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.
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.
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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.