I’m Me, After All

This is the 21st century. I at least wanna hyphenate my name.

  This quote comes to you from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. It’s one of my favorite books and a delightful movie. In this scene, Edward is talking to Bella about getting married and becoming Mrs. Cullen, to which she responds with the above. But why am I bringing that up, a decade or so after it came out on the big screen? Because that line is relevant to me each and every day of my life.

I got married almost 2 years ago. It’s been great fun, and great stress, but I picked a partner wisely and I am happy with my decision. But the thing is, it’s also very hard being married in a way that I think women almost exclusively know. Identification. And more specifically, what you call yourself.

My initials, according to what my parents named me are MRB. My dad made the joke many many years ago that they’d named me that because I would always know who I belonged to (Mr. B). Now, he was completely joking, but that thought stuck with me. How do I define myself when someone else defined me before I was even born? I would forever associate myself with others. I am the friend of so and so, the daughter, the student, the whatever of someone.

But: Who. Am. I?

  So when I decided to get married, I decided to become Mrs. Someone. But that joke stuck with me. Who I belonged to. And although I love my Ben, he doesn’t own me. I do. And so as I took my documents to the Social Security office, I proudly announced that I would no longer be MRB. I would from that moment on be MRB-B. I told myself and others that I was doing it so that when I published academic papers, you’d know without a doubt it was me and not some other MRB. 

But the thing is, I also did it because I am now the only person in the world with my name. I am me. I have embraced the old me, the me that was a child. I embrace the new me, the one who has an entire other person by my side. But I also accept neither of those things as my definition. Because I’m not the property of someone else, I’m my own property. 

Being a hyphenated woman has some perks and some drawbacks. I can sound exceptionally sophisticated and enunciate the fact that I have four names. I can use either my maiden name or my husband’s as I see fit (apart from official business). I can decide who I am at any given time. But. I also belong nowhere. 

I do not see my hyphenation as an outward sign that I am not happy with my marriage but it came to my attention that I take that fact for granted. I was signing for a package last week and they asked me my last name. I said my maiden name out of YEARS of habit and was immediately scolded for it. “You’re married. Aren’t you happy about that? You should use your married name.” And it hit me that maybe not everyone has such liberal ideas about definitions as me.

  I am incredibly lucky to have found a high school sweetheart and married him and successfully made a name for myself. I never once looked back and said “Yeesh. Maybe I should give myself an out.” I chose to be MRB-B because I wanted to define myself by my standards. I want to call myself whatever I want because I am my own person. But at the end of the day, I wear my wedding ring everywhere, I happily say “I’m married.” When people flirt with me. I bring up my husband (and the fact that I have one) when people on the internet ask me questions. And in fact, here we see that I have mentioned him a LOT in this post alone. So when I say my original B, it isn’t because I don’t actually love my husband. It’s because I said it for over 20 years and it’s still my name. And when I say my new B, it isn’t because I feel like I have to use it, it’s because I’m proud I can. But that’s the beauty of the hyphenation. I get to do what I want. And so, a new me arose.

Role Models and Hope For A Messed Up World

I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say right away, so this post is coming almost a week after the incident, but the concept has been stuck in my head for quite some time. As an individual, I love being a singular version of myself. But I look often for someone else who is also a trailblazer. I wanted to write about why I look for and who I select as a role model for my life. I think it’s important for people, women especially, to have someone who is an upstanding, respectable example of the lives we want to lead. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people from older stories who could be role models (I frequently look to Joan of Arc, personally). The problem with using people from the past is that things were different. The world was not the same then as it is now, and we need people who are more like us than sword bearing warriors or queens from afar. 
  There is the social media factor, I suppose, which lends itself to a certain realm of role models, some good, some not. But it seems that the news represents best those who are not good role models for the young (and young-ish) people of today. I am of course talking about the celebrities like Nikki Minaj, Lindsey Lohan and to some extent even Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. They all represent the pandemonium of fame and the pit falls thereof. We could also examine outlets like Disney or Matel, who have presented the world with prestigious Barbie, Cinderella, and Ariel (just to name a few). It is these three which are both a great help and a hindrance to young women of today. I want to explore them and then propose my list of four individuals who are better role models for our generation. 

