Big Expectations

Recently an article went around Facebook about the false expectations of “GYPSYs”. The author of the article explains us GYPSYs as:

“yuppies in the Gen Y age group — I call them Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies, or GYPSYs. A GYPSY is a unique brand of yuppie, one who thinks they are the main character of a very special story.

Essentially, we GYPSYs are given false hopes for a bright shining future without much effort. We’re told we’re special and we deserve to be recognized for our unique contributions to humanity… by the age of 25. When we don’t achieve this, we are sad. Essentially, we expect too much out of life, and of ourselves.

 But the article fails to mention that even though we have the delusional notion of fulfillment in life and passion-filled careers in our twenties, we also have been very well trained to expect pretty damn near perfection from ourselves (perhaps with the same sad ending when we realize we are unfortunately all far from perfect… and yes, it hurts to even type that).

This is especially true for women. As a friend recently lamented, “women are expected to be perfect in every aspect of their lives. It’s not fair”. This is of course not new news.

Ever since skinny, beautiful, interesting girls first graced our TV screens and magazine covers many years ago, we’ve been simultaneously trying to achieve perfection while trying (perhaps unsuccessfully) to reject such absurd ideas. This all has lead us to believe that we’ve got to be attractive, smart, helpful, caring, ambitious, and hardworking, without ever being selfish, aggressive or self-conceited. We must be confident, but not too confident. We must be unique, but not weird. We must be perfect, but never, ever believe it.

And as we try to mold ourselves into our own particular brand of perfect that shimmers in the blinding light of all social media sites, it seems our expectations of relationships have fallen off to the side.

Indeed, what is perhaps most telling about the article is that it doesn’t even mention our expectations for love.

For example, when I develop a new crush, I hear over and over again, “just don’t expect anything”. And when a girl schemes about future romance, a good friend must always chime in, “yes that’s the plan, but remember, no expectations!” And in the case of a girl brave enough to still own a plan of action, she must always offer the disclaimer,  “but still, I’ll expect nothing!” 

So while we women may be busy attempting to achieve a full plate of perfection with a side of love life, guys get away with living in a constant state of awesomeness in which they need neither the absolute perfect GPA nor a girlfriend. In fact, they’re a bit more badass and awesome if they can somehow manage to be smart and loved without such qualifiers.  

For while we may expect less of them in performance, we perhaps expect more self-assuredness. How often do you hear men claiming their excellence, exclaiming, “I’m just that awesome” or “I can’t help but be the best”? When was the last time you heard a girl say that?

Indeed, it seems that somehow men have been able to maintain dominance in society despite the fact that our expectations may not be so high for them, particularly in the world of love expectations.

But of course it’s this way! Why would be expect love from men we don’t expect a lot from? It becomes a question not only of “what do we expect of men in love?” but of “what do we expect of men in society?”

We women may want guys to show loving emotions to us, everything we as a society have taught them is the opposite: never cry, never be weak. The world has contrived a place for men that situates them in a difficult place, for all of us.

Meanwhile, women are living a mantra of “Hey girl, reach for the stars in your career, but don’t you dare expect something resembling true love to walk through the door any time soon. So best not to think about it at all”.

But in the end, am I just being a GYPSY whose expecting too much by saying I want a change? 

One million and two ways not to forget

Have you tried to break up with someone, ever?

 Have you tried to forget someone, remove him/her from your life, move on?

 Has it worked?

 Ugh, it hasn’t worked very well for me!

 You can de-friend someone, block him/her on Gchat, delete their text messages, stop following their Instragrams, and remove their Snapchat names (because god forbid you see their best friend list with a strange girl on it… it may lead to Facebook stalking and inquiring texts to determine exactly who might have replaced you).Image

But still, you never know where this someone could pop up!

Two weeks ago I was happily sitting in my kitchen scrolling through Facebook, as I too often do. And then, out of nowhere, appears a picture of a boy long removed from my friends list. A girl from high school had tagged him in a picture of them together! What?!

 It only took me about two seconds and one text message later to determine they are dating. Well that’s a sorpresa! And something I really didn’t need or want to know. So instead of continuing to scroll happily through my Facebook, I ended up staring at the wall imagining the two of them together at his grandmother’s house, where I had been, oh I don’t know… about seven long years ago!

Finally I realized I had to get a grip on reality. “Oh hey, Colombia! Oh hey different continent, different life, different me!” I promptly left the house and ended up at a very bad reggae bar where at least I could think about horrible music rather than weird scenes of a life long gone.

