How to Lose Your Verbal…

How to Lose Your Verbal Filter (and Be the Best Version of Yourself)

by Aaron Leizerovici 

Disclaimer:

Results cannot be guaranteed. I am not to be blamed, sued or held liable for your actions, as well as results not meeting the reader’s expectations. Not all non-filters are the same. This guide is not the one-pill-solution for your problems.

My Story.

I’ve struggled communicating my thoughts and feelings since I was a kid — and I still do. It might have had to do with the way my parents raised me (and the way their parents raised them). It took time but I eventually removed my verbal filter, which was preventing me from communicating my thoughts and feelings. Why bother doing that?

I was getting awful headaches, because I would think too much. I also a unhappy kid; I thought everyone was out to get me and I had a chip on my shoulder. Luckily, my older brother helped me lose my verbal filter; he helped me realize that I needed to communicate these thoughts and ideas, because people can’t read minds and they might not be cognizant of their actions. The process of losing my filter was a long and arduous one.

Once I lost it, I realized how this skill can be used in various situations. Here’s one story that comes to mind:

I was walking home with a friend, Lawrence, when I saw this gentleman attempting to pick up/hit on a woman from across the street (if you’re going to do it, do it right; cross the street and be respectful); he yelled, asking her for different means of communication, from her phone number to every type of social media you can think of. She denied his request for her phone number. Then she denied the first social media account he asked for, but then silently ignored the requests that followed, continuing to walk to her destination. As he went down the list of social media accounts, I said (loudly), “she’s not interested!” The woman laughed.

While that might not have been the safest thing to do, I felt liberated saying something. Why? Because I’ve also loathed that type of treatment towards women and I wanted to do something about it.

This guide is written to encourage inner dialogue and ask yourself questions that you normally wouldn’t answer, because 1) it pains you to think about them 2) you “don’t have time” to think about them 3) you get an unsettling feeling of discomfort when you think about them or other people ask you about them.

With that said, it is my hope that this guide will give you the answers to the questions you have within. As a result of awakening your inner dialogue, it is my hope that your communication improves and learn from my mistakes.

Question (and reflection).

Don’t stop asking them. Ask lots of questions. Learning is a never ending process. There will be times where you’ll get answer to questions you wished you never asked in the first place, but tough shit. That’s life. This curiosity will help you lose your filter.

Ask yourself the following questions and reflect on your answers:

Why do we fear what we want most?
Why do some individuals have the courage to walk up to strangers and ask them whether they’ve weird sex positions?
What do you think are some behavioral characteristics that are holding you back from achieving your goals?
How do you speak to people when you are upset?
What’s your biggest fear?
What do you want?

Let these questions bake in your oven (especially the ones that either made you giggle or think I’m a complete pervert). You should always be striving to improve. Think the crap-out-of the last question. Dig real deep.

Nice people don’t finish last — Passive people do.

I believe the “nice people finish last” saying came to be, because people who are too nice also happen to be passive, which is why they finish last. This led to people pointing their finger at the nice trait as the culprit for finishing last, when in fact it was because they were passive.

If you’re passive, now is time to change. It will be a difficult habit/trait to change, especially if you’re not aware of this trait. You’ll need to devote conscious thought to your how you interact with others. If you’re been fortunate enough to have people point out this behavior, it might be something to to work on. Ask yourself: why and where is this passive behavior comes from? Accepting this is the first of many actions you’ll need to take. Give yourself the change you deserve. If continue to stay passive, you’ll never get what you want and you might end up with one of these:

Example of being passive: not saying something that bothers you to a partner or sibling.

I’m a Tumor, I’m a tumor, I’m a Tumor, I’m a Tumor… I’m a Tumor: Those Negative Voices in Your Head (Do not skip over this section, even if you don’t get these).

The more you resist your feelings, the more they persist. Unfortunately, there will be times when you have to hold keep your mouth shut. Being mentally tough and not letting little things bother you is important. While I agree that mental strength is everything, it should not be confused with <a href="https://youtu.be/-WUSA7UV9x0">brushing things under the rug</a>. This is not a sign of mental toughness. 

Stay focused and limiting distractions is great; it helps you achieve your goals. It hard to find the fine line of letting your mind wander too much and ignoring problems over prolong periods. After all, ignoring things that bother you only leads to tumors.

With that said, you should not avoid your feelings — ever. It’s perfectly natural to feel sad and a myriad of other emotions; and it’s perfectly okay to let yourself feel and accept said emotions. 

Keep Striving to Improve.

