Friday, April 20, 2012

Who shattered Cinderella’s glass slipper?

If you believe in happy endings STOP READING NOW, because this fairy tale does not have a happy ending.

We all know the first part of Cinderella’s story. She was raised with her step-mother and steps sisters who treated her poorly. In fact, they often made her feel inferior to them and treated her like a servant.  Combined with the loss of her father, Cinderella struggled with her low self-esteem. Nonetheless, despite her home life, she tried to maintain a cheerful disposition and always dreamed of a kinder, gentler world. Then, one day something much unexpected happened, the Prince stopped by her home asking for water. He was so impressed with her hospitality that he invited the family to the King's Ball. It was a special honor to be invited because it was said that the Prince would select a bride from the fair maidens who attended the Ball.

Cinderella so wanted to go to the King's Ball despite her step-mother’s objections. So, she wished and wished until her Fairy Godmother appeared and granted her wish. At the Ball Cinderella was stunning and graceful. She caught the Prince's attention and shared a dance with him. It was love at first sight for them both. They were over joyed until the clock stuck twelve and Cinderella dashed away into the night before the Fairy Godmother’s spell was broken. She did, however, leave behind a glass slipper – one unique shoe.

The next day, the Prince launched a full blown search for the mysterious girl who stole his heart and escaped his grasp. Throughout the kingdom, he traveled trying the shoe on every fair maiden. He had no luck finding a fit until he arrived at Cinderella’s home. Despite the step-mother’s desire to hide Cinderella, she appeared with fresh water for the prince. He demanded that she try the shoe on and what do you know, it fits! It was the answer to all of Cinderella’s prayers. She was rescued from her intolerable situation and rushed away to the Prince’s castle where she and the Prince are quickly married. And we are told that they lived happily ever after.

Well, that’s where the storybook ends. What happens next will surprise you because you never heard the rest of the story.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, Cinderella’s relationships and disposition gradually changed. She grew distant from her family and friends. After constant reminders from the Prince, “your best friends were rodents and your family didn’t appreciate you like I do.” He often explained, “You are with me now and that makes you special. Can’t you see how special you are to me? Surely, you knew these changes would need to occur when you became my Princess?” Then, one day, when Cinderella was feeling home sick, the Prince, in a fit of rage, destroyed her special belongings. “These common rags are unacceptable for my Princess,” exclaimed the Prince. As he breaks the glass slipper, he adds, “And who wears glass slippers, this is so impractical! A Princess should look like this…, wear this…, walk more like this... and only speak when spoken to because...” Cinderella was both shocked and embarrassed by his outburst in front of the King’s court. She felt sadden by the loss of her things and humiliated by his public display but she did not dare object to such a powerful man.

In the days that followed, she stopped pushing back. She just wore whatever he said that she should wear. She spent her free time as he demanded. She gave up the things that she previously enjoyed for the hobbies and social events that were deemed appropriate by the Prince. Even when he monitored her every decision and move, she did not challenge his justification “… it is for your own protection, of course.”

At first, Cinderella had been delighted to have so much attention, especially from a Prince. She knew that she was fortunate that he had hand-picked her. How special to be chosen from the kingdom of women to be his bride. Indeed, she was lucky to have him and should not complain, given her previous station in life. But over time, she began to feel isolated and overly scrutinized by the prince’s attention. She doubted her ability to select her own clothes, to eat the right foods, to say the right things, to act appropriately, and etc. He quickly controlled everything about her day to day life. In fact, she was constantly reminded that her total focus should be on pleasing the Prince – the man who would someday become King.

So, why wasn’t she happy being the Princess? Why did she feel trapped by all the rules? Why couldn’t she find joy in the treasures all around her? What was wrong with her? There were warning signs [shown in red] throughout her relationship which were ignored. Sadly, she didn’t know how to reach out for help and who to tell how she really felt. Surely, she could not reach out to the family and friends that she had been cut off from. She couldn’t confide in his friends because they had his best interest in mind. At last, what was sweet Cinderella to do?

Without intervention from family and friends, Cinderella silently waited for her Fairy Godmother to return and rescue her. Do you know someone who is waiting to be rescued? Like many teens in unhealthy relationships, Cinderella’s most challenging times were never spoken about. Silence and fear were the biggest factors that prevented her full story from being heard. There are thousands of teens in disturbing relationships that don’t know where to turn or what steps to take to end the relationship. That’s why it is critical that we start a conversation and provide opportunities for a graceful exit. We must do something before the crisis gets worst. More importantly, let’s educate the tweens and teens before the drama ever begins. Let teach them how to build healthy relationships and how to ask for help if they find themselves in an abusive relationship. Let's give them the knowledge and power to have control over their own lives.

