Would it be so if I believed and said it?

I recently read an article in which California had introduced a bill which offered people the option of choosing nonbinary as a gender option on various forms of ID.  Individuals could be free to change their sexual identity day to day if they felt like it.  The thinking was we shouldn’t define gender rigidly and that people have a right to be whatever they feel:  male today, female tomorrow.  The implication was that this must be accepted and society has no right to question the normality or appropriateness of this.

This got me to thinking.  I am a senior citizen who feels much younger than my chronological age.  In fact, when I hear the Rolling Stones playing Satisfaction I start swaying my body, moving my feet, and imagining I’m in my teens again.  I feel like a teen and want to be young again.  But what if I decided that I didn’t think it was right that I be defined by such rigid terms as my birth date?  Imagine what would happen if I started telling people that my age was 16, wanted to be treated as a 16 year old, started acting like one, dressed in teen’s clothing, began dating 17 year-olds, and hung around high schools.  Would the same society that suggests it is okay for me to deny my birth certificate and decide what sex I want to be today be willing to accept my decision to deny my birth certificate and represent myself as a teenager?  Chances are I’d be sent off for a psychiatric examination.

Whether we like it or not, there are certain truths we must accept.  The fact that I feel like a teen doesn’t deny the reality of my birth date.  The fact that someone feels like someone of the opposite sex doesn’t deny their birth sex.  Granted, stereotypes associated with age (older adults aren’t interest in sex, able to function in the workplace, or play sports) and sex (males can’t be homemakers, females can’t lead major corporations) should be eliminated.  However, the sex of which we entered the world and the date of that event are truths, whether we accept them or not.  So, please don’t label me as rigid for being unwilling to deny those realities and foster false perceptions.

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Retiring in order to rediscover

So you’re facing or experiencing retirement.  It certainly is an event that stirs mixed feelings.  On one hand, you can relinquish the day to day grind of having most of your best hours consumed with a job and experience a new found freedom.  On the other hand, you may have a little anxiety about leaving an activity that gave you some purpose.

Decades ago, when many of us entered the workforce, work served a different purpose than it does for many who start this journey today.  Most likely, today we would encourage a young woman to follow her dream and pursue the career path that suits her best.  In the 1960s when I was graduating from high school, that was not the mindset.  I was a decent student with good grades, yet no high school counselor guided me to applying to a college; male classmates with similar and even less impressive grades did receive this advice.  Having a mind that enjoyed deep thinking and getting lost in words I announced to my parents that I wanted to go to college and study philosophy and writing.  I recall my father’s response as though it was yesterday:  “We are not of the aristocracy.  If you want to continue your education you need to do it in something practical, like nursing or teaching.”  And so I stuffed my dream of exploring the minds of profound thinkers and writing the next great American novel to attend nursing school. Actually, I was fortunate to  do that as most of the girls in my neighborhood dropped out of high school to marry and nearly all the adults in my parents’ circle thought it was wasteful for a girl to get an education as she was just going to marry and have kids anyway.  My father thought it was okay as my nursing education would come in handy in the future as I raised a family.  The thought that I could have a serious career was never considered.  I think that perhaps there were many girls at that time who had similar experiences.

And so our generation of women married and had children.  At some point, out of necessity or boredom, we sought employment. In some cases, we may have returned to careers that we shelved to tend to our children.  Few of us could afford the cost and time of obtaining college degrees, and most of us had to consider our family responsibilities, so we took the jobs that didn’t demand special qualifications or interfered with our family responsibilities.  Often, those weren’t the types of jobs that were exciting, fulfilling, rewarding….but they provided the extra funds to remodel the kitchen or put the kids through college.  If we found ourselves single or divorced, these jobs provided the paycheck that enabled us to survive.

For many women of our generation, our interests, dreams, and talents were put on the back burner as we went through the motions of daily work.  Have you given thought to what interests, dreams, and talents you stuffed away during your time of employment?

Although retirement or a reduction in work hours can stir some anxieties and sadness as we lose contacts with people we’ve enjoyed, income, and a comfortable routine, it can open new doors for us.  We now can find the time to rekindle old interests that have been stuffed away for years, expand activities that we’ve dabbled in but never had the time to indulge fully, and explore those things that we’ve always said we’d love to do if only we had the time and energy.  You can finally start that online antiques shop, write the novel that’s been floating inside your head for years, take that trip to Paris, breed dogs, start practicing on that guitar that’s been sitting in the attic, take the art classes that you’ve pined for, pull out the unfinished craft projects that are stored in the basement––basically, you can pursue those things that truly spark an interest in us and challenge us to use talents that have been begging to be set free for years.  We can rediscover the true, unique individuals we are.

