Posts Tagged ‘women’


Posted: December 23, 2010 in girls
Tags: , , , , , ,

 I grew up afraid of girls. 

Perhaps it was because some of my early crushes didn’t work out that well, like the little girl  at camp who I kissed on the cheek on a hot summer night while we were playing tag. My brothers ridiculed me for that. My pre-teen love, Teresa, had a magneto-electro smile that virtually paralyzed me for six years — we locked eyes in class regularly from the fourth grade to the ninth grade —  but I never, ever had an actual conversation with her. Then there were my few awkward high school dates. There was the cute girl who  got me down on the front seat in the car and kissed me hard but nothing happened, except we both got a little bored and our lips hurt after a while. Inexperience. And there was the high school girl I took out on a date, and we talked, but we really had nothing interesting to say to each other and I never talked to her again. That was a bit weird;  I guess you don’t know who you really like  until you talk to them.

When I fell in love with Linda, who eventually became my wife, she was engaged to someone else. We were good at talking to each other, very good, but the conversations got more complicated when I confessed true love. With girls, it can get scary.

Maybe my early fear was exacerbated by not having sisters, but I kind of did, so that couldn’t have been all of it. Connie and Beth, the daughters of my parents’ friends, hung around the house for a couple of summers when their mom was working at the campground my parents ran. They were cool, not so much like girls, more like family. We played games, teased each other, made alliances with each other against other factions of our blended family and played war with playing cards. I like war with girls. My mom and I used to argue a lot. When my dad would protest we would say, “We aren’t fighting, we’re just having a discussion.”  War. During our summers with the girls, it was obvious that Connie could get emotional, and so could I. I remember the time I threw the monopoly game board over on the girls and my brothers, the red motels and green houses flying through the air and me flying out of the room. It seemed like a good thing to do in the moment but later I felt ashamed and then again I didn’t  — these girls were family.

My grade  school teachers were all women. What is that about? Our culture is afraid of men being with young children too much.  These wonderful women were smart, professional and demanding. They seemed to like me, maybe because I was smart, I wasn’t sure on that, but I feared them all. Mrs. Protova was so stern and large, but what adult isn’t huge to a first grader. Mrs. Meyers was all business. She expected things; girls do. I fell in love with my third grade teacher, Mrs. Kibby. Even at home, my family talked about how hot she was.  It seemed normal to me, to love her, but of course I never told anyone. Fear! What would they say?

Then, early in high school,  there was the girl I played footsie with during a movie at the local theater. I didn’t go to the movie with her, a gang of us were there together, but a spontaneous flirting game happened between us, and as a result I missed the movie and left feeling like I didn’t get my money’s worth — for the performance. Did she like me? I couldn’t tell. I liked her, but I think that all she wanted to know was that I thought she was cute. Thinking back on it now, it was a competitive sport for her. She tasered me with her foot, and I surrendered.  I didn’t understand anything about girls back then, and so I left the movie feeling a bit confused and not knowing why. There was also the girl in my biology class who I never spoke to because she looked like the Venus de Milo with clothes on.  And there  was the adorable cheerleader in the green and white school sweater and mini skirt who I just couldn’t risk making a mistake in front of because she was so perfect to me, so I didn’t — big regret. They all fell into the category  “Wow! Wow! Wow!” — fear and trembling unto death. Too beautiful can be distancing.

Then there  was my mother. She liked interesting things, the iris in the front yard, the cardinals and jays that came to the bird feeder, Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, which we read together, the movie Third Man on the Mountain, which she took us boys to see.  She was different from other girls, because she loved me and I loved her and that took away the fear. And now I see that I grew up to love what she love, natural history and stories and children. Lots of girls follow guys around and do what they do, even though they don’t especially want to, but they do it because they love them and want to please them  — fishing, working on cars,  shooting guns, looking through telescopes. It’s okay, but it goes both ways. A man who loves a girl will also choose to  love some of what she loves. Men who love girls follow them around.

We didn’t always do a good job of loving my mom; we teased her too much about the food, being different from us, my dad too, and when I was a teenager, my dad told me that was wrong. I thought so too, but teasing girls or joking with girls is still something I find myself doing a bit when I like them. I consider it my calling to make my daughters and my wife laugh a lot. Men like to make women laugh and women often laugh with men they like. Laughter is good between us, mostly. But we didn’t laugh when my mom got cancer. I went in and sat by her bed and talked to her. She told me a while back, now many years later, that this was meaningful to her, special, for me to just sit with her.

