Feminist in Limbo: Chapter 3

I used to be terrified of thunderstorms. I was convinced the lighting would get me, and that I was especially vulnerable in my upstairs bedroom. I refused to go to my room when it was storming, and I rarely went to sleep until the storm had moved on. I would hold back tears as best I could, but then I would catch a glimpse of lighting or hear a crack of thunder over the television and start bawling. Even once the rain and clouds had moved on, it still took my parents at least a half hour to convince me it had stopped; I was safe now.

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Grandma Dar is currently 83 and is incredibly resourceful and wise and generous. She had a total of five kids in the ’60s and ’70s; she had 2 girls, then a boy, then 2 more girls. The middle child and her only son was my Grandpa Gary.

So Grandma Dar had five kids, four of which were girls. These women, my great-aunts, are as different as any four siblings can be. Some have been married for 25 years or more, and some have had as many as 7 husbands. Some were housewives, some have had very successful careers. But they all had children, Dar’s grandchildren. And a good number of Dar’s grandchildren had children. Grandma Dar currently has over 45 grand- and great-grandchildren, and her second great-great-grandchild will soon be born. Bringing us to a grand total of over 50 people that wouldn’t exist on this planet without Grandma Dar.

Most people grow up in patriarchal families headed by a sole male figure whose name everyone shares, whose name and bloodline is very important to carry on. Sons who can keep the family name going are sought after and even preferred. In defiance of this patriarchal structure, my mom’s family is very much a matriarchy run by women and headed by the sole matriarch: Grandma Dar. There are many different family names, and characteristics that might be from a father’s or a mother’s bloodline, but neither are preferred. It just is. You might have a Reinhardt nose, or a Keefer laugh, or Cady height. Babies were babies, and they were all wonderful blessings no matter how they came into existence or who they belonged to.

Grandma Dar built all that. Not only is she responsible for the mere existence of over 50 humans, but she also helped raise every single one of us. She visits parents with their newborn babies and she finds a way to come back into the child’s life when they’re old enough to remember her, too. Grandma Dar is everyone’s favorite and she remembers every single one of us.

The summer after my brother was born, Grandma Dar came to stay with us like she does when new babies are born. In the Midwest we have snow in the winter, and storms in the summer. So of course the night my parents decide to go out and leave the new baby and I with Grandma, it storms. We had this big picture window in our living room at the time, facing the river across the street. Our couch was backed up against the big window, so it was the perfect little perch to watch everything going on outside whether it was summer parades or waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve. But this particular night, Grandma was determined to break my fear of thunderstorms.

She didn’t tell me that storms were about God’s wrath, or some mythical battle being fought in the sky. Instead she told me that with so many clouds up there, sometimes they bump into each other. Sometimes it got pretty loud, but that was when two really big clouds bumped into each other. And that’s all storms were – the skies just got a little crowded. When you’re a kid, and you start personifying these clouds, it becomes kind of fun to watch the clouds move around like bumper cars. So from that big picture window, we watched the clouds bump into each other. I cried a little less and maybe even giggled my infectious girly giggle. Most importantly, I eventually fell asleep during that storm, dreaming bumpy-cloud dreams. Now it was just the dog my parents had to worry about during storms.

Grandma Dar’s commitment to family is unremarkable and often unheard of. She didn’t just build this family and then sit back from a distance, living her own life. No, her family is her life. Her one-of-a-kind legacy will continue to live on within over fifty different people, with over fifty different memories of her.

Some people build businesses or political empires. Grandma Dar built her own kind of empire.

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Feminist in Limbo – Boys Will Be Boys

I still remember the first time I realized sexism was a very real thing.

I played soccer, and in my hometown that meant playing coed. Because of the lack of interest in soccer in my hometown, especially for girls, this usually meant I was one of very few girls on the “coed” team. Other teams we played didn’t always have a coed team, so we played the all boys teams by default, I guess. Defense was my usual position at the time. One particular game, this boy on the other team, their favored striker, kept attacking the side I was defending. Which is fairly normal; people will tend to stick to the side of the field and the foot they’re more comfortable with. But after several attempts to score on that side of the field without success, most people will switch it up and try something else. They’ll try it up the middle, they’ll try to pass – something! This guy just kept coming at me though. Eventually I moved over to the other side of the field to give me a break from playing constant defense against this guy. Except now this kid is coming at me on this side too! I thought it was strange, but just kept playing. Then, this kid brings the ball up the field and one of his teammates (likely tired of this ball hog) calls for him to pass the ball, because he’s going to lose it if he keeps headed in my direction. Instead of passing the ball to his completely open teammate, he just says “I got it! I can beat the girl.”

I can beat the girl.