One should always be aiming to be the best version of themselves. Sometimes we fall off track; we might say we’re putting in the work, but we’re not actually putting in the work. It’s okay, we all fall off track sometimes. But at a certain point you need to get off your ass and just do the work.

This is the difficult, but most important thing. Don’t dwell on lost time, because you can’t get it back; it’s gone. Just keep plugging away at whatever you’re trying to improve; whether that’s your mind, body or even spiritually. Try working on something that you’ve been putting off. Striving to be the best version of you is imperative when trying to lose your verbal filter. This is paramount because we improve our persistence and perseverance muscles, which we build through the achieving our personal goals.

Throughout the journey to losing your filter (and even after), you’ll have unfortunate slipups; you’ll stutter, word things the wrong way, say ridiculous things that are out of character and would never actually do. You might even say something so ridiculous that the person you’re speak with will probably hold your words against your for the rest of your life. You’ll be fine, as long as you get back up and keep at it.

Lose that motherf*$@ing filter: Wording, The Five Second Rule, “The Technique” and Staying Humble.

You can’t walk around saying whatever you want to whoever you want. You’ll just come off as a jackass. Trust me… I know. With that said, mindfulness is key. Here’s why:

The comprehension of ideas and thoughts depends on 1) how they are worded and 2) how these words and ideas are comprehended by the person hearing them.

This process is comparable to doing something that terrifies you. Ultimately, you’ll have to make the plunge, even if the steps you take are small ones. Each of the steps you take should make you feel uncomfortable. At any given point, you might try to talk yourself out of what you were thinking of doing or saying, with more excuses than a kid trying to get out of doing homework; if that sounds familiar, you’re on the right track.

If you’re in this position, think about the following: why would you stop yourself from doing something you want to do, especially if it’s something you wanted to do for a while now? Secondly, don’t cheat yourself out of living your life to the fullest. I happened to stumbled upon this video months after I started writing the guide, but it explains the aforementioned concept exceptionally well.

How to say it

Before you verbalize your thoughts, you need to learn how to say it. You’re obviously going to mess up in the beginning and have a few bad interactions to realize (although my brother pointed it out to me hundreds of times) that you need to remove all emotion from what you are saying. You must also be empathetic when it’s called for and be cognizant of context; meaning, who you’re speaking with and where you are. For the most part, this should be an effective way to debunk communication issues and insulting people.

In theory, removing emotion prevents conversations from turning hostile; it also allows the recipient(s) of your words to hear your words and not your emotions, which makes what you’re trying to communicate easier to comprehend as it can be difficult to focus on more than one thing at a time — your words when you’re yelling (or passive aggressive tone). Don’t believe me?

Try listening to two people talking to you at the same time. You probably won’t be able to will not understand both of them, probably will not remember a bulk of what they said and, more importantly, it can be extremely frustrating.

The 5 second rule

For the indecisive person in us all — we have the 5 second rule. (I’ve used this technique for years’, without giving it a name. I didn’t know it is a widely-known concept until I started writing this guide). Write down those thoughts or ideas down. This is a way to “marry” your actions, and will help you take action. Don’t try to suppress them.

There’s a 50/50 shot that things will work out the way they want them to. For example, you like someone and you want to ask them out. You’re scared, though. The person you ask out will either say, “yes” or “no.” Relation it to your situation you have nothing to lose (provided you not gambling or putting yourself in a life situation).

Maybe you have a reasonable fear that’s holding you back. If it might get you in trouble, I would advise against acting on. How do you decide whether to act on your thoughts if you only have 5 seconds to marry it?

“Fuck Yes” or “Fuck No”.

The Fuck Yes or No concept was created by Mark Manson. I do not own it. After messing up numerous times and teaching a friend or two how to lose their filters, I implemented his concept as it seemed to be the most logical way to teach someone how to make decisions in relation to the 5 second rule. Leave this concept out and you’ll find yourself in trouble; I know I’ve have and sometimes still do.

Asking yourself “Fuck Yes,” or “Fuck No” before doing something you might regret, is a good way to decide on whether to say what you want to say (and in some cases act on your thoughts). You don’t want to get fired from your job, because you want to flip off your boss employer; it might come back to bite you later in your professional career. Use common sense.

That being said, people need mouth time — just like a motorcyclists and drivers need road time — you need time to experiment talking without your verbal filter. You’re obviously going to need to learn from your mistakes.

Always ask yourself (within five seconds), before you open your mouth or act on something: will I get in trouble, smacked, fired, or will any bodily harm (that you think of) happen if I say or do this? If the answer is “fuck yes,” then I would keep your pants (or skirt) on and/or your mouth shut; if it’s “fuck no,” do and say as you please.

