Great Expectations

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Every family has certain expectations for the next generation. Most of them tend to be overall goals like happiness, stability and family. But often people make these expectations, including small steps towards them, based on their own experiences and morals. Today I would like to show you some of the expectations I grew up with and how they affected - and still affect - my life.

As I mentioned in one previous post I grew up in a house with my father and grandmother (his mother). When I was younger my dad worked a lot, so I spent most of the time with my grandmother. It was she who told me that if I did not wear a sparkly barrette, I would not be as pretty as other girls. When I had friends over, she always asked me why I did not dress like them and that they were much prettier than me. As a small child I simply believed that there was a certain thing that “other girls” had, that somehow I didn’t.

When I got older, the expectations of my grandmother L. grew higher. As a present on my 16th birthday she gave me a cooking pan with the words “So now you can cook your future husband a nice steak.” Firstly, I am a vegetarian. Secondly: Husband?! Uhm no thank you. In this time we fought very often. I started questioning her messages towards me and she thought I was a sassy girl (well, the rest of the world still viewed me as a very quiet and polite girl, but I guess your view is different when your expectations aren’t met). In one particular hard conversation she shouted at me: “I don’t believe that you have any friends. They are only your friends because they pity you because you are disgusting. No one will ever love you.” This sentence still haunts me in some nightmares. So her path for me was clear and my deciding to become a social worker was not part of it. In her eyes, it was a waste of time to try to help others.

Also it collided with her plans for me to be a “good wife” who cares for her husband. And yes, I am not out to my grandmother. This is my decision and I simply think that it would harm more to tell her that. After a fight with her brother she did not talk to him for two years-so I can only imagine what would happen if I come out to her. In my imagination this involves not being able to go back home. So I simply stay quiet and shift to another topic.

But let me give you an example of what this looks like: Last fall my girlfriend, who was introduced as a friend from university, and I visited her in my hometown. It happened that she was ironing some shirts when we entered the room. Her first words were: “I am going to show you two girls how to iron these shirts, so you can do this for your husband later.” Later she also asked my girlfriend (who is Catholic) if she planned to marry a Catholic man. After we made our way back with some excuse, we started laughing so hard. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the absurdity of a situation.

The longer I live away from home (now it is 5 years), the more I learn to see the intention behind all these messages and expectations. Although I do not agree with them, they come from a place of love and concern. People care in different ways that might not fit in with your own plan. But instead of doing what I did for a long time - fighting and arguing - I now try to see those acts as expressions of love and encouragement. Sometimes I slip and simply get frustrated and feel misunderstood, but on other days I try my best. Nowadays when I see the cuckoo clock that she’s already bought for my future kids, I try my best to see the hope behind it instead of the expectations from being a nice perfect mum with a husband that come along with them.

Don´t get me wrong. I fail so often in this and wish I could fit all of her expectations and be perfect and make everyone happy. But as Jane Austen said in Sense and Sensibility, “To wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect”. So all the wishes and hopes that people have for you can result in expectations towards you and sometimes create pressure inside you. But when we are able to recognize where they’re coming from, we are able to see them in a different light. Also, sometimes I am just tired of fighting and discussing. I have every right to be who I am and so does my grandmother. There is enough space for everyone to live in this chaotic but beautiful world.

The Extrovert Ideal

The Extrovert Ideal

I was always a quiet child who enjoyed being friends with a few people rather than many. I still like to listen and to write more than to speak. But society, on a large scale, and my teachers, on a smaller scale, taught me from a young age that that is not how you are supposed to be. A short list of things they told me to be includes: outgoing, discussion-loving, social, and, simply, louder.

On Writing & Bullying

On Writing & Bullying

I am not sure how it started but somehow, I ended up becoming the victim of bullying. That included mean rumours on a daily basis and my classmates avoiding me like I had a disease. These were times when I felt completely sad and hopeless and hated each day. I thought it would never change and I simply did not want to tell any adults about it because somehow there was this internal belief that maybe there really was something “wrong” with me. So if anybody is out there reading who is currently in this kind of situation please be sure that I know how lonely and sad you can feel. But guess what - things changed for me!

Introductions: Meet Lyle!

We're excited to welcome Lyle to our team! Lyle is a US-based high school student who will be contributing a monthly column from the perspective of a transgender gay guy. We're lucky to have him on board! - Ed.

