TMF: White-washing Doc McStuffins right out of the underwear aisle

It’s been a while since I wrote a Tired Marketing Fail, but I think this may be my most outraged. The other day I was shopping for underwear for my four-year-old, a self-identified girl. My kid likes superheroes (which we’ve already parsed here), princesses, ponies, and yes, Doc McStuffins. And here is where we met with disappointment.

Perhaps because she already unconsciously benefits from white privilege or because of her developmental age, the draw for my kid these days is gender. She’s a girl and she likes to identify with other girls. She likes to hear stories about girls in book, TV, and movies — which is not always easy to find as cisgender male outnumber cisgender female characters three to one in family films while just 31 percent of central characters in children’s books are female. She likes to pretend to be different kinds of girls, whether they are princesses, firefighters, doctors, or Bat Girl Princess (Bat Girl mask and super powers with a princess dress, obviously).

So there we were in the children’s underwear aisle at Target and my kid spots the multi-pack featuring Doc McStuffins. But unlike the Frozen, Barbie, or Hello Kitty-themed packs, outside of the toddler section, poor Doc gets stuffed in with Sophia the First (is there a princess franchise more vacuous?) and Minnie Mouse. That’s right, in a sea of merchandising with white faces, the singularly female and black Doc McStuffins can’t even get her own package of panties — despite the fact that the character has mass cross-over appeal among different genders and races.

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

Is it just me or does it look like Doc McStuffins barely exists in this pack of girls’ underwear?

But as “DrMamaEsq” wrote on BlogHer last month:

People want to believe that young children do not see color. It seemingly provides us with the opportunity to intervene on young minds before racial stereotypes take hold. If young children do not see color, then we can provide multi-cultural materials to promote diversity, even when our personal lives—where we live, the conversations in which we participate, with whom we educate our kids—fail to reflect the racial equality and diversity we say we value.

What is true is that kids do “see” color because it is embedded into the very fabric of who we are as a nation. But kids, especially white children, are taught to ignore what they see, which is very different than not seeing color at all.

Indeed, I found myself in an unexpected teachable moment standing there in the underwear aisle. I could buy the multi-pack, which only had a couple of pairs of Doc panties mixed in with other non-Doc characters, or I could show my white child why this was messed up. Tired as I was — because when are we not tired, feminists? — I chose the latter. Because the fact that I can weigh this as an elective conversation is a manifestation of my own privilege. Let’s face it, parents of children of color are confronted with situations like these and worse (hello, Ferguson) on a daily basis. If I want to be something more than a suburban progressive with white-guilt, I need to be a part of the solution and that includes educating my kid about inequity and racism in our society. (Something parents of white kids need to be taking more seriously, because Ferguson.)

While I probably won’t be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for my explanation of the inherent inequality represented in that particular underwear aisle, I succeeded in pointing out that it wasn’t fair that Doc McStuffins did not get her own package, complete with multiple characters from the show, just like Frozen, My Little Ponies, Hello Kitty, Spiderman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Barbie. I told her it wasn’t right that Doc McStuffins wasn’t treated the same as the other popular characters and I tried to help her explore why it was that she might be treated differently. I’m not sure she completely understood the idea of race, but she very clearly could see that Doc McStuffins was not treated fairly in the world of the characters she loved. My kid was visibly saddened by this and she talked about it the rest of the night. She still points it out every time we see packs of undies, asking, “When will they make more Doc McStuffins panties?”

When, indeed, kid.

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

It doesn’t look like the Frozen characters are having any trouble getting their due.

Part of the blame must rest with children’s underwear manufacturer Handcraft, which has obviously chosen to offer mixed-character packs for older kids, while offering all-Doc packs for toddler sizes. So the designs exist. The market is there. And they are just willfully choosing to NOT give customers — KIDS — what they want.