You may very well be someone’s Fairy Godmother now? She may be wondering why you have not come forward to rescue her as you have done before. While, life may not be a fairy tale, happy endings are possible. Just ask me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Excuses, excuses! What are your excuses for wearing ill-fitting shoes?

If you are like me, you have a dozen or more excuses for wearing those shoes that hurt your feet. Which have you used before?

• Beauty hurts, my dear, so get over it.
• If they don't hurt, they are not worth wearing.
• They don’t hurt that bad.
• These are sitting shoes, they weren’t made for walking.
• I just have to walk from the house to the car and the car to chair inside.
• I can make it.
• I don’t care how much they hurt, they look good on me.
• They will fit better with socks, stockings, a pad, or a Band-Aid inside.
• Do you know how much these normally cost?
• For this price, I am going to buy them even if they don’t fit.
• It’s the only pair; I am going to buy them even if they are too big/small.
• They don’t hurt if I walk like this…
• For the price I paid, I am keeping these shoes.
• [Insert name] bought me these shoes, I have to wear them.

What other excuses have you used? Share them with us, please. It doesn’t matter what the excuse is, we rationalize it to justify the abuse to our feet. We assert that the damage will only be temporary and the risk/pain is so worth it. The truth is, however, long-term abuse can lead to life-long injuries. Come on, you know this is true. How many of you have seen the movies where the beautiful girl is chastised because of her ugly feet. Some of you can just look down at the deformities that were caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes over an extended period of time. Some of my sisters have had surgeries to shave down the unattractive bulges and bumps on their feet. Others have had corrective surgeries in order to walk again or minimize the constant pain. Let’s face it, we abuse our feet for sports, for dance and for beauty. When will we stop and say, enough is enough? When will we will say NO to abuse, even if the abuse is self-afflicted on our feet?

Let me flip the coin. Yes, my sisters in abusive relationships right now, I am coming for you! I know we have made excuses for staying with angry, controlling, abusive men. I have either said or heard these excuses before, have you?

• But, he loves me.
• You don’t know how sweet he really is to me.
• He makes me feel so good, when he is not angry.
• He’s just under a lot of stress right now.
• We have been together for over xx years now.
• I can’t live without him.
• He doesn’t know how to have a loving relationship.
• I am going to teach him.
• We’re having money problems.
• He doesn’t know how to manage his anger.
• He only acts like that when he’s been drinking/using.
• He was so sweet when we began dating, I don’t know why he changed.
• It’s going to get better when…
• He is getting help for that problem.
• I need to support him right now.
• It’s not that bad. I can handle it.
• He is worth $$$$ or earns $$$$ more than I per month.
• I would be a fool to leave.
• Give up all of this, are you kidding?
• Where would I go and what would I do, if I left him?
• Who is going to help me, financially, emotionally, and physically?
• How do I get out and stay out?

Don’t get me wrong, women can be abusers, too. The gender of the abuser or victim is irrelevant. Abuse of any kind, by anyone, is wrong. It is also a crime in many states. It is time you asked yourself some difficult questions. Why do I make excuses for unacceptable behavior, unbearable living conditions, or physical/emotional injuries? Who taught me to accept this treatment? Why can’t I just say no? What is the worst that can happen if I leave? What is the worst that could happen if I stay? How is this affecting my family/children? Who can I turn to for help? What is my safety plan? Oh, I understand that you have countless more questions. Keep reading, I hope to provide some answers in this blog. But, more importantly, I know people and places where you can get answers, TODAY. I have included a small list below. But, I beseech you to stop making excuses!

Personally, I stopped making excuses when my nine year old daughter asked on the way home from school, after a violent episode the night before, “Mommy, why can’t we just keep driving to somewhere safe? Why do we have to go home?” Within a week, I had sent her to visit my mother, supposedly for the summer. A few weeks later, after another late night attack, I held my tongue until morning. I left for work in the morning with my purse, as if nothing had happened, and never came home again. I went to a women’s shelter where I learned about setting boundaries and healthy relationships. What’s your story? What will it take for you to stop making excuses? What will it take for you to end the abusive relationship? Tell me, what will it take for you to wake up and drive/walk/run to somewhere safe?

Monday, April 2, 2012

What should you look for in a Boy/Girl friend?

