Friday, June 29, 2012

Perfectly Normal

I was on my Facebook page the other day, and I saw something that I see all too often: a 20-something-year-old's post about finding her Prince Charming.  This also comes in the form of comments like: I need a man, I need a date, Where is he?,  and so on.  When I was in my 20's, I'll admit I thought the same things.  It's difficult not to.  From an early age girls see images of what is "normal" in Western culture, and as we get older, the images often do not change, even though the opportunities for women certainly have.

Just a FEW of many examples:




Don't get me wrong...I love Disney and Pixar films.  I still laugh at Charlotte and watch Sex and the City reruns.  And yes, I teared up when Jerry interrupted the divorced women's group meeting.  

But here's the problem:  Women are not only taught that if we do not find our Prince Charming, the world will come to an end, and if we do, in the form of Tom Cruise, he will complete our very being...but we buy into this unattainable ideal.  This becomes the new reality.  So what happens if you don't live up to these constructed expectations? 

Here's the shocking truth...continue to breath normally and brace yourselves:

I'm fast approaching 40.  I've never been engaged or married.  I have no children.  I received my Ph.D. in 2007 and have been happily employed as an Instructor at a private university for the past five years.  I have been in public places and asked the following questions:

Are you a lesbian?
Have you given up on getting married?
A woman got her Ph.D.?
Don't you want kids?  You better hurry.

You may be surprised (or not) by some of these, but this has become a normal routine for me.  And you know what?  The only thing about it that really and truly bothers me is that this is 2012, and it is still seen as something out of the norm.  I could sit there and give my story about how when my friends were getting married, I was dealing with the death of my father.  I could say that during my late 20's and early 30's I was focusing on my career so I could support myself.  I could explain that I chose the wrong men as a result of some violent behaviors I witnessed when I was younger.  But then I'm giving excuses for something I shouldn't have to.  I'm giving in to justifying why I'm at the place that I am (and even hesitated writing those previous sentences).

So what's the point?  The point is that this place is amazing.  I have a job I love and a house in a great neighborhood near an old high school friend.  I've traveled the world, I've published a book of poems, and I've written a play (still working on getting the whole piece staged, but one thing at a time).  And in this space, I did meet someone.  But he doesn't "complete me."  He enhances the woman I've become.  He loves and respects me for who I am...and he listens to me talk about issues such as these and grins.  (And if we do tie the knot, I'll be in a much better place for that than when I was 20 years ago).

But most importantly, I've come into my own.

My reason for writing all of this is that I want younger women to know that it's okay to be single by the time you're 40.  It's okay not to have children.  Sometimes life leads us down different paths, but that does not mean that it should be seen as something "abnormal."  Will it feel like you are the only one in that position sometimes?  Sure.  But I'm here to tell you from experience that you're not.  

So, pop in your fairy tales, watch Sex and the City reruns, or curl up with Bridget Jones' Diary with some popcorn.  But when you're done, don't forget that these stories aren't the reality.  Your life is the reality.  Make the best of it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In Search of a New Project

It's never more evident to me that my mind works in an "artistic way" than when I am among those whose don't.  I was recently on vacation in Florida, and I was riding a trolley with two other people.  I started to notice the interior lines, the intersections of wood, the beach through design-covered windows.  My first thought was, why did I just spend money on a fancy camera that I don't use?  Second thought...there's always the cell phone.  It's not ideal, but it works during times like these.  I know there are all of the fancy apps such as Hipstamatic and Instagram, but sometimes I want to take the picture "in the raw" and play with manipulations later on.  Of course...once I've placed the image inside the frame, the manipulations have already begun.

So, I'm tilting my phone up and sideways, and I'm getting into that zone.  Suddenly, I hear, "What are you doing?"  with an emphasis on "doing."  Now luckily I'm not on my stomach or on my back or upside down (admit it, photographers, you've done the same).  I was upright, sitting in my seat, enjoying the moment until the bubble burst (later that night you would have thought I needed to be committed when we were outdoors waiting for an available table, and I was pointing my camera up at the sky).

Submitting evidence below:

I've studied photographs and films, and I have always wanted to become more of a professional in these areas.  One of these days, I'll take a class and see where technical improvements can be made (as I know those exist).

My central points of interest include the intersections of paintings, film, stills, and the stage.  Lately, however, I've come to a standstill as to what my next project will be.  I've never officially done film, but I'm intrigued by collaborative theater groups like Fevered Sleep.  Often, their audiences consist of children...I tell my students that the reason for this is that children don't question the wonders of the imagination...they invite them in:

And then there is Stan Brakhage who takes something as simple as moths' wings and makes them into an artistic expression:

So I'll keep thinking about what my next step will be.  In the meantime don't be surprised if you see me pointing my camera up at the sky or out the window.  That's just an artist at play.