I didn’t really think too much of it at the time, I was busy getting the ball away from this kid, but later I realized why he kept bringing the ball up whatever side I was on. He thought I was an easy target. That because I’m a girl, I couldn’t defend against him. That as the ‘weaker sex’ I couldn’t keep up.

Later in the game I stole the ball from him and made him look like a fool, and he eventually stopped bringing the ball up my side. I like to think I taught him a lesson that he kept with him for the rest of his life but I think that may be unrealistic. Stories like this happen all the time, even for younger girls and adult women.

And you know what the most common response is, when I ask why boys say and do things like this? Why they exhibit blatant sexism, why they’re jerks to girls for no reason?

“Boys will be boys,” as if it’s completely out of their control. Yet we’re the weaker sex.


In the professional and international soccer world this type of thing still exists, most recently with the current controversy over using turf in the upcoming Women’s World Cup:

Come to think of it, perhaps there is no better evidence that this boils down to sexism than the stance taken by female soccer players. No one has more to lose than they do. Nobody would be more willing to play this World Cup on turf, if they truly believed there was no other way, if they truly believed it was fair.

Female athletes are taking action because no one else is, because not enough people seem to care.

And that’s exactly what FIFA is counting on.

FIFA, the soccer governing body, is known for being pretty corrupt. But this is something else; this is low even for those guys. I get upset when FIFA does things that are biased against the US, like putting the men’s team in the Group of Death nearly every World Cup, but I can’t handle the way they’re dealing with the women’s tournament. Yes, I am happy the women have their own tournament, and I’m so happy with the leaps and bounds that have been made even in my short lifetime.

I’m just asking FIFA not to take a giant leap backward on this one. Don’t show those boys that you think women are the weaker sex, that women deserve less. Show the world you value the women’s game as much as the men’s. Give the fans, and the players, what they want. Doing good business means including the girls, too. Boys will be boys, but men don’t have to be.

Your pity doesn’t help anyone

When I was still going out on dates, I realized there were a lot of different types of people. Generally when I talk about dating, it’s insights I’ve gained about boys specifically but this particular thing struck me as something a lot of people do regardless of gender.

Family, in some capacity, usually comes up on a first date. I couldn’t say why, I guess it’s usually a safe question or topic, maybe. “Do you have any siblings?” seems to be a question I get a lot. I could answer this question a couple different ways. I  could simply say, “Yes, I have two brothers” or I could add to that and say, “Technically, I have four brothers, because I also have two stepbrothers” but between you and I, I don’t usually consider my stepbrothers to be my brothers. I didn’t grow up with them, and I rarely see or talk to them. When I was younger I used to say, “I have one and a half brothers,” but that just confused the shit out of people. So my usual response to the question ‘Do you have siblings’ is “Yes, two younger brothers, ‘E.’ is 20 and ‘B.’ is 8 years old”. That tends to confuse people, or shock them in some way so they say ‘Wow that’s a big age difference!’ I usually follow this up with, “Well, B. is technically my half brother.”

Now here is where you see the different types of people come out. Some people would have assumed B. is my half brother when I told them the ages of my brothers, because they have much younger half-siblings or they are the younger half-sibling to a much older child of their mother or father. (This being said, don’t ever assume. I know a lot of people with more than a decade between them and their closest sibling, and they aren’t half siblings. Their parents just decided to take a break before creating another human). So they understand this, but they ask about the age difference anyway to make sure they aren’t assuming. And then I tell them he’s my half brother, and they understand my parents are divorced. They don’t have to ask. They might say nothing, or they might nod and say “My parents are divorced too” and the rest of the date goes on.

The opposite end of the spectrum is people who may not know what I mean when I say ‘half-brother’ and so they need to ask “So your parents are divorced?” Or even worse I get the “So you guys have different dads?” which to me has always sounded so rude, and the fact that most people will automatically assume it’s different dads instead of different moms throws me off. I don’t know if that’s from a perception they have that kids tend to stay with the mother in a divorce, or some other assumption they have about ‘messy’ or ‘complicated’ families and divorcées. Why they even have to make the distinction at all, when I just met them, doesn’t make much sense. Most of this isn’t what bothers me. A lot of people will ask which parent my brothers and I share, especially if I show off pictures of them and a lot of people are trying to decide if we all look alike or not. Or they’ll notice my brothers look alike and I don’t necessarily look like them, even though I do share a full set of genetics with one of them.

No, what bothers me is when people ask “Your parents are divorced?” and when I say yes, they apologize. I’m sure they’re trying to be nice – but their entire face will change when they do it. It’s like I told them one of my parents died, or that they locked me in a closet under the stairs for the first ten years of my life. Most of the people who do this, are people who’s parents are still married. However, I’ve met plenty of people who’s parents are married and they can still handle this information with social grace and without that awful look of pity. But for the people who give that look when I tell them – just don’t. I don’t want it.

