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Make High School Dress Codes Gender-Neutral

I had the pleasure to seeing Gloria Steinem speak in Phoenix last month. Geez, this woman is inspiring and knowledgeable about gender inequality. She re-invigorated me to keep pushing for equality for all genders. I would love to see our society get to the point where a person’s character and acts matter more than which bathroom they use.

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I Have A Personality by EPMLE from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate is not equal back in 1954. That’s over 50 years ago! And yet, we still see substantial inequality throughout social norms and even formal rules – for all genders.

This inequality is pervasive in our culture, even in something as simple as clothing. Thing about quality and variety of clothes available in the men’s and women’s sections and what a person is expected to wear at certain occasions. What messages are conveyed with different looks? In general, men’s clothing is designed to show a person as powerful and intelligent whereas women’s clothing is much more focused on portraying the wearer as pretty rather than capable. Why are these norms so drastically different?

Looking at gender norms and clothing made me thing about dress codes and question why some institutions and companies have different uniforms and dress codes for different genders. When I see this in schools and industries, I have concerns that the organization has problems with sexism.

Google allegedly has the simplest (and best) dress code: “You must wear clothes.” This tells me the company cares more about your job performance than how you look, and they have confidence that their employees are responsible enough to dress appropriately for their job tasks.

I don’t endorse the Google dress code for every situation, particularly not for high school where students act more impulsively, in part due to their still-developing brains. I do, however, endorse a gender-neutral dress code, particularly after seeing how ridiculous dress codes are for females at some high schools:

These are my recommendations for a gender-neutral high school dress code. It’s more restrictive in regards to images and verbiage on garments, but that’s mainly to make the rule easy to understand and enforce. The main rule is to come to school in clothes that are clean, tidy, with no rips or stains. Here are the details:

NO: Pajamas; Workout wear (exception for socks/sneakers); Visible undergarments; Verbiage or images on tops (exception for small logos or t-shirts/sweatshirts from a legitimate school); Hats or hoods in the building (exception for religious wear); Visible cleavage – chest or butt; Excessively baggy or tight garments; See-through garments; Sleeveless or backless tops

Shoes: Must be worn, closed toe, closed heel, socks must be worn except for open top shoes (flats, heels, etc.)

Pants, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem can’t drag on the floor

Shorts, Kilts, Skirts, and Dresses: Bottom hem must reach tips of fingers when standing with hands at sides

Shirts, Sweaters, and Sweatshirts: No midriff shown when raising arms above head; Entire shoulder must be covered

Hair: Must be clean and reasonably styled (meaning you at least ran a comb through it, purposely messy styles are ok)

This dress code may be more challenging for students who wear women’s clothing because more garments are designed and created that violate these rules. For those who want to express themselves with these garments, they can – on their own time.

The next time you’re confronted with a dress code with different expectations for men and women, ask yourself what these expectations say about how that situation views the roles of different genders. If you see inequality, I hope you’ll challenge it.

Does Biotin Work? | 6 Weeks Later

Me and my Hair - October 1, 2016

Me and my Hair – October 1, 2016

A neighbor suggested I try biotin to get my hair to grow back in faster. I shaved my head (number zero clipper) over Memorial Day weekend and while the rest of my hair is growing back fine, my bangs are taking forever. It took them nearly three months to grown an inch!

My hair is weird.

Yesterday, grabbed my tape measure to check on my progress. In the 6 weeks I’ve been taking this bioin, my bangs have grown just under half an inch. So far, it doesn’t seem to be making a difference.

For comparison, my neighbor claimed her hair grew three inches in a month when she tried it. I think she may have been exaggerating.

While I don’t think it’s making a difference, I’ll finish the bottle (120 pills – 1 pill per day). Perhaps the effect takes 2-3 months to kick in. If it’s snake oil, meh, no big deal. It’s a $10 experiment.

Thank Goodness I was Sober in Law School

My friend Brian Cuban recently wrote a post about his experience of being in law school while being deep in his alcohol addiction and eating disorder. It’s hard to fathom what that must have been like – going to class after waking up with a hangover, getting smashed when he was supposed to be studying, and puking his guts out as he staggered home. Law school is hard enough without struggling with addiction. I’m so grateful I got sober before I went to law school.

