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Perils of Perfection: Are You Real? [Jul. 29th, 2012|11:53 pm]
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Thinking about various things--politics, attitudes towards writers, the training girls used to get (and still often express, as if it passed down through mothers even after the culture changed) melded with several blog posts I read before heading for ArmadilloCon and a couple of conversations both overheard and engaged in, while I was there.

Most of us have heard, from someone, at some point (and it's all over the political landscape) the claim or accusation that REAL (Americans/conservatives/liberals)  think/do this and only this, and someone isn't a REAL (American/conservative/liberal) if they don't think/do this and only this.   Most of us have heard that REAL women like/don't like/can/cannot think or do this, and REAL men like/don't like/can/cannot think or do that. REAL Christians/Jews/Muslims/Buddhists/Hindus/any-other-religion are like this, and anyone who breaks ranks in any way isn't a REAL whatever. 

I'm not giving links to the specific blog posts, because I don't want to divert into a discussion of those blog posts specifically--but rather want to set out an idea that's been tickling my brain for the past months...about the link between the belief in the possibility--and the necessity--of perfection as a condition of being a REAL something, and some mechanisms that turn healthy groups into rigid, exclusionary, and imprisoning unhealthy ones.   Someone may already have posted about the same thing, but the internet is huge and I haven't run into it.

I've been in (briefly) or on the fringes of (more often) groups that transitioned, even as I watched, from a bunch of people with a goal of improving things in some way--but still maintained some diversity of opinion in the group--to a bunch of people who had crystallized into a particular set of opinions and behaviors and had no tolerance at all for any different opinion.   The first one I remember seeing do this was a schism in a church--a church I visited, when staying with the family who were members there--when I was a child.   No, I'm not going to "out" a church that may not even be there at all anymore, except to say that the issue that caused the schism was, apparently,  a matter of how girls should dress, when fashions changed.  (Side issue:  "How females should dress" is a major issue for many rigid closed groups, many of which--but not all--are religious groups.  There will be a blog post about that another time.)   If I remember correctly, it had to do with the width of the shoulder straps of sundresses (a popular style in an area that was 100F and hotter in un-airconditioned schools for months out of the year.)   Neither side would give an inch (pun intended, in this case) and one group left in a huff.   Also in my childhood (which overlapped the not-so-golden Fifties and included the McCarthy anti-Communist tirades)  were the groups focused on who was, and was not, a REAL American.   At our end of the country, a long way from everywhere else, we had a wide range of political opinions for kids to hear from adults.  My mother had friends who were more, and less, conservative and liberal and middle-of-the-road...but at each end of the obvious axes were some who claimed the right to decide who was a REAL Democrat/Republican/Texan/American, as well as REAL woman and REAL man.

When I was in college, a number of social/political issues were hot--and hotly discussed--and of course groups formed around common ideas.  At first, again, groups could form that had a passionate interest in one particular goal (it might be civil rights, or women's lib, or pacifism, or disability rights)  and to be in favor of (for instance) the ERA didn't mean that everyone had to be a pacifist or a vegetarian or even "perfect" in all their ideas about people with disabilities.  But always hovering in the background was the possibility that this might change...and purity tests...loyalty tests...tests to be sure that everyone in a particular groups agreed about everything...might show up.  And sometimes they did.   And if you were one of those who did not immediately (or after a couple of consciousness-raising sessions) agree with everything on that group's agenda, then---you were a traitor to the cause, a horrible evil person and not a REAL whatever it was and they'd whomp you with their ideological bats if you dared say you were a [whatever.]    (One of the few amusing things about all this was being chewed out for wearing new blue jeans (which were, at the time cheaper) because I was supposed to wear the more expensive artificially "aged" jeans that pretended to indicate sympathy with the poor.  Whereas...I bought jeans new and wore them until the "aging" process happened naturally, just like all the real poor people did.)

The goal of these groups began as something good--or so I think, but then I was in favor of the original mission, as I understood it.   But...something happened.   It wasn't a new thing that happened--humans have been forming the same types of groups, on both sides of many an issue, as far back as we can trace, and demanding of members a perfect, unquestioning acceptance of a long list of things that don't appear to be related to their initial goal.  Humans make rules and try to enforce them, and in some cases become obvious control freaks about it.    Of course this popped up in writing...groups defending their genre or subgenre--its difference from all others, the exact definition of it that group prefers ("That's not REAL science fiction...That's not REAL poetry...That's not REAL art.")   I remember reading once a flat statement by a writer that someone wasn't a REAL writer until they'd written X number of published works--for another it was having earned a certain amount per year.   Right after I joined a writer's organization, there was a big hoorah about which people in it were REAL writers and which were just dilettantes.   Because it wasn't a new thing...and because it came in so many guises...and because it's so easy to focus on the actions that enforce the rules and use terms like "control freak" to focus on the individuals who do the enforcing, it took me a long time to connect dots that may be obvious to others....the psychological roots.

And no, I'm not going back to chimps, bonobos, etc.   We can start closer to home.   It feels good to be in a group of like-minded people.  I had dinner with some friends Friday night during ArmadilloCon.  We were talking about writer behaviors.  The same writer behaviors bugged all of us.  Agreement is comfortable.  But...out of five people, none of us ordered the exact same meal.    None of us were dressed exactly the same.  I know (from past conversations) that we don't all hold the exact same opinions on quite a few things, including which books we like most to read, nor do we all have the same "lifestyle."   And that was cool.  We were hungry, we get along, we all ate dinner together enjoying our separate choices and our conversation.  Nobody pounded the table and insisted that X writer was a REAL writer and Y writer wasn't.  

