Tag Archives: women

To A Woman

I always wrote poetry, at least occasionally. I wrote this piece over 15 years ago. I sent it around to a few publishers on a lark (MS magazine being one of them; I don’t remember where else). Nothing happened with it whatsoever. I read it again this morning. It’s different from anything else I’ve written. Unfortunately, I think it’s as relevant today – I mean I could have written it this week. If anything, things may be worse. 


To A Woman

You’re going to die you know
and it’s going to be horrible.

Did you get a pap smear?
Did you get a mammogram?
You’ll feel something cold.
It will just pinch a little.

Better get your calcium,
Don’t you want good bones?
Weight-bearing exercise.
Get to a gym.

Eat your fiber.
Eat your broccoli.
I’ll bet you forgot your B12.

Heart disease kills most of you.
Have you exercised?
Eat fats, but not the wrong ones.
Looks like you need to brush up on nutrition.

Don’t you know you should slow down?
Meditate, get some crystals, play music.
You’re too tense, take some herbs.

You’re going to die you know
and it’s going to be horrible.

What’s that suspicious lump?
Better watch that mole.
Got too much sun in the 70’s didn’t you?

Don’t let people walk on you.
Don’t be aggressive.
Get along for god’s sake.
What’s wrong with you?!

You’re not going to walk around like that are you?
Cover up that gray.
Get a nice set of implants.
Man those hips are wide.
Who’s going to love you.

Soy beans!
No salt!
No sugar!

Are you laughing?
It’s good for you.
Surely you can find something amusing.

You’re going to die you know
and it’s going to be horrible.

Lead poisoning, asbestos, carbon monoxide.
Ozone, global warming, nuclear destruction.
Don’t you know?!
It’s hard to believe you’ve come this far this naïve.

Cultivate great relationships!
Take a class!
Renew yourself!
Why are you watching TV?!

Take the stairs not the elevator.
Do subtle exercises at your desk.
Get up and walk around every 15 minutes.
You can do these things if you really want to.

The only thing stopping you is you.
Everyone can be a success.
You have the wrong attitude.

Put those chips down.
A second martini?
Candy? Are you out of your mind?!

You’re going to die you know
and it’s going to be horrible.

Don’t just wait for the ones that come to you.
Only wait for the ones that come to you.
Try lesbianism, you’re not a prude are you?

Be sexy, but don’t threaten anybody.
Be smart, but not too smart.
Don’t be funny.

Stand up straight.
Be proportioned.
Don’t be too heavy.
Don’t be too thin.

Be pretty.
But not so pretty the other girls don’t like you.
Not pretty?
Get a nose job, develop confidence, get a good hair cut.

Drink 8 glasses of water.
Take your multi.
Protein, carbs, iron, get them.
Not too much, not too little.

You’re going to die you know
and it’s going to be horrible.

They’re just waiting.
Liver, lungs, bone.
Throat, breast, brain.
Chemo, radiation, self-healing.
Better choose the right one.

Floss, brush, rinse.
32% of women over 70 have no teeth left.
Don’t forget your jaw is a bone!
Do you want to end up gumming your food?

Blood pressure.
HIV screening.
Bone density.
You’re getting all these checked aren’t you?

Alpha Hydroxy.
How about a skin peel?
You’re looking kind of haggard.

Be successful at work.
Don’t be too successful.
Ask for what you’re worth.
Don’t be a bitch.

You’re going to die you know
and it’s going to be horrible.

Be a good neighbor.
Go along to get along.
Don’t be disagreeable.
No one likes a boat-rocker.

A second cup of coffee?
Sour cream on your baked potato?
Buttered popcorn?
You haven’t heard a word have you?

Just hurts a little.

St. John’s Wort.

Take a hot bubble bath.
Try a new eye shadow.
Read a classic.
Take a walk.

You’re going to die you know
and it’s going to be horrible.

Look out!
Don’t go out alone.
Be careful who you talk to.
Don’t encourage anyone.
Danger is everywhere.

Did you lock your car?
Bolt your door?
Take self-defense?
Look confident?
But not challenging?

Don’t neglect your spirituality!
Church, yoga, inner peace.
Come on!
It’s important in this stressful world.

Life is short.
Don’t waste time.
Think you’ve got forever?
Well you don’t.

Investments, savings, IRAs, mutual funds.
Of course you have them.
You don’t want to be old, alone, and poor do you?
That’s what’ll happen.
Hung out to dry.

You’re going to die you know
and it’s going to be horrible.


Short Thought 117 (Queen Bees)

Queen Bees generally don’t like me. Not because I’m a Queen Bee – I’m not – but because offering unquestioning admiration, agreement, and allegiance (to anyone) has never been my strong suit. I have a pesky way of thinking for myself, even when the outcome of those deliberations is contrary to popular opinion.

