Bulletproof Babes

We were taught to be independent, strong, self-sufficient, poised and in-charge.  We were told by our mothers, themselves the daughters of bra-burning times, to suck up our fears, manage our emotions, never let the bastards see us cry and never ask for help as long as we can help ourselves.  Lessons were passed on that high-maintenance is for bimbos and dignity and class cannot co-exist with it.  Being demanding is as bad as promiscuity in the estimation of our lady-teachers.  We are to serve with strength and selflessness without thought to our needs and in return we will be respected and loved.  We are a wellspring of power, woman hear us roar, and we can supply the whole world with what it needs.  The ironies that were passed down from grandmothers, aunties, teachers, family friends and mothers abound.

We associate being honest about our needs with images of weak, victimized, or morally bankrupt women.  And so, to not be seen as a doormat, a loose woman or a gold digger we put on a persona of needlessness that then results in us becoming more… NEEDY.  Think about it.  If we deprive ourselves of food telling ourselves that we don’t need it don’t we become more and more… hungry?

But there comes a time when a Bulletproof Babe says “So what if I have needs?  Of course I do!  I’m human!”  We come around to the question of how are we to expect ourselves to provide selflessly for the needs of others when our needs are not met?  Even in the airplane instructions before take off we are instructed to put on our own mask first before helping the person next to us, child or no child.

I am learning through my own experience as a woman that low maintenance women, like strong buildings and towers, without support and care suffer in structure, appearance and strength from neglect.  Without support and TLC they crumble, crack under pressure and become inhabited by bitterness.  They lose their value – how they value themselves diminishes and is then projected out to what value others see.  Others react to what they see, convincing her further of the lie that started her shrinking view of herself in the first place.

But it starts with her.  What does a guy have to offer a girl who refuses to acknowledge she has needs and flaws and vulnerability and needs someone to lean on once in a while?  How many times do we Bulletproof Babes find ourselves lonely and disappointed because a friend wasn’t able to read our minds and be there for us because we didn’t know how to tell them how to support us and that we needed support in the first place?  How many times have we let a slight pass and pass again and pass again until we blow, totally surprising all around us?  Why does it have to fall apart and be blatantly obvious and beyond the point of deniability for us to accept a helping hand?

We don’t have to be bulletproof to be beautiful, rigid to be respected, nor do we have to be low-maintenance in order to capture the attention of someone who could love us.  These are the ways we trick ourselves into being someone who attracts human leeches, persons who seek to take without giving, because that is what we put ourselves forward as willing to accept.  Think about it… “Oh she doesn’t need this from me.  She just wants someone to give and give and give to.  She doesn’t expect anything back, bless her little cotton socks.  Goody!  Free ride!  Why would I EVER leave?”  Except, of course, we don’t want that type around either, do we?

To the beautiful Bulletproof Babes out there, let us support eachother and drop the act.  Being strong doesn’t mean having no needs.  You deserve to have your needs met, not ignored.  But the first step to making that happen is to not ignore them yourself.

Feminism (Motivationalpostersonline.blogspot.com)

Intoxicating Simplicity – The morning after

“Cincuenta guineos por veinticinco lempiras!”

Nena's stream

Everything is sold door to door.  Tortillas, ice, green bananas, cheese, a Ceiba woman can do all her grocery shopping from her front door.  This morning I am sat once again on the patio watching the rain reclaim the city that was once her worshiping forest.  The loudspeakers from well worn pickup trucks have passed twice now since I sat down.  The green bananas (guineos) were the last to leave and the truck was filled to bursting with stiff, milky fruit tight in their leather-tough green skin.  I was sure he must be confused – fifty guineos for twenty-five lempiras?  That’s just over a dollar for the fruit of several trees!

It has rained all night and shows no sign of letting up.  Today I was to go to the islands and to my Uncle and hundreds of unmet cousins.  But the catamaran that would take me over is likely parked in safe harbour right now.  There is bad weather between us and Cayman and the islands in between are getting a good taste of it.  Only the most seasoned islander would take to the ocean today.

But it is just as well.  Coffee is on the stove and semitas are coming with it.  I am rested and comfortable on the adirondack two-seater on the porch.

Nena is still asleep, her baby Monkey up close to her for warmth.  I slept in another bed under a heavy blanket with the image of a galloping stallion.  I had teased little Fiore that he would likely wake me up galloping in my sleep in my broken spanish the night before.  Still shy, or perhaps not understanding my torn up attempt, she smiled and nodded.  The breeze was cool with rain and I snuggled deep under the covers.