I carry two chips in my wallet - my most recent birthday chip and my 24 hour "desire" chip. They remind me how far I've come but also that I have to take it one day at  time.

I carry two chips in my wallet – my most recent birthday chip and my 24 hour “desire” chip. They remind me how far I’ve come but also that I have to take it one day at time.

Actually, it’s because I got sober that I was able to go to law school. I never would have had the courage to apply when I was deep in my addiction. Before I got sober, my self-esteem was fragile at best and I was too afraid of failure to try anything that put my desire to maintain the illusion of perfection at risk.

I had plenty of classmates who drank to blow off steam (and who sometimes drank over lunch and came back for afternoon class tipsy or drunk) and/or used prescription stimulants to help them study. I remember one of my classmates brought of bottle of booze and little plastic shot glasses so he and his friends could drink right after they got out of our Con Law final. (That was a bitch of a final. I understand why he did that. That was the only class where I had doubts about passing.) Being sober, I didn’t have the luxury of numbing my feelings with alcohol and drugs or using anything stronger than coffee to study.

Don’t think for a second that I am/was as pure as driven snow. For full disclosure, I struggled with my eating disorder throughout law school. At the height of my disorder, I binged and purged about once a week, but this was mostly an infrequent occurrence during my law school years.

Throughout my law school career, I was fortunate to have strong connections within the recovery community. I was lucky to have a classmate who was also in recovery from addiction. We would talk during our study breaks to vent about the stress of law school and life in general, and be there to support each other. We experienced the discomfort of law school without the option to mollify our stress with recreational substances. It was pretty brutal at times, but it was comforting to know I wasn’t going through it alone.

As a member of a 12-step program, I have a sponsor, and it was fortuitous that he was getting his degree (different field) from Arizona State University while I was in law school. Both being students in difficult programs, he understood my level of stress because he faced it himself, although he seemed to handle it much more gracefully. There were many times I met with him between classes, to touch base about how I was feeling and to make sure I was perceiving and responding to situations appropriately. Just having him nearby was reassuring.

One of the things I’ve learned in recovery is how important it is to stay connected to others. I’m grateful I had strong connections to others in recovery on my campus. They kept me grounded and gave me a place to vent when I needed it.

I also want to give a massive hat tip to my undergrad alma mater Oregon State University. They established a collegiate recovery community with sober housing for students in recovery from addiction. I didn’t even know I had a problem when I was an undergrad, but I’m glad this is available for people who need/want it.

I Ripped the Ads Off my YouTube Channel

Earlier this month, I attended Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio and I attended podcaster Jay Acunzo’s talk entitled “Unthinkable Marketing.” He told a story about a time he wanted to show a video to his roommates and their anticipation was jilted by a YouTube ad. He had gotten them excited about this video, and then he had to work even harder to keep their enthusiasm up while they waited for the ad to play through. The lesson I got from this story was “Don’t put barriers between your target audience and the content they want.” We live in a world where having to sit through a 30-second ad could be enough to make someone leave the site in annoyance, instead of watching your work.

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

march07 374 by Lord Jim from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Jay’s story made me think. Why do I have ads on my YouTube videos? I make little Question Of The Day videos where I respond to questions the people ask me via email or the weird stuff people Google and end up on my website. Some people ask me about some really messed up situations – both hilarious and cringe worthy.

I monetized these videos because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, just a lease I got enough views to earn a few bucks from it. Here is the reality: these videos are never going to get enough traffic to make running ads worth it. These are videos are only valuable to people who have a specific question at that time and my friends who just like to watch me pontificate to my web cam. There is no reason for me to run ads on any of my videos. If anything, they annoyed or confused my audience over the years, which doesn’t do anything to help my desired reputation for creating knowledgeable and accessible resources about legal issues.

Vehemently, I grabbed my pen and scribbled myself a note to rip my ads off of every video on my YouTube channel. They contribute no value to anyone or anything I care about. After I got home, one of the first things I did was sit down and edit each of my 272 videos, removing the ads from each one. (YouTube should create an option to un-monetize every video on the channel with one click. That would have saved me an hour.)

