Why You Should Never Tell Anyone Anything Ever

ONE. THEY TRY TO HELP.

I answered the phone. My parents are, of course, the only people who make actual phone calls anymore.

“How is your ear?” My mom asked. “Do you feel tired in general?”

“I think it’s mostly mental,” I said. “I’m just so tired of appointments.”

“Well you have to go.”

No shit. Note to self: Always say “I’m fine,” to Mom.

I was 18 when the movie White Men Can’t Jump came out. I remember exactly one thing from that movie. Rosie Perez and Woody Harrelson are in bed and Rosie says, “Billy I’m thirsty.” Billy (Woody) says he’ll get her a drink, and she gets mad because instead of offering to get a drink he should have said “I, too, have thirsted.” At 18 I thought this was ridiculous, and it kind of is, but I didn’t understand the truth behind the circumstance. Don’t get me wrong, I accept my mom’s help a lot, but people don’t always want to hear solutions. They want to hear, “That sucks.” Or in this case, “I, too, hate having eight doctor’s appointments in one month.”

I messaged a friend with my mom irritation. No reply.

TWO. THEY DON’T TRY TO HELP.

I guess there’s no pleasing me. My mom said the wrong thing, and my friend said nothing at all, leaving me to feel like I’m a needy friend who messages complaints too much. I’m a terrible friend. And I’m a terrible daughter. My mom does so much for me! She brings me food and drives my kid places and takes me clothes shopping! Why can’t I keep my mouth shut?

The next day I ditched the doctor, because no one including my mom tells me what I have to do, and also it was going to be one of the last summery days at our Northern California beach.

Someone else texted me before I left for the beach. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m going to the beach instead of the doctor, and if I die of infection, oh well.”

A minute later I received MY TEXT QUOTED BACK TO ME, followed by, “Sorry, wrong button.”

“Did you just try to send my text to my sister?”

“I’m concerned about you.”

“Well please don’t do that.”

“Well when you talk about dying…”

“Okay, I won’t say things like that to you anymore.”

THREE. THEY TELL OTHER PEOPLE.

That is not the first time I’ve found out someone told other people what I’ve said to them. I’m keeping some doozies of secrets, people. It is possible. But what I’ve realized, rather late in life, is that if you don’t want everyone to know, don’t tell anyone. Not one person. I have considered going to counseling for the secrecy aspect, but 1) they don’t keep EVERYthing a secret, and 2) I know what they’d recommend, and the things they’d recommend that I want to do, I’m doing, and the things they’d recommend that I don’t want to do, I don’t want to do.

It turns out I’m a pretty good person to tell my stuff to. I never ignore myself, and if I say the wrong thing, I just tell myself to shut up.

So how am I? I’m fine. My ear is fine, my relationships are peachy, and life is fucking great.

How are you?

 

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Nine Books That Changed My Life

M.L. Millard Books and Writing

If I were going to list my favorite books, this list would include Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, the novel Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and some of Wendy Mass’s middle grade and young adult novels, but I wanted to make a list of books that positively changed my life in less subtle ways than the change that comes simply from reading a beautiful book. These are in no particular order.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

As a kid in the early 80’s, there weren’t too many girl main characters I could identify with. These days, great girl characters abound, but not so long ago they were almost as rare as female American presidents. And the secondary female characters were never anything like me. Then came Harriet. Harriet, much like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Madeleine L’Engles’ Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, was a MESS. I loved her. I loved…

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

You have pee in your bladder.

You’re stuck in the car.

You hope there’s a bathroom.

You hope it’s not far.

So with pee in your bladder and awkward-crossed thighs

You stop at McDonald’s and guilt-buy some fries.

The bathroom is customers only, you see

‘Cause God forbid women do something for free.

You’re back on the road for not half an hour more

When your bladder sends signals you cannot ignore.

And because your cloth car seat you don’t want to douse

You wonder if someone nice lives in that house.

“It might be a murderous, creepy ex-con,”

You think to yourself and decide to drive on.

“Fuck this small bladder, its two-teaspoon yield!

Am I gonna have to squat down in a field?”

You wish once again you could pee in a cup

Or had one of those things where girls pee standing up.

You wonder if this is where all your pride ends.

You wonder if you should start wearing Depends.

But what’s that ahead? A remote port-a-pot?

Do you care who it’s for? No you fucking do not!

No, you screech to a halt and though part of you dies

You just hold your damn breath and you ward off the flies

And you open the door and you don’t look below

And you think to yourself Oh the Places You’ll Go.

 

 

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Master of Tai Chi (warm-up exercises)

Several years ago I bought a tai chi DVD. Aerobic exercise makes me feel like I have a heart problem, and I know I’d hurt myself on exercise contraptions. (Friends no more clumsy than me have broken their feet dropping weights and injured joints falling off the treadmill. The threat is real.) Walking always seemed like enough exercise to me, so I don’t remember why I bought the video, but I ended up loving it. Not aerobic, no bone-crushing items.

One thing I loved about tai chi was that you always keep your spine straight. Your hips, shoulders, and head stay in alignment. You never twist or bend. Knees stay slightly (or more) bent, and you breathe deeply and slowly at all times. Some of the warm-up exercises involve staying in a bent-knee position and staring straight ahead for as long as your legs can do it. Perfect for me! I can stare at a wall for hours and not get bored. It’s one of my strengths. Unfortunately my legs can only handle it for a couple minutes.

