Are You Keeping Score?

The woman with the most elegant home,

Wins an all-paid vacation to the city of Rome.

And the mother who births the smartest babies,

Gets a brand-new, red, convertible Mercedes.

And the woman who chants, “I’m so busy” the most,

Gains the respect of all, on account of her boast.

So for goodness sake, I hope you’re keeping score,

Cause if there ain’t no prizes, then what’s it all for?

Stressed

On Philosophy, Pronouns, and Stoic Women

Last week in an article in the New York Times, columnist Laura Collins Hughes referred to a recent performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

No, not that performance. The one Hughes spoke of was at an all-girls high school. Not only were all the roles played by girls, the word “man” was changed to “girl” throughout the script.

Hughes wrote:

“Thou art the ruins of the noblest girl that ever lived in the tide of times,” Mark Antony said over the dead body of Caesar, and I thought: When do we ever describe girls as noble? When, in the stories we tell, do we ever take them that seriously?

–from “When Women Won’t Accept Theatrical Manspreading
by Laura Collins-Hughes, the New York Times, July 17, 2017

To which I say, “Right?!”

It started me thinking – or rather, it returned me to thinking, as it’s not my first time – how powerful language can be, especially the words we choose to describe ourselves.

I’ve been doing some reading into Stoicism (because I’m weird like that), partly because it reminds me of my dad. He was a calm, quiet Norwegian. A perfect fit for Stoicism.

But also… well, have you ever read something and thought to yourself, “Yes! This, right here! This is meeee!” (Squealed in a most stoic fashion, I assure you.)

You find out you’re not a weirdo after all. Someone — okay, someone in ancient times, but still, it’s someone — thinks the way you do. Only smarter and with a better vocabulary.

Stoicism is like that for me. But there’s one little problem: it’s a wee bit masculine. Oh hell, it’s all the way masculine. I mean, they were all men.

(Okay, fine. I realize there were some female Stoics, but we know very little about them, and they don’t appear to have written anything. Not so much as a grocery list.)

So after hearing of the plucky girls doing Shakespeare, I started changing the language of what I was reading.

For instance:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity.
― Seneca

becomes:

The bravest sight in the world is to see a great woman struggling against adversity.  ― Seneca, feminized

Granted, it’s a small change. Just one word. But that one word not only makes it more relevant to me, it’s done something more.

It got me to thinking: Maybe there are other women, maybe lots of women, who would like these Stoic thoughts too.

To tell the truth, I never felt I had much in common with other women. It wasn’t a gender issue, but more a mental one. I wasn’t as interested in the things they were (or what I thought they were – shopping, makeup, diets, fashion), which may explain why I always had more male friends than female.

But what if that was based on misplaced thinking?

Women are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them. — Epictetus, feminized

Consider the basic Stoic principles of humility, self-control, equality, justice — are those strictly masculine ideals? Of course not. Do all women practice them? No, but then neither do all men. That’s why we call them ideals. (Also, did you notice how christian they sound? Again, ideally speaking.)

Okay, so what’s the big deal, you say. Just read “man” as humankind. If these ideas aren’t exclusively male, then neither should they be exclusively female.

To which I say, Geez fella, lighten up! After several centuries of language going your way, you can’t give us a few quotes of our own?

Because just as it is for an all-girl Julius Caesar, changing the pronouns makes the quotes more meaningful to the average female.

She who lives in harmony with herself lives in harmony with the universe.
— Marcus Aurelius, feminized

A nice concept, isn’t it? A woman living in harmony with herself?

Imagine if young women were hearing messages like that, rather than “Jeans that Make Your Butt Look Great!” (from Seventeen)

Of course, I realize we’re not in the habit of quoting philosophy to our kids, either to our daughters or our sons. That’s not my point.

(Though if you do quote philosophy to your kids, I want you to know how much I love you.)

My point is… well, I’m not sure what my point is. Let’s say it’s my wish. I wish we had a Stoic equivalent for women. Because Stoicism is far more than tweetable quotes, it’s a way of life.

I wish there had been a female Marcus Aurelius who wrote down all her thoughts on how to live a good and honorable life. Maybe Marcus had a second cousin, twice removed.

Let’s call her Marcia. Marcia Aurelius.

But what’s the use of wishing? (Wishing is not a Stoic-approved practice.) Maybe we don’t have ancient philosophies to bolster us up. That doesn’t mean we can’t make use of them, or alter them if need be.

Or — hey, how ’bout this? — what if we wrote our own Meditations?

One day, someone will find a wise woman’s diary — your diary — filled with ideas, admonitions, private reflections; Empowering words on how to be a good, noble woman.

I really wish we had something like that. Tell ya what – I’ll work on mine if you work on yours.

Deal?

