Tag Archives: International Woman of Mystery

Dear Jane: This Isn’t a Temporary State of Being

2 May

Dear Jane.jpg

Hello, dear readers. Those of you who have been following awhile might remember Jane, my first follower. She recently sent me an update, which I wanted to share, along with a few words. Thanks always for reading. I hope to have more exciting updates soon!

Dear Jennifer, 

Hello again. It’s been a few months since I wrote to you. That’s really cool that I kind of inspired your adventures. Me – the waitress from Kansas who used to spend more time waiting at the pharmacy window than staring out the window of an airplane. But that’s going to change soon!

My dad is a lot better now, but he still is on a lot of medications. But I think he can handle things on his own. I’m glad I stayed home to take care of him. If I hadn’t, I would have thought about how I was letting him down. But also, staying home led me to the most wonderful man I ever met. 

Thank you for inspiring me to be patient and do things that make me a more interesting person so that I would meet a great guy. It really helped me get to this point where I can actually see myself really being with him for a long time. I’ve decided to postpone my college plans for now so that I can follow him (his name is Kurt) to Arizona where he’s going to finish college. I feel like I’m starting a new life with Kurt – all thanks to you.

I just wanted to say thank you for helping me get through a tough time and for inspiring me to be the kind of woman who could get a guy like that. Good luck with your dating life! (I think you should give that last guy a second chance – you never know when it might be the one!).

Sincerely,

Jane

(name changed for anonymity)


Dear Jane,

I’m happy to hear your father is better. You sound happy and that is always a great thing. I admire you for sacrificing your future to help those you love. I’m sure your dad and brother will be forever grateful to you.

You seem like a sweet and unselfish young woman with genuinely good intentions, so I feel like a jerk for saying this so bluntly, but I just have to: I think you misunderstood me.

You are not alone in mistaking my intentions, or the intentions of even stronger, more determined women. It’s a familiar narrative that I’ve noticed in my past self, in my friends, and even in female protagonists in crappy movies. It goes something like this: woman becomes single, woman gets mad, woman finds voice, voice makes her interesting, some other man finds that attractive, woman couples with new man, woman’s new voice is validated because it led her to a better man.

Let me say this loud and clear, in case there’s any lingering confusion: being an empowered female is not a coping mechanism to employ between romantic relationships. It should be a permanent state of being.

I didn’t make it my mission to become an International Woman of Mystery so I would be more appealing to my next boyfriend. I did it so my emotional and spiritual center of gravity would always reside in myself. I did it to find a long-lost inner confidence. I did it so I would have a permanent independence in an impermanent world.

Sometimes I let my mind wander to a post-apocalyptic state where I have nothing but the clothes on my back, the brain in my head and the soul in my heart. What would I ever do in that future world if my identity resided in someone or something else that no longer existed? I would have even less, and that would be devastating.

It’s not any of our faults for making this mistake. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a female problem. But I do think women are more often raised to believe that the men (or women) we end up with, the weddings we have, and the children we bear warrant our efforts to become more intellectually, emotionally and physically successful.

Jane, be the best version of yourself because the things that make you that way fill you with joy. Do what makes you happy and share that energy with the world. Fall in love, of course, but be careful that you’re not doing it to validate your life, or because you depend on it for your main source of happiness and acceptance. Let the men in your life be not the leads in your story, but the supporting cast, for that very reason.

If I sound redundant, it’s intentional. We have to make these points often and we have to make them loud if we’re really going to change the way we women value ourselves. And so, I must say Jane, you have inspired me once again, though maybe not in the way you planned.

I see now that I still have so much more work to do. Thank you for showing me that.

Yours,
The International Woman of Mystery

Advertisements

Learning How To Fight

16 Apr

1946-934x

Greetings dearest readers! I feel terribly embarrassed about my long absence. I confess I’ve only really been busy with work and have no better excuses. An International Woman of Mystery really should have better time management skills! But, I digress.

In any event. I’m resolving to resume regular posting and I promise I’ve got more adventures up my sleeves. In fact, I’m in the midst of planning my next mission and I could use a little input.

See, earlier this year I began working on my list of traits that I needed to cultivate in order to truly become Jenny G.: International Woman of Mystery. One of those proposed traits was to be strong. I explored my fearless side at the shooting range, but my experience there has inspired me to explore other methods of self-defense. After watching movies like Kill Bill and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I find myself gravitating more towards martial arts as a potential way to get strong. It’s something I haven’t, as of yet, explored and I’m wildly curious. What’s more badass than being able to kick through boards?