Stay Humble.

Losing your verbal filter doesn’t give you the right to act like a douchebag. Douchebags don’t reflect and they don’t think about what they say or do; they just say and do as they please. If you say something wrong, own up to it and apologize and try to see the other person’s perspective. I would even go as far as watching how they react to what you say, because some people might have difficulty confronting you.

Keep in mind that there are people out there who will not be able to handle your frankness (remember it’s all in your delivery), which is completely understandable. They might have to do with the way they were raised or past experiences they’ve had. But I digress, douchebags don’t know how to apologize and they think they’re always right. The world doesn’t need anymore douchebags. There’s plenty of them — they can be bought in stores.

Some food for thought: Don’t forget how small you are in comparison to the size of the world, our galaxy and the universe — and things which inhabit them.

Mental Health.

Holding in your thoughts and feelings can be detrimental to your health, both mentally and in some cases, physically; some people experience headaches when they overthink scenarios and situations. Holding in your feelings can also affect your personal relationships. This is why losing your verbal might be able to relieve some of these pains.

For those who are bullied, or if you have the occasional rude comment thrown at you, don’t be afraid to use your voice. Make people aware that are making you feel uncomfortable or taking advantage of you; whether that be sexually (Please look for a clear description of what that a sexual crime is and use good judgement. If someone has committed a crime against you, report it to officials, etc), financially or otherwise.

Of course, things are always easier said than done. Remember that not all situations are permanent. If you are reading this and experiencing shattered confidence, because of a traumatic experience or you just don't feel like like yourself anymore, recall every difficult situation you’ve overcome in the past. Looking back, it probably wasn’t too hard; or if it was, reflect on how it made you into a stronger individual. You’re not the only person experiencing a roadblock and you can move past it. Hopefully, accepting all the feelings you’re currently feeling and losing your verbal filter, will help you get on your path to being the best version of you. 

Now What?

Losing your filter is learning when to keep your mouth shut and when it open it. Everyone has their reasons to lose their verbal filter. The question I’d like you to ask yourself is: what will I do once I removed it?

What happens once you accomplish everything you set out to achieve? Think about giving back. Give back to those around you; they need our help. Think about those who are afraid to speak up at college campuses, bars, those who ride public transportation and walk the streets — they might not speak up when they are verbally harassed or are being physically or mentally abused. Speak up for them. Make eye contact with them. Make their presence know. Use your filter for those who have not lost theirs… yet.

#musings

My female supervisor sexually harassed…

Draft #4
My female supervisor sexually harassed me — and I’m a man.

I’ve heard trouble can be sensed from a mile away. In regards to sensing whether a person is trouble, maybe it’s the person’s demeanor, how they treat others, their aura, or the look in their eyes. When my ex-supervisor first lay eyes on yours truly, a very unsettling feeling came over me. Little did I know I she’d sexually harass me.

It began with lite flirting and complements throughout the workday and during lunch breaks, which I initially went along with as I was flattered — thinking it was harmless. But as the inappropriate IM’s started pouring in, I realized how wrong I was.

At first, the flirting was innocent and subtle:

[Her]: “We have a lot in common. Isn’t strange and unfortunate how people meet.”
[Me]: “Yeah, we do.”
[Her]: “If I only knew you 10 years ago. “
[Me]: “I would’ve been 16. That’s wrong.”
[Her]: “Ha ha. That is!”

As time went on, her dresses were more colorful and revealing, showing more cleavage. As her breast emerged from her dress, so did the sexual undertones in her messages. At one point, she indirectly suggested that we fulfill each other’s physical needs by probing for my sexual desires:

[Her]: “God, I wish I could leave! Today’s been too stressful.”
[Me]: “Why’s that? In theory, you can walk out whenever you want. Yeah, I’m kind of stress out, too.”
[Her]: “Work. Home. The usual.”
[Me]: “I see. Want to talk about it?”
[Her]: “Hmm. Maybe we could relieve each other’s stress?”
[Me]: “I’m not following.”
[Her]: “Tell me what you want.”

I did my best to brush off her comment by pretending to be clueless and replied:
“I don’t know what you’re referring to. What do you want?” But she didn’t reply.
A few weeks later, I was eating lunch in her office as I did most days. Amid conversation, my ex-supervisor leaned toward me — who was now practically on the edge of her seat — said, “we should have sex.” When those words hit my ears, I crumbled as a plethora of feelings rushed through my body; I was speechless, felt lightheaded and dirty, taken aback and extremely uncomfortable. My first thought was, “how do I tell this woman that I don’t want to sleep with her?”