Another portion of the blame has to land with the big-box retailers — Target, Walmart, and others — who do not push for more diversity from products offered by vendors. I guarantee that a company as large as Target or Walmart has the capitalistic muscle to nudge a vendor to offer whatever products customers are pining for. So once again, we the customers, have to put the pressure on retailers to give us what we actually want. (Something that’s been a trend of late, see: Target’s girls’ sizing problem.)

I’m so sick of having to do this!

But, as the Once-ler says in The Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”

So if you agree that Doc McStuffins is getting the short end of the stick — that the character and the diversity it stands for is being marginalized in the marketplace despite product demand — then I encourage you to share those thoughts with underwear manufacturer Handcraft, and the two largest retailers selling Handcraft products Target and Walmart!

To make things easy, here are some sample tweets and messages you can send RIGHT NOW!

@Target Give girls an entire pack of Doc McStuffins panties! Tell Handcraft to give Doc her due! #docmcstuffins cc @Disney

@Target Stop white-washing the girls’ panty aisle! #DocMcStuffins should not have to share pack with Sophia and Minnie! cc @Disney

@Target Frozen, Barbie, Hello Kitty … all the white characters get a whole pack of undies, why not #DocMcstuffins ? #fem2

@Walmart Give girls an entire pack of Doc McStuffins panties! Tell Handcraft to give Doc her due! #docmcstuffins cc @Disney

@Walmart Stop white-washing the girls’ panty aisle! #DocMcStuffins should not have to share pack with Sophia and Minnie! cc @Disney

@Walmart Frozen, Barbie, Hello Kitty … all the white characters get a whole pack of undies, why not #DocMcstuffins ? #fem2

Handcraft does not appear to be on twitter but they do have a contact form on their website. Here’s a suggested message:

Despite the popularity of Disney’s Doc McStuffins’ characters across genders and races, parents are still left hunting for a full package of Doc McStuffins character underwear outside of the toddler aisle. Please start manufacturing girls’ and boys’ sized underwear in packages that are entirely Doc McStuffins — just as you do for Frozen, Barbie, and Hello Kitty. Kids like mine can’t wait to get them!

You can also leave messages on Facebook for Target and Walmart:

Despite the popularity of Disney’s Doc McStuffins’ characters across genders and races, parents are still left hunting for a full package of Doc McStuffins character underwear outside of the toddler aisle. Please ask Handcraft Manufacturing to start manufacturing girls’ and boys’ sized underwear in packages that are entirely Doc McStuffins — just as they do (and you offer) for Frozen, Barbie, Spiderman, and Hello Kitty. Kids like mine can’t wait to get them!

As always, I’ll be tweeting from @TheSinCitySiren and you can catch me on Facebook at The Tired Feminist!

A survivor’s take on the NFL’s domestic violence problem

Trigger warning: domestic violence, corporal punishment

Today’s post comes from a writer who asked to only be identified by her first name, Gloria. While some folks may have moved on from the rash of disturbing stories of domestic violence that have come out of the NFL of late, many survivors remain stunned and unable to enjoy one of America’s favorite past-times. Here Gloria talks candidly about the triggers that run deep — especially around corporal punishment.

It remains to be seen how the NFL — and particularly Commissioner Roger Goodell — will make any positive gains from the spate of scandals that still plague them. While they have started a series of PSAs for a campaign called NO MORE which, interestingly combines awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault (which I’m for as they are often linked), they have yet to make good on their promise to donate money to a domestic violence hotline.

Perhaps the most promising thing to come out of the NFL scandals is the outpouring of outrage — not just by the usual suspects (like feminist bloggers and organizations), but by the average football fan and the sports media. After all, the very stereotype of the average football fan is of a man (although half of all football fans are women — myself included) and despite significant inroads by female athletes and female sports journalists, sports is still considered to be largely a man’s domain. For every Stephen A. Smith, still stuck in ignorant victim-blaming thinking, there are a lot more Bill Simmons’ on air and in the armchairs.

