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.”
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.**
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.
I’m sitting in a loose circle of chairs in a small classroom. This classroom is in one of the largest churches I’ve ever seen. It took me five minutes to find the front entrance and I had to ask someone for directions to the room. Around me sit a group of men and women, all of them older than me. They each take a turn introducing themselves and saying a little bit about why they are there. The circle gets to me and everyone turns. I take a deep breath.
“Hi. Um. My name is Erin, and my dad was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. We are placing him in a memory care facility next week and, well, I’m not doing well.” With this, my chin quivers and suddenly I am sobbing in this room of strangers, all of whom know exactly what I’m feeling. They’ve all been there in some form or another. I am not alone.
Alzheimer’s is one of those diseases that people primarily associate with the very old. It’s referred to as “Old-Timer’s” for a reason. Lately though, people are being diagnosed earlier and earlier. Most likely, it’s because science has come pretty far and the signs are clearer much earlier. It’s not dismissed as “Grandma’s just getting senile.” anymore. The problem (for me at least) is that with this earlier diagnoses, people (again, like me) are dealing with the fallout from the disease earlier in life than ever expected.
The disease is progressive and insidious. It steals away your past at the same time it’s stealing your future. It takes away your ability to walk, to talk, to chew. It takes your memories, your ability to remember to eat, your balance, and your ability to be rational. At the same time that I am losing my father in the present, I am losing any memories he has of my mother, of my childhood, of a large chunk of my life.
When I was in the group, one of the women said “I feel like I’m grieving for someone who’s still alive.” This shook me. I didn’t have words for how I felt until she described that. I’ve been going through the stages of grief, but continuously for six years. Each time the disease progresses, I start over again. I will grieve every time something changes until I grieve for the final time. I spend a lot of time in the denial stage. I’m excellent at denial. I’m working through anger right now. I won’t bother with bargaining.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I’m sitting in the memory care facility where we will be leaving my dad, shortly. His room is moved in, his recliner and his TV are set up. His walls are covered in family pictures, plaques from his time in the Navy and University of Georgia Bulldogs swag. His clothes are in the closet.
We’ve met the director, the staff and taken the tour. We’ve had lunch in the dining room and seen their grounds and the way their security works. Right now, the residents and my family are gathered in one of the sitting areas listening to one of the staff members give a presentation on Naval Submarines and bi-planes because a lot of the residents are retired military. Because this is a fairly new facility, there is only a small amount of residents currently. This makes me feel better somehow, like the less residents, the more the staff will be involved with them.
I’m terrified to leave. I don’t know if he will understand what’s happening or why we’re leaving. I keep having flashbacks to when my dad dropped me off at boarding school as a freshman. I was scared, angry and felt abandoned, even though, deep down I knew that boarding school was the best place for me to be. I hope he understands that we’re not abandoning him. I hope he’s not scared when he goes to sleep tonight. I hope he knows we still love him.
Over the summer, I caused a Facebook kerfluffle when I had the audacity to complain publicly about a man who sexually harassed me at a restaurant. Many people supported me, but the ones who thought I was being “unfair” were also vocal. What he said had to do with my boobs, and not even the worst thing that a near-stranger (or otherwise) has ever said to me. But I was at a place I’d previously felt safe because I knew the owner and pre-pregnancy, I’d been a regular. But now this asshole was the regular, and no one there claimed to have heard what he said to me, because he says shit like he said to me to women around the city all the time. Or maybe they did hear what he said to me, and chose to ignore it. Either way, he gleefully admitted, and expanded on, his comments to me via Facebook message, which I screenshot and posted in the then-growing comment thread for all to see (and some to blatantly ignore.) Continue reading
I think we’ve been pretty open about our feelings on this election. I spent Wednesday crying and eating my feelings. I wallowed for twenty-four hours and have been trying to process since. As a bisexual Hispanic woman and the mother of two autistic children who rely on social services – and as a person who decided in her mid-thirties to take on a bunch of debt to become a social worker – this result terrified me. I’ve never felt so uncertain about my future, and so frustrated by how to fix the world.
