Monday, November 30, 2015

Ever lose a pair of diamond earrings?

I lost a pair of custom-made diamond earrings about a year ago. They were a gift from my ex-husband (from back when we were married) and were created to my specifications. Of course, I went through all my drawers, pockets, bags, suitcases and tote bags and looked under furniture, through bedding, etc. I finally had to conclude that they were nowhere.

I no longer get upset about losing things. Because it happens more often now than it used to, and because things often turn up later, I allow my exasperation to pass and then I forget about it. But over the past year, I've periodically remembered those earrings, taken another look through drawers and boxes and felt increasingly sad that they might be gone for good.

Last night I dreamt that I was traveling and opened a cosmetics bag and there were the earrings. In the dream I felt so happy and relieved that I put the earrings on immediately. When I woke up I felt the loss again and decided to take one more look. 

I dug out a cosmetics bag I had used last Christmas when I traveled to Houston to visit family. Yes, I'd checked it months earlier, probably a couple of times. I opened it anyway and began taking out the things in it, but this time I noticed the earrings taped to the side! I hadn't seen them before because I'd scotch-taped them so securely. I felt happiness and relief and I marveled that a dream had actually been useful, which is a rare thing for me. I also remembered why I had taped the earrings like that: so I wouldn't lose them.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Chicago protest #LaquanMcDonald

I'm too middle-aged to last long in drizzly, chilly weather, but I spent almost two hours today with protesters who are furious with the way Chicago handled (covered up) the murder of a Black 17-year-old teenager by white Officer Jason Van Dyke. I'm no reporter and certainly no photographer, but here are some of my impressions.

The march started at 11:00 a.m. at the corner of Michigan and Wacker. We headed north towards Water Tower Place and I joined in such chants as:

Sixteen shots

Recall Rahm

Show me what democracy looks like

This is what democracy looks like

Hey hey ho ho

All three of them have got to go
(Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Police Superindendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez)

Whose streets?

Our streets!

In between chanting, I overheard white marchers discussing the situation in Chicago. I'm not sure what came before this statement, but I heard a woman say, "If you think I'm white trash, you've got another think coming. I know how to read and I have some teeth." The term white trash always upsets me. Why would we ever call another human being trash? It disappointed me that this woman didn't object to the term white trash, but wanted to distinguish herself from it, as if we all know there really are people who are trash.

When the marchers reached the water tower around noon, we held a rally. We shivered in drizzle that turned into real rain as we chanted and listened to speeches. I shared my umbrella with a Black man named Greg. He had shown up that morning to work at Quartino restaurant at State and Ontario, been told they didn't need him today, and joined the march. When the rally ended, several people sang a chorus of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and then the marchers headed back the way we had come.

Walking south to the Wrigley Building, some protestors stopped and blocked the entrances to stores, such as the Apple Store and Cole Haan. Others of us kept walking and chanting.

Demonstrators blocking entrance to The Apple Store.
In the photo above, you can see that the bus shelter shows what time the next 147 and 151 buses will arrive. I wondered how long those marquees would keep lying. No buses would travel along those blocks for hours. Later I saw that the northbound 147 bus was rerouted at Randolph to take Clark Street.

The Cole Haan store was also blocked.
From the beginning we had many rubberneckers taking photos and video of us. Many were shoppers and people eating at nearby restaurants. The ones who happened to be on the second floor stared down at us, like the lunchers in the Grand Lux Cafe. 

You can't see them well, but the intrigued white people are in there.

Michigan Avenue stayed clear of traffic, in an area that would usually be packed with cars, taxis and people at 12:30 p.m. on a Black Friday.

Looking north from Michigan and Erie

But the Christmas decorations were still lovely.

Decorations looked absurd against the reality of anger.

When we got to the Wrigley Building, we had another rally, which I was able to hear much better, maybe because I was closer to the person with the megaphone. My favorite sign was held by a young Black woman. It said, "I'm so mad I made this sign. Then I applied to law school." And there was a dog.

My completely biased, unreliable observation was that there were mostly Black people marching, but also a lot of white people. What I didn't see were many Latino protestors, but I admit that any of the people who looked African or Caucasian could also have been Latino. So I'll say it this way: most Latinos in the Chicagoland area are Mexican and most Mexicans have brown skin, or coffee-with-cream-colored skin like mine, and I didn't see a lot of coffee-with-cream-colored people out there today. Considering the Mexican and Mexican-American population of Chicago, I was a little surprised that the coffee-with-creams were so much in the minority. I don't know why that was.