It feels good to be a group of people whose like-mindedness extends beyond just one thing.  There's a natural and not-bad tendency, an almost gravitational pull, to become closer to people who share multiple interests, not just one. 

But it does not feel good to be prodded and pushed and scolded into agreeing with everything someone else thinks, likes, does...and it does not feel good to be booted out of a group because you don't conform by 5 or 10 or 15 percent--you're not perfect enough, you're not a REAL whatever.  Some people give in and (in extremes) drink the Kool-Aid.   The more people who do give in to an increasing pressure for total, perfect conformity, the more gravitational pull that conformity produces.  Individuality disappears--the personal boundaries "melt" and the people (whether it's a couple, friends, a family, a church, a group)--are pulled into tighter and tighter coils, until (extending the gravitational metaphor) they're sucked into the black hole at the center of their galaxy and the original goal (of the couple, the friends, the family, the church, the group) is simply to drag in more people and make them conform, meanwhile excluding all "contamination".   

In discussions of dysfunctional families, the concept of boundaries is fundamental.  Identity is protected by boundaries--and boundaries can be too rigid or too flexible or appropriately healthy.   The concept of boundaries helps define responsibility:  an individual is responsible for his/her behavior, and someone with healthy boundaries recognizes that.  Thus, if someone says "Come on, let's shoplift something--it'll be fun" an individual with healthy boundaries will be able to make a decision --not automatically go along.  Without healthy boundaries, an individual cannot "think for himself/herself."   And this is what the unhealthy groups/families/friends/political parties want.  Perfection is perceived as a) possible and b) necessary, and then defined as "100% agreement/submission to this list.."  Hence the DINO and RINO designations for Democrats or Republicans who deviate from the party line--hence the rigidity every group that has merged boundaries--become enmeshed--to the point that anyone who doesn't conform is defined as "not a REAL whatever." 

I have been, over the years, labeled "not a REAL [whatever]" for one reason or another, in a variety of groups...sometimes by opposing groups at the same time, which would have been funny except that I was thinner-skinned as a younger person and what I mostly felt was trapped and a permanent target.   Now it's pretty much a shrug...yup, another somebody who has a rigid idea of what I have to be for that person/group to accept me, a mold they're intent on pressing me into.   Been there before, would have a roomful of those T-shirts except I tie-dyed them and donated them somewhere. 
It would be funny that some of these groups think they're in favor of diversity (not all, but some) and yet they're very rigid about how they define diversity (and diversity of opinion isn't welcome within the group.)  It would be funny if it didn't mean that they're sucking themselves down a hole...and excluding a lot of people with whom they could work for the general betterment of the world, if only they weren't demanding perfection.

I know people who won't vote for anyone because no candidate is perfect--agrees with them on everything.  I know people who break off a friendship because the other person doesn't fulfill all their requirements.   I've known parents whose objection to public school was their children would come in contact with people who thought differently, who had different opinions, or different ways of doing things. 

You know some people like that too, no doubt.   Many people (and I was one of them) have the belief that if only you can find the person--or the group--that is Just Like Me (whoever they are) then bliss will fill their lives.   Someone who likes the same music, the same activities, the same foods, who gets sleepy at the same time of day, wakes up in the same mood,  etc, etc.   The BFF who is your other self, the spouse who is your other self, the children who are just like you only younger and will grow up to be just like you, the colleagues who function as bobble-head dolls, nodding at you as you nod at them.    Yup, we all agree on everything down to the least little detail: we are absolutely right, everyone else is absolutely wrong.

That's the dream...and it's a nightmare.  Because narrowing, compressing yourself and the other person so that you are just one smaller person, isn't the bliss.   In a relationship--whether it's 200 or 2,000,000--that insists on absolute submission/obedience/conformity--all are diminished.   Natural diversity is diminished.  Adding one whole person to another person...and allowing room for growth in each, and rejoicing in the places that are different...that's the bliss.   Room to breathe.  Fresh air to breathe.  Space for the unexpected, for new ideas to grow and time to consider all this...because though there's the notion that perfection is both possible and necessary, attainable if only people will follow these rules, stay within the lines....perfection isn't possible.   We are all fallible.   Every couple, every trio, every group, is not perfect.  The rules and lines can't create perfection, even if followed stringently,  because they were made and drawn by imperfect individuals.   Some have been proven functional by more than one culture, in more than one situation, but not all of them.   Demanding perfection of others--and of oneself--leads to bad behavior, bad decisions, and bad outcomes for more than the person who's doing the demanding.   The writer who can't let go of a manuscript until it's perfect...the artist who obsessively retouches a painting until it's "overworked" and the original concept blurred...the woman who has repeated surgeries trying to match a cultural goal of physical perfection (enlarge this, shrink that, change the shape of a nose or jawline or...) ...all these are the result of believing that perfection is both possible and necessary. 

But shouldn't we try to improve?   Yes, to the point where something is good enough for its purpose, and with the understanding that lasting change is often slower than we'd like.   I had to learn to let go of a book when it was "done", not when it was "perfect" because perfection wasn't possible (in the first place, and given the imperfections of the writer) and was impractical (in the second place, and given the contract deadlines and my personal need to write another story after that one.)   I've never yet made a batch of bread in which all the loaves were identical and perfect in size and shape--but I've made many batches of bread in which all were delicious.  I have yet to make a mistake-free sock...but my feet are very happy with the socks I've made, and the later socks are definitely better than the first. 

