Tag Archives: Mister Rogers

Once upon a time, I was WAY too excited about a spider. (embarrassment, authenticity, and loving our genuine selves)

I’m not good at not wondering.

A master builder at work
A master builder at work. Confession: I can’t stop watching this gif.

I went on forest walks with some friends while I was recently on an absolutely superb trip to the island of Acadia in Maine. I had to stop and look at things and ask so many questions. How many beavers would live in this dam? What made that white line in the water? To what extent are trails created by nature versus being crafted by man? What killed these trees? How do you keep rot from killing more trees? Do you want to? Is rot useful the same way forest fires can be, or is it more detrimental than useful long term? Do you think the spider that spun this web within this log, catching sparkles in the sunlight, has already managed to find a tasty treat for her breakfast?

Even on dates, I can’t keep my mind from wandering.

I once went on a date with a very nice man who had an appreciation for Mr. Rogers which rivaled my own. He was playing a show at the local botanical gardens, so I was amusing myself with dancing and nature and wonderings. When he managed a break from performing, I eagerly showed him the spider web I’d been intently watching, as if I’d found the grail or a treasure chest or a giant crate of glitter. “LOOK! I found a spider spinning its web!” I cried, utterly enthused.

Kratt brothersMy enthusiasm quickly paled, leaving an embarrassment-fueled self-consciousness in its place. How silly I sounded! I’m twenty-four years old, not a small child. And this guy was singing nuanced, poetic songs, as I swayed on pathways and fixated on arachnids like a kid who’d just learned about them on a Kratt brothers’ tv show.

I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. In the moment I was stricken with embarrassment, but weeks later, I’m actually more embarrassed that I was embarrassed.

There’s a part of me that’s akin to a small child. Frequently I convince myself that I have to keep that part of myself hidden away in order to impress people, as if it’s somehow counter-intuitive to be an educated, ambitious person who also has a sense of child-like wonder.

I feel I’ve pieced together a vision of myself, the way I want people to see me, that often overlooks the things I actually love most about myself. Yes, there’s something to be said for letting people get to know you over time, for slowly revealing your particular crazinesses and idiosyncracies. But there’s also something to be said for not being embarrassed to be our genuine selves.

Hiding who I am exhausts me. I can’t keep running tabs on my wonderings and my impulses. They are too plentiful. My cup runneth over, if you will.

I will always consider this the most erotic scene in all of Disney. ALWAYS.
I will always consider this the most erotic scene in all of Disney. ALWAYS.

I will always stick dandelions in my hair. I will insist on turning household chores into games. I will sing off-key while I cook. I will dive into piles of warm laundry. I will color with crayons should a restaurant provide them. I will make up songs about sea creatures, or pots and pans, or oral hygiene. I will doodle on napkins, flop onto hotel beds to see how bouncy they are, and insist you hold my hand during the scary parts of movies, including every wolf related scene of Beauty and the Beast. I will cry in art exhibitions when they speak to my soul (or if the exhibition labels are particularly well done, or if it’s clear they paid mind to issues of accessibility in the physical design). If you take me in a really nice book store or a library, I will run around like a kid in a candy store, and then insist on finding a book of my favorite poetry just to make sure someone else could buy it if they wanted it. That’s me. That’s what you get.

And it’s not something I want to hide. Not on my first date, second date, third date, or umpteenth date.

Liking ourselves for all our weirdness, for all our gum statues of crushes in our childhood or obsessions with wrestling, make us who we are. And by extension, that  makes us awesome. Like Helga.
Liking ourselves for all our weirdness, for all our gum statues of crushes in our childhood, giant pink hairbows, or obsessions with wrestling, make us who we are. And by extension, that makes us awesome. Like Helga.

