Saturday, September 29, 2018

To the Good Men of America

Dear Good American Men,

I am writing to ask you a favor. But before I get to that favor, I want to explain some things, so please listen.

Men are not like women. I know that we want to erase the lines and I know that I would have been just as fine a Navy pilot as most men and that men can be terrific knitters if they want to. But our experiences in life are really, really different. For example, here are some ways in which our worlds are different.

  • You've never had a fight with your underwear. In fact, I bet your underwear has never tried to kill you. Don't believe me about deadly underwear? Corsets can restrict breathing so much that a woman can suffocate. And hoop skirts and bustles had a tendency to knock over oil lamps and catch on fire. Now, I don't wear a corset or a hoop skirt very often, but I have two words for you: Spanx and underwire. Seriously, ask your women friends to explain how long it takes to put on a pair of Spanx and how much fun it is to go around all day with a wire stabbing you in the armpit.
  • You can reach stuff we can't. You are on average taller than us. And did you know that a man's arm span is usually 2 inches longer than his height? Guess what? The average woman's is only 0.5 inches longer. I discovered this when I let my 6'2" husband unpack the kitchen in our first apartment. He put the plates on the top shelf. I had to get a stool every time I needed a plate. Husband said well, you didn't give me any instructions, which is true. So I do now. Every time we unpack a house, which is very often because the State Department moves us a lot, I say, Husband, stay away from the kitchen stuff! 
  • You know how when you go to the movies with a woman and we want to sit on the aisle and you want the middle and so we put our purses on the seat next to us and you say that's rude and we're taking up extra seats? Well, it's not only because we don't want to put our purse on the floor. It's also so that Bad American Men don't sit next to us. Oh, you've never been groped by a stranger in a movie theater and were traumatized by it and are still afraid decades later? Good for you! That is another way we are different.
  • When you go on a date, you just throw on nice jeans and a shirt. You don't usually try on ten different dresses and reject them all and then try jeans and a nice top and then have to decide between the shoes that will hurt but look sexy, or the shoes that you can run away in. Oh, you don't dress defensively? You don't know what that is? Well, that is dressing in a manner so complicated and hard to get off so that your potential rapist just gives up like a parent trying to get Barbie out of the package on Christmas morning who just hands it to their crying child and says--that's not packaging--that's her force field! It's supposed to stay on!
  • I bet that you don't know what hat pins are for. Women don't wear hat pins anymore, we have rape whistles and keychain sirens and pepper spray instead. But back in my grandmother's day, she wore hats and she used a pin to keep them from blowing away in the wind. But she also made sure she had one on every date so she could jam it into a man who was attacking her. My grandmother. In the 1930s. Her own mother born in the 1800s taught her that. Bet you didn't know your great grandmother also had to fight off Bad American Men and her only weapon was a hatpin and maybe a hoop skirt on fire.
Now, there is a way that we are exactly the same which you might think isn't true but it is. And that is when really bad stuff happens, we don't want to talk about it. Oh, I know you think that women want to talk about everything. You think that women just want to talk and talk until they have talked you to death. But you are a Good American Man and you know that really that is just our way of processing things--we need to hear it out loud. But some things are too painful to process, and so we push them down, lock them up, and hide them away until they ooze out and rise up like smoke under a shut door and signal to everyone that something is on fire.

Oh, you might not think that we are the same in that way, but we are. I've seen it. Men don't like to talk about things that hurt them. You know how when you have a rotten day at work and your boss yells at you and you just want to quit your job or punch someone but you need the job so you come home and slam the door and your woman says what happened and you say I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT! And you don't ever talk about it?

How about when something embarrasses you like the time you were giving a presentation and your pants had split and everyone could see your underwear and nobody told you until after you were done speaking to an auditorium of 500 people and when your woman brings it up years later, you say THAT NEVER HAPPENED! And you pretend it didn't?

Well, here is the thing. Those were events that were painful and embarrassing and you don't want to talk about them. Now, I finally get to the favor. I want you to imagine that it was something so bad that you thought you were going to die. In fact, you'd been lectured your whole life by adults who meant well that you SHOULD die rather than let it happen to you. And it does happen, and you want to die, but you don't and you just want to go to sleep and pretend it never happened. And so you do. You shower and throw away the dress/skirt/shorts/bathing suit/prom gown you were wearing and shove it way down in the garbage can and you never talk about it again. And when someone brings up that pool party/dinner/football game/prom night years later, you almost say something. But you still really don't want to think about it. So you just smile and say oh, I don't remember that night. But you do. You remember every single second of the event and it changes you forever. And you never trust anyone the same way again. Imagine that. Something so painful that you CAN'T talk about it because it feels like it will rip you in half if you do.

Now, look me in the eye and ask me why didn't the woman report it to the police. Can you still do that after thinking about it from her perspective? If you really can imagine being hurt that way, by someone much bigger and stronger with a longer arm span who doesn't care if you are having a good time or not and is willfully hurting you for their own pleasure, you won't be able to. And if she is braver than most of us and she does tell someone, could you please believe her? And not accuse her of lying or threaten her and her family or say that she's only doing it for the attention? Because I promise you, she knows what kind of attention speaking out will bring her and none of it is good.