I stayed as long as my bladder held out, then headed south towards the Macy's bathroom (I still use Macy's as a bathroom stop, but that's all they'll get from me). At the corner of Michigan and Wacker I overheard a white woman explaining the protests to her young white daughter, "They're complaining about things that are happening in Chicago." I wondered if her explanation got any more specific after I was out of earshot.

I stopped briefly in a hotel lobby and saw that they had CNN on the bar TV. The Chicago protests were on, and I saw Don Lemon reporting. Why the hell do they send Don Lemon to these things? The bar neither had the sound up nor the closed captioning turned on, and I had no interest in staring at Lemon's voiceless face, so I left. By the time I got home an hour later, the Colorado Springs shooter topped the news because everything sucks.

The Chicago police, the local justice system and Mayor Emmanuel have so much to answer for: video tape suppressed or erased, 13 months of no charges against a cop who murdered a 17-year-old, desk duty for that same cop who had years of complaints against him and who shouldn't have been on the street in the first place. And all this stayed out of the news during an election year when Emmanuel had trouble holding on to his seat. There has to be accountability. There has to be change.

Demonstration demands action on McDonald's murder

A demonstration is called for 11:00 a.m. today in downtown Chicago. Marchers meet at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, and will move north through the heart of Chicago's most expensive, tourist-visited and suburbanite-choked shopping district: the Magnificent Mile. People are protesting the almost cinematically horrible way the City of Chicago handled Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke's killing of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. After the officer fired at a teenager who stood several feet away holding a knife, the boy dropped to the ground and the officer continued to fire for a total of 16 shots. For a year since, the police department refused to release video of the shooting, didn't charge Van Dyke or fire him and wouldn't release any details of an investigation into the murder. A Burger King near the site of the killing had a 24-hour surveillance camera that caught the act, but after the police viewed that video soon after the shooting, it somehow became erased.

Van Dyke has a long record of citizen complaints against him, several for physical violence, yet only after a judge ordered the police department to release the video to the public was Van Dyke charged with first degree murder. The Chicago police department and mayor's office have a lot to answer for. I'll be there at 11:00 a.m.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

They played us like a cheap recording

Demonstrators link hands in downtown Chicago last night. Jim Young - Reuters
I'm so irritated today. Last night, while I was standing in Millennium Park with a bunch of families and grown-up Christmas goofs (like me), demonstrators were organizing south of downtown. Chicago's 102nd annual tree lighting ended at 6:05 pm and we all shuffled off to the red line or Magnificent Mile, while people marched in protest of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald sixteen times and then paying no price for the slaughter (a year of desk duty must have eaten Van Dyke's lunch, but he should have been charged with murder long ago). It is such bullshit that the city of Chicago has worked hard to cover this all up AND that the protest over it was that physically close to me last night, but I didn't know it. 

You know who else was at the 102nd annual tree lighting ceremony? Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. I was right there with Mayor Rahm and at one point I even walked close enough to have at least reminded him that his glittery tree hadn't succeeded in distracting us from what's really important. What would it have cost me to shout "Sixteen shots!" at him as I filed by on my way out of Millennium Park? I can't stand that I didn't do that.

And the reason I didn't do that is that Emmanuel's glittery tree DID succeed in distracting us from what's really important. The City of Chicago waited until two days before Thanksgiving to release the video of McDonald's murder and then they released it on the afternoon when the city was focused on food and travel. Emmanuel knew he'd be downtown and vulnerable, but the video went out just hours before the annual tree lighting ceremony, so that many of us hadn't seen it yet and weren't aware of a possible demonstration. If I had seen the video before the tree lighting, I would have been in a very different state of mind as I listened to soloists sing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Silver Bells." 

Oh, they played us well. I feel like such a chump. I stood there with the ignorant, suburban goofballs who were dazzled by the pretty lights. I strolled out of Millennium Park to catch a bus with no idea that people were demonstrating just blocks away. Had I known, I could have waited for them. I could have shown support. But was I plugged in to Facebook or Twitter or any news source at all? No. I was using my phone only to take pictures.

Good job, City of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. Good f#$%-ing job.

And this is where I was.

