Shades of Gray

Shades of Gray


When you’re a child you think everyone tells the truth.

You think your mother and father will be together forever.

When you see your first divorce it’s kind of like seeing your first accident.

You can’t believe this could happen

Sometimes people stay together because they can’t stand to be alone.

They tell themselves it is  for the children

but actually it’s to spare themselves pain.

Sometimes you think it’s better to lie and have maybe three or four different lives and after a while you don’t know which life is real for you.

I’ve known a lot of people like this.

Unfortunately more than one have wanted me to join in but the problem is I don’t see shades of gray.

I like black and white.

You are mine I am yours and that’s it.

Call me crazy but it’s a heck of a lot easier.











So today on Facebook I posted a piece written by a black woman who was raised by white parents which Gloria Steinem had originally posted. It’s been up for a few hours and there’s only one comment. No likes. A friend of mine “unliked” it saying it was biased. I think it’s right on. The writer describes what it’s like to be black in a world where racial profiling is a part of our national profile. It’s a very moving and passionate piece expressing what the writer feels in her own life and asking us, the white people of the world, to do something. She says that prejudice can only be changed by the people who are prejudiced. We are all prejudiced. We can’t help it. No matter what the reality was of the shooting incident in Ferguson, the cops there would probably have hesitated if the guy had been white. Yes, he may have robbed a convenience store prior to the incident, but that mean he should be shot on sight? The only way we can have true equality as a society is if those of us who are in the position to speak up do so. What would it be like if everyone was “colorblind”? It’s not up to the underdog to change things, it’s up to the people of the world who never had to worry about being the underdog. Change happens at the top of any organization. If everyone made an effort to look at their own misplaced fear of those who are different than we are, interesting and positive things will happen.

An Evening at the CineBistro in Vail

Gore Creek Drive, Vail, CO
Image via Wikipedia

An Evening at the Cinebistro in Vail….

So my friends and I decide to go to the movies in Vail where it has been so cold one doesn’t want to venture outside. We choose a movie we think will be entertaining and are excited to be going to a place where they serve dinner while you watch the movie.

After being shown to our very plush seats we discuss how exciting it is to be in these large and comfy black leather seats drinking a glass of wine and eating popcorn from an enormous bowl. We all comment on how wonderful this experience is and then we ponder the possibility of its business success. This mini math minute is solved once we see the bill for the movie, the wine, the popcorn and the water, but I still thought it was a fun deal to be sitting there as if you were in your own screening room.

The movie, “The Mechanic” was incredibly violent and bloody and the three of us spent much of the film with our eyes closed. People were killed for no apparent reason and the star of the film was so lacking in empathetic quality one couldn’t identify or root for any hero or heroine as there was none. All in all it was a high testosterone film with little to admire or engage with.

Next to our little group in the same row were three “Master of the Universe” men who were all in the late 50’s, early 60’s, well dressed and attractive: clearly a man’s night out in Vail. They ordered large, fat hamburgers and cokes. Not a drink among them.

During the film a couple  arrived and sat in the front row where they began a conversation that consisted of loud giggling on the part of the woman and loud voiced remarks from her date. They ordered many drinks which the waiter brought to them despite the theater policy of no drinks after the show began. Their conversation became louder and more suggestive but the film was so loud I forgot about them. Apparently the three “masters of the Universe” did not.

When the film ended they pushed past us to exit the row and almost ran down the stairs to confront the couple. One man shoved the small, rather drunk man, saying “What do you think you were doing? You are asking for it. You want it? Come on, you want it? “

His friends joined in, shoving the drunk guy and pushing him to the ground. Others in the theater tried to intervene but the Masters were having none of it.  The drunken guy just kept laughing. One of the master’s, the same guy I think, started in on the woman saying, “Where’s that slut that was with you?”

At this point I felt as if I was back in the film but I couldn’t leave the theater. Within one minute there was a violent fight going on in front of my nose and blocking the exit. Men who tried to intervene were shoved aside and the drunk guy was repeated shoved to the floor while the Master’s said, “Want more, oh yeah, you little creep, want some more?”

Finally we slipped by the fight scene and left the theater but not before asking the front desk woman to call 911. She responded that she couldn’t leave her post.

