No Fishing Allowed (aka: My Anti-Flirting Weapons Cache)

I wish there were a battery-operated aura I could wear whenever I go out in public. I could change the color of the electric glow to communicate to other people if it is okay to approach me.

Green light: Hi! You seem cool. Let’s chat for a while.

Yellow light: Hmm…proceed with caution, but be ready to walk away on my signal.

Red light: STOP! Stay back! Do not approach. I repeat, DO NOT APPROACH!

red light stop

I’m pretty sure that, when it comes to strange men, my red light would be on like, all the time. Nothing sets off my panic alarm like some man I don’t know approaching me for any reason whatsoever. So whenever I go out and about, I try to make sure that I have two handy weapons – a book in which I can bury my nose and a pair of earbuds so that I can pretend not to hear. This does not always work, however. Maybe I need to hire a fake boyfriend to accompany me whenever I need to leave the house. Or maybe just buy one of those electric NO buttons to add to my weapons cache. Then, whenever some guy tries to talk to me, all I have to do is click the button and let it speak for me.

The NO ButtonDude: Hey, what’s your name?

Button: NO!!

Dude: Where are you headed?

Button: NO!!

Dude: Can I get your phone number?

Button: NO!! NO!! NO!!

not dating

Tonight, I am going out dancing at a club with a bunch of other single people – something that I have not done since I was eighteen years old. (Yes, seriously). I adore dancing, but my anxiety level is very high, because:

  1. I don’t know this group of people I’m going dancing with. They are just a group of mostly strangers from a Meetup group. I am worried that I won’t be able to relax and be myself and really get into dancing with a bunch of strangers. Especially if they are going to be drinking, because I am not a social drinker – especially if I have to drive myself home. Which I do.
  1. Because I have no clue what women my age wear out to dance at a nightclub, and it’s not like I have a friend to call and ask for tips. Am I supposed to buy a special kind of purse I can dance with? Shoes? Help!
  1. No Fishing AllowedThat whole problem with men. Because I have no idea if that whole thing where strange men hit on single women in night clubs is just overblown in my imagination thanks to TV shows, or if that is actually how the single adult world works. The very idea makes me feel sick with fear. I don’t want to be flirted with. I just want to dance.

I know — maybe I should bring along my book and ear buds. Just in case. Better yet, maybe I should just stay home, where I can relax, and be myself, and there is no need for NO buttons or red lights.    unavailable 2

Girl Power! (aka: Barbie, What on Earth Happened to You?)

Techie BarbieFirst of all, let me just say that I was a total Barbie girl. I was one of those girls who stubbornly refused to stop playing with Barbie dolls until long after my middle school peers had already lost interest. I adored her pink, perfect world of glittering outfits, miniature accessories, and stupid plastic shoes that would not stay on her dainty little feet. While other young teens were busy flirting with real-life boys and experimenting with styling their own hair, I was locked away in my bedroom, acting out these same things with Barbie, Ken, and the gang (including a few unfortunate punk haircuts).

Barbie careersTo me, however, Barbie was about much more than wearing cute clothes and having pretend sex with Ken (oh come ON…every girl in the history of Barbie fandom has tried that at least once). Barbie was the ultimate symbol of Girl Power. We girls can do anything! We can be teachers and doctors and zoologists! We can be high-powered office executives by day, and all dolled-up for a smokin’ hot date by night. We can work hard, and then buy ourselves a dream house, a townhouse, a pink camper, and a matching Corvette. If nothing else, the Barbie campaign of my childhood taught us girls that we could have it all and be it all, and still look great doing it.

So what on earth happened?

Computer Engineer Barbie

Just in case you’ve been living in a cave that is deeper underground than my cave, here’s the scoop: Mattel had a book, published in 2010, titled, Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer. Like me, many people cheered the concept. Hooray! Barbie is helping to encourage young girls to consider STEM careers, which continue to be largely dominated by men. Good for Barbie! However, as you read the story, you are met with the sad reality – Computer Engineer Barbie is a fraud. Sure, she comes up with a cute idea for a video game, but then she explains to Skipper,

” ‘I’m only creating the design ideas,’ Barbie says, laughing. ‘I’ll need Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game.’ “

Seriously, Barbie?! You’re a computer software engineer and you can’t do the coding for your own game without help from the men? What’s happened to you? And as if that weren’t disappointing enough, Barbie inserts her flash drive into Skipper’s computer and – whoopsie – ends up infecting the computer with a virus. So, does Computer Engineer Barbie use her brain and her education and disinfect the computer herself? Of course not! She calls the boys, who eagerly offer to remove the virus for her.

