Weighing in on Feminism & Drinking…and adding Faith to the equation

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Photo by Gary Houlder http://dailym.ai/JQUQ2K

My whole morning was redirected by Amy Gutman’s article about women & drinking, which led me to this piece in New York Magazine on the same subject. As I read these frustrating tales of how the right to get absolutely sh*tfaced and not suffer any consequences is now being touted as a feminist platform, I had a major WTF? moment.

Ladies. I think we’ve lost the plot. As a woman who’s enjoyed many a drink AND the countless benefits of women’s progress in this country (Law school, somewhat equal pay, professional opportunities and at least two jobs I won because I was a woman and the business needed to hire one, credit in my own name, the ability to sign contracts and buy cars, houses, etc., not to mention the right to leave an abusive marriage and start over) I want to say: this whole “the right to decide when to lose control is part of having control” idea is absolutely TRUE.  But I also think that individually and collectively, we need to smarten up and figure out what we really want, and how to use this right accordingly. Short-term escapism is not a long-term plan.

One of the reasons men have been accorded respect and power throughout time and history was because it was believed that they alone had the ability to think long-term. Women were seen as silly, unwise and untrustworthy; unable to take big picture concerns into account when making decisions.

When I look at these articles about the way women are using booze to justify doing whatever they want for a few hours and then deny any responsibility for what happens, because, well, “I was so wasted!” (while expecting men to maintain complete self control) is silly, unwise, and untrustworthy. It fails to take the big picture into account.

One of the basic tenants of society is that if you act like an idiot, you will be treated like an idiot. And while no, I do not in any way think this justifies things like date rape, I do think that maintaining control over your mind and body is part of earning respect, for everyone. So ladies, if you want to be respected, don’t go out and get totally sh*tfaced.

But what if that’s not the issue?

My guess is that many of the women profiled for these articles already feel plenty respected. What they’re not sure how to get to is being loved.

When I was in my 20s & early 30s, I did fine work in the office; I knew that I was worthy of respect. What felt more up for grabs for me was whether or not I was worthy of love. Was I good enough for someone to choose me to spend a life with? In those flirty drinking moments, I was trying to get to some of the interactions & responses that exist on the continuum between respect and love: admiration, appreciation, value, desire. I wanted both, not either/or.  I think most of us do.

Feminists today RAIL at this, claiming not to want or need love. I think that’s a lie. Sometimes it seems easier to give up on something you want because it seems so unattainable. Hooking up with random guys might feel like it will fill this need for romantic connection and relationship. But I don’t think it does. And given how this lie is leaving millions of women in a brutal cycle of drowning in alcohol and hookups, then trying to recover the next day and keep up the facade that everything is “fine,” feels like a ship that needs to be turned around. I don’t think we should sacrifice love on the alter of control. It’s not worth it. And it’s not necessary.

I completely understand going out to let off steam after work or on weekends. I get what a total charge it is when you’re single to flirt with guys, to feel the rush of power and attention; how at it’s best, witty banter can be a total turn on, and having a glass of wine or a martini in your hand frees you up to say some things you might not let yourself get away with otherwise. But you don’t need to get drunk to do this, and you don’t need to hookup. Part of the power women have fought so hard to get is the ability to rewrite social equations when they’re not adding up.  Collectively, our current use of booze and sex and our bodies is not adding up.

The world is filled with these messed up equations. It’s not just single women trying to build a life with the pieces within reach. It’s all of us, across every facet of life, tempted by lies about what we want and how to get there.

I don’t know how much (if any) overlap there is between the women profiled in these articles and my blog readership. But I know for sure this blog is read by lots of people who care about other people, and who pray.  I think this might be the answer. My opinions won’t help anyone make different choices. But I’ve experienced firsthand how God can speak to you, one-on-one, in a way that is so individual and so filled with hope that changing course seems not only possible, but like the best idea ever.

This is my prayer for every one of us, young and old, who is trying to cobble together a life from the pieces we see within reach: May God bless us, speak to us, inspire and guide us. May he show us what to hold on to and what to let go of. May he show us who we are, and fill us with a hope that surpasses understanding, an inner faith and strength of belief that makes no sense, but lights a clear path from where we are to the life we were created for.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I don’t know how to solve this. But I believe God does.

The Jesus-y Life Here in Cambridge

Last night I met Amy Gutman! I love her blog posts, but she’s even better in person – smart, funny, thought provoking. It’s been awhile since I’ve laughed that hard, or thought about HOW VERY MANY of us former lawyers are out here making our different ways in the world.

Toward the end of our visit, she asked, “What’s it like to live as a Christian in a place like Cambridge?” I didn’t know how to answer. You’d think I’d know – I wrote an entire chapter about it in my second book. But it’s been a few years since then, and I think my answer is different now.  But I wasn’t sure how, or what to say.

I made a couple of jokes. Then I said something about how when people meet me, they’re often surprised to 5680_145599078766_4227390_nlearn that I’m a Christian, because on the surface I don’t seem like the Christians you see on the special TV stations where you can send in money to be blessed.  I drink wine and let fly with some colorful language; no one from the Bible Belt has called yet, asking me to be their poster child. (Which is good. I was the poster child for seeking faith at my old church and it was WEIRD, as people would glance back & forth from the picture of me with a lunatic smile on the wall, to the 3D me making coffee and setting out bagels, and never know what to say). And yet with or without poster child status, the most real thing about me is that I’m a Christian.

