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Slow Clap, Roseanne

I’ve never had a strong opinion about Roseanne Barr. I never watched her original show growing up. I sort of rolled my eyes at the reboot of her show, as with the other reboots currently on TV. Is there really a complete dearth of creative content? Cuz I have a few TV scripts I’d like to get out there. (Seriously.)

With her re-boot, last week, I paid passing attention to her pro-Trump views and the articles focused on her incoherent political views. To my understanding, she’s a Trump supporter mainly to save us from Pence. Fair enough. I see that logic.

(However, I think that while Pence is a political troglodyte who’d prefer a Christian equivalent of Sharia Law where women and men are communally separated – more or less – at LEAST he isn’t a complete lunatic who could potentially embroil us in an unintended nuclear war with….who-knows-which country.)

But I see what Roseanne means.

And then I watched the pilot of her show and I was gobsmacked. Roseanne is bringing shockingly relevant issues to her viewing public (which is largely not-coastal liberal “elitists”). Her nebulously-sexual daughter moving back in, her sight-gag sister with the “Nasty Woman” t-shirt, the struggle for affordable health care, her African-American granddaughter, and her gender-fluid grandson? My eyes bugged out to owl-eyed proportions.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Roseanne, now – that she’s bringing the discussion of the struggles of the middle class to primetime TV. She’s supposedly going to address the lives of the people who voted for Trump and that so shocked the rest of us who thought an abomination like Trump could never actually happen.

I also see that Roseanne spouts untruths and bigotry, that the Black granddaughter in the show is a quota-filler, and that Rosie is a base provocateur capable of saying any ridiculous thing to stay in the limelight (like so many.

But jobs, jobs, money, and jobs are the understandable preoccupation for the white working class voters who voted for Obama and then voted for Trump. Agree with it or not, the liberal coasts need to understand what’s going on in areas un-blessed by tech start-ups, app development and organic markets.

Democrats blew it in 2016. Yes, the election was absolutely hijacked by Russia and misinformation and Hilary won the popular vote. But none of that should have mattered. Hilary’s policies should have routed Trump’s bombast. We should have spoken the language of the people who most need governmental support and health care and education and job protection.

Roseanne just may be bringing that discussion to the fore; and that’s impressive as hell, in my view. Not to mention the fact that she’s doing this all the while “normalizing” the diversity of the 2018 American family – with adoption, sexual diversity and the freedom of self-expression given to children who don’t fit into conventional boxes of black/white, blue/pink, boy/girl, etc.

Fluidity is the name of Roseanne’s new game. Fluidity of politics, perspectives, sexuality and gender.

Her re-booted show is a Trojan Horse of Democratic identity politics in a Trump community of frustrated, disenchanted working people.

Slow clap, Roseanne, regardless if this is your intention, or not. Let’s make this discussion fruitful.

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Chapter 5: You Only Get One Chance to Do This Right…Don’t F it Up.

Another poignant moment came thanks to an acupuncturist. I was in a session for a leg injury and I told him the story of my bag. He said, “I have another patient I should put you in touch with. She’s a gem and she’s high-up in fashion design. Let me call her for you.”

He did. And he put me in touch with her.

This sent-from-the-fashion gods woman offered to meet me for coffee on a beautiful summer morning. I thought I’d need to impress her because she was a high-power consultant at Saks Fifth Avenue.

I met her on a street corner. I walked with her to an uber-crowded Starbucks and she said, “I hate waiting in line for corporate coffee. You wanna just hit the coffee truck?”

Again: the kind of grounded attitude I never expected in the fashion world.

We walked out, I splurged with $2.50 for two light-n-sweets from a coffee cart and we sat on a bench.

I told her my concept and showed her sketches and even brought swatches of my fabrics.

She was enthusiastic and warm and, for better or worse, told me I was on track with all my strategy. (I was still desperate for someone to tell me, “No. You’re doing this all wrong and your non-existent business plan is a pipe-dream.” But nope. Everyone said I was doing it right. Could it be I was an entrepreneur, at heart?)

I asked her what she actually did for Saks.

“I’m a fashion technician.”

I stared blankly.

“You see how on this shirt you’re wearing,” at which point she reached out and touched the shoulder of my shirt.

Oh, god. Don’t scrutinize my off-the-rack Banana Republic outlet store clearance sale shirt.

She did.

“…see how it just falls off your shoulder without any shape? I help Saks fit things so they just look better. I’m sort of a fashion engineer.”

Fascinating.

So I went on about my future plans and how I was just waiting to get more fabric and hardware and getting my fabric to Ben Liberty by the end of July and he’d crank out a bag in two weeks (as he said he might) and then I’d sell it and possibly be in business by Labor Day and my kids’ college fund would be over-flowing by December.

This “coffee-on-a-street-bench” meet-up took place, well…years ago.

