Talking to My Boy About Girls: Movies

Thor:  What if I wanted to change my name so that it was really Thor, and not just my nickname?

Me:  Sure, kid.  You just have to wait until you are 18.

Thor:  Okay!  Can everyone change their name?

Me:  Yes, you just have to pay for it.

Thor:  Oh.

Me:  Do you think it would be cool if everyone changed names every few years?

Thor:  Yes!  Oh…no.  No.  Because we might all end up with the same name, or something.  Like, all the girls would end up named Elsa.

Me:  And all the boys would be named IronMan?

Thor:  I’d be called Thor.

Me:  Of course.

Thor:  But, yeah, all the girls would be Elsa.  *sighs* Why do all the girls love that stupid movie?  I mean ALL the girls love that movie.

Me:  I thought it was a nice movie.  It’s a nice change for girls to see a movie like that.

Thor:  Why?

Me:  Well, most movies are about boys getting to do something awesome, with girls just standing there looking pretty, or about boys rescuing girls, or about girls who try to do things, but need boys to help them.  Frozen is about two girls who get to use their brains and their brawn to help each other.  There are some cool guys in it, but for girls, it’s nice to be able to identify with girls who are actively doing things, and being the heroes.

Thor:  Oh…

Me:  Imagine if every movie you saw was about a girl rescuing a boy.

Thor:  *nose wrinkle*

Me:  Exactly.  Do you think I could rescue Daddy as much as he could rescue me?

Thor:  Of course!

Me:  Movies don’t.  Most movies aimed at girls are about princesses who need rescuing, where the girls can’t figure out the solutions to their own problems. It’s nice to watch a movie where the girls can help themselves.  That’s got a lot of appeal.

Thor:  That makes total sense.  But the song is still terrible.

Me:  Let it go.

Thor:  *eye roll*

Let Them Eat Cake

Back when I was working at That Ministry, it was widely acknowledged that no one was allowed to speak to the Big Guy because he was very important to God, and if we interrupted his day, we might be disrupting whatever was going on between him and God at that moment.  We called it, “Breaking his anointing.”  You didn’t want to break his anointing because then he might not be able to perform whatever miracle God had called him to do that day.

I can’t tell you why I fell for that, but I did.  Then, one day I woke up and thought, “Is God that weak?”  I mean, here I was trusting that this Being had created heaven and earth, had managed thousands of years of miracles to bring Jesus into the world, then thirty-three years of perfection in human form, culminating with a resurrection from the dead after a three-day junket to hell, but me saying hello to some gel-slicked yokel in a three-thousand dollar suit was going to keep Him from being able to move on someone’s heart?

That’s embarrassing, y’all.  Ten years of my life are embarrassing.  I tell you about it because for every one of me waking up and asking that question, there were five more at the ministry telling me that was the enemy coming to confuse my mind, and disrupt my purpose.  I tend to think it’s the other way around, though.

Jesus was all about suffering people to come to him.  Sick, small, dirty, unwanted–that was his jam.  The more insignificant the better because they needed him.  The ones who just wanted to say hello, or touch his robe because they believed in his ability to make their lives more livable were welcome.  Find me a time when Jesus told someone to go away because they were interrupting his ability to do his Father’s work.  Find me a time when Jesus had his disciples go out and make sure the gathering crowds knew not to look him in the eye.  Find me a time when Jesus demanded a stylist and his own fully stocked refrigerator to travel with him.

Jesus wasn’t weak.  You couldn’t break his connection to God because it wasn’t weak.  Your humanity didn’t diminish his godliness because it was not weak.

Your sin did not diminish his holiness.

I’m going to preface the rest of this by saying I don’t believe in sex-out-of-wedlock as a sin.  I’m also going to preface this by saying I don’t think gay sex is a sin.  Whatever consenting adults want to do with their bits is fine by me, as long as the other party is also consenting and adult.  Jesus said there were two laws to follow, and neither of those laws said anything about how you like your toast buttered.

