I’m not an expert. I’m just a separated woman trying to shop for her toddler...and I’ve got to ask this question. What the hell are we teaching our kids?
This is not a post about gender roles. This is not a post about mass consumerism making Romero-type slow zombies out of our kids — Ok, maybe a little bit. This is a full blown rant about how messed up it is that we blitzkrieg market the institution of marriage to little girls without batting an eyelash, and then expect them to make sound decisions about sex, relationships and career later on in life as individuals.
Look, I get that some kids are maternal, paternal…nurturing. I understand the anthropological aspects of toys and how they can be amazing for social development. I get that there will always be a market for little dollies and playing house for both boys and girls. I know that at some point everyone fantasizes in varying degrees about finding their missing puzzle piece, and that may or may not involve putting a bath towel on your head and holding a curling brush as a bouquet as you envision the scene.
But do we have to reinforce it on a consumer level so early? Do we need toddlers to start thinking about what kind of wedding dresses they want? Aren’t we past telling little girls that one of their dreams has to be marriage?
And let’s clarify this before it gets murky. I personally think marriage (so long as everyone knows what they’re getting into) is awesome. But I don’t think it should be viewed as a prerequisite for having a fulfilling or successful life. That’s what blows.
That and the fact that the ‘till death do us part’ marketing is vastly one-sided. When was the last time you saw a boy’s toy in a tux? I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t anything wedding related. I mean, it would be hilarious if every time they put out a boys toy they paired it with a random bride like they so often do with girls' toys and grooms, but nope, that doesn’t seem to ring in the cash.
And what are the little boy protagonists of the now? Superheroes. Ok. Fine. I can handle that. But again with the one-sided positioning: girls don’t get the message that it’s ok to want to have a special, unique, skill.. That it’s cool to be deceptively strong and smart. That there is power in being different and special. That the world needs them to fulfill their destinies unless it's saying 'I do', riding side saddle, or getting a date to the prom. Hell. It’s not ok for little girls to even want to be the awesome females on the same superhero continuum. Where is the big box retailer, kid-marketed Black Widow doll, Marvel? Where is Catwoman, DC?
Are you waiting until you design their wedding gowns? Finish the plastic moulds of their grooms?
Most importantly, why is my kid stuck looking at crap like this?
Why does she have to be given the message that she is no one unless she is part of a couple?
Luckily my kid is pretty unique. She sings Barbie princess songs with Ironman at bath time. She thinks that Spiderman is really pretty. She calls the Hulk ‘Hulkie’ and croons lovingly to pictures of him. She will put on a beautiful princess gown, play with her dinosaurs, and zoom around at warp speed, saying she can fly and that she’s magic.
And I believe her.
I just don’t want her to start thinking that she is somehow lacking because she’s an incredible, strong, individual. I don’t want her to start thinking that she is ‘less than’ because she doesn’t have some guy in a tux giving her a context.
To be completely honest I don’t know what’s right. What’s wrong. How much of marketing is reinforced with at home values or environment, or anything else.
But I do know I was seriously relieved to find this for her birthday.
And I hope I can teach her to take an invisible plane over a glass slipper any day.
I finally decided to start the ball rolling and go back to using my maiden name.
This isn’t actually a huge change for me. All my documents have been stamped with a mix of both maiden and married monikers. It’s just the way I roll.
My professional work for the most part was always under my maiden name. My banking was always my own. But this blog and my Twitter account—both of which focused on telling the stories of a mom and a wife—used both names. It seemed fitting. It felt right. For a time, it was our story after all. Not just mine.
After Hubs and I separated, I remember a friend of mine asking me when I was going to take the plunge and change back and I completely freaked out.
I liked my married name. It was pretty and gentle and somehow made me seem more...tame. I liked that everyone could pronounce it. I liked that I belonged to a new tribe. That it seemed easy and rolled off the tongue — that I wasn’t constantly explaining origin and spelling.
I didn’t have to try to fit in. I was part of something.
When I was pregnant with Baby Girl, I used to love resting my hand on my belly feeling her adamant kicks. I’d practice saying her full name in a loving whisper, and beam inwardly. How beautiful it sounded. A poised legato compared to my own flat sounding staccato.
I will always have a loving pride for that family name.
The people who made it what it is are amazing and kind. They are loving and sweet. I was privileged to share it with them. I think it’s wonderful that my daughter still does.
But it’s time.
I don’t want to hide behind soft, melodic, consonants no matter how endearing their namesakes. No matter how precious their history.
I miss my name. I miss my own history. My own legacy.
And that staccato is a sound I want my daughter to be infinitely proud of.
It’s time to call an Inokai an Inokai.
It feels good to be back.
In the last couple months I’ve actually had my friends and mentors start to try and intervene between me and the sweet comfort of my funk. They didn't just notice that something was off, by the way. ‘Noticing,’ is when some subtle detail makes you skew your head to one side and say ‘hmmm.’ I’m talking intervention. Like flat out:
“Kat, you are doing way too much and it’s showing…you’re slipping up...”
“Stop focusing on other people. Look at you. What the hell are you doing with your life?”
“Stop saying you’re ok because you’re not. You’re just not.”
Oh for the love of...Leave me alone! In my minds eye I slam my foot onto the gas pedal and floor it. I don’t want to be around these truths right now. I am fine. Just fine. I don’t want to think about loss and grief and relationships and confrontation. I just want to zoom to the next interval of happiness and ease.
And then for a few seconds I know they’re right. I’m not ok. This is an act. The quiet realization seems to be some kind of oppressive force field. I feel frozen. I can’t cry yet, but I also can’t answer any more emails, or post any more chipper updates in whatever social media platform I’m convinced will make me sound more ‘Kat-the-ninja-who-has-it-all-figured-out.’ I’m paralyzed and speechless and I don’t know what to do next. And it’s because I’m paralyzed and speechless instead of effervescent and cocksure, that I tell myself that no one will like ‘this Kat.’ I tell myself that in order to be liked, Kat has to be sweet, organized, happy, selfless, pretty, and perfect. There should be no drama, no mess, and certainly no sticky conflict in this popularity equation. And I can’t be that perfect Kat unless I run away again.
I can feel my heart revving up in anxiety.
In my mind's eye I desperately slam my foot hard on to the gas again but nothing happens. Nothing.
For once, Kat the YMC blogger doesn’t have an answer. Kat the Film Set Mummy doesn’t either. The mom, the ex-wife, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the business woman, the producer, the networking fiend.. I’m all out.
I’m finally forced to examine my life as a whole, sit with my feelings, and learn.
And I am freaking petrified.
Starting over at 35. All over again.
Slow, small steps, one day at a time. One blog post at a time. One client at a time.
I’m doing what I think is right for my daughter and myself, and knowing it won’t make everyone happy.
I’m accepting that not everyone is going to like me.
I’m asking for help when I need it — which terrifies me.
I’m allowing myself to be happy, and not judging myself in the process.
I’m living in the moment. Enjoying the stillness for once. No matter what it brings. And believe me it's amazing what you realize is right in front of you when you just stop moving for a minute.
And I’m trying new things and learning about myself through every interaction, whatever it makes me feel.
I guess that’s just one more reason why this is called ‘Trying Times.’
I’m also not alone as I try and navigate through all of this. I know that.
And neither are you.
My coach Jeffrey Eisen gave me this amazing meditation and I want to pass it along. It's amazing.
Stay positive… and vulnerable…and authentic.
Growth is good.