I rambled on how it would be inappropriate since she was married with kids. This reason — as valid as it was — wasn’t the solution. But I was taken aback by the situation; as a man, I never imagined being sexually harassed by a woman, which left me unsure how to respond. After all, isn’t it the men who do the sexual harassing? Sure. I want sex, but not with her.
But she was adamant; weeks later, she was at it again. What did I say when my ex-supervisor told me what she’s into sexually?

Laugh uncomfortably and say, “too much information.”

How about when she indirectly offered to reward me with sex in the back seat of her car after I fix her portable vacuum? Politely brush it off with, “I’m good.”

Eventually, the sexual harassment fizzled out on its own. Not long after that, I was laid off. As much as I wanted to go to HR when I was sexually harassed, I didn’t because of the repercussions I thought she would have ensued, such as complicating family matters with her husband and children, and the possibility of her being fired. Another reason why I didn’t file a report with HR was because I no confidence department; they skimmed on performing their departmental duties, so how could I trust they do a good job with something serious as this? Additionally, HR did a poor job in investigating a sexual harassment case within the company years’ back — so my ex-supervisor said, before she sexually harassed me. The irony.

Looking back, I should have been more firm with my harasser as I didn’t realize how much power I had; I had evidence — inappropriate messages from her insinuating sexual advances. I should have reported her to HR with a screenshot of them and requested a transfer to another office. I should have also filed suit with the company, as this has happened to other people who’ve worked there.

All in all, I’m still learning to cope with the idea of having been sexually harassed. Moreover, I never realized how prevalent sexual harassment was in the workplace until I was a victim of it. I knew it always existed, but I never knew how uncomfortable it would make me feel, as a man.

Other potential titles:
A story about sexual harassment: A man’s perspective.
A story sexual harassment story: a man’s perspective.

#musings

Draft #3. Dennis, your example…

Draft #3.

Dennis, your example of building anticipation and zooming in and out was great, and I attempted to include this in the first 2-3 paragraphs of the piece. It still feels kind of short, though. Let me know what you guys think of this version. I’ve also added some other potential titles at the bottom.

My Female Supervisor Sexually Harassed Me — and I’m a Man.

It began with flirting and complements throughout the workday and during lunch breaks, which I initially went along with as I was flattered — thinking it was harmless. But as the inappropriate IM’s over AIM started pouring in, I realized how wrong I was.

During one chat, my supervisor indirectly attempted to change the conversation’s tone to sexual one, specifically trying to address that we fulfill each other’s physical needs. She wrote, “tell me what you want.” I did my best to brush this off by pretending to be clueless and replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What do you want?” which only seemed to get her friskier. As time went on, her dresses were more colorful and showed more cleavage, feeling her pheromones approaching me when she smiled as she made flirty remarks.

One day, as I sat in her office eating lunch as I did most days, my supervisor made her intent clear — she wanted to have sex with me. When those words hit my ears, it was as if I crumbled as a plethora of feelings rushed through my body; I was speechless, felt lightheaded and dirty, taken aback and extremely uncomfortable. My first thought was, “how do I tell this woman, who supervises me, that I don’t want to sleep with her?”

I rambled on how it would be inappropriate since she was married with kids. This reason — as valid as it was — wasn’t the solution. But I was taken aback by the situation; as a man, I never imagined being sexually harassed by a woman, which left me unsure how to respond. After all, isn’t it the men who do the sexual harassing? Sure. I want sex, but not with her.

So what do you say when your supervisor tells you what she’s into sexually? Laugh uncomfortably and say, “too much information.” How about when she indirectly offers to reward you with sex in the back seat of her car after you fix her portable vacuum? Just politely brush it off.

As much as I wanted to go to HR, I didn’t because of the repercussions she would have ensued such as her family knowing and the possibility of her losing he job; and another part of me felt that it was pointless, as HR wasn’t actively doing their job.

Looking back, I should have been more firm with my harasser as I didn’t realize how much power I had; I had evidence — inappropriate messages from her insinuating that clear sexual advances. I should have reported her to HR with a screenshot of them and requested a transfer to another office, as I continued to look for full-time work. I should have also filed suit with the company, as this has happened to other people who’ve worked there.

In the end, I was removed from the toxic environment and I’m happy to be out. I’m still learning to cope with the idea of having been sexually harassed. And I never realized how prevalent sexual harassment was in the workplace until I was a victim of it. I knew it always existed, but I never knew how uncomfortable it would make me feel, as a man.

