Staying Exhausted

We passed the clipboard around the circle. Name, neighborhood, email, and a final, casual column: “What’s on your mind right now?”

I was late, but I didn’t even have the energy to look at answers above mine. I wrote, “exhaustion.”

Truly, the other women in our circle on Tuesday night had many more valid reasons to scribble in that column. My NICU PTSD is here but less so — my early baby is six years old and I no longer startle involuntarily at certain beeps in check-out lines. I’ve got coping strategies to avoid triggers – I Teledoc most of my own medical care to avoid hospitals, we enter on the far side of the pediatrician’s office, we rush for check-ins or head to urgent care at the first signs of illness so that we can avoid the ER at all costs (and though that’s also a sound financial approach, those aren’t the kind of costs I’m talking about).

Last weekend, my youngest son lost a battle with a paver. He fell in my parents’ yard and the jagged slate split a funny, Y-shaped hole in his lower lip. He was beside himself. Real kid pain almost inevitably places me back in the NICU, next to the plastic pod my oldest lived in for a month. I feel every bit as powerless as I was then, watching while someone pricked his heel or fed a tube down his nose for the fifth time in as many hours and he wailed — a sound that I now know was small, but at the time filled every part of me — the whistle of a freight train bearing down, down, down.

The blood was everywhere — so much blood it painted my forearm down to my elbow. I felt awful for holding him at arm’s length rushing up the deck steps to the kitchen sink, but when we made it and I placed him on the counter I was able to control myself enough to hold him. I shushed others out and calmed him. I wheedled and coaxed, the way mothers do, and eventually all three years of his gangly toddler body were sprawled in my lap with ice chips on his lip. His breath slowed. We had it. I thought, I can actually do this, I can make things better.

But I can’t avoid the news.

Every atrocity splayed out in front of us these past few weeks feels like an invitation to crumble, and the powerlessness is back in full force. Babies, children, alone without their mothers, ill, lonely, scared, in atrocious conditions, and no one is allowed to make it stop. Why aren’t we allowed to make it stop?

I have a book on the shelf in my office called “Speak Truth to Power.” It’s a coffee table thing a beloved friend gifted to me. I remember thumbing through it for the first time and feeling so incredibly inspired by the passion of those depicted in its pages. I imagined, for a long time, that my trajectory would magically shoot forward into a space where I would work actively to defend those who needed defending, that I would, as my friend believed, speak truth to power, on every exhale. Those days we stayed up late cleaning the bar, and I’d tell my friends, “forget writing. I can always write. I don’t want to write for money. I’m going to law school.” When people would ask me what type of law I wanted to study, I’d tell them, Immigration. In 2009, I had grand dreams. In 2019, I have kids.

My kids are their own grand dream, surely. I won’t say there’s nothing more magical than raising children, because it feels absurd to limit the universe in that way, but — Meyers-Briggs tells me I’m a feeler, and I’ll tell you — they are truly breathtaking. But they do make the idea of direct action and even sometimes demonstration feel decidedly more dangerous.

I donate what we can spare, which isn’t much. I make phone calls, although I’m not sure they’re doing much good. And I read, I read, I read. I read so many news reports and Op Eds and I keep reading, even though they scare me, even though they heighten that feeling of powerlessness, I keep reading because I can’t help feeling like someone owes these children that. We owe it to them to know about them. We owe it to them not to look away. When we are too afraid for our own tenuous health and safety, too fearful of losing our ability to mend our own children’s cuts or kiss their heads while they sleep, we can at least do them the service of hurting with their mothers. We can at least be here. Is it enough? It’s not enough.

Tonight I read a brilliant Op Ed in the New York Times, and here it is so that you can, too. It delves deep into both the racist rhetoric that is used to make this a thing that is actually happening in our country and the strange juxtaposition of knowing it, and having children. Ultimately, the author’s advice is this: stay enraged.

