Tag Archives: Parenting

3 ways to heal post #election2016

Politicking aside, this election has brought gender wars to the forefront which is of great interest to parents.  Having worked in male dominated industries most of my life, I’ve found myself uniquely aware of differences, both assumed and unassumed.

In the Atlantic’s “Fear of a Female President” Peter Beinart, contributing editor, highlights the disproportionately aggressive and personal reaction to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.  Campaign propaganda “Don’t be a p*ssy. vote for trump”,”Trump that bi*ch”, “Life’s a b*tch: don’t vote for one” underscore a provocative and gender based undertone to attacks. Hillary’s possible ascent to leadership is triggering gender backlash that is unlikely to recede even if she’s elected, just as research suggests Obama’s election may have led to greater acceptance of racist rhetoric.

Pinterest Source

Psychologist professor Lisa Feldman Barrett has studied a classic phenomenon in Hillary Clinton’s Angry Face, that people perceive emotion differently in men’s and women’s faces.  Women are more likely to be perceived as having emotional responses (caused by something internal), whereas men are likely to be thought of as responding to a situation.  In other words, “She’s a b*tch, but he’s just having a bad day.” However scientists have not discovered gendered hard-wiring for emotionality/rationality or a gender based difference in emotional experiences.

Key takeaways:

  • Look inward.

Awareness is the only way to fight biases.   When dealing with others ask yourself, if this person were a man instead of a woman (or vice versa) would my reaction be different?

  • Break through stereotypes.

Stereotypes serve to limit both men and women.  As Emma Watson urged in her UN speech, both men and women should feel free to be sensitive or strong.

  • Remove the gender filter.

Judgements often come with a gender focused lens, even for toddlers.  For the active girls: she acts like such a boy.  For the shy boys: He’s acting like a little girl.  Realize that these are human traits, not gender traits.

After an increasingly antagonistic election, America’s biggest challenge will be unifying a divided nation, especially along the gaping divide of gender.   It is mostly perceived differences that provoke the greatest disagreements, but we have to be able to convince ourselves of that.

ChartedWaters worked over a decade in finance, traveled to 54 countries on 6 continents, and now blogs as an expat mom in Hong Kong.  Charted Waters is currently taking the Social Media Marketing Specialization with Coursera.  Connect on twitter @charted_waters


The Will to Live

It’s been 10 years to the week of my father’s passing.  Although he was terminally ill, everyone in the family was attempting to live with a degree of normalcy-chemo treatments, endless doctor appointments, the shrunken apparition of my Dad notwithstanding.  I’d even moved to Hong Kong and my parents planned a visit from the US, presumably approved by the doctors.  There’s no way to tell if that was really a good idea, but with terminally ill patients, the bar is usually fairly high for doctors to step in and intrude on the patient’s wishes.  At least in the US.

There’s something called optimism bias that keeps most people going in life, the idea that the future holds more promise than the past, and that life keeps getting better.  Out of all of the things taken away from a terminally ill patient, this can perhaps be the most debilitating.

My father was hospitalized twice during his stay here.  The first time he was feeling weak, and we admitted him at a hospital on Victoria’s peak.  It was a nondescript hospital called Matilda practically perched in the clouds, known for a high quality standard of care.  Getting there involved taking a car up winding tree lined roads, as if ascending to a forested vacation rental.  After a brief stay we brought him back to my home, and life went on as usual for a few more days.

“I think something’s wrong with your Dad.”

I rushed into the master bedroom framed by the picturesque harbour, with a sea view so deep that anyone on the bed could have pretended it was about to set sail.  My Dad was laying motionless and unresponsive on his side, as if an errant dingy waiting to cast off, but without a rudder or captain.  His eyes were wide open, and he didn’t look panicked, but he couldn’t move and despite the blinking, was clearly not responding cognitively.

We rushed him to the nearest public hospital immediately.  As he was wheeled in, being the practical one in the family , I squeezed my mom’s hand and quickly reminded her of the “do not resuscitate” order my Dad had signed.  The DNR is meant to save the dying from harsh treatment during resuscitation attempts.  So this could be it.  Although I was trying to prepare my mom for that possibility, I now realize that by focusing on my mom, I was actively deflecting the need to prepare myself for the same possibility.

But he turned out to be “ok”, as far as we knew.  They told us that his glucose levels had just dropped to the point where he was physically unable to function.  Asking further questions didn’t seem to lead anywhere, which may have been a result of the language barrier.  English was not the first language for anyone on staff and neither was Mandarin.   If we asked what was going to happen, the staff would generally refer to the fact that he had stage 4 cancer.  No sh*t Sherlock.   Dad was coherent again though, and he looked tired but could at least broadly communicate.