Lies about Thanksgiving

My fellow Americans, the nice story about Thanksgiving starting with the first white settlers in North America inviting the American Indians to celebrate the harvest isn't strictly true. In fact, the white people and the native people were probaby at war a lot of the time, even in the very beginning. I like the way this MTV video shreds the standard narrative about Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to tip a bartender

Most Americans know the proper amount to tip on a restaurant food bill. It's 20% and anything less looks cheap and mean. That's because service industry workers in the U.S. are paid about $2.18 to $5 an hour from their employers and that's it. That's right: American restaurant owners don't pay their staff a living wage because the guests are supposed to make up the difference through tipping. That's why restaurant tips no longer have anything to do with the level of service. Even if you're mad at your server, please don't make it any harder for them to pay the rent.

But do you wonder how tipping works in an American bar? I've consulted with an expert in the field, my cousin who's spent over five years as a full-time bartender at a fine establishment. According to Troy, bartenders are also looking to make 20% in tips on the drinks they serve during a shift. (The way you tip a bartender is to leave the tip on the bar when you take your drink.) If you order a drink that's $5 or less, please leave the bartender a dollar bill. If you order a more expensive drink, the tip depends on the price and the amount of work the bartender does.  For example, if the bartender pours you one ounce of a decent single malt scotch, please tip $1 or $2. Another example is if you order a $15 cocktail for which the bartender muddles/blends three ingredients. In that case, please tip $2 to $3. 

That's the word from Troy, but here's a little-known fact that I'll throw in: it’s a good idea to tip the bartender even when you’re not paying for your drink. At a free open bar at a fundraiser or wedding there might or might not be a tip jar, but don't let that stop you. Leave a dollar on the bar when you take your free-to-you beer or wine. The bartender deserves it for doing the work and you will look startlingly cool and hip to her or him.

Tipping! It's not just an American tradition. It's how people feed their children.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Merry F@#$%^! Christmas, Macy's

I haven't used my Macy's card since November 2014 because that's when I became disgusted with them for making their employees work on Thanksgiving Day. Last holiday season I vowed never to shop there again and I haven't. But I forgot to cut up my card and close the account, so now I've finally done that. Until Macy's regains their sense of humanity and stays closed on Thanksgiving Day, I will do my Christmas shopping and buy all my clothes and household items elsewhere.

Canceling the account was much easier than I expected. I just called the customer service number on the back of the card (1-866-593-2543) and entered my account number and the last four digits of my social security number. I didn't even have to talk to anyone! It was the first time I'd heard "close account" as an option on an automated phone system. With Comcast and other companies, they usually make you talk to a person who tries to talk you out of canceling. With Macy's it just took a few button selections and it was over. 

So go ahead and cancel your Macy's account without fear that it'll take a long, involved interaction with some poor representative. In just a few minutes, I became an ex-Macy's shopper and can say that I canceled my Macy's account just before the holidays solely because they make their employees work on Thanksgiving Day. Happy holidays, Macy's, and f#$% you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What if I don't feel bad about France?

While many Americans feel sad for Paris after the attacks of last Saturday, many have a different reaction. Some people, like me, are asking why the U.S. pours out the sympathy for Paris, but not for other places that have suffered bombings that resulted in civilian deaths. What about Beirut and Syria? What about the ongoing suffering of people in Mexico, Kenya, Iraq, etc? 

There are those who compare my response to the "all lives matter" response. I understand how they see a parallel between the two situations, but the role of the media in these two dynamics is very different. "Black lives matter" protests the media's -- and American society's -- ignoring of a certain disenfranchised population. Focusing on Paris and disregarding the pain of other countries perpetuates that kind of ignoring of disempowered populations. To question the focus on Paris is to protest the way the U.S. leaves certain people out of the news cycle. It's the political opposite of the "all lives matter" argument.

I'm one of those who's having a hard time whipping up a lot of sympathy for Paris. Saturday's attacks don't feel worse to me than any other country suffering an attack on civilians, but it's probably not because I'm so globally aware. It's probably because I'm not an international traveler, so I don't feel any more connection to France than to any other country. We feel sympathy when we feel an emotional connection and that's just human nature.

The American emotional response to the Paris attacks has bewildered me similarly to the way I was surprised after 9/11 when the whole world felt sympathy for the U.S. Such behavior makes me think, "Why does someone in one country care what happens to someone in an entirely different country that has nothing to do with them?" I'm beginning to understand that there's a kind of compassion that doesn't depend on direct impact or responsibility. That compassion manifests whenever you see someone who reminds you of yourself or your family or your neighborhood. Or, apparently, your country. Enough Americans personally identify with France, and see similarities between France and the U.S, to trigger our shock, sadness and outrage. Incredibly (to me), a huge part of the world felt a personal connection to the United States in 2001, which made them feel like an attack on the World Trade Center was also an attack on them.