Once our circle disbanded, a good friend and I sat on the curb outside for hours, swatting moths from one another’s hair and talking about everything. Raising our children, non-profit strategy, writing, practicing advocacy in the space we know well — supporting mothers who are scared for their babies. We talked about never having enough time. We talked about exhaustion.

Staying enraged feels like a good way to stay exhausted, but it’s different, too. It also feels just a little bit powerful.

So here I am. I’m not looking away. I might not be brave enough to lock arms in front of a facility today, but I am brave enough to stay angry. You may not contend with much in the form of my body, and my voice is barely that small sound that came from my tiny premature baby — but I’ll speak.

What’s happening is wrong. And we need to say so as often as we possibly can.

 

 
– Find and call your representatives here.
Freedom for Immigrants National Bond Fund
– The National Community Bail Fund Network has a directory that includes multiple bond funds.
– Find a list of shelters, defense representation and some organizations raising bond funds here.
– Together Rising is currently campaigning to support Holly Cooper, Co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at UC Davis, in “emergency response to and long-term accountability for child imprisonment.”
– Working to alter legislation: The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

Internal Screaming Forever

HOOBOY. So we’re obviously moving backwards in this country and every single second of the day seems to bring even more shitty news from every fucking corner of this shithole. Women have been bracing for these policies to be enacted since 2016. We’ve been fucking angry about it, there have been MULTIPLE marches protesting this trash administration, and while some men looked at us and were equally shocked and horrified, many of them, SO MANY OF THEM basically acted like we were shrieking harpies. We were, as we are so used to, treated like we were completely overreacting, because Roe v Wade CANNOT BE OVERTURNED. THE CONSTITUTION WILL PROTECT US. THE SUPREME COURT WOULD NEVER LET IT HAPPEN. Well, pals, just as women have been fucking ANGRY and TERRIFIED about for 3 years (I mean most of human history but especially the last 3 years,) overturning Roe v Wade is now a very real possibility thanks to the handiwork of a shitload of people who hate women (and all people with uteri.) Continue reading

He’s All Growds Up

The eve of my son’s twelfth birthday seems like a good time to sit and reflect on the last decade plus two years we’ve had together. People I know make a lot of posts on social media about their kids but since he hit 9 or 10, he’s been more hesitant and self-conscious about me posting pictures of him for the world to see. Which is fine, honestly, as time goes by, the more I hate social media anyway and don’t think it’s really your fucking business what my kid is doing or, for that matter, what *I* am doing. (Unless I’m recapping Game of Thrones while drinking and posting it to my Instagram stories because LET ME TELL YOU, this is my new favorite hobby. I’m sure it’s annoying but whatever because you people post the same 7 pictures of your dogs every day.) Anyway.

A month before I had my kid, my doctor put me on bed rest because my blood pressure was spiking. This was after a completely miserable pregnancy, chock full of morning sickness, sausage fingers, more morning sickness, scraping my child’s drunk father off the floor (literally AND figuratively), sciatica, working 14 hour days, boobs that got bigger than my head, creeps I didn’t know rubbing my tummy and alluding to wanting a threesome while I was working one of those 14 hour days, and other fun things like my body deciding it was going to reject certain food immediately upon consumption (mandarin oranges) or just…leaking like an old car. You know fluid is coming from somewhere but you’re not sure where, or what it could be. So a friend drove me to my final doctor’s appointment (before which I’d spent the whole weekend pissing into a large orange jug and keeping it in my fridge so she could monitor my urine protein) because my kid’s dad couldn’t be bothered to get up. At the appointment the doc takes one look at my blood pressure and orders me to go to the hospital. I looked her dead in the eye and said, “You mean I pissed in this jug for NOTHING? UGH.” I was already pragmatic about pregnancy and motherhood because I romanticize nothing but seriously, do you know how hard it is to piss in a jug EVERY FUCKING TIME you have pee when you’re 9 fucking months pregnant?