I support the idea of people being paid for their work. They deserve to be compensated for adding value to others lives. However, I don’t support the idea of doing it in such a way where it creates an obstacle between the artist and their audience.

And if you are an artist who relies on YouTube ad revenue, be careful about your business plan going forward. Many YouTubers recently learned how easy it is for YouTube to disrupt their expectations with its monetization policies.

Star Trek Saved My Life

Captain Carter, circa 2001

Captain Carter, circa 2001

I credit Star Trek, in part, for giving me a reason not to commit suicide in the darker days of my teens. I was hooked from my first episode – a syndicated episode of The Next Generation on a Saturday evening. From that day on, Star Trek gave me a weekly respite from my life where I often felt alone and I expected to be treated badly. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had many dreams about walking the corridors of the U.S.S. Enterprise and being a member of her crew.

Watching the Star Trek gave me hope. It instilled the idea that the future was going to be better, and that there would be people who confront hard issues with strength, conviction, and grace. It gave me hope that someday I might have a community of people who know that I was an abused child, who understand my pain, and who would stand with me and for me.

Star Trek taught me about loyalty and integrity. The crew of the ship is devoted to each other and the mission. With each challenge they faced – whether an enemy combatant or a crew member facing a personal dilemma – no one went into battle alone. Their crewmates put their lives on the line to support them or called them out when they were wrong. They showed me what true friendship looks like. I’d never seen that level of devotion before. I was used to being used, ignored, or people who allegedly cared about me bail at the first sign of trouble. The Star Trek community (including the actors, writers, and fans) taught me even though I felt alone and dealing with emotional turmoil to daily basis, that I wouldn’t feel bad forever. It gave me hope to survive, that there would be a day at the time where I would thrive and be surrounded by people love and accept me as I am, and who wanted the best for me without selfish thoughts for themselves.

At the Star Trek 30th anniversary celebration, a woman sang “Somewhere” from West Side Story. I knew I had to do this song when I studied voice in college. To me, this isn’t a ballad between young lovers from feuding families, but an anthem for all the outsiders who are looking for love and acceptance. The feeling I put into this song is the same feeling I get when I walk into a convention – a rush of love, acceptance, and comfort. I don’t have to explain myself there. I can look at my fellow Trekkies and everyone just gets it.

I could go on and on about what Star Trek means to me, but I think the best way I can end this post is by saying thank you. Thank you Gene Roddenberry for creating this amazing program that sparked the beginning of this community. You gave me an emotional anchor from which to cling and rebuild. For that I will be eternally grateful. Thank you to everyone who put their hearts and efforts into continuing his vision. I never feel alone in the Trekkie community. Special thanks to Leonard Nimoy who appointed himself the honorary grandfather to anyone who needed it. You are dearly missed.

Happy 50th Anniversary of Star Trek to us all.
Live long and prosper.

Trek Friends - We met at a Star Trek Convention over 1-7-01 Weekend.

Trek Friends – We met at a Star Trek Convention over 1-7-01 Weekend.

Gotta Love the Klingons

Gotta Love the Klingons

I Want my Hair Back | Experiment with Biotin

Photo by Devon C Adams Photography

Photo by Devon C Adams Photography

I shaved my head over Memorial Day Weekend – number zero clipper. I’m going back to my natural hair color after dying it for 10+ years and I didn’t want to deal with the grow out. And I thought it would be awesome – every woman I know or know of that has shaved their head had no regrets.  I didn’t need hair products for at least six weeks except for spray sunblock. It was refreshingly cool in the Phoenix heat.

I felt powerful, strong, and beautiful with my buzzed head, and I liked having a fuzzy head while it lasted. I pet my head daily for the first month.

And then the awkward grow out period began.

biotinGrowing my hair out from no hair to short hair may be as annoying as growing my hair out from short hair to long hair. I measured my bangs today; in the nearly three months since I shaved my head, at most they’ve grown an inch! The side and the back feel longer so I’m afraid I’m inadvertently growing a mullet. I’m not sure what I want my style to be for now so I don’t want to cut it yet. I just want it to grow out faster so I have something to work with.

Let’s do some science!