My orchids would love this place.  In fact, the orchidia brasavola is the national flower of Honduras!  There must be magic in the mountains for an orchid hunter here!  All around the garden and in the trees in the surrounding hills raindrops fall like diamonds and hang languid to the leaves until sliding slowly to the leaf below.  Each drop makes its way slowly to the stream that runs through the property to the left below the garden.  It is an aching beauty, an untamable wildness pretending to be domesticated, and an intoxicating simplicity.

Puentecito Nena - The Bridge Nena Built

Under my blanket I dreamed of love and believed it possible.  There is so much more space in ones being when messy clumps of the material life are stripped away.  Bills are gone, corporate struggles forgotten, conflict does not exist and all that is left are the basics of being.  The eating, the drinking, the laughing, the loving, the remembering of a childhood and reliving the things that made it great.

I realized today just how Honduran I have been all my life.  My family has always congregated on broken chairs and hammocks under the tamarind and mahogany trees sharing stories and laughter, jokes and pepsis, catamales and fried fish.  Much of what I always believed to be Caymanian is in fact Honduran.  The two are similar, don’t get me wrong, but there is a rawness and a boiling intensity to the Honduran that is missing in the other parts of my blood.

My hostess is an amazing woman.  Known as Nena to her community, she is a Chona – a follower of Visitacion Padilla, a feminist famous for the way she changed Honduras.  In her early 50s or late 40s (I wouldn’t dare guess which on this blog), my Nena is completing her qualification process to be an Abogada here in La Ceiba, a lawyer licensed to practice in a year’s time.  Bo, her son, is studying the foundation courses that will take him into medical school.  The little bridge that crosses the stream before we get to her house is called the Puentecito Nena.  There was a bridge before that washed away in a hurricane many years ago and she worked hard to get it rebuilt, lobbying local government, supervising the workmen and feeding them daily.  She is a woman of great passion, rosy cheeks and a huge laugh that fills her home and tickles everything in her orbit into laughter as well.  No one would believe the things she has survived.

Love is possible here...

Two children join her and Bo in her home, her neice and nephew.  Christian is in the early stages of his fight to manhood, a spicy boy of 13 with the makings of a man of power.  Fiore is tiny, doll-like, with flawless skin and beautiful brown eyes shining from an angellic face that bellies any suggestion of the mischief she can make.  She will be a knockout in no time.

The story of the Honduran home is evident everywhere you look outside these walls but Nena is an exception.  Not for her family the division of roles along sexual lines.  Life has taught her that she is capable of successes well beyond the imaginations of others.  Her family is a well oiled machine, her children capable and efficient, and her home powered by respect.  In other families the girl will run the home but the boy will need a wife to run his.

But love is possible here.  To my surprise today I see far less wrong with the lean of our culture, here in its natural element.  I see it as neither a lean toward man nor toward woman but toward an era that has passed by in my home and in Nena’s home but is the present tense with distinct heartbeat in most homes in this rainy land.

Barista de San Jose

A Job She Loves

This applies not only to Every Single Woman but perhaps to every single woman out there.  You have one life to live and the contribution you make to the world around you will influence heavily how you feel about yourself nearer to the end of your life.

On average, a Single Woman will work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 5 days a week from the age of 19 to 65.  If she goes to college and starts later around 24 she works long hours to catch up with this stat anyway and so we’ll work with that.  So call it 7 1/2 hours a day, five days a week for fifty weeks for the year taking into account an average of 2 weeks vacation. For  47 years.  That amounts to 88,125 hours in a lifetime spent on the job, not including overtime.

Shouldn’t those hours count?  And I don’t mean to someone else – shouldn’t they have meaning for you?

Our lives are our own.  Our employers buy some of our time for the furtherance of their businesses.  But at the end of the day they are still our hours in the one life that we have to live.

The Job You Love will have all or a good number of the following elements that when you are added into the mix, magic is made.