Still, the stories often missing are from survivors like myself and like Gloria. I salute Gloria’s bravery for sharing this story.

My husband and I watch a lot of ESPN together. In all the years I’ve tolerated the rundown of SportsCenter, I’ve never needed a trigger warning. Until the last few weeks. Less with Ray Rice, but when they read what Adrian Peterson said about whipping his son, I flashed back to being a child and had to plug my ears and put my head under a pillow. My dad would say exactly what Peterson said about beating his children. “I love them.” “It’s not abuse.” “This is what my dad did to me, and I turned out okay.”

But just because my dad loved me, didn’t mean it wasn’t abuse and didn’t mean it didn’t confuse me about what love meant. The Rice story and the Peterson story are deeply connected in my mind, and not just because both are NFL players. Children who are abused grow up to be adults who are victims in abusive relationships. As a child, you equate love and security with the control (and sometimes violence) of an abuser. I never doubted that my father loved me, and so I believed that his violent anger and his control over my life were extensions of that love. The extensive beatings, with a belt, yardstick, switch, or hand—for what were often minor infractions or simply the result of being a kid with energy—only taught me to be fearful and secretive. My siblings and I walked on eggshells around my parents, keeping secrets between us, never telling our parents about numerous things. Many times we all would be punished for an infraction that only of us committed. I once told my dad that he was abusing us, in a rare moment of speaking out against him, and he told me that he wasn’t. He had never burned me, he told me, he always fed me, and I had clothes. Those things constituted abuse, not giving me a black eye and yanking me by my hair.

I didn’t start dating until late in college, and as a senior met a guy who I became very serious with. He would get angry with me for things that were entirely out of my control, but I wanted to please him and just thought that his anger was an expression of his love. He would point out how much he sacrificed for me, never recognizing I had sacrificed equally to make our long-distance relationship work. He would push me away just to want me back, treating my feelings like a yo-yo, which he controlled expertly. After an incredibly traumatic event in my life, he broke up with me, telling me he couldn’t handle supporting me emotionally, never mind that I had been there through all of his emotional struggles.

About a year after that, I moved to the same city where he was and we renewed our relationship, but he never wanted to make it official. He asked me out on a date, and then throughout the date told me all the things I needed to apologize for. At this point, I’d been through serious counseling and was better able to recognize the control he was trying to exert. I tried to draw lines, but they often wavered between friends and romantic partners. As I pulled away from him, he would try and draw me back in. He wanted me to travel with him and stay overnight, and I said no. He cried, tried to hold me, and told me that I was meant for him. I pushed him further and further away, only to have him email me and call me, alternating between telling me how horrible I was and how much he loved me and needed me back. He went so far as to tell me his mom said we belonged together and that I should come back to him. He gave me flowers (something he had done only once in the time we were officially dating), threw rocks at my window, and begged me to come back to him. Eventually I cut off contact, feeling angry and manipulated. I still feel angry when I think about how much time I let him control my life and my feelings, because I thought we were in love.

I learned in counseling that this is common. Many children of abusive or controlling parents choose partners that have those same traits because they want to fix what happened to them in childhood. It took me a long time to sort that out within myself and have the recognition that a partner who tried to control me or tear me down wasn’t a healthy or good relationship. I consider myself fortunate that I figured it out and have a husband who isn’t abusive or controlling.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to do that. Too often family and friends don’t know what is going on (especially with emotional abuse), or the person protects the abuser. Too many times women (and a few men) don’t know that they are in an abusive relationship and convince themselves that it’s okay, that it’s love, and that they need to work a little harder to fix the problems. Creating awareness helps immensely. Family and friends showing support also helps. An abuser works by turning you against your family and friends, when those people express dislike for him it strengthens his case that they’re not worth the time.

