Sunday, July 21, 2013

A friend is like a good bra...

"Friendship is when people know all about you and like you anyway." Anon
The last week has been an incredible reminder about the importance of friends. I had the pleasure of going to see my daughter for visiting day at sleep away camp. She is not yet 10 and this was her first summer there. When we saw her for the first time in three weeks, what struck me was not just how happy she was, but how at home. It was as if she had always spent the summer there. She knew everyone and could not wait to introduce us to her friends, counselors, staff etc. She was so completely infatuated, happy and spirited. There were a few girls she had made contact with before she left as a way to feel less nervous. As I saw them all together and watched them with their parents, I was struck by how quickly you become incredibly close when you live with others 24 hours a day. So much of what they talked about was "we" not "I." Their adventures had been as a team, supporting one another, consoling, laughing, each experiencing each others joy. They have been home less than 12 hours and I have already received text from several of the mothers about how much the girls already miss each other. How close they had become and how soon could they see each other again? My daughter is lucky enough to have many close friends from home and now these sisters are added to the web of her world. She is blessed.
I too am blessed. When I love someone I do so with all of me and anything less feels impossible. I am this way with my close friends. They are from so many parts of my life. Childhood, college, work, through our children or our neighborhood. They live around the corner and around the country. There are some I talk to 10 times a day and others I might speak to every once in a blue moon. But if you are my friend, you know it. Some friends have been with me through the highest and lowest points of my life and I with them. There are even some friends who if I called in the middle of the night and said I needed them, would get in the car first and ask "why?" second.
These are the friends who know my bright shiny parts and my dark and twisty ones and love me anyway. These are the friends who have held my hands, my hair and my heart and never walked away. These are the friends who bless me with their wit, wisdom, truth and pain and together we move forward in our lives. We have likely fought at times, argued, cried and slammed doors. But when our dust settled the only answer was to come back together and try harder because we were worth it.
When you are the mother of two daughters, you spend a lot of time seeing how mean and cruel girls can be to each other, how awful boys can be to girls as well. You want to lock them up in a tower through high school to shield them from the pain and torture of navigating friendship and love. The only solace you have, is looking at your own friends and knowing that you would never have survived any of it without them. Knowing that your children will also figure out how to tell the gems from the fools gold and hold them close. You will warn them about being a good friend. That the only way to have good friends is to be one.
Then there will be the nights you spend with friends where all of the craziness fades away and you speak from your core, from your soul. You know now as an adult that there is trust and fierceness to those friendships and everything is understood without words. At those times, I try to remind myself that not everyone is so lucky, so blessed or so loved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Truth, Sexologists and The New York Times

I named this blog Living Life Loudly with a purpose. The purpose was to never have to explain myself before posting. "Loudly" can be subjective I have realized. Sometimes it is what we don't say that says just as much about us.

I think. A lot. Most of the time, I think too much, too deeply and too analytically. I am an over thinker and often it makes me paranoid and sad. I also talk. A lot. I explained to a friend recently that talking is my method of processing. I am not the type to process on my own. I need sounding boards, feedback and opinions. It is just how I am built. I am loud. I am opinionated. I am honest to a fault. I think all of that bravado often leaves those outside of my inner sanctum to assume I am strong and impervious. Recently I had an acquaintance tell me that they assumed I cared little about judgement or the opinion of others. I am not sure how I feel about projecting that persona, but it could not be less true. I am unbearably sensitive, easily hurt and needy.

After years of making excuses for the loud extrovert I am, I have come to terms with both sides of me. I am often the loudest person in a room. I am rarely without an opinion and I can talk to anyone. Those parts of me have been (mostly) an asset in my career and my life. Lately however, I have found that I am always making excuses or apologizing for the other side. The part of me that needs to feel loved, understood and important. The amount of "I'm sorry" I have said even in the last week is startling. Especially, when I have not really done anything wrong. Most of my apologies have been in response to being me. For being honest and allowing people on the receiving end to make me regret my honesty. And that leaves me raw and vulnerable and well...unsure about honesty as an art or science.

It was with that mindset that I read Logan Levkoff's Blog A Penn Grad's Response to the NYT's 'Sex on Campus' Let me say that Logan is amongst my heroes. Here is a U Penn dual degree grad , similar age to me, who works as a Sexologist, HuffPost blogger, Author, Today Show expert guest etc. She uses the words sex, vibrator and masturbation on national TV without so much as a smirk. She is open, honest and sassy to boot. She never comes off as crass or inappropriate and she says what the rest of us are thinking. Logan takes issue with a recent NY Times Article She says "I am upset that yet another article about campus hookups suggests that women's empowerment is being achieved through merely "acting like stereotypical men."

