My mom, the public health nurse talked to me about sexual harassment from the time I started middle school, plainly stating its definition and harshly stating its wrong. She told me stories about the old days at University Hospital when male doctors thought they could do whatever they wanted to and with “their” nurses. It was the season of Anita Hill’s Senate Judiciary hearings, where Clarence Thomas, awaiting confirmation to the Supreme Court stood accused, and it seemed the term “sexual harassment” was repeated on every TV and radio station every hour on the hour. My mom seized this opportunity to educate me not only about how to spot it, but the gender power differential that exists in society, making it politically difficult for women to report abuse, and even more difficult for their claims to be believed. She wanted me, as an eleven year-old, to understand my rights, and how to assert them. You have to be assertive, she often reminded me. Continue reading
…Continued from Tuesday
One evening, in my early 20’s I received an unexpected letter from a long lost neighbor..
Now I don’t say “friend”, because at the time I received the letter from her, we weren’t friends, we were more estranged acquaintances who happened to also be former neighbors and high school classmates. Continue reading
Some of the most dazzlingly beautiful moments in life are when I’m making amends for past bad behavior. Perhaps because I was in trouble often as a kid (at school, at home, at friends’ homes, in public) I’m more comfortable with being in the wrong than others. Of course, this comfort has made me both terribly antagonistic and great at apologizing. I admitted in an earlier post that I used to be an incorrigible mean girl, treating my classmates horribly from elementary school on up through the grades. In fact, I only stopped the two-faced, shit talking, exclusionary cruelty when a colleague I was trying to make into a friend recoiled in horror when I tried to start a mean-spirited gossip sesh about our coworkers. I was twenty-two and getting much too old for that shit. It was eroding my soul, isolating me with my demons, leaving a trail of hurt feelings and broken friendships in my wake. Bad karma was everywhere, and my life was low-level, grinding misery, even when I permanently dropped the mean girl act. And then, I was unexpectedly presented with a second chance to do the right thing. Continue reading
I’ve had a complicated emotional relationship with money since I became aware of its awesome power. As a kid I believed my family was on the brink of destitution. I thought this because I had limited perspective and because I wore hand-me-down clothes and my parents said no every time I whined for them to buy me things when we were out shopping. We were austere, eating endless leftovers, owning the same single car from the time I was five until I left home for college, rarely eating out, our vacations road trips.
My dad would sit at the dining room table elbow deep in papers doing our bills and finances. It was a soothing ritual for him, but I sensed tension. I lay awake at night worried about whether we were poor and what we would do. My perception was that we didn’t have the things our neighbors had, or my friends’ families had–new cars, new clothes, mountains of toys–and I reasoned it must have been because we were living on the edge of poverty. Continue reading
I attached a strong stigma to feeling lonely, believing this natural human state of existence to be a sign of a major flaw–being unlovable. Or worse, “lame”, that defeated state all kids, from middle school to college so desperately try to avoid. Being unlovable was one thing, a terrible sense of inevitable isolation, but being seen as lame, and therefore uncool, stung so much worse in the short-term. I’m not sure I can accurately calculate the amount of hours I spent alone in my room, or later my apartment, doing absolutely nothing other than castigating myself for not having more friends and interests. Desperate for someone, anyone to assuage the crushing sense of emptiness; the reverberating ennui. Being lonely was my biggest fear, and avoiding that natural state caused me to do impulsive and mean things. It made me the worst version of myself, someone whom I could not recognize, which, of course simply compounded the problem. Continue reading