When I read things like Amy Glass’ irritatingly ignorant blog I want to hate her, and people like her, but I can’t. I can’t hate her because I want to hug her, help her, fix her. Maybe I should have been a shrink. Actually, maybe I’ll sign up for a psychology class next semester at the local community college… I’m going to write that down on my wall of post-it reminders in my kitchen.
Amy Glass takes exception to the fact that women have big parties and celebrate each other when we do things like get married, have children, clean houses. She wants to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia. Well, I haven’t been to Asia, but I did backpack through the Amazon a few years ago. I went by myself and I met a wonderful group of girls who were doing the same thing as me. Most of us had only the necessities in our backpack; I’m not quite sure what we would have done with all of those shower gifts. Amy, have you ever gone backpacking? Right now, I’m wondering if Amy Glass is even your real name.
That trip was one of the best of my life. I left my now ex-boyfriend home in NY while I spent time traveling through the Amazon, getting bitten by mosquitoes, taking courses at a University in Guayaquil, sunbathing, eating, drinking, dancing, and working for a local marketing company. The girls I met were volunteering for a fabulous organization called Hogar del Cristo and the remaining hours in my life that were dedicated to sleeping were now dedicated to this organization. Read more about Hogar del Cristo here.
Some of my friends and family lovingly refer to me as an anal-retentive control freak. My mother brags that I am “Type-A.” Ah, mothers and their children. I like to consider myself a woman who knows what she wants and takes charge. So when I volunteered at Hogar del Cristo, I jumped in with both feet. I dropped the marketing gig and spent time in neighborhoods that the locals refer to as “invasiones.” The invasions are basically project communities built by, and for, single mothers with children who are victims of domestic violence, rape, and other atrocities. The women are on the run from their awful husbands, or captors, they can’t read or write, have no money, but they want to give their children better lives than they had themselves. They are motivated by the most powerful magic there is, to quote Disney. True love.
They loved their children, so they roll up their sleeves, build their own homes (alongside volunteers) with bamboo and tin and their bare hands, and go to classes taught by starry-eyed American girls who teach them to run their own businesses. They choose businesses like sandwich and coffee shops, blanket weaving, shoe making, or fruit markets. When they finish those classes, volunteers help them create business plans, which they use at a Microfinanzas bank to borrow the money to start that business. Would you believe that bank had a 98% payback rate? What bank in the US has that? We even invited Lorena Bobbitt down as a motivational speaker. Those were good times. In a country where the average income is less than one US dollar per day, in a world where women are raped and battered, uneducated and terrorized, these women literally risked their lives in order to make them better. Amy Glass, you may not realize it, but these women are exceptional and should be celebrated. In spite of never even spending time backpacking through Asia.
As an aside, I also spent a few hours each day in an orphanage hugging babies. Children in orphanages often receive very little human contact which is very important for their emotional well-being. One day, I called my mom and asked if I could adopt one little girl there whom I loved loved loved, but she told me to finish school first. I listened to her, but sometimes I wish I didn’t. It wasn’t until I came back to the US that I told my mom that I wasn’t actually interning at a prestigious marketing firm abroad all that time I was away.
Could the thing I be “successful” or “great” at be being a wife or a mother? Sure? I guess? But then the thing you are great at is helping other people. You are a supporting cast member in your own biography.”
Again, I can’t help but think, “Poor Amy Glass.” Hey, I’m all about the women’s lib movement. I was the president and founder of the first all women Anti-Domestic Violence Club in my high school. We even held the school’s first “Non-Bake Sale” where we asked companies like Entenmann’s to donate baked goods for us to sell, because honestly, who has time to bake? But then I was asked to vacate my role as president senior year when I hit Ricky Perry with a lunch tray in the cafeteria. Alright, maybe I hit him a few times and security had to carry me to the dean’s office. But, he called me a very, very nasty name. Which, incidentally, when his mother called my mother after school to discuss the incident, she also used that name towards my mother. Stupidity is a contagious disease. But again, I digress.
Amy Glass doesn’t think that “being great at helping other people” is the same as, or as important is being “successful.” Well there are tons of women who are famous for helping other people. I mean, hello, Mother Teresa? But what about those famous-for-helping-other-people women? Are they successful?
I wonder if Amy has heard of Queen Esther, who is credited with saving the Jewish people. I’m not Jewish, but my cousin’s wife is, and she is good people. Esther married a Persian King named Ahasuerus. Gasp! Married! Well now, certainly any chances of her success must be doomed! Well, Ahasuerus had a Prime Minister who wasn’t the nicest guy. In fact, he decided that all of the Jews in Persia should be slaughtered. Esther found out about this, and she wasn’t having it. Long story short, Esther prevented mass genocide and then turned around and slaughtered the would-be killers. That’s girl power, honey. But Esther was married to the King. Does that relegate her to Supporting Actress? Does that diminish her success?
