How to Avoid Politics and Religion

​You hear it all the time – when you’re gathering with family for the holidays, going on a first date, getting a drink with colleagues – it’s best to avoid discussions of politics and religion.  On a grander scheme this means; don’t talk about things that make people uncomfortable.  So how do we avoid it?  Can we avoid it?  Should we avoid it?  And with everything being related to some social media outlet or another these days, how much should we emotionally invest in discourse with strangers over uncomfortable subjects?

I challenge you to “bring it”.  It’s hard, it’s frightening, it can even make you feel like you’re losing brain cells.  But what’s the alternative?  That nobody’s opinions ever be challenged?  That people are no longer asked to grow and change?  To evolve?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that a simple online “conversation” or talking with a relative over a beautiful holiday meal is going to be a life-altering event for most people, most of the time.  People don’t like change, especially if we are asking people to change their set belief system, which is something that has grown and developed with them since birth.  But maybe it’s time to adjust our approach.  Maybe the white girl bringing home her new Asian/African/insert-your-minority-of-choice-here boyfriend doesn’t have to change the minds and hearts of her aging grandparents who still believe that mixing races is a bad thing.  Maybe the homosexual young man introducing his partner to his work colleagues doesn’t have to convince the Christians in the group that there’s nothing wrong with his “lifestyle”.  Maybe it’s time to look to the fringes.  The people “on the fence”.  The kids in the room looking for role models.

If we are to take that approach, maybe we can have some positive impact.  As a parent, I believe in the next generation.  I believe it’s our chance to make things right for this country and this world because, thankfully, kids are flexible.  And as someone who identifies as a tree-hugging hippie bleeding heart liberal, I know my strong opinions are easily met by others with strong (opposing) opinions and that those people are not as willing to truly hear what I’m saying.  But what about the people around you?  Maybe people listening to your debate are undecided and hearing the two sides of the argument is educational for them.  Maybe it makes them want to learn more, to find information for themselves, to think critically and reach their own conclusions.

It’s easier to become mad and defensive and to shut down.  It’s easier to see a friend or family member’s online post that is in direct opposition to your views as a personal attack and a reason to remove them from your “friend” list.  It’s easier to shake your head angrily, remind yourself why you never bother talking to them about such things, and let it bother you for hours or days on end.  Perhaps, instead, we can see it as an opportunity to share.  To share our experiences, information we’ve gathered, or to link those people with other people who are better equipped to have the conversation.  And if you can’t impact the person you’re speaking with, look to the fringes.  Who is watching?  Can you calmly and intelligently voice your opinion in a way that leaves them wanting more?  Can you spark that desire to learn, decide, and then become another advocate for your cause?

Because you know who can?  The “alt-right”, the Neo-Nazis, the terrorists.  Of course, there is a different motivation for feeding impressionable minds with bits of hate to convert them to a specific cause.  But can’t those of us who preach love and peace and unity learn something from this?  Shouldn’t we be recognizing opportunities to feed those minds with bits of love, acceptance and respect?  Shouldn’t we be setting an example by volunteering, showing up to vote, getting involved in local politics, attending worship services that invite spirituality and equality, becoming a foster parent, joining the armed forces to protect American freedoms for all, and a whole host of other vital ways to better spend our time?

In the digital age, all we want to do is surf the internet, post an article on social media that has not been fact-checked (but goes along with our belief system, so it must be right), and then argue about it with friends, family and perfect strangers.  I challenge you to “bring it”.  Find a news source that is at least a little bit impartial, do your own extensive research to learn about issues that intrigue you, share that information in a way that is meaningful and impactful, and then actually do something about it.

So how to avoid politics and religion?  You can’t.  They are the building blocks of civilization, for better or for worse.  However, you can change the way you approach these and other uncomfortable subjects, which in turn may inspire others to change as well.  And if we can do that, we’ve already taken the next step to enlightenment and a true connection with our fellow man.

My postpartum body is a mess.

