Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Diane Keaton

Warning: Overly dramatic, hyperbolic statement used to open this post.

If someone had told me I would be completely single for at least the next five years back in the summer of 2006, I would have asked them to shoot me in my face and end my misery. 

All of my friends were getting married, I had just broken up with a boyfriend who at one time had been my best friend, and there was too much general change happening in my life to imagine going it alone for years. 

Now, if you were to ask me "Do you wish you had been shot in the face 5 years ago?" I would exclaim "Of course not!" This is because I feel like I have grown so much and now consider myself to be a real person (who loves the expression "shoot me in my face"). I make my own decisions, take responsibility for those decisions, and have thoroughly enjoyed even the low points these last few years. My twenties are great even though they haven't allowed me to update my Facebook status to "In a relationship". 

The need to love and to be loved, that's basic. Everyone needs love. Unfortunately, romantic love has been lauded as the best and most desireable form of love. And that's what makes being single so hard. Even if we are surrounded by love from our family and friends, it's still difficult not to focus on lacking that mystical special someone. This is what has been tripping me up lately. It's been so long since I've had a boyfriend, I have begun to idealize the idea of being in a relationship. And I've been open to admitting this and complaining about it to every poor soul who gets stuck listening to me. My sisters are the perfect victims for this because, well, what are sisters for after all?  They had no choice but to listen to me make this dramatic pity-me declaration when they were visiting: 
‎"If I can never look back on my life and say that I got to spend it with "the one", at least I can say I spent it with hundreds and hundreds of duds."
I'm having a hard time trying not to sound too whiny as in "Wah! I want a boyfriend!" (not the point of this post). Also I don't want to come across as completely confusing (there is a point to this post). So, an update on the last few months is necessary...

Kelly moved to LA. 

gold mini memorial.
She is dating a guy who moved there back in January but more so she needed to leave Chicago and try life on her own. I was as supportive as possible. But it's difficult when the single most important person in your life moves some 2,000 miles away. For her last night here, we met for drinks at our favorite local bar and basically just cried for two hours publicly and loudly. Something neither of us is accustomed to.  I also lost my gold mini ipod from 2004 because I was crying on the El by myself on the way to meet her and didn't notice the lack of music coming from my earphones until I was about 2 blocks away from the station. I loved my gold mini.           

This began my month long period of crying.

The day after she left I cried at my desk at work. I cried while making dinner for myself; watching TV by myself; grocery shopping; basically all things by myself made me cry.

For the first time since meeting her, I felt my singleness as being terribly unbearable. She was a good distraction for my lack of a boyfriend. Kelly and I shared everything. And we have the kind of friendship where we reminisce about our "fights" while we are having them (which just means we basically never have them). I'm lucky to have several relationships like that but Kelly and I made a life together which made the sting of her move much more difficult for me.

This might sound strange since I am talking about a platonic friendship with my female friend, but the way we met and became friends is how I would like to eventually meet my next boyfriend. Everything with her was so easy. From the beginning we just genuinely enjoyed each other while maintaining our individual lives. I didn't feel like I had to give up anything in order to get along with her but at the same time I know I've improved as a person throughout our friendship because of her influence. It wasn't perfect but it didn't feel forced either. We loved being around one another. That was never the case when I had serious boyfriends and hasn't been the case with any of the guys I've dated in my 5 years of being single. Those relationships/more-than-friendships always felt/feel as though I'm trying to fend off the "alone feeling". 

Most people who know me on even the slightest level are probably shocked to hear me say I have an issue with loneliness. When I talk about it, people think I'm crazy because my life is so full and exciting. Which is true. I do lots of cool things and am alone when I want to be alone. But feeling lonely is completely different. It's a combination of feeling lost, without a foundation, and thinking there is no one to run to when you just need to collapse. And trust me; I know that's a reality even when you are in a solid relationship. It's part of the human condition. So for the most part I try to just enjoy what is around me and appreciate my relative youth and unattached freedom. However, in the words of the wise Ken Cosgrove (Mad Men reference):
"Every once in a while you don't want to be a bachelor, you know?" 
Ken Cosgrove
Yes Ken. I do know. 

Unfortunately, I have a strong aversion toward all things dating. I hate it. I hate being asked out. I hate going out on dates. I hate deciding about a second date. I hate being set up. I hate waiting around for a phone call. I hate avoiding calls if I don't want to get them. I hate professions of emotions; negative or positive. Alright, alright, I know that is another exaggeration, but honestly, I hate it because rarely do two people's feelings for one another match up. As I get older, I realize it is hard to find in new friends, let alone a new dating scenario. It's too much of a process which is what I mean when I say I want meeting someone to be like when Kelly and I became friends. No process. It just happened and was great.

