Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sexy Time: Why PAPER and Kim Should Reconsider Their Collaboration

I cannot believe there is a need to comment on this, but there appears to be debate over whether backlash against Kim Kardashian is because she is now a mom and moms are not supposed to pose nude or be sexy. Honestly, this is one of those things where internet media runs with something out of context or fails to request clarification and I feel a pressing to offer some fleshed out points. 

I do not like Kim Kardashian's cover photo for PAPER. 
I do not like that her clothes, as a rule, leave almost nothing to the imagination. 
I do not like that I do not even follow her, watch her show, know or want anything having to do with her reality-television saturated celebrity presence, and yet, my newsfeed is full of her bearing all because everyone else thinks it is worth talking about while her desire was to "break the Internet." 

The irony of my response is not lost on me as it becomes one of the thousands of pieces of grist that will get eschewed by the pop culture mill.

This is what I say:

Let her break the internet if she wants, just have the decency to give me forewarning so I do not share the fracture in conjunction with an inanimate entity's psyche. I am not saying she does not have the right to pose nude. Celebrity and public citizens, alike, possess the right to photograph their disrobed bodies. Each unto their own. Just warn me before you share it because that is the last thing I want to see, whether I know you, and especially more so if I do not. 

This is not me saying that being a mom means you cannot do those things and you are forbidden from feeling sexy. While I question how sharing a nude photo, with literally the entire world, fulfills the definition of what it means to "feel sexy," I am all for you wanting to feel sexy. I am not yet a mother. I have yet to be married. I have yet, even, to be kissed. So why do I get an opinion in anything having to do with this, right? 

I am in my mid-twenties. I know that I have the desire to "feel sexy" for myself, as a woman. I understand how subversive and objectifying our culture is about that on both sides of the gender line. However, I do feel there is a more appropriate way to achieve that. I love dressing up. I love doing my hair. I love experimenting with make-up because I do not wear it often or minimally for work. I love pulling out those treacherous black heels that make me six feet tall -- something that is not my genetic inheritance -- and are the remains of maid-of-honor wear.

As a mother, do I think Kim should being posing nude on the cover of a magazine? Absolutely not. The questions to be examined, though, are more intricate because is there really any good reason for her to be posing nude on the cover of a magazine at all? Feeling sexy? I am not sure that is a valid reason. To me, it seems she possesses an extroverted sense of self confidence about who she is and how she feels about the way she looks. She chose to share it. With everybody. That is my point. 

In just a few short years, her tech savvy child will have the mental consciousness to Google her mother's name and that is one of the pictures that will show up. How does that teach her about modesty and respecting herself when her mother has flagrantly shared her sexuality with the world, both online and in print? When man or woman shares that over the one medium where such images can never be erased. Mothers that declare such is your right because it makes you feel sexy are correct. It is your right. And it may make you feel sexy, but I would encourage you to consider two separate, but unequal exclusivities: feeling sexy and sexy time. 

Sexy, to me, is man or woman that bespeaks intelligence, respect for themselves and the world around them, thinks through their answers when posed a question, are generous where they can be with their time and attention, has voracious passion for life and the things of it, and someone who understands who they are, even if that is only a sliver of who they become. By no means perfect, we are only human, but we are always growing, changing, stretching.

And I know, virgin girl here, but I am not going to besmirch sexy time. I am not a prude nor a product of a painfully strict, conservative, and sexually repressive upbringing. My married girlfriends tell me often, oh how they love their sexy time with their husbands. That is where those conversations end. I do not need to know more. They rarely proffer more. That is their private, intimate relationship. That should only be between the two of them. I hope that is the discussion that comes about from this. That is what I am worried about. Mrs. Kanye West will carry on as she determines, but I hope that she comes to realize that she has more to offer the world than a provocative angle of her body, nude or clothed. She deserves to be known and remembered for more.

What ever happened to less is more? What happened to making people wonder? When did it become okay to treat yourself like a piece of meat to be consumed, carrion vultures lurking on the periphery? I have grown up convinced of the mysterious allure of modesty. I understand that men, and women, are both visual. Women can stop trying to shove it off on men. You know it is as true as men do, but no one talks about it out of fear or shame or something else bewildering. And I believe exposing people and children willingly to it is not okay. I believe that there are still things about you that belong to your significant other, what you look like sans dress being a primary example. I think it is about time that men and women demonstrated a little more respect for the distinction from feeling sexy and the sacredness of sexy time. When it comes down to the line, I do not want to know. Nor should I have the right to know.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

She Woke Up & Got Engaged or Proof that Aspen, Colorado is Romantic Wilderness: A 4th of July Reflection, 3 Weeks Early

I learned a man spends an average of $5229 on an engagement ring, because, supposedly, as a rule, jewelers recommend shelling out about three months of their salary, depending on financial situation. This statistic is per Brides magazine, which I read because my job as a bridal sales consultant semi depends upon the knowledge said print media provides. However, excuse me? The answer is no. Five grand? I would rather take a honeymoon worth five grand, not wear it on my finger. The reason for that, though, is entirely selfish and unrelated. Ask me about it and I will elaborate.

