Twice in the last week, I’ve been called a show-off.
This is nothing new for me, but it really ticks me off.
Especially now, with all that’s happening.
Let me tell you why.
Even before I started school, I loved to read. Books were my only friends, for a long time. I was a weird kid.
Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, Elizabeth Bennet, Fanny Price. These were my heroes.
Although I was arguably a bit young for some of those, no one had ever told me about reading levels. Yet.
So I went to school, and proudly read aloud in my first grade class, without stumbling once.
My teacher called me a show-off, and said I was making the other kids uncomfortable.
I wasn’t allowed to read aloud in that class anymore.
Before high school, I loved math. As Vanilla Ice would say, if there was a problem, yo I’d solve it.
For me, it wasn’t about proficiency, but the thrill of discovery. Back then, like reading a new story, figuring out how numbers worked was like a mystery. I would go from despair to ecstasy in a single moment, every time my brain felt that magical click--wait a minute, I think I’ve got it!
In freshman algebra, there was this girl named Rachel. Everyone called her Britney, though. She was pretty, in that bleach blonde way that was huge in the 90s. Britney--I mean Rachel--her catch phrase was, “I don’t get this.”
“I don’t get this!” she’d cry, as if making an important announcement. Every guy in the room would turn to look, including the teacher. None of them bothered to help her, of course, but they loved to commiserate. "Oh, Rachel. It's not your fault. You're probably not going to ever use this, anyway." Conversely, when I’d answer a question correctly in front of people, or finish my homework early? There it was again. Discomfort. Resistance. Unease. Especially on the part of the boys in the room.
Not long after that, I stopped doing math homework. I’d half-ass my studies, particularly in male taught (and historically, male dominated) subjects like math and science. Eventually, I lost that feeling of challenging myself, of seeking to dominate those thought processes that didn’t come easily to me. Ironically, no one ever corrected me for not trying.
Here’s why I’m especially pissed off about this: I can guarantee I’m not the only girl with a dozen stories like this. How do I know? Because it keeps happening, year after year.
As women, we are told that it’s not okay to be more than good at something, and proud of it. When women excel, we’re told to be humble. Gracious. Don’t publicize the results of all your hard work. Make sure to mention how difficult it was, while you’re at it. Stop “showing off.” Let someone else have a turn. Nobody wants to see you being excellent. It will make them feel uncomfortable.
But why? All my life, I’ve looked up to excellent people--especially women. Especially, especially the ones who made me feel like I was barely trying by comparison. Because, unlike men, our egos aren’t based on a sense that we have to be (or at least appear) to be the best in the room. As women, our self-esteem comes from what we know, deep down, to be true: that we are capable of true greatness. Not just goodness, or better-than-others-ness, but conscious, continuous evolution from the person we used to be.
Sometimes we forget this lesson, or it’s actively un-taught throughout our lives. But women have this unique ability to inspire greatness, merely by striving to be great. Maybe it’s in spite of what they tell us, or maybe it’s because of that. I’m not really sure.
I’d rather be the person who makes someone want to try harder and be better. I would rather NOT be the person someone else looks at to say “well, at least she can’t do it, either.” Call me a “show-off” if you want.
You’re not qualified for that job.
Well, neither is he. And look--he applied, and got it, anyway.
You shouldn’t brag.
What is “bragging,” exactly, if not just saying true things which happen to also be accomplishments?
(Also, have you ever noticed that “bragging” tends to be considered bad for girls, but normal for boys?)
Girls should be ladylike.
Spoiler alert: You can do anything, as a lady, and guess what--it’s ladylike.
Nobody likes a show-off.
Actually, I do.
“I know how to take care of myself,” she said.
They assumed she meant that she could harm someone who was trying to harm her, and that was true.
But it also meant that she knew how to buy herself flowers when she was feeling like the world was devoid of beauty.
She also knew how to stay in bed when she was sick, how to make herself a cup of tea when she was feeling fragile, or pour herself a drink when she was tired of processing all the bullshit she’d been handed.
It also meant she knew how much pain she could handle, and how far and fast she could run, and when to keep going, and when to say “when.”
It meant she liked herself, even on bad days. Even when no one else seemed to notice or care.
