women can be introverts too

“The unintentional training I received when I was little was that because I was a girl and an actor, I must love being pleasant, and making everyone smile and feel comfortable all the time. I think all little girls are trained this way, even those who aren’t entertainers like I was. Women are always expected to be the gracious hostess, quick with an anecdote and a sprinkling of laughter at others’ stories. We are always the ones who have to smooth over all the awkward moments in life with soul-crushing pleasantries. We are basically unpaid geishas. But when we do not fulfill this expectation (because we are introverted), people assume we must either be depressed or a c***.” – Amy Schumer, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

I have loved Amy Schumer ever since I watched her first special on Comedy Central many years ago. I thought she was not only hilarious but refreshing as well. I watched as she fearlessly roasted Mike Tyson, got her own show on Comedy Central, starred in her first movie (that she also wrote) and gave a hilarious acceptance speech at last year’s Glamour awards. When I found out she was writing a book I was ecstatic because I am a fan of memoirs that are written by funny women; from Tina Fey to Mindy Kaling to Amy Poehler to Lena Dunham – I have them all! One of Amy’s first essays in her book is on how she is an introvert and it made me happy to know that she and I had this in common because not many successful people, let alone successful women, like to admit that they are introverted.

I first learned that I was an introvert back in 2005 when I joined AmeriCorps and was asked to take the Myers Briggs test. For anyone interested I am an INFJ which is the rarest personality type and makes up only 2% of the population. Isn’t that neat? I won’t dive too much into what it means to be an INFJ but I will talk some more about the ‘I’ part of it. What I learned is that the difference between an Introvert and an Extrovert has to do with energy. Introverts are energized by having quiet alone time. Extroverts are the opposite and get their energy from being around and interacting with people.

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It wasn’t a surprise to me that I was an introvert because the definition fit me to a T, but what I couldn’t help but notice was the negative connotation I immediately put on being this way. For as long as I can remember people have commented on how quiet I can be, and often not in a good way. Sometimes people seem surprised by it because they think I should be more outgoing, or they’re perplexed by it because they think there’s something wrong with me, like I’m depressed or socially awkward, or they’re annoyed by it because…I’m not sure why, that one has always confused me. When I was younger these comments bothered me and for a little while I thought maybe there was something wrong with me; why was I so quiet? Why wasn’t I more outgoing and bubbly? At one point I was almost convinced that it was due to a lack of confidence or self-esteem, but I soon realized that was wrong and that these were perceptions being put on me.

As I’ve gotten older the comments still annoy me but I’ve learned to deal with them. I know that as a culture we tend to put more positivity around being outgoing and I don’t see this changing anytime soon, although I am starting to see more content being put out there around the value of introverts. Want a few of my personal bullet points? Okay!

We’re pretty easy to be around. Our very nature tends to make us chill and laid back. I actually hear this quite a bit from my co-workers and even my bosses. I have especially received accolades on how calm I can be when working big events where stressful situations often arise but I manage to keep my cool and sometimes end up consoling others who become overwhelmed.

We really take the time to get to know people. Yes, crowds are usually very draining, but we often thrive in a small group of people or in a one-on-one interaction. I think the reason for this is because we feel fueled when we are having a deep discussion with someone and feel like we’re really getting to know them. My personal version of hell is a crowded cocktail party where I have to make small talk with people about superficial topics that never get below the surface. I would make it about 20 minutes before I’d either have to leave, hide or hit the bar.

We choose the people we want to have in our lives very carefully.  People deplete our energy, sometimes very quickly, and because of this we have learned to cut out the things, or people, that want to take more than they want to give. A friend once told me she had observed how picky I was about who I hang out with, and it made her feel special.

Again, these are just some of my personal bullet points. There is a lot more to value in introverts and if you want to learn more I’ll put one of my favorite TedTalks right here for you to check out when you get a chance – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0KYU2j0TM4.

Although I now know the power of my introversion and am comfortable with it I still struggle with how introversion seems to be more accepted in men then in women. Men can be introverted and nobody seems to question it. I remember when I was growing up that whenever there was a family gathering of some kind going on it was not uncommon for the guys to take a break on their own and either go to the basement, or the garage, maybe even the barn if it wasn’t too cold. For some of them it was a “smoke break” but for others it was just getting some alone time and nobody ever commented on it. However, you never saw any of the women in my family doing that. They would usually hang out in the kitchen or dining room chatting and laughing, which was great, but I bet at one time or another one of them wished they could claim the same solitude that the male members of my family were able to take without feeling like somebody was clocking them.

These days, even if I’m at a family function, I don’t care and when I’m done socializing, I’m done. I have no problem hiding out in the basement or tuning everyone out while I join Dad in the living room to watch the latest rerun of Law and Order (his favorite show). However, I will sometimes get flack for it the next day.

Why is it that women are expected to be charming and accommodating – the hostess with the mostest, but men are not? Why is it that a man can be quiet and stoic, even standoffish and be considered mysterious or even cool and gets to date Natalie Wood (James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause), but when a woman is quiet, stoic and standoffish she is considered mean or weird.

