I’m a woman which means you can verbally abuse me.

I just read an article that’s been getting quite a bit of attention, and it should. For once, the thing making the rounds on Facebook isn’t an attention-craving Hollywood spectacle or something one candidate or another said in our ridiculous circus of an election happening in the States.

It was, instead, something that I’m sure some people will frown at, others will scoff at, but most will shed tears of solidarity over as we nod and silently agree with every single word read. This is an article about women, but it’s for both women and men. It’s as lengthy as it is because they probably didn’t have enough virtual print space for it to be longer. There’s too much to say, literally, on the subject. And yet, it’s something we rarely talk about. We are silenced so often that I am actually having an extremely difficult time forming the words.

It’s about women like me, women like you, women like every single woman you’ve ever met. That’s how big this is. That every. single. woman. that you have ever met has experienced a horrible situation and been forced to be silent about it. Every single one. Close your eyes and think back on the first time it happened. The first time you were sexualized and stripped of innocence. I was young because I developed young. I was the juvenile, pony-loving age of nine. This was back when we rode our bikes around the neighborhood until the sun went down, and we played with anyone we could find.

I’m gonna rape you in the alley.

My breathing stopped, caught up in my throat. Sweat prickled my skin and something heavy fell to the pit of my stomach. I felt, for the first time, the terror of vulnerability that would accompany me for the rest of my life simply for being a girl.

This came out of an eleven-year-old boy’s mouth. Where was his mother teaching him how to treat a girl? Where was his father to teach by example? Oh, they were ten feet away, in the house, and his father was the next one to say disgusting things that made me resort to the nervous laugh I still use today.

That’s my youngest memory of verbal assault. What’s yours?

What are you supposed to do at nine-years-old? What am I supposed to do at twenty-seven?

I still don’t know. I’m still surprised every time it happens. I’m still dumbfounded to the point of silence. I still resort to the “I’m meeting my friend. Oh, that’s her over there!” while my fingers search my purse for my pepper spray.

And then there are the ones who say that we don’t live in a culture like this. That Rape Culture is just another attention-getting buzzword. It might seem like that because you don’t realize that it happens. Because it’s become such a normalcy to accept this garbage as a determined part of life.

How can we just sit here and say it’s not happening when it is? When every single one of us has had a “bad boss”, relative, co-worker, friend’s brother or parent, etc. Some of us, myself included, has had several. I’ve been body-blocked from leaving the work office. I’ve had rumors spread about me so hideous I had to report them only to find out that they had stemmed from that boss’s very mouth. Someone I trusted. Hell, someone whom I had considered a friend. But that’s what happens when you are friends with men, right? She’s nice to me so it must mean something.

No. Just, no. Unless it’s spelled out with exact words, then a smile is just a smile. We are not asking for anything no matter how we look, what our attitude is, what we wear. The only time we are ever asking for it is when the question comes directly out of our mouths.

I was not asking for it when I was walking to school at fifteen and became a victim of enticement by the newspaper delivery man. And yet I felt shame as I recited the case to my best friend who urged me to go to my guidance counselor. There, I recited the story several more times for the law enforcement who eventually found the man. He received 90 days in jail for child enticement. Twenty-two years later my hands still shake when I think about what would have happened to me if I hadn’t whipped out my phone and told him I had 911 on speed dial. Why didn’t I call? Because even at that age I knew how quickly I could disappear in comparison to the time it took for the cops to show. This was only a year post a massive multi-employee incident that I was included in at my work. One that resulted in nothing other than shamefulness when the law wasn’t on our side. Because we were just a bunch of teenage girls working for a fast food chain. We weren’t anyone to listen to.

There is something wrong with our society when I start naming things that have happened and I could talk for a year. Or, when I begin to list names of people I know who have been assaulted or raped. There is something even more wrong when I realize that it’s every female I’ve ever met. We all have scars that run deep. We’ve all been harmed in one way or another. We all have found ways to cope with it, somehow, and we’ve all found ways to live half lives to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore.

Don’t go anywhere alone. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t lean into your car. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t wear your hair up. Don’t wear make-up. Don’t wear fitted clothing. Don’t carry a purse. Keep your cell phone handy. Find a man who can offer protection. Find a way to protect yourself from that man should he turn on you. Don’t smile at strangers. Don’t feel badly when you’re called a bitch for not smiling. Get comfortable with the comments and let them roll off your back. Don’t be surprised when the comments come from men old enough to be your father. Don’t be surprised if they come from family or friends’ family. Never make a scene. Remember it’s how men think. Men are pigs and you have to live with it.