Waste no more time arguing about what a good woman should be. Be one. — Marcus Aurelius, feminized

My Glorious Summer of ’76

Note: Since I’m on vacation, I’m giving you a rerun. This first appeared on June 3, 2015, back when I was new to blogging and had about 10 followers. It relates a childhood memory of mine that involved murder and explosives, as all good memories do. Also, the post includes a recipe because when I first started blogging, that was supposed to be my schtick. Then I forgot my schtick.
That’s the trouble with schticks. They only work if you remember them.
Oh well. Enjoy.

Growing up in the 70s was great. I’m not even talking about the movies and music from that era, although we had some darn fine ones.

What I’m talking about is the total lack of parental involvement. Even if a parent stayed home, they pretty much left us to our own devices. It was great.Kids-jumping-and-playing-outside-940x600

Brother and I had it even better, as both Older Sisters and Older Brother were out of the house.

We’re talking complete lack of supervision, baby! Frankly, it’s a wonder we didn’t burn the whole place down.

Though we came close. Continue reading “My Glorious Summer of ’76”

Why Are White People So Sensitive?

White peopleWarning: This post does not contain the folly typically found therein. Sorry. But non-folly thoughts were in my head and I needed to let them out.
Totally understand if you click away.
(I’ll judge you, but I’ll understand.)

This last week, I came to a startling realization: we White People are a sensitive lot.

Make that damned sensitive. Continue reading “Why Are White People So Sensitive?”

The Suicidal Mice of 40th Drive

One look at that little rodent corpse, the serene look on his face, and I knew. It was a clear case of mouse suicide.

My family lived in west Phoenix in a square cinderblock home, painted turquoise. And the thing to know about cinderblock homes, however unattractive they might appear, a splash of turquoise paint makes them nearly… less unattractive.

housemouseIn any case, cinderblock keeps out rodents and reptiles, and for desert living that’s darn smart.

Although about the time I was 12-years old, my dad built a garage in our backyard.

Actually, it wasn’t so much a garage as a giant workshop/sanctuary. It took up nearly half our backyard and was made primarily of wood.

That’s when the mice moved in.

The reason we knew we had mice is that every so often, about once a week or so, we’d find one floating in Pepper’s water dish.
Pepper being our family dog.

Continue reading “The Suicidal Mice of 40th Drive”

Bad Theology or Bad Parenting?

wp_20170104_14_18_20_proAlrighty gang, our judgment on last week’s Bad Theology post was considered not harsh enough for some readers (though one defended the picture), and I pledged I’d condemn with greater vigor from here on out.

Later, I found myself saying, “Meh. I’ll do what I want.”

In any case, I want you to know it’s not that I’m waffling on this week’s entry. It’s more that I’m not sure how I stand on it.

Is it bad theology, or is it just bad parenting? See for yourself: Continue reading “Bad Theology or Bad Parenting?”

My Daughter Was 4 When I Told Her About Sex

Warning: This article contains grown up words like penis, vagina, and boobs. If that offends you, then you need to read this article to learn why it shouldn’t.

Daughter was four, Son was five, and we were living in a small town in Colorado. In a big house we didn’t own, across the street from a library and park. Charming, right?

little girlBut just like all parents, I harbored fears that someone might harm my children. I didn’t obsess over it, but I remember that little niggling fear anytime they wandered out of sight, or when I lost them in a store, or if I saw yet another news story– what if it happened to us?

Then the newspaper ran a series of articles. They interviewed convicted pedophiles about their crimes. Five of them, and they held nothing back. They told everything — when they started, how they chose their victims, what they looked for, how they planned it out, how long they waited to make their move.

Continue reading “My Daughter Was 4 When I Told Her About Sex”

Parking Lots, Lost Cars, and You

We all need certain people in our lives, right? Good friends, people we can be ourselves with, people we can have deep conversations with — people like that there.

I need an additional person: someone who will wander aimlessly in a parking lot with me looking for a lost car and not wig out. Fortunately, I have Daughter.

It is a sad fact that losing a car in a parking lot is not difficult for me. Typically my mind is on far more important matters than something as trivial as where I parked my car. Such as something I heard on the radio two weeks ago, an idea I have for an award winning play, or the classmate of mine from the sixth grade who had the most unusual body odor and seriously, what would cause a person to smell like the elephant pen at the zoo?

Geez, he was weird. What are the chances he had a pet elephant?

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the lost car. So anyway, done with our shopping, Daughter and I walk out from the shopping centerdesert ridge — I better give you a picture because this is not an ordinary shopping mall. This is Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix, which has a big, sprawling, open plan. Shops and restaurants are everywhere and the parking lot was designed by an insane person. (I think this has been proven. I’m sure it has.)

We stare out over the sea of vehicles, I turn to her and ask, “Do you remember where we parked?” She turns to me, smiles, and says, “No idea. You?” Continue reading “Parking Lots, Lost Cars, and You”