Category Archives: Acceptance

What it’s like being a teen girl

This blog entry was posted yesterday and it’s worth sharing because almost every female over the age of 10, and even some younger, can relate. Thanks, Emma Woolley, for being brave enough to share this.

What it’s like being a teen girl

The violations started small. I was 12, fairly tall with brand new boobs. My mother wouldn’t let me buy “real bras” for a long time. It didn’t occur to me that was weird until boys in my class started advising me to “stop wearing sports bras” because I was looking a little “saggy.”

It was a boy who told me I had to start shaving my legs if I wanted anyone to ever like me. I said that wasn’t true. He laughed in my face and called me a dyke.

That night after shaving, my mother asked me why I was so vain.

They started finding reasons to touch me, pinching my butt, snapping my new “real bras,” (“They look a lot better. Did you stuff?”) or straight-up grabbing my breasts. Dropped pencils with awkward leanovers. Staged run-ins.

One time, a popular boy I knew who lived on my street forced his way into my living room while my parents were still working and fought with me over a remote control so that he could cop a feel. I didn’t say anything. Speaking up was not an option—rather, an easy road to being even more ostracized and labelled “crazy.” Besides, who would believe that he’d wanted to touch me?

They named girls one by one, by the flaws of our bodies. What they considered theirs. They would write them on chalkboards to taunt us. Draw crude pictures.

If we showed it hurt us, it only got worse. I would cry in the bathroom and hope for some serious illness to keep me out of school, if only for a day.

When I kissed one boy, he encouraged me to do the same with his friends. Not because he thought I might want to, but because I was a toy he wanted to share. An experience he wanted to give his less “successful” friends. For them, a celebration. For me, certain social suicide.

Even if I wanted it, there was never any winning.

I will never forget how excited I was to be invited to watch a movie with the popular boy I liked. I primped for hours. (I was, after all, a teenager grappling with my own new sexuality.) When I got there, he did not put on the movie we agreed to watch, but a porn film. I had never seen one before. He unzipped his pants, pushed and pulled at me. I cried the whole walk home.

They could pinpoint weaknesses. Worse, they knew they were wrong but there were just never any consequences. They knew this—treating us like objects there for them—was what was expected of them.

I want to say that they stop. But the truth is that some never do.

I have never stopped being reminded of my there-for-men status. I am reminded when I am violated in my sleep, or groped in a bar, or held down by a longtime friend. I am reminded when I refuse conversation with a strange man and he spits in my direction, or calls me a “bitch.” I am reminded when I am asked why I wore such a pretty dress if I wasn’t trying to “pick up.” I am reminded when I am told to be less angry and more agreeable. I am reminded when I talk about my lived experience and am told to “stop being so negative about everything.” I am reminded when young girls are bullied so severely by men who wanted to see their bodies that they commit suicide.

We don’t talk honestly enough about what it’s like being a teen girl. If we did talk about it, what it was like for us, perhaps we wouldn’t be so harsh on them. Perhaps we wouldn’t throw our hands up in the air and exclaim “oh, teen girls, they’re so difficult!” Perhaps they wouldn’t be so scary. Perhaps we’d see their lives for the small and large violations they’re often made up of; and what those violations do.

Perhaps we would have been less surprised today when we learned that a fifteen-year-old boy was arrested on the scene of a sexual assault, in connection with a series of sexual assaults occurring in the Bloor and Christie area of Toronto. Perhaps we would be less shocked by the fact that it’s 12-17 year old boys who are the most likely to commit sexual assault (Statistics Canada, pg. 13). That is, after all, what they were doing to me.

My stories are not uncommon. They’re more common than we want to think. As my friend Panic said: “Ask anyone who is or has been a teenaged girl. 15-yr-old boys assaulting women is common. It’s ‘normal.’” It’s so normal, in fact, that we don’t talk about it until we’re women and we know it doesn’t have to be.

Pretty much everything in North American culture tells men and boys that women and girls are there for them. So please, do us some favours. Stop telling us that we have to take self defence. Stop telling us we shouldn’t drink or go out at night or on dates. Stop telling us that we need to be prepared for whatever “boys-be-boys” violations come our ways, because it’s bullshit. We don’t have to accept this or carry it around in silence.

