Mansplaining Yields Healing

Mansplain, verb: (of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing
(Source: English Oxford Living Dictionaries)

Last night, at a client event for my internship, I found a chocolate fountain. I couldn’t resist dipping a second stick of extra-puffed marshmallows under the melting deliciousness, and I paid for it by staining my white top.

With an escape to the restroom and quick wardrobe innovation involving my kimono-shawl knot-styled to cover the mess, I was right back to find my girlfriends (the ones whom I had originally left for the chocolate fountain).

I approached them with a how-ridiculous-does-this-knot-look hand motion and skeptical facial expression inquiry, to which a nearby male interjected, “You look great, that looks awesome.

“It’s her outfit,” nodding at my friend, “we were making fun of.”

His initial comment was telling enough– despite the event’s complimentary Prosecco (or maybe because of it) our two energies were not aligning.

“What’s wrong with her outfit?” I snapped. Besides nothing. My comment was a misfire however, considering he ignored it to continue talking at me and in my direction:

“I have to say I’m not a fan of that necklace though. Maybe because I’m a guy, I don’t know.

“But you know girls only wear necklaces like that to impress other girls, right? You know that’s the only reason why girls do that, right??”

“Are you trying to tell me what I may or may not be doing intentionally?”

“I mean it’s not for us guys, it’s for each other, you must know.”

Is this what that socioculturally-derived 21st century term mansplaining was all about?

“No, no,” I interjected.

“Are you telling me, as a man, about something that my entire sex supposedly does? Are you trying to mansplain to me my own intention behind wearing this necklace?”

The complimentary Prosecco was getting me a little bit feisty, and I knew my new rooftop-friend wasn’t prepared to get such backlash.

Mansplaining,” he scoffed.  “Yeah– yeah, I was mansplaining!” he retorted back, matter-of-factly.

With a Champagne flute in hand and a knotted-kimono covering my chocolate stain, the words well don’t flew off the tip of my tongue, spicy and sharp, and I glared into his eyes until he got the hint and turned away. I faced my new friends, almost uneasy about how they might handle my moment of fiery spirit. They thanked me, and we continued laughing and dancing about.

Though we had moved on, the man came up to me minutes later.

“I’m sorry,” he said, passing by.

“Thank you,” I said curtly.

It was my turn to speak matter-of-factly.


I share this story as a reflection on the way I could have better handled this situation. I got the man to apologize, yes, but aside from temporary egotistical victory, what good is that really?

Sans the mind-alternation of the complimentary beverages, I could have helped this man see that his insight was not only unsolicited, but unjustified and even condescending.

That maybe, this was my favorite necklace and I wasn’t wearing it for anyone but me, regardless of a male or female audience.

And that at the core of it all, he wasn’t speaking from a loving place, or to me as his equal. I could have agreed that he had every right to have his own opinion, but shared that his extended, entitled, so-claimed awareness over a population of humans whose experiences he could never empathize with was unjust and unfair and even ignorant.

And if I could have connected with him and helped him understand that in a calm and loving manner, I could have engaged in healing with just one person; healing that would ripple in his future engagements and in mine, too.

I reflect back on this interaction last night as a lesson of mine in patience and boundless love. A lesson in embracing courage and speaking my truth yes, but doing so in a kind, constructive and empathetic manner.

It appears to me that with every pained, frustrating or instigating experience, there is an opportunity for healing. Life will continue to present us with chances for healing, though they don’t often show up beautifully upon the first glance. I am learning to pay attention to the triggers, for they are some of my best teachers in this healing journey.

I hope we meet again, rooftop party friend. Because next time we do, I’ll be wearing one of my many flashy necklaces, and I will welcome you with a hug– or at least a cheers to healing.

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@Goodgrateful: The beautiful nature-mirrors that aided in my reflection the following morning. La Jolla, California.

When In Venice: Life Advice from Street-Strangers of Los Angeles

I love discovering secrets. Answers. Treasures. I love connecting with people– old friends and strangers– and searching deep into their past experiences to read empathetically into their present. And oh, do I like advice– really, any form of guidance– on this journey that is my wild, winding life.

My first time in Los Angeles was filled with many highs (think: riding the Santa Monica ferris wheel, sunset-dancing on a rooftop with new friends, recovery-Sunday brunching) but this spontaneous interaction with soul-strangers on the canal-backstreets of Venice Beach takes the cake. Good’s & Grateful’s, meet Leigh and Richard.


