Awkward Conversations

I talk about having MRKH often, and so I’m no stranger to awkward conversations.  I mean seriously, I’m talking about myself…and missing body parts…and vaginas…that’s bound to make nearly anyone cringe a little bit.  Sometimes it even makes me cringe – but I’m determined to reduce the shame, to empower my MRKH sisters, and make it just a teensy bit less awkward if possible.

I’ve been thanked, and I think admired, by people for speaking so openly about MRKH and my experiences.  And you know what…that feels kind of awkward sometimes to me.  I’m not doing this for a form of self promotion.  I’m not doing this in hopes that an article is written about me, or an invitation comes from some talk show host to appear on a TV show to sensationalize MRKH.  I’m doing this for the love of my MRKH family, and to give hope and encouragement to young women who have just been told the name of their condition.  I want to both celebrate and empower us.  To show the beauty in the imperfections.  To encourage them in the face of what feels very much like tragedy.

Sometimes I forget that by quietly speaking out and speaking openly, that I might gather more attention than I was intending.  Allowing my quiet strength and confidence to show might create some intrigue into just who I am.  As you get to know me you notice other things too, that add to the intrigue.  My choice of eye wear – to me it’s functional, but is it also “sexy smart girl” fashion?  My choice to have visible tattoos – to me it’s self expression, remembrances, and healing, but is it also “rebel bad girl” statements?  My choice in business casual and comfortable clothing seems practical to me and fits with my everyday life – but does it lend itself to a “when she’s good she’s good, but when she’s bad she’s better” air of mystique?    I don’t really know the answer to these questions, but it does make me wonder a little bit about how I am perceived, and am I portraying my “true self”.

I love to watch people and their interactions.  While traveling for work the last few weeks I’ve had plenty of time for gawking and watching.  I’ve seen things I just can’t un-see, and I’ve seen things that have moved me to tears (hush, peanut gallery!!!).  I’ve had some interesting conversations, and observed some interesting interactions.  I had that weird moment on the plane that I wrote about, and I’ve had the opportunity to brighten someone’s day.

Indulge me while I tell another story that really raised some questions in my own mind about perceptions and potential misunderstandings, and am I really projecting my authentic self.  I was at a casual social event/mixer that was a blend of co-workers and spouses and friends.  Lots of conversations happening all around the room, talking about work projects, the weather, upcoming summer projects, and all manner of things.  There were adult beverages being consumed, music playing, and just generally a good time was being had.  In situations like this, I’m generally a bit of a wall flower.  I sit back and just watch people interact, engage in light conversations with people I know fairly well, and generally just try to enjoy the event for the politically correct amount of time before suggesting that it might be time to leave.  As I’m sitting there this particular evening, a gentleman who I’ve known for a while comes up along side of me and starts a conversation.  I know him on both a business and a casual friend basis, so conversation is easy and friendly banter.  But I can’t exactly hear everything he’s saying, but I’m nodding politely, smiling and shrugging as seems to fit the blah, blah, blah kind of conversation.  As the conversation continues, I’m catching more and more of the words and starting to catch the drift of what’s actually being said.  And I’m flustered.  Caught of guard.  Shocked even.  And then scrambling to find the correct responses.   You see, what started as friendly banter had turned to flirting, and then to pretty decisive hitting on me.

This certainly was not the first time I have been flirted with or hit on at some kind of event – but it was the first time in a very long time that it has happened when my husband has been in the same room, AND the “flirter” knows us both as a married couple.  It was shocking to me, and awkward, and honestly kind of funny too.  I was wracking my brain to figure out how to respond.  I excused myself and went to the bathroom.  As I locked myself into the stall, and sat down I said a little prayer to God asking for some guidance and strength, to give me the right words to say, to intervene in my brain, to help me get through the  interaction without making it any more awkward than necessary, and to help me to come to terms with the whole thing – sort out my true feelings, and to figure out what to say to my husband – if anything, and to not make this any more of the cluster-muck it was quickly becoming.

As I left the bathroom, I stopped and chatted with a couple different groups before returning to my previous spot where I had left my stuff.  He was still there, and I was determined to be polite but firm in turning down his advances.  He continued in the flirtatious banter, telling me he had been attracted to me for a while.  And while he knew I was married, he didn’t know if we maybe had an open relationship, or if he should be concerned that he was about to get decked for coming on to me.  I laughed awkwardly and told him honestly, look I’m flattered, but it’s not going to happen.