I’ve rediscovered a love of fitness in the very active community that is Denver. I recently joined a gym-pass subscription service that allows me to take tons of different classes at studios around town and so far, I’ve stuck to the familiar favorites, like yoga and spin. But I can’t help scrolling a little slower every time I see a class options for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muy Thai and Krav Maga. I find these offerings extremely intimidating but also extremely intriguing. What better way to hone some ass-kicking skills?

Thus far I’ve had trouble making it to a class, because I’m overwhelmed by the options. That’s where you come in. I’m giving you guys the opportunity to weigh in and/or share your experiences. Below I’ll give you a couple of options I’m considering and then I’d love to hear what you think.

Option A.) Women’s Self-Defense: Basically exactly what it sounds like. I’ll get a low-down on how to protect myself within my means and maybe bring back some tips. I also like this option, because the class is taught by actual women. Jenny G. is always on the lookout for other strong and brilliant women to be inspired by.

Option B.) Krav Maga Fundamentals: It’s Krav Maga. Enough said. If you are not familiar, Krav Maga was invented for the Israel Defence Forces. According to Wikipedia it is known for its focus on real-world situations and its extremely efficient and brutal counter attacks. And it was derived from street fighting skills. Sounds pretty IWOM to me.

Option C.) Capoeira: I’m taken with the exotic name, as it is. But additionally, capoeira is legitimately exotic. It’s an African and Brazilian martial art and combines music and dance with martial arts. Being that I’m a bit nervous about this whole endeavor, I think music and dance might make this fighting style more my speed.

Option D.) Judo: Judo is known to be a gentler (It literally means “The Gentle Way.”) martial art, which appeals to my sensibilities. That said, judo also sounds pretty intense. Further investigation informs me that most of the defense is done through throws, arm locks, chokes and pins. Am I ready for that?

There will be plenty of time to explore all of these options, in the future, I’m certain. But having lost a couple of weeks, I’m anxious to get back to business and get myself on a mission. The next time an opportunity to attend one of these classes arises, I vow to seize it.

Thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Ciao,
Jenny G.

An IWOM Takes NYC

27 Mar

NYC2

My apologies for being away, darlings. The International Woman of Mystery has been busy. I wish I could say I was out exploring the pyramids of Egypt of skiing the Swiss Alps. Alas, it hasn’t been quite so exciting. However, I did recently take a business trip to New York City, which has left me feeling inspired.

The trip was unexpected. I got a call from one of my bosses late on a Thursday asking if I could be in the city to attend a weekend conference. At first I was a little annoyed by the last minute request, but then it occurred to me that I’ve never actually spent much time in New York. Nor had I ever traveled there alone. It seemed liked the perfect excuse to take Jenny G. on a little impromptu adventure.

Continue reading

Where To Go in 2016

20 Mar

Travelust

In college, there was this girl on my floor who got to go to Paris for spring break. She returned with a scowl, complaining how “disgusting” Paris had been.

“It’s nothing like you see in the movies,” she described. “It’s filthy and gray and touristy. There are thieving gypsies, it smells like urine everywhere, and the men are creeps.”

At the time I wondered if it was just her. She seemed like one of those dull, entitled people who never had to explore the world because it was handed to her. She was constantly disappointed, except when she was drunk and dancing.

On the other hand, I was one of those people who imagined that the reason things weren’t going more perfectly in my life was because I wasn’t in Paris. Movies like Sabrina and Amelie enchanted me. They made me believe I would find love, and myself, in Paris. I took French throughout high school and college and imagined how different life could be when you started your morning at Café de Flore (Hemingway’s Parisian hangout) with a café and pain au chocolat. Paris was going to change my life in lovely ways.

And then I met Mr. Poison who said Paris was terrible. But he loved America so that’s where we traveled. To his credit, he enlightened me to the merits of our own vast and diverse country, taking me to places like Austin, where we danced to live music all night long and ate the spiciest food I’ve ever had. Once, we drove to the Badlands of South Dakota, where we listened to Radiohead as we drove into a thunderstorm. We went to Chicago, where we walked from Wrigley Field to Grant Park, eating and drinking our way five miles south to Lake Michigan.

Finally, when we were planning our wedding, we talked about going international, and he set his sights on Tokyo. I wanted to go there, but not for our Honeymoon. I wanted to go somewhere more relaxing and romantic, like Tahiti.

Without his influence, I am now realizing the total freedom I have to travel anywhere in the world that I want. I just need the money to get there. A year of saving and I think I can do it.