In terms of relationships, learning how to not be cramped by it, and not cramp the other person while uncramping yourself, takes time.  Relationships improve when the people in the relationships improve...when they're developing normally, healthily, through life.   Trying to squeeze them into a mold (either or both or all) and make them alike is not the way to go at improvement.   In terms of social goals--political goals--"trying to improve"  takes time (far more than many of us like) and cannot be done if someone in an organization is insisting on rigorous perfection of ideas from everyone in it.  Many of us were brought up in a perfectionist environment: it's got to be right, exactly right, this way and only this way.  So coming to the realization that "perfection" is actually a myth--that it's getting in the way of achieving the goals we want to achieve for ourselves and for the world--is hard to accept.  Even more, when groups that are clearly over the edge of boundary violations, wrapped up in their tight hard little perfectly (apparently) conforming nodules, do--in their uniformity--possess the power to get things done.   But not, on the whole, good things.

So...leaving out the capital letters...who's real?  Everyone.  You, me, the guy sleeping on the sidewalk, the women getting an expensive spa treatment, all those people I talked to or listened to or saw at the convention, and the ones driving their cars or trucks (even the idiot in the big rented  van who shoved across three lanes in a short space making the rest of us nearly freak because he didn't seem to realize how long that truck was) on the road I drove coming home.   Imperfect, each in our own ways. Annoying as all get-out to one another at times.  Rewarding to one another at times.   But real. 

We don't have to be perfect.  We don't have to try to be perfect (though trying to improve on something is fine.)   Nor does anyone else.   It's not about liking everyone equally...I can't even like all vegetables equally.   It's not about unquestioning acceptance of everything (I don't, for instance, accept that child molesters are harmless.)   It's about the validity of imperfection, the validity of (some) compromises in our lives, the worth of framily and friends and acquaintances who aren't Just Like Me.


[User Picture]From: gifted
2012-07-30 05:44 am (UTC)
This term "real" (in the context you described) is immediately judgmental, dismissive, exclusive, and it's in such common use today.

Good, relevant post.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-07-30 06:04 am (UTC)

I actually like almost all vegetables....

This post is especially poignant tonight. My name is [..... -- I hope it's sufficient since this once I need to be truly anonymous] and I just had to tell my mother that, if she can't talk about at least one of the serious problems between us (she had a talk with my landlord that, in a very round-about way, led to my ending up with a fracture to my C2, which I was not just lucky to survive, but which, God willing, will let me transfer tomorrow from a cervical brace to simple physical therapy), that I won't ever be able to talk to her ever again.

Translation: mothers should not only never place their children in harms way, but if they do so inadvertently, they should also be able to apologize to their adult children if harm results.

As a result, I had to call a number of family members who might otherwise want to intervene to help us repair our relationship, to explain that, since we're both adults, we both need to bear the responsibility ourselves. It is not, after all, their fault. Period. Full stop.

So, you're absolutely right. No-one has to be perfect, because perfection is relative, at least in this world. What we do have to do is try our best -- and when we've done so, we have to protect ourselves and others we love from further harm.

I always thought it was strange that, of all the things we're told Christ faced on earth, the one thing he chose to get really mad about was how the money-changers in the Temple took advantage of the pilgrims. Now I understand -- it wasn't about the money, it was about the betrayal of trust.

Trust, once broken, takes a tremendous amount of work to repair -- and it requires a total commitment on both sides.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-30 01:15 pm (UTC)

Re: I actually like almost all vegetables....

Though I prefer non-anonymity for people who post here, you have made a clear case for it here. Thank you for your contribution.
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[User Picture]From: harvey_rrit
2012-07-30 06:56 am (UTC)
My latest shock in this area is that, apparently, REAL SF authors don't mind ponying up increased dues to send John Scalzi on paid vacations.

I do so enjoy your posts.

Edited at 2012-07-31 09:55 pm (UTC)
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-07-30 08:55 am (UTC)

Congratulations on another perceptive piece

This should be required reading for all of the legislators at both national and local level who ignore reality and retreat into narrow spiteful diatribes about their opponents.

Noe of us are perfect and society needs diversity not polemics.
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[User Picture]From: catana1
2012-07-30 12:32 pm (UTC)
Good post. But I'm not sure it's even about a demand for perfection, which is more the outcome of the need to be part of something. We know that humans are, by and large, social beasts, and many of them build their identity on their associations. Anything that challenges or threatens that association threatens their identity. The demand for perfection is simply a way of solidifying and protecting the self-image.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-30 02:11 pm (UTC)
We all, to some degree, build our identity on the basis of our relationships--familial or friendly, co-worker, colleague in some other endeavor, enthusiast for this band or team or charity over another.

That far it's not a problem. When personal boundaries are healthy, even though we identify partly by label (Jill's husband/partner, Bill's dad/brother/uncle, member of this church, volunteer in that charity, fan of that team, that rock band, that sport) we are still (with healthy boundaries) able to perceive that the label is not ourselves. If someone disses the label ("The Cowboys--they're awful") I don't feel attacked personally. Even if they say "How could you POSSIBLY be a Cowboys fan?" Every team has fans; fans of other teams have varying amounts of attachment (some healthy, some not) to "their" team.

