How Small Is Your God?

I’ve seen the t-shirt or the sign going around the internet again, “God, how can you allow violence in school?” And the reply from God is apparently, “I’m not allowed in schools.”

The concept, so far as I can gather, is that God, in response to calls for public education to not allow elements of religion inside its walls, has decided to take his presence from all public schools. Either signifying that he has washed his hands of the proceedings in schools, or that his presence is not in these places, nor with the Christian students and faculty that spend the bulk of their days there.

The alternative view is that because public schools are now godless environs are we particularly surprised to discover gun wielding teenagers in these places. God allows nature to proceed without him, which is to say that public high schools are dens of iniquity where it should surprise us not in the least to discover violent children therein.

Bottom line: Atheists don’t realize they need God until massacres have already happened, and it’s their fault for taking Christianity out of curriculum.

This slogan is everything I find distasteful about modern Christianity.

  •        It’s smug – Christians who know that atheists are suffering because they don’t have Jesus don’t have to reach out in compassion, they can reach out with barbs instead. Suck it, atheists (and people of any other religion).
  •        It’s self-righteous – Christian kids at Christian schools don’t get shot because of Jesus. See? You see how Jesus is protecting us because we believe in him? You wish you were that special. I guess Jesus doesn’t really love all his children, huh. Wild.
  •        It’s petty – As a response to school shooting, this is not only a low blow but utterly unhelpful. What a time to say “boy, if only you guys went back to teaching Creationist theology.” It does nothing to meet grieving and fearful people where they’re at.
  •        It’s narrow – This is the most disappointing perspective of God I’ve seen in a long time. How petty is your God that because people don’t worship him he glibly abandons them to bullets? Or, to put another way, how horrific that you would assume that God would remove his presence from schools in the same fashion that he took his presence away from his Son on the cross. Sounds blasphemous to me.
  •        It pretends omniscience – School shootings are absolutely terrifying, but if you can pretend you understand why they happen, and in the same breath unequivocally state it won’t happen to your kids at their school, its a double win. And nothing does this double win better than assuming you know why God allows it to happen. You can apply this to natural disasters also with the general sins of the populace (note: it’s never your sin’s fault, you’re just stuck on a planet with these wretches).  Obviously obviously he allows school shootings to happen to people who don’t worship him so that Christians will be shone, by comparison, to be free of malicious violence. Unless you count the KKK, but I guess that’s one of those terror organizations we try to pretend doesn’t also claim to be Christian.
  •        It’s hypocritical – Given the sexual assault scandals that plague Christian institutions, there’s a lot of nerve here in asserting that the t-shirt wearer knows why scholastic institutions deserve to be shot up. Please explain to me why Christian institutions have so many sexual assault issues then. Surely there’s a comparable reason for why God’s allowing so many Christian authority figures to take advantage of their parishioners.

What’s the Christian response to school shooting, you may ask. I always figure it’s obvious, but apparently it’s not. If you can’t offer a constructive solution, keep your glib slogans to yourself.

Pray, love, care.

Pretend that you recognize that when Jesus was on this earth he came to bring salvation to everyone, not put people in their place because of “Christian karma”. Remember that Christian kids are in these school, along with you know, just kids. Kids who should never be part of your moral shorthand for what you perceive as God’s justice. Please also keep in mind that public schools around the world don’t have God in them and they don’t have schools getting shot up.

And please remember how Jesus responded most harshly to Pharisees, the most religious of the religious, who pretended to know the mind of God while completely neglecting His heart.

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Gendered Idiocy

Gender’s a weird thing to ascribe to inanimate objects, isn’t it? How did colors become feminine or masculine? Why did I have to hate pink as a small child, just so people would understand I don’t like frilly dresses?

Why did I have to carry Lisa Frank folders? Wear lacy socks? Why did the kids think it weird that my dad was the one who gave me manicures? When we played on the playground, why were the boys always the dogs going to obedience school, and the girls the trainers with treats for good behavior?

That last one is probably a blog post for another time.

Since it’s come out that women need their own chips, and last night when I was on Amazon looking for a charging station and came across “charging stations for men”, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve gone too far. (Let’s note though that the men’s charging station comes with a jewelry box holder, so. Come on.)