  Barbie: In almost every household you might find her, or a cousin or a friend. She is blonde, brunette, red headed, light skinned, dark skinned. She has had a plethora of jobs, donned an impressive collection of costumes and even manages quite a large variety of accessories. Over the years, people have yelled at her for being too skinny, too unrealistically proportioned and too shallow. I mean, there was even a brief moment in Toy Story 3 where she was introduced to public audiences as a complete and utter bimbo, followed by a weak attempt to reclaim her dignity. But the thing is, she’s too uniform. She has no individualized flaws. No scars, stretch marks, beauty marks, wrinkles, pimples, or really flaws of any kind. Her makeup is always done, she’s always smiling and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

  Cinderella: She’s Disney’s star princess. I mean, who didn’t want to be a princess because of her? She came from rags to riches, found a guy, married Royal and viola. She even had a set of killer shoes. But what does she have as far as personality? She’s got wishes, desire. But she lacks motivation and drive. She “asked for a dress, shoes and a night off”. I get it. But that’s not real life at all. And why do you need a man to provide you with everything? I mean, independence goes a long way. I know in the original story she was a teenager, but isn’t that kind of the point? In her time period, that made her basically an adult, and I know she would have been in need of a man, but this is the 21st century and we don’t need that anymore. Say it with me: I am a strong, independent woman who needs no man, but can have one if I so desire.

  Ariel: With a golden voice and perfect hair, who cares about anything else, right? Wrong. Again, you don’t need a man to be the best woman you can be. The thing is, Sebastian was right. Giving up everything, your soul and life included, just to get a man (or attempt to) is not the way to go. And by this point, wouldn’t you also need to make exceptions for finding the right partner-be it woman or man or just a good friend? As with Cindy, sorry Ariel, but there’s nothing that warrants me looking up to you if you’re going to change everything about yourself for someone else.

So I’ve given you a basic run down of my issues with the above, but I do want to mention that I know these characters are fake, but they are widely distributed and influential. I do not want to come across as impossible to reason with so the last person (it’s actually two people) are fictitious as well. And I also realize that the women I am looking at have flaws. But that’s exactly why I chose them. And I will go over them as well. These are, of course, my own personal opinions and you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I would love to hear your opinions in the comments, as always. So,without further adieu.

Michelle’s List of Role Models for Women of 2015.

  Judge Carolyn Walker-Diallo: You might not have heard of this woman, but she is the reason I’m doing this post. Seven days ago, she was sworn in as a judge in New York. She wore a headscarf, because she is Muslim and she was sworn in on the Qur’an. Now, none of this even really seems like anything out of the ordinary. But the amount of hate mail she received for being sworn in on the Qur’an is astounding. This woman vowed to uphold the law, as she has done her entire career. She is an upstanding citizen who was voted into office. I came across this story in my FaceBook news feed because of how many ignorant people are accessing social media to tear her down. You are permitted to swear into office on any holy book and even the constitution of the United States. She has done nothing above and beyond the average expectations I have for a law abiding citizen, but she is my candidate for a role model for the simple fact that she stuck by her faith, even when people threatened her and heckled her about it. She stayed true to herself, even though that path offered great resistance.

  Adele: Let me say that I am a huge fan of Adele. Her voice is so beautiful, and she’s gorgeous. She’s not stick thin, and I love her for it. She says what’s on her mind and once again, stays true to herself. She took time from her career to take care of her baby. We’re almost the same age and that means a great deal to me. Why, you ask? Because she’s proving that not all 20 year olds and 20-somethings are wild and crazy and awful. She’s a credit to our age group. She even works at a record shop. Her flaws? She’ so soulful in her music that she really only sings sad songs. Which isn’t like a huge flaw, but I don’t associate anything other than sad love songs and break up songs with her. 

  Angelina Jolie-Pitt: Did this one take you by surprise? I really thought that this spot would be occupied by many other people, and indeed it could have been, but there are lots of women who could have taken this spot who simply aren’t as well known. And while you are all entitled to have your own individual role modes, for the purposes of this blog, I needed someone visible. She adopts underprivileged kids, she works with charities and organizations, speaks on behalf of underprivileged people to the UN. And on top of that, she preventatively had a mastectomy so that she didn’t have to worry about breast cancer. I mean, that sounds like a very personal thing and she’s known for her body. I remember a lot of people were upset at her for taking charge of her own body, and that is why I commend her for doing it. She did what she had to do so that she could live her life to the fullest. Also in this spot, Emma Watson for similar reasons. 

