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A New Year’s Resolution

confetti

January is not the cheeriest of months. Unless you celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in an exceptionally festive manner, there’s not much to break up the long cold dark month. February has Valentine’s Day, March has St. Patrick’s Day and (depending on the year) some festive religious holidays. April has hope that the winter is over, and so on. But January is tough. It lands right at the shortest day, longest night time of the year and after months of anticipation of frivolity. Depending on the degree of anticipation or frivolity, January 2nd can be quite the bummer.

The noisemakers have hushed, the streamers swept and the glitter has flaked from our party hats. The decorations have been put back or tossed and it’s just the same old home again. Gone are the pretty distractions and “I’ll think about it tomorrow”-ness. We look around and the world (our own and the larger one) is crying out for our attention. Our work misses us, as do the mundane chores of our lives. The world is desperate for our attention both internationally and right here. We wake refreshed from our New Year hangover having to give serious thought to realistic gun control, mental health policy and fiscal matters. We toss out stale holiday carbohydrates as we consider local lives still upended by disaster. It is all quite sobering particularly after weeks of festivity.

There are those (during any time of year) who choose not to face the sobering reality; their tolerance level cannot bear it. They tuck deeply into their work, focus on family members and/or employ their substance of choice and manage the best they can. But somewhere between being swallowed up by the world’s ills and responsibility for repairing them, and turning away (literally or figuratively) is a sweet balance. Humans are responsible for the world they inhabit. People are also responsible for their own happiness. There are people whose very definition of happiness is caring for others and/or repairing the world, and we are grateful to them. For the rest of us we are most happy when are lives are a mix of internal/external and work/play. There is no greater feeling than doing something (anonymously) for others. But going out to lunch with a dear friend can be a kick in the pants too.

As we go forth in this new year let’s commit ourselves to being near and far-sighted in our view of the world. Let us be kind to ourselves, but never at other’s expense. Let us find ways to repair the world; at home, in our neighborhood and worldwide. Let us also find reasons to celebrate regularly. Let the calendar guide you (a full-blown MLK birthday party) or just your mood (take-out pizza is only to be eaten in formal dress.) Every month (if not every week and every day) there’s a reason to celebrate the fact that we’re still here! And everyday there are countless reasons to help to create the world we want to inhabit.

Happy New Year!

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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Holiday, Well-Being

 

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Where The Boys Are

St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, Spring Break.  What do these springtime festivities have in common?  Alcohol and ensuing wantonness.  There are other events that involve excessive drinking as well (New Year’s Eve, sporting championships, four years of college, etc.) but without as much (ahem) carousing. Perhaps it is due to the time of year, but the trinity of St./Mardi/Break also seems to entail disrobing.  Of course the wearing (or not wearing as the case may be) of the green can occur in rather chilly clime.  But a green beer/whiskey induced snogging marathon knows no geographical boundaries (and can be accomplished while wearing a jaunty plastic green derby.)

There is nothing new about springtime debauchery, or drinking and impromptu romantic entanglements.  MTV didn’t create the bacchanalian beaches, they just filmed it.  (Cameras may alter people’s behavior, but when people are that far gone, it’s probably just incremental changes.)  Phone cameras, social media, and youtube didn’t create opportunities for regret.  Ruining a reputation has always been as easy as pie.  People love to talk about other people; it’s simply what we do.  We don’t need technology or tabloids to do so, we just need a willing listener.  It’s neither bad nor good, it just is what it is.

What is bad and not good, is that it is only women whose reputations we are discussing.  Since the dawn of time (or at least since the first caveman slurred; “take off those pelts baby” and flung a string of purple stones at her – which probably really hurt) it has been women whose bodies have been the entertainment and who have been punished for their cooperation.  Even when a woman has kept her bikini top on and engaged in the same overindulgence of spirits as her male companions, it is her reputation that is at stake.  Almost any (absurd) behavior a drunken male engages in is followed (in the clear light of day) with slaps on the backs or guffaws of; “Dude, you were off the hook” (or some other vernacular which also makes no sense.)  The male’s behavior is seen as “normal” and a way of blowing off steam.  His random romantic interludes (if there were any) are heralded. While in the girl’s hotel room next door…The kinder mascara smudged friends are unconvincingly cooing; “everyone does it. don’t worry about it. in a couple of weeks no one will even remember.”

One could argue that branding a woman was an effective deterrent to behavior that in fact could have had dire consequences.  Effective birth control is a relatively new invention.  Women died in childbirth on a somewhat regular basis.  A girl/woman could fall pregnant and have absolutely no means of supporting herself or her child.  She would no longer have access to the only acceptable profession; matrimony.  Her matrimonial chances might be diminished if there was even a hint of behavior that could render her unsuitable.  Whether she did anything or not, she could be ruined just the same.

Women now support themselves and (hopefully) have access to reliable birth control.  What possible reason, anthropologically speaking, do we still have for branding women who drink in excess and physically exploit themselves and/or others?  While our culture has ratcheted up the sexualization of girls and women (to extremes never before experienced) we have remained stalled in our judgments.  Fashion, celebrities, video, film, television, and music have not just progressively disrobed women but have objectified them to cartoon proportions.  Through modern science (and photoshop) women now look more like Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit.  When women are depicted engaging in acts of romance, they are almost always done so from the perspective of what pleases a man.  Girls and women in videos (and real life) dance to simulate an act that can only pleasure their gentleman dance partner.  The objectification of women is, shall we say, off the hook.  Yet, we cling to our scarlet A ways.  Could it be that at our core, we are not comfortable with our cultural objectification of women?  Are our judgments a way of saying; “No, go back, we’ve led you astray?”  The alternate explanation; that we are in a backlash to the second wave of feminism that simply knows no bounds, is more likely, but far more disturbing.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Cultural Critique

 

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