Instinctively, I return to my dreams of Paris. But then I think about how much I’ve changed and wonder if my first international experience should be to the place on which I’d hung all my dreams.

While Paris is arguably one of the world’s great cities – so I’ve heard – I can’t help but acknowledge how much the movies make us see things much better than they are in real life. I’ve built up that city so much in my mind that there is no way it will be as fabulous as I’ve imagined it. The last thing I want to do is set my expectations so high that I guarantee myself disappointment. Besides, I’m a new woman now. My dreams should reflect that.

Today it’s cold in Denver, having snowed all day yesterday. I’m curled up under a blanket, and I’ve decided that today is the day I will plan my first international trip.

Here’s what I’m reading and watching right now for inspiration. Feel free to join and leave me some comments on where you think I should go.

“52 Places to Go in 2016”

Every year, the New York Times publishes its list of 52 places to go. Engaging ambient video and grand photography entices you to dive right in and buy a ticket. I can’t say I’m inspired by every locale on this list – the Democratic Republic of Congo is an odd suggestion – but there are many that have captured my interest. Should I go to Coral Bay, St. John? Mozambique? Vinales, Cuba? Guadaloupe? Road of the Seven Lakes, Argentina? Uruguay? Tamil Nadu, India? St. Helena? Barcelona? Mosel wine country? Pyeongchang, South Korea? Kansia, Japan? The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Check out the list here.

Chef’s Table

Netflix created this TV-documentary series that follows one world-renowned chef per 45-minute episode. Each episode tells the origin story of a chef who has perfected his or her craft, by way of a cinematic escape into some of the most remote and beautiful places in the world. Wouldn’t that be a fun way to travel – chasing down the world’s best chefs? Should I go to Sweden, Australia, Italy, or Patagonia?

Check out the show here.

-Jennifer

You Are a Badass

15 Mar

4abbdd9ff2d22fde49dc45a0b1cc51bc

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about my opinion regarding self-help books. How do they factor into The IWOM Book Club? Or do they at all?

Certainly, one is never the worse for doing some self-analysis and broadening their own horizons. But does International Woman of Mystery. do self-help? Or does she help herself? I debated these ideas heavily the other day, while doing some soul-searching in a downtown book shop. I had come prepared to choose something off of my required reading list, but when I got to the book store, they were out of most of my picks. I then proceeded to wander a bit aimlessly. For hours.

Call it a fugue state, but when I got to the self-help section, I began to peruse some of the titles. It was then that a book called to me. Front and center with some other bestsellers was Jen Sincero’s “You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living Your Awesome Life.” Surely this wasn’t really self-help. So maybe it was okay to buy? (I rationalized.)

I grabbed it immediately. Paid for it discreetly before going home and tearing it open. I wanted so badly to know, what it had to say. And I’m sure it’s no secret, I very much wish to be told I am a Badass.

Luckily, Sincero’s book, is pretty good about delivering that. Although it verges on self-help often, “You Are a Badass” reads more like sensible friend-to-friend advice. The authoress divulges her own struggles and triumphs, and how she overcame various challenges. She offers up mostly relatable anecdotes to demonstrate her point and frequently reminds us: “Love yourself.” Admittedly, the International Woman of Mystery is a bit of a cynic. There were still a few moments that had my eyes rolling.

Even still, I found it an enlightening and entertaining read. The book is as full of humor as it is deep advice. The book also reads quick. (Perfect for a woman on the run.) And the more I read, the more Sincero’s ideas started to make sense. She advocates heavily for changing your own life, by making better decisions and letting go of self-limiting beliefs. Playing bigger, dreaming bigger and going after what you really want. With chapter titles such as, “Your Brain is Your Bitch” and “Fear Is For Suckers”, one can’t help but be inspired by the moxie in this book.

If anything, this book was so jam-packed with compelling material, that I believe I will have to revisit it later. In the meantime, I intend to bring some of that moxie out of the book and into my own life.

Ciao,
Jenny G.

What Kind of Woman Do I Want to Be?

10 Mar

79711144f6a7fe5e73b5d4372bcea4f0

Are you the kind of person who could save someone’s life?

I’ve been asking myself this lately as it relates to my future. If the time came, could I fend off a gun-toting villain, could I give someone CPR, could I steer a speeding car out of harm’s way?

Some people believe that everyone has it in them to act heroically when it becomes a matter of life or death; your primal instinct to survive kicks in and your responses become automatic.