The NY Times author, Kate Taylor, writes: Because they believed that talking publicly about sex could come back to haunt them -- by damaging their reputations at Penn, their families' opinions of them or their professional future -- the women spoke on the condition that their full names would not be revealed.

Logan writes "Herein lies the first problem. How empowered are we when we cannot own the statements that we make about sex? As a young adult, there is nothing more satisfying that being able to state your beliefs and being accountable to yourself and yourself alone. (Yes, I recognize that parents still take care of their young adults, financially and emotionally.) But true freedom exists when you take control of your body, your desires and your politics. Talking to a reporter about something that you feel proud of (and are boasting about in a New York Times cover story) and requesting anonymity is counterintuitive."

Technically, I don't disagree with Logan at all. I am the first to want control of my body, my desires and my politics. I want to be able to state my beliefs and be accountable to myself. I want nothing more than to teach that to my daughters (who are just beginning to become aware of sex and their bodies and their own opinions and minds). But what is wrong with wanting part of that control to be about privacy? What is wrong with deciding what you share with one (or two or three if you are into that) person is not anyone else's business? What is wrong with sharing your experience but not your name? Like it or not, there is almost no anonymity today and when you are given the choice to keep yours, it is just that...a choice.

For younger girls it's no longer that simple. We can't ignore the rampant bullying associated with young girls and sex. We can't separate this desire for "true freedom" from the stigma social media has put on the game of telephone. Sex, even between two consenting parties often turns into something all together different when one of those parties decides to share that information with their "friends." Teenagers are a cruel and unusual bunch.

I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who never avoided the topic of sex. They made it clear that it was normal and natural but always better when with someone you cared about. Their main concern was that I was safe and that I made my own decisions. I plan to do the same with my daughters, but with the added
burden of technology and social media. Now I have to add, "don't send naked pictures of yourself to anyone, don't write anything in email, text or on Facebook that you wouldn't want everyone you know to know etc."

For adults it's not so much about being judged by the public at large either. We have all had the kind of sex so mind blowing that it makes you want to stand on a mountain and announce it to the world. By and large though, we don't. We make that choice each for our own reasons. But again it's our choice. Sometimes it's because the idea of sharing it with anyone who was not there would somehow lesson the experience. It's also about realizing that sometimes there are truths no one else wants to know. That those you love do not want your burdens as theirs.

I for one, am glad that these women had the opportunity to share their experiences and the choice of sharing their names. At the end of the day the concern I share with Logan is that the article implied "that women's empowerment is being achieved through merely "acting like stereotypical men."  This is where we need to focus, where we need to change the script, for ourselves and our daughters.



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

So maybe this is 38

Yesterday, in tribute to my beautiful friend Ali's birthday, one of my favorite people in the world (Heather) sent this essay from the Huffington Post to a small group of friends.

Heather is one of those people with an indomitable spirit and endless positivity. At first glance I loved the essay. It's author captured so much truth and authenticity. Then two of the friends on the email (the birthday girl included) wrote back saying "would like to think we aren't half way there yet..." and "Ummmm no one else found that a bit depressing??? We have completed as many years and we have ahead! Oy I feel so old!!! I like to still think of myself as a girl not a lady " I realized they were right and I decided each of us has our own version. For Ali, maybe this one will hit closer to home.

So for us, maybe this is 38...

Not so much in the middle of our lives, (as I have every intention of living well into my 90's), rather at the middle of our growth. I'd like to think that the 80's and 90's are merely for reflection. Therefore, 38 might be the point at which we are half-way between who we were and who we become. 38 is old enough to have seen most everything and still young enough to want to see more. More jaded and realistic than idealistic. Still convinced that what we do matters, what we say counts and how we love is more important than who we love.

In 2013, 38 is also tricky because as women we have redefined the 30's. Some of us have been married "forever" and have kids in the double digits, some are divorced, widowed or remarried. Others are new to all of that, still navigating newborns, pregnancy, coming out of the closet or choosing to remain single.

38 for some, is the height of their career, finally having paid their dues and been recognized for their dedication and accomplishments. Others have woken up one day to realize they want something all together different and changed their path completely. Some of us have made the difficult choice to try to have it all, realized that was not possible and compromised our careers for our families. We've convinced ourselves we'll all be better for that sacrifice. For some that will be true and others will always wonder.

