Merry Everything!

I celebrate Christmas. So, brace yourselves, I’m about to wish you a good holiday–whether you celebrate Christmas, solstice, Hanukkah (little late, I know), the end of the consumer season or whatever.

Happy Whatever You Celebrate or If You Don’t, Have a Very Merry Unbirthday!

I’m having trouble getting in the spirit of things, but I discovered if I indulge my Inner Grinch a little, I feel much better. So, I present to you the following:

and

OH! Also, Happy End of the World.

Next week I’ll be taking a little holiday hiatus in the hope that maybe I’ll get some more work done on my Viking novella. See you in January, my hearts!

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Be a light in the dark

You know, it’s a little odd, all these tweets, blogs and Facebook posts about how broken the world is in the face of recent tragedies, from natural disasters to unnatural ones.

People I know personally and people I don’t know at all seem to agree that the world is a fucked up place. That humanity is simply a cluster of random acts of badness and cruelty.

And, I suppose if I were an alien studying this planet, I would say the same thing. I mean, who would want to live on this planet, really? Nature is scary. If it’s not battering various coasts with super-storms, it’s washing it away with earthquake-born tsunamis. Humanity is scary. If we’re not contemplating our belly buttons, we’re massacring each other over land disputes or killing each other for no apparent reason.

Except I’m not an alien. I’m not on the outside looking in. And when people say they hope it’s actually the end times because we “don’t deserve” to be here, I cringe. The fuck you trying to say, exactly?

There are individuals who are messed up, broken, diseased of the mind. There are ideologies that are messed up, broken, diseased in principle. But it certainly isn’t everyone. And nature isn’t out to get us. It’s just being nature—our planet is harsh, but you know, it’s ours. And until we can travel any length of space en masse, we’re kind of stuck. Bloom where you’re planted, people.

And as for those that don’t think we deserve to be here, or think that all of humanity is broken, I have to say, look around. Yeah, there are plenty of squeaky wheels. There are a lot of things wrong.

There are also a lot of things right:

Buzzfeed’s Faith in Humanity List http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/moments-that-restored-our-faith-in-humanity-this-y

Project Night Night (via @theblogess) http://projectnightnight.org/

Robbery foiled with kindness http://cheezburger.com/6293721088

I could keep going, but you get the idea. The things that are bad are overwhelming, and numerous. It is our job to counter that with an infinite amount of small, good things. It doesn’t have to be anything overt, you don’t need to spend any money if you don’t want. All you have to do is practice kindness, courtesy, and compassion.

We will never have all the answers as to why bad things happen. It will always be tragic. It will always hurt.

But, when all you see is darkness, you have to be the light. No one else will do it for you.

Go forth. Shine.

In which I almost create a manifesto

I received a lot of dating advice in response to my post on Wednesday. I appreciate the feedback, I do, and I know it was all very well-intentioned. But, I’d just like to point out that I didn’t need advice so much as want to inspire a discussion on a double standard.

Smart men are praised.

Smart women are feared. (Here is a really extreme example.)

I associated this phenomena with a personal dating anecdote because that’s where I experienced the double standard the most, in the dating world. But that was not, apparently, the thing to introduce if I wanted to start an actual discussion, versus soliciting a flood of well-meaning advice. It’s my own fault.

So, allow me to put it bluntly: Why do you suppose society trains us to believe that smart women are bitchy and un-feminine, even while we are in the midst of a huge gender equality movement?

Why are we getting the message of “equality of intellect” out to the women, but somehow leave the men behind?

Why do we keep putting the onus on the smart women to adapt to a world where femininity is measured in the height of our heels, instead of asking society to evolve and accommodate more varied standards of the feminine? (Or the masculine, for that matter? Shout-out to the manly men that wear pink! Excuse the cliché.)

Have any of you experienced this sort of bias? Or, perhaps, the reverse?

I suppose my confusion and irritation stem from being an avid science fiction and fantasy reader since before I formed a concept of what was “socially acceptable.”

I mean, sure, there are plenty of sci-fi/fantasy books and movies that follow the prince-and-distressed-damsel standard, but there are just as many—if not more—that exemplify equality of intellect, and often, fighting prowess. Books where male characters are amazed by and respect their female counterparts for their specialties, regardless of whether it’s as an expert sword fighter, formidable scholar or an accomplished baker. Books where the reverse is also true, and women don’t bat an eye when a man takes on more traditionally feminine roles.

Books where women who have astounding intellects are praised just as highly as the men. Where smarts are feared or prized equally in both genders.

