I’m little, and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good.

So, there’s been a LOT going on lately.

A lot.

As many of you know, I’m getting married! Which is great. The Surprise is everything I could have hoped for in a partner and I am exceptionally happy. There’s a wedding website and everything, so if you want to go see pictures of us being cute and ridiculous (and my most GLORIOUS blue hair), you can.

And it’s summer season, so rodeo is in full swing! Work keeps me plenty busy. The wedding keeps me busy when work doesn’t. Though I prefer being busy to not, I’m looking forward to my vacation next week when Celessy comes into town! It’s been two and a half years since I’ve seen her in person and that is TOO LONG.

But all that was totally expected. I knew, going into this summer, that I would be crazy busy. Wedding planning and work were going to consume most of my time. What was not expected was the health issues that have popped up.

Very few, if any of you, know that I had a kind of odd and nasty scare in May. I alluded to it a couple posts ago, but that post was mostly about community and joy in finding one. And I didn’t really share that post around. So very few of you know even that I’ve spent the last two-plus months under this cloud of, “What is happening in my body?” And now that I finally have some answers, I figured I was ready to share a little. So, from the beginning:

In mid-May, my hands started hurting so badly I wondered if I had gone sleep walking and fallen over, catching myself on my hands. That scared me for a lot of reasons. Mostly for the, “How could I not wake up to that?” But, there were no signs of infection or puncture wounds or the like and I had rarely sleep walked before, so it was a possibility. Also a possible cause was the new supplement I had been taking (on doctor’s orders) for about a week.  I thought it was strange that I would react solely in my hands to an oral supplement and that it would take so long for me to react, but I figured it was a good policy to stop the supplement for a while to see if that helped.

Thankfully, the next day provided some answers. While still in a lot of pain on my palms and in my fingers, I noticed that I was having a hard time removing my rings (which are usually loose on me). The pain was caused by swelling – ah hah! So, I made an appointment with the doctor because random swelling is ALSO kind of a scary prospect. I went in and explained my symptoms. I told the doctor that I had started the new supplement, but – oh, by the way – I had been diagnosed as pre-arthritic four years before. She looked over my joints and said, “Well, we can hope it goes away and, if it gets bad again, you can come back. Or we can just do some blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis now.”

I really had been thinking it was the supplement. But I didn’t see the point of waiting for the hurt to come BACK if  we could run tests then. So, I told them to take the blood. They told me they’d call early the next week with the results.

On the following Tuesday, I got a call. “On the three tests we ran, you tested positive for RA on one. It’s only a soft pass, but the doctor still wants to send you to see a rheumatologist in light of your symptoms.” This was it. This was the moment I had been warned was coming four years earlier and I was in no way prepared for it. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease. As someone who has lived in the same house as someone with an auto-immune disease for most of her life, I knew – if only to a certain extent – what this meant. And I was terrified. I clung to that “soft pass” like a lost soul. Maybe I still had some time before it came on full bore. I was really hoping to be married and have a kid or two before I had to deal with this. What did this mean for having kids? Auto-immune diseases are NOTHING to mess with and the treatments can really screw with child bearing ability.

This is how my brain works – worst case scenarios first. In some twisted way, it helps.

All of this ran through my head as the lady continued, “Just to warn you, though, we’re short on rheumatologists in the Springs. It takes a while to get an appointment. You might have to go to Denver.” Okay, fine. I can do Denver, I have a doctor there already, no big deal. I told her to refer my case to the office she thought would get me in quickest, thinking it would *maybe* take four to five weeks.

Wednesday, I got a call. Nine weeks.  I had to wait nine full weeks to see a rheumatologist. And this was already a full week after getting tested. So, start to finish, I had to wait ten weeks to get answers. And I really didn’t have another choice, so I took the appointment.

Those were not the best nine weeks of my life. I was so busy and stressed and then, at the most ridiculously inconvenient times, my brain would remind me, “Hey, you have RA. You’re sick. You have no idea what this means for the rest of your life, but you know it’s not good.” REAL HELPFUL, BRAIN, THANKS. And I had more flare-ups in those nine weeks than I had in the previous four years. I figure stress probably had something to do with it, but that just made all the fear and not knowing worse.