Okay, so we feel compassion for those we identify with and Americans have an easier time identifying with French than with Kenyans. Fair enough. But it doesn't require any identifying with the victims to be horrified by a massacre carried out by your own country. The bombing of an Afghanistan hospital in October disturbed me much more than the Paris bombings because Americans were responsible for that. Doctors Without Borders had carefully made clear to both the American and Afghani militaries the location of the hospital, but it was still bombed for over an hour while the U.S. forces kept it under fire. What the hell? To this day the American inquiry into the incident/slaughter hasn't revealed what happened or why. This outrages me as an ISIS bombing doesn't because I take accountability very seriously, especially when it's mine or my country's. The U.S. has not behaved well in many countries and we have a lot of blood on our hands.

It's emotionally easy to curse "the Muslims" and rattle our swords at terrorists everywhere and swear we won't be victims. It's easy to weep for Paris or any country with dead babies and maimed children and civilian corpses. It's much harder to look at our own actions and admit the ways we've contributed to a global atmosphere of hatred and revenge. It all starts right in your own heart. Compassion is good, but we Americans have a particularly keen responsibility to follow up on those emotions. We need determination to do what we can to reduce distrust and fear because we certainly contribute to a hell of a lot of it. And that's my reaction to the bombing of Paris. Does anyone feel even vaguely similar?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Come on, menopause! Part two

Last week I got all excited because my period was late and I fantasized that I'd entered menopause and was never going to menstruate again. Anyone who thinks menopause is very uncomfortable and I'm crazy to want it, here are two points:

1. Menstruation with fibroids is AGONY and I've had enough. I'll happily switch this pain for hot flashes, etc, if only for a change in things to cuss about.

2. Menopause is not the same for everyone. Any discomfort you go through at menopause is affected by the state of your health when it starts. Get your physical body and emotional state in order and menopause will be much more comfortable. Also, expecting pain or lack thereof has an impact on what you experience.

But my excitement was premature. Or was it? My period started on day 35 of my cycle, which was Wednesday and it's been even better than the last one! Even less cramping, lighter flow and no interruption to my daily life. I'm either coming to the end of my menstruating years or my efforts of the past year have paid off. Probably both. I now know that this combination is powerful, even on the worst monstrual cramps: chiropractic, acupuncture, meditation, hypnotherapy, EFT and -- possibly most important -- cutting the sugar, grains, dairy and caffeine!

I am a different person from a year ago. I am so, SO grateful.
At 49 years old, I think I'm at the beginning of the end!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cuss words and white male privilege

Some call it cussing. Some call it swearing. It's the use of four-letter words and it's very controversial. I understand that such words aren't appropriate most of the time, but I'm puzzled by people who think such words are inappropriate all of the time. My father, for instance, doesn't see the need to use cuss words ever. He seems to think cussing makes people (like me) sound uneducated or "low-class." This makes little sense to me since highly educated people swear all the time, as do upper-middle-class and rich people. My theory is that there's a link between cussing and privilege, which means certain people can get away with bad words while others can't.

Countless action movies and TV series about police officers, fire fighters, criminals and powerful men contain plenty of cussing (many refer to the use of the word fuck as "dropping an F-bomb"). It's true that many of these characters are blue collar or working class, but many are lawyers, business people or have other white collar professions. In the boardroom, male characters often use cuss words to indicate anger and, more importantly, dominance. Is it only bad characters who use "foul" language? No, the heroes talk that way, too. Our acceptance of such characters to "cuss a blue streak" in entertainment, reflects our real life attitudes about language (in English, the color blue is associated with inappropriate language or humor).

In any given hierarchy, those near the top enjoy greater freedom to disregard social etiquette, while those near the bottom must behave themselves. Who hasn't experienced this in their workplace, where managers and business owners can more easily get away with slamming phones, clipping nails, using executive assistants for personal needs or other unprofessional habits? Who hasn't heard a boss use a four-letter word that you knew you wouldn't dare use in front of her/him? Social privilege extends to language and some of the most powerful words are cuss words. When you want a real response, drop an F-bomb. When it's time to get serious, go blue. If you're already in a social position that has the respect of others, such as chairman of the board, cuss words can be a marker of your privilege over others. Those without such privilege can pay a high price for taking the liberty of an F-bomb.