However, some people honestly do believe if you are a sexually active gay person, you are in great sin and great moral peril.  They feel like they have to tell you that they love you, but they hate your sin.  Your sin being that you are acting on your gayness.  (If you are gay and celibate, they don’t have to hate your sin, they just have to worry that one day you might snap.)

There are some people who feel like gay marriage diminishes straight marriage, kind of like how me saying hello to the Big Guy might diminish his connection to God.  Those people won’t even bake you a cake because that cake might cast a pall on their spirituality.

Those people are wrong.  Those people are misguided.  Those people are ignorant.

Sin does not diminish the presence of Christ.  The presence of Christ diminishes the presence of sin.

Jesus told us to treat our neighbors as we wanted to be treated.

Jesus told us to go the extra mile for strangers.

Jesus told us to go out into the world and be lights in darkness, not to sit in our fruity little churches and congratulate ourselves on how pristine and white we are.

If homosexuality were a sin (and again, I don’t believe it is), that still wouldn’t have kept Jesus away from your wedding.  That man liked a party.  Sin didn’t keep Jesus away from whores and thieves.  Sin didn’t keep Jesus from knowingly adding Judas to his core group of disciples.  Sin didn’t keep Jesus away from crowds full of people, which probably included some gays.  Sin didn’t even keep Jesus out of the Temple–but he did whip and curse the sin right out of there.

Jesus is not so weak that you showing love to someone you think is deplorable will break your connection to him.  On the contrary, that’s the way he likes to work.

If you are afraid that showing love to another human being somehow weakens your Christianity, then I pity you the little god you serve.  If your god is that small, that weak, and that petty, you need all the sympathy I have in my reserves.

This is How a Road Gets Made

I swim in a pretty small social pond.  It is mainly comprised of middle class, moderate-to-well educated, straight, white people.  Most of us are fiscally conservative, and are socially moderate-to-liberal.  Of my core group of friends, over half would self-identify as some strain of Protestant Christian.  We are all gainfully employed, all with children, mortgages, and car payments, and most of us are able to take pretty decent vacations.  We are rather homogeneous.

You know what you get when your gene pool is too small?  You get birth defects.  You get diseases like hemophilia.  You get the Habsburg Jaw.

You know what you get when your social gene pool is too small?  You get malformed ideas of society.  You become blind to the world at large.  You can turn ugly.

Diversity is important.  It is important genetically, and it is important socially.  It is vital.

I have been incredibly fortunate to live in major metropolitan areas, where diversity is not hard to come by.  I have worked in wonderfully diverse places, and at each one I have come up against my own privilege and prejudices that I would otherwise never have know were crowding my mind.  And, every single time I’ve had to stretch my mentality to accommodate a new truth based on that diversity, it has been ugly.

Why can’t I comment on the texture of your hair?  Why should I have to curtail my sense of humor for you?  Why do I have to learn a new pronoun?

Bottom line every time is that I can’t, shouldn’t, or must because it is a human being staring down the barrel of my verb, and my job is to do unto others as is my own entitled expectation of service.

Because I don’t want you asking about my body.  Because I don’t think your rape jokes are funny.  Because I want you to respect my femininity.

Because it doesn’t cost me anything to treat you well and respect your wishes.

My internet social group is much more diverse than my IRL crew.  I am daily and eternally grateful to these people who challenge my blue-eyed view of the world.

If my worldview is a jungle, my friends are explorers, researchers, doctors, architects, engineers, and adventurers whacking through old growth and underbrush, smoothing out paths, clearing out space for new ideas until I suddenly find myself halfway down a super-highway of new philosophies, new empathies, and new love and respect for the diversity around me.

Like I said, it is always painful.  Growth is painful.  If, when you are working out, pain is weakness leaving your body, then when you are opening yourself to learn about new people outside your comfort zone, pain is small-mindedness leaving your heart.  If it’s hurting, it’s working.  You are being separated from ideologies that are so ingrained, it is like taking off a layer of skin.  That’s a good thing.

