Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where Have All the Role Models Gone?

I have said many times that I consider myself incredibly fortunate when it comes to
meaningful conversations. It is like a diet: If one refuses to let in the junk food
(small talk, lies, gossip), the flavour of real food can be tasted and the nutrients
of real food can finally make it into one's system where they can do some good. So
please let this be the caveat of sorts in future posts when I bring up at topic
inspired by a conversation that has found me during the course of my day.

The conversation that inspired this particular post was with a young woman (early
20s), with whom I had been discussing tastes in jewelry. The discussion quickly lent
itself to a segue, and soon we were discussing fashion preferences. When I revealed
my own, her eyes lit up and she became quite animated. At first she rattled off a
list of her favourite aspects of Victorian Gothic styles, especially the liberties we
are most graciously afforded. While the Era does inspire us, we are not re-enactors
and are able to personalize the best of the basics and make it our own.
(Hush, I hear a purist gasping and building up a head of steam to blast at me later.
Not to worry. It won't be the first time, and I honestly hope, not the last. Protest
is often the door opening to more fascinating conversation.. and a few converts.)

After a few moments I noticed she had begun to cross one arm across the other, so
quite blatantly, I peeked and a tatoo peeked back at me. I couldn't help but smile
and ask to see it. I think my new acquaintance was surprised, but happily (albeit
sheepisly) showed me a cartoon tat before asking if I had any. I let her know I do
not, to which she replied, "But you don't mind them?" Why should I? Tatoos are a very
personal choice and a serious commitment. Even with the development of laser removal,
there is always still some shadow of an image afterward for quite a while. She smiled
and told me the story behind her ink, followed by a confession of sorts about other
tats for which she felt varying degrees of regret. The truth soon came out that the
regrets were more for "old foolishness" rather than the ink itself. She chose to keep
the ink as a reminder of the events that created the person she is now. To that I say

It was her next train of thought that really held me riveted. This smart, articulate
and attractive young woman shared with me an unfulfilled wish: Strong, positive role
models while growing up. She shared her story, her lack of strong female role models
in her childhood, the fate of strong male role models and an insight that made me
smile, and yet sad. As she explained, she had been a "follower" growing up, with
little to no self-identity. She did was what "in" and what she felt would lead to
acceptance from others. She was very frank in sharing that she felt that while the
world cries against the oppression of women by men, the world tends to overlook that
the biggest oppressors of females are most often other females (remember the film
"Mean Girls"?) I am certain I do not need to go into detail here. We all know some
young person or persons, male or female, who has fallen prey to peer pressure. What
truly impressed me about this young lady was that her "aHa" moment had come without tragedy and she had begun to seek out role models who didn't shower her with "You're ok. You're loved." These are not role models. They are enablers. She began to listen to people around her, to their stories, and to observe their coping skills, their degree of self-worth and how they treated others. She found that when she emulated the behaviours of others, her gut told her whether it was right for her or not.

My acquaintance will make a fabulous role model for others. My instincts tell me she
already is. That is the beauty of good role models: They teach by Doing, by Living
their Truth, by Being what they are and not what they feel others wish they should
be. The flip side of role models are those who should be the subject of "What NOT to
Do" posters. You know the ones. They are in the news countless times per day with
headlines about their most recent humanity-debasing stunts while many of us ask "HOW is this person famous?" and "WHY does anyone care?" 

So why have I gone through this long and rambling story? Well, as the title asks:
Where have all the role models gone? And for the sake of my point, I am referring to
the positive role models, the ones you hear people sigh and comment on daily when
they huff "There are no good role models for kids these days."
Please tell me you're not serious. At this point I would like to call out every
individual who has uttered those ridiculous words. I would like to ask every last
one: IF you can recognize every BAD role model out there, recognize that your (and
others') children are going down a bad road following these yutzes, are you missing
your golden opportunity to BE one of those positive role models? Or have you chosen
to join the poster children by passively stuffing your head in the sand and expecting
everyone else to set the standard?

Alright, alright... in the interest of fairness (just this once), I will also give
the benefit of the doubt that many of these individuals have been trying to be a good
role model but feel overwhelmed by the Snookies and "LiLos" of the world. Guess what,
they're not going away. IF you are living your truth, IF you are being the change you
wish to see in the world (Thank you Msr. Ghandhi for that beautiful thought), do not
give up. Do not preach at your kids, at others' kids, or even at other people who are
acting like Societal Boobs. That only guarantees they will dig in their heels and
continue on the road of boorish behaviour and bad, regrettable mistakes. But DO
engage them in conversation. Ask their thoughts, their REAL thoughts. Watch for the
small signs: eyeroll, jaw drop, barely audible groan. These are actually indicators
that they DO know a better way. Perhaps they just need someone to listen and to help
them cement their own Truth and find the strength to Live it.

And then there is my all-time favourite. Remember my earlier comment about the mental junk food, gossip? It is a wonderful gauge. An example: A group of people is discussing the transgressions of one or more "others" either in immediate proximity or past tense. In this case, the topic is "skeevy" or "slutty" attire. You notice that there is little to no difference between the gossips and the objects of their ire. At this point I would ask the gossips to explain why it is wrong for the others,
but acceptable for themselves. Would it surprise you to know that I have done this
before? Repeatedly? Sometimes I just cannot help myself. The answer I received almost
every time: "Oh, I don't always dress this way." or "I just did it for a joke." Now
one might say they do not realize their hipocrisy. Not true. If they didn't realize
it, there would be no excuse. BUT, rather than wag a finger in anyone's face, again,
I will be nice (I know, not my usual mode) and in those cases will ask, "What is your
preferred style?" I enjoy the lack of tension this brings, and especially hearing
what they truly like. It won't end world gossip, but it does occasionally get people
thinking and plants a seed of individuality, healthy self-expression and self-esteem.

Score one against peer pressure.

Now am I saying go out there and be nice to EVERYone? Ugh, no. I am saying very
plainly: BE the role model you feel is missing in the world. Be the positive
influence by not backing down and trying to be the *choke* politically correct person
you assume Society expects. Be yourself. Live your standards, your ethics and live IN
your Integrity. If you are NOT fond of half of humanity, don't go trying to befriend
them. That only teaches insincerity. If you are ALWAYS happy and perky, just BE
happy. Do not try to convince everyone you meet that they "should" be happy and
perky, too. Some of us might grind your bones for our morning coffee. Just a warning.
With a polite smile.

If all of my rambling is too much to remember (and I have NO doubt it is), please
just remember this: Stand fast in your truth, but do NOT shove it down everyone
else's throat. Remember the quote at the top of my page? (waaayyy up there) If you
have to say you are, you aren't. Set an example and others, young and old, will learn
from that.

And with all of that said, I am off to regather my thoughts and follow up with some
wonderful artisans so I can share more pretties here with all of you. Oh, and that pic of Mae West at top? Honestly... who doesn't see the brilliance of that woman as a role model when it comes to being ALL one can be? =)

Many Dark and Decadent Blessings to All.

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