Saturday, January 18, 2020

Time for the "Talk"

For the better part of my professional life I tried to mentor both boys and girls with an emphasis on boys as they were the largest portion of discipline problems so I tried varying techniques, from giving them classroom management duties, to simply sharing food or just talking.  The just talking part truly works as they have few women they talk to on a simple social basis that is not connected to family or duty.  I in turn met amazing young men whom I hope have become amazing older men.  In turn I tried to be open to young girls about issues other than those that seem to dominate dialogues with female teachers and female students - part lecture, part mentor - it is not an easy role with girls at that 13-18 mark and they are in fact by far more challenging to connect to than their male peers.  That may be me as I gravitate to men as friends and as I am really in the asexual category - the Jo March type if one must (although we know that Alcott was trying to write about a woman who was not into men at all and may have found more companionship with another women, she was like her doppelgänger, a spinster.)

So when you are not married, not identifying with a sexual group and seem to travel alone no one know what to do with you and the past three years in Nashville really tested the mettle on what that meant to be identified only by one's vagina or by one's checkbook.  I guess I am more Aunt March than Jo in that respect but hey Meryl Streep bitches!

As  a woman of "a certain age," a "spinster" an "old maid" I find it hard to find the tribe that accepts the "lone woman." Funny we are still suspect despite the fact the vagina is closed for business so what we are after exactly must be something to do with an old shoe and children or woods and candy houses.    Yes women are evil, cunning, duplicitous and we are after youth and vitality so watch out Dorothy or a house will fall on your head.  Or worse we are just ignored entirely.

Funny that I am not brain dead and have depth and wealth of experience that has nothing to do with my checkbook as the power of observation and history is how we have the present but hey I live very much in the now with my eyes on the road ahead and a glance in the rear view mirror to remind me where I just was is worth a road trip if so inclined.   And I miss kids and being in school and I want to get back to Teaching albeit temporary to have those meaningful moments and exchanges that rewarded me and in turn enabled me to grow and learn even in my dotage.

We have a concierge desk here in my building and they vary in demographics the same way the city outside my door does but most are male and in my exchanges I am always amazed that age is rarely a factor in distinguishing differences among men and I realized that regardless of age, men seem to feel safer being a prototype or if one must a stereotype and it was from reading Peggy Ornstein's article in The Atlantic about her new book, Boys and Sex, that enabled the light bulb above my head to alight.

In Nashville I tried to mentor young Ethan for reasons that to this day make no sense, perfect sense and some sense when you put this entire story in perspective. The lack of meaningful work, the social isolation, the feeling I was hostage to Vanderbilt and my dental work and the process of aging without family really hit home so I make no apologies for doing right or doing anything to befriend and love this young man as one would a son.  What I did not know was that his duplicity was not about issues that I was comfortable with, sexuality, but in fact religion and faith that was ultra conservative and radical in its beliefs.  As a result a boy I loved was a boy I became afraid of.  I was afraid of the children in Nashville for not the same reason but in the same way as I have never experienced such damage and destruction that these children demonstrate in their behavior and largely due to both poverty and religion as a supposed balm to compensate for all that they lack in life.

As a result I hated every minute living there and dread going back and the snow storm enabled a 24 hour delay and I welcomed it as another opportunity to find peace and worth by just being here.   In my exchanges from my new Yoga instructor to the boys and the desk and those at my coffee shop I have a sense of positive energy and perspective that makes me relieved to know that both men and women are out there with a sense of self and a sense of community.

I am looking forward to reading Ms. Ornstein's book as I have long thought men and boys don't know women as simply women, those who are are not tied to them via the vagina through birth or sex but there to be friends, mentors, colleagues or leaders, that neither want them for monetary gain or status but as people and fellow humans on life's road.  We have done a real shitty job when it comes to equality in finding and establishing friendships across gender and age. We need a new lesson plan when it comes to teaching both genders about sex and sexuality.

One of my recent conversations with a young concierge was about sexual assault and the current crop of famous or infamous charges and trials that include R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein and Michael Jackson.   In the case of the latter he feels that the boys,  now men, were lying as they did not exhibit qualities or behaviors of those who have been raped.  Well is that because men exhibit different behaviors, take on different qualities after assault or are you speaking from a place of personal experience, knowledge or is there a "type" or "way" one behaves regardless of gender after being assaulted?   He refused to believe any Michael Jackson parallels despite the fact that R. Kelly had not been convicted of assault in 2008, Jeffrey Epstein had been charged with Prostitution versus assault, Bill Cosby had been only convicted after a mistrial the first time and Weinstein has not gone to trial nor made it to court in the past and there are many others who regardless of fame have not been charged with sexual crimes as it is one area of criminal justice where we have a serious matter of failure with regards to investigation and in turn convictions. And to assume that anyone who has been assaulted acts in a "way" that would somehow be a flag or scarlet letter to let those around you know that you have been harmed is rather unfair and again marks one to be remembered for the worse thing that happened to you be you and adult or a child.  There are ways to recover not forget but live and thrive in life if the type of support and help are available and accessible in which to do so.  But as one who knows you don't recover ever and your relationships are affected but not all become hookers, drug addicts, crazy, etc.   I watched the light bulb on his head go on when he realized I might be speaking from personal experience and while I agree that we can see Michael Jackson differently we are no different than any Jury who finds those innocent who are likely guilty or more importantly those guilty who are innocent.  We have streets full of the former and jails full of the latter so the real issue is how to believe, to hear and to trust that we have all the information needed to make the right decision about an other's life even outside a court of law.

But then again some people don't want to believe regardless we have to believe "our truths" which in the ever increasing narcissism of America no one exemplifies that more than Trump; Trump is the perpetual man-child from the temper tantrums to the pouting face to the calling of names he represents all that nature versus nurture shows how a man of privilege becomes a man of denial.  From sexual assault to high crimes and misdemeanors we have what we have now and we are all now in the courtroom in which to believe or not the truths as they are presented as facts.

How we learn about ourselves, our gender, our roles in society are tied to nurture.  We have the families or more importantly the lack thereof in some cases to aid in determining our place in the larger picture.  We have stereotypes and prototypes that are models and guides in which to follow or to ignore or use to our advantage.  No two snowflakes are alike and that metaphor applies to all of us. We have a real problem in America with regards to the two most obvious factors in nature - sex and race - as they are observable and in turn we use what we see to judge and to assign, a type of conviction if you must qualities and characteristics that we have learned to apply.  It makes it easier and in turn requires less work and commitment to actually know people, learn about them, have awkward conversations, honest conversations and even fun ones as they all take work and that shit is hard!

All sex is oral. Try talking to someone you don't want to fuck with or fuck, not of the same gender, race or age or sexuality about this topic.  Bet you can't won't or don't have time.  Change that to race and it is no less awkward.  We don't like to heavy lift that is America and what makes us great.   We get others to do it for us.

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