I was able to break the cycle of abuse by finding people in my life that showed me true, nurturing, healthy love. A loving church family, combined with a group of unwavering friends, helped me see that I was okay without my ex-boyfriend—in fact, I was better. I don’t have children, but if I do, I plan to get “booster” counseling to make sure I’ve worked through the right issues to not abuse my children. Some of the scars of my childhood will be with me forever, but the abuse stops with me.

Never quite better

Testing … Testing … Is this blog still on?

Good grief it’s been a long time since I sat down and thought about anything more than what needed to be handled five minutes ago. Everything’s the same. Everything’s different. I have had so much on my mind during the past few months, I hardly know where one thought starts and another ends. It’s a blur.

That the pace of life continues to speed up as it approaches the future should surprise no one who spends their days with  small children. I keep putting off mopping my kitchen floor — which is sticky from so many dropped morsels — because I can’t decide if it is less futile to do it on Monday, so that it is clean at least one full day before my child comes home from school or to do it on the weekend, when there are more people about to help out (and help mess it up immediately). There is no end to laundry and dishes, which I can literally never get to the bottom of. Even as I do both tasks daily, I haven’t seen the bottom of my sink in months. There’s just no time or energy in me to do the multiple loads necessary to keep up each day. How do folks with team-sized broods do it? I’m exhausted.

Time and energy. Yes, that’s been in short supply this spring, which in the desert started with increased pollen counts in February because I am the universe’s cat toy. Pollen season hasn’t been this hard on me in years. ERs, immune-boosting prescription drug cocktails (mostly of the nauseating steroid variety), and weeks of bedrest have been the hallmark of the past three months. Naturally, as pollen counts soared near a 12 on the 12-point air quality scale, the nightmare of food allergies nearly pushed me right off a cliff. Down to beans, plain pasta, tea, and water these days. (Okay, there’s some occasional poptarts in there, because I’m weak … and fuck it.) I’d probably be as skinny as Kate Moss, if it weren’t for my stubborn Polish genes and the steroids the doctor keeps putting me on so I can, you know, breathe.

In short, this spring has been a real bitch.

The last time I remember feeling this bad was the spring of 2007, which is, incidentally, the same time I made some rather bold changes in my life, personally and professionally. I’m poised to do the same now. (Yes, there’s something I’m not telling you, but it will be revealed next week.) Something has to give. Actually, something is giving. My body. Things have changed during those seven years. One full-term pregnancy later, my body is healing at glacial speed, if at all. Bruises are taking months to heal. Seriously. Colds are morphing into very serious infections in record-time and then taking an eternity to come back from. The old tricks aren’t working and I’m all out of ideas. (So are my doctors.) I am slowly realizing this is the new normal. I’m getting older. The never-tiring immune system disorder is taking its toll.

I’m not going to lie, I’m angry and maybe a little bit scared. When I got diagnosed in my early 20s, I knew this day would come. I knew there would come a time when it was all going to get that much harder. (And, no doubt, this will not be the last such milestone.) It’s overwhelming. It’s unavoidable. It’s not fair. Now what?

The most practical plan is one many with similar illnesses employ — strict routine. And when I say “strict,” I mean drill sergeant quality. What they do is an exacting daily schedule factoring in meals, treatments, medication times, exercise plans, sleep, hydration, and more. Meals become precise nutrient delivery systems. Exercise routines are implemented to promote maximum success. The weekly schedule becomes over-blown with doctor visits, treatments, alternative therapies, exercise classes, etc. Like food, sleep becomes just another factor in the multi-variable equation. The mantra becomes: MAXIMIZE! As in, “Maximize results.” And, “achieve personal optimization.” It’s robotic.

