A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen

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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.