Archive | January 2016

Yes, Let’s Travel Backwards… (we do not need to be anywhere)

When I was in Highschool I joined a co-ed volleyball team. And it was by far the most fun in sport I had. I loved playing volleyball in that group and always enjoyed the tournaments against other co-ed teams. My daughter’s school just yesterday had a similar tournament in which all 5th graders competed against each other. Nicely segregated between boys and girls in two separate buildings.

Regensburg is proposing “women zones” in buses. Nicely pink.

Public pools and saunas are also considering more gender separation to ensure the safety of women.

I am fearing my daughter will grow up in a world where men and women are no longer experiencing equal freedom and a co-ed environment.

Not all of this is in response to the cologne attacks on New Year’s Eve, but definitely more conversations are happening because of the sexual assaults on women that night. More and more articles portrait this and other similar events as a new sexual terrorism on women.

If segregation is the answer the war on women has succeeded. If segregation is the only way to keep women save, I am worried about the next generation of kids growing up to become members of a modern society. As a woman we need to fight for our freedom. We have come so far in equality, we cannot let ourselves be treated like we are a good that needs protection. Any solution cannot restrict the freedom, cannot drive compromises on only one part of the community, and must not assume one group is inferior to the other.

I am not sure if all of the direction is directly linked to the refugee crisis and migration of patriarchal oriented people into Europe. However, I would be stupid to deny that there is a correlation. Cultural differences and appreciation cannot be overcome by compromising on the wrong side of the spectrum. People of the LGTB community and women should not be asked to limit their freedom to accommodate a patriarchal way of thinking and living. Religion does not trump other’s freedom.

Having lived 12 years abroad coming back to Germany was a big culture shock. I used to grow up in an environment were the boys in my class were good friends. And I always felt welcome and integrated in mixed-gendered groups.

I do not see the same in how my daughter is experiencing her German school. The girls do not play with the boys. At a recent class event, I did not see the boys interact with the girls at all and vice versa. This might be an exception, but what if it is not?

Even in other areas I see a gender gap that I have not experienced before.

More than once a week I see a man yelling at a woman in the street in a disrespectful and nearly abusive manner. These are often very picture-book German couples in their 60s.

When I am in shops or interacting with men, I am often addressed like I have only half a brain. I need to point out every time that I have studied and am an engineer to gain some respect. And sometimes not even then. Men prefer to address things with other males.

I see women being escorted out by men fully dressed in tent like closing where only the eyes are visible; sometimes not even that. A normal view where I live. The amount of people living here with a migration background is high.

The concept of equality seems to stop where an interaction needs to occur. Where boys and girls need to find the role models that display not only co-existence, but interaction. How should a boy learn how to treat a girl? Where should the girls learn how to to interact with boys? It is not enough to give boys and girls equal access to education and professional choice. They need to learn how to interact and play as equals.

To me this interaction was natural — In school, in sport, in play time… boys were just part of the group. Our parents modeled interactions, sat together, celebrated together, and met at local village events and festivities. We were all one community. Regardless of whether we were female or male.

Since then we have also made progress in integrating LGTB more. And I just recently was happy looking at how natural my kids accepted classmates with two mothers or two fathers. And even transgendered people in my friend circle were accepted as the persons they are. We can all be the role models the kids need and bridge all diversity gaps that our parents did not know how to address.

If we cannot keep up with bridging this increasing gender gap, we will lose all progress that was made by our feminist predecessors. True equality can only happen when every gender can be in the same room without someone being disrespected, treated poorly, or discriminated against regardless of who we love or what gender we were born in.

The solution can never be segregation!

1989 And Beyond

When I was 15 my favorite song became Ch… ch… ch… changes. It was not me that discovered David Bowie. It was my friend. But I fell for the song and then the singer and then the writer. I loved David Bowie songs. When I was 18 I remember slowing down my drive home whenever the song “Oh! You pretty things.” came on the cassette I was playing. I sometimes parked in front of the house till that song was finished.

I remembered crying to “Life on Mars”.