“Hey, before you all go, can we ask a favor of you?”

The five of us, recovering slowly from a luau-themed, June-gle joint-birthday-party the day and night prior, were about to trek back to the car to assess the debris-damage that awaited us back home. We had just mustered enough energy to cap off our sunbathing on the bridge of one of the euro-inspired canals in Venice Beach, California, when Leigh approached us.

“Can you take a picture of us, but make sure you get the water in the background, all right?”

The 60-something-year-old woman with soft, pixie-cut blonde hair and layered gold and silver necklaces handed us her phone.

Leigh and her husband, Richard, in an all-white denim ensemble with slick-tousled silver curls and a gold-link chain on his right wrist posed. They posed with the smiles and comfort of two human-souls who have lived out their own dreams and lives, learned lessons along the way and laughed years alongside each other in moments leading up to this very spot on the Howland Canal bridge in the culturally rich Los Angeles neighborhood of Venice Beach.

The duo stood to return the photo-favor with stylish, matching, double-shade sunglasses with the outer lens’ flipped up, and we decided that they were way cooler than we were and consented to be adopted by our new grandparents.

I got to talking with Richard as his beloved ran with energetic youth to the water below, throwing up two peace signs in pose for another picture.

 

With a kind, seasoned disposition, he told me that all of the jobs, experiences and chapters of his life in production design, film studios and travel led him to where he is now– where he likes to be. At his 70-something-year-old age, he’s just gotten into real estate and is learning the business side of all of his prior professional endeavors.

“I almost went to RISD,” he says when I tell him I hail from Rhode Island.

“I chose to go to NYU instead and I’ve often wondered how such decisions play a role in changing your life. You kind of wonder what could have been… it’s oh, well, though.”

The nonchalance in his voice expresses his contentment with the way his life played out. His “whatever” is genuine and soothing. Maybe it all being “whatever” at the end of the day really can be a beautiful thing.

By the time Leigh returned and had gone back-and-forth about living the L.A. life with our token local in the group, the curious journalist in me was arising.

“So, one piece of advice?” I started, my state of dehydration from the night before altering the emphasis on all of my syllables.

“One piece of advice for us? Alright!” Leigh said, sitting back and intertwining her fingers palm-to-palm.

“Oh no, no. I meant if you two could give us millennials one piece of advice…”

Leigh enjoys this.

“Oh, that’s good! Ok, here’s a good one.

“All those hang-ups or insecurities or feeling like you’re not pretty enough or fit enough, forget about them. All that thinking your thighs are too big, etc., throw it out. I remember lacking that confidence all through my 20s and when I look back at pictures of myself from that time, I was smoking hot!

“You are beautiful right now, embrace it, enjoy it while you have it. Because you won’t have it forever!

“And enjoy the ride down,” she tells us.

Save your money. Think about retirement early on. Calculate your risks and invest in something that will offer a safe financial return for later.

Richard chimes in in response to a, “What about you honey, what’s your advice?”

“Save money, but also remember that money isn’t gonna’ do it all. It’s not what it’s all about. Do something that you’re passionate about… don’t do a job you don’t like, just for the money. Then you end up miserable living in a nice house.

“I remember being young and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I was quiet and insecure and I didn’t talk too much. I didn’t know. I tried a little bit of everything, and I knew that whatever I did I wanted to be the best at it. And that meant working with the best.

“You know, there is value in formal education but start working different jobs, get your hands dirty.

“And travel while you can. Travel teaches you everything.”

Though the five of us had planned to trek back to the car more than 20 minutes ago, we are content.

“Thank you for speaking with us,” I say.

“This is the kind of stuff that I love. Maybe I should just keep traveling to new cities, interviewing people and write a book, after all.”

“That’s a great idea,” Leigh says, “write a book!”

Richard and his kind disposition laugh.

“Alright, your turn,” says the ever-spunky and ever-lively Leigh.

“What’s one piece of advice you have for us?”

“Never stop sharing your advice,” I say.

 

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Leigh and Richard on the Howland Canal, June 11, 2017.

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A special thank you to the collaborative dehydrated-brain-efforts of this crew for helping me recall all of Leigh and Richard’s amazing life-advice!

