Typical

I am walking along a narrow sidewalk. I see ahead of me a group of men standing around on the sidewalk under a scaffolding. They see me and each turn their bodies square to mine… just waiting for me, staring through my clothes with disgusting smiles. And they only slightly step to each side of the sidewalk so that I have to walk through their group… Typical.

When I’m alone, I usually go out of my way to avoid this type of situation, but today this would have meant at least another five minutes or so added to my walk. And I see beyond the group that some guy is walking in the opposite direction as I am, who will also have to walk through this group just before I do.

I sense something about this guy that is good… Or perhaps his potential decency is simply based on the fact that he is not staring through my clothes. Maybe he has no idea what’s going on. Not sure. But at least there’s someone near by, so I keep walking anyway. I’m trying to get to work after all.

As I keep walking, I’m re-positioning my tote bag and jacket in an automated attempt to hide. I don’t want to hear what they will say to me; I already know what they will say, so I turn up the music I’m listening to. But as I walk through, I can still hear them. They are loud and only about a foot away from me on each side. As always… I say nothing and keep walking. But I’m angry. I’m so angry.

Each time I’m in this situation, I try to remind myself to keep my head up, but as I pass through I notice my head is down. I also notice that I’m holding my breath and clinching my jaw and my fists. I know they are still looking at me… hopefully they are not following me as they do sometimes. I realize that I’m walking really fast. I don’t slow down.

I begin to wonder whether that guy in the opposite direction heard what was being said to me? Maybe he looked back and saw that they were still staring at me? If they did decide to follow me, would he be a witness? Or come help me? But he probably didn’t notice – it’s not his business anyway. And he’s probably trying to get to work too. He’s probably listening to music as well and didn’t hear what they were saying, in which case he probably didn’t turn around. And as usual, I say to myself: Oh well, at least it’s over now… for now.

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I am Still Proud

I am still proud.

I am proud that a woman was finally a presidential nominee for a major political party. And I am proud that it was Hillary Clinton; she is my champion.

I am proud that I cast my vote for a woman as president and am proud that women have a voice equal to men when casting their vote—I am proud to exercise my right on behalf of the many women who came before me and the many women who will come hereafter.

I am proud that all of the girls and young women in my life—my many students, my two nieces, my best friend’s daughter, and so many more—are going to grow up knowing that it is possible to become president but also knowing that we are still fighting for this. My aunt’s nine year-old daughter does dream of becoming president; this dream can still come true.

I am proud that even though we have a long way to go, we are being respected now more than ever before; however, it definitely does not seem that way sometimes… a lot of times. Even though our candidate was not named president-elect, she did win the popular vote and conceded the election with grace, dignity, and class—a fine representation of so many of the women who I have learned from and been inspired by. Her defeat has caused a lot of anger and frustration in men and women alike. So many women in my life have taught me to be strong, independent, and self-valuing. This lesson has been taught to many of my generation, many of whom are also fighting for equality; it is a lesson that cannot be untaught.

I am proud to say that even in defeat, we have still taken a big step forward. The anger of many is indicative of an ever-growing actualization: we will continue to fight for equality and not waver in our pursuit to do so. We will (and must) continue in our mothers’, grandmothers’, and great-grandmothers’ names to be resilient and steadfast in our demand for equal treatment, that we should be held to the same standards as men and not criticized for our gender. We can and will be vocal in the face of misogyny, assertive when in the midst of sexism, and open in our experiences with sexual assault—we will be determined to be heard in a society, within which a majority of people promote and/or minimize the age-old notion of woman as object. For standing up to these issues, I am so proud.

I am proud to say that no man (or woman) will ever take away my voice, my self-worth, or my vigilance. He will not take away our (and I say OUR) progress nor the efforts we have made to uplift women everywhere of all color and creed, whether in mind, body or spirit. As a girl, I fought against the advances of grown men—many have been less fortunate than I. As a young woman, I too was assaulted, insulted and shamed—many have been less fortunate than I. As a grown woman, I have been discredited, devalued, and insulted for simply being a woman—many have been less fortunate than I. This is no new game for us; and no one, not even the president of the United States of America, will take away all that we have fought for. We together can travel much further than those who make these charges against us. And to those who try, I pity you.

I am proud to have so many men in my life who are, for lack of a better word, real men. These men—my grandfathers, my father, my brother, my friends, my GAY friends—are real men because they have no need to exert superiority over women. They are kind, strong, supportive, intelligent, creative, and fun. They understand that women are to be respected and treated fairly, listened to rather than silenced, promoted rather than objectified. These are the types of men who listen to your thoughts and care about your feelings—sometimes running parallel to attraction and sometimes not. Let us not forget that they too have been taught (as have women themselves) to devalue and objectify the female sex. It’s not their fault that they (as we all) have been taught these lessons. But it is the fault of WE as a people that these ideas continue to go unquestioned. It is the obligation of us all that sexism always be addressed.