Finally, on Wednesday, I got to sit down with the doctor. I fully expected him to say, “You have RA. Here’s what we’ll do.” I was sort of prepared for it. I was not prepared to hear him say, “I know you have an auto-immune disease, but I don’t think you have RA.” Turns out, my soft pass was just not convincing enough, but on one of the other blood panels, the panel for lupus, was pretty darn convincing. However, that blood test is easy to get a false positive on. Also, my history of back pain could indicate a connective tissue disorder common in the family members of those with Chron’s Disease (the auto-immune disorder my sister has). So, while I got a few answers, I didn’t get anything definitive. The doctor ordered a new battery of tests to double check the RA and lupus tests and to check for the possibility of the connective tissue disease. But he did tell me they were all treatable with the caveat, “This won’t go away.”

That is NEVER fun to hear from your doctor. I’ve heard it once before. It’s hard. Even if you know in your head that the disease you face is life-long, it is depressing as hell to have a doctor confirm that what you have is incurable, even if its manageable.

And I don’t know if you know what it feels like to live with a life-long disease, but it sucks. You hate your broken body or broken mind. You loathe yourself for NOTHING that you can control. You feel SO SMALL, so beaten down by the disease that invades your life. It’s so big you can’t escape for a second. You get up every dang morning wondering what your brain or body is going to do to you today, asking yourself, “Can I even do this?” And the answer is always, “You don’t have much of a choice.” And sometimes, you find you can’t do it, but that very few people understand why you can’t because you’re so normal most of the time. What makes this day any different from the next? And you have no good answer to that question. It just is different. And it’s awful. And you hate yourself even more. I have lived through this since I was ten and it took me a very long time to stop hating myself for my Bi-Polar and learning to live every day without it dragging me into this dangerously cyclical self-loathing.

And then I learned that my body is fundamentally broken. Bad enough that, while I’ve beaten the self-loathing, I still hang on tenterhooks, waiting for the day that my brain betrays me, but now I get to wait for the day my body does, too.

I was not in a good place Wednesday. Or Thursday. And I’m kind of still not today. I have good hope that it won’t take me a dozen years to figure out this particular life-long disease, but it’s still going to take some time. The answers I get from the tests will help. Those come in three weeks. But the fact of the matter is, the answers won’t change much. They’ll help my mental state and they’ll help treat my physical state, but they won’t change the facts. I have two life-long disorders. And that’s hard to swallow.

But, despite the pain of this bitter news, I’m doing okay. I’ve not expecting myself to just magically be okay with this. I’m giving myself space to process. I’m going to learn what life is like with an auto-immune disease and I’ll adjust. And, I know I can do it. I’ve done it before with Bi-Polar. I can do it again here. I can re-define myself with the disease without becoming the disease. That, as I adjust, I can own my life as I wish to.

So, while I’m scared and in the slow process of figuring things out, I’m feeling okay. I promise.

This is what’s up right now. It’s not super great, but I can handle it. Any hugs you feel like giving me will be much appreciated, because love always helps. But don’t worry. Please.

Because I know I’m little, and broken, but still good.

Yeah.

Still good.*

______________________________________

*Thanks to Lilo & Stitch  for the most excellent summary of how I’m feeling right now.

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My Birthday Wish: You.

I’ve never struggled with what I want for my birthday. I’ve always known. Which is why I hate making birthday and Christmas lists, because what I want isn’t something I can really put on a list.

I want you. Here.

I want to spend time with you.

I don’t want to feel an absence when all I want in the world is your presence.

I don’t want to plan a day filled with time instead of people.

How do I put that on I list? How do I ask for the impossible? You have lives. You have jobs. Your world does not revolve around me and I don’t believe it should! But that doesn’t change that the thing that tops my birthday list is YOU. Your smiles and your laughter. Your hugs and your voice. Your pitch-perfect renditions of the birthday song and your off-key belting of it. Your love.  I want a day and a heart full of the people who I love best.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, for those of you who’ve been around the block with me a time or two know what I’m going to ask you to do. I’ve done it before. I’ll probably do it again. You ready?

Call me. Only for a minute or two, I know you’re busy.

Yup. That’s it.

I know you can’t be here. I know my birthday wish is pie-in-the-sky high. Everyone I love? In one place? I must be crazy. So, I’m asking for the slightly inconvenient, but hopefully doable.

Because then, I’ll still get to spend a little time with you. I’ll get to hear your voice and that’s ALMOST as good as getting a hug. I’ll hear the background noises and get a sense of your life that’s slightly more full than I can get through e-mail or text. I’ll get to hear love and laughter. I’ll get to hear one of the most important voices in my world.

