F— the Fifties

Twelve “F” Words to Welcome My Fifties

“So, fifty, huh,” a younger colleague of mine asked, while sipping on her coffee.

“Oh yeah. Well, f—the Fifties,” I responded back, suddenly taking an internal inventory of my years passed and the decade ahead.

unnamedI went home that night, “F— the Fifties” playing over again in my head. I sat down at my desk, and soon had generated a lengthy list of “F” words. The words came fast and furious, shooting out of my fingertips, whizzing out of my printer. I wanted words that could define a decade. Words I had, and could, live by.

Fight. My mother’s comedic skills lay somewhat latent beneath her gifted culinary talents. She snapped a photo of me, at age 16 months, having written the slogan of an old cigarette ad, “I’d rather fight than switch,” on a placard and then placed the card in my lap and snapped a photo. Later, I found the Polaroid stuck in my baby book, as if the moment had been a proud parenting one.

Her action and that photo was my first understanding that fighting would always exist beneath my cheery, dimpled exterior. However, I don’t physically fight. I verbally spar on paper, in my head, and occasionally with my husband. I write some of my best stuff when I am “fighting.” If I am no longer fighting, I am not alive.

Fierceness: In my thirties, I wrote an essay about running hurdles for the junior high track team. Mr. Lesner was our seventh-grade history teacher, but also the track coach. After school, after we were dressed, he would call out, “Man in the locker room.” His voice and that phrase symbolized a certain fierceness within me, as Mr. Lesner once laughed when I told him of plan to run the hurdles, all five feet of me. I responded to him with a fierceness that still resides in me today, when I am told I cannot do something.

Faith. Faith has been, is, and always will be a question. My past experiences tell me, in the questioning lies the answer. That is my faith. That is where I place my trust. I will question, not with the petulance of a two-year-old, but with the wisdom of a fifty-year-old who knows that faith, like some questions, does not come packaged with answers, only with a resolution to march on.

Flamenco. I am going to Cuba. The location surprised even me. I often plan excursions that will make me jump out of my chair or luxuriate in my ancestors’ lands or in the pines. Instead, I said, “Cuba.” They dance the flamenco in Cuba. The dancers are not expected to carry long, lithe silhouettes, but to boast only of curves and attitudes. I’m in luck, that’s just my size.

Forays. My morning walks have solved a lot of personal battles, sometimes negotiating peace treaties before I can get the issue on paper or in front of my husband. While my husband is my erstwhile walking partner on weekends, I cherish my solo time in the early morning, as the city stretches its limbs, opens it eyes, and mine, to the surprises that await.

Focus. Looking into a stranger’s eyes has become an important practice. In writing circles with men in transition, I put this practice this action. I ask myself, “What if I was someone’s last witness, his only hope of being noticed before giving up? Wouldn’t that be worth the second it takes to lock eyes with someone and really mean it?”

Focal point – In yoga, I have stopped looking around the room, to see how far other other yoginis are stretching. Also, I use blocks. I know my edges, after ten years, I should. Yoga is not where I go to push myself. Yoga is where I go to push that other self back inside of me.

Funny. I want to be funny. I want to be funny in my writing. I signed up for an Erma Bombeck workshop in the spring. It would be so like Erma to sign up for a workshop and think that would inevitably make her funny. My goal is to hear, “That’s reads like something Erma would write.”

Forge bonds. I want to use my time living in the city wisely. Only a fraction of my work involves connecting across races, divides, but there is more work I can do. The business of all humans is to forge bonds and find common ground.

Forgiveness The little f in forgiveness tell me, stop saying, “Sorry.” A few weeks ago, I had been working at home. The rain was pouring down. I wanted to get to a new restaurant. I knew a short cut. But my husband, who was driving, got caught in two traffic jams. I repeated to him, “Sorry.” I’m not going apologize anymore. The big F in Forgiveness tells me the past has been cast, to embrace what is ahead of me and mold the future in the shape of my wants.

Forage within myself. I have made homes several times over, in two marriages, two states, two environments, the city and suburbs. But I am digging deeper than the couch cushion to make a home within. A home where dirty dishes in the dishwasher or unmade beds can reside. A home for my choices, and I don’t mean paint color.

Fruitful. I have to remind myself that I am enough. All women do. What we give, is enough. What we are, is enough. I have learned that time spent tutoring is not really tutoring. It is building trust. It is building excitement in a young woman’s life. It is building a bridge to her family. It is only an hour. But it is enough.

In the end, as I wrote this blog and thought about various forms of “F” words, I just couldn’t locate the right word to encompass all I want to be, in the decade ahead. So, like any good writer, I made up my own.