Continue reading

To Prevent A Predator

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This morning I was watching AM Joy on MSNBC. One of her guests said they think this Brett Kavanaugh nonsense will help Republicans by energizing white, suburban women who have sons in college and are worried about false assault accusations against them. I turned to my husband and said, “If you’re a mother and worried about your son getting called out for assault, you’ve failed to do your goddamn job.” And since this is supposed to be a parenting blog, not just a screaming into the void about my depression blog, I thought I should do *my* goddamn job.

[First, white women, quit propping up the patriarchy. Learn something about history and feminism and race and class and intersectionality and quit being the goddamn worst. I can recommend some books! It’s gonna suck for a minute, realizing how terrible you’ve been, but then you get to be best!]

This is becoming a weird rallying cry, I saw something on Facebook about #HimToo – in which we should worry about our fathers/husbands/sons being accused. You know how you avoid getting accused of sexual impropriety? DON’T FUCKING TOUCH PEOPLE AGAINST THEIR WILL. DON’T BE A FUCKING CREEP. I dunno, seems pretty simple to me. I’m not worried about my husband/father/son getting accused of anything, because I surround myself with non-shitbags. (And, yeah, we can’t pick our fathers, and mine is far from perfect, but I’m lucky in this regard – he never made me feel shitty about my body or ogled ladies or was creepy. He told me I was smart and beautiful and wonderful just as I am. And while my stepdad could be a little on the inappropes side, I never got in trouble for telling him to not be a turd.) 

But, seriously, let’s go to statistics. According to RAINN, a sexual assault happens every 98 seconds. So, less than the time it takes my microwave to make popcorn. And these statistics count men and women and children. Let that shit sink in for a second. Or for 98 seconds. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has this handy dandy fact sheet about false allegations. Educate yourself! I’m not even Nancy Googler and I came up with this shit in less than 98 seconds.

So, false accusations account for mmmmmmaybe 3% of reports, but 63% of assaults go unreported, and that means, if my math is right…false reporting is essentially bullshit. I’m not saying it has never happened, because women are just as capable of being trashbags as men, but let’s be really real for a minute and throw out false claims.

That leaves actual assaults. And if you’re a mom worried that your son or husband or father is going to be accused of something, what are you doing? Are you teaching consent? Are you sharing your stories? Are you listening to how they talk about women and making sure it’s with respect, even if the woman isn’t a relative??

I asked my girl gang about this, since most of them are raising boys. Because they’re a bunch of badass feminist babes, they’re doing the work. They’re teaching “no means no and stop means stop” and following up when their kids use those words. They’re setting boundaries and letting their sons know that everyone is in charge of their own body. They’re letting their sons be people, away from the harmful caricatures of toxic masculinity.

Because my boys have autism, things are a little different in our house. I’ve had the talk many, many times with Cal that we never touch people without asking them first. (We repeat this conversation every St. Patrick’s Day in regards to wearing green and pinching.) We’ve talked about bathing suit areas and how we’re allowed to touch ourselves as long as it’s in the bathroom or bedroom. We ask for hugs and kisses from the cousins. We stop when someone says stop, even if they’re laughing. If someone touches us without permission, we tell. Charlie is…well, he’s Charlie. (Although he does restrict privatetime to his bedroom, so that’s a fucking win.) I’m not worried about them being accused of assault, as statistically they’re more likely to be victims, especially non-verbal Charlie. So, yeah, my priorities are a little skewed.

And while we’re having this conversation, Lauren brings up an important point – fathers, what are you doing? Because putting this on mothers is just another burden. And, as we all know, fathers are role models too. If you’re a father, are you showing your son how to treat women? And not in a “be a man, be the breadwinner, don’t have feelings, say ‘yes, dear’ with a wink and a dismissive chuckle” way, but in a “your mom is an independent person with feelings and thoughts and I respect her and other women who are also independent people!” way. Do you truly co-parent, or do you sit passively while your wife/partner does all of the work? Are you the man you want your son to see every day?