Second, if I hear one more bride, or friend, tell me she knew all about the proposal or had a general idea of when he was going to propose, I may flip. Maybe this makes me old fashioned, but come on…it is supposed to be one of the three surprises that actually exists in our lifetime: whom we marry, the proposal, and the gender and number of your children. As long as my handsome man knows I will say yes, I do not want any other information from him. Timeline. Nothing. Propose how you see fit (minus involving a bunch of people in a public song and dance number). Leave her out of it, unless you want her involved in the ring selection (even that I waver on because I want the surprise through and through, some brides do not). Consult friends or family if you must but choose wisely (especially in my family). Some secrets are vastly important.

Listen, I know romance still exists, despite no first hand experience. 
Do not tell me it does not. 
I see it won, and occasionally lost, every day.
I have listened to the stories and stumbled into the conversations.
They are, in fact, some of my favorites.

4th July 2013, while at the Maroon Bells, I saw a man go on bended knee in front of his young lady. She covered her face with her hands. A pair of friends that had come with them were taking pictures and, hopefully, filming. The dozen of us there applauded when she reached for him, to kiss him, and he came up to meet her. I fancy she woke up that morning, at o'dark thirty, dressed warm for the chill, ran a comb through her hair before putting it up, maybe put a touch of mascara on to look a bit more awake as we do, and got in the car with her boyfriend and friends to drive to the Bells to take pictures at sunrise. I am hoping, by her reaction, she had no idea it was coming that particular morning, or at 4:30am I doubt it crossed her mind. 

It was classic. 

Maybe this is me challenging you to prove it. Maybe this is me saying that you can be clever without giving hints. Hints constitute cheating. Maybe this is me verbalizing that in the last year of hearing proposal stories, sometimes two or three times a day, often five or six days a week, I have yet to hear a proposal as good as the one I saw on the 4th, in Aspen, feet away from one of the greatest views I have ever beheld. 

You want to know the other great part of this story? The footage of that proposal, that I am convinced exists, is not on Youtube or Godvine or Vimeo. It was photographed and recorded for posterity. For the two of them. For their family. For the friends with whom they choose to share it. For their children. Grandchildren. Great grandchildren. 

In every sense, that proposal was a proposal that should have ended up on the Colorado news. Instead, it is a story that they get to tell. Them and the dozen people that witnessed it. But me, unlike them, I can only write about it. I can only attempt to communicate that that proposal sticks in my mind. Every time I see a photograph of the Bells, I remember. 

And the truth is, I almost missed the whole thing. If people lined up with their DSLRs mounted on tripods along the lake shore had not gasped, whispered far too excited for 6 in the morning, and begun clapping, myself, seated on a rock a handful of feet out in the water, would not have turned around in time to see him ask or hear her say yes. 

I know romance exists. 
And I know there are men alive, raised to perpetuate it. 
I have come to the conclusion that I would like such a man, however self-serving such a wish is.
I would like to be told more engagement stories like that in a dressing room.
The stories are one of the reasons I love my job as much as I do and why it will be hard to give it up.

I would like to see my brides laugh and blush and smile and tell me the details while stepping into the first ivory gown I am holding out to them. To set the scene while I lace-up the corset of the dress they ordered months ago that arrived just last week.

Because one day, in the unknown number of days to follow, I will get to step into my first dress at a try-on. My consultant will have asked me what I like, when I am to be married, and what I want to spend. Five thousand dollars will not be my answer. My mom told me years ago what my dress budget was. She is nothing if not prepared. I will step into that lace or satin dress and my consultant will ask me what my fiancĂ©'s name is, how I met him, and how long we have been together. She will ask me if we have selected a venue and the size of our bridal party. 

And if she is anything like I am, she will ask how he proposed. I will smile, most assuredly blush, and say, "He's a secret romantic." 

"Oh yeah?" She will say. We all say it. 

"Yes. He promised it would be good. I kissed him, then told him to prove it."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

And the Devil Went Walking

It sounds trite and cliche to say that I have thought about how I wanted to say these words. I know no other way, though. In an effort to be eloquent and moving, but in light of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual drain of events, my vocabulary fails me. Hopefully these small words reach your ears and you can begin to understand how it feels because like a teacher wrote, you simply do not know.

