When is a Compliment Not a Compliment? When It’s an AFFRONT.

imagesWes and I were hiking with the kids last weekend and passed a family heading the opposite direction. My son went running past the other family, all gangly limbs and flying feet, at the same time a boy of around the same age went whizzing by me. I remarked to the mother in the family as we passed, “Boys have just the one speed, don’t they?”

It was meant to be a simple pleasantry. She took it as something more, however, because she replied, “Girls too.” The tone of her voice wasn’t humorous, it was serious. Her reply was meant to be a correction.

A correction I resent enough to write a whole blog post about because, really? Is it necessary to be so fearless feminist prowling the woods, politically-correct Seattleite who’s sensitive to so many things there’s almost nothing that’s not offensive, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-or-else that she needed to correct a stranger in the middle of nowhere that girls like running, too?

Give me a break.

For the record, both my daughter and her daughter were holding hands and walking nicely while the boys in the family went tearing past with wild abandon, mighty yawps shaking the leaves in their exuberance. But yeah. Girls have just the one speed too.

I think this is what bothers me most: It was her assumption that I needed that daily dose of self-righteousness. Like she felt she was saving me from something, when really, she doesn’t know a thing about me.

For crying out loud, I chose to have a baby without pain medication. I write espionage fiction (how many super popular female espionage authors can you name? Exactly. My genre is kind of a sausage-fest, but I’m okay with it). I enjoy shooting guns, one of my favorite characters in the world is Zoe from Firefly, and I throw a decent punch.

I’m no wilting flower who needs to be reminded that girls are awesome. I am a woman, and I feel awesome. You know why? Because I’m out there being awesome instead of trying to remind people all the time of how awesome I am.

I’m going to continue to recognize other people’s strengths and merits (even, gasp! Those of the men and boys in my life!), because I know that acknowledging other people’s strengths in no way diminishes my own.

So take that, random woman from the forest who will never read this. Chill out and stop trying to make everyone agree with you. Just enjoy the walk, smile at strangers, and compliment your son. I promise, no one will make you turn in your Feminist card.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Motherhood?

hypocrite.jpgI’ve been slinging a diaper bag and parenting with the best of them for almost five years now. During that time, I’ve lost much in the way of dignity and coolness.It’s just hard to feel like a bad ass when you can sing all the Thomas the Train sings by heart and yet have no idea who most of the musical guests are on SNL anymore. To say nothing of the fact that I wear sweatpants in public, regularly, and without shame.

Despite my sartorial failings, I’ve always considered myself more or less a straight shooter. If I say something to my kids, I want them to trust that it’s the real deal. If they start questioning your word, it’s a straight shot from realizing “Don’t have sex because you’ll immediately get pregnant and burst into flames” is a lie to questioning the wisdom of “Don’t stick forks in the electrical sockets.”

Ain’t nobody got time for that many emergency room visits.

Lately, though, I’ve realized that, while not a liar, I am somewhat of a hypocrite. Last weekend, I put on a movie for my kids to watch. It was a totally age-appropriate, animated movie teaching numbers that I thought would be a hit until my son started whimpering and covering his face. Apparently animated accountant pirates and silly anthropomorphic sharks are TERRIFYING.

I used the Socratic method (because I went to college, yo) to help him realize there was no need to be scared of pictures on a TV screen. It didn’t do much to assuage his fears, however, and we eventually moved on to a different movie.

Later that night, Wes and I watched The Cabin In The Woods. It’s a Joss Whedon (whom long-term readers will know I LOVE) horror movie. I was curious enough about what Joss’s take would be to watch it, even though I normally don’t watch horror movies because I am a big ol’ CHICKEN. The images are far too vivid in my head and I take everything personally.

When a character is getting dragged, sobbing, through the forest by a bear trap embedded in his/her back, in my mind it’s ME getting dragged through pine needles and I have a hard time parsing reality from horror.

Anyway, when the movie was over I asked Wes, in a very tiny voice, to turn on all the lights and escort me to the bathroom because, I’ll admit it, I was spooked. It was a good movie, but it was horrifying. As advertised.

I fully realize the irony of trying to convince my son not to be scared of something on the screen and then turning into a whimpering wuss less than ten hours later. Hypocrisy, thy name is Erika.

Same thing happened again with my daughter and thunder the other night. How am I supposed to convince my daughter that thunder isn’t scary when my heart starts pounding every time a particularly loud thunderclap sounds overhead?

Who knows? Maybe candor would be better than a brave face. Anyone have an opinion they’d care to share on the subject?

More Powerful Than Pundits

Much has been made of Miley Cyrus’s recent train wreck of a performance at the VMA’s Sunday night. Head shaking, name calling, open letters admonishing the youth not to follow in these footsteps.

What I can’t help but wonder is, how can everyone who participates in this circus not know that they’re part of the problem? My bet is, she had little to do with the choreography and was instructed to behave as such by someone who stood to make money from the boost in attention and ratings. You know someone has to be making money off all the replays, which in a sense means Miley’s performance was a raging success.

The only way to discourage kids and teens not to behave in such a manner (and when I say, “such a manner” I’m also referring to the behavior of almost everyone on reality television as well) is to refuse to pay attention to it. Don’t click on articles about it, don’t watch videos about it, don’t talk about it. My guess is celebrities will stop the nonsense as soon as it stops being lucrative.

I don’t think the chin wagging and open letters accomplish anything, really. All kids and teens will see is how much attention people are paying to this kind of behavior, and realize that this is the kind of thing that gets noticed. Nobody is praising the celebrities who graduate with honors from Ivy League schools, but for the girl in a plastic bikini? Endless coverage.

Imagine how amazing it would have been if, instead of sitting there and squirming uncomfortably in their seats, everyone in the auditorium just stood up and left. If the next day, there wasn’t any mention of the lewd dancing. If Miley woke up after compromising her morals and realized no one cared. If she saw instead that celebrities were being commended for acts of philanthropy.

Wouldn’t that send a more powerful message than anything any pundit could ever say?

Not So Sweet

I was using an ATM today when two teenage girls walked past, heading out of a Starbucks. They looked to be high school aged, and this is what they were talking about:

Girl 1: “And my boyfriend asked me if girls even s*** because, like, they don’t ever fart or anything.”

Girl 2: *giggle* “Oh my G**, what did you say?”

Girl 1: “I said, ‘Yeah, of course they do.’ He said I was a real woman and he liked that about me.”

Girl 2: “Oh my G**, that is so sweet.”

Am I wrong or is that, um, the opposite of sweet? I’m fairly certain that even in whatever adolescent love-drunk haze I might have found myself as a teen, I would never have found that sweet. I might have even broken up with said boy simply for asking me that question, because it’s a fairly coarse question and even as a youngin’ I believed I deserved better treatment than that.

I’m hoping the teen and her beau are outliers and not the rule, because otherwise acceptable behavior protocols for high school boyfriends have gone miserably downhill and I’m going to have to take a vow of silence when my daughter comes of an age to date.

I mean, I know the supposedly sweet thing he said wasn’t about bowel movements per se, but should he have even been demanding a response to that question in the first place? Shouldn’t he be treating her like a lady, letting her keep whatever mystery she cares to cultivate?

I know we’re a long way from Victorian ladies these days, but I am absolutely certain my sweet daughter will deserve more consideration from her boyfriend someday. And should he happen to disagree? Well, I’m sure her big, burly, wonderfully protective father and I will have some things to say to him.