If you could just listen and support her and not judge her for coming forward, that, well that would be better than all the brownies in the world. Because by not judging her, you will change the world. And we really, really need you to do that so that our daughters no longer have to carry around hat pins.


(Please note that I realize men of color, and transgender men, and gay men have different perspectives. But this is a plea to men who live most of their lives being believed and not being persecuted or stalked and are only ever in dangerous situations that involve sports or driving very fast which they can choose to do on purpose. They are the ones I need to listen. Thanks.)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Transcontinental traveling--I'm doing it wrong

It's 6am on Mother's Day and I'm across the world from my lovelies and am sitting in the airport lounge in Newark looking at they NYC skyline and wishing my family were here with me. Child 2 is only a 1 hour flight away, but sadly, I'm not going to see her. I'm on my way to Knoxville, TN for work; long story short, just accept that someone who works for the State Department in India actually has a good reason for going to Knoxville for work.

It's a cloudy day in Newark, but I can still see the Freedom Tower ascending into the clouds and the lights on the George Washington bridge blinking in the foreground. Each time I see this view, it's like a sharp needle to my heart. When I was little, my parents thought it might be fun to go to NYC and walk between the towers of the World Trade Center. I was afraid to look up so mostly I saw gum and cigarette butts on the sidewalk. Now that I am no longer scared of heights, I would love the chance to do it again. But they are gone, and a piece of m childhood and my heart with them.

However, lest you think this is going to be a sad post, I am not really melancholy; I just have a raging headache and I hurt all over from being 14 hours on a plane and not sleeping. I used to do that every time I traveled, mostly because when the children were small, one of them would always be awake and whining that she was bored. One awful flight across the Pacific, (this was in the days before personal entertainment screens in the seatbacks,) they showed Hellboy as the movie and totally freaked out Child 2. Who then woke up Child 3 who immediately started screaming and woke up Child 1 who yelled at everybody to shut up. And of course, I was completely outnumbered because Husband had flown back to Korea the week before and I was alone with three kids, none of whom would sleep. The entire 747 hated me. And that was my worst flight ever--until last night.

I normally don't mind flying alone because I discovered when you don't have children to worry about, you can actually sleep! So I was all set in my Economy Plus seat on the aisle with easy access to a bathroom. I got out my memory foam neck pillow and put on my noise canceling headphones and went to sleep.

Now, some things to keep in mind about me. 1) I usually travel overnight in a maxi skirt because I discovered that the weight of a skirt and slip on my legs feels like a blanket and I sleep better and then I'm not tempted to use the icky airline blanket which after seeing one swabbed on the news about e.coli bacteria being everywhere I refuse to touch. Also, no zipper or digging waistband. 2) I have lots of food issues, and even though I ALWAYS request a gluten-free meal, about 50% of the time they don't have one for me. So I play Russian roulette with the airplane food and guess which one I think won't have wheat gluten or dairy in it. So last night, no GF meal so I asked for the chicken and mashed potatoes with tomato gravy. Big, big mistake. Huge! Because about an hour after I went to sleep, I woke up feeling something was really wrong. I was so groggy, I had a hard time pinpointing that I was really nauseated. So I got up to go to the bathroom, and of course the ones near me were all full. And then my slip fell off. Literally just slipped off and fell right to the ground around my feet. I suppose it could have been worse. It could have been my skirt.

But the problem with a slip on the ground is that you have to bend over to pick it up, and that did it. Up came my entire meal. I climbed over some people and ran to the back of the plane where the only open bathroom was, holding my slip in front of my face trying to keep everything down. But no luck. I vomited all over the slip and the bathroom and myself. Ugh!

Because I am a mother, though, I could not leave the bathroom that way, so after I was done making a mess, I tried to clean it and myself up. I must have been in that bathroom for 45 minutes. (Sorry everyone on that flight!) Also, I always carry an extra shirt, so I could at least change that. The slip was a lost cause, though. I just put it in an airsick bag, sealed it up, and threw it away.

I discovered that flight attendants are extra super nice if you have already cleaned up the bathroom when you tell them you were just sick in it. But that was the end of my sleeping on the flight. So now I am exhausted, and have a raging headache, and am a little smelly sitting in the airport by myself looking at NYC and wishing I had enough energy to get up and go walk around. For breakfast, I had a GF Rice Krispie treat and some ginger ale. So happy Mother's Day to me! I had planned a nice day of brunch and shopping, but now all I want is a shower and a long nap.

To my children, thank you for making me a mom. To my mom, thank you for keeping me alive all those years. (It was harder than one might think.) And to all my friends for whom Mother's Day is awful, please read this and laugh and think about me trying to only stand in front of walls all day so no one can see through my skirt because I have no slip. I assure you, I'm having a worse day than you, and I hope your day is better than a brownie. I should not think about brownies. Now I'm nauseated again. Anyone know where you can buy a slip in the Newark airport?