Two years ago when I talked about all my role models being gone, that was true. David Bowie was never a real, true role model. I never wanted to be like him. Being shrill and noticed and bright… I did and still do not sparkle. However, his death hit me hard. Showing me my own mortality. I immediately wanted to write and honor him the day he died. And then… I could not find word. No clever saying on Facebook, no blog post… I lost words. Today, I think I found something in me… so here it goes. 

The first time I saw David Bowie was in 2003. I was nearly double the age of when I first noticed his songs. I went to a concert. In Detroit. It was awesome. Like a long lost dream finally caught. And I only remember a few things… the way the people in front of me dressed like Bowie in the 80s. The way I was impressed by stupid stories and simply what I thought was authenticity. Why David Bowie liked standing with his leg stretched to the back… Because he once saw someone doing it with a broken leg and he thought it looked so cool.
That is how I personally built a lot of my habits… I saw someone doing something, it looked cool, so I have been doing it ever since…

How does it feel when your role models or the people that influenced you are gone. It feels very empty — for a neverending short moment that eventually does just that — it ends. I found new people I admire. A slightly different direction: Alice Scharzer, Gloria Steinem, Emma Watson, Elon Musk…  However, it is odd when you settled with a comfortable set of characters to chase and those people all over sudden are no longer sharing the Earth with you.

David Bowie’s death reminded me of me when I was young. How much I liked his music and how much I was different than him. And yet, we are so alike.

Throughout my life I discovered I was different and distinguishable from anybody else. My name is absolutely unique, there is only one with my name on this planet. I can say this with certainty. I am an atheist. I am a German married to a Jew. I studied on three different continents and received a degree from each. I have worked and lived on four different continents. I feel and live in two languages simultaneously. I can love people of each gender. I switched classes from “working poor” to “upper class”. I grew up on welfare and now earn six figures. I grew up in an second generation abusive family and escaped. I am a story.

The truth is out there.

All you need is courage to explore.

And to honor your childhood heroes.

Thanks, David, you do not know me…,but you influenced me and my life. And I turned out positive.

Now that my Role Models are Gone

David Bowie

With Wit and Ambition

My role models all died within the last few years. This might be the destiny of someone turning 40 fairly soon… To realize that life is not forever and that everyone is faced with the unavoidable consequence: death. Since I was very young I always dreamed about becoming famous or leaving footprints for the people after me to see.  I wanted to make a difference in this world, to help others, to invent something great, or just say something extremely clever. I wanted to be quoted and recited. I always wanted to be a writer. But I never really had the courage to do just that. I hid behind good grades in school and college, I hid behind the busy-ness of a job, and I hid behind myself and the other things I was doing. And then I had this excuse when I moved from Germany to the US of…

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On Dogma Avoidance

Sometimes it is hard to spot a dogma.

What are those rules you follow blindly without ever investigating the science behind it or the evidence that would make the rule valid?

Here is a prime example of how a dogma followed without thinking can be harmful. Tim Noakes went against all conventional wisdom to state that drinking too much fluid during endurance sports can be harmful.

What?

Didn’t we all learn that drinking is essential to avoid dehydration?

It appears the body is so much more capable to self-regulate than what we used to think. I personally always hated to be reminded to drink. I am not thirsty that easily and hate carrying water bottles during runs. Often I get away with running up to 15 miles without the need to drink. Only if it is hot I have to start consuming water after mile 10. I always felt it was odd to force someone to drink something without any signs of thirst. I am glad that common sense was revisited here.

How about other dogmas? What are your dogmas that you follow blindly?

Is it “I can only be promoted if I sit at my desk from dawn till late at night?” or is it “I should eat moderately to lose weight.” Or is it as simple as “I need to lie on the couch to relax.” The month of January is a good way to rethink some of the rules and statements that form your habits.

Here are two dogmas that have been crippling me for a while:

  • I need to be in the office to be productive.
  • Only targeted speed and interval training will drive improvements to my running performance.

So I added two challenges to my life to drive improvements to my well-being.

  1. I do not need to sit at my desk in the office to be productive
  2. I will also change what I eat to improve my running performance.