Looking around my school library right now, I am racking my brains for the perfect introductory sentence to this first column. How do I present myself succinctly and humbly while still capturing the reader’s attention? Do I start off with, “Hello, I’m Lyle Green and this is the story of my life.” No, that’s too dry. What about, “I am a 15-year-old transgender gay guy who is mostly tired and confused.” That’s also too dry. Or, I could begin with the classic line found in any YA novel: “I’m not like other boys/girls…”

Gender, Queered

Before I start anything, let me say this: I love my body. I love its scars and scrapes and bruises, its imperfections and inflexibility and periodic infirmity. I love the ache in my shoulders after I lift, the burn in my quads after I row. I love the calluses on my hands and the freckles on my nose. Even when I don’t like what I see, I still appreciate and love what I have. Sometimes though, my mind tries to fight me on this. I look in the mirror and I can’t decide who’s looking back. Girl? Boy? Genderally ambiguous middle ground? All of the above? Some days, it’s hard to tell.

A Letter After Coming Out

As of writing this letter I don’t know how our conversation went, but I assume there will be tears and misunderstood words, and hopefully love. I never thought that it would have come about this way, and I hate that I hurt you. I hope you know it was the last thing I ever wanted to do. The journey I’m taking has been a difficult one because for many years I denied myself and lied to myself for love of my family, for love of you.

On Subversion

This past week, I had the privilege of attending a talk sponsored by my university featuring Alison Bechdel. Alison’s talk, entitled “Drawing Lessons: The Comics of Everyday Life,” focused mostly on her experiences writing and drawing her memoirs, and how she went through that process with her family and with herself. However, she did touch upon Dykes to Watch Out For, and its place as both a comic of queer visibility and political activism. In particular, she said that she stopped writing Dykes in 2008 because in some sense, being queer has stopped being a subversive gesture. That gave me pause. 

Introductions: Meet Maria!

We're excited to introduce you to Maria, one of our high school staff members! She will be writing a bi-weekly column for us, and we're really happy to feature her perspective at Creating Iris. You'll be able to find all of Maria's posts by clicking on her name to the right. - Ed.

Hi! My name is Maria and I’m a sixteen year old girl who will be writing a biweekly column (perhaps weekly in the summer, when I’m out of school and my schedule isn’t so hectic :) ) here at Iris! I’d like to talk about what my column will encompass, but first, let me share a bit about myself. I’m sensitive, reflective and quiet, but outspoken on issues I feel passionate about. I love reading, writing, and fashion. I’m absolutely crazy about playing the guitar (in the classical style), and one of my dreams for the future is to be a performing classical guitarist (a big goal, but one I so want to accomplish!).

Introductions: Meet Amanda Meltsner!

We're excited to welcome another Amanda to the Creating Iris staff! She'll be writing a bi-weekly column for us, and we're really glad to feature her writing on the site. You'll be able to find all of Amanda's posts by clicking on her name to the right. - Ed.

YOU KNOW those awkward icebreaker games at team building activities you’re sometimes forced into by overzealous teachers or bosses? This feels a bit like that. It’s always “Say your name and an adjective that starts with the same letter!” or “Two truths and a lie!” or “Step into the circle if…”. I have a hard time describing myself, especially in front of people I don’t know. What kind of impression do I want to make? Depending on the setting and the audience, my answers vary. This, however, is even harder. I can’t see the faces of those who will be meeting me for the first time, on the other side of cyberspace, locked into their own computer screens or tablets or smartphones. On the other hand, you can’t see me here either, typing away while the snow and wind chase each other outside my window. So, let me give you a description.

Introducing Iris Voices!

We're really excited to announce that beginning this month, Creating Iris will feature opinion columns! We're so pleased to welcome four new voices to the Iris team. We'll start with some introductions...stay tuned! It's been such a pleasure to get to know our writers and to add their perspectives to Creating Iris. Meeting new people, whether as readers, writers, and now staff members, has been such a fantastic result of working on this project. 

Comments are always open! We'd love to hear from you - and if you're a writer interested in sharing your perspective on Iris Voices, let us know. In the meantime, we hope you'll enjoy getting to know our new columnists. We think they're pretty awesome!


Amanda & Bex,