The Magic of Living: Part 2

Part 2: How I’m Embracing, and Remaining My Inner “Yes Woman”

The waves were small and the water was chilly. The air was 50 degrees when my alarm went off at 7:20 a.m. I wanted so badly to snooze a little more until waking up to spend my day typing cover letters. But my surf partner and I went out into the ocean anyway.

And the universe rewarded us. Also playing in the small, friendly waves were none other than a pod of dolphins. After a solid five minutes of me slapping the water in disbelief, cupping my jaw-dropped face, paddling out closer to them, inquiring if their presence indicated that sharks were also around, whispering, “oh my god,” incessantly, and wondering why these so-called-waves had to be in my viewing way, I decided to do like my finned-friends and try and catch one, only to paddle back out and repeat the process.

I continued on this way for another 10 minutes. My poor surfing partner was probably experiencing his own disbelief in that someone could have such a reaction to a wild animal, but he tolerated it all the same.

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Post-surf photo from March 3, 2017 shred session.

There were few others in the water to witness my enamor and accept the sea’s smaller feat, but after the dolphins left, one nearby surfer caught my eye. He was seasoned, with a white beard, turquoise eyes and tan, weathered skin. He paddled on his long board only on his knees and pursued each small but promising curl in the same manner he would have as if it was the biggest wave he’d ever seen. He reminded me of my father.

After a few catches and misses, I called over to him.

“That’s quite the paddle, I’m not sure I’m there just yet.”

The man laughed and told me it took years of practice. “You should turn next time,” he told me, in regards to my last attempted ride.

I learned that while a self-proclaimed surf-bum now, he was also an avid skier and climber in his years, and had worked as a guide in Switzerland, set rock-problems all around the U.S. while living out of a van for two years, has his Masters in Chemistry, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and now has it under control and spends his time living in San Diego funded by his work as a researcher and online course professor at Vanderbilt University.

I looked at my new friend in awe. “Well, I’m 23, I just moved here, I have a degree and no job at the moment. What advice do you have for me?”

Darrel looked back at me and though beginning with, “I’m not sure I’m good for dishing out advice…,” he continued, letting the gentle ocean-waves wash over his surfboard and nostalgia-waves wash over his memories.

“Don’t get into debt,” he said after a moment. “Don’t fall for the illusion of things. Don’t spend your money on a big, fancy car… You don’t need stuff. I had a fancy home and things all back in Nashville. I even have a closet of fancy things here that I never look in. I don’t miss it.”

A wave rolls by.

“Do it while you’re young. Be good to your body. Don’t drink hard alcohol, it takes a toll. If you want to have a beer every once in a while, all right. If you want to get high, smoke weed. But don’t smoke it, bake it. Bad carcinogens.”

We float over another set of baby ocean-movements.

“Get a lot of skin.”

“As in tough skin?” I interjected, in due parts because I’m soft as a flower petal and because I wasn’t sure that’s really what he meant.

“No. You know,” patting his wetsuitted-arms, “affection, touch, love. That’s science…

And if you don’t like something, don’t do it.

“And this.” He looked at the water around him and ahead of him. “Do more of this.”

And whether he had more to share or felt he was done, I’ll never know. Because my transfixed state broke when Darrell spun around faster than I might ever be able to to catch the wave that was upon us. I made it over and looked back to see if he had caught it. He must’ve, I thought, going after it with the same energy of a pro at Maverick’s.

But he hadn’t. And it didn’t make a difference to him, because he was already on his knees paddling back out to catch another.

He didn’t need to put that last lesson into words after all: go after life like you want it badly. Go after it with full force. Pursue it and lean into it wildly. And if you miss? Get up and try again.

So living my new life in San Diego, I will go outside. I will walk around alone. I’ll look up. Smile at people. Make eye contact. Engage in conversation. Say “hi” to strangers. Accept invitations. Invite people.

I will say yes. Say yes to life. Because when you start saying yes to life, life starts saying yes to you.

And just like that: magic had happened.

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San Diego sunset March 1, 2017.
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San Diego sunset March 2, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to check out the prequel to this piece– Part 1: How I Found My Inner Yes Woman.

The Great American Road Trip: Part 2

The second stop in my cross-country move to San Diego.

Washington, D.C./ Arlington, V.A.

On January 19, 2017, my babe squad and I collected ourselves from our time in the Big Apple, drove disappointedly through Newark without finding any New Jersey bagels, gained another college best friend on our weekend mission and got settled into to our Arlington home with our incredible host for an empowering next couple of days.