Other potential titles:
A Story About Sexual Harassment: A Man’s Perspective.
A Story Sexual Harassment Story: A Man’s Perspective.

#musings

Sorry it took so long…

Sorry it took so long to get the second draft up. Looking forward to receiving your feedback.

My female supervisor harassed me — and I’m a man.

It began with flirting, which I initially went along with as I was flattered — thinking it was harmless. As the inappropriate IM’s started pouring in, I realized how wrong I was. I did my best to brush them off by pretending to be clueless.
Eventually, she said what she wanted to have sex with me. I was taken aback and it was extremely uncomfortable. My first thought was, “how do I tell this woman, who supervises me, that I don’t want to sleep with her?”

I rambled on how it would be inappropriate since she was married with kids. This reason — as valid as it was — wasn’t the solution. But I was taken aback by the situation; as a man, I never imagined being sexually harassed by a woman, which left me unsure how to respond. After all, isn’t it the men who do the sexual harassing? Sure. I want sex, but not with her.
So what do you say when your supervisor tells you what she’s into sexually? Laugh uncomfortably and say, “too much information.” How about when she indirectly offers to reward you with sex in the back seat of her car after you fix her portable vacuum? Just politely brush it off.

As much as I wanted to go to HR, I didn’t because of the repercussions she would have ensued such as her family knowing and the possibility of her losing he job; and another part of me felt that it was pointless, as HR wasn’t actively doing their job.

Looking back, I should have been more firm with my harasser as I didn’t realize how much power I had; I had evidence — inappropriate messages from her insinuating that clear sexual advances. I should have reported her to HR with a screenshot of them and requested a transfer to another office, as I continued to look for full-time work. I should have also filed suit with the company, as this has happened to other people who’ve worked there.

In the end, I was removed from the toxic environment and I’m happy to be out. I’m still learning to cope with the idea of having been sexually harassed. And I never realized how prevalent sexual harassment was in the workplace until I was a victim of it. I knew it always existed, but I never knew how uncomfortable it would make me feel, as a man.

#musings

This is the first draft….

This is the first draft. Looking forward to getting your feedback on this article I wrote for musings.

Sexual Harassment — It Goes Both Ways

For many, a place of work becomes a second home, because they spend a large portion of their day there. This is why work environments are important. A positive environment encourages workers to grow and improve professionally. On the other hand, an unfavorable environment dampens workers’ moods, which negatively affects their work. Ultimately, individuals may have various perceptions as to what constitutes a negative environment; however, there are few circumstances that clearly contribute to them — sexual harassment being one of them.

It’s not uncommon (but definitely wrong) for men to sexually harass women in the workplace. But after my supervisor made sexual advances, I scoured the internet for brethren who’ve experienced this. The few resources I did find, were accompanied by sad, tasteless, jokes about why men would complain about a woman making sexual advances.

I tried to see their perspective. What if one of your deepest, darkest fantasies itself, would you act on it? People fantasize about doing inappropriate things with co-workers, whatever the profession. The thing is, I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to sleep with a co-worker — let alone, my supervisor.

I’ve had office sex fantasies (on a copy/fax machine and office furniture) — so sue me. And the opportunity to act on these fantasies with my former supervisor was a mentally straining. It was a tad weird when she told me what she was into sexually; like being choked and offered to reward me in her car’s back seat after I fixed her portable car vacuum. Did I do any of them? No.

As tempting as it was to bend her over her desk, logically, it wasn’t a good idea. (Wait, men don’t think with their genitals?). I turned her down, gently (twice) and here is why:

It took me more than four years to get my Bachelor’s degree and, when the sexual harassments took place, I was gainfully underemployed at a university. I didn’t enjoy the job — and it showed in how I performed at work and my interactions with grumpy customers

Like many recent grads, I was frustrated because I hadn’t started my career. I felt that my supervisors weren’t utilizing my skill set — the ‘work’ I was doing wasn’t challenging. I went from doing (what is considered) higher education executive level work to mindless robotic work.

Getting yelled at by people because they own tuition was mentally draining. Departments created issues from the lack of communication, direction and efficient procedures — so my supervisors mumbled (they actually did that). Unfortunately, childish behavior and toxicity started at the top, among mid-senior workers and trickled down. I was also experiencing health issues, which, thankfully, I’ve overcame.