  

  Molly Hooper/Buffy the Vampire Slayer: I told you I would bring in some fictitious characters. I chose one from my younger adult life and one from my current adult life. So I will start with Buffy. She was a kick-ass teenager who saved the world a lot. And the thing is, that was badk when TV series were filmed with people who looked like teenagers playing teenagers, and incorporated flaws and diversity of character types. Buffy had an attitude, she was impatient and made mistakes. She needed help and asked for it, she complained about life and then grew up and made sacrifices. She represented real teenage life, apart from vampire hunting. And her friends were just as painfully realistic. But they all had a moral code and they represent a lovely era of beautiful story telling.

   Molly Hooper. I have great aspirations to be Molly Hooper. For those of you who do not know who Molly Hooper is, allow me to tell you. The BBC produces a show called Sherlock, based off of Sherlock Homesfrom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the BBC version, there is a medical examiner by the name of Molly Hooper.  She has an enormous crush on Sherlock, does everything dignified she can to get him to notice her including buy him a present at Christmas. He’s rude about it and she calls him out on his bad behavior. Later in the series, she also tells him he’s throwing away his gifts and that he should apologize for various actions. Sherlock comes to respect her. And she didn’t change herself. She stayed true to her personality and persona, all while being a valuable asset to a team. Honestly, I know that this is all fiction, but really, if I were ever to model myself after someone who never existed in real life, it would be Molly Hooper. If you haven’t watched Sherlock, I HIGHLY recommend it. I can discuss all manner of theories with you. I’m a true and devoted CumberCookie and Sherlockian.

Anyway, this has been my short list about female role models in modern society. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. 

Every Word’s The Same

I have to say

There seems to be a miscommunication

I thought secrets were for the living

But the only secrets are kept in death

If every second lasted just a second longer

Maybe the trust I thought I deserved 

Would shatter before my eyes

Instead of behind my back

My shoulder blades itch, 

Could you move the knife up and to the left?

Or should I just fall on my face

The beauty of the fall is my disgrace

Is that your heartbeat

Or is it just the echo of a chest that’s hollow

Because you’ve been a tin man your whole life

And I guess that makes me the one without courage.

It takes a tribe to raise a kid, but 

Maybe it was a village of idiots.

You thought you were so clever, so sweet

That I could save you from your own disasters 

You should have looked for a parachute

Because this plane’s about to go down.

I never thought it’d come down to this

A thief and a liar, oh but the twist,

We are the same, you and I

Connected by the handcuffed scars on our wrist.

  (Photo from Pinterest!) 

What’s My Age Again?

9 December 1992. It was a cold day in December, flurries and snowflakes abounded and as the sun disappeared, a lunar eclipse kissed the moon. In the chill, the bitter cold of night, there was a silence. A single snowflake fell to the ground, having caught the light of the blood red moon, and the world held its breath. Seconds passed, each one bringing the moon closer to the culmination of the eclipse, the tint caressing the moon with no inclination of saying goodbye. And right as the moon shone brightest, a scream rippled through the stark white hospital. The lights were dim, the sounds of Christmas carols humming through the radio and in a flurried rush, as the snowflakes outside the window, a baby was wrapped in a blanket, the jam-like innards having been sucked from her nose, her bottom having been smacked. That child, covered in goop, being rapidly wiped off and swaddled, was me. I came home in a Mickey Mouse shirt, which my mother graciously lets me keep in my clothes drawer with my socks.
My mother was told she could never have kids. I was both a surprise and a blessing (or so my parents tell me). I’m sure they really had no idea just how many surprises were to come to them on my behalf. I’ve been through every emotion and hair color, I’ve grown fond of coffee (if you couldn’t tell), I fell in love with music. I learned to play almost a dozen instruments, I even thought about being a music major in college, even auditioned. We always put the Christmas tree up after (or on) my birthday). And now, I live with my husband and life has changed so much since my earliest memories.

Last year on my birthday, I anxiously awaited the minute I turned 22 so that I could buy the Taylor Swift song. But as I approached this birthday, I realized that finding a “23” song would be much harder. So I began my search. As the title suggests, I found Blink-182 first and then Jimmy Eats World. But that song just wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure my sister would love for me to claim the R5 song “Wishing I Was 23” but I just can’t connect to it either. Next to reach the chopping block was “23” by Shakira. I’m a huge fan of Shak, and I really thought maybe this song would be it. But I kept looking-just in case. And then I landed on “Waiting” by Jamie Campbell Bower. And I think I have my song. 

Being 23 is already pretty stressful. I have another year just gone. I spent it being sucked down by my cowardice and anxiety, I found myself changing my mind-a lot, and I picked myself up after tons of times being metaphorically beaten down. But it’s gone, for better or worse and I can’t get it back. That’s really something to think about. It’s a scary world out there and I’ve missed another year. Or am I just another year closer to the best me I may ever be?

