Tag Archive | media

The Many Faces of Courage

When the Vanity Fair “Call Me Caitlyn” cover came out, it took the internet by storm.  Literally every social media site was flooded with her images, and it seemed that everyone from politicians to hair stylists had an opinion about her transformation from Bruce to Caitlyn. I was happily surprised that the bulk of the reactions were supportive and complimentary.

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Most commented on her physical appearance – how elegant and stunning she looked in the pictures.  And while I agree it’s hard not to be envious of her gorgeous legs (that no amount of cycling or squatting could EVER earn me) , that wasn’t my first reaction.  I was absolutely blown away by the courage it took for her to decide that after 65-years, she was finally going to show the world who she really was.

Showing the world your uncensored, genuine self can be incredibly HARD.  It makes you totally vulnerable to a world of criticism and judgment; but when that brave decision is made, it has a ripple effect.  Marianne Williamson once wrote, “….As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others….”

To me, you can’t compare or quantify this kind of courage because everybody’s journey is different – what takes courage for one person, might come easily to another.   It can’t be measured by a calculator, ruler, or Richter scale, but that is exactly what people in social media are trying to do right now.  As the sun set on Caitlyn’s first day in the world, the fickle tides of the internet turned against her.  Once her nomination for the Arthur Ashe award for courage was announced, people were quick to point out how her courage paled in comparison to others.

*** My point of contention is that there are NO pale shades of courage *** 

Courage by its very nature is bold and bright – which is why it makes the world seem more radiant and hopeful when we witness it.  When fear presents itself to someone and they don’t back down, that act of bravery deserves our kudos, not our condemnation.  Not only because of the courage it takes to face fear head on, but also because of the inspiration it provides to others.  Along with Caitlyn, there are so many other beautiful faces of courage – each one causing its own amazing ripple effect in an otherwise weary world.  ALL equally magnificent and awe inspiring:

1.  A 5-year old who puts a smile on his face and decides to kick cancer’s ass like a ninja turtle….  

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2.  A woman facing the remainder of her life without the man she spent over 68-years loving….

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3.  The woman who endures stares and snide comments while she fights to get her life back….

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4.  The police officers and firefighters who stare fear down every time they go to work…. 

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5.  The shy kid who stands up to the bully who has made his life a living hell….

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6.  The athlete who isn’t deterred by words like “disability” or “handicap”…. 

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7.  The woman who leaves her abuser in search of a life where love doesn’t equal pain….

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8.  The teenager who rises above the influence of her peers and dares to be different….

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9.  The social activist who doesn’t just dream of a better world, she makes it a reality…. 

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10.  The soldier who knows the true meaning behind the phrase “No man left behind”…. 

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It’s my hope that you’ll remember Caitlyn and the rest of these beautiful faces the next time you encounter ANY act of courage.  Then instead of trying to belittle or compare that act against others, just say a simple word of thanks because they all shine a collective light that makes our whole world brighter.

And for that, I’m incredibly grateful to every one of them.

 

Other Related Articles:

Introducing Caitlyn Jenner

Cheer Caitlyn, But Learn About Nicoll and Marichuy

This Viral Facebook Post About Caitlyn Jenner Taught Everyone a Lesson in Irony

No, A Disabled Vet Was Not Second Place For Arthur Ashe Courage Award 

Are You Cool Enough For Michael Jeffries?

If you’re involved in any kind of social media, chances are you’ve read about the statement made by the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Michael Jeffries.  If not, I don’t want to be the only one who’s holding a torch and pitchfork, so take a look at this….

What a multi-million dollar douchebag.

What a multi-million dollar douchebag.

When I first read about this, I was offended on so many levels:  as a curvy woman whose left boob probably wouldn’t fit into an Abercrombie & Fitch’s size L t-shirt; as a parent who is trying like hell to raise kids who are accepting, kind, and respectful of others; and as a decent human being who doesn’t like it when someone acts like an asshole – especially when that asshole is marketing to kids.

When I brought this up with my 14-year old daughter and decisively told her that we would never buy another piece of Abercrombie & Fitch clothing, she got angry…. which in turn made me angry.  I wanted her to join in the fight and be as outraged as I was about this man’s prejudicial opinions, but she wasn’t.  After a few minutes of bickering back and forth, it was clear that neither one of us wanted to budge.  So, we left the subject lying on the ground like a hot coal we didn’t know how to extinguish.  She stormed off to school and my head erupted like Krakatoa.

Michael Jeffries can kiss my XL SIZED ASS!!!!

Michael Jeffries can kiss my XL SIZED ASS!!!!

Once I simmered down, I thought about our conversation. In hindsight, I probably should have waited to talk about this when I could approach it logically rather than emotionally.  Although, given the fact that this subject is a bit of a hot button for me, I might’ve had to wait until she was collecting social security before I could’ve talked about it logically.

