Sunday, January 27, 2008

Breaking the "Girl" Rule

After yesterday's blog entry, I was struck by the responses I received. So many of you have dealt with the "non-reader" and the masses of those folks that equate reading a floppy ole' comic book with sheer geekery or social apathy. What is fascinating is that in general, as folks get older, they seem to get less tolerant of those who are different. They can put any kind of mask on that they want, but it is still apparent that if a person doesn't come in a cookie cutter set they will be ostracized.

One thing I have always made sure to do growing up was to observe what I call the "Girl Rule". For those of you who may be unfamiliar, there are is a bit of a code that most moms pass on to their daughters. My mother always told me that when I was complimented, I needed to find at least one positive thing to say to the person who did so in response. She felt that it was a bit of "paying it forward" in that respect. In my lifetime, I have spent a great deal of time trying to spread that positivity towards others, knowing that I would not always get it in return.

Needless to say, I have run into this more in the past couple of years then ever before. Since I use the "Girl Rule" with both men and women, what has really resonated is the fact that there are a lot of shitty people out there who really don't care about other people's feelings as long as they are getting their own gratification. If that means having the smartest kid in the class or the coolest car, so be it. That is what butters their bread.

What rubs me wrong is when I am approached like I was yesterday. I don't know these people well, but I am trying to use the politeness that my parents ingrained in me. I always try to treat folks with respect and give them the benefit of the doubt. When it isn't reciprocated, I am not very surprised but am most definitely disappointed. Having it happen at the gym while I am changing my shirt just makes it ten times worse. God knows we don't want to go down the road of my horrible physical self esteem. At the gym it is like "Average Heidi meet Barbie", you know? To get ridiculed about reading comics just makes it worse.

Reading comics isn't something I ever used to admit to. When I would go downtown to pick up my weekly pull list, I just used to tell folks I was going to the bank or doing errands. After meeting my hubby, that secrecy was out the window. Jim not only worked at the comic book store, but almost every shirt he owned had a comic book character on it. By embracing my man, I embraced my geekery in all it's glory. I haven't looked back since... until yesterday.

I think I liked it better when I kept a lower profile at the gym. My workout partner is pretty well known there and has been featured in local advertising for winning last year's "Get in Shape" contest. As a past winner myself, and one of the few women to workout in the notorious iron room in the basement, it is impossible to stay under the radar. I am at the crossroads.

From here on out, I am going to tell anyone who asks that I love reading comics and I don't care who knows it. I will be prepared for these people to break my "Girl Rule" and be rude. I don't need their validation, that is for sure. If anything, they need to work on breaking out of their small boxes that don't allow them to be anything but robots who live in the system. What fun is that?


Carl said...

Welp, I imagine most people that truly know you would never use the phrase: "Average Heidi". I can't imagine that at all. And Barbie? Hell, I think of Barbies other then the icon doll as products of science, you know, like Cheeze Whiz in a can?
I got a version of this rule my parents handed down to me called the "Always Be The Gentlemen". And I use it most of the time, but I have a time with it since I feel a lot closer to supervillain at times. Or if not that, anti-hero like Marv, The Punisher or The Man With No Name and the like.
While I was never trained to find something nice to say or notice some nice quality about the other person, 'cause men (of my era) are not supposed to be all flowery and such, I was to say 'thank you' or 'that's kind of you to say that'. And then I could choose to say more. And strictly from my dad was the rule: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Served me well all these years, except when I failed to listen to it.
But at the same time, I also rebelled at being treated like a 2nd class citizen for just the crime of being a huge fan of something. I loved Star Trek. Passionately, no apologies even after being bullied for it from 6th grade on. For reading books and comics. Dammmmmnnnn, Carl, ya'll thank y'u h'are s-mart h'or sum'pin, readin' al' them thar' books? Ya'll betta then us?
So yep, I've been defending my love of various fandoms since the '60s and while I hope to live up to being The Gentleman my folks wanted, I will get up in your face about talking to down to me about my freedoms as an American to read what I want, to wear what I want and so. And if you don't like it, you can either go find someone else that can put up with your BS or take your chances with me forgetting about The Gentlemen and get my size 14 boot right up your backside. I am slow to anger like Billy Jack said way back when but man, I have never gotten into anyone's face and made fun of what they love. Argued and teased my fellow fans in the endless debates, DC vs. Marvel, Star Trek vs. Star Wars, Who's Better, Superman or Batman? and so. But to approach a total stranger and say, wow, I see you are (fill in the blank), don't you feel like an idiot or perhaps have arrested development for liking that? I mean, why not just walk up to an overweight person, grab their stomach and laugh? Or how about mocking a foreign person with an accent by copying it to their face?
My parents also gave me more advice, from The Bible with a little addition, but it always works:
Judge not, lest ye be judged. And the addition? And found wanting...

Agent 2112 said...

I find that most people that think poorly of comics don't read anything at all. Most of these people get their entertainment from watching reality tv. Is that really better than reading comics?

Lisa said...

I've thought about this more since I read your post yesterday. Here's an idea. The next time some woman tries to put you down by saying that "comics are for kids" you could...

The nice way: tell her that today's comics are actually more like soap operas only in books instead of on TV. Many women watch soap operas and might relate. Tell the Green Arrow Black Canary story, if she needs an example - that ones pretty soap opera like right now - girl marries guy she's had trouble with in the past, guy gets kidnapped, turns out she actually married a different guy...

The educated way: point out that comics are like story boards - basically TV or movies before they're put on screen. Maybe mention some of the comics that have been made into movies - like 300 and Sin City and V for Vendetta.

The mind-your-own business, B*%#h way: tell her that you just finished reading Punisher and he just used the F word more than they did in the final episode of HBO's Deadwood and the main character recently castrated someone. Show her an issue of The Boys where someone is getting their head ripped off or being given a blow-job. Bring a copy of Preacher and point out a few panels...
Let her know the comic you were reading was more like Sopranos than Mickey Mouse - and if she mentioned already that she had kids, make a face as you ask her if she lets her kids watch The Sopranos and drop F-bombs. Before she answers, turn away and let her know you don't really have time for the answer anyway.

The I Don't Care What You Think way: buy or make yourself a Wonder Woman or Black Canary (select awesome comic book super heroine here) outfit and work out in that.

The sharing way: bring extra give-away comics to the gym and leave them for people to read and hand them out to those that ask. Let those that ask know how awesome they are and hand one over, saying "here, check it out." We have given comic books to a gym that's not far from the store, and the manager always thanks us and says that people always grab them. If you need some extras, ask your LCS owner, or drop me an email and I can help you out.

Just don't worry about being seen as "normal," Heidi. I've given that up ages ago, and it's made my life much easier. When people thing I'm crazy I just go with it because I'd rather have them think I'm crazy than be like those kinds of people. It's good to be a geek!

SallyP said...

Oh good heavens, wear your t-shirts with pride, and read your comics wherever and whenever you want. Obviously, these people have NO taste.

I've reached the point in my life, where I'm old enough and rich enough not to care what other people thing anymore. It's actually, quite freeing.

Mithel said...

My venerable father has always told me, "Son, to crush your enemies, to hear their lamentations, this is victory."

My father is a strange man.

Heidi Meeley said...

Thank you so much for your support and wonderful ideas. I am humbled and in awe.

Lisa, I love what you said. You gave me great ideas and I am going to try and utilize them to be sure!

As for the crushing my enemies, I plan to by winning the "get in shape" contest. That will give me great satisfaction!

Back tomorrow with more thoughts.