Other notably “helpful” and successful women: Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Maude Gonne, Sacajawea, Dorothea Lange, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anaïs Nin, Gloria Steinem, Julia Child, Harriett Tubman, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Joyce Brothers, Medeleine Albright, Judy Blume, Eva Peron, Margaret Thatcher, Florence Nightingale, Susan B Anthony, Cleopatra….. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize — in physics, no less. Married with two children, and then goes on to win a Nobel Prize in chemistry. I hope all these women had children and passed it on because the world could use a few more like them. These women were exceptional.
I have a confession. My husband begs me not to do his laundry. I’m terrible at it. I shrink, discolor, wrinkle, you name it. Once I washed a shirt and it came out of the dryer with a bunch of giant holes in the fabric! I just cannot figure out how that happened! So he washes his own clothes. I’m also a pretty terrible cook. My New York Italian girlfriends who whip up pasta with homemade sauce, chicken cutlets and Arugula salad for dinner every night tease me mercilessly about my peanut-butter-and-banana-sandwich for dinner nights. And I’m seriously considering getting a housekeeper. I think cooking and cleaning are hard work. So I’m a good wife in other ways. Women constantly judge each other’s life choices. Nowadays you suck at life if you: get married young, or old; have kids young, or old; breastfeed or use formula; stay at home with your kids like a slave, or abandon them at daycare to selfishly work; feed them macaroni and cheese out of a box, or become a crazy organic lady. We can’t win for losing. When will we finally accept that we don’t all have to live our lives the same way? Different doesn’t necessarily equal wrong. Maybe what’s good for the goose isn’t actually good for the gander, or whatever that saying is.
Respect women who do what is best for them, and then you will have earned their respect back. I have two long time best friends who are polar opposites. And whoa, do they hate each other. One married her high school boyfriend, gave up red velvet cake while pregnant because red food dye is bad for you, eats tofu and loves being a stay at home mom. The other got pregnant in college, married her boyfriend when their eldest daughter was 4, drank champagne at my wedding while pregnant with their second daughter, and asked her husband to take paternity leave for that one because her 5 year plan includes advancing to VP of her division. See? Polar opposites. Yet, they both have the most beautiful, smart little girls who are blessed with fabulous mommies (and daddies) that love them more than anything. My best friends are role models to those little girls and no one could do it better than them. Incidentally, they both want 4 kids and two dogs. So why can’t we all just get along?
I’m not writing about Amy Glass to put her, or anyone else, down and I’m not here to build myself up. I’m no Mother Teresa, believe me. I graduated from a good college, have a pretty good damn job if I do say so myself, and I’m pretty damn good at it too. I’m also married and I had a fabulous bridal shower and a big old wedding. No kids, but that probably won’t be for long. And after I have kids, I’ll probably still work, and I’ll probably still be pretty damn good at my job. I may decide to learn to cook, but I’m currently trying to figure out a good way to avoid that. I think my backpacking days are over, but mostly because I can afford nice hotels now. I will travel the world with my kids, just like my fabulous stay-at-home mom did with me, and I will encourage them to backpack and travel on their own, to follow their hearts and to love with all their hearts, to help themselves and to help others, and to SUCCEED in whatever it is that makes them happy. And I will teach them to respect and to love others, especially people who aren’t like them, but to always stand up for what is right and to stand against what is wrong. And if they listen to half of what I say, I’ll consider myself successful.
One final thought: I just finished the book I Am Malala, given to me by my husband at Christmas. I cried, I laughed, I spent all my free time googling everything I could about this exceptional little girl Malala, who stood up against the Taliban for girls’ rights to education. Malala loves the series Ugly Betty and so do I. Seriously, that was such an underrated show. Then yesterday I told my husband, “If I wasn’t married, I would go to Pakistan and volunteer as a teacher for little girls. They need help.” He looked at me like I was looney tunes, but he said, “Hey, if the threat of the Taliban shooting you in the face doesn’t stop you, don’t let me. I have a lot of vacation time so let’s go.” Will my husband and I go to Pakistan tomorrow? Ummm, probably not after all. Will I find a way to become involved in the Malala Fund Charity? Definitely. Still, I can’t help but feel bad for Amy Glass, and women like her, who will never know the wonderful feeling of a husband who loves you so much that he offers to spend his vacation in Pakistan with you fighting for a little girl’s right to go to school. If that isn’t success, then who needs it anyway?