I like that way of relating to women, to sit beside them, to be there when they are going through something, in a safe way, in an unobtrusive and supportive way. Safe gets at it. Safe means seeing women as people and as family. A young friend told me recently that he didn’t feel so good about some porn that he had looked at. Porn is no proud accomplishment, for the people who view it or who make it. It seems to undermine progress — toward real accomplishments and real relationships.  Porn  girls are not family, well they are somebodies’ family but they are presented online as having  no family. A woman told me recently, after she caught her husband looking at girls on the Internet, “The thing is, I can’t compete with those woman.”

 I thought about it, and actually I think she can compete, really well, and win.  She is real, unlike the images, a real women, not an airbrushed woman. She is a talking, thinking, a real-time-and-space woman, with bending arms and legs and she is better than any flat-screen girl. Porn girls’ pictures don’t match up well against real-girl bodies, against curvy, warmish, bright-eyed, taking girls with fun laughs and quick repartees. From my experience, girl reality offers something far better than  vapid, non-relational and untouchable nudity — fascinating friendship topped off with hugable bodies, really good smelling hair and remarkable tasty lips, available for tasting if they turn out to be girlfriends or wives.

But I’ve noticed something interesting here; girls tend to check out girls as much as guys do, not internet girls with no clothes on, but catalogue girls and walking-by girls, especially thin and “pretty’ girls, their clothes, their hair, their make-up, their everything. It’s the fatal female-to-female comparison, and it doesn’t work too well for most of them. “She has better legs, better teeth, a better nose, ohhh, than me.” It’s torture! It’s self-hatred. It’s sad, and I wish it wasn’t so. All girls are beautiful girls, in some way. To love oneself, and not compare oneself with others — “ahhh” now there is the trick. It is so much about, to put it simply, being gentle with ones own perceived imperfections. A girl told me recently, “I’m not normal. I burp  in public, and my husband says, ‘That was really attractive,’  and I can’t find boots to fit me because my calves are too big. It happened because I walked on my tip toes too long, when I was younger.” She repeats, “I’m not normal.”

But this kind of  “normal” can be just another form of tyranny — this is too big, this is too little, this is too loud, this is too soft and squishy, this is just right. It’s Goldilocks all over again — it has to be “just right.”  Individuation is a step toward freedom from the domination of the “just-right.”  Love means not having to conform to exacting specifications published by the group and used to tape measure oneself.  A girl once told me. “If you don’t love me, there is something wrong with you.”  May her brand of insouciant self-affirmation  increase. Normal is what you are, and it becomes even more normal to you  as time goes on because you experience the you of you, more and more. “Pretty girl” is a fabrication of the mind, and there are so many changing ways to be pretty that the mind must be discipline to expand its neruro-electrical  and  phsycho-social list of  possibilities. Many astutes have noticed that when we love girls, they get prettier, when we love men, they become more handsome.

Perhaps men have ruled this conversation too much. A girl once said to me, “Why would anyone have their lips and breasts made bigger?” And before I could try to reply, she answered herself, ” Honestly, because men want it!  The discussion is dominated by body strength. And if women stand up for themselves and try to refute these kinds of standards, they are perceived as unattractive. Women who don’t buy in are seen as having something wrong with them. Body parts don’t make you superior. Why are men calling the shots on what is beautiful?” Whew! Somebody isn’t happy with how its gone down.Touche!

It has occurred to me that it is also true that guys compete, with each other, according to some kind of beauty standard. A guy’s sense of “handsome” is in part culturally conditioned by his sense of good skin color, eye color, cheekbone shape, chin angle and on and on.  Think Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman, Olando Bloom and George Cluny; they set the  modern standard.  And throughout history, men have tried to settle the issue of who is superior, who is a stud,  by strutting their stuff and by peeing on things, and by making conquests of women,  and by making money, playing soccer, and killing each other.

What to do? I told my young friend who felt ashamed of his attraction to porn, “Go find some girls and make friends with them.” It’s the hopeful approach, the future-oriented approach, the think-about-what-is-imperfect-but-still-good approach. Friendship with real girls is the opposite of lust. It is also the opposite of a very ineffective way of dealing with your hormones —  asceticism, self-hatred, the making of behavioral laws and moral rules and killing people.  I don’t much admire the techniques of the flagellants of the 14th Century, marching in public and whipping themselves for their failings.  Self-mortification never made anyone holy. More and more I believe that life should not  be about beating up on yourself  for being human, but about loving yourself for being human. No matter what standards of beauty and rules for relating we come up with, it is normal and always will be for men to adore women, and women to adore men, and women and men to admire women, their bodies, their minds, everything about them, and it is so fun and right  to find ways to honor that without it becoming obsessive and sick or objectifying or depersonalizing. I think so much good can happen when we center on what is good, instead of pounding on ourselves for where we have failed.