Wednesday, the 9th of April, is the stuff of which my nightmares are composed. Since I was eight years old, only two things run at the forefront of my mind as numbing: acts of violence against a student body and car crashes. Car crashes, though, are irrelevant here, in this space. This is for the other. Yet, you must understand why, first.

On Tuesday, the 20th of April 1999, Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado, was smeared across every major news outlet. Two boys had walked into the building and unleashed terror upon the inhabitants, who were their fellow students. In the end, they themselves were among the dead. I was there when it happened. I remember it clearly. 

My family lived in Evergreen, about thirty-five minutes up C-470 and I-70 from Columbine, when it made international headlines. Just because we were a few dozen miles away did not separate our school district. Jefferson County went into lockdown. No one in. No one out. My mom remembers attempting to pick-up me up for a dentist appointment. The police officer at the front of the door said that she would have to go home and wait for me at the bus stop. I remember disembarking and asking my mom what was wrong. People were talking about something going on at the high school. I was in second grade. How do you explain what happened to a child? 

My mom called some family friends that lived down that way. Their children went to the neighboring high school. Everyone we knew was accounted for, but that does not change the reality. I did not see a newspaper for over two weeks. Captain and my mom hid them from my little brother and me. There were pictures of the library running on the cover. Photographs, serving as immortal proofs of tragedy, stamped as headlines.

Years later, in high school, on the 16th of April 2007, Virginia Tech demolished Columbine's body count by over double. From what little I understand, that was the goal. I had fellow students at Franklin checking in with family and friends who attended all day. Sandy Hook, just two and a half years ago, reached extremes with the targeting of elementary school children. The final straw. The last piece in the Jenga tower before it all crumbles over. Are we finally desensitized? Are we no longer haunted?

The answer is no. Wednesday, April 9th, I rolled over at 8:36AM to find my cat next to me. I did not work until noon. I thought seriously about sleeping for another hour. My mom walked down the hall. I said good morning. She opened my door and said there had been an attack at the high school. I felt the initial tremor. She said it was all over. Had been for over an hour. A student had brought a knife. They were saying the number was twenty.

Next, you reach for your cell phone. I did. I graduated in 2009. I no longer knew anyone but faculty and staff at the senior high. My brother, a 2013 graduate and section leader in the band, would have better connections. Still, the text messages and phone calls start. I texted my bridal manager to make sure her little brother was safe. Then my friends to verify their sibling whereabouts. The home phone began ringing every few minutes and band moms my mother had served with and church moms began calling in with roll call and names of the wounded. We knew the name of the student responsible hours before the media. Or hours before the media shared it with everybody else.

That is how it feels. Do you see? The instant when your stomach cramps and that feeling you get when your chest tightens and you feel as if you are being pressed by giant stones. Tears sting and even though everyone you know is safe, that is your high school on the news with the local police at every entrance and the life flight helicopters in your football stadium. It is your high school that you work less than a mile from, where you had to take a detour to get to work to avoid potential road blocks. It is your high school everyone talks about all day. It is your alma mater that is the second most read story on BBC by one o'clock Eastern Standard Time. This discovery brings even more tears. And they do not stop. 

It is your high school, when you leave the bridal salon at five o'clock that you will drive home past. It is the senior high that you bought midnight showing tickets to I Am Number Four to watch them blow up. It is the pavement you ran repeatedly when you picked up running. It is your school. Your panthers. And there, at the top of the complex, the senior high building sits cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape and uniforms to prevent media from crossing. It is the incline and the middle school parking lot and the east entrance by the elementary school that has local and national news crews lined up along the road, cameras staggered between vans, ready for the evening coverage. It makes you whisper, "Oh my God," repeatedly under your breath and cry some more and want to scream and curse at the men and women in their pressed suits, standing in the gravel adjacent to the tennis courts. It makes you mad. Or it should. 

Are we not haunted enough? I lived there when Columbine occurred. I am twenty three, I have seen all the pictures now. I saw the coverage of Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. My mom turned off the television because it provided continuous coverage and it hurt her heart. She could not turn it off when it was our high school though. I did. I had too. There was no new information, just speculation. Alex and his family. The students in the ICU. The emergency room selfie. All of it. 

This is all that you need to know. On April 9th, the Devil went walking, in the words of Sally Gardner. He picked a new country, a new state, a new town, and a new high school. My high school. On April 9th, my nightmares materialized. I stopped dreaming the horrible scenario because it actually happened.

And this is how it felt after. I texted people I knew all over the country throughout my work day. Please pray. There is nothing else you can do but that and I will take it. We all with take it. 

Tragedy reveals how well, and poorly, people respond. I had numerous friends tell me they would do just that. Some did not make the connection that it was my alma mater. One voiced a conspiracy theory and then sadness. Another remarked at the choice of weapon. The crucial outcome difference, I reminded, means I will take the miracles as they come.