Maybe we didn’t stop a likely assaulter and definite fratbrodingleberry from becoming a Supreme Court Justice. Maybe we have a human bag of vomit as President. Maybe we feel powerless when Mitch McConnell gets all het up on the floor of the Senate about GOOD WHITE MEN. But we have power over our children. And we need to wield that power responsibly. We have to teach them about consent and standing up for themselves and others. We have to teach them there is no “bro code”. That peer pressure sucks, but giving in is way worse. That only yes means yes and nothing beats a willing, enthusiastic partner. Teach your children well, and hopefully their parents’ hell will slowly go by.

Sick Sad World

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I write this from my sick bed [insert vague image of a Bronte or some such]. I’ve had a wicked head cold that one of the children brought home from school because children are disgusting. It is now in my chest so I can’t stop coughing forcefully which has caused me to vomit once and fart about a million times. LIFE IS GRAND.

While I’ve been sick in a literal, physical sense, I am also sick in my metaphorical heart. What I knew was going to happen happened. The FBI did a brief, cursory, limited background check on Dr. Ford’s testimony and the accusation of Deborah Ramirez, the Republicans are ready to ram his confirmation through and we’re probably stuck with Judge Frathouse.

There are a lot of think pieces and editorials and actual books on the gaslighting of America and why this particular outrage seems to be a bridge too far for many of us, so I’m probably not adding anything new or useful. But this is what we do, scream into the void in the hopes that it relieves some of the pressure.

What strikes me when I watch the Republicans and their old, white man rage is how hurt they are by our anger. They are devastated that women want to voice their own experiences and expect to be heard. How dare we impugn the character of a GOOD WHITE MAN. (GOOD meaning affluent and connected, having gone to the right schools and matriculated in the right circles, having trod the well-worn but narrow path laid down by the affluent, white men before him.) The big line from Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump has been “We can’t have GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT!!!”  This applies only to GOOD WHITE MEN, however. Not black teenagers wearing hoodies. Or women who have been raped. Or children seeking asylum. They have no right to innocence.

We’ve known our justice system was broken for years. We’ve known our political system was broken. We’ve known America itself was broken. Has always been broken. Was broken when the founders lied and said “All men are created equal” while owning slaves. This continent was “found” by a murdering, raping, genocidal maniac. Is this the history that makes me proud to be an American?

I want to believe in a better, fuller, more whole and just and kind America. I want to listen to Cory Booker or Elizabeth Warren as they tell me that with enough grace and work, we can create justice and liberty for all. I want to believe that children are the future and Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are going to make a difference.

But I see the crowds at the Trump rallies and I hear the women who support Kavanahhhh and I don’t think my hope can beat their hate. I think Obama was wrong. I think Voldemort wouldn’t really be defeated by a bunch of teenagers and private school teachers. I don’t see where there is any common ground to build, and fuck if I’m not tired of feeling like the only side looking for it. How do you fight a troll? How do you fight an entire nation of them?

There’s no rallying cry to be found here, friends. I’m still going to vote and call my Senators. I’m still going to be a social worker and change the lives that I can. But until the other side decides they want a society more than just raw power, I’m done trying. This confirmation hearing broke something inside of me, a belief that we grow and learn and do better. That if we share our stories and believe hard enough, we can bring light to the darkness. That the hurt and rage of millions of women might mean something, that there might be value in a person who is not a GOOD WHITE MAN. But, as we’ve been shown time again, like Charlie Brown and the football, Lucy isn’t ever going to play fair and we’re always going to end up on our backs, wondering why we even tried.

Indelible

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I’m so fucking tired. Both literally, because it is after 10pm and I am old, and figuratively, because I watched all of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and most of Brett Kavanaugh’s and the majority of the questioning from both sides. I listened to the commentary on MSNBC and watched the clips of his interview on Fox News and I’ve overdosed on toxic masculinity.

