• Feminism,  Wit,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: a barbaric yawp

    After spending over a month with contractors, tradespeople, and even a random mother-in-law – who does not belong to us – in our home, I think it’s safe to say that we have seen it all in our dusty house.

    ALL. Remember the mother-in-law.

    Steve and I built this house together thirteen years ago. Neither of us can think of a single disagreement we had over anything. We were also newlyweds so perhaps that had something do with it.

    Thirteen years later we were three weeks into a renovation that he was largely absent for – I’m at home during the day, he’s at work. Fair enough.

    Except it is not fair. During the construction of our home I dealt with no one other than the builder on very rare occasions. But this time around it was me dealing with the contractor, the trades, and the mother-in-law.

    I might be a tad bitter about her. More on that later.

    Why isn’t it fair? Because women are not treated the same. The same contractor would question and discount my input just to turn around and call Steve – who we explicitly instructed was not to be called because his days are busy enough already; oh, and because I’m a capable adult who takes care of a house, often on my own.

    Because I was a woman alone in a home with bunch of guys, I set out to be nice and establish myself as the owner present in the house. I learned their names. I told them good morning and good bye in the evenings. I commented on their work. I smiled. 

    That last one was my big misstep.

    We all know the anecdotes of men asking women to smile for their Diet Coke as they pay at the gas station. Or the rise in popularity and criticism of RBF – resting bitch* face.

    I wish I had more RBF – I shall speak with my Botox lady next time – and less southern politeness. Sadly, being polite gets you run over more than it makes a friend – especially in these situations.

    We had a terrible tile crew and even after it was fixed, it wasn’t. That was my breaking point. This is our last house and I’ll be damned if I’m going to have a backsplash that is two shades of grey. 

    Steve emailed his concerns to the owner and received a response full of excuses. I also sent a separate email detailing the unfinished work that was part of the contract and had been paid for.

    Guess who didn’t get a response to their email?

    Here’s where things really went sideways.

    But first: Steve is a wonderful man. He is progressive, supports my attempts to smash the patriarchy, and he is right along side me in raising a strong, capable, questioning, and independent 16 year old daughter. We don’t have defined gender roles in our home – it’s more about me being short and him being tall. He takes care of the tall things; I take care of the short things. And even better, we enjoy doing projects together. 

    But he is a fixer and after me trying to explain just how bad it had been to be treated like this in my own home, he offered up this solution:

    I could email the contractor from Steve’s email address telling him all the things that were horribly wrong with the situation. Such as: the attitudes toward me, trying at every turn to pull something over on me, the intimidating and pushy behavior, and the mother in law.

    Holy hell, if I owned a sword it would have be out and I would have been standing on a rooftop for all to hear:

    I refuse to only be heard by a man because he thinks another man is behind the words. I sound my barbaric yawp! – Walt Whitman 

    Ok, I didn’t say that last part. But you get the point. So did Steve. 

    He sat down and calmly composed an email, never to receive a response. But the words were out there in the universe and for the first time I think he got how I was feeling. 

    We have since had more issues and this morning we had a leak from the stone in the fireplace after it rained. I texted the contractor and I kid you not, I received a thorough mainsplaining on how a leak is water escaping from a crack.

    Astounding.

    So here I am today and I have a lot of questions and misgivings about society. We treat genders, races, and religions with disdain for not being like us. We take advantage of situations, intimidate, demand, and tell females to smile for a stupid Diet Coke. 

    We adapt and develop RBF. We learn that politeness is often dangerous. And we yawp until men see our perspective from the rooftop. 

    Why? Here’s a hint: it’s not to be heard. That’s not the problem because believe me, they hear us. It’s because men taking on badly behaving men is the springboard to change.

    They listen to each other when it comes to certain issues. But very few will tackle this one. And before men get scared, this doesn’t have to involve protests and signs. Simply calling out the bad behavior would go such a long way. 

    Not immediate change but if enough say something, enough will pay attention.

    So… the mother-in-law. This is the part that actually grieves me. She was downright nasty to me. She lied to the owner, her son-in-law, took a check we left in good faith – because we had to leave – without completing the work and called me a liar over something so stupid. She was by far the most defensive, the most deceitful, the most vicious, and the one looking to get away with the least amount of quality work for the money paid.

    When women turn on women, we take a years of steps backwards. We un-do efforts by men to treat us with respect and their efforts stop. And when men say nothing to their male counterparts, women just become shrill and difficult. It’s a circuitous mess.

    Steve tells me every night that I’m his favorite sound in the world. I have questioned that of late but he swears it’s still true. But until people start treating people with respect, I’ll continue with my occasional yawp but far away from remodeling projects.

    The painters are here next week and hopefully I’m not continuing with a part three but instead telling you about the time this week that my rabbits turned themselves blue.