So if retirement is on your radar screen or a reality in your life, take time to be alone to reflect on those talents and interests that have been dormant for years.  They don’t have to make sense or be practical, they just need to inspire and challenge you.  Rediscover the you who has been put in the closet as you fulfilled the responsibilities of employment.

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Boomerang kids

You sacrificed your girlish figure and bore the pain to give them birth.  You put your career and/or interests on hold to care for them during their vulnerable years.  You lost sleep worrying about them driving alone or going to the parties where you knew they’d be subjected to things that made your hair stand on end.  You sacrificed to give them an education so they could successfully launch their lives.  You did all that and more, motivated by the vision of having your own life back when they became adults so that you could be free to pursue your own dreams.

And now they’re back!

Of all your dreams for your future, having your adult kids return home probably didn’t make the short list.  But nearly 40% of young adults ages 18-31 are living with their parents, usually due to finances.  Sometimes it isn’t that they don’t have enough to support themselves, but that they have considerable student debt or that paying for their own housing and food would reduce the money available for recreation, expensive clothes, fancy cars, and other desirable, although unnecessary items.  And because this is such a common occurrence, it isn’t considered unusual or inappropriate.  Of course, this generation of young adults is known for having a sense of entitlement (which our generation can thank itself for creating!) so there isn’t any embarrassment about living with their parents.

For the most part the relationships are positive but they are not without their headaches.  Having our offspring under the same roof causes us to be aware of more of the goings on in their lives which can lead to worry.  We may lose some of the control of our household, including standards for cleanliness.  Some of the funds targeted for retirement savings may instead be spent on the extra costs of having another person in the household. The ability to have spontaneous sex on the livingroom floor may be curtailed.

So, what’s a mother to do?  If a child asks to return to the family home develop a plan. If he or she is unemployed, discuss the plan to find employment.  Develop a fair rent for the child to pay.  Gradually wean him or her off your car insurance and cellphone plan, having them contribute something to these bills in the interim.  (Even if you really don’t need the money, this will be provide a valuable lesson in budgeting that will help when he or she lives independently.  You can always save and return the funds in the future.)  Discuss household responsibilities and hold the child accountable for those responsibilities assumed.  And be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable (e.g., not having dates spend the night, wearing clothes in common areas, not allowing friends to raid the refrigerator and liquor cabinet, etc.)  And don’t be afraid to be clear about the need for your privacy to be respected.

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Is there a reason women don’t feel they can say NO to unwanted sexual advances?

There has been a rash of stories in the press recently about sexual harassment and abuse, as well as the growth of the #MeToo movement to bring attention to this problem.  While it is certainly good that this issue is getting attention and women no longer have to feel they must tolerate unwanted sexual advances, I’m wondering if things aren’t getting a little distorted.

Let me state that I, like many women of my generation, have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances.  Bosses who assumed I’d sleep with them if they approved my budget requests; dates who thought that dinner and a movie entitled them to place their hands wherever they wished.  There’d be times I’d engage in heavy makeout sessions and then be surprised when hands started moving south.  As stated, these were unwanted, and I clearly responded to these advances with a firm no and forceful movement of the male’s hands off my body.  Fortunately, I was never raped and I never felt that I so needed a job that I conceded to unwanted bosses’ wishes.  But, I somehow during that era thought that this was the norm and I’d have to accept these behaviors.

Things haven’t seem to change for some males.  Advances are still made on dates and some male bosses still act as though their position gives them permission to expect favors from female employees.  However, things have changed for women.  There no longer is the silent expectation that we should tolerate it because boys will be boys.  And there are laws to protect us in the workplace.  Why then, are some women acting so powerless?

A prime example was the story posted on Babe.net in which an unnamed woman described an unwanted sexual encounter with actor/comedian Aziz Ansari.  They met at a party,  hit it off, and she returned to his apartment with him.  He then quickly moved things along with sexual advances, although he never forced her to do anything.  They engaged in oral sex with each other. Through the entire experience she never stopped him or expressed an unwillingness to participate.  However, she now goes public, describing the incident and implying he took advantage of her.

