A “Single Working Women’s Week” meditation

It’s a candle kind of morning. Dawn came gray, then suddenly lit by a strange light, then darkened with heavy layers of cloud. I love the morning. So peaceful. So full of possibility…

Started reading The Artist’s Way last week. It’s a book that’s been calling to me for years, since I first heard someone talking about it. It’s a book that—should you accept this mission—forces you to think. About things you may not have wanted to think. About things you may not have bothered to think much—like what do you  really want to do  with your life? Things like what did you like and what didn’t you like about your childhood…stuff that you may have already—if you’re over 50 like me—thought enough about, thank you, and have no desire to revisit.

Rebel Yell
Creative Commons License photo credit: Rohit Chhiber

An interesting exercise. List five lives you would have liked to have led if you didn’t lead the one you have. My list came fairly easily—rock singer, motivational speaker, painter, biologist/physicist, lawyer. Then the next part asks what can you do in your life to honor that part of yourself? Hmmm.

I realized that I’ve unwittingly been doing something significant during my present life to include some aspect of all those other dream lives. It was a curiously gratifying feeling.

Rock singer – For thirty years I’ve been known as the “crazy lady in the back who sings” in the aerobics-to-music class. It’s been one of the greatest joys of my life to sing and “dance” that way.

Motivational speaker – I’ve been been invited to do many presentations over the years of my career. For each one I’ve always done my best to inject my passion about the subject and my wish to share important information. Takes a lot of work, can be a little nerve-wracking (depending on the audience), but it’s a powerfully satisfying feeling when I know I’ve reached the minds and/or hearts of those to whom I speak.

Painter – I loved to draw when I was a child. I dreamed of being an artist, but my parents firmly discouraged me and suggested something sensible for making a living. While I was married and raising my kids, I was fortunate to be able to study drawing and watercolor painting. Talk about a lot of work! Talk about nerve-wracking—having my first one-woman show was the most frightening and exhausting experience of my life. Even though I am an excellent salesperson, I’m much better at selling other people’s stuff. It’s weird when it’s your own work out there. Anyway, I’m happy to say I sold many of my paintings, and I’m pleased to say I still have a few on my own walls.

Biologist/physicist – I had an immensely inspiring nun teach me sophomore biology. She was a powerful example of a single woman who wasn’t afraid to exercise her individuality. How she got away with it as one in the order of nuns of  the Blessed Virgin Mary that taught us is beyond me. Suffice it to say, when I got to my first college biology class, I realized this was going to be way too much work. Still I read voraciously about pscyhology and metaphysics, and then branched into actual physics for the layman. I am passionate about the subject. And 30 years after that failed biology class, I became involved in writing to the Cleveland Clinic development department, and the flame of my interest was rekindled. I started writing a blog about bioscience, BioMedNews.org.

Lawyer – Ah, this one’s tricky. My very first job out of high school was as a legal secretary for the second largest patent law firm in the city of Chicago at the time. I loved the whole “lawyer” thing, loved their intelligence, their command of the English language. What I didn’t like was the way they seemed to view me as a second-class person, not worth their time or attention. I had come out of an all-girls Catholic high school where you were judged on your performance alone. By the way, it’s an experience I’d still recommend for any girl who’s been held down or made to feel less important than the males in her family or who needs to get out of her own teenage hormones and focus on her work.

Anyway, I ended up marrying a law clerk who worked at the firm—we actually had arguments about the meaning and use of words. What fun for a writer and a lawyer! I adore courtroom dramas (think I’ve seen every passable one ever made). And I write medical-issue-related blogs for a wonderful public-service-spirited attorney. Writing Mesothelioma-Advice.org lets me exercise my understanding of using language properly in a legal context. All interstingly gratifying exercises for my legal tendencies.

Now during this special holiday, Single Working Women’s Week, maybe it’s a good time to ask yourself those questions. What five lives would you like to have led if you didn’t lead the one you’re leading? And what are you doing now to honor those parts of your soul?

I hope you like your answers. And if you don’t, this is the perfect week to imagine into being some new ways to have fun with your dream lives. My way of bringing my painter back to life now is to join the Art Museum. I’ll be scheduling monthly visits with my sketchbook.

I’m wondering if being single lets us honor more of all our parts? Has it been true for you?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Rohit Chhiber

How do you define courage?

Being a single working woman takes courage–in our society or anywhere. Being a single working mom takes even more courage. Just saw a movie on Netflix instant view about a single working mom in 1960s-70s Poland who quietly spearheaded a movement that turned into a massive triumph for labor rights. After numerous struggles–she didn’t even know how to read or write and had to learn that in order to get a job running a crane that would allow her to work somewhat fewer hours each week than her former welding position–and including watching overworked fellow workers die in fires related to crappy work conditions, she suffered jail, beatings, firing, and more. Her championing the cause of fairness to workers eventually led to an industry-wide strike that at last crippled the Polish “party” politicians who’d taken over the oppression of the workers after Hitler was kicked out.

The bonus is that embedded in the film is a beautiful, though brief, love story.

Most of us aren’t firebrand activists and never will be. But God bless the people who are willing to sacrifice so much to fight for justice. Check it out on Netflix–it’s called simply Strike. You won’t find it on Amazon.

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Leave It to Beaver family values aren’t outdated

Leave it to beaver_Game_Board_01Watching an episode of the old Leave it to Beaver TV series from the 50s. Beaver is showing his mom some beautiful drawings he found in a sketchbook. Mom tells him they’re his father’s work. And Beaver decides he’ll ask his dad to draw his school poster for him. Mom, by the way, is dressed in an elegant shirtwaist dress with a ring of pearls adorning her slender neck and nonchalantly dabbing furniture polish on her perfectly clean rag and tenderly dusting the top of an elegant cabinet in the front hall. Looks just like the way most moms live today…not.