I learned something new the other day, did you know that boys can like flowers? I had no idea men could like something so FEMININE. And yet at the same time, when did we decide flowers were feminine?

Why do I think dolphins are feminine but sharks are masculine?

Why are margaritas girly drinks, but beer is manly? Doesn’t beer have less alcohol? And why do I assume that less alcohol makes something more feminine, except when it comes to fruity cocktails??

Why is red wine more butch than white? Aren’t both of them girly? Why is rose the girliest of girly wines?

What are we doing, society??

I’d like to say that these are all just ideas of my own invention, but the reality is that whether we acknowledge it or not, we subconsciously ascribe gender to things that don’t need it.

And I still couldn’t tell you why. I could not explain why male deodorant smells like pine trees and female deodorant smells like clean linen. Or why women’s razors are less effective than men’s razors.

I’m sure you could give me some answer about marketing and etc., but I don’t think there’s anything that really explains this stupidity as well as the absolute laziness of humans based probably initially on easy stereotypical jokes that we then took too seriously, because we can’t agree on what’s funny and then suddenly I’m trying to figure out if I really need gendered pens for my lady hands.

Winning Against Luck

Ladybugs are lucky. Or so the story goes. People love them, at any rate. They think they’re cute. We count their spots. Even if you are disgusted by insects, there’s a good chance you think ladybugs are cute and harmless.

But not me. I am a ladybug mass murderer. I actively search out ladybugs so I can kill them. When ladybugs die they smoosh yellow and let out a stink. I assume all ladybugs, in the death throes, pee themselves from terror. And yet I go on killing the cute little bastards.

My apartment has a plethora of the winged horrors and I have found them in my pillow case, on my neck, in my sink, on my table, climbing on my pans, napping on my blanket. It occurs to me now that I’m a magnet for ladybugs.

This is encouraging on the one hand. Tiny luck-bugs are actively seeking me out.

On the other hand, what does it say about me that I ruthlessly assassinate them, these tiny heralds of blessing?  That my floor is littered with the speckled shells of deceased lady-lucks?

I don’t quite believe in luck, though. Never have.  Luck’s for people who think that life can be improved with little steroid shots of magic. Luck is for people who see just enough to recognize how extraordinary rare life can be, and find it terrifying. Terrifying to grasp that the sheer scientific odds of you existing as you are, the person you’ve become, are absurdly astronomical. Luck explains the unexplained for those that need an answer to everything.

Or to be honest, maybe the guilt of hundreds of homicides is weighing on my conscience and I’m trying to validate these innocent deaths through a tangential rant about luck.

Who’s to say?

 

 

Reunited and it feels so weird

I don’t know if you’ve gathered this from previous posts, but I am very awkward when it comes to social interactions. Awkward to the point of sheer discomfort and reluctance to socialize at all.

Now you know.

This past holiday season I was at the local roller skating rink, as you do (especially at Christmastime), and I chanced across an old high school friend and bandmate. Against all reason and judgment that my social ineptitude cautioned against, I drew his attention. He’s one of those warm, friendly types that make people like me comfortable against better judgment. I skated — let’s be honest — wobbled over to him and we caught up after he caught me from running into him on four wheels.

Honestly, this is mostly just a cautionary tale about going skating when you haven’t done in at least ten years, if not more, and you have at least one artificial joint.

At any rate, the only problem with the whole exchange was me. I couldn’t seem to cut out the self-deprecating jokes about my lack of a recognizable career, my lack of romance, my lack of having moved from home. Phrased in the exact wrong light, my life seems like one of those tragic tales everyone dreads in their own life. I have an awful tendency to sound like a dead end, especially on the surface of it.

If I could have another go at it, another go at explaining myself to old friends from high school, I might say something more like this:

I love my life. I’m happy in my small hometown, happy in my little perfect apartment that does happen to be within spitting distance of my childhood home. I’m happy with my job which consistently surprises me and challenges me. I’m extremely proud that I’ve stayed with the same company for close to ten years.

I have good friends, I have good family — by blood and by choice — and I am unreasonably happy not being married.

Trouble is, when you’re at a roller skating rink, wobbling around disproportionately sweaty to the effort put forth, there’s absolutely no way to say “I’m happy being single” without it sounding like I’m just completely lying to your face to avoid looking even more pathetic.