But I should have at least told her what I read and then asked her opinion on the subject, rather than acting like the parent Nazi.  Because once you tell a teenager they can’t do something, it becomes irresistible.  Even if you pick something they wouldn’t normally have done – like telling them that they’re never allowed to inject puppies with heroin…. you’d better believe some puppies will be tripping before bedtime.

I think my daughter saw not being allowed to wear Abercrombie & Fitch as the social status stock market crash of 2013.  Kids like to fit in because it means more friends and less bullying.  But often times, fitting in comes with a big price tag – in this case, it’s $58 for a pair of sweatpants…. and your immortal soul.

The message I wanted to send to my daughter, and to Michael Jeffries for that matter, is that it’s wrong to discriminate against someone based solely on his or her appearance.  And when we bear witness to that atrocity, we need to rally against it and prove that we care more about justice than we do about the label on our shirt.

BAN THE MOOSE!!!

I think the only reason Michael Jeffries still has a job, is because he chose overweight people as his target.  If he had blatantly stated that he didn’t want any minorities wearing Abercrombie & Fitch, he probably would’ve been fired and then burned over a pyre of his own overpriced clothing (or at least made to pay $50 million dollars in racial discrimination lawsuits like he did back in 2004).  But it seems a person’s weight is still fair game in the world of discrimination – whereas discrimination based on race, religion and sex (while still undeniably present) are a bit more taboo, more camouflaged  behind bureaucratic bullshit.

It is still socially acceptable to crack a few fat jokes, and portray overweight people in the media as lazy, unattractive and gluttonous.  These movie/TV characters are often seen as punchlines, not people – sadly, I think the same holds true off the big screen as well…. especially where Michael Jeffries and his stupid moose boxer shorts are concerned.

By saying that he only markets to “cool and good-looking” kids is the equivalent of saying that he doesn’t want ugly, fat kids wearing his brand (or working in his stores).  This guy has balls the size of cantaloupes not only for making such a brazen statement, but also for saying it while looking like this….

The only thing this guy should be railing against  is plastic surgery and botox injections.

The only thing this guy should be railing against
is plastic surgery and botox injections.

But there is one thing I love about Michael Jeffries’ statement – that he shot himself in the foot with it.  The world now knows him for the shallow, elitist prick he is, and it’s my fervent wish that his company will be deemed just as pathetic as his attempts to hold onto his youth.

 

Sandy’s Wake: The Hysterical and Heroic

Monday October 29th 2012:  it was a dark and stormy night…. no really, it was.  Never before had an overly plagiarized line felt so apropos as I stared out my window with an odd mix of terror and fascination.  Hurricane Sandy demanded my undivided attention like one of those bratty Toddlers & Tiaras kids in the throes of a full-blown temper tantrum.  As much as I wanted to ignore her, I couldn’t silence the pandemonium by changing the channel because she was everywhere.  My thoughts rarely strayed far from the tempest that surrounded me, but when they did all it took was a 90-mile an hour, house rattling, bitchslap from Sandy to remind me of my imminent doom….

I’m hungry, I think I’ll go make myself a sandwich.

WHHOOOOOSHH!!!!!

Oh, that’s right I’ll probably be dead by morning.

I blame the media for my hysteria – why not?  Everyone else does.  They didn’t technically force me to watch two solid days of media coverage the weekend before Sandy’s tumultuous arrival, but they knew no one would have the ability to look away from the meteorological wreckage.  After 48-hours of being told just how completely screwed everyone was in the northeast, I was in a panic before the first gust of wind hit Long Island.

Like the good sheep I am, I followed the herd to the grocery store and bought what remained of the bottled water and cans of soup.  My house might flood or be blown away in a hurricane, but at least I would be well hydrated.  Then I sent my husband out on a scavenger hunt for D-batteries and flashlights – he would’ve had an easier time getting laid in a convent.  He wandered for hours, in and out of half a dozen stores before he found the only D-batteries left in New York.  He called me as victoriously as he had several Christmases ago when he secured the last remaining Tickle Me Elmo doll in the toy store.

With my inner boy scout satiated with storm supplies, I was ready to face what lay ahead.  When hurricane Sandy finally arrived, there was nothing left to do but hunker down inside our house, watch more terrifying news on TV, and wait to see what the fates had in store for us….

This was me…. minus the flag, gun and psychotic expression.

Would our house be swept out to sea like so many others had been along the eastern seaboard?  Or would we be spared the ocean’s wrath and merely flooded with several feet of rainwater and sewage?  Would the 100-foot tall pine tree in our backyard succumb to the punishing winds and crush our house the way so many other trees had done on Long Island?  Would we lose power and freeze to death in the temperatures that threatened to plummet during the course of following week?  I felt like we were playing the weather channel’s version of Russian roulette.

As it turned out, there was another option I hadn’t considered – we would win the hurricane lottery and escape the storm entirely unscathed.  Sure, I could complain about all the twigs and leaves scattered around my yard, but that seems a bit petty.