The problem comes when a person merges his/her identity so fully with an association that then--as you say--the demand for perfection in that association becomes essential in protecting the person's identity. The group is treated like an individual--the group must be exactly what that person needs, regardless of the reality of the other people in it, to "solidify and protect" the self-image of someone who has no separate one of his/her own. And it must be protected--the protective function of individual boundaries must now be merged and pushed out to surround them all, to exclude everything else.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-30 02:13 pm (UTC)
(in two pieces because of LJ's insane insistence that even the account-owner can't write a comment over a certain length)

Every human tendency is natural to humans, but every human tendency can also go wrong, and in going wrong harm that individual and society. There's nothing wrong with eating. There's nothing wrong with sleeping. There's nothing wrong with a desire for sex, or a comfortable home, or friendship, or excitement...unless the desire is indulged to the point that it harms. Those first steps outside the society of the home, when a child finds that someone else out there can be fun, can give pleasure, can understand and comfort, can join in an interest...that's healthy.

But the other thing humans naturally desire, as infants, is for the world to revolve around them--for all their desires to be met by everyone. Infants need that--to be fed, wiped, comforted, played with. They demand, in those first weeks and months, what they want--and, at that stage need. But they need something they don't, initially, want (a resistence familiar to every parent.) Gradually, carefully, they need to learn that even though they are individuals--and as such can and should be treated with respect--so is everyone else. They need to develop their identity--their ability to stand just a little apart (but not too distantly apart)--so that they are not dependent on the total merging that requires demanding perfection. The ancient Greeks had a saying "The friend is another self."

A child's first close friend--that discovery that there is a rewarding relationship outside the family--is very important, and a good thing--but it's also the point at which a child's fragile grasp of healthy boundaries can first go awry. To have another self--that close a friendship--feels wonderful...but no two children (OK, identical twins at that age excepted) are really identical. There will be differences. Children need friends; it's good for them to have a close friend, a best friend...and it's good for the adults in their life to very tactfully and calmly preserve each child's differences while that intensity is at its height. They must learn that friendships change with time, that wanting to control the friendship, rather than enjoy its reality, is not a good thing. And some are slower to learn that than others, because of the individual differences we all have.

I still self-identify, in part, on the basis of associations--family the closest, then friends, then the organizations and people who affect my professional life (SFWA, Novelists,Inc, Del Rey, Baen, NightShade, Analog, my various editors) and my social life (the alto section, the choir, the church where I'm a member, the universities from which I have degrees, the other organizations I've been in, acquaintances...etc. But in all those situations I find others who are not me--not "other selves" in the merging/enmeshed way. Family members aren't like me--we share some things, and go our own way on others. (We listen to different music--on headphones so as not to interfere with each other. We go to different sites online. Our reading overlaps, but not completely. Someone in the house puts Worcestershire sauce on things I don't put it on, and two other someones in the family like catchup on their fries.) My closest don't agree with me 100%, choose different foods when we go out to lunch, like different colors, prefer different music. We have a lot of shared experiences in common, and we let each other be.

What I've learned (and boy, did it take a long time!) is not to get closely involved with people or groups that want to make me over into their "other self," who cannot tolerate the fact that I'm not a perfect fit to their mold. It's not healthy for me (and I will explode later, when the fit becomes too uncomfortable, so it's storing up a bad moment for them, too.) It's best to develop both healthy boundaries and varied relationships that are are also healthy, instead of surrendering to a steam-press sort of association. We all need places--relationships--in which we can relax and "be ourselves", be accepted--but in some places the price of acceptance is too high.
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2012-07-31 06:24 am (UTC)
Indeed, and this is a great thing for people to understand as early as possible, so that they may enjoy their individuality and freedom of choice, and give others the same respect. It's nice to read such clear cut thoughts on the matter.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-07-30 01:01 pm (UTC)

Perfection? Not likely.

I take some comfort from Jesus coming to save sinners rather than to confirm those who judge themselves perfect. I am hardly perfect, never was, likely never will be. Insist on making up my own mind, based on the best (albeit non-perfect) data I can muster.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-30 02:14 pm (UTC)

Re: Perfection? Not likely.

Which is the best any of us can do.
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From: sheff_dogs
2012-07-30 04:02 pm (UTC)
I recognise this, for me it was being taught that there is always, always, a right way to do anything and one should find out that right way before trying to do anything new. I have struggled to learn that this is not true and still struggle to prevent the idea that I am not 'doing it right' stop me from doing things. I actually learnt how wrong the idea was from some of the kinds of group rigid groups you talk about.

Interetesting and thought provoking as are many of your posts, but not all you're not perfect ;-)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-30 04:26 pm (UTC)
Snicker. Yup, the only way I'll be perfect is when I'm "perfectly" dead. The whole sock thing has taught me a lot this year. First socks--"real" knitters practically turn white with horror at the sight of them. Non-knitters "Wow!" My feet? "Ahhhhhh..." I could not have even started that pair of socks if I had not announced firmly to my perfectionist side at the get-go--You are blocked, you may not speak, while I learn this. There were moments of "But--But that's WRONG! You made as MISTAKE! And look THERE!" and I had made up my mind not to listen, just keep knitting, just keep trying them on, don't quit...

