Sexiest Pajamas

Kelly Salasin:

Girls. Role Models. 70s.

Originally posted on Kelly & Lila:

When I was a girl, we moved from the East Coast to the Rockies when I was still a Brownie. My new best friend and nextdoor neighbor Liz wasn’t a Girl Scout, she was a Southern Baptist.  Liz went to her church with her family, and I rode the school bus with my younger sisters to another church while our parents slept in.

Mom was an ex-Catholic, and Dad was an Agnostic. They said church was good for us. I read the Bible every night. My very own. It was present for my 8th birthday. (I begged for it.) It had a green leather cover and a tie dye label that (still) reads: KELLY SALASIN–in capitals–which I spelled out, letter by letter, and then printed, with my very first label maker.

Ruth was my favorite book. I read it again and again. Just saying Ruth releases a…

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for my “sisters”

Kelly Salasin:

The Feminine, Divine
taking me by hand…

Originally posted on Kelly & Lila:

The day we buried our mother. 8 sisters & a much beloved brother (with a newborn on my lap.)

Dear Robin, Michelle, Stephanie, Bonnie, Lauren and April,

It was this week, 15 years ago, our baby sister called to say, “I think Mom is having a seizure.”

That she called me, 300 miles away, instead of 911, was testimony to her tender age, and to our strong connection.

mom's program Our beloved mother.

48 hours earlier, I left them at the shore, to return to my home in Vermont, for the last weeks of my pregnancy. Mom would die when Aidan was just over month old.

She was the one who taught me about synchronicities, which is what brought me to write this letter to you, today–Father’s Day, Solstice, and the International Day of Yoga–an alchemy of consciousness.

I’ve just finished reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book, Urgent Message from MOTHER. Her …

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FUCK PINK

pinkandblue_feetBLUE was my favorite color as a girl. I had a blue coat, a blue 10-speed, and a blue aluminum bat. I’m not sure if I really loved blue or if blue was a statement–AGAINST the color–to which I had been culturally assigned.

When I was 14, we moved once again, and not only was my blue bike stolen, but I was given a room of my own. My very first. (Quite a coup in a family of girls.)

The room was PINK.  Not just the walls, and the ceiling, but the floor–a deep shag dipped in every shade of IT.

Each time I stepped inside, it was like drenching myself in a bottle of Pepto Bismol. Even in the dark, and under the covers, I could feel PINK on my skin–sticky and sickly sweet.

We didn’t live in that house for too many years, and I soon had another room of my own which wasn’t pink at all. But in my senior year of high school, when my mother sent me out to pick the Easter dresses (because I always complained about her choices), I surprised us both by returning with matching ones: with tiny pink blossoms.

Later that spring, my prom dress, which had been a deep shade of slinky turquoise the year before, was a soft, airy pink, sewn at home.

In the years to follow, shades of pink continued to slip into my life: a favorite sweatshirt at college that I wore unzipped to my cleavage, a wool scarf bought on the streets of London, a journal with thick pages picked up at a bookstall in France.

By my twenties, ashes of roses was my signature color; and I began to yearn for motherhood.

Early on, my mother warned that I would only be the mother of sons: “You don’t have the patience for girl-like things.”

Intuitives affirmed that my first child was the girl that I wanted, but they were wrong. The second time around, EVERYONE told me that I was carrying a girl, and even when the color blue started streaming through my soul–into my clothes and jewelry–I was certain. But she was a boy too.

When I go to the dentist, I accept the pink toothbrush from our hygienist, instead of the green or purple or blue one, which I would prefer, so that we can easily tell them apart at home.

I’ve had a pink toothbrush now, off and on, for almost 20 years, even when my favorite color returned to blue, and then to purple, and then to soft shades of green.

Just this past week, I decided to invest in another dental care item called a “tongue scraper.” I browsed the aisles of the grocery store until I came upon them, and was relieved to find that these crude looking aluminum objects were softened by colored rubber handles. There were 4 colors available.

Suddenly, I was furious at PINK.

Why me, I thought. Why should I have to have the pink one.

“Mom always takes one for the team,” I recall a waitress saying when I succumbed to sitting at the counter instead of waiting for a table which I preferred.

Suddenly, it occurred to me, at the ripe age of 51, that there was no reason why I should be the one to defer to pink.

I thought back to my nephew, who I spent so much time with before I had children. I took him shopping once and he asked for pink curtains and a potted flower for his new room.