As a short, Chicana woman, I don't rank extremely high in the general American social hierarchy. When someone suggests I shouldn't cuss, I think they're indicating that I can't get away with it. Mexican-American women are already seen as less intelligent and respectable. It seems that when I use four-letter words, I reinforce the stereotype of the working class, uneducated Mexican-American woman who can't talk very well and falls back on cuss words because of her limited vocabulary, not to mention her violent emotions. 

But is cussing violent? Cuss words often accompany violence, but in the vernacular -- as people actually use them -- they're more often used as words that intensify meaning and they can convey negative or positive opinions. "He fucked me good" can mean that someone did you wrong, or had sexual intercourse with you that left you very satisfied. "This stuff is shit" means it's not good at all, while "This stuff is the shit" means it's very good. We use cuss words all the time for positive emotions such as "I would do goddamn anything for you," "I am so fucking excited!" and "She played the hell out of that tune." Many people who use cuss words as part of our regular vocabulary, don't necessarily feel upset or antagonistic when we use them. They're just another way to express ourselves when we really, really mean it.

I've tried to explain the neutrality of cuss words as Americans actually use them, but people who don't like cussing don't have much open-mindedness about it. They hear bad language that they respond to with comments like "Potty mouth," "Watch your mouth," "Watch your language," "I'll wash your mouth out with soap," and "Do you kiss your wife/husband/kids with that mouth?" They make cuss words off limits, which doesn't work well for people who like to push boundaries and do what we're not supposed to do. Members of my family would have me believe that cuss words are the language of the lower class, when in fact they're just as much a part of the language of the powerful. People of all classes use four-letter words, but for some those words support their privilege in the social hierarchy while for others that language underscores how close we are to the bottom.

I refuse to tailor my everyday language because of such a hierarchy. I know not to use cuss words in professional contexts, but in casual conversation with friends and on Facebook with my family, it's safe to indulge. I'm proud to say my mother cussed in both English and Spanish (the sign of a true bilingual is what languages are used in moments of great emotion or pain). She didn't use those words in public or at work, but when she was safe from judgement, she didn't limit her expression. At home without my father around, she was in control, which made it safe for her to let out a blue streak. It was part of my early education in the power of language: cuss words were special and could only be wielded by the most important people. This belief was reinforced by how much worse it seems to be for "ladies" (women) and children to cuss. I've learned that cuss words are less offensive when used by men.

Maybe it's a combination of my mother's role modeling and my refusal to take my Mexican and female place in the American hegemony that makes me see cussing this way. I tend to do things that women, especially Mexican American women, often receive disapproval for: take up extra room on the subway, talk about menstruation in public, talk back to my boss, be honest about who I like and dislike, not believe in God, talk openly about not wanting children (or even liking them much), etc. Each time I do one of these things, I'm acting like a person with complete freedom and nothing to fear from the opinions of others. Delusional? I doubt that matters because living this way works very well for me.

Yes, I'm calling cussing another act of rebellion against the American social hegemony that wants women to act like ladies and Mexicans to act like good Mexicans. Move comfortably from highly educated language to raw cuss words and back, the way privileged white men do? How dare I?

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Cosmetics for women of color. Yes? No?

NPR recently ran a story that started like this, "Women of color have long been ignored by major cosmetics firms, which meant there wasn't a whole lot of choice if you weren't white." I consider myself lucky to have begun my lipstick-wearing days at the end of the 1990s, when there were MAC and other cosmetics companies that had pretty good selections for women with my coffee-with-cream complexion.

In recent years, I've discovered Arbonne, a skin care company that uses only ingredients that have been proven safe for both humans and the environment. They use no animal products in their cosmetics and creams, no petroleum and nothing that you couldn't safely ingest, even if you're vegan. I love Arbonne's moisturizers, cleansers and hair products because I have extremely sensitive, rash-prone skin, but Arbonne's products never cause me any discomfort. I happily switched to using their lipsticks, knowing they contained no lead or dangerous ingredients. My colors were Earth and Bordeaux and it was like they were made for me. I even became an Arbonne consultant and spread the word about this wonderful company.

Then, sadly, after I'd been using Arbonne for four and a half years, they scrapped their entire line of lipsticks and started over. They reformulated their lipsticks for more creaminess and created a brand new palette of colors. I knew this would be bad news for me, but gamely I tried the new lipsticks. 