I have had so many relationship miscarriages, accompanied by all the excitement and hopefulness of what could be, only to vanish without explanation. Too much failure to launch which I wish would make me less open and more cautious, but that's just not my nature so each and every time my level of disappointment is as intense as if I shouldn't have known better. I'd take a full blown, relationship-has-run-its-course break up any day over these measly little should-be-insignificant-but-add-up-to-a-lot-of-hurt boyfriend almosts. It's  exhausting.  (Goodness, I'm being horrifyingly honest about my feelings again.)

Don't worry about me giving up too soon or not putting in the proper effort to meet someone. I'm online dating. It's been more than 6 days. Which, if you know my meat packing history, you know that I usually quit things I hate on the 6th day. (Meat packing is not a euphemism for anything; I was actually a meat packer in a factory for 5 days + 1 "sick" day.) It's been a mental battle. My roommate Lauren, had to talk me off the proverbial ledge 2 weeks ago because I was ready to quit dating all together after a more than annoying discussion about "what men want" with a guy friend at lunch. I told her I thought I should have some more alone time and she logically said I've had enough alone time. So, I stuck with it, and honestly, am happy I have. I am, at the very least, trying to not die alone. 

There is pressure for women and men alike to settle down, get married, and have kids. That's the way our communities are structured. It's advertised to us from our toys to our movies and TV shows. Everything tells us to find a partner and make a life together. Our government even rewards us with tax breaks if we get married. Sharing life as a couple is expected and viewed as the logical way to establish oneself as a contributing member of society. It's a gender neutral requirement in a way.


Single women, especially older single women are always looked at with more than a little pity if they haven't found "the one". I mean one of the most popular card games in history is called Old Maid for goodness sake. In Ken Cosgrove's quote, he has to concede that it is hard sometimes not to have an old ball n' chain like his other coworkers. How many of us cheered for Don Draper when he finally became single? And subsequently booed when he became engaged again? We LOVE the unattached male who has evaded the desperation of all the lonely single women that want him. George Clooney anyone? And no matter how catchy Beyonce's Single Ladies is, no one wants that to be their anthem permanently.

So, sigh, I struggle with the fear I will be doomed to wander the Earth alone forever and every moment of my life will be pure agony because I don't have someone to claim as my own. And then I listen to songs like this on repeat which I think was intended by Ben Gibbard to make abandoned women feel better but mostly it just pisses me off:

Just when I thought the "alone feeling" had its choke hold on me for the duration, CBS Sunday Morning came to my rescue with a great interview with Diane Keaton, a notoriously private celebrity.

Normally, I like to write about lessor known women. Those not applauded by the masses. Diane doesn't seem to fit into this category when you simply look at her career in the spotlight. She is an Academy Award winning actress who has made dozens of successful movies which have made her quite recognizable. But what I like the most about her is what she isn't as known for; her personal life. 

Keaton has never married and when she was 50, she decided to adopt her first child. She is now 65 and has two kids and says  she was moved to become a mother after her father passed away. She has also given up on finding romantic love, even after dating some very high profile men in the entertainment world. After her dad died, and she realized she couldn't be a daughter forever, she felt raising her own kids would fill something in her she hadn't realized would feel empty. 

In college, I learned there are several different words for love the ancient Greeks used. Each qualifies a different kind of love, thus making loving emotions a bit more clearly defined.  These definitions are helpful because they make all forms of loving relationships better understood. Each word and definition break down the idea the only type of love we should strive for or honor is that of a spouse or sexual partner. In regards to Keaton, and her deep love for her parents and her children, it shows Storge, familial love, has had more importance in her life than Eros, romantic love. Obviously, I'm not a scholar on love, but maybe if in our modern American culture, we had more definitions like these, instead of one general word,  we would have more of an appreciation for the different types of emotional bonds that exist. 

Quote from Marvin's Room
Looking at her as an actor, I have appreciated Diane's choice of rolls showing all different types of relationships. When I was in my most major cry mode after Kelly's LA departure, I decided to indulge my depressed, ultra lonely self with a Saturday night in and the movie Marvin's Room. I'm not going to give a complete synopsis, but if you haven't seen it, Keaton's character is diagnosed with terminal cancer and reconnects her with her estranged sister, played by Meryl Streep. She devoted her life to caring for her ill father and aunt, foregoing romantic love, while Streep's character chased after the unrequited love of her ex while unappreciative of the love of her children and family. At the end of Keaton's life she is over come with all the love she was privileged to experience and Streep misinterprets this to mean the love she gave to their father. Diane says she means the love she was given by them which is a changing moment for Streep. Basically, I was crying alone for hours afterwards.

