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Saying “no”

18 Oct

I want to tell you what happened to me last night. I am sad to tell you it also happened to hundreds, possibly thousands of other women last night. In the past, it has very likely happened to your sister, daughter, wife, mother, or friend. It has also probably happened to you. Last night, I had sex with a man. I did not want to do it. I put myself into a situation where it could happen, but I did not want to. I did not say yes, and I did not say no. I said nothing.

After it happened, I felt. I felt afraid. I felt violated. I felt used. I felt dirty. I felt disgusting. I felt like an idiot. I felt that it was my fault.

Do you want to know why I said nothing and why I made a decision that put myself into that situation? It’s because I was afraid he would be mad if I said no and that he would tell “everyone” what I did. I’m 46 goddamn years old. I’m intelligent and strong and fucking amazing, and I was afraid to stand up for myself.

For several years, when I was a little girl, I was raped and tortured by a member of my family. He literally held his hand over my mouth so I could not scream, and he whispered in my ear, “No one will believe you if you tell.” Last night, I was transported to that time, not because I was being mistreated but because I believed what my abuser told me. And even after years of therapy, I still do.

Recently women and men have been sharing their #metoo stories to raise awareness of the magnitude of the problem of sexual assault and harassment. I want to suggest that what happened to me last night is a result of a culture in which women (and men) believe they have no choice but to accept what happens to them, whether they are raped or violated or touched or spoken to in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

We believe it’s our fault. We believe no one will listen or care or understand — even when we know our friends and family have had the EXACT SAME EXPERIENCES — so we remain silent.

I’m sharing this story today because I want you to know you are not alone. I want you fathers and brothers and husbands to know this is happening to women you love. I want you to teach your daughters that they don’t ever have to say yes, or remain silent, when they feel pressure to engage in sexual behavior. If you think 9 or 12 or 14 years old is too early to hear that kind of message, I want you to know I was 9 when my abuse finally ended.

I didn’t say no. But I’m saying it right now. No. Fucking. More.

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Flying off the handle

24 Jan

In the last few days, I have eaten copious amounts of butter. I use food, you see, as a coping mechanism. I’m not saying it’s right or good, but it’s better than some of the alternatives (i.e. hitting people, breaking things, yelling, drinking, using drugs).

It is necessary for me to cope because a lot of shit is going down — in the world and in my personal life. And I think it’s true to say that it is rare for me to get angry, or at the very least to show my anger. I usually stuff it. I’m not saying it’s right or good. I just figure most of the time when I feel upset about something, it is best for me to wait a day or two to gain some perspective rather than expressing my feelings in the heat of the moment.

But sometimes…

I’ve been seriously pissed off several times in the last few days, and I have communicated my frustration to people who I believe 1. care and 2. can actually do something about the situation.

I try very hard to be civil and to clearly express myself in these situations. I use curse words only if they help to emphasize the severity of the infraction. I offer reasonable suggestions to remedy the problem. And then I thank the listener(s) for his/her/their time. Sometimes it helps, and other times it just gets me labeled as a whiny bitch.

A lot of shit is going down, you guys. People (friends and family members) are saying nasty things to each other without listening or offering solutions. I don’t think we are more divided now than we were six months or a year ago. I think some of us now think it’s acceptable to call names and insult people who don’t agree with us, and I’m sad to say our leader is a prime example of that notion.

So, get pissed, but use your words wisely. Whether they are a matter of public record or not, they are important and cannot be erased once you’ve uttered them.

And eat a ton of butter if that helps.

Being responsible

7 Jun

The last 12 months have brought me a little bit more than my fair share of heartache. I fell in love with a man who disappeared, later reappeared, and turned out to be a pretty bad person. I got really sick. I got into big trouble at work. I left my job of nearly 10 years. I put my cat to sleep. I hurt my leg and can’t run like I used to.

To be sure, there have been some wonderful moments: two new nephews were born into our family, and we found out my first niece will be coming in September. Lots of interesting job possibilities have opened up for me, and I recently started working toward my dream of becoming a personal trainer. But as I prepare to turn 42 years old at the end of this month, I look over the last year and honestly feel a little bit like I got the short end of the stick.

Here’s the deal about that though — I accept responsibility for the part I’ve played in everything that’s happened in my life. I made decisions and took actions, and a lot of the bad things I’ve faced are the result of those decisions and actions. So I can’t really feel sorry for myself, and truthfully I don’t. I’m just really, really ready for something good to happen in my life.

When you accept responsibility for the bad stuff in your life, I think that means you can also accept responsibility for the good things. Or at least you can believe that you have the power to turn things around or to change your outlook. I think I’ve been making good decisions and taking positive actions lately, and I hope that on my birthday I can put this difficult year to rest in order to make room for some amazing things to happen in my life.

May your choices and actions put you in a good place today. And if they don’t, may you have the grace to forgive yourself and the wisdom to accept responsibility so that you too can make room for good things.