After all, we all have things like that. We have a zillion quirky little things that make us ourselves. That’s what makes us wonderful, not the carefully crafted facades designed to make us look good to strangers. We’ve all got spiders we’d love to point out, but we worry we’ll scare other people away if we do so. The act of acknowledging what interests us is a small but precious moment of saying this is who I am, and if you don’t like it, you can go away. It draws a line in the sand, but more importantly, it draws a line that rounds out our own picture of who we are and what we celebrate in ourselves. It is an act of bravery to like our own weirdness. It makes us vulnerable to the world, and to ourselves. It is hard, and it is messy, and I can’t help but believe it’s worth it.

The more I have moments like this, the more I realize my priorities. I want someone who can love me for me, but more importantly, who doesn’t just tolerate my weirdness but revels in it right alongside me. I want to be unabashedly myself.

The only way to do that is to practice: to be myself, to live earnestly, and to let myself prioritize these things without feeling ashamed or embarrassed. Because that’s far more important to me than impressing someone I’ve just met.

Preach, Mama Ru
Preach, Mama Ru.

I have to love me more than I love the possibility of someone else loving me.

So why hide? Why not point out the spiders? Why not ask the questions that loom in the back of our minds? Why not be ourselves? Why keep those sweetest, most genuine parts of ourselves hidden?

Here’s to the spiders and to the little things that remind us who we are. Here’s to wondering and to not stopping.

through the looking glasses

won't you be my neighbor
…and by that I mean “let’s drink whiskey and I can stare into your glasses-protected eyes”

I always thought Clark Kent was sexier than Super Man. I like glasses. For one thing, I’m afraid of eyeballs even though I love eye contact, so it’s like looking through an awesome, personal style expressing protective window. Also there’s just something so wonderfully sexy about them, in a nerdy, librarian-esque, “let’s stay up all night and read graphic novels and epic poetry” kind of way that’s super appealing.

So when I’m talking to a guy and he says Mister Rogers is kind of his hero AND he wears glasses  AND his idea of fun is trying on kooky wigs AND he made me a mini Easter Island out of emojii, my response is obviously this: HELLO. Won’t you be my neighbor?

*swoon*

Also, yep, I totally have a weakness for musicians. #4 and counting…or else I just seem to run into a lot of them. I think it’s the creative spirit that appeals to me. I admire and am inspired by people who believe in their own creative endeavors, plus I love enjoying the fruits of other people’s artistic labors.

At least I have a type?

We live in the or.

For the record, I, too, have giant bat like wings that appear while I write.
For the record, I, too, have giant bat like wings that appear while I write.

I have a deep and abiding love for William Blake, poet and illustrator extraordinaire. As in about three times a year, I break down into tears because he is and forevermore will be dead. He is to me as Mister Rogers is to my mother. Yep, I’m the coolest.

One of my favorite Blake lines from his cheeky and sagacious Proverbs of Hell” from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell distills into four mere words the tricky balance that comes with human interaction. “Enough or Too much” he asks us. I find this line from over a century ago particularly relevant to our current communication systems.

Who the hell knows how much texting is enough texting? Is too much texting? Is it enough to disappear when you’re done talking to someone for the evening? Or when you’re done talking to them forever? Is it too much to outright tell someone you’re not into them? Is it too much to say that you’re involved with someone else?

We constantly live in the “or,” straddling the delicate line between enough and too much in each conversation. How do we navigate what’s easy with what’s polite? With what’s kind? How much kindness do we owe people who are all but strangers? And what’s kinder, the slow fade or the blunt truth?

It’s anxiety inducing on all ends. We’re locked in this weird dance trying to figure out what someone else wants, what we want, and how to make both of those things happen without ever directly addressing that all of this is going on. It’s exhausting and frustrating, exciting and absurd. And sad. At the end of the day, it’s sad to realize the level of artifice involved in these maneuvers. It makes my heart ache to think of all of us leading our separate lives, looking for connection even as we try to ensure people stay at arm’s length. Or, maybe since it’s texting, that they stay at thumb’s length.

How much longer can we stand the “or”? Or perhaps, is it only when we find someone with whom the “or” is irrelevant, with whom there is no maneuvering dance but rather a genuine dance of joy, danced together not around each other, that we can escape the “enough or too much” trap?