As far as the harasser, she is married (not sure if she still is) and has children. She admitted she wasn’t happy in her marriage. And, you guessed it — she was not getting her bread buttered. I won’t go into details, but from the information I was provided, it was clear that her husband was unhappy and was projecting negativity by starting arguments. Ironically, she was trying to make things work.

If I caved and slept with her, our situations probably would have become worse; her marriage would have gotten messy, especially with kids involved. Because I was easily affected by my environment, my mental health would have been affected. So as much as my supervisor wanted me to eat and pound her cake, it was not the best idea to think with my genitals.

I, however, could understand why someone in her situation would make sexual advances; we have things in common and I’ve been known to be shrewd and witty. For a married person who is being denied basic emotional and physical needs, it can be tempting to cross that boundary with that attractive co-worker. Is there something wrong with two people wanting to jump bones? No. But it becomes a problem when only one person is interested.

Reflecting on this experience, my conscience was feeding me the idea that my personality was the water that harvested the seeds of sexual harassment I realized I was blaming myself.

I went along with the flirting initially as I thought it was harmless and I was flattered. But flirtation doesn’t always equate to sexual desire. I felt powerless because my supervisor, a person who was in power, wanted more than just my skills in the office. She wanted sex, for the lack of better word, while I did not and that left me feeling cornered. This is when things got out of hand.

I explained that we worked together and reminded her that she’s married and has kids. She was a bit upset when I refused to have an affair. We conversed about me not reporting her and during this fuzzy exchange of words, I remembered taking control of the conversation and reassuring her I wouldn’t report her, because her advances weren’t a big deal. Truth is, they were. I regretted not filing a report.

The mistake was realized when she advanced and was rejected a second time. I hadn’t thought that I would be treated differently, but I was. I recalled making a personal phone call with a company phone, which was no longer than two minutes. Additionally, it was also made when I was free. Her snide remark still rings in my brain, “make personal calls on your own time.” To make things worse, a co-worker was having, a good ten to fifteen-minute conversation using a company phone; the supervisor walked by her at least twice and didn’t say a thing — she didn’t even bat an eyelash.

Maybe this was just in my head. Maybe not. But it’s not necessary to bring them forth — and to be honest, they’re not important. Maybe she was stressed out? Maybe this is me rationalizing.

Was I treated better treatment than my co-workers? Other than being offered sex, there were many times I was allowed to take off because I wasn’t feeling well. She also tried to accommodate my schedule so I could complete homework, submit job applications and more. But wait! I believe she did that for my co-workers, too.

In the end, I was removed from the toxic environment and was happy to be out. I’m still learning to cope with the idea of being sexually harassed by a person (senior or not), and the feelings I experienced — vulnerability and having my sexuality challenged, because as a man, how could I say no to a woman? My heart goes out to women who’ve been sexually harassed at their place of work, because it’s a total mindfuck.

Being sexually harassed tested my boundaries changed how I view gender roles in the workplace, work friendships and work environments, marriage, desire, love and sex. Looking back, I should have been more firm with my harasser and I didn’t realize how much power I had at the time; I had messages from her that insinuated sexual harassment. I should have reported her to HR with a screenshot and requested a transfer to another office, as I continued to look for full-time work. I also should have filed suit with the company, as this has happened to other people who’ve worked there.

Ironically, my supervisor left to work at another university. On the last day she said, “you’ll be alright — you’ll do great.” In some twisted way, she was right.

I never realized how prevalent sexual harassment was in the workplace until I was a victim of it. I knew it always existed, but I never knew how uncomfortable it would make me feel, as a man.

#musings

Draft 2. Feels a little choppy… thoughts?

In Defense of “Mommy Shaming”

