Ladies, Go See Ghostbusters and Take Your Daughters

Ghostbusters

I live in a house full of nerdy men which means over the years I’ve had quite the education in all things superhero, science fiction, and fantasy. It wasn’t something I was exposed to growing up since my mum thought science fiction was stupid – I think that’s a direct quote – and my dad never seemed to watch anything but news, boxing, and Police Academy movies.

As I’ve raised my boys I have begun to realize that maybe there was a nerd inside me all along just waiting to get out. Wonder Woman? LOVED HER!! We would run around the school yard mimicking Linda Carter’s moves with her magic bracelets and lasso. Star Trek? Who didn’t grow up watching it in reruns every single day and crushing a bit on Captain Kirk?

Then, in my teens, there was Ghostbusters. I didn’t really think of it as a nerd movie at the time. It was a huge summer blockbuster and everybody went to see it. There were special effects and familiar actors and a funny premise. And truthfully, I had no idea that it had become an iconic nerd film where people went to conventions dressed up and made their own proton packs.

My kids saw the original Ghostbusters about 4 years ago and Monkey went on a big kick with it, even insisting on a homemade costume for Halloween a few years ago. I’m not really sure I saw the appeal of the movie… until now. Because when you replace the snarky, chain-smoking balding guys with strong, funny, competent women, magic happens.

I was fully expecting to be mildly disappointed by the movie. Remakes are always sketchy and the reviews had been so mixed. I wasn’t expecting to come out of it excited and eagerly anticipating a sequel but that’s exactly what happened, and here’s why:

Ghostbusters licking gunGhostbusters gives us the imperfect female superheroes so many of us have been craving. They’re tall and short and thin and curvy, they wear glasses, and don’t fit in. They have unique ideas and interests that are frowned upon by those around them but they persevere. Their uniform is a baggy jumpsuit, not skin hugging spandex. They are genius level smart and bitingly funny and a bit crazy. They are tough, determined, and loyal to each other. They take on evil and absolutely kick its ass. What on earth is there not to love?

They are the kind of female superheroes that I wish I could have grown up with. The kind of female superheroes I wish my boys could grow up with. Instead, I grew up with spandex and low-cut tops, big boobs and high-heeled boots and secondary characters. Guess what? Not much has changed.

Nerd culture is still a man’s domain, although that is slowly changing. The nerds in my life are feminists, because I would have nothing to do with them if they weren’t, but there’s still a lot of misogyny out there in nerd land. And if you have any doubts, the Washington Post just published a break-down of the reviews for Ghostbusters.

 

“A closer look revealed men rated the film, on average, a 3.6 out of 10. Women, on the other hand, rated it 7.7 out of 10. Additionally, nearly five times as many men had rated the movie — 7,547 men as opposed to 1,564 women.”

Those numbers are enough to piss me off. What is it that men aren’t liking about the movie? Are they so completely unused to seeing female heroes unless they look like Katniss or Black Widow that they just can’t wrap their heads around realistic looking women getting the job done? And what a sad reflection is that on how our society views women?

So ladies, go see Ghostbusters. Do it for the little girl in you who never got a chance to see a hero on the screen who looked like you or liked science like you did or wasn’t afraid of goo and dirt. And take the girls in your life so they can experience it too.

 

Bridging the Distance: Why Women Need To Support Each Other

Today I read a post from my friend Lynn over at http://diaryofaturtlehead.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/the-world-as-i-know-it/ and it finally got me to sit down and commit to writing some ideas that had been swirling around in my head for a month or so. She is talking about an Ottawa woman who killed her children, aged 10 and 6, then killed herself.

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/Stittsville+children+mother+dead+murder+suicide/7818753/story.html

When I look at this story, I wonder what made this woman so different from me. My kids are almost the same age and I am the woman on the street who organizes our yearly street party as well as ladies’ night out. I stay home with my kids and have since Monkey was born, making it 7 1/2 years now. Would people describe me as ‘strange’ or ‘hard to get to know?’ Perhaps. For all that I may seem like a social creature, I know that I only open up to those I feel close to.