Here’s the truth: I’m a lot more like some of the the special TV station Christians than it’s cool to admit.  I’ve sent in money from time to time, especially when I was first trying out the Biblical idea of tithing and didn’t yet have a church. And once you get to know Steve and I beyond casual pleasantries, we’re probably just as weird as the Duggars when it comes to how we make choices about what we watch and do, how we make decisions.  We try to be careful about certain things because we believe it matters. But I wear pants and haven’t permed my hair since high school, so we blend in more :)

But these things don’t really answer Amy’s question. Her question was about the experience. This morning, I found a hint of my new, updated answer from this tiny passage in Matthew about the Kingdom of Heaven, where Jesus says:

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

That’s what finding Christian faith was like for me – it introduced me this world where I can SEE glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven breaking in and interrupting things here on earth.  Where somehow, reading the Bible and wrestling with the passages and asking God to speak and guide me – listening and responding – hones my vision. It changes how I see things, what I look for, what I notice. It gives me hope. It’s a surreal and awesome thing to believe  that God wants to show us things and give us new perspective and understanding, and that even in the midst of disappointment and heartbreak and mind-numbing fury over injustice, the Kingdom of Heaven breaks in, unexpectedly: God showing up with miracles right in all the mess.

That is what it’s like to be a Christian here in Cambridge. It’s weird, and sometimes people avoid me because they’re afraid I’ll thump them with a Bible. There are days I totally wish my faith were hip & cool and made me a sought-after guest at dinner parties. (I love the conversations at dinner parties.) But I had hip/cool faith for about a decade, and while the surface was pretty awesome, it didn’t work when life got deep. There weren’t miracles or glimpses of God breaking through and restoring things. The Kingdom of Heaven didn’t feel near. Once Jesus told me, The Kingdom of Heaven is near, the desire to see it, to witness Him doing His thing in our complex city and our complex lives, overpowered my longing to be cool and socially smooth.

And THAT, my friends, is a miracle :)

(Thanks Amy, for the great question!)

Taking Stock of How We Rocked

images-1I have a bit of a blogging love-fest going on with Amy Gutman these days. I recently “met” her online (we’re meeting in person next month – expect the universe to be GREATLY IMPROVED come mid-September) and discovered her smart writing. This morning, I was looking for something a bit lighter to blog about – we’ve covered some heavy stuff lately, no? – and found this smart idea Amy posted back at the end of 2011, when she refused to close out the year without acknowledging that while it had been a difficult 12 months, she’d still accomplished some big things.  And thus, “Take Stock of How You Rocked” was born.

I ADORE this idea. I think she should make T-shirts. There should be a one-day conference. Bumper stickers. I envision a movement, and a PARADE of red convertibles!

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My real “new year” happens in September. So I thought: Why not treat today as a New Years Eve of sorts, and list the things we rocked this year? I’ll go first, but you can do it too! Share in the comments if you’re feeling brave (I’d love to read them. I’m so encouraged by other people’s accomplishments – they makes the world seem bigger). Or make a private list. But take ten minutes to acknowledge that no matter what this year looked like, you rocked.

Here’s my list. Since last September I have…

-Created a new edition of my first book (available next week!)

-Designed a new website & blog

-Read 45 books.

-Taught writing as a Visiting Artist at Wheaton

-Loved a 4 year old foster daughter and learned about parenting, trauma, early childhood development, play therapy, and every cartoon on PBS.

-Recovered (mostly – still in progress) after losing her

-Written a first draft of a new memoir, 1/2 a novel, and most of a book on praying for a husband.

-Kept a 17 year old dog alive.

-Gone swimming almost every time I’ve gone to the beach this summer, no matter how FREEZING the water was. 

-Survived the past 12 months without losing my mind, my marriage, or my faith.

In Amy’s post, after she shared her list of things she’d rocked, she acknowledged, “This was an espe­cially inter­est­ing exer­cise for me given my ini­tial assess­ment that this had been a long hard year pri­mar­ily defined by failure.”

Wow, did that hit home.

And yet it’s weird to write this list. It feels like that obnoxious Facebook thing where people pretend their lives are butters summer vacation pre kcomprised solely of vacations, puppies, and endless professional success. And of course the list of things I’ve blown this year & that have broken my heart is twice as long.  But Gutman’s post challenged me not to over-correct, to steer around the trap of only sharing the hard parts, because that’s a mistake, too. (Especially if your sense of humor tends toward self-deprecation.  I once had a woman who met me after reading my books & blogs say,  “You know, you’re not nearly as dumb as I expected!” Probably time to stop setting the expectations bar quite so low :) )

We need balance, even though life is never really balanced. But it is a mix. The new job comes two weeks after the breakup, or an opportunity to try something unexpected lands in our in-box just as we’ve decided to spend the rest of our waking hours watching Bravo TV.  And in the swirl of daily living, we rock lots of things. We just lose sight of them afterwards. But they’re worth mentioning, and reflecting back on.

Today, take stock of what you’ve rocked. Then tell me about it :)

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