I am not perfect. I am a person who makes mistakes. I am a person who *usually* (I'm not perfect in that, either) learns from the mistakes and makes fewer as learning increases. But I was a person who made mistakes from the get-go, and whose innate response to "This is the right way to do X" was (expressed or not) "That's very interesting, but WHY is that way better than this other way...let's see now..." I realized a few months ago (from the sock project) that my way of approaching learning to make socks was exactly the way I approached learning to make things of Tinker-Toys as a child, and has been my consistent learning style for "how to" things (including writing books) ever since.

My mother, who was a careful teacher and had engineer-mind, very logical and step-by-step, was baffled and often annoyed by my combination of basic intelligence but determination to do it (whatever it was) on my own. She quickly decided that I should not have an Erector set, or dry cells, or a chemistry set to mess with, because I would inevitably do things that weren't in the directions. When told something was _dangerous_ (rather than "that won't work") and why it was dangerous, then I wouldn't do it. But "That won't work" or "just follow the directions" was a challenge to see if it was true that it wouldn't work (mixed results there) and find alternate ways to accomplish something (also mixed results.) I wanted to tinker, take things apart, figure out how they worked--and then put the bits together as something else. I did not want to maintain things (the class girl jobs: washing dishes, dusting, picking up, ironing, etc.) I wanted to MAKE things. I made stuff badly, quite often, because I tended to make something that sort of worked, and then go make something else. You can see how that leads, in a straight if very dashed line, to writing books.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-08-04 11:42 pm (UTC)

There are many ways....

My name is Karen (but I don't do anything livejournal considers important, so I'm anonymous to them :-D).

In what elves would consider a very short life, I've learned that there are many ways to skin a cat (not, being owned by two, that I would ever suggest such an enterprise -- even though one makes enough hair for me to spin into socks...).

The more pressing issue is that if the way you make socks works for you, that's the right way for you to make socks. I knit, crochet, tat, sew, and do an embarrassing number of girly things, but one of the smartest things I ever did was to get my ex to tell me he thought he was a better cook than I am (which criticism should always be answered by, "Yes, dear").

In other words, I am amazed and humbled that you've made socks that make your feet happy. If she loved you as much as you treasure her memory, I suspect your mother would have been too.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-08-05 12:42 am (UTC)

Re: There are many ways....

Thank you...I'm amazed and humbled that someone would say so.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-08-05 09:19 am (UTC)

Re: There are many ways....

If you are amazed, it is only as I believe every daughter should be. Mothers don't just give birth -- they give us life, and I hope I never outgrow the belief that the lives they give us are so precious that gratitude is the only correct response (even if our mothers weren't perfect). My mother wasn't, but she gave me the greatest gift possible -- a road to the belief in a higher power who thinks (I believe) that socks matter more than most people think.
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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2012-07-30 05:08 pm (UTC)
One of my favorite pictures Mom had was a group of owls on a branch with the last one hanging upside down and the words "Pobody's Nerfect" above it. It made an impact - the idea that even though one was different that one was still accepted by the others.

Growing up, there was a lot of pressure in school to be part of the "cool crowd", be one of the "popular people", and to generally conform to the nebulous "average person" ideal. Already burdened with being the youngest and smartest of five children, I never fit into any of those groups. We moved too often and I had a hearing problem which made it extremely difficult for me to have any self-confidence.

Then, as an adult, I found out that I had been adopted at a seriously traumatic time. The resulting upheaval of everything I had believed about myself, who I was, where I came from, what my heritage was, caused me to redefine and evaluate who I wanted to be. So, I built up my image of myself and worked towards who I wanted to be as a person without any associations.

If I get introduced to someone (as I did a few months ago) as C's mother, I say "I have a name". My husband knows to introduce me by name as well as his wife. I am proud to be his wife and her mother but those are part of who I am, not who I wish to be identified as being. I do many things and have many skills but those are all part of me, they don't identify me.

A real person to me is someone who is breathing. My cats are real people and have very distinct personalities. A real man is someone with the X-Y chromosome pairs; a real woman therefore has the X-X chromosome pairs. A real Canadian is someone born in Canada or who has taken their citizenship oath. Ditto for any other country. A real (insert political party name here) is someone who believes in the party's goals and votes consistently for that party member.

We get conditioned from an early age to be accepted and it's hard to shake that conditioning. We absorb the views expressed around us without even being aware of it. Many adults refuse to believe that their views are a result of hearing the same opinions while growing up and are not really based on their own thoughts and opinions. It's hard to learn to think objectively. Often we need to see or experience something that shakes our worldview before we start questioning our belief in our view of the world.

The groups that solidify their views of what a Real ----- is are not people who believe in thinking objectively. They have their blinders on and anyone who doesn't match their concepts of Real and Perfect won't be listened to or considered as having anything of value to think about.

To them I say "Your loss" and leave with this comment. If I wanted a person who agreed with everything I think then I will get a clone made.
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From: sheff_dogs
2012-07-30 08:46 pm (UTC)
Ah but how rare thinking objectively seems to be, especially in public life. Drives me mad here in the UK that most politicians will assure you that they believe in 'evidence based policies', but of course if that evidence contradicts their political convictions it's just wrong. See the forced resignation of David Nutt after he had the temerity to say that some legal drugs were rather more damaging to society as a whole and even to individuals than most of the illegal ones. The fact that he had the evidence to back what he said was irrelevant, it didn't fit the War on Drugs story. Which rant has gone completely off personal objectivity.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-31 12:53 am (UTC)
I suppose I should commend the GOP, then, for openly saying they oppose evidence-based medicine (and some other evidence-based policies.) Usually they claim to disbelieve the evidence, but sometimes it's sheer cussedness.
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[User Picture]From: brashley46
2012-07-30 11:39 pm (UTC)
"A real person to me is someone who is breathing. My cats are real people and have very distinct personalities. A real man is someone with the X-Y chromosome pairs; a real woman therefore has the X-X chromosome pairs. A real Canadian is someone born in Canada or who has taken their citizenship oath. Ditto for any other country. A real (insert political party name here) is someone who believes in the party's goals and votes consistently for that party member."