Four of my closest girlfriends were joining me on the first stretch of my cross-country road trip to march on the Capitol for the Women’s March on Washington, the largest demonstration of human rights in history.

The night prior to the march, the babe squad broke out the glitter. And the cardboard, Sharpies and paints.

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@Goodgrateful: One side of the 5 double-sided signs we made for the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017.

 

When Beyoncé’s “Formation” sounded our alarm the morning of January 21, we made ourselves sandwiches and put our game faces on to fight for what we want. Because we very damn well can do both.

My girlfriends and I marched our way into the Capitol and screamed, shouted, cried and danced our way among nearly 500,000 like-minded human rights activists. There was an overwhelming feeling of solidarity and togetherness in the capital of the United States that day.

 

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Four of the five members of the babe squad marching in front of the Washington Monument.

 

Amongst all of the recent fear and heartache infiltrating our media and minds, there was consoling joy in realizing we weren’t alone in being afraid and demanding change. There was a blissful freedom in being surrounded by kind, good-natured, loving individuals who were on our team. Our human, heart-pumping, blood-flowing team.

Marching alongside a record breaking amount of women, men and children gave a sense of hope, happiness and faith in the togetherness that the next four years will demand of us.

There was something magically empowering about utilizing our voices, bodies, passions and devotion to goodness with close, caring girlfriends and thousands of equally-minded strangers. It was a record-setting highly-emotional, highly-charged day in my life, the lives of my good friends and the lives of everyone who participated. We made history that Saturday, and my children and grandchildren will hear about it.

 

 

However, the work has just begun. Despite my cross-country adventures distracting me from the “real-world” and filling my active mind with awe-some people and places, this journey to nationwide goodness and equality will require persistence. Stay tuned into the national organization of Women’s March on Washington for their campaign, 10 Actions in 100 Days to continue our communal efforts for change.

Take 5 minutes out of your day to call your government with the organization, 5 Calls. Their platform is based on the effectiveness of calling our representatives to voice our demands. 5 Calls provides appropriate government phone numbers based on location and offers scripts for those unsure of exactly what to say. We’re already on our phones- let’s take one minute to dial instead of swipe right.

This great American journey has shone light on all of the wondrous people in this country that we’ve been lucky to share time with. From our incredible hosts and hostesses to the strangers that have given us their “locals-only” city tips, to complimentary treats and beverages, to souvenirs and keepsakes, we have been reminded that amongst all of the darknesses brooding, there is still goodness and light everywhere in this world. There is still goodness and light in this country, too. Let’s channel that in ourselves, and let’s bring that out in others we encounter.

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The whole team including blogging flight attendant, artist and photographer @alwaysinairplanemode, @es_jessa and @deveneywilliams, respectively.

 

Check out our talented photographer and videographer friend @DeveneyWilliams, and her capturing of our experience at the march: https://vimeo.com/202389845

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: #WhyIMarch

Today, we celebrate a day that puts the present and future of our country into eye-opening perspective. Today, on the third Monday of January, we celebrate the honorable Martin Luther King Jr. and his fearless efforts to lead a life in pursuit of justice, truth and equality: racial equality.

He has been activists’ and aspiring activists’ role model for more than half a century. His legacy and life has been defined by the utmost courage, service and peaceful action that is still essential in hopes of victory among similar present-day struggles. The work is not done. It is not done for racial equality, sexual and gender equality, religious liberation and equality, for immigrants and those of varying political and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Though there are different forms of fear and violence occurring in face of present-day battles, the plight for racial equality and desegregation during the escalated tensions of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States was met with extreme physical dangers and hostility.

Today, we remember a man who demonstrated exceptionally relentless courage, compassion and most importantly, nonviolence during combat with opponents that presented him with minimal reciprocity.

He dreamed of peace, healing and community: noble values that the wellbeing and health of our country is in desperate need of today.

Today, and this week particularly, we continue the battle for equal human rights for all.

This Saturday, January 21, 2017, there will be what is projected to be one of the largest human rights demonstrations in the history of the United States: the Women’s March on Washington.

There have been criticisms that regard the march as non-inclusive or another act of “white feminism”.  Skeptics have defined the march as culturally appropriating or as women’s backlash in response to the first female president not being elected.