So my goals for year 23, are personal,more so than they have ever been. I want to break my shell once and for all. I want to get out and meet people, make eye contact and not be afraid of everyone. I want to work out more. Not so I can be skinny, but so I can be healthy. I want to be able to go into the next parts of my life in the best shape I can. I want to do something-like get my book published, or sell a song to a famous person, or even just go somewhere. And more importantly, I want to succeed. Less thana year from now, I’m applying to grad schools and law schools. I want more than anything to get in. I want to smile at the acceptance letter and realize I did it. I want to not be scared to drive. I have a CRAZY story to tell you all sometime about why I have worries driving, but today I shall not get into it. And I want to enjoy life. I don’t need to have “everything”-the perfect body, makeup, hair, and material goods. I just want to spend more mornings looking at the sunrise, more evenings staring up at the heavens and maybe, just maybe, finally learn how to play guitar.

All that I need is to be true to myself. And that is my favorite reason why I’m 23.

So come close, and I’ll scream

Oh just let me be me

And I fail to see

The dark skies aren’t all that dwell inside me

-Jamie Campbell Bower, Waiting

  

The Song with The Beatles (War is Over)

I haven’t blogged in a couple days partially because this is the end of the semester and I’ve hardly had time and the other part is that I’ve been watching too much news and just feeling more emotive than responsive. But today, I have everything collected, I have coffee on its way to being perked and I have things to say. You are never required to, but my oerspective cries out to be heard.

I read an article (which is how all of my conversations seem to go these days) about the curent generation of teenagers being entitled and whiny. (https://theoxytocinchronicle.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/generation-cry-baby-why-millennials-are-a-fking-joke/) How they feel that they are special snowflakes, with no flaws and a sense of deserving things which they did nothing for. I would like to expand on this and say that there are many of the current population, regardless of age who feel that way. As someone with student loan debt, I would love if university were free, but it isn’t and therefore I have to plan for that. If it’s what you want, you’ll find a way, if not, you’ll find excuses. And so I’m dragging myself across the metaphorical coals to pay for my education because I want to help people and that’s what it costs. I’m not entitled to free college, I’m entitled to working hard. And it bothers me that there are so many people who would rather just sit back and let other people worry about the chaose they cause in their laziness than there are people who want everyone to do their share. We are all special, but that doesnt’t mean that some specials are privileged or more valuable than others. It means that our uniqueness is the key to making the world better. SO I’m vehemently against entitlement. And as I will discuss later, I am against children* having children.

If you look at the news at all, really since the big terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Europe this past month, you aren’t seeing too many happy-faith-in-humanity-restored moments. In fact, here in the states we just completed something like our 29th (or 36th-depending on which definition you use) mass shooting since January 1. (http://truthinmedia.com/fact-check-355-mass-shootings-far-2015/) People get killed because of the worst reasons, and these shootings are one of them. You know what I want to see? Someone bringing a whole truck of flowers to the graves of these people. Seriously. Hearts are broken everywhere. I’m so tired of people being able to do this and have their messed up reasons why it’s okay. Taking someone’s life isn’t okay and it should never be used to get people’s attention.

  Speaking of getting people’s attention, the news companies are not as innocent as they would like to believe. Of course we all know that there are some stations which lean heavily politically but I’m specifically talking racism here. If you look at my above definition, expertly taken from Google, there is no skin color listed. The pigment you have is not a requirement for the terror scale, ranging from disturbed to terrorist. The man who shot up the Planned Parenthood, he was a terrorist based on this definition. The news reported him as, wait for it, a “calm, but crazy”(NBC) “stand-up guy”(USA TODAY). WHAT? This man shot three people so that he could shut down the PP of his neighborhood. That, because of what I will address in one moment, is complete bullshit. The man is a domestic terrorist, treat him as such. Holy smokes!

