In Celebration Of You

This is the month of LGBTQ Pride and I’ve heard many people refer to it as a celebration of love or a celebration of freedom. While those things aren’t necessarily untrue, it’s important to know the history of LGBTQ Pride and the significance of June 28th, 1969. In my understanding of LGBTQ culture, I’ve learned that being (unapologetically) yourself is important. That’s a lesson that I’ve had to re-learn over the past decade.

It’s Worth Mentioning… When I use words like unapologetically, that is not the same as a self-issued license to be rude. You know that person that pre-empts their “feedback” by announcing that they’re direct so that they can say rude/horrible things under the guise of constructive criticism? Yeah, that’s just a shitty human being. I’m talking about something very different. I’m talking about that feeling you had of being the weird one in grade/high school being gone. No more weird feeling because you’ve decided to love who you are and others will either love who you are or leave you alone. Be. Unapologetically. Yourself.

It’s (Also) Worth Mentioning… There are a lot of humans in the closet and afraid of persecution were they to come out to friends and family. Some can’t be themselves out of (a well justified) fear. You can help to create a safe space by being an Allie for those that may need someone they can trust. Show the world that you love everyone, even the marginalized humans. You might find that someone trusts you enough to be themselves with/around you.

When I was young, I tried to be the person that everyone liked. I tried to accommodate for this person, make that person feel comfortable, help that third person, and I got beat up for it. All of this happened before I heard the old advice that you can’t please everybody. I learned that lesson the hard way, I stopped trying to please everybody. Eventually, I stopped being afraid of bullies and I decided that anyone not in my corner or “on my team” could fuck right off. I decided to celebrate being myself. I just decided to stop apologizing to the world for existing.

As a Fitness Instructor, I’ve been trying to make everyone happy and many people still take issue with my (no excuses) style of coaching. The conundrum is that my “no excuses” approach is what they praise about me that makes me a good coach. On the flip, some claim that my no excuses approach leaves them feeling judged. That’s called projection people! Own your shit and stop trying to blame others for the feelings which you carry around on your sleeve. One day, I watched a flamboyantly wonderful man teach a group exercise class. He was as sassy as they come, lip smacking and all! My take away from watching him perform (group exercise instruction is a performance, don’t let anyone tell you differently) was that he was being himself and using his truth as the foundation for a high energy class.

My truth is a call back to the days of growing up in Detroit with a big brother that was fresh off the plane from a tour of duty in Desert Storm. He was my first coach. There were no excuses. You either completed the challenge or you kept trying until you completed the challenge. I began teaching my classes that way, I make sure to keep every body moving and I won’t allow anyone to call themselves weak or to say the other four-letter word, can’t. This is what it means to be myself. I’m not trying to be an asshole. I want to be nice to people. If people can’t figure out that I’m being kind and attempting to help then oh well.

Now, it’s your turn. Before you can be yourself, it’s important to take time and consider who you are and how you want the world to remember you. Everything you do, say, and write will be remembered long after you’ve forgotten it. Know yourself first and then go out and show the world your best self!

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“Strong Is The New Sexy” = Objectification

In the modern lexicon, words tend to change meaning all of the time. Societal stigma also changes and because of that, we hear more “this is the new that” statements everyday. Forty is the new thirty! Forty years on earth is still forty years. Society has just decided that it will place less judgment on 40 year-old humans. “I thought by the time I reached 40 I would have [fill in the blank with whatever cultural influences lead one to believe about their 40th year].” Cheer up, Friend! Forty is the new thirty!

Strong is the new sexy! That statement, in and of itself, is a sexist form of motivation. I’ve heard women say it, I’ve read it on magazine covers, and I’ve seen it on T-shirts. I find “strong is the new sexy” to be sexist. The phrase is packed with thinly veiled objectification.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I write that women are often viewed as property. To be clear, I am not in agreement with this mentality. However, as a cisgender male, raised by cisgender males, the misguided thought has been passed down to me. I challenge myself daily to think against my indoctrination. When someone is dehumanized into an object to be attained, the selection process resembles that of a Farmer’s Market fruit selection. Do you want her firm or soft, long or short? Either way, look past all human emotions and just see her body as an object to be obtained. As men, that’s how we’re socialized to think of women. That mentality generates scrutiny that women face regarding their appearance and it’s a never ending shit storm of annoyance. No, I’ve never been a woman. I’ve never experienced such scrutiny first hand. But, 90% of my friends are women and I hear the stories that drop my jaw in disbelief. The scrutiny happens with the elevator eyes and the long distance decision by the pursuer as to whom they will “spit game.”