Rada leveled with me. “Alright, you need to slow down. You have to take your time. You’ve got a great idea but you’re new to all of this. Everything will take time. You’ve got the luxury of being a-seasonal. It doesn’t matter when in the year you enter the market. But most important: take your time. You only get one chance to do this right. Don’t fuck it up.”

Another round of “best advice I ever received.”

Chapter 4: Who’s Carolina Herrera?

So I called Ben Liberty.

A brief phone conversation revealed a super friendly man who seemed far-from-pretentious when he listed the companies for whom he creates samples: Gucci, Coach, J.Crew.

Once again, I was talking to a behind-the-scenes fashion mover-and-shaker who voiced full enthusiasm for my project.

Spoiler alert: throughout the entirety of my research and building this company, everyone everyone EVERYONE has been nothing but helpful and enthusiastic. I expected Project Runway attitude and fashion snobbery. Nothing could be further from the truth.

(Well, actually, Howard with the Italian fabrics was condescending and unimpressed, but then again, I didn’t actually tell him what I was making.)

So, in person, Ben ended up being a blue-collar Bostonian with a fantastic small factory on the far Lower East Side of Manhattan.

“I used to be one of hundreds. But 9/11 destroyed our business. No one could get to us. Everything south of Chambers was closed off for months. We couldn’t do business. That’s why I’m the only one left.”

His factory was about 1,000 square feet of leather cutting, piercing, treating machines, rolls of extra fabric, and drafting tables with chemicals and dyes.

This felt so authentically cool.

He ruminated: “So anyway. Men’s fashion. It’s much more interesting than women’s. Women’s is cyclical. It’s all been done. There’s not much new. But men are just catching on and becoming more fashionable. That said, it’s tough. Men’s bags are really, really tough. What’s your idea, again?”

“A stylish men’s diaper bag,” I responded.

He stared at the ground with arms folded for a pondering moment and then said, “Oh,” dramatic pause “Now that’s a good idea.”

I smirked. “I know.”

So we (James and I) showed him our initial designs and told him we were waiting for our fabric to arrive from Italy, but could he build for us in the spring? (It was February, now.)

“Um…I think so. I mean, I gotta do some work in my getaway house and I think I’m outta town in a few weeks for a client, and then my wife has forced me to take a vacation and then I have some work to accomplish. But my wife keeps track of all that. But I think I can.”

He took a dramatic pause.

BUT, if Mrs. Herrera calls, I drop everything for her.”

Uh-huh. Anyway.

“Okay, sounds good. Well, we’ll be in touch as soon as possible, get our fabrics, hardware, lining fabric and the like and we will be in touch.”

James and I walked out. Even though this was a research-based initial interview, I was in love. “He’s the guy. I don’t even care if other people are cheaper or easier or anything. He’s just so nice and seems so calm and competent and kind. I wanna use him. But…who was that Japanese-sounding woman he referred to?”

James was aghast and closed his eyes with a smirk. “Somewhere in the world Carolina Herrerra just gagged because someone doesn’t know her name.”

We laughed. Hard. But seriously – I’d never heard of this woman. In my defense, she hardly makes any clothing for men. Now I recognize her as one of the most hoity-toity of all Upper Ease Side women’s designers.

But I hope somewhere in the world, Ms. Hererra was humbled just a little bit…by an entrepreneur fashion wannabe.

You’re ok with being humbled as “Jenny from the block”, Carolina, aren’t you?

And I set out to round out my cache of fabrics and hardware.

My First Sponsored Post (But Actually Not)

I’ve never written a sponsored post. There’s a whole world of badass bloggers who are making a living writing about products and services and restaurants and hotels and all sorts of fabulously gifted items.

I’ve lacked diligence and focus to do so effectively.

I dipped my toe into that world by recently attending the “Dad 2.0” conference, an event where hundreds of dad bloggers from across the country came together to network, commiserate, and meet companies actively seeking bloggers to write sponsored posts.

I’ve found it intimidating to imbue my stories of everyday life with shout outs to Crest or Kia. I’m afraid I’d be disingenuous. It changes blogs, a lot. But before I get judgmental about it, the conference was all about “how to make money from your blog”.

And why not? Companies are desperate to find new ways to reach audiences.

In the Hulu and Instagram world, we try to avoid ads at all costs. But we are a nation of consumers. Buying stuff drives the American economy. And if industry can’t market to us, we don’t know what to consume.

Ads are vital to our economy and industry.

The fact that bloggers are now tools of marketers is a win-win. Bloggers have an audience that marketers need to reach. And the best bloggers still inform and entertain their readers, even with ads.

Anyway, at the Dad 2.0 summit, several companies were there to recruit writers and hand out swag. That was fun. Mini Lego sets of the Millenium Falcom from Lego, energy bars from Plum Organics, a pop-up barber shop sponsored by Dove Men, and Kia loaned cars to go for beignet runs (Dad2.0 was in New Orleans.)