Start talking with men and boys about the messages they’re getting about women and girls. Tell them that they are not entitled to our bodies, no matter what. Talk to them honestly and comprehensively about sexualization and objectification. Stop being afraid to talk about boundaries, sex, and pleasure—leaving that to schools, the Internet, and peers is simply not cutting it. Show them what consent really looks like.

And this sounds basic, but remind them that we’re, you know, people? We deserve at least that much.

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To Bullies Everywhere

My thoughts continue to be drawn to Amanda Todd, the bullied 15 year old girl who committed suicide a few days ago. Amanda’s death is a tragedy, but the fact that it takes a wake-up call like this to get people’s attention makes it even more so.

My heart aches for children and teens who live in fear of cruelty from those who think they have a right to say and do whatever they want. I’ve had my share of attacks over the years. Not enough to cause me to consider suicide, but enough to make me dread going to school every day. So I know. And it’s not good.

The thing with bullying is that it doesn’t stop with kids. I’ve been bullied as an adult – by people who like to intimidate, manipulate, and humiliate. And I am not easily intimidated. But just as the schoolyard bullying tends to get swept under the carpet, so it is with adult bullying. Maybe even more so.

The last manager I had before I left my banking career was one such person. As a matter of fact, it was because of him that I didn’t even hesitate when the opportunity came to leave the company with my full severance package. It still puzzles me as to how someone as cold, insensitive, and downright mean ever made it as far up the corporate ranks as he did. Where I was concerned, this man went out of his way to sabotage my years of stellar performance with the bank. And he did it well. He wanted me out, so out I went.

Bully. That’s what he was.

Before I left the company, I scheduled a meeting with the vice president of human resources at our head office in Toronto. She was a woman I’d known quite well for several years, and she was very aware of my past accomplishments and experience. I felt that she was someone I could trust with my story. After relating to her everything that had happened in the ten months I’d worked on the Bully’s management team, she was silent. I mean, really silent. Then she told me frankly that she would do some discreet investigation, but she wasn’t hopeful anything would be done about it. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe me. I know she did. But her hands were tied.

That man is still in charge. He is still intimidating and manipulating and humiliating people. Who stops him? I went through the appropriate channels as outlined by the company’s harassment policy, but because he is who he is, the man is still in a position to continue bullying.

Nearly everyone I talk to has a similar story. Bullied by a co-worker or a boss or another parent on the PTA. It’s so wrong.

How does it stop? Speak out. Report your situation to the proper authorities. As many times as it takes. Stand up for yourself. Push back. In love, with respect and courtesy.

And remember these words from Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

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Vancouver Teen Commits Suicide

A friend of mine, Pastor Chris Jordan, reposted an article from today’s Vancouver Sun. It’s a heart-wrenching story. Please take the time to watch the video and read Amanda’s story.

Vancouver area teen commits suicide after telling story of being cyberbullied (with video)

 #RIPAmanda is trending as people post condolences for Amanda Todd who died Wednesday night in Coquitlam

BY GILLIAN SHAW AND LORI CULBERT, VANCOUVER SUN OCTOBER 11, 2012 5:01 PM

A Vancouver area teen who told a heart-breaking story in a YouTube video of cyberbullying that led to an all-out schoolyard attack has apparently committed suicide. In stories and posts flooding Vancouver’s social media networks, #RIPAmanda is trending as people post news and condolences for the teen identified as posting the video, Amanda Todd. Video courtesy: Skybrite, ebaumsworld.com

After documenting a heart-breaking story about cyber-bullying on a video posted to YouTube last month, 15-year-old Amanda Todd was found dead Wednesday night in Coquitlam.

Her tragic death – a suspected suicide – has prompted many to speak out about the dangers of bullying, especially in the age of social media.

Premier Christy Clark posted a short video on YouTube today sending her sympathies to Amanda’s family.

“I just heard about Amanda. I want to say to everyone who loved her, to all her family and friends, how sorry I am about her loss,” Clark says on the video.

“No one deserves to be bullied. No one earns it. No one asks for it. It isn’t a rite of passage. Bullying has to stop.”

Click here to see more photos of Amanda Todd

Amanda was a Grade 10 student at an alternative high school in Coquitlam called CABE (Coquitlam Basic Alternative Education), which has approximately 200 students in Grades 10 to 12.

Principal Paul McNaughton said the students and staff at the school are grieving today. He said Amanda, who joined the school halfway through the last school year and came back to start Grade 10 in September, had friends at CABE.

“It is a very sad case,” he said. “I can tell you we feel we tried everything we could to help her when she came to us.