I have two things I want to role up into one here and they’re both entwined in the same subject matter: Planned Parenthood and the Tampon Tax. I’m not sure how far (if at all) Planned Parenthood goes outside the United States, but it’s basically this huge network of women’s health and sexual health clinics offering anything from STD screenings and birth control to abortions. There are a lot of controversies as you can imagine (or have seen) over the latter. Here’s where I will bring in that little (*) from above. I do not necessarily have a problem with teenage pregnancy on the sole basis that they are teenagers. WhatI am talking about here is maturity age. If you are 45 and you still can’t pay your bills or fix yourself food and you leech off of everyone else, you are a child in this scenario. I have a BIG problem with children (maturity age) having children (age). If you are not ready, DO NOT HAVE KIDS. (That’s why I’m not having any right now. I’m not financially ready.) And the thing is, people make mistakes, but if we remove all manner of health awareness and screening clinics, we’re going to have an excessive rise in not only teen pregnancy, but pregnancies that are unwelcome, unable to be cared for or otherwise unexpected. We already have enough children without homes. We need someone to talk seriously with us about sex-and not just abstinance. We need (as a whole population) someone to explain what sex means, the value of waiting until you are ready (maturationally) and the consequences. 
But the thing is, there are people reading that who will completely blow off what I’ve said because I didn’t say “Until after you’re married”. I did that on purpose and I will leave that conversation for a different day. A small section (or maybe large) of readers may also have stopped and wondered why I didn’t mention the Tampon Tax above. The simple answer: if youlook at how big that paragraph is, we needed to move on.So what is the Tampon Tax? I want you to skip ahead for a moment and look at the picture below. If you live in the U.S. here is a picture of all the places which impose a tax on your bodily function. Which one? Your menstruation. In health, we are taught that having a period for women is a completely biological thing which prepares your body for pregnancy. It also cleans out your uterus if no such pregnancy occurs. And yet, here we are. 

 
You know why I have a problem with this? Because in the last few years, people have had no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to women’s reproductive issues. We had Todd Akins talk about “legitimate rape”, Ken Buck said rape victims had “buyer’s remorse”, and a whole slew of other politicians who felt that they could speak as medical professionals about the likelihood of pregnancy accompanying rape. Lisa Brown was banned from speaking because she said “vagina”, women’s bodies have been under regulatory proposals 468 times (mic.com). We have an ongoing issue trying to shut down the biggest provider of reproductive services because of a doctored video (meaning edited) put out on a smear campaign and women are going to suffer once again. 

In conclusion, people need to stop being bad and learn how to grow up, not kill people, leave women’s bodies as the individual decisions of the individual and respect all people-regardless ofskin color, orientation, religion or any other arbitrary categorization we want to self-impose. Holy crow. People make my heart sad.

Opinionated

When I was young, I was stubborn. My dad knew that one of the best ways to get me motivated was to make me mad. Once I moved half a ton of gravel by myself in an afternoon, because he’d made me so mad. But the thing is, I learned how to use my frustration in beneficial ways. I harness that energy into two things: proving someone wrong, and being productive. And that’s been one of life’s most valuable lessons.

You see, I don’t have everything figured out. I barely have my day-to-day figured out. But that doesn’t stop me from having opinions and ideals about it all. In fact, if anything, I have more opinions than I know what to do with. Some of them are completely harmless (like my pumpkin spice latte obsession that only lasts two months and then I think it’s ludicrous to have one) and some of them are educational (like how I think that history of religion-all religions- should be taught in public school) and some of them are down right political (like my stance on pro life-pro choice, or how I feel about vaccinations). They don’t agree with other people’s, they aren’t the exact same as everyone else’s and they don’t have precise boundaries.

And that’s okay. 

  
I haven’t got everything all figured out. I’m going to be 23 in a matter of weeks. I have a great many years before I become a crone and I know that life has quite a few more lessons for me. But what I do have is passion. And a voice. And that’s why I started this blog, to get the best out of both. 

So if what I say offends you, that’s really unfortunate. I try to be polite in all my interactions, try to be considerate in all things. If I’m genuinely being unreasonable, call me out on it. If what I say causes you to reevaluate your position in the world, I am doing my job. I don’t have to have the same opinions as you, nor the same beliefs and values and for you to demand that of me is both offensive and it shows how immature you are. I’m sure, though, we have some common ground somewhere. We cannot progress as a human collective if we have the same mindset for hundreds of years. We cannot progress if noone ever asks the hard questions and waits for actual answers.  So here’s to progress.

For the past several weeks I have been focusing on mental health. Not only has it been awareness month and prevention, but because it is a big button for me. However, I also have other buttons: feminism, poverty, religion, culture, anti-20 something behavior and beliefs and a whole host of other things. So, if you’ve grown tired of me being on my mental health soap box, I’m getting ready to unveil a new one. I just haven’t decided which one it is yet. Although, I have a feeling it will be domestic abuse for a while, as that is what my NaNoWriMo novel is about and I really need ot express some thoughts. But we shall see.

Thanks for reading!