I’m well informed. I read widely and diversely. I am an armchair activist, flinging wokeness into the social media void! I have too much anxiety to deal with crowds and protests and lots of stranger interaction, so I do what I can from my home. I teach my children as much as I can, talk to my guy, my family, my coworkers, my friends. I pride myself on my progressivism. I voted for Hillary and encouraged everyone I know to do so as well.
None of that changes anything. We have a President-Elect who scares me. My privileged life, in the sense that I look white and straight and have been sheltered in a liberal echo chamber of awareness, has been shaken. My faith in humanity and the progress we’ve made as a country faltered on Tuesday, and that makes me so very sad.
As a cis/white straight-presenting hetero-partnered mother of two, it is a privilege for me to feel the outrage and horror I feel today.
As a rape and sexual assault survivor, well-meaning ally, and marginal member of the queer community (as a bi girl who fell in love with and married a dude), and someone trying to work daily to check my own privilege, I am human, and I am just plain scared. As a mother trying my hardest to raise two intersectional feminist men conscious of their privilege (& appreciative of consent) so that they can actually impact the world for the better from day one and don’t have to massively fall apart reading “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” later in life to start making themselves useful – I am a messy heap of mess.
Yesterday my mother watched our toddler while we voted, and told him all about the great civic duty we were participating in. A few times last night he asked “did you have fun voting, Mom?” But this morning I pulled my three year old up on my lap and told him that Mommy and Daddy did not get the President that we voted for. That instead our country has elected a president who is a Bad Man. I told him that this means that we might start to hear people say more things that we know are wrong. His dad explained that this President only thinks that people like himself are important. I reminded him that we know that everyone is important, no matter what they look like, or where they come from, or what they believe in, or who they love. He told me he thinks we should send the Bad President to jail. I told him he’s right.
And then I looked at my baby, who is too young to explain anything to at all, and I sobbed. Continue reading
Oh hey guys. We are living in an actual nightmare dumpster fire right now. Here are some thoughts about it.
The people of America did not elect him, our bullshit electoral college system did.
Electing this man to the highest office in our nation has given credence to every boss I’ve ever had who stared at my boobs, “accidentally” touched my boobs, called me a bitch for expecting them to do their jobs. It’s given every man who harasses me every single day I leave my house feel even more like they have the right to tell me I’ve got a great rack or where they want to stick their cocks. It legitimizes every sexual assault, black eye, and attempted murder I and millions of other women have fucking LIVED THROUGH. And those women who weren’t so lucky. Continue reading
It should come as no surprise that most of us here plan on voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton tomorrow. We wanted to share our enthusiasm.
Recently, someone on Facebook (because of course it was on Facebook) declared that the only reason women are voting for HRC is because they have vaginas and she has a vagina and women are blindly voting for a vagina with their vaginas. (That may be the most vaginas in one sentence). This was so incredibly offensive because A: We aren’t heathens, we obviously use our hands to vote and B: reducing women and their intellect down to their reproductive organs (YET AGAIN) is boring, lazy and completely false. Luckily, I can and did use my lady brain during this election cycle to inform and educate myself.
I would love to vote Barack Obama into the presidential office in perpetuity. Since that’s not a thing, I’m with her. Not just because I have a vagina. I know plenty of people without vaginas who are voting for her. I’m voting for her because she is standing with Planned Parenthood, and as someone who’s had an abortion, protecting a woman’s right to choose for herself is so incredibly important to me. I’m voting for her because she is standing up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people everywhere, ensuring their right to marry, adopt children, and be treated fairly at work and at school. I’m voting for her because she plans to implement a solid plan for parental leave, not just maternity leave, when a new child becomes part of a family, in addition to a fair amount of medical leave. I’m with her because her stances on incredibly important topics like racial justice, gun control, healthcare, education and so much more align with my values. Her being a woman is just a perk. I’m so proud that my son was born into the years that we’ve had our first African-American president and that he will grow up in the historic time of the first female president. We’ve come a long way, but we have so far to go. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish with HRC at the helm.