A few nights ago, while snuggling with my husband in bed, he asked me something strange.  As his hand traveled from my outer thigh to my hip, he questioned if I was wearing “padded shorts”.  Huh??  When I asked what he meant, he said, “Or like, Spanx or something?”  WTH??  Now, I’ve claimed my husband is a “charmer” and it’s not like I expect poetry from him after 13 years of togetherness, but to insinuate I was so chubby I was wearing padded shorts or Spanx to bed, well, that was a new low.  Needless to say, he received the cold shoulder for the remainder of the night, regardless of the amount of time he said, “I’m sorry!”

I know my postpartum body is a mess.  Perhaps men do not understand, but girls are programmed (usually before puberty) to be hyper-aware of their bodies and how they are different from the images seen on TV, magazines and the internet.  I had two babies in two years.  And even though I’m roughly at my pre-baby weight, the way my body carries that weight is completely different.

After my first child, I jumped head first into fitness and dropped 30lbs of “baby weight”, plus 10 more, in 3 short months (I hadn’t been that trim in YEARS).  Then I was pregnant again, probably because I was so damn hot my husband just couldn’t leave me alone – am I right?!  After my second child, the baby and water weight came of fairly easy, but everything was so stretched out, lumpy and messy, it’s been hard to feel like I’ve accomplished as much as I did after my first pregnancy.  My second child will be a year old soon, and I still feel awful in my own skin.  What do I do about it?  I jump on and off the healthy eating bandwagon.  I go to the gym 4 days one week, then can’t make it at all the next week, then work out for two days in a row in my basement the following week (equipped with treadmill, weights, and a TV and DVD player to do my P90X videos).  Consistency is my problem, but with a two-year-old and a baby, some days I’m surprised I have the energy to keep upright at 6pm.

I am important.  My health is important.  Fitness is important.  I want to have no trouble chasing my kids (and maybe someday, grandkids) around outside.  And as shallow as it is, I want my husband to still want me – not just because I’m his wife, the mother of his kids, his best friend, and because he loves me.  But because he truly wants me.  I know I truly want him.  And if I’m being completely honest, I’ve never done well with power imbalances like this.  I want to be as special to him as he is to me, in every way.  The feminist in me screams, “You ARE good enough!  You ARE beautiful!  He SHOULD love and want you as you are!”  And I’m sure those things are true.  But that’s not how women are conditioned.  It’s a hard yolk to break.

When I asked my husband the following day for some sort of an explanation (first mistake), then asked if he was thinking of my bike riding shorts, that were padded, etc, he really couldn’t come up with a reason for his questions.  And he is smart enough not to say it, but I told him that his statements were the equivalent of calling me fat.  That as a woman, I have enough hate towards my own body and that I didn’t need his help.  That since he rarely expresses himself verbally to tell me I’m attractive, if the one time he does open his mouth, it’s to say something negative, I am not going to react well.  I’m happy to report he seemed to truly understand, was absolutely apologetic, and perhaps has a better grasp on how such words make me feel.  And he did confirm he loves me as I am, which was nice.  But more importantly, we have a daughter to think of.  We need to set the tone for her as she grows so that she can have a healthy relationship with her body.

So ladies, there’s nothing wrong with your bodies, before or after kids.  Health is absolutely important, but no two bodies are the same.  The reality is, you will most likely get stretch marks at some point in your life.  After having a baby, your labia are HORRIFYING (who the hell designed the bathrooms at the hospital where I gave birth to my kids?  And why did they think it was smart to put a full length mirror opposite the toilet?!)  And everyone’s boobs are weird, one way or another, after kids (after my first, my boobs were adorable floppy pillows, which I loved – now they are big again and starting to sag, which I don’t love).  And if you have multiples, “Irish twins”, or just big babies that stretched you out, your tummy may not ever be the same – I haven’t lost total hope yet, but it’s not looking good.  But our bodies are strong.  We built miniature humans.  Or if we didn’t, we use our bodies for all sorts of wonderful things – running, yoga, carrying as many bags of groceries in one trip as humanly possible.  Our bodies deserve a little love and patience.  As do our partners, even when ask if we’re wearing padded shorts (*eye roll*).

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