Oh dear. My friends Susan and Leia are real women in my eyes despite having been born male ... I'm a real [party name withheld, available on request] despite fundamental disagreement with the leadership, because I think they are my natural party and I'm a local constituency association official and work my guts out at election time.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-31 02:02 am (UTC)
And this is an example of a "not good enough" smackdown.

This is not a venue for holier-than-thou oneupmanship games.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-31 05:35 pm (UTC)
Because of the way you did it, which was a put-down, not a brief educational statement.

The quoting, and the "Oh dear" were a way of singling out the person you intended to correct, and making it clear that in this particular situation you felt morally superior to that person, and that person's error (as you saw it) was sufficiently important to call for a public reprimand.

You could have said simply, "I consider transgendered persons to be real in the gender they themselves choose, as well." That would have been acceptable--non-judgmental, a very quiet reminder that for some people that definition wasn't broad enough.

It's possible that you did not intend the put-down, and simply followed a formula you've seen elsewhere, but the fact is, it was a put-down and you've been called on it. You've had a better--or at least more acceptable in this venue--alternative suggested as a model for future use.

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[User Picture]From: brashley46
2012-07-31 04:44 pm (UTC)
My apologies, E., I did not mean to offend. I really am not holier than anybody.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-31 05:38 pm (UTC)
Oops--I think you posted this while I was drafting the other. Apologies accepted. Everybody take a deep breath.
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[User Picture]From: redvixen
2012-07-31 01:35 pm (UTC)
I have friends who are transgendered, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, and heterosexual. So I know a good mix of men and women.

I know that the dictionary defines a man or male as a person whose sex is capable of producing sperm. Likewise the definition of a woman or female involves being able to produce eggs. I don't know if a transgendered person can produce sperm or eggs. I never bothered asking and don't really care enough to know.

Yes, my trans friends are whatever gender they have changed over to. However, genetically, which is where reality exists, their chromosomes haven't changed. And, no matter how much a person changes their physical appearance, they remain essentially what their genetics made them. I know some very effeminate men who are not trans and are very much hetero and some very masculine women who are also not trans and very hetero.

In any regard, they are real people first and foremost. Their gender and sexuality are merely part of who they are. Doesn't change the definition though.

As for yourself, you don't state what your disagreement with your political leadership is about. So, for all I know, you agree with the party's goals but not how the leadership is trying to achieve them. I don't associate the leadership with the party's goals in my definition. The leadership can change frequently and is merely the group trying to achieve the goals. The goals define the party's philosophy and how the public perceives that party.

Anyway *smiles* if you wish to continue this discussion, feel free to PM me. I don't want to start a long discussion in Ms. Moon's LJ.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-31 05:47 pm (UTC)
Good points. And I may (not today--gotta go vote, take a bike to the bicycle shop, etc.) open a thread for discussion of gender ID at some point.

My transgendered friend E-, now legally a female, is someone I accept as a woman, but with a difference neither of us can change: she did not grow up as a girl and lacks the formative experiences of being a girl in this culture (including all the worry about being made pregnant out of wedlock--a powerful force in identity formation when I was growing up.) I accept her as a person, and a "woman-now". We have nothing in common when it comes to childhood, puberty, adolescence, early adult life; the kind of woman she wants to be is not the kind of woman I am, or want to be.

And now I gotta run.
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[User Picture]From: sunfell
2012-07-30 06:33 pm (UTC)
Perfection, I've come to understand- is at best an illusion, and at worst a fleeting moment that quickly gets mud or mustard on it. All relationships are dynamic, and herds and affinity groups are constantly changing.

This is what gives me comfort when someone tells me that I am not a real [insert in-group of the moment]. Yes, I'm real. So are you. We're all real, flawed, authentic human beings.

In the autism community (and in others I belong to, as well) there's a saying that if you meet one Aspie, you've met one. Even among that group there are differences, some dramatic. I've been told that I'm not a 'real' Aspergian because I am such a fluent communicator, or a 'real' albino because my hair is gold instead of white. Really? I'd like them to get inside my head and live for a few hours with the wonky vision and the sensorium turned up to eleventy. That's real.

In the end, I can only be mysself. I've learned that it's difficult to fit in- be it a church, class, or mind-set, so I don't bother any more. Oddly enough, that has caused my own accretion of interested folks- I call them 'Stray Brains'.

Perfection is boring.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-31 02:05 am (UTC)
I'm not sure I'd say all perfection is boring (Mary Lou Retton landing that 10 vault back in the day was--to me anyway--breathtaking.) But yes, I know what you mean...each of us can only be who we are, and trying to be something else just doesn't work. And a world full of clones...that would definitely be boring.
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From: paulliver
2012-08-01 02:26 am (UTC)
Was that the landing she did on the broken ankle? My father still talks about that.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-08-04 04:41 pm (UTC)
I think so, yes. But 1984's a long way back for my aging memory.
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[User Picture]From: amusingmuse
2012-07-31 03:02 am (UTC)
Applause! I totally agree with this and couldn't have read it better.

