Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Duggars Needed To Go A Long Time Ago

By this point you would have to live under a proverbial rock to not know about Josh Duggar's scandal about molesting his younger sisters when he was a teen.  The fallout has been massive.  He has resigned his position with the American Hate Society Family Research Council and TLC has finally agreed to pull the show from the air.

I think this show should have been booted off the air long ago.  The Duggars should never have achieved this level of fame.  19 Kids and Counting put a happy face on abuse and served it up on a disposable Dixie platter as the new standard for good Christian living.

Duggar defenders abound.  They never cease to point out how "happy" the kids are.  They point out how well the Duggars live considering their thriftiness.  The children aren't doing drugs and aren't promiscuous.  The children are well-behaved and do their chores.  If they want to have this many children, it's their business.

Most casual TV watchers and 19K&C fans are really unaware of how the Quiverfull system works and they don't understand the Christian homeschooling movement.  Duggar children and similar families use a homeschool curriculum from ATI (The Advanced Training Institute).  In order to be a part of this program, you have to be approved for it.  There are behavior codes, dress codes and even hairstyle codes (ever wonder why the Duggar girls all have to have that long wavy hair?)  Exposure to the secular world is tightly controlled.  College is discouraged for boys and nearly forbidden for girls.  The program tightly controls every aspect of a child's life so that she never questions anything and accepts everything she is told as truth. 

What happens if a child questions the rules or thinks for himself?  Punishment from your parents is the first result, but more than that, kids are taught to fear breaking the rules for emotional, financial, and spiritual reasons.  If you don't live according to these rules for a Godly life, you will likely end up on drugs or your marriage is doomed to fail and leave you a single parent on (GASP) public assistance.  Should you escape a miserable life of loneliness and poverty despite your rebellion, then you will surely go to Hell when you die.  Eternity in Hell isn't worth a brief, free-thinking life on earth, is it?

"But look how happy the Duggars are.  They're always smiling.  The kids are always cheerful.  They never complain."

That's true.  That's because the cheerful spirit is part of the belief system.  Children are punished for showing anything but happiness and contentment

"Well, I wish my kids would do their chores so cheerfully.  Kids need to learn responsibility." 

I agree, but this goes above and beyond giving your kids responsibility in the house.  As soon as Mama Michelle weans a new baby, she passes it off to an older daughter to raise.  Older children are completely responsible for their younger siblings including feeding, changing, dressing, grooming, changing, and even educating.  How much of raising a young baby do you want to put in the hands of a 13-year-old?

"None of the kids are on drugs.  They're not getting pregnant.  They make it to adulthood without the usual teenage troubles.

Is your only criteria for successful parenting is that kids don't do drugs or have sex?  How successful of a parent are you if your adult children are living at home, do not attend college, and do not have jobs that can realistically sustain them?  The Duggar parents claim they want each child to pursue his or her dreams and goals and have the kinds of careers they want, and can pursue the education needed to fulfill that goal.  In the early days of Duggar fame, many children expressed a desire to have careers in law and medicine for example.  Not a single child has ever attended an accredited college or pursued a career that required a degree.  Some girls expressed a desire to be midwives.  None of them ever became certified midwives, but instead became poorly-trained doulas.  Prior to joining FRC Josh ran a used car lot that his parents owned and never went to law school as he used to dream.  Is this what you call raising children successfully? 

Duggars, and others in the Christian homeschool movement, are both forced to grow up rapidly and yet are simultaneously infantilized.  They are told that there is "no such thing as teenagers" and that teens should be raising children and taking on adult responsibilities.  At the same time, they are treated as children well into adulthood.  Adults still need their parents' permission to do anything outside the circle of the home.  A woman can't just run to the store for milk without a sibling along as an "accountability partner".  TV and Internet are closely monitored.  All dates with the opposite sex must be supervised.  At what point in a child's life do you feel parents should stop monitoring all of their behaviors?  Do you think a woman in her 20s should have that right?

To me this isn't what faith is about.  When you shelter your kids so closely that they don't know anything else but their own religion, you're not really teaching them faith.  You're just teaching them to follow blindly.  I always thought that the definition of faith was belief despite evidence to the contrary.   These children are never challenged.  Their faith is never tested.  Their lives are carefully controlled so that they aren't exposed too long to other ways of thinking.  If they don't understand other ways of thinking, how can what they believe truly be called faith?

