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My Daughter Didn’t Dance

Today, my daughter didn’t dance, and it broke my heart.

 

Lily-Ann celebrated her sixth birthday almost a week ago.  On July 20th we had friends and a few family members over to the house to help her celebrate.  She’d decided on a Goddess Girls theme this year.  We all dressed in chitons, played games I created based on the characters in the books, ate ambrosia cake and drank nectar punch, and everyone wore the winged sandals we made as our party favours.  After her party, she told me that all her birthday dreams and wishes had come true.  It was an awesome day.

Click the photo to see the rest of her party pictures.

Click the photo to see the rest of her party pictures.

 

The two weeks leading up to her sixth birthday, the girl had been going through some rather big developmental changes.  It was clear she was becoming a “big kid” and leaving the “baby” behind.  I was so excited for her.  She was growing in leaps and bounds right before my eyes.  I was proud of the conscious choices she was making, and happy for those things that were changing even without her awareness.  As much as I loved my baby, my toddler, and my little girl, I love the big kid she was becoming even more (if that’s possible).

My little girl loved going to the movies.  She loves the stories, the action, the music, the popcorn…  cuddling up in the dark theater.  More than any of that though, she loved to dance.  Ever since that first movie we went to, we’d let her run up to the front as soon as the credits started, and we’d watch her dance.

Those first few times, she’d wipe out…  a lot.  We’d hold back though, and just wait.  Then, with even more resolve, determination, and grit she would dust herself off and dance her heart out.  Sometimes spinning all the way from one side of the theater to the other, arms held wide, face to the sky, feeling the entire world whorl around her.  And she would take my heart along for the ride.

It was secretly my favourite part of the movie too.

There were times, when others would get caught up in her passion too.  When individuals, couples, and families would stay to watch her dance.  Some would clap for her.  Others would tell us how amazing they thought she was.  And there were those who would simply smile, their eyes full of gratitude.

I think her dancing reminded people of joy.  We so easily forget how much of it there is in this world.  We get so caught up in things that really don’t matter and we forget how to be swept up in it.  Joy can fill the heart with rapture and our lives with light.  Lily-Ann gave that back to people, even if it was just for a while.

Today, when the movie ended, and she got up to dance, my heart soared – like it always did.  She got up to the front, and she stood there.  I watched her posture change, and watched that joy melt away.  Then I watched her walk back to her seat.  She sat back down and said “I’m not going to dance today.  Maybe a different day, but not today.”  And I started to bawl.  I wasn’t loud, but I couldn’t stop the tears.  They poured down my face.

Lily wasn’t sad.  She was happy.  But that pure innocent joy, without a care about what anyone could think, was gone.  She really is a big kid, and with that comes both good and bad.  I look forward to what this next stage has in store for us, but I desperately mourn for my baby – who was here with me only weeks ago.

A Woman’s Razor, a Tool of Oppression?

When I was young, I shaved my legs every day; EVERY day.  Spring, Summer, Autumn, AND Winter; every day.  The media told me that having smooth, moisturized, soft legs was an important part of being pretty – and as a teenager and young person I bought into it.  I believed the myth of beauty society fed me.

As I came into adulthood, I still shaved – though not with the same frequency.  I spent a great deal of my time as a young adult sick and in pain… pretty just wasn’t as important when you hurt so bad that you can’t get up and down stairs without dissolving into tears.  But I still shaved and moisturized.  It was part of being a girl.  We couldn’t have people thinking I actually grew hair on my legs.

Then I became a Mom.  And yes, even then I shaved my legs.  By then it was just one of those chores you do.  Going swimming?  Better shave.  Wearing shorts or a skirt?  Better shave.  Just part of the self-grooming routine.  Something I didn’t think about.  Something I did in a rather robotic fashion, another member of the trained masses.

I want my daughter to grow up knowing these things are choices – even if we don’t always feel they are.  Not all Women shave.  In some parts of the world it would seem odd to do so.  My daughter believed this until she was three.  Then one day she laughed, astonished, at the ridiculous notion that a Woman could choose not to shave.  That was the day I stopped shaving my legs.

