A Woman Visible

Search for beauty. Search for adventure. Search for the visible you.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Not-so-girley-girl gets a Skirt!

By now, many of you know that I am not exactly the girliest of girls in the world. To me, comfort is a nice pair of denim shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of worn Keds. Still, I feel like I getting more in touch with my "girley-girl" side this year than I ever have before, and shockingly, I like it. So, I've been reading books about being a woman, have started becoming a fan of The Oprah Magazine, and have really sat down and considered what it means to be a woman doing what I do.

Yesterday, "Girley-girl Jess" got excited. I was reading the newspaper (I have time right now because I've been sick the last two days), and I saw an ad in the Living section. It was for a new magazine coming to Atlanta expressly for Atlanta-area women called Skirt.

According to the website,Skirt is "
all about women…their work, play, families, creativity, style, health and wealth, bodies and souls. Skirt! is an attitude…spirited, independent, outspoken, serious, playful and irreverent, sometimes controversial, always passionate." Sounds pretty impressive. I went to the website to see what more I could learn about the magazine (I also wanted to check out the contributor's guidelines). It turns out that the magazine is published in several cities, including Savannah and Charleston (imagine, they get something cool before Atlanta, that city internationale, does). It also turns out that there might be a place for a writer like me (I won't make millions, but it's a start).

What's cool is that the magazine is pretty interactive. There is a contest every month, and a pretty active message area for members (membership is free). You can even order a copy of the magazine for free (mine is on the way in May). The magazine is thematic in nature, so there's a chance I could use any one of my articles from the blog and turn it into something nice for the magazine. The only thing that could be better is if I could actually work there.

As soon as I get my copy, I'll read and review it for you right here.

My Oprah Magazine Addiction Continues

On a separate magazine note, the new Oprah Magazine is out. Yes, I've become obssessed with this magazine. I guess I wouldn't care for it much, except that the writing is extraordinarily good. Even the kids have gotten used to me getting the magazine. Stuart saw it at Target last night, looked at
me and asked, "You want me to grab you a copy, mom?" So, of course, I couldn't resist. There's an article on office tension that looks promising, and there's an interview with the real Allison DuBois (she is the inspiration for the tv show Medium). Gina immediate got the magazine last night and found the Allison DuBois article. She's read more of the magazine than I have yet. Can't wait to read it!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I Never Knew Protestants Could Go to Confessional!

I have a confession to make. It's embarrassing, like most confessions, but also like most confessions, it needs to be said.

I am scared to flirt, and therefore have trouble knowing how to flirt.

There, I said it. What used to come easy, is now a feat of great proportions for me. I don't even know where to begin. What's even worse is that I don't know when a man is flirting with me.

So, I've lost my entire surveilance and reconnaissance system.

This loss was highly emphasized this past week when Mike, one of my office spouses, tried to set me up with the Prentice-Hall book salesman that came by to sell me English books for the new year.

The books were great by the way.

This guy was really nice, and he was attractive in a book salesman kind of way (what ever that means). We were all talking, and Mike observed that I was single and noted that the salesman was single. Then he just blurts out, "Jess is looking for a boyfriend." While this is a very true statement (it's my goal every year), it took me off guard and the sales man off guard. I think salesguy even blushed a bit. It was awkward, and then we laughed and it was over--sort-of. The salesguy then followed me to my office, and we talked--books. I wanted to flirt, I wanted to try to get closer (he was attractive), but we took the high road and talked business. I think we were both a little nervous under the sales pitch. I gave him my card, and that was that.

The whole experience scared me, and I think, scared salesguy to death.

Mike, and then Lorainne were very excited that I might have a date with salesguy. Unfortunately, I blew it, and salesguy seemed reticent as well. When he left, I felt sad, and disappointed. I wasn't up to the task. I wasn't able to turn on the charm that was so easy to turn on twenty years ago. I was just lame. Salesguy probably went out thinking, "She's a nice professional woman, and thankfully, she didn't hit on me." He keeps e-mailing me, trying to sell me his books. This is normal procedure--he needs that sale. So, he's being professional too. I guess this isn't all my fault. He didn't hit on me either. I like men that pursue me. I want a man to pursue me. There's a part of me that doesn't want to make the first move. I've done that most of my life, and I want to know that there's a man out there that sees my worth in large enough terms to pursue me. I know that means I have to be visible, and perhaps that means that I have to flirt and make myself visible.