I still remember the first time someone apologized to me for my parents getting a divorce. It was maybe a year or two after my parents got divorced; I think I was ten. I was on the bus going home from school with the girl I rode the bus with every single day. I mentioned something about my mom’s house vs. my dad’s house, and she didn’t understand this at first. Why would my parents live in different houses? Then she got it. And she honestly reacted like someone had died, she felt so bad for me. “It must be awful, I don’t know what I would do if my parents split up,” she said. I didn’t really understand why she was so sad, why she had that look on her face. It was just a thing that happened. Life went on.

When my parents first got divorced, I wasn’t really old enough to get it, I think. Then I got a little older and it hit me pretty hard. Now that I’m an adult myself, I can’t imagine my life and my parents being any other way. Both of them have gone through phases where they were so unhappy, both pre- and post-divorce. Now both of them are happy, and successful, and flourishing in ways they might not have had they still been married. They got married in their 20s, even younger than I am now, and I don’t think either of them knew what they wanted from life. Now they’re in their 40s and they probably have more interesting lives than I do.

To be honest, when I think about my parents and who they are now, I have no idea why they got married or even started dating in the first place. They are entirely different people with different interests, hobbies, and ideal living situations. But that’s okay. They tried being married, and when it didn’t work, they decided not to be married. That’s all divorce is. Just a slightly more complicated and way more expensive break-up. I’m glad they decided to get divorced instead of resent each other my entire life and skew my perception of what a marriage should be.

So, please, don’t look at me like that. Just because my family is a little different than yours, doesn’t mean I’m broken. That kind of shit is character-building, right? So really, you could learn a lot from my and my built character.

Feminism in Limbo: Chapter 6

In college I took an Organizational Behavior class as part of the business school curriculum. The class was too easy; the grade based entirely on 3 multiple-choice exams that were based entirely on the textbook. I went to class anyway, because the professor was amazing, funny, and had wonderful stories to tell.

But one thing that stuck out from that class, was a chapter on gender and a very distinct difference between the genders I’d never really noticed before, but it made sense. (I’m paraphrasing a bit and it’s been awhile, so bear with me). Women, when they complain or have a problem, typically want sympathy or someone to listen to them. Men expect a solution. So when a woman is telling you about their awful day, and then this guy is trying to solve the problem, when all she wants is someone to empathize with her… or vis-versa, a man is telling a female about his awful day, and he wants the problem to go away, but this girl is just giving him all this sympathy he doesn’t want. You can see where this could lead to frustration.

The professor then went on to explain why this happens, why the difference exists (again, paraphrasing):

When a little kid falls down, parents (dads especially), will often treat a boy differently than a girl. If their little girl falls down, a dad will rush to the rescue, and make sure everything is ok. If a boy falls down, dad will tell him to get up and brush it off, maybe even say something like “dirt don’t hurt” and expect the boy to be on his way. This make girls accustomed to receiving sympathy when they fall, and boys are just told to get up, you’ll feel better, problem solved.

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My dad, seen in the picture holding me over a fence (which I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to do) wasn’t that kind of dad. If my brother fell down, Dad told him to get up and brush it off. If I fell down, I was told the exact same thing. At times, I sort of hated him for this. If anything, my dad pushed me a lot harder than he pushed my brother – whether academics, or sports, or other hobbies – he was always telling me where I could be better. I got an A; he’d ask why I didn’t get an A+. My team won a soccer game; he told me I looked a little tired toward the end, and I should get myself in better shape.

This gets to be exhausting after awhile. I just wanted to be celebrated for my accomplishments, not told it wasn’t good enough. That’s what I heard, every time he would ask why it wasn’t an A+.

I didn’t hear “you’re smart enough to have the top grades in all your classes,” instead I heard “this isn’t good enough.”

Now I’m an adult and understand why he did those things. A lot of people I know now who are successful, had a parent who was rough on them and was kind of an asshole. By default, kids (especially smart ones) can be lazy. They know they can be. They don’t have to study for the test, or ask questions to understand the homework. It pisses people off, but it’s true. So without that constant effing nagging – they’d continue to be lazy for the rest of their lives.

I don’t think my dad knew the ripple effect of what he was doing. The bar wasn’t set at “you did well for a girl,” but it was “did you come in absolute first place, boys or girls?” He was going to set the bar as high as possible, and not bring it down just because of my gender. He knew I was a smart kid, and wanted to make sure I reached my full potential. I was the first child, and I’m sure that’s a lot of the reason the bar was so high. It didn’t matter to my dad that I was a girl. He wouldn’t have been disappointed if my brother had been a girl, either. Even though my dad was the last chance for carrying on the family name, and without my brother the name would have died, he didn’t care. There was a lot of pressure from the family for my dad to have a boy.