One of the booths was Hanes. I was impressed that the first thing touted in their booth was their effort to reduce water waste in their factories, as well as incorporate recycled fibers into their underwear. Good for you, international-corporation-able-to-single-handedly-affect-climate-change-one-undy-at-a-time.

(They also solicited writers to take a trip to a National Park with their family and write about their experience. Yo, Hanes! Pick me! Pick me!)

Another booth sponsor was Clorox. They had a mock bathroom and kitchen and set up a “cleaning competition” where participants had to pick up plastic balls (like in a ball pit). The winner with the most points won a Visa (* not #ad) gift card as well as a $500 donation to the charity of their choosing.

While standing in line to “compete”, I started sweating because it felt like a commercial audition. As an actor, I loathe commercial auditions. So often casting directors say, “Just improv! Have fun with it!” And I start comparing myself to my audition competition (none of whom I’ve seen) and think about the actors who’ve invested their time and money in improv classes when I just wanna come in and read a card that says, “Buy this shit” and rush back to pick my kids up from school. I’m not that improv/commercial guy.

But at Dad 2.0, there weren’t a lot of actors. So I pulled out some easy fall-back gimmicks like physical comedy and a bump-n-grind in the midst of “cleaning up” my kitchen. It was cheap.

As they tallied my arbitrary points, Clorox gave me the quick schpiel on their current campaign to point out “a cleaner house leads to less stress, more focused kids, and healthier emotional and physical health.“

Such a link isn’t the first thing I think of when I buy Clorox items, but it really did make an impact on me.

And then, at the end of Dad2.0, I learned that I’d won. I felt like I’d cheated, but I won.

And I suddenly had $500 to donate to an organization of my choice? Sweet.

I felt like Clorox gave me keys to a kingdom. I thought of political groups (duh), campaign finance reform, protecting trans kids, etc.
And just a few short days later, Parkland happened.

Working to keep guns OUT of schools would be my cause. (At the very least. I mean – truth be told…I’d just get rid of guns, period. But I digress…)

I wrote my contact at Clorox hoping it wouldn’t be too “controversial” to give Clorox bucks to something slightly controversial and sadly political.

Clorox said: It’s entirely your call.

So I was honored to give $500 to the Sandy Hook Promise. I mean – an organization founded after the mass murder of 1st graders and kindergarteners wasn’t able to convince Congress to act, but it’s still trying to enact change.

And today, I heartily applaud the students from Stoneman Douglas and their activism in demanding that everyone, someone, ANYONE do something about guns in classrooms, the youthful purchase of assault rifles, bump stock sales and (not) arming teachers.

Clorox doesn’t have much of chance to, for instance, ban sales of guns to minors. (Thank you, Dick’s and Walmart!) But they are on a campaign to make people healthier by promoting cleanliness. I’m pretty sure they’d support limits on gun purchase, ownership and use. I won’t force them to take that stand.

But I will gladly use their money to further a cause helping keep children (and adults) safer and healthier. “Clean is the beginning. The rest is everything.” I’ll buy that.

Chapter 3 – International Color Cartel

So I called the fabric guy. It was just before Christmas and he said, “I can’t meet until the new year. I’ll be in Italy making decisions about colors and textures.”

I had it in my mind he was one of the international color cartel that decides what the rest of us poor consumerist schlubs will be force-fed for the next year.

A few weeks later, my design partner (James) and I were ushered into a conference room lined with 4 rows of 12×12 fabric swatches.

Fabric guy (Howard) knew he was dealing with newbies.

His eyes-half-mast behind the glasses demeanor gave away nothing. He wasn’t a shark ready to take advantage of us, but I could see the sigh behind his Elliott-Gould-in-Ocean’s-Eleven glasses that said, “this is such a waste of time.”

Before meeting Howard, I told James I wanted the bag to be leather – like Louis Vuitton bags, but dyed deep navy blue.

“Ok, well Louis Vuitton isn’t leather, first off.”

“Oh.”

“It’s coated canvas.”

“Coated with what?”

“Um…plastic.”

“You mean, these rich people are just carrying around Chuck Taylors coated in melted Fisher Price toys? How ridiculous.”

Luckily, I didn’t need to expose my low-brow condescension to pompous fabric dude.

When I told him, “We’re looking for deep navy blue coated canvas,” he asked, “What are you making again?”

Julia’s words rang in my head. “Don’t tell him what you’re making.”

“Um…a messenger bag for men.”

He smelled my obfuscation. I smelled his disdain.

“Well, do you want PU or PVC?”

“He-heh. What do those stand for?”

“Polyeurethane and PVC.”

“Like PVC pipes?”

“Yes.”

* Amend my previous assertion about rich people carrying canvas grocery bags covered in melted plastic pipes.

“Um…what’s the difference?”