Relationships require respect, trust and open communication. Whether you’re looking for a relationship or are already in one, make sure you and your partner agree on what makes a relationship healthy. It’s not always easy, but you can build a healthy relationship. Look for someone who will:
•Treat you with respect.
•Doesn’t make fun of things you like or want to do.
•Never puts you down.
•Doesn’t get angry if you spend time with your friends or family.
•Listens to your ideas and comprises sometimes.
•Isn't excessively negative.
•Shares some of your interests such as movies, sports, reading, dancing or music.
•Isn’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings.
•Is comfortable around your friends and family.
•Is proud of your accomplishments and successes.
•Respects your boundaries and does not abuse technology.
•Doesn’t require you to "check in" or need to know where you are all the time.
•Is caring and honest.
•Doesn’t pressure you to do things that you don’t want to do.
•Doesn’t constantly accuse you of cheating or being unfaithful.
•Encourages you to do well in school or at work.
•Doesn’t threaten you or make you feel scared.
•Understands the importance of healthy relationships.

Remember that a relationship consists of two people. Both you and your partner should have equal say and should never be afraid to express how you feel. It’s not just about speaking up for yourself -- you should also listen and seriously consider what your partner says.

Every relationship has arguments and disagreements sometimes -- this is normal. How you choose to deal with your disagreements is what really counts. Both people should work hard to communicate effectively.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

What do you do when shoes hurt your feet?

It happens to all of us. We spend all day, or longer, shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. We look at hundreds of them and try on ten or twenty. We are looking for style, versatility, fit, wear, cost, among other things. It is serious business. Some of us even go onto websites, like Nike, and design custom shoes to meet our own style. Some of us look for bargains, we want that perfect out-of-season shoe at the best price possible. Conversely, some of us shop at second hand stores where we can get ten used shoes for the price of one new retail shoe.

No matter where we buy the shoes, we are always disappointed when the shoes does not perform to our expectation. Sometimes the shoes pinch the toe(s). Other times, they rub the heal to form a blister. Or, place too much pressure on the ball of the foot. Some straps cut into our skin with each step. Some don't support our arches enough to be comfortable. Or worst, some shoes just fall apart in public, just when we need them the most. They just break! They break at the seams or the heals pop off. The buckles snaps or the string rips. And there you are, limping out of sight instead of strutting your stuff. Sometimes, we only get a few good wears before the shoe is totally useless. Indeed, when shoes don't live up to their reputation, we are just too frustrated.

The same is true of relationships. In our excitement, we tell all our family friends about the person in our life. We parade him at all our events with family and friends. We make promises to each other and we image a life together forever. Then, when the honeymoon ends, we realize that in our haste we selected the wrong guy. We try hold on to see if things will get better. We make excuses for their short comings. Nonetheless, in the end we have to share the bad news with our family and friends because the relationship did not live up to our expectations. Again, we are so frustrated.

We ask ourselves why we did not see the signs, or why we chose to ignore the early warnings that the relationship was unhealthy. We try to capture lessons learned. Or, we just move on to the next guy. But, I am sure that has never happened to any of my readers. Has it?

What is Like Shopping for Shoes all about? What is the must-have conversation?

Like Shopping for Shoes explores the differences and similarities of shopping for shoes and shopping for relationships. We speak openly and routinely about our shoes to anyone who will listen. If we found a great sale on shoes, we would tell a total stranger without hesitation. If our shoes were uncomfortable, everyone within listening distance would know. Our children spend countless hours on line shopping for the perfect shoe. Some websites allow their shoppers to custom design their own pair, at a higher price, of course.

As parents, we are always talking to our children about which shoes to wear and which shoes to discard. We poke and prod at their footwear to ensure a good fit. We demand they take them off when they stink or become unattractive. If the shoes hurts their feet, we take action! We return them to the store, get rid of them, and/or buy them a new pair. We are relentless in our efforts to protect their feet. Indeed, most of us, are very selective about shoes.

So, why can't the same be said of our efforts to protect our children, teens, young adults, siblings, relatives and friends from unhealthy relationships. When did it become taboo to talk about today's dating rules and healthy relationships? How do we engage in a meaningful way to discuss these essential topics? How do we offer help to those who will not admit that they have a need? How do we educate those who are not seeking education on this topic? Sometimes, it is the ah-ha moments that awaken us to see the truth.

Like Shopping for Shoes provides the tools to start a must-have conversation. The conversation can start with the game, on twitter, or on this blog. It doesn't matter where it starts, it only matters that we all start talking about healthy versus unhealthy relationships. It is time we dedicate as much time and preparation to teaching one another about safe dating rules and healthy relationships, as we do about selecting a pair of shoes.