When we got home we all breathed a sigh of relief and none of us felt good. These men were out of control and beating up a much smaller and much drunker guy who only crime was alcohol abuse and silliness. Why did they do this, we wondered? They hadn’t been drinking which made their behavior even scarier. Why were they so angry and why did they cause a major scene in front of others, frightening all of us? They were clearly well off, attractive and successful guys so why did they get so out of control so quickly and indulge in behavior that was so wrong on so many levels?

Was it the combination of the film violence and the lack of empathy, perhaps the fact that the only woman in the film was a prostitute, or is this possibility for explosion lurking underneath all the high testosterone males today? A remnant from the cave man fighting for territory days.

I have no answer. All that I can say is that it was terrifying.

Death, Dying and No Explanation

Recently there has been a lot of talk about death in my circle of friends. Friends have died, some old some not, and there are a few articles in the news about suicides in the younger generation. I find death very hard to pin down in my own Meta analysis of life as I am not afraid of it nor do I worry about it but I can’t specifically explain why this is.

It has been clear to me from a young age that death is not an end, but a beginning. I remember when my Grandfather died how upset all the adults were in our family. I felt sad to miss his company but not sad for him. In fact, I knew that he was now in a place where he could experience joy and peace. I was seven years old and I could clearly see him there.

I am not a particularly religious person: not catholic or even very Protestant but I have always understood that death was not bad or frightening or something to spend one’s life in fear of.

I know I am really lucky to have this inner belief as very few out there seem to feel as I do. Particularly men. I have quite a few men friends who are freaked out at the thought of their own death. They become depressed when they have a slight medical problem and convince themselves they are dying. In this image they feel fear, remorse, but mostly loneliness. I think this is true because that’s what I hear in my healing work. Maybe men fear death more than women because they often have trouble being vulnerable with people and may have lives that are not authentic with close ties to others they love. It seems to be that the more success you have the less connected in a genuine way you are with others in your life.

I know, I know. Some of you will say I am taking this too far. Perhaps I am. My father was terrified of death and really angry at the same time. After he died we found books from the Hemlock Society in his library as what he feared most was being incapacitated and having to be dependent on the care of others. He died alone and angry and refused to allow his wife or family near him. He just wanted to go out mad and he did.

I guess I would like people to consider that there is more after we die. There is more than what we imagine. Maybe death is a door to another world where life is very different but not frightening.

I have been with a few people when they die. I always find it a privilege. I know that playing Frank Sinatra is better than Rachmaninoff and whispering that you love the person with a laugh in your voice is better than filling their ears with your tears.

Want a Boy? Dress Your Daughter as One!

Emblem of Afghanistan
Image via Wikipedia

Dress Your Daughter Like A Son!

Be a Boy for Your Childhood!

Experience Freedom While in Costume!

Make Your Parents Empowered!

All this and more for exchanging the life of a girl in Afghanistan for that of a boy.

This week the NY Times has a cover story on families who shave the heads of their daughters and raise them as sons often until they are married. Azita Rafaat, who is a Member of Parliament, has done this with her daughter, Mehran, and states that her life is better as a boy. I am confused by this article as it seems many know that these girls are really girls and am not fooled by the disguise. If, for example, teachers and coaches know the true gender of a child, what is the point of the disguise? Obviously giving an interview to the NY Times will blow Mehran’s cover and her mother will be exposed but this obviously doesn’t matter to the family or the society. Is there no one else out there who finds this crazy?

“In Some Afghan Families a Fake Son is Considered Better than None” NY Times,   9/21/10

This is the most confusing logic to me. It goes like this: if you have no sons but do have three daughters, you chose one daughter to be a son. You cut her hair off and dress her in boy’s clothes. You tell her school she is now a boy. She is allowed to go out of the house freely without as many restrictions as she had as a girl. Everyone in her family, neighborhood and school knows her true sex, yet she is allowed more freedom to experience life as a boy and not as restricted in her behavior.

I don’t know what to say about this as it is so weird. Why wouldn’t every girl want to be a boy in Afghanistan? Freedom of movement, more confidence, more attention? I guess they need some girls to stay girls so there will be something to compare male behavior and allowances to. What happens to these girls when they have to go back to being a girl at puberty or upon marriage? The article refers to some who looks back on their “boy” period as a wonderful one as they had so much freedom.

