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.
So Ladies. You got your end of year bonus. It made you smile and helped you feel appreciated for all the blood, sweat and tears you put into your work for the past 12 months. But what do you do with it?
Many of us have a shopping list for that bonus. We have a dress we’ve had our eyes on, a vacation we feel we deserve, a day at the most opulent spa in town, or maybe all of the above. The more practical of us will have a savings account that we’d like to put that plush little cushion into so that we can sleep better at night.
Enter something we don’t like to talk about. While we’re thinking lovingly about that shopping list or that cushion in our savings account many of us have the flesh-eating disease called DEBT. 1. credit card balances, 2. student loans, 3. a car loan, 4. a mortgage, 5. a loan for our last redecorating project, all tick-tick-ticking with interest payments.
Now, Bushlings is no numbers woman. Remember, I’m a lawyer. I don’t naturally think like an accountant. I have to use a calculator to figure out the number of quarters in a dollar. But to me this stuff is common sense. Caveat – to the accountants who read my blog, please correct me if you think this is all rubbish. And have patience with my simple language. Remember the rest of us speak plain english.
So. Let’s talk seriously about this bonus. Starting with the concept of…
By definition in the Bushlings dictionary, Interest is the fee someone charges you in return for allowing you to use their money. I remember in college I had a roommate who used to say “I’m going to ask Mr. Barclay for some more money” as if Barclay’s Bank were a benevolent benefactor. No baby. They don’t give you money for free. Interest is the sweet little harmless-sounding name of their fee.
Some homework for you ladies. What is the interest on your credit card? What about the interest on your student loan, your mortgage, your redecorating loan, your loan-because-you-qualified-for-a-loan loan?
Credit Card Interest:
Most of us have no clue how much the interest rate is on our credit cards. So we will play with a hypothetical figure for you. Taken from the source-of-all-knowledge for the modern world (Wikipedia) we are inclined to believe that, “Interest rates vary widely. Some credit card loans are secured by real estate, and can be as low as 6 to 12% in the U.S. Typical credit cards have interest rates between 7 and 36% in the U.S., depending largely upon the bank’s risk evaluation methods and the borrower’s credit history. Brazil has much higher interest rates, about 50% over that of most developing countries, which average about 200% (Economist, May 2006). A Brazilian bank-issued Visa or Mastercard to a new account holder can have annual interest as high as 240% even though inflation seems under control at around 6% per annum (Economist, May 2006).” And we all know, Wikipedia doesn’t lie.
So from this we can gather that 1. It sucks to live in Brazil and 2. 7-12% interest is considered “low” in the USA. So you have an outstanding balance of US$5,000 with a “low” interest rate of 7% charged on an annual basis. Honey that’s US$350. THAT’s your new dress right there.
Interest on Loans and Mortgages:
You may be fortunate enough to have a fixed rate on some of your loans. Fixed rates are becoming more and more rare as our economies prove to be more and more volatile. They have been relegated to loans for small amounts for short terms (periods of time). So your vacation loan for $3,000 to be paid out over 18 months, or your redecorating loan for $10,000 to be paid out over two years, may have a chance of having a fixed interest rate. But what are they fixed at? Usually pretty high. 10-15% for 5 years on $20,000 car is something you should expect.
Variable rates are increasingly prevalent. These are usually expressed as a standard rate plus x additional percentage points. That standard rate will go up or down as the economy fluctuates. So, in the Islands where I live, interest rates are prime+1% or prime+2% and so on. That “prime” rate is the interest rate determined by the bank to be their standard interest rate. It is usually based on a national/international rate. For instance, in London, the LIBOR rate is what is used as a standard rate that banks will use to come up with their prime rate. It is the average interest rate that leading banks in London charge when lending to other banks. There are other standards – EURIBOR, TIBOR, SONIA… but I digress. Ask your loans officer what “prime” is today or whatever standard they use is and take that number and figure out your exact interest rate.
