Goodbye, Superstition

I’ve always kept my left finger unadorned.

As if that finger were sacred– to be saved for the future.

But today I decided otherwise.

Because that finger belongs to me– rather and some imagined future spouse. It struck me as not just hopelessly patriarchal, but silly, to continue waiting.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone’s future wife or future mother. I’ve always kept “The Big Picture” in mind, and that has largely governed my actions. It’s kept me ┬áresponsible and practical.

But today I define myself alone– without any other influence.

I am not a woman who considers parts of herself verboten unless claimed by a relationship. It may seem trivial, but I find it empowering.

I’m no longer passive.

I put a ring on it myself! It’s just cute costume jewelry, but I chose it.

And now when I look at my right hand ring finger, I smile.

I chose myself over superstition.

And I feel a new security in that choice.


Dear Forever Valentine, Thank You

Because you (I!) deserve a love letter today. Self, you are always by my side!

First, I am proud of you.

I see a woman who has nothing to prove this year. She is wearing overalls because they are what she feels comfortable wearing, and she’s STOKED at the ’90s are back in that style! With it, a pink and white baseball shirt because it’s a little feminine but also practical. Today she is wearing no make-up. Her hair is shorn in a pixie, which makes her feel free– she loves the feeling of the icy wind on her neck. She often goes without a hat, but zips her coat up to the hilt instead.

This year has been about realigning with what you need, and putting that into action. And you are making great strides every day! Even when you think I don’t notice the progress, I do. Even when no one else does, I see.

I believe in and admire you, Amee. I adore that name– your mother chose it with care. It’s not something to be found on pencils, which you used to resent. It’s singular and a little bit exotic–French. There is nothing typical about you. You forge your own way in every aspect of your life– you don’t do things like everyone else.

You are unafraid to sacrifice in the present for something you know will be better in the future. You are committed to what you need even when it’s not fun or popular. You are learning to value your own voice most. You can weather questions and the assumptions of others with increasing grace.

Like all humans, you have walls to protect yourself. Your heart is not impulsive as it once was, although sometimes I know you long for those days. Those were beautiful times of innocence, important to teach you lessons. Of loss, of how to lose yourself in giving. Of appreciating someone even when they don’t understand why you love them. You seek to understand others and comfort them.

You know how to love with abandon, commitment and safety.

You accept that not everyone deserves what you want to give– you are more patient. You demand that people prove to you that they are sincere. Never admonish yourself for that– it’s been learned with fire.

You always rise. You may slow down, you may hold yourself back with caution.

But conserving your energy and valuing what you possess to give others is something wonderful and smart.

Keep doing that.

Everything that you need is on its way to you. It is happening at exactly the right time and speed– just continue to trust in your judgement.

You are more real than many who put up a better facade. When you’re not happy, you don’t pretend. You’re polite and professional when needed, but never insincere. That is something glorious– the ability to know how you’re feeling and not be ashamed of it. That takes tremendous courage– it’s a skill not everyone has yet learned.

That writer heart of yours beats steady. I can always depend on you. We are always together.

Whatever comes your way, you will handle it with aplomb.

I am grateful that you preserve that delightful spark of silly, that propensity for wackiness. I am glad that you see beauty in the most ordinary circumstances.

You are loyal, affectionate, serious.

Thank you for not changing for anyone.

You are my favorite. I love you! You are beautiful and strong.

You are making peace with uncertainty and deciding to be your own hero.

And that is the best Valentine’s gift I could ever give you.


All the Love You Possess

Resting Bitch Face? : Please Don’t Ask Me to Smile

It’s even happened at the dentist.

Waiting, I was reading a book. My dentist arrived to get to work, and felt the need to comment on my facial expression. Apparently I looked intense. Reading books does involve the brain– and emotions, as well.

Was something wrong? He had to know. I looked angry.

I stopped reading and looked up, confused. No, I was fine.

Is it shocking that my facial expression corresponds with my thought process? I can hardly believe this is unusual behavior.

More importantly, why does it seem to bother everyone when I display emotions other than happiness? Strangers, especially?

It happens at the most random moments: very frequently, at work.

I’ll be walking along looking for clients to approach or straightening up my display. And suddenly, I will be asked, “Why do you look so serious?” Or people will comment on my expression. I’ll be told that I look angry, or asked, “What’s wrong?”

Nothing. I’m thinking. How else should I appear? Am I supposed to be levitating constantly on a cloud of happiness, with a pleasant expression– or even better, a totally blank one?

Most often, it’s men doing this. But not always.

One female co-worker will always ask how I’m doing, and it seems no answer satisfies her unless I’m at the very least, delighted. If I say I’m good, her response is always, “Just good?”

My answers have become shorter and shorter because really, what do I owe this woman? Nothing. Why does she always need me to be happy, or something BETTER than good? “Good” is a pretty satisfactory state, at least in my book. We’re not close friends, we don’t hang out. Just say hello and sometimes talk at work.

Apparently I, too, am afflicted by Resting Bitch Face. Notice this term is never applied to men?

Have you ever heard someone joke that a dude who looks serious totally has Resting Bitch Face? Probably not.

But when a woman is anything less than overjoyed, everyone notices. Even total strangers.

“Smile,” they’ll say.

Why? I’m stumped as to why it makes a total stranger uncomfortable if I don’t smile. And why they get annoyed if I don’t oblige.

If I want to share my thoughts with you, I will.

But I don’t want to be told how to feel, or pressured to feel something different.

I *do* smile– when I genuinely feel happy. If not commanded to, I may just smile first at a stranger.

I smile when something wonderful surprises me. When I enjoy a memory, when I’m dreaming about something that could happen– a possibility.

If anything, I’m proud to not be a constant smiler. Because I’m not faking it.

But just because I’m concentrating on a book, a task, or thinking about something– I don’t need to explain or apologize for it.

This street artist, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, launched a project I really appreciate: “Stop Telling Women to Smile.”┬áPlease click and watch the video explaining what inspired it and showing the women she interviewed, who she then photographed and incorporated into posters she put up in places where they had felt harassed.

I don’t have Resting Bitch Face, and I’m fine, thanks.

I’m just a thinker.

A thinker whose face has changed with age to show the lines where her brow furrows, her forehead wrinkles, the outlines of her smile. I’m proud of a face that is no longer a blank, un-lined canvas, although I did enjoy it in my youth.

You’ll never find me courting Botox, trying to rewind time and freeze those muscles.

These lines make me human. They make me beautiful. They make me a woman who thinks and feels.

Don’t be ashamed of yours!

And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for your facial expressions.

What are your experiences with strangers talking to you or commenting on your apparent mood? Does it bother you or not?