18 Ways Modern Society Infuriates Me


This post is meant to be both humorous & thought-provoking.  I invite you to laugh with me.  But please think with me also . . .

  1. We create & consume porn by the truckload & watch Miley Cyrus twerk on TV, but we’re afraid to discuss real sexuality & issues that actually matter like birth control, teen pregnancy, breastfeeding, & rape/sexual abuse.
  2. We complain about the lack of decent guys (& girls) but we participate in a hook-up culture that promotes zero self-respect & commitment.  We say we want to keep things simple, not realizing that sex is never simple, yet relationships needn’t be half as complicated as we seem to make them.
  3. The two major political parties are a farce.  Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves.political parties
  4. Religious groups are becoming increasingly polarized.  As more & more people stray from mainstream religion, those who remain are becoming increasingly radical.
  5. The people who oppose abortion 100% of the time regardless of circumstances are very often the exact same people who oppose birth control or at least do not support the notion that easily accessible birth control would help reduce the incidence of abortion.
  6. Our economy sucks but the average wedding still costs upwards of $20,000.
  7. Skinny jeans are still in style.skinny jeans
  8. We’re still holding onto the idea that cholesterol is the main culprit behind heart disease when research has shown time & time again that this is absolutely false.
  9. The American school system foregoes teaching Spanish & other “foreign” languages until middle & high school, WELL past the prime age at which the brain is capable of learning new languages.
  10. Rock radio stations are increasingly hard to find.
  11. Bro country exists . . . And there is enough of it to warrant naming this god-awful phenomenon.bro country
  12. TV shows & movies almost NEVER get Southern accents right.  Apparently no one in Hollywood has ever actually been to the South.
  13. There is a large segment of the population who still believes homosexuality is wrong.  I just can’t compute that one at all.
  14. The average cashier in America hasn’t been instructed on the importance of handing customers their change with all the bills facing in the same direction.  The OCD/pseudo-OCD population of America, of which I am part, collectively cringes.
  15. Everyone seems to believe in separation of church & state for every religion except their own.
  16. Speaking of religion, you can believe anything you want in the name of religion, you can even exhibit prejudice & discrimination against certain groups of people, but if you object to traditional religion (at least parts of it anyway) because of logical fallacies, suddenly YOU’RE the crazy one.
  17. Jersey Shore existed.
  18. Kim Kardashian has a career.kardashian news

 

The Hilarity of the American South


Though I’ve read a great deal of books & watched lots of movies about various parts of the U.S., I’ve lived my whole life, all 20-some years, in the South.  I’ve traveled a little to the Midwest & New England but never for long enough to really soak up the culture or get intimately acquainted with the lifestyle.  As some of you who know me in real life may be aware, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the South.  I love the weather, the flowers, the people (several of my friends & coworkers from other parts of the country have confirmed that Southerners really are friendlier by & large), the food (well, some of it), the music (again, some of it), & the geography.  But I hate the narrow-mindedness & the religious fanaticism (those two tend to go hand-in-hand, surprise, surprise!) that seem to abound in the South more so than anywhere else in this country.  I also hate that the South leads the nation in so many negative things including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, teen pregnancy, poverty, & high-school drop-out rate (shocking, I know, that these are all really quite connected).  Furthermore I hate our less than stellar history with civil rights & race relations & would be willing to bet that gay rights are suffering more in the South than in other parts of the country.  I could write a whole series of posts on the reasons why the South is the winner of such dubious “accolades” but that’s not my purpose today.  Someday I’ll write that post & probably offend a lot of people in doing so, but today I just want to write something light & witty that will hopefully make my readers smile.

map of the south

As an aside, my mom always told me “you might as well laugh as cry.”  As a nurse this has come in very handy at times.  When a patient is pooping on the floor, trying to kick me in the face, or screaming at the top of her lungs about how incompetent the hospital is, it is very tempting to run out the door crying.  Having the ability to step back & smile & laugh in spite of the difficulties is about the only thing that keeps me sane at times like these.  Don’t get me wrong: there have been plenty of times when I have cried as a nurse; I have experienced tears of sorrow, anger, & frustration & everything in between.  But with time I have slowly learned to laugh at the madness more often than cry

The same can be applied to life in generalI think about this a lot in relation to my mixed feelings about the South.  I do not want to downplay the serious problems we as a society are facing in the South.  Obesity, teen pregnancy, & poverty, among other things, are serious issues that we must address if we want to progress as a country.  I’ve discussed some of these issues on here previously & I intend to write about all of them someday, maybe even cohesively.

