Be a Lady They Said

If there were ever a description of what it is to be expected to be a lady… it’s this.

The full poem is much better.

“Be a lady they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Your pants are too tight. Don’t show so much skin. Don’t show your thighs. Don’t show your breasts. Don’t show your midriff. Don’t show your cleavage. Don’t show your underwear. Don’t show your shoulders. Cover up. Leave something to the imagination. Dress modestly. Don’t be a temptress. Men can’t control themselves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don’t be so provocative. You’re asking for it. Wear black. Wear heels. You’re too dressed up. You’re too dressed down. Don’t wear those sweatpants; you look like you’ve let yourself go.

Be a lady they said. Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Don’t be too large. Don’t be too small. Eat up. Slim down. Stop eating so much. Don’t eat too fast. Order a salad. Don’t eat carbs. Skip dessert. You need to lose weight. Fit into that dress. Go on a diet. Watch what you eat. Eat celery. Chew gum. Drink lots of water. You have to fit into those jeans. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don’t you just eat? You look emaciated. You look sick. Eat a burger. Men like women with some meat on their bones. Be small. Be light. Be little. Be petite. Be feminine. Be a size zero. Be a double zero. Be nothing. Be less than nothing.

Be a lady they said. Remove your body hair. Shave your legs. Shave your armpits. Shave your bikini line. Wax your face. Wax your arms. Wax your eyebrows. Get rid of your mustache. Bleach this. Bleach that. Lighten your skin. Tan your skin. Eradicate your scars. Cover your stretch marks. Tighten your abs. Plump your lips. Botox your wrinkles. Lift your face. Tuck your tummy. Thin your thighs. Tone your calves. Perk up your boobs. Look natural. Be yourself. Be genuine. Be confident. You’re trying too hard. You look overdone. Men don’t like girls who try too hard.

Be a lady they said. Wear makeup. Prime your face. Conceal your blemishes. Contour your nose. Highlight your cheekbones. Line your lids. Fill in your brows. Lengthen your lashes. Color your lips. Powder, blush, bronze, highlight. Your hair is too short. Your hair is too long. Your ends are split. Highlight your hair. Your roots are showing. Dye your hair. Not blue, that looks unnatural. You’re going grey. You look so old. Look young. Look youthful. Look ageless. Don’t get old. Women don’t get old. Old is ugly. Men don’t like ugly.

Be a lady they said. Save yourself. Be pure. Be virginal. Don’t talk about sex. Don’t flirt. Don’t be a skank. Don’t be a whore. Don’t sleep around. Don’t lose your dignity. Don’t have sex with too many men. Don’t give yourself away. Men don’t like sluts. Don’t be a prude. Don’t be so up tight. Have a little fun. Smile more. Pleasure men. Be experienced. Be sexual. Be innocent. Be dirty. Be virginal. Be sexy. Be the cool girl. Don’t be like the other girls.

Be a lady they said. Don’t talk to loud. Don’t talk too much. Don’t take up space. Don’t sit like that. Don’t stand like that. Don’t be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don’t be a bitch. Don’t be so bossy. Don’t be assertive. Don’t overact. Don’t be so emotional. Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Don’t swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain. Be pleasing. Don’t complain. Let him down easy. Boost his ego. Make him fall for you. Men want what they can’t have. Don’t give yourself away. Make him work for it. Men love the chase. Fold his clothes. Cook his dinner. Keep him happy. That’s a woman’s job. You’ll make a good wife some day. Take his last name. You hyphenated your name? Crazy feminist. Give him children. You don’t want children? You will some day. You’ll change your mind.

Be a lady they said. Don’t get raped. Protect yourself. Don’t drink too much. Don’t walk alone. Don’t go out too late. Don’t dress like that. Don’t show too much. Don’t get drunk. Don’t leave your drink. Have a buddy. Walk where it is well lit. Stay in the safe neighborhoods. Tell someone where you’re going. Bring pepper spray. Buy a rape whistle. Hold your keys like a weapon. Take a self-defense course. Check your trunk. Lock your doors. Don’t go out alone. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t bat your eyelashes. Don’t look easy. Don’t attract attention. Don’t work late. Don’t crack dirty jokes. Don’t smile at strangers. Don’t go out at night. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t say yes. Don’t say no.

Just “be a lady” they said.”

by Camille Rainville


Day 14: Discuss your views on religion.

Oy…. I have such a weird relationship with God that I feel like I’d be better at speed dating than I would be at selling my Christianity.

