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Episode #20: Confident Women and the Men Who Love and Support Us

BECAUSE I LOVE LANGUAGE, I wanted to look up and share the definition of CONFIDENT: “the feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” Okay, to ME that sounds like a GOOD thing, something that ALL people would want for themselves and those around them. So, why does it seem that SOME people – both men AND WOMEN – aren’t ready for confident women? Well now I gotta see what SELF-ASSURANCE means, if CONFIDENCE is “the feeling of SELF-ASSURANCE arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities”. Okay, so SELF-ASSURANCE is defined as: “confidence in one’s own abilities or character.” Hah! There’s some circular logic there, so let’s go back and define APPRECIATION, if the definition of confidence is “the feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s APPRECIATION of one’s own abilities or qualities.” So, APPRECIATION means: “recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something” AND “GRATITUDE”. Okay, well, now that I can fully define CONFIDENT – and I’ll sum it up as something like this: “the feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s enjoyment of and gratitude for one’s own abilities and good qualities”. Well, listeners, being confident sure sounds like a nice thing to be – and, I think I AM a CONFIDENT WOMAN. I have abilities and qualities that I enjoy and that I am grateful for and I am here with my Audacious Freedom, the PODCAST episodes sharing some of my abilities and qualities with you – even if they come with messiness and tears and moments of feelings that I may not be so proud of. I guess you could say that my abilities and qualities sort of include a *super-power* to reflect on my life experiences and on things I read and things happening in the world and to tell my RAW and EMOTIONAL PRIVATE – EVEN SECRET thoughts and stories. Because, HERE’S THE THING: I haven’t ALWAYS told the truth, often not even to MYSELF, especially in my twenties and thirties. I sort of skimmed by ON THE SURFACE of my life, getting caught up in various LABELS and STATUS levels, like “Are you single, married or divorced?” Or “Who do you work for?” “What do you do?” And “Where did you go to school?” Not to mention, “Where do you live?” and “How big is your home?” and “What kind of car do you drive?” and “Where are you going on vacation this year?” I was caught up in trying to have the *best* answers to those questions, like: “I’m married” and “I work for one of the Big 4 consulting firms” and “I did my undergrad at – INSERT STATE SCHOOL” AND “also school PLUS a graduate degree might be as good as someone else’s undergrad at a top tier college” – and MORE of my best answers to all those questions were: “My husband and I have a townhouse” – notice how I threw in my HUSBAND, in case they didn’t already know my marital status and also THEREFORE my LOVEABILITY STATUS? – and “we have an SUV and a sedan.” And there were the few years where I was also able to answer the vacation question as: “Well, MY HUSBAND and I – had to throw THAT MARITAL STATUS again! – we are going to SPAIN or ITALY or FRANCE.” Jesus. All those LABELS and STATUS LEVELS were such BULLSHIT, but behind closed doors and in my own head, I was searching for more. Something deeper, more fulfilling and I couldn’t quite put my finder on it. I wanted to be more AUTHENTIC in my twenties and early thirties when I was married and I – looking BACK – don’t think that I had any idea THAT was what I was looking for: AUTHENTICITY. And it wasn’t NECESSARILY my marital status itself or even my ex-husband that were holding me back from being more authentic, it was kind of more of a NARROW BOX or space that I felt I was SUPPOSED to live my life in: you know, go to college, get a good job, get married, buy a house, keep your head down, do well at work, get good performance reviews, more money and a bonus every year. Go on vacation. Lather, rinse, repeat. BORING. NOT INTERESTING. TEDIOUS. Is that really it? What life is meant to be? I filled in the tedium by being social – going out with or hosting friends or colleagues for cocktails, by connecting with other human beings. By shopping and buying cute outfits – always by myself though because I don’t shop for SPORT with other women or anyone else. I shop on my own – in and out. I see something on a rack or on a display and I try it on. If it fits and I like it, I get it and plan when I”m going to get to wear it – when I’m out with my friends or colleagues, CONNECTING with them. LISTENING to their stories and TELLING my own. This is when I’m most *alive* and when I understand what lie is meant to be about: