Archive for October, 2017

the asking

October 26, 2017 2 comments

Tell me what lives like a storm
of secrets, tucked inside your skin
like a scar of tragedies, a lighthouse
of wanton shame, hesitation
that sings
like falling stars—
messy and imprecise,
absence in all its splendor.

Show me where the world bends
within your soul, the moments
where your heart folds in on itself,
a labyrinth of want, wild
in its own grief.

Keep the sweetness at bay—
this, a green apple,
that, a mouth of salt,
here, skin like sin,
a slink of fire, a match
of hip, the touch of hands
a rebellion.

Offer me what breaks
like a fever, relief
flooded and flushed out,
the last temptation of everything
you never said aloud,
the slow burn of stars
howling into the night.

Categories: poem, poems, Poetry, Uncategorized

the odd, unvarnished predatory gaze

October 18, 2017 3 comments

There’s meme going around, asking women to post #MeToo if they’re ever been sexually harassed or assaulted. While it should never be the expectation that women should speak up (because the culture surrounding victims is not a safe one, for too many reasons to list here), this is an attempt to show how pervasive the problem.


But the truth is simple: there isn’t a woman who haven’t been touched by this. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you are wearing, or even if you’re married. This does not come as a surprise to any woman, because this is the life we live. Day in and day out.


A few weeks ago, I stopped at the liquor store, dressed in lazy girl chic: yoga pants, sneakers, barely any makeup, and a comfy tank top. I had a light jacket on too. I was certainly not dressed to impress. In fact, I deliberately dressed to be inconspicuous. On the way back to my car, a random guy Hannibal Lector stared at me as he slowly drove by.


It is a particular menace that doesn’t lend itself easily to words. It is unsettling a best, a prick of alarm that roils in your stomach. Not an overt threat, but something still obvious, a sly bit of leering that strips you of your humanity. And there’s nothing you can do except stand there and wait for it to pass, what for threat to drive on by.


There’s always a moment, a choice, where you can call that person out. Say, what the hell? Challenge them. You can possibly back that person off, but you can also possibly make it worse. See, men fear women will laugh at them. Women fear men will kill them. And it’s true. So, you have a split second to read the situation, assess the other person, decide what to do. Or not do.


And given that, most women just ignore it. Because it’s safer, easier. Because we’re constantly told not to cause a fuss, to be quiet. Don’t poke the bear. We’re constantly interrogated about what we did to contribute to someone else’s actions, as if men aren’t to blame for their own choices. As if “moved on her like a bitch” isn’t suddenly a bit of vernacular.


It’s not locker room talk. It’s not boys being boys. It’s inexcusable.


And it does matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. It doesn’t matter if you’re someone’s sister, daughter, or spouse. (Because women are people, not possessions. And I don’t matter because of your relationship to me. I matter, because I’m a person.)


  • At a garage sale when I was in my early twenties, a man asked if my friend and I were for sale.
  • Arriving at a meeting with a colleague, another exclaimed, “Gee, I didn’t know I was supposed to bring a date.”
  • At a job, someone said that women should be seen and not heard.
  • Strangers private message me on FB, often inappropriately.
  • Last week at a gas station, a man stared at me so hard that I think he forgot to blink or breathe.
  • I’ve been inappropriately touched or kissed more times than I can count.
  • A boy in college, pissed I wouldn’t date him, told me off by inventing a fake girlfriend. As if his lack of available was supposed to erase his dudebro idiocy.
  • “Who’s the pretty girl? Wow, she’s really pretty” was an OK thing a dude bellowed about—not to—me once.
  • Because there’s always That Guy you avoid like the plague at work, an event, or a party.
  • Because a professor once implied that, because of how I was dressed (a skirt and boots), that I was a stripper. (I know strippers. They’re great people. Keep your bullshit.)
  • Because “you know you want it” and “what’s your favorite sexual position?” felt like good conversation starters to more than one man.
  • Because I had to stop getting coffee in the morning, at a convenience store, because there were always creepers, who were always starring. It was easier not to deal with it. Yes, I chose to not get coffee. Me. The coffee fiend.
  • Because I always know the way out of a room, if I need to leave quickly.


The list is endless. That’s a smattering. The truth is that I know more women who have been raped or sexually assaulted than not. If you think that a woman has somehow blazed through this impossible-to-avoid gauntlet unscathed, you’re wrong. If she hasn’t told you, she doesn’t trust you. Or she feels shame, because we’re often handed responsibility for other people’s actions. As girls, we are told not to wear tank tops to school, that yoga pants are a distraction.


Boys aren’t told to behave themselves. Girls are told to alter their appearance, because boys. And it’s wrong. Even now, if I wear yoga pants and some random man creeps on me, it has nothing to do with what I’m wearing. It has everything to do with his sense of entitlement, the odd, unvarnished predatory gaze has nothing to do with me. It’s his failing.


And here’s the thing: women can speak up. And they are, as they are able, if they can dig themselves out of that whole of embarrassment and shame-grief. Because you never know how a man might retaliate. You never know what the consequence will be—just that it will be something. So, when speaking up, a woman takes an unquantifiable risk, usually either because she’s fed up or trying to protect future possible victims.