I struggle, (a lot) to embrace the many things that comfort and pacify those of us who grew up believing. I did not. My parents were escapees from devout childhood upbringings that caused more harm than good, forever changing how they approached teaching us about any of it.

My mother was a Mormon and still proudly defends her relationship with Jesus. I just don’t have that conversation with her. One of my little sisters went through a Christian phase in high school that terrified all of us a lot more than drugs and sex.

Mom- I thought it was rough with you, with you climbing out windows and boys sneaking in the basement. This is far worse.

J- Jesus is way more invasive than any of the boys I dated, mom.

My father was an absolute heathen. Card carrying. My beloved stepmom got us up, put us all together to look like the perfect Mormon family and carted us all to three hours of hell, while my dad enjoyed the peace of an empty house.

I knew early on that I was more of a football and beer sort than I would ever be an iron a dress and spend half my day off with people I avoided for the rest of the week, kind of lady. Football is life and beer is delicious. I can’t say the same about sacrement, relief society, etc….

I grew up sleeping in on Sunday and watching my mama love making us a big family dinner. Those are my religious moments. I find the magic in the everyday details that I took for granted for so long.

That’s what I believe in more than anything else.

Then I got pregnant at 18… and had a baby with persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous. Essentially there is a blood vessel that connects the parts of the eye while forming, and when babies are born that vessel dies and a perfect eye is born. If that vessel continues to thrive… you have a baby that’s blind in one eye. They have you bandage the good eye, which causes that same sweet baby to tear violently at their own little face so that they can see. It’s more horrific than I can describe, and I was not at all prepared to deal with it at 18. I did though. I schlepped that sweet boy to and fro, scaring eye surgeons and opthamologists alike. I saw the scariest shit that motherhood has to offer, before I could legally drink a beer.

What could I turn to? What did the world have to offer me?

Prayers. That was it. Science said it was a life sentence of safety glasses and my sweet son never knowing how to ride a bike, play sports or fly a plane.

I realize that last one sounds crazy… but when you’re a baby holding your own newborn, you die inside if anyone limits their potential.

We went to the Casey Eye Institute and saw the best eye surgeon in the world for PHPV. They put the clamp in his two month old eye to hold it open and his screams caused my milk to let down. I’ll never forget standing in the public bathroom of a major medical center, mopping up the breastmilk I couldn’t get to stop while the screams of my baby made me want to pull him out of their hands and and walk home. Some moments stand out in your life when you want them to the least.

Jesus was nowhere to be found and whoever this God guy was that everyone kept telling me had a plan, wasn’t a favorite of mine either.

Something happens to you when the whole world turns sideways and everything you thought you knew your life would be, isn’t. I cried a million tears for the loss of his ability to fly that plane, and then we went to church.

I threw myself into Catholic motherhood and bought all the bibles. I wore a St. Christopher, carried a rosary, taught CCD and Boy Scouts. We made our first communion, gave our first confession and I found my voice in asking for help with my faith.

In the depths of my terrified despair… I found God at the Catholic church down the street. I was so painfully awkward at every other church that I was relieved to find one that didn’t confront us at the front door. The Catholics left us alone to figure it out and find our way. They didn’t comment on our being out of place or unknown, they let me quietly find peace in a pew full of people willing to hold my baby or me if either of us needed love or support.

I found a church family that filled all the weird holes my atheist childhood left, and that’s why it’s always been important to me to take my children to church. Not because I don’t see peace and tranquility outside of organized faith but because I know how hard it is to unearth it when you need it the most and also what a huge burden it lifts just to belong to something.

I love being Catholic and there’s a peace I can’t find outside of Mass. My knees hit the kneeler and I have to fight back tears for all the stuff I need to be grateful for, pray on, hope for and work out. I’m not waiting for the man in the sky to answer me, I’m more humble about having a minute to remind myself what’s important and needs my time and attention, first.

Religion for me is about doing what I know I should. It’s about snuggling and reading more than washing and working. It’s about taking a minute to stop and smell the gardenias.

Mine came from a beautiful boy/man who’s done more with one eye than the rest of us have with two, since the day he was born. He never liked sports anyway, he had no problem learning to ride a bike and is successful enough to buy an airplane ticket.

It all works out, you just have to have a little faith…

religion


Day 13: Describe 10 pet peeves you have.

I’ve been counting down the days until todays prompt. Perhaps that says a lot about my current attitude or patience level, but I have a delicious list of pet peeves that have been stacking up like well-seasoned firewood.