One of the English speaking doctors came through, and Dad, sporting that practical streak, asked, “So, what about my flight back home (to the US in a week).”  The doctor looked at him a bit blankly and said, “Oh you can’t go.”  My parents have always been masters of the innuendo, sometimes a bit afraid to clarify, but always prone to interpret news in the worst possible way.  His crestfallen face said it all.  He did want, or he did need to ask for more details, but the only words that made it out of his mouth were “I..can’t..go..home?”  The doctor confirmed definitively and when pressed just repeated the familiar mantra that he was weak and had stage 4 cancer.

HK public hospitals are generally known for quality medical care, but now I know that towards the end, communication is the most important aspect of medical care.  I remember sitting in a stairway crying to my boss about how poor the communication was. Quite possibly,I’ve since harboured a deep resentment for that Grim Reaper, MD, or even HK in general.  Yet at the time I still wasn’t thinking about the gravity of the situation.  We could have transferred my Dad back to that sanctuary in the clouds, but I hadn’t translated “weak” into “he’s dying as we speak.”  In my heart I believed it was like the first hospitalization, where he would be released after a few nights of recovery.  As for the flight, the doctor was probably just waiting to give my Dad the green light.  But I’d seen my Dad’s look and I was already looking up the cost of an international air ambulance.  Maybe there was a bit of cognitive dissonance though, because someone eventually called my sister and asked her to come..and it must have been me.  Dad got on the phone with my sister briefly and smiled at the sound of her voice, but over the next 24 hours slowly wilted away, his breath fading.

I was the only one with him when he left us in the middle of the night.  I ran out into the hallway, thinking about calling for help, but realizing it was fruitless.  The rage in me rose like a tidal wave.  Would he have died here if the doctors hadn’t taken away hope?  How could the doctors have been so cavalier with a man’s life!

In the aftermath there were enough logistics issues to keep me distracted, and we realized that no one had discussed with my Dad the taboo topic of how he wanted to go.  My mom, sister, and I stayed together for about a week, trying to make sense of what had happened, most likely thinking that the future was sure to be brighter than those days.  My mom looked like she’d aged 10 years overnight.

I’m now renting an apartment in the same building my Dad spent his last vacation in.   Not because I’ve been here the whole time, but somehow 10 years later I’ve crossed a few oceans and still come back full circle.  The area has been right in the path of development, and new buildings, restaurants have sprung up and it’s now brimming with expats.   This time I’m raising a bright, joyful baby here because I met my husband in Hong Kong.  Because sometimes those dark days do turn to light.


Fix You

In middle school I was involved in a casual dance troupe.  We were a hodgepodge of several Chinese girls brought together weekly to learn Chinese folk dance from a Taiwanese teacher in Ohio.  Before our first performance, as we gathered in the bathroom to change into our costumes, it became clear that the kids were also somehow in charge of their own makeup.  Most of us did not regularly wear makeup, but I was shocked to see a few girls take out makeup bags chock full of “ingredients”, presumably on loan from their mothers. My mother often proudly announced that the only day she wore makeup was on her wedding day, so she certainly did not own any, much less decide to hand her preteen daughter any makeup, stage performance be damned.  After my initial confusion, I gathered that the makeup was meant to be shared.  Everybody seemed busy applying war paint already, and given I had no idea what to do, I thought I’d start with the one item I had a shot at putting on myself.  I loudly asked, “Where is the lipstick?”  To which one of the girls chortled, “Lipstick is put on last.”  In a fumbling retort I muttered “Oh, I just wanted to know where it was.”   And then I watched in the giant mirror as my cheeks turned to the rouge the other girls were dabbing on.

Beauty without makeup (photo credit daysforgirls.org)

Twenty odd years later, I’m only marginally more skilled at applying makeup and i’ve acquired my mother’s abhorrence for painting my face.  Yet it still strikes me that women have to do so much on a regular basis to look “put together”.  Underneath it all is pressure applied by women on women to have plucked and drawn eyebrows, long/curly/thick eyelashes, glossy lips with just the right touch of color, and not a speck of hair visible in places you aren’t supposed to have hair (but everyone does).  I’ve always held a possibly purely antagonistic view that makeup complements Western faces better and was made with them in mind.  This thought comes from peering into white faces and sometimes not being sure if their makeup is super light or if that’s the way they were formed.

Admittedly, I struggle with the idea that men can often look the way they were formed, possibly wearing the same white t-shirt and jeans throughout school and while finding startups, while the other half of the world obsesses about fine details.  As women become equal and prominent members of society rather than merely pieces of art, I sincerely hope and plead that we won’t remain a canvas picked apart because of lack of highlights or color intensity.   It’s sure to be an uphill battle; the billion dollar beauty industry is a tough machine to pull apart, and my annoyance with it is on par with my feelings for the tax/accounting industry.  How many productive woman hours are wasted on standards of beauty that feel like an arms race to the bottom?

These tweaks could not be less appealing than when it comes to our baby girl.  One of the songs we like to sing to her is Coldplay’s “Fix you”, for its soulful melody.  I don’t know enough of the words to know what the song’s about, but out of unfettered love we change the lines to: “And I will try…to KISS you (not fix you).”