Do you think I'm exaggerating the way the Duggars live and that I don't know any better?  I'm not pulling these opinions out of my butt crack.  The Duggars are not the only Biblical homeschooling family out there, and many children who came to escape these situations have told their stories.  Libby Anne, who grew up in a Quiverfull family and changed her beliefs after having the rare opportunity to go to college wrote this piece that explains the Duggar situation far better than I am doing.  This is only a fraction of the information out there regarding the dangers of homeschool cults from those who have escaped them.  Recovering Grace focuses just on those who suffered abuse at the hands of ATI and its lecherous leader Bill Gothard.  Homeschoolers Anonymous covers a variety of topics on abuses in the Christian homeschool community.  Other resources include the blog No Longer Quivering, whose author escaped a horrible, life-threatening Quiverfull marriage.  I would also recommend the Book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy by Katherine Joyce.

The Duggars may be the most famous family, but they are hardly the only ones trying to push their agenda to the public.  You can read any number of Christian Patriarchy sites online.  The Duggars are not even the worst.  For example the Maxwells  put such tight, cult-like restrictions on their children that they make the Duggars seem liberal by comparison.  Then there are the infamous Andersons who are openly hateful in their homophobic and anti-semitic opionions (no "love the sinner, hate the sin" here) and openly advocate domestic abuse.  Steve Anderson's racist political rants have landed him on the Secret Service watch list.  The Duggars are not an isolated case children are suffering mental, physical, spiritual, and sexual abuse at the hands of their controlling parents.  These same parents are willing to put their lives, and the lives of their babies, at risk due to the need to have as many pregnancies as possible.

I also worry about the kind of disappointments and difficulties these children will suffer once they realize that their beliefs will not necessarily grant them the perfect like they desire.  Young Quiverfull women believe the supervised courtship model of dating will mean that God will find them the perfect spouse and they will marry and never divorce.  As we see Quiverfull kids maturing into adults we see that life is not working out the way they had hoped.  My heart nearly broke for poor Anna Sophia Botkin on her 25th birthday when she wrote this long post where she blamed women (and by default) herself for her single state, rather than the system that she was raised in.  Sarah Maxwell is over 30 now and still living in her parents' home and writing bad books for her parents' business.  Jana Duggar has watched two of her younger sisters marry.   What happens if these women, and even the men, are thrown out into the wide world because their parents can't care for them?  They have few marketable skills.  Their social skills would also be terrible because they have been taught not mingle too much with outsiders.  How will they survive?  They are so assured they will be cared for in the lifestyle they are accustomed to because of their beliefs.  This may not prove to be true.  What then?

It is entirely possible that twentysomething Quiverfull women are deliberately avoiding marriage.  They have spent their lives raising younger siblings and they don't want to be having to raise more.  By not marrying young, they will limit the number of children they have eventually when they do marry.  I hope that's what these women truly are thinking right now.  It's tragic to think of these girls praying every day for a Prince Charming who never comes.

Quiverfull families are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to issues with raising kids in isolation.  Any time your religion (or really any belief system) insists that you separate your family from the world and outside influences, there is potential for abuse.  If you limit a child's contact with those who don't think like you, then there will be no one to help them if something goes wrong.  This is true of the Amish, of Hasidic Jews, of Fundamentalist Mormans, and any other group that sticks mostly to its own community.  It is unfortunately true of the programs that most Quiverfull homeschoolers use.  Bill Gothard or ATI sexually harassed his young female employees for years.  Doug Phillips, founder of Vision Forum (another homeshool curriculum company) had an adulterous affair with an underage employee.  There is so much potential for abuse here.

Should I care so much about the Duggars?  What's it to me if I think they're wrong about everything and that I don't personally know their kids?  Let's discuss the main reason Quiverfull exists.  Quiverfull supports dominionism.  They believe that we should have a Christian government ruled by Biblical principle (or their interpretation of Biblical principles).  The Duggar family and others like them do what they can do involve themselves in politics.  Jim Bob Duggar served a term on the Arkansas legislature and even tried to run for Senate.  Josh was working for a political action group before this scandal erupted.  John David Duggar is a local constable.  They will work their way into government any way they can.  Also think about how the Duggars so heavily supported Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee.  They are having this many children because they want to breed more people like them.  They want to outbreed the secularists and put more (WHITE) Christians in this country.  They are responding to a country that is becoming increasingly non-religious and where whites are slowly becoming a minority.

Do you think a Christian nation is not a bad idea?  Do you think a Christian nation would be moral?  Do you not see a problem with wholesome people like the Duggars being in charge?  Tell me, how much does your own moral code really jive with the Duggars?  Do you like to dance?  If you're a woman, do you like to wear pants or shorts?  Do you like to listen to rock music?  Do you like a glass of wine now and then?  Do you have a gay friend?  Is your favorite movie a secular movie?  Do you want to wear this to the beach? 

I don't know if Josh Duggar is an actual pedophile, or was just mentally messed up because his parents made him repress his budding sexuality for so long.  Either way, it's wrong.  The nature of their community denied him treatment and it possibly drove him to commit these terrible acts in the first place.

