Aunty-strength advice

It was 97 degrees in Baltimore last week. I was sweating my guts out watching all the beloved high-school graduates tripping down and then back up the aisle. In between, a tad more than too many people gave advice:

It’s okay to fail; explore a variety of career options; and, your parents have never been prouder so now would be a good time to ask for money.

It was lovely and despite the heat, a great joy to see my niece get her diploma.

Days later, I woke up thinking “oh man, they forgot some of the most important advice.” Aunty-strength advice.

Honey, sit down so I can tell you a few things.

First of all, sex is supposed to be fun*. If it’s not, that’s not good sex. If you find yourself needing to get drunk to have sex, then you are missing out. And Jello shots? A really bad idea—here’s why.

When you go to parties, go with your friends and watch out for each other. If you see a guy friend dragging a girl off drunk, yell at him to knock it off. Or just grab her and get her out of there. Ask your friends to do the same for you.

And lastly, are you on birth control? No? Honey, do you think you want to have kids? Is now a good time to do that? Have a baby when you want to have a baby. And trust your gut. If a guy gives you even a little tiny uh-oh, tell him he has to go talk to your aunty.

Aunties everywhere. Figure out what you want to say and speak up! This is what we are for. Believe me, our nieces and nephews want realistic advice and need someone to talk to.

How about it?

*this website appears with a scary warning you have to click past. Fear not, this is a super thoughtful and well written blog.

TSA — Taking Security Apart

What does it take to feel secure? I wondered about this as I read about the new TSA body scans. As impossible as it seems to figure out how to keep millions of travelers safe, planning for the safety of one can be just as challenging. Women who’ve been abused are faced with this all the time. No one can build them a wall tall enough to keep out a persistent abuser or a machine to screen potential boyfriends for bad tendencies.

Really, what makes us feel secure? I think it is our community of friends and acquaintances. In my community, there is someone I can call any time day or night.  Someone who would bring me a pot of soup without asking. And, if they haven’t seen me in a while, someone who would knock on my door. I don’t have to rely on any one person. I have a whole network of people I can count on, and that makes me feel secure.

I think the reason people are upset about the TSA approach is that, in their gut, they realize it isn’t going to make us safer. But is there anything that can? Actually, other safety experts around the world have developed flexible approaches that prioritize engaging with each individual.

People often ask me how they can help someone who is being abused. It’s not so easy  — we can’t rely on an automated program or a machine to deal with coercive or violent people. But we can start by being a part of a network of friends paying attention. We can help her feel secure by listening to what she says. And we can make our approach nuanced in a way that the TSA is missing.

“Checking in” to stalkers’ paradise

Sometimes I wonder, what makes a person really cool as a facebook user? Is it the fact that they have 1,236 friends? Or their witty banter about an inside joke? Or maybe it’s the fact that they are “checking in” to cool spots using Places or Foursquare?

Amongst my friends, I have noticed that the bar of adding someone as a friend is getting lower, and I have seen an increase in the use of external applications (with the default set to public rather than private).  This sets us up to share private information more liberally than we might intend.

Using Foursquare to stalk someone is just as creepy and illegal as following them around in a car. Yet, with the default public settings, we are set up to think that becoming a “mayor” of our favorite restaurant is worth taking the risk of being stalked at that same restaurant.

With social media becoming an extension of our lives, it’s important to establish thoughtful and intentional facebook etiquette, tell our friends what information we (do not) want shared through them, and learn how to regain our “dot rights.”