I think, if salesguy had been really interested, he would have made some sort of pursuit. If I had been really interested, I wouldn't have hid behind the professional guise of shopping for books.

Why I'm Scared of Flirting

More confessional--I think I'm scared of flirting because I historically flirt with the wrong men. I don't know what's wrong with me. It's like I have no sense of danger, or in some cases, I put that sense on ignore. I've flirted with lots of men.I could give specifics, but since this isn't a completely confessional blog, and there are people who would get hurt, I will stay silent about the who and when. The ones that pay attention to my misguided flirtations are not always the best men for me. This is scary, especially since usually I have a pretty strong sense of right and wrong. Unfortunately, sometimes that sense doesn't work when I'm attracted to men.

So rather than trust myself, or work hard at flirting with the right guys (I'm still not sure who they are), I think I've made a subconscious decision to not try flirting at all. That way I'm safe. That way my kids are safe. That way my heart is safe.

The fear doesn't compensate for the loneliness.

Lately, I've been trying to get over this fear and try stuff. So, I step out and mess up again. I need help.

Flirting: There are Rules

I did a bit of research. That's what I do when I have a problem, or fear something. I study it, I read about it, and I decide how to deal with the problem based on what my research turns up. This is one of the differences between normal people and geeks. Normal people just keep trying until they discover the right path. Geeks run to the Internet in an attempt to circumvent anymore embarrassing situations than they've already experienced.

I'm not sure which method is more effective.

Anyway, I did some research and found a few websites and articles that actually go into detail about effective flirting. One site I landed on is Cyber00.com. This site has a whole section focused on flirting, including a section for the six rules to flirting. Most of the rules are common sense rules, and, as you can see from the wording of some of the pages, Cyber00 is geared for teens. So, the rules still apply, but the site as a whole makes me feel like an immature chestnut.

Then I found an article entitled, "Rules of Flirting" in The Sydney Morning Herald. It is a few years old, but I think the thoughts still apply. Apparently, the subject of this article, Susan Bradley, has a simple approach that is effective. The crazy thing is that this "Repeated Contact Rule" makes perfect sense. Maybe I should try and apply it. I also like that she points out that "People meet someone and they expect instant chemistry." She goes on to point out that the chemistry thing is just the beginning and sometimes doesn't happen right away. I think that sometimes I miss good possibilities because I don't "feel something." I also think that sometimes I grab the wrong guy because I do "feel something." Chemistry is just chemistry, it isn't exactly, really love.

The article I found most useful comes from the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, England. Not only does it define flirting, but it explains what works and what doesn't (in general terms, of course), as well as cultural differences in flirting. It's more "clinical" than the other articles, but it makes a lot of sense, and addresses such things as office romances and how to manage them

Will I Apply These Ideas?

After doing all this research, I believe I am going to attempt to try some of the things suggested in these articles. The worst that could happen is that I make more mistakes, or scare the men I'm interested in. Mike promised me that he would continue to look for prospective dates for me, and I promised to practice my flirting. I just need to find a venue. Lucky for me, Willena is having a birthday party next weekend, and has invited me. I'm not going to go overboard, but if there are interesting men there, I should at least try some flirting. I'd try at work, but unfortunately, there are no single candidates in my building. I'm surrounded by nice, married men. While that's not a bad thing (in fact, it's a comfort), I can't go around flirting with the married population without expected consequences of the worst type.

Is My Journey in Visibility Just about Flirting and Getting a Man?