Does anyone else wonder why this woman never said no, stop, or I’m out of here…why she just didn’t leave?

Women have fought long and hard to earn equal rights to men and to be viewed as strong, intelligent, independent beings.  The women who feel powerless to put a halt to sexual advances––advances made with no force by the way––threaten the advancements we’ve made.  We are not powerless.  We do have a voice.  We can exercise our right to refuse sexual advances.  We have not only the right to not be subjected to unwanted sexual advances, but we also have the responsibility to take action when they occur and not just act like powerless beings who merely complain about it afterwards.

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Don’t want to walk for exercise? Try yoga!

It has been established that walking benefits our health in many ways, including cardiovascular function, but that fact does little good if you just don’t like this form of exercise.  Fortunately, it looks like there is an alternative exercise that you don’t even have to leave your home to do:  yoga.

Researchers studied a group of 60 year olds in which one group was randomly assigned to do yoga and another to walk briskly for one hour six days a week for three months.  Cardiovascular function was then measured. Significant improvements in cardiovascular function were found in the group who practiced yoga while no significant difference was found in the group who walked.  The researchers concluded yoga can provide better heart benefits than walking.

In addition to cardiovascular benefits, yoga also has been shown to bring about better results than walking in enhancing mental function and lifting mood.  Of course, yoga also is known to build muscle strength, contribute to bone strength, improve balance, and enable you to get a better night’s sleep.  So, if you’d rather engage in an exercise that you can do anywhere without exhausting yourself, yoga may be the answer.

To learn more visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s section on yoga at: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm

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The Wonder Woman within each of us

The Wonder Woman within each of us

On a recent trip to the library  a book caught my eye from the display of new releases.  Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth.  Because I had never read a Wonder Woman comic book this 300+ page book authored by psychologists and professors aroused my curiosity and so I checked it out.  Surprisingly, it offered some interesting insights into the character and what she represented for women.

Wonder Woman was invented in 1941 by William Marston, a psychologist. That was wartime when women were beginning to be seen in more powerful roles in society.  She was a founding member of the Justice League and the first woman among those included in comic books who was in an independent, powerful role.

Presented as a power figure in a man’s world, Wonder Woman portrayed some key virtues: justice, wisdom and knowledge, temperance, courage, and transcendence.  Of course, she also portrayed the view of a sensuous woman in a man’s world in her outfit of red bustier, blue underpants, and leather boots.

Wonder Woman’s creator, as well as other psychologists of the time, believed comic books were a way to influence young minds.  Wonder Woman’s influence remained through the years, witnessed by her appearing on the cover of the first issue of Ms magazine as well as their 35th anniversary issue, and TV shows and movies featuring her.  I’m not sure to what extent this character influenced a healthy view of women and their potential.  Granted, women do reflect the virtues she portrayed and God knows we do possess considerable strength, but somehow I don’t think her image of power, strength, and self-reliance fully was accepted as the way women should be viewed in general.

Interestingly, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman are the only superheroes to have remained in publication since their debut.  Perhaps her continued presence will foster future generations of women to be comfortable with and accepted for their power, strength, and self-reliance.  Go girl!


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Older workers…good or bad for society?

Unlike previous generations, Baby Boomers are not retiring at the magic age of 65.  Rather, they are remaining in the workforce longer.  But is this a good or bad thing for society as a whole?

There is more evidence showing that society benefits rather than suffers from having people stay in the workplace after age 65.  Workers over age 65 tend to be highly skilled and well educated.  They usually perform jobs that require knowledge, not manual labor, and are highly productive.  This not only benefits their employers, but offers younger workers role models and mentors who can provide them with knowledge that grows from years of experience.  And their engagement in the workforce doesn’t appear to be taking jobs away from younger workers.

Not to be overlooked is the impact of employment on older individuals themselves.  Studies have shown that people who work longer tend to be healthier and live longer.  This not only benefits the employed older people but also society, who may realize a reduction in health care costs for the older population.

Granted, there are those people over 65 who may want to stay engaged in work but also who want explore interests that aren’t possible with a commitment to a full time job.  One way to address this issue is to have greater opportunities for part-time work, flexible schedules, and shared jobs.  Chances are we’re going to see more of these creative approaches to employment as the numbers of Baby Boomers approaching their 7th decade increase.

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