As an unapologetic introvert I dream of the day when my calm and quiet manner will first be viewed as mysterious and interesting, instead of cold and reserved, and that I’ll also get to date my own version of Natalie Wood, AKA Milo Ventimiglia.

 

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your virginity is not a precious gift

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A few months ago I decided to finally check out the TV show Jane the Virgin on Netflix because I had heard so many great things about the show. I thought the idea of the show was cute and Gina Rodriguez is amazing to watch, however, I couldn’t get past one of the first scenes of the show which is Jane’s grandmother telling her that her virginity is like a beautiful flower in her hand, once you crush it the flower will never have the same shape again, it will be crumpled and wrinkled…basically ruined. I wasn’t shocked at the message because as a woman I have heard many versions of this while growing up, I think I was more shocked that this message is still as relevant today as it was many years ago when I was a young girl. At least relevant enough to be the theme of a show on the CW.

First, why do we have to compare virginity to a “flower” or “gift”? I mean, I do get that the underlying message is that sex shouldn’t be taken lightly, it is a responsibility, and I agree, entirely, but why does it seem that this message is only targeted towards the female gender? Why is it that women are the only ones that should take their virginity so seriously that it often induces guilt and anxiety?

For women virginity is equated with being a pure, innocent and ultimately good person which I just have to call bullshit on. Abstaining from sex does not automatically make you a warm, kind or caring person. Nor does having sex make a person cold, mean or destructive. Again, I have to point out that this only pertains to women. Hardly ever is a man’s goodness tied to his virginity. In fact, he could be spreading it all over town and still be considered a hero – I’m looking at you every high school football captain in America ever.

What even is virginity? Most people think of the physical aspect which for women is all about the hymen. There seems to be a misconception that a hymen can only be broken through sex which I hope most people know is NOT the case. A hymen can be broken through many other physical (and non-sexual) activities. If you did not know this and have concerns about it I encourage you to seek the counsel of a medical professional who could give you much better information than I can. Please do not WebMD it, or anything for that matter. Trust me.

So if we take away the physical indicator of virginity then what is this thing we are wrapping up and putting a bow on? Is it simply the act of abstaining from sex? To speak in grade school terms, is sex only when you score a “home run” or do some of the other “bases” count as well? If “home runs” only count then can a woman who has spent several innings on “third base” still claim the same “virginity virtue” as a woman who hasn’t even made it “up to bat”? I can’t believe how well I’m rocking this baseball metaphor.

I know I’m getting very technical but the point I’m trying to make is that we may not have a clear understanding of what we are valuing. Are we valuing a woman’s technical virginity of having an intact hymen and having abstained from the physical act of the dictionary’s definition of sex, or are we placing the value on women not doing what society perceives to be any act that makes them not seem pure, innocent or tainted in any way? If the latter is the case then why is it that sex is seen as something that “taints” women? And more importantly why does it only taint women and not men? Is it because we don’t think sex has the same consequences for men as it does for women? I feel that is what some people think, but is that really true? Really?

Let’s talk about the consequences for a minute.  Are there not physical, mental and emotional consequences for both genders? Are we both not susceptible to the same sexually transmitted diseases? Are we both not at risk of growing emotional attachments, having our feelings hurt,  having our hearts broken or falling in love? About the only difference is that women can get pregnant, however, does that mean that men are totally free and clear of this consequence? The answer should be absolutely not, but as a society we have done a horrible job in the past of making men just as accountable for unplanned pregnancy as we do women. Don’t believe me? Spend an afternoon binge watching 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2 or just about any reality show on MTV and you may see that my argument does hold water. That even though it has been scientifically proven that it takes two to tango, it is women who are expected to bear the brunt of the consequences of pregnancy because it is seen as solely their responsibility to not get pregnant to begin with. How fair is this? Is it really that hard to not only tell my gender to keep their knees shut but to also tell the male gender to keep it in their pants? Because if they don’t they will have to deal with the aftermath just as much as a woman does and there are no longer any hall passes. It doesn’t sound that hard to me at all.

I think it’s time we re-evaluate the messaging we put out around women and virginity. We need to stop tying virginity to a woman’s value where they are either the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene. We need to recognize that there is an actual spectrum where between these two famous but extreme figures there can be Mary None-Of-Your-Damn-Business because she choses when, where and with whom and is neither a better or worse person for doing so.

 

 

you don’t owe prettiness to anyone

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When I was a little girl growing up in Iowa I remember the exact moment when I was in the third grade and an adult person in my life told me that I needed to watch what I eat because “fat doesn’t look good on girls.” No joke. They said this, as if it was okay. I was 8 years old, and the pressure of being pretty was already being put on me.