“Forget about game, I’mma spit the truth! Won’t stop ’til I get ’em in they birthday suit!” -Ludacris

When a woman’s strength (read: muscular definition; not to be confused with her mental fortitude) starts being labeled as a determination of her worth (again viewing her as property) then society starts saying, “Strong is the new sexy.” I’ve been a Personal Trainer for over a decade and in all of that time, women still make the same request to me when we begin working together. “I don’t want to get too muscle-y!”, they say. I find it difficult not to roll my eyes when I hear this, for two reasons. 1.) Women, generally, have less testosterone and will not gain muscle as fast as men. 2.) So, what if they did gain muscular definition? Why would that be a bad thing? Throughout history, weak men have been threatened by the (mental or physical) strength of women. When you think of the term “ladylike”, what image pops up for you? She’s not muscular, is she? When you think of the term “butch”, what image pops up for you? Women have been socialized to look/act like ladies. It’s because of that socialization that some women apologize about their bodies.

I went to look at a friend’s tattoo on her leg and she said, “sorry, I haven’t shaved my legs.” When I asked why she was apologizing to me, she replied, “some people are weird about bodies.” I said, “Yeah, but it’s YOUR body. It’s not my place to have an opinion on it.”

Back to my point on socialization. Women have been socialized to not appear (physically) strong. Instead, they’ve been conditioned to be sex objects. Now that more women are working out with weights*, there are more women that are accepting their muscular definition. I applaud that acceptance. I think it takes a dark turn when the acceptance of a strong physical form must be diminished into “sexy”. The definition of sexy belongs to the owner of the strut. Culture should not define it. “The eye of the beholder” should not define it. Women should be able to look however TF they want without apologizing for hairy legs or objectifying their muscular definition as “sexy.”

I spoke with my friend, V, on the matter and here’s what she had to say when I asked her, “What are your thoughts on the phrase, strong is the new sexy!?”:

“…this phrase is simply jam-packed with interesting undertones. It always raises so many questions in me when I hear it. For instance, was strong not sexy before? Who is making this proclamation? How does one define “strong”? Are we now excluding other characteristics that used to be considered sexy in the past and replacing them with this image of “strength” instead? If I don’t look strong because of the particular characteristics of my physique, then am I not sexy? On a personal note, I live with a chronic disease and pain, which limits my capacity for many kinds of physical activity, and my muscles are smaller and relatively weaker because of this…so, am I not sexy? Often, when I hear this, it rings a similar bell as “Real women…” and “Real men…” Because, for the same reason that all people are real and you can’t define “woman” or “man” in a single, restrictive, exclusionary statement, neither can you define “sexy” in just one way. There is no definitive The Sexy- new or otherwise. So if a statement like this must be made, then I much prefer, “Strong is sexy.” Because it doesn’t preclude or exclude other ways of being sexy. I tend to struggle with phrases that attempt to raise up one physical ideal by knocking another one down- overtly or implicitly. Because to do so feels like an attempt to invalidate other ways of being and put a box around an experience that ought not be bounded.” -V

The next time you read, “Strong Is The New Sexy”, just repeat after me.
I don’t need anyone else to define my brand of sexy.
I don’t need anyone else to define my brand of sexy.

See you next week, Friends!

*-If you’re beginning a fitness program, study the overload principle. Lifting tiny weights for fear of gaining too much muscle mass is not going to make you stronger.

Nutty Apple Sauce

Over the past few weeks, due to dental work (temporary crowns) I’ve been making applesauce instead of eating apples out right. Here’s one recipe I tried today. I hope that you enjoy it. Here’s what you’ll need to put in the crock pot.

Honey Roasted Peanuts (any nuts will do), 1 Cup
Medium-Large Apples (mix tart & sweet apples), 6 Wedged/Cored
Water, 12 ounces (2 ounces per apple)
Cinnamon, just enough to cover the top, see picture.