My biggest hope is that just one of these kids, and not just the Duggars, but one of all the Biblical homeschooled kids, breaks free and lives a real life  That's why I have been following the Duggars all these years.  I keep hoping to see that spark, that motivation, that willingness to look around and admit something is wrong and do something about it.  I never give up hope that one day, we will Free Jinger.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Shut Up About Your Perfect Childhood! Shut Up About Kids These Days!

It seems that almost every day I run across either a meme or an article on social media that runs on the theme of childhood and parenting the "kids these days".

The article sounds something like this:

When I was a kid in the 80s (or 70s or 60s or 50s) I had the most perfect childhood.  I went outside every day and I could play in the mud pits at construction sites and canoe rapids and climb mountains and and bike in heavy traffic and walk over to the next state to visit a friend and as long as I was home by the time the street lights came on. My parents didn't worry. They wanted me out of the house.  I rode in my mother's lap as a baby, sat in the car with no seat belt as a child, and never wore a bike helmet.  I lived! I either ate lots of home-cooked food made by my stay-at-home mother or else I ate lots of junk food and Spaghetti-Os and processed foods and drank Tang and Kool-Aid. Either way there was none of this organic, non-GMO, no-sugar obsession.  I ate every bite though.  I wasn't allowed to dislike it.  I didn't win an award if I wasn't the best.  I didn't have video games or the Internet and I only had channels 2-13 on TV and there was limited amount of air time devoted to stuff I wanted to watch so I had to find other modes of entertainment.  If I was bad, my parents beat me and of course any kid who gets beaten is going to turn out perfectly and the reason kids today are so obnoxious and get into so much trouble is because they don't get beaten.  Kids today are awful.  They are entitled.  They mouth off.  They are picky eaters.  They are mean.  They don't respect their elders.  All parents today are horrible because they are not giving kids the same childhood I had.

There are a couple of issues here when it comes to critiquing today's parenting. What crosses the line between safety and overprotectiveness?  Do kids need organized activities or hours of free play?  Are children today really so terrible?

I feel there a definite difference between keeping kids safe and keeping kids sheltered.  I'm all for safety, but I'm talking about real safety.  I find it weird that adults should mourn the days when kids didn't have to sit in car seats or wear bike helmets.  Yes, you survived those days.  I survived those days.  We are the survivors.  Who is there to speak for those kids who didn't survive?  I always wonder how it must feel when  parent who lost a child in a car accident or bike accident reads some meme about how kids in the 20th century survived without safety measures.  The hip libertarian view is to say that car seat and bike helmet laws are an arbitrary decision made by an evil socialist nanny state government trying to interfere with how we raise our children.  In fact it's really more the result of powerful insurance companies lobbying for laws like this because they didn't want to have to keep paying out benefits to parents of dead and injured kids.

I'm all for safety.  Bring on the car seats.  Bring on the bike helmets.  As an equestrian, I get the helmet thing.  I wouldn't get on my horse without one and I don't ride my horse in traffic.  I cringe to imagine a baby in car accident being flung around a car as it crashes into a stationary object or flips over.  No baby could survive that.  Plenty of "nanny state" laws make perfect sense to me.  I'm not going to wax nostalgic about how I lived my life before these laws were in place.  I survived.  I was lucky.  It doesn't mean it couldn't have happened to me.

Let's talk about the other part of the story.  Are kids too sheltered and what does it do to them?

I was partially raised by a woman with severe mental illness that went untreated her entire life.  Today drugs and therapy might have helped, but in my day, the family was just expected to work around with it, coddle it, and deal with it. She desired extreme control over everyone in her life.  She did not like to be left out of things.  She resented it when family members enjoyed their lives outside her sphere of influence.  She wanted tight control over everyone's actions.

I was her pet anxiety.  I was the original helicopter kid.  While my friends enjoyed the privileges of the supposedly free range 70s and 80s, I was stuck at home.  My friends walked to school, they rode their bikes far and wide, and they had adventures.  If I wanted to spend time with my friends, it had to be at home or in the playground next door.  If we wanted to go someplace, we had to be driven there.  I spent many lonely hours at home with the TV and with books.  I was convinced (most of the time) that I was better off.  I was safer and having more fun, but I knew deep down I wasn't.  Even so, if I mentioned wanting to do something that my friends were doing, I was shamed for it.  There was too much danger out there to consider such activities. 

So I spent my childhood in a bubble of safety.  I wasn't killed or kidnapped.  I never had any broken bones.  I didn't experiment with drugs and alcohol.  I reached adulthood in one piece.  Was it worth it?  Did it make me a better person?  Is sheltering a child to the extreme the right thing to do?