Short Thought 109 (expressions)

(I was thinking about writing this post for the last week and today I (serendipitously) saw a similarly themed post on Vanbytheriver.)

When I was a teenager, I specifically remember reading in a girls’ magazine the recommendation that the reader stop making facial expressions in order to prevent wrinkles later in life. Even then, I was shocked by this “advice” and readily dismissed it. What a thing to tell impressionable young women.

Can you imagine a boys’ or mens’ publication making such an absurd suggestion? Boys, stop smiling, raising your eyebrows, and frowning now if you want to be hired for jobs or get women to have sex with you later in life.

Things Men Have Said To Me (#9)

HIM (a man in his 30’s trying to seduce me): “I’ve got experience! I’ve had sex with lots of women.”

ME (thinking): And that’s a selling point?

“Don’t want nobody with no problems”

Bonnie Raitt’s ode to a “Real Man” has been around a long time. She sang,

“Don’t want nobody with no problems.
I don’t need a man with a monkey on his back.”

I’d think, YES! Me too, Bonnie. I also don’t want nobody with no problems. Rock on.

Except it wasn’t true. With the clarity and kick-in-the-pants that time can offer, I now suspect a man with problems must’ve been just what I wanted, if unconsciously. That unconscious is a bitch, isn’t she? (I think Freud said that.) It’s not a happy realization that either a) I was indeed looking for a man with problems and or b) having found one, I did not excuse myself and move on down the road. Rather, I dug in – at least for awhile.

Women, especially educated and/or accomplished ones (of which I can claim the former), often get criticized for being too picky when it comes to the opposite sex, for dismissing men too readily over superficial, unimportant issues – height, income, car, job, potential, education, little habits, etcetera (ergo that’s why they’re alone goes the complaint). I want to be clear that I’m not talking about these sorts of things, but actual problems, the twisty kind that interfere with life and relationships.

I didn’t wake up one day and BAM! realize all this and start fresh. No. For me these kinds of realizations come in waves, in stages. First, when I saw problems in the men I became involved with, I took note and stopped moving in closer and trying to solve them; instead, I stayed alert and held my ground. I was helpful where I could be and where it did not come at cost to my well-being. I did this despite the manueverings or agenda of the other person.

See, that was always part of the equation; I succumbed to pressure, subtle and not. I pressured myself even. I took on more than my share. That was my modus operandi (one familiar to many women). At some level, I thought I HAD to invest in a man’s problems – even when HE didn’t – that it was my job. And when I didn’t do that, I met resistance even from men who I’d only recently met, men who had no reason to have these sorts of expectations from me. (I think the “universe” always has a way of testing to see if you really mean business or are just flapping your gums.)

In part, for a time what I see happened was that I was still drawn to, and drawing, men with problems. What was different was how I related to them. It was a tremendous relief, I felt less burdened. I was re-working my role and seeing that – addressing problems – wasn’t what a voluntary relationship between equals was about, or what I wanted MY relationships to be about.

Other people’s problems no longer hold the questionable “allure” they once did. I see somebody toting a rucksack-o-problems – problems he isn’t addressing – and I may linger, I may talk, I may be a friend, or I may enjoy knowing him at some level – but I will not sign up for a relationship, I will not pitch my tent. I have changed. And I like it.

Giving good relationship advice (and taking it myself)

(Many years back, a woman friend of mine was having problems dealing with a guy. I wrote the following to her in a letter. I saved not the whole letter, but just this part.)

A further thought: It seems to me that once a person knows they’re being manipulated, or knows the other person does not accept the underlying nature of the relationship (or very significant points of it) or knows the other person is misrepresenting themselves, then that [original] person becomes responsible for anything that happens after that. I’d take it a step further by saying that total responsibility would include very thorough “screening” before getting too involved; i.e., really knowing yourself and stacking up the odds in such a way that you are very unlikely to even start involvements with people who will manipulate you, or not accept the nature of the relationship, or misrepresent themselves. This doesn’t mean all the scumbags are off hook — they’re still scumbags, but I just think it’s so important to take the focus off the other party; happiness demands it for one. (I speak not just of you, but from on-going experience; I really want to get this right in my own life.)

As I said, I wrote this quite a long time ago. There’s no date but probably a dozen years back. I know I was on to something, but it isn’t as if I took my own advice. Not for a long time. There are things I don’t learn in a week, or month, or even a year, but over chunks of time. My point to my friend was that she needed to take responsibility for at least some of the problems she was having with this other person. I think we women let ourselves off the hook, maybe prematurely, on occasion, because we figure once we’ve made our feelings clear on a matter with a man, our work is done. But it isn’t – not if the information we’re getting back tells us he is disregarding our words or feelings, or is being deceptive, manipulative, etcetera. It’s easier to blame them. But once you know something about somebody, you can’t unknow it.