We’re all just people.  We’re all just trying to get by.  Imagine how much easier that would be if each of us was intent on making the road just a little smoother for the guy to the right.  Because, to the guy on the left, you’re the guy on the right.

While you are Passing Over, He is Risen-ing, Ridvaning, or just Spring-ing, take a look at the guy to your right.  Make his road a little easier to walk.

Still Listening to my Mother

I’ve been planning my participation in the Listen to Your Mother Austin show like some women plan for their weddings.  I have an outfit, shoes, jewelry, hair and makeup all queued up, and you might laugh to know that most of it came on the advice of my mother.

In my piece for LTYM, I’m talking a lot about how my mother influenced me.  I barely touch on the fashion, but if anyone has ever complimented my style, it’s my mother who helped make that happen.

When she was expecting me, she couldn’t afford maternity clothes, so she learned to sew.  She started making her own maternity items, and after I was born, continued sewing the most amazing clothes for me.  Everywhere I went, I was always dressed to the nines, right down to the ruffles on my butt.  My mother made every formal gown I ever wore, and the only reason she didn’t make my wedding gown is that I wanted us to still like each other by the time I walked down the aisle.  Nothing like being your mother’s human pin cushion to strain a relationship.

Senior Prom–all those stones around the tail and shoulders? Hand beaded by my mother. It took a few weeks to make that dress, and several trips to the fabric store.

Sophomore year Prom. This is probably my favorite dress Mom made. I wore it to Prom Junior year as well. The trim around the tulle? Hand stitched over the course of hours by that wonderful mother.

This one goes way back. My mom made this dress for my first major live performance. Just playing a half full show at the Will Rogers Coliseum. No big deal. I would go on to wear that for my first big televised performance as well. Oh, and that’s the Lady right there.

Everything she did was spectacular.  All seams were always even.  All fabric patterns matched perfectly.  Nothing buckled, nothing warped, nothing made so much as a wrinkle.  I don’t have that kind of patience.

What I did take away from all her work was an understanding of how to mix fabrics, patterns, and shapes effectively.  So, when I started shoe shopping for LTYM, along with sharing pictures of what I was liking with my Facebook, I was messaging her.

I explained the outfit, the jewelry, and sent her pictures of my shoe options.  Like a pro, she got back to me and confirmed exactly what I expected.  And it made me really happy to know that I had properly anticipated her response.  Even happier when I sent her pictures of the jewelry against the outfit and she declared it, “Perfect.”

Because no one knows the hours I have spent in JoAnn’s fabric store with that women, trying to find Perfect!

Listen, when I was a kid, I hated shopping with my mother because she would never let me buy what I wanted, and she would pick out these terrible outfits for me to try on.  What I hated most was how right she always was.  The things I chose–even when they were designer labels–looked cheap and tacky on me, and the things she picked out–no matter how cheap–always looked like they’d been made for me.

She did the same thing to me with my wedding dress!  I had picked out all these gowns I loved, and she pulled this limp looking thing off the rack and begged me to just try it on.  I put it on first to get it out of the way, then had five ladies following me around the boutique trying to buy it off my back while I was deciding whether, or not to admit she’d nailed it in our first five minutes in the store.  (I admitted it.  The Universe smiled on me, and not only was it on sale, it was on double double sale.)

As an adult I can appreciate her eye for shape and color.  As a teen, I just wanted to wear the day-glo yellow scuba dress.

I’d still like to wear the day-glo yellow scuba dress, but I carry my mother’s voice in my head, and when I’m shopping, I look at my choices through years of experience with her exacting eye.  I think I look the better for it.

One of Mom’s maternity creations. I’m in this photo, too! You just can’t see me.

Here are a few more of the gowns she made for me.

