Sunday, August 29, 2010

Her jaw aches from wanting and she's sick from chlorine

My middle name is Margaret. I'll confess that when I was a kid I didn't like the name. Margaret was old-fashioned and too long for a middle name. My friends' middle names were light and delicate, names like Ann or Lynn, grace notes to their first names, not this long, 8-letter thing that turned my first two names into a sort of a chant: An-ge-la-Mar-gar-et. Not only did no one my age have that name, with the popularity of "Are You There, God? It's me, Margaret?" no one wanted that as a name. I did everything I could to hide my middle name. Although I loved the book, I didn't want to be associated with someone obsessed with getting her period.

It took me a while to appreciate Margaret as a name. I was named after my mom's favorite aunt who died young (so I never met her), but when you're seven, being named after someone doesn't mean much. You don't realize that it's an honor, an extra dab of love placed on you. But as I got older and listened to the relatives who knew Aunt Margaret talk about her so fondly, telling stories about how wonderful she was, I started thinking that it was pretty cool that I had her name.

I must admit, I didn't really start to like Margaret until I found characters named Margaret in books I loved. I find that in literature, Margarets tend to be my kind of gals: Margaret Schlegel ("Howard's End"), Margaret Hale ("North and South"), Meg Murry ("A Wrinkle in Time"), Margaret Ibbotson ("Deerbrook"), just to name a few. They're smart, sensible, no-nonsense, strong women. They're not flighty or weak. Margaret isn't the pretty sister, but she's the interesting one. Margaret gets right boy in the end, but you knew all along she'd make it work out; you just know that she's going to have a very happy life. I want to be those Margaret's. I like to pretend that we're all a part of this awesome sorority. Our mothers named us knowing that we'd be worthy of this group of women.

Now I love Margaret. I'm proud to have it as a name. Because, in the end, we Margarets will make it all work out.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hey ladies in the place I'm callin' out to ya

There's some fuss going around the internet about the New York Times book reviews: who they review (mostly white guys) and how they review them (they *love* white guys). I've got a few thoughts about this. (It should be noted that there are some really interesting pieces out there, so if this catches your attention, take a few minutes to google about.)

Women do behave differently than men. I see it in the workplace where the women will all tell you about their kids and the crazy things their husband did and how they've got to leave early because they have to pick up Little Susie from daycare, while with most of the men I work with I'm not sure who has kids and who doesn't. I understand that a lot of the childcare responsibility falls on women, and in many (most?) cases, that's the choice of the couple.

But do women behave differently because there's something different about us (nature/instinct) or are we expected to behave a certain way (nurture/social pressure)?

I'm always torn with these women vs. men arguments. On one hand, it isn't fair out there, and most (if not all) women have been treated differently (at work and otherwise) just because they're women, but on the other hand, women do sometimes bring it up themselves. A couple of us were looking at a website of this (female) corporate coach and she had a page specifically dedicated to her personal life. Would a man put information about their partner, pets, and home on their professional website? I'd say it was less likely.

Look at your facebook friends' pictures. How many women have their kids or pets or hubbies as their profile pictures compared to the men? I know that facebook is supposed to be social, that it's not a professional site, but it does speak a bit as to how women and men define themselves. Are women comfortable just being themselves or do women (perhaps overly) define themselves as wife or mother?

It is a bit of the chicken and the egg. Women often take the lead at home, which, of course, would lead to a person talking about that part of their life. But are women taking the lead in dealing with the kids and housework because they want to or because society shoves it down their throats? (If you don't think that society still views Mom as the one who takes care of the kids, just watch a handful of the back-to-school ads: see who's sending little Jimmy off to his first day of school. Spoiler: it's not Daddy. I don't know why, but this year it's just pissing me off more than usual. Really, ad agencies? You can't have ONE dad drop the kid off or take her to the bus stop or pack a lunch? Because Dads do sometimes buy the Wonder Bread in real life.)

Do the experiment: watch tv commercials for an hour. Just flip around the stations, get a good mix. You'll easily have a hundred images of women doing the housework, taking care of the kids, shopping for groceries while the men grill and work on computers and maybe try unsuccessfully to help out around the house (but thank GOD Mom can save the day!) Even if you say don't agree personally, that your man does more than his share or you're fully liberated, how can that not be a part of what's in your brain? (Even the damn Dyson commercial -- sure, the guy invented it, but they person they show actually vacuuming is a woman.)

So when the NYT doesn't review women writers as often or as gushy, it's sending a bit of a message. All those images are with us. And this may make us believe that maybe we do deserve different treatment. With the images of vacuuming and doing the wash with your heels on (it's in the current Color-Catcher commercial -- I'm not making that up. Pisses me off every time. She's all happy in her goddam HEELS to be doing her hubbie's wash with hers -- she no longer has to separate the laundry!) women may feel that we do need to apologize for something if we're busy writing books instead of doing the dishes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dipping in the pocket of her raincoat

What do you do every day? Besides sleep, eat, brush your teeth, is there something you do that is maybe something that not everyone does? I was thinking about this the other day. I am on Day 347 of my 365 experiment. (Just to clarify, I am in a Flickr group where we take a picture a day for a year.) The year is coming to a close, and I'm not sure if I will continue forward with this.

There are things I am doing every day to push myself to reach inside. I started writing in a journal at the beginning of the year, and I do that every day. I love doing that. I think about the past day, I revisit little things that bugged me and sometimes I can actually sort them out. I have a page to fill, to analyze my day, to just vent or shout with joy. This isn't my first go-around with keeping a journal, but it's been about 15 years or so.

I have also started this other daily ritual where I list five things a day that bring me joy. I started thing because I sometimes feel that I'm a negative person and this is an attempt to help me shake this. I need to remind myself that there truly is so much to be thankful for, that I have a lot of really awesome things in my life. It's very Oprah but it actually seems to work on most days. I try to not repeat myself too often, but there are days that my only thought is "thank God for coffee!" But even if I list coffee (again) I still have to come up with four more things those days. Reflecting on the good things in my life is not a bad habit, so I'll stick with this one for a while.

I was blogging every day, but that got to be a bit much. I feel like I should be posting more than I am (I thank you for your patience), but, to be fair, I'm also doing other writing which is just more private. Maybe I should have a blog posting on my every day list, but, for now I want to be writing when the spirit moves me.

There are things I should do: exercise, eat five fruits and vegetables, drink eight glasses of water. I start to think of all these things and wonder if I really started adding all these assignments, will I have time for the unexpected parts of my life? I shouldn't fill my life with assignments. I should let things happen without a schedule. (Yes, this is the reason I won't go running or eat those green beans. It's all about the creativity.)

Until September 1, taking a photo is on my everyday list. The question is: will it remain there? Should it remain there? Do I still want that obligation or should I free myself from the camera? There is something freeing about taking a picture when I want to, not because I need to. I don't want my life to be a series of checking off the list. But is removing something the best way to get more? I have two weeks to decide.