Set the crock pot to Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours (if you’re limited on time-this works better on Low).

pjimage

(1) Yes, I leave the skin on the apples. See the upper right of this picture (2) for an idea of how much cinnamon I used.  (3) is what this all looked like after cooking on High. (Low setting tends to leave the apples firmer.) (4) Blend the shit out of everything that was in the crock pot in the Vitamix until you’ve reached the desired consistency.

pjimage (1)

Play around with the recipe and share what works in the comments.

 

Holding Space For The Lament

“I just need you to hold space.” That’s the phrase that I’ve decided to begin using when people derail my lament. The phrase “hold space” has always seemed obnoxiously obtuse and overly floral to me. Despite years of hearing it, the context never lit a clear path to the definition of the phrase. I’ve been asking myself for years, WTF does it mean to hold space for someone else? (I never cared enough to look it up until recently. I thought it was just Bay Area hippy talk – not true.) The great Googley machine tells us, “It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.” I can get behind that and I’ve finally figured out that holding space is precisely what is not being done when I speak to someone about a frustrating (often petty) matter only to hear them give me an unwanted perspective

Have you ever been telling a story about that one thing that upset you and the person listening became the Devil’s Advocate? “Well, you know, maybe that frustrating thing happened for a reason! Maybe that person said that annoying thing to you because they were just trying to be helpful, Jet!” If that scenario has happened to you before, you may need to request that the person listening to your rant to hold space.

Here’s why it may be happening to you (or at least why I think it happens to me). I’m, generally, a positive person with a “can do” attitude. But, I am human. I experience a range of emotions. One of those emotions is anger and I vent at times to friends that I trust to not judge me based on my frustrations. Because most people are accustomed to hearing me spout sunshine from my noise hole, anything “negative” tends to yield odd looks and some try to shut it down. It’s gotten to a point where I don’t feel as if I have a single human upon whom I can rely on to vent.

If you find that you tend to be the person doing the derailing, here are some things to remember when your friends come to you to vent.

1.) They trust you to express their frustrations and vulnerability. They’re opening up to you because we don’t want/expect/need judgment.
2.) If this is a repetitive lament, you may politely ask them to take that shit elsewhere. If you’ve heard about that job they hate one too many times, you may have trouble resisting the urge to “fix” it. I have a rule with my friends. If they complain to me about the same thing more than three times and they’re doing nothing to change that situation, either shut up or take the lament to someone else. Obviously, I don’t say it that way because, see #1. But, find a kind way to tell them you can’t hear them complain about the same thing for the 90th time. Be sure to say it kindly because, see #3.
3.) Empower them to resolve the issue. Instead of offering unsolicited advice via mansplaining or womansplaining*, help people figure out their own solution (if there is one). Just encourage them to keep talking and to go deeper. How do you feel about that? What are you going to do about that? I’m sorry to hear that. Have you thought about a resolution? These are all questions I like to ask so that my friends may feel empowered to solve their own struggles while being supported by the person they trusted (me) with this vulnerable moment.
4.) Remember this isn’t about you. Sure, I know how I would fix it. But, I’m not going through it and they didn’t ask for a fix. Allow them to make different decisions and to have different experiences than you would. It’s just a lament and I could be “fixing” it by allowing my friend 30 seconds to get something off their chest.
5.) Encourage their full range of emotion. Let them let it all out. A well timed hug can be non-verbal permission to cry and that catharsis is priceless!

Show your friends that you love them by listening without judgment and empowering them to find their own resolution or acceptance.

*Womansplain: When a woman answers a question with feelings in lieu of facts. (e.g. “Do we need to make a left or a right up ahead.” Response: I feel like we should go right. ~or~ “Does that cost more than $100?” Response: I feel like it shouldn’t cost that much.) Womansplaining is also in effect when a woman answers the question she feels you are asking instead of just answering the question that was actually asked. (e.g. “What time is it?” Response: The movie doesn’t start until 7:30! [That’s not what I asked you!] ~or~ “Has he been drinking?” Response: We’re taking a cab! [That’s not what I asked you!]) Much like Mansplaining, Womansplaining comes from any gender.