But in any case, my purpose today is to share some of the oddities of life here in the South that my husband & I have observed over the years.  Some of these may not be truly unique to the South, so if you’re a reader from some other part of the country, please feel free to enlighten me.  At the end of the day, one of the greatest signs of strength of a person or a society is the ability to laugh at one’s self.  So with that spirit in mind here are some of the hilarious things we’ve observed over our time living & traveling in various part of the South:

  • The fatter, harrier, & older the man, the more likely he will mow his yard shirtless in full view of the neighbors & all passers-by.  My neighbor across the street is guilty of this right now as I am typing this.  Thankfully I am not easily offended, just easily amused.  I should also add that this is the same neighbor who very soon after we moved into our house could quite often be found sitting shirtless in a lawn chair in the middle of the street watching for a raccoon that was apparently wreaking havoc on his roof.  He said he had set a trap on the roof & was hoping to watch the raccoon get caught in it.
  • Just yesterday we saw a little girl playing with a walker in the front yard of her house.  I had to wonder if her grandmother or grandfather actually uses that or if it was just given to her, for whatever reason, as a toy . . . Hmmmm.
  • In the South dumping old house-hold appliances such as washing machines & refrigerators in the back yard is completely acceptable.
  • Not once, not twice, but multiple times in various parts of the South we have observed people going down the road on a motorized wheelchair.  And not necessarily “in town” but on “back roads” too.
  • You’re not really in “the country” until there are no lines on the roads, not in the middle or on the side.  Maybe this is true in other parts of the nation too, but it’s definitely true in the South, at least the parts with which I’m familiar.  How any local government thinks this is safe is beyond me.
  • Earlier this spring we observed two beagles mating at a rest-area on the side of a major interstate.  Their humans were standing about two feet away, watching intently.  This was in full-view of all passers-by . . .
  • In the South if you want to criticize someone without feeling awfully guilty about it, just add “Bless her heart!” or “I love her to death, I really do” to the end of whatever you’re saying & suddenly your judgments are no longer considered mean-spirited.  If you’re Southern, you know you are guilty of this at least occasionally; just smile & nod.
  • Go to any small town in the South & no matter how run down everything else is, no matter how few jobs are available in the area, there are two things that will always be in immaculate condition: the churches (of which there will be so many as to make you wonder how there are enough people to fill them) & the fire dept/rescue squad.
  • Having old tires in your front yard is pretty common in the South.  Some people even grow flowers in them.  Nothing like landscaping with old rubber!

flowers in tires

  •  In our hometown, there is a certain field on the side of the major highway that cuts through the county that is littered with old tractor trailers.  They have been there for as long as we can remember.  No one seems to know who owns them or why they are there.  But they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.  And it is only when you’ve been gone for a while that you realize just how junky this looks.  But it’s not unique to my hometown.  I’ve seen this same phenomenon elsewhere in the South.
  • In certain areas of the South, we do not have garage sales.  We have yard sales.  Driving around going from yard sale to yard sale is a pretty common activity for Southerners on Saturday mornings.  As teenagers my sister & I held a yard sale along with our best friend.  We made $18 between the three of us.
  • There are certain women in the South who call everyone “Sweetie, Honey, Darling, Sugar,” or some variation thereof.  On occasion I’m quite guilty of calling everyone “Dear” myself.
  • If you’re really from the South or have spent enough time here, you will know that there are dozens, actually hundreds, of variations on the Southern accent & almost all movies & TV shows don’t imitate even one of them correctly.  I’ve heard some pretty amusing ones over the years & I love listening to all of them.
  • Elementary school gym classes in the South quite often include square-dancing.
  • On Election Day in 2012, we happened to be in our hometown for a funeral.  While my husband was pumping gas, an older gentleman started chatting with him & asked who he’d voted for.  My husband responded “A man named Johnson.”  This gentleman had apparently never heard of the Libertarian candidate & assumed my husband was talking about LBJ.  Nevermind the fact that LBJ is deceased & that my husband is about four decades too young to have ever voted for LBJ . . .
  • While on the way home from summer camp one year, my youth group stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break.  The cashier told us in no uncertain terms & with no apparent embarrassment that their bathroom had been shut down by the health dept but we were free to use the restroom at the gas station across the street.  That illustrious facility had a restroom with no functioning lights & as best I can remember either no soap or a door that didn’t close properly.
  • I should also add that it is very common to find Southerners riding bicycles at night in the middle of the road wearing all dark clothes & shoes & with no lights whatsoever on their bikes.  How there are not more auto-bicycle accidents is really quite shocking.