I doubt my part-time guardian would admit to it, but my safety was not worth it.  Since I was so isolated from other children I had terrible social skills.  I had trouble dealing with a world that didn't center around me so it wasn't easy for me to play with other children who might want to play by different rules or play other games than the ones I liked.  I had a sense of entitlement that annoyed other family members for years to come.  To this day I am extremely risk-averse.  I question major life decisions.  As I entered my teens I longed for independence, but independence scared me and sometimes still does.  I still don't know how well I can ever be on my own.

This is the legacy of helicopter parenting.  How good does it look to you?

When I see these ridiculous memes and articles, this is one point I have to agree on.  Children need to go outside.  They need time unsupervised.  They need to explore.  They need time away from adults and time with adults who are not their parents.  They need to take risks and learn lessons the hard way.  This is the one point of these memes and essays that I agree with.  Keeping kids locked up all day with TV and the Internet and video games is not good for them.

My question is, if you agree with them, if you think your unsupervised childhood was awesome, if you think kids were better off having the kind of childhood you had (and I didn't), then why aren't your children having this kind of childhood?  Why are your kids in front of the computer right now?  Why aren't your kids outside riding bikes or playing in the park?  Do your kids watch more or less TV than you did?  Do you think they should?

"It's a dangerous world out there," you cry.  "The world is filled with kidnappers, murderers, and child molesters."  So even though child kidnapping has decreased over the past decades, and that the most common abductions are by non-custodial parents, you have to never let your kid go outside because of stranger danger.  Do you know who is most likely to murder your child?  Take a good look in the mirror.  Guess who is most likely to molest your child.  You can pick from the folks sitting around the table at Thanksgiving dinner since sexual abuse most often happens at the hands of family members and close family friends.  Do you know where your child is most likely to die?  It's in your car, of course, yet you insist your child never walks anywhere and you must drive her.

"I agree with you, Rachel.  I really do.  However, the laws in my town are so out of control that I don't dare let my child play outside because I will be reported and arrested."  

That's a fair point, but those laws don't have to be in place.  Do you know why those laws exist?  They exist because passionate people cared enough about an issue to make a difference.  Do you care about those issues?  Great.  What are you doing about them?  Did you vote for the politicians who enacted those laws?  Did you even know those laws were on the docket?  Why not?  If you really want your kids to have the kind of childhood you think they deserve, then you need to do your part and start advocating against these kind of restrictive laws.  Go to meetings.  Go to the polls.  Run for office yourself if you have to.

I do want to address the last point that kids are over-scheduled.  Do kids get forced into too many supervised, extra-curricular activities?  Do kids need more free play?  If they had it, would they just spend more time in front of screens?

I personally am of two minds on this one.  I think when I was a kid, particularly in grade school before I started riding, I might have liked more extra-curricular activities.  I wanted to be out more.  My part-time guardian was not so fond of me enjoying extra-curricular activities.  It meant time away from home where I could be in danger.  It meant I was enjoying life without her.  It meant that I might be influenced by other, less restrictively-minded, adults or by the wrong kind of kids.   I'm not sure what type of activities I would have done since I don't like sports, but maybe more stuff in theater and the arts would have been fun.   I'm not saying I had no activities.  I generally did things that were close to home and didn't keep me out of the house for long.  If I mentioned an interest in something that didn't fit the mold, I was mildly shamed for it. 

I don't mind having scheduled days. I'm a planner and like to know when I'm doing what. Some kids aren't like that.  Some kids don't like to be confined to schedules or be be tied down.  These kids shouldn't be placed in too many activities and should just be allowed to hit the playground or ride their bikes or play pickup games of street hockey with their friends rather than organized sports. 

How do you know if your kid is the kind of kid who will thrive in a schedule full of extra-curricular activities or if your kid will do better with more unstructured days?  It would probably help to ask them, and pay attention to their moods and their stress levels.  If you are going to helicopter your kids, use that power for good and actually stay attuned to what your child is feeling.

So with all of this helicopter parenting and lack of fun experiences and freedom, are kids today really that terrible?  Every day I read that kids are lazy.  They are disrespectful to their elders.  They rebel too much.  They are too pampered by their parents and have gone soft.

The people of my parents' generation also said that about my generation.  My grandparents' generation thought that about my parents' generation.  I'm sure every generation thinks the succeeding generation is the worst ever.  Children never stop being more awful than the last generation, and yet the world survives.

