Choosing the Back Porch

Choosing the Back Porch

At our last family gathering, my aunt asked me how life was going in Austin. I told her that traffic & increasing cost of living are pain points for me, but it’s still the lack of diversity that always bothers me most and keeps me from feeling totally at home here. Even though I grew up in a suburb, it was near Houston, which is the most ethnically diverse city in the U.S.  So as a white, middle-class kid, I was probably exposed to different races, religions, and perspectives more than my counterparts in other American cities. It was a stark contrast when I came to Austin. And it’s only getting worse.

Despite growing 20.4 percent between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, (Austin) was the country’s only large, fast-growing city to record a decline in its black population.”

My aunt, who is my dad’s sister, reminded me that they (my dad, my aunt, their younger sister, and my grandparents), all lived in Austin in the 1960s. (Actually just two streets away from where I live now.) She said she remembers having a good friend from the neighborhood who was black, and they would walk a few blocks to a burger place nearby sometimes to grab sodas from the takeout window. One day, my aunt suggested they go inside for food instead and her friend shook her head and pointed to the door.

“That’s when I noticed the ‘Whites Only’ sign for the first time.”

She said she read it and then her mind started putting together all these instances that had felt weird to her over the years- times when her dad didn’t want her friend to come in their house, or when neighbors stared at them playing. She said she was sure there were other things, but they never really registered to her. She ate on the back porch with her friend that day, and then always ate on the back porch after that, until the signs came down and restaurants integrated a few years later.

It’s not a coincidence that my aunt now stands out in my family as a vocal supporter of equality and human rights. At ten years old she chose the right side when other adults around her did not. And if her choices had only been guided by what she saw in her own home, she would not have.

All the people that lived here back then: What did they pass down? What did they teach? Did they eat on the back porch, or did they go inside and leave their fellow citizens outside? Did they even think about it? Do they care? This is where we are now: Yesterday, Nazis rallied in Charlottesville and murdered and assaulted Americans. Changing a sign and changing a society are two very different things, and the work to stay aware, make the right choices, and be compassionate is constant.

Photo credit: Behind the Tower

List: Shopping for Clothes at 35

List: Shopping for Clothes at 35

As a 35-year-old woman, these are the categories of clothing I am asked to choose from:

  • You can wear this to your office job, but it would be weird to wear this in any other scenario.
  • Do you want to feel comfortable more than you want to look like you spent three hours getting ready? Oh, you do? Skip these outfits.
  • “Individual style” & “personality” are overrated. We know what you need: Beige.
  • Everything here comes with a matching jacket or cardigan. Sometimes even sewn in!
  • Everything here is made from the finest scratchy, translucent, non-breathable fabrics science could create.
  • You aren’t old yet! Let these odd shapes, clingy fabrics, and confusing patterns remind you every day.
  • You aren’t young anymore! Let these odd shapes, billowy fabrics, and confusing patterns remind you every day.
  • These are the hottest trends. You might feel weird about showing off that one section of your shoulder, but you’ll look so cool!
  • Remember, you don’t want to look too sexy. But you also don’t want to look too frumpy. You want your coworkers & friends to compliment your outfits, but you don’t want to seem like you care a lot about your looks. You want to put effort into your style, but no one should be able to tell. But also who cares? You do you! …as long as it can’t offend anyone else or draw too much attention in any situation. Anyway, what were we talking about?

Photo credit: Who to Wear on Pinterest

This Morning Was Alright

This Morning Was Alright

Today I:

  • Tried a gluten-free breakfast sandwich because they were out of everything else. It was my least favorite no-gluten thing to ever eat.
  • Tried to take Austin Kleon‘s very good advice about staying informed without burning yourself out on news before your day begins – You can be woke without waking up to the news. I lasted 20 minutes.
  • Saw two dogs on campus that looked like the big and little versions of each other! (I couldn’t snap a photo because they were playing too much.)
    Hm, what else? Oh yeah…
  • Woke up to millions of Americans still having their healthcare.

Capture

I don’t suddenly feel less anxious about the overall state of the government but today it seems a little easier to focus on the people who are doing good. Like ADAPT and the many women in our government who somehow find a way to keep fighting in the face of all this, like Patty MurrayKamala Harris, & Maxine Waters.

And last night, Mazie Hirono showed real life courage:

We have a long road ahead, but just being able to even mention a few positive, encouraging people and news headlines today feels like a big step.