At the end of her character's life, she is so happy with the love she's had and almost none of it was of a romantic nature. It made me not want to be so down and mopey about the not-having-a-boyfriend-thing because I really want to be OK with myself and the love that I receive from the people who are already in my life. I know Keaton was just acting but I feel like this is a virtue she has displayed in her own life and another reason why she is someone to admire.

When Katie Couric asks her why she never married, she said it was because she would have had to compromise too much and she wanted to take a more adventurous path. This is a direct result of the influence her mother had on her and knowing all of the self sacrifice she exerted as a homemaker. I admire the relationship Diane had with her because she honored her life so much while still choosing a different path for herself. "Keaton" is actually her mother's maiden name she took as her stage name when she registered with the Screen Actor's Guild. Another cool little tidbit.

Keaton with her kids.
Even with the unapologetic denial of a romantic love interest, Keaton acknowledges she has had some regret about not being married. But what life isn't stained with some "hindsight is 20/20" admittance? She has still offered us a positive example of what modern single womanhood can look like. That is an incredibly valuable contribution to our collective culture.

There is this misconception out there that to be a feminist, a true feminist, you have to be full of hate; hate toward men; hate toward other women and their traditional choices; hate toward society at large. Diane proves this isn't the case with her deep love for her parents and the fond memories she has of the men she has dated. For me personally, I feel more loving than ever before and I credit feminist influences for encouraging that within me. Inclusion, equality, leveling the playing field, so to speak, that's about love. Wanting change doesn't mean you can't see any positives in the way things are; you just know progression is the only way to benefit everyone. Feminism maintains a "The more the merrier!" mentality which is an extremely loving concept. 

Agape is the Greek word for love used by Biblical scholars to define God's love for his people; an unconditional love. I'm going to use it in a more humanist way and suggest it's a fitting term for the way we as humans should feel toward one another.  If my life is full of agape, maybe there isn't a need for me to experience romantic love with one exalted person. I'm not going to shut down my OK Cupid* profile or ignore male advances any time soon, I'm just saying I think I'm one step closer to fully appreciating the love I already have, and for that, I'm grateful. 

*Ok, lie. I did delete OK Cupid. ;)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


It all started a few months ago. 

At first, it was just a quick little "Oh!" realization. Fleeting. Gone in an instant. 

Then, it started to bubble up into an unshakable dull ache, constantly plaguing my thoughts. 

Finally, it culminated into a "wake up in the middle of the night" nightmare leaving my mind flooded with regrets.

What was keeping me up, tossing and turning?

Well, and this is an "I shit you not" confession,  it was guilt coming to the surface about not even considering supporting Hillary Clinton in her Presidential primary race back in 2008. 

Now first, I'm not exaggerating when I say this was seriously bothering me for weeks.  And second, I had no idea why it was suddenly affecting me. 

Look at all that glee! (Me with
friends Brian and Cooper)
I passionately voted for Obama and attended his election night party in Grant Park with gleeful enthusiasm. 

Here is the Facebook note I wrote after that night:

Top Ten List from Being THERE!

10. Almost being tear gassed. (kind of) - we think the riot police just got bored because nothing really happened to cause it and they only released
a teeny bit. but still..we were right there.
9. Running into friends or seeing them on TV (Yeah Liz!) when we were in a crowd of 1000's! Small town Chicago!
8. Walking down Michigan Ave! So awesome
7. Booing Palin...sorry...i just can't stand her.
6. Not booing McCain...everyone was very respectful and wanted to hear what he had to say. I'm happy that he is a senator and I believe he is a good leader that will help bring the country together.
5. "I Love the Shit out of you America!" by far the best sign of the night and the fact that it was a bunch of college age "dudes" holding it up was just inspiring. Everyone can get behind Obama because he is everyone's president!
4. Experiencing the collective, positive energy of hundred's of thousands of people.
3. Being proud to be an American! We know what you meant Michelle!
2. Witnessing history, within a peaceful community, in the best city ever!
1. Listening to President elect Obama speak of his resolve to lead our nation through what will be a long and difficult journey. We are all in this together and we need to rely on ourselves to get us to a better place. I'm just happy we have a pretty kick ass leader to guide us!!!
Grant Park Election Night Photo
So much exaggeration! At the time, that was how I felt. I think it's how most of us felt. Full of hope, like everything was going to really get better. 