Don’t have my phone number? Message me! If you’re seeing this, you have access to my facebook, twitter, tumblr and/or blog e-mail. Send me a private message. I’ll happily reply. And next Wednesday, July 2, I’ll hopefully get a call. And hear a voice. And know you’re there. (Please keep in mind, I live in Colorado, USA. UTC -7)

It won’t be perfect. It won’t be exact.

But it will be just enough.

A thank you note – or maybe a love letter – to @AmandaPalmer.

So, I got some bad health news today.

No – I really don’t want to go into it. There are too many unknowns for me to go into detail. That’s actually part of the badness of the news: So many “I don’t know”s.

But there’s a familiar process to getting bad news. Call the family, call the fiancé, call the doctor’s office, call the insurance company, maybe not in that order. Rage into the abyss of twitter. Talk to a couple friends and ask for their good thoughts and/or prayers. Pretend I can’t hear the tension in my voice, pretend I can breathe deeply, pretend my voice isn’t an octave higher than it usually is – tight with worry, pretend I can carry on a conversation when I know I’m rambling. Get everything done that I can then settle in for the long, arduous wait until everyone else does their part. Realize I might not get to see the specialist for four weeks. Realize I might not get answers that first appointment. Go through a dozen awful scenarios in my head before I realize my voice is just going higher and higher in pitch and that I’m almost hyperventilating. Hope the customers can’t hear it over the phone. Be grateful they can’t see me because there will be no hiding wide eyes that can’t seem to focus. Try to calm down. Do everything I can. Wait.

Bad news sucks.

And then, as the panic began to dissipate, my first coherent thought was, “I should tweet Amanda Palmer.”

WHAT?!

I have no idea where that came from. Why it was Amanda that my mind ran to after the necessities and panic. Why it wasn’t someone I knew.

But, somehow, it made total sense. It still does. Because Amanda is the person who tweets, quite regularly, “i love you” to her audience. Amanda tells people to have better days when they tell her they’re having bad ones and Amanda tells us when she’s having a bad day so that we can do the same for her. Amanda is genuinely grateful to hear when her music has made people feel something. Amanda truly cares and you can tell.

So, I started formulating my tweet and I realized I didn’t want just to tell Amanda that the thought of her made me feel better. I wanted her to understand that she was the FIRST THING my mind went to after I took care of my people and the panic. I wanted her to understand that it wasn’t just her music that appealed to me, but also her presence for her fans. And that meant I needed more room.

And here I am.

Here I am to tell Amanda thank you. Or I love you. It’s funny how those words can, and often do, mean the same thing. Thank you (I love you) for being around to provide comfort and solace. I love you (thank you) for choosing to share yourself with your fans. Thank you (I love you) for being a light – through music and social media – to so many people. I love you (thank you) for understanding that caring and community need not be limited to those in your physical sphere.

I really hope you see this. That you understand that is isn’t just that your personality and music brings a smile to my face. (Though this is still my happy thought that I’m clinging to until I get a call that will calm some of this panic.) That you understand that connecting to you and your fans has been a support system I’ve treasured in the last year. That you have made a difference.

Thank you.

I love you.

~Joie

 

 

The rules may not apply to you, but they do me.

Okay, so the title sounds a little bit existential, but it’s really not.  Forewarning: this is a report on the DISASTER that has been the blue hair adventure – a DISASTER that I did not fully appreciate until last night.

I’ve wanted blue in my hair for about a decade.  Due to finances, mostly, and special circumstances, I didn’t get blue hair until this past May.  It was a SUPER exciting day – dreams of chunky blue danced in my head.  However, the appointment was canceled by someone in the store.  So, I show up, say I have a 12:30 appointment and they say I canceled.  We finally got it figured out when, while going over the price, I find out I was low-balled in a SERIOUS way on both time and money.  At this point, I’m frustrated and angry, but I’ve taken the time off work and I will just figure it out.  I let the stylist lighten the streaks, criticize my gray hairs (yes, I have plenty), bake blue into my hair (more on that later), and try to convince me that it was actually blue . . .

. . . But it wasn’t. This was the result:

Not so much, huh?

Blue? Not so much, huh?

So, I cried a bit and moved on.  Eventually (after vigorous washings and forcing tons of excess dye to come out), it DID fade to a really pretty blue that I enjoyed having in my hair, even if the streaks were a little less chunky than I wanted.  I finally had blue hair.  And people really liked it, so that was a bonus! I was getting more compliments on my hair than I had on my entire appearance the two previous years combined.  It was doing WONDERS for my self-esteem.