    Oh, and by the way, I hope the mother-in-law, her son-in-law, and family had a wonderful Thanksgiving together last week. 

    * I strongly dislike the word “bitch”. It’s demeaning but that’s what the face is called – for now. 

     

  • Wit,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: construction therapy

    …and Steve’s worst idea ever. Stay tuned!

    Want to expose every crack and weakness in your relationship all at once?

    Remodel your house.

    What started as an I’ve got this – boldly proclaimed from my mouth – quickly became a slow descent into I AM TRIGGERED.

    And I don’t use that term lightly because that’s a giant pet peeve of mine. People should be able to freely and genuinely say that their body, their emotions, and their past are all colliding at once.

    It’s very messy.

    Between tradespeople looking at me like I had two heads, insisting I had plumbing work done that I did not have done, calling me a liar, aggressively asking for money, to me throwing them out of my house – I was over it after 3 weeks of this all day, every day.

    Oh and my favorite, being asked a question, giving an answer, and them texting Steve, IN FRONT OF ME – thousands of miles away – because they didn’t like my answer.

    I’m three feet away from you and I know what I want. I also do what I want in case you’re wondering.

    We finally got most of the work done and fired the original contractor. But that didn’t fix my mental fatigue over having people in my home for three weeks treating me like an idiot.

    Oh, and I’ve failed to mention – we started all of this the day of opening night of Chaney’s two week run of Elf the Musical.

    All the jazz hands. And other hand gestures.

    We remodeled the two guest baths, all the floors, the kitchen, the fireplace and the only room we left untouched was the master bath because we have bigger plans that we want to do right the first time.

    Enter Steve’s worst idea ever.

    One night we were laying in bed commiserating over the layer of dust that now functioned as powdered foundation for me when Steve wondered aloud, “what if we took the wall and door down that separate the toilet from the rest of the bathroom?”.

    Me: So you want to turn our bathroom into a prison bathroom??

    I’ll get right on putting a drain in the middle of the floor tomorrow. Easiest remodel ever. 

    We got a good laugh out of it and despite everything, we are thrilled with the results of both the remodel and the improvement in our ability to communicate. We also laugh a lot about all 5′ of me standing on the landing of the stairs to throw the tile crew out of our house – hey, higher ground is needed when you’re short.

    And now that’s being remodeled to add a podium for me to stand and regularly address the family.

    Everyone wins.

    Painting the rest of the house happens on December 16th and then we are done for awhile.

    But Steve is still getting soap-on-a-rope for Christmas.

     

  • Feminism,  parenting,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: Gender and Fear

    Are books written by female authors really that different from books written by male authors?

    I recently read The Turn of The Key by Ruth Ware and The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. I am typically not a big thriller reader but I enjoyed both immensely. I connected with the characters and could feel what they were feeling – the sign of any good book.

    What is it like to experience fear as a female? As a male?

    I am currently reading Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky and entering stage left – quite literally – is real life.

    Hold that thought…

    While I am still really enjoying Imaginary Friend, there is a stark contrast in how the female writers convey fear in their stories and how male writers convey fear in equally terrifying situations.

    For me, the female authors nail it. The fear is palpable. My heart races. I have to put the book down.

    The male writers, while the scenarios are terrifying, feel more procedural with pieces of emotion that never quite fit together. With Stephen King being the one exception, thrillers/horror written by men don’t get to me the same way as that same genre written by a female author.

    But please hear me, I think there are great thriller writers of both genders – there’s just something different.

    Back to real life, stage left…

    There have been multiple incidents during my daughter’s currently running musical. These haven’t been small issues and everything came to a head Saturday night and the police were called.

    Because we pressed charges I cannot get into specifics. The officers were professional and understanding and did everything possible to make sure we felt safe.

    But on Monday, I found myself struggling to explain the fear in the situation to a male administrator. I knew I was using the right words, the correct terminology, the right description of emotions and it was still a struggle – bordering on unintentional blame shifting.

    Later in the day, I spoke with a female and using the same verbiage and facts, she understood the situation without questions or issues. The male administrator did follow through on everything he promised he would and he was very professional – it was just different. And that difference even carried over into my feelings about the situation vs. my husband’s feelings – that’s just how this goes.

    That evening my reading world and my real life collided. The differences between genders that day and the differences in the writing by the authors were the same and it was an eye-opener.

    How, as a society, have we landed on two different languages for one of the most basic of human emotions?

    Everyone gets scared. Everyone faces situations that can be frightening and threatening. But when it comes to the basic understanding, there is a huge gap.

    I understand some of the factors going into the fear that men express but I’m not going to speak for them here. But what I will say is that beyond men not being free to express fear, there is a gap in experiences.

    Like it or not, men are most likely larger, stronger, and quicker. There is still a gender pay gap leaving them with more resources… I could go on but I won’t. The fear that females experience, just from a physical perspective, is unique. From an emotional standpoint, the intimidation women feel is also different.

