Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Being a chick really sucks sometimes

I don't live in a country where I am considered property or a transaction. I work in a field where my options are limited due to my gender, but I still have more opportunities than millions of women all around the world. Even in these great circumstances though, it still sucks to be a woman. Today an acquaintance called me sexy,no one else was around, it was not a good friend, not my husband, just someone I see from time to time, and it creeped me out. It came with a hug, that involved a hand partially on my butt too, and it left me feeling bad for being creeped out by it.

This is something most women can identify with, and I have been struggling with for a long time. As a young girl I looked anything but young. I was five feet ten inches in middle school with curves in all the right place, as Meghan Trainor says, after I grew out of my skinny twig phase. This made me appear much older and more available to guys. So I dealt with a lot of comments, got groped on the school bus by adolescent boys and even dealt with more than a few dirty old men at church. There were comments about how I was built like a brick sh#t house, how I was sexy, how developed I was, there were hugs that lasted a long time. I was objectified often and so I started thinking of myself that way. There was an older boyfriend who asked a much too young girl if she was ready, and I didn't have the sense or understanding that my body didn't need to be that objectified sexual thing, so I didn't say no. Thankfully, my experiences were tame, I wasn't raped (I did consent), I wasn't molested, but these things were uncomfortable and they weren't things I felt like I could or should speak out about. All of these experiences formed me into this person that had a lot of my identity tied into being that sex object. Later, I learned a lot about who I was and where my value was and thankfully things did not get out of control, I have great parents, a faith that is not shame based and met good guys, so I was able to shed most of that, but not all.

It was hard and still is at 36 to understand what is and is not okay when it comes to comments from guys, and sometimes even the way they touch. Is that hug, where your hand is probably technically not on my back, and a bit on my butt, just a fluke, or an intentional inappropriate touch. Is telling me I am sexy, just your old man unfiltered inappropriateness, or is it really not okay?

You are probably reading this going, "Duh Heather, that's not okay!" But my brain doesn't do that. My brain says that grope on the bus in junior high was not great, but it wasn't that big a deal, and it didn't happen again. And that older boyfriend, that was my fault because even as a fourteen year old, I still should have just said no. These things just happen right? The one that really gets me, really makes me uncomfortable, and feel bad is the older guys. They are sweet and nice, and these comments are only a small part of what they say, right? And their hands slip right? They are just from a different generation, and they don't mean any harm when they say I am sexy. I don't want to hurt their feelings and tell them it makes me feel uncomfortable.

But then my brain says what if it happened to one of my girls, my students, or as someone pointed out, my daughter. Would it be okay? Then my brain says hell no! I would want them to be able to say, hey, that's not okay, and not make excuses. I would want them to have a voice, and feel totally okay using that voice and not worry about hurting someone's feelings.

I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking it's okay for guys that she is not in a relationship with to tell her she is sexy and she has to just accept that. Sexy isn't an okay compliment. Even if it's tossed around in the media and silkscreened on t-shirts. It is a loaded word. I don't want her to feel like someone touching her and it making her uncomfortable can just be swept under the rug. I want her to have the power to say no, to feel like her body is not a sex object and her value is not in any way tied to her sexual attractiveness.

So I am writing an email, I am letting one "sweet" older man aquaintance, know that he cannot call me sexy anymore. It is hard, and I worry about hurting his feelings, but I am not going to let my feelings be messed with just because I have boobs and a butt. If it makes me uncomfortable I can say that.

If I can't stand up in these smaller situations, how can I expect girls to stand up to the big ones?

Why, why is it still like this? Why do we as women have to deal with cat calls and inappropriate comments and just take them as "compliments"? Why do guys feel like they can do that? And why do we feel guilty when we call them on it? It's so messed up.

Why do I have to worry about what I wear and how it affects men? They don't have to worry about me. Why is it still hard to get equal pay as a woman? Why can't I preach or lead in everyone's church? Why does my anatomy define my role in society and the way it can treat me?

We may have it better than most women around the world, but ladies, it still sucks sometimes to be a lady.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm actually a jerk

Confession time: it turns out that I am not a very nice person after all. If you know me well, you are probably aware, this isn't a news flash. I suck.There are a lot of reasons why I am not a good person, but the big ones are,I am selfish, judgmental, quick to anger and slow to forgive. Maybe you can relate, or maybe you have somehow reached a higher plane, grown some bigger fruits of the spirit, are closer to Jesus than me. I probably shouldn't admit this as a leader in a church, but I have to be honest, I am a mess and in the worst ways.

Yesterday I got pictures from my sister's wedding across the country. One I wasn't invited to and wouldn't have attended if I was. Both she and my mom texted me pictures from the wedding. I could barely respond. I didn't congratulate her. I rolled my eyes, and got sick to my stomach. Now, I can be a very encouraging person to others, but not my sister. I love writing notes to students, friends, people who have helped me over the years and been a part of my life, and letting them know how much they mean to me, and that their impact is great. I don't write often but when I do, I love to do it. I love to remind people that they are valued and what they do matters.Yet I couldn't type a simple congratulations to my sister on her wedding day. I couldn't, and what good are all the encouragements I give to others if I can't even give words of love to my own sister?

Now there are lots of seemingly good reasons for this. Lots of hurt, lots of mistakes made, things that I don't think have been repented for. Things that aren't going to be remedied soon. On paper it would seem reasonable to feel so yucky about this whole thing. But the paper doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter what she has done, and who am I to assume where she is at with those things and with God. It's what I continue to do, by not letting go of those things, that is really crappy, because I claim to follow Jesus and I teach other people to follow, to love and forgive, so I am held to a higher standard.

Jesus calls us to forgive, to not condemn, to reach out with love even if we think someone is unlovable. Jesus calls us to push outside our comfort zone. I am willing to do that for some people. I am willing to stay up all night so my students can stay up all night. I am willing to carry around small, booger dripping kids, and get sick from their pestilence. I am willing to stretch out my body and make myself sick and tired to birth a stranger's baby. But I can't text my sister. What a hypocrite!

My parents showed amazing grace and love, by attending the wedding. They flew across the country to help serve food, and my dad officiated. They are such amazing examples of Jesus' love, compassion and grace. They display the qualities I should, but can't.

I am the prodigal's brother. I am the pharisee. I am the judgmental Christian I want to distance myself from. I suck. Whether I can make space in my heart for awkward middle schoolers, or strange fetuses, I still can't extend basic kindness to my own flesh and blood. I try, I think I can for a day, and then something reminds me of the pain, of the problems, and I return to my bitterness. When I manage to get past that, all i find is indifference. Not love, but indifference, and that isn't right either.

Thank goodness, God doesn't hold my paper of sins against me. Thank goodness he sees me was worthy of his love. Thank goodness Jesus doesn't look at me like I look at my sister. And hopefully she can forgive me, forgive me for not reaching out to her, forgive me for not taking an interest in this new life of hers, forgive me for hurting her with my indifference and my hypocrisy.

"But there's also this, it's not too late-God's personal message- 'Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins! Change your life not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God. And here's why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath,puts up with a lot, This most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. Who knows? Maybe he'll do it now, maybe he'll turn around and show pity. Maybe when all's said and done, there'll be blessings full and robust for your God." Joel 2:12-14 MSG

Now if I could just see her that way, if I could have the eyes of Jesus, and the thumbs to send that text...