Do you know why kids are so awful?  It's because of the simple fact that they are children.  We tend to see children as an extension of ourselves, as copies of their parents.  Good parents will have good children.  We tend to forget that every child is an independent, thinking, human being.  What's more these independent humans' brains are still developing and still learning and making messes.  Children are going to do things adults don't approve of because they need to establish their independence.  They need to find their places in this world.  To do this they will test boundaries and question authority.  They need to learn on their own why rules exist and what rules are best broken.  Adults tend to forget this as they grow older and are less forgiving of younger generations even if they were just as bad - or even worse - themselves.

At this point, many parents who are still reading this and don't want to kill me are now saying, "My kid isn't like that.  My kid is respectful.  My kid loves his life.  My kid is happy.  Maybe other parents are complaining that kids today are too soft and aren't having the fun childhood they had, but my kids have it so much better."

You know what, every other parent is saying that too.   No one thinks their child is bad or is living a miserable, unfulfilled life.  Just remember as you judge other people's children, other parents (and non-parents) are judging you.

At this point, readers are exasperated.  It's time to play the Mommy Card.  "Rachel, you are not a parent.  You don't understand anything."  No, I'm not a parent.  I will not let you think I know nothing because I am not a parent.   I am a human being.  I was a child once.  I also see the children of friends and family.  I don't have to have given birth to see what makes them happy or to empathize with their pains.

If you think your child isn't having the best childhood, if you think your child is not as well-behaved as you were, if you think your child is too soft and too pampered, then there is only one way to fix that.  Look in the mirror and decide exactly what needs to be done.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rebirth of a Groupie?

When I hit my teens, I discovered music.

Music was the one way a super nerdy girl could connect in any way with her peers.  I was especially attracted to the New Wave music of the 80s.  It was the best style for someone who never felt in step with the rest of the world.  Plus most of the popular New Wave bands were English and Irish, which made me feel as if I were reaching out to something more global.  I felt like I was part of something big.

I was outgrowing celebrity crushes at that stage.  I was just beginning to feel that real boys might be on my radar.  I wasn't looking to fall in love with a celebrity.  I didn't want to be living in a fantasy world thinking of things that can never happen or have unrealistic ideas of what a celebrity might be like in real life.   I wasn't like my New Wave-loving friends who seemed to believe that love could bloom between them and members of Duran Duran.  I liked Duran Duran's music, but I couldn't conjure any attraction to them. They were too weird and extreme with them with their strangely-dyed hair, eyeliner, and exaggerated costumes.  That wasn't my type at all.

Then one day I was stuck at home (as I usually was in those days) watching music videos when the video for Spandau Ballet's Gold came on.  I had never heard the name of the band before.  I had never seen them.  I was mesmerized by that video.  I loved the song.  I was also very drawn to the singer.  He was so handsome I couldn't stop staring at the TV and exclaiming how handsome he was.  I would learn soon after they were the band that sang True, a song I already loved.  I had to find out more.

I acquired their album (by borrowing it from a friend and keeping it so long she finally just let me have it) and then immediately acquiring the new one when it was released (a wise birthday gift from the same friend).  I listened to them obsessively.  The music spoke to me.  I'm not sure why, since lyrically the songs  often seemed nonsensical. (WHAT THE HECK ARE "SEASIDE ARMS?)

I can't say my crush on Tony Hadley was super serious.  I harbored no fantasies and no unrealistic expectations.  I was initially disappointed when I found out he was married, but I accepted it pretty quickly.  I was allowed to be attracted to a married man.  Still the new obsession with the band awoke something in me.  Maybe it was because it was a band I had become attached to on my own.  I didn't need friends to tell me to listen to them.  I didn't share crushes with others.  Spandau was mine.

My desire for more Spandau Ballet connected me to so much more.  I read more music magazines.  I watched more MTV (back in the good old days of music videos).  I listened to alternative radio more often.  I felt that connection to a wider world.  It was around that same time that I went to Europe for the first time.  One of my most prized possessions was a Spandau Ballet photo book I got in a newsstand in Rome.   I was listening to a band they made a book about in Italy!  (I swore I'd translate the text in that book, but never did.)

I never did get to see them live. I'm not sure when and where they played in New York during those years.  I wouldn't have known where to find out.  I felt the universe owed me a Spandau Ballet concert.  I was such a devoted fan who deserved it.  Then they were scheduled to tour as the opening act for The Power Station and some of my friends had tickets.  They gleefully told me the show was sold out, but I was comforted by the fact that Spandau backed out of the tour due to Steve Norman's broken knee.

Around that same time I heard they were coming out with a new album, but that they were looking for a new record label.  I never saw that album.  It seems it was only released in the UK.  Spandau's glory began to fade in the US. I had friends who had time and money to go to NYC and search import record stores, but I had no idea where to look.  I was also too busy with my horses and pursuing other hobbies.  I wasn't up to finding ways to keep following Spandau Ballet.  If it were 30 years later I could have just followed them on the Internet and bought their albums on Amazon.  This wasn't possible in the 80s.  I still loved them, but I couldn't keep up.