I’m reminded of how often (really often) Judge Judy calls women out on this very point. She has no patience for women who return to the bed of a man who has hit them, or give more money to a man who never repaid them for past loans, for oft-cited examples. I’m not talking about either of those two particular situations, but the concept generally. If you know it, it’s yours now. There’s no one to truly blame other than yourself from that point forward. Many women resist this idea. They want to talk about the man who’s done them wrong. And done them wrong again. And done them wrong yet again.

I’m using women as my reference point because I am one, and the friend I wrote the above quote to was one, but the real underlying concept is not gender-specific. Man or woman, you’re an innocent party unless and until you are not. I think people hang on after they have all the information they need to cut loose because they’re getting something they’re reluctant to lose (me included). But if you’re “getting” something from someone who is manipulating you or misrepresenting themselves, or not truly accepting the relationship as it is, what are you really getting? It’s taken awhile, but I believe I now live the words I wrote to my friend. There’s a price for that, but I find that few sound, hard-won practices come without one. It’s worth it, to me.

Are you staring at me? (Why???)

I don’t like when a man I do not know stares at me and doesn’t smile or otherwise offer some type of mitigating facial expression or comment (to show his intentions are benign). This has been a regular part of my life for decades. I keep thinking I’m going to age out of it, but so far, not quite. Maybe it’s safe to say most of the men who do this (with me on the receiving end) are getting older too. And then I think: shouldn’t a guy that age know not to stare by now? Is there ANY chance he doesn’t know he’s staring?

Being stared at – with nothing to soften the gaze like a friendly smile, a greeting, a head nod, a grunt, something – makes me feel self-conscious and sometimes vaguely threatened. Now it’s left to me to decipher someone else’s intentions and thoughts. Oh goody. I can occasionally glean a few clues. For instance, I had a situation where a guy living with his girlfriend stared at me when his girlfriend wasn’t around. I didn’t like this a bit. In that particular case, it felt predatorial. My guard went up and stayed up.

Most often, if I look back at the person doing the staring (excepting those who are clean out of their mind and/or are looking to do harm), and especially if I say or do anything, like smile or say hello, the guy will stop staring pronto and whip his head away. He knows he’s been “caught” (even if that wasn’t my reason for speaking up or smiling). Far better he then return the greeting or gesture, but that’s not what usually happens. I have this sneaking feeling that it was all hunky-dory when HE was the one controlling and instigating the exchange – by staring – but once I went from passive recipient to actor, whoa Nelly! That is not part of the plan.

I don’t mean to imply all men who stare have nefarious intentions and that’s why they are thrown off-guard when I respond to them in some fashion. When I first started responding in an innocuous way (which I did NOT do when I was younger – I usually did nothing – and which I now do depending on how I feel in the moment), I erroneously believed I was helping them out. Wrong! Someone who is staring – and ONLY staring – doesn’t want to be helped out. It’s one-sided and for whatever reason (shyness, insanity, ill will), he wants it that way.

I’ll give you another example. I live in a walking community. It has miles of sidewalks wending and winding around the town. I walk them often. From time to time, I will be walking along, la, la, la, and up ahead there is a man coming from the opposite direction. He starts staring. Staring, staring, as he approaches. And what does he do as we come alongside one another? Looks down! If I then address a comment or greeting to the top of his head (which is now what I am faced with, instead of a pair of eyes), I’ll get little or no response. This irks me. Um, HELLLOOO. Aren’t you the person who had a Phaser-on-lock expression for the last 60 seconds or so? Did you think I didn’t notice?!

As you might guess, I’ve never grown comfortable with being stared at. As I said, I find it’s then my task to decipher what it means. Like I need more tasks. We, and I mean, women and men, know when someone stares, the onus is on us to figure out why, which generaly needs to happen fast, in case we need to react. From what I understand, when a man is stared at by another man, it’s almost always a challenge or threat. For a woman, there’s a broader range of possibilities. Some are: he’s sexually attracted; he mistakes her for someone he knows; he’s noticing something he finds peculiar/interesting/odd about her; or he’s looking to harm or otherwise impede on her and that can range from sexual and physical assault, to psychological games, to wanting her to do something for him such as vote, donate, or volunteer, to trying to steal her purse, money, phone, etcetera. (Note that I have NOT included the possibility that he would like to take her to dinner and a movie, because – and call me cynical if you like – I really don’t think that’s what humorless staring is about.) It is a lot for a woman to have to process. Do men who stare not realize all the ways it can be interpreted? Do they not care? When I respond to it, are they embarrassed? Ashamed? Ticked off? Irritated? Does the answer depend on the man? Probably….