“I was too worried about having a healthy baby, I didn’t care what it was as long as it was healthy,” he used to tell us. But, to the satisfaction of my aunts, a boy was born. So now the pressure is on my brother, I guess.

Even more powerful, it wasn’t because I was a girl that my dad was a pain in my ass. It was because I was smart, because I had the potential to do something real. He understood I’d have to deal with a lot worse if I was going to be a smart, successful, powerful woman someday. But he did it because he wanted his children to succeed – boy or girl.

23 Is The Worst

23 Reasons Why 23 Is The Worst

I picked this one because it’s the most recent one I’ve seen. On my 23rd birthday, I received a bunch of Facebook posts/messages with links to similar articles…all essentially ‘Why Everyone Hates You When You’re 23’ but there were a few ‘Why 23 Is Awesome’.

This one, however, also pointed out something I was told a long time ago, and have since forgotten:

15. Your brain is nearly done changing

The “use it or lose it” theory is at major play here. Your prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, the regions involved in emotional control and higher-order cognitive function, is fully maturing while other regions have reached their mental peak.

I even remember who told me this. I was 16 or 17, and my high school physics teacher told the class something to this effect. It absolutely blew my mind at the time, that I only had a few more years of my brain getting better before it started getting worse.

As someone who’s strong suit has usually been intellect, this is really terrifying and frustrating. I’m at my mental peak? What kind of sick joke is that? In theory/On average/Most likely I still have a solid 70+ years I have to stick around… and all while mentally declining? Who the fuck’s idea was this?!

Even worse, I spend my time doing nothing that takes advantage of this. If I’m at my mental peak, I should be doing some cool shit with that. Instead I make spreadsheets or fix other people’s mistakes or whatever the hell else I do at work. Then I come home from work to further rot my brain by watching stupid shows or buying shit I don’t need. Then there’s my drinking habits.

I already have this sinking feeling, from time to time, that I’m already losing what I thought was my most valuable asset. I think to myself, when playing Trivia Crack or reading something that’s probably over my head: I used to know this. What the fuck happened? And it’s probably one of the most frustrating things, because it’s out of my control and yet completely my fault. When other people do stupid or annoying things that frustrate me, I can at least blame them. But this is all me, and I don’t know how to stop unlearning all of the shit I’ve already learned. Clearly if I haven’t retained something it probably wasn’t that important to me on a regular basis, but it’s just the principle of the thing.

I should be doing something with this gift while I still have it. But what? As an occasional perfectionist, I can’t do just anything, it has to be the best possible thing to use my peak years for. I should learn a language, or go to law school, or solve some big fucking problem – but what problem? By the time I figure it out, I’ll have grown out of my peak years.

I don’t even know where to begin. Shit, I don’t even know where I want to end up, in order to try and work my way backwards. Geographically, career-ically, none of it; I just don’t know where I want to be.

“Mental peak” my ass.

A Special Kind of Limbo

I’m going to start with this disclaimer: I’ve never been very good at blogging.

I used to love writing and maybe even got good at it for awhile, but I usually can’t keep up with the same topic for long. Similarly, I could never get through the whole month of NaNoWriMo and actually end up with a novel. At best I’d have a very detailed outline, a beginning, and some short stories. But no novel.

So why the hell am I doing this? Well, in a sentence: I have to do something.

I’m 23 and just graduated with a business degree. I’m one of the few lucky unicorns to find a job out of school. This all sounds great, except I live over 70 miles away from most of my friends. (why would I do such a thing? we’ll talk about it in a later post, I promise). What I’m doing for my job is fine, but it’s certainly not my dream job, if there is such a thing. So I go to work where I’m basically a glorified intern with benefits, go back to my 495 sq ft apartment, and watch Netflix until I fall asleep. Sometimes I go to the gym or try to eat a vegetable or two. Sometimes I go on dates. Sometimes I just wander around my new city.

Ultimately, I imagine some of you are in the same weird place I am. Maybe the limbo you’re in is your current dating situation, your career, a general question of “who am I?” or something else entirely. Maybe the limbo is all three.

I’m going to ramble and rant and maybe make you feel less alone. I’ll probably swear a lot and make some grammar mistakes (if I haven’t already. And for the record – not because I don’t know the grammar, but because I believe voice is important in a blog). I have a weird and wide collection of interests from reading and soccer to economics and travel. I’m also a bit of a feminist and incredibly sarcastic so that’s bound to show up. I’ll try to break up the text with pictures of my tiny apartment, cooking experiments, and corgis.

I won’t tell you what you’re thinking, but I know what I’m thinking: “shit, I’m just another millennial kid with a blog, super original.” Who knows. Maybe it doesn’t have to be original, maybe all the original blogs are taken. Maybe as I figure out what makes me original, I can start to figure out what I really want, and even get out of this limbo. Maybe.