One day I was looking through a book that documented Live Aid through stories and photos.  I found a picture in it of Spandau Ballet backstage.  Tony Hadley was smoking a cigarette in it.  I was not naive.  I knew people in the entertainment business - particularly musicians - were likely to be smokers.  It shouldn't have been any surprise, but I let it bother me anyway.  I declared myself over Spandau Ballet and Tony Hadley.  I don't think it was really about the cigarette as much as it was about giving myself permission to let go of the obsession.  The band wasn't accessible to me anymore and I didn't know how to pursue continued fandom, so I would just decide I was over them.

Did I ever get over them?  It's hard to say.  I still would swoon whenever I heard True.  I would talk wistfully of the days when Spandau Ballet was my favorite band.  I never stopped liking the music I knew.  I even made sure that True was played as one of the slow songs at my wedding.  I just stopped trying to find out what else was out there.

The Internet did start reigniting my curiosity.  When I joined MySpace years ago I decided to see if Tony Hadley had a page.  He was working at a solo artist then.  Unfortunately his albums were only available in the UK.  I didn't know the story of the breakup of the band.  I figured they had played together for years and just went their separate ways as bands do.  I may have been disappointed to find out Tony was married when I was 13, but as an adult I was impressed that he was still married to the same woman so many years later.  It confirmed for me he must be a stand up guy.

It wouldn't be until this year that I would start the obsession over again.  It happened accidentally.  One of my favorite 21st century bands, The Decemberists, was playing the Beacon Theater and I had hoped to buy tickets.  Unfortunately, the show sold out very quickly.  While lingering the the theater's website I saw something that caught my eye.  Spandau Ballet was playing in February.  Spandau Ballet?  Really?  They were together and touring again?  Did I want tickets?

I didn't buy tickets right away.  I wasn't sure if I still loved them the way I did.  Then I thought about how I had never seen them back in the days when my obsession was fresh and strong.  Didn't I owe it to my teenaged self to say that I had seen the band live?  Once I decided to buy the tickets, I grew more excited.  There were tickets that included a meet-and-greet with the band before the show.  I imagined how cool it would be to have my picture taken with Tony Hadley.  Maybe I could ask him if he was still and equestrian (because I'm not sure what else I would talk to him about?)  By the time I made up my mind to buy the tickets, the meet-and-greet was sold out, but I bought the best tickets available (10th row orchestra) and began researching everything I didn't know about the band since I stopped following them.

I studied up.  I learned a bit more about their breakup (but I didn't buy the documentary DVD).  I found Tony Hadley's personal website and learned a bit more about him.  He doesn't appear to be an equestrian anymore and he is also not married to the same woman he was married to in the 80s.  I found things I didn't like as well.  For one thing I learned he's a Thatcher-loving, poverty-shaming, Tory!  That was a huge turn off, but it didn't deter me from wanting to see this concert.

The time for the concert drew near.  My excitement levels were through the roof when I arrived at the theater.  I remember many of my fellow concert-goers had drinks from the bar.  I was tempted to have a glass of wine, but then I realized I didn't want one.  Wine would bring me down.  I didn't want anything to kill my buzz.  I wanted that excited rush I felt in my body to stay at a high level.  As the lights began to go down it really hit me that I was about to see Spandau Ballet - live and in front of me - in just a few moments.  How would it feel when I would first lay eyes on Tony?  I really wanted to know what that moment would be like.

As the band members came onstage, the woman sitting directly in front of me 3 rows down suddenly stood up.  She blocked my sight line.  I did not see Tony come onstage and take his place at the mike.  I was disappointed that I didn't get to see Tony exactly when he appeared in front of me.  Soon everyone was standing.  I had to stand and position myself for the view.  I had my view.  There he was.  The music played immediately with no introduction.  I heard him sing.  I was mesmerized by his voice the way I had always been.  He looked great too.  There was no guessing why I had developed such a crush on him 30 years ago.

I heard the songs I knew.  I heard old songs I kind of knew.  I heard new songs I didn't know.  I danced the whole night long.  I never came down off that high I felt. I couldn't understand why the lovers of "serious" music had made fun of them when I was younger.  They were an excellent group of musicians with a tight sound.  Tony Hadley's voice soared above it.  One could never tell that they had had an acrimonious breakup in the past.  They acted like the best of friends.  There was a true camaraderie on that stage.  Tony didn't do much stand-up, but what he did was funny, goofy, and perfectly charming.  He had a few drinks onstage and I think that lubricated the act a bit.  He was definitely becoming tipsy and even forgot the lyrics to the first verse of Lifeline ("At least you know it's live," he joked). 