Right? Right?! These are just some of the things that we have to recite like a mantra in order to be safe. Otherwise, we are asking for it. That’s the belief, anyway.

I’m writing this not just for women, but for men. Because there are a few out there who are better. And every single one who isn’t has the potential to be better. And until men start to step up and women continue to speak out, nothing will change. The same patterns will continue from generation to generation. Until people make a concerted effort to be better, there will always be an eleven-year-old kid looking to his dad for ways to talk to girls. And there will always be a nine-year-old girl scared for her life, never able to fully let that moment go.

Please feel free to write about your own experiences in the comments below. I think it will help everyone here to hear them.

 

Advertisements

Alan Watts wasn’t just on acid, but that part’s okay, too.

While listening to Peter Bjorn & John’s Writer’s Block album today, I began to ponder my own bouts of the ailment. If you are like me and haven’t listened to an entire album of something since the dawn of Pandora, you might not know that the first track of this album is a :16 tribute to the silent void that fills the brain when writer’s block hits.

That, quietest of woes that plagues the author.

It got me thinking. On words. On addictions. How some people have addictive personalities, and I never thought of myself in that way. I don’t cling to the typical drugs or alcohol, but everyone has their vice, I believe. For me, that vice is words (and, maybe, coffee). Or, to put it a different way, noise.

Do you know what silence does to a busy mind? It’s torturous. So unbearable that without some form of white noise, it can feel as if you’re losing your mind altogether.

And yet, Alan Watts, my most favorite of philosophers, prescribes that very thing. Prescribed. Past tense. I’m sorry, but for me, he’s still very much alive. I listen to him often; at times, I even listen to him every day.

We crave noise. We crave thoughts. We need to think in order to make sense of anything. In order to feel like we are doing something, being something. We think so fluidly and so loudly that we fail to hear what’s happening around us. We only hear ourselves, and then, when others are talking, or when nature is talking, we cannot comprehend what is being said to us.

If we look at writer’s block, or silence, if you will, as less of a bad, scary, tortuous thing, maybe we could start to see what it truly is. Peaceful. It’s a sense of ease, a chance to be free of noise. A means of listening rather than talking. Not listening to respond, but listening to hear, truly hear what is being said to us. If we can do that, perhaps we’ll begin to understand.

“To look at life without words is not to lose the ability to form words- to think, remember, and plan. To be silent is not to lose your tongue. On the contrary, it is only through silence that one can discover something new to talk about. One who talked incessantly, without stopping to look and listen, would repeat himself ad nauseam.
It is the same with thinking, which is really silent talking. It is not, by itself, open to the discovery of anything new, for its only novelties are simply arrangements of old words and ideas.”

-www.goodreads.com

 

Helicopter Moms Don’t Want to Hover

If someone had described parenting to me as a way to relive your childhood, only from the outside, I never would have comprehended. Honestly, I don’t know if I even said that right. These children are not me, but they are. Does that make any shred of sense?

I see them inspect things, pretend things, imagine things, and I think Oh my gosh, that’s me. You’re me. But they’re these tiny little boys, and I’m a grown woman (sort of). Yet, I can remember feeling the way that they sometimes feel. Or thinking the way they sometimes think. Not always, not nearly enough, but sometimes. When they’re overtired and weepy and feeling every sort of emotion without being able to decipher a single one…or the sense of wonder when something is different or new. When they believe in magic and mysteries. When they tell me they dream about unicorns and want to paint their toenails. And we do paint them. Pink and glittery.

If I could remember what it was like to be a child fluidly and continuously as I age, I would either be the perfect parent or the worst one imaginable. I’m hoping the balancing act I’ve managed up until now is the ideal way to walk the mystical line of childhood and grown-up.

I remember sneaking candy, like I can hear them doing right now. I remember playing all the same games of make believe and pretend. They’re still precious at this age. They still believe in fairies and unicorns and leprechauns and monsters. And as soon as they start to grasp the idea of real and unreal, I dazzle them with lines from the Matrix. Real is just electrical signals interpreted by the brain. A confused look and then they’re back, being strange and perfect and imaginative again.

