Tag Archives: expectation

what you do when no one is looking

13 Jun

In The Little Princess by F. H. Burnett, the main character – a young girl called Sara who starts life the daughter of an affluent Englishmen riding the boom of colonialism – falls from her position upon her father’s death and finds herself poor and friendless. Having just traded in her furs and silks for the rags of a scullery maid, Sara wonders whether she, who has been always told she is a good child, really is one. Is she truly kind and gracious, or was she merely so generous because with her wherewithal, it was easy for her to be?

Goodness, as it turns out, is very often a luxury item.

I am currently rather poor. I am lucky to have friends and roommates who can cover rent and keep me off the streets and step in when unavoidable costs carry a few too many zeroes for me to be able to handle them on my own, and who apparently even enjoy buying me coffee and lunch sometimes. I am incredibly lucky, as this allows me to allocate my income to necessities like food and medication and bus fare. It’s a precarious game, but I’m currently making my life work through the gift of social affluence.

But monetarily, I am dirt poor.

Reference scale: My ability to transport myself around L.A. can switch over the gain or loss of a single dollar.

Today, at the Springfield airport, a food vendor gave me incorrect change.

They’d given me a dollar more than I was due.

And while back in college, when what I did and did not need to pay for was different and the impact of cost scaled differently, I probably would have not hesitated to hand back that dollar, would have felt not a single qualm – today, I felt it.

I had been given a dollar. An extra dollar. That was one more bus ride I could pay for. One more granola bar. One unit closer to being able to buy a new pair of shorts, one that wasn’t years old and close to literally falling apart at the seams.

I wanted that dollar.

But that dollar was not mine.

Mentally, I went through the math again and yes, that dollar was definitely not my due. But it was just a dollar. I could walk away. No one would notice. It wasn’t like I was taking much.

But the dollar. wasn’t. mine.

And what’s more, the food vendor hadn’t given me any reason to want to take more from them. There was no karmic justice in me walking away with that dollar. The cashier had been professional, efficient, polite, even friendly. The vendor, as far as I know, wasn’t some chain with terrible corporate practices. They had done nothing to me that required restitution. Honestly, if the cashier had been some massive jerk, I maybe wouldn’t have felt so bad about contemplating walking away with that dollar. Yeah, they’d have to go through the cash register at the end of the day and try to figure out why their sales weren’t squaring up. Were off by a dollar. Just one dollar. So maybe they’d just made an addition mistake… maybe it was really there, and they’d just missed it… maybe if they just… checked again…

If I’d been somehow massively inconvenienced or wronged, maybe I could have justified inflicting those consequences for the sake of having that extra dollar. Maybe, very probably, I would have been fine with implementing that sort of system.

Or maybe I would have given the dollar back anyway. Because as much as I theoretically can support less-than-perfect actions, I carry around way too much guilt, or something, to really be able to carry out those actions myself.

Yeah. I gave the dollar back.

And while it is no great thing, giving a single dollar back to a vendor that gave you too much change – internally, for me, it still meant something.

It was an opportunity, to show myself, at least, that my goodness doesn’t just scale with my bank account. That I am honest, even when it’s very hard to afford to be. That my values last, even when they carry real cost. Even when I could have justified taking advantage of a minor slip to gain a little bit for myself.

It’s relieving, in a way. To know that at least in this small way I will actually act in reality how I’d say I would, were the scenario presented as a thought exercise. That I’d behave the way that elementary school-aged me reading The Little Princess would have told me that of course I was supposed to behave.

I like knowing that I am who I think I am, even when no one is looking.

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When You Are Raised In An Outline

17 Feb

I was raised in an outline.

No, not under a rock. Yes, I was sheltered, but not quite in that sort of way. Rocks prevent you from seeing the sky or the grass or the wind or the stars or the storms or anything, frankly, that isn’t already under that rock with you.

No, I could see more than that. I knew what else there was. I saw the stars and the storm and the lust and the poverty and the decisions and the choices and the birth and the death and the lifestyle and the beliefs and the very different ways of breathing out there. From my own little prescriptive outline, I could see all these other formats. Most I considered mere variations on the theme and format my limbs were propped up against. While I made my points in A-B-C some other person with really the same main header even if they said it differently was arguing for it as I-II-III. It was all right. We were really writing the same essay. We just said our oh so neat and oh so powerful five paragraphs differently. But we each still had our patterns, our expectations of our personal rise and falls and the great shape that our lives and humanity were supposed to take.

Everything else, the remainder of non-outline chaotic confusion, I just assumed was a deviation. An outlier. Those were not-even-essays where the structure had gone horribly, horribly wrong. They clearly didn’t work. They babbled. Said nothing. Destroyed their own sentences or tripped up their points later. There was no way anyone could consider them valid. There was no structure. No logic. No empathy. No – anything. No, this could not be a sufficient response to what the world, I assumed, expected of us all. This, as my outline out-dolers had told me, was unacceptable.

