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.)


  1. Love you. Thank you for writing this. I'm sharing it.

  2. Jen, this is spectacular. Exactly. Thank you.

  3. Everything you write is insightful and teaching. I love reading your writings because your writings expand my understanding of our human condition. I've learned a lot from your writings that I would never have learned anywhere else.
    Keep on writing. You're making the world a better place for all your readers and for all those they influence.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Dan. It means a lot to me that you would say that.

    2. You're welcome, my dear sister. I've always been an avid reader of your blogs, ever since the very first Bad Day. You write so well I cannot be without reading your blogs. The last few years you're written less and gone deeper. That deepness teaches me. I have become a better person because of your writings.
      Thank you again.