I have been volunteering with the Rhode Island Chapter for the Women’s March on Washington since the 2016 election, and I will be marching in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

I’ve spent every Sunday for the past 10 weeks with a group of passionate, intelligent women and men volunteers who are devoted to equal human rights. I’ve learned the short history and structuring behind the upcoming march, and that the four co-organizers are Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour, a white woman, African American woman, Puerto Rican woman and Palestinian-American-Muslim woman, respectively. I’ve learned that these women have been listening to the needs, concerns and fears of participants in this march and trying their best to accommodate everyone for an event that is fully inclusive, supportive and welcoming of all in favor of human rights.

While there are still countless critiques, and four individuals cannot offer a full representation of the women in our country, it is a start.

And a start is what we need right now.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

The national mission, the Rhode Island chapter mission, and my personal mission are in alignment: that women’s rights are human rights but also, perhaps more powerfully, that all groups that were or were at risk of being silenced and marginalized in lieu of recent events in our country have a voice of their own, even if that means using mine to help.

I am marching for the groups of people who are at risk of being compromised by both directly hurtful or negligent, non-inclusive mindsets. I am marching to demonstrate that I will speak for them when they aren’t being heard, fight for them when they cannot fight for themselves and stand together with them to ensure that the progress our country has made in the last century is maintained and not destroyed. I am marching for Mother Earth and all of its inhabitants, because we owe them our gratitude and protection for all that they have given to us humans.

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Volunteers wrote postcards of support and love to the Islamic Center of Rhode Island during one of our RI WMW Chapter meetings.
I am marching because as a woman, I want it all. I want social justice, rights and ownership to and of my body, parity, respect and equality for myself, for the women who have fought before me, and for the women that we will be bringing into this world. I want this world to be a greater place when my own daughters and sons enter it, because that’s what my predecessors did for me.

And as a woman, I expect my male friends and family to do the same, with and for me and my female peers.

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Empowering artwork by local Rhode Island talent, Jess Cabral. Work available on EsJessa.com!
There is prevalent, underlying and at times blatant racism, sexism and discrimination throughout our country and as a white woman I can, at times, be blinded. I admit that. It has not been my socioeconomic plight that allows me to recognize intersectional discrimination in all its faces, but it is in my heart to do all that I can with the privileges that I’ve been born with.

There will be controversy, suspicion and disagreement regarding any movement of this size and subject, but there are good people behind this march who are trying to do a good thing.

There are people– people aspiring to act in ways that Martin Luther King Jr. did– people fighting the good fight, who are behind this march.

And what this country needs more than anything right now is community and coming together.

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.” – Coretta Scott King

It was the honor, humility and dignity with which Martin Luther King Jr. fought that is most memorable and renowned, and it is those qualities that I will bring to my own battles, including the one this Saturday.

Let’s ‘Make America Great Again’ not by building walls to keep others out, but by embracing all of those within our reach already, and keeping them close and safe. Let’s redefine America, and remember that love trumps hate.

Stay good, and stay grateful.

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The Sweetness of Paying It Forward

It’s another beautiful day in the world, and I just had an experience with a stranger that deserved a mini blog post! I was just walking to class (in a delightful mood because I substituted some stress for some fun with friends last night) when I heard cheering from the sidewalk. A group of girls were selling popsicles for $1 and had caught the attention of another onlooker who, mid-walk, yelled excitedly, “Do you take debit cards?!”

The girls laughed, their faces contorting to exaggeratedly sad expressions, and called back that sorry, they do not, and the popsicle-craving passerby accepted defeat and proceeded. At this point we happened to be walking next to each other and before I knew it I had asked, “You really want a popsicle, huh?”

Though she giggled “no” (presumably out of politeness), my hand was already reaching into my easily accessible lanyard-wallet (that my friends make fun of me for) to get her a dollar. She accepted my offer graciously, smiley and thankful, told me I was her spirit animal (is she a butterfly too?), and the two of us parted ways.

Of course, this all happened in a matter of 30 seconds, but the reverberating contentment I felt from this simple act of kindness set in motion the positive energy that would carry me through the rest of the day and perhaps longer. I probably won’t see this stranger again and I have one dollar less to my name, but contributing to her joy (AND supporting the very specific band service sorority!) gave me a feeling much sweeter than any popsicle.

As the stranger and I headed in opposite directions I had called back, “pay it forward!”, and she replied happily that of course, she will. And I believe her.

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