They were wise to leave the show on a high note.  They only performed two encores: Through the Barricades and Gold.  The audience shouted for more, but I'm glad they left us wanting more and didn't drag out the torture of ending the concert.  I longed to be in the first row where I could have received a handshake, drumsticks, or the set list.  Amidst the cheers, Tony resumed the mike and began jokingly singing, "Start spreading the news...I'm leaving - in a few a bar...that's not very far."

I wanted to know where that bar was so I could follow him.

Then reality hit me.  I was not the only major Spandau groupie in the room.  Imagine if I knew the bar he was going to.  If I were able to get through to him despite the band's entourage and all the other fans, what would I do?  Would we argue politics while he blew smoke in my face?  Wouldn't it be better to retain the facade and the fantasy for a while longer?

Leaving the concert I felt that sense of being let down.  I said to Kevin, "Now what?  What do I do with my life now?"  The question was rather dramatic, but in the context of the evening it made perfect sense.  I had waited 30 years to see Spandau Ballet and I received the magical evening I had hoped for.  Would I ever have a band like that to look forward to again?  What did I expect from seeing a concert - now and in the past - other than a night of some enjoyable music and some eye candy?

My only way to move forward is to retain my groupiedom, but in an adult fashion.  I have the Internet now.  There are several ways I can follow the band online.  I purchased their most recent compilation album.  The concert introduced me to both new material  and pre-True songs that I either didn't know very well, or hadn't heard before.  I am a little more well-versed in their music now.  I'm a better fan for it.  I will continue to follow them.  I hope I can see them onstage again.

So now I will just wish Tony and his second wife well, as they raise their Conservative children together.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Stitch Fix #4: I Learned I Can't Shop For Myself Anymore (Although I really need to)

Note:  I am not endorsed or renumerated by Stitch Fix in any way.  This post is only for me to express my opinion and share my experience.  However, if you are interested in trying Stitch Fix yourself, I do request that you use this link, which will give me a 25% referral discount on future orders. Stitch Fix did not provide me with this link in exchange for posting about them on this blog.  All customers receive a referral link when signing on and if you decide to use the service, they will provide you with one as well.

Previous Stitch Fix review can be found here, here, and here.

I hadn't meant to do a Stitch Fix box this spring.  I had been considering doing one this summer to help them outfit my cruise vacation in July, but I thought I had the essentials of my spring wardrobe covered.

At first I planned to rely on Rebecca at Keaton Row.  She did such a great job last fall.  I knew she'd pick some winners for me.

Unfortunately, Keaton Row has undergone some changes in the past few months.  Its main retail partner used to be Nordstrom.  I love Nordstrom.  Even though it's a high-end department store, they have a wide variety of price points.  None of its stuff is cheap, but a decent amount of it is affordable.  Nordstrom also has the best and biggest petite department of any major department store.  This year Keaton Row ended their partnership with Nordstrom and they now partner with Bloomingdales.  Bloomingdales does not have such a wide variety of price points and their petite selection is much smaller.  The petite selection also seems to be made up of clothing from higher price points.

I would say Rebecca really tried to send me a lookbook that was in my budget.  The spring lookbook was not nearly as large as the fall one and she highlighted just a few key pieces she knew I would love.  I did love them.  Rebecca really gets me.  If she had unlimited access to any store in the world, I am sure she would always dress me perfectly.  Unfortunately, nothing she recommended was petite sized.  I guess she had to venture outside the petite department to stay in my budget.  I ordered almost everything she recommended only to find that very little of it fit correctly and some of it had already gone out of stock.

I ended up with nothing but a blazer, a pair of pants, and a spiffy new bag.
I decided that maybe I should go back to shopping for myself.  I needed a spring coat. The trench coat Rebecca recommended for me was ill-fitting, but  I discovered Lands End has a similar one in a petite size.  I needed some other basics, so I bought a ridiculous amount of stuff from Lands End.  Then I went to my other favorite clothing site, Mod Cloth and ordered a new dress, a blazer, two blouses, and three pairs of shoes from them. 

I ended up sending a lot of stuff back.  Nothing looked good on me.  I kept the Lands End coat and some tanks and t-shirts and the Mod Cloth blazer and shoes. Everything else went back.

Shopping is so frustrating.  At this point, I knew I really didn't need much else, but I still had some gaps in my wardrobe.  I wanted a new summer dress and some blouses.  Was that too much to ask?

It was at that point when I decided to order a new Stitch Fix box.  Maybe I'm always better off just having other people pick out my clothes these days.  Stitch Fix recently added a petite line, which means I will have a better chance of stuff fitting better.  Have a mentioned before that many of the Stitch Fix brands are also sold at Nordstrom?