My favorite was being told that I wasn't doing REAL physics, because REAL physics was particle physics. No other branch counted.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-07-31 03:49 am (UTC)
I would say "Oh, good grief!" but yes, that's the attitude I'm talking about. Little specialist (of something or other) more interested in being exactly positively right in every detail.

Things I was told at various times I wasn't a REAL of: woman, wife (not by my husband--other people), American, Texan, conservative, liberal, Democrat, feminist, veteran, Christian (because, to some, no Episcopalians are), Episcopalian, writer, artist, singer, photographer...and that's off the top of my head. I'm sure I can come up with more. Not quite in the same class, but annoying, was being told I didn't really like what I did like (was only pretending to like it for some nefarious reason), wasn't really interested in what I was interested in, didn't really dislike what I did dislike, and so on.

As a parent, I realized that adults routinely tell kids (as I was told) that they don't like/dislike what they do like/dislike, don't feel what they say they feel, don't want what they say they want. "Oh come on, you're not REALLY hungry/tired/needing to go pee again so soon/scared/etc." "Of COURSE you love Auntie Gertrude." "That doesn't really hurt, quit fussing." It's no wonder we grow up screwy. Having an autistic kid taught me very clearly that sensory perceptions are not alike and not negotiable. Behavior may be, but first comes (as it did one Sunday evening in Wales) acknowledging the reality of the kid's perception. "I know you don't like cheese. But this is all there is to eat. You don't have to eat the cheese; you do have to be polite to the people who shared the cheese. Either eat the cheese, or be hungry, because there's nothing else. It's your choice." He thought about it, then ate the cheese. Politely. Without grimacing or complaining. I learned not to say "Oh, that's not really bothering you" and call it "acting out" but to acknowledge: "Yes, that shirt tag is itching you. It's annoying when something itches you. I don't have scissors to cut it out here. I'll cut it out when we get home." Or let him wear the shirt inside out and glare at the people who started to tell me my kid had his shirt on inside out.
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[User Picture]From: amusingmuse
2012-07-31 11:26 pm (UTC)
And I obviously shouldn't comment before I go to bed! I meant 'written' not 'read'.

As for my reaction to being told that, I did give the person in question the bewildered eye stare. There's usually a bit of a put down associated with the REAL jab. This I've noted is either out of envy, when pulling someone down to the level of the speaker, or snobbery, when the person is in the REAL demographic they list.

And it, too, bothers me when someone, tells me something doesn't hurt. Hello? Do they feel it? Everyone has different tolerances for pain and touch. I'd rather, "this is going to hurt, but it's necessary" than "this doesn't hurt, stop crying". I can really understand the autistic sensory. I have very low tolerance for things on my skin and some stuff just feel icky or itchy to the point of insane distraction.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-08-01 04:55 am (UTC)
One thing that people who think that everyone should think like them do not understand is how dangerous it is. I was a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara between 1968 and 1970. Smack in the middle of the anti-Viet Nam protests and riots.

One night I went out and watched the protests (sometimes everyone does stupid things and that was stupid). There were a bunch of people across a field from me gathering around the fenced-off Bank of America building near campus. They started out talking, progressed to yelling. By the time I left they were climbing the fence and tearing it down. I don't remember if it was the night that they burned it down, but they did eventually. I did however, watch as the people went from thinking for themselves to everyone in the crowd thinking exactly alike. What they did was go from being a group of people who agreed with each other to a mob. It was really scary.

To this day, my personal idea of a really evil person is someone who tries and succeeds in getting other people to think like them. It doesn't matter what the subject is.

Karen Hardin, whose mother took her out of that school and sent her to finish college at a smaller, quieter school.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-08-04 04:43 pm (UTC)
My mother told me about watching a mob coalesce and become violent during the Depression--it scared her badly.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-08-05 06:03 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is very scary.

And I want to clarify what I meant about evil. It's the people who try to frighten others into believing what they believe or who tear down other people or groups based on what they are (as in all of those left-handed, nearsighted jerks are lazy, dirty, etc.) that really scare me. I don't have a problem with people who try to convince in a positive manner. BTW I'm left-handed and nearsighted.

In churches, it sends me back to being 10 years old and sitting in my great-aunts old-time Methodist church in the summer and the minister yelling about how the blood of Jesus was going to find you and punish you if you didn't do X or believe X. Scared me to death. I was raised Episcopalian.

If you aren't old enough to remember them, they were not air conditioned and they had woven fans in the pews with the hymnals that were donated by funeral parlors.

Karen Hardin

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-08-06 01:26 am (UTC)
The churches I knew didn't have the woven fans, but "placard fans" with a picture on one side and a Bible verse on the other. Not air-conditioned, no. We went to a small, "low" Episcopal church that had one stained-glass window at the east end, over the altar, and the side windows were all pebbly glass that was golden when the sun hit it. The first air-conditioned church I went to was the big Baptist one, and the next to get AC were the Methodists--but I went there only for Vacation Bible School. It was only two blocks, or maybe three, from where my mother worked in the hardware store, but across the railroad tracks and "the highway." (All three lanes of it.) I wasn't allowed to cross the tracks or highway alone; my mother took me and picked me up. Later, I walked to and from high school across those tracks and that highway.

