So I went to pick up my art, my fabulous fabulous art (#youasart), and after a totally hilarious/socially awkward moment of doubt about how to handle a guy maybe holding the door for me—maybe he isn’t, maybe he needs me to hold the door for HIM (are his arms full, is he coming, is he going?), and if I accept his chivalrous door-opening (if that is what it is), then how do I buzz Lindsay?—I walk right in to the lobby and hear someone exclaim: “I love your pants!”
Okay, two things of note: 1. They’re red corduroy pants from KUT from the Kloth and they’re fantastic, and 2. The random compliment came from Lindsay’s friend and client, Jamie. I had walked smack-dab into her other art pickup without even realizing it, being so caught up in my weird door-holding social interaction (a social construct that I could do without)!
I drooled over Jamie’s art a little (okay okay… I drooled a lot! There’s one shot of her… well, it’s not really this exactly, but it totally can be described as “elegantly falling down the stairs with the super ballin’ back piece”), and we had a good laugh about strangers paying you weird (I prefer to say: awesome) compliments on the fantastic red shade of pants you’re wearing.
Now, the pants are important, because I was wearing the red pants, my big-girl heels, and a turtleneck, and Lindsay said, “You look cute!! You must’ve known I would put you on camera!” to which I replied, “No, I’m just working today.” She said, “Yeah but you look cute!” and instead of thank you, I said, “I have to dress like I want the promotion.”
Flash forward through other hilarity (anyone who knows Lindsay knows that hilarity is definitely always part of the conversation)… I’m now drooling over my own art, because it’s fabulous, and Lindsay starts talking about her most recent blog, and then she stops and quirks her head at me, “Wait, did you do a blog yet?? I don’t think you did… you should write a blog.”
I laughed a little and thought, how do I write a blog about myself? I normally keep things so close to my chest… Instead, I said, “Yeahhh, I’m not a great writer and don’t really know what I’d write ABOUT.” To be fair, it’s true. I’m okay when I’m speaking, but writing is legit: it’s there, it’s on paper, it can be read, re-read, judged. You can say something and understand tone and context, but writing can be interpreted, or MISinterpreted. (Editor’s note: actually Stacey is a good writer! But yes, she did ask me to edit this blog-post for her… but she helped me write my novel, so THERE, Stacey, YOU’RE A GOOD WRITER and now everyone knows!)
So Lindsay replied, “Really? I know what you can write about: how you walked in here and said you had to dress as if you were already promoted! I mean, you can totally write about your experience, but that’s a powerful message. Women need to own what they want AND own their sexuality, and those can be totally tied together. Other people can make that mistake, or make the (incorrect) assumption that they somehow own your sexuality because of it. But it’s important to remember that that shit is for you and that you alone OWN it.”
This really got my gears turning. I thought, hey, I could write a blog: I could write about learning to own my sexuality, and more importantly, how critical it is for us to stick the fuck together as women and BE on the same team, to support each other owning our stories and our sexuality!
I grew up surrounded by tough men and women—and I mean tough, men and women who overcame some serious shit and refused to back down, men and women who embrace their shit (for anyone who’s ever read Elizabeth Gilbert, she talks about owning your shit: OWN YOUR SHIT Dear Ones – Oh how I… – Elizabeth Gilbert | Facebook)—but also, some men and women who didn’t own their shit. Those men and women who, consciously or unconsciously, refuse to embrace their own shit, consequently limit their emotional capacity for empathy and compassion, and subsequently spread the message that YOU shouldn’t proudly own your shit either. And if you don’t own your shit, your decisions, YOUR life? Someone else will own it for you (or they’ll definitely try to)…
So, I’ll own it: I’m #dirty30 this year, I have some AMAZING friends and family members, and a WONDERFULLY supportive life partner who I’m grateful for EVERY fucking day. I’ve had the glorious fortune of being in a career that I love (so much that I got my PhD). I’ve been able to travel all over this gorgeous planet, meeting new amazing people every single day. But I’ve also been in some shitty jobs and had some even shittier relationships, I’m “one in four” (wtf dude.. how is that statistic so fucking high!!?), and I’ve learned some super hard lessons in boundaries and owning my own shit: such as the wake-up call that I don’t need to dress for a promotion. Who made those rules?!
Here’s my pledge: I’ve worked so hard to stop labeling others—why not extend the same love towards myself? I’m going to stop labeling myself. I’m giving myself permission to be sexy today, or not be sexy, and I’m going to OWN that decision. I’m giving myself permission to speak up at a meeting, and to pause when I need to, in order to speak from a place of empowerment. I’m giving myself permission to smile when I want, or to not smile. I’m giving myself permission to have attitude, give attitude, be confident, ask for the promotion or raise straight-up. I’m giving myself permission to take good care of myself when I don’t have the emotional energy to give to others; I give myself permission to give from a place of self-empowered love, rather than giving from a place of self-depleted sacrifice and resentment. I’m giving myself permission to openly support and respect others’ choice to do (or not do) the same. And most importantly, I’m going to own every bit of it; I alone own my stories and I alone own those choices, because if I don’t own them, then someone else will own them for me.
You know what makes it so much easier to tune out the negativity and own it all? Walking into a room and having a stranger tell you: “Love those pants!”, or “You look nice!” The positive reinforcement and empowering of other women reminds me how great people are, and how courageous they can be, and how complimenting a total stranger can brighten their day so much they bring it up in a blog post. And how it totally surpasses the need to embrace the social constructs (like having to dress for a promotion, or being socially awkward because you can’t tell if some dude is holding the door for you, OR questioning whether to speak up in a meeting because my tone may be misinterpreted simply because I’m a woman). So I’m also going to own empowering other women. I’m going to compliment a stranger, love all of the gorgeous babes represented in Lindsay’s art, and encourage EVERY woman to have this experience, to feel completely empowered afterwards, and to pay the love forward!
Ironically, the quote Lindsay put up with my teasers really brings this point home: “I always thought that people told you that you’re beautiful-that this was a title that was bestowed upon you… I think that it’s time to take a power into our own hands and to say ‘you know what? I’m beautiful. I just am. And that’s my light. I’m just a beautiful woman,'” ~Margaret Cho