When a photo in a leopard print dress changes everything (Tinder meets self-esteem meets Mister Rogers)

He had asked for one body shot and two face shots, “nothing R rated” in his terms. I sent my favorite photo of me goofing off in a leopard print dress that hugs all my curves. I found myself surprised at how nervous I became. This man was ripped, handsome, with a collection of tattoos that made me all but drool and the kind of shoulders that make you want to climb a man like a tree. Would he hate the photo? Would he hate my body? Would all of our conversation be for naught once he saw me?

The response was immediate and unhesitating: “YOU’RE PERFECT. 🙂 We’re so on for tonight!”

He quickly followed up with a “Not to sound shallow or anything. I had just been worried you were too skinny for me.”

I was immediately overcome with shock. WHAT. There were men out there to whom my body wasn’t a concession but rather something to be wholly delighted in? Who were drawn to my body just as I was to theirs? I knew I loved my body, but out there there are other people who do, too! I get to be perfect to someone other than myself!

It was one of the most liberating text message exchanges I’ve ever had, but it called into question a lot of things I believed about myself and my self-esteem. I love my body. I adore the swell of my hips and the curve of my waist, my absolute mane of hair that makes me crazy but that falls like a water fall. I love the freckle on my left shoulder that peeks out of tops and my super high arches in my feet that let me dance like a maniac.  I like me. But I don’t ever expect other people to. I constantly anticipate a battle to justify my self-acceptance.

And if that’s the case, am I really accepting myself? Am I truly loving myself?

Fred Rogers, who is essentially the patron saint of my family to the point that my mother periodically still weeps that he lives among us no longer, tells us that love is an active noun like struggle.

From The World According to Mister Rogers by the ever incredible Fred Rogers

I firmly believe that this doesn’t just apply to loving others but to ourselves and our bodies as well. It’s just as much a struggle to love ourselves the way we are in a moment. Self-esteem isn’t a state of perfect caring. Yes, we can want more for ourselves. We can want stronger, faster bodies while still loving who we are in this moment. And there are moments when we don’t feel so great, when no outfit looks right, when our hair won’t quite stay, when we stand before the mirror questioning ourselves. Those are the moments when I end up with outfits strewn about my room, my third eyeliner attempt still crooked, with no shoe sufficiently sexy and comfortable to merit being worn out for a night of dancing, and I just want to sob. And that moment MATTERS. It is every bit as perfect and normal and beautiful as the days when I walk out the door feeling absolutely fierce and fabulous, if not more so, because it’s a moment in which I have a chance not to love myself in spite of my seeming inadequacies but rather to love myself through them.

We have to let ourselves struggle in these moments. That’s when growth happens. That’s when real love happens. When we know we’re not perfect, but we fight through the self-doubt and choose to love ourselves as we are in that moment, that’s when we’re making progress with our self-esteem. The struggle is where the love happens.

Self-esteem is a constant and continual process, not a pinnacle of achievement. It’s a journey not a prize to be won. It’s okay to have setbacks. It’s okay to keep learning. It’s okay to be surprised at that moment that someone says we’re perfect, so long as we take that surprise and we learn from it.

There’s no such thing as a perfect body. There are only bodies which are perfect to us as individuals, who each have distinctive preferences. We have to leave room for others to accept us and adore us, including our embodiment. And we have to leave room for ourselves to figure these things out and be okay with those moments that surprise and challenge us. We owe ourselves the patience to work through the hard moments, through the revelations, through the days when nothing looks right.

What surprises me is that this revelation came via Tinder. This wouldn’t have happened without me contending with an app that in many senses reduces people to a single image on which you can swipe left or right and make snap judgments based on that photo of whether or not you deem someone worthy to communicate with you. I’m finding myself constantly challenged by this. My family keeps telling me that Tinder can’t be empowering.

I’m going to go ahead and beg to differ on this one.

I’m going to let Tinder keep pushing my buttons, and I’m going to keep pushing back.