October 29, 2020No Comments

7 Small Ways to Practice Asking for Help

I heard a story recently about an older woman who lived alone. She fell in the middle of the night and couldn’t get up. Instead of calling for help immediately, she waited for hours until she knew people would be awake. “She said that she didn’t want to bother anybody,” the story-teller said, shaking his head. 

Looking at it from the outside, it’s easy to think that is ridiculous. Surely anybody, not least of which the EMTs, would have been happy to come help. But as I sat and thought about it, I realized I understood. 

I thought about the time I drove myself to the hospital at 3 am with severe abdominal pain from an ovarian cyst. I thought about the time I moved my giant, temperamental dresser by myself. Sure, there are certain things I can do myself and things I genuinely want to learn how to do, hang a shelf using a toggle bolt for example. But there are also situations in which asking for help is the most reasonable thing we can do. 

It’s hard, though. To ask for help is to admit we need it, to let people peek behind the curtain of our self-sufficiency. It can feel like an intrusion, a bother, and it’s not fun to have to rely on others who might (let’s be real) not come through. 

I’ve found it helpful to give myself small opportunities to practice asking for help. As with anything, laying a foundation when things are semi-fine sets us up well for when things are very not fine. Not only that, but it has the potential to deepen trust between you and your friends.

To practice this in small ways, you can ask a friend to...

Hang onto your spare keys. 

You probably have a friend who is responsible enough to put your keys in a safe place in case you ever lock yourself out of your apartment. If this feels weird, you could offer to hang onto theirs as well. A bit of mutually assured destruction can go a long way. Or you could call it a mutually beneficial arrangement, depending on how you see the proverbial glass.  

Help you figure out how to hang a shelf, etc.

Choose a household activity that neither of you knows how to do and learn how to do it together. Whether it’s putting together an Ikea bookshelf or changing a tire, invite someone over, watch a YouTube video and get to work. You can always call in an expert if things go totally off the rails. 

Show you how to make [insert baking trend you saw on their Insta].

Odds are that you have a friend who learned to make babka or sourdough during quarantine. Invite them over and ask them to show you their expert secrets. This also gives you someone to share the delicious treat with, because the quarantine fifteen is real. 

Use their washer/dryer while you watch their kids.  

Ok, maybe this isn’t the best trade-off. I rarely babysit, but they presumably nap at some point or have homework or something during which you could do your laundry. Mayhaps you live in an apartment that has a washer and dryer in unit and you don’t have to pay $5 in quarters to use the triple loader. It doesn’t have to be laundry, it could be their dope kitchen or piano or spare room. That might feel like a big ask, hence the trade-off of watching the children.  

Pick up something you forgot at the store. 

I don’t think I’ve ever gone to the store and actually made it out with everything I need. Even if I use a list. Chances are you have a friend going to the store in the near future who would be willing to snag that thing for you. And because Venmo is a thing, it’s really just a matter of picking that thing up and hitting a button to reimburse them. 

Give you a hug. 

If you’re like me, this whole isolation thing that’s been going on for the past seven months has meant some serious touch depravity. I’m not even a hugger, going ten weeks straight without touching another person is enough to mess anyone up. Be safe, wear your mask, and all that jazz. But every once in a while, as you are both comfortable, ask a friend if they’d be willing to exchange a hug. 

Help you plan your next celebration. 

Whether it’s a birthday, a lease signing, a promotion, or whatever, ask a friend to help you mark the moment. It can be as big or small as seems reasonable to you. You could meet up for ice cream and go for a walk, or you could plan to meet a group of friends at a local bar, or you could all attend a live event (assuming that is a thing we will be able to do in the near future). 

Don’t do all of these things at once. Mayhaps just start with one thing per week or month. You might get some rejections, but you will probably get some positive responses as well. 

Try it and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below!

August 1, 2018No Comments

Week 5: How to Evade the Creepers

If you are a woman, you know too well that the words, “No, thank you,” coming out of your mouth have little to no effect on a certain sort of man. These men come up to you in a bar, or on the train, or in a restaurant, or at the gym, or on the street, or in the laundry mat- ok, literally anywhere- and attempt to force you into engaging with them. 

When you say no, they do not respectfully leave you in peace, they might start, in a bar, grinding up on you anyways, or persist in trying to convince you you’re making a big mistake, or call you any number of unpleasant things.

Here are some effective ways to get them to fork off. If one doesn’t work, just keep on trucking down the list. If nothing on the list works, feel free to pull out that pepper spray you definitely don’t carry around, because it’s against law in many states (insert eye roll).

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you feel you are in danger, speak to the bartender, or someone in management, or call the police. This advice is satirical in order to make a point about what it’s like to be a woman in public. Do not engage with someone who you genuinely believe wishes to harm you.