“I’ll be fine,” she said.
And even if they doubted it, she knew she would be.
Because she would absolutely take care of herself.
Author’s Note: I wrote this for myself, but you can adopt it, if you want.
This past year has been sobering for a lot of people. A lot of us, particularly in the United States, have been forced to take a good look at the way we participate in society. Many of us, particularly in creative industries like publishing, have started to rethink the way we do our jobs. All of us, I’m hoping, will take a step back and reevaluate the way we live our lives.
For my part, I hope I can adjust my daily behavior to align more closely with my big picture goals. That I can more clearly define my core values as they relate, not just to my life, but to the lives of those who may be positively or negatively impacted by those values. I’m hoping to make a change, not just to myself, but to the world. A world I may not have helped build, (at least not in any notable historical sense–yet) but am undeniably and inescapably a part of.
We’ve all heard the joke:
Today’s young people are better prepared for a zombie apocalypse than they are for “real life.”
Well, thank god for that.
As we have seen, are seeing, will see, the world is an increasingly baffling and hellacious place. Human sacrifice? Check. Dogs and cats living together? Check. Mass hysteria? …Oh, shit, you guys. It’s official.
Houston, we have apocalypse.
Of course, I jest. It’s my favorite coping mechanism. But let’s get real (ish) for a sec. No one can argue that this year has been like a dry run for Satan’s second coming. (Or is it the first? Seventh? I haven’t finished binge-watching every season of “Supernatural” yet, so please, no spoilers.) From the ongoing tire fire that is Brexit, to the abandoned Burning Man port-a-potty that is the alt-right movement, to the sudden peacing out of a metric f**kton of our favorite celebrities, to the actual–now literal; thank you Donald Trump and Steve Bannon–Shit Show that is this year’s election…2016 is the most apocalypse-adjacent reality I have had the pleasure of experiencing. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. (In fact, in the words of High School Musical, “We’re all in this together, you selfish motherf***ers.” Or something.)
For those of you who are still in denial that the world is ending (a popular life choice these days; #NoJudgement, Judy from Facebook), don’t worry. We, the Millennials, have got your back. Or, at the very least, we’ve got a comedically-timed bitch slap of reality with your name on it.
So here it is, future casualties and survivors. The truth bomb you’ve been dreading (and we’ve been preparing for) for as long as we can remember:
IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.
Still struggling with that whole denial thing? Ah, it’s okay Judy. If it makes you feel better, you can keep pretending I’m talking about “The Walking Dead” on AMC 9/8c–#NotMyWinchester. Personally, I’m a big fan of that one line from the Bible (?) “…and the truth shall set you free.” So.
Here’s what’s true in the case of post-apocalyptic drama (and also–incidentally–true today):
Here’s what we know WILL help:
Cardio. Because, realistically, fatties will be the first to go. And I’m not just talking about physical fatness. If you were waiting on New Years, swimsuit season, 2020, or your next high school reunion to lose whatever is bogging you down in life and/or cramping your style…maybe stop waiting. Like, do it now. Right now. Today. Because here’s the thing about an oncoming apocalypse: it waits for no one. So lets write down our goals, schedule those appointments, double-knot our shoelaces, and get our asses in gear. Start doing every day what you want to be doing next week, next year, ten years from now. Start today, and do a little more each day than you think you can. This is not a drill. We’re training for the Shit Show Olympics.
Being All You Can Be. As an extension to above, the best hope you have in the world is to be your best self. Take a power nap. Get a snack. Stretch–physically, mentally, socially. But also be honest with yourself. Don’t allow yourself to believe that just because others aren’t doing as much, as well, as fast, etc. as you are, that means you can relax. With great power comes great responsibility. Sure, but power is obvious. IMO, with great potential comes an even greater responsibility. The thing is, only you know what you’re truly capable of. I believe in you, but I can’t tell you where your greatness truly lies. That’s your own damn job.
