“But it’s time you started living…” ~ Mary Tyler Moore Theme Song

Dear Mary Tyler Moore,

So, I don’t know if God allows computers in heaven and I’m really not sure how’ll you’ll read this letter but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

I grew up watching you on the MTM show and wanted to be you so badly. Not only did you have this amazing apartment (where you even got to sleep on a pull-out bed…how cool was that? 😲) but good friends that were your neighbors. You were beautiful, funny, smart, empathic and loved to eat salads like I did. And you know…besides the beautiful, funny and smart parts, I’m very much like you were then.

Every show that I watched up until yours started airing was about a family…you know, the dad who went to work everyday, the mom who wore heels to vacuum in, and the darling little angels whose worse problem was getting lobbed in the nose by a football. Then you came on the scene: this unmarried woman who lived alone, had a successful career and embraced singlehood and all that it entailed. Wow. What a new concept to me.

It’s funny to re-watch these shows now because the sexism in the workplace is horrendous. Lou looking at your butt when you walk out the door…you making $50 less than the man who had your exact job but had a family to support…the men in the newsroom calling you honey and asking for coffee even though you were an associate producer. It’s hard to remember that this was normal for the 70’s and sometimes I have to wonder how much it’s really changed. We’re still making coffee…often being talked to condescendly…and have to keep doing better and better to prove that we are the woman for the job. I remember when I met a neighbor after moving into my house. He asked what I did and I told him I worked at the college in town; then he asked what department I was a secretary in. Now granted this guy was about a billion years old, but even so it shows that we still have work to do. 🙄

I took you as a strong feminist and until I started reading more about you and realized how much our views on women mesh. You weren’t a big fan of Gloria Steinem, huh? In your last TV interview, when asked about why you didn’t relate to her well, you said this:  “I believed that women—and I still do—have a very major role to play as mothers.  It’s very necessary for mothers to be involved with their children.  And that’s not what Gloria Steinem was saying.  Gloria was saying oh, you can have everything, and you owe it to yourself to have a career.  And I didn’t really believe in that, so that was a little difficult for me.”

When I read that, I actually shouted AMEN! When I was growing up amidst the women’s movement, I thought I had 2 choices: have a family or have a career. Gloria chose her career and after having an illegal abortion in 1957, said she needed to prove herself and make her life count. It was as if she couldn’t see any way to do both but you did.

Why is being a mom often seen as second to being a career woman? “Oh…you’re a mom…so you just stay at home?” Uh, yeah…I did. And no matter how much I’ve achieved on a personal level, it doesn’t mean jack shit next to the fact I raised an amazing young man who is doing such wonderful things.

We’ve gone from saying “You can’t have it all!” to “You can have it all!” but is this true? Christine Hassler wrote this in the Huffington Post in 2011: “…not only are we supposed to have it all but do it all at 100 percent: the career, relationship, children/family all while looking good, doing good and being good.”

Really? That’s having it all? Hmmmm…I think that might be having too much. After all, how can you give 100% to 5 different things? How is that possible, and why don’t men need to do the same? An article in Psychology Today says this: “It’s true that many husbands are more willing to pitch in today, but things are far from equal. Taking care of the home is still squarely on the shoulders of wives, despite the fact that many are working. Some studies suggest that women have almost three times the workload of their husbands. Interestingly, these proportions stay about the same, regardless of whether a wife has a full-time job, and whether or not her husband is currently working.”

Yeesh. Three times the workload? So let’s see: we have being a wife/partner, being a mom, having a career, looking good (which is a requisite for women in our society today), and being good which is also still a societal expectation. And then we wonder why the hell women are twice as likely to be on anti-depressants and more likely to be on anti-anxiety meds than men. Some of this is due to biology…thank you, estrogen. But like the APA says, there are life factors as well: unequal power and status, work overload, and being the victim of abuse.

Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Can you have it all?” but what your opening song says: “You’re gonna MAKE it after all.” And to me, making it means being who and what you want to be. That’s part of what feminism is to me: having a choice in creating the life you want instead of having to follow a preordained path.

You didn’t have a partner or family on the show, but you were happy. Fulfilled. Had fun experiences. You did have it all…a full, satisfying life you were living on your own terms, despite what our culture said at the time.

