Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

Brave New World

Some role changes in life are dramatic, expected, and planned for. Many people work an entire year on a wedding – and hopefully even longer getting to know themselves and/or their partner – before actually claiming the title of “spouse.” People get 9 months – or longer, if adoption is involved – before becoming parents. Those are the Big Changes. But most times in my life, I move from one stage to another without even realizing it’s happened except in retrospect.

We finally got the opportunity to see the new Disney/Pixar movie “Brave” today. Being a big Disney fan, I’d been reading online critiques enough to make me curious but not enough to spoil the plot. “Finally, a strong female lead character” read one review “but a disappointing, one-sided stereotypical mother role and a missed opportunity to more deeply explore the oft contentious mother-daughter bond” said another.  Despite the fact that I don’t watch TV, I’d seen the promotional posters and even read an entire article in Wired magazine about how Princess Merida’s (MARE-da) wild red locks were animated. I’d seen various friends’ 140 character reactions, which were, without exception, positive. So I had a few expectations going in: I expected to be entertained, I expected to like the movie, I expected to cry (when do I *not* cry at a Disney movie?), I expected to dislike the mother character, and I expected to identify with and root for the red-headed princess. What I did NOT expect was to look into a giant, movie-screened size mirror and see the villain wearing my face.

[Warning: I will try not to give too much of the plot away here, but if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want ANY spoilers, please come back to this post later.]

The movie started innocently enough – on Princess Merida’s birthday. She was a young child, obviously rambunctious, and was hiding from her mother, Queen Elinor, who just as obviously knew right where she was but made a game of searching. When Elinor caught Merida in a bear hug, Elinor pretended to eat her daughter up like a tasty dessert and the giggles of the animated child on the screen were mirrored by giggles in the seats next to me and brought back happy memories of my own wee one’s babyhood not-so-long past, yet seemingly so far away. She was FUN, this queen and mother, and playfully enjoying her daughter.

Dad was doltish but loving, handing the young child a kid-sized bow and teaching her how to shoot arrows. Elinor looked worried for her daughter’s safety, but my oldest and I shared a wink and a nod since I am a certified archery instructor and my fresh new TEENAGER of less than two weeks (um….when did THAT happen!?) asked for and got her own archery set this past Christmas.

But onscreen as in life, things quickly changed. Merida grew up and the queen started teaching her things – important things – like manners and poise and history. Queen Elinor proved herself to be a classy, poised, educated, and firm woman. She took her duty as a mom and teacher seriously and *gulp* I really liked her. She had rules, as all good parents do. And she was consistent with them, as all good parents must be.  And Merida…well…with typical teen-aged swagger, she was sure she knew better.

I kept waiting for the unreasonable Elinor to appear, the one I wouldn’t like, the one who was stereotypical and flat and one-sided, but all I saw…was me. And it wasn’t in my imagination either. My youngest leaned over at one point and whispered, “She’s just like you, mom!”

But this is Disney. And I’m supposed to identify with the PRINCESS. This is NOT how the story is supposed to go!

The story progressed and there was mother-daughter conflict. There was yelling and anger, actions that couldn’t be undone and words that couldn’t be unsaid – all unsettlingly true to life. Then there was a big change in the plot, which in case you are reading and still haven’t seen the movie, I will NOT reveal. But the smart, poised queen ended up…out of her element, shall we say.

I’d better stop here to confess that the more I identified with Queen Elinor, the more I expected to map the princess to my oldest, who has long, wild, unruly (but non-red) hair and a fervent love of both horses and archery. It was clear this was to be a growing up story, and of COURSE this princess would remind me of my own new teenager, right? Except all of a sudden, as the queen was learning new life skills from her daughter, I realized that this wasn’t a movie about me and my oldest, but me and my very non-traditional, goes-against-the-grain youngest. And I realized that as much as we clash, she has things to teach me.

Later in the movie, more becomes clear. It’s clear that the lessons Elinor was teaching to Merida were valuable to Merida after all, not a waste as Merida thought. And it’s equally clear that Merida HAD learned those lessons, well, even as it looked like they weren’t sticking. Elinor was proud of her daughter and loved her, despite the frustrations – and it was a mutual feeling. And in the end, as ALWAYS happens, the child changed the parent as much as the parent changed the child. At least, thank GOD and Walt Disney, it was a happy ending.

Last school year I focused on preparing myself to be a better parent to a budding teenager. I am so thankful that, for now, our relationship is solid and she is going in the right direction for her (also a direction with which I can live).  But this upcoming school year will, I think, be one of focus on how I can be a better parent to the child who is simultaneously most like and most unlike me. It won’t be easy, but I have confidence that there is a happy ending in our future. Because, as the movie reminds us at the very end, our destiny is something we CAN change, if we are BRAVE.