Working together, even when it seems like you could be better off going it alone. I mean, I get it. Making friends in an apocalypse is hard. Someone stole your favorite shoes and lit them on fire, for seemingly no reason. Your best friend called you racist. Suddenly, your wife gets more upset than she used to, when you treat her like a second-class citizen. Even though you personally may have done nothing to deserve this reaction. (Spoiler alert though: you probably did do something to deserve it, at some point.) Doesn’t matter. Getting butt hurt is pre-apocalypse. Come together over shared world goals and basic human survival, if you want to live.
Guns are a dumb weapon. They attract the zombies, and in the wrong hands, you could lose a finger. God forbid, more than a finger. Also, haven’t you always really wanted a sweet ass katana anyway? Yes, you have.
Zombies are not Nazis. Granted, due to some crazy off-the-book experiments, there may have actually been some zombie Nazis. And yes, that would make a totally kick ass movie. But let’s stop a) comparing modern times 100% to pre-Nazi Germany, or b) calling people we don’t agree with Nazis, or c) equating idiot orange Buff Puff headed bigots to historical landing strip mustached bigots. Because: a) it’s not the same–we have the internet now, which massivelyshakes up the global and geopolitical climate, not to mention speeding up the time table for potentially beneficial and/or catastrophic changes in world view, b) you really can’t fight hate with hate; also, a lot of people’s Bubbies are already FTFO right now–stop making it worse! Think of their blood pressure! c) Trump is a symptom of our time, our vices, our secret shame. We created him. If you try to destroy him, another Stay Puft hate mogul will just rise up in his place. Also, VIP: there is no equivalent to America (back then) that’s going to step in with a huge army of Elvis types to help us defeat him (even if Justin Trudeau looks a bit like Captain America, that’s just wishful thinking.) The only way to defeat Trump is to starve him out. The only way to do that is to stop feeding the zombies our time, talents, brains, etc. Take that brain and invent something instead, like a solution to save humanity.
The Cure Doesn’t Happen Overnight. Also, it won’t help us if we’re all dead, because we killed each other fighting over resources, petty slights, or the moral high ground. I firmly believe that every person–even people who were temporarily infected by zombie madness or human selfishness–can be saved, if we’re creative enough. And if we work on having more discussions (figuring out WHAT is right) vs. arguments (figuring out WHO is right).
Knowing When to Walk Away / Save Yourself. A cadaverous caveat to above: trying to save other people from being zombies should NOT come at the expense of your own safety. We’ve all seen the movies, the shows, and some of us have even read the books. There’s always that person (usually a woman-again, -f*** you and your cruelly accurate stereotypes again, Hollywood) who refuses to abandon a loved one that has gone full zombie, at her own peril. Inevitably, if she doesn’t create a safe distance between herself and the infected, that tender-hearted lady falls victim to its poison. Even though she had the best intentions, even though she was just trying to be a good wife/mother/sister/coworker/significant whatever. Kindness is important, yes, Jane Dogooder (not to be confused with Judy Facebook). But so is survival. You don’t have to hug a toxic person, or tell them it’s okay to be a zombie, even as they’re eating the faces of your friends.
Creating vs. Destroying. As I mentioned above, looting and/or razing shit to the ground for its own sake is not helpful. You may feel a momentary sense of godlike satisfaction after laying waste to a Bed, Bath & Beyond (because f*** that place)–but seriously, why? You’re just creating one less safe space for someone else to hide in when they need shelter from the zombies, or a quiet place to regroup between battles. Unless you need it for firewood or it’s actively blocking you from escaping the carnage, leave it standing for the future, why don’t you? What I’m saying is, DON’T knock other people’s coping mechanisms, or burn their comfortable little hovels to the ground, just because you think they need to feel just how bad things really are. DON’T just f*** the world up; f*** the world upward. (BTW: Judy, I’m sorry for using the f-word so much. You can block me if you want, because I’m not going to stop saying it for a while.) DO try to see things from another point of view, just to make sure you’re not guilty of the same mindset the zombies have. DO set a good example so they’ll see there’s a better way. DO try to shed light, instead of blood.
*Author’s note: I edited the word “fuck” out of this post, because for some reason certain people (aheh, Judy) find asterisks less offensive than the letters U-C-K. Fuck if I understand why.
Writer. Agent. Lover of wine and smelly cheeses. Solver of problems. Drinker of coffee. Champion of real life HEAs.