Me too

2 posts in one night, Fae? Weird.

Well, I wanted to talk about something, and then I had a bad couple of days…. but we’ll get to that in another post.

I want to talk about the Metoo campaign.

When it first started trending, I was so proud of the women responding. Some of those women on my Twitter and Facebook feed have rarely told their stories to people. Some of those I was surprised would actually publicly admit that they too were sexually harassed and/or assaulted. And I wanted to stand with them, but I’m one of the “lucky” ones.

I remember sitting in Women’s Self-Defense in college, cross-legged, in the small gym, listening about the statistics on sexual assault on women in the United States. Then I heard 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in her life time. I was in class with some friends. And I already knew who the 1 was. And it wasn’t me.

As I grew and learned and listened and consoled, I counted. One woman was raped by an ex boyfriend, and when others heard the commotion, they ignored it and called her a liar afterwards. One woman was told that he took her out and she owed him; she complied out of guilt and fear. Another woman was drunk; he got her drunk; he plied her with drinks all night and got her drunk. One girl was fooling around with a boy, and then he forced her to have sex, pinning her down, and then he told her it was her fault because she made him hard. I know women as young girls who were fondled sexually on the knee of their relatives. Another woman waited until the guy she wanted was drunk and in bed before jumping in; I gave her hell for it.

And I was never the 1 in 4.

With every story from a friend, with every new article I read, I wondered how was I so lucky.

Why was I so lucky?

Was it because I always wore shorts or jeans? Was it because I always walked tough? Was it the rumor in high school and college that said I had no moral code to keep me from damaging a male’s favorite body part? Was it because I was straight edge? Was it because I grew up with boys? Was it because I was never last at the party?

But it was luck.

I walked home alone in the dark. I walked miles to my apartment alone after 10 pm. I was alone in dorm rooms and houses with boys. I’ve ignored my warning instincts. My warning instincts have failed to warn me.

But I was lucky. I’ve been playing Russian roulette, and every time that bullet wasn’t mine.

So I didn’t type Me too into my feeds.

Until I thought about all the discussions I had with boys and men about sexual harassment.

No, it’s not because the guy was unattractive or too old or too young or too drunk or didn’t dress right or didn’t look like he had money or a job or a nice car. No, it’s not a compliment. It will never be a compliment. It was never attended to be a compliment. Yes, if a very handsome, well-dressed, just-the-right-age guy said that to me in that way, it would still be sexual harassment.

At the age of 11, some guy, about late 20s, early 30s,  followed me around K-Mart, trailing me, stalking me, waited until my parents were a few yards away from me before leaning over me to whisper in my ear how tasty I looked.

That feeling I had at that moment is what I compare all “compliments” to. I felt small, weak, and helpless. I felt dirty, defiled, and disgusted. I felt naked, naughty, and guilty. I felt shame. I. felt. shame.

For what? Even at 11, I did not know why I felt violated and why I felt it was my fault.

This moment would happen over and over.

I didn’t wear dresses in high school and college because every time I did, some guy would sexually harass me.  I can’t even count how many times guys would yell or whistle from their cars. In college, I had to walk by a construction site every day, and when one of my guy friends learned I was trying to avoid the walk (which I couldn’t; that’s the only way to get home) and why, he walked me home every day after that.

When I was young, working at an operator, I wore short shorts to work, and an employee would always sit near me and look at my legs, just stare at them. One day he waited until I was on a long phone call and asked if he could touch my legs. I mouthed what? with a slight head movement. He took it as a yes and caressed my leg. I nearly gagged. As I write this, my stomach lurched. He disappeared so I couldn’t confront him later. But I wore jeans after that. I changed my behavior so a guy wouldn’t touch me.

And I can hear guys now, well you didn’t say no; he didn’t know better; at least he asked; you shouldn’t have been wearing short shorts either. Boys, could you please imagine some stranger sitting next to you in a public place who just caressed your bare skin without your explicit consent? Creepy, right?

And I thought my days were over. I didn’t have to worry about jerks like those man-children. I was a mother. I always had a child on me. I was a teacher. I was always with children.