This was another with such gorgeous detail. I was doing the nude illusion before nude illusion was a thing. This was my dress for Junior Prom, and I wore it again to another school’s prom the next year.

Another view of my favorite pink dress.

My absolute favorite Mom ever made for me. I wore this to three different formals. It looked like a million bucks on me.

Risk Factors

The Listen To Your Mother Austin cast had our first table read yesterday.  I walked away feeling warm and hopeful, and really fortunate to have my mother, and to have my son.

Listen To Your Mother Austin 2015 cast.

Listen To Your Mother Austin 2015 cast.

When I sent in my original essay to start my LYTM audition process, I didn’t have expectations.  I didn’t even tell anyone until I’d secured an actual audition.  Almost anyone.  I got my most difficult audience out of the way before I had even heard back from the LYTM producers:  my mom.

My mom isn’t a difficult audience because she is a critic–quite the contrary.  She’s my biggest fan.  But, she was my most difficult audience because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to read the piece to her aloud without crying.  I didn’t either.  I think I got three paragraphs in before I started meeping, and had to choke out the last four because…my mom.

Still, I managed.  I read it aloud to her because she deserved to hear it before anyone else, and because if the essay had any success at all, it was down to her.  No Mom, No Essay.

Then, I took the piece to audition.  I made it most of the way through before I started to cry.

See, I love my parents–most of us do.  I don’t think I am any special case when it comes to that, but I do think my mom is a special case when it comes to being a mother.  Is she perfect?  No.  Are any of us?  Uh-uh.  But in her humanity, she took everything she had good in her, and used it for me.  She took everything dark in her, and shoved it down as deep as it would go, and did her best to keep it from me.  She absolutely did the very best she could, and you can’t ask for more than that.

I am one of those people who worries, “What if this is the last time I see Joe?”  Every morning when I drop off my son at school, I watch him walk away and think, “If this was it…”  Then I pull myself up short and turn on Sports Radio because that is a terrible way to start a morning.  But that concern colors my interactions with the people I love.  If this was the last conversation, did I leave it with your total assurance that beyond all of the minutiae of life, I love you?

I wanted to read the essay to my mom because if the piece wasn’t selected for audition, or if the audition didn’t go well, or if I got cast, but something terrible happened before I could perform it for her, I wanted her to have heard it first. I believe in eulogizing the living.  It doesn’t do the dead a lick of good.

My son wandered up while I was reading it to her, and he leaned against me.  Maybe one of the greatest gifts I can give him is to let him see my willingness to be vulnerably in love with his extended family.  Love exposes us more than any other emotion.  I want him to know that the exposure is worth the risk.

At the cast read, I was first in the line of order.  No relaxing into it.  Just feet first.  Cold water.  A room full of peers, some of whom are six rungs up the ladder from where I want to be.  What was coming?  Judgment?  Critique?  What?  Extreme vulnerability is what.  But my mom is worth the risk, so I jumped in.

I made it all the way to the last paragraph before my nerves shook the tears out of me.  That’s a win!  And there was no judgment.  Just appreciation.

We went in a circle, each woman reading out of her vulnerability because the risk was worth it.  Each story came from a tender place, an honest place, and a hopeful place.  Each story was about how the risk of love is worth the vulnerability of exposure, whether it is love for a mother, a child, a friend, or for yourself.

In part of my essay, I talk about how my mother’s unwavering faith in my ability has meant that even when I know I can’t win at something (like any sport, ever), I can still enjoy the process of losing.  I’m not embarrassed, or afraid of failing–I don’t like it, but I don’t let not liking it keep me from trying.  And that’s all my mother in me.  That is 100% because of her.

I hope if you’re near Austin, you’ll come out to the show.  I’d like you to get to hear me say the words out loud, and let you get a look at my mom, who will be in the audience.  I’d like her to hear your applause because the audience is really for her.  I’m just the voice getting to tell you what a fantastic mother she is.

Buy tickets here.