I’m tired of being a woman, but yikes on the alternative. (Not in a gender-identity sense, so I hope this doesn’t offend all the non-binary and trans and intersex folx out there who I love and see and give all the high-fives to. This is a majority of the world, binary, cis-man/woman weariness that is sitting in my bones.) I think I need a good cry but I’m too numb. I think I need to break something, because the rage is overwhelming. I think I should probably just sleep but there are too many words in my head and hurts in my heart and I feel like a gaping wound in a way that most men will never, ever, ever understand.

I think it’s the laughter, the indelible laughter in Dr. Ford’s hippocampus. The same laughter I can hear and you can hear and every woman can hear. The laughter that rings in our heads and our hearts and our very bones vibrate with the laughter. They laugh and it gets caught in our hair and our lungs and our wombs. It hurts everywhere, these laughs. The laughter of boys being boys, of knowing there are no consequences, the joy and delight in taking a person and making her an object.

And I am tired that we haven’t gotten better since Anita Hill. That Lindsey Graham’s outrage will be applauded by a segment of the population. Including women. I’m tired of women who uphold and embrace the patriarchy as much as I’m tired of the patriarchy itself.

The brilliant and amazing Roxane Gay edited an anthology earlier this year titled “Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture” that I attempted to read but it was glass in my throat and sand in my heart. I didn’t have the fortitude. I wonder if Lindsey Graham would be able to read it. I wonder if the women who support him could.

He really pissed me off today. His sympathy for Brett Kavanaugh and his outrage at his fellow Senators was shocking. Is it a good sign that I can still be shocked by the conduct of men?

But still, the laughter, it’s haunting me. How often are we told to lighten up, to take a joke, to smile, to agree with our abusers that it wasn’t abuse? How often do we grin and bear it? How do we defend against the stereotype of joylessness when the laughter we hear is knives in our bellies?

Indelible. That which cannot be eliminated, forgotten, changed, or the like.

She did not hesitate when asked what her strongest memory of that night was. She did not say the way he groped me or the weight of him on my 15-year-old body or the feeling of his breath on my neck or the sound of the door locking or the song that was playing loud enough to drown out my screams. She did not ask for a moment to recall. She knew because she’s heard it over and over and over and over and over until she thought she was mad from it. The laughter.

I hear the laughter, too. I heard it when I was catcalled. When the car full of boys hollered. When they slowed down. When they surrounded me in the hall. When they shouted at me to stop what I was doing and gift them my time and being. The laughter that accompanies “it wasn’t me” and “I didn’t really mean it” and “it was a compliment” and “don’t be so stuck up” and “bitchslutwhorecunt.” The laughter when you say stop and don’t and please and when you scream.

I’ve never been raped. I’ve never been assaulted in a way that would be considered a crime. I’ve never been hit. I’ve been lucky. I’ve always felt lucky – not strong or blessed or impressive or more right – just a roll of the dice luck. But I’ve heard the laughter. Indelible and deafening and haunting. I’ll bet you have too.

Corroborating Evidence

In high school, I was a member of a traveling theater troupe performing The Jungle Book at the region’s elementary schools. I was Baloo. Bask in my coolness. One day, we were carpooling from or to a performance, I don’t remember, and one of my male castmates was in the backseat with me. He was drunk. I don’t remember the specifics, but I was “being a bitch” and he had a way to shut me up. It was to take out his dick. I don’t think it made it all the way out because I’m pretty sure I punched him in the stomach and told him to quit being an asshole. But I remember seeing way more of this dude than I’d ever planned on or wanted to.

Now, this was, what, 20 years ago now? I doubt this dude remembers this. I doubt the dude driving the car remembers it. I don’t even remember who else was in the passenger seat. I very vaguely remember this incident and don’t think I told anyone contemporaneously, because it was just another example of this guy being a drunk asshole. I haven’t thought about it in 20 years, until all of this Brett Kavanaugh nonsense started.