Then a few months ago I took the boys out for ice cream at a fast food spot. As we ate out food, an older man came over and asked if he could give me a compliment. I assumed it was about the boys. They were doing amazing. Then he leaned over and whispered, “You look deliciously gorgeous.” And that disgust/shame/dirty/violated feeling hit me. And I was too ashamed to do anything.

Then he left, and I grew angry. How dare he cat call me in front of my boys! I should have ripped out his tongue. But I was ashamed. For that man’s behavior. He made me feel shame for being a woman. When I related the incident to another guy, he answered, “He thought he was giving you a compliment; he meant no harm.” Bullsh*t. You know how I know? Because he whispered it. He whispered it instead of saying it in a regular voice and tone. He knew he was going to make me uncomfortable. He wanted me to feel uncomfortable that’s why he used the word “delicious,” why he whispered it.

Yes, I’m one of the lucky ones who has never been sexually assaulted. But I have been sexually harassed. I know the feelings of guilt, shame, disgust, filthiness because some man-child thinks he owns my body for those few moments. As I tried to explained to my male allies, we know these words aren’t for us. We know we are just a piece of meat to be ogled, an animal to stalk and hunt, an image to masturbate to. We know the difference between a guy giving us a compliment and a guy cat calling us.

I know this piece is just preaching to the choir. But I had to say it.

To all the men and women, boys and girls, who have been sexually assaulted and/or sexually harassed, I stand with you.

Advertisements

Hobbies

“Certified Zombie Hunter”

Me: (I looked up from my wallet) Yeah…?

Cashier: That’s a good one. I like it. That’ll be $8.51

Me: (handing her the money, still slightly confused) Yeah…. Thank … you….

Then I looked at my purse as I was putting my wallet away. I had thrown it on the counter to get my money. It’s an olive green messenger bag with all kinds of pockets, including a clear plastic one for IDs. I had a Certified Zombie Hunter badge there. To match the bio hazard symbol patch on the front.

I nodded, said thank you, and took my groceries.

One of my friends gave me a “Walking Dead” shirt for my birthday, even though I’ve never seen the show. People assume. And it’s a cool shirt. Almost as cool as my “Keep Calm and Kill Zombies” shirt or my favorite “This is my Killing Zombies” shirt.

Another friend gave me a magnet zombie ribbon for my car. It will probably clash with my Zombie Response Team sign.

All this zombie stuff people give me is weird. It’s not like I’m obsessed with zombies. Not like I am about vampires, faeries, fantasy, fairy tales, ass-kicking warrior women. I only have like 3 or 4 books about zombies. I did tell one of the new English teachers that she should totally read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because it’s hilarious and she just finished teaching Pride and Prejudice.

I just don’t know why people associate me with zombies. I don’t watch any of the zombie shows. I just don’t have the time. Or the movies. But you should see Zombieland. I’m so excited about the sequel. But if you see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, don’t compare it to the book. Two wildly different story lines, but I love how they deliver the back story.

Then the other day, my dad teased me for my lack of hobbies. Apparently reading, blogging, writing novels and poetry, and smashing the patriarchy aren’t enough.

Tornado A: She does! She kills zombies!

Tornado S: And she’s a vampire!

Tornado E: And a witch!

See, I have hobbies.

(Also dibs on the vampire killing zombies story.)

Glimpses into my Childhood

When I was a kid, I loved DuckTales. I watched it every day. 4:30, Weekdays, The Disney Channel. I would race into the room, turn on the TV, sing the intro song. I did a dance that matched the intro song. Yes, I’ve been a huge, overly-excited nerd all my life. I had a poster in my bedroom. My brothers and I dreamed of being on that show. With an uncle as rich as Scrooge McDuck, he wouldn’t mind adding three more to his brood. And the vault.

So when I learned that there was a reboot and an actual money pit modeled after Scrooge McDuck’s vault, I was as excited as a kid. When I told my brothers about the pit, they answered the same way, “Where? And when are we going?” Alas, we could not afford to go to the Disney Expo, so we languish on.