Number one on this list has been hammering splinters under my proverbial fingernails, for months.

  1. That GODFORSAKEN woman who fucks up the entire process of the school drop off lane. Straight to hell with her, because she’s a pain in everyone’s ass. I pull up in the nick of time every morning and she ruins the whole thing. I understand having a timid child who needs a little extra love- I will be the first person to smile at you while your little one melts down… but stay in your goddamn car or park it ANYWHERE ELSE. The school is literally surrounded with options other than the small stretch of seamless beauty that she destroys. I fucking hate her. There are two of her, incidentally and I shoot them both dirty looks any chance I get.
  2. Internships. I know this is out of left field, but my Dick Appointment leaves in two weeks and I’m sad for my poor broken hearted vagina. She’s so much happier when she exercises regularly and there he goes… taking my live sex toy with him. Sad times. I’m all for success… but not when it costs me my favorite playthings.
  3. Cigarettes. Gross. Seriously… quit that nasty habit and put those smelly years behind you. It’s vile, is actively killing you and people don’t want to hang out with you because of it. Boys don’t want to date you. Girls won’t let you borrow cute clothes. It’s because you smell bad. Stop.
  4. Whistling, chewing and chomping. We get it, you’re eating. Now shut the fuck up and chew quietly. I regularly smack a coworker for his infernal whistling. Nobody wants to hear your long-winded, whiny rendition of any song, ever. Shut. The. Fuck. UP. (now). I don’t understand the folks with bad manners because my mother would have murdered me for having sound effects to enjoying my meal beyond expressing my gratitude.
  5. People who can’t spell. For the love of Jesus, your phone does it for you. You don’t even have to learn to spell anymore and yet there are still those people who can’t. It drives me absolutely nuts. You can’t “seen” anything and if you tell me I “aint” right, I’ll agree with you and delete your number out of my phone. Ignorance makes my vagina dry, my eyebrow go rogue and my eyes roll around like marbles.
  6. Vegans. Sorry, not sorry. I love a good creature. I like food of the land, sea and sky and I don’t feel bad if it didn’t have a perfect life. I know that pisses everyone off these days, but that’s life and knowing my financial ability to be a picky bitch. I love chickens, pigs and cows almost as much as fish, shrimp and lobster- but frankly the sad ones taste just as good as the happy, organic set.
  7. Feral Children. If you want to love, nurture and pacify your little beast to avoid being the bad guy, we are not going to hang out. I’d bet my left titty that your kids are monsters and nobody wants to hang out with them. If you let your kids run in the store, a restaurant or something like it, chances are good I’ve already yelled at them and they won’t want to hang out with me either. It isn’t the world’s fault that you’re heterosexual and had sex that resulted in a small human. Parent that mobile fertilized egg or I will help and insult you, simultaneously.
  8. People who are incapable of flying and/or travel. You may pack one carry on and one personal item. This hasn’t changed and they aren’t fooled by your feigned ignorance. The entire airport knows you think the rules don’t apply to you and they’d let you off the hook, just this once. NO. Check your 8 bags, leave the many novels you aren’t going to read AT HOME, and throw your own damn trash away. So help me God if you’re in the 18th row and stand up as soon as the plane lands, I’m going to hope you got bed bugs from your dirty seat.
  9. Self Check Out. For fuck’s sake… I do not work at Walmart and I never wanted to know how. Double fuck you to the 4 digit veggie codes that are different at every store. Ugh. I want to purchase my overpriced groceries in comfort, thank you.
  10. Mice. Always the vermin. They’re making my life hell with their nightly marathon in the attic above my bed. It’s a good thing I love my kitty boys so much or I’d poison the hell out of my entire house. I caught one on the kitchen counter the other day and about lost my damn mind getting the body into the trash. Oy.

What are yours?


Day 11: List 10 people who have influenced you and how.