Some people will read this and think that all my talk about being visibly has nothing to do with self-discovery and everything to do with "getting a man." I suppose if a reader just saw this post, he or she might get that idea. My answer is pretty simple:

Yes, I would love to "get a man." I would love to be someone's girlfriend, or sweetheart, or lady. I miss having a man in my life, not because I need a man to make my life complete. I have a complete life, believe me. I have God, children, a career, an education, and lots to do with each. I don't need a man. I need companionship, friendship. I need a closeness I haven't had in my whole life (going to prove that marriage does not necessarily indicate that you are really close to the person sleeping in your bed). The right man will fulfill those needs, and I will fulfill those same needs for him. I don't need a man to live or survive, I need a man to help me enjoy the wonder and magic that I encounter every day.

I want to visible so that I may know myself, and so that I may know how to share myself with others.

Consider what makes visibility so desirable (if it is something you desire), if it's something you want in your life too. I think that most bloggers want some level of visibility, or we wouldn't lay bare our souls in a place where the entire online world has a way to view those moments of vulnerabilty.

Do you want visibility?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Is the Definition of Visibility Taking a Backwards Step?

I have been thinking a lot about what Sali Oguri said in an earlier post referenced in my last post (are you following me so far). She said (in part):

"This is a scary time indeed, what with the 1950s coming back en vogue--from the pages of fashion magazines to the Disney channel, I see the subversive quieting down of women and girls starting up all over again."
What is interesting about this quote to me is that other women are making the same observation. Right now I'm reading Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? In this book Ms. Dowd points out that many women are choosing the very life that was spurned twenty-five years ago by her generation of women. Instead of being at the top of the food chain at work, many women would rather be at home raising their children. I think that the magazines and the media in general have picked up on that trend and are maximizing their potential to sell and influence by responding to what women are saying that they want.

I'm not saying that women want to be quieted, or, as some men would say, put in our place. In fact, I think that's where the difference comes with women of the 21st century. We may be staying home, and raising our children (although I'm not part of that trend due to being divorced), but we are far from quiet. Many stay-at-home mothers are far from demure. They are active in their communities through volunteerism, through involving themselves in local politics, and through being visible in their children's lives. The doors are much more open now for that sort of thing than they were in the 1950s. Even if we're donning the pearls and heels of our grandmothers, we are not our grandmothers.
That being said, I find it interesting that many people still limit the way they perceive women to a few tired stereotypes. We shouldn't be surprised. When I think about the 1950s, as well as the 21st century, I am reminded, strangely enough, of the Victorian era. As much as we have fought to be visible in so many ways past these perceptions, somehow we always manage to slip back to these views:

Victorian Era

Angel in the House
In Queen Victoria's time, this was where you wanted to be as a woman. She is a woman that could clean the house, raise the kids, and look just perfect when her husband came home from being manly all day. She is a woman above reproach. No sordid affairs for her. No way. She didn't have time because she was doing so much for her family and her man. No time or need for formal education, in fact education for a woman was highly discouraged. In fact, many Victorians believed that education and (gasp) writing only made women hysterical. Maybe that explains my problem, eh? This stereotype was held up in literature, and in society. Ibsen challenged this concept at the end of the era in such plays as A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler. However, if a woman wasn't an Angel in the House, every one knew she could only be a fallen woman.

The Fallen Woman
She is also known as the "worldly woman." She was the woman many
married men of the Victorian Era would visit and even "keep" as it were. She was sexually promiscuous, knowledgable in the finer art of seduction, and was not a woman to be taken home to mother. Perhaps because of the Angel's uplifted position in society, the fallen woman had to take over the more base activities of nature. Afterall, the Angel wasn't expected to enjoy or crave sex. The fallen woman was often more educated than the wife at home, and despite the rhetoric of the era, which warned against consorting with "those type of women" or become one of "those women," were often sought after by men who found their marriages too stifling or boring.

What was considered bad behavior at that time would later translate into what literature calls "the New Woman." This woman was smart, able, and sexually aware. No wonder so many people during this period became afraid as more and more women became suffragettes.

My question is this--have our perceptions of womanhood really changed that much. We like to believe that Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem help to crush those perceptions in the seventies. I'm not so completely sure that our belief is well-founded.