His mom got him a plant and blue shades.

I thought about the baby doll that Santa brought my son at his second Christmas, at how his grandmother bristled when she saw him carrying it around: “Can’t he develop his nurturing skills in some other way.”

There is a green, a blue, a purple, and a pink tongue scraper, and this time around, someone else is taking one for the team.

FUCK PINK.
(except for that new cardigan in my closet)

ps. this video clip arrived in my message box just as I was finishing this post:

 

Table for 7 Billion, Please


I want to write about the 59th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), but I am terribly under-qualified. (When friends ask what I do when I go to the UN each spring, I say that I’m a CSW groupie.)

Still, I get to wear one of those official badges with my photo, so I feel pretty cool.

I love the UN. The flags themselves thrill me.
My first visit was in the 7th grade.
It was like a candy store inside of all things international.

A colleague of mine, who IS qualified to write about CSW, and actually worked at the United Nations, said that she got chills every time she turned the corner and saw the flags. For three years, Jennifer said to herself: “I work here!”

I wish I wanted to work there. It was my grandmother Lila’s fantasy. She studied French and Chinese at Rutgers in the early forties just before the UN was chartered; but motherhood and marriage interrupted her ambitions.

My colleague Jennifer IS a mother and a wife, and she even has a puppy. Times have changed. May they keep on changing!

An NGO Representative from New Zealand at the March for Gender Equality
An NGO Representative from New Zealand at the March for Gender Equality

WOMEN.

That’s what I love about CSW–thousands of WOMEN from every part of the globe–together.

This year, I found myself particularly wowed by women officials.

They’ve pursued years of education, contributed to hundreds of meetings, poured over thousands of documents…

I have so much gratitude.

Take the Minister for Gender Equality from Poland. Look at her amazing hair.

H.E. Prof. Malgorzata Fuszara, Minister of Gender Equality of the Republic of Poland

I scribbled pages of notes from her presentation, but what I remember most is how she emphasized that there are three parts to ensuring gender equality:

  1. legal
  2. governmental
  3. consciousness

Suddenly, I understood where I fit in: Consciousness!

Now is as good as a time as any to say that everyone at CSW is speaking ENGLISH:

Professor Fusazara of Poland.
All the members of the Permanent Mission of Japan who co-hosted this side event.
And all those women–from around the globe–who addressed this panel with probing questions–some of which I couldn’t follow–in my own native tongue.

There are dozens of meetings, events, talks, briefings, presentations and panels happening at the same time–morning, noon & night–during the two week stretch of the Commission on the Status of Women–with representatives from Member States , UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs)–from all regions of the world.

There are men at CSW too, but they are a striking minority. My 19 year old was among them. Lloyd volunteered last fall with the Central American member of the international NGO that I represent here (Federation EIL–the worldwide network of the Experiment in International Living); and since he is majoring in development, he was thrilled when I asked if he wanted to join me at the UN.

Lloyd and another man attending the NGO opening reception (even more female-dominated than the CSW meetings) were quickly drawn toward each other. Rana was from Bangladesh and he went out of his way to compliment me for something I hadn’t considered before:

Mother and son at the rally for gender equality.
Mother and son at the rally for gender equality.

“Business men bring their sons when they do business,” he said. “Those in development need to bring their sons too. Well done.”

Neither Rana or I had daughters, but we both had work that we referred to in the feminine. Rana came to CSW on behalf of his “daughter”–Udbastu–an NGO he formed to protect the environment of his homeland.

“Udbastu means refuge in Sanskrit,” he explained.

Rana’s passion helped bring mine into clearer focus: I came to CSW for my grandmother, Lila, and for her namesake, my work–the divine lila–the play of consciousness.

Play was a theme I heard echoed at CSW, which was surprising, given the serious nature of activism and advocacy. “Your commitment is sustained when it comes from the heart and when you make it fun,” said Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen at her event: The Indomitable Spirit in Activists and the Archetype of Artemis.

My son teased me about the events I chose to attend during our time together at the UN. I selected based on “feel” and “sense”–a favorite country, a cool angle, a rare connection; while his were shaped around region, policy and planning.

10980741_794971027263036_8760038397497121086_nAnother event that caught my eye was: Cool Feminism–Exploring Ideas from the North, hosted by the country of Iceland.

