6/18/15

Sense of "Self" . . .

So there is all this talk lately about "belonging" and "self". You've got your Caitlyn Jenner circus and your Rachel Dolezal sideshows. It seems, for the 1%-ish (or so) of Americans with racial or sexual identity "disorders" (forgive my casual use of the term - probably not the right one to use), your moment has arrived.

Heck, Google is even making ads about your journey to having people externally perceive you the same way you see yourself and then wrapping that inside digital marketing strategies for gyms to keep it "interesting" (you'll have to watch to believe):



But here's the thing. This "moment" is (in typical American pop culture/tide turning/opening our collective social conscience fashion) not without its critics and without our own foot-in-mouth disease.

I have said that to label Caitlyn Jenner as "brave" is absurd. She lived in silence for four decades, three marriages, two waves of mass pop culture awareness, and millions and millions of dollars. "BRAVE" would have been to declare herself a woman on the gold medal stand then vs. nearly four decades later with multiple homes in the greater Los Angeles area, a new TV deal in place, and the most obnoxious family in the history of media whores at her back. I digress . . .

Here's the point of this post - my decision to criticize Caitlyn Jenner is half-assed (at best). I can't really tell how much fortitude it took for her to make this transition and/or declaration. I don't know if she will empower others. I don't know if that will matter. I don't know why I care. I'm not a woman. I'm not a woman who lived as a man for 65 years. I'm not battling to protect the identity of a "woman" or a "man". I truly don't friggin' care (other than being irked every time I hear the adjective "brave" lobbed about (see above - before I get back on my soapbox)).

Which brings me to a thing I, as a white man, care even less about . . . how Rachel Dolezal identifies racially and how she declares herself. I am not looking to protect a "black" (or "white") identity and I have no idea where interest and advocacy become obsession and exploitation. I don't care.

But here's what I care about . . . all these people (including me) on soap boxes with their petty opinions and two cents worth of insights as to how either of these people - or the millions of others out there with similar internal conflicts to resolve - would/could/should feel and deal.

Why do they care? How far from their glass houses do they have to go to pick up and hurl the first stone from their sinless hand?

How many women in this country dye their hair blonde to feel more sexy/ditzy/light hearted/light haired? How many women color their hair to try to convince the world they have not earned every grey hair growing out of their head? How many men do the same? With hair dye, sports cars, or younger lovers? Is these things less obnoxious? More relevant to us as bystanders? Nope and nope.

How many people are straight one day, meet a wonderful person (of the same gender), fall in love (or lust) with, and become "homosexual" long enough for a tryst - or longer - and then, just as "easily", fall back to heterosexuality? Do I care? Only if it is inside my own family or social circle and even then - only enough to ensure everyone is happy and healthy.

How many people, like me, openly sing the praises of their wife until the marriage falls apart and then we just shut up for a while until interest passes and we/they/everyone moves on and/or we have someone else in our lives to sign the praises of? (Which is why I keep my adoration of my special lady friend relatively on the "down low" here and in general.)

I have colleagues who have made up food allergies (peanuts and gluten and strawberries and soy - allllll the popular allergies) and who claim they love to read French poetry (yet can't speak a word the language of "love" and ate a peanut butter cookie in front of me). I have friends who are committed to physical fitness one day and who claim exercise is for fools the next. I know people who truly watch fashion trends and reboot their wardrobes with each new hem line or lapel style. Are they all nuts? No. They are people - trying to figure themselves out - trying to get to a sense of "self" that feels sustainable and that is internal and external. These are little things and big things . . . let's talk about G-d.

I, myself, was raised a Catholic but decided, after decades of searching, considering, yearning, and believing myself to be . . . converted to Judaism a little over a year ago. Yes. I chose to become a Jew. One of the most hated and feared "people" in the history of the world. A group that is as much about heritage and lineage, genetics, and tradition as they are G-d or religion. A group that, at times in history, had members that denounced belonging and renounced their faith to protect family, possessions, and self because - otherwise - they could/would be put to death. More impressive? Jews looked at their oppressors and said (paraphrasing) "F*ck you, I'm a Jew. Do with that what you will."). That was their self. Their id and super-ego and ego flexing as a threesome. Yet - let's stick with Jews - conversely, we are a faith that even within our own ranks fight over who "is" and "is not" a Jew. I, for the record, would not be considered a real Jew nor would my daughter - should she decide to convert - be accepted in some definitions of a Jew (no heritage, no lineage, etc.).

Yet you can find me every Friday evening (and my daughter every other) in a temple, wearing the funny hat, and trying our damndest to belong and feel included (which my congregation has encouraged and welcomed us with open arms and group hugs).

I have a point . . . I think.

Let's just stop with the notion of who "is" and is "not" something. We are so muddled in our current day society that right and wrong are blurred, second chances are something we speed through the first chance to get, our classes, cultures, religions, and ethnicities have all become clouded (in a good way - lest you think I'm chasing racial purity), and the institutions that once served to build fences have become so weakened by in-fighting that they no longer serve as barriers to anyone who wants to come inside (thankfully, in most cases). We are just people trying to figure it all out.

We don't ever really "know" anyone. We don't ever really even know ourselves - because "we" are always changing and evolving and, if we are lucky improving. To try to decide - as an outsider - on who can and cannot be someone or something is absurd, presumptuous, and hypocritical.

To the best of my knowledge neither Ms. Jenner nor Ms. Dolezal have ever really hurt anyone and it doesn't seem either plans to hurt anyone any time soon. They seem to have declared themselves woman and black woman in a loving, good-intentioned way. They, like MOST people in this world (from what I've read, seen, experienced), feel different inside than they might appear outside. They (as so many more of us do) want to love and be loved, to be happy and content, to be at peace with and accepted in their sense of "self".

That should be our bar . . . is this person hurting anyone with their sense of self? No? Is the person happier in this version of themselves that seems a change/choice but, to them, is just an extension of the internal on to the world? Yes? Then f*ck it - nonnamybidniz.

That goes for man or woman, black or white, Jew or goy, blonde or . . . whatever.