So, what makes me so different from this woman? I know that there were mental health issues at play. How could there not be? But what makes me truly sad is wondering if this woman felt so alone that there was nobody she could confide in, to share her thoughts and her insecurities and her fears. Did she have anybody who she could have a cup of coffee with and say ‘What a crap day. The kids were being spectacularly loud and crabby. Is it a full moon or something?’

And this is the thing that was nagging at me even before I heard about his poor woman. It started with a roundtable I participated in at work where the topic of women’s friendships came up. I was truly shocked to hear several of the women (mostly 35-50) say that they had no real ‘girlfriends.’ They claimed that they identified better with men and found women to be catty and distrustful and competitive. They admired my friendships with my girlfriends but had given up on the idea for themselves. And yet, these same women had gone through strings of bad relationships with men and kept going back for more.

It got me really thinking about how truly isolated we as woman are in this society. We are given the message over and over again that other women are our competition – we must strive to look younger, be more fit, have a better job, have better behaved kids, keep a better house, have better sex, wear better clothes, than other women. We must keep our men happy in the bedroom or some other woman will steal him away. We see other women as a threat on our climb up the corporate ladder because there are so few of us making it.

I think it’s time we call B.S. on the whole thing. We are not each other’s competition. We are our greatest means of support. When you get a bunch of women together and let them tell their own truth and really be there for each other, it is empowering and reaffirming and good for the body and soul.

The idea that women are seperate from each other, that they are supposed to seek support and stability only from their male partner, is something that is unique to this century and this North American society. Since the dawn of time, families lived together in multi-generational households. You had your mother and aunts around to help you when you had a newborn. You were taught life skills from the women who surrounded you all the time. They shared their secrets and wisdom with each other. It is a real tragedy that we have lost this.

Of course, I could go into all kinds of reasons why we live the way we do. That’s the women’s studies scholar in me rearing her opinionated head. But we don’t need to go into feminist theory to figure out what to do about our predicament.

Reach out to another mom in your neighbourhood. Get together for coffee. Offer to swap kids for playdates. Tell that new mom you don’t care if she has breastmilk stains on her shirt and her hair isn’t washed. You want to see her. Invite the new woman at the office to have coffee with you one afternoon. Reach out to those ladies you only see at PTA meetings and invite them out for a cocktail. Do you really think they are going to say no? Chances are, they need somebody to talk to just as much as you do.

Let yourself be vulnerable. Let yourself be imperfect. Tell your girlfriend that your kids are driving you crazy and you need a break. Talk about your wrinkles and those extra 10 pounds and how sometimes you feel like you can’t keep up with it all. They are going through it all too in their own way.

I think for myself, I want to make even more of an efford to close the distance between myself and the women around me. I love my dear Muppet but there are things that sometimes only another woman is truly going to understand. And on that note, I think I am going to arrange another Ladies’ Night Out. I think it is long overdue.

Why I Love My Inner Bitch

It was quite the week last week. The tree is up and gingerbread are baked but I’m finding my Christmas spirit to be a bit elusive. Of course, a lot of it has to do with the horrible tragedy last week in Connecticut, which I won’t even speak about because it makes me tear up every time. Another huge part of it has to do with my 14-year-old niece being stuck in the hospital with stabbing abdominal pains that they can’t seem to diagnose after 7 days. It is frustrating and worrying and she is handling it all like a trooper but her poor mum, my only sister, is slowly being worn down to the point of exhaustion. And there’s nothing I can do.

I know this all sounds terribly depressing and I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer but I am finding that having my nerves frayed and this constant low-level of worry eating at me has been quite the eye-opening learning experience. I think I am finally falling in love with my inner bitch.

Don’t get me wrong. She has always been there. She makes an appearance every once in a while, but usually when I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine with my girlfriends and we get started on our men, or our kids, or life as a woman in general. She is pretty much bound to show up once a month and my poor Muppet is well acquainted with her.