Fast forward to now, if you please.  Just under four and a half months later, my roots were getting a bit long and the blue was fading a bit to a color I didn’t like.  And next weekend, I’m going to a wedding.  I did not want the blue in my hair to look nasty and gross.  And, frankly, I wanted more of it for a LOT of reasons. One – awesome.  Two – when I do eventually lose the blue, I wanted to make the transition easier and more even.   After a quick check with Momma to make sure I wouldn’t be rocking the boat too much if I did a blue-on-top peek-a-boo for the wedding (no, though expect some comments from the Grandpapala), I went for it . . . with a new stylist.

This is where the trouble began. Thankfully, I DID know my stylist, Alison. I knew her as the wife of a roommate of a friend that I had gotten to know at the wedding of said friend. Come to find out, she was also the amazingly awesome and supportive sister-in-law of another friend. SHE WAS MY SAVING GRACE. If it had not been someone I knew, someone I had things to talk to about, someone who was anxious to please, and someone who I had a prior established relationship with, I would NOT have made it through everything that happened last night without tears and a huge, giant meltdown. Instead, we both stayed positive and helped bolster each other (this was a traumatic experience for the both of us).

You see, Alison is a student stylist. And while last night was a REALLY GOOD learning experience for her, it was tough.  A two, maybe three hour process turned into a four and a half hour run against the clock before closing time.  Three supervisors had to get involved (one of whom I also knew), because of the nonsense.

It started off as you might expect, putting lightener on my super dark hair so that the blue would show.  First highlights in foils, second painting on the roots.

Then, my scalp started *burning.*  I probably held off saying it was hurting for too long, but soon it was REALLY apparent that something was VERY wrong.  Very. So, to the sink we went to do an emergency wash of my scalp to get the chemicals off and pondered WHY IN THE WORLD I was reacting this way.  I’ve always had sensitive skin on my scalp, but it’s never been this sensitive.  I’ve done home dyes, I’ve had perms, I’ve had highlights, the works.  There is NO REASON WHATSOEVER that I or Alison could have guessed this would happen and having it happen was VERY frightening.

Let me be clear – I do not blame Alison or her school or her student status.  They did everything right and I would highly recommend her specifically and the establishment in general. (It’s Paul Mitchell School, for you Colorado Springers.)

Thankfully, by the time we were washing out, a lot of my hair had lifted to an acceptable base color. My roots were still too dark, but, as one of the supervisors definitively stated, “we don’t mess with chemical burns.” There would be no more lightening and we would just have to work with it.  I’ll admit, I was a lot less concerned about roots in that moment than I was about BURNING HEAD NARROWLY AVERTED.  Pondering why this was happening because history was NOT repeating itself, we went on to the next phase: the spot test.

The spot test was completely and totally not a phase we would normally do.  But, since my skin had reacted so violently to the lightener, we were not going to screw with this nonsense again. So, Alison mixed the first layer of blue dye – lowest volume of potentially abrasive chemicals – and put it on a small spot on my head.  We waited the required ten minutes.  All was well – not a blip on the radar.  Universal application started and the BURN came back a second time.

As my family, friends, and former roommates can attest – I am no wimp. I have a truly ridiculous pain tolerance (hence the delaying saying something earlier in the evening). But I IMMEDIATELY covered my eyes and said, “It’s burning again!” because – at this point – I was scared out of my poor little wits. Once was bad enough.  Twice, after a successful spot test, was truly terrifying.  What was wrong with my head that it was acting like this?  Second emergency wash out of the night. So, we got my scalp clean again and went to a different dye that was not as long lasting but WAS safe to put on even the most sensitive of heads.

Right around this time, Celessy called for our nightly call.  She is the daughter of a hair dresser.  In chatting with her, while my head was in the sink, something in my head shook loose and then fell into place in the fore of my puzzled conscious.

Remember this line from earlier: “I let the stylist . . . bake blue into my hair (more on that later).”