Imagine my shock and utter confusion when I discovered that these rules and regulations, this structure, this expectation I had molded myself to and excelled at filling – that it was not the norm.

I was the outlier.

I was the deviation.

My expectations were wrong.

The world was easier to get by in than that. It was crueler, more inattentive, it cared not for courtesy or protocol or forethought for one’s fellow humans.

Get your words out on the page; it matters not how.

So many babbling idiots – I understood then why the world so often wrote in blood.

But still – my ink, it glistened so.

Why This Is Still Not Okay

9 Aug

I’ve gotten on my soap box about eating disorders and beauty and feminism and whatnot before. I’ve ranted about today’s standard of skinny, raged about how for women, apparently beauty is now inversely correlated with the number of inches in your waistline. That spiel is nothing new.

Then today I found this:

Or more completely, I found a whole website: http://www.functionalps.com/blog/2013/04/20/women-vintage-weight-gain-ads/

Now, my split-second reaction to this was to think “Wow, I thought we were supposed to have progressed since the 50’s. If only we could go back to the good ol’ days when a women’s body was actually appreciated!”

Then my brain kicked in.

Screeeeeech! Hang on a second. Let’s back up here. This advertising scheme – it’s not really any different from the infestation of diet commercials and “slimming secret” ads that we’re bombarded with nowadays. Sure, the ads may be touting a body form that’s closer to average, but the message behind these weight-gain ads is exactly the same as today’s weight-loss ones.

“Don’t look like this? Then you are not good enough. You are less desirable. If you use this product then it will fix you.”

Hell, these weight-gain ads are even more aggressive in their body-shaming than most of today’s propaganda. Take the ad I pictured above. Let’s tease out some of its messages:

1. If you are skinny, then you have no sex appeal.

2. Apparently it’s okay to use two stereotypically-bodied males demeaning a female passerby as a marketing technique. And according to the ad, it’s the woman’s fault for being “too skinny,” not the males’ faults for being a couple of assholes who talk out of their dicks and reverse cat-call at women who haven’t asked for their opinion.

3. Woman-to-woman support comes in the form of woman A telling woman B how to “fix” herself in order to conform better to society’s body ideal, rather than reaffirming woman B’s intrinsic worthy and beauty or – better yet – going out and punching our two assholes for treating a woman as nothing more than a sex object.

Ugh. And those are just the top three things I noticed right away.

And while that particular advertisements features a couple of empty-headed Romeos in its cast, guys weren’t safe from this pounds-equal-pleasure campaign either:

Poor guys. Seems they’ve had to deal with the biggerbetterstronger deluge for even longer than a lot of us realized. More brawn! More biceps! More abs!

Are you hitting your head against the desk yet? I have the urge to do so. Repeatedly.

Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that all these advertisements happen within a heterosexual paradigm. The ads are all about making women desirable to men and men desirable to women. Forget any of the other flavors of sexual attraction. I mean, I guess this was the 50’s after all. I’m not sure their dictionaries even included the word “lesbian” yet.

So, some of you may now be shaking your heads at me in bemusement wondering, “between thin-shaming and fat-shaming, is there any way to win with you? What do you want us to look like then?”

But that’s the point. I don’t want you or them or her to look like anything in particular. Nobody need give a damn about what my ascetic preferences are, and I frankly am the only one whose opinion of how I look matters. Well, I might give my boyfriend’s opinion some sway, but that’s a freely given concession, and in the end, I am the one who has the final say.

Between thin-shaming and fat-shaming… can we just cut out the shame? Can we stop with product-pushing that tells us that no matter what we look like, our bodies are not good enough? No matter what we do, there will always be another pound to lose or pound to gain, another wrinkle to smooth, another lash to make luscious, another patch of cellulite to laser away. No matter how close to “good” you are, there will always be something more.

Because guess what? Our bodies weren’t fucking supposed to look like they got mind-jizzed out of photoshop! Wrinkles and cellulite and fatterness and skinnierness have always been there! Nature or God or whomever you assign creative power apparently didn’t think it was a problem. Seeing how, you know, through years of evolution and biological selection and wraths of God it’s all still here.

Society, usually the patriarchal sector, was the one that decided all these things were apparently a “problem.”

Yeah. Turns out that’s all bullshit. They’re not.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate beauty. But molding our economy around a sales line of pandemic insufficiency is NOT in any way a celebration of beauty. Prettiness and handsomeness and sexiness and ugliness are subjective. They change with the decade and with the person. If you see something you like in someone – and this goes beyond their assets at the dermal layer – then please, go ahead and tell them. But make sure you are praising someone for what is there, instead of criticizing them for what is not.