Now for those of you who want to do the math, let’s use an example. A mortgage for US$250,000.00 (If that number makes you balk, pick your own number and follow along please. Let’s not get distracted.) Prime+1% is the interest rate. You ask your lovely loans officer who convinced you that their bank was the one you should pay to use their money just what prime means today and she tells you 4.25%. You add 1% and come up with 5.25% total. For 30 years. Do you see how many thousands of dollars that adds up to in 30 years? How many vacations could that pay for?
ON THE FLIP SIDE, for the more responsible ones of us who are thinking of putting all our bonus in our savings account and just continuing to pay our debts out on a monthly basis, let’s talk about this next piece on interest.
Interest on your savings:
No financial institution hoping to stay in business is going to pay you more interest in your savings account than they will charge out on your loans. Let’s face it, if you’re getting 2% interest on your savings you’re doing very well indeed. Credit unions and cooperatives might take you a bit higher than the average bank. And there are cute little savings packages that lock your money down like CDs but they are never going to be so cute as your credit card interest of 19%.
Some more homework for you ladies – find out how much interest is being paid on your savings account.
WHAT TO DO?! SO MANY THINGS TO CONSIDER
We will use an example. Let’s say you have $4,000 of credit card debt at 12%. You have a savings account that is earning you 2%. And your bonus is $5,000. Would you really pass up the opportunity to stop paying someone 12% to use their $4,000? You can still put your $1,000 in savings and feel satisfied. The next month you will not have to meet that minimum balance of $350 that you would pay out on your credit card. You can add that to your $1,000 in savings. And so at the end of the day you end up with NO CREDIT CARD DEBT, and $1,350 in savings. Leave your credit card at home for the next month and put that $350 in savings and you’re at $1,700. Before many months pass you’re looking at having that $5,000 in savings and NO CREDIT CARD DEBT. Isn’t that great?
As we go into a new year, let’s make sure we’re looking at our finances in the right way. Debts are the enemy – we never want to find ourselves without a job in a global economy as uncertain as ours is with debts to pay. Surviving is hard enough. I will accept that some debt is necessary – mortgages, car loans, and so on. And I will also accept that some level of savings is also necessary. We need some debt to operate our lives and savings are a real cushion for when things do go wrong. But let us take control of the credit cards and spend our windfalls (and salaries) wisely. Saving is important. But let us balance our saving against our aim to be debt free. Balance our credit card interest of 12% against our interest on saving of 2%.
And where you are stumped, call an accountant. I did!
It’s lunchtime and I’ve just remembered what day it is. Today I’m supposed to do lunch with one of my best friends – a half-posh-whole-trendy lunch spot with perhaps a glass of wine and a roll of sushi, lots of fun and fashionable people. I look down and take it all in:
- Cracked brown toe-nail polish (it was more of a taupe three weeks ago… no? Not good enough?),
- Clashing black patent flat sandals,
- New York & Co. gray slacks that would look great if they weren’t paired with…
- Red company polo shirt a shade faded and clashing more than the shoes with the cracked brown polish,
- No belt, and
- Heels that could grate cheese.
I don’t need to look up to remember that
- I have no makeup on,
- Eyebrows could use some painful tweezer time, and
- Curly mop hasn’t seen a blowdryer in months.
I’ve forgotten to Fight the Frump.
No, I’m not a Kardashian-following fashionista and have no desire to join the Plastic Pin-head Population. But there are miles and miles of good real estate between Bimbo and Hobo. And today I’m looking at a lunch that belongs on one side and looking like a bag lady that belongs on the other. (Isn’t it amazing how three perfectly good items of clothing can go so badly wrong together?)
It doesn’t feel good, does it ladies? Don’t pretend you don’t know – every one of us has done this.
Time for a kick up my own bum to get me out of the Raiments of Droll. Here is how I plan to do it.
- Go for a run after work and open the pores. Perhaps scare a few fat cells off at the same time.
- Do my own nails, rub my own heels, shave whatever needs disappearing and and buff back in some self-respect.
- Choose tonight, the night before tomorrow so I have no rushing excuses, something much more sassy from the professional side of the closet.
- Punish self by setting alarm 1/2 hour earlier to make time for makeup.
- Sexy underwear.
- The jewellry and perfume I usually save for special occasions.