But I’ve been thinking a lot in the tail end of 2017 about my life and how fortunate and blessed I’ve been in the 31 years I’ve been alive, and frankly I’m sitting here now in my little apartment, drinking a hot toddy, putting away Christmas decorations and listening to Willie Nelson and I still can’t believe this is my life that I’m allowed to live.

Anyway, that’s what I would have said. But we said our goodbyes, hugged and then he hauled me to my feet because honestly I can’t even tell you how unstable I am on roller skates.

 

Ps It’s really important to me that you know I used to be really REALLY good at rollerblading. When I was ten I was ALMOST athletic.

Honest.

Happy Holidays or Seasonal Calamities?

I asked a friend for some assistance with writer’s block on a holiday blog post. I wanted to write about the struggles of single people during the holidays, but I couldn’t find an appropriate angle. Here are some of the unhelpful suggestions:

  • The silver bells have a ring to them but you don’t?
  • Children make snowmen but you can find no men to make children?
  • The weather’s as cold and dark as your heart?
  • There are lights on the houses but none in your eyes?
  • You really put the “miss” in mistletoe.
  • Now that your eggnog’s gone you’ve realized maybe your eggs are gone?
  • New Year’s Eve? More like two beers and leave.
  • Jingle Bells? More like Single’s Hell.
  • A reindeer can find his way out of the fog he’s in but you can’t?
  • Your credit card gets swiped right more than you do?
  • You get plenty of presents when all you want is someone’s presence?

In summary: it sucks to be single during the holidays for precisely the same reason it sucks to be single the entire rest of the year. You’re missing out. It’s just worse at Christmas because there are more puns.

If this holiday season is starting out on the wrong foot for you, if you laughed at the above list and then gave a quiet, sad sigh, I’m here for you. Me and so many others who know what it’s like to be alone and “without” at Christmas.

I’ve always found it amaing how many more Hallmark holiday movies are churned out during this month, movies that just reinforce and validate the “normal” standard of girl meets boy and they fall in love and live happily ever after. ‘Tis the season to be reminded that you’re unfulfilled.

Of course, Hallmark like so many other socially aware companies –jewelry stores, department stores, even car dealerships — can’t help but misunderstand the meaning of Christmas for their own economic ends. The unfortunate truth is that we all get suckered in because it sounds so much better than our lives actually are.

Like the above list we play either/or with our happiness and sadness. Either I’m a sad single or a happily married. Either i’m fulfilled in a relationship, or empty on my own. Christmas, and every other season of the year, is not a black and white look at celebrating life. It’s colorful, it’s vibrant, in a lot of cases it’s glittering. It should be reflecting the best life has to offer — in any way you find yourself living it.

Be a vibrant and colorful single this year, don’t make your life either/or. Don’t be content to be pitied. You’re a glorious showing of this life, a life that should inspire gratitude, and exude joy that comes from purpose truly found, not socially mandated.

The Unsociable Female

I’ve always been a little too introverted for “normal”. As a kid I preferred playing on my own in my bedroom to family time. I disliked making small talk in the vestibule of church — still do to this day.

I don’t enjoy “water cooler” talk, small talk, chitchat. I don’t ask how your vacation was, your time off work, your big holiday because I don’t care, for the most part. I don’t mean this aggressively or antagonistically, I just mean that for me it holds little value because so much of the conversation is routine, by rote or memory. When someone asks how you’re doing we all know to answer “fine” or some derivative thereof. So if we’re all doing it just to do it, why bother?

So I tend not to say the right things when they should be said, and I jump in too quickly and get familiar too quickly. And later someone will ask me about that person, something mundane and obvious that you’d discern from small talk, like occupation, and I won’t know because I didn’t care about that.

The problem I’m discovering as an adult is how much more I’ve been required to be sociable by virtue of my gender. I’m realizing more how “interesting” conversations get pulled to the male side of the room. I’m aware that the initial relating that’s so commonly attributed to women therefore includes me, and aware too of how often I’ve feigned enjoyment of these tedious conversations and situations because it was expected of me, when an equally introverted man might be allowed to avoid it.

