Sunday, March 29, 2009

Being Smart is so much better...

I very recently (last night) went to a Mother Jones fundraiser featuring a conversation Rachel Maddow. She was as engaging and funny in person as she is on her show, and very approachable. So much so, that I was able to get a picture with her, and she wrote a note to my 13 year old son.

The on-stage conversation covered politics and media, with an occasional toe dipping into conspiracy theories and other personal views that make Rachel tick. And I found that I identify with Rachel on quite a few things.

There was talk about how Rachel and her show are both smart, and how the expectation that the audience can keep up is part of her show's appeal. She quipped about not being a typically pretty news anchor, saying "...if you're dealing with people who are not making a decision purely on the basis of celebrity or looks, then ou have to offer something else..." For Rachel this means detailed news peppered with nuance and cleverness. Her words reminded me of a transition I experienced a few years ago.

First of all, I've always been a geek. Whether or not I was in denial about this fact for a number of years or just oblivious to my own geekyness is a personal dispute that I occasionally wrangle with. Nevertheless I was a geek all the same. Still am. But, in my younger years, I was also quite the babe. Although not very tall, I was slender, with an athletic build, long hair and an ass that looked great in red jeans. I was pleased with how I blossomed as a woman, but also very frustrated. I found that I had a hard time getting people to take me seriously. Contrary to my cute looks, I was quite a serious person, and had a hard time connecting with people on a personal and intellectual level. This struggle lasted for a number of years, until after having my second child, I gained weight and lost my babe status.

At first I mourned the loss of being desirable, but then I started recognizing the benefits. For the first time, I was being taken more seriously. Not being an archetypal object of desire afforded me the opportunity to be thought of by my state of mind. When people described me as having a great personality, it was more than a euphemism for being fat. It was a genuine observation that might have been missed in previous years. It was as if not being thin and pretty anymore allowed me to be smart, clever and quirky. I was finally recognized for who I really am.

So it's for this reason that I choose to celebrate the success of someone like Rachel Maddow. She doesn't fit the classic tv model for broadcast media. And as a result, her audience watches to hear what she has to say, and enjoy the many ways that she brokers her finely distilled intelligence. I hope that her success is the beginning of a movement that truly celebrates women for being smart as opposed to being sexy. Because quite honestly, I've enjoyed the former far more than the latter. It is by far a better way to be recognized and reinforces a mantra that I regularly repeat to friends and colleagues alike: The best things we can be as women are smart and strong. Once we embrace that, everything else falls into place.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm one of them

At various times in my life, I've come to the realization that I'm one of them. When I wore a pleated skirt and penny loafers, when I donned woodland camouflage, when I carried one child in my arms and led another by the hand, I was one of them. I became a member of a group, of a class of a sect, and that membership led me to a new realization of who and why I am. I correlate these realizations with what I consider to be chapters in my life. They are segments that make up the whole, or whole parts if you will. Thus, once again, I'm one of them. A new self identified with an other that contributes to my whole.

On weekdays, I dress sensibly, pack a lunch and travel to work. White ear buds account for my bobbing head as I work on my laptop, sipping coffee from a pink thermos on the way there. When I arrive to the world class City I work in, I trek along the Embarcadero, passing by a postcard scene, that tourists awe, and inhabitants cherish. It's that kind of town, and I go there 5 days a week.

I get to my office, where I write emails, return phone calls and take meetings. Most days, I eat lunch at my desk, but sometimes I traverse from one ethnic district to another for something both interesting yet common to the locale. As I perform my work, I draw from a culmination of experience, knowledge and skills, all the while gratified that I can do such things.

At the end of the day, I trek back to my way home, to a suburban existence. I read my favorite magazine, watch a video on my computer and on Fridays enjoy a beverage. Upon arriving, I'm one of many who cross an intersection to the parking lot where we park our cars.

We all carry computer bags, talk to our loved ones on cell phones and repeat the ritual over and over again. And thus, I realize, I am one of them.