I am proud to be a woman who admits fault for actual faults and claims rewards for actual rewards. I am proud to be a woman who wants to earn what she deserves—no less and no more because of her sex. I am proud to have a mind, a voice, emotions (ALL OF MY EMOTIONS), and the guts to stand up for myself—many have been less fortunate as I. So I am so very proud to stand up and speak out for all of those who cannot. In the face of a misogynist, sexist tyrant, sexual predator, and a man who is not really a man… I will learn from our champion, Hillary Clinton who recently told our younger female generation:

“Never doubt that you are valuable, and powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

Hillary Clinton, thank you for being so strong and for being our champion—in this defeat, you are still my champion, and I am still so proud.

I’m Not Talking About Football

Lately, I feel like I’ve been having the same conversation over and over with people who can’t seem to wrap their heads around a simple truth. When a woman is the first to do something that has only been done by men, it is a great moment worth celebrating. She will not be perfect. And that is okay. Because guess what, no one is perfect…this is not a new concept. So when I’m having this conversation about first-woman moments, I think it’s important to talk about what really matters.

First I want to make clear what does and does not matter. What does not matter is who she is. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Not right now. What does not matter is if she has made mistakes. What does not matter is what she looks like–don’t even go there. What does not matter is your opinion of her or how you feel about her. It doesn’t matter and it never will. And that’s okay too. My opinion doesn’t matter either.

What matters is the glass that is shattering around us because SHE (whoever she is) busted a fucking glass ceiling with her bare hands. What matters is that SHE (whoever she is) is the first, and that is not an easy job. It’s not easy breaking glass with your bare hands. Have you tried it? Of course you haven’t. Do you know why you haven’t? Because you are a man and you haven’t had to. But SHE (whoever she is) has embarked on this job for herself, for me, for all the women and girls in the world, and for all the women and girls that have yet to be born–that matters. SHE hasn’t done it all by herself. Women have been beating on that glass ceiling for a long time–that matters too. So before you try to beat me in some sort of historical debate, believe me… I KNOW…WE ALL KNOW. The fact is this: SHE is the first. SHE (whoever she is) has a much bigger and harder job than any man has ever had in that position. And that matters a whole lot.

The conversation I keep having should be simple. But time and time again people keep trying to steer the conversation into all the nonsense that does not matter, making the conversation ridiculously and unnecessarily complicated. Maybe the people who I’m talking to are just freaking out because of the glass shattering on their heads. Who knows.

The conversation finds itself within many different contexts. The context doesn’t matter either–the context changes constantly–so I chose football. Football seems to be something that might be easy for YOU to understand. But since the conversation is not actually about football, YOU will likely talk about things that don’t matter.

When reading the conversation, you will have to figure out if you are ME or if you are YOU. If you are ME, you will likely be familiar with the conversation already. If you find yourself to be YOU, you can fuck off and get a clue. Then come back when you finally realize I’m not talking about football.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016.

ME: Kathryn Smith is the first woman to hold a full-time coaching position in the NFL. What a great day in American history!

YOU: I disagree with her coaching methods.

ME: That’s not the point. She is the first female to be a full-time NFL coach.

YOU: You must really like the Buffalo Bills.

ME: I never said that.

YOU: There have been other female coaches. Why aren’t you talking about Jen Welter?

ME: Jen Welter was not hired as a full-time coach. Kathryn Smith is the first ever woman to be hired as a full-time NFL coach.

YOU: I don’t want to start an argument about football with you, but I will say that I will not be supporting the Buffalo Bills this season.

ME: I honestly don’t care what team you support. And I’m not really even talking about football. I’m talking about women in football.

YOU: Kathryn Smith is a terrible coach.

ME: Even if she is “terrible,” there are plenty of full-time coaches in the NFL that people feel are “terrible.”

YOU: How can you agree with her coaching?

ME: I never said anything about her coaching. What I’m saying is that this is a special moment for women and girls—finally a woman is a full-time coach. Until now, the position has only been held by men.

YOU: I want to see a female coach too. And I think the NFL should hire more women. But I don’t support Kathryn Smith.

ME: If you want to see more women in football, it is important that you recognize this moment as a historical moment worth celebrating.

YOU: We have very different views on football. We will have to agree to disagree. I care about you too much to fight you on this.

ME: Indeed, we have different views. But I’m not talking about football. I’m talking about women.

Peeing in a Cup. It Never Gets Easier.

Peeing in a cup is a difficult and daunting task that women forget about… until that moment when the nurse hands you the dreaded plastic cup and points to the restroom down the hall. You see, for girls and for women, peeing in a cup is like trying to catch a fly ball when the sun is in your eyes. You just hold the baseball glove in the air and pray that the ball doesn’t smack you in the face. Maybe if the cup was a different shape, it might be easier. But its not—it’s a circle, and a small one at that.