    Having struggled so much in real life that day, it magnified the differences while reading. Oddly enough I never noticed, before this week, the stark contrast in writing.

    Perhaps that is because I don’t read a lot of thrillers but I suspect it has more to do with the shift in lenses I view the world through because of the events of that day.

    So in writing, is it possible to close that gap? And of course, closing it in real life would be even better.

    Have you noticed these differences in your own reading?

    And last but not least, I cannot imagine going through life not being well-read. This is only one of countless situations were works of fiction opened my eyes to human experiences in real life and caused me to think and question my own perspective.

     

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Evvie Drake Starts Over: a book review

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    The tag on her chamomile teabag said, There is no trouble that a good cup of tea can’t solve. It sounded like what a gentleman on Downton Abbey would say right before his wife got an impacted tooth and elegantly perished in bed.

    Evvie Drake Starts Over – a book by Linda Holmes in which a large quantity of tea is consumed and is paired well with witty and sharp writing.

    Evvie’s husband and high school sweetheart, Tim, is a successfull and well-liked doctor in their Maine community. The book opens with Evvie packing up her car to leave him for a fresh start when she gets the call.

    Her husband has been killed and while it isn’t the fresh start she planned, Evvie is forced to start over in the town she grew up, surrounded by memories of her husband who unbeknownst to most others, wasn’t so nice to her.

    Evvie’s best friend Andy and Saturday morning standing bruch date is a single father after his wife left him and his two young girls.

    Andy has arguably done a better job of moving on while Evvie is gripped with guilt over her secret almost-decision. She spends many nights on the floor of her guest apartment room overwhelmed by anxiety and confused grief.

    So when Andy’s friend Dean, a professional baseball player needs a fresh start after forgetting how to pitch, Andy suggests that Dean rent Evvie’s spare room.

    On the surface this book sounded fairly predictable and quite honestly, outside my typical read. But referring back to the quote at the beginning of this review, you will get a sense of the author’s quick wit and fresh approach to writing about starting over and the grief and anxiety that accompanies life changes.

    I saw myself in the characters. I know a lot about loss, failure, starting over, anxiety, grief, guilt, and shame that almost keeps you from second chances. And like Evvie, I was even married to someone named Tim who wasn’t nice to me and nearly destroyed me – a side effect of what goes on behind closed doors.

    This book made me laugh, tear up, and root hard for the characters find their ways. The writing was poingant and never overly saccharine – the biggest reason I usually avoid these books. And the added sports element, written accurately, rounded this book out and made it a 5 ✂️ book for me.

    The characters were well developed and the other element the author did particularly well was in capturing the Maine coast with more than just words. You could taste, smell, and hear the coastal town in her writing.

    If you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Things You Save in a Fire, or How Not to Die Alone you should enjoy Evvie Drake Starts Over.

  • Lists,  Recommendations,  Top Ten Tuesday,  Uncategorized,  Writing

    Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Writing

    Happy Tuesday! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is a freebie so I’m going list my top ten books about writing, both fiction and nonfiction.

    In fictional books, I find that they make the plot and characters strong because the author is writing about a subject they know well. Many writers love to write about writing, and I enjoy those storylines.

    With nonfiction books, my favorites feel like I’m talking with a friend – or even better, being let in on someone’s best secrets.

    In no particular order here’s my top ten:

    1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – I have written here before about this book. Anne is a writer that reads like a friend – both in style and honesty about writing.
    2. A Ladder to The Sky by John Boyne – I finished reading this book earlier this month, and it quickly became one of my favorites of 2019. Thank goodness it’s fiction because it is a writer’s worse nightmare.
    3. The World According to Garp by John Irving – This novel is an old college favorite of mine that also happens to be one of the few books by John Irving that I liked – an unpopular opinion, probably so.
    4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – Yes, this book is depressing that was written by and tragic author in a semi-autobiographical manner. It’s also worth reading at least once; when you are not yourself depressed.
    5. Misery by Stephen King – The book was better than the movie. If you haven’t read this book or much by Stephen King, this is one I would put towards the top of the list of his books to read.
    6. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron – Based on brain science, this book brings out the science geek in me. It’s fascinating and worth a look if you want to approach your writing from a scientific point of view.
    7. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose – This is another book written by a phenomenal writer that reads like a conversation with a friend. I recently reread this book and will return to it over and over.
    8. Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers by Joyce Carol Oates – This book is massive. It is a collection of short stories from a multitude of genres. It is well worth owning if short stories are your focus.
    9. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – This book is newer to me and another one that is brutally honest about the craft of writing.
    10. To Show and To Tell by Phillip Lopate – Literary nonfiction was a tough genre for me to get a pulse on. I’m still not quite there, but this book was a fantastic starting point for me.

    Do you have any favorite books about writing? Thanks for stopping by!

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