  1. Meaning.  It should involve work close to your heart and something that means something to you as a person.  If you prefer to work with people, you are far less likely to find meaning in a city accounting firm with a calculator and a spreadsheet all day.  If you hate conflict you are unlikely to find that meaning as a barrister or courtroom attorney.
  2. Enjoyment.  We can find meaning without enjoyment but they are closely related.  We can also find enjoyment without meaning.  But one of the two must be present.  If you have never looked forward to waking up in the morning and going to work, you probably don’t enjoy your job.
  3. Space to grow.  This is important to some and less important to others but I find that without it there is very little meaning or enjoyment in the job for me.  Usually a person doesn’t fall into a job at 19 and find the same joy in the same job at 30.  But if you do, good for you!  You have found your calling.
  4. A great boss.  Most people who have had more than one job have left their previous engagements, not because of the job but because of their boss.  The integrity at the top filters down and flows like a fountain.  So does the rot.  In an interview feel out your prospective boss – you are interviewing them as well as them interviewing you.
  5. A valued contribution.  If you are a part of a team and you don’t feel your own worth to that team it can be a joy killer.  From the cleaner to the CEO, each job is a valuable contribution to the working of the whole and nothing would run smoothly without it.  You need to not only know that but feel that.  With the value that you place on your job you will be able to muster up the pride that you should take in a job well done.

We women have traditionally looked at jobs differently than men do.  They were there to pay the bills and fund your life, the personal life in which you find your meaning.  It is said that men define themselves by their jobs, women define themselves by their homes.

But this is all changing.  The value that we bring to the workforce is now seen for the irreplaceable gold that it is and there is magic for the Single Woman waiting for her in the job that she loves.

Happy Monday!

3. The Power in the Ladies Room

Place of Power, Room of Rest - The Ladies Room

Standing up suddenly from my desk I caught the chair just in time before it clattered to the floor.  Fury and humiliation exploded together to drive me out the door.  I knew from the burning that my face was beet-red and my eyes smarted.  Law is a profession that eats its young and I was assigned to an especially hungry bigot.  Every day I started with a reminder to myself to just survive the insults, keep my mouth shut and not take it on board.  But today my tolerance cup was full and overflowing and there was no more space left.  I was tired of being called Island Royalty (because after all, Bushlings, you can read and write) and sick of the slurs cast at my womanhood, my race, my person.

I made it to the Ladies Room with no time to spare.  The salt water had already begun to leak down my cheeks.  As I crashed in through the swinging door past the universal sign of a stick woman in a skirt I was too blind to find the cubicle handle.  Two gentle hands seized my shoulders from behind and pushed me in the door.  “Lock it” were her only words, harsh yet gentle at the same time.  For several minutes I stood, back against the wall, face in hand, shoulders shaking in silent sobs.

When the worst had passed I looked down at my hand to find a tissue there, hastily pressed into my palm as I had been pressed into the cubicle.  Sensing the end of my waterworks she said to me “Here is some more” and I found a fistful of tissue waiting under the door.  I gratefully accepted and blew my nose.

Through ringing ears I heard her say “OK, I’m going now.  You stay in there as long as it takes to pull it together.  And baby girl, never, ever let them see you cry.”

The rebuke shot like a rod giving straightness to my backbone.  Her soft slippered tread could be heard on the cold tile out the door until it whispered shut behind her.  I resolved right then and there to be untouchable, always outside the reach of my little turd of a supervisor.

It never happened again.

Another day in the same ladies room I came to wash my face and was met by the sound of sniffling.  Reaching for the tissue I intended to pass under the cubicle door I was stopped sharply by the sound of violent retching.  Wordlessly I slipped to the kitchen, grabbed a glass of water and pushed my shoulder back through the door.  She was kneeling at the bowl when the tissue and cup were slid under the door.  Maybe I imagined it, but I remember hearing a strangled thanks.  Quickly I splashed cold water over my face, dabbed it with paper towels, and returned to my desk.  Several months later four ladies announced their pregnancies in my firm.  I can only guess at which one of them I had found weeping and scared on her knees that day.

The Ladies’ Room is the seat of power in that place and all like it.  Good news is shrieked out in giggles, gossip whispered, and mascara applied under bright lights in front of the mirror.  Lunch hours and happy hours and hours of need alike are prepared for in front of that mirror.  Nature calls a lady in but she also comes on her own power when in shock, in distress, or for private moments to wash the boredom from her face when she is bogged down with an especially mind-numbing task.  Engagement rings and newly pregnant bellies are flashed and makeup bags litter the counter.

Every woman that has entered the corporate arena has fought her way into the territory of man.  Many of us have struggled, many have sacrificed pieces of ourselves, and many of us have scars from battles lost and battles won.  We have assumed our positions, lifted our arms, and fought our way forward.  Our power has grown and spread from its traditional place in the home and into the global world of commerce and trade.

But even as we worked to conquer this hostile new ground there is one place that has always been truly ours.  That place is the Ladies Room.