Monday, September 16, 2013

Off-Topic? You tell me.

A friend wrote to me recently with an interesting question.  I was intrigued and told her I’d ruminate on it and get back to her.  Two weeks or so go by and I’ve taken notes and jotted things down as they came to me and whatnot, and this is my attempt to respond… take it for what you will.  This started off WAY OFF TOPIC but the more I thought and wrote, the more ON-TOPIC it became, so I decided to post it here.

Here’s what she asked:

"Ok this is broad but have at it.  So--I have a question: What do you see-as a woman- that are a few problems women face in America? Little girls, young women, old ladies-all of it?"
WOW, what a question, right???
Where the fuck to start?

A couple of thoughts on that, actually.  What is MY perspective?  Demographics:  I’m a woman, just turned 40, who grew up in southern California but came of age in central Illinois.  Personal:  I’m straight, married only once, to my partner of over 18 years,  have an adult child living at home, and two living parents in their 60s who should be retired, but aren’t.  Professional:  I’m a CPA who’s worked in corporate accounting and finance but spent most of my career in public accounting and auditing.  In those roles I’ve worked with dozens if not hundreds of clients ranging from TINY governments and not-for-profit agencies to major globally-recognized organizations (both for-profit and not-for-profit).  Politics:  I have my own weird mix of Hippy-Dippy-So-Cal Progressive beliefs crossed with Practical Mid-West Stay-Out-Of-My-Personal-Business.  I call it Radical-Feminist-Capitalism.  I’m also pretty much an atheist, but please don’t tell my grandma.  So my approach to a question like this is based on these basic facts of my life. 
First, the obvious (to me, at least):  I love my family and they are absolutely my number-one priority, but in many ways, I am first and foremost a professional.  My career has been high on my priority list since the day I figured out What I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up (which came surprisingly late in life, which is partly how it came to have such high priority… I had some catching up to do.)  The first and easiest answer that came to MY mind when I read, “What are the Problems Women Face in America?”  was as follows: 

I’ve said it before and I WILL say it again:  “Sexism is alive and well in Corporate America.”

I am blessed in my current role in that I’m not faced with blatant sexism on a daily basis as I have been in previous jobs but it is DEFINITELY still a factor.  I won’t go into a litany of specific facts and circumstances, but at every organization I’ve ever worked, there is at LEAST one man (and sometimes a shocking majority of them) in power who clearly has no respect for the women in the room, no matter their position, qualifications, background, experience, expertise, education or certification.  There’s always that ONE dick in the room.  And you won’t have to wonder which one it is for long; he WILL make it clear – just give him a minute.  He’ll make sure you know he’s smarter than you are (He’s not.  They never are.  I’ve been in lots of rooms where I’m not the smartest one in the room, and I’m usually happy to know it, but THAT GUY?  Nope, not him.  Not once.) and that he has a better take on the situation than you do (which is sometimes irksome and disappointingly true) and that no matter what, you will never measure up.  Because you will never have the right tool for the job.

The second point that came to mind is SUPER obvious to me, and I was surprised how long it took to think of it in response to the question:  “What are the Problems Women Face in America?” 
The women I work with – those that are married – are the main or sole breadwinners for their families.  ALL OF THEM. 

I’m not being hyperbolic here: nearly every married woman I work with – and this would apply to the majority of married women I’ve worked with in recent years, not just my current job – makes more money than her spouse, and that’s IF her spouse is working. 
This circumstance has been a shock to the system for us AND our husbands and it affects SO MANY varied aspects of our personal and professional lives.  The balance of power in our relationships, our understanding of our gender roles, for better or worse, are drastically and VERY QUICKLY changing.  I’ve never been a full-time parent but I have watched how this change has played out for my coworkers with children. 

Balance, balance.
Exaggerated examples:  One woman has a stay-at-home husband who takes care of their child but doesn’t do laundry or housework or cook, so when she gets home from work, she has ALL THIS WORK to do!  All she wants is to curl up with her man and her kid and enjoy an evening, but he wants to drop the child with her and go watch TV and relax.  Another woman’s husband isn’t working but looking for a job and desperately wants to be contributing more to the household and it places so much pressure on the both of them…  And then there’s the couple that seems to have it all worked out.  They came to some agreement about dividing up the household chores where neither of them feels like ALL of the responsibility is on them, but both feel they’re pulling their weight and contributing to running the house and raising the kids. 

Every couple is different and as far as I know, in each of the situations I’m aware of the couples are happy and no one’s marriage is breaking up, but it is HARD.  No one told us this was going to happen and it happened so fast, it’s tough to navigate.  We need to build and sharpen our skills imagerymajesticand strengthen our ability to communicate with our partners and address these changing roles or we will all be in serious trouble.