Southern passport

I could go on & on but I’ll stop now, hoping you’ve gotten a few laughs today.  One of the scariest things in life, to me, is the idea of staying in one place your whole life.  I know for some people that’s ok & I am not condemning that.  It’s just that I feel the need to explore as much of life as I can, & thus I consider myself blessed to have lived in three different places so far in my life, even if they have all been in the South.  I love the Raleigh-Durham area, where we’ve now settled, for numerous reasons, & for now we have no plans to leave.  One of the reasons I love this area is that it is such a cultural melting pot & does not share some of the more negative parts of the Southern experience while still sharing some of the more positive parts.  In any case, as I’ve said I have mixed feelings about the South.  Mostly I love it because this is my culture; it’s part of who I am, whether I like it or not, which is exactly why it pains me when I see some of the problems our culture is facing here.  But again that’s another post for another day.

I’d love to hear about any unusual or hilarious experiences you’ve encountered in the South (or elsewhere for that matter).

The Burden of a Daughter


I’ve had this conversation dozens of time & it always goes something like this:

Other person: “If you could only have a son or a daughter, which would you prefer?”

Me: “A daughter”

Other person: “But girls are so much more trouble.  And they’re so expensive!”

One of the most common themes I hear parents discuss is how much more difficult & expensive it is to raise girls as compared to boys.  I for one have always taken issue with this argument, probably largely because I am a girl.  Even as a kid I remember hearing people say this & finding it offensive.  I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank both of my parents for never once making such comments around me.  I am so grateful that neither of my parents ever intentionally or unintentionally made me feel like a burden to them, particularly on the basis of something so fundamental as gender which is obviously something none of us gets to choose anyway.  In fact I specifically remember my mom always responding to comments such as these by saying “Girls don’t HAVE to be more difficult or expensive.  It’s all about how you raise them.”  I firmly believe she was 100% correct in saying this.  Now I know I am not yet a parent & there is a possibility I may eat these words someday, & in some people’s opinions I’m sure I’m not even qualified to speak on this subject at all because of that.  But I’m going to speak on it anyway because it’s an issue that I believe has a lot of unintended consequences & reveals some serious issues our society needs to confront.  So let’s examine some of the reasons people say raising girls is “more trouble” than raising boys.

daughter quote

First, a lot of people complain that girls are more expensive.  Well, I’m going to side with my mother here & argue that they don’t have to be.  For example, you don’t HAVE to spend $300 on your daughter’s prom dress.  No one is forcing you to do that.  Is it possible your teenage daughter might be annoyed if you are the “only mom” who isn’t willing to shell out hundreds of dollars on this one-night event?  Maybe.  But if more moms were willing to say no to this ridiculous debacle, maybe there wouldn’t be such an expectation for it.  I’m not saying not to let your daughter go to prom.  But find ways to make it less expensive.  Buy a dress during an off-season or go to a thrift store.  Borrow one from a slightly older friend.  No one needs their hair or makeup professionally done for a high school prom.  Do it yourself or have your daughter do it with her friends.  Not only will you save money but you will make good memories together.  These are all things my mom did to save money & guess what: I had a great time at prom both years.  And I was never mad at her for “cutting corners” on such things.  This is just one example of how the common argument that girls are more expensive does not have to be true.

Then there’s the issue of clothes.  Nowadays in particular parents worry about girls wanting to wear all kinds of provocative clothing, even at a very young age.  This is a real concern & I’m not about to say it isn’t a big deal.  However, I for one am tired of certain segments of the population using this issue as a way to hold all the responsibility for sex over girls’ heads.  For example, I distinctly remember that every spring at my church growing up the pastor’s wife would take all the teen girls aside as a group & remind us not to dress in a way that might tempt the boys.  At a Christian summer camp our youth group used to attend, girls were forced to abide by an insanely strict dress-code including shorts that had to reach the knees (hello, we were all wearing boys’ shorts in order to meet this requirement).  I distinctly remember one of the parent chaperones getting “in trouble” because her t-shirt when wet became just the tiniest bit “see-through” & God forbid some man might be tempted by glimpsing that one-piece bathing suit she had on underneath it.  (Of course we were only allowed to swim with other girls anyway which makes the entire situation even more ludicrous.)