The more I think about it, the more I’m angry. I’m angry that I was just annoyed by the incident and brushed it off immediately. I’m angry I didn’t have the words or the context to understand why this particular power play is so fucked up. That taking his dick out was this guy’s idea to shut up a mouthy broad and how this is rape culture. Because whatever his plan was beyond just whipping it out, his dick was forced on me. Yes, just the sight of it, because I was lucky? And aggressive? And we were in the backseat of a moving vehicle so it couldn’t go any further? But I have no doubt this dude could have physically overpowered me, could have hurt me, could have taken it as far as he wanted, and would have felt entitled to show me my place.

From the reports I’ve read, Brett Kavanaugh had a bit of a drinking habit in high school and college. Maybe some of those times he took out his dick as a “joke” or tried to get a little action without necessarily getting consent. Two women have publicly come forward (as of now) to say these things happened to them. Mitch McConnell just stood up in the Senate and dismissed their claims because there’s no contemporaneous evidence, no corroborating accounts.

I’m writing this to say I believe the women. Because every woman has a story (or two or a million). And because this shit happens all the time, we justify it by saying he was drunk or we put ourselves in a bad situation, or we deserved it because we were being a bitch. We don’t tell our parents because teenagers don’t tell their parents anything. We might tell our friends, unless they’re mutual friends and we don’t want to deal with not being believed. We might write about it in a journal or talk to a therapist. Or we might chalk it up to life and boys being boys and the way the world works and maybe we were lucky it wasn’t that bad was it that’s no reason to get this guy in trouble most of the time he’s fine he was drinking he was high I was drinking he was joking around I don’t want to lose my friends over this I don’t want to think about it at all because it makes me feel small and sad and worthless and it was really my fault I should have should have should have I stopped it it wasn’t rape rape or assault assault or didn’t leave a mark just laugh it off and move on and move on and move on and one day you won’t remember.

But we have a collective unconscious, women do, where we know and we remember and we dream. And we hear the stories of our friends and family and neighbors and strangers and we say “Oh yes, I remember now. I remember that dick and that shout and that insult and that pain and I remember my silence and your silence and rolling my eyes and I remember forgetting.”

So say what you will about whether this is a disqualifying incident. Whether a boy being a boy is enough to say you cannot be the law of this land. Debate your morals versus your power. But do not tell us that there is no evidence no corroboration because we are here to say I believe. I remember. I am the evidence. I am the corroboration.

Life’s a Bitch and Then You Die

As we (you) celebrate this stupid Hallmark holiday I’d like to take a moment and reflect on the wisest advice my mother ever gave me. (To be fair, it was about the only advice she ever gave me, aside from “just ignore them” which I have managed to apply to SO many different areas of my life, and not just when people are being shitty to me.) I was 5 or 6 years old, having a mental breakdown over something that would make sense to a 5 or 6 year old me – a toy she refused to buy? Picked me up from a friend’s house even though I’d clearly stated I wanted to stay longer? No ice cream even though we were eating in an hour? Whatever the grave injustice this woman was imparting to me, we were walking briskly (she was dragging me, whinging and whining) across the street in our small New Jersey town and I was screaming (I’m sure of it) every child’s refrain: IT’S! NOT! FAAAIIIR!

And while my mother marched ahead, ignoring my shrill cries and pleas for…whatever it was that I wanted, she said to me, without even casting so much as a glance at my freckled, red, tear-stained face, “Well, life’s a bitch and then you die.”

My mother, I must explain, is not a monster. She was no Joan Crawford, railing about wire hangers; she wasn’t even as brash as Sophia Petrillo telling Dorothy what a loser she was. She just doesn’t have time for your shit. If I came home crying because kids were mean to me in school, she’d roll her eyes and tell me to ignore it. At 11, I got my period at the most inopportune time, while we were on vacation in Mexico, and my mom didn’t make a DEAL out it, she just went to the store and got me some tampons and assumed (somewhat incorrectly) that I’d figure them out (that’s another story for another time and I did figure the tampons out but like a year later.) When I told her I was pregnant at the age of 24 by a…less than stellar man, she asked, several times, if I was sure I wanted to keep it and made no bones about her disappointment in me. Mom never made me feel unloved – I got hugs and kisses and “we’re so proud!” when I did something to make them proud (fewer and fewer things as I got older BUT I DIGRESS) (and she loves her grandson!! A lot!) But she’s pragmatic and you have to respect that about a person.