Let’s see how it goes. So far I am on day 2 of improved eating with no bread, pastry, pasta, fruit, yoghurt, rice, potatoes, legumes, or milk. Two weeks of this to see if I am carb sensitive. I will add back what I can tolerate. So far so good. I feel great.

I also am saving 2h of commute today to work the administrative and routine tasks off from home. I rescheduled all face to face meetings for tomorrow. This seems to be a reasonable improvement plan. Instead of driving these long 120minutes, I will use 60min for a lunch break run. This should improve my mood and worklife balance.

How will you be challenging yourself in 2016?

On Becoming a Target

Running is one of my passions. It keeps me active and sane. And I use it both as a means of sport and meditation. Whenever I have a chance to go out to run I do. Sometimes I think I simply sign up for marathons just so I have an excuse to run more often.

My big goal for 2016 was to join a running group. And then to run a marathon.

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I joined a feminist group instead.

Recently, I noticed that my runs no longer required just a time check “Do I have time to run, are the kids ok, will I still be able to support the evening meeting or make dinner?” and if the answer was yes I would be off and away.

While I was still living in the US often a check whether it was too snowy and icy would come in handy — I just did not want to break my feet when it was too slippery out. And sometimes if it was too dark, I could not justify to run either for the fear of stepping on a rock or tree branch and rolling my ankle as it happened 8 years ago. Where I lived there was no street lighting. I have just become careful and put safety over running carelessly. I bought a treadmill instead, so I could enjoy the occasional run even when outside did not look run-worthy.

I hate running on the treadmill. It is a little like canned soup and just a mere means to stay fit, but little enjoyment. This is why I left the treadmill in the US.

Lately, my checks have become a little different. I am checking the dress code: Am I covering my butt, am I modestly dressed, and do I have my phone with me. What time of the day is it, how long will I be away, where will I be running, and … I really should buy that pepper spray.

Since I moved to Germany there is hardly a run where no man makes a stupid comment. I have heard it all: comments on my butt, comments on my boobs, whistling, suggestive gestures, stupid comments on me being too slow or too fast, or the one or other guy trying to run next to me to amuse his friends… Once I had two men blocking the road and urging me to stop. I did not.

I learned that Friday afternoon and night is a “no go” for running. Too many early drunks or people in party mood. I learned to stay away from groups of twenty-somethings. I learned to leave the side walk when a group of men is not making any intent to let me pass even though they have obviously seen me. Or I have pretended to be partners with another male runner who happened to run close by until I passed a perceived danger zone.

I hurts to say it, but Germany in the Rhine region is not a safe place for a woman to be alone. And it does not even matter if it is dark or not, it really only matters who you run into. In the beginning I felt like I was developing a paranoid trait. I was worried I would start adapting racist traits or am becoming conservative at my ripe age. I have pondered every time after each small incident what I could have done better and how I could avoid any potential harmful situation… and I always wonder what happened in the last 15 years that this city that I did not feel unsafe in is now a place where I feel uncomfortable and unprotected when by myself.

I have not found any solution to avoid danger that does not impact my personal freedom negatively. Of course I could buy another treadmill. Of course I can buy pepper spray. Of course I can only run in groups. Of course I can continue to overdress…, but how sustainable is this in the long run?

I joined a feminist group, because it is now time to stand up. It is important to be open and honest about what is going on. It is time to actually state that it is not ok to touch when you are not invited to touch, that it is not ok to comment on my body, that I do not dress in tights to make you drool over my body, that I am absolutely not your toy when I go out by myself… And there is nothing that makes it ok to take my right away. Not your religion, not your education, not your upbringing, not your negative experience with another girlfriend, not the third or fourth bottle of beer that you just had… absolutely nothing!

And I do not want to be belittled by others with the arrogant looks “There is so much going on in this world, and you only think about your own issues? Feminism has come so far, let’s give it a rest.” I also do not want my experiences and feeling negated by male colleagues or friends “I do not think it is that bad, you must be imagining things, I never see women being attacked, you must misunderstand their actions and behavior”.

Yes, it is that bad. And denying that our efforts to emancipate and become more equal are going backwards, is not helping. It is time to look up, stand up, and fight for equal rights.