CONNECTION. And here comes the word geek in me again! CONNECTION is defined as: “a relationship in which a person, thing or idea is linked or associated with someone else.” Well, that makes sense to me – “no man – or woman – is an island” and all that, right?” I guess connection with other human beings – HUMAN CONNECTION – is implied within a marriage, right? And, within relationships with COLLEAGUES at work where we are getting those good annual performance ratings, salary increases and bonuses, right? In all those HUMAN CONNECTIONS I have had over the years, many have kept me going, given me a reason to go to work and to work on a project together, to get to Friday – OH HELL, WHAT am I saying – sometimes just to get to MONDAY for a Happy Hour. Spending time with friends and colleagues, CONNECTING with them puts me in my authentic self, EXPOSING my personality, values and spirit with them. WITHOUT that human connection, I can get lost in my own head at times and doubt my AUTHENTICITY or CONFIDENCE even. And some of my BEST connections have been with MEN. Men who I consider dear friends and who GET me. Men who love and support me, in my times of DOUBT, but especially when I am fucking THRIVING and SOARING – being my authentic and confident self. That’s what they love about me – when I spread my wings and break the sides of the box so many people – women especially – put themselves in. That little box of life where we go to college, get a job, go on vacation, et. Lather, rinse, repeat. THESE MEN like to watch me FLY MY FREAK FLAG. Fly my FUCKING FREAK FLAG. And they think it’s HOT. Damn. I think it’s HOT. I enjoy and am grateful for my audacity and my sassiness and that gets us back to this confident woman speaking to you today, a couple years after my 35th High School reunion, where 4 former classmates – ALL MEN – approached me with fabulous memories about me. I’m NOT going to use their real names because some of them have wives or girlfriends and their wives or girlfriends might not think these stories are so fabulous and I would NOT want my four former classmates, these awesome men and friends to suffer any backlash for their memories. So, memory #1 goes like this: WAIT. Before I tell you this 1st memory, let me tell you what I’m WEARING. It’s a Christmas party essentially on a Saturday night in the home of a classmate. She was kind enough to open up her home and the event was catered and so beautiful. I wore gold jeans or pants, a hot pink bra under a white T-shirt, with the image of a motorcycle and the word “Freedom” across my chest. There’s nothing like gold pants and a hot pink bra under a T-Shirt that says “Freedom” to represent this woman in a nutshell! So, memory #1 wnt like this: I’m going to call this friend STEVE. Steve is a tall, all-American ADORABLE man who said, “Oh my God, Dee Dee. I HAVE to get a picture with you kissing you. And we HAVE to send it to CHARLSTON. Mike CHARLESTON.” “WHAT are you talking about, Steve??”, I asked, completely clueless. “Dee Dee”, Steve explained, “Charleston had such a crush on you in HIgh School. We all did.” “SERIOUSLY?? I had no fucking idea – REALLY, what are you TALKING about??”, I asked. Steve ignored my question, pulled me into his lap and took a selfie of us kissing on the lips. I’m fucking laughing so hard because kissing Steve on the lips is like kissing my BROTHER and I’m still trying to remember back to 11th grade physics class and how I ever missed any signs that STeve and Mike Charleston had crushes on me. I don’t know what’s funnier: the photo itself or the reaction from Mike when Steve sent the text. I haven’t seen him [Mike] probably since High School, or possibly at our 10-year reunion. Either way, it’s been DECADES since I’ve seen him or even thought about him. He doesn’t post much on Facebook – I can think of some skiing photos, that’s about it. Anyway, the photo is HILARIOUS because even though I’m technically KISSING Steve with TIGHTLY PUCKERED LIPS, I’m clearly laughing so hard out of the absurdness of it all – KISSING Steve and learning of his and Mike’s crush on me from over 35 years before. So, Steve texts the pic to Mike who IMMEDIATELY responds with one word, a word I haven’t heard in this context for ages. He texted back THIS ONE WORD: “WOOD”. Oh my God. Hys-fucking-terical!!!! No, I KNOW. I could have been offended by this. Some women might have been offended by this. I could have thought Steve crossed a line and that he was bordering on an UNWANTED ADVANCE and that Mike’s response was UNSAVORY and that they OBJECTIFIED me. But you know what? I thought is was pretty fucking cool, actually. That over 35 years before, these two classmates had a crush on me and I had