In & of themselves these things might all seem harmless, but what message does all of this send?  “If a boy looks at you & thinks something dirty, it’s your fault.  If he touches you inappropriately, you made him do it because you tempted him by wearing that ungodly outfit.”  Furthermore, I have even read accounts of Christian colleges such as Patrick Henry College & Bob Jones University discouraging female students from reporting rape & providing “counseling” to rape/sexual assault victims that included teaching them how to be more modest . . . again implying that whatever horrible thing happened to them was their fault.  (If you don’t believe me, read this:  http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116623/sexual-assault-patrick-henry-college-gods-harvard.)

I am by no means encouraging little girls or teenagers to wear obviously revealing or overtly sexy clothing.  Absolutely not.  If you don’t want to be treated like a sex object, don’t dress like one, although context of course is always very key on this subject.  But the point is that even if a girl is dressed in a provocative manner, we should be raising our boys to know that they still have to show that girl respect.  Besides, there is no such thing as girls “asking for rape” because of how they are dressed.  Even hormonal teenage boys are not uncivilized animals who cannot show a little self-control.  End of story.

This leads into my last point.  I strongly believe that the greatest reason people think daughters are more trouble is because they worry about them getting pregnant.  I’m not stupid so I realize this is a legitimate concern.  Therefore, why don’t we raise girls with an awareness of actual birth control including how to use it & where to get it?  Additionally, why not hold boys accountable for such things too?  Why is it that the onus for the prevention of pregnancy always falls on JUST the girls?  I’ve got a crazy idea: why don’t we raise boys with the understanding that they should never, ever have sex with a girl unless at the BARE MINIMUM they are using a condom (unless of course both parties are absolutely prepared to be parents which, frankly, teens are not)?  Radical, I know, but really this is a simple concept.  Over & over studies have shown that teens who are provided with true comprehensive sex education actually have sex at a LATER age.  Conservatives eschew this information but facts are facts.  Frankly it makes sense.  The more kids know about something, the less likely they’re going to “do it” just to “see what it’s like.”  And if they do decide to have sex, they’re more likely to actually use appropriate birth control (& to use it correctly).  The statistics have borne this out time & time again.

teen-pregnancy-rate

Of course the problem here is that most parents aren’t comfortable talking to their kids, regardless of their age, about sex.  I know.  It must be difficult.  But if your kids don’t learn about sex from you, you can be sure they will learn about it everywhere else: movies, TV, the internet, their friends, school, etc, many of which are far from reliable sources of information.  I’ve written before about the strange paradox in American culture in which we are constantly bombarded with sexual imagery & yet in real life most Americans are not comfortable actually talking about sex.  (I’ve even read articles that suggest ways to be more comfortable talking about sex WITH YOUR PARTNER.  This never ceases to amaze me.  If you’re comfortable enough to have sex with someone, how can you not be comfortable enough to talk about it?)  But we have to get over this if we want to make headway on such serious issues as teen pregnancy.

A couple years ago I watched a documentary by James Houston entitled Let’s Talk About Sex.  The film explored some of the reasons why teen pregnancy & STI rates in the US are far greater than in basically every other “developed” nation, particularly those in Western Europe (here’s just one of many websites that touch on these shocking statistics: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/419-adolescent-sexual-health-in-europe-and-the-us) .  One segment of the film showed interviews in which teens, both guys & girls, were asked what they would think about someone of the opposite gender if they knew that person carried condoms on a regular basis.  The answers weren’t too shocking but are very revealing about some of the problems we face in our society.  Almost without fail the Americans, both guys & girls, responded by saying “Oh, that sends a bad message.  That means he’s only out for sex” or “She must be a slut.  Carrying condoms makes a girl seem easy.”  On the other hand, teens in other countries often responded by saying “That shows me he/she is responsible & planning ahead & cares enough about me to want to be safe.”  I have actually heard real life conversations very much like these.  I have heard guys say they are afraid to carry condoms around for fear that girls will think they’re only after sex & I’ve heard girls say they are afraid to carry condoms for fear of looking “too easy.”  What this inevitably leads to of course is people having unprotected sex because they weren’t prepared.  How absurd.  Is it any wonder our teenage pregnancy rate (& abortion rate for that matter) are much higher than those in basically every other developed country?