“She was quite connected here. The staff and the students here are very much impacted. She had some very strong ties in the school and to staff in the school.

“The whole thing has been pretty hard.”

In the YouTube video, Amanda does not speak but instead holds up to the camera white pieces of paper on which her story is told, one phrase at a time. She documented a painful story of being harassed online and being shunned at school, leaving her feeling alone in the world.

In a message accompanying the video post, she added: “I’m struggling to stay in this world, because everything just touches me so deeply. I’m not doing this for attention. I’m doing this to be an inspiration and to show that I can be strong. I did things to myself to make pain go away, because I’d rather hurt myself then someone else. Haters are haters but please don’t hate, although im sure I’ll get them. I hope I can show you guys that everyone has a story, and everyones future will be bright one day, you just gotta pull through. I’m still here aren’t I ?”

YouTube today pulled the video, posting a short explanation that is was removed because it violates YouTube’s terms of service.

The school district sent grief counsellors to CABE — which helps students who are having difficulty in other schools for a variety of reasons — to speak with students and staff.

District spokeswoman Cheryl Quinton said Coquitlam has many anti-bullying programs in its schools, and noted the issue is becoming even more challenging because of social media.

“Bullying . . . is an issue of prime concern for the school district,” she said.

Amanda had previously gone to school in Maple Ridge but had changed schools and was living in Coquitlam.

In the YouTube video, Todd told of living with her father, who she said rescued her when she was lying in a ditch after being beaten by a number of students. She said then moved to another school — it was CABE she was referring to — and was with her mom.

McNaughton said the family doesn’t want to talk to the media.

“We’re respecting their wishes,” he said.

Amanda joined YouTube on September 6 and posted her video Sept. 7.

On Sept. 7, Amanda also uploaded a presentation Cybre Bullying on Prezi in which she explains what cyberbullying is and gives advice on dealing with it.

In what could turn out to be her own very sad legacy, Amanda urged people to stand up to bullies and to help their victims:

“If you see that someone is being bullied, don’t be afraid to tell the bully to stop doing what they are doing. Make sure to tell them that it’s wrong and that they shouldn’t bully other kids.”

To parents, Amanda urged them “to always give your child emotional support” and help them if they are being bullied.

The Amanda Michelle Todd memorial Facebook page, posted early this morning, already has more than 4,000 people “liking” it.

Many people were also posting comments on the site.

“RIP. my thoughts and prayers go to her family, I cannot even begin to imagine what they are going through. High school is supposed to be the best time of your life, not one where you fear for yourself every day. No one should have to feel the way she did. What is wrong with people, why do they feel the need to bully someone to their death? She was a beautiful young girl who went way too soon,” wrote Breanna Lockhart Collins.

In a post on its Facebook page, G Force Gym, Home of the Vancouver All Stars cheerleaders, wrote:

“Today we feel the loss of our former VAS family member Amanda . . . I ask that we all watch her video and share her story so that her loss is not in vain. Allow this to be her legacy . . . Allow us all to look around & find the next Amanda before another precious spunky teenager is lost.”

Amanda’s video echoed another similar online tale entitled My Story: Suicide and Bullying, which was uploaded by Mollydoyle18 on YouTube. It was clear from the comments that Amanda wanted to contact Molly in a private message and apparently had reached her.

Commenting on Amanda’s video, Molly wrote today:

“Rest in peace and fly high to Amanda Todd. I was just messaging her about almost a week ago, and I just found out that she has taken her life. She was asking me about how to be an inspiration to others and to get her video more views, and now I have found out that she has passed away . . . This is a terrible tragedy. I wish she could have had her happy ending.”

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Vancouver+area+teen+commits+suicide+after+telling+story+being+cyberbullied+with+video/7375941/story.html#ixzz292UC7KfB

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How to Speak to a Single Christian Mom

My oldest daughter has begun an amazing blog journey. She is writing so transparently about her faith, her life as a single mom, and her growth as a person. I am learning so much from her. And you have to check out what she says here: God’s Work in Progress.

This is what she posted the other day.

How to Speak to a Single Christian Mom

I read this blog post last week when I found it through a friend.  Brilliant and so true!

http://littledouce.blogspot.ca/2012/09/how-to-talk-to-pregnant-woman.html

I don’t know the woman who wrote this, but I can totally relate.  It got me thinking.  I’m a single mom of two young boys, and apparently I fit into some template that also results in many unwelcome questions and comments.  So here’s my take.