I like logical behavior and find this tradition most illogical as it is sexist but not sexist. A girl can become a boy overnight by cutting her hair and having her parents change her sex in schools. She can only live this life, however, until marriage or puberty. She can live out her childhood in relative freedom and compete in sports, speak her mind, and travel without much restriction in her neighborhood.

Why wouldn’t every girl want to be a boy? I know I would have. The truth is, I would have been really pissed to have to go back to being a girl and get married. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a transsexual, I just like freedom. I can’t imagine experiencing it and then having it taken away. Taking away freedom is done all the time in this world. Particularly to women. It’s almost as if men laugh a bit at this article as they know in their hearts how unfair this role playing is. Why should girls have to dress as boys to be allowed to do more in life? Tradition? Religion? Who knows?  I still find this practice confusing.

Jobless in the bay area: Interviewing skills

Jobless in the bay area

Today I was lucky enough to be visited by an old friend who I hadn’t seen for 10 years or so.

She came because she wanted some interviewing advice and that is what I used to teach: how to sell yourself, how to work a room, how to get the job of your dreams. I stopped teaching because it was incredibly tiring and I had run out of hope to give people.

I found that today I really enjoyed doing my old job again and was helpful to my friend which is what it is all about to me. We spoke of her past employment and what she wanted now and then we spoke of how weird it is to be older and unemployed and having interviews with people 10 or more years younger than you.

I found this point the most interesting one as it is true for so many people today. You work hard, make a good living, advance up the ladder of corporate success and then lose your job. You have to begin a long search, learn to sell yourself all over again, and face the fear of never finding a job.

I find the younger generation hard to deal with as they seem to have no sense of humor. I often find myself out with a group of people younger than me and I notice they are really not having that much fun. Often they drink a lot, the men talk sports, and the women talk about schools for their kids. In this regard nothing has changed from my generation.

The one different thing is that my generation knows how to have fun! We had great music for fun. Anyone who grew up in the sixties and danced to the Beach Boys, kissed to the Beatles, and went to a Rolling Stones concert knows about fun. Fun is just good old sweet fun. Like spending an entire afternoon in a grassy field making out with your boyfriend.

My friend who is on a job hunt interviews with mostly young men and she isn’t having much luck. I think she isn’t having luck because it is really hard to establish rapport with a guy in his late thirties or earl forties. They don’t know the art of small talk the way we do. Small talk makes the big talk which comes after so much easier. These guys may also be threatened by a woman who is older and infinitely more qualified that they are. In any case they do not feel comfortable establishing a rapport and go right into hard core interview questions.

You know what I told her to do? Wear a pretty dress rather than the black suit she always wore to interviews.  Well, that’s not all I told her to do but I did recommend that she do that. I think wearing a dress at our age to a job interview shows you have a good sense of self and that you are comfortable in your own skin. I think the old days of dark suit interviews should be swept out the door.

My friend did tell me that once she was 40 she vowed to wear all the pink she wanted to the office. So now she needs to remember that. We all do. It’s so hard to face fear and act as if you have none. People get hired who seem confident and competent. Acting fearful is a bad thing in an interview. It’s not so much the pretty dress as the attitude that says I am comfortable with myself and I get along with people.

After she left my sweet dog disappeared for a couple of hours. I felt terrible fear and was crying most of the time. I convinced myself she would never return and that I would never find another dog like her. I would be forever sad about losing her. She had been carried off by an enormous eagle that had eaten her piece by piece.  Can you imagine anyone thinking like this? Crazy, right?

Fear is crazy. It paralyses us. It makes us unable to live our lives with freedom and joy. It is the worst possible emotion I feel yet is is always simmering under the edge of our lives. As the book says we have to “Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway”.

Dr. Oz Insults Women!