Choices

Fellow blogger Colleen over at MommieDaze posted about an interesting conversation with a woman she had met just five minutes earlier.  This woman confessed to these strangers that she married a man who reluctantly agreed to one child with her knowing that she wanted more than one, assuming she could “talk him into” having more kids.  Go here to read the details!

Colleen posed some interesting questions at the end of her post, which I was planning to answer in her comments.  But when I saw how long winded and passionate I was getting, and how long it’s been since I’ve blogged, I figured I’d better make it my own blog post.

Q: Did she wait too long to start thinking about a family?  Should she have prioritized that over career sooner?

No one can say that she did or didn’t wait too long, since it’s such a personal decision.  But life is about choices, and when you open some doors, you close others.  That’s reality – and why it’s important to plan for the big stuff.

Q:  If she’d started looking for a husband sooner, would she have found a more compatible Mr. Right?

I don’t know that it’s a timing issue as much as a priority issue.  My parents were both teachers, and nearly all of my grandparents had college degrees, so I was late into high school before I realized that not every kid goes to college.  (Yes, really!)  Therefore, in my head, all my studies were to prepare me for college and the life beyond.

In much the same way, I always assumed I would get married.  Therefore, dating was a way to learn more about people and help me figure out what characteristics I wanted and didn’t want in a man (versus just a way to have fun).

If you don’t get serious about college until senior year, how prepared are you?  If you don’t think about serious relationships and what it takes to have one – and keep one – until you are late into your childbearing years…

Q:  Did she settle by marrying presumably the first guy that came along?

That question assumes a lot.  I don’t know that he was the first guy who came along.  But it DOES look like she focused on her goal of “getting married” without thinking through what it takes to STAY married.


Q:  Should she have waited for the guy who wanted as many children as she, or was it right for her to heed the ticking of her biological clock and cut this deal with him?

She didn’t cut a deal, really; she went into the marriage dishonestly.  She makes it clear that he said one, she agreed on the surface knowing she didn’t agree in her heart, and thought she would or could change him – a sure recipe for disaster.  I see divorce or at least great unhappiness in their future.  I would also venture to say that she is insecure and immature.  Insecure because she didn’t respect herself enough to keep looking for someone with her same goals and immature for thinking she could change someone to be the way she wanted him to be.

Q:  What if she did wait, and never found Mr. Right, and never had a family at all?

There are far more ways to have a family than marrying and having a child.  I honestly believe not everyone who can SHOULD have a child.

Q:  What about her plan to “talk him into more”, which in girl speak usually translates to manipulate?

Yeah, I think I made my feelings on that point perfectly clear. (-:

Q:  I’m not judging her choices…

Sure you are.  We all are.  It’s human.  And we are all judged by OUR choices every day.  Our choices reflect our priorities, and therefore shed honest light on who we are inside.

…I just think it’s an interesting example of what today’s woman is faced with. Do you try to have it all? Do you have to make a choice between career and family? What do you do if your biological clock is a ticking time bomb and you haven’t found Prince Charming yet?

It’s not just today’s women who are faced with those choices.  Women have ALWAYS been faced with those choices throughout history.  It’s just easier to carve one’s own path nowadays. (-:

Yes, I try to have it all.  And I believe I CAN have it all, but not at the same time. (-:  Choices.

Yes, you have to make a choice between career and family.  Sometimes career will win, sometimes family will win.  It’s a balancing act – and truly reflective of what you value most in your life.  I am not comdemning people – men or women – who chose work over family, but I do feel sorry for them.  In trying to have both, they often get neither.  Choices.

And if you have’t found Prince Charming, I think you need to look at YOURSELF.  I know someone who never married, ever, because no one was good enough.  Expecting perfection is unrealistic.  After all, YOU aren’t perfect!  Expecting to find someone “close enough” and change him or her is also unrealistic and selfish. The alternative?  Decide what’s REALLY important to you, focus on those characteristics, and let go of the rest.

Relationships that last take compromise, trust, and mutual growth.  He will change, but not always the way you expect.  And if it’s a strong relationship, YOU will change, too – and love it!

My husband adds a whole other dimension to who I am.  We are alike in some ways and different in others – thank heavens!  After 13 years of marriage, he has become more like me in some respects, and I like him in others.  We balance each other – and he has made me a better person.  I wouldn’t want to raise our children alone, though I am a strong person and could do it if I had to.  He’s not perfect and never will be – neither am or will I.  But he IS my Prince Charming and my knight in shining armor.  And I wouldn’t chose to have it any other way.

Cheap Women

About two years ago, I decided waitressing would be something fun to try and got a part-time, lunch-time job at a nearby restaurant. Now, I wanted a classy experience with good return on my time, so the restaurant I picked is a top notch, 5 star establishment. This is not Chuck-E-Cheese; we rarely get kids there at all – mostly business people schmoozing clients or doctors who visit regularly. The average lunch bill per person is about $23.