  1. My mother. She raised me to be fiercely independent, terrifyingly brave and painfully sensitive. It’s a different thing to be an outspoken woman who accumulates new skills instead of searching for a husband to do the dirty work. She taught me to be that lady and it has saved my life, daily. My mother would laugh if I told her I couldn’t do something, then she’d come over and we’d learn how to do it together. Defeat isn’t a place we unpack our bags and stay- and I learned that from watching her fight her way out of some scary situations. I’m very proud to be her daughter.
  2. My father. He gave me some of the hardest lessons by his lack of effort. Yes, he also burdened me with some awful daddy issues, but I learned a lot of resilience in not ever being able to count on him or look to him for guidance. I have a gay dad I wouldn’t have had, and he taught me to paint and cross country ski. I had a stepdad who gave me a laundry list of fantastic daddy issues (hello chef fetish and my deep love for boys who can keep up with me in the kitchen) and who was there to scare off boys when I was a sassy teenager with too much sex appeal.
  3. Father Day. I’m a closet Catholic and it was only when my eldest two children were small that I really let myself explore my faith. I attended mass regularly and helped teach CCD. I fell in love with being a good wife and mother, something that felt celebrated every Sunday when I got to see my dear friend Dennis. He navigated my extreme Pro-choice beliefs, caught pinkeye with me when I was going through my first communion classes at 8 months pregnant, and held my hands and cried with me when my son was born blind in one eye. I know what it feels like to be wrapped in the comforting arms of faith and I know it because of Father Day. That has brought me so much peace.
  4. Ms. Billie Joe Biddle. This one hurts deeply as she just passed away from cancer. Ms. Biddle was my Junior High English teacher and she taught me how to write. She gave me a deep and abiding love for a thesaurus and gave my papers back when she knew I wasn’t making an effort. She introduced me to books she loved and stories that held special significance. She loved bubbles as much as I do now and always sparkled the brightest amongst her tribe of charitable Angels. She gave me the tools to find the words to express how devastating the loss of her, is… and I will be forever in her debt.
  5. My children’s fathers. I have two. The first was my best friend ever, and we grew up together while trying to play house and raise babies. We were way too young and still we made a really happy home. I’m happy for both of us that we found love beyond what we had, but he will always be one of the most special people in the world to me. He was there for me in ways nobody has been before or since. Years after we divorced, when my beloved dog died, I called him and he came immediately. He’s been an incredible father to our children and I am forever grateful to him. The second was absolutely the nicest man I’ve ever dated. He’s also the best father I could imagine. He lives and works out of state, but stays present on the phone, visits when he can and is 100% in my corner at all times. He’s loving and nurturing with our baby, he’s respectful and generous to me and he communicates kindly with me. We are incredible coparents under some difficult circumstances to navigate and I’m eternally grateful to him. I chose incredible fathers for my children, if nothing else.
  6. My Fancy Best. I’ve had close friends in my life before but not like her. She makes sense out of my chaos and she knows me better than I know myself. I was flailing and crying about the same old Favorite guy at lunch last week and she stopped me dead in my tracks. F- Well from now on you have to look at him like he has herps, crabs and gangrene.J- Gangrene of the penis?

    F- Don’t forget the herps and crabs. No more oops I did it again.

    She has a way of saving my whole world from imploding. I can text her and the next thing I know I’m sitting across from her, laughing over some bubbles and the reminder that I must be doing something right if she’s my best friend. She makes my life worth living in the most devastating moments and I can get through anything with her on my side.

  7. My children. The eldest has taught me basically everything, along with some fun stuff I learned with him when he was a small, inquisitive boy. I miss him desperately and pray he comes back some day. My eldest daughter is my heart and my ride or die best friend. She’s been by my side through some pretty intense shit (hello homebirth, thank you for the endless birth control you hath provide) and is always willing to roll up her sleeves and do life with me as my copilot. My little Dumpling is the tiny love of my life. She’s a Cancer, like me… and is snuggly and loving in ways I can’t even describe. She leaves me little pictures she’s drawn of us, shares everything with anyone, effortlessly… and is the sweetest kid you’ve ever met, with the quick wit and hilarity of a stand up comedienne. She’s pure delight and I thank all my lucky stars that she’s my little partner.
  8. My brother Zachary. I didn’t have a relationship with my dad but he gave me my brother. We look a lot alike, in fact we are very similar and he makes me feel like I have family from that side of my gene pool. When I’m hanging out with my brother, I feel like I’m at home, wherever that is. Life gets busy and time gets away from me, making it harder to keep in touch as much as I’d like, but I know if I call, he’ll answer… and we’ll laugh… and he’ll make me feel that same connected way that he always does.
  9. My sisters. I have 7 but each one holds a special place in my heart that nobody else could fill. They’re an ambitious, beautiful, smart, funny, talented, and incredible bunch and I would be lost without them. I don’t know how anyone gets through life without a sister and I feel so blessed to have so many. I realize I’m sneaking 7 people in for the price of one on this, but I can’t leave any one of them out.
  10. I feel like a narcissist for this, but I have to add myself to this list. I love learning the hard way and have made too many ridiculous choices to count. I fall in love with the potential in a man, not the reality and I’ve learned some really awful shit as a result of that bad habit. I’ve grown up a lot in the last year and feel more grounded than ever. Hoarding stupid shit that stressed me out has been a wonderful habit to break, and the clearing surfaces have taught me that I’ve found more peace in letting clutter go than in potentially losing something special. Picking myself up, dusting myself off and getting my shit together has been awful at times, but I’m damn proud to have come through the worst of times and found blue sky on the other side. At the end of the day, you really only have yourself to rely on and your own influence is the one that matters most of all.

