted and say whatever they wanted. Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, real women who  frankly would have had a diminished impact if they were concerned with what other people were thinking about them. If they cared overly much about being polite.

Here's the takeaway.

If you want to blaze a trail, you have to look forward, not over your shoulder, wondering what the people behind you are saying. 

And why would you care anyway? 

They are behind you.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

We Hate Liars...

...because they force us to face the truth about ourselves.

And the truth is we all lie. Everyone does it, so why are we so outraged when we're lied to? Could it be because we pinned our hopes on someone, let ourselves trust them, let ourselves trust IN them and then found out they were human? Where is all the self-righteous indignation coming from?

Here's the real truth.

We welcome the lie. We probably couldn't cope if everyone always told the truth. Remember that hilarious movie starring Jim Carrey called Liar, Liar? Jim Carrey plays a lawyer named Fletcher who is suddenly seized by the need to say exactly what's on his mind, no filter at all. Here's a small example:
Jane: Do you like my new dress?
Fletcher: What ever takes the focus off your head!

Of course there's a difference between a white lie and a whopper, the difference being, one we welcome and the other we spurn. But how do we know when the white lie has transcended the next level?

Last week I heard Dr. Laura weighing in on the Anthony Weiner scandal. She ran through the whole litany of what most people, women especially, were thinking about him...he's a liar, untrustworthy, a skank...and the list went on. But here's the interesting part, just the week before she had given a caller some very un-Dr. Laura-like advice. The caller, a female, said she had cheated on her husband once, had realized the mistake immediately, and had never done it again. She wanted to come clean about it to her husband.

And Dr. Laura said, "Don't."

Excuse me? Dr. Laura was advocating lying? What about the trust between spouses? She felt it would only serve to clear the wife's conscience and do nothing for the relationship, except ruin it. 'Forget about it and move on, and try your best to deal with the guilt because the harm would be pointlessly irreparable.'

At first I was shocked, but then I sorta got it.

It's OK to long as no one ever uncovers the truth.

We all loved Alex Rodriguez...before...but really, we all sorta knew he was using steroids, but we chose to ignore that and embrace his victories, his amazing at bats, his lock-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why did the commission have to go and ruin it all for us? And now, the cheers at the stadium have turned to boos. And guess what, the lying goes on as Arod continues to lie to himself and his fans by appealing the commission's findings instead of gracefully admitting he was doping as did the other penalized players.

We're mad because he let us down after we chose to believe in him. That's right, we're mad because we chose wrong.  What's really happening here is that we're mad at ourselves...but we're not being honest about that.

We choose to turn a blind eye to things that are too hurtful to truly know about. We lie to ourselves and we lie to others. We have all done it; we will all continue to do it. It's called self-preservation. It isn't pretty, but the fact is we pick and choose which lies we choose to believe and which ones we allow to outrage us. And that's OK...let's just be honest about it.