The Context of Compliments
I feel safe in saying that all women have experienced some type of sexism or sexual harassment. And, as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown more sensitive to it. Or, I’ve been better at identifying it.
When I was working my first high school job, I thought I just had to accept that “older than me cook” talked about how he liked me, that I was cute, etc. And, the other adults in the room didn’t do much to help me understand that it wasn’t acceptable. ‘Ya know; he was just teasing. That wasn’t very helpful adult guidance because I was at an age where I was already starting to believe that my worth depended on boys and their interest in me.
At somewhere in my mid-20s, when a couple guys drove up next to me as I walked to work and invited me to a party (which isn’t the best way to extend an invitation, in mg opinion), I pretended to be thankful. ‘Ya know, to make sure they didn’t get mad that I didn’t appreciate their advances and hurt me. Now, I had a clue that what was happening was unacceptable, but I was pretending not to understand to protect the feelings of men I’d never met and to avoid any possibility of my being hurt.
At 38, I had experienced so much sexism (mostly subtle and mostly in work environments), that any compliment on my appearance by a man that wasn’t in my close circle made me feel downright angry. Although, I still feigned appreciation which made me feel even worse.
So, today, when a man working the drive-thru at a local juicery/good food place handed me my unsweetened latte with unsweetened, house-made almond milk and said, “Have a nice day, beautiful,” and I drove away with the biggest smile on my face, I was utterly confused at my reaction.
At first, I thought it was odd that I valued his words when I would have hated those words in other contexts. I laughed out loud when I thought it was just another one of my “hypocrite” moments. Like, if you yell, “Hey, beautiful,” at me from a car window, you must see me as an object and be sexualizing me. But, if you say, “Have a nice day, beautiful,” from the drive thru window at a juicery/good food place, you just made my day.
But, here’s the thing…. context around compliments is actually important. I will never stop thinking that it’s weird when a man with whom I’m talking for a professional reason says, “Your hair really looks nice that way.” Yeah, don’t do that, men. You wouldn’t go to a lunch meeting with another male colleague or contemporary and say, “Thanks for discussing this important topic with me, and also, your hair looks nice longer.”
And, when the two men whom I’ve never met or seen before in my life drive by in their car and invite me to a party while I’m walking alone to work, I get scared. So, also, don’t do that, men. I literally worry about being assaulted and killed in almost every environment, so compliments don’t feel super good when they scare me.
But, when the guy from the drive thru window at the juicery/good food place said “beautiful” to me, intuition suggested that he didn’t mean it like, “You’ve got a hot face and nice hair, beautiful.” He meant it like he probably actually believes that we’re all beautiful at our core, and it wouldn’t hurt to be reminded of that. And, because I know I need that reminder, I smiled.
#LetsRoll, Or Not…
First of all, I hate the Chiefs’ chosen hashtag for this playoff run. “Let’s Roll” is the phrase that was generally accepted as the phrase that was used when a group of people decided to take down a plane on September 11, 2001, over Pennsylvania instead of crashing into whatever iconic target as planned. To be clear, I’m not a ‘Merica kind of person (like, I believe in everything she could be, not everything she really is), and I even believe we were never really told the full story about that horrible day.
And, that’s just one example of why I’m a hypocrite. Because no matter how much I hate that hashtag, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
So, maybe I should just make a list. I hate the NFL. I think American football is dangerous and barbaric. I think the NFL doesn’t really care about the life-long effects of injuries to its players who make their owners so rich.
But, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
I hate that the Chiefs are named the Chiefs. The Native American imagery and imitation is gross. We built this country by removing (and that’s a euphemism) its indigenous people. Then, we reason that it’s some kind of honor to Tomahawk Chop our way to the playoffs.
But, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
I hate that Chiefs fans yell, “Home of the CHIEFS!,” at the end of the National Anthem. And, don’t get me started on the NFL and its relationship with the National Anthem. The NFL has been part of the inaccurate narrative that its players were protesting the Anthem when 1) they were protesting something far more pervasive than the Anthem (like culturally engrained racism), and 2) part of what makes the United States special is that we really aren’t supposed to be Nationalists honoring the flag and the Anthem by requirement. We can choose to sit for it, and that actually makes us pretty darn patriotic when we exercise the freedom to sit, kneel, or not otherwise stand.
But, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
I hate that the NFL hasn’t taken domestic violence committed by its players seriously. I hate that only when video surfaces of an incident that a player release is considered. I hate that the release doesn’t occur until the NFL has confirmed that the (very good) player can’t play for any other team for the remainder of the (soon to be releasing team’s promising) season.
But, I’ll be watching the AFC Championship.
And, if we’re talking really high level, I hate sports. I hate the drinking that accompanies it. I hate that people think God cares about which team wins. I hate that our players are paid unbelievable money, and I hate that the rich get richer at the expense of people who just want to be in the stands to root for their hometown team.
But, to know the truth about me is to know that I LOVE SPORTS. Baseball is my favorite closely followed by college basketball. But, I will watch almost any sport being played. I LOVE SPORTS. I tried in college to pretend like I didn’t love sports because I was running with a super cool music focused crowd (like, they were super cool… I was hanging around them hoping some of the cool dripped off on me). BUT, I LOVE SPORTS.
I’ve seen all too closely the positive impact a sports team can have on a community, and even though I believe all of the things I said earlier in this entry, I STILL LOVE SPORTS.