“It’s preference.”

“OK. What would you recommend?”

“I’ll show you both.”

He brought us a few hangers with indistinguishable squares of deep navy blue melted plastic on canvas.

I stared in that quickly-mind-numbing way when you contemplate the difference between paint chips labeled “delft” and “bashful delft.”

Finally, Howard said, “I mean, one thing is: you can’t have PVC with kids. It’s toxic.”

OMG. Was he reading my mind? Thank goodness he was doing so.

“Oh, OK. Um…we want PU.”

Phew. Dodged a PR nightmare, there.

We settled on a fabric that cost 23 euros/square meter.

(Yet another time I think the US absolutely needs to get its act together and adopt the metric system. Seriously, my fellow Americans, what are we doing?)

Howard’s company was NOT converting to inches, let alone dollars.

The height of pretension. Sorta.

To further the sting, I wasn’t ordering in bulk. I just needed a little bit, which doubled the price. So we ordered 3 square meters of this fabric for 46 euros/sq meter.

As we were filling out the paperwork, Howard mentioned, “You know, I really think you should be considering nylon. It’s the future.”

I had my chance – “Wait. Are you part of that international fashion cartel that decides what colors and textures we will be wearing for the next four years? Is that why you had to be in Italy over New Year’s?”

He didn’t even smirk.

“No. That was just for factory meetings. No, I’m telling you that nylon is the future. It’s the 80’s, again.”

“Heh-heh,” I nervously giggled. “What does that mean, actually?”

“Those ‘LeSport’ bags and ‘Members Only’ windbreakers?”

I made an “ew” face.

“Yeah. They’re back. You’re gonna come back here asking for nylon, I’m telling you.”

And then, as an afterghought, I asked, “Do you know any prototype bag makers?”

Before this moment, I’d always assumed I was going to ask some of my costuming/wardrobe contacts in the Broadway community to somehow manufacture a bag for me. I didn’t know if they would or what the result would be, but that was my only brainstorm.

“Nope. They’re all gone. That whole industry is overseas. And what few remain are all schisters and dupes. They’re awful. You can’t trust anyone, anymore.”

Shoot. That was deflating.

“Except this guy I heard about, Ben Liberty. I don’t know him. I don’t know anything about him. Except I hear he’s good.”

“Ok. Ben Liberty. Do you have his number?”

“No.”

This guy.

I walked out the office door, looked at James and rolled my eyes. “That was a trip.”

“Without a doubt,” he said.

We high-fived.

I’d now put money on the line. This was becoming real.

And then I called Ben Liberty…

Chapter 2 – Starting the Path

So I called a good friend, (also an actor), who had some experience in design, James Brown. I asked him, “I have a random idea for a design I’d like to ask you about. Can you meet me at the playground where I bring my kids?”

A few days later we met at a playground, aka my office.

“What do you think of making a stylish diaper bag for dads?”

He didn’t guffaw in my face. Phew. First step down.

Right away, James put together some inspiring ideas and notions of other bags. A week later, we met up at a coffee shop (so we’d have a table for sketching) and laid out a basic idea of a messenger bag.

I mentioned, “I’d like the bag to be deep navy blue. Like Louis Vuitton material, but blue.”

Armed with a design, I first reached out to a friend, Mike Lubin, whom I like to call “the unofficial president of an unofficial gay dads club” with which I’m remotely active.

I texted him a pic of my design and said, “what do you think of a company making baby gear for stylish dads?”

He texted right back: “You should reach out to my friend, a fashion consultant, Amy Meadow.”

Delighted to be pushed forward, but (ever the needy actor) I still had to ask, “But…what do you think of the design?”

He was very complimentary.

Phew. Someone likes me.

That was pivotal. (The networking, not the compliment.) As an actor, I always think of “networking” as a dirty word – it’s so self-serving. “Hi. What do you think of me? Don’t you think I’m great? Will you hire me?”

But Mike sending me to Amy forced me to call strangers and ask for advice and direction. It’s self-serving, but also collaborative. “Hi. I have this idea and Mike said I should call you and ask for advice and direction.”

Surprisingly, along this mulit-year path of advice-seeking, every single person has enthusiastically contributed to my path.

And I can’t wait to return the favor. It’s exciting to hear about new ideas and work with people to advance a collective cause of entrepreneurial spirit.

So I call Amy Meadow and give her my quick schpiel. As I talked, I could hear her fingers tapping in the background, presumably to Google “baby gear for stylish dads.”

“Ohmigosh, I can’t believe this doesn’t already exist. What a great idea!” she said. “Okay. You don’t need me, right now, you need my friend Julia. She’s a factory-sourcer for diaper bags. She will help a lot more. Call me back after a few more steps.”

So I called Julia

Again I hear background keyboard googling. “Ohmigosh. How does this not already exist? Alright, I help source companies, but mainly I work with UN-stylish quilted bags carried by women in the TKTS line.”