Fighting like a champ.
It is a fact that we often mistake for a baseless opinion and shelve behind the important things we need to do. Like run a company, write a book, meet so-and-so for drinks so she can cry on your shoulder about her recent breakup, classes that we Single Women like to fill our time with on the premise of “self-improvement”.
There is no good excuse for running oneself into the ground. Yet we find them and invent them and sell them as though they would gain us commission. Why?
I’m sure the answer for every Single Woman is different in the details but it usually boils down to fear. The fear of losing momentum, the fear of missing something, the fear of silence, of aloneness. Pick one or mix them up, but fear wraps its frozen claws around us subtly at the thought of what our thoughts will say if we gave them the silence in which to speak.
SINGLE WOMAN LOVE THYSELF!
Your SELF is your own precious Ferrari, given to you and designed by God. Let your thoughts speak. Trust the good at the core of your gift to temper your quiet conversation. Take a day, a few afternoons a week, and sit in your own company at rest with your Self. It is a very important relationship to maintain, this relationship with ones Self. It will determine how you live, how fulfilled you will be and the direction in which you will go. How can you have your dreams come true if you can’t take the time to actually find out what they are?
In Eat. Pray. Love., Liz describes the first time she actually meditated. It excited her beyond her expectations and she has made meditation a daily practice in her life. Sure, her New Age beliefs are not for everyone but the concept remains the same. Spend some time letting the quietest of your thoughts do the talking and perhaps you too will discover profound truths within yourself.
It is no secret that regular and quality rest can add years to your life. Sleep studies and stress tests are increasingly coming upon new information on the benefits of rest and the damage that the lack of it can do to your health. Many of today’s most common diseases are stress triggered and avoidable. Certainly we aren’t aiming for a quick race to the grave, are we ladies!
But what is rest? The opposite of labour is the idea given by Jesus (“Come unto me all ye that labour and I will give thee rest”).
noun1. the refreshing quiet or repose of sleep: a good night’s rest.2. refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor: to allow an hour for rest3. relief or freedom, especially from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs.4. a period or interval of inactivity, repose, solitude, or tranquillity: to go away for a rest.5. mental or spiritual calm; tranquillity.
It is the haven where I sit with my cup of coffee in my pajamas and write for a few hours. It is my most brilliantly decorated space. It is where I can feel the breeze filter through screens and dance over petals to bring offerings of fragrance to my nose. It is my pantry and my showcase where tomatoes, parsley, dendrobium orchids and sun roses overlap like uneven partners prepared for a waltz to begin. This little piece of Eden is my very own porch garden.
So many things that a woman needs can be found on this eight-by-twelve piece of the world. Rest, birdsong, breeze, peace, puppies (always at my feet), mint, new blooms, cushions, books, lightning storms, rain, and soon to come, a hammock. But this morning I will focus only on two essentials.
Every Single Woman Needs FLOWERS.
And I don’t mean the hastily selected gas station bouquet held behind his back when he comes on his first date. I mean her very own blossomer that she teases and talks to and sings to and protects that will once or twice a year reward her with gorgeous flowers round and sweet. I am an orchid lady. My girlfriend in college was a daffodil woman. My aunt in Jamaica dwells amongst her proud ginger lilies and birds of paradise. My mother has never been able to love one flower over another and has every possible bloom she can get her hands on hanging from and propped against her trees. Pick your flower or love them all, flowers are a necessity.
Moving from the city to back home was a big change for me. I found myself in tears at the most unexpected times, I had nightmares and the silence of island life and pressures of work began to drive me crazy. One afternoon after a particularly bad night of tears and alcohol I woke up to find a white dendrobium balancing on my bedside table. My mother, helpless but relying on the power of the flower, had gone to town in search of a way to help me see past the clouds. She selected something of beauty that would change my life.
It was my first orchid. Today she is blooming in bursts of purity right next to me as I write. She is over two feet tall and makes me very proud. Several others have joined her but she is very special, my first. I learned that morning as I fawned over young blooms through tear-tired eyes that I too can blossom out of nothing but air and water. I made the decision there and then that I would be an orchid lady.