And here’s the thing; I love women who let their inner bitch out once in a while. Let me be clear. I’m not talking about the kind of woman who looks you up and down, gives you a withering look, and walks away or who insults perfect strangers based on superficialities. That is juvenile and unnecessarily hurtful. What I love is when a woman can finally let loose and actually voice those things that she is unhappy with in her life; the things that drive her crazy, or make her dissatisfied. I love it when my otherwise cheerful girlfriends will let loose with a few choice expletives while pondering why their dear spouse can’t seem to get his dirty undies into the hamper.

Let’s face it; we women are taught to be nice. I know that I have a huge problem saying ‘no’ or rocking the boat. I was always the shy one who was well-behaved and easy-going as a child. And I was complimented on those traits A LOT. Sound familiar? We were encouraged to be nurturing, to play quietly, to keep our dresses clean and our hair tidy. I don’t think I even realized until the last few years how much of that I had carried on into my adult life.

I realize now that all this time I had this other side of me that was aching for more than just a brief walk-on role in my life. As I grow older I realize that my bitch – that part of me that stands up for herself, and doesn’t suffer fools, and gets fed up and frustrated – is a real and important part of my personality and I am growing less and less afraid to let her out.

I look back at some of the times that she was trying to make herself known and I repressed her: The time that I was forced to work until almost 10pm one night because my boss didn’t get his own work done on time and I made a comment to that effect (in a joking tone) which got me a stern look and a warning. The time that I was told I was ‘too blunt’ when I gave my opinion in a meeting. I was right in both cases, but I forgot to be nice and unassuming, to remember my place and not rock the boat.

Maybe loving my inner bitch comes with being in my forties now. I have obligations and responsibilities and I don’t have the time to mess around with poor customer service or whiny people or incompetent bosses. I want my life to be happy, and to run as smoothly as it can, and I am not going to put up with anything that stands in my way.

I actually think my bitch was always there to make sure I did what was best for myself, but the rest of me just wasn’t ready yet to put myself first. She shows up when things are at their toughest and says ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. She is the one who gets me to say ‘no’ when I really am stretched to thin. She is the one who gets me to cancel plans that I am actually too exhausted or sick to enjoy. She is the one who lets me speak my mind at my current job because I have important things to say and should be heard.

I am almost grateful that the last couple of weeks have been so stressful. Unleashing my inner bitch has actually allowed me to prioritize and to see what is really important. She has given me permission to say ‘no’ to everything except those things that matter most; my kids, my guy, getting ready to make this a great holiday, and helping out my sister and niece in any way they will let me. In many ways, its like I have found a new best friend!

 

 

 

Balls In the Air, Nose to the Grindstone

Being a stay-at-home mum is something I never thought I would do. Actually, being a mum at all is something I told myself I didn’t want until well into my twenties but by then I had met Muppet and I think I just knew right away that he would be the kind of dad to our kids that mine never was to me. So, we talked about the idea of kids and exactly when I had just gotten a promotion and a bunch of new responsibility at work, I got knocked up. Of course.

But then along came Mini Me and I took my year of maternity leave but went back to work because I liked my job in book publishing. It was fun and challenging and a bit glamorous. I got to meet important Canadian authors and go to cool parties and talk to interesting people. But. Very few of the women who held higher positions in the company had kids, including my boss, and the hours were rough, with night events and some weekends. With Muppet working as a computer animator in film and television, having punishing deadlines at the same time, it was too much.

When we got pregnant with Monkey, we talked a lot about whether I would go back to work afterwards. I loved the glamour of the job and certain aspects of it, but it was draining and I didn’t feel that there was enough flexibility for a woman with one kid, let alone two. Then fate intervened. The company was slowly being swallowed up by a larger publisher and they took over my department while I was on leave, getting rid of all of us in senior positions. I was packaged off (cue happy dance!). There it was. The decision was made for me. Not only would I stay home, but I would be getting money for it, for a while at least.