no fucking idea. I actually think it says a lot that they never told me then. I just thought we were friends hanging out in the back of physics class together. They were cute and fun then, as they are still now. And now, at our 35th reunion, they felt close enough to me to let me know. I wasn’t offended AT ALL. I was actually FLATTERED. So, memory #2 came from Craig. Craig was also in the same physics class and his memory was of me pretty much *holding court* with him and our other classmates – all young men that I remember. Craig said that my stories made him blush, but he wouldn’t elaborate. My own memory didn’t produce anything specific, just the feeling of capturing and holding the attention of these young men and classmates. I remember FEELING and BEING CONFIDENT and maybe a little WISER and more experienced with relationships than they were. I had a boyfriend, let’s call him Dante, who was 3 years older than I was and in college a couple of hours away. I really thought I loved Dante – very cute and tall with blue eyes, a thick head of light brown hair and a God-like body. He was really beautiful. Again, I don’t remember the stories I told, just that these young men liked listening to me. And now I knew that at least 3 of them – Steve, Mike and Craig thought fondly enough of those memories to share them with me. The next and third memory came to me from, let’s call him Eli, and he stopped me dead in my tracks! First of all, Eli has an older brother we’ll call COLE. Cole was in my graduating class and I think Eli is two years behind us. And I thought I was shooting the shit with COLE for the first few minutes. I don’t think I had seen the Hughes brothers – Eli and Cole – since I was a teenager. It was after High School, but I was definitely still a teenager. I’m pretty sure it was the summer that I was nineteen, because then in September of that year that I was nineteen, that’s when I would meet my FUTURE EX HUSBAND. ANYWAY, back to me chatting with Eli, but thinking I’m talking with COLE, Eli says – and THIS is when I figure out I’ve got the wrong Hughes brother – Eli says, “You know when you broke up with me, I was actually better for it. I learned so much.” I FUCKING FROZE and put my hand over my mouth to cover up the gaping hole that it had become. My mind raced trying to remember what happened. I had dated Eli for maybe a few weeks, tops. His family lived in a neighborhood that I was spending a lot of time in – at his house and the home of other friends nearby. These were the homes that pretty much had nightly parties in the summer and very cool parents. Anyway, while Eli and I were dating, I cheated on him with my boyfriend before him. Shit. I wasn’t proud of this all those years ago and I was embarrassed about this in present day. My 53-year-old self – I was 53 two years ago at my 35th High School reunion – and I was ashamed and embarrassed by my nineteen year-old self. Words finally came to me – and I THINK I was able to hide that I didn’t realize until THAT moment that I was talking with ELI the whole time instead of with COLE – I said, “Oh my God, Eli. I’m so sorry. What I did was AWFUL and you didn’t DESERVE that. You have to know I’m not like that now. I wouldn’t DO anything to anyone like that now.” Eli barely let me get my words out before he said, “No no, Dee Dee. It’s ok. You were the BEST thing that happened to me and I’ve never forgotten that about you. I only have good memories about our time together. YOU were the COOLEST.” Eli even said something like that his experience with me gave HIM CONFIDENCE and that he was actually grateful to me. Holy shit. I was STUNNED and once again FLATTERED by the memory of a THIRD young man, a man who is now, a very successful businessman and father of 2 or 3 kids. Divorced from their mother but married to another woman now, one who seems to be very good for him and his kids. Anyway, the 4th memory came to me from, let’s call him SAM. I bumped into Sam at the entrance of the party – literally at the front door or our former classmate’s home and we didn’t move from there for an hour! I’m sure I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in over 30 years and we first chatted about his ex-girlfriend, a very close friend of mine during High School before he shared his memory of me. He was close with my ex-boyfriend – the one I had in High School, Dante. I think Sam was a year or two ahead of me in school, putting him a little closer in age than I was to Dante. ANYWAY, Sam has been married for a long time to a woman who seems deeply suited for his personality and beliefs and they had met while Sam was in college. And that’s where Sam’s memory started with me: “My wife and I always admired