Dr Oz Insults Women

All right, I will admit right here that I love Dr. Oz but this week he disappointed me. I returned from a bunch of frustrating meetings and flipped on afternoon TV only to find it was “how to take care of your man  day” on Dr. Oz TV. At first, I couldn’t believe it. Here was a guy I had liked BECAUSE he was a feminist. His wife is a REIKI Practitioner, for God’s sake! What was he thinking? All these women jumping up to be the first to quote their recipe’s for a healthy male heart! All these overweight men being fawned over by their “oh so loving wives”! Where in the world is the “How to take care of your wives day”? Dr. Oz! What are you thinking? Do a show first on us! We are the ones that spend our days worrying about our men despite our knowledge of feminism and other important facts. We know we are supposed to put our men first in the eyes of America on the whole. How can you desert us like this?

Anytime you even think of doing a show like this, please do one first for women. Make it seem as if men really want to take care of us. We know we are all totally codependent but please help us out here. What would it be like if men were taught that the most important thing in life was to take care of their women? How amazing would that be? I, for one, have never been taken care of by anyone, not my husbands, not my parents, not by anyone. Do I care? Actually I like the way I have turned out. Feisty and cantankerous I may be but I can’t be described as anything other than independent. I hate the fact that I can slip into the “care for the guy” role. Hate it. But I know it is a part of my DNA. Dr. OZ! Please take a breath here. No more shows on male breast cancer. I don’t mind listening to prostate cancer shows or heart disease in men but don’t make us listen to more shows that find ways to show how we can help our men survive. Let’s have many more shows first on how men can help women survive and achieve! Now that’s how I really feel!

Viagra users demand women take drug to boost libido and keep up!

Why did men Invent Viagra?

If you think I am going to answer that question you are out of your mind. It has been answered many times before by many different types of people and I feel no need to do so again. It was invented by a man!

What I am interested in; however, is the new drug that will “boost libido” in woman. Why am I interested in this drug? Well, because the drug wouldn’t have been invented if not for Viagra. All of a sudden these old guys can and do expect to have sex with apparent ease and their wives or partners are having a hard time being interested. I was at a coffee place the other day and I overheard these two women discussing their sex lives. One was complaining about how often her husband wanted to have sex and how disinterested she was and the other was echoing the same tune and complaining about the invention of Viagra. Both were saying it had ruined a perfectly good sex life in a long term marriage. Both were talking about how uncomfortable sex was for them and how they now dreaded the times when their husbands appeared to be interested in sex. They said it went on for too long and was painful for them.I found this conversation fascinating as I had no idea this was happening in many households.  I did a little research on the street and found this to be true.

I happen to be in this demographic which is part of the reason I find it so interesting. I am surprised at how many men think that Viagra is crucial to having a good sex life and that taking  it enhances a woman’s pleasure. Women for the most part don’t have orgasms from intercourse and this is a fact that many men over the age of 50 don’t seem to be able to accept. Men having and maintaining an erection is just not that important to women as we function sexually in a different manner than many men appear to understand. Of course, if we love our man we want him to enjoy sex and achieve orgasm but we are different anatomically than men are… A younger woman friend of mine told me while discussing this issue that she found men my age not that great in bed as they didn’t understand what younger men now did. I was happy to hear that younger men understood what women have known for centuries. A penis is a nice thing but just not crucial in a woman’s enjoyment of sex.

Web MD states that the demographic for Viagra use is changing and that younger men are filling prescriptions for Viagra. The fastest growing segment of Viagra users are now men under 40 and Pfizer, the makers of Viagra, state that this is understandable as younger men want their sexual performance to be superior. They also state that Viagra use permits erections after 10 minutes of rest which is supposedly good for a couple’s sex life. Now I wonder who they spoke with to get that statistic. The wife? What woman would want more sex after 10 minutes if she had been really satisfied the first time? Not that many.

Another very interesting thing is that often insurance companies will pay for Viagra prescriptions and not for birth control pills. So what does that mean? We will pay for men to get it up and have sex but not for women to use protection?

It seems interesting to me that men want to have sex with or without their partner’s enjoyment. Of course this “boosting libido” drug for women has been invented as women must now in many cases have more sex with their husbands or partners due to Viagra. Of course it was invented by a man. Of course men believe there must be a flaw in women if they no longer desire their man. Of course the answer is another drug!

We are involved in the culture of returning to nature as in “slow food”. What happened to good old fashioned slow sex?