The difference is, this is their entire world, and I can only recall it. After a certain age, you’re booted out. You’re kicked out of Neverland. You don’t get to place a mirror on the floor and believe, truly believe, that it’s a portal to another universe. You don’t spend weeks in the woods building a tree-fort. You don’t log countless hours digging a hole as large as a swimming pool in hopes you can catch a mountain lion that you’re sure lives in your backyard in southeast, residential Wisconsin. Your friends don’t own walkie talkies, and no one wants to come outside and ride their bikes until you’re lost. No one wants to peer in windows of the abandoned house down the block and speculate about what supernatural event caused it to be vacant because the idea of it simply being sold or foreclosed upon is just too far-fetched. You don’t do anything you can to get out of sunscreen or broccoli or finishing your milk. Now, every move is a safe one. A “risk” is visiting a new restaurant and ordering something out of the ordinary, or talking to a stranger, or driving in a part of town you don’t know.

It’s never the same. The intensity and fervor of play and gripping curiosity is gone from us, but in them, it’s the life force. It’s vital to their upbringing. It’s why we need to guide, but not direct. It’s why structured play is a joke. It’s why a full schedule is ridiculous, and being a helicopter parent is suffocating. It’s why fifteen minutes of recess at five-years-old is wrong, and standardized tests in elementary school is torture. Homework. Reading. Science. Math. All skills that were never standard in Kindergarten are now required because we are so terrified to fall behind in our country, and in turn, we are robbing our kids of the most important parts of youth.

Gone are half-days. Gone is nap time. Gone are the days of letting kids handle their own disputes.

No one learns how to manage conflict anymore because we’re so afraid of getting sued. Yet, bullying is still alive and prevalent because all we’ve taught our children is how to tattle, and even that is frowned upon. We’ve given all of the power to the inherently mean, and tied the hands of the oppressed. And yes, there are both of those in the realm of childhood, or has it been so long that you forgot?

As a parent of this generation, I cringe as people my own age and older shame “kids today” as disrespectful, lazy, technology-dependent, and dumb. Excuse you. All of you. This is not something we have chosen. This is the culmination of so much more, and everyone seems so readily able to write that off.

I do let my children play video games because they are exciting adventures that require skill and complex thinking. I let them play in the dirt and get filthy and skin their knees. They’ve drank out of the stupid hose. Yes, they wear bicycle helmets which is apparently something that is frowned upon by older generations because it’s something that they never had. They didn’t have the internet. They didn’t have tablets. They didn’t have a thousand channels on their televisions. They didn’t have cell phones. They had chores and a wheel with a stick that they hit down the road, right? They were kicked out of the house for the entire day and no one knew where they were. And they survived.

All of this is true. Sort of. And yet, I’m torn between these two worlds in a way no one who isn’t raising children today can possibly understand. We didn’t know that a fall without a helmet can cause irreparable damage. We didn’t know that people prey on children, and so we have to keep them close and know where they are and who they’re with. We try to let them have freedom, but we still need to know, in this terrifying world, where babies are abducted by people you trusted and children are hurt and discarded in the woods, that they are safe. And so they get cell phones when those years of freedom hit because the frontal lobe of judgment is so underdeveloped in all of the years of childhood that we have to do all of the worrying for them. And also because we are just too brokenhearted to tell them that bad people exist in every corner of the world.

People didn’t care about kids until the late ’90’s. They just didn’t. We were little people that were an unfortunate result of sex. That was it, and we were supposed to do our best to stay out of the way and keep the house clean. That was my generation, and that was every generation before me. Sure, there was love there, somewhere, but no one knew any better than to let their kids run wild in the neighborhood. Not until kids started going missing and stories started surfacing–terrible stories of deeds done to children by people who were supposed to be trustworthy. Maybe they said something when it happened, but no one listened to children. Not like today. Nothing like today, where children are gunned down in their schools. Where the media sensationalizes these acts and eggs on the next perpetrator so that the next case is bigger and badder than the last. Where mental illness is ignored or criminalized rather than treated so that so many things could be prevented.