Here’s that later.  So, the first stylist who did my hair put the blue dye (which was a harsher brand to begin with) on the lightened streaks, wrapped it in foil, put me under a hair-drying hood for more than TWICE AS LONG as the product says to leave it on the hair WITHOUT heat.  Yes – this first stylist flagrantly flouted the rules laid down by the product AND her training.  When I remembered that I had gotten a bit uncomfortable under the heat and had to ask to get the heat taken off, I mentioned this to Alison.  Whose jaw dropped, literally.  She explained, in layman’s terms, why something that had seemed so innocuous was actually really bad.  And, of course, there was my burning scalp to stand as witness.  This was the ONLY THING that had changed between the last dye job and this dye job. It was pretty clear – after discussing the details of the first blue hair dye job – that the previous stylist had committed a pretty nasty act of hair and scalp damage.

With MY hair and scalp.  If this is something that this stylist does to her own hair – fine.  Break the rules on your head.  Apparently, without the consequences I suffered.  But don’t you dare, don’t you dare, screw with the heads and hair of other people like that.  Full disclosure, this woman works at MasterCuts in the Chapel Hills Mall.  I am mostly VERY happy with the staff there when it comes to cuts.  But don’t ever, ever go there for dye jobs.  This may happen to you.  The stylist assured me this is how she did her hair herself and I think it’s great she’s found a system that works for her . . . that hasn’t lost her her hair or scalp yet.  But to do that to me KNOWING, as she did, that this wasn’t just an unsanctioned system of dyeing hair, it was a flat-out COMPLETELY AGAINST PROTOCOL system of dyeing hair, was unconscionable.  And, in doing so, she damaged my scalp.  We don’t know for how long.  But it is still super-sensitive.  I’m going to have to be really careful about washing it for a while – gently and in COLD COLD water.  My head and heat are not friends right now.

Thankfully, after a mess and a half, I got my blue-on-top peek-a-boo:

This is under bad light and I'll try to get something better soon, but it'll do for now.  I love it.

This is under bad light and I’ll try to get something better soon, but it’ll do for now. I love it.

Alison did a wonderful job on the dye and the cut.  I love all the blue.  We’ll see how the family (and Grandpapala especially) like it in a week and a half.

So, please, to anyone who has a skill and uses it for others: FOLLOW THE RULES.  Don’t screw with the system.  If you want to do that on your own time and your own projects GO AHEAD.  But don’t do it to some one else.  I’m lucky.  I still came home with the hair I wanted.  But that could have possibly not happened.  We may have had to stop mid-dye if there hadn’t been this second option.

And lesson to me: ALWAYS USE ALISON.  Thanks bunches, hon.

In the mean time, I’m going to love on my sassy blue hair and take a shameful amount of selfies until I’m happy with one. And then I’ll make it the profile picture of all profile pictures.  I mean, seriously, people.  BLUE HAIR.  It is AWESOME!

_______________________________________

Many, many thanks to Jessa, Heather, and Rhonda (the supervisors) for coming when called every time something else went wrong with my hair and keeping me calm and collected as frightening things were happening. And of course, thanks again to my wonderful stylist in this whole adventure who helped me keep my chin up.

In Remembrance of Suffering; In Hope for Peace

Rah-rah nationalism is not for me.

I won’t pretend that I think the United States is the best country in the world, or even the continent.  Much like how I feel about my own mother, I love my motherland for the life it gave me, the values it gifted me, and the opportunities it fostered for me;  I also see the errors of its ways that I do not want to see repeated in my generation and future generations to come.   I want it to improve and grow and be better and I want to be part of that.  I am fine with being part of that here or by leaving until America does better.

So, when I say that this day, twelve years ago, is day that I will never forget, it isn’t because I see it as some national “come together” day or some proof that you can’t cut America down. While I am grateful for those who serve to defend my right to say and do what I please, I don’t see today as the day to honor their sacrifices – I should be doing that every day.

Today means something that’s really quite hard to describe.  It means anguish and pain and terrifying uncertainty.  It also means love and reaching out and a desire to progress in the face of it all.  It was horrifying and enlightening.  It wasn’t about borders or national values until much later – no.  That day was about huddling together collectively as humans who needed comfort in the face of fear.  National borders disappeared as people around the world watched what was happening and looked on in disbelief.  This day, as the day of any tragedy, is a wound on the human psyche.  And so, I will choose to remember no matter where I go, no matter which nation I choose to make my home.  Forgetting is not an option, even though distance might separate, even when it feels like it would be kinder.

—–

I don’t forget because it was a tragedy – a human tragedy – that happened on my doorstep.

I won’t forget because I see so many people still suffer effects of that day in this day.

I can’t forget because that day showed me my selfishness and taught me to be better.