The funny thing about deciding to stay home is that you enter a whole new world. You have ‘mummy friends,’ and those who don’t have kids, you just don’t see as often. Your days are overtaken by diapers and potties and Cheerios and the constant picking up of toys on the floor. You go to ridiculous music classes and clap your toddler’s hands along with some over-enthusiastic instructor because you want to aid their growth and development. It becomes acceptable to wear yoga pants every day of the week. And your brain can really take a beating.

When Monkey started junior kindergarten, I decided to look for a part-time job that I could do from home and within a couple of weeks, I had landed an admin assistant position with a cheerful, ambitious I.T. guy who needed some help getting organized (thank you Craigslist). That job led to another and then another, with a slight detour along the way with a job that sounded great, but never did pay me.

My most recent job was data entry with some research added in, until my bosses decided to throw me some more interesting stuff about 6 months ago. Social media, article writing, research, reaching out to bloggers, forming a community. It all sounded right up my alley. But, being the I.T. guys that they are, they decided that it just wasn’t the way they were going to increase traffic to their particular website. It just wasn’t making money fast enough. So, back to data entry I went but now I had a taste of something I really loved.

That was when I started shopping around and sent out a few resumes. I applied for anything that had to do with writing that didn’t look like a scam (but some of them still were). I found out that writing reviews for ‘dating’ sites meant porn and that a lot of people want writers to work for free. But then I came across a posting that seemed like it may be legit and I sent in my resume. They emailed me and we set up a telephone interview.

When the call came, it was a cheerful sounding woman who spoke about how important it was to have a work/life balance and doing something you really love. She said that all of their employees were mums who were making their way back into the workforce bit by bit, at their own pace. She said that being a social media and communications associate could lead to writing articles if that was what I wanted and possibly blogging for their readers. It was important to the company that their employees felt fulfilled. Imagine me, sitting on the other end of this phone conversation just vibrating with excitement. It seemed too good to be true.

I went on to speak to the president of the company, a strong, independent businesswoman, who asked me to come to the office the next day. The office, it turned out, is a comfortable condo where brainstorming sessions happen a couple of times a week. I felt immediately at home. We spoke about everything from my dream job to my opinion on Fifty Shades of Grey and by the time I left, they were talking about having me start on Monday. Which is tomorrow.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. These women seem amazing and it is going to be a fantastic learning experience working with them, but I hope I am up for the challenge. I will be working 20 hours a week between their office and my home, making sure I can pick up the kids every day at 3pm. And to add to the crazy, I am trying to keep my current admin job at least until Christmas because it is only 10 hours a week at this point and we could frankly use the money. I am also looking after my friends’ son two days a week after school and in another couple of weeks I will add swimming lessons for both my boys, on two different nights. Gulp. Too many balls? Maybe, but I’m gonna give it my best shot.

I head to the office for the first time tomorrow morning. The outfit has been chosen, laundry done, computer bag packed. I am ready to start what will hopefully be a whole new chapter in my life. Wish me luck!

Why My Mum Isn’t My Best Friend

Today is my mum’s birthday. She is turning 71 and while that may not seem old by today’s standards, believe me when I say that I am very grateful that she is still here with us. She hasn’t led an easy life and she had a heart attack about 10 years ago that gave us quite a scare. Her health is poor, her arthritis makes it incredibly difficult to walk, and she gets very stressed out about the smallest things. I love her very much, but she is not my best friend. She is my mum. And that is a million times more important.

She isn’t the kind of mum who takes you on shopping sprees and teaches you how to do your hair and makeup. Although she was a hottie in her younger years, time and age have long ago taken away her desire to keep up appearances. She lives in stretch polyester and sometimes dabs on some frosted pink lipstick if she’s going out somewhere. We didn’t gossip or share secrets. She didn’t give sage advice. She didn’t help with my homework because she was never was able to finish high school.