If men are socially awkward and don’t like “idle” conversation it’s fine. If women don’t it’s abnormal. It’s weird, it’s probably why she’s single. Women who are naturally expressive, naturally extroverted, naturally inquisitive, naturally social are correct, and the rest of us are deviant. Odd. Unnatural.

I’ve been skilled enough with my camouflage that when I moved to college the concern was I’d hole up in my room with school work and DVDs and not make any friends and be miserable (half of that was correct). When they learned I was moving into my own apartment, no roommate, the main concern was I’d get bored and hate it.

Being good at faking sociability, extroversion, has its benefits, but as I age I find more drawbacks. Once you’ve pretended to be good at something for long enough, say 30 years, it’s expected that you will continue and when/if you don’t, understandably people are confused and disappointed, to say the least.

But we do need to stop assuming introverted women are going to be “shy” as an indicator. We need to stop making women with “resting bitch face” smile all the time. We need to stop shushing women for being blunt and direct because it’s too aggressive and masculine. We need to stop expecting relating to be the solely female domain.

Sure, I may not be like “most women”, but to be honest with you, I kinda figure most women are not like “most women”, and that there’s a lot more of us wearing camouflage than we’d ever dream.

“Putting Yourself Out There”

As far as I understand it from context clues, the phrase “putting yourself out there” is a way of reassuring someone after an embarrassing, unsuccessful, or humiliating social encounter of any kind.

“Sure, your date didn’t go the way you planned, but at least you’re putting yourself out there.”

“It’s too bad that you aren’t getting the recognition you deserve, but at least you’re putting yourself out there.”

As if you should be pleased to know that it’s through trying something that you fail, as opposed to those who stay home and can say things like “I bet if I put myself out there it’d go better. Oh well, back to Netflix.”

Whenever I hear someone say “at least you’re putting yourself out there” I don’t see encouragement. “At least you’re available for rejection” that’s what I hear. “At least you were brave enough to have some actually say to you, “no thanks”.”

Also, where is “there”? Most often this phrase is used in conjunction with single people, and used by married people. Married people often talk about the dating pool as if it’s an actual body of water teeming with single folk looking to be in relationships. Just put your suit on, get out there and dive in! But I haven’t actually found this oasis that seems so easily accessible in the phrase “out there”.

I don’t know if it requires a map no one gave me, directions I’ll never be able to follow, or some secret pass code, but there’s no giant single person pool where we can pair up. Mostly there’s a lot of desert punctuated by misleading vistas that proclaim bodies of water but result in puddles.

“There”, in my experience, means “anywhere that’s social”, which covers a lot of ground, and still turns up very few single available humans. The unfortunate reality is that single people look an awful lot like married people because we all tend to look vaguely, I don’t know, human-like. And as it turns out, it’s not just singles going out to socialize, but it’s married people too. So unless you’re prepared to walk yourself to a “meet” market, odds are you’re going to run into a bunch of married people “out there”.

The truth is that while these are all perfectly valid reasons to hate the phrase “put yourself out there”, none of them actually cover the reasons why I personally dislike the axiom. These are the reasons why I find it hurtful for my friends, because when you are trying to find someone it does begin to feel exactly like there’s some cool club out there that’s hidden from you, that’s inaccessible to you, and there’s no way you’ve even got a shot to get in. When even “out there” is frustrating, exclusive, out of reach, it’s certainly no longer a helpful expression.

But the reason I’ve always hated it is that I LIKE the indoors. I mean this both literally and metaphorically. I love being inside. Love it. Always have. Inside has food, blankets, movies, wifi, pillows…I’m happy inside.

But I get the impression this is wrong of me, because so often I’m still told to “put myself out there”. There’s an impression that my life would be better if I just tried to not be single. I’m not a fan of this idea because it strongly implies that my life is inferior by virtue of the fact that it’s singular. It implies that contentment without a romantic relationship is incorrect, doomed to failure, and in need of fixing.

As a society, as a Christian community, we tend to prize marital relationships above the single life, and we could get into the whys and wheres of that, but to be honest, I’m more focused on the fact that as great as marriage is (can be), there will always be single people. And we must believe, we must espouse (pun!) that the single life is valuable in its own right, it isn’t something that needs to be fixed, it isn’t broken (necessarily), and it’s not miserable by default.