Once I’d gotten all that work-related stuff off my chest, my head was cleared to contemplate Problems Women Face In America of a more personal nature. (I swear the way my brain approached this question is a Meyers-Briggs personality evaluation in action.)  So Next Up: 
The struggle with self-image is still a major part of my daily reality. 

I believe this is true for many women, but we rarely speak openly about it.  After joining my local running club I’ve gotten to know a wonderful, supportive group of women where I feel comfortable talking about such things on occasion.  But my husband is really the only person I speak to in depth about this kind of crap.  I am trying to use my blog as a tool for thinking and “talking” about these issues as well, but it’s an ongoing, daily struggle.  Don’t get me wrong - some days it’s really not that big a deal, but SOME days... 
The shit that goes on in my head is fucking astounding sometimes.  There is a MEAN lady who lives in there and she just WILL NOT shut up sometimes!  I don’t have any big statement to make about this – I have no interest in harping on the media or social constructs that create a false image of what women “should” look like and feel like or blah blah blah…  I read articles online sometimes about these things but most of the arguments feel hollow to me (though I’m sure there’s a nugget of truth in them).  I think my own self-image issues stem from right between my ears.  The media may be out there egging that bitch on, but she doesn’t live in a magazine and she wasn’t created or inspired by Angelina Jolie; she lives in my head.  She’s my problem and mine alone. 

After I started running and later started my blog, I began to feel like my Facebook page had been taken over by motivational messages that none of my friends and family had much interest in, so I created a separate Facebook page for the blog.  That’s when I got plugged into The Online Community.  The Online Community – running and fitness bloggers, podcasts, etc. – is hugely supportive and has been in some ways a terrific resource and source of encouragement for me, but in other ways it serves to keep me disconnected from my “real” life.  Which brings me to my fourth observation on Problems Women Face in America:
The ability to connect digitally tends to promote LESS connection physically and emotionally, with those we spend time with – who are IN THE ROOM with us. 

It’s EASY to spend an hour reading motivational MEMEs and looking at photos of Other People’s Transformation and reading articles on How to Hydrate and What to Eat to Fuel Your Next Workout.  I LOVE reading the few blogs that I follow closely and I LOVE that I can pop in and read really great writing on subjects that are close to my own experience.  I love that Michelle the Blogger at has shared so much of her experience online and that her journey has been in some ways similar to mine because we’re about the same age and we share a similar worldview.  (Or so I think based on reading her blog.)  It’s easy to read these things and enjoy them and it’s easy to write about a great run or a race I finished and share my proudest moments with as many people as possible! 
… and it is HARD to talk or write about why I eat things I don’t really want, or how I’m feeling on a bad day when that mean little skank in the dark corners of my brain has come to life and started beating on me like the Worst Bully Known to Any Middle School, Ever and I can’t find the shut-off valve to take her down or even dial her back a notch. 

Is this a universal problem, not specific to men or women? Are women more prone to this, more drawn to this “digital connection” with the world and allowing it to eat into their connections with The Real World?    More importantly, am I???
I don’t have an answer to this but I do have a suggestion.

It’s always been hard to connect in an intimate way with the people who love us.  It’s always been a struggle to give them our time and attention.  Since the beginning of time, couples have been arguing that “you spend more time with your buddies than with me” or “you work too much; I never see you!” This is not a new problem.  But technology has made it SO MUCH EASIER to waste our time on things that matter less than the person in the next room making dinner or doing his homework or sitting right on the other end of the couch. 
We must make the choice, EVERY DAMN DAY, to prioritize our time and energy WHERE IT MATTERS MOST.

There you have it.  My take on Problems Women Face In America.  At least, that's my response right now.  Ask me again in a year or so; I may have a whole other string of issues to discuss.  What are your thoughts?  Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page. 

I'll be back to my regular programming soon with a recap of my FIRST HALF MARATHON and a few pics from the vacation before and after the race.  And of course, my NEXT half marathon... now less than two weeks away.

Choose well, my friends.  Every Damn Day.


  1. hey nice post meh, I love your style of blogging here on It reminds me of an equally interesting blog on my reading list which is .
    keep up the good work meh and also, please visit my blog and drop a comment even if it's a simple "nice post" reply.


  2. not everyone has voices in their head.
    Obsession, craving, isolation, distraction help those of us who do, to drown them out for periods of time. Blaming, suffering, hiding and overdoing (anything) work till we get sick or we get help. Parent ourselves. They could not, in any way, be so thorough.

  3. Hi! great post. I'd say it's not off topic in that it addresses the better in S F B blog! that's my 2 cents. You have been forthright several times here, don't beat yourself up!


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