Of course, this statement wasn’t as much of a shock as it should have been. I had already started to pick up on how much being pretty was important if you were a girl. Yes, I was only 8, but I have always been a quiet person and therefore a very observant person. I still am, I think it’s one of my greatest tools. I notice the things that most people don’t because they’re too busy talking. Anyways… as long as I can remember people were always telling me how cute I was, and how blessed I was that I looked so much like my mother because she is so pretty, and she is, my mother is a good looking lady (and has aged very well). I know the people who made these comments meant well, but I thought it was funny that at family gatherings I was only ever complimented on my looks whereas all of my male cousins would receive comments on how funny they were, or smart or rambunctious. Hardly anyone ever commented on how cute or handsome they were.

Adolescence was even worse. I was inundated with “products and tips” on how to be pretty and they came from every direction. Cleanser, moisturizer, makeup, dieting tips, exercise tips, fashion advice, hair styling tips, they came from my family, friends, magazines, TV, and even random strangers at times. We even had school functions that encouraged it like the homecoming queen position or the prom. I always thought teenage-hood was filled with mixed messages. One minute I’d be sitting in health class hearing about eating disorders and how girls should think more positively of themselves and not be ashamed of their bodies, and then the next period we were voting for homecoming court. Is this still happening in schools, or have we moved past this yet?

As much as I have been affected by the “pretty gaze” society has put on women, thankfully I am not in the spotlight like other women are. I cannot believe how harsh we can be on female celebrities or public figures. People get downright mad when a famous woman isn’t their idea of pretty. In fact, that seems to be the first thing they care about, is how the woman looks, more then everything else, her talent, intellect, strength, capability, all of it comes second. Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about a movie that recently came out, Ghostbusters.

A couple of weeks ago I went to see the new Ghostbusters movie. I was so excited for it and not because it was an all-women cast, but because I love funny people and the stars of this movie are hilarious, and probably some of the biggest hitters in comedy right now, the fact that they are women is just a bonus. I understood why some people were upset about the movie because you never want to see a good thing be messed with, and let’s be honest, there have been a lot of movie remakes that have gone horribly – I’m looking at you Footloose. If anyone ever tried to remake my favorite movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it would be game over for that production company. Unfortunately, these were not the only reasons for why some people were in an uproar about this movie. Some were upset because the cast was all women, and some were even upset because they felt the women were not pretty or sexy enough. Are you kidding me?

First of all, I don’t remember anyone criticizing the original Ghostbusters on this, and, this is just my opinion, they were not exactly sex symbols. Or maybe they were, it’s so hard to tell who was hot in the 80s.

Second, these women ARE gorgeous. I would kill for Melissa McCarthy’s hair and complexion, and was I the only one who saw Leslie Jones rock that dress on the red carpet? Who cares if their “uniforms” were not fitted enough? They are FIGHTING GHOSTS and doing it so well that Kate McKinnon’s fight scene actually gave me goose bumps. I do want to note that I think one person should have had their uniform fitted and that was Chris Hemsworth. Just sayin 😉

How ridiculous is it that a movie this entertaining and with amazingly talented performers could be judged primarily on looks as if these women owe us that. And only because they are women do we feel like they owe us that, because again, I don’t remember anyone evaluating Dan Aykroyd with this same measuring stick, and I love you Dan, but you were not a beef cake.

I am tired of this. I am tired of reading articles about Mindy Kaling where the first questions are always about how she gets away with not being the “ideal body type” in Hollywood. This woman writes, produces and stars in her OWN TV SHOW. This doesn’t just happen. This takes an incredible amount of talent and hard work. Ask her about that! Or at least ask her about that first. Maybe this wouldn’t bother me as much if I was also reading articles on Kevin James where the interviewer asks him how he continues to get starring roles even though he has a spare tire. But I don’t! Because they don’t exist! Because nobody asks these questions of men.

As I have aged the pressure to be pretty has somewhat subsided but I think this is mainly due to the fact that with each year I care less and less what people think of me and also because my perception of pretty has changed drastically. I remember in college one of my good friends was this crazy frat boy who I think I liked because he was not only fun but he was honest, and there’s nothing I like more than people who tell it like it is. I remember one morning during finals a few of us went out for breakfast and somehow started talking about what men find attractive. My frat-boy friend gave a shocking answer when he said that what men find most attractive is when they can tell a woman is comfortable with herself. At the time I was very doubtful of what he said and I’m pretty sure I followed up with the question, “and she bleaches her hair too, right?” Now that I’m older I think I finally understand what he means.

As a woman you can spend endless amounts of time and money to make yourself pretty but at the end of the day it means nothing if you don’t know who you are and your happiness depends on what other people think of you. To me the most attractive woman is the one that knows what she’s about, she enjoys her life and she gives zero f*cks about what anybody thinks. You could put this woman in flip flops, yoga pants, a baggy t-shirt, a messy pony tail, sans make-up and she would be killin it as far as I’m concerned.

I don’t know how, but there needs to be a shift in or society’s attitude towards pretty when it comes to women. We need to stop putting unrealistic expectations on women, we need to value them for more than what they look like, or at the very least we need to get to a point where it is not okay to fat shame an eight year old girl.