If you don’t like it, don’t look.

I only ever met my paternal grandmother once when I was four-years old. I remember her as dour and commanding – a woman who had lived in Berlin during both World Wars and had experienced starvation, economic depression and war crimes.

She was also a diehard (pun intended) smoker. I was a pint-sized but vocal anti-smoking campaigner.

She would light up a cigarette and I would tell her that it was killing her, that it was killing me to see her smoking, that it was a bad thing to do and on and on and on.

Not a woman to be dictated to by anyone, least of all a preachy child, her response was a stern and nonnegotiable “If you don’t like it, don’t look.” Please keep in mind that in 1969, no one knew about the dangers of second hand smoke.

“If you don’t like it, don’t look.” It’s not an invitation to avoid seeing what’s unpleasant in the world. Those things need to be seen and known about.

No, what my grandmother was saying was “I’ll do what is right for me without regard to the opinions or criticisms of others. If it bothers them, then they can go away.”

I know so many people who want to try things but won’t because they may look silly or won’t be “good enough.”

fatladyWho hasn’t heard a woman say “I’d never go to the beach looking like this. I’m too fat/pale/lumpy.”?

Thanks to my grandmother, when I hear something of that ilk, I reply “Gee, if I’m ever too ugly to look at, everyone else can put a bag over their heads.”

And I mean it. Go out and do whatever you want and remember, if “they” don’t like it, “they” don’t have to look.

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The Greek chorus of your life

Dramatic plays of ancient Greece included a Greek chorus – a group of masked performers who commented on the action taking place on stage. Very often this chorus of voices would express horror or warnings– “Don’t enter there!” – or revealed characters’ hidden motivations and feelings that the audience might not otherwise be aware of.

The concept of a Greek chorus always amused me. The collective reactions of a group of masked GreekChorusfigures sucking in their breath, moaning, jeering, warning and commenting on a character’s activities seemed so ridiculous.

But isn’t that exactly what we deal with when we cater to the dictates of society? Daily we are told to fit in, to conform, and especially as women to be nice and not rock the boat. We get approval and are rewarded for not being “weird” or “difficult.”

Television and magazines instruct us how to look, smell, groom, eat and behave. Advertising manipulates us to want certain goods. The media news tells us only what they want us to know. These are today’s Greek chorus.

We may not be conscious of this modern Greek chorus but that only makes it more effective. Once you become aware of the chorus and acknowledge its effect on you, you can challenge it.

Will you conform to its messages? Will you abide by its dictates? Will you continue to do what’s easy and pleasing for others? Or are you the hero of your own play, writing the action and plotline to suit your best self?