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Stupid Rules

My face hurts. It’s because of laughing. About balance.

Last night one of my women’s circles gathered around that very topic and we howled (and cried) as we teased apart this thing they call Balance (and for the record, by the end of the night, most of us ditched that term in favor of “grounded” or “centered” or even “in control.”)

As a group, we were fascinated by the ridiculous and often unattainable expectations we set for ourselves. We discovered we shared a mutual penchant for wanting to “have it all”, despite our recognition that this was clearly not possible. We howled out loud – and were brought to tears – as we spoke of our frustrations in trying to juggle the various roles we have, our disappointments at letting ourselves (and others) down, and the resulting shame we often felt in not having figured it out yet. We came to realize these thoughts and expectations were like this “dirty little secret” women didn’t talk about. Except last night, of course. When we broke the rule.

The laughter felt damn good.

Liza Donnelly, a New Yorker cartoonist, is a master at getting people to laugh at these rules we set for ourselves as a society. She spoke about her own experience recently at TEDWomen and shared her story of how she’s used humor as a tool to combat her “fear of womanhood”. As her cartoons flashed behind her (and the audience roared with laughter), she illustrated her point of how we are imprinted with messages at birth and then bombarded with more messages – often conflicting – that tell us how to be. We know this, right?

Well here’s an interesting twist she put out there for us to consider. Women, she asserts, often are the ones to police the rules because we are the carriers of the traditions. So we pass these rules down from generation to generation. The problem with the rules is that they are vague. Those rules that we do know, we’re not terribly fond of – and they are constantly changing. She points out the obvious tenuous position this puts us in as women.

So what to do? Use humor to change them. Liza believes that women+humor=change. Why women? “Because women are on the ground floor and we know the traditions so well, we can have amazing antennae and can bring a different voice to the table”

Her mission? To think about these stupid rules we’re following as well as laugh. She believes “we can change this thing, one laugh at a time.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to have a sore face if it means creating some change in this world.