A week later I unfortunately dreamt about another past boy, only to wake up to a Facebook reminder that it’s his birthday. Of course it had to be his birthday! I immediately fell into a vortex of memories of previous birthdays and the long sequence of unhappy events that was our “relationship”. It only left me disheveled and once again in need of reorienting myself to my current life.  It just won’t stop.

Should it stop? Probably. Will it stop? Probably not.

Even with all my boxes neatly stacked and counted here in Colombia with no troublesome boys within a country’s distance, nothing can or will stop the steady presence of technology and its one million and two ways to keep in contact with them.

Of course, I could delete all my social media apps. I could be in Colombia and only in Colombia. But what about my family? What about my best friends? What about all the people who I love? They might forget about me!!! And I need them! (And well, duh, I’m as addicted to Facebook as every other stricken member).

So the question becomes, how to manage a love life riddled with memory mines that could set off at any Facebook log in?

And how to manage the temptation of sending a text, a gchat, a Facebook message?

It’s so easy! Too easy! 

It was probably hard enough to break up with someone before the modern technological age. But now… now!? Well it makes it nearly impossible to properly break up with someone. And what’s that doing to our hearts? This phenomenon where we are always able to know, to hang on to facts, to be upset by reminders? No, no no, this can’t be good!

 We’re going to have to adapt some pretty damn good mechanisms for dealing. At least we can always send each other a text, a Gchat, a Snapchat, a Facetime request, a Facebook message, an email, a Skype message… (am I missing any?)…

 Yes, thank god I’ve got a million and two means for contacting my dearest friends even in Colombia. 

white women today

Hey, did you know poor white women are the only demographic group to decrease in life expectancy in the last century?

Hey, did you know the American 1% now possesses 20% of U.S. wealth, bringing us back to 1927 level disparities. That can’t be good for our future.

Has Sheryl Sandberg said anything about that?

The 1% of [primarily white] women can keep getting richer and more powerful by leaning in, but what about everyone else?

As a white woman with enough education and resources to lean in all day long if I try, I might not be the best to ring the warning bell. But #solidarityisforwhite(wealthy)women is pounding in my ears anyways, so I’ll ring away.

Then I’ll ask: So if poor white women are decreasing in life expectancy because you need to go to college to get a good job that supports your health, what are our hopes for improving education for all the non-white-rich people in a country where our major cities are failing to open adequate schools (Philadelphia this means you) and where college costs are skyrocketing like never before? Where 1/5 of the money belongs to 1%?

Who can and will lean in on that one?

Putting Boys in Boxes: a heterosexual look at modern love as it exists between a girl and a box

Disclaimer: I know I’m being atrociously hetero-normative here, but I’m not sure how else to explain my box theory without using the term “boys in boxes” because it entirely encapsulates the experience shared here.  

Okay so, having said that, have you noticed the hypocrisy in my latest posts!? First, I claim to have always strived to be a “strong, independent woman” (before realizing the redundancy of such a term), then I turn around a call myself nothing more than a mere bystander in my love life. So, hypocrite much?

Well, yes… and no. Ultimately, my goal to be my own dynamic, courageous, free person cannot be achieved until I stop allowing myself to call victim every time a dude walks into the room. But at the same time, I feel very good about my efforts trying to become the teacher/friend/family member/student/alpaca rider (see below) I want to be, without allowing victimization to poison these other identities I claim and love.

How, do you ask? Easy. Just put those boys and all those issues in a box! And not just a normal square box, but a box with various categories to further separate, compartmentalize, and isolate those boys so that they absolutely cannot inhibit all those other boxes of my life.

“Putting boys in boxes” was officially initiated into my vocabulary in the fall of 2010. On that fateful evening almost three years ago, my friend and I were attempting to spend a Friday night in our dorm catching up on some work. Though we were sincerely trying to hard to focus on our work, those boys and their texts just kept popping up! They were all over the place, jarring the carefully laid plans we had made for them (unbeknownst to them of course). So, instead of writing essays that evening, we instead poured ourselves into the well-known art of crafting proper text message responses. As we drafted and revised, we had to be careful so that we could get those boys “back in their boxes” so that they could together comprise the best version of a love life we could conjure at the time (with consideration to the fact we had a zillion other projects to simultaneously work on). 

You see, once out of a box, a boy could cause a lot of trouble. If, for instance, the boy is meant to be nothing more than an innocent flirt, but then all of a sudden morphs into a sexual aggressor, well, problems arise! Or if a boy in the “boyfriend potential” box all of a sudden becomes a jerk, then well, you either have to find a way to get him back in that box, or find someone else to replace him. It’s all very tiresome. And moreover, managing boys takes a great deal of energy and attention that could otherwise be spent on academics or jobs or the zillion other projects I mentioned before!) So, it’s just easier if boys stay in their boxes, to be removed at the proper time.

