March 15, 2010

Look who's talkin' trash ...

Interesting fracas developing, blogosphere vs traditional (male-driven) print media developing since the weekend.  It seems that a mommy blogger attended a conference, named "Bloggy" or something and sold a piece about it to the "Style" section of the New York Times.

Now.  Being an obsessed NYT reader from afar, I had read the piece and felt, well, rather nonplussed about it.  I have noticed a couple of blatantly commercial blogs as I wander through the sphere and read some that are delivered to my email box, they exist out there with the ones that have content and may/may not weave some form of commercialisation in with their commentary.

Being that I am also not a particularly critical reader, the nuances swept past me like a sweeper at a curling rink.  But there are some pretty pissed off mamas out there, blogging away about the big fat slight.  Here's one of the best I've read:  dated 3.13.2010.  As I scribble this missive, the comments number 250!

Okay.  So I haven't been at the blogging post for long and I have no readership,  so granted, I don't have enough invested to feel the impact of this article. 

But for me, here's the thing.  It is like the whole stay-at-home vs working mom thing.  I really believe what I am doing is right for me.  Actually, I know I would be more of a disaster if I were even attempting to work outside of the home right now, I don't do a whole bunch of things at one time particularly well.  Seriously, I would be a wreck, just like my friend found herself a wreck after staying at home on mat leave (a whole year in Canada).  She went so bananas she cut the whole thing short and got her ass back to the office for her bit of sanity.  We're two awesome people who are wired differently, so what's the problem here.

Weren't we all taught the whole "different strokes for different folks" thing?

I know we all, on some level, want to be taken seriously, but doesn't being taken seriously start at home, and really, why do we need to justify ourselves to anybody other than our nearest and dearest.

Yes.  I know about not being paid equally for equal work, and about doing equally as much (and more) for less, and about the women's movement.  I get that the article was crafted, by the writer maybe, but definitely by the editors, the copywriter who titled the article, and the artist, to have a certain disrespectful tone.  But what if we just completely ignored it, and chose to go a different direction?  What if we just know that our work, as mothers, journalists, writers, bloggers, workers, whatever, is valuable.  What if we took ourselves more seriously?

Look.  Some of us are capable of being very, very silly.  Reports have it that the mommy blogger conference goers were drinking their cocktails out of sippy cups.  Really?  I would die!  The drink wouldn't come out fast enough for me!  I would be embarrassed too!

What if we stopped calling ourselves mommies in the blogosphere.  Yummy mommies, Yoyomamas, blogging mommies ... We could be taken more seriously, and removed from the Style section and dropped into the business section.

But why would we?

Even if I can't, for the life of myself, drink any beverage from a sippy cup (my kids didn't prefer them either, by the way), I can laugh at myself for not being loosey-goosey enough and for having a coolness issue as I pour the content of a cup into a proper rocks glass and not apologise.  And I can continue to drink with the gals, so long as they can see that my inability to join in the fun is not a comment on how silly they are, but rather a deficit of mine.

If we lose the Bloggy, mommy silliness, and get ourselves into the business section, what do we have?  We just become like them, those stuffy guys that marginalise everybody that doesn't conform to their standard stick-in-the-mud ways.  Echt.

Oops!  I'd better get me to bed.  I've been a bad mommy lately, too tired to be particularly civil to my offspring in the mornings.

Despite all I've said, I too am anxious.  I am a stay-at-home mom in the new millennium.  Eventually I am expected to pull a wage again and contribute to my household in a monetary way.  I am blogging to myself to make sure that when the time comes, I have something to say, and a style to say it in.  And I don't really care what the NYT has to say about it, or where they say it, because I know who I am and why I am doing what I am doing.

Or so I mutter.

The Lives of Bullies ... part 2

Made kettlecorn for the first time tonight ... never knew it was as simple as adding sugar to the corn when the oil is hot enough!  Learn something new every day, eh?!

I am not really succeeding at writing everyday ... every night?  Part of the problem is that it is really hard to find the time without losing it from my night's sleep.  The other part would be one of those what stops you conversations.

A couple of weeks ago, I was making the time to write daily.  Writing, and developing my own ideas is hard won for me.  I can help other people make things happen ... edit their work, coach them in their endeavours, but believing in my own ideas and breathing life into them is not nearly as simple.

I know, I know, everybody feels this way.  I get that.  In this mutter, though, I am not going to lose the focus that I struggle with realising my own dreams.  Because I really believe now that I am moving forward, and doing more than just thinking about things I want to do and accomplish, I will.