Is there a part of me that wishes my children could ride freely on their bicycles and meet friends in the neighborhood? All of me wishes that. I’d love for them to be able to bike to the convenience store and buy combos and soda with the money they found on the ground. And maybe they’ll get to, but not at the age that I did. Even if they were eleven or twelve and responsible, there would still be people who would call the police for child endangerment. That’s a tragedy on so many levels. Every aspect of childhood has changed. Every single one. You can’t trust your neighbor to look out of them if something goes wrong, as a matter of fact, it’s your neighbor you should worry about. They’re the one most likely to call social services if you let your child walk two blocks to the park at nine years old. Everyone is 911 happy. Everyone wants to be the one to tattle and never the one to help. The problem is, I don’t know how to change it. I don’t think anyone does.

I don’t believe we should go back to the way it was. Some things were better back then, and that’s the honest truth, but since then, we’ve learned to care about our kids. They feel loved and secure. They know they can talk to their parents which is something we never had. We’ve learned to trust what they say once we’ve taught them the importance of honesty. They aren’t disregarded as insignificant anymore. Kids finally have rights, and I truly believe they should. They should have discipline, too, and a work ethic. They should be taught how to stand up for themselves and others, but also not to bully.

From a parent in 2016 to the parents of decades ago who complain that our children are being raised wrong, I implore you to try doing it ‘right’ in today’s age. When school demands are so astronomical, when children aren’t allowed to be children, when fear is a necessary evil, when technology is everything and kids can operate a computer before they can tie their shoes, and when everything else falls to the wayside. We’re doing our best. It’s not perfect, by any means, but no parent ever is. If you see a parent today, out with their children who are playing on cell phones and tablets, please don’t shame them. These kids are smart. They’re the smartest generation yet, and I mean that. What parents really need today is support, not shame. We want to hear your wise words, but we also don’t need to hear that our kids are being raised wrong just because they’re being raised differently. The separation of generations is damaging, to say the least. I suppose that’s something that’s always been there.

What I’m proposing is that we all try a little bit harder to embrace empathy and compassion toward each other, to bridge the gap of differences. Parents today don’t have a village to raise their children. In fact, most of the time, we only have ourselves. It would be nice to have a little bit more than that. To have a set of hands applauding rather than fingers constantly pointed in our faces.

 

 

Pulp Fiction and John Travolta’s Mullet Hair

I woke up this morning thinking about the $5 milkshake from Pulp Fiction. (You know, the one right before they dance in the ‘fifty’s club and win the trophy and then she OD’s on what she thought was coke but really turned out to be heroin and John Travolta, with his horrible mullet hair, has to drive the car into his dealer’s house and heave a mile-long needle into her heart?) Maybe that’s weird. Actually, a genius person who probably also woke up one day thinking about a milkshake from this cult classic movie typed up the recipe for it, here. Thanks, Google. I’m not sure where to find half those ingredients, but I’m sure you could improvise a bit.

Maybe I have a friend to blame for my milkshake thoughts. Yesterday we talked to extent about how milkshakes for breakfast are not synonymous with protein shakes, even if that is a devastating shame. And then I hopped on Pinterest and tried to find “healthy dessert ideas” to counteract my craving, and all that came up were weird fruit concoctions mixed with quinoa–the single grossest rice-substitute to ever grace this planet, and they put it in a dessert. Cool. That totally makes sense. For the record, I am not a small woodland creature, nor do I enjoy eating what is essentially hamster food. The other things I found were skeletal versions of normal recipes. Brownies, yay! Oh, replace the sugar with pollen, replace the flour with soil, replace the eggs with barrel-collected rain water. Mmm, yummy! See, if we must destroy the habitat for honeybees everywhere, we must *become* the honeybee. Eat its food and you, too, can sprout wings and fly.

I don’t know. I know that clean eating is all the rave, and that’s cool. I like fruits and grains and vegetables as much as the next person, but I feel like I should be able to eat ice cream if I want it. Maybe it’s morally incorrect to consume dairy. Maybe. But when you’re craving grass cuttings and laundry starch, who’s to blame here, guys?

Totally kidding. Kind of. I once knew a person who ate starch. It was super fascinating, and made my teeth hurt. And stomach hurt. And I wondered if she had, like, really smooth, unwrinkled skin because of it. Hey, Kim Kardashian, I have a new thing I think you should try!

pulp fiction

photo source:  www.flixist.com

 

 

 

Things are not the same, but that’s a good thing

I grew up in the tundra. The winters were long and dragging and seemed to last for three seasons’ time. When the two-month Summer scorched our pale skin and teased us with momentary light, we were then thrown into the blustery, breezy Autumn. Autumn was my favorite. Leaves bled out their green in the loveliest death imaginable, sweaters felt heavenly when pulled from a months forgotten drawer, and everything breathed nostalgic.