They are really streamlining the styling and shipping process.  I had to wait less than a month for my shipment.  I was able to schedule a fix for the beginning of May - just when I feel confident that I can put away winter clothes for good and wear spring and summer stuff in full force.

I always spend those weeks of waiting reading scores of Stitch Fix review blogs.  I have learned not to use them as a point of expectation though.  I can look through those blogs and see almost nothing I like, and often see the same pieces over and over.  I worry that I'll hate my box.  I have been lucky with Stitch Fix that my boxes seem a bit unique and really suited to my style.  At least that had been my experience so far. (So much for all of those disgruntled bloggers who say Stitch Fix sends the same clothes to everyone.)

I asked that my box include some of the following items:  Light summer jacket or cardigan, blouses (solid and printed), a work-appropriate summer dress, white jeans.  Normally I don't like plaid, but I am drawn to the ginghams they are showing this summer, so I wouldn't mind a gingham piece.

Did I peek at the online invoice when my box was shipped?  I admit I did.  Did I Google the names of some of the items to see what they were?  Well, I admit I did that for the dresses.

So (obligatory cliched shot of the box), the box arrived 3 days ahead of schedule. 
I received my stylist note and found I had a different stylist this time.  I had Kat for my first stylist and Megan for my second.  If you like a certain stylist, you can request that person.  I don't know why I don't do that since I liked the boxes Kat and Megan sent.  This time they gave me Carol.

Let me state for the record that this was the WORST Stitch Fix I have received so far.  Die-hard fans will tell you that the fixes get better as you order more because the stylists get to know you from your feedback.  I can say that the first box I ever received was my favorite in terms of style (although nothing fit) and this box was a clear case of it all going downhill.  Carol does not get me.  Not only did she not get me from reading my Pin board, but she clearly didn't look at my profile.

Let's see what was in this Box of Disappointment.  This box wasn't even worth my trying to fix my hair and dress these items up. 

Item #1: Papermoon Neptune Racerback Blouse
Price: $38

The top wasn't bad.  The color was nice.  The pattern wasn't too busy.  The problem was the cut.  My profile clearly states my bra size is a 36D.  I point out in my profile notes that my tops need to cover a bra.  So why did my stylist send a RACERBACK top?  Hi bra straps!  Nice to see you peeking out over my shoulders on a racerback top - not!

(I am so terribly embarrassed about the arm pudge and fatback in this photo.  I really need my elbow to heal soon so I can get back into shape!)

Status: Returned

Item #2: Collective Concepts Tori Scoop Neck Blouse
Price $54

I think the stylist saw my Pin board and thought, "She likes pink.  This blouse has a lot of pink in it."  It's too bad she didn't note my Pin board shows I like patterns in florals and soft abstracts without too many colors in them.  Also, Carol never read the bit in my profile where I said I don't like horizontal stripes.  Okay, technically these were not stripes, but it was still a horizontal pattern.  Also, it was just kind of fugly.  Well, it fit nicely.  The fabric was really flimsy though - not great quality.

Status: Returned

Item #3: Collective Concepts Lisette Dot Print Blouse
Price: $64

I liked this blouse.  It was cute and practical.  It was also huge.  It made my torso look oddly rectangular. 

Status: Returned

Item #4: Andrew Marc Brodee Dress
Price: $128

I liked this dress.  Unfortunately it was about 2 sizes too small.  It would have fit my pre-surgery, post Lean Eating body, but it doesn't fit my post-surgery, post-golfer's elbow, flabby overweight body. 

Also, they sent me a cobalt blouse in my last box.  I just bought cobalt pants as shown above.  Yes, bright blue is a signature color for me, but this is overkill.

 Status: Returned

Item #5: Donna Morgan Gilly Twist Front Dress
Price $118

This is the one item I considered keeping.  I wasn't sure if the pattern was really me.  I'm not into geometric patterns, but the colors weren't too loud and Stitch Fix always talks about getting out of your comfort zone.  It fit pretty well too, although the neckline was a tad low. 

My husband liked it too.  It had real possibilities.  Then I turned around and my husband noted how much the fabric gapped and sagged in the back.  Bagginess in the back is a common problem when a short woman wears a normal-length dress.  Where are these petite clothes Stitch Fix now carries?

Status: Returned

So my first and fourth SF boxes were busts.  At least in every box I have received there were always items I loved.  A couple of the boxes had some duds, but I have often been delighted with some of the clothes in my boxes and wear them regularly.  This is the first time I received a box where almost nothing appealed to me.  Stitch Fix, I hope you do better in the future!