(This cracked me up. I hadn’t even told her I’m an actor and she’, well…joked about the tourists in line for 1/2 price Broadway tickets.)

Julia gave me a brief breakdown of how to budget and breakdown services and products. It was mind-boggling.

And then: “OK, you don’t need me, yet. Go talk to my friend, a fabric importer. He can help you pick a fabric and start building.”I’ll stick with reaching out to the fabric guy.

“He’s the best fabric guy in all of New York. I promise. His products are unparalleled. But,” (dramatic pause) “don’t tell him what you’re doing.”

Happy for the heads-up, I called the fabric guy.

So…Now I Confess…

While my blog is often about my personal/public therapy, it’s now truly my own confession time.

I started blogging to sell stuff.

I know, I know. Once again, I’m a monster. Worse than when I went hoarse yelling at my youngest due to his #tearlesscrying.

But lemme explain:

A few years ago I founded a company making “baby gear for stylish dads”.

See, when I was expecting my first son, I wanted a really nice diaper bag. Something super stylish, super masculine, and not necessarily inexpensive. I was thinking, “I’m cool with paying $250 for a bag that states, ‘I’m a proud dad and I’ve got style.’”

Shockingly, I couldn’t find anything like it.

So I had a kid, got a dumpy bag, became permanently sleep-deprived, got some gray hairs, had another kid, became ten times more overwhelmed and under-rested, and then decided, “I think I’ll start a company making stylish baby gear for dads. I’ve never been a business person, I studied international affairs and philosophy 87 years ago in college, and I’m just an actor.”

What could go wrong?

But I’m certain waaaaaay dumber people than I have figured this out.

So I founded the company, designed a bag and got several steps into the process (don’t worry: I’ll fill in the details, later) when I spoke with married friends, both of whom had graduated from the Harvard Business School. It’s not like I had an inferiority complex due to their Ivy League pedigree (yes I did), but their opinions of my venture really mattered.

I visited these friends at a summer cabin they own in Vermont and it was while we sat around their campfire eating s’mores and waving away smoke when I regaled them with my entrepreneurial story to that point.

They both agreed, “This idea is great. You need to start blogging.”

I was like, “Sweet! Wait. Huh?”

They quickly schooled me on the ways of blogging and building a clientele and marketing and whatnot and eventually I sorta got it: tell relatable stories and there’s your audience.

So I set out to blog. That was the genesis of this trove of half-assed, inconsistent, missives.

The idea was to alternate (weekly) with posts flipping between fatherhood and fashion. That was laughable since fashion is not actually my thing. Undoubtedly I like nice clothes and looking turned out, but my rather vanilla J.Crew personal style is nothing to blog about.

Still – I was venturing into the world of fashion and I don’t dress poorly. So…why not?

I also reached out to network with fashion and dad bloggers across the webisphere. A few immediately said, “Let’s have lunch. My blogging consultation fee is $____.”

That I was not interested in. Paying someone to advise me on blogging felt dirty; like paying for a Donald Trump webinar on “making money in your sleep and from your room.”

One fashion blogger, however, met me for drinks. He tapped around my nascent site and said, “You have to stop writing about your idea right now.”

To that point, I’d shared my idea for a diaper bag in six posts. First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth. (I’d love it if you clicked on all these and shared it with all your friends and bought three bags, while you’re at it. But don’t worry – I’ll re-write them all, then we can fact-check and check my memory since I’m doing all the work over. Because content. )

I was scared to do so, but I figured I needed to go public, at some point. And I figured I’d document my entrepreneurial journey along the way.

“No, dude. No, no, no. It’s probably going to take much longer than you expect. And in the meantime, someone else will take your idea.”

I’m a trusting Coloradan. Not that Coloradans don’t get screwed or have ideas stolen, but I just trust people.

But this fashion blogger made perfect sense.

So I stopped. And I doubled down on writing about my kids, my life in New York, my increasingly whiny younger son, and vented on some topics about which I probably had no business venting.

It’s been a long road. Four years of product development. I have a lot of stories.

And I finally have a product. I can officially announce that the first series of my diaper bag is available at Barney’s on Madison Avenue in NYC and online at Barney’s and my own website, ecknox.com.

(The “E” and “C” are for my sons’ names, “Knox” is my middle name.)

And now, I finally get to fulfill the original intent of my blog…to sell stuff. Sorry. Don’t worry – I’m not expecting you to buy a bag. But I’d love it if you mentioned to any man (or woman! – no discrimination in this company.)

Or heck, message me on this page and let me know you’d like to buy one, and I can definitely hook you up with a hefty “friends ‘n family” discount. For reals. I know a guy.

But what might hopefully interest you is me documenting my journey.

After all, I went from an idea to a brainstorming session on a napkin (no joke) to landing a bag at Barney’s.