Another thing I love about tai chi is that when I do it before leaving the house, for the rest of the day I breathe more deeply and do everything with better posture than usual. I’m one of those people who will melt into your couch when you invite me over. I might lie down. Sitting up is exhausting. But if I’ve done tai chi, I’m a model guest. Not nearly as embarrassing unless one of your other guests voted for He Who Must Not Be Named.

The video has six or seven warm-up exercises and then the “form,” which is what you see people doing in the park and think “Hey there’s someone doing tai chi,” but if you think about doing it in the park yourself you imagine everyone thinking “Hey, there’s a crazy person.”

So I stayed in my living room, blinds closed, and did “play guitar” and “snake creeps down” and got better and better at crouching lower and staring at the wall longer. The prep exercises were going great, so I moved on to the form. The guy in the video did a move and then pivoted. I pivoted, too, and here’s where the problem with tai chi videos becomes evident. At this point you have to turn your head to see the TV. I thought, “I’ll just turn it for a second and then get right back in position.” I turned my head and everything felt out of alignment. My body said “THIS is not tai chi, you idiot!” It didn’t matter anyway. Looking for a second didn’t help. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing by looking for a second.

Next I tried watching the video for a few seconds, pausing the video, and doing that portion of the form. It was no use. I had to watch each three second clip dozens of times and still wasn’t sure I was moving the right way. Short of having a TV on each wall, I’m not going to be able to learn the form from that video. A class would be nice, but there are none near me during the day, I’m busy evenings, and I’m cheap anyway.

So years later I’m quite the tai chi prep expert. Coming to a park near you.

 

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Mary Did You Know? Why Yes, I Did

Long before I heard the word “mansplaining,” I had a vague dislike of the song “Mary Did You Know.”

I can’t be the first to point out to the song’s (male) composer what the angel said to Mary in Luke chapter one:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant[e] of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

I can hear the conversation between Mary and songwriter Mark Lowry now.

“Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?”

“Yes, that’s almost exactly what an angel told me. So, yes.”

“Mary did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?”

“Well since he’s the ‘son of the Most High’ it doesn’t take much imagination to guess that. Also, angels have trodden the earth, so, you  know, haven’t we all.”

“Well, did you know that he’s come to make you new?”

“Listen, have you ever had a baby? Have you ever known a woman who had a baby? It changes your life even if you have a run-of-the-mill baby. Women don’t tell men this because we don’t want you to be envious and because you probably wouldn’t believe it anyway. So, yes, I knew. Yes.”

“Well did you know—”

“An. Angel. Talked. To. Me.”

“Okay, okay, forget about the song. Hey Mary?”

“Yes.”

“Did you know you were blessed.”

“Yes. Also, I knew you were going to say that.”

“You did?”

“Yes. Read Luke 1:48.”

 

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Manhater

Today chef Mario Batali stepped away from his job after allegations arose about his sexual misconduct. One of the tweets about him simply said “I hate this world.”

The tweeter was a man.

I replied, “You don’t have to hate my half.”

Yeah, yeah, women are guilty of sexual misconduct, too, but one gender is grossly abusing its power and hitting the news in hordes lately, and it’s not women. So I suggest that this tweeter does not hate the whole world. I suggest that he’s realizing he hates MEN.

Men, if you are starting to “hate this world,” and have ever accused a woman who complains about her lot in this misogynistic life of being a manhater, I want you to take a good hard look in the mirror. You might be looking at a (gasp) manhater. You don’t hate all men (and neither do women “manhaters,” that’s my point) but you hate that you’re starting to wonder which man will be next. I bet you didn’t expect Dustin Hoffman. I bet you’re starting to wonder about even your most beloved actors.

Welcome to our world. Women have pretty much NEVER been surprised when a man hits the news for molesting an intern. We half expected it. We know that a promotion that didn’t come our way may very well have not come our way because we were a woman, and we had no way to prove it, and suggesting it made us a manhater.

Look in the mirror again. What you see is a face that understands reality a little bit better today. If understanding reality makes you what you always thought was a manhater, congratulations, and welcome.

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A 2017 Election in the Twilight Zone

“We have two issues on the ballot,” my mom told me.

“I don’t think we have any,” I replied. “I didn’t get anything in the mail.”

My mom lives in the same county but a different city.

“Well you might want to drive by your polling place just in case,” she said.

So on my way to work at 10 A.M. I pulled into the parking lot of the community center, and there in front of the door was the polling place sign.

Son of a suffragist! They didn’t send me a sample ballot! Voter suppression! Big Marijuana! Tyrrany!

I parked and walked into the room where I’d voted in the last elections. The volunteer tables were set up with pens and lists. The little booths were just where they’d been last time. The only thing that was different this time was that no one was in the room. I looked into the room next door. Some kind of party with a buffet. I didn’t want to bother them. I looked around the voting room again. Why on Earth would it be empty? Was there an emergency evacuation of some sort? Did I miss the rapture? I thought the chances of a whole room of voters and volunteers making the cut for the rapture while a little girl was still eating at the buffet next door extremely unlikely. Twilight Zone still seemed plausible though.

A man meandered by. I said, “Excuse me, do you know what’s going on with the voting? I didn’t think our city had anything on the ballot, but I saw the sign.”

“It’s a set,” he said.

I waited for him to say more.

“It’s a film set,” he clarified. “We’re filming for History Channel. But good job with your civic duty.”

I gaped. Almost as hard to believe as some Twilight Zone situation. “Well you picked a hilarious day to do it.”

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