The lesson of the show was great. Kids need to do their own posters for school–not get their parents to do the work. But there was an interesting scene in the classroom. After two girls volunteered to dress dolls up in costumes of the American revolution, a boy raised his hand, too. The teacher sternly corrected the boy. “That’s not funny,” she said. “Everybody else thought so,” said the boy.

Makes me think of the changes that have gone on in our culture in the several decades I’ve been an adult. Interestingly, many modern parents who offer dolls to their young sons find the boys still tend to choose guns and tanks anyway—or at least dolls that turn into huge-monster fighting guys.

But the most beautiful part about Leave it to Beaver is how much the dad respects the mom. I’ve always remembered a quote I read years ago. “The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.” Beaver and Wally’s dad loved and respected their mom.

That’s one thing a child might miss when being raised by a single mom alone. But, oh, the wonderful things that baby may have with its single mom can be forces just as powerful–for the positive or the negative. It’s more about the mental health and self-esteem of the custodial parent, no matter what the marital situation.

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Singlism in college textbooks? Yep – read our guest blogger

textbooksDiscovered a cool Twitterer the other day, Jeanine, who writes about SinglePhobia. Having become a college student later in life—going for a second degree—she was surprised to find how negatively single people were presented in her university textbook. Happily, she agreed to contribute to our SWWAN blog…

“I recently took a social psychology course as an elective toward an undergraduate degree in sociology.  Our assigned textbook was Social Psychology by David G. Myers (ninth edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2008).  Myers is a prolific author of college textbooks, and I’d read another of his books for an introductory psychology class.  As I read more of Social Psychology, I began to notice that Myers seems to have a negative opinion of single people.

“Throughout the book Myers correlates being married with higher levels of health, happiness, success, and social status than for single people.  But rather than offer readers a range of views about marital status that supports critical thinking, Myers promotes one viewpoint and seems to denigrate single people.

“In the first chapter, Myers describes a correlation between obesity in young women and discrimination, and states that obese women’s unmarried status at the conclusion of the study – at age 31 – suggests that the women were discriminated against.  But does being unmarried at age 31 – or age 41 or 51 – necessarily indicate discrimination?  Is being single a negative indicator?

“There are volumes of scholarly research on happiness, life satisfaction, and loneliness in married, single, divorced, and widowed people, from many points of view.  But throughout the textbook, Myers only mentions research that supports his beliefs about marriage, and seems to find opposing views trivial.  Myers writes “the myth that single women are happier than married women can be laid to rest” without citing proof.  At times he sounds contemptuous, referring to unmarried people as “pleasure-seeking” and assuming that single people view marriage as being in “bondage,” “chains,” or a “yoke.”

“Myers also states that married people are more complex than single people, explaining that if a married person has a bad day at work, he needn’t fall apart, because his work self is only a small part of his identity.  According to Myers, “when our personal identity stands on several legs, it, too, holds up under the loss of any one.”   He concludes that a married person’s identity “stands on several legs” but that a single person’s identity stands only on one leg – his work life.  It is as if Myers assumes that single people have no other pursuits outside of work – nothing but four walls and the pursuit of mindless pleasure!

“Ironically, a chapter in which Myers disparages single people features a photo of the Delaney sisters, a pair of sisters who never married, and who each lived beyond the age of 100.  The text offers, “The Delaney sisters, both over 100, attributed their longevity to a positive outlook on life.”

“A social psychology textbook should encourage critical thinking about cultural beliefs, not reinforce stereotypes and suppress dissenting views.  College professors who assign this textbook should be aware of Myers’ biases and also assign texts that offer a range of representations of the lives of single people.

“In class we discussed the widely held belief that married people were better off in terms of happiness, health, and life satisfaction.  One student mentioned Jennifer Senior’s article about urban loneliness in New York Magazine.  I read the article and that led me to discover the Singles Studies web site at Berkeley, which led me to books that challenge anti-singles bias in academic research and popular culture.  Through further reading, I learned that certain studies that support Myers’ negative view of single people are flawed in terms of data, design, or interpretation, and that some of our culture’s assumptions about single people are based on flawed research.

Myers, David G.  2008.  Social Psychology (9th edition) http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0073531898/information_center_view0

David G. Myers’ web site http://www.davidmyers.org

Alone Together, by Jennifer Senior http://nymag.com/news/features/52450

What a shame the textbook author has such a limited view of singles–I bet he doesn’t know any single women who are SWWANs! Like Jeanine’s writing? Follow her on Twitter

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Quicky novel review: One single woman's funny story

It’s a novel, but it has the ring of truth to it–Life’s A Beach, by Claire Cook, bestselling author of Must Love Dogs. Truly funny and entertaining story of woman who is single again at 41 and living above her parents ‘ garage and trying to be an artist and figure out what she wants to do with her life. Depictions of her relationships with her parents, sister and boyfriend are wonderful. Seems she’s always keeping “one foot out the door.”

In a revealing argument with the boyfriend-she-can’t-seem-to-get-settled-with, they appear to be discovering their true feelings about the other’s choice of pets–but are really commenting on each other’s attitudes about their relationship:

“Cats, ” he said slowly and clearly, ” are for people who don’t really want to go out of their way. They’re as close as you can get to not having a pet. ” “Oh, okay ,” she counters, “Dogs, dogs are as close you can get to having a person in your life without really having one.”

This is just one of the many books we list and review for you on our website. We’re building a nice reading list–check out some other book and movie reviews.

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