I detest this plan. This plan is anathema to my spirit, my creative process, and to the spontaneity intrinsic to life. There is no joy to be had in life when your days and weeks are just a series of items to be ticked off a list. indeed, I find my friends who are so regimented to be kill-joys. Deviation becomes suspect and it’s pretty hard to schedule fun. (I mean, I already had to adopt a vegan diet, isn’t that enough?) But my rebellion, my dissatisfaction, my depression about the reality of my situation serves no purpose. I am not going to find spontaneous healing down some rabbit hole yet explored. (I’ve tried that already.) Now is the time for practical application of things that work — however incrementally. However mind-numbingly monotonous. However absent of joy. And the most frustrating part of this is that all that fastidious attention to detail and routine isn’t going to make me better. It’s going to make me functional. (There’s a difference.) I’m still going to be just as sick! And yes, that pisses me off. There is no cure for what ails me. And unless I want to continue to miss out on time with my family because I can barely breathe or am so exhausted by sickness (again!), there is only one thing to do. Submit.

Naturally, as my health is spiraling I am at a time in my career where all the dues are starting to pay off. Opportunities are coming my way. Exciting possibilities are tangible. But I keep having to cancel meetings and postpone projects. Is this how it’s going to be from here on out? Me constantly fighting my illness just to take the shot I’ve worked so hard to earn? Me lying in my bed, staring up at my ceiling, with so many ideas floating in my head I feel like they will spill out my ears? It feels like the universe keeps pushing me back down every time I stand up. And I have moments when I just feel like it would be easier to give up on dreams than to keep feeling them burning in my chest. It would be easier to just live day-to-day, checking off my health-routine list items, emptying the dishwasher, putting the kid to bed, making a grocery list — and repeat forever. Of course, the idea of giving up writing or any dreams I have therein makes me feel like going and finding an actual cliff to jump off. Not that I have the energy to. I can’t even muster the strength to sit at a computer for a half an hour. The futility is palpable.

This is why I haven’t been writing. I have had to carefully conserve my energy for just those tasks that are absolutely vital. I’m in survival mode right now. And the only thing I know for certain is that change is imminent because the way things are is not tenable. My only hope is that change brings some measure of relief.

I haven’t always been a runner

This is a new blog written by my good friend Kris Hill. I think y’all will really like it.

Always Running Uphill

I was one of those people who said, “I can’t run.” Or another classic non-runner statement, “I hate running.”

In March 2012 I was the finish line of the Mercer Island Half waiting for my friend Ilyse to cross the finish line. I was utterly sedentary at that point. The only exercise I got was walking around at high school softball games taking photos for the community newspaper I used to work for and even that was laughable. Before that race, I was telling my friends on Facebook that I did not understand why they ran, much less 13.1 miles. It made no sense.

Just three months later I started moving toward understanding of the runner’s mindset. A family friend died. Mary was my mother-in-law’s best friend. I first met her in 1996, the summer my husband and I started dating, so she was part of my life for a…

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‘Ponies are for girls’ … and so it begins …

Alright Tired Feminists, maybe you can help this mom out. I had a somewhat difficult conversation with my three-year-old last night. We were playing with some My Little Ponies and my kid told me that the ponies were all girls and that ponies were only for girls to play with. (Sigh) Are we really already at this conversation in my kid’s young life?

I’ve been sick for about 10 days straight (with a toddler who has also been sick for about 10 days straight), so my brain was not full-strength but it clicked into gear enough to think, “Oh, this is a teachable moment about gender.” I told my kiddo that ponies are for all people and that all people like to play with ponies. Dad chimed in, too, “I like ponies.”

The kid was adamant that I was absolutely wrong. “Ponies are for girls, mommy.” No matter how I tried to dice it, the kid was convinced that ponies were for girls only. I started to feel angry. Who has been telling my kid that some toys are for boys and some are for girls because that shit don’t fly in this Tired Feminist’s house? (Answer: Society, that’s who.) Finally, I remembered the “Brony” trend of men who love the My Little Pony show and ponies. I showed her the trailer for the documentary about said fan-culture. This seemed to (temporarily?) convince my kid that ponies can be for boys as well as girls.

