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bear by san

March 2017

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criminal minds garcia girls who wear gla

dumb all over. a little ugly on the side.

One thing that becomes more and more evident as I move into my forties, and what feels--really, internally--like adulthood at last... is the way I and other adult women have this habit of fucking up one particular aspect of our responsibility to younger generations. Young women in particular, but young men too.

It's not really our fault. We've been trained to it for generations. But it is our responsibility, and we bloody well need to fix it.

I'm talking about how we minimize, despise, excoriate, and abhor ourselves. How we exclude ourselves from consideration. How we martyr ourselves for others. How we call ourselves ugly, awful, incompetent, and stupid.

I don't know exactly how to describe the sensation I get when I see a beautiful, fiercely intelligent, accomplished and skilled artist and craftswoman twenty years my senior call herself ugly and stupid... but I am realizing that I have that same power now, and it's up to me to use it wisely. Not to give voice to the anger and self-hatred and self-loathing I feel so fiercely. Not to indulge in the kind of scab-picking hairshirt self-abnegation that we've been trained to crave, even though it's so fucking bad for us and everyone around us. Even though it robs us of our power to be positive in the world, and good for other people.

There's a thing coffeeem said to me once that ranks up there as one of the two most transformative positive things another human being has ever said to me*. I have since clung to it and passed it along to friends in times of need.

What she said was, "You'd never tolerate somebody talking about me--or any of your friends--the way you talk about yourself."

...Wow.

And then lately, I've started thinking about that queer horrible sensation in my chest when I see a woman who I deeply respect and admire casually savage herself, and I have realized that Stephen Sondheim has the right of it, as in so many things. "No one is alone." Not in the sense that there will always be someone there for you--oh, no; that's the grade school reading of that sentiment. There will not always be somebody there for you. Sometimes you have to do it yourself.

But in the sense that nobody is so isolated that their actions have no effect on those around them.

You see, people believe what I say. If I say that I am abhorrent and useless, I'll believe it. And even if the people who love me don't believe it... it will hurt them to watch me do it, anyway.

And worse, people for whom I am an authority figure, an adult woman, somebody who has lived, will see it. And they'll internalize it. Young men see adult women despising themselves, and it teaches them that women are abhorrent and useless. Young women see adult women despising themselves and it teaches them that they themselves are abhorrent and useless.

It doesn't matter how I feel about myself, how richly I think I deserve the browbeatings I give myself.

It is my responsibility to do this small thing to make the world better for other women--other people--younger and older.

Well, if it was easy, it wouldn't be fun.


*The other one was something The Jeff said to me, back when I was nineteen or so--"You're not as crazy as you think you are." It was more that I wasn't as crazy as I had been taught to think... but yeah, it changed me.

Comments

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Thank you for that message, it just made me tear up.

(And I don't mean that the way it might sound. I'm not being mean, I'm being heartfelt and honest. It hit me in a very visceral way)
Yes. Me, too.
I think, no I feel - too many thing about this post. As a 43-year old woman who all too often calls herself an ugly old spinster, who too often feels that it's "too late for me" for a lot of things - this was a needed reminder.
I saw a woman who must have been in her late fifties/early sixties at the climbing gym on Monday. It was her first time out, and she was with experienced friends.

She did better than I did my first time out, and I started at 35.

And I just found a promising and totally unexpected relationship at 39. My mom met the love of her life in her mid forties and they're still together.

Just saying.
This may seem a little off topic, but bear with me.

I saw an article in the paper today about women in business "allowing" themselves to go grey, i.e., no longer dying their hair, and about how women with grey hair are viewed as old, but men with grey hair are viewed as mature and experienced.

The rage...it is hot needles stabbing into my eyes. GAH. Why? Why can't we accept that getting older isn't bad? That age isn't ugly or weak? That youth isn't the end all and be all of life? That the process of gaining experience, of growing up and getting older, is natural and necessary and good?

I love and earned each and every grey hair on my head. I don't want to be eternally 18 or 22 or 25 even. My teenage years sucked. My twenties weren't much better. I was fucking clueless and lost. Getting older means I gain experience and (hopefully) wisdom. Wisdom like what you wrote today--the realization that we can positively affect the people around us in myriad small ways, and not to underestimate ourselves and our affect on those around us.