This weekend the boys found the reboot of DuckTales playing on TV. The intro song came back to me, and I sang it to the giggles of my boys. We watched the cartoon together. I think they did a great job. I liked the changes. And Webby! My beloved Webby is a full member of the cast. I should go find my Webbigail toy. The boys are intrigued. Not enough to record it (Thank God because they record enough shows. Honestly, guys, it’s like almost a dozen, and they never have time to watch them.), but it’s enough to watch it when it’s on.

Then this Monday the boys watched Young Sheldon. They adore The Big Bang Theory. They love Sheldon. Tornado E went as Sheldon for Halloween one year. They have been looking forward to Young Sheldon for months. Then the thing that hooked their hearts. Sheldon is my age. The boys were excited to learn that Sheldon and I were born the same year, which means watching Young Sheldon is a peek at my childhood. They were so excited to hear that Sheldon’s sister wanted to watch DuckTales just like Mama at their age.

Then I told my mom.

My Mom: You were never like Sheldon.

Me: I know. But this is cute. They watch DuckTales.

My Mom: His sister does. He watches Dr. Proton.

Tornado E: Mama, did you watch Dr. Proton?

Me: No. That’s a made up show for the TV show. We watched Mr. Wizard. And he was cool.

My Mom: You didn’t watch science shows.

Me: Yes, we did. It came on at 6am on Nickelodeon. So we watched it if we were up early. You were too tired and drinking coffee.

Tornado E: Was he as cool as Dr. Proton?

Me: Hell, yes.

Identifying Leadership

There we were with dozens of hundreds of Cub Scouts. At least a hundred of them were Wolves. Like my little guys. When they put on the uniform, they start to blend into the sea of navy blue. They put on their hats. Good luck.

From the back, I can only distinguish two of our Wolf cubs. My boy and his best friend. Tornado A has his head nearly shaved. His best friend has the long 1970’s boy hair cut. Everyone else has similar cuts and lengths.

At lunch, we had sat on a field, on of the few large open spaces of grass. Within twenty minutes, the boys were done and chasing each other. First my den, then the others started joining in. Then slowly my parents started moving out of the field to the wall. I, in my stubbornness decided to stay put. Until even I decided I chose life over pride.

So I stood watching 50 or more Cub Scouts running around.

Me: Hey, guys, what do you say if next year I get a can of washable hair dye and just spray their heads so we can pick them out?

A mom: Like yellow or florescent orange?

The parents all looked at me.

Me: (glancing around at all the parents and back on the field where more boys had joined the chaos) Yeah. Or we can color coordinate. Bears are light blue.

A dad: We could give it a shot.

The other parents murmured in agreement.

I’m a hell of a leader.

Dress Up Time

It was Spirit Week at school this week. They do them after 3 day weekends or breaks to entice kids back to school. Right. If you want teenagers in school, bring food. Any ways, one day was Battle of the Ages. They expected us to dress Greek, Roman, or Spartan. Uh… Um….. I …. Nevermind.

Now personally, I thought it was a misfire. Not everyone can dress like a Greek or Roman or have the confidence to. I would’ve, but I was a nerd. And at least, it was better than Gender Swap Day. I cringe just writing it.

So the day came. I took a sheet and folded it into peplos. (Told you I was a nerd. I do nothing in halves, so when I was in middle school, enamored by Greek myths, I learned to dress as the ancient Greeks.) I pinned it with help from my mother and cinched it with a tie.

Because some of the adults who watched my nerdy-ancient-loving teenage phase encouraged me, I have quite a lot of jewelry inspired by ancient designs. I put on earrings, rings, and a necklace.

I braided my hair in a few braids. I put on a few silver headbands. I twisted and knotted my hair before shoving in a dozen or more bobby pins.

Off I went in sandals, instead of my usual combat boots or mary janes.

And the kids loved it.

“Miss, are you a goddess?”

“Miss, you look beautiful!”

“Wow, miss, you’ve got school spirit!”

“Miss, how did you do that?”

“Miss, you’re so cool.”

“Miss, your hair looks amazing.”