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From: paulliver
2012-08-01 02:33 am (UTC)
I've been thinking a lot and reading some about a related topic, which I call "purposeful ignorance." It is a willing blindness to information in order to support an otherwise unsupportable worldview. The application of "real (insert noun)" to people like themselves I believe is one of many tactics for avoiding evidence contrary to a worldview people cling to for emotional reasons, such as avoiding guilt at having a higher standard of living, or even just a lifestyle, at the expense of oppressed groups. I think James Baldwin wrote the best essays on willing blindness, or at least the best written essays about it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2012-08-04 04:45 pm (UTC)
That's certainly a factor in politics and in politically motivated ads. I just read something yesterday or the day before listing the petroleum industry's stated goals for changing peoples' minds about global warming--they had five or six points to get across and sure enough--that's what their politicians now spout and those politicians' followers and supporters now believe.

Most of the climate change "confusion" and denial you hear and see is directly following one of the points the petroleum industry wanted made.
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From: (Anonymous)
2012-08-24 02:24 am (UTC)

I'm the same anonymous that likes vegetables

I know that you don't like people like me who won't give their names, and this thread seems to have borne, if you like, fruit, since I was the first Anon, and others followed.

What I wanted to say today (no slight on other Anons, who've added a lot!), is something I'm still not able to completely process:

On June 2nd, someone helping my neighbor to move threw me into a wall, and fractured my C2 in three places. I still have no idea of the name of my attacker.

I haven't been able to express either my joy of being alive or my pain fully -- even to the people I love best -- because it's so hard to simultaneously believe your life is miraculous (I would have died instantaneously, if a tiny fraction of the bone in any one place had decided to give) and to truly face the responsibility of believing that such an extraordinary circumstance (there's more to it, but even my Internist considers my continued life -- let alone my ability to dance where I have never been graceful -- is beyond his knowledge, understanding, or recognition.

I feel a bit like Paks, when her bones were made whole as Arvid watched -- and don't know the reason I was saved when science says it shouldn't have happened.

I also feel a bit like Paks, knowing that she was saved for a purpose, as (since I'm a Christian) I believe Christ rose from the dead for a reason -- I just had a lot more medical help.

The problem is that when the police arrived -- while I was concussed, at the call of my attacker -- they filed no charges. Since I left the hospital, I have been stonewalled in every manner possible -- from the police to attorneys, no-one wants to be involved in a lawsuit where the manager of an apartment complex agrees in her police statement with a violent man who almost killed a woman he barely knew.

I've been calling attorneys, and will continue to do so until the breath leaves my body. Since swords are so strongly discouraged in our society, the fact that I would have been better off holding a gun has not escaped me, but that's not an issue for me to explore, since I didn't -- and don't have one (and probably would have killed someone else...).

As a result, your post on "purposeful ignorance" hits hard. I knew, as a tenant, that the police in my jurisdiction have a strong policy of "purposeful ignorance" since the manager not only watched but was part of the pattern of events (long story). I also know, as a woman, that even death at a man's hands is usually excusable, unless the police are there -- or someone has a video camera.

What I don't understand is how the hospital, which was so wonderful in documenting each and every one of my wounds (there were an astonishing number from a single contact, to my knowledge -- but, again, I was severely concussed that who knows what happened) could have to work so hard, as far as I can tell, to protect me against the broader society.

While one would think that the police would defer to the doctors, attorneys are deferring to the same police who follow politicians who defy doctors. (Violence against women? What's that?)

Accordingly, I plan to keep your phrase, "purposeful ignorance" in my mind every time I attempt to get representation to pay my medical bills.

For that encouragement, I thank you! When you're in the hole, and praising God because you're alive, any encouragement can be the difference between... stuff.
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From: geekmerc
2012-08-06 10:47 pm (UTC)

Slightly off-topic

Cruise was awesome, and I kept having these feelings that my space ship (err cruise ship) was rocking. I guess that's what I get for reading Vatta's War on the seas.

We went on Carnival because the extended family was, but I'm not sure it's the right cruise liner for me personally. The activities on board weren't really my taste, but I did enjoy reading on the trip and the food was excellent. Shore time was alright but we mostly did activities the rest of the family wanted to do. The only one I enjoyed a lot was snorkeling. However, I think my next cruise will be Alaskan, where I can enjoy wales and glaciers from the boat and skip shore time. What ever my next cruise is, I'll carefully look at the ship's activities to pick one that I prefer.

I highly recommend that you take a cruise sometime. Good or bad, it is definitely an experience. :)

As always, thank you for writing and letting us read it.

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From: (Anonymous)
2012-08-25 05:56 pm (UTC)

A reason to persevere

My name is Karen.

I don't know if you've seen it, but there's a brilliant Youtube video out there (at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYQhRCs9IHM) that takes a Lady Gaga song and documents the reasons, in music video tropes, that we must not let the GOP take us back to my grandmother's youth.

It's based on Alice Paul's sufferings for Sufferage. Much of it is stuff I knew but never fully digested.

What I do know is that my grandmother must have done so. She never mentioned politics, and my entire family thought she was completely apolitical until I did a search on Ancestry.com to try to find out more about her early life than anyone now living could tell me. What I discovered is that her every move (and address) is part of the public record simply because the first thing she did when she moved (from the very date of the 19th Amendment) was to register to vote.
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