The Light & Dark of It

The Light & Dark of It

It’s a new week. And I’m still here.

  • Yesterday morning I missed a crucial left turn driving to work, so I had to drive about 10 minutes out of my way to turn around. I’ve never missed that turn.
  • My eyes have been twitching on and off for over a week now. At first I thought it was something with my contacts, but then I stopped wearing my contacts…
  • I’ve been going to bed about an hour later and waking up about 30-45 minutes earlier every day for the past couple of weeks.
  • Lately, I feel perpetually behind on tasks and over-booked for activities. It’s a daily struggle.
  • I forgot my office keys at home today. I’ve never forgotten my office keys.

It’s a new week. And I want to be here.

  • Despite feeling exhausted, I’ve been setting time aside each day to draw, read, or work on a project I enjoy.
  • I’ve also been making time to just sit and watch something that makes me laugh, like The Larry Sanders Show (which I finally discovered), Tiffany Haddish telling a story, or 30 Rock on Netflix.
  • I’ve also been making time daily for 10 minutes of mindful meditation. Overall, this is beneficial, but specifically it helps me check-in with my brain & make sure I’m not telling myself too many negative stories.
  • Yoga with Adriene – 7 minute stress relief, remains essential to my weeks.
  • I decided to start therapy again to work on the sources of my anxiety & depression. I realized last week that I have told three people this month about how much therapy has helped me, so I’m going to take my own advice, and reach out for another source of help.
Summer Movie Enjoyment Cap

Summer Movie Enjoyment Cap

Last summer, I only saw three movies at the theater from May until September. If you’re curious, they were Captain America: Civil War, Ghostbusters, and The Nice Guys. All three were good movies and I enjoyed them, but my favorite experience, by far, was Ghostbusters.

Watching four women save the world from ghosts was not only super fun, but it felt exciting in a way that was… specifically for me. I had goosebumps. It was honestly a little overwhelming. I went through a cycle of emotions after that – I was happy a big summer movie featuring women heroes existed, but I was also really irritated that so many movies still placed an unnecessary hard cap on my (and most people’s) possible enjoyment by not including women, POCs, or other perspectives in their stories. But maybe this wouldn’t feel so new one day and it would be normal to see everyone represented in wide-release summer movies?

ghostbusters-masshysteria

[Cut to summer 2017]

This summer, the cinema has upped its game. I’ve already seen six movies and it’s not even August. But none of them have left me feeling as good as Wonder Woman. I saw it opening night with my partner, and then gave it my money a second time with my best friend. We loved this movie in that specific Ghostbusters way.

Now that I know what it feels like to watch movies that aren’t just the same white men making movies about white men being cool, I want more, and I want better. Here’s a quick list of some “Perfectly good & enjoyable, but there’s a cap on that enjoyment” movies I’ve already seen this summer:

1. War for the Planet of the Apes: A technical masterpiece. The direction, score, special effects, and genius of Andy Serkis as Caesar, created an engaging, beautiful movie. But, I also found myself cringing at the story. A larger, seriously problematic theme was overt. And this entire franchise is undeniably rooted in misogyny. I never thought I’d say this, but we deserve better stories about apes taking over the earth.

2. Spiderman Homecoming: A very well done Spidey-reboot from Sony/Marvel. We should be sick of getting new Spidermen but with this great cast & fun story, we’re back in!… Rooting once more for Peter Parker when Miles Morales could have been our first POC Spiderman? I know there are hints that it’s coming, but why not now? This movie was solid, but seems like a possible missed opportunity, made even more obvious by the fact that everyone else in this movie is not a white guy, except the main hero & villain, of course.

tenor

3. Baby Driver: Fast cars, cool music, heists, Jon Hamm!… But, the women in this movie are props, and I tweeted my other thoughts.

Look, all these films are all very highly rated, and I enjoyed them – I laughed, smiled, and felt emotions. I don’t think enjoying something means you can’t discuss its problems. I’m just so tired of saying, “I enjoyed this movie, but…” And as long as big-budget storytelling is predominantly a white male-centric domain, these stories will be problematic & limited. And so will our enjoyment.

Recommendations: Movies I enjoyed recently on my Likes page. Also, go see Black Panther when it comes out because it looks fantastic!

Photo Credit: ScreenRant