I met my wife-to-be while I was in college. She went to the same church as me. I remember talking to her in the library. Books and girls — I love that combination. She was engaged, as I said before, but that didn’t work out. I told her, “I loved you,” which is never a bad thing to tell people, unless you don’t mean it, and true love changed her sense of the future, and so after some fall out and some talking it out and some waiting we got married. I tell her now, “I fell in love with your brain.” I am still in love with it. She in an individuated thinker, and I can never be sure what she will say about a new topic we get into. I love that in her! To love a girl is to love her brain. And there is more, because her brain is resident in her body, and I love her body too, all of it, perfect and imperfect. She is mine and we are one and I love her body the way I love my own body, in a comfortable, accepting, non-shaming, unconditional way. I didn’t always do that, when we were younger, and its been a journey to get to where I am now but one worth traveling. Acceptance and gentleness is the most advanced way of relating to girls.

Not everyone gets that. This morning I was listening to Pandora radio on my phone through the Internet. I put on “A Fine Frenzy” station. Alison Sudol  was singing, “You go on and I’ll be happier,”  but she won’t; apparently, according to her, he’ll be happier. Then later, Meiko was singing, “Here I am with my heart on the floor and my love out the door.” There is a lot of pain on the radio, because there are a lot of women who have been abandoned. It makes for  good songs but  lousy lives.

I know some of these broken-hearted women who had someone who said all the right things and then they didn’t and now they only have pictures in a box under the bed, and then maybe they get to the point were they even throw those out. But they don’t stop loving, themselves and their kids. That’s amazing. I am so impressed with the single moms, and dads. The single moms I know work so hard, in retail and in offices, making just enough to survive. They live for their kids. One absolutely beautiful single mom I know, beautiful by any standard, beautiful in mind and body, never remarried after her divorce. Why? Considering how absolutely brutal her husband had been, she chose to keep it safe, for her, for her kids, for her mom and she made a life without a man, and made it good. I honor that. She didn’t think of herself; she thought of how important it was to create a safe space for her family. Her children were so broken by the divorce.

I remember going to her house when it was the conflict was at a  horrible peak. One of her daughters was hiding in the closet and wouldn’t come out , and we sat in front of it and talked to her. I asked this little traumatized girl in the closet what she wanted, and she said , “I want my family to go back to like it was before!” Ouch! So painful. This got at it. She wanted what she needed and couldn’t get. No wonder she was in the closet. The real world didn’t work for her. We couldn’t make that happen, bring back the past, but her mom did the next best thing possible: she made something safe and beautiful called a family without a husband and without a father. Her daughter is now married and has children of her own. Strong single, unselfish women — they rock.

Ever so often a new book comes out explaining how women are different from men. I find them insufferable. Of course we are different, but not in the ways defined by these purchased distortions of the popular mindset. These books go like this: women are emotional. Really? Well, I’ve noticed something too:  so are men, they just nuance it differently. Then we are told, woman are nurturers. Right! Don’t leave me out. So are men. I know a former gangster who is one of the most nurturing, sensitive men I know. He totally serves and protects and cares for his nine kids. We have also  been told that woman want to be rescued. Yep. Well, guess what? So do men. I know so many men who have been rescued by women. It goes on and on, these distinctions but it is silly. Some people like the women are from venus and men are from mars kinds of explanation because they can’t get along  and they find comfort in explanations that don’t make this their fault. Gender stereotyping is a dodge. “We can’t relate to each other because we are different. It’s not our fault.” That is bogus.

There are gender differences, and I like them, especially the ones that you can see, “Wow, wow, wow!” Love those girl shapes, and for the girls, sculpted men — cool too. The physiological differences between men and women, strength stuff, reproductive stuff,  are well-researched and published. And there are  obvious  behavioral differences too.  Men rape women; the opposite of that is rare. Men kill each other at a higher rate than women. Women birth all the babies. Women have perfected some really cruel ways to be mean to each other that men don’t know. There are differences. But when we get inside, less so, there are less differences when we confront our core humanity. We all need such simple and fundamentally human things — to be held, to be understood, to be respected, to have something meaningful to do, to be wanted, to feel okay about our changing bodies and our shaky minds.

This kind of experiential awakening has dissolved my fear of girls. Now, I fear them not. My wife took care of that by teaching me to be human again, after I’d lost that in high school, and by liking me so much that I was able over time to begin to really like myself. I have never met a person who I am so comfortable with as my wife. And my two daughters have taught me so much about girls, human girls, who are human first and girl second. I adore them both. I am their dad and their friend and a safe human being who loves them unconditionally.