Things Not to Say to A Single Mom

1. “Were you married to their father?” First of all, it’s none of your business, oh stranger who asked me this question.  This often gets asked by Christians, who seem to think that if I had been married to their father, then the children are legitimate, and that’s one less sin I’ve committed.  This question is often followed by “Did he leave you?”.  Again, none of your business, but either way, it doesn’t really matter.  Anything that you consider my sin is between God and I, and really has nothing to do with you.

2. “Are you dating anyone now?” Again, unless you are family, not really any of your business.  This question is often asked by married women.  Let me tell you one thing – divorce is in no way comparable to breaking up with your boyfriend in highschool.  You should not be jealous that I am now back in the dating pool.  Do you think men are beating down the door of a divorced woman with two kids in order to date her?  Not exactly prime dating material.  This was a situation that I did not ever want to be in.

3. “I guess you married the wrong person.” While I do believe that once you are married, it is for life, people are a product of their choices, and things don’t always work out the way we want them to.  No, I didn’t marry the wrong person.  People are surprised when I say this.  First of all, if I married the wrong person, then I – and all of my friends and family – were either idiots when I got married, or completely naive.  Neither was the case.  Secondly, if I married the wrong person, then I have the wrong kids, which i would never, EVER, think is the case.

4. “Do you ever want to get married again?”  Well, since it was never the intent to be single again at this point in my life, yes, I do.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m ready for it today or tomorrow or even next year.  This is a silly question, and I often want to answer with a sarcastic “Of course not, I’m perfectly happy being alone for the rest of my life.”

5. “How are you doing?” and “Are you okay?” It’s always said in that “pity” tone of voice.  How do you think I’m doing?   Don’t let anyone tell you that divorce is as easy as a breakup.  It’s not.  There’s a reason that some psychologists have compared it to a death.  It’s that hard.  It’s an emotional roller coaster and it takes a LONG time to not feel like you’ve been stabbed in the heart every time you breathe.

6. “I don’t know how you do it all by yourself.  I could never do it.” I’m not sure if this is meant to be a compliment or making the point that I can’t possibly be a good enough person/parent/woman on my own.

There are a few other things happen.  Married girl friends seem to distance themselves.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to steal your husband.  I’ve seen one home broken and it’s something I never want to repeat.  People don’t know what to say, so they say nothing.  I’m still interested in the same things as I was before, so whatever we had in common is still there.

Green Light Subjects

1. “How are the kids?” I won’t answer with anything but how they are doing in school, what they are into right now and that kind of thing.  Don’t worry about being overwhelmed with their emotional state.

2. “Can I pray for you?” Absolutely!  It seems so often that the words said are meant to be a criticism for my situation.  I’d much rather know that you are lifting me up in prayer – goodness knows I need it – even if it is only a few words at the end of the day.  It’s all appreciated.

3. Any small talk.  I don’t want to talk about my marital situation all the time.  Sometimes I need to bounce things off someone, but that’s usually family.  Usually, I want to talk about normal things like the weather, the stock market, shoes and football.

4. My kids like other kids.  It seems like other parents are reluctant to let their children be with the children of a single mom.  The situation is not their fault.  They still need their friends and life to be as normal as possible.

There are a hundred other things I could write here, but this will do for now.

_________________________________________

If you’re in a reading mood, take a look at my graphic designer daughter’s blog here. Great insight into how the creative process works. And my baby girl’s blog is here, looking at life as a stay-home mom and a very innovative way of doing it.

Yup. We’re a bloggy kind of family!

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Filed under Acceptance, Christian, Family, Kids, Women

The Phony

The phony. We all know one or two . . . or ten.

They are like Barbie dolls. I think they belong to a club where they learn to talk the same, look the same, act the same. They are also required to find a perfect smile in a magazine, cut it out and paste it where their mouth should be. Now it’s been there so long that no one even remembers what their old smile looked like.

The phony sweeps into the room and expects every eye to turn in their direction. They strike the I’m-here-so-let-the-party-begin pose before they greet you with an air kiss and tell you how wonderful it is to see  you. But you know very well they’re already scanning the premises over your shoulder to see who else is there.  They ask you how you are and you’re tempted to answer with something completely outlandish because you know they’re not really listening to your reply anyway. Their thoughts have already left the building. And you see them discreetly watching the clock so they can escape your presence the moment it is socially acceptable.