And, part of this blog for me is opening-up about things that make me… well, me. And, one of things is my tendency towards being hypocritical because I was born to see things from too many different perspectives. I’ll be exploring this further as we go along, but my parents’ personalities almost seem like complete opposites. I’m the product of that (both nature-like and nurture-like). It means that I truly often believe two things that are completely contrary to each other.
As I said, I hate the NFL, and I’ll be watching the AFC Championship rooting for the Chiefs and wearing my red sweatshirt (which totally says Rock Chalk on it and has nothing to do with the Chiefs but is my way of showing support without giving money to the team through apparel purchases).
My nephew has made two stinkin’ adorable comments related to the television since I’ve known him. The first was when he was quite young. He was used to seeing me and my partner together in real life. So, when my mother turned on the television to see one of the relatively frequent interviews I was doing on behalf of a prior job, he asked, “Where’s Partner?” (Partner isn’t his real name.)
He thought that because Partner and I were together when we were in Nephew’s (Nephew isn’t his real name.) presence, we were together everywhere, even on TV.
Much more recently, I received the reminder that Nephew was playing in his first real basketball game... at an elementary school. When I arrived, Nephew’s Mom told me that as they prepared to leave their house for the first basketball game, Nephew asked, “Is my game gonna be on TV?”
I have no idea why Nephew actually thought his basketball game played at an elementary school gym was important enough to be broadcast on television. And, at first, I was going to write this entry about “kids these days,” and their focus on “likes,” being “Insta-famous,” and screen-time.
Then, I thought about it, and I wondered if seeing his Aunt on TV has oddly skewed his belief that things our family does are on TV. Eh, maybe not.
Then, I thought about it some more and decided that THE KID JUST THOUGHT HIS GAME WAS THAT IMPORTANT. This isn’t the time to argue about whether what’s on TV actually is important. And, you can understand why a kid playing his first basketball game at an elementary school does think that things on TV are important.
And, I love that he would care so much about something that he assumes other people care as much as he does. I wish I did everything with the mindset that, “This is so important; it’s gonna be on the TV.” But, honestly, I assume that almost everything I do won’t be on television.
And, maybe, that means Nephew’s approach is better.
Welcome to Blank Ballot
Let’s start with why it’s called Blank Ballot. First, I’ll give you the literal story. I love voting. I recognize that there was a time in our country when women and people of color weren’t able to vote. I recognize that voting is one of the key ways to actually be counted and to make an impact politically. I know that voting isn’t as pure as it might once have been. Lobbyists and other special interests get to our elected officials who often succumb to interests beyond those of their constituents. But, I don’t care. I love voting. I want to be counted.
However, I don’t love when I’m uneducated on a topic or about a candidate, and I’m faced with a ballot question. But, I refuse to let that stop me from trekking to my polling station. If I don’t know enough about a question but feel strongly about another ballot measure, I vote on the one, and I skip the other. If there’s only one issue on the ballot, and I’m opposed to selecting a candidate or an answer to the proposed question, I still go to cast an entirely blank ballot. Let’s say there is a special election, and there are two candidates in opposition. But, I’m opposed to both candidates. If I don’t go to the polls and cast a ballot, there’s no way to know what I’m thinking. Was I busy? Did I forget? Am I disenfranchised? If I go to the polls and cast a blank ballot, all of those questions are eliminated. I went to the polls, but I didn’t make a selection. I said, “I want to be counted as someone who doesn’t like the choices.” What if after 100% of the ballots were counted, 25% selected option one, 35% selected option two, and 40% cast a blank ballot? Did we just indicate, by being counted rather than just giving up on voting because there are no good options, that we want different choices?*
So, Blank Ballot is actually a protest concept. But, on a personal level, it explains a lot about me. And, let’s be honest; if I’m the one writing this blog, you’re going to learn a lot about me and how I see the world. My hope is that you identify with some of how I perceive things and process experiences.
I have a lot of opinions. A lot. But, if you know me casually, you probably don’t know that. I work hard to play nice, be liked, and avoid conflict. And, usually, I’m successful at it. And, it tears me up inside. I’ll have to address the “tearing up inside” as we get better acquainted. For now, you need to understand that I want to scream my opinions from rooftops. I want to get into arguments on Facebook that are well-reasoned (at least by me) and not worry about how my Facebook friend perceives me because I’ve said how I feel. But, for now, I protest more quietly. And, while I often don’t think that gets the job done, I know it’s how I’ve been inclined to share my opinion and make an impact. Casting a blank ballot is quiet, non-offensive, and anonymous. And, although I think it can be effective, for me, it’s more a symbol of my desire to be heard but not if I have to be too loud.
So, Blank Ballot begins. While I hope that casting a blank ballot does catch-on as a protest mechanism, I also hope that through this process, I catch-on to protesting** loudly through the written word. My protests will range from funny, to political, to social, to observational (probably mostly observational), and authentic. And, I know you’ll relate. If you don’t, I’ll have to learn to be disliked for being me. That just has to be better than being liked for being someone I’m not.
Welcome to Blank Ballot.
*I understand the election commission would just indicate that option two won. If 1,000 people cast ballots, election results would still dictate that the person getting 350 votes vs. 250 votes would win. But, it seems like it could stir up a story that 1,000 people went to the polls and the majority of voters (400) didn’t pick a candidate at all.
**Protesting is used loosely here. Its definition within this blog has more to do with honestly sharing my opinions and observations without letting my fear of judgment stop me. The blog generally protests living an inauthentic life. Stay tuned to hear more about authenticity and your environment’s impact on it. Turns out, you (I) might not be as inauthentic as you (I) often feel in certain spaces.
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