As I teach freshmen, I didn’t expect a lot of participation for Spirit Week. They’re too worried that they will look uncool. For fewer participated in Battle of the Ages, only one. None of the student council or cheerleaders.

When I arrived home, I had forgotten that the boys hadn’t seen me yet.

They ran to greet me when they heard the door open. They stopped in their tracks.

Tornado S: Mama! What are you wearing?!

Tornado A: You look pretty, Mama!

Tornado S: You look beautiful, Mama!

Tornado E: You look like a goddess, Mama. Did your students think you were a goddess?

Me: One asked if I was Zeus. I said I didn’t have the beard for it, but he said I would look cool with a thunderbolt.

Tornado E: Pssht. You should have said you were Athena. That’s who you look like.

Me: Thank you, my boys.

I kissed them all.

 

So It Begins…. Again

It’s been a hectic two weeks. And I know it’s just the start.

First, school is in full swing. I’ve been to four open houses. One for each boy and my own.

At my own, I repeated myself five times with the same speech, same jokes with the same silence. I really need a sound machine with the sound of chirping crickets. I talk about the course, my expectations, my joy of teaching their kids. I assure every parent that yes, your kid is doing fine. (Really, it was this last week that they were given the ball to drop; sometime this weekend I’ll learn how many decided to turn in their first homework assignment.)

The first open house was Tornado A’s where I learned he’s so bright and sweet, so smart, so with it. I’d wish you luck, but you already have him. Good luck, any ways. You’re going to need it. Behind that sweet smile lies the mind of a mad genius.  I also was stopped by several teachers to ask how my year was going, to exchange notes and ideas, to whisper good luck and congratulations. You have no idea how much high school freshmen are like elementary kids.

Then it was Tornado S’s open house. Usually we discuss his many weird, complex issues. But my parents have already talked to the teachers, and two out of three teachers had already had Tornado E. So I introduce myself. And Tornado S is so sweet and kind, so brilliant; we just need to help him get it out, and by the way, how’s the school year? I exchange notes and ideas with the other teachers, explaining the math common core for a few families while the math teacher talked with another family about homework. You have no idea how much high school freshman are like 5th graders.

Finally Tornado E’s open house arrived. I carpooled with a friend, and I was spoiling for some answers because Tornado E had been bumped to the regular math class because of a pre-assessment. Then he was getting a solid C in his new math class after I had lobbied for a retest or re placement. But since my boy is becoming more cautious in new situations, I don’t start out with, “Hi. I’m Tornado E’s mom; I’m so sorry.” I introduce myself, and immediately I get, “Ah, yes, Tornado E. Smart kid. Really smart. Just quiet.” Yeah, give him time. Then it was time to talk to the math teacher about her methods, expectations, her weighting practices. After all that in front of the parents, I talked to her privately about Tornado E, who is impressing her greatly, who she thinks is capable of algebra with a little help, who she hopes isn’t discouraged. Well, he is. He loves math, and he’s proud of his math scores. Oh, but he took a test the day after he got into my class and got a C without instruction; that was impressive. That C has him off computer and video games. Oh, well, then. We hammered out a plan.

And this is just the beginning. Cub Scouts goes into full swing next week. So does religious classes. Tornado S wants to join Kung Fu with his brothers. Tornado A would like to add a third martial art. Uh, no.

And I should have 140 essays to grade this weekend.

Just a Friendly Wave

When I have the boys in the morning, more often than not, Tornado S stands outside the house to wave at me.

We live on a corner of a T-intersection. Obviously the driveway is furthest from the stop sign. So I pull out and drive parallel to the yard, waving back, yelling, “I love you! Do your best! Have fun!”

Then I turn left, driving passed two neighborhood streets before making another left and driving out of view. The whole way, Tornado S and sometimes Tornado A are waving goodbye to me. So I wave all the way down the street, thinking of Ever After and how it’s tradition to wave at the edge of the drive.

The other day as I’m driving down the street waving back at Tornado S, a woman, walking a dog, came down the street. Seeing me waving, she became excited and waved enthusiastically. “Good morning!” she shouted.

I made her day. And I laughed. I called back, “Good morning.” Then I laughed and waved all the way to my turn.