I was awash in feelings of gratitude and relief.  But when I took a step outside my mile-wide protective bubble, I realized that the people around me had fallen victim to all my worst fears.  Almost 1 million Long Islanders were without electricity, many of whom also had severe property damage and flooding to complete the hellish trifecta.  My original feeling of gratitude over not being effected by the storm quickly morphed into survivor’s guilt when the horror stories started to flood the media – first panic, now guilt.  Thanks, you multi-media bastards.

The guilt multiplied whenever I spotted my storm supplies piled up in the corner of my kitchen, now unnecessary and unopened.  They had to go.  My husband and I decided to load up our minivan with all the supplies and donate them to the American Red Cross.  But rather than feeling like I had helped the victims of hurricane Sandy, I felt more like I had tried to mend a mortal flesh wound with a Hello Kitty band-aid.

Can I get you a piece of gauze and some Neosporin?

I turned to Facebook and offered up my house to anyone who needed to recharge their batteries, both figurative and literal.  I begged friends who had been hit by the storm to allow me to help with their clean-up efforts because I needed something to do, other than pick my cuticles bloody and torture myself with the nightly news.  No takers.

In hindsight I should have told my friends that I didn’t care whether or not they wanted my help, they were going to get it.  I should have showed up on their doorstep with a garbage bag in one hand and a bottle of tequila in the other – I thought Cuervo Gold would be particularly good at numbing the pain.  Always worked for me.

But I didn’t do any of that…. and I guess I’ll have to live with that regret now.

Lucky for me, there was plenty of time to contemplate my inadequacies while waiting on hour-long gas lines, and during my search for a gallon of milk that hadn’t spoiled during the power outages.  As twisted as it sounds, these petty annoyances actually made me feel better.  Maybe because I felt like I deserved it – you can take the Catholic girl out of the church, but you can’t take the guilt out of the Catholic girl.  Or maybe because I knew I’d have a really cool story to bore my grandkids with forty years from now.  Although when I retell the story, the gas lines will be two-hours long and I’ll be walking uphill through a snowstorm for my gallon of spoiled milk.

No matter how many inconveniences I encountered, I never quite purged all of my survivor’s guilt. The loss of those who suffered through the worst of the hurricane’s wrath became the barometer by which all other hardships were measured.  I didn’t allow for any complaints from anyone in my household  in the weeks that followed.  When I found myself curled up in the fetal position on my couch, suffering from a particularly unforgiving bout of cramps, I silently said a word of thanks that I still had a couch to curl up on…. though I might have waited until the Advil kicked in first.  When my kids complained about what I served up for dinner, I was quick to point out all the people who would go without dinner that night because of the storm.  My kids might not have been as grateful about their broccoli as I was about my couch, but at least they stopped bitching about it.

You don’t want to eat your vegetables?
How about a hot, steamy plate of perspective instead?

Thankfully for the victims of hurricane Sandy, there were many other people who did more than sit on their ass being grateful for what they still had.  Amidst the dismal scenes of destruction on the news, came stories about amazing heroes.  There weren’t any capes flying or muscle-clad men leaping tall buildings in a single bound, but these heroes were no less awe-inspiring.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of real people put their lives on the line to save others – and some of those being saved weren’t even human.  A 26-year old man named Spencer Service walked almost two miles during hurricane Sandy in order to save a litter of kittens.  Check out this kitty hero!  I love kittens as much as the next guy… well, maybe not as much as Spencer…. but I don’t know if I’d be willing to risk my life to save one.

Here are the cats who owe Spencer at least one of their nine lives.

Another one of my favorite hero stories was about a group of runners who got together and decided to help the victims of hurricane Sandy.  Over 1,000 athletes who were scheduled to compete in this year’s NYC marathon (before it was cancelled) found a way to put all their hard work and training to good use.  Instead of running in the race, they strapped on backpacks and ran food and supplies into devastated areas on Staten Island.  Read about the race to help so you can feel amazed… and maybe a little lazy .

Awesome, right?  I can barely jog twenty minutes on my treadmill without needing defibrillator paddles, and these people not only ran for miles through flooded, storm-ravaged streets, they did it with a backpack full of stuff.  Makes complaining about carrying grocery bags from my car to my house seem a bit silly now.

I’m proud to say I know one of these powerhouses personally – my good friend, Desi.  She’s the pint-sized dynamo wearing red in the middle of this picture….

GO DESI, GO!!!!

In true heroic style, she made me promise that if I told her story, I would also include a link that my readers could click on to help those who were affected by the storm.  Promise fulfilled – RunnersForRelief.  I know you’re jealous that I have such an incredible friend, but you can’t have her because I need someone around that I can live vicariously through.  Get your own hero.

These stories and the dozens of others just like it have given me hope that New York, through the sheer determination and resilience of its everyday heroes, will manage to rise up from the ashes once again.  If I’ve learned anything about my hometown in the last decade it’s this –  what New York lacks in affordable housing, good manners and sensible drivers, we more than make up for in heart.