Yeah. I’m proud. I hope you’ll read my story.

(Don’t worry. There’ll be plenty of complaining about my kids along the way.)

Love,

Gavin

 

Oh! If you’d follow me on Instagram, I’d sure love that!

@E.C.Knox

@daddycopinginstyle

Guys: we are gross.

Guys – we are so gross. For reals. I mean – I’m in a house of two gay dads, two little boys (one rather gender nonconforming) and a slightly incontinent female dog.

And I swear that dog is cleaner and smells less than the rest of us.

For example – note the above picture. That is the tiny flat part of the base of our toilet where the bolt attaches the john to the floor. Somehow, even though both kids are potty-trained and have a good enough aim, within five days, that part of the toilet is caked in…um…urine. Without fail.

I swear to you – I clean this weekly.

Until becoming a father of two “standing-up-pissers” I have never, EVER regularly (or ever) cleaned that part of a toilet. Admittedly, I lived in college apartments that could’ve violated health codes, I thought that was more about our kitchen cleanliness, rather than our bad pee-pee projection.

Seriously – what is our deal in the bathroom, guys? I read somewhere, once, that mens’ urine can splash up to eight feet.

I’m not a clean-freak, by any stretch. But: gag.

During my early NYC days waiting tables, I had a hilarious manager who cracked us up, saying, “Men, I do not know what you do in those bathrooms. But even the entitled wall street tycoons render our bathroom a nuclear waste site.”

She was right. Our restaurant was a $30/plate kinda place. And the bathrooms were regularly a million-dollar stench.

(The manager read somewhere that a coffee mug of espresso beans could absorb some beans. She placed those under the toilet. The first night she did so, someone complained. Eye roll.)

Bathroom cleanliness has become a minor issue at my kiddo’s school. Luckily, it’s not a bathroom “issue” for my gender-bender. You might recall he solved his own problem of “which bathroom to go to” by proactively asking if he could pee in the unmarked stalls on the kindergarten floor. (So proud of him for solving that issue, himself.)

Anyway, there’s been a convo amongst a few parents about having un-labeled bathrooms.

(If you have strong feelings about separating boys and girls in bathrooms, you might just want to check out, now.)

Seems to me, especially pre-puberty, a lot of the boys would have a lot to learn from the girls in the bathroom. I mean, let’s face it: girls are not “immune” from raising hell in the bathroom, but…how many of you lady-readers recall seeing boogers all over your elementary school bathrooms?

I distinctly remember being semi-traumatized by our elementary school bathrooms – there were no doors on the stalls. I mean…pooping in front of the fifth graders when you’re in third grade was definitely a precursor to lifelong therapy. But why were there no stall doors? Cuz the boys were maniacs, that’s why!

I heard through my school’s bathroom-discussion-grapevine that several kindergarten girls contracted urinary track infections, last year. Reason being they avoided the nasty boys-peed-upon stalls.

I’m not well-versed in 5-yo urinary track infection derivation, but I’d be pissed if I had a daughter in that situation. Pun intended.

But still – what about a real bathroom-awareness campaign? Yeast infections notwithstanding (no small deal, I’m aware), with all-gendered bathrooms, perhaps the teachers (and parents – duh) could raise the bar by demanding better aim and behavior in the bathroom. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?- a school-wide campaign that shames the boys into being cleaner? Progress, people. That’d be progress.

In the midst of a school yard discussion, one woman said, “but what about the fifth grade girls who might be getting their periods?”

And one bold mother said, “You know? I’d appreciate it if my daughter weren’t treated like a disgusting, unsanitary handmaid in a red robe and white habit when she’s menstruating. Why can’t the boys be expected to mature, a bit, and accept this important part of life without thinking my daughter is disgusting?”

Huh. Strong point. Very strong point.

Heck, sometimes we all need privacy in a bathroom. And there’s a lot to be said for kids crying in private or pooping in private or just having a moment of privacy. I suppose I’m a big advocate of the “everybody” bathrooms that have the European floor-to-ceiling private stalls. That gives privacy.

But just imagine the boogers and toilet paper vandalism and graffiti. Sigh.

Ugh. We’re just disgusting animals, all of us. (But mostly the guys.)

Excuse me. I need to go scrub the dried urine off the white toilet. Who knows what’s caked onto our metallic tile floor.

Gag.

Just Trying to be One of the Ladies

So I’ve re-joined the gym. For a few years I was the “I’ll-stay-in-shape-by-doing a-marathon,” which meant running intensely for three months of the year and eating and drinking my face off the other 9 months.

After the marathon I’d buy a few groupons to a crossfit gym or a kettlebell class and use about 30% of the groupon…exactly the way they hope we will function.

This year, I just thought – rather than waste most of my money, I’d join the neighborhood cheap-ass gym nearest my apartment.

And actually? – it works. The lighting isn’t sexy, the towel service isn’t fluffy, but it’s fine.