A neighbor claimed her hair grew faster when she took biotin. Being a man of science, I’m willing to do a $10 experiment. I picked up a bottle of biotin – 120 pills with 10,000mcg of biotin in each one. The directions say take one pill per day.  We’ll see if there is a positive correlation between biotin and hair growth. It would be great to have a proper hairstyle by the end of the year.

Hat Tip to Ms. Donovan

With few exceptions, reading fiction does nothing for me. Since I know it’s not real, I don’t have motivation to remember it. I sucked at writing stories in school and I didn’t care about the books I read in English class. I read, but I can’t tell you what happened, in Beowulf, Pride and Prejudice, and don’t even ask me about anything Shakespeare wrote unless I’ve seen the movie. (On my bookshelf, I have a copy of Hamlet in Klingon – Shakespearian English on the left and Klingon on the right. I like to say I have a book in two languages, neither of which I can understand.) Looking back, I have no idea why we were ever tested on the “facts” of any story. It would have been much more interesting to use excerpts from books to learn about their historical or cultural significance, or merely tools to learn about literary concepts.

Sometimes going analogue is the only way to go by Tobias Vemmenby from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sometimes going analogue is the only way to go by Tobias Vemmenby from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It never crossed my mind that I would ever be a writer – until I was required to take expository writing during my senior year of high school. That was the class that taught me the art of ranting on paper and being a truth-teller (well as least as we knew it as a bunch of 17 year-old kids).

Ms. Donovan taught us that not all writing needed to be academically correct or high-brow impactful. She exposed us to different styles of writing that demonstrated that being raw, direct, and creative was powerful because the writer didn’t get tangled in the minutiae of how he/she wrote and focus on the what message they wanted to convey.

This was the first class I ever took that provided a truly creative platform for my thoughts, where rawness and thoughtful feedback was encouraged. I still remember some of the essays we read, things I wrote, and I’m pretty sure I have some of the notes from my classmates in my memory box.

Taking expository writing challenged me to give a voice to my perspective and values – an undertaking I face every time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. This was the course that taught me not to worry about being right; just be real. Being a writer is one of the most usable and transferable skills in my arsenal. For the rest of my life, not matter what I do, I hope I can honestly say, “I’m a writer.”

I am thankful that St. Vincent High School made me take this class and I am especially grateful that Ms. Donovan was there to lovingly nurture me (and I hope my classmates) to not only create quality works in her class, but become writers for life.

Ms. Donovan still teaches at St. Vincent High School in Petaluma, CA. I hope her students know how lucky they are to have her.

Un-Caffeinated People Can’t Read

Stardate 94202.47

Dear Hyatt Hotel:

I enjoyed spending my last night in New York at your establishment, including the complimentary breakfast. In the future, please make the distinction between the regular coffee and decaf coffee more obvious – with the visual equivalent of glitter and sirens.

I’m sure Seattle’s Best Coffee put significant time and energy into making the labels on their dispensers beautiful, but the verbiage and coloration of the decaf coffee is too subtle for blurry-eyed un-caffeinated people. Before my first hit of caffeine all I can think is “Coffee-There-Gimme.” I barely had the mental capacity to properly put cream and sugar in my cup. (Shut up you people who drink it black.) I opened one of the mini-cups half-and-half and proceeded to pour its contents into the trash instead of my cup.

Morning Coffee - My Vision is Too Blurry Before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Morning Coffee – My Vision is Too Blurry before Caffeine to tell the Difference

Your coffee is delicious. (Thank you for not carrying that Starschmucks swill.) Thank goodness I came by the coffee counter to top off my cup before heading back upstairs. (What is this “thank goodness” crap. Everyone knows I need more than 1 cup of coffee to start my day. I’m just being nice.) By then the smell of coffee and the carbs from your delicious pancakes connected my cerebral synapses long enough to detect the subtle green “decaf” sign on the dispenser where I poured my first cup. (I would have been hurting by 10am if I didn’t get my daily caffeine fix.) I immediately threw that first cup in the bin and pour myself a cup of real coffee.