So I implore you, friends, don’t throw your single companions out there into the cold. And don’t judge them for staying in the warmth of the indoors. Encourage them to live their life to the fullest, and make sure that “fullest” doesn’t fixate on romantic culmination.

Baggage Handlers

“Have you ever been abused?” was the question my friend got on her third date out with a non-baggage handler.

It was out of the blue, apropos of nothing, and it stopped her in her tracks. He clarified, “A lot of women seem to come with baggage these days.”

The dream date: the baggage free human. It’s an aspirational goal. It just so happens that as you age that dream date starts to look more like a white whale, a unicorn, a yeti — rumored, but unconfirmed by sight.

My own theory is that after 25 there is no one who is baggage free. By the age of 25 it is impossible to avoid having things happen to you. By 25 life has treated you, shall we say, unfairly and you are no longer the pristine blank-slate dream date of someone else’s fantasy. Or even your own fantasy.

You’ve been married and then divorced, you’ve had kids, you had one long-term relationship that ended really, really badly. You made mistakes, you were the victim of mistakes, malicious action, idiocy. Life.

Let’s face it, dating in your 30s looks nothing like dating in your 20s. In your 20s I’m not even sure we’re real people yet, we’re just opportunities and options and ignored advice.

By your 30s you’re stocked up with the baggage of recovering from your 20s.

Odds are that by your 30s someone out there is recovering from you, and you are recovering from someone else. Baggage.

Of course, not all baggage is created equal. It’s all about if you’ve learned in that time how to be a grown-up. Some people come with a lot of seriously huge baggage, and yet they’ve sought help for it, they’ve learned from it, they’ve grown, they’ve adapted, they now have character.

Character, good character, is what you should look for in your 30s.

Because those others? The ones who can’t be bothered to look at their baggage, process it, handle it, get help, get advice, change, well these poor morons are the ones you actually want to avoid like crazy. These are the people we fear when we’re talking about baggage.

So maybe the divorcee is not damaged goods, and maybe the dad with kids is not a trainwreck, maybe maybe someone who’s been sexually assaulted is the grown-up in the room.

Find you someone with character. Good character. After that, everything about them will be fascinating, not draining, amazing and not terrifying.

Who’s Responsible for Abuse?

The problems with systemic sexual assault — assault in general, are more myriad than we want to admit. With the Harvey Weinstein allegations and accusations that take place over decades, showcasing a variety of blatant abuses of power, it should not be difficult to fathom why it took so long for truth to come to light.

What’s staggering anytime something of this magnitude happens, is the number of people who are quick to remark that it’s surprising someone didn’t say something sooner. What we all seem inclined to forget is that the culture we are involved with and invested in is something we all too easily become inoculated against. “It’s just how things are done” is what anyone who feels helpless says in the midst of a situation that’s overwhelming. In these cases, trying to justify and rationalize is about the only survival weapon one can grasp — and make no mistake, in abusive environments, survival is all that is hoped for anyway.

To suggest that victims, or those who knew victims, or those potential victims who escaped, were responsible for speaking up is to ignore how often in our own lives we ignore indications of abuses of power and normalize the event to save ourselves further stress.

A few years ago I was leaving work heading to the parking garage to take the elevator to the fourth floor and to my car. Outside the garage were a large number of homeless people, this wasn’t not really remarkable because it’s common in downtown Bellingham, but what happened next was.

I got on the elevator and as the doors closed, a man brandishing a stick as a make-believe sword charged into the elevator, sword first. My friend and I immediately parted to get out of his way in this tiny box. We then all proceeded to take the elevator to the four floor. After which the man got off and continued practicing his sword fighting in another area of the floor.

During the elevator ride I spent the bulk of my mental powers on rationalizing and normalizing what had just happened. In this stressed out environment my worst fear — besides being attacked — was offending this man who held power in this situation. My goal was to be as pleasant as possible if addressed, and to otherwise pretend I was invisible. I didn’t want anything to happen to me.

This experience of mine was fleeting, minor, and uneventful, but I feared the potential actions of a man who did have power in that situation. In no way was it a situation I felt capable of taking charge of or directing. After I got off the elevator, it did not occur to me to call the police simply because nothing had happened to me. Could this man have actually been physically violent to someone else? Is it possible that after this he went on to actually attack someone else with a sword? It now strikes me as a possibility, but at the time I was only filled with my own relief at leaving that situation unscathed.