**I would like to point out that no one has accused any men of voting with their dicks, and we all know there’s at least one or two who’ve thought they were hilarious and done just that.**
When it comes to voting for an elected official, whether it be local or national, I look at who I believe will be able to lead the best. When weighing the options for president, there is only one person in the running I believe will be able to lead our country, and I’m with her! I know as far as social issues go, she will be able to keep our country moving forward, rather than regressing. I know she has the leadership skills necessary to interact appropriately with other heads of state. It’s bigger than just being excited to vote for our first female president (but come on, I’m super stoked about this aspect too): it’s being excited for the future of the United States and its residents. It’s time.
I could write a novel longer than War & Peace regarding why I am not (and you should not) be voting for Trump. But instead, I’ll talk about why I am voting FOR Hillary Clinton. She isn’t the “lesser of 2 evils,” she is a legit decent politician who stands and fights for the things that are important to me. She does not believe that healthcare should be something only available to the wealthy. She believes that women should be paid the same amount as men. NARAL gives her a 100% approval rating which means regardless of how YOU feel about abortion, she puts women’s health FIRST. Childcare is, in case you didn’t know, insanely expensive and Hillary Clinton wants to fight for you to lessen that expense. Hillary Clinton believes that LGBTQ community is full of, you know, people. People who have rights and interests just like those who don’t identify as LGBTQ. Her experience has taught her COUNTLESS lessons in foreign policy and negotiations.
I’ve been pretty stoked on Obama’s presidency. I have not agreed with everything he’s done, and I definitely am beyond angry that our healthcare plans are being cockblocked by bitter Republicans who are clearly benefiting from a private, non-universal system (and benefiting from blaming it ALL on President Obama.) But I think Hillary Clinton has the capacity to change this, and to lead our country into the future, instead of 100 years back. Fuck yes I’m voting for Hillary Clinton, and I’m fucking stoked to do it!
I’m voting because this a privilege so many people don’t take advantage of. This was not always a right for women to vote and still to this day our voices have not been fully heard. I vote so MY voice can be heard. I vote so that my daughter can be proud of me. I vote because I only get one body and I need to take care of it! I vote because I’m the breadwinner in my family and I need to continue to break through the oh-so-high glass ceiling.
I vote because I’m proud to be an American!
I’ve always liked HRC. She’s the First Lady I really remember from my childhood; I remember her proclaiming “Women’s rights are human rights” in China and her not giving a shit about her headbands and I remember her having the goddamn audacity to try to create universal healthcare. I remember discovering feminism beyond the suffragette mom in Mary Poppins while HRC fucking showed me how to walk the walk. That woman is nearly always the smartest woman in the room – can you imagine the amount of shit she has taken over the years for being strong and smart and unapologetic and having a loud laugh and RBF and all the shit that most of us get in small doses every day but, like, times a bajillion?? Like, my shoulders hurt thinking about it. And she has gladly, enthusiastically, boldly put herself out there over and over and over again because she believes in herself and this country.
Do I agree with her on everything? Nope. That would be terrible because I have some very uninformed opinions and I’m kinda ridiculous. Was there another nominee I vocally supported because his progressive stances are more in line with mine? Yup. But he lost and she’s still a REALLY GOOD FUCKING CHOICE. Is there a chance I would have voted for a Republican in this election, no matter the nominees? Not in hell. But, the fact that they did nominate a racist, sexist, idiotic, epitome of just about everything I loathe who has triggered more rape nightmares for me, a not-rape-survivor so I can’t imagine what people with sexual assault PTSD must be going through just seeing his dumb orange face…does that make me even happier that we’re going to have a Madame President for the next 4 years? HAHAHAHAHAYES.
(Also, she has plaaaaans. I know how much an organized, driven woman can accomplish and I can’t wait. Like, she has a legit plan for the autistic community. Please check out her website and go nerdcrazy.)