Lily-Ann has other Women in her life who are non-shavers, my sister for one.  But clearly this was something she needed to see with more frequency.  It may seem like a small thing, but I needed her to know that we have a choice.  We don’t have to shave.  We don’t have to buy into the view of beauty that the media is selling, we can choose something different.

I may be the odd Woman out here in North America, sporting hairy legs all year long – without shame and, quite frankly, with a little pride.  And yes, it may seem like a strange thing to take a stand on…  but I couldn’t let my daughter grow up thinking she has no choice, that she has to go along with whatever ideals society sets before her.

She has options and choices.  We all do.

Sure, I could have kept on shaving – but she shocked me out of it.  Sometimes, that’s what we need.  Something to shock us out of that robotic state we get lulled into.  Something to bring us back into personhood.  A sudden splash of cold water, a bucketfull dumped on us while we lay half asleep, lounging in the sun.  Something to remind us we’re alive, and we have the right to make these seemingly small, seemingly insignificant, choices for ourselves.  And sometimes, those small choices end up being some of the biggest.

my hairy leg out in the sun

Out working in the yard, clearing away the Winter ick. My hairy leg enjoying the Spring sunshine.

The Power of SHe on FB

As of yesterday afternoon, my Power of SHe project has made it’s way onto facebook.  This?  This is your official invitation.  🙂

For those of you who’ve been following this blog for some time know all about the Power of SHe, for those who don’t, here’s the press bio for my little art instillation:  The Power of SHe is about how we, as self-identified Women, define ourselves in light of how society and the media seek to define and confine us.

I’ve been working on the Power of SHe for some time now.  It’s been exhibited twice, and continues to grow.  I believe it is a very important body of work, and something we desperately need.  So I hope you’ll join us as the journey continues.  The more the merrier.  Let’s force a shift from art project to movement.  We can make change happen!

http://facebook.com/PowerofSHe

Be careful, don’t get raped!

We live in a culture of rape, and it’s truly ridiculous.  We teach our daughters how to avoid being raped, when we should be teaching our sons not to rape people.  Men should be seriously offended that society views their natural state as rapist, after all…  Women and girls are the ones who need to change their behaviour least they provoke some dormant rapist to the surface of that fine gentleman who lives in their dorm.

I would have hit the “reblog” button if there had been one, but there wasn’t.  So here’s a diatribe to read.  Go.  Read.  Follow her links.  Comment.  Share.  And for f#%ks sake, lets change the freakin’ landscape.  Rapist is not the inherent truth of man.

 

http://www.laughmom.com/2013/03/i-am-so-fucking-sick-of-teaching-our-daughters-not-to-get-raped/

 

A2Z – Asking

As I mentioned yesterday, I was considering taking up the April A to Z blog challenge.  I already blog almost daily, so that wasn’t the issue.  For me?  The biggest challenge is actually staying on topic.  I enjoy writing on whatever hits me as interesting or important at the moment.  I lose my interest otherwise.  But, I figure, if I pick a topic that is dear to my heart – putting in 26 days shouldn’t be an impossible task.  So, I’m going to do it.  …and if I feel the need to go off topic, well…  on those days I’ll just post twice.  LOL  So here we go.  Day one:  Blogging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity.

Blogging our way from A to Z on sexual and gender identity - ASKING

For some folk, the most intimidating thing when encountering someone who doesn’t clearly fit into box A or B on the sexual and gender binary, is asking.  And honestly?  It’s something we need to become more comfortable with as a society, because even when someone appears very clearly to fit into “HE” or “SHE” it doesn’t mean that’s their preferred pronoun.  A wonderful individual, whom I am proud to call “friend”, recently posted the following on their Facebook status:

“I find it is no longer important or useful, and in fact has become a negative experience to identify as male. Rather than identifying as another type of gender, I will leave the spectrum of gender identity altogether. This means that the current English language of gender identity pronouns, such as she, her, his, her, xe, and hir, become problematic when referring to me. So with great respect and earnestness, I ask that you refer to me simply by using my name, for in a name the entire soul resides. Thank you.”