I love working there! I love to entertain, so I pretend that the whole restaurant is my large home dining room and everyone there is my personal guest. There’s no work or stress to bring home, there’s an invigorating pace when the customers come in, it occupies just a few hours a week, and I average 23% in tips. Management is super flexible when I need to be home for a sick child or take a day away to go to a presentation at school. And I’m learning how to cook new recipes and expanding my taste horizons, which is a big accomplishment for someone who wouldn’t even try chocolate pudding when she was little (according to my mom!).

But far an away the most disappointing part of the job has been discovering how cheap most women are when it comes to tipping. I kid you not – when a table of women comes in, all the servers hold their breath hoping they don’t get assigned to it. Now, I understand that times are tight all around. And if you receive poor service, you have every right to compensate the server – or not – accordingly. But if you can’t afford to tip the wait staff appropriately, please don’t eat out!

Case in point: I serviced a table of four middle-aged women the other day. They had obviously been to our restaurant before as they were familiar with the menu, so our upscale prices were not a shock. They came near the end of lunch seating, so we weren’t swamped or slow to service them. They all had special orders, which is also typical for a table of women, but never bothers me. (I always order things the way I want them, too. Think high maintenance a la “When Harry Met Sally” and that’s me!).

When they ordered additional salads, I brought exactly what they wanted but rang it a different way and saved them $5 – and mentioned it to them so they wouldn’t be surprised when the bill came. As far as I know, every lunch order was made exactly as they wanted it – at least they made mention of that fact and said they were impressed. Their glasses were never empty, they loved their desserts, and when I switched out their sugar caddy for one with more Splenda, I did it so smoothly that one even said, “Oh…I was going to ask for more Splenda because I thought we were out, but I see some right here!” I even took their picture for them.

All in all, I was feeling fantastic about my service to them and when they paid the majority of their $127 bill with a $100 gift certificate, I was confident that the standard 20% or more was coming my way. But alas, it was a table of women, so I was disappointed but not really surprised when my tip was a mere $15 (less than 12%).

So ladies, if you are eating out with the girls, take some advice from a server in the know. The standard compensation these days for good service is 20% to 25%. If the service far exceeds your expectations, tip more. This especially holds if you are paying by credit card, because many restaurants deduct those 3% to 5% credit card processing from their servers’ paychecks. Do our gender a favor and DON’T be a cheap woman!

Whoa, Man!

Looks like 2007 is set to be a banner year for women in power. Today, Nancy Pelosi becomes the first female House Speaker in history, putting her 3rd in line for the presidency.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/03/female.speaker.ap/index.html

This is cracking a 200 year old tradition of men in power in the United States, but the breadth of British history has trumped us in this feat. For the first time in 522 years, the historic Yeoman Warders (also known as Beefeaters) have appointed a women to serve in their ranks.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/01/03/beefeater.reut/index.html

There are even rumors that Hilary Rodham Clinton might start a serious bid for the U.S. presidency. Although I don’t particularly like her stand on many issues, I would feel it necessary to strongly consider voting for her in order to create history and further deteriorate the historic stranglehold on power men have and do hold in this country.

Shamefully, countries such as China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and even Iraq have a larger percentage of women involved in positions of governmental power than the United States. It is definitely past time for a change, but we do need to be careful as women HOW the change happens.

According to the CNN article, “Pelosi embraces her role as the first female speaker, but she wants to be judged by the same standards as the 51 men who came before her.” Unfortunately, this desire to conform to the standards already in place for men will simply propel women into roles that harbor the same stereotypes men currently face. What we need is a new set of standards!

The generation before mine came of age at a time when women were thought to be able to do anything and everything. Lost in this message of empowerment was the simple fact that everything cannot be done and had at the same time. The result was a generation of women burning themselves out trying to do it all and be it all.

My generation still struggles with these unrealistic expectations. Can we have a career. Most definitely – and with a variety that exceeds any other generation history. Can we put our children’s interests ahead of our own during the critical years when we are teaching them to be the best people they can be? Of course – no one can do it better than a motivated parent. Can we do these things simultaneously AND effectively? The way the business world is structured, I say no – not without breaking some pretty strong traditions. Just try looking for a job that fully utilizes the skills of a Case Western Reserve MBA graduate (with a 4.0 GPA) that allows a 9 am to 3 pm daily schedule and summers off. (And if you know if one, please let me know because I’m still actively looking!).

So yes – I’m happy that women seem to be making greater strides than ever in 2007. But I hope that we can use our new-found power to reshape and redefine the system rather than simply falling into the same old traps and pitfalls in the name of equality.

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