No luck. None of Arbonne's current lipstick shades come close to my beloved Earth or Bordeaux, but there were a couple of colors that looked promising, so I put on Dahlia and Iris. I found that these colors work very well for my skin tone, but unfortunately, they look almost the same. See this photo:

Can you tell that I'm wearing two different shades of lipstick? I'm wearing Iris on the right side of my mouth in this photo, and Dahlia on the left. The difference in these two shades, is so slight, there's no point in me buying both shades. 

Considering my preferences and coloring, I'm afraid these are the best lipstick shades Arbonne has for me now -- you know, as a Mexican. I'm very disappointed because I prefer more natural shades with yellow/brown tones. It's also aggravating because when I was an Arbonne consultant, I learned that Arbonne is actively working to to expand their market among American Latinas, plus it plans to do business in Mexico. But how serious are they about those markets if their current lipstick palette doesn't have great options for olive- and brown-skinned women?

So what the hell? Out of 16 Arbonne lipstick shades, two of them look almost the same on me. Arbonne consultants tell me it can happen that one person can try two shades of lipstick and have them look like distinct colors while another person (like Regina the Mexican) can try those two shades and have them look identical. It's because we're all different.

I wonder: did Arbonne test their new lipsticks on women of color, and if they did, did they really pay attention to how the shades looked on women of color? It doesn't seem to me like they did. If Arbonne were a company with dozens and dozens of lipstick shades, they could get away with two shades that are so similar. But they only have a lipstick palette of 16 shades, which I'm now calling 15 shades. Arbonne's new lipstick colors are a fail for this woman of color.

The NPR story ends by focusing on the MAC and Bobbi Brown cosmetics lines. I've been tempted to wander over to those makeup counters since Arbonne disappointed me, but I just can't bring myself to give up the pure, safe, high-performing and non-cancer-causing formulas Arbonne has perfected. If you want hippie-granola, high-end cosmetics that won't irritate the most sensitive skin, Arbonne is unparalleled. I still love most of their products; I just no longer like their lipsticks. Arbonne's new lipsticks are glossier and more moisturizing, but also meltier and they break more easily. I prefer the former matte-textured and more resilient formula.

Here's my big confession of 2015. I'm not proud of this, but I went on eBay and found two sellers of Arbonne's discontinued Earth lipstick. Each seller had only one tube left, and I bought them. It felt completely wrong to buy from a reseller, but I justify my actions by saying that Arbonne let me down. I would have bought their lipsticks forever if they hadn't eliminated the shades that worked so well for this coffee-with-cream-colored woman. When I get to the end of the Earth, I'll probably go back to conventional lipsticks (maybe Clinique or MAC). I was completely happy with Arbonne, but this chingadera with the lipsticks has changed our relationship. The right color is more important to me than any other lipstick quality and they just don't have what I need. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

Come on, menopause!

My 28-day cycle ended earlier this week. Wednesday should have been day one of my period, but it didn't happen. It still hasn't happened. It's so wonderful to not get my period! Is it possible that I've finally reached menopause? Oh, I hope so. I would love it if I just never got my period again. I'm 49, so that's possible, right?

How to squint without scaring people

Most of my life I went around feeling afraid of many things: friendship, male attention, physical pain, family members, children, people being nice to me, etc. It made sense for me to try to look intimidating and stand-offish, so people would leave me alone. I kept a serious expression when I walked down the street or entered a public place and in bright light I squinted like this:

In the past few years, I've become less afraid of several of those things and I no longer want to look intimidating to strangers as they pass me on the street. Several months ago, I began to think about how I squint in harsh light. Most people do a frowning squint, but my father and others on his side of the family squint more like this:

I used to think that was an unusual way to hold one's face. I think of my father and my Aunt Rosemary in particular. Since childhood, I've noticed that they almost look like they're smiling when they squint into the sun. But now that I no longer feel the fear that made me want to intimidate people, this way of squinting appeals to me. I look nicer (and goofier, but that's okay). So I'm now training myself to squint in the Rodríguez way instead of the upset-looking way. When I notice that my eyes are straining against light, I carefully smooth my forehead and raise my cheeks, pulling my eyes half-closed and bringing the corners of my mouth up.

Why not? It softens my expression and keeps my frown lines from deepening. I see people with completely relaxed faces who look angry because the frown lines between their eyes never go away. My mother frowned a lot and had deep lines between her eyes. I want frown lines that only show when I'm actually frowning. I've heard that before the age of 40 you wear the face God made, and after 40 you wear the face you made. I'm 49 and I'm carefully working on a face I want to wear.