"You should be a model," said the male taxi driver. His customer was a prize-winning entrepreneur
A LinkedIn post by a 20-year-old beauty who is also a capable business woman brought up a story from a trip to Egypt in 2016. I had just finished a ride near the Pyramids. The guy who had rented me the horse had originally put me, as requested, on an Arabian. That stud turned up lame, so we had to return and get an Egyptian horse, which rented out for significantly less per hour.
When we got back, the owner insisted that I pay the rate for the more expensive horse. I absolutely stood my ground. He was surprised I was so adamant. I explained to him that I ran my own business. He eyebrows nearly flew off his head. In his world such a thing was unthinkable.
Women weren't supposed to know how to negotiate terms.
I got my way, as it were, and paid the proper price for the less expensive horse. Besides, I had taught the guide some training moves for his animal, which surprised him as well.
That man couldn't believe I ran my own business. The rest of the world in many places still has a terrible time understanding entrepreneurship. In this backwards-facing country, some SCOTUS judges would like very much to bring all female progress (and with it, kindly, the economy), to a screeching halt.
A woman, most especially a pretty one, has no business being anything other than a bauble to the current conservative idiocy. I grew up with that bullshit myself, being asked a million times why I wasn't married solely because, for a time at least, I was pretty.
Let's talk. Beauty has become, thanks to social media, the coin of the realm in ways that nobody could have imagined. To that, please see this:
This really speaks to the younger generations whose lives are so dominated by filters, and how the effort to be a Kardashian Klone or Dwayne Johnson twin is the be-all of life. While that causes me great GI discomfort, those are the times, for it makes money.
Our angst as teens is bad enough without social media. Add the predatory messaging that you aren't pretty enough to our girl children and you aren't muscular enough to our boys, and the hooks are set for life. Profit at the expense of our kids.
That's just part of it.
In our general abdication of what it means to parent, which is to teach our kids how to think and discern and make judgment calls, how to tolerate being alone and how to navigate relationships, when we ourselves disappear into our phones, we are teaching them no life skills at all.
First, if I may, the issue of boundaries. Here is a great NPR article on just that:
My buddy Melissa is setting solid and healthy boundaries with her life partner about the partner's adopted adult son, and it's both difficult and powerful. Those challenging discussions are helping their relationship grow.
However I would posit that boundaries in this sense are much broader than that. Boundaries around how much time we spend on sick social media, how much of the sewage we allow into our lives to twist us into hopeless and angry gargoyles is just as important. If we teach ourselves and our kids to play outside, to be in life, and to not count on Silicon Valley algorithms to measure our human value, they have a good shot.
If we erase those boundaries, we, and they, are equally lost. Just like now. So the idea of boundaries for me is learning to step outside on my deck to watch the sun paint the firs instead of the allowing the latest news to paint my life grey and hopeless.
My life is not grey and hopeless. Neither is yours. However, darkness and fear sell. We love our negativity and our ain't it awful.
I'm not buying. Neither should you. It's one thing to be informed about events. It's another to be convinced there is nothing we can do. Controlling the flow and quality of what lands in our noggins each day is one of THE great life skills of our times, and our kids aren't doing this well.
Lots of us aren't either, for we haven't set some important boundaries around allowing toxic messaging to get into our lives. To say nothing of toxic food, which is a whole other conversation.
Finally, as someone who sits on the knife edge between being an introvert and an extrovert, I have learned to better balance my absolute need for alone time and rejuvenation with my need for social interaction. I am utterly at ease being alone for long, long periods. That is also a life skill.
I did miss friends and socialization, which was exacerbated for all of us under quarantine. However I tolerated that well, for it's a skill I learned on my father's farm. Much of farm work is solo work, and it teaches you to concentrate.
I've learned, and we need to teach our kids, how to have an inner conversation with that self, which is always and forever with us. Those conversations need to be valuable, loving and supportive. When social media teaches us to hate how we look and how inadequate we are by comparison (it sells shit), that inner conversation is infected with lies.
Boundary-setting is one of life's critical skills. We need to set boundaries with the ugly inner critic which finds fault with every single little thing. That voice needs to learn restraint. That voice is fed by sick social media, which makes money from our human angst and worry about our looks, our bank accounts and our social standing.
In the early hours of a July morning, I watched red gold paint the firs while listening to the birds as they flitted around my yard. I like being alone. I like my inner voice. We have an agreement: you (inner voice, that is) can bring up my faults, we can discuss them, but you may not use them as a cat o' nine tails. We can have a polite conversation, then you, inner critic, may leave the room.
I will work on my faults, but they don't define or dominate my inner discussion.
These are the life skills kids need in a world full of predatory messaging. We are losing our kids to their phones, and the helplessness sold us by Silicon Valley's sellout to advertisers. We have lost too much of ourselves as well. This to say nothing of how much we try to drown ourselves with bad food, bad drugs, alcohol and other diversions to shout out the noise, which can most certainly be turned off if we chose to do it ourselves.
We aren't victims. We are consumers. There is such a thing as an off button.
When we can't do this, we are teaching our children, HAVE taught our kids, how to be victims. Just read the headlines.
We desperately want to believe we are free. We aren't, so long as we can't have a kind conversation with ourselves, be alone for hours on end and thoroughly enjoy our own company, turn off all devices to enjoy the silence, and appreciate with great enthusiasm the face we see in the mirror.
We do not need beauty to be beautiful. We don't need company all the time to feel validated. We do not need to be constantly entertained to be in life. Being alive is indeed entertainment enough, should we but attend to its beauty in the everyday and mundane.
And allow ourselves to be bored.
Boredom is a fine and precious thing, for it allows us to rest entirely in a too-fast world.
I believe we do need a balance of information, solitude, grace, company, introspection, careful consideration and most certainly action and work. Call me crazy, but I don't see how endless hours consuming sludge on social media helps us in any regard.
But that's just me.
I realize that many of us are of the generation which shared, as did our previous generations, different values around time, relationships and much more. We are the last, including most Gen Xers, to grow up without being surgically attached to a phone from near-birth.
Some time back a good friend admonished me for being negative about how tech was affecting our lives. She has a PhD, is approaching eighty, and she has the wisdom and wherewithal to be able to turn it off as necessary. Too many of us don't.
This is a late add: the morning after I published this piece, another very relevant article showed up:
Those of us who are setting the example are failing the next generations by handing over our lives to children in Silicon Valley who care little about the quality of our existence and everything about the size of our bank accounts, which they mean to empty via empty entertainment and dopamine-inducing hits.
That's called slavery, in just another form. America is very, very good at that.
But you and I have options. It's the off-button. I hope you choose to use it as often as possible.
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