1. Evangelize. 

2. Ask him how he feels about President Trump. Disagree with whatever he says.

3. Demonstrate that you are better than he is at something he loves.

4. Imply that you are smarter than he is.

5. Laugh maniacally with crazy eyes at his terrible jokes. Pee your pants if you need to really sell this one.

6. Randomly use the Hannibal Lector sucking noise in normal conversation (demonstrated effectively by Dwight Schrute here)

7. Hock a loogie (you’re going to want to get a decent amount of phlegm), spit it into your cocktail, swirl it with your straw, continue drinking.

8. Fart/burp, then waft it toward him

9. Stare blankly into space.

10. Talk like a pirate

11. Pick your nose, inspect the contents, then wipe it on the bar.

12. Drop words like “bro,” “dude,” or “man” when referring to him, or generally imply a lack of femininity.

13. Cut off a chunk of your own hair, present it to him on bended knee, and pledge your undying allegiance to only him

14. Talk about marriage and/or how much you want kids

15. Talk about your hopes and dreams.

16. Engage in an open discussion about mental illness or the mass incarceration of minorities

17. When he inevitably asks you to come back to his place or to the closest graveyard, pull out a butter knife and ask him to swear a blood oath first.

18. Humanize yourself in any way.

19. Mid-sentence, begin quoting apocalyptic scripture.

20. Talk about how much you liked the latest thoughtful film with a female lead.

21. Talk about your period

22. Start crying about the state of the third world.

23. Talk about your latest bowel movement, include a diagram to sell this one. If you want to take it to the next level, show him a picture of said bowel movement, commenting on the color and texture.

24. Demonstrate self-esteem

25. Challenge him to any sort of competition by assuming a gorilla-like posture, growling, exposing your lower teeth and flexing your muscles.

26. Try to recruit him for your cult/militia

27. Pull a custom sweater made of human hair out of your purse as a gift for your new lover.

28. Yank out one of your own teeth.

29. Imitate ANY of Kristen Wiig’s SNL characters (Most of Kate McKinnon’s will work, too)

July 25, 20184 Comments

Week 4: Saving Myself

When I was seventeen, the guy I was dating got me a promise ring. It said "True Love Waits," and it came with a little card that I signed, committing to stay a virgin until I was married.

Two years later, I dramatically hurled the ring into Taylor's Creek in a grand gesture of emancipation from that relationship. It landed in the marsh, not in the water... but it was a symbolic moment anyways.

I still practice and believe in abstinence. You might be thinking, I didn't know anyone still did that. Believe it, friends. Me and like 5% of the population (NOT a real stat, but also probably not too far off).

As I've matured (a bit), I've started getting more honest about what chastity means and how I practice it.

In many ways it's easy for me to take the church's eternal advice, "just don't do it", to shut out my sexuality. I've spent fifteen-ish years learning how to numb inconvenient feelings. In my mind, sexual desire was one of many feelings, including anger and sadness, that would come spilling out if I let any sort of trickle come through the dam.

And it's not like I get propositions left and right. There are no pirates asking me to give them a "midnight tour of the graveyard," or Swazi men offering to give my father 18 cows. Those are both real examples, but you'll have to wait for my book to get the full stories.

If the end goal was asexuality and complete denial of the flesh, my most efficient tool was fear. I clung to the idea of God's disappointment, that my salvation depended on my purity and anything less meant the dreaded words: "I never knew you."

I didn't want to talk about sex, because that would make it real. I didn't want to admit feelings of any kind because they were so steeped in shame.

I also believed that any libido was downright dangerous. It made me want to express myself in a manner unbefitting of a good Christian girl.

Much of purity culture hinges on the idea of "waiting." But I wasn't waiting for anything. My life didn't revolve around a desire for marriage.

I used to believe my sexuality was a privilege that I couldn't handle, like I got a full Viking range when all I could handle was an Easy-Bake Oven. I couldn't be trusted to make tea without burning the whole house down.

I am twenty-eight, and I have decided that God wants me, not a hollowed-out, numb robot. He made us beings of flesh, to feel and think and live deeply. Denying my humanity creates distance between my fellow image-bearers and me, and between the Savior who took on flesh and me.

We live in a culture obsessed with sex, and I don't think that the church is any less fixated on it. In my experience within many conservative church spaces, it has been treated as an end-all-be-all, an ultimate distinguisher between the true followers, and those who are pretending to be so. And the message of a purity-based conversation is once you're tainted, you can't go back. You gave away the best thing you had to offer your future husband. The purity rhetoric is also predominantly targeted at women.

It removes the language of grace and a theology of redemption which is a major crux of our Christian faith. 