This feels like winning the battle, not the war. After all, there will be other kinds of toys that will, unfortunately, elicit this sad conversation. And we didn’t even broach the idea that there are more than just (cisgender) “boys” and “girls.” Indeed, we go to church with several people who live their lives outside the gender binary and who are trusted adults in my kid’s life. Whether or not the kid has internalized this flexibility of gender identity is hard to tell but tonight’s conversation doesn’t fill me with confidence.

So, tell me what you’d do Tired Feminists? How do you approach the gender-binary conversation with your little ones? If we want to end the implicit misogyny of gender rules as well as issues like transphobia, we have to start by dismantling the harmful messages our kids get. It takes a village here, people, and I need some help from the village.

Becoming Diva

They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. I’m not sure I have a problem. But I have a … something. A realization? Let’s go with that — a realization. Here goes: I might be a diva.

Some clarification might be helpful here. When we think of divas — or at least when I think of divas — it’s the singularly named singers (Cher, Madonna, Beyoncé) who live in a different strata where bathing is only in solid-gold tubs and walking around in meat-dresses is de rigueur. Sure, deep down they are people just like us. They fart. They get colds. But their lives also come with a staff and loads of money. A staff of people and lots of money can make anyone’s life a hell of a lot easier and certainly frees up time to devote to creative pursuits and working it. I have no such luxuries. When the trash stinks, I have to take it out. Hell, I’m not even known — even in my private life — by a defining stage name. Even my big blog, The Sin City Siren, has yielded a title of “The Siren.” (That’s two words.) And nobody actually calls me that. (I would probably laugh if they did.) But maybe that’s not all there is to diva life. Idiomatic names and money and entourages — those are just the perks.

Contrary to the song, maybe no one is born a full-fledged diva. Maybe you have to grow into it. Maybe celebrity diva’s lives used to be full of all the crap we all have to contend with — bills, deadlines, cranky children or partners, dick bosses, traffic, insomnia, those broken things you keep meaning to fix. And maybe somewhere in the muck of all that regular life stuff, they were also quietly growing into the diva they would become.

The pastor at my church is a delightful man named Greg, who used to be (in his own words) a “Vegas showboy.” He performed for years on The Strip and at various venues around the country. And in case you missed that “showboy” reference, Greg is as gay as they come. I am very fond of him. And as we worked together to do the hate crimes event at our church this past spring, I think he became fond of me, too, because around that time he started calling me a diva. Um, what?

At first, I got really upset about it. I asked him why he kept calling me a diva all the time. “I’m not demanding or a showboater,” I remember telling him. In fact, one of my strengths is being a good team player and what might actually be a detrimental tendency to give other people credit for things I do. I enjoy being the person behind the scenes. I enjoy when I can create an outlet for other people to shine. One of my favorite things is to encourage talent in others and inspire them to achieve things they thought were not for them. I’m the back-up band, not the headliner, and that suits me just fine.

But Greg just smiled at me and shook his head. “You are a diva!” he said laughing.

And at that moment I thought I might actually have a diva-sized fit. Greg looked at me and told he uses “diva” as a term for people who go above and beyond, who are so giving of themselves that they have bigger-than-life impacts on people and their communities. That seemed both better and more impossible than being like Mariah. (Sorry, I just had a moment considering all the ways I am entirely different than Mariah. LOL.)

I don’t consider what I do, whether in my private life or for my work, to be out-sized. I consider what I do to be average good-person type stuff and maybe-better-than-average professional person stuff. In fact, I tend to focus on how much I couldn’t do in any given situation. You know, that still small voice that nags you, If you had worked just a bit harder, you could have done that much better, more. What I internalize from any work I do is the ways I fail and could have done better. The misspelled word. The stain on the hem. The slight stutter when I’m nervous or excited. On top of that, I struggle to be gracious about compliments. I have gotten better over the years. I can say, “Thank you,” to compliments but only because I remind myself that is the gracious thing to do. Sometimes, the best I can do is to say nothing. I would rather say nothing than say something negative that refutes the compliment. You know, like, “It would have been better if …” Or like when you get a compliment on an outfit and the first thing you say back is, “Too bad my ass is huge.” (Actually, I would never say I have a huge ass, but you get the point.)