I don’t want to be phony in any of my relationships. I want to be real – the same person, no matter who I come in contact with. I don’t want to be the Barbie doll with the fake smile and expressionless eyes, pretending to be something I’m not.

The bottom line is that God knows. You can’t be phony with Him and He can’t be fooled.

He’s always real. And I’m so glad.

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Performance Evaluations

Back in the olden days (which is how I refer to my now defunct corporate career), I was required to complete annual performance evaluations for all of the employees who reported to me. At one point, there were over 150 of them. I would collect the pertinent data for each person on my team – measurement statistics for accuracy, speed, productivity, rate of improvement, etc – and then I would work at home for a week to compile it all. Oh, how I dreaded every single October.

The end result of my efforts would be a number between 1 and 5 for each employee, 1 being the lowest rating and 5 being the highest.  No one ever got a 1 because the powers at the helm of the company believed that anyone who deserved a rating that low should have been escorted out the door long before performance evaluation time. On the flip side, hardly anyone got a 5 because after all, who can walk on water? So as a manager, I was now down to three numbers to use in rating my staff. If someone got a 2, it pretty much meant they were pegged for exit management (that’s getting fired, in case you didn’t catch it). If someone got a 3, they fell into the acceptable performance bucket and we managers were then expected to coach these people to achieve a 4 the following year. If someone got a 4, well, it meant they were exceptionally awesome at their job.

But it wasn’t quite that easy.

As managers, we were given rating percentages based on a bell curve. All of our employees had to fit into that curve. For example, 5% had to receive 2 ratings, 80% would receive 3 ratings, and 10% would receive 4 ratings. On rare, rare occasions, a 5 rating would be approved. The ratios changed slightly from year to year, but this dictated how we were to rate our employees’ performance and it didn’t really matter too much what we had just spent an entire week doing in order to come up with those ratings. I distinctly recall one particular “discussion” I had with the vice president of our region with respect to that stupid bell curve. Let’s just say that our working relationship went downhill from there.

I had way too many meetings with stellar employees who absolutely deserved that 4, or even 5 rating, but there it was on their report – a measly 3. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the annual bonus was based on that rating. For the top executives, it was all about the money and it meant good employees got cheated out of what should have been theirs.

The point I am trying to make here is that our society gives so much credence to a performance rating, and in reality it’s not even a true reflection of our performance. Everywhere we turn, we are judged on our productivity, on our achievements, or lack thereof.

It’s sad.

Because now, four years out of my former career, no one remembers my achievements. No one cares. Not even me.

What I do care about is who I am for my husband and my family and my friends. I care about how I serve my pastor and my church. And most of all, I care about how God sees me, about doing what He has asked me to do.

I am so glad our Father isn’t into performance evaluations and ratings.

He just loves me.

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Assumptions

Over the past  decade or so I’ve become distanced from a number of people who once occupied a significant portion of my life. There are a variety of reasons why this happened. A change of jobs, a physical move, a new church. Those situations were not deliberate relationship breakers, but more a growing apart. It happens. That’s life. And, thankfully, I still have contact with many of them.

Then there are some that I’ve stepped back from on purpose. People who were close to me at one time. “Fair-weather friends” who hung around only when it suited them or when it was of benefit to them in some way and they all but ignored me when it wasn’t. Those hurt. And I had to make decisions to let them go. Those hurt too. But I have opportunity to connect with them from time to time and this is where the assumptions come into play.

These people seem to be the ones who think they know you better than you know yourself. They make remarks about what you like and don’t like. They joke about your past mistakes, leaving the impression that you’re still that person and have never grown past the errors. They talk about all of their accomplishments but never ask about yours. In other words, they make assumptions. They assume they know what you like and don’t like. They assume you are the same person you were ten or twenty or thirty years ago. They assume that any accomplishments you may have achieved are trivial in comparison to theirs.

How do I react to that? I keep my mouth shut.

I pray for wisdom and patience and self-control.

And I step back. Walk away. Leave the room.

Does it always work? No. I struggle to keep my temper under wraps and I fight the urge to lash out.

But I’m also learning to check my own assumptions about other people. Just as I have changed, so have they. What I knew about them in the past may not be the case anymore and I have to be sensitive to that.

And maybe – just maybe – there can be a new relationship forged.

 

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