So I’ve been taking classes because I just want people to tell me what to do. I’m no longer 25 and hoping to be an underwear model (which was always a pipe dream. I don’t have the wherewithal to live on celery sticks and Emergen-C over ice). Now, I just wanna maintain some leanness. So I’m all about having someone else boss me around.

For the past few months (even before New Year’s…this ain’t some fly-by-night new year resolution that’s gonna be abandoned) I’ve been boxing, spinning and “total body conditioning”.

You know those – the ones filled with women…so men think they’re too tough for them?

Yeah, those.

Every. Single. Time. I’ve walked in arrogantly thinking I was too brutish for the class. And Every. Single. Time. I’ve had my ass (and shoulders and abs and glutes and quads and biceps) handed to me on a dirty yoga mat.

Every single one of my dozen “this’ll be cake since it’s really for ladies” classes has gone something like this:

*** I walk in, assess the room. ***

Hm. Four middle-aged women. All older than me. They must be so intimidated, me who’s gonna come in and ruin their mojo cuz I’m gonna be so much stronger than they are. Wait. Are they older than me?

I glance in the mirror.

Never mind. I’m older. They’re still impressed I’m here. Cuz dudes don’t take these classes. Wait. That’s the teacher? What is she? Like 95? This is not sexy Equinox with a toned 27-yo model body. It’s gonna be jazzercise from the 80’s. Ugh. Wasting my time.

*** Warm up w step-touches, a few grapevines, and step-touches in a circle.***

What is this – a nursing home exercise class? This is embarrassing. The men lifting actual weights outside this studio must be judging me getting my Jane Fonda on. I’m sure they’re not thinking about their own insecurities and checking their body image issues in the mirrors.

***Lunges with weights.***

Lunges with bicep curls? Ok. At least we’re doing two things at once. Should I pick up my medium weights or my heavy weights? Well, these ladies are using mini-weights. I don’t want to seem too arrogant. I’ll do the medium weights.

*** And very quickly… ***

Wow. This is getting hard. At least we’re almost done.

***We weren’t almost done. We were on the first of 147 sets***

Ohmigod. I’m the only one wincing. This instructor has great form. Good for her. Wait, I just gave her a “good for her” sympathy thumbs-up, but she doesn’t need sympathy. This must be the big push at the beginning, though. And my legs are always the quickest to tire. Must be because I’ve got strong ones. We must be almost done.

*** “And another few sets, girls! Oh! And gentleman!” ***

Thanks for the shout out. I need to step it up. Stop looking tired. Wait. Another set? Ohmigod. When will this fresh hell be over? Let’s get to the arm workout. Then it’ll be easy for me. Keep…your…form…come on. Almost done. Come on…

*** We finish the lunges. My legs are quivering. ***

Oh, thank God.

Meanwhile, I’m totally judging the teacher’s choice of 90’s music boy band music…which I secretly love and know all the lyrics. Well, those leg sets were tough, but I’m sure the rest of the class will be easy and a waste of my time.

*** 798 shoulder presses combined with squats and standing-side leg-lifts ***

Come ON, Me! Keep your shoulders up. Wait, is this the Backstreet Boys? Or N’Sync? Wait. Do I like this song? Or do I LOVE it? It’d be a hell of a lot better if I could put these weights down. I’ve skipped, like, half this set. I’m skipping steps. Wait. Are they watching me? Are all these ladies who are doing their 478th leg lift looking at me? Stop being so narcissistic. They aren’t watching. They don’t care. Stop being such a man, dude – thinking they’re all watching; thinking they care that a man invaded the class. No one’s watching me, now…I hope. Because I’ve just collapsed and I’m skipping half these leg holds.

*** Push-ups. ***

Oh, good. Now I’ll regain my dignity.

*** Six push-ups, later…***

Ohmigod. Is this some sick kind of voodoo magic this unicorn-of-an-instructor is pulling? I can usually do 30 push-ups with no problem. But I’m collapsing at seven. I bet the women are all doing knee-push-ups.

*** I look around. They’re not doing knee push-ups. ***

I think I’m already done. Surely they’re all done. Wait, – one-legged push-ups? What’s going ON? And I have to do it again on the other side?

*** OK, ladies – and gentleman- now more arms. You might want to pick up a heavier weight. ***

I audibly laugh. She winks at me.

Oh, yeah. I bet she’s already like, “I knew you’d be dying, by now, kiddo…you and your arrogant, yet fragile, ego. I’ve seen it all, before.”

*** Time for abs ***

By now, I’ve reoriented my goal…just make it through half of these sets. Abs always suck in classes like this.

Yep, they sucked. I did about 30% of the abs. The instructor has done every single move all while coaching us through her Britney Spears microphone.

I need to re-tool my New Year goals: to merely keep up with the badass women in my “only-for-ladies” class.

