Monday, December 26, 2011


I wonder why it is that we refer to snowmen as "snowmen"? What is it about them, really, that makes them male? True, some wear top hats and smoke pipes, which are stereotypically masculine behaviors. But what about the snowpeople who simply have a smiling face, twiggy arms, and no gender-specific accessories? A friend and I gave Christmas socks to the rest of our coworkers, and one design had a snowperson with a pink scarf. Pink = stereotypically feminine. Yet at least one person still referred to her as a snowman, and when some of us intentionally called her a snowgirl or snowwman, it felt really weird.

I also noticed this assumption of masculinity (for lack of a better term) while playing a card game with my dad this week. The cards have pictures of various kinds of bean characters on them (for instance, the black-eyed bean is in a boxing ring and has a black eye, and the blue bean is dressed like a police officer). There are eight or so different bean characters in the deck, some of which are decidedly male, but most of which are fairly gender-neutral. Yet we both kept saying things like, "I'll plant this guy but let you have those other two guys."

I also find myself talking this way while driving. If I talk about (or at) another driver on the road, I almost always refer to him or her as male. "That guy was nice to let me in," or, "Dude, what are you doing?" It's almost never, "She cut me off," or even, "That person cut me off"--and I'm normally pretty conscious of gendered language.

Just an observation. Well, a few observations, really. I just wonder why we are so inclined to use masculine language over feminine.

Note: In case you've missed it in other posts or conversations, I don't hate men. I think men are pretty awesome. And I have nothing against the term "snowman," or against referring to beans or drivers as guys. I'm just observing speech patterns in myself and others . . . and I think there must be some connection between our language and our societal norms about gender hierarchies.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The saga of the Christmas Cookies ice cream

Early in November, I glanced through the Blue Bell ice cream freezers and discovered a delectable-sounding holiday flavor called Christmas Cookies. Here's how Blue Bell describes the ice cream on their website: "Your favorite holiday cookies – chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, and sugar – combined in a tasty sugar cookie ice cream with red candy cane-shaped sprinkles and a green icing swirl throughout." Uh, yum! But since it wasn't yet Thanksgiving, I put it back it back on the shelf with a promise that I'd be back for it. Big mistake.

The Saga:
Once Thanksgiving had had its glory and it was officially Christmas season, I started looking for it again . . . but couldn't find it anywhere. One store had empty cartons of it on display, but no cartons of Christmas Cookies in the freezer. Such a tease. Eventually I asked a manager at the store with the empty cartons, and he gave a friendly but non-committal answer along the lines of, "Blue Bell only sends us a limited amount in each shipment since it's a specialty, seasonal flavor, and we keep selling out. But we restock our shelves every morning." Sad times.

A night or two later, my friend Lauren whisked me away for an evening of hunting for this elusive Christmas Cookies ice cream. Store #1: no CC ice cream. Store #2: no CC ice cream. On the way to Store #3, I called three more stores in town, to no avail. (Side note: have you ever called a grocery store and asked for a specific brand and flavor of ice cream? It feels really strange. Fortunately the store employees who answered the phones were very friendly and even went to look and see if they had any Holy Grail ice cream.) And, of course, Store #3 was also out. We settled for some Reese's ice cream bars and went home deflated.

The next day, Lauren called and said, "I've been on the phone with about seven different Blue Bell employees, and I think we can get some Christmas Cookies ice cream tomorrow morning!" I've heard her tell the tale of the Blue Bell phone calls several times, but I still get some of the sequence and finer details mixed up. But it went something like this:
  1. One of her coworkers has a family member who works at Blue Bell, and he (coworker) suggested she call Blue Bell directly to order some, even if it meant buying some in bulk.
  2. Lauren called the Blue Bell plant in Brenham, Texas. But apparently you can't buy directly from them; so they gave her the number for a transit location. The number didn't work. So she got her hands on the number for the distribution center in Big Spring, Texas.
  3. Lauren explained our quest to a Blue Bell employee (BBE). Apparently Blue Bell had already produced as much as they're going to this Christmas season, but there were still some cartons floating around in stores. So Lauren asked how she could get her hands on some Christmas Cookies ice cream. BBE: "How much are you wanting to buy?" Lauren: "How much do I need to buy?" They thought she might need to get a three-gallon container. But then the BBE remembered that they don't make three-gallon containers of the special flavors. Lauren: "So how can I get some?" BBE: "Well, let me check with my local delivery guy and see if he has any on his truck to deliver tomorrow." Somewhere in this process, Lauren got transferred to at least one other BBE and had to start over. Fortunately, all the BBEs were very friendly. Go, Blue Bell!
  4. Good news! The delivery guy had some CC ice cream scheduled to deliver to one of our grocery stores the next morning (Saturday morning). Hooray!
At that point, Lauren called me to tell me the Blue Bell story. Now, sleeping in on Saturday mornings is normally a BIG priority to both of us. But we were willing to forego sleep for the sake of guaranteeing that we'd find CC ice cream at the store before they sold out. Because by this point, we were committed. There was no way we'd get through the 2011 Christmas season without trying this ice cream! She then proceeded to call the store to ask A) what time they stock their shelves, and B) if they could set aside a carton for us so we could still sleep in. They were non-committal and less than helpful.