When women speak, listen. But more than that, gentlemen, use your voices. Not to say #MeToo or give some vague show of Facebook solidarity. As a friend recently observed to me, that’s the online version of “thoughts and prayers.” What you can do is confront your creeper friend who stares inappropriately. Call out the dude at work for saying unacceptable things. Don’t let something slide by “as a joke,” because even if we are laughing, we really aren’t.


In fact, there’s a whole list of things you can do, right here. Still with me? Good. Now, go do something constructive.

Categories: Uncategorized


October 10, 2017 1 comment

Recently, Brie Larson stated that “To live life as a woman is to live life on the defense.” Unfortunately, she’s not wrong. And even more unfortunately, sometimes, that extreme, layered caution isn’t enough. With the recent issues regarding Harvey Weinstein coming to light, I have some thoughts.


Whisper networks exist as a workaround, not a solution. If you’re a woman, you know this routine and can dance it in your sleep: “Hey, so, be careful around Bob. He’s been here forever. He’s friends with Joe. But just…don’t go anywhere alone with him, ok?” Women talk—when they do—to warn others away. Sure, you can go to HR or someone in a position of authority. You can cause a scene when someone slips his hand, uninvited, down your pants…but.


It’s the ‘but’ that’s troubling, because a million things matter at once: Will you be believed? Will he retaliate? Will it damage your reputation?


Too often, a confession about a pervert/creeper/rapist is met with something maybe worse than a deafening silence: denial. Indignation. Defense.


Oh, but he’s such a nice guy. I can’t believe that.

He seems so well liked.

But he’s never done anything to me.

That can’t be right. Maybe you’re misremembering.

That’s just how he is. He’s really friendly.

No, he’s just awkward. He doesn’t have good social skills.


Spoiler alert: creeps and assholes aren’t overtly creeps and assholes all of the time, without discretion. That’s often a factor in how long they get away with it. Asshole camouflage, if you will. So, it warrants saying: just because a man wasn’t inappropriate with you, that doesn’t mean someone else’s experience is therefore false.


Truthfully, most people don’t stand up and name their accusers, because of fear. That fear is easily reinforced, daily, in a multitude of ways I’m not going to get into here. But that fear is usually founded in the idea that this person, abusing his authority, will abuse it further–and obviously, to your detriment. There’s always the fear that people will, instead of believing you, point a finger at you, laying the blame not at your feet, but in your bones.


What were you wearing?

Were you drunk?

Are you sure you didn’t encourage him?

Maybe you flirted with him a little too much, and he got the wrong idea.


I could go on, ad nauseam, but I won’t. I’ll just say this: any woman who comes forward does so at great cost (emotionally, at the very least) and great risk. Anyone who meets her confession with silence or denial is part of the problem. Period. And if there’s been a cadre of douchecanoes running around behind the scenes, making sure things stay quiet? Culpable. A co-conspirator. An accessory to harm.


Women are tired. They’re tired of folks like James Woods, being hideously gross toward a young Amber Tamblyn. They’re tired of having to dress a certain way to hopefully avoid being harassed, even though we know that clothing has no bearing on whether or not the crime happens. But, sometimes, we tell ourselves it will lessen our chances. It will dissuade creepers from the never-ending saga of creep.


Back to the Weinstein story: I am deeply revolted that a gaggle of men who have benefited from their relationship with Weinstein are silent. I am also disgusted to learn that an earlier news story was quashed, apparently with the help of forever problematic, but now downright awful Matt Damon—and Russell Crowe.


There are good men out there. I’ve been lucky to know a bunch of them, to count them as family and friends. To be able to say, hey, Jensen Ackles is a good person. To be able to say, if I have a problem, I know so-and-so will back me up, believe me. I’m lucky that when I speak, someone always listens and makes noise. That I have a heap of girlfriends who will always listen, advise, and stand beside me. That’s not nothing. It’s everything.


But things have to change. Men have to step up and challenge things. Because for every Kevin Smith and George Clooney, there’s an infinity of silence and Damons. For every Emma Thompson, there’s a Donna Karan (which, bye Felicia, you peaked in the late 90s). And that’s not okay. It’s not okay for a victim’s first thought is either will someone believe me or was it my fault? We’ve been conditioned to brace for the excuses and the bullshit. We’ve been conditioned to ingest the blame like poison.


Just look at what Rose McGowan’s had to goddamn deal with the past week or so. She’s having to defend herself and her own experiences, because even the specter of a man’s previous power has more weight than her own words.


And frankly, honestly, no. That’s enough. It’s enough. It’s too much and too long. And I don’t know how to stop it, but I know that speaking about it is necessary.


Are we friends? Do we know each other in passing or more than that? My door is always open. Some dude creep on you? Concerned about someone who just seems this side shy of inappropriate? Bring it here. Worried that I won’t believe you, because this dude and I are friends? Don’t be.


I will believe you.

Categories: Uncategorized