The film additionally explored the phenomenon that many teenage girls in the US are raised with the idea that being on birth control makes them “slutty.”  No one explicitly teaches them this of course, but it’s implied quite often.  The idea is that if you’re on birth control you must be PLANNING to have sex & therefore you’re slutty.  But if you aren’t on birth control & just “end up” having sex with someone & then consequently get pregnant . . . well, it “just happened.”  You weren’t planning on it, so you’re not really a slut.  Having grown up in a small, conservative, religious town I can bear witness that this phenomenon is very real.  What’s sad is that so many girls end up as teen moms because of it.  [Of course the religious right would rather that happen than girls be “liberated” and actually take birth control. God forbid we should not suffer the consequences of our “sins” (pre-marital sex).]

What I’m trying to get at here is that if parents taught their children, both boys & girls, how to be safe & responsible with sex, maybe we wouldn’t have to worry so much about our daughters getting pregnant.

The reason I care so much about people viewing daughters as more difficult than sons is that I truly believe when girls hear such messages growing up it can affect the way they view themselves.  Low self-esteem has actually been linked to earlier initiation of sex for girls & thus higher risk of teen pregnancy.  When you tell girls they’re more work than boys, you’re clearly letting their self-esteem take a hit, thus making them more likely to look for “confirmation” elsewhere.  The world isn’t an easy place to grow up in for either gender.  But let’s not make it more difficult than it has to be.  There are still countries in the world where female babies are routinely aborted simply for being the “wrong gender.”  This is heart-breaking to me.  But how can we call ourselves more civilized when we still hold the attitude that boys are in some way better or at least easier to raise?  Please, people, let’s be real.  No child is ever easy to raise.  But they are all immeasurably valuable so let’s not compromise that value by telling our precious daughters that they’re essentially a burden.    

What do you guys think?  Am I “making a mountain out of a molehill?”  (If it turns out that’s a countrified phrase & some of you don’t know it, it means making a big deal out of nothing.)  Or am I onto something here?

Life Isn’t Fair So Your Choices Better Be Good


Today’s blog post might rub some people the wrong way but I hope you’ll understand as you read it that this comes from a place of compassion & concern for my fellow man.  (Yes, I consider myself a feminist but I truly don’t see anything wrong with using masculine pronouns when referring to all of humanity because frankly it just sounds better.)  Something I’ve been thinking about a lot this year is the impact of choices on our lives.  A lot has changed in my life in the past two years.  For example, I’ve graduated from college, become a nurse, gotten married, and moved to a new state, and in just the past nine months I’ve bought a house, a puppy, and a very nice used car and started serving as a preceptor and a charge nurse at work.  These are, in my mind, all good changes but change is inevitably difficult at times and, at least for me, leads to a lot of introspection and general analysis of life.  In the past year such introspection and analysis have continually landed me on the same theme: the importance of making good choices in life and the consequences that arise when we fail to make good choices.

Image

Let me first say that I am fully aware that what I consider to be good choices and what someone else considers to be good choices may be completely different.  And with very few exceptions I am totally okay with that.  But if there is one thing I can safely say I know to be true in life, it is that we are each responsible for our own lives and the choices we make, and said choices are the greatest determinant of our own happiness and success.  I know that I have accomplished a lot for someone my age and I am very much aware of the fact that I have a lot of people to thank for helping me along the way to where I am now.  But I also realize that all the help in the world would have been useless if I hadn’t also made my own good choices (getting good grades in high school which allowed me to apply for and obtain a scholarship to college, seeking out internships and jobs in college that helped me obtain a good job after graduation, etc, etc, you get the point).  Please understand that I am not trying to brag or say that I am more successful or better than anyone else.  I am well aware that my own idea of success and happiness does not apply to everyone and vice versa.  I am just saying that when I think about the miserable situations I see so many people in, including many my own age, I can’t help but notice that all (or at least most) of these people have made a series of bad choices throughout their lives.  Let me further explain so I hopefully don’t sound like one of those god-awful judgmental pricks that annoy me so much.

