Thursday, May 29, 2014

4 Miles and an Exchange with My Cousin

Yesterday I ran a very easy 4 miles.  Total: 853.  Location:  Still on Missouri Route 100/Manchester Rd.  Now in the Kirkwood area as I head west of St. Louis from the Mississippi.

The run yesterday was not eventful.  Just useful for keeping my legs moving and continuing to keep in shape.

So, what else happened yesterday?

I had a series of exchanges with a cousin who writes a blog, too.  We were discussing my reaction to her latest entry:

This is a pretty serious blog entry.  She warns people in her blog entry about the disturbing nature of some of the discussion.  It focused on the shootings in Santa Barbara by the man who thought that he was owed sex by the women around him.

My gut reaction--not all guys who end up as "just friends" feel this way.  And some can turn it into a positive learning how to be platonic friends with women and learning some great listening skills.

My cousin's reaction--that's not the point.  She knows I'd never react that way.  But in any situation a woman has no way of knowing whether I am a really nice guy or the guy who did the shooting in Santa Barbara.  While guys as extreme as the one in Santa Barbara are few and far between, the belief system is not as uncommon as we might hope for.

So, in my constant thinking about numbers I think about the four miles yesterday and the eight intervals I hope to run this morning.  Four is half of eight.  I can think of four good examples of how I am not part of the problem.  My cousin would say that only gets me half way there.  I have to figure out whether I want to be part of the solution.

I think I am not part of the problem because I hold women in high esteem. I have a 24/7 reminder as my tattoo shows the man (St. Sebastian) as the vulnerable one and the woman (Irene) as the rescuer.  I have described many times the importance of strong women in my family, as professional mentors, and as fellow athletes.  It is great to hold women in high esteem and recognize their importance in my life.  That is one example of not being part of the problem.  How can I turn it into being part of the solution?  Well, perhaps it would start with my own sons.  How have I taught them to keep that lesson as close to their hearts, minds, and souls as I do?  Have I ever done that explicitly?  Or do I just hope that the attitude will be adopted by my offspring?

I think I am not part of the problem because I like to think that there should be no stereotyped expectations.  The man in Santa Barbara focused on sex.  But why should any male/female stereotype hold.  In a marriage there are certain things that have to get done and the partners have to figure out who is going to do them.  Yes, I have been known to say "well, you should do that because you are the stay at home mom."  That's awful.  A better argument might be, "In light of the fact that I have to work this much to earn the money that we need to achieve the goals we have, it might be better for you to spend your time on this particular task."  It gets us to the same place.  But it is not because Sherry is the wife.  And there is nothing that I should be doing just because I am the husband.  So here, while I try very hard not to hold prejudicial attitudes in general, I think that going that next step and making sure that I never utter the words, "You should do this because you are the stay at home mom" again would be a good start.  And then, once again it comes back to our sons.  After that it is about setting a good example for others.

In running, I have two examples.  Earlier this year I wrote about the occasion on which I found myself just behind two women after they entered and intersection and turned down Charles Street just before I passed through the intersection already going to the same direction as they had turned. I remember thinking, "I don't want to be perceived as that creepy guy who hangs out behind two women runners."  As a result, I sped up and passed them even though their pace would have been just fine.  Clearly, I am tuned into the fact that some guys could be perceived that way and it could make women uncomfortable.  I'm not sure what I can do to extend this to make myself part of the solution.  I guess one way is to work even harder to avoid situations in which I could be perceived as a threat and set an example in this way.  I like to think that things as simple as saying hello to others makes me seem less threatening.  But in this day and age, people will wonder about motivations.  They may ask, "is he trying to lull me into a sense of security but he really is mean and nasty?"  This is a hard one.  i think the key is to be on guard against placing myself in situations that make others uncomfortable in an unnecessary way.

Finally, the second running example and fourth example overall.  I have heard male runners talk about getting "chicked."  That is--outrun by a woman.  Personally, I am a 44 year old runner who knows that there are men and women who are older and younger than me who are faster than me.  And I am faster than other men and other women who are younger and older than me.  We are all just runners.  To talk about getting "chicked" (even in jest) is not something that crosses my mind at this point.  The problem is that even if the guys who say this are saying it in jest, it is representative of an attitude that is accepted.  I have also known guys to comment incessantly on the "bodies" of the women runners around us.  Again--even if just said in what is perceived as not harmful the question is why should this be said at all?  Again, the fact that I'm not going around talking about being chicked, that I complement any runner who offers me advice, the fact that I recognize other runners for being great runners is nice.  I am gender neutral.  Great.  It is another example of how I think I am not part of the problem.  But that doesn't make me part of the solution unless I start to ask my fellow male runners, "Why?"  And, of course, it is not all male runners.  But for those who do, the question should be there.

The question in our society is why we cannot trust each other.  Why we cannot just approach each other as individuals.  Valued for our skills, our knowledge, our conversation, our company.  Valued for who we are rather than what we are.  Valued even more importantly for what we are rather than what we are perceived to be.  Valued even more importantly for what we are rather than what we are labeled.  And when an individual or group of individuals feels labeled, how does that affect their decisions and their lives in ways that may be completely unproductive?  How limiting is that?  And what am I going to do to help solve the problem.

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