And maybe I will join this running group as a second goal in 2016. After all it can only make me safer if I actually run with other people.

And maybe a pepper spray is not such a bad idea either…

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Picture 1 — I run where I am not alone; luckily there are lots of runners and walkers out.

Picture 2 — My running route is in danger of flooding.

 

I Am The Lucky One

Apparently, I am the lucky one.

As a woman born in the 1970s I grew up understanding that women have equal rights. I grew up with women being able to vote, work, and decide whether they wanted children or not. Contraception was available and abortions were legal. The world was open and I had all the choices in the world. So I thought.

As a teenager and young adult I walked around at night and was typically not bothered.

Some of my best friends were men. Long term respectful friendships that I cherish till today. I learned so much from these friendships and, yes, they were purely platonic and an enrichment to my life.

I am no longer sure that my daughter will grow up with the same luxury. Should I call it luxury? Probably not. It is a right. However, this freedom, this right is being challenged.

When I grew up I was touched twice inappropriately by men. One fellow teenager felt the need to grope my breast while walking passed me in the hall way of my Highschool. One other man decided it was necessary to stroke my back under my T-shirt in a crowd once. I learned to walk away and keep drunk men I did not like at a distance. What was kind of normal, though, was being subject of cat calling. Or being inappropriately approached by men in train stations or in public places. I have no idea how often someone commented on my boobs or suggested activities I was not willing to participate in. I learned to dress modest. Sometimes I was called “slut”. And if I did not respond I was “the bitch”.

Nothing really caused me to be scared. I have not been afraid to walk down streets at night and often still enjoy an evening run or walk in the dark.

Apparently, I was part of the lucky generation.

What happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve is an escalation of hate and disrespect towards women that I did not know could exist in Germany . More than a 100 of women were groped, molested, or otherwise attacked over the course of a few hours. Skirts were torn off, panties ripped.

This is not even a unique or one time incident. Other cities reported similar scenarios. Just the pure number of incidents makes this Cologne event so shocking.

What does this mean? Should I change my behavior? No more evening walks? No more runs in areas without other people? Am I endangering myself by just getting out of the house without protection? Is it finally time to buy a pepper spray?

What do I tell my daughter. Do I have to impose a very modest dress code (do not show skin) or a curfew (never be out in the dark)? Should I tell her that men are not friends and should be feared?

I do not want to teach her to be scared. I do not want her to feel she is second to any boy or man. I do not want her to feel her freedom is restricted. And I wish we would all unite to teach our sons and daughters how to be partners. We are partners in life.

So, here is a call to action for mine and the next generation:

Teach your kids respect towards each other and to be true partners in life. To women, to men, to others. We live together. We need to make it work. It is our duty and responsibility.

I want my daughter to live in a world with choices, not fear!

 

Sleeping is Underrated

I get it.

After a long day of work, coming home, making dinner, entertaining the kids and getting them to sleep, all you want to have is another hour or so in front the TV, reading a book, or do whatever else you might want to do.

One of my new year’s objective was to improve my sleeping pattern. And yes, I failed miserably so far. I work in a global company with often late hours and a long drive. Often I am not home before 8pm. And then my evening hours with family start. I have the best husband in the world, considering that he is doing his fair share of having us stay afloat be it cooking, cleaning, or making lunches. However, also he himself is often not home before 7pm. Our evening hours remain a challenge.

This means that frequently we find ourselves in front of the TV after we are done with all chores way past 9 or 10pm. And that is where we stay until we hop into bed, just to be woken up by the alarm 5 to 7h later.

After a few nights staying up past midnight, I can feel the lack of sleep and routine creeping up to my senses, deteriorating my patience, energy, and enthusiasm. This is a dangerous path just spiraling down towards more and more frustration and potentially conflicts with the people around me. A constant self inflicted mood displacement disorder caused by lack of sleep.

I need more sleep!

If not for me than for others. I owe it to the world and everyone’s well being.

So, here it is. I will target a 10:30pm bed time. No matter what.

Maybe not if the house is burning down.

Or if there is a bomb threat.

But otherwise I put myself on a strict bed time prescription. Let’s see how it goes.

 

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