In my head, I’m always replaying how I could have said something better, funnier, smarter. I’m always considering how I’ve been out-of-the-loop in pop culture and fashion since having a child. I don’t really know what is in style or who the latest hot celebrity is. I go shopping and think all the clothes are ugly. I leaf through a magazine and skip the celeb profile, because who cares? (And a little bit because it makes me think of work.) I have a truly terrible time remembering people’s names. Like even people in my own family who I have known for maybe my entire life, yes, I will forget their name. I think that synaptic function in my brain is not hooked up right. I can remember every detail of a story that someone tells me, but if you ask me their name … blank. Just dead air. Nothing.

But I digress …

My point is, I don’t really give myself credit where it is due. I shy away from awards. I downplay my role in success. And whatever dumb thing I just said or did — I’ll be replaying it my head for like a month. At this point in my life, I also tend to feel like this is it. This is what I am going to be when I’m all grown up. I’m good at writing, being a wife, a mom (I hope), and a friend. I’m okay at being organized and dressed presentably (brushing my hair and teeth counts, right?). I suck at cooking, being anywhere on time, and having a poker face. And I will always struggle to be careful about revealing how much my heart beats or breaks, depending on how lovely or terrible something is; how much I fall in love with people, places, art, food, songs, films, or even a beautiful handbag. All the time. I’m always falling in love with things, people, places (basically, nouns — grammar joke!). Not the romantic kind of love, just … just feelings that are full and robust. I have to keep from throwing myself entirely into things. And so I cultivate calm. I am good at being calm. I am not good at being unaffected.

So maybe the stuff we think a diva is about — the clothes and money — maybe those are just the artifice of diva-dom. Maybe being a diva is how much we feel and let that guide us toward doing good in the world, as my pastor told me. Long story short, maybe it’s about the heart.

As this year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I did this year for the first time. I went on TV, which was terrifying. Then I did it again. I lobbied my Legislature (and cried on the record — coulda lived without that part). I broke stories because they deserved to be told, not because I cared about hit-counts or growing my brand. I willingly sang even though I knew other people could hear me (and it was being recorded) and I was in a music video on purpose. (It was my idea!) I took public speaking gigs, even though I didn’t really know what to say. Not bad for the girl who likes to stay behind the curtain.

All these things … I would never do those things in the past. I pushed myself in 2013 to “say yes” to things that scared me. And I did! And you know what? It made me better at my job and maybe a little bit better in my life. It brought new and different people into my life. It teased out friendships and supporters who were always there but maybe just hanging out silently in the back row. All those things I did, I could only do when I said no to fear and embraced my big-fat heart. I stopped telling my big heart to be quiet because in our society calling women “emotional” is often code for bitch or bother. I stopped trying to hide the things about myself that don’t fit in — which is actually a lot like how I used to be such a long time ago that it’s immortalized in a yearbook. I found my old self. I found my new self. I can’t believe I’m 37 and I’m still finding myself.

Meanwhile, somewhere inside me, change is being internalized. A year ago I got LASIK eye surgery and people who hadn’t seen me in a long time would do a head-fake when they saw me. I just attributed it to the difference between glasses and no glasses. People aren’t as observant as they think they are. Nobody notices the color of your eyes when you wear glasses. Now, when I run into long-lost friends or colleagues, they invariably comment on my big blue eyes. Thanks, I’ve had them for 37 years. And I sort of got annoyed about it for a while. But then I was looking through some old photos and I started to see what I think people were noticing. It’s not the eyes. It’s me. I’ve changed.