Thank you for writing this.


Edited at 2012-04-04 02:28 pm (UTC)
I like my gray hairs, dammit. They're made of authority.
It is very tough to change. I am working on this myself. The thing that really hit home with me was when my young daughter started doing it. It was one of the most horrible feelings I've ever had, knowing I'd passed on the self-loathing behaviour to her like a gene. It made me realise I have to change the way I think--but it requires the help of friends and loved ones.

Thank you for this post. YOU are awesome, btw.

ETA PS: have you seen this? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/science/clothes-and-self-perception.html Obliquely related, in the sense that sometimes you have to fake it to make it.

Edited at 2012-04-04 02:29 pm (UTC)
You're pretty awesome too. And brave.

And oo, what a neat article. I just tumblred it.
Thank you.
Sing it!
Amen.
*applause*

This.
Yes, and yes, and yes!
This is rather hard for me to read, and I've had to think about why. And I think it comes down to this: like many women of my generation (and I'm 8-10 years older than you, I think) I was raised not to 'show-off', which translates as not drawing attention to myself and not talking about my successes and abilities in public. Family stuff added a couple of extra layers to this with the result that self-promotion and self-esteem feel dangerous to me. At the same time, I was taught that it was my absolute DUTY to put the needs of others first, to celebrate their successes and to suppress anything about me that might detract in any way from them. And, y'know, I'm British and our cultural norms are somewhat different.
I respect your position, and I don't want you ever to feel you have to denigrate yourself. I don't want any woman to feel like that.
At the same time, you've set up a clash of duties in my head. It is my duty as a Professional Good Girl to be nice, and never show off. (Seriously, this is so ground into me that I had to train myself to smile and say 'I hope you enjoy it' when people tell me they've bought my book, rather than 'I hope you won't hate it'.) It is also my duty never to do anything which might cause harm to others... And I can't do both. I can do what I do now, which is duck situations in which my abilities may be mentioned positively.
We old types don't do this to harm, we do this because our lives have taught us that it is not safe to do anything else (literally not safe, in some cases, including mine). I'm not sure I'm strong enough to take the burden for all those younger women too.
None of us do it to harm. We do it because it's horribly ingrained in us. We're raised to it. And if you put yourself down first, maybe somebody else won't do it.

And I'm not saying you have to be immodest or sing your own praises.

I'm saying that when any one of us calls ourselves ugly and incompetent and stupid, no matter how deeply we believe it, we're demonstrating to younger people that nothing a woman does can ever be considered adequate.

That's toxic.

So say we all

This post rings so true for me. It's especially hard with kids. It takes energy and time to tend to their needs and guess whose budget that comes out of? But if my girls never see me do things for myself, how will they learn that they deserve it too? They rarely see me sitting down to read, because I do it when they are asleep. When we went to buy new spring dresses, one of them asked, "Are you buying a new dress too?". I laughed. As if!
My husband is blessed with actual self-esteem and it sometimes pisses me off. He might say, "my gym socks are wearing thin, I will throw them away and buy new ones." In my mind I think, "Gym socks! I am lucky to have any socks without holes that actually match! Who has time to think about socks or actually go out and buy some?". But I keep my mouth shut because I know that is the voice of my crushed and angry self. I am trying to listen and learn. Trying to be the person who deserves a new pair of socks.

Re: So say we all

You deserve a really *good* pair of socks.

Smartwool or something.
Well voiced.

As a 41-year-old whose self-image has dashed all over the place in the last five years, I appreciate the reminder that I get to decide how I see myself and that I'm responsible for it.
Ah yes. My "Old, fat, and ugly" comments. I know them well.
I do not do self-deprecation - not since I realised when men do it, it's an invitation for everyone to rally round and disagree, but when women do it, it's an invitation for them all to agree she has just confirmed the truth.

Of course, that has in part contributed to my reputation for being hard as nails/super-confident. Which isn't nearly the compliment you might imagine some weeks.
Or it's an invitation for everybody else to start playing the "I'm lazy and stupid" game too.

Augh.

One person at a time.
I think it was from mrissa that I got the, "Please don't say that kind of thing about my good friend, [name of person you're addressing]," construction. Very useful, both when addressing other people, and addressing myself.
The mrissa is very fine that way, yes.
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