 ImageEssentially, “putting boys in boxes” (or to put it more bluntly, compartmentalizing my life) has become a primary survival strategy for me. What began as a managerial technique for separating the different boys that composed my love life in a hook-up culture quickly morphed into a larger symbol for how I can live my live if I’m not careful: in boxes.

For me, love (or something like it) has become just one division of a towering pile of cardboard separated pieces of myself. If my boxes of family and friends and teaching can all burst with love and success, then the problem-ridden box labeled boys doesn’t look so bad. And if I try really hard, I can knock it back into the corner and nearly forget about it as I delightfully open and close the many other, bigger, shiner boxes that I’ve nurtured with all the hours and energy of my day.

When the night arrives, if conditions permit, the boy box can be taken out and cautiously opened. And if things go poorly, then I can just shove the box right back to its corner the next morning and quickly open a more joyful box, like tutoring! (It is no coincidence that my favorite time to tutor during college was on Saturday and Sunday mornings when I could work off  hangover induced frustration about the night before through playing, reading, and laughing with a wonderful girl who inspired me to focus on the happy, rewarding box of teaching and learning.)

What I mean to say is that, as we become successful in our adult lives, we can be superwoman at work, kindred spirit in friendship, and late night text messager in our love life. We can compartmentalize our lives so that we can fit every last thing in. It works, and it works well.

But what does it tell us about our lives today?

What it tells me is that our families and homes exist in very different spheres than our work lives, which are distinct from our friend circles, which are often separate from our love lives. It is difficult to live in an integrated circle of friends, family, and lovers when our educational and career tracks lead us on a constant march of change and growth (and in my case a series of countries). And this constant state of change is of course supported by phones and the internet and a zillion means of communication so that we can in fact live such different versions of ourselves all at once.

The many opportunities available to us today can propel us to build and build upon our pile of boxes. And that love box, it can stay just that, a box.

Is it a good thing, these boxes? Sometimes I argue yes. Better to keep a boy in a box rather than let him (and the issues that arise) consume my life. But if I allow myself to continue to live in boxes, then how will I ever get past my own self-created barriers? If I let the boy box stay in the dark corner, then of course it will never get better. 

 And just as I start to question how exactly to move beyond the confines I’ve made for the boys who may enter my life, I stumble upon this article. So maybe, it’s about finding the “change” box and opening it up to see how I can integrate my life and myself so that boys become a thread woven into a lovely life tapestry, rather than an ugly box I try to avoid when things aren’t going well.  Maybe its about nothing about boxes at all.

This video…

First and foremost, watch this! (And thank you to the dear friend who shared this with me!)

 

Now… Articles, articles, articles! I labeled them for both you and myself to keep track of what’s what. Click away

 

1. Women don’t make as much money as men:

dollar_bills

Speaking of this picture, a recent post on Facebook from my school said this:

Pay discrepancy between genders has been a hot topic in the news. Check out this illustration. Watch for our November Webinar on negotiating your salary. What are your thoughts on this issue?

I ask: Did the person writing this not notice the fact that it’s not just between women and men, but also between ethnicities? And that perhaps it might be about a bit more than “negotiating your salary”

On a similar note: Forbes magazine discusses huge pay gap between A list male and female actors, while completely ignoring the fact that all the women listed are white. 

 

2. Women being victimized sucks on a larger scale than just my “sneak attacks” (see post below)

 

3. A pretty intensively negative look at birth control, but there are some good points in there I think. Here’s the book:

 

4. And on a happy note, women are awesome!  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/04/girls-tweeting-not-twerking-their-way-to-power/?_r=0

How not to be a victim?