My own parents exemplify this dynamic of respect. Hell, I write those characters in my own stories. I’m really not sure why the rest of the world is taking so long to catch up.

I know in my heart (I know because some of you read this blog) that there are men out there who feel the same way.

So, thank you for the dating advice, but I will continue to reject your reality and substitute my own–since mine is the one we should be striving for in the first place.

Remember, boys and girls, the only way the world will change is if you start to change it. Don’t accept something you feel is wrong, or misguided. Speak up. Stand up.

Fight.

Smart Girls Can’t Date

I’m going to take this post and veer in completely different direction because, well, it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.

I am 29 years old, and I do not have a boyfriend. I can barely get a date.

I’m intelligent and decent looking. I dress well, if casually. I can cook. I own my home, I drive a nice (but older) car, and I’m generally easy to be around. Not the perfect catch, but not a total reject, either. So what gives? Why can’t I get a date?

Don’t worry, I’ve asked this question before. I’ve actually taken an informal poll on the subject, questioning both male and female friends alike. The result: I’m intimidating because I’m smart.

That baffled me. I’m not exactly physically imposing, standing just below five foot seven, with honey-blonde hair and a sort of absent-minded aura. My arms lack distinct muscle tone. I’m quiet. How is that intimidating?

The responses that I received ranged from “you use big words” to “you’re really smart” and occasionally, “you exude confidence.”

Great! I like this. These are good things. Yes? Oh, they’re not?

Female intelligence is, apparently, scary. This is where a type of stealth double standard rears its ugly head.

We, as a society, are in the midst of a passionately fought equality movement. We’re telling fashion magazines to stop digitally altering pictures of their models so girls will have a more realistic perception of body image. We’re promoting “fit” not “thin.” We’re telling young women to get the best education they can, so they can get the best job, so they can change the world, which is something we’ve been telling men all across the globe for centuries.

We’re telling girls that the best version of their personality is the one truest to their inner self.

But we’re not getting the same message out to men about the women. I’m mean, I’m sure we’re trying—but the proof is in the pudding, as it were. Men that I know are still scared by intelligent women because they’ve been trained to believe that such women are bitchy, snide, high maintenance, and—most importantly—in competition with them.

I think that last one is what cinches the feelings of terror. It’s okay to be in competition with another man. That’s biology. But competing with a woman is evolutionary blasphemy.

I’ve been told by perfect strangers that I need to “tone down” my intelligence when I meet a guy. To hide it. To censor the big words and play off things that may scare him away, with the implication that to do otherwise would emasculate him.

Men that do the same things I do, like dressing nicely and speaking in complete sentences about complex subjects, are swooned over. Ladies like smart men.

And, to be fair, men like smart ladies. They just…run away from them. Because, obviously, dealing with a woman who is a match for your intelligence would be too hard. It would make you “less of a man” if your girlfriend had a better job, or a better vocabulary, or a higher graduate degree.

It’s tantamount to heresy if she’s in direct competition with you. You know. According to society.

Women are taught to be proud of their male companions’ achievements. To cheer them on. They are taught to cheer on their sisters and female besties as well, and to cheer for themselves.

I’m a little confused as to why the same lesson isn’t getting out to the men.

Fellas, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s 100% acceptable to have a girlfriend, wife, or female counterpart who is smarter than you.  She’s not trying to put you down. She’s not trying to make you feel bad. In fact, she wants to impress you, because if she’s with you, she already thinks you’re the bee’s knees and is hoping you’ll stick around.

Haven’t asked her out yet? (Alternately, did she ask you out and you ran in the opposite direction out of fear?) She’s hoping her smarts and personality will meld with her looks and create an irresistible allure. Smart is sexy. Smart is interesting. Smart is…experimental. Smart girls like to learn new things.

Like astrophysics. Stay with me, boys.

You know what else? Smart girls like men who are willing to learn. If you have no clue what she’s talking about, or don’t recognize that four syllable word, stop her for a second. Tell her to explain it. She’s not going to think you’re stupid. She’s going to think you’re interested.

So, don’t let the stealthy double standard contaminate your interest, gentlemen. Ladies, don’t let the stealthy double standard turn you mute, or worse, make you hide aspects of your personality. Be yourself.

We’re all victims of some mixed messaging. Hell, even women are sometimes afraid of smart women—and it’s because wires are getting crossed.

But it’s time we all got together and straightened it out. Do it for the cosmic, gravity defying sex. Do it for equality.

Do it for me, because I’m free on Saturday.