When I had a baby, I was prepared. I had researched everything from breastfeeding to Montessori school. I had bought everything from a crib to orthopedically-correct toddler shoes. My car seat was installed, and my husband had taken swaddling lessons. I was prepared.
I had been told all about the inevitable unsolicited advice that would be coming from the women that hadn’t birthed a child since the Eisenhower era. I was prepared to smile gracefully and forget any and all advice that involved using chicken bones as teethers (not making that one up, it’s real advice).
What I wasn’t prepared for was the onslaught of blogs, lists, status updates, and commenters that would pathologically spout the new company line: “her child, her choice.”
Facebook seems to have become the new neighborhood playground for swapping mommy stories about whose toddler throws the worst grocery store tantrums, asking for advice on funny-colored bowel movements (hopefully the child’s), and getting a sympathetic shoulder when you haven’t slept in three days and you’re seriously contemplating running away and joining the circus. I myself am a member of no less than four different mom groups, each with a different purpose, and all with a standing rule about being supportive. No matter what.
I was browsing Facebook recently, and a woman posted in one of these groups asking why her pediatrician was telling her to keep her 1 year old rear facing in her car seat. Many women came back with statistics, reports, scientific studies, and crash test videos enforcing a simple fact of physics: keeping children rear-facing is safer. By an approximate margin of 500%. This isn’t debatable. It’s fact. And when one woman came on and said that it was totally acceptable to turn your 11 month old around because it would make them happier, I jumped in with a little shame.
This was obviously a woman that had no interest in logic, reason, or avoiding potential death. She was making parenting decisions based on the same logic that the state of Kentucky used writing its motorcycle helmet laws. Hint: there aren’t any.
This wasn’t the time to sit back and remain quiet while a woman chose to raise her kids with an unnatural affinity for Bob Dylan. This was the time to make her feel terrible for making parenting decisions based on what was convenient, what was easy, and what made her infant smile like she’d just given him Cookie Crisp for dinner.
I stated that distributing that particular brand of parenting while ignoring every ounce of, you know, science, in the world was irresponsible. And I got immediately called out for “mommy shaming.”
There are studies on everything from public vs. private school, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, and even what color of nightlight promotes the healthiest sleep. Most of these choices make a minimal impact at best. Putting your kid in Kindergarten at 6 instead of five gives them an educational advantage, but only until about the fourth grade. Breastfeeding has developmental and immunological benefits, but not as much previously touted. And by God, don’t buy a blue night light.
But then there are the opinions that can have potentially fatal consequences. For your own child, and even for other people’s.
Everyone has their own opinion, and you know what, sometimes those opinions are wrong. But according to every mom with access to a keyboard, you are only allowed to speak those opinions with all the love and acceptance of a Daniel Tiger episode. No hint of judgement. And God forbid you actually question the decision of another mom. That will get you thrown right into mommy jail, where Cailliou is stuck on repeat, and you’re forced to eat cold leftovers covered in toddler drool for all of eternity.
But you know what, shame is a powerful motivator. Shame is the foundation of the social contract. If no one ever felt bad about themselves and the consequences of their decisions, our world would be unlivable. Shame keeps us from indulging our every primal whim. Shame is what keeps (most) people from singing loudly to Abba with the windows down in rush hour traffic. Shame makes our society more livable.
And if shame will keep a child from contracting an infectious disease, or from getting paralyzed in a car crash, then I say bring on the stocks!
As a parent, you will run into this particular brand of molly-coddling in a couple of specific areas. It is also a rampant theme in the vaccination debate. The vaccinators have every piece of science, logic, and reason on their sides. But no matter how many time you present studies, or facts, or mortality rates, the anti-vaccinators just ignore it and bring up a new and more ridiculous argument.
The problem comes in when you’re dealing with people so overwhelmed with hormones, and love, and squishy baby thighs that they can’t listen to reason. They can only listen to the pieces of advice that make their tiny little monsters squeal and giggle with delight. This is an entirely natural reaction, and I understand it completely. But when that decision affects the health and safety of your child, or god forbid, the health and safety of MY child, then it’s no longer “your child, your choice.” It’s now my time to step in and call you out for being an idiot.
Because endangering your child is cause for concern, and a little ridicule. And endangering my child is with absolutely no valid reason is shameful.

#musings

#musings So this needs work…

#musings
So this needs work with the beginning and ending and transitions and consistency in tone…

Teachers go kind of crazy in the summertime. We conceive of all kinds of projects to improve our homes, our classrooms, our teaching practice, our ambitious selves, and imagine that two months will be enough time to accomplish all this, and also take a well-earned vacation. This summer I decided to try to recapture something that I had enjoyed as a teenager: ballet dancing. I signed up for dance classes at a local university’s dance program. I’m the mom of a toddler, about to turn 31, and I haven’t danced seriously since I was 16, but I definitely needed the exercise.

I walked into the first dance class, the one advertised as “level 1-2,” and shrank inside a little. All the other women were at least 10 years younger than me, some as young as 13, barely post-pubescent, all thin and poised in classical ballet attire: black leotard, pink tights, and hair in a severe bun. I was wearing black tights and a workout top, with a ponytail that exposed my gray roots.

After I took a place at the barre, the instructor explained detailed series of exercises, demonstrating in a perfunctory way that assumed lots of knowledge on the parts of her students. She rattled off lots of steps in a complicated sequence, clearly expecting us to remember them all after hearing them only once, and be able to do them to the front, side, back and side, then turn around and do them on the left.