Just look at this as an example:

Copyright: The Sin City Siren

Same people. Same pose! But I don’t think I look the same and not just because of glasses or weight or the clothes I’m wearing. I’m different. (Although, seriously, can you believe I’m naturally a blonde? Granted, my hair is lightened in the photo on the left, but still. Meh, blonde. I don’t care if I was born with it. That’s not me.)

When people tell me I look different now, I tend to minimize it. But after thinking about it — and looking through old photos — I decided that it’s true. Maybe when we choose to bet on ourselves and open up our hearts to possibility, we start to look different. That’s the main thing that is different about my life now compared to 2007. And people notice.

Maybe this is how a diva grows. Maybe it’s incremental, sneaking up on you. And in the absence of teams of stylists, trainers, publicists, and the like, maybe the real-world divas aren’t the ones who are demanding only purple foods or won’t be caught dead in something off-the-rack. Maybe real-world divas are people who dare to speak authentically in a world that values sarcasm over substance. Maybe there’s a diva inside all of us.

So go ahead, be a diva. If I can do it, anyone can.

A request on behalf of the tired, frustrated parent(s) trying to quiet the screaming toddler who is making the entire airplane pissed

Dear people who are stuck on or near airplanes with crying/tantruming child(ren):

As irritating as the situation is for you, try to keep one small part of your heart open to how horrible it is for those parents. Offer them a smile, even if deep down you are imagining throttling that kid if s/he kicks your seat ONE MORE TIME). Hell, offer them a drink! Believe me, when it’s your kid screaming, you want to die sometimes. And it is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever lived through as a traveler.

On one four-hour leg from Seattle to Anchorage, my toddler started an epic tantrum that lasted at least one full hour (not counting build-up or aftershocks) and was so bad the flight attendants came over. My kid crawled under the seat in front of her and was screaming and thrashing. If we even touched her she violently hit and kicked all her limbs, while also going noodley and slipping through our grasp. We’re talking two grown adults could not soothe or wrangle a three-foot-tall child. She’d had it and that was it. We were helpless, trapped, judged. We were those people. I wanted to simultaneously cry and jump off the airplane. It was hell. I would have happily gotten drunk at that point, if I had the capacity to even think beyond handling the screaming.

Remember, when the ride is over, those parents are stuck with that little asshole (because all kids are little assholes sometimes) and have to figure out how to get them to just be quiet and go to sleep already. And you do not. And that’s a great thing about your life at this moment. Get yourself a drink and be glad this too shall pass.

And later, if the frazzled, exhausted, humiliated parents offer you an apology by baggage claim? Be cool. Lie and tell them it was no bother cause kids will be kids. Those parents will know you’re lying, but they will be SO GRATEFUL you did. It’s a lie that is a great kindness. And we parents love you for it. Because we were there. We know it was a big deal. And we feel like failures and jerks that it was our kid who was the asshole this time.

This goes for stores and elevators and waiting rooms and just about anywhere you go and you run into CRAZED TANTRUM CHILD. Because that kid’s parent is just trying to get through the day. They’re remembering how they graduated top of their class and have or do work at really hard jobs — I sometimes flash to interviewing President Bill Clinton — and yet in this moment, they cannot control, bully, plead, or otherwise cajole a small human to just relax and be cool. That kid does not give a shit that their parent is embarrassed or getting heckled by grown-up assholes with no manners. Or even that their parent already has to navigate a world in which grown-ups have adult-sized tantrums (because they totally do). Or jerk bosses. Or unrealistic deadlines. Bills. Broken door handles that need fixing. Or the myriad other things all adults have to deal with. Because on top of that, right now as the kid is screaming on the floor, that parent just thinks, “I suck at this.” And that’s the worst feeling because the one job you really want to ace is parenting. And you are doomed to failure because only Mary Poppins is perfect and she’s only “practically perfect.”

So, have a heart. Or at the very least, don’t pile on with a snide comment or side-eye glance. We already know that shit has gone sideways. We live with this tiny tyrant. Be glad that you get to walk away and never hear that scream again.