It is infinitely easy in hindsight to tell someone what they should have done, knowing full well what the outcome would look like, but at the time? At the time of any stressful situation the body is in survival mode. I’m told with proper training in the military encountering the stress of a war zone is made somewhat easier due to automatic reflexes that have been ingrained. Instead of thinking about the right thing to do, you just act as you’ve been trained.

I cannot stress this enough; women — as a very general principle — have been taught not to make waves, not to cause a fuss, just to keep their heads down and do the work without being obtrusive. The reflexes of someone growing up in a war zone will always look different from a trained soldier or a bystander in another country, and it is the same with systems of abuse.

A woman seeking help from an abusive relationship will voice her discomfort until such a time as it is made clear that this is not welcome.

“You’re overreacting.”

“You took it the wrong way.”

“That didn’t mean anything.”

If you are told often enough that your discomfort is meaningless, or that you will need to handle horrible situations in order to achieve your desired goals, most people will put up with almost anything, because they now believe it is normal. Women have a tendency to learn that their own intuition is not valuable, it’s not accurate, and they’re too sensitive. All of which can contribute to a system that perpetuates abuse.

What this entire situation should call us to is again critical reflection on and intense vigilance of any person in a position of power. There are many people who hold positions of power because those around them live in fear. They hold positions of power because it has been made clear that it is in the victim’s “best interest” to keep quiet. They hold positions of power because so many people are trying to survive, to normalize completely un-normal cultures.

It should disgust and infuriate us when we see people abuse their power, instead the true problem is that often these titans are applauded and supported by the unknowing population, and even when we do know, we find many reasons to excuse it. We reward success and achievement, not ethics and positive influence.

Our focus is wrong and as long as that remains, victims will live in shadows seeking to survive the horrors of their environment silently.

Before we get too excited about a leader, about their charisma, their “common man” vernacular, their relatability, their lack of PC content, consider for a moment the small fleeting voices we have heard for decades, potentially, signalling the alarm.

We are, as a culture and society, doomed to repeat the environment Harvey Weinstein created unless we are willing to dismantle the untouchableness with which we embue powerful leaders — simply because of the position they hold. In this, we will always all be culpable.

Office Space Romance

At the end of a first date there’s that moment, that sizing up space where you’re both considering if you want to see each other again, and then you’re considering if you think they want to see you again. And how do you find that out without sounding like you really want to see them just in case they don’t want to see you?

How do you treat your date with appropriate casualness so that you don’t appear vehemently opposed or obsessively interested?

Honestly, I don’t know why we bother with the theatrics at all.

Tonight I sat down for the first time and watched Office Space and I know, sure, I should have seen this like fifteen years ago when it was relevant, but I’ve only gotten to it now which is fine because the life lessons are still timeless (eh, this could be debated).

My favorite scene is when Peter finally asks Joanna out on a date. He walks in, goes up to her directly and asks if she wants to have dinner with him. He’s fine if she says no and he’s fine if she says yes. Either way, he’s having lunch.

I can’t help but wonder if the trick to dating and relationships is just being excited about having lunch. She/he might come, they might not, but you still get to eat, and isn’t that what’s great? I think we often get so fixated on who may or may not want to eat with us that we lose sight of the enjoyment we can have in life on our own.

We often get so caught up in the “do they or don’t they” that we don’t let ourselves consider what we think and how we feel. Maybe we think it’s too rare, that it’s too special to meet someone that we like and can connect with, but is that the case? Or is it that we selectively try to connect? And that in those selections sometimes we miss and we take those misses more personally because they’re so few?

What if instead we approached dating like Peter does? Just ask her out. If it’s no it’s no and then you go and eat a nice lunch and find someone else to ask out. It’s better than fixating, mentally embellishing and idealizing in your own mind until that other person is so great there’s no possible way they’d ever date…you.

So don’t be afraid to profess interest, to do the asking. And then don’t be afraid to ask someone else. And in between, grab a sandwich. Because nothing in life makes you feel better than a good sandwich (this is just a personal theory, but please test it out).