There were times when my sister and I would come home to fresh-baked cookies after school, but my mum was no great housekeeper. I can remember going around the living room with a grocery bag, emptying ash trays and picking up wrappers and pop cans. I can remember her picking us up after school and stopping at the convenience store every day to get a bag of chips and a chocolate bar each for our snack. I remember her letting us eat french fries and gravy every day in high school from the cafeteria because she never forced us to pack lunches and always gave us $4 instead.

For years she worked in retail at a local discount department store and sometimes she would be home for dinner or sometimes she would be working until 10 at night. My dad didn’t cook, so my sister and I would make whatever we felt like – often involving french fries. My dad was what my mum would call a ‘drinker’ but what we would call an alcoholic. He wasn’t physically abusive but he was very adept at going out for a loaf of bread and returning 6 hours later. It was a constant, pervasive source of tension in our house and my mum never called him on it in front of us. I’m not sure she ever called him on it at all.

What I have come to realize as an adult and a mother is that my own mum was doing the best she could do. By looking at her life, I have learned how to take control of my own. I have a partner who doesn’t drink at all, a relationship where we try to air our grievances. I went to university and have skills that will always translate into work that I enjoy. I eat a healthy diet and try to impress it upon my children so they will have the skills to be healthy when they are out on their own and fending for themselves. I try to take care of my body and look good because it makes me feel good.

Am I the polar opposite of my own mother? Not at all. In fact, I would say that we are incredibly alike. We look similar and have the same body shape, which has taught me that I need to take care of my wonky back and stay fit so that when arthritis inevitably hits, I will be better equipped to handle it. We have the same anxiety problems which seems to have worked its way through generations of women on my mother’s side. But while my mum suffered panic attacks, I spoke to my doctor and got medication. I work at jobs where my innate stubbornness and manic organizational skills are appreciated. We also have what I have come to realize is a compulsive eating problem, turning to food in times of stress. I recognize it and manage it where my mum never could, leading her to become morbidly obese. I am sure that I am not done learning from her either, as I enter menopause with very little grace and a lot of bitching.

So, Happy Birthday Mum. You are not my best friend and I would never want you to be. You are my rock, my sympathetic ear, my example of what to be and what not to be. I love you with all my heart.

Fat Is Not The Enemy

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately putting pressure on myself to be something I’m not. I’m lucky enough to work from home and part of my daily tasks is to follow a bunch of health and wellness bloggers. These are amazing women (and yes, they’re almost all women. Seriously, don’t guys blog?) who are striving to live fulfilled, lhealthy lives. Some have kids. Some don’t. Some have overcome tremendous physical hurdles to become fit and happy and I love to hear about their journeys.

But…
I think I’m the kind of gal who focusses on what I should be rather than what I am, so these blogs have been doing a bit of a number on me lately. Raw food. Vegan food. Daily workouts. Yoga. Meditation. Smoothies that are an alarming shade of green. Quitting an office job to be a fitness coach, zumba instructor, yogi, life counsellor. I wonder why I can’t do that too. Why can’t I find the passion for health and fulfillment that these women have. They are so awesome and I am so obviously lacking.

Then it kind of hit me while I’m sitting here at Timmies having my medium coffee (double cream, one sweetener) that I am passionate. I am passionate about being me but I somehow don’t seem to think that’s enough.

I am more fit now than I have been since I was 20. I exercise pretty much every day even if it’s only the 35 minutes or so it takes me to walk the kids to and from school. I eat pretty healthy most of the time. I cook lovely homemade meals and bake cookies so my kids get a least a few less preservatives in their bodies. And if this keeps the scale over the number I idealize in my head, then maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

I’m not saying there are things I wouldn’t improve. I’m an emotional eater and stress always finds me munching on something. I love wine and a night chatting with the girls while splitting a bottle or two.