I fully bought into the hype of the Obama 2008 campaign. And I don't regret my vote. But, I know he is just like the rest of "them". "Them" meaning politicians, which means no matter what the message, they always use hyperbole and questionable truths when trying to convince as many people to trust them as possible. Which is exactly why I didn't vote for Hillary back in '08. She was one of "them" and I didn't like it. Even though none of "them" ever claimed to be anything but politicians. So why did I take such offense to Hillary when her platform and struggle mirrored Obama's in so many ways?

My college major was Politics and Government. Full disclosure (and embarrassing admission of this post): I voted for Bush in 2004 and right before he was reelected I cried during a small group meeting because I was afraid he would be assassinated. Yes. My political beliefs have 180'd since those days. I like to think I am more understanding of the other side because I was very much a part of their team once which has to be the whole point of my "conservative" period, right? ;) I am the perfect example proving change is possible in people when they are willing to listen and learn. I consider myself to be a liberal independent, although, I am hard pressed as of right now to find a decent Republican to shamelessly support. Politics have been important to me since I was a kid whose parents brought her into the voting booth. Flaws and all, I love our political process!

While I still keep up to date on all things political, I've noticed a shift toward apathy within myself that seems to be a result of the unfulfilled promises of the Obama administration and the rise of the Tea Party. But then I remember that if I allow myself to become too disillusioned, things may start to get really scary for people who look like me (women). Our health care and general rights over our own bodies have come under attack in the past year. Kansas doesn't have ANY legal abortion providers left and Planned Parenthood is still in danger of losing it's federal and state funding which would mean serious cuts for women's health NOT JUST ABORTIONS. These are real life issues that matter to me. So whether or not I'm tired about hearing what dumbass statement some idiot politician has made this week or who is the latest to dick flash the Internet, I need to keep myself informed so I can make the best vote possible to ensure these rights aren't lost. 

I like to watch Bill Maher. Please do not read that to mean I agree with everything Bill Maher believes. He is a comedian. But he makes a lot of good points about the way our government conducts its business, he has diverse and ultra intelligent panelists, and his jokes about American culture are very silly. Now. I have a major issue with Mr. Maher. The way he SOMETIMES speaks about and toward women. He sort of has a flippant attitude that I find annoying at best and at worst completely unacceptable. His greatest offense in my opinion was when he suggested that Elizabeth Edwards didn't need to out John Edwards so publicly just because he cheated her during his campaign, impregnated another woman, and lied about it, all while she was dying of cancer.

What the hell!? Good thing Melissa Harris-Perry was on the panel that day and responded to him with this little quip:  
‎"Indeed, she was not the "good wife" and thank god."
How could he say that? Well, his "woman problem" as it is being referred to by certain groups was pointed out to him directly this past week by none other than Ann Coulter. She called him a misogynist to his face. This peaked my interest because I really do like when I find a redeeming characteristic from a totally terrifying person, but alas Ann! You've failed me yet again after I simply Wikipedia'd you and read this quote you are credited with:
 "If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women."
Yep. A single woman who is a political pundit and a bestselling author holds the personal dream that women should have their voting rights revoked and then has the audacity to toss the M word at someone else. OK. I mean I know she is crazy and is mostly just shocking for the sake of being shocking, but come on!

This exchange has me thinking about what misogyny really is and how we all are guilty of it to some degree. Women included. It's just so ingrained within us, we don't even realize it. From the way we speak to little girls to the way women feel their bodies should look, we seem to take every opportunity to stealthily let females know we don't really care about them very much. I have even heard a lot of future mothers say they hope to just have boys because they are "easier". We all participate in the hatred and disparagement of women. Even in my own "Top Ten List of Being THERE!", I am lauding the crowd for booing Palin and being respectful of McCain. They were on the same team and contributed to the icky campaign against the President equally, yet I participated in the separation of respect they are given. Maybe Coulter should have called me the M word.

This is why I've been having pangs of guilt about Hillary. Did I make an informed, unbiased decision? Or did I simply buy into the shiny campaign slogans and graphics of Obama '08 just like any other typical American pro-patriarchal consumer? She has done so well as Secretary of State. I trust her and believe her to be in control of the statements she makes, which unfortunately can't be said of many of our political leaders. 