There.  I've said it.

Anyway ... a couple of weeks ago I was managing to strap my butt into a chair and write, without too much editing (for now) so as to quit censoring myself, when someone that I care deeply about said to those around me (and, by extension, to me), "She THINKS she's a writer!".


Funny thing is that I have been paid to write, and paid reasonably well.  And I have a portfolio of work.  It isn't Shakespeare (yet) but it is written words.  Ergo I am a writer.  But that kind of bullying packs a pretty hefty punch into a fragile and developing confidence.

But what I know to be true, after a week or two of nursing the bruise, is that even the most precious people being awful can't knock a determined individual off course.

This person has always bullied me and others, and it is hard to understand why, because we are the most important people in said person's life.  I am painfully aware that there were events that happened in their life that made them as mean as they are, to themself and those around them ... but why?  What is it that they gain from this behaviour.  And, more importantly, how could a person like that change their ways?

Okay, seeing as this is turning into Bullies, part 2, I might as well delve a little bit further.  This person aside, there is a little person in my life that is showing this same tendency to use bullying with siblings.  Here's the thing:  I don't know if it is nature or nurture, or a combination.  What I do know is that I don't know how to address the issue effectively to help the little person find a healthier way to feel good.  Because ultimately, the kid doesn't look particularly happy as it is happening ... pleased like a cat sometimes, if it is having the right effect on the victim.

How do I address this, what do I do to mitigate the damage, to allow the others to "fight back" or "protect themselves" or ...

thoughts for another day ... something new to write about ...

March 10, 2010

the resonance of my bully, part 1

I had a bully, and from the day she decided she wanted my neighbour friend exclusively to herself, she was all mine. She arrived in grade 5 and zoned her sights in on me, nailing me relentlessly until she lost interest in around grade 9.  It seemed we were doomed to be together in every activity, from baseball to brownies, despite living in a large suburb.

My bully went for the position I played in ball and in grass hockey, and coveted and won over the kids I had hung out with since kindergarten.  I'm sure I wasn't the best fit with my group anyway, and most of the friendships weren't destined to last, but it still stung.

One of the worst things she did was to draw attention to the colour of my clothes, ridiculing each and every item I wore.  A creamy peach trouser became ORANGE.  A pair of lilac lace up shoes, matched perfectly to a deeper purple trouser was loudly obsessed upon until I couldn't stand to slip my feet into them again.  She was merciless, and when she couldn't best me (and often, looking back, she couldn't), she publicly ridiculed me, grabbed and crushed stupid prize ribbons, challenging me to after-school fist fights that became instant cat-scratch fests.

The only thing she couldn't do was to spread rumours about how easy I was because, well, she bested me in that one ... she was the class slut and proud of it.  I, on the other hand, was pure as the driven snow.  (Actually I was scared of my shadow, never mind boys.)

Okay, so after all these years, seriously, shouldn't I be over it?

The funny thing is that I'm not.  Not really.  In fact, not at all.

To this day, I wear black.  I have since I turned 16.  There is rarely a splash of colour in my clothes collection.  A winter scarf, maybe.  In the early 90s, at the persistence of my boyfriend, now husband, I went for it and banished most black from my wardrobe, but it didn't last.

Truth be told, I don't wear black for the coolness factor, nor do I think it is slimming.  I care little about either subject.  But when I wear colour, I feel like I am climbing right out of my own skin.

When asked, this is what I tell people:  I have a larger-than-life presence already -- a loud voice and big opinions, and wearing colour makes me feel like I am more obvious than ever.  Besides, I insist, I can't match colours to save my life.  Black is just easier.

My reality is much less entertaining.  I can't stand to wear colour.  It really does make me climb out of my skin.  The fact of it is that each time I slip into something with colour, the ghost of my bully is with me.

I know.  Get over it already, right?

Seriously?  I know I "should" get past this, to put it behind me.  But I really like wearing black, and I'd far rather look cool in the darkness than feel sick and small inside in living colour.


Fluevog makes some fantastic black shoes.

A Postscript:

Five months after writing this post, I attended my 25 year Grad Reunion.  I felt more at peace about my childhood and my "role" as one of the bullied, mostly thanks to some hard personal work on my part (including writing this piece).  I also no longer felt like the above-mentioned person was my "bully".  I wore a burgundy skirt and my favourite Fluevogs.

Please read the comments below for a response from Christine, who came across my blog a couple of weeks after the reunion, and also visit a newer post for the ongoing conversation.