Friedan and Steinem were products of the forties, fifties, and sixties. The fifties, in particular, seemed to step back to that Angel vs Fallen woman ideal. The favored women of the time were in both extremes.

Sexual Goddess

You could be Marilyn Monroe, the sexy, soft, fallen woman who moved from man-to-man both on the silver screen and in her own life. Her life was a mess, and everyone knew it but didn't care. She was sexy, and embodied what men secretly wanted in a woman (as evidenced by the fact that she was the first Playboy bunny).

Interesting enough, however, as much as men desired and fantasized over Marilyn, she was not the woman society wanted at home. She was had a role as a mother, or a wife as far as I can remember. She was just a slicked up example of the Victorian fallen woman.

Domestic Goddess
If you weren't Marilyn, your only real choice was to be June Cleaver or Donna Reed. June and Donna
were the Modern Era's version of the "Angel in the House." They were pretty, homebound women who raised their families, shopped, went to bridge club,made sure that breakfast, lunch, and dinner were on the table. And they did it wit their hair perfectly coiffed, their clothes perfectly feminine, and their pearls in place. They never broke a sweat and their husbands and sons were always happy to have her in the house. They were often the voice of reason in the house, but never the voice of leadership.

In other words---they knew their place. There was never a discussion of the need for them to work outside the home, afterall they were needed to take care of the kids. They were angels in the truest sense. I think that's why when Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver) appeared in Airplane in 1980, it was so funny to hear her say, "Stewardess, I speak jive!" She set the image for as the acceptable woman. These women also provided the jumping off point for the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s. After all the bra burning, marching, and divorce, have we really come that far? I'm not so sure.

Post-Modern Era

Desperate Housewives and Other Fallen Women

After all has been said and done about how far we've come, how we are woman, hear us roar. The truth of the matter is that our perceptions have circled around once again. Sali's observations are on track. In spite of our best efforts, society still wants to put women into the same categories we've already seen.

We watch shows like Desperate Housewives. These are women who are married but are doing every man that comes close to their neighborhood. If our society has moved forward, it is to recognize that the "angel in the house" doesn't necessarily just drive the kids in the SUV to school, and activities. She doesn't go home and dutifully clean the house, or play bridge every Tuesday. If we follow the logic of this show, she is a woman that is predatory. She is just waiting for the opportunity for her trusting husband to turn his back so she can go do her best friend's husband...and his best friend...and any other man in the general vicinity of her need. The secret life of the "angel" is that she is actually a sexual goddess. Who knew.

Society also tells us that being a single woman can only mean that we are shopping and searching for sexual pleasures. Shows like Sex in the City (which is a really funny show), elaborate on the desperate search by single women for the right sexual partner. These women may be accomplished, smart, funny, but their worth is place in their sexuality. Once they began to settle down, the show wrapped up and ended. Apparently, there's no such thing as Committed Sex in the City.

Domestic Superwoman

While we are being entertained by the sexual escapades of these women, we're being told something totally different by our society. Society tells women that in order to be successful and acceptable we have to be the best mom, the best worker, the best wife that we can be. We are being molded into the "Alpha Woman." The Alpha Woman is the "Angel in the House" taken to the next level. She breaks the Angel mold in that she is usually highly educated, driven, and has worked outside the home, but has returned to become the power of the house. On tv she is the woman that bullies her husband, babies her children, and does everything as perfectly as possible without messing up her hair or getting tired. She is powerful. She is cheerful. She is superhuman. We've all seen her, and she is all at once captivating and maddening. The only real difference between her and June and Donna is that she is willing to be loud, obnoxious, and push to get her way. What she learned from the woman's movement is that she needs to be in charge of the house, the relationship, everything because her man isn't smart enough or willing to do that work. She is the cynical angel.
I'm not so sure I like this stereotype anymore than I like the Victorian angel.

So, how far have we really come...I'm not sure. I do know that we should understand that women can't be categorized anymore than men. Unfortunately, I think society as a whole has a long way to go in gaining this understanding. As it stands now, we are spending a lot of time simply redefining stereotypes established almost too long ago to remember.