 


Day 10: If you could rid the world of 10 things, what would they be?

  1. Donald Shitty Ass Trump. You’re welcome, humanity. I’d use all ten of my wishes if I could just have this one. If you’re a Trump supporter I take it as a compliment if you unsubscribe. I don’t care who’s offended anymore, the man is an upwardly mobile genital wart and no amount of spin can convince someone otherwise unless they’re a mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, Fox News fan.
  2. Homework. My child and I spend 40 hours a week working and in school/daycare. We are fucking exhausted. The last thing we want to see at 5:30 is some godforsaken common core math, a half dozen books neither of us want to read or listen to again, or worse… a creative project. I’m sorry to be so blatantly honest about it, but for the love of GOD, get that shit done during the school day or kick a fat rock. I work my ass off and her father and I pay a blistering amount of taxes each year. We expect to not have to teach our child in exchange for those taxes… and I’m not ashamed to say it. My Dumpling is in first grade and comes home with 2-4 pages a night. Do we do them? Sometimes. If there’s even a slight meltdown, I toss the damn homework folder back in the backpack and we move along in peace and tranquility, not having lost a second of peace over another stupid math worksheet.
  3. Property Tax. I should not be penalized for my neighbors around me choosing to sell off all of their land. I should not worry about losing my home because I owe more tax as a result of a subdivision. Those assholes are luring the deer to my garden with salt licks in their manicured backyards and I don’t feel like paying more for that.
  4. Cancer. I lost my grandma to cancer and it’s safe to say everyone knows someone affected in some way. My friends made a calendar to raise money for cancer this year and raised almost $20,000. If you don’t have one yet, you need one. Mine hangs in my office, right beside the handsome Mr. March. I have a dear friend battling stage 4 cancer right now and it is terrifying to watch insurance companies delay treatment because of profit, not potential.
  5. Shitty men. Fuckboys, Stalkers and Lunatics. They’re all bad in their own way. Either you’re hunting, hiding or crazy as a result of being driven there… none of which is worth sacrificing the peace of your single life, for.
  6. Hunger. We are the wealthiest country in the world and we have children going to bed tonight without eating. I’m ok paying a painful amount of taxes I can’t afford, but I want the priority going towards the hungry kids and not the career politician. If we can feed inmates lunch for free, we need to feed hungry school children as well. I recently saw at the bottom of my daughter’s hot lunch menu for the month:  * Children with accounts $6 or more in arrears will be given an emergency lunch consisting of a cheese stick, piece of fruit and milk. I can’t even fathom being an adult that could live with myself for handing a little kid that bullshit excuse for a lunch. I would go broke working in the cafeteria and have decided as a family that if we’re going to make any financial donations this year, it will be to the lunch lady for kids with outstanding balances.
  7. Mice. Yes, I’m aware they’re part of the food chain and something else would starve. Oh fucking well. Evolution says they’ll just find someone else to eat, and I’m ok with any of the small vermin of the world becoming a more popular snack. Oh to never see a mouse again… would be SO great!
  8. War. It’s all pointless, nobody wins anything and thousands of people lose their lives for what? Nothing. Bring them all home.
  9. Pedophiles. There’s no place in the world for men and women who make sex a painful, horrific nightmare, especially for children. Dip them all head first in boiling oil. It will deter the rest and make quick work of a foul waste of resources.
  10. Organized religion. No more church. No more tithing. No more tax shelter for creepy old white men who prey on people’s deepest fears. Nope. Enjoy your previously destroyed Sunday at home with your family, tending to the real needs in your life and not being guilted into shit you don’t want to do, can’t afford and wouldn’t do otherwise. Religious zealots cause more war, suffering and oppression than any other hate group.

That’s a damn tough job to narrow it down to 10. What are yours?