I’m talking about the people who are working dead-end jobs with no hope of advancement who can barely pay their bills (or can’t pay them), who are in miserable relationships with people who treat them like trash, etc, etc; I think you catch my drift.  These people are usually the ones who dropped out of high school (and not because they had to take care of a dying relative or something like that), got pregnant in high school or maybe shortly thereafter and often with someone they did not exactly have a solid relationship with, or perhaps graduated from high school but with such poor grades that college or even technical school was never an option.  These folks probably did not think about the future beyond tomorrow and never exactly planned out a career or any sort of goals for their lives.  The homeless are another good example.  I have always had a special place in my heart for the homeless for some reason but when I look at most of the homeless people I’ve met or known about (I did a clinical rotation with the homeless in nursing school and actually got the privilege of talking to a lot of homeless folks) I’ve noticed again the same pattern: bad choices.  For some it was drugs, for some it was gambling, for some it was having too many children whom they couldn’t afford to support, and the list goes on and on.  Even many of my patients at work whose lives are miserable due to disease are often in the positions they’re in largely because of poor choices they’ve made: failing to control diseases that could be controlled or even eradicated through proper diet & exercise, etc, etc.  It’s hard to watch because you know that these people could have had better outcomes if they’d made better choices.  It’s a very complicated subject, but it’s the truth nonetheless.

Let me be clear here: BY NO MEANS do I think we should not be compassionate or helpful to those who have made poor choices.  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  My point is that the greatest lesson I hope to teach my future children is that they better have their act together from day one because life is not fair.  For example, lots of people have unprotected sex in high school.  But not everyone ends up with some disgusting STI or gets pregnant.  But some do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  Lots of people drive drunk and never hurt anyone.  But others do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  Lots of people smoke cigarettes their whole lives and never get lung cancer or COPD.  But many do.  AND YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHICH ONE YOU WILL BE.  I think you can see my point.  If there’s anything I know about life it’s that it isn’t fair.  Some people make one or two bad choices and their whole lives crumble around them.  Others make a lot of bad choices and don’t seem to suffer as much.  But in my limited experience those I’ve seen consistently make good choices have ALWAYS been better off because of it.

So if/when I have kids someday, these are the things I’m going to teach them:

Stay in school.  Get good grades.  Work hard at everything you do.  When you get a job, be the best because otherwise you will just be a drone like everyone else.  Make yourself stand out.  Don’t be afraid to reach for the stars.  Go to college or vocational school and plan a career where you can both support yourself and be happy.  Never have unprotected sex with anyone unless you are 100% ready to be a parent RIGHT NOW.  Be kind to everyone because you never know what battles others are fighting that you know nothing about.  Karma is real and whatever choices you make, good or bad, they WILL catch up with you sooner or later, and you better be prepared for the outcomes of your decisions.  I will teach them all these things because I will love them and want the best for them, just as my parents did for me.

Perhaps I will never become a parent (who knows), but nonetheless I will strive to teach these things to my nieces and nephews, my patients, and anyone else who is willing to listen.  Because I care.  As much as the world sometimes makes me feel cynical and cold, I do love people.  Life is crazy.  People are crazy.  But I love this life that I’ve made for myself (with the help of some great friends and family) and I want others to be able to share in the kind of happiness I’ve found.  I don’t mean that everyone needs to have my exact lifestyle, education, or career.  I just wish for everyone to find that passion for life and learning that I’ve found.  I like to think it’s contagious, and I hope that I can spread it around just through this blog post if nothing else.

I hope this post hasn’t come across as arrogant or rude.  That’s not how I meant it at all.  I just wanted to share the idea that choices really are important in our lives, and especially with a new year just around the corner it’s something I think we all need to take to heart.  I know that many people are great testaments to the fact that sometimes a bad decision can actually end up being a good thing (lots of teen moms would agree with this).  And there is a lot of truth in that too.  And not every person who makes all good decisions is necessarily going to be completely happy.  Again, everyone’s idea of happiness and success is different.  And that’s ok.  We each must find our own barometer for happiness and success, and then make good choices that align with that.  Otherwise we are just drifting along in life with no paddle to steer us toward any goals, hopes, or dreams.  And I can’t think of much sadder than that.