A friend of mine from college was visiting with some of his grad school friends and I made the mistake of verbalizing these feelings out loud. This is how the conversation went:
Me: If Hillary, the primary candidate, was like Hillary, the Secretary of State, I would have at the very least considered supporting her. 
Friend of Friend: You shouldn't vote for a woman just because she is a woman.
Me: Well, I voted for Obama and that is why I referenced the job she is doing now. I didn't say anything about her being a woman as the only reason why I would vote for her.
FoF: Ugh, she is the worst. They are the ones voting for all the wars.
Quickly, I changed the subject as any good host should. 

I think the "they" he was referring to was Hillary and Gayle Smith, who is on the National Security Council, and the part about "all the wars", I believe he meant Obama's decision to bomb Libya which was unfairly blamed on "Obama's women". And also, maybe Hillary's refusal to apologize for her vote in favor of invading Iraq back in 2002. Which is what many people believe contributed to her loss of the candidacy. Regardless, he was clearly uncomfortable by my semi remorse over my non-Hillary vote and I was frustrated by my inability to more clearly explain my position. It also made me wonder if anyone has ever said "You shouldn't vote for a man just because he is a man." Had I been more confident in myself at the time of the discussion I may have asked him that directly.
Luckily, I have been in a relationship with the Chicago Public Library since Kelly moved to LA and happened upon a book called "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Rebecca Traister. The title is complete nonsense because within the first ten pages I was sobbing on the El; missing my transfer stop; almost making it down to the Loop before noticing; thus making me quite late for work. I told you I was having intense emotions about this Hillary regret! This is why I love feminist literature; I'm not alone in the world! Or crazy! There are more of us out there and the more we share the more we connect. (Plug moment! Support your local feminist book store if you are lucky enough like those of us in Chicago to still have one!)

Traister was a political reporter for Salon during the '08 primaries and subsequent election. She saw everything play out from inside and, per usual, things were not always as they were reported. She began as a supporter of John Edwards, thinking like me, "No way in Hellary!". However, she saw the misinformation given by the media about Hillary and her "lack" of supporters first hand. She pulled just as many hopeful, enthusiastic, congregants as Obama, her campaign just didn't have the same swagger and easy marketability. And, she was poorly advised to play down the "woman thing".    

Winning the Arkansas Governorship
Hillary first entered political candidacy as an offshoot of her husband, not on her own accord. And Traister gives a poignant retelling of that entrance. When Bill lost the governorship of Arkansas in the early 80's, his campaign blamed it on Hillary for not taking his surname. She then became Hillary Rodham Clinton until his staffers just completely dropped Rodham. Her name was overtaken by her husband's career. She was also pressured to take a leave of absence from her law firm to assuage any worries Arkansas' electing public may have had about their nontraditional first family . 

Once Bill was elected president, Hillary was expected to take over the traditional role of entertaining and socializing like a typical first lady. But she could never have been a typical first lady because she had worked hard for her own career. Giving that up wasn't something she or her husband felt to be beneficial for the nation. She fell in line where she needed to, like publishing a children's book and other first lady projects of that nature, but her work within the government on health care reform was unprecedented. That is why she was so feared. She was tough, she was different, and she wasn't bothered by the fact she was a woman. 

Generally, we don't really like women who aren't concerned about what their role should look like. Even though I think what Maher said about Elizabeth Edwards was atrocious, it seems to be what we would prefer to see in our male politicians wives. We don't want them to get too mad. In fact, no matter what their reaction, we tend to blame them to some degree for their husbands' missteps. That certainly is true of the way we reacted to Hillary during the sex scandal of the century some 13 years ago. Had she left him, we would have wagged our collective finger much like Maher did to Edwards. Since she stayed, we called her a bad role model for liberated women, hatefully ignoring all of her years of good work. 

These feelings of remorse over a missed opportunity to see a woman lead the country maybe don't matter much for me in my life since I believe I will live to see a female president someday. But in the past year I have come to see Hillary in a different way and that has affected my idea about what it means to be a woman working for change. Her entire life has been dedicated to chipping away at the glass ceiling, which is difficult work to say the least. Our (the feminist community's) dissatisfaction with her in '08 was due to our unfair expectation that the first woman president should have a spotless record, free from disappointment. We want someone to completely shatter the ceiling in one fell swoop. That's unrealistic and isn't the way real lasting change happens.

She didn't win the presidency but she continues to blaze a trail for the rest of us that will benefit countless generations. She has given her life to public service because I believe she really cares for our country and women all around the world. Like them or not, there are at least two women who may have a real shot at the candidacy in 2012 for the Republican party. In a country that prides itself in the belief that anyone can work to become president, Hillary has worked to make that idealistic notion a reality for those who choose to follow her. I'm behind her 100%.