I guess my realization is that I need to be good enough for myself and figure out what that means. I can be my own worst enemy or my own best friend and maybe if I’m kinder to myself, I will find it easier to make more little changes. Yes, I take cream in my coffee today, but hey, at least I didn’t order a donut. One small step for woman…

Why I Want To Give Tina Fey A Big Hug

I was poking around on some news sites lately and came across an article delcaring that “Tina Fey feels Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pain” and I admit that I was intrigued. What I went on to read made me want to take the both of them and invite them over for a coffee and a hug. The article went on to quote an interview that Tina Fey did with InStyle magazine.

“Anytime you talk about being a working mother and you complain about it in any way, people eat your face.”

“I remember reading some interview where Gwyneth Paltrow said something like, ‘I missed my kids on the set one day and I was crying.’ And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ve totally done that.'”

Not everyone is so empathetic.

“On the website where I read it there were these furious comments. ‘But you’re a movie star!’ Yes, it’s much worse for a mom serving in Afghanistan. Of course,” Fey said. “But there’s just no forgiveness.”

And isn’t that the truth.  Why do we as women allow ourselves to buy into this new cultural standard of motherhood as some form of competition? Why are stay-at-home mums better than working ones or working mums more fulfilled than those of us who stay at home with our kids (or any permutation of the above)? Why do we criticize mums who have nannies or other caregivers for their children? Why are we all still supposed to take on the lion’s share of raising the perfect child, keeping the perfect house and making the perfect meal at the end of the day?

I am so very lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of wonderful women who support each other instead of dragging each other down. We babysit each other’s kids when we can, we feed the kids pizza while we share a bottle of wine, we swap information and advice and reassurance. Some of us work, some of us don’t but there is no judgement about who is leading the better life or who is more fulfilled. Sometimes I pine for the days when I would put on a nice skirt and heels and head out to the office, just like they pine for the days when they were able to go to the park in the morning with their kids. We share those thoughts and then pour another glass of wine, smiling.

Here is what I think about Tina and Gwyneth. Yes, they are celebrities and they have scads of money so that they can have a personal trainer, a nanny, a chef and so on and so on. But really, how many of us wouldn’t jump at the chance to have those things? Would I hire a caregiver who could look after my kids for an afternoon while I went for a mani/pedi? Hell yes. Would I get somebody to cook my meals for me so that I could take the kids to the park and not have to come home and scramble because I forgot to defrost the chicken? Ummm, duh.

I love my kids and I have been both a working and a stay-at-home mum.  I couldn’t begin to judge which one was more difficult and each has its challenges and rewards. Gwyneth Paltrow is a working mum who has a job that sometimes takes her away from her kids for stretches at a time. Does she love her kids any less than my friend who has to take overnight business trips or any less than those of us who are often with our kids 24/7 and crave a break? Sounds kind of silly when you think about it that way, doesn’t it?

And really, in some ways, I feel sorry for celebrity mums because they get the double whammy. Not only are they supposed to be perfect mothers, doting on their children, but they are supposed to look perfect physically as well. They are supposed to be toned and coiffed and glowing no matter the circumstances or they will end up in the tabloids under a big headline reading “Is She Letting Herself Go?” They are supposed to appear in public with their children looking like the dutiful and caring mother with no nanny in sight or the headlines will read “So and So Parties While the Nanny Raises the Children.” That’s why celebrity mums are so often photographed lugging the two year old on their hip through the airport with the nanny skulking in the background. They would never hear the end of it if they actually passed the kid off for even a minute. And really, how many of us have breathed that sigh of relief when we have pawned our fussy kid off to our spouse or friend? Hell, I’ve been ready to hand them to perfect strangers at times to give my arms and brain a break. Does Gwyneth have that option? Of course not.

So, to Tina Fey I say “Kudos to you for sticking up for another mum.” I hear what you’re saying and I have a newfound respect and admiration for you for saying it.  Any time you want to come over for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine so that we can compare notes, just let me know. And bring Gwyneth with you as well.