            A very good friend of my mine recently told me “Grace, don’t be a victim”. He was right.
           It is so easy to become the victim. “Someone made out with me”, “he wouldn’t stop texting me”, “I didn’t know how to say no so we just kept going”. In each scenario, the dude completes the action and the woman (me) receives it.
          (And has anyone been following the campus rape issues around the country? I haven’t been too closely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the assumed passivity taught to many females in our culture perhaps “confuses” men into believing that the girl actually is consenting. But by all means, know I am NOT trying to say women victimize themselves in these situations… rather that there is a larger culture around male initation that needs to be addressed)
            I for one victimize myself all the time in my interactions with men. Most recently I’ve been framing unwanted advances by Colombian men as “sneak attacks”. “He sneak attack kissed me!” “I ended up on a sneak attack date and I was so annoyed”.
            What exactly is a sneak attack? A sneak attack is what I have deemed to be some sort of sexual or romantic advance in which I play a passive aggressive role. Then I complain about it afterwards. Sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it?
            Yeah, it’s lame and decidedly unacceptable (see ending of this post). To explain my unacceptable passivity, I admit to being absolutely horrible at communicating with men, whether it be a “no thanks” or a “yes, I’ve developed feelings for you”.
            In a recent example, rather than saying something simple and clear like “please take me home, I’m not interested in dating you”, I pretend to be sweet and nice until I can escape and then deflect text messages until the guy gives up. And well, that’s me in a post-college world where I live outside the realm of late night text messages.
            In fact, my self-victimization gets much more pathetic. In college I would torture myself waiting for my phone to vibrate, fully convinced I was nothing but a mere pawn of some inescapable world of male initiated texts. A message before 12pm signified “he’s not even too drunk yet, this is good”. A 9 or 10pm message would literally knock my socks off: “what he soberly thought to text me!?” And well, to wake in the morning to a missed text, well… that just meant I had played hard to get and could celebrate a sign of strength I had clearly not at all earned.
            In this world, texting a guy first was a cardinal sin, a sign that I had given in to “the game”. When I would finally summon the courage to send an initiating text message because oh btw, I have feelings that I want to express (what??), it would only be after encouragement from at least one BFF who assured me that it was “my turn” or that “he’s definitely going to text back”.  Indeed, in retrospect nearly my entire college “dating” (hah) experience was all not much more than a power struggle between girls and boys playing a hook up game. It was a miserable experience in which I actively participated (though as an often passive participant).
            The saddest part of all is that this victim role I play dates all the way back to middle school. Any one remember the days of AIM? That’s where I first learned the tremendous value of “he messaged me first”. As though it were my greatest accomplishment to have succeeded at sitting at my computer… waiting, begging, praying for a box to pop up with the infamous “hey”, which maybe, if I were really lucky, would be followed with a “what’s up?”
            Dear lord, who am I? I’d say I’m a product of a world contrived to make women believe that their best option in the world is to express “power” through waiting for someone else to dictate the relationship.
            Literally, there was one boy, a boy I would wait hours, days to hear from. When we were together, I always alarmed him when I would deny his oh so kind gestures to open doors or pull out chairs for me. He’d ask, “Geez, are you a feminist?” Considering he was the first to ask, maybe he was on to something. But really… does it take a mere “I can open the door myself” to call someone a feminist? Did he really expect me to wait not just for his text messages, but also for his obviously more powerful arms to pull out that bar stool for me? Was I capable of anything other than waiting? Apparently not.
             If I had waited for these things, these texts and door openings, is that power? You could argue that indeed it is, in the vein of “you go girl, you make him wait! You make him work for it!” Or perhaps, this sense of “power” has been produced to hide the reality that in fact, as long as we give the majority of the initiating power to men, and as long as we feel sh*tty about ourselves when we initiate something, we will not be able to fully realize our equality as human beings with equal measures of proactivity. (This is not to say there isn’t worthy power in waiting in the right circumstances, but when it becomes a matter of torture, one must question why she is subjecting herself to something she could in fact address).
           But then, what about my recent “sneak attacks”?  This type of self-victimization is perhaps a product of both a personal issue with confrontation in all areas of my life, and also the form of femininity I have adopted. I am a girl, which means, to me, that I should be try to be nice and caring as often as possible. I cannot imagine myself halting a guy mid-kiss and saying “don’t”. It sound so easy, but at the same time, sounds so painful. How awkward is it going to be afterwards? How badly might be feel? And am I going to look like a… gasp… an angry feminist? It’s so much easier to just kindly wait it out and then be an angry/uncomfortable/pissed/annoyed/flustered/awkward victim later. 
            Well, rather than continuing to expound upon my victimization and thus further victimize myself, I will say I am trying to change. People here don’t send text messages, but if the day comes that I find some guy here interesting and attractive, I will not stare at my Facebook inbox willing a message to appear. I’m not going to like, jump up and profess my every last emotion, but I’ll try to legitimize my feelings enough to recognize when I’m subjecting myself to painful waiting because I’m too scared to do something. And the same goes for my “sneak attacks” and general passivity when it comes to discomfort… I will not subject myself to passively dealing with whatever happens in my life. If I don’t like it, I’ll say something. But well, if I do like it, I guess I won’t put up a fight.
 
** I talk a big game. So I’ll test out my new mantra and report back. 

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