a photo of you that I had on my dorm room cork board,” Sam said. OH JESUS. “Um, WHAT was that??” I managed to murmur and somehow to also stand up a little straighter and pull my shoulders back and to literally brace myself physically by stepping my feet slightly further apart almost as if Sam was going to tap me hard on my shoulder to knock me off balance. NOT in ANY kind of malicious way because Sam is one of the GENTLEST people I have ever known. But because I’d already hear THREE surprising memories that evening from THREE former classmates and I had already been doing my best to CONJURE up – to DIG up – some of my OLDEST memories, memories which SHOCKINGLY seemed to be at the FOREFRONT of the memories of these men. I mean, not to KNOCK men at all. Some of my favorite people on this EARTH are men. But I feel like some men – hell, maybe even some WOMEN, too – might have a hard time remembering what they ate for BREAKFAST that morning and THESE men – THESE men were sharing memories and stories from when we were just babies really, just TEENAGERS. WHAT would this picture be that Sam had on his dorm room cork board?? Would it have been a photo that Sam took? That I took? That SOMEONE ELSE took? And why would it be on Sam’s cork board for him and his wife to ADMIRE – and for anyone else to see, for that matter? AND. WHAT WOULD THIS PICTURE OF ME BE EXACTLY? Sam didn’t waste any time explaining. THANK GOD. “It was a black and white photo,” Sam said. “It was a black and white nude.” What THE FUCK? JESUS. OKAY. I had a long-forgotten memory of my High School boyfriend, who was in college – who was in ART SCHOOL in college – who had taken a VERY DISCREET photo of me. A photo where you couldn’t see my face or even my head at all and where you could see the profile of my body from just below my neck to to the top of one of my thighs, where my knee of that leg was BENT in such a way to reveal nothing below my belly and only one breast above that. Could THIS be the photo that Sam was talking about?? And if it was, why the hell did he have it? Had I given it to him?? And if so, WHY?? Yes, it turned out. That WAS the photo Sam was talking about and he seemed to think that I had given him a copy of it, for the sake of *art appreciation* or something like that. Our friendship friendship – mine and Sam’s – had always been a platonic one: intimate and affectionate, but NOT EVER sexual. So, it didn’t really surprise the 53-year-old me that the probably eighteen or maybe nineteen-year-old me would have given such a photo to Sam or that he would have posted it on his dorm room cork board. OR that he would have chosen a woman to marry who would not be jealous of such a photo or a friendship from High School. “Damn”, I said. “I’d love to see that photo again. I mean, I THINK i remember it pretty well, but it would be SO COOL to see it again.” Sam said “Oh, I have it.” “GULP”, I thought. “You still HAVE the photo, Sam??”, I asked a little nervously. “Yeahl, I have the photo. It’s up in my attic somewhere.” THANK GOD it wasn’t DISPLAYED in his house somewhere, I thought AND how fucking cool that I could see what my body looked like as a teenager. A few days – maybe a week – after Sam got back home up north, he DID find the photo in a box. Same emailed the photo to me. And it’s EXACTLY as I remembered it. VERY DISCREET. You can’t tell it’s me because my face and my head are outside of the shot. You can see the profile of my body – my left side – so you can see my left breast and rib cage, my belly, but not my belly button, and my left knee is bent so you can see my left thigh cover my body below my belly. It’s the soft, young skin of a teenager. No wrinkles, no sagging. A LITTLE BIT more soft and curvy than I remember, than I am now. It’s beautiful really. It’s ART and I’m glad I gave it to Sam. I’m glad I can see it now. So, that was the FOURTH and FINAL memory and story that was told to me the evening of my 35th High School reunion. Memories and stories from our High School and teenage years that I had either not ever known until that evening, or that I had not thought about or remembered until that evening. And I love that all of the memories and stories about me came from men. Men who as teenagers and now as we are in middle age WERE and ARE NOW supporters of this CONFIDENT WOMAN. I am grateful for them, they are like the big brothers I never had. Their love and support means the world to me. I may have changed your names in this episode of Audacious Freedom, the podcast. But you guys know who you are. I love you all and I’m still being me, creating stories and telling stories. FLYING MY FUCKING FREAK FLAG.

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