The suffering of many is something I do not wish to forget because I can alleviate suffering, if I choose to see it.  If I choose to be better.  If I choose to be the best of what it means to be human to the best of my ability.

That’s what today is for me: a remembrance of suffering that encourages me to hope.

I do hope for a better world.

I will hope for the peace and tranquility we’ve spent a dozen years searching for in the the wrong places.

I can hope for selflessness in others as I work to express it in myself.

The hope of many is something I wish for because if we can hope together, I believe we can build a new, better world together.

On this, the twelfth anniversary of a truly horrific act, I wish to remember and I wish to hope.

Hats for Women (Or: Why Recognizing Privilege Matters)

This is a story about hats.

But it isn’t.

It’s a story about privilege.

But it isn’t.

It’s really a story about how change happens and how we need to seek change more than we do.

Let me start by saying, I KNOW privilege is one of the most over-used words on the internet.  But there’s a reason it’s over-used: it’s still a problem.  Just like racism and sexism and shaming are over-used because these are still problems.  Is it true that rarely, infrequently, these things are used in wrong and exploitative contexts?  Yes.  But that does not make all uses invalid.  So, please, hang with me while I talk about privilege as best and applicably as I can.

I went to a small, conservative college. The department I was in had a strange mix of liberal and conservative ideals, sometimes within the same professor.  In some classes, I had to be there without fail.  In other classes, as long as I got the work done, they didn’t care.

I had one particular professor who was a walking conflict.  He got so angry at me one day for refusing to watch an R-rated film that had no curricular value to it that he told me to “Go to BYU, then!” and dismissed me with a flick of his hand, as if I were somehow inferior for not wanting to watch gratuitous nudity and language in an academic setting.  As if this one stance of personal morality in the face of a completely non-academic film showing somehow made me unfit to go to a university not run by people who shared that standard.  (By the way – if you didn’t already know – I am excessively liberal in comparison to most of the adherents to the LDS faith and basically loathe Mormon culture (please note the difference between faith and culture).  I would have had ten-fold as many professors telling me not to let the door hit my butt on the way out had I gone to BYU.) This same professor demanded strict attendance, stricter homework procedures, and the most ridiculously stringent note-taking system I have ever seen – all in the fashion of a school that has been proven by academia as out-of-date and inherently broken – but some teachers still adhere to it because it is “traditional.”  I HATED these classes with a passion for a long time and tolerated them with a fatalistic acceptance in my final year at Missouri Valley.

Predictably, this professor also had a fairly conservative dress code: show up to class looking like you give at least a minimal amount of care.  This standard was relaxed in the 8:00am classes (because NO ONE was showing up to a Groobs class that early without the choice of attending in PJ’s), but one thing was strictly maintained: NO HATS.

Except, well, if the girls were wearing them.

YUP – you read that right.  Men weren’t allowed to wear hats to class.  Women were.  The rational was that when a man wore a ball cap, it was laziness or disrespect.  When a woman wore a hat of any kind (ball caps included), it was an accessory.

Ashamed as I am, I admit that this made sense to me for a moment.

I know, I know, stop the truck.  I am white, middle-class, and well-educated, so I grew up with plenty of privilege that I need to (and do my best to) see around.  But, that being said, I am also female, bi/pan-sexual, and non-binary gendered.   I grew up with plenty of lack of privilege, too.  I have been abused. I was culturally conditioned to be so frightened of my own gender/sexuality that I didn’t come out until I was twenty-five. TWENTY-FIVE, people. I have been told I can’t do things /  can’t do them as well because I’m “just a girl.” I know what it is like to be on the unprivileged side.

And yet, my own privilege it made sense to me, if only for a moment.  Now, this is a totally human reaction – there’s some interesting science behind it.  It’s a type of confirmation bias when you start out with advantages and you feel you deserve them because you’ve always had them . . . BAD BAD BAD thinking!  Bad Joie!

Thankfully, in the next moment I realized how wildly unfair this was.  Yes, I use hats to accessorize my outfits (I love hats).  But, the fact of the matter is, I also had an extremely high ratio of hat days to bad hair days.  Wearing hats was, in many cases, laziness on my part because oh-my-gosh-I-hate-my-hair-so-much-just-cover-that-crap-up.  How was that different than the male decision to wear a hat?  Also, what kind of ridiculous assumption was it to think that because men are men that their hats – ball caps or fedoras or top hats – were just functions of laziness?  Why can’t their hats, from simple trucker hats to expensive fedoras, be specifically chosen accessories? I knew, in fact, that they WERE accessories in some cases!  But why does that make those who wear hats out of habit any less worthy of the chance to wear a hat in a classroom?