The women of Iceland certainly know how to have fun with their activism. When their protest against the Champagne Clubs (popping around Reykjavík  after the 2010 law prohibiting strip clubs) was met by silence–from the media and city officials–they got creative.

“We didn’t just whine around the kitchen table,” said Guðrún Jónsdóttir, Founder of Stígamót, a woman’s right organization.

Stígamót opened its own “Champagne Club,” as a parody. They sent invitations to the mayor, to the police commissioner, the ministers, members of parliament, city counselors, and the media. 82 year old Jónsdóttir acted as the club owner and offered to dance. Others offered to sing, tell stories about rape, read the Declaration of Human Rights, and even teach customers how to knit.

Shortly afterward, the new Champagne Clubs were shut down and criminal prosecutions ensued.

In the event, The Indomitable Spirit in Activists, Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen focused on this capacity that women have–how it grows–over time–and how women learn–from each other. She highlighted the difference between the male and female brain–how women have more connective fibers between the left (analytical) and the right (creative) hemispheres.

‘When the masculine is the only one holding power,” she said, “There can be a lack of empathy and imagination.”

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Leymah Gbowee, spoke to this imbalance when she addressed the the rally at the March for Gender Equality at the opening of CSW on International Women’s Day:

Right now the world is functioning like a person trying to see the whole picture with one eye covered. That person is bound to miss some very important details.

Up until this time, I often viewed feminism through the lens of fairness and relational politics so I was a little taken aback when I heard Gertrud Åström, President of the Swedish Women’s Lobby, at the Cool Feminism event, say that sharing housework was a feminist issue.

But then I got it.

When women’s voices are kept from the conversation–political, corporate, cultural–there are serious human rights ramifications.

Suddenly, issues like equal pay, domestic violence and female leadership came into sharper focus for me–as global and moral imperatives.

Even in a place like Iceland, where gender equality tops the charts, there are outrageous gaps in rights that eclipse the voice of the feminine.

These gaps were brought into stark relief by the speakers at a CSW evening celebration at the Manhattan Center. The Hammerstein Ballroom was packed–floor to ceiling–with representatives, dignitaries and delegates from NGOS around the world.

The beloved UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, addressed the audience of 2,000,  followed by UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; and soon after, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson.

Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, then took the stage, crediting Johnson’s leadership for stemming the tide of the Ebola epidemic in her country, and then shared information from the Clinton Foundation initiative, Not There Yeta data driven analysis of gender equality.

Clinton was followed by actress Meghan Markel, the UN Women’s Advocate for Women’s Leadership & Political Participation.

The statistics Meghan shared silenced the room:

At the current rate, the elimination of gender INequality will not be possible until 2095. And when it comes to women’s political participation and leadership – the percentage of female parliamentarians globally has only increased by 11% since 1995. 11 percent in 20 years.

But it was Markel’s personal story of how she “accidentally” became a women’s advocate–at the age of 11–that revealed a deeper truth about gender inequality to me.

There in the balcony, I found myself weeping when she shared a tagline from a nineties television commercial:

 Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.

These surprising tears brought home a bias that was punctuated at CSW: Gender inequality is often dismissed as a cultural issue, while in fact it is form of deep discrimination.

I had never fully realized just how much this discrimination hurt and hindered me as a woman and a girl; and how deeply that mattered, not just to me, but to the world:

“Women make up more than half of the world’s population and potential so it is neither just nor practical for their voices, for OUR voices, to go unheard at the highest levels of decision-making,” said Markel.

“Women need a seat at the table, they need an invitation to be seated there, and in some cases, where this is not available, they need to create their own table.”

1100 organizations and 11,000 individuals participated in the 59th Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations this month.

I was honored to take a seat among them–on behalf of the 7+ billion women, men and children–around the world.

(Click here for more on CSW59 from the UN Women.)

country mouse

Upper West Side Backyards, Joergen Geerds, 2008, All Rights Reserved

Saturday is a softer day to arrive in the city.
Less honking, less sirens, less helicopters circling, less rushing, less children whining.

And yet, almost immediately, I feel engulfed by the enormity of the population here, lives stacked upon lives, in in high rise after high rise, while my closest neighbor in the country is a pond or a hill or several acres away.

My thoughts go to trash.
And water.

At how travel is a muscle.
At how I must come to the city more often before my aging awareness becomes brittle with fear.