While I do think there’s something to be said about parenting with kindness, I think there’s a lot more to be said about teaching kids that shit’s not gonna go their way all the time. You can’t always have that toy, everyone isn’t always going to like you, 3 million more people voted for a viable candidate and we wind up with a bloated circus peanut as the leader of the free world instead, you can’t run around a restaurant because it’s dangerous AND rude…I could go on. We aren’t saints and we’re going to lose our tempers sometimes and when you’re up to your ass in unpaid bills with burnt dinner and on the verge of getting fired, maybe it’s now that your kid learns that he or she throwing a tantrum again because you refuse to buy them a new tablet is a BAD MOVE. Yes, your child matters, but SO DO YOU and it’s not the end of the world if you can’t or simply won’t provide for their WANTS.

Recently, my child (now 11 and how in the HELL has that happened) decided to try to pull a fast one on us. He failed, spectacularly and almost hilariously, but we found out and we doled out an nearly unthinkable punishment of one month sans screen time (which, he only gets to watch tv and play video games on weekends so…) in addition to your regular, run-of-the-mill grounding. He screamed, cried, slammed doors, the whole 9 yards. We explained it was his own fault, and we ALWAYS find out the truth in the end and while he stood there blubbering, trying to extract sympathy from this stone of a heart, I continued washing the dishes and said without glancing at his red, tear-stained face, “Well, life’s a bitch and then you die.”

 

Toxic Masculinity Will Be the Death of Us All

One week ago, while many women across the country were preparing for the number of women’s marches happening all over, a 14 year old girl in Texas watched her father get shot to death right in front of her. Minutes before this brutal murder, the girl and her father had been at a convenience store and another man started making lewd comments towards the girl. There was a small confrontation, as you might imagine there would be when a father witnesses anyone being rude to his daughter, especially when “being rude” consists of making sexually suggestive comments to her.

The man followed the father and daughter past their home, as the father did not want the man to know where they lived. After awhile, the father pulled over and confronted the man, who, I cannot emphasize enough, felt entitled enough as a man to sexually harass a child. The man then pulled out a gun and shot the father to death, while his daughter watched it all happen.

The father was an old and dear friend of my boyfriend’s. While they were teenagers, the father spent much time at my boyfriend’s family’s home. Later, he joined the Army Reserves to try to provide a decent life for his then-infant daughter. He wound up injuring his back while serving and had to leave the military. He returned home on a fixed income, walking with a cane, to care for his ailing mother and his baby daughter. He later had a son with another woman, but had sole custody of his daughter.

Women everywhere have been where this girl was, with men older than our fathers leering at us and making comments about our breasts, our pussies, our bodies, our smiles or lack thereof. Some women become victims of stalking. Others die fighting or die trying to survive. This girl was fortunate enough to have someone willing to stick his neck out and call out another man for his disgusting misdeeds. He paid the ultimate price for doing the right thing.

I cannot begin to fathom what makes men feel entitled to women. We experience violence on every level nearly every day of our lives. Maybe it’s a comment, maybe it’s a stare that lasts too long, maybe a man follows us home, maybe it’s a head slam into a brick wall and a pillow over our faces when we are trying to leave a relationship. We are nothing but property to so many men; women and girls who are “unclaimed” by a man are subject to abuse by another. That this child is 14 matters not – she doesn’t “belong” to anyone so she’s “fair game.” The fact that she’s a human being and entitled to living a life free of abuse from ALL people, not just from a pedophile doesn’t factor in I suppose.