My daughter Roz and I play a  game. Since she was a little girl I have asked her, “When will I stop loving you?” And she responds, “You’ll never stop loving me.”

Girls? Nothing to be afraid of here — just another form of human being to never stop loving.

Trail Blazers in Clogs

Posted: January 17, 2008 in leadership
Tags: , ,


Trail Blazers in Clogs

By Randy Hasper

I am impressed by nervy, risk-taking, trail-blazing women. They are the best  women I know. They do what they are inspired to do — now! They are the gutsy-obedient. They dress themselves in change. They may tremble, but even shaking in their clogs, they head out. Such women are my heroes. And the world needs more of them.


Chris is a trail blazer. She and her husband Steve met Tesia on a rocky path. It ran through the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of a hospital. Chris was a young R.N. Tesia was a medically fragile five month old with paralyzed vocal cords and a tracheostomy.

Over the next several years, Tesia and Chris kept meeting in step-down ICU as Tesia returned there again and again in crisis. And they kept saying “goodbye” again and yet again as Tesia would leave to yet another foster family.Chris got pregnant. The way ahead for her family looked beautiful. And then she and Steve confronted their own crisis — Chris miscarried. Something precious was lost.

But something else was stirring inside of Steve and Chris. What if they adopted Tesia? Such a momentous decision! Tesia would need 16 hours of care a day. She would need an in-home nurse to live with the family. There would be a court case, years of doctors appointments, life on the edge.

“Right before we took her,” says Chris, “I thought, ‘What are we doing?'” Steve encouraged Chris to spend a weekend with her closest Christian friends to think about it. She talked; she prayed; she listened. “It boiled down to obedience and trust,” she now says. Chris became one of the gutsy-obedient. She doesn’t regret it. Neither does her daughter.

Tesia has much to be thankful for: not the least is a trail blazing mom.

Lee Ann

Lee Ann  is a trekker. A number of years ago, she was challenged to backpack her beliefs in doing good and carry them into the community. But, she wondered, what could she do? The answer wasn’t very far off.Lee Ann works in a local high school cafeteria. She knows food. It was there that a co-worker mentioned to her that another woman in the city was organizing an effort to feed people with inadequate resources. Lee Ann began thinking, “Why shouldn’t my church be involved reaching out to people who aren’t a part of us?” The questions that many of us tussle with but few of us answer, struggled for answers inside of her. Why don’t the well-provided for put out their hands to the poorly-provided for? Why don’t we get out of our comfort zone and do something?

But there was one small problem, noted Lee Ann. “I felt inadequate leading on my own. I told God, ‘I’m a good second person. Just don’t have me be the one to carry something out.'” But despite her fears, she forged ahead and brought the idea to feed people back to the church. Surprise! Others wanted to join her — Joyce, Carol, Agnes, Ruth and on and on. Lee Ann blazed a trail in her mind, and when she turned around there was a food army standing behind her.

That was ten years ago. Lee Ann’s leadership has inspired hundreds of people from her church to join her. Seniors, children, teens, whole families have handed thousands of plates of steaming homemade casseroles to the “least of these” in the community.

“Wow,” she muses now. “My idea was significant.” Wow, I think to myself,  Lee Ann is significant.”


“My big risk was feeling like I didn’t have what it would take,” says Lisa. “I had volunteered for years at my church, but I had never been a leader.” Then came an opportunity to join the staff. Lisa waited, prayed, agonized, and eventually turned in an application. Despite shaky sandals, she got the job — the church’s Director of Children’s Ministries.But this church was on the move, and Lisa was in for a real scramble. That was just fine.

As her level of responsibility rose to scary heights, so did her dependence on God. Children’s Choir, 35 little musical ones; Sunday school, 125 studious ones; Vacation Bible School, 175 wild ones; Fall Festival outreach to the community, 500 crazed, candy-fueled ones. Lisa grew with the new challenges — all five foot four of her seemed to stretch. “A lot of fear has left me,” says Lisa. As she was obedient, she grew psychologically bigger, spiritually stronger, and much more confident.

She booked nationally known puppeteers and musicians for children’s concerts. No sweat; they were huge successes. Christmas Craft day for children, winter camp for fifth and sixth graders, a concert for preschoolers, a service club for kids — Lisa was on a roll.

“This position made sense of my life,” she enthused. And Lisa made sense out of a lot of things for other people too.

Chris, Lee Ann, Lisa — they are the gutsy-obedient. They have in common a willingness to blaze a trail.

Inspired to act, they went ahead and moved their feet. They slogged over the hill in no more than their sandals or clogs and found God on the other side with boots just their size, ready to head up the wilderness trail with them.

I’m totally inspired by such women. Who’s next?