I don’t know that I believe that because it suggests that being a hero isn’t a choice – it’s just part of being human. I’d like to think we have a choice in the matter. I’d like to think that the heroic part of it is the choice. True heroes try to save the world, or even just one person, even if they’re not sure how it will end.

These questions all popped up because I’ve been seriously considering what I’m doing with my life. Now that I finally feel established in Denver, it is perhaps time to consider my motivations and long-term goals. In between that, I’ve been procrastinating making any decisions by watching the Kill Bill movies and the Netflix series “Jessica Jones” that feature female heroes. Totally inspired by the courage and tenacity of these hard-core women, I started questioning whether or not I had it in me to live in a similar way. Is there a reason I was never drawn to a career as an EMT, surgeon, police officer or member of the military? Was it because in my heart, I knew I couldn’t do it and didn’t want to do it? Or was it because I was too scared to see if I could?

But wouldn’t it be cool if the result of my moving to Denver is that I changed a life, or several? Wouldn’t it be cool if all this nonsense about a guy was the impetus for me becoming the kind of person who could help the world in a really important way?

Kill Bill is a revenge story, where Uma Thurman’s character, The Bride, searches the globe for the man who tried to kill her, and for anyone who helped. We watch her travel to Japan and learn to use a Samurai sword; we watch her demolish entire gangs of killers with her badass martial arts moves. She’s tough and singular in her vision. She learns new skills and stops at nothing to seek a justified revenge and save her life.

Jessica Jones is a graphic novel superhero, who at first chooses to use her wit to help others rather than use her superpowers. Jessica is unapologetically unpolished and dysfunctional, but also brave, smart, strong and compassionate. She takes tremendous risks and makes personal sacrifices to save others’ lives. She is one of the most inspirational superheroes I’ve seen on the screen.

With the exception of perhaps Wonder Woman, it seems to me a relatively new concept to portray a woman as a traditionally masculine hero. What I mean is that her being a woman does not change the way she fights evil. She uses physical strength and intelligence to save the day, without any caveats from the storyteller.

We’re lucky we live in a time that this portrayal is becoming more popular. We’re lucky we live in a country where women have the choice to be this kind of hero. And I’m lucky I have the luxury to discover who I really am and how I can really contribute to the world.

I want to be the kind of woman who devotes her life to saving others’ lives. What does that look like? Does it mean I have to wear hole-y jeans, combat boots and a leather jacket, or a yellow tracksuit? Or can I still be Audrey Hepburn chic in my trench coat and still save the day?

So I come back to the question: am I someone who could do that? Do I have it in me to be like The Bride or Jessica Jones? Is that what this International Woman of Mystery thing is all about? Would I make the choice to be heroic, even in the face of uncertainty, if the opportunity presented itself?

Perhaps it’s time I figure this out.

-Jennifer

Cooking With a Vengeance

2 Mar

june-cleaver

The email for my assignment requests that I bring two things on my next mission. One of them is a set of knives. And the other? An apron.

Jenny G.: International Woman of Mystery, is about to finish what she started. I am headed for my very first cooking class.

A few weeks ago after some misadventures in my own kitchen, I decided it was time to get proactive and improve upon my somewhat non-existent cooking skills. As it turns out, cooking classes are becoming more popular in Denver, so I was able to locate a plethora of options pretty quickly. There was some heavy debate around pasta and pastry lessons , but I ultimately deemed those options more harmful than helpful. I stumbled across a Healthy Japanese Cooking workshop and registered before I could talk myself out of it.

Continue reading

Dating In The Modern Age

28 Feb

18155204718535914_Zy7DEL6T_c

“You’re going to have to suck it up and do it at some point,” challenged the crackling voice on the other end of my telephone. “Might as well rip off the bandaid and get it over with.”

I’d been debriefing with an old friend, and while I’ve been keeping most of my activities off the radar these days, the loneliness in my voice betrayed me. My cohort suggested it might be time for me to try online dating. Despite my protests that I simply wasn’t ready, her insistence struck a nerve. An International Woman of Mystery would never back down from a challenge.

Continue reading

Mission: Be Benevolent

18 Feb

Benevolent

Sometimes you choose the mission, but as I’m sure many an action hero can attest, sometimes the mission chooses you.

I hadn’t planned on undertaking any new endeavors this Valentine’s Day. It seemed as good a day as any to work on being incognito. And by incognito, I mean laying at home watching cheesy romantic comedies (even the International Woman of Mystery has guilty pleasures) and eating popcorn for dinner. Don’t get me wrong – I did treat myself to a nice bottle of wine and some chocolates. I’m not a complete barbarian. If anything, I’m the best date I’ve had for Valentine’s Day in quite some time.