This is an individual, whom upon appearance, would very easily fit into the neat and tidy package we call “male” or “masculine” and is proof positive that we cannot, nor should we, presume to use male pronouns based solely on our impressions of said individual.

How we each identify is an intensely personal thing, and it is perfectly okay to ask someone what pronouns they prefer – if any.  In fact, for many of us, it’s a question we welcome.  So the next time you are introduced to someone try asking.  Not sure how to word it?  Give this a go:  “Hi Francis, it’s a pleasure to meet you.  Would you mind telling me which pronouns you’d prefer?”  Plain, simple, straightforward.  And if you feel the need to say more, try this:  “I’d hate to offend by insisting on using something that you don’t identify with.”  Chances are they’ll be happy you had the respect and courtesy to ask.

The a2z april blog challenge

And hey!  Ever had something you wanted to ASK (see?  I’m keeping it on topic) about gender, sex, affection, desire, expression, orientation or on any other topic of interest to the acronym community now’s the time.  26 days is a lot to fill, so help me out.  Let me know what YOU would like to see me blog about.  And thanks to Sarah for her suggestion of “Asking” as our very first in the alphabet series.

Free to do it again and again

A warning before I begin:

This blog post may be triggering for some as it contains mentions of sexual abuse and physical attacks by a predator.  Please don’t read any further if these are topics which may cause mental anguish, flashbacks, or disassociative spells.

Today there was an article in the paper entitled “Repeat sex offender fits ‘dangerous’ designation“.  It is about a man named Cameron Downs, a 47 year old man with a lifetime of attacks under his belt.  But for me, it was about a teenage boy who abused me and went on to hurt many, many others.

Why share?  Sexual abuse, like mental illness has a stigma in our society – and it shouldn’t.  I don’t live my life as a victim.  I was harmed as a child, but that doesn’t take away from who I am, nor does it solely shape my identity.  Feeling that I should be ashamed, I’ve hidden away these facts, careful not to share them in case it might colour what people think of me.  But you know what?  That only adds to the power of the abuse.  I wasn’t to blame, and while I was a victim as a child, I am not any longer.  I refuse to allow societies shame to be my own.  If we don’t talk about these kinds of things, it allows them to happen again.  It feeds into the idea that they, the victims, should hide away and not be seen.  So I’m pulling back the curtain and letting in some light.

I run a Facebook group for people who grew up during the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s in our Saskatoon neighbourhood.  When my mom shared the news story that ran today, shock resonated through the group.  A few individuals posted about what a nice guy he was, and how they couldn’t believe he was capable of the atrocities the news story mentioned.

I couldn’t help but speak up, saying only that he was not a nice guy – ever.  One person even tried to correct me, saying that he was a nice guy when they knew him.  But no.  He really wasn’t.

I was five years old.  FIVE.  My daughter is four and a half, and it makes me shudder to my very core to think there are people who would look at her the way he looked at me.  He was 17.

Back then, like all children, I believed that people were innately good.  And that all people deserved second chances.  So when the police officer asked me what I wanted to have happen to Cameron I said that I just wanted him to get help.  We didn’t press charges, and Cameron went into counseling.

Now, knowing the string of incidents that followed, I can’t help but feel remorse.  I know I am not responsible for all those he hurt after me – including someone else I love very dearly (the “elderly woman” the article mentions in the last paragraph).  But I can’t help but wonder if I could have prevented some of what happened if I had pushed for a harsher punishment.

I am not mentioned in the article.  It claims his first sexual assault occurred against a teenager when he was 31.  But it didn’t.  It occurred against a five year old girl, when he was 17 and my Gramma stepped out to buy groceries…

30 years have passed, and when I think back to what happened there is so much I can picture with crystal clarity – and other things I’ve blocked out almost entirely.  It was at that age that I became a pro at disassociating.