And it never gets easier. Every time feels like the first time; and I have a pretty clear memory of being a scared little girl alone in a strange bathroom looking at the cup and thinking, “How exactly am I supposed to do this?” I still ask that question when looking at that cup, dreading what’s to come and just praying that everything will go smoothly.  It’s a humbling experience that will likely make even the most mature, most brilliant women feel like terrified little girls. And I think it’s because, like trying to catch a fly ball that you can’t see, you have so little control in the matter.

Here’s the deal if you don’t already know what it’s like for a woman to pee in a cup: it is tricky because you cannot see what you’re doing. You can’t see where the cup is in relation to where the pee is coming from and you can’t see, or even accurately map the pee’s trajectory. You also can’t see how much you are releasing into the cup. You don’t want to “give it all you got,” so to speak. But you are supposed to fill it up to the line the nurse marks for you, which isn’t a whole lot of pee but more than a little bit. You definitely don’t want too much, because then you have to make a weird decision to either present an overly full cup of pee to the nurse or try to pour some of it out, both of which are just strange situations to be in. With all of that, there’s a lingering fear that you will miss and pee on the edge of the cup, or worse, on your hand.

My most recent experience was even more unpleasant than I expected, despite my thinking that it’s no big deal–I’ve done this before and I can do it again, no problem! It was a year ago and I had to take a drug test for a job. It was early in the morning and all I wanted was to get in and get out quickly.

The nurse hands me the cup and guides me to the bathroom where whatever shred of self-confidence and whatever amount of grace and poise I try to hold onto, vanishes very quickly. Sure enough, there’s a mark on the cup. I approach the task with contrived confidence. After 30 years of life in this world, here I sit: awkwardly placed on a toilet, legs spread wider than usual, one hand holding my dress up around my ribs and the other hand with a small cup searching for the right spot, just as I did as a child.

You can do this. Just pee a little. Stop peeing. Lift up the cup. Not enough. Reposition the cup. Add more pee. Careful! Not too much! Stop peeing. Lift up the cup. Still not enough. Add more pee. Only a little. How much is a little? Lift up the cup. DAMNIT! Almost there. Try again. Pee. STOP!!! Lift up the cup. Finally!

And finally I sit, continuing to pee without the cup, like a normal human. Feeling relieved in the moment, I very quickly realize that I’m not out of the woods just yet. Remember, I have one hand holding up my dress and the other holding the cup of pee. And I still have a couple things to do before I’m free, including pulling up tights.

First things first: I need some toilet paper. To free one hand, I let go of my dress and carefully pull it around to my lap. And I really try to get by with only one hand, but the toilet paper is kind of far away. At every attempt to rip the toilet paper, more toilet paper comes rolling… cascading out of the dispenser and onto the floor (which was quite dirty for a medical facility). There I am, a grown woman sitting awkwardly on a toilet with the skirt of my dress wadded up on my lap, one hand holding a cup of pee, and the other hand holding the end of a recklessly formed pile of toilet paper on the floor. This is ridiculous, I thought. I need to use both hands.

I hadn’t even noticed until I did. There’s no lid. THERE IS NO LID. Bizarre as it seems, I make the decision to be okay with setting down the cup of pee without a lid. But where? I look around. On top of the sink? It’s even further away than the toilet paper dispenser, and too small. On top of the toilet paper dispenser? Not enough space. You might think that on the back of the toilet is a good place. It’s not. It’s slanted. Where the fuck! The floor? THE FLOOR?!

So again, there I am, a grown, 30 year-old woman with my professional attire in a crumpled heap on my lap, sitting uncomfortably on a toilet between my own mound of toilet paper on the floor to my left and my lidless cup of pee on the floor to my right. The cup of pee is staring at me, daring me to kick it over. And I want to. In my growing frustration, I want to kick something, anything, especially that cup of pee. But I don’t because I’m a grown ass woman.

Finally, FINALLY, I am standing. My tights are up, my dress is back in position. I am NOT kicking over the cup of pee. Instead, before I wash my hands, I pick up my mess of toilet paper that I childishly created, and I throw it away. The icing on the cake for this story, or if you will, the lid on your cup of pee, is this: not only is there no soap to wash my hands with, but the faucet is broken. I try shifting the handle in every direction about a million times. There is no water. I can’t even rinse. Even if I could rinse, there are no paper towels and there is no hand dryer. Fuck it.

I walk out of that horrid bathroom with a warm, lidless cup of pee in hand. My chest is out and my head is high. I’m walking down that hallway, which was pretty short, with cool ferocity–but still careful to not spill the pee.  I’m glaring at everything in sight as if even the chairs and doorways had been rooting against me, waiting for me to fail. Fighting the urge to express to the nurse my intensified animosity, I present that perfectly portioned cup of pee to the nurse with the strangest sense of pride that I have ever felt in my whole life.

This Morning

This morning, I walked outside hoping to catch the bus, and I was like “snow? or little pieces of trash?” Neither would surprise me. Neither was wanted. It turns out that it was snow, and I found myself annoyed. You’d think one would prefer snow to trash floating around their heads. Not me. Not this morning. This morning, I prefer trash.