It was my birthday and I was at work. I like to think of myself as one of those especially evolved adults who doesn’t require a #birthdayweek or (worse) #birthdaymonth worth of attention via social media comments and posts, strings of nights out celebrating, tiaras or gifts. Thus, I was absolutely appalled at myself as I heard myself beginning a whiny sentence to one of my colleagues with, “not to be a birthday diva, but…”
You see, the office “fun committee” had provided their annual birthday surprise of flowers, a card signed by the staff, and one’s favorite dessert, which they had gotten wrong. I’d been working there for three birthdays, and an on-boarding check box for new staff was the filling out of an “about me” questionnaire that controlled for preferences, filed in the employee’s HR folder. Mine clearly, explicitly said, I love all things chocolate, dark only, and all chocolate, only chocolate, all the time. Imagine my injured surprise when I followed the post-it note the fun committee left on my desk pointing me to the freezer and pulled out the freezer drawer to find a pint of vanilla gelato with my name on it. WHAT WAS THE MEANING OF THIS? I stormed over to the committee head’s desk to investigate. Continue reading →
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 →
I reject the notion that the incoming presidential administration represents a new normal we must “get over”, accept and even (fuck, no!) embrace. Absolutely not. Absolutely not, because I refuse to be gaslighted. I refuse to allow a person or group shape my reality in order to elicit my consent in an attempt to hold absolute authority over me. No. I refuse to allow a person or group to distort the truth to their own ends, in their quest for unlimited success, power and ideal love. No. I refuse to allow a person or group to attempt to manipulate our common understanding of reality in an attempt to meld it to their will and pleasure. No. I refuse to allow a person or group’s desperate need to be right, to have the last word to superceed the needs of the common masses. If we can come to a common understanding of gaslighting, to recognize it, challenge it and root it out, we will have a shot at avoiding a dystopian nightmare. Continue reading →
I’m tired of seeing other women afraid to ask for help, believing instead they must shoulder the world themselves, to manage alone. I’m sick of hearing other women being called “bossy” when they delegate responsibilities to others, aka ask for help. I’m over the straight jacket society has wound us into, every step a misstep, tripping headlong into the abyss of endless expectations. Continue reading →
It’s that time of year again…the holiday hangover after the wringer of family expectations, beginning with Thanksgiving and ending with whatever December holiday we celebrate. I’m telling you, the ill-at-ease, creeping dread isn’t just due to overindulgence in food and booze. The heavy fatigue isn’t just from the abundance of parties and late nights and rushing around to get everything done. The urge to hibernate isn’t just the cold dreary weather that feels no longer a winter wonderland. No, the cluster of symptoms is, for many of us, related to the crush of family expectations and our inability to hold them at bay, to keep our resolutions that we’ll not let them bowl us over this time.
We let them bowl us over this time. And, as in years past, dating back as far as we can remember, things looked and felt and went as they usually do. Sighhhh. Continue reading →
I believe wholeheartedly in the saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. The first time I heard it I was a kid and I remember thinking, ewww, yuck! I would never want those people anywhere near me. Why would you ever want the people you like the least, the ones you don’t trust, those who have hurt you closer to you than your friends? But I get it now. You keep them in close so you can control them. It’s a great strategy, and it works.
It gets tricky, though, because you have to use your powers for good. If you’re going to gather your enemies up into the fold and hold them close, you can’t fuck them over later. Continue reading →
I used to believe simpering was my greatest power, my secret interpersonal weapon. I affected a coquettish persona, donned the mask which I believed was the key to moving through the world. Later, a therapist and I named this simpering mask the “sex kitten”, as we worked to understand the connection between her and my blackout drinking. But before all that, I learned that if I widened my eyes, batted my lashes and ducked my head a little, people melted. I learned that if I asked for things in a singsong tone or a baby voice they seemed to come easier. Especially with men. Men were helpless against the almighty simper. They figuratively dropped to their knees, palms open, anything and everything on offer. They got out of the way. Or let me hide behind them. They handed whatever it was right over. I smiled and giggled in return, to close the deal. I didn’t know another way. Continue reading →
I’m a modern woman, so I navigate my relationships with an almost singular goal in mind: Don’t be crazy.
When he calls, answer. And don’t be crazy. When he doesn’t call, don’t sweat it. Don’t be crazy. If he hangs out with you, play cool. Don’t be crazy. If he declines the invite, that’s fine. He’s got his life. Don’t be crazy. If he tells you you’re special, that’s great. Appreciate it. Don’t be crazy. If you’re not sure, remember you’re independent. Don’t get crazy. Don’t be too eager. Don’t be too distant. Don’t punish him with your feelings. Figure that shit out. You’re not crazy; don’t be crazy.Continue reading →
I visited Carlsbad Caverns over an August weekend, and there’s nothing like exploring our National Parks system for instilling a sense of wonder, history and gratitude. Just when I think we’ve destroyed all of nature, that we’ve polluted the entire world, slashed and burned and dumped and drilled the environment into oblivion, I get outside and see we haven’t quite. Not quite yet. Which makes me realize that for my strong identification as an urbanite–Manhattan being my spiritual home, the place I feel most alive and centered–I need to sense the natural world. I crave the astonishing beauty of Mother Nature, and the feeling of integration with the environment, my place in it, and the humility it brings. I feel so connected and astonished and shriek! Tommy, stop that right now! Shriek! Well, nothing ruins a moment in the park like people who don’t know how to act in public. Continue reading →
It was a desperate, confusing time. I’d hitched my wagon to a star, uprooted my life to chase my dreams back to my hometown. I had seen a shimmering (if rain-soaked) post-graduate school future of career fulfillment, rich sociability, fascinating interests, and wealth (of course). I saw this vision with such clarity I believed all I had to do was go home and the pieces would fall into place. In fact, I remember journaling something along the lines of “this new life is something I feel I can just relax into”, so certain was my hope.
The brilliant sunlight glinting off the Columbia River, the water teeming with people recreating, the golden plains stretching to the horizon seemed to foreshadow the bright future that lay ahead as my boyfriend and I drove west on I-90. We were going home.
Just a couple of hours later the shade of the Cascade Mountains enveloped us as we curved our way through Snoqualmie Pass. We drove across the bottom of a tunnel of Evergreen trees, dense and dark. A deep sense of dread began to spread through me, disguising itself as a stomach ache. I was so out of touch with my feelings in those days, the emotional usually expressed itself physically. I felt off. The glory of my triumphant return home was draining out of me and soon I was on edge. Had I been able to peer into the future at that moment I would have insisted we turn the car right back around for Arizona. Continue reading →