I was lucky enough to be positioned behind the hotshot dancer of the room, a tall girl in pointe shoes with bright blush on her high cheekbones. Keeping my eyes glued to her feet helped me to approximate the steps. That’s really as close as I got: an approximation. My mind knew the steps, but my feet had forgotten them. Before we were halfway through the first combination, I realized my ancient ballet slippers no longer fit me at all. And then we had to turn around, and I floundered until I found another girl to watch, aware all the time that little Margot Fonteyn behind me could see all my mistakes.

We spent most of the class at the barre, pausing between combinations for the instructor to talk about body alignment and which muscles did what when we did the different movements. She asked the girls questions about why they were moving the way they did and troubleshot the various steps with us. One of the messages I remember was the idea that exertion isn’t always the way to execute a step correctly: some steps must be relaxed into, or perform themselves automatically if the body is positioned right. At the very end of class, we did a combination across the floor. It included a pirouette, which I’d totally forgotten how to do. Did you pick up the front or back foot? Which way did you turn? I made sure I had a position in the back and fumbled my way through it.

Walking out of the class, I expected to feel horrible after an hour and a half of staring at my body in skintight clothes standing next to skinny girls half my age. That’s how I would have felt if I’d taken these classes when I was in high school. I would have felt chubby and outclassed, and I might have quit. But to my surprise, I didn’t feel that way at all now. My standards had been radically lowered by 15 years without dancing (and maybe motherhood had something to do with it too). Comparisons no longer even made sense. Instead of feeling discouraged and jealous, I was proud of myself for showing up at all. I was able to look at myself in those floor-to-ceiling mirrors and notice that I did still have a waist, and my collarbones looked nice, and, whoa, my feet had beautiful high arches. Yeah, I messed up the steps, but I liked doing the graceful arm movements and the way tondus and plies made my legs feel strong.

In trying to take apart my body image issues and self-consciousness with a counselor once, I admitted that what I was really afraid of was being the ugly girl in the room. I was always hyper-aware of an unspoken hierarchy of women in any room, from the most beautiful and put-together to the least, and I feared being in the bottom of these rankings. What I discovered as the oldest and least-coordinated woman in ballet class was that when you’ve already clearly “lost” the nonexistent competition it becomes fairly easy to stop giving any fucks at all. Maybe this is one of the reasons why aging is supposed to be so liberating for women. When you’re out after the first round of the continuous beauty pageant that is life as a woman, you find you have other things to worry about besides pointless looks-based competition. You can concentrate on learning the steps instead of sucking in your belly and making duck faces in the mirror.

I’ve read tons of body-acceptance essays, and seen all the memes telling moms to be proud of their “tiger stripe” stretch marks. I agree with these ideas intellectually and politically, but my emotions always refused to buy in completely. Some stubborn part of me insisted that beauty standards exist, and no amount of self-acceptance erases the fact that others will judge us by them. And no matter how much you pretend other people’s opinions don’t matter, those opinions determine the way we get treated, and it’s pretty hard to feel good about yourself if people either treat you like crap or ignore you all the time.

I’m still kind of skeptical about body-acceptance messages that dismiss the hard work of unlearning shame or that pretend self-acceptance is a thing that happens once and for all, rather than a continuing process. But I also think that a lot of that concern for other people’s opinions is sometimes just a projection of a poor self-assessment. It might be hard to believe, but other people are just as self-concerned as you are. That’s why dance teachers encourage self-conscious students by saying, “Don’t worry about the others. They’re all focused on themselves. No one is watching you.” And it was true: the other girls were just so much scenery to me after a while, something to watch to help me keep up with the steps. I wondered if they paid so little attention to me, in turn, that despite my workout top and gray hair I might have actually blended in.

Even though I didn’t become a prima ballerina, or even recapture much of the skill I had half a lifetime ago, I consider the class a success for me. I did something risky, that made me feel nervous and on display, and I survived. Yeah, if I thought about it too much, it was kind of depressing to lower my standards to mere survival, but if I never did that I wouldn’t try new things and grow. I knew I would stink at ballet, but I signed up for the class anyway, and that choice necessitated accepting failure ahead of time. Brene Brown says, “When failure is not an option, you can forget about creativity, learning, and innovation.” Maybe I can go a step farther: it’s only in the midst of failure that it’s possible to learn this lesson about self-acceptance and courage, and thus unlearn perfectionism. After all, even a thirty-year-old, out-of-shape ballet dancer in ill-fitting shoes can learn a new step, and with it, a bit of grace.