I still believe that people have a basic goodness within them, but I also believe we have within us the potential for horrible atrocities.  We are none of us purely good and none of us purely evil.  I don’t know if I did the right thing by choosing not to press charges…  but it was the right thing for me, at the time.  I needed to be able to believe that people, even someone as obviously sick as Cameron, were deserving of second chances.  But it was by my hand that he was free.  Free to do it again, and again.  And for that?  For that I will always have regret.

The StarPhoenix Online:  http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Repeat+offender+fits+dangerous+designation/6268079/story.html

They like me! They really like me!

Whenever WordPress emails me saying someone read a post of mine “and enjoyed it enough to click the ‘Like’ button” all I can think is THEY LIKE ME! THEY REALLY LIKE ME!  Because regardless of the fact that Sally Field actually said “…you like me, right now, you like me!” That’s not how folks remember it.  And it’s not what you actually did, what you actually said, that people remember.  It’s the pop culture, snapshot, of it all that gets remembered.

Hmmm…  Now I have a choice.  Do I blog about how silly it is that I get all excited knowing someone cared enough to click like, comment, or rate my post?  How us bloggers are so very fickle and need our egos stroked constantly?  Or do I rant and rail against this pop culture version of ourselves that is likely to be remembered vs. the truth of ourselves?  Ooooo… there’s a third choice here.  I can turn to YOU, the folks who satisfy that need for attention, and ask you to weigh in.  Of course, if I put it out there, if I ask the question, and no-one writes back?  That would be crushing.  😉  Well…  maybe not crushing, but it certainly wouldn’t feel good.

So, perhaps all I’ll leave you with is this, which is something I can admit to identifying with:

“I haven’t had an orthodox career, and I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn’t feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

– Sally Field’s famous, often misquoted, acceptance speech.

Sally Field, clutching her Oscar during her famous acceptance speech.

From an article on neonaticide…

From an article on the cultural relevance of neonaticide to both hunter/gatherers and modern society came this quote by Steven Pinker:

A new mother will first coolly assess the infant and her current situation and only in the next few days begin to see it as a unique and wonderful individual. Her love will gradually deepen in ensuing years, in a trajectory that tracks the increasing biological value of a child (the chance that it will live to produce grandchildren) as the child proceeds through the mine field of early development.

And I have to admit, this quote made me feel a whole lot better about how I looked at my daughter the first time I saw her.

Some of you know the details, most of you don’t…  but the day my daughter was ripped from my body was the worst day of my life.  It’s a hard thing to admit.  I love her more than life, she is my entire world, I would give anything for her happiness and security.  But that emergency c-section, after three daysof labour, was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.  It’s a hard thing, it’s conflicting.  But there is NO conflict in how I feel about the girlie.

I had disassociated.  Things were so bad that I wandered in and out of awareness.  I remember things in vague patches.  Horrifying for the most part.  Then there was a baby next to my head, swaddled, and pronounced as mine.  And through my haze I was expected to be full of love and life altering emotion…  but all I could say was “oh”.

I have always felt horribly guilty for that “oh”.  Like there was something not right with me, that I couldn’t instantly forget everything I’d just experienced and be overjoyed and present for my new baby.  But it took some time.  And I am so grateful for my husband, who cuddled Lily-Ann and showered affection on her, when I wasn’t fully myself.  It didn’t take long, but I’ve always felt wrong for not being instantly present and instantly in love…  And this one sentence, in regards to motherhood, made me feel so much better.

My daughter really is everything to me.  She is why I push so hard for social change.  She is why I work so diligently.  She is why I love so freely.  She is why I am who I have become.  I am better for her.

So while my surgery was the worst experience of my life, what resulted from that surgery is the best thing in my life.  There is no conflict there.  I know exactly where one ends, and the other begins.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I Believe in the Power of She!  And She?  She is my daughter!

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