And in your ‘real’ life? I know you suffered with diabetes beginning in 1969 after having a miscarriage, and that this disease almost blinded you as you got older. You had a benign brain tumor in 2011 and were very open about being a recovering alcoholic. And worse of all…you lost your only son after he suffered an accidental gunshot wound at the age of 24. I can’t even begin to imagine what pain that brought to your life. Bless your heart. 🧡

You see, that’s what I love so much about the ‘real’ you..and not just the TV you. You stood up for your own beliefs. You fought battles and talked about them…were open about them…didn’t shy away from answering the hard questions about them. So really, in that regard, you were the MTM on TV…someone living an authentic life and being exactly who you wanted to be. How refreshing…and how rare.

Anyhoot, I admired you as a kid and I still admire you as an adult. Watching your show not only gives me some really great decorating ideas (like when you antiqued a piece of furniture by hitting it with a chain 🤨), but shows me that being single doesn’t have to be seen as a flaw. I don’t need to feel less than because I’m alone; actually, you’ve taught me that I’m really not alone after all: I have an awesome family, friends at school, my students, my neighbors, my pets…I’m really blessed! You showed me I can have a full, happy life with ‘just’ me at home. Being single isn’t a curse…it’s an opportunity. What a great lesson that is.

Finally, you taught me that voicing views different from others is a privilege we should all take more advantage of, instead of this ‘herd’ mentality. I can be loved…liked…and me at the same time. Confidence isn’t conceit and having a sense of self-worth isn’t selfish. It’s simply strong.

So thank you for the lessons growing up…and the lessons I’m still learning now. You know, I can picture you having coffee with Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou while trading stories about anything and everything that comes to mind. Perhaps you’ll let me join you someday. If so, I’d be honored.

Love,

Kristi xoxo

“To his way of thinking, the only thing more natural than death was sex.” ~ Stephen King

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“Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution”

So, out of all of the posts I’ve blogged about, my ‘Sexy is as Sexy Does’ post has generated the most feedback from you, peeps.  And I love it!

One of my sweetie-pie past students (and an awesome one at that) wrote to me just this morning about her own experiences:

I’ve recently started dating again (ugh) and it’s like a whole different world from when I was younger.  Back in high school/college, if your “number” was more then a couple you were a slut, but now I’m even getting pressure from family members to “put out” so I can “get me a man”.  It’s so frustrating!!  Sex is a big deal to me, and it deepens any feelings I had.  I went on a date recently where I mentioned very explicitly before the FIRST date that I would not be having sex until I was in a relationship and felt ready, and the guy still pushed and pushed for sex, then when I said no he said it wasn’t working out and we should see other people.  The first date!!!  The saddest part is that’s the norm now these days!!  Several guys I’ve went out with have tried to “take me home” when I’m very clear about what I don’t want to do.  Then I never hear from them again.  I’ve literally had family members just tell me to put out if it’ll get me a second date!!  What the heck!?!?  I’ve almost given up on dating again because at this point no matter how clear I am about not wanting to have sex until I’m ready, none of the guys seem to care…ugh.

So, my educated, funny, kind and beautiful student is being pressured on FIRST dates to have sex…and then when she doesn’t, she’s either dropped or threatened by them in terms of having other women.  Are you fucking kidding me?  There’s now the expectation that a first date will culminate in sex or ‘buh bye?’  How…and when…did sex become so casual?  So much like playing a game or watching a movie?  So much like…well…nothing special?  Are we really at the point in our culture that having sex (for so many) has become just another ‘thing’ to do?

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I’m sure the parents of these college students are so proud. 🙄

In my Human Sexuality classes we watch the film “Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution”  (Netflix – 2017) which documents the exploits of college students on spring break in Panama City.  Here’s what one guy says in the film:

  “What we’ve seen on television and everything anymore, sex is nothing anymore.  Sex doesn’t mean anything.  Sex is just a pleasure.”

Wow.  Then there’s this conversation on the beach:

“There’s a lot of naked people and a lot of alcohol, and it’s fucking great.  There’s a lot of hooking up, wet t-shirt contests.  People come to Panama City to basically get fucked up and fuck bitches, that’s it.  We’re trying to get laid.  You can honestly do whatever you want.”  (In the background, guys are shouting ‘show your tits’ and ‘assume the position, girls!’)