Then, the winter came. That first snow felt like magic in childhood, but as I grew, it meant torment. It meant ice and snow and cabin fever. It meant frozen pipes and back-breaking shoveling. It meant worrying about your loved ones on the road. It meant ages without sunlight to warm your skin, and the result was a dreary, dismal despair.

Spring was the thing we all ached for. A burst of flowers and butterflies. A promise of green grass and ladybugs and a garden abundant. What we got was never what we’d hoped for.

After twenty-six years of that, I wised up and realized that the ice cold Midwest could never be what I wanted it to be. I didn’t want nine months out of twelve to be spent hoping for better. I wanted better without the wait.

My children will grow up in the tropic. Their winter will feel like a Wisconsin fall. Here it holds crisp leaves and sweaters and promises that are genuine, things that actually come true. The Spring here is lovely. There is no mud, no sleet, no slush. Honestly, they don’t even know what that word means down here. Here, they don’t understand words like blizzard or seasonal depression or double-lined coats. The water is warm, the sun is bright, and I will break out of my shell of social awkwardness that felt safe and comfortable and normal in the place I came from.

This is our new home. With the sea all around and the blue sky above. What a different world. What a place to live.

Why I’m Back and Why I Left

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. In fact, I get notifications all the time reminding me just how many days, hours, and minutes it’s been since I’ve posted, as if I’m not more than aware. After much deliberating, I’ve decided to post again. I can’t promise it will be very often. It might be extremely rare, but when I was posting regularly, I felt like I could breathe a little deeper. There’s something about getting the words off of your chest and out into the open air. As a writer, they tend to build up, stacked high in your mind until you find a pen and paper, or a blank computer screen willing and capable of accepting who you are.

I think artists are simply like that, and writers are of the artist breed. If you haven’t felt that tugging sensation to create something, perhaps you haven’t found your medium yet. Pencils have always fit easily into my hand, and I enjoy sketching silly little things, but my true medium is, and always has been, words. It’s why I still narrate my life when I’m having a bad day. Okay, it’s because I’m a total dork, but it makes me laugh, and then I’m cured. 

The thing is, I’m back because I had a voice here, until someone silenced it. I left because I felt bullied. What a role model, right? I was bullied into leaving, and I didn’t feel emotionally capable of dealing with it, so I left. On the outside, as a reader, I’m sure that seems strange, or weak, or childish, or whatever, but I’m here to be honest with you. I’d delete the comments, but not without screen-saving them on my phone first, just in case I needed proof that this was happening. And I still have them, so, if my bully is out there, hiding behind the void, I have no problem posting them on here for the world to see.

The thing about internet bullies is that it’s so much simpler to be cruel now. The person or persons can hide behind technology. They can say things they ordinarily would never say in person. They can delete and rephrase. They can find different avenues of getting in even after you’ve blocked them. And they will. And that’s what is such a shame. That’s where the internet becomes a sorry excuse for social interactions, when a small, timid person can become a terribly cruel, social media giant. Where words aren’t spoken, they’re typed. Where reactions aren’t seen, but read. Where feelings aren’t feelings, and cruel doesn’t seem cruel. It’s so much easier to be mean when you don’t think you’re hurting someone. It’s so much easier to hurt someone when you know you won’t get caught.

I left because I didn’t want to deal with that anymore. I didn’t want to have to delete comment after comment. I didn’t want this person to have access to my very personal thoughts. I didn’t want to risk having my words stolen out from under me, again. Perhaps this could be interpreted by the public as cowardice, but if you knew what this blog was to me, you’d see it as strength. I gave up something I loved to be free. It

 isn’t the first time I’ve had to do something like that, and this isn’t the first time it’s involved this very person. I’m well-versed in sacrificing personal pleasures for basic human rights. What I’ve realized, though, is that if I don’t take this back, they win. I’m twenty-six, almost twenty-seven-years-old now. I’m on the wrong side of twenty, folks, officially. And in addition to aging, that means that I don’t have to surrender anything to anyone. This is my time and my life, and no one is going to take that from me again.