In the future, please make the distinction between the real-deal coffee and decaf so obvious that that that actual reading of the dispensers is not required. Put a space between the dispensers and label them with big signs – a neon rainbow-colored sign on the “Real Deal Coffee” (it will be a beacon to your caffeine-addicted patrons, something like “This is the coffee you’re looking for.”) and “I don’t know why anyone wants decaf but here you go” sign on the decaf.

If I Were a Minimalist in High School

Kristin at Buzzfeed did a video recently where she followed different high school dress codes for a week. At first, this made me wonder if I could follow my high school alma mater’s dress code but that it made me wonder how I would have been different if I had been a minimalist when I was a high school student.

Oh yes - That's my sophomore year picture, Fall 1994.

Oh yes – That’s my sophomore year picture, Fall 1994.

I went to a Catholic high school in Northern California, and our dress code was fairly strict – no shorts, no shirts with writing or images on them, and no open toed shoes were some of the restrictions. If I were the confident self-accepting person I am today back then, I think I would have gone the Jobs/Zuckerberg route and had a personal uniform that I would where every day. Judging by my current closet, probably would be blue jeans and a dark gray v-neck T-shirt. I can picture my childhood closet with 5 matching T-shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, and a solid-colored hoodie for cold days. The only things that might have changed day-to-day would have been the color of my underwear and socks, which shoes I wore, and whether I wore jewelry and/or make-up.

Given my experience with shaving my head this summer, I could easily see myself going through high school with a shaved head – or as close to it as the school’s dress code would allow. (Students weren’t supposed to shave their heads, but some guys would do it over summer break. It would be unfair for the school to punish them for something they did during vacation.)

I can rock the bald head. Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

I can rock the bald head. Photo by Devon C. Adams Photography, used with permission

If I were a minimalist in high school, I wouldn’t be surprised if I used a capsule wardrobe, inspired by Project 333, for the rest of my clothes. A person doesn’t need many material goods to be happy, so why accumulate it? I am not sure if I would apply the same minimalist rules to my leotard collection. As a gymnast, I had about 2 dozen beautiful leotards and I loved them, but I also wonder what it would have been like to have 6 matching leotards that I would have worn each night to practice. Some people might wonder if it would have been weird or boring; I wonder if it would have been a badass.

If I were a minimalist in high school, I would have done a lot more and a lot less with my time. I would hope that I would understand that school was my job, and accepted that there were a lot of classes that were required for graduation but pointless for my life – like literature (most fiction does nothing for me because it’s not real, especially really old fiction) and religion (I’m Agnostic). I would have cared even less about school spirit days and other functions and cared more about spending time with the people I liked. I suspected I would have done more, with less, and been happier and put more energy into developing myself as a person.

What’s in a Name?

“I’m trying to reach Ruthie Carter… Ruthie has been recommended to me by Mary and Jeff. If she could give me a call back …”

Yup – that was the message that was left on my law firm’s voicemail last night that went to the firm’s partners and our receptionist. I wonder if any of them are going to notice that the caller used my nickname and not my legal name.

When I was in my 20’s I was much more strict about only using “Ruth” in my professional life. I worked at an agency where it wasn’t uncommon to see friends and acquaintances who called me “Ruthie.” If I met you in a social setting, I didn’t care which name you used, but with work colleagues, it was always “Ruth” never “Ruthie.” On more than one occasion, I had to correct our receptionists who tried to get away with using my nickname.

As a lawyer, I always refer to myself as “Ruth” and everyone seems to go with it. This voicemail may be the first time a non-friend referred to me as “Ruthie.” In the caller’s defense, Mary and Jeff call me “Ruthie” so it makes sense – but it was weird to hear. I had to listen to it twice to verify that she said what I thought she said.

Who hires “Ruthie the lawyer?” While mulling this over, I was reminded of the Buzzfeed videos where men shared their impressions of common feminine names and women share their impressions for masculine names.  It was interesting to hear their views of variations of the same name:

So what does this mean for me and all the Ruths of the world?

  • Ruth is an old stuff Jewish woman (but she also might be the one who mutters the funniest things under her breath). (We’re sassy.)
  • Ruthie is a four year-old child with pigtails.

My friend said if Dora the Explorer had a lawyer character on her show, her name would be Ruthie.