38 is knowing who we are and most days, being at peace with that. 38 is realizing that taking care of your body is more important than ever and looking around you to see so many friends in the best shape of their lives but, knowing that it comes harder than it used to. 38 is about acceptance. Of ourselves, our reality, our families and slowly letting go of wanting your life to be something it is not. 38 is about letting go of some of the self loathing and letting in more self loving. Or sometimes, not having enough time in the day for either.

38 is having buried a best friend, watching another bury their parent and yet another their child. 38 is realizing this only the beginning of that journey. But 38 is also having witnessed birth and realizing that you had know idea about love until you had children. That having them is like watching your heart walk around on two feet and that you'd not hesitate to throw yourself in front of a bus for them.

38 is also realizing that the scariest thing on TV is not Hannibal, Real Housewives or The Walking Dead but the national news. 38 is letting your children watch endless episodes of brainless garbage but never letting them watch the news because you are without the ability to explain the horrors of the world to a 7 year old.

38 is about real, deep and meaningful friendships. Knowing that your friends really are the family you chose for yourself, which also means you have likely parted with some who were toxic and added others you never would have imagined having at 20. At 38 your girlfriends are your lifeline, your sanity, your belly busting laughter and your gut wrenching tears. They know your bra size, your secrets and your fears and they never use them against you.

38 is about sex. Too much, not enough...figuring out how to reinvent it and yourself. For some its about finally being open and honest enough to get what you need and want. Talking about it with yourself, your partner, your friends, your therapist. Others laugh at the idea that 35 was supposed to be women's sexual peak. A clean house, paid bills and 8 hours of sleep sound more enticing.

38 is about wanting to look good but knowing that driving your kids to school in your pink fluffy robe might not be the best way. 38 is about owning more workout gear than panties because admit it, we all go commando at the gym. 38 is about even amounts of comfortable shoes and sexy ones and knowing which will collect dust and which will make your bunions happy. 38 is about seeing stretch marks, grey hairs, cellulite, crow's feet, c-sections scars etc. and trying to think of them as well deserved battle scars.

38 my dear Ali, is where we are and the best part is that we get to define it. We are no longer held to the designations our grandmothers were. We are no longer held to the ideals built only by men. We live here and now and 38 is whatever you want it to be. Today that is...tomorrow you might choose a whole different version. xo


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Community

Community per Wikipedia "In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness."

In the last two weeks I have been reminded so many times about the incredible importance of community and the extensive way we might all define it for ourselves.

Almost immediately after dropping my oldest daughter at sleep away camp for the first time, Facebook alerted me to a CPLV alum camp friend who had just suffered a tragedy so enormous I was immediately moved to reach out to other camp friends. Within hours one friend had set up a group email to keep everyone else informed and within days we had decided how we could, as a community, do something meaningful. So many of these people I have not seen or spoken to in person in years and years. Yet, it was without hesitation that we acted together. So strong a bond formed long ago at camp. No one even questioned coming together.

Several days ago the Jewish community suffered an unimaginable event when three children at Camp GUCI were randomly struck by lightening while they played in a field. I only know of this story peripherally and yet my Facebook feed has been flooded with information, requests for prayer and invitations to support these families from friends whose children have attended, my own synagogue, the Columbus Jewish Federation etc. Again, a community.

As the July 4th weekend approaches in Bexley, OH, I am struck again about the power of such communities. Growing up on Long Island I had no idea that this would come to be my absolute favorite holiday. Between the community parade, block parties, fireworks and the amount of people who return home every year for this weekend, it is without fail the best weekend of the summer. This summer is marked by the 20th reunion of graduation from high school. My husband will celebrate his with a float in the parade, a family picnic and adult only party that will likely be as much fun as the entire weekend itself.

I marked mine earlier in June with a great party in NYC. I no longer live in NY and my access to friends from high school out side of Facebook is limited. None of that mattered as folks started to trickle through the door of the bar where we held our reunion. In some ways it was as if no time had passed. The most marked difference was how truly happy everyone was to see everyone else. How little pretense was left, even in a class so full of cliques 20 years ago. It was as if, as a community, we had all grown up enough to appreciate who we had been and who we are today. Twenty years ago we were all so eager to find out what the next chapter was. Twenty years later so many of us realized that the book was incomplete without the early chapters. They formed who we became.

I feel blessed to be a part of so many "communities" large and small. I only hope that I contribute with my own small hand print to each one.