” ‘Hi, guys,’ says Barbie. ‘I tried to send you my designs, but I ended up crashing my laptop — and Skipper’s, too! I need to get back the lost files and repair both of our laptops.’

” ‘It will go faster if Brian and I help,’ offers Steven.”

Ugghhh!!! I am guessing that clueless Computer Engineer Barbie had fake sex with her boss in order to be hired for her IT job. Luckily for girls everywhere, Mattel has pulled the disaster of a book and apologized for supporting such garbage. And luckily for everyone, an awesome IT consultant named Kathleen Tuite created the Feminist Hacker Barbie website, where users can edit the original text of the story to create a better version. Twitter users have also chimed in, with their – uh, more colorful editions of the story, using the hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie. One of the coolest things to come out of this whole fiasco has been the number of really smart women, many with IT careers, who have stepped forward to rewrite Barbie’s airhead words (and the patronizing responses of her male coworkers) with much more appropriate and witty dialogue. Now that is true Girl Power.

How to Be a Grownup 101 (aka: 38-Going-On-8)

Twenty minutes away from my house, there is a large, high-end shopping mall. From time to time, I enjoy shopping there. I stroll leisurely through the mall, admiring the architecture and design, and visiting a number of familiar, “regular-folk” shops, like Yankee Candle and JCPenney. But there are also a number of shops in that mall that I avoid completely. Designer shops, filled with name brand clothes and accessories that probably fill the closets of celebrities and have price tags higher than the total of all my personal assets.shops better from the outside

Now I know – it’s a free country. I have just as much right as anyone to browse the racks in high-end shops. But anytime I have dared to cross the threshold into such places, I am overwhelmed with the sudden urge to tiptoe, and the paranoid suspicion that the salespeople are keeping their eyes on me, the black woman with the Target store wardrobe. I am hyper-aware that I do not belong there, that my worn-out Sears flats should not be stepping across their plush carpeting. And so, I avoid these shops, limiting my browsing to a quick glance at the window displays as I rush past.

It is not only shops in the mall that produce the sensation that I am a foreign visitor in a land which I do not understand. There are several types of places that I generally avoid – not for lack of curiosity, but due to insecurity and cluelessness. Bars, for example. I have never once been to a bar. For starters, I would not even know what to do if I were to go to a bar. On television and in books, people just walk right up to a bartender and order some type of drink. They don’t, like, study a menu or anything. So how do people know what drinks even exist, or how much they cost? Does the rest of the adult world take a crash course in How to Order Drinks 101? I guess I missed that class. Secondly, I have never been to a bar, because (again, my learning is entirely based on television and books), it seems like people pretty much only go to bars because they are shopping for a one-night-stand partner. Not only am I not even remotely interested in such a thing, but the very idea of being surveyed that way gives me the urge to run away screaming. Nope, no bars. bars are for grownups not me

Another thing that other adults seem to enjoy doing is going out to casinos. I am amazed by the way people discuss weekends in Reno, or Vegas, or the Indian casinos, with as much excitement as kids discussing a trip to Disneyland. I have only ever been in a casino three times – mostly just hurrying through on my way upstairs to the Circus Circus acrobatics shows. Though once, I boldly wasted $5.00 on slot machines (and won nothing), and felt no excitement – nothing but the realization that I just threw away $5.00 and didn’t even get a video game out of it. I wandered around a little afterward; feeling completely overwhelmed by the blinking, flashing, buzzing machines, and the excited shouts of people as they handed over their money and watched the dealers do whatever it is the dealers do. Clearly, they all learned how to play those games in How to Gamble, 101. I missed that class, too. They Make it Look Fun but I dont even know what they are doing

little girl playing dressupIt isn’t just that I feel out-of-place and clueless in high-end shops, bars and casinos. It is also that I feel like a little girl navigating a world that belongs to grownups. I am 38, going on 8 years old. I have the right to enter a shop, a casino, or a bar, but any minute, someone will come along and point to the door. “Goodbye, little girl. Come back when you are older and more experienced and know how to do what the rest of us already know how to do.”

Sometimes I feel utterly clueless about parts of the grownup world.

Sometimes I feel utterly clueless about parts of the grownup world.