Just Us Girls

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I have a couple of social engagements this week with women. You might call them “girls’ nights out.” You might. But I won’t.

 Because I’m really conflicted about the term.

 It seems that girls are back in fashion. From Lena Dunham’s television show about 20-somethings to bar specials, girls are back.

 I spent years in the workplace declaring myself an adult. When I first entered the workplace, I was always the youngest at what I did, so it was particularly important for my coworkers – mostly male – to regard me as an adult. A woman, not a girl. And, ok, maybe ”lady” was stretching it, given some of my shenanigans, but at least I was grown up.

 Being called a girl was bad, condescending. I grew up in the South where black men were called “boys” and all women were called “girls” and the intent in both instances was the same: to keep the person firmly in place.

 So, once I hit 18, I was never a girl.

 Of course, with time, I have gotten to the age where no one questions my adult status. I don’t even get carded anymore.

 And I’ve gotten to the age where I don’t care what people think about me. I can be goofy, whimsical. Indulge in flights of fancy and wear sneakers with skirts. Some days, my giggle is, dare I say it, girlish.

Have I finally gotten old enough to be a girl? 

 

Credit: Google Images

Credit: Google Images

 

No Ice Bucket for Me

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Let me just say for the record: I’m not dumping ice water on my head. So don’t ask. And I may or may not give money to ALS but it won’t be because someone publicly shamed me into doing it.

I do have charities I give to, but I do so because they or their issue has touched me personally. And that should be just fine.

I had a reason to wonder the other night why people give.

My husband and I were walking home when a man on the street asked for money. We kept walking. But then he said, “Please. I’m so hungry.”

Well, I’m Italian, so that was exactly the right button to push for me. Can’t have someone hungry when I’m around!

So my husband and I ducked into a restaurant and ordered a large slice of pizza and a bottle of water. And we brought it to the man. We probably spent more than we would have given him if we’d simply reached into our wallet.

Was he grateful? He was not. In fact, he was a bit resentful that my bundle of food interfered with the plea he was making to the next group of people for money because he was so hungry.

So why do we give, if that’s the thanks we get?

I heard a piece on National Public Radio recently that talked about why we give. The interview with the author of, “The Science of Giving,” reveals that we are much more likely to give to a single suffering person than a group. Which probably explains why that single, “I’m hungry” affected me more than endless appeals to end hunger in Africa.

But here’s an interesting tidbit. If you ask people to suffer first, they are likely to give more. In an experiment, some people could just give money to a charity while others had to plunge their hands in cold water before they were allowed to donate. The cold-water people gave more.

So maybe the ice bucket people have something there. Certainly, they report a huge uptick in donations since the challenge campaign began.

But me? Not doing it. I still will be unable to walk past someone who tells me they’re hungry, but I’m just not throwing ice water over my head.

ice bucket challenge

“We’re WALKING Here!”

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There’s a scene in the classic 1969 movie, “Midnight Cowboy.”

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight (way before he got all scary on “Ray Donovan”) are crossing a busy New York City street when a taxi runs a red light and almost hits them. According to Hoffman, the classic line that came next was totally improvised since the taxi wasn’t in the script: “Hey, we’re WALKING here!”

It’s something we say to our two dogs all the time. Because all they want to do is stop and sniff, and we’re out there because we feel obligated to give them, if not ourselves, exercise. So, in his best Noo Yo-ak accent, my husband will inform the dogs, “We’re WALKING here,” accompanied by a tug on the leash. We may have the only dogs trained by the Dustin Hoffman School of Obedience.

But now I’m beginning to wonder whether the dogs have the right idea.

Not that I want to stop and press my nose against the mashup of tourist detritus, dead squirrel, previous dogs and discarded food. But it may be that we should enjoy the process of the walk a little more than the destination.

I’m not just talking “stop and smell the roses” stuff here. I’m talking about something I read recently in which Alexandra Horowitz is quoted from her book, “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.” She says that if you can get different people to narrate what it is they see along a walk, you will learn different things, even if it is the same walk each time. Because, she says, people bring not only their unique perspectives, but their unique backgrounds on each walk, so they experience the walk differently.

The corollary to that, I think, is that if I narrate the walk to myself, I might just learn a little something about myself as well.

So if you see me out and about, I just might be “WALKING and TALKING here.”

Midnight Cowboy taxi scene

Midnight Cowboy taxi scene