Every Single Woman Needs FOOD
Vegetables. And fruits. And roots. But how about we start with veggies.
Anyone who tries to eat healthy or, more difficult, to become a vegetarian, will tell you that it can be very expensive. Picture a supermarket cart full of fresh vegetables side by side with one full of processed chips and pastas and rices and butter and all things bad for you. The veggie cart will always be more expensive. Worse now that we are in a recession. If you are in the USA, run the experiment of shopping at the local Whole Foods store and then go do the shopping at Publix and see the difference. The grocery bill for healthy food will blow your mind.
In comes the garden. Lacy mint and proud parsley, crawling cucumbers and bright tomatoes. You decide how much to sow and how much to reap. You putter over the pots in your slippers with a watering can in one hand and your coffee in the next. All for the cost of a few seed packs and some soil you can have your own grocery cart full of vegetables.
In our strained economic times it is very easy to feed off the bottom with places like KFC and Popeyes, Wendy’s and Burger King. But you are still spending for three meals every day more than a pack of seeds and some soil for food that will not clog your arteries and take years off your life. Do it right and those seeds will be the gift that keeps on giving. Many a Single Woman has discovered for herself a green thumb she didn’t know she had until she lost her job or had financial troubles tumble down toward her.
But why wait for disaster? We have no excuse. We don’t have a husband or a boyfriend pressuring us to put greasy toe-cheese on the plate every day. Just like our financial plans need to be independent and geared toward protecting us into the future, so too should our bodies be invested in as the vehicles that take us into tomorrow. We need to keep our tyres changed and oil checks up to date – we need to eat our vegetables.
I encourage every Single Woman today – if you have a garden outdoors don’t shy away from it. If you have a patio like mine or a porch, invest in it. If you only have a window in an urban apartment, open the blinds and let light fall on something that is growing.
As my tomatoes peek out from their little seed pods I can already taste the tang of vitamins as I imagine biting into the first red fruit. I’m sure in the supermarket they will cost me up to $2 a pack. But for that amount of money I can have the all year round from my little trees.
It is a part of the nature of power to be subtle. Power need not announce itself. The sleek beauty of a finned bomb falling from the sky, the unseen buzz of electricity dangerous and wholesome, the still small voice of God to Elijah. Power is not in the whirlwind and not in the fire. It is, today, in the tiny pebble dropped into a still pool.
And so she falls, out of the womb and into the stream as a pebble. As smoothe, hard rock cuts the water’s glassy surface rings instantly form, encircling the point of entry. The tiny rings are surrounded by little rings and little rings by bigger rings and bigger rings by large rings. The power of her birth and then her being reverberates until the rings reach the sides of the pool. The closer rings are clearly visible, well defined, despite being small. The large rings fade as they move out until only the eye of science follows them to shore.
It is in these rings encircling the woman that we find the beneficiaries of her love.
The closest circle to the pebble is small. It is intimate, timeless. In childhood they are her family, her parents and siblings and ever-present nurturers like God-mothers and aunts. In adulthood they are still her family but others with no blood connection may have joined along the way. A husband perhaps. A best friend. Members of this circle she loves as she loves herself.
Just outside are the friends that know her best. Sandbox friends, college friends, girly friends, platonic husbands. She may add a fiance. Or a mentor. This circle changes but infrequently. One may come, one may go and the tone may change throughout her maturing. But these are the friends she keeps few secrets from and loves with abandon.
Just outside is a wider circle of friends with a specialty. No less a friend but in a specific context. The friend from the gym she shares all things exercise with. The friend from church she shares with on a spiritual level. The friend from work. The friend from the coffee shop. The friend she goes out dancing with. In a healthy woman boyfriends start here, fiances move into the second circle, and husbands are family.
Then there is the circle of her acquaintances. Not people deep in her heart but occasional beneficiaries of her love.
The circles go on forever out to her work, her country, her world, the future.
But they start with the pebble. The circles are formed around the shape of her love, her care, herself. The pebble is the first circle. For her to reach the shore of her stream first she must fall into the stream. She must fall in love. With herself.