It is amazing the comfort that people can offer or believe they offer and how little you can feel it. 

You need to understand the void, the hollow, that is created. The place where it aches just thinking about it in passing. And the things that live in the void: the stories of the heroes, the witness accounts, the faculty testimonies, and the unforgettable devastation of a family that must reconcile what their son, brother, nephew, cousin, and everything Alex is to those who love him, what he has done. Alex will have to reconcile it too. It is not our job to do that for them. We can only offer them privacy, love, support, prayer, and when needed, flowers too, I think.

But you know the most amazing thing? The tears I cry now are most often realizing the love and support that Murrysville has from all over the Pittsburgh-metro area. T-shirts are being sold to fundraise for scholarships, which have their production sponsored by corporate donations. Every church in the area opened its doors and its pastoral and counseling staff availability. Businesses have personalized their signs. Blue and gold bows run the length of the chain link at the softball field, on mailboxes, pillars, and small business monikers. Banners with thousands of signatures are running the length of the hallways at the high school. Flowers, balloons, and tokens were all tied to the front step rails. Over one hundred people showed up to pray before school commenced on Wednesday for students in the same stadium and on the same turf that panic had washed over the week before. And not just FR students. Students from every district in the area.

I will never understand the allure of April. Maybe it is because April has been the setting of nightmares for me for fifteen years. I grew up those kids I worried about in the corners of my mind. 

But beauty is in the break down. The Devil may have found a grand angle, but he did not win. How many times has it been said only good can come out of evil? So much good has come out of a tragic event and violent act. 

And tomorrow is Easter. And the anniversary of Columbine. 

But I am not afraid. For the Devil went walking, but he has been conquered. 

He failed to fray the edges. We did not unravel.

He failed to drive the wedge. We have not turned against one another.

He has failed.

I am not sure he thinks that.

He will be displeased.

I do not care. You should not care.

Nothing short of sitting on the rock, at the water's edge of the Maroon Bells, during sunrise on the 4th of July, has convinced me of the immeasurable fortitude of our Father than the threads I have seen tightened since 7AM just ten days ago.

The funny thing about perceived loose ends? When you pull on them, you realize everything they are attached too and how, in fact, immovable they truly are. 

We are immoveable. We are united. We are proud.

We are FR Strong.

The Devil can go pick on a cat his own size. Our Lion is fierce and up to the task.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

To Him…When Nights Are Bad

Last night was a bad night.

It was a good night. I went out to the theatre and dinner with my mom. It has been several months since she and I have gone out for a show, just the two of us.

As I was falling asleep, though, it became a bad night. You were not there.

Did I ever tell you this one story? When I was a freshman in college, home for Christmas, I woke up one morning utterly confused. You were not there. I awoke in my parents' house with the same silver band I have had for eight years, bewildered as to why you were not next to me in bed. It took only a few minutes for me to remember that I was almost nineteen and that I had never been on a date.

Whatever I dreamed had felt so real that waking up single and living with my parents was disorienting. And yet, I could not remember what you looked like, let alone the name I wanted to call out down the hall.

Last night was bad for precisely the same reason. I remember very little, except that I went up on my tiptoes to kiss you after you walked in the door. You removed your jacket and I can remember the feel of you putting your arms around my waist. It was only a moment, a mere flash. I woke up feeling alone for a split second until I remembered that last night had not, in fact, happened.

And yet, now a week away from being twenty-three, some how, that realization twinges more than it did five years ago. A lot has changed in those five years. I graduated from university last month. I am searching for jobs, spread between Colorado Springs and New York City. All but four of my closest girlfriends are married or getting married. And the first wave of pregnancy announcements have started in. It is not that I am not happy for them. Because I am. It is not that I do not enjoy being single. Because I do as well. It enables a flexibility most of my friends do not have. I can make a decision solely for myself when it comes about where I want to live and work.

It is as my mom put it two weeks ago: I am feeling a little left out.

I love my married friends.
I love my single girlfriends.
And yes, I love the men in my life too: the husband and single guys. They all treat me amazingly well.

I just had to tell someone who might, perhaps, understand how it feels to be surrounded by couples.

I wanted you to know that I have moments where I wish you were here now.
Yet, I also wanted you to know that such a moment is something I am more than willing to wait on.

I do not know if you ever think about this. Maybe you do not think about it as much as I have.
Planning weddings for friends and working in bridal puts it at a forefront in my life.

I do not despair. I do not snap under impatience.
I have waited (nearly) twenty-three years for you.
And glimpses like the one from last night or from five years ago, have reassured me that God is in control.

While I am pressed, I am not crushed.