 There is an obvious way to make women more interested in having sex and it doesn’t involve taking a pill. It does, however, involve a mouth and a brain: the two most erotic body parts. The brain thinks of sensitive and loving things to say and the mouth says them. Got you there, didn’t I? I am serious about this. Why don’t men get this? They are not stupid, only penis centered. If they want more sex all they have to do is be thoughtful and loving to their partner and tune in to what she needs to make sex not only comfortable but enjoyable.

The most erotic thing to a woman is an offer of help, or, even better, helping without being asked. Now that is a turn on. I can’t believe how many women are still suffering in silence on this issue. The most erotic thing to me in a man is generosity: not just with money but with soul. There are a million books out on how to please a woman! Instead of buying or inventing a new drug to match Viagra why not invest in knowledge which will enrich your partnership? Why not enrich your partnership by becoming “other” focused rather than “it’s all about me!”Wouldn’t it be interesting if we lived in a matriarchy where the women were in charge and chose what to do and when to do it? If this were true, women readers, what would you do? I’ll say this; there were a lot fewer wars during matriarchies and a lot more great art, literature and poetry and I bet, GREAT SEX!

Bullies and How To Treat Them

Bullies and How to treat them

I am writing a lie with the above title as I have no idea how to treat bullies. Actually it is one of the things in life I am working on: my reaction time to bullies. I ran into one at my little gym the other day. Let’s call him “R”.  “R” was in the gym when I arrived using the elliptical trainer. I sat down on the exercise bike, put my headphones on, and began my workout. AT first there was calm in this small space as two people worked off their frustrations on exercise machines while reading and listening to whatever.  Suddenly all of that changed. “R” received a call on his cell and began to talk about inane stuff in a voice that penetrated my headphones and my brain as well. I felt incredibly annoyed and was unable to focus on my own paper and music. I focused instead on how annoying and rude this behavior was. I thought about how people who use cell phones in places where others are reading or watching TV are really thoughtless. I found myself becoming angrier and angrier. I used most of my Buddhist practices to attempt to overcome this anger. I got nowhere.

At this point I knew I needed to get off the bike and leave the room before I let myself get really mad. I know this sounds ridiculous. I really do. I know I should be able to ignore people who do this kind of thing but I resent people who ignore common courtesy.  I believe that we should all live in a respectful manner and it surprises me when I run into people who don’t have the same attitude. It really surprises me when I am in the gym of a private club in Tiburon. What makes me think people should behave better here? Look at Madoff. I bet he belonged to a lot of private clubs.

Anyway, back to that morning…I went to the club office and asked the manager what the cell phone policy was in the club. I was told there wasn’t a specific one but rather one much likes my own idea of how to behave. The club officers thought members would know appropriate behavior.

After learning this you would have thought I would feel vindicated but I returned to the gym and reassembled myself on the bike only to hear “R” address me in a loud voice.

“Is my talking on the cell bothering you?” he asked in a rather belligerent tone.

Here’s where I caved. Instead of simply saying “Yes” and looking him in the eye, I responded “Well, yes, it is, and we do have an unspoken policy that…”

I was interrupted at this point by “R” who said, “I wasn’t asking about unspoken policy, I was asking you whether or not my cell phone was an issue. Well! Yes or no? I don’t need to hear any BS about unspoken policy!!”  As he was saying this his voice grew louder and his stance became more aggressive. He was peddling more furiously and I was scared. Here is where I need help. What I should have said was, “Yes, your cell phone conversation bothered me and your behavior now is really out of line!”

I should have said “Does it make you feel powerful and important to bully women?”

I should have said, ““R”! Anger management! That’s all I have to say!

I find it difficult to deal with rude people and I usually avoid them and that is what my next move was. I gathered up my things and left the gym, realizing if I stayed it would have been a battle not to engage with “R”’s angry energy.

In retrospect I am trying not to be hard on myself for not fighting back when people bully me. I know that is the only behavior that stops bullies. I am thinking of signing up for a class in Judo or Karate. I am imagining myself the next time I run into “R” jumping into a ready stance with my hands up ready for the killer hit. Imagining this helps me a lot! I know I will be better prepared next time! I bet “R” will not or at least I hope he won’t. I like to win.