Some of these arguments occurred at the time, some of them came through later re-examination.  But the fact of the matter is – I did nothing about it.  In fact, I abused my privilege for some time.  I knew I could get away with hats, so get away I did. I never defended the rights of my male counterparts to wear their hats and happily made sure that a ball cap was always available for the worst of hair days.

Now, Groobs was definitely a “pick your battles” sort of teacher.  He tended to be hardest on the best students and to apathetically let the struggling students fail because clearly they weren’t trying hard enough.  I got my butt kicked in those classes trying to keep up with his higher expectations (because I had proven to be successful previously) while I watched other students who needed Groobs’ attention and scrutiny wallow because he had given up on them.   Hats were the least  of any of our worries.

But they were a teaching moment.

Eventually, I stopped wearing hats on days that I had classes with Groobs.  Not always, but mostly.  Eventually, I not only recognized my privilege, but reacted to it in a way I can be proud of.  You see – this was never about wearing hats or privilege.  It was about how I reacted to it, as well as how I didn’t.  It was about  how I decided to take advantage of a status quo, how I decided to stop taking advantage, and how I didn’t speak out against it even once I established a rapport with Groobs.

Because I did.  He’s a cantankerous old coot and I won’t be shy about saying I’m glad he retired (for a myriad of reasons), but he’s also the cantankerous old coot who held my hand through my thesis, who pushed me to think deeper, who took the time to take me aside privately so we could celebrate some serious accomplishments of mine without lording them over others.  He was the cantankerous old coot who both stubbornly clung to his wrong opinions AND noticed that I was struggling with cutting an apologized for being an asshole during one of my fragile times.  He was the cantankerous old coot who learned to listen to me and learn from me, as I learned to listen and learn from him.  I could have said something.   I didn’t. Because, despite being aware of how wildly unfair my privilege was, I didn’t recognize it.

And I didn’t seek to change it.

This is a really small example.  I could talk about recognizing my educated privilege or my middle-class privilege or my white privilege. But there’s something significant about this hat situation: I can no longer do anything about it.  Every day, I seek to change who I am so that I am more understanding and – while still privileged – aware of the struggles of those who don’t have my privileges.  I seek to change the world so that my privilege doesn’t cause others harm. I seek to change a world that shouts “SPECIAL TREATMENT” when someone tries to give privileges to those who otherwise will not have them.

I cannot change the hats, though.  The systemic abuse of privilege marches on because people do not seek to change the hats.  Yes, tackle the big issues.  Save your time and energy for the fights that need them most.  But NEVER EVER be complacent, and most certainly NEVER EVER EVER be complicit.  Even if it is just as simple as saying, “I think this is wrong,” it is important to those who are wronged to hear and see that you don’t wish privilege at their expense.  It is important to me to talk about the hats because I cannot change them. Because I was complacent, perhaps even complicit by the views of some.  It is important to me to say, “I am sorry I did nothing.  I am sorry about the hats.  I was wrong.”

So here goes:

I am sorry I did nothing.

I am sorry about the hats.

I was wrong.

And I seek to never do that again.

You see, change doesn’t happen because we see wrong and don’t participate in it.  Change happens when we seek it.  Change happens when we SEE wrong and DO SOMETHING about it.  Change happens when we recognize wrong in ourselves and seek to never be wrong like that again.

Recognizing privilege is important.  We can’t seek to change anything if we don’t first see it.

I Fell #ALittleBitinLove With You Today – Bread Boy

I fell a little bit in love with you today.

I get close every time I see you.  You’re gorgeous, inescapably so.  Your voice caresses my ears and my eyes drink you in.  You are the consummate salesman.  You flirt openly in pursuit of a purchase.  You’re confident and cognizant of your attractiveness because of that confidence.  You chat with customers.  You notice your customers’ apparel and smiles and insecurities and indecisiveness.   You personally engage when they ask questions about you.  You wrap customers up in smiles so warm the hardest of hearts would melt.  But, you’re still the boy behind the counter.  Today was different.  Today, you said, “See you next week.”   I’ve been coming to this Farmers’ Market all summer – and today you noticed.   Today, you invited me back into the world of this small bread booth, told me I was welcome in it. Today, you saw me – if only a small, tiny bit – as more than a customer.

And so, I fell a little bit in love with you today.