And I was flattered.  I mean really, who doesn’t want to hear that someone finds you attractive and desirable?  It’s the ego-boost that every woman needs from time to time.  But I also felt guilty for being flattered, and I started the non-stop, 10,000 thoughts per day, inner turmoil of what did my reaction to his compliment really mean?  And what if he didn’t take the hint and drop it?  And would I tell my husband of the interaction?  And would it be totally awkward the next time I saw him in public?  And what had I done, or said, or worn that might have given the impression that I would be available or interested in a fling?  Was I sending out mixed signals?  Was I letting my authentic self shine brightly?  Had I brought this on myself?  I was so conflicted…

The flirtations and suggestions continued, and I politely told him again that while I was flattered, it’s just not going to happen.  About that time I gathered my coat and purse and headed for the best defense I could offer – my husband.  We said our good-nights to everyone, the flirt included, and headed out.  I still wasn’t sure if I should tell my husband what had happened, not sure how he would respond to it all.  As we walked to our car I said another silent prayer to God for guidance and clarity about the whole situation.  When we were on the road, he asked me if I had a good time, and a nice visit with…..  I laughed awkwardly and said well, yeah I suppose – but he was totally hitting on me (and I held my breath waiting for his reaction) .  Hubby laughed and we talked it out on the way home.  He was not spitting mad and prepared to defend my honor with testosterone fueled fists, instead he found the whole thing kind of funny, but also a confirmation of some hints/feelings he had about this guy over the last few months.  I told hubby that I was afraid it would be awkward the next time we saw him, but he doesn’t think it will be.  I hope he is right.

In the mean time, I’ve had plenty of time to think through my feelings about the situation.  I’m flattered, and yet I feel guilty for being flattered (insert eye roll here!).  I think that sometimes I do inadvertently send out mixed messages.  I dress somewhat conservatively, am generally quite and reserved, I am intelligent and driven.  I also have tattoos, drink whiskey, and enjoy dancing to live music with my husband.  I know that my quiet strength and confidence, along with the glimpses of my inner rebel, has the potential create intrigue.  But acknowledging that, I did NOTHING to provoke this, it’s all on him.  I like and respect this man as a person, and I’m not really offended by his flirtation and hitting on me – surprised, but not offended. It has made me think about and reaffirm who I believe myself to be, and if I am truly sharing my authentic self with the world.

It’s approaching the time of year when I once again put myself out in the public eye and openly promote and talk about MRKH and my Courageous Project.  I hope that these recent experiences will better prepare me for raising my voice, speaking out, and celebrating and empowering women with MRKH.


Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created – Esther 4:14

Speaking Out

It takes courage to raise your voice, to speak up and speak out about something.  Especially if that something happens to be something you feel particularly strong about.  In this age of social media, we either have some REALLY courageous people, or some REALLY strong feelings.  Probably a combination of both.  But when I take a look at some of the social media posts lately, I see so much anger, frustration, and just general nastiness.  People are so easily outraged and quick to jump on the latest  “I’m pissed off about….” bandwagon.  Where is the compassion?  Where is the desire to help our fellow man?  Where is the desire to raise each other up with love and support?  Why do we have to be so MAD that we march around in protest venting our anger wearing a hat or a t shirt or carrying a sign that spews venom and anger?  Why do we default to negative energy?  These are rhetorical questions of course, but it does make me wonder why people are soooo angry and quick to judge.

I work at a university, and so we work hard to promote inclusion, acceptance, and we celebrate diversity.  We promote social justice.  And we talk about personal biases, and white elephant topics like racism, white privilege, gender equality, my whiteness and your blackness – or nativeness – or sexual identity.  In case you have never seen a picture of me before, let me just come clear and tell you a few things about me.  I’m a woman.  I’m ethnically white.  I’m 46.  I’m heterosexual and married to the same man for nearly 22 years now.  I’m a Christian.  I’m middle class, intelligent, but without a 4 year degree.  I’ve served in the US Military.  I’m a business owner.  I drink alcohol.  I have tattoos and piercings.  My best friend on the planet is gay, pierced, tattooed, married, middle class.  I have traveled internationally and been exposed to many cultures, races, ethnicity, religions, etc.  I’ve witnessed discrimination, I’ve witnessed profiling – I’ve seen the ugly in people and I’ve seen the beautiful.  I much prefer the beauty, in case you had any doubts.

Recently I traveled for business.  Quick flights hopping from city to city, rental cars, people watching.  People watching in airports is particularly interesting as you see people at their most tired and bedraggled times, as well as the professional travelers who seem to not even have a wrinkle in their trousers.  Obviously you see all walks of life.  The young, the old, the infirm, the health nuts, parents, children, young adults, and all variety of personal choices.  You all shuffle through lines and down narrow aisles and try to not take up any more space than is absolutely necessary.  You just want to get to where you are going, and hope that the airlines fairies have done their magic and you get an empty seat next to you!  As I was settling into my seat for one of 4 flights, a young man came down the aisle and found his seat -next to me.  He was late to board, and so the attendants were trying to get everyone into their seats quickly and get us on our way.  He asked if he could be moved.  Several times.  He was ultimately told no.  Several times.  There were other open seats on the flight, but for “weight and balance” he needed to stay where he was assigned.  I tried to be an unobtrusive as possible, knowing he didn’t want to sit next to me.  And for the next hour or so I tried to make sense of his obvious discomfort.  I did not speak to him, nor did attempt any pleasantries – he was clearly not happy with his seat assignment.  I was confused, maybe a bit angry and frustrated.  What was so offensive about sitting next to me?  I decided to just spend some time in prayer – for our safe journey, for his peace of mind and personal comfort, and for me to have a clearer understanding of the situation, and to find compassion for this young man.

