Ten Reasons why “Dumplin” is the most perfect movie about imperfection.

2018 has been a banner year for Fat Stories. It started out with AMC’s Dietland, which was a feminist revenge dark drama starring a fat actress named Joy Nash. NBC’s This is Us continues to tell the tale of Kate Pearson, played by fat actress Chrissy Metz, and actually allowed her to *gasp* fall in love, get married and get pregnant, ALL without having to lose the extra weight.

Then there was Netflix’s Insatiable, played by… well, no fat people at all. We all know how THAT turned out.

Suffice it to say when I heard about Dumplin‘, also from Netflix, I was a little gun shy. Fool me once and all that. Sure, it had Jennifer Aniston and featured Dolly Parton’s music, but I had already been burned thanks to Alyssa Milano.

What, oh what, to expect?

I knew within five minutes that I loved it. I knew within about a half-hour it was going on the list of my favorite movies ever. By the time it ended, I knew with all certainty this is the movie I had been waiting my whole life to see, and I’m not the only one. It was brilliant, and I kick myself that I didn’t know about the book ahead of time. Every fat girl should see it with every single person who loves her. It’s that important.

Why?

Let me count the ways.

1.) It is a fat story told from the fat perspective.

As we talked about in several blogs before, a fat story without the fat perspective is simply someone ELSE’S view of what our life is like, and most of the time it’s all negative. It’s viewed through the prism of a cautionary tale, where they think our misery of being different drives our narrative. They miss out on all the details that are so important to the story. They miss out on the people we have championing us, who build us up on the regular. They also miss out on the micro-aggressions of those who can smile to our face, but we know that they don’t really mean it, which we encounter OH SO MUCH MORE than teen boys calling us fat.

The author of the book, Julie Murphy, actually IS a fat woman. (She’s also featured in a cameo at the end, which is AWESOME.) She knows our lives are so much better and so much fuller than the “woe is me I’m totally fat” garbage we normally get shoved down our throats. That authenticity is the firm foundation on which the rest of the story is built, demonstrating yet again that if we really want to see diverse characters on the screen, we need diverse writers behind the scenes.

I am totally available. Just sayin’.

2.) Representation matters.

Not only is the story written by a fat person and starring a fat person, the fat character isn’t a token one, some lone fat person in a sea of the impossibly thin. Instead, Will belongs to a diverse cast with OTHER fat people.

Shocker, right?

Given that two in three people are considered overweight and one in three people are considered obese, it is far more realistic to have a cast of characters at many stages of fat than it is to have everyone be pencil thin. In Dumplin‘, there are four notable fat characters, two girls and two adults who are the influencers of those girls. And each one has their own level of confidence and self-esteem because of their weight. It tells a much fuller tale than we’re normally given, and in doing so it allows the audience to see themselves in those characters no matter where they happen to fall themselves.

3.) The correct emphasis on change.

I read a review of Dumplin‘ that was written by someone so enthralled by the idea that the fat characters didn’t have to lose weight in order to tell the story, which seemed like such a revelation. It made me smile – considering I’ve been writing those types of stories since 2007. I’ve even published, oh, 21 of them, and I’m in the company of other authors who have done the same. They’re there if you look, but you have to refer back to #1 – you need to find the fat authors who are telling them.

As someone who has been overweight my entire life, I realized that life doesn’t wait around for me to change to start. It starts and I change. That’s how it works for ALL of us, even those of us are already mostly “perfect,” which are the stories we normally see. Fat or thin, NONE of us wait to be perfect to start, or else we wouldn’t have done one damned thing.

If you view it through that prism, it’s not surprising that not a one of our fat characters in Dumplin’ ever even tried to lose weight, even a little bit, even when signed up for a bathing-suit baring beauty pageant. It was a six-week time period, you guys. Nobody Will’s size or Millie’s size would have managed the kind of perfection you all expect from fat folks in that time. It would have been a fool’s errand and has dick to do with the story being told.

The topic of weight loss and food was barely broached at all. None were interested in it. They were too busy living their lives to worry about shedding their “fat suits” in order to start. Will, Millie, Lucy and Candee Disch (yes, she’s a Drag Queen and YASSSS, she’s fabulous,) ALL decided to take a chance on life without cowing to some antiquated notion that they needed to change first in order to do it.

Well, that’s not true. Change was needed, but it wasn’t on the scale. It that internal change that makes every OTHER change possible. Like, performing on a stage or kissing the boy you like or even, yes, losing weight if that’s the goal you want to undertake.

In fact, the emphasis on that internal change, one driven by Dolly herself, was so important that it was put in front of the train where it belonged. Will didn’t need hunky Bo to love her in order for her to love herself. There’s a BRILLIANT scene where he does tell her how beautiful he thinks she is, but realizes HIMSELF that it doesn’t matter what he says. It only matters how she sees herself. She had to work all that shit through in order to be ready for him.

THAT is romance, my people.

4.) Millie Michalchuk

The movie is named Dumplin’, about Dumplin’, but I think Millie done stole the show, y’all. Played by the incomparable Maddie Baillio, Millie Michalchuk is a fat character unlike any you’ve ever seen. She’s nobody’s sad sack. She’s lit up from the inside out, this force of happiness and positivity that is FEARLESS when it comes to shining that special light. She had wanted to participate in the beauty local beauty pageant since she was a child, but her mother denied her permission allowing her to do it, perhaps thinking she was setting her daughter up for humiliation and failure, pitted side by side with all the other girls who better fit the “beauty pageant” mold. As far as Millie’s concerned, there is no mold. She delivers a line so fucking important and powerful I want it TATTOOED on my eyelids.

biggirls

Millie is MY GIRL, y’all. Seriously. I want to be her when I grow up.

You want a representation of body positivity on screen, look no farther. The mic has officially been dropped.

(And you’ll note she’s the one who has MORE than one guy chatting her up at the pool. Just sayin’. You teach others how to treat you, and if you think that you’re acceptable as is, you might be surprise who agrees.)

5.) Willowdean Dixon

As played by Danielle Macdonald, Willowdean Dixon (AKA Dumplin’) shatters the one-dimensional molds of most fat characters. There’s a reason why the limits are so narrow around what we’ve been shown, and it all boils down to what the audience expects. You’re either brimming with confidence or you’re a hopeless, insecure sad sack. There are usually no in-betweens.

I’ve run up against this a time or two with some of my own readers, who don’t understand how one can be insecure enough to accept abusive treatment from those closest to her, but strong enough to pursue her own vision of happiness at the same time. I’ll tell you how: it’s called being human.

For the first time in a long time, a fat character is allowed to be just that.

We treat fat like it cancels out all the rest of who we are, which is a dizzying array of complexities and mistakes, triumphs and failures. Nobody gets it completely right all the time, any more than they’re completely wrong all the time. Life isn’t some tightrope where we only get a few approved moves. I’m reminded of that game on Whose Line is it Anyway, where the comedians are given two phrases that they can say, however they want to say them, but always in response to whatever is being said to them. Some folks seem to think that’s how we operate as humans. We like to keep things neat