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.
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.
You and your partner will never be able to rescue each other: but there is someone else who can and will.
This is a story about an ego-love: a love that you love to hate and hate to love.
An audacious, fiery, carefree, exhausting love. A try-hard love, a defensive love, an I-swear-it love and a not-enough love. A love that drives you crazy and makes you second guess and pushes you away and keeps you coming back. A love where you’re never on the same page, because when one of you is up, the other is down. A love that you found, or perhaps, it found you, to prove something– to rectify and fix something. It arose to try and save you, to save them, or to save each other. This is a story about a rescue.
I wanted to save him, to heal him. Because in doing so, I was proving that I, someone like me, was deserving of and capable of being saved, too. Losing him, losing the battle of ‘saving’ him (because you will always lose in an ego-love), was the ultimate death and torture of my ego and the self-devised narrative of this worthiness-rescue game.
I was always on my toes with him. I knew from the very moment we began that he would outrun me. He would exhilarate and exhaust me, for as light and reckless as I wished to be, I had a passionate heart that weighed me down and an always-at-it-head that grounded me. But I ran. And I kept up with him, for a little bit.
I learned to play the games: to return not-so-playful and all-too-true jabs, to be a little more careless and a lot more competitive. I learned to love the way he knew how to love. But I never unlearned my own ways of loving. And sometimes, I would sneak in droplets of my love-water, biting the bullet of ego-jabs, to try and nurture his garden with encouragement, support and faith. I so badly wanted to help him grow and reach his sunlight. But his walls were solid and his knives sharp, and my efforts to drop barriers and release my light left me unarmed and burned. Despite it all, my hope and I remained desperately devoted to him.
After the failure of “us”– after the failure of my rescue– I fell into a deep depression, suffering withdrawals from my pain-addiction to him and clinging onto a dear, toxic, unhealthy, false sense of life.
I fell sick for two whole weeks when he finally left. I lost my voice. I became incapable of speaking this very trauma-induced pain of him, this pain of my own mind. In fact, I had lost my mind.
I went to all of the dark places, because I convinced myself that that’s where I needed to go to find him. And my ego and I would pull us both out of there, into light, into safety, into love.
I know now that he’ll never come back to me. Not that I need him to, in my healthier state of self-love. For he knows he’ll never be able to give me what I need, even if I sometimes forget it. He won’t respond to, address or hear my attempts of reaching out or reminiscing, because he knows that I’ll come around and one day, once again remember he can’t love me the way that I can love myself. And that will hurt him and guilt him all over again.
When he finally left me, for the last time– emotionally, mentally, physically, psychologically– he looked me in my eyes and said, “You are a beautiful person.”
And after all of the hurt, the heartache, the mind games and the ego-pain, I felt like maybe, a small shard of my love did really get through. Maybe, after it all, a piece of me was able to reach him.
That, I will never know. But I will remember that moment forever, because it marked the first day of my next and final rescue. The only and the most important one: the rescue of myself, from my own mind. And I knew then that I would be the only one to carry myself into salvation– into love– and that I was the only one standing in my own way. And I knew then that I would be victorious. I will be my own savior. And he will be his own savior. And we will both be beautiful.
I woke up from a dream yesterday morning where I was losing myself in falling in love with another person. In the past of my reality, I have tended to do this. In my dream, I felt it coming, and while this person was incredibly special to me, I felt that I hadn’t connected with myself once in the time my lover and I had been spending together. I went for a drive in this dream-land and ended up at a small, charming flower stand where I parked and was met to my emotion-processing dismay by a mother and two young daughters who, unhesitatingly, hopped into my car to sing along to the pop song I had playing.
The woman sat beside me, her daughters in the backseat singing and giggling in their own la-la-land that is life before the treasures and trials of love and loss have occurred, and she looked to me and spoke. The woman asked me if I had a love-person in my life, and if they were at the root of the heaviness in my heart that she could feel coming off of me. I told her I felt I was losing myself and it saddened me. I told her that he was treating me, but I was still aching for my own love. In that moment I stepped outside of my car, leaving behind my new friends. I saw serene pools underneath white, Greek columns above and I felt compelled to dive into them. It was my turn to lack in hesitation: I dove into the first pool, traveling its distance underwater until I reached the other side, got out and dove into the next one. My dream-gut trusted the women in my car with all of my belongings, and I needed to be swimming and diving into these pools at the moment.
I was immersing myself in the third pool when the mother and daughters called to me. When I returned to my car, all of the doors were open and it was covered in flowers. There were flowers in every door handle and crack of the window, underneath the windshield wipers and on the roof of my car, and a woman was still walking in circles placing more petals and stems to add to the collection.
“Some days, it’s potatoes that they cover your car in,” the mother said, coming to stand beside me.
“Happy birthday, love,” she said.
And with that, I began the first day of my 24th rotation around the sun feeling a little lighter. A little bit more self-aware. Incredibly immersed, and reminded to be fully diving into my self-love first. More than anything, I am grateful. I spent the first few hours of my birthday Saturday sobbing tears of joy feeling entirely overwhelmed by the magnificent amount of love in my life. This emotional overwhelm is not uncommon, and I embrace that part of me. I am grateful to have been touched by every one of you in this life-trek, and if I have ever looked into your eyes, know that I host unfaltering love for your presence no matter how close we are. I am grateful for my journey and pains and trials that have allowed me to feel such love and joy and light in this life. I am grateful for my truth and for learning to speak it. I am grateful for here and now. And of it all, I am endlessly grateful for all that this life is to continue offering me– be it flowers, or potatoes.