I’ve traveled to cities on four continents, including this one, several times before, but something about this trip, at a year past 50, with a growing awareness of the future, beyond me, leaves me hopeless.

I crawl into an unfamiliar bed, before dark, feeling crowded, and alone; intruded upon and abandoned; seriously homesick; until a familiar friend, greets me, high in the sky, out this fourth story window.

Even here, hundreds of miles away from my mountain home, the moon’s glow soothes me to sleep.

Sunday is a sweet day to wake in the city. So much coffee. So many bagels and newspapers. So many kind, traveling faces. Such a slowing of the hustle and bustle.

I cross Central Park. I cruise the Impressionist Wing at the MET. I register at the UN. I march in a parade. I buy crusty bread and cheese. I ride the subway and think: Look at ALL these people living harmoniously together.

I stay up too late.
I crawl into bed excited for a new day of exploration.

Just before I drift off, I look out my fourth story to window to see not one, but two moons in the sky, until someone turns out her lights in the highrise across the street.

(for country mouse II, click here)

MINE

il_570xN.513887553_525x
Timothy Parker, all rights reserved, 2013.

I lie (asleep?) in a room full of beds…
A man (my uncle?) slips under the covers behind me.

Pulls me close?
Presses into me?

Is this a memory? A sensation?
Did I watch it happen to another?
Was the other, me?
Is she 4, 7, 11, 13?

I see the dark wood floors. The white ceiling. The door frame. The handle.
The hallway. The bathroom. The white porcelain tub.
The water running. My aunt in her nightgown.

The narrative remains unclear, but the ache in my sacrum is strong.
A pulsing. A defense. An outrage.

THIS IS MY BODY!

I lie on the carpeted floor. Knees drawn to chest. Feet pressing against my assigned partner. My job in this first chakra exercise is to push away, to claim, to say:

MINE!

But my voice, typically strong, cracks. Breaks apart.
I am struck by the absence of my own belonging.
Embarrassed.
Disrobed.

I return to explore my first chakra with the help of my therapist. Recover this violation. The foggy narrative.
Then narrow in on a clearer intrusion: spanking.

At 51, it’s hard to fathom that this trauma could still be lodged in my body. It was among the first that I consciously released with the assistance of healing practitioners some twenty years ago.

In fact, in my mid-thirties, I sat in this very cafe, drinking hot cider and enjoying a roll with jam, while writing the poem that claimed my body as MINE.

I’ve since lost my taste for sugary things, and now prefer everything bitter.
And yet, here I am, revisiting the same pain, in the same place, with espresso.

I sense the energy, once locked inside my sacrum, drain down my legs into the earth. It moves in slow currents like the flow of water beneath the ice on the river beside me.

Beyond the river is a mountain.
It defines and nourishes my view.
My strength.

MINE.

“be right back”

sshot4cbec224d6ed1A few weeks ago, I found myself downtown with a free hour in between appointments. I brought my work bag into the library and took a seat at one of the tables in the loft beside the non-fiction stacks.

Non-fiction is my favorite place to get lost in the library, and in life, but I only allowed myself a few moments in the 300s before sitting down to work.

I pulled out my day book and some materials that I had to review and sunk in, only to realize a short time later that I needed to pee, which in this particularly library is a pain in the a##–because the only public facility for this entire three-floored building, is down a hall, past a row of offices, through a heavy fire door, up a switchback flight of stairs, through another heavy fire door, and down another long hall, past the children’s room, and out into the upstairs lobby, which will set off the alarm, if you have any unchecked books in hand.

I didn’t feel like packing up all my stuff again, and lugging it along with me to the bathroom, but I also didn’t want to loose this coveted spot–at a table with an outlet and a view of the town and Mt. Wantastiquet. Still, I was concerned about leaving all my personal books behind because this library specifically asks patrons to leave behind the books they read on the tables so that they can count them and then put them away in their proper places.

So I rummaged through my bag for a set of sticky notes, and found one in faded yellow upon which I wrote the words, “Be right back,” and stuck it to my pile.

Later, when it was time to leave for my next appointment, I forgot to remove the note; and when I got home that evening, and saw it again, it made me chuckle.

Each night after, when I closed my daybook, I re-read the words: “Be right back,” and I left the note there, amused by life’s cleverness–reminding me, to come back, to myself, at another time.

Finally, last night, the note fell off on its accord, having lost all its stickiness.

It may be time to purchase one of those storefront signs to wear around my neck.