 

From Fear to #MeToo and Back Again

I’m fascinated by the ongoing societal discussion of sexual harassment and worldwide reckoning with the thousands-year exploitation of women.

The movement makes me think about a badass dear friend of mine, Charlotte, who talks about the dawning of the age of Aquarius (unrelated to the song) and who’s personal mission is to reunite people with their inner divinity.

I’m not well-versed in astrology, new age intellectualism, or vortexes. But I do believe there is a deep energy force that connects humans to each other and to nature, and is what orchestrates the harmony with our Mother Earth (however unharmonious we humans try to make it.) Call this energy what you will. I’m fine with calling it God.

So Charlotte is the leader (she hates that term but I’m proud to call her that) of an ever-expanding “circle of women”. They believe in the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine (which are vastly different from the notion of gender roles) and seek to harness the power (or divinity) within human beings to reformulate a more peaceful, energy-focused, divine world that’s less fucked up by humans and the institutions that screwed it all up for us: government, church, corporations.

Or, if you will, organizations constructed by men.

All of these institutions are elements of un-divine masculinity: a perverted basis of power, competition, destruction and war that didn’t always dictate humankind.

For example, Charlotte talks about how Europe in the “Dark” Ages was actually much more matriarchal and not “dark”, at all. The women had deep knowledge of nature, plant remedies, and energy forces. Society was egalitarian and symbiotic. There wasn’t ownership of land by individuals since villages had to work together to survive. And women were leaders in their communities.

Sure, there were invading Huns, pestilence, and life was about survival, with much less pleasure. But what we call the “Dark Ages” wasn’t a time of universal suffering; it just happens not to be an era defined by conquer, control, competition, ambition, and domination. Life in fiefdoms was marked by fewer historic milestones, so the men writing the history books considered it a dark time. But “normal” life was not “dark.”

But then societal institutions (church, government, and “companies”…meaning private ownership of stuff) became fearful that they couldn’t keep control. So they move to repress. And these organizations run by men certainly couldn’t have women’s input. They were afraid of losing their grip on power, so these organizations acted as tyrants and demagogues, harnessing power and competing to be top dog.

Bringing that closer to home, “masculinity” (power, competition, domination, war) has screwed up society and men. This last-couple-millennia age of war (as opposed to that of Aquarius) has meant a distorted notion of masculinity has screwed up men, our notion of manhood, and gender roles.

And we men are so very screwed up. We have impenetrable emotional walls, we are afraid of showing vulnerability or proclivities other than the mainstream. In general, we lack the intimate friendships that bond women to each other. We focus on competition instead of mental health, domination instead of mutual benefits, defensiveness instead of openness.

And we are afraid. So very afraid – of not being the strongest, the fastest, the smartest, the richest, the manliest, the most virile and most respected. We fear NOT being top dog.

But what does being the top dog get us? – things that really matter in life?

We have manipulated our worlds into that of power and conquest – leading us directly to the scandals du jour of rampant sexual harassment. Instead of sex being a mutual bond, it’s about domination and conquest.

And I believe that’s directly related to sexual harassment. We have unhealthy perspectives of sex and sexuality that have been bastardized by the institutions that control society and norms and laws…those aforementioned institutions meant to control society and created by, yes: men.

(Andrew Sullivan has written a myopic account, recently, talking about the different genetic programming between men and women and that men are programmed to compete and dominate. I don’t dispute that. And he points out that gay men are a microcosm of competition and domination without women’s influence and basically, “It’s just fine.” I’d argue that, sure, men and women are genetically programmed to act differently and that men are naturally more competitive and seek dominance. However, it can be combined with respect and self-control. Healthy approaches to sex and being in tune with one’s own ego doesn’t mean undermining our genetic predisposition. Come on, Andy. You can’t excuse unwanted groping as being acceptable because of genetic programming…for women or men, gay or straight.)

But I digress.

I used to think the “Age of Aquarius” was hippy mumbo-jumbo. But, maybe we are finally turning a corner from an age of destruction toward an age of, I dunno…construction? You wouldn’t think so with the saber-rattling of international leaders. But let’s think big picture – 51% of the world population is acquiring more influence and proving more than adept in leadership positions. For the first time, possibly in history, societies are legislating parity.

We know we need to collaborate to save the delicate world that sustains our existence.

We know we are economically interdependent and need to wage cooperation, not war.

This dawning age of cooperation is a marathon, not a sprint. It might take decades (or centuries) to establish. But war makes less sense. Domination and selfish competition make less sense.

Is #MeToo leading us closer to Aquarius where men can re-discover the “sacred masculine” (without fear “compromising” a 2018 sense of “masculinity”) and women can settle into the “sacred feminine” (or men can embrace their inner femininity without fear and vice-versa for women?)

The new possibilities are limitless in a world with less fear.

What a world that could be…