Well…there you have it…out of the mouth of babes.  Go back and read that again, grasshoppers:  ‘fuck bitches’, ‘show your tits’ and ‘assume the position’?  Really?  And there are still people out there who say women aren’t being seen as sex objects.  Okey Dokey.  Live in your bubble, folks.  (By the way, some of the men and women in the film talk about how horrible it is to have to live up to these demands…it’s so sad how much this pressure is shaping their lives).  😢

So what does this do to young women?  Everyone wants to be accepted and have attention paid to them, but girls have learned, unfortunately, this will happen much more often if they buy in to the idea that “I have to be a sex object to be ‘seen’.”  So, they show off their boobs, wear shorts that don’t cover their butts, and ‘put out’ in order to not be ignored or called names.  They aren’t making the ‘choice’ to be sexy (even though they might say they are), they are simply following what is needed to be ‘in.’

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Haley Bieber (is she even wearing undies?)

C’mon.  Look at female celebrities today.  Kim Kardashian (ugh… 😖) began her fame because of a sex tape.  A sex tape.  She did nothing but have sex in front of a camera to become one of the most well known celebrities in our country.  (And yes, I know she’s training to be a lawyer, but until she wears clothes other than those that basically cling to her as if she were naked, she’s not going to be taken seriously…at least not by this gal).  There are other women who are almost more famous for their body parts than any talent they might have…people focus on Jennifer Lopez’s butt, Angelina’s lips, and Chrissy Teigen’s boobs.  Then, take a look-see at celebrity outfits.  I assume the game they are playing is:  ‘How Much Skin and How Many Body Part Can I Show Without Going to Jail’.  🙄

What’s even scarier is how young girls are taught to be sexy!  Did you know there are thongs made for girls?  Thongs!  What the hell?  And their outfits are getting more and more daring.  I have parents tell me they can’t find appropriate clothes for their girls because the selection isn’t there.  Plus, make-up is used by girls who are in primary grades (in fact, it’s marketed to them)!  Why?  So they’ll look pretty…sexy…grown up.  AAAAGGGGHHHH!  What’s going on here, peeps?

Then, what about you guys?  You need to dream about sex, have sex, talk about sex, and then repeat.  Oh, and while you’re doing all of this, be sure not to show emotion, don’t get all ‘girly’ and talk about feelings, and always wear your poker face.

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Great husband material, huh?

 

I firmly believe men are just as brainwashed as women.  In fact, I think men are more oppressed than women because they can’t comfortably show their feelings…how horrible to have something inside of you that you have to push down time and time again.  I can’t imagine not being allowed to be fully human in that regard.

Anyhoot, after my student and I chatted a bit more, she went on to say this:

It scares me so much for my niece…she’s 9 years old and told me the other day “I never have to be alone again, I’ve got a boyfriend.”  She was so proud of the fact she’s never going to have to be independent…

OMG.  Seriously?  She’s 9 years old and already learned that she needs a ‘man’ to depend on?   Just so she doesn’t have to do for herself?  Just to make her feel ‘not alone’?

Think about the alone comment.  How can a 9 year old feel alone?  She’s 9!  In a family…in school…in a neighborhood.  Are we that disconnected in our society that partners fill the role?  Are we all so ‘screened’ in by our devices that we crave an actual physical connection?  Take a look see at this:

“The YouGov poll is the latest piece of research to show worryingly high levels of loneliness, particularly among younger generations.”

Cigna (insurance company) surveyed 20,000 adults and half reported feeling lonely sometimes or all the time…feeling alone and left out with young people being the most affected.

A survey of 55,000 by the BBC found “…levels of loneliness were highest among 16-24 year olds”

Is sex that answer for our younger generations?  Is that the way they think they connect?

I don’t know the answer to any of this, grasshoppers.  Our society is pushing the limits of sexiness in our culture, but we have yet to implement a national comprehensive sex education program.  In other words, they’ll see sex on TV, online, in movies, etc., but, God forbid, not learn about it in school.  And lots of research confirms that only a minority of parents talk to their kids about sexual issues including contraception and sexually transmitted diseases.  The consequence of this?  The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate (even though it is declining) and highest teen STD rate among industrialized countries.  Sigh.

I may not know what to do about these issues.  But I do know this:  We, as a society, have to understand that when we minimize the importance of sex and allow it to be seen so easily and often, we are heading down a path where nothing is going to mean anything anymore. We are taking one of the last things we have that can provide for couples an intimate bond that holds them together and strengthens the relationship they have. It used to be sacred. Private. Special. And now? Not so much. I don’t know about you, but that depresses me a lot.

Kristi xoxo

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