You see, he was a young black man, and I was a “middle aged white woman”.  For whatever reason, I made him uncomfortable.  He couldn’t get past his personal bias toward me.  I was not like him, and he didn’t want anything to do with me.  He leaned away from me, he ignored me as best he could, he put in ear phones and messed with his phone.  His message was clear that he did not want to extend any common courtesy to me, and that he was just going to sulk in disgust as his bad luck of having his seat assigned next to me.  When it became clear that he did NOT want to be there…one side of me got really defensive and OFFENDED.  He took one look at me and made a hard fast decision about who I was based on my appearance and that he would rather be anywhere else?  But wait, I’m the white person in this scenario, doesn’t society expect that I’m the one that should be frightened of this man based on his blackness? Should I be wondering if he has tattoos or some other sign of gang affiliation?  Wait…I have tattoos…but he couldn’t see them.  Did my pink coat give him some kind of signal?  I don’t know…but I was kind of angry that I am supposed to be living in tolerance and treating “people of color” as if they are just the same as me – accepting of their differences in skin tone and treating them with respect and as if their lives matter.  Ok…check…I was doing all that.  I didn’t bother me at all that a young black man was sitting next to me.  Nor did it bother me when the woman sat next me with a baby in her lap.  Nor did it bother me when the older gentleman next to me asked me about the book I was reading, after I had noticed I had recently read the book he had open.  I made small polite talk with each of my seat mates on each flight except the one with the young black man.  He obviously had a problem with ME.

After a long few minutes in prayer, I found the compassion for that young man.  I prayed that his heart would be open to tolerance and acceptance, I prayed for his success, and I prayed for healing of his perception.  I also prayed for my own guidance and tolerance in interactions with people who might make me uncomfortable for whatever reason.  I knew that I should not confront this young man or call him out for his rudeness.  Sometimes speaking out is not the answer. At the end of the evening, I was sad that despite all the “stuff” we see daily in the media, that still, a young black man was so obviously uncomfortable sitting next to me on a short flight.

I will speak openly and publicly about things that I feel strongly about, but I will do it with respect.  I won’t engage in open protests or debates – I prefer to avoid the confrontation and conflict.  I will treat everyone with respect and with as much compassion as possible.  What a wonderful world it would be if everyone did the same thing.

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.  Luke 6:31  

Thoughts on Strength


Physical strength is the power of physics at work – the ability to exert or resist force.  That one is simple.  You have the strength to life an object, or to hold a door shut while someone pushes from the other side.  It’s arm wrestling at its finest!

Mental strength is a bit hard to quantify, but it is still the ability to exert or resist force isn’t it?  It’s pulling your tired self out of bed in the morning, resisting that strong pull of your pillow and warm blankets.  It’s the ability to keep silent when you REALLY want to comment on the color of that teenager’s hair.    It’s the ability to stand up in front of people and make a presentation.  And it’s also the ability to quietly say…I need help.

Strength is another of those buzzwords in my life, and yes, another of the words I included in my latest tattoo.  I think that I’ve evolved into a strong woman, and that many people see my strength but don’t stop and think about where it comes from.  Physical strength comes from gradually building up muscles to exert and resist force.  Mental strength is the result of that same gradual build up.  You rush past the easy stuff, you work a little harder at some things, and then there are times you have to dig really deep to get through it.  But you do get through it…stronger.  When I talked about Courage last month, I said that “Mental courage is the strength it takes to be brave, the faith it takes to believe, and the willingness to see it through.”  Huh…so mental courage and mental strength are pretty similar…what do you know?  But really, without that inner strength – it’s hard to muster up the courage.

I’ve had lots of experiences that have built up my mental strength characteristics.  MRKH for sure, but before that too.  I was bullied as a kid – probably most of us have been in some form or another.  I was teased for being poor, for puberty acne, for being a farm kid, for my haircut, and for being friends with the less popular kids.  But through the teasing and bullying, I learned compassion and empathy, and I stuck up for others, and sometimes even myself. I had to learn to be strong even when I didn’t feel like it.  When our dog died, and I still had to go to school.  When my grandfather died, and I still had to go to school. When a girl in our school was a victim of a murder, and I came home from school and NO ONE WAS HOME. When my brother got drunk at a rock concert, and he still had to go to school the next day.  When my other brother crashed head first into a mail box post while sledding, ending up in the hospital with a fractured skull, yep, I still had to go to school.   And when I knew I was different, because I never got my period…but waited another 3 years before finding out it was MRKH, and yep – I still went to school the next day!  🙂

I do see myself as a strong woman now, but  in choosing the words for my tattoo, I chose ones that would remind me of my journey and be a continual source of encouragement.  And it’s a vehicle for me to talk about my MRKH journey with others when they see my tattoo.  They can see and understand the words, but they may not recognize the BYMRKH flower logo.  I take any and all opportunities to show off my ink, and of course to talk about MRKH.

Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.  ~ Harriet Tubman

Philippians 4:13  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Psalm 118:14  The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.