A couple hours later, my friend Jaron called: "I have a weird question. I saw several posts on your Facebook wall about this Christmas Cookies ice cream. Did you ever find any and, if so, where? Because I want to buy some, too." So I told him the story and let him in on the secret that Blue Bell was supposed to deliver more the next morning . . . but selfishly asked him not to tell too many people, lest the store sell out before Lauren and I could get there. But Jaron was planning to go grocery shopping right then, so oh well.

A little while later, Jaron calls again: "I'm at [the grocery store with the empty cartons on display] and I'm holding the last two cartons of Christmas Cookies ice cream. Do you want one of them?"


Of course! Yes! I'll give you my left arm in payment for it. We worked out logistics and hung up, and I could barely sit still from excitement! And when Jaron got through the checkout and pulled up beside my building, I practically skipped outside to get the ice cream from him. I might have also hugged the carton at least once. And, of course, I thanked Jaron profusely and declared him a rock star.

Dancing back into the building with the Holy Grail ice cream under my arm, I called Lauren, breathless, and exlaimed with dramatic pauses, "Lauren! I am holding . . . in my hands . . . a carton of Christmas Cookies ice cream!" Lauren: "What!? How did you get it?" I told her the tale and half-asked, half-declared, "What time do your guests come over tonight? Can I come over right now for us to eat some ice cream?" Fortunately it was the end of the work day so I could leave the office immediately, and there was enough time before her guests came over so we could eat ice cream.

And oh, what a delicious ice cream it was (is)! It's like eating a platter of cookies, complete with icing and sprinkles . . . in ice cream form! Strong work, Blue Bell. Without the whole saga, this flavor would probably be in my top ten; but with all the energy that went into this--and with all the emotional highs and lows along the way--Christmas Cookies ice cream is easily in my top five.

On Saturday afternoon, I had to run some errands and buy some groceries, and I happened down the ice cream aisle. Lo and behold! There were two cartons of Blue Bell Christmas Cookies ice cream! So I picked up a carton for Lauren and a carton for another friend who had been looking for CC ice cream since I first found it before Thanksgiving.

Later that afternoon, a friend from church texted me: "They have lots of Christmas cookie blue bell at [grocery store]!"

On Sunday afternoon, while eating lunch with Lauren and two more friends, I got this text from a work friend: "Just bought you some BB Xmas cookie ice cream."

Lauren and I got a good laugh out of it and filled in the other two friends on the saga. Lydia responded, "Oh, I've seen tons of that ice cream all over the place!"

I guess when it rains, it pours.

And that is the story of the Blue Bell Christmas Cookies ice cream.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Not too long ago I had a frustrating conversation with a colleague of mine. It started innocently enough with us mutually asserting that churches should be more inclusive of women in their services. Usually these conversations about women in the church fit into two categories:
  1. We fundamentally disagree on so much about what Scripture says about women, neither of us budges on our respective positions, and we both end up at least a little frustrated with each other.
  2. Or, we agree on basically every point, and rally together in hoping for a better situation in our churches.
I thought this conversation would be more like the second category, but somewhere in the middle of our discussion, it became more like Category 1. Which was strange because we agreed on the main point that women are created equal and, therefore, shouldn't be treated as inferior and limited to potlucks and the nursery . . . but we disagreed on several of the sub-points leading up to that ultimate conclusion.

Of all the things that frustrated me and caught me off guard in the conversation, I think the thing that got me most was his refusal to acknowledge his position of privilege as a male. Most of the men with whom I've talked extensively about gender freely admit that their maleness automatically gives them an advantage in myriad situations. Even if they don't fully grasp the extent of that privilege, they know it's there. (Or they fall squarely into Category 1 above and may know they're privileged but think that privilege is ordained by God.) This colleague, though, was willing to admit that--just maybe--he might be privileged, but he didn't really think he was.

For a while I pushed back, but eventually just stopped talking because we were going in circles and I didn't want to say something ugly. And I left the conversation exceedingly frustrated.

Upon reflection later, I got to wondering . . . in how many ways am I oblivious to the positions of privilege into which I was born or have earned? I'm not in poverty. I'm white. I have a good job with a consistent paycheck. I live in a country with a (comparatively) stable government. I have a college education. I have clean water and easy access to food. I have friends and family who love me unconditionally and will be there for me no matter what.

While I consciously know these privileges exist in my life, I know that I take them for granted, and they're definitely not in the forefront of my mind. And I don't feel the weight of my privileges in the same way I feel the weight of others' privileges that I don't share (maleness, greater wealth, a more important-sounding job title, etc.). 

I wonder how many times I've unthinkingly opened my mouth and hurt someone who doesn't share these privileges that I take for granted.