“Fiercity” / noun / a display of or state of intense vitality and creativity when in community with others. 




Embarrassed by Those Who Are “Embarrassed”

tiger-backgroundI was not at “the game.” My husband and daughter attended instead. When I returned home, they were excited and not as despondent about the city and game as the media had been portraying. I listened with rapture to their version of events. Then, Monday morning, I found no less than 11 entries on Cincinnati.com related to the “the game.” And that fact left me wondering.

How much time was the city going to wallow in the seasonal demise of their football team? And why was the city of Cincinnati allowing itself to be characterized by a football team, and not just a team, but one game?

No one football team should define a great city, no one team in general, no one mayor, no one Fortune 500 company. And here is where we are at fault. Because in a way, P&G did come to define Cincinnati for so long, with positive and not so positive outcomes, with its share of creative thinking, and ideas stuck in an old Tide laundry detergent box. So, maybe it’s been in our (laundry) water all along.

My husband will tell you he had a very different experience than those watching the game on the television, which I did, some 2000 miles away, in between watching a screen full of minions with my niece. Oftentimes, I missed the purported penalties or coaches running out in to the field, and could not judge how often Jim Nantz berated Cincinnati and its fan base. But he will tell you, security kept the crowds in check and two of his guests, not football fans at all, sat through the pouring rain to witness the final outcome.

So here’s the thing. Football is a game. Mostly for adults played by adults, as medical results are proving time again. Should we expect more from a team when we pay for their stadium? Yes, but shouldn’t we really expect more from our politicians to not put us on the hook for said stadium, so we don’t feel so disenfranchised when the “team” lets us down?

Should we expect more from a team and players when we invest in tickets to attend the game? Sure, but shouldn’t we expect more of the players as human beings, and not as football players? Shouldn’t we make certain that their testosterone level is at least at a normal level before they go home and create abusive situations with a partner or child?

Let me repeat, it’s a game.

In our attendance and over attentiveness, we look to football games as a release, for our anger over losing a job, issues around mental health, our children, or monetary concerns. Consider how that release might translate onto the football field? We are imparting those expectations onto the player. We want them to not only rush Ben, but clobber him too. For us, for our anger.

We hate the Steelers, and we don’t know why.

Here’s why. Because Cincinnati is allowing itself to be defined by a football team. A team which plays here eight times a year, a team whose coaches, other then the head coach, are on a carousel. Players bounce on and off the bench with concussions, broken thumbs and torn ACLs and disappear from our consciousness.

Cincinnati will never be allowed to mutter the famous Sam Wyche statement in reference to Cleveland. From now on, every reference will be made to “You don’t live in Cincinnati, you’re from …and we don’t do that here…”

I find this post-game atmosphere both humbling and refreshing. Humbling to realize none of us are above misplaced anger and behavior. And refreshing. We no longer can, or have to, equate the success of a football team (or chili or ice cream, for that matter) to the success of the city.

Our Hamilton county commissioner wants an apology. I suspect Mr. Portune will get his apology from the Bengals when taxpayers get an apology from the commission that helped create the self-righteousness atmosphere that pervades the Bengals’ ownership. So that will be, like, never.

Besides, shouldn’t our commissioner be more focused on job creation, working in partnership with the city to better the lives of citizens so that they are not feeling despondent on a Sunday following a loss? Our residents want real jobs and an intact family to return home to, oh and a home to return to as well.

Shouldn’t our newspaper be covering more newsworthy issues? Does anyone recall Glenara Bates and how the county prosecutor and the newspaper swore they were going to look into our foster care system and make the changes that so desperately need to happen?

We continue to support an atmosphere is that is fueled by physical violence. Do we really have to wonder why there has been an increase in shootings and availability of guns in the city?

Me, I’m embarrassed by anyone who says this team embarrasses them, because they fail to understand that a great city is not defined by its mass of masculinity on Sundays in the fall and winter, who stand on the sidelines and then run to make a play that someone from above is telling them to run.

And I feel bad for the true fans, the ones who understand, this is a game, the ones who refuse labels by media and citizens alike. I feel bad for those having to endure these endless rounds of finger pointing in the media, sugarcoating the real issues in the city.

The Bengals don’t owe anyone an apology. They are a metonym, like The White House. They stand for something as a collective, can hide behind the moniker and cannot, nor will not, be held individually responsible.

We are responsible for the image we create of Cincinnati. We are our own brand of city, with more colors than just the orange of a Tide bottle or Bengal stripes.