The Purity Myth


It took a lot of courage for me to write this, much less actually post it.  This is a topic which most people are not comfortable discussing but it’s a topic that I think is very important & thus bears discussing regardless of how awkward it might be.  Being a nurse I have lost a lot of my sense of what is normal conversation because I am so used to dealing with & talking about every bodily function known to man.  However, I know this post is of a sensitive nature & may provoke a lot of criticism, perhaps even from some people close to me.  But again I think this subject is too important to bypass.  With that being said, here goes.

the purity myth 2

I’ve just finished reading a fascinating book called The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti.  This is one of those books that I can’t help but feel like the author was reading my mind when she wrote it.  I love that feeling!  In this book Valenti asserts (with a great deal of evidence to support her claims) that the “purity or virginity movement” is hurting women, especially young women, by basing their value on their sexuality (or lack thereof) & is thus not much different than the hyper-sexualization of women that the purity movement claims to  hate so much.  What a refreshing concept!  Indeed it’s an idea that I have often considered even before reading this book.  I’ve often thought how paradoxical it is that our society is so hyper-sexualized in the sense of what we see in the media & what we actually discuss in real life.  Why is it that sexualized music videos are the norm & porn is ubiquitous & yet the average American is still shy about discussing real sexual issues?  Why is it common practice for parents to buy their teens (or even younger children) video games that promote violent sexuality such as Grand Theft Auto & yet most parents don’t have the first clue how to have a conversation about sex with their teenagers?  Is it any wonder that teen pregnancy is still rampant in this country especially in light of the fact that a great deal of “sex ed” in this country is still abstinence-only education (I use the term education lightly b/c real sex education involves actually conveying factual information, something that abstinence-only education by its very nature cannot do; I know this from personal experience).

This is the twenty-first century & yet we women are still very much defined by our sexuality.  On one hand the right-wing conservatives value us only as pure virgins who “save ourselves” for marriage, who go so far as to say that a woman who has sex before marriage has “devalued herself.”  Even as a teenager I couldn’t help but see through this argument.  Hello, you’ll probably deny it but you’re telling me that my only worth is in relation to my body.  I’m sorry but I can’t & won’t ascribe to that method of thinking.  If that makes me a whore in your book, I’ll gladly wear that label.  Ha!

On the other hand we have a great deal of the media telling us as women that our only value is in being sexy & desirable to men.  Again our value is based on our bodies & our sexuality.  And again I’m not buying it.  I for one know that I am so much more than my sexuality (while I also know that my sexuality isn’t something to be ashamed of contrary to what the purity movement would say.)

[In case anyone thinks I’m promoting the “hook-up” culture, let me be clear & say that I am not.  I personally am of the belief that sex is something very special that should only be shared between two consenting caring individuals.  But I’m also not saying that marriage is the only scenario under which sex should happen.  That’s just not practical (or even logical in my mind).]

This book also discusses the ridiculous way in which our society deals with rape.  It’s shameful to admit that as a society we still spend a great deal of time blaming the victim, but we do.  Regarding what other crime do you hear people say things like “Well, she was asking for it?”  Or “What was she doing out late at night on that street?”  The hardest thing for me to admit with this argument is that I used to say such things.  I really did.  And I hate myself for buying into such ridiculous notions that men are animals that cannot be stopped.  The older I am & the more I observe society the more I just cannot believe such an idiotic lie.  Men are not naturally uncontrollable sexual beasts any more than women are naturally sexually reticent.  Both are lies created to control women & enforce “traditional” gender stereotypes which in the end are damaging to both men & women.

In many people’s eyes I am probably a feminist.  But I don’t really think of myself that way.  I just think of myself as a humanist.  I want all people everywhere to be respected & treated well not because they are men or women but because they are HUMAN BEINGS.  I’m certainly not a radical feminist who tries to assert that men & women are completely equal.  They aren’t in some ways.  Duh.  Women are not as strong as men physically.  But men can’t have babies.  And without both genders the human race could not perpetuate itself.  (On particularly cynical days when I am thoroughly disgusted with the human race I sometimes wonder if that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but thankfully those days are pretty rare.)  But I do believe that women should receive equal pay for equal work & that the onus for rape prevention should be on teaching men that such behavior is unacceptable.  And I do believe that the purity myth is hurting women as much as the hyper-sexualization culture is also hurting women.  The end result of both is that women are seen as objects: objects without their own opinions, desires (sexual or otherwise), or dreams.  And I for one refuse to believe that my value as a human being is based solely or even principally on my sexuality.

Regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I’d love to hear your opinions on this matter.  That goes for guys & girls!