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary posted a blog on sex several months ago, and I think she approaches the topic with a balance of realism and idealism. Read it here. 

"Culture...tells us that sex outside of marriage isn’t a big deal.

The Church...tells us that sex outside of marriage is the biggest deal of all the deals ever.

One allowed me to give it away freely, convinced I would carry no burden. The other forced me to carry a spirit crushing load."

I love this quote from Jamie. I am better at scaring myself than I am at living in the tension of acknowledging and expressing my sexuality in a healthy and faithful way. And by denying my sexuality for so long, I am ill-equipped to set boundaries when the feelings start welling up. The more I try to control them, the more they control me.

I do have some helpful outlets: hip-hop dance class, kickboxing, writing, and honest conversations with friends. More than anything, this has helped break down the barrier of shame and revealed that my sexuality isn't nearly as scary as I thought.

I mean... sort of... it's a work in progress. Baby steps.

July 11, 2018No Comments

Week 2: Bar Etiquette

I like to write in bars, mainly because I am most productive between the hours of 9pm and 1am. (Point of clarification: I do this twice a week at most. One: it's expensive, two: all of the empty calories, three: I like my liver functional) If I go on a weekday, I am generally able to get a good amount of writing done and mostly am left alone. But there are consistently dudes at various levels of intoxication who feel the need to come up to me and say "Sorry to bother you, but I just have to ask what you're writing about."

First of all, no, you don't have to ask.

Nine times out of ten, I tell the dude what I'm writing about, and he responds with a long story about himself and what he does, which ultimately has nothing to do with anything I said.

Exhibit A:

A couple weeks ago, I was at my favorite writing spot. It was a Friday, and I had four articles I wanted to get done. I'm a new freelancer, which means I don't exactly have clients lined up out the door yet. If I want to get work, I have to go and find it. I need to have ideas and content to pitch. While I am not technically on a deadline, if I don't have content to pitch, I will not get paid. No one is begging me to submit anything yet, but I like to, you know, eat and stuff.

I'm sitting at the bar, and this one dude starts talking to me. I had finished my first article and was just starting on my second one. I responded to his questions and listened to his personal view on religion (this is common: when such dudes find out that I write about faith, they explain to me how the world works).

I am a sassy person, but I also like to treat people like they are people, and I have a crippling need to be liked. Also, rejected dudes are wildly unpredictable. Add any amount of alcohol to the mix and there is no knowing what you're going to get. My strategy is generally to give them as little personal information as possible so that I seem like a human turnip, and they lose interest.

I talked to this first dude for like 40 minutes. He suggested we go to another bar, and I said, "I actually do have a lot of work to get done." He said OK and he left.

I brushed this experience off; it had been positive on the whole, and I started writing my second article. I got a whole paragraph in when another dude comes up to me and says, with no preamble, "Can I read that?"

Jesus, you need to take this wheel because I cannot with this. 

The first guy at least had the decency to wait until I was between articles.

This dude proceeds to do all the "drunk dude trying to engage the only person with ovaries in the bar" moves, one of which was, under the pretense of inspecting my tattoo, to grab my wrist (not aggressively, but still), and turn it various directions, so he could get a good look.

I paid and left.

At one point, dude number 2 said, "oh, am I bothering you?" to which I responded "I'm on a deadline and literally just spent the past 40 minutes having this same conversation with another dude, so yeah."

He then explained to me why he's an atheist and how that complicates his relationship with his mother.

I left very frustrated, wracking my brain for what I should have done differently, coming up with killer clap back I would never be able to use.

Then I thought, Wait... why do I feel responsible for this? I was sitting alone, minding my own business, which I have seen many dudes do on many nights at this same bar. And they are left in peace.

I have spent time developing stratagem to avoid these interactions, until it occurred to me that it actually makes very little difference how I dress or act.

I am a woman at a bar alone. There seems to be something about the space next to me that demands to be filled. I think there is an assumption that, because I am a woman, I am not complete on my own, that in spite of being at a bar clearly working and wearing the least attractive clothing I own, I must on some level want to be interrupted. It doesn't seem fathomable that I could legitimately be there on my own by choice.

By entering into this particular cultural and secular realms, I am subject to a social contract I didn't agree to, and for which I find myself unprepared. As a Christian, I feel compelled to engage. These dudes are, after all, image bearers. As a former missionary, I feel guilty for not taking this golden moment to evangelize.

It's a complicated line to walk.

You might be thinking Well Marebs, you wouldn't have gotten this blog post out of it if this hadn't happened. What do you expect, working at a bar? It's a social setting.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting and writing in front of the Van Goghs at the Met when a man decided to explain to me that the reason Trump got elected was because of video games. So there's that.

Communicator. Creator. Coach.

© 2020 Mary B Safrit LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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