In my 36 years on this planet, I’ve been abused, catcalled, leered at, sexually harassed, assaulted, sexually assaulted, and talked down to. In my son’s 11 years on this planet, he’s been called a “faggot” by grown men who think that his hair color of choice defines him as a man, had his decision to avoid meat when he was 4 years old questioned by grown men who think that eating meat defines you as a man, called a “pussy” by grown men who think that 11 year old boys shouldn’t fear a 200 pound Great Dane that hasn’t been trained so well, as well as listened to countless numbers of grown men tell him how “men” are “supposed” to act and emphasize that he is worthless until he can prove himself “manly.”

Feminism wants to smash the patriarchy because the patriarchy hurts all of us. Men are not allowed to be vulnerable, feminine, caring, (or if you’re my parents’ friends, vegetarians.) Those men who dare to break the mold and step out are shit on constantly by other men whose insecurities eat them from the inside. I fear that cases like this make it even harder for men to speak out when they witness abuse, harassment, or assault. I know in my heart that there are many men like this father, who, without hesitation, would step into the line of fire to stop an attack on his daughter. The problem, though, at its core, is that there is a line of fire at all. If we don’t start changing soon, this insecure, toxic masculinity will kill us all.

 

**If anyone would like to donate to help out the victim’s family, please contact us and we will point you in the right direction. Thanks to all who have helped already.**

So, Charlie Did A Weird Thing The Other Day…

Charlie is my 13-year-old stepson. He’s autistic, which for him means he’s non-verbal and developmentally delayed (like he’s developmentally a toddler in many ways). He’s loves water, pepperoni, and his iPad and music. He’s a big kid, 5’5” and about 170lbs of solid energy. He’s got the prettiest curly blond hair. He can get violent, usually self-injuring, but I always have some scratch marks and bruises from some meltdown or another, nbd. He is the lovey-est kid I know, loves hugs and kisses and can be just the sweetest. He’s also really smell oriented and likes sniffing things.  So, those are Charlie facts that are relevant to this story.

I do most of my family grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, because it is cheap and sells 1 ½ pound packs of pepperoni and giant jugs of bubble bath for $3. I usually go on the weekends and take the boys because they like going to the store and Charlie is usually well-behaved and it gives Scott a quiet hour (which I then trade in for glorious naps). So, this past Saturday, I pack up the boys, head to the store and have a not so great trip; Charlie was a little agitated and I was in no mood to deal.

We finish our shopping and are headed for the parking lot, me pushing our very full cart. Cal is telling me about videogames or Captain Underpants or Beauty and the Beast, something. Charlie’s walking next to the cart like he’s supposed to be. There’s an old couple in front of us, because it’s Wal-Mart.

Out of the blue, Charlie let’s go of the cart, gently places one hand on the waist of the man in front of us, goes up on his tiptoes and sniffs the man’s neck behind his ear before the man can turn around, then drops his hand back to the cart. This all happened in the space of 2 seconds, but it felt like a year. I speed us up and get the fuck outta there, before the man can figure out what just happened and laughed all the way to the car.

Things like this happen with Charlie. He sniffs randos and touches other people’s carts. He is also very popular at our Food Lion and collects high fives from the cashiers, who all know his name. He hoots loudly and jumps up and down and doesn’t always respect personal space. Sometimes he stops in the middle of an aisle to bite himself. I get looks and hear mutters, although most people can tell Charlie is different and I have perfected my “He’s autistic what’s your excuse for being an a-hole today?” stare.

Y’all, there’s no point to this story other than my life is really weird sometimes. I mean, that guy could have gotten mad, I saw it on his face as he was turning around and could have caused a whole scene. One day it’s not going to turn out so well and I’m going to have to actually yell at someone, or get yelled at, neither of which I particularly want to happen. But until that time comes, I’m just going to say sorry, beat feet, and laugh all the way home.