However. As if sensing my intrinsic happiness from afar, it seems Mr. Poison was not to be outdone.

Continue reading

Guest Post: Required Reading

15 Feb

Books

Hello Readers,
I have a treat to share today, in the form of my very first guest post! See, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by a reader, Margaret, who found my card. Margaret, as it turns out (and as she’ll explain below) is a bit of a literature expert and enthusiast. When she wrote into me with some book suggestions for the IWOM Book Club, I was so impressed by her due diligence I asked her if I could share it here and she agreed. I’m so glad to have made Margaret’s acquaintance and hope we can meet for tea someday and to poke around old book stores. I also hope you enjoy her book reviews as much as I did.

Ciao,

Jenny G.


 

Hey Jenny,

I hope you don’t mind me butting in about your blog, but I found your calling card a few weeks ago downtown. My name’s Margaret, and I love books. I love books so much that I hope it will be okay for me to submit for your consideration a reading list, since I agree with you that an International Woman of Mystery should always be well read.

It’s not too long or pedantic (I hope!) It’s a few titles written by or featuring really bad ass women, women of mystery, women of strength, women who are working to find their place in the world. Not to say that this is the end all, be all, because while I think literature can challenge you and change you, sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s pleasurable. I don’t think books need to be difficult or obscure to be of value.

That said, let’s start with a challenge. I’m sure it’s the English major in me coming out, but to me, one of the original strong women is Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales. If you’re up for an adventure and want to spend some time looking up words in the dictionary, you can read it in the original Middle English, or you can find a translation and start there. The Wife is on a pilgrimage with an incredibly diverse group of characters in the 1400s, at a time when women were the property of their father or their husband, and they were little seen and certainly not heard. And yet, she’s on her pilgrimage, not as a nun, but as a bawdy, funny, spirited individual, talking openly about her marriages and her desire for another husband (or two, maybe!) What is always amazing to me is the familiarity in the Wife and in her tale, though she and I are separated by hundreds of years of time and many, MANY radical shifts in culture and conduct. I think hers is a worthy story, and the act of reading about her is an interesting history lesson.

From challenge to “chick lit.” I love Jennifer Weiner’s novels (I particularly love her break up book Good in Bed) and I also love her as an author and an advocate. Her books are about the lives of women – they’re real and they’re accessible and they make me feel like I’m talking to a great friend who also happens to be able to say the things I can’t say in words in exactly the right way. I also love that Weiner has been very public in her defense of so called “chick lit” and the art of reading for pure pleasure and entertainment. She’s gone toe to toe with The New York Times and challenged the boys club nature of who they choose to review in their book section, and uses her platform as a successful author to advocate for more equality in publishing.

Also an amazing person in addition to author is Margaret Atwood, and I’m not just mentioning her because we share a name. Her writing is bad ass and she IS a bad ass. She writes about dystopias (if you liked any Hunger Games, you’ll love The Handmaid’s Tale) and wild science fiction just as well as she writes about the lives and friendships of women. My favorite of hers is The Blind Assassin, which is a love story, a mystery story and the story of the relationship between two sisters – a Woman of Mystery could definitely learn from the way the main character Iris uncoils the details of the story slowly and slyly.

And if you’re looking for something different, she has short stories, poetry collections and works of nonfiction. She’s so prodigious that she’s the first author in the Future Library Project, having submitted a book in 2015 that won’t be read by anyone until 2114. It makes me jealous of my grandchildren, that they’ll get to enjoy Atwood’ dark humor and beautiful writing and the surprise of a novel that’s been just waiting a hundred years to be discovered.

I know that you have felt a lot of upheaval in leaving Boston for Denver, and so I think you’d like reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pultizer Prize winning story collection The Interpreter of Maladies, because she focuses on the immigrant experience and the way we assimilate and assume new identities when we change our location and our culture. Her writing is so simple and her stories are incredibly moving.

Lastly, I’m recommending this book because it’s my all time favorite novel. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende tells the story of three generations of uniquely powerful women while also telling the history of Chile’s political upheavals in the 20th century. It’s magical realism, Allende’s beautiful writing, and a story that’s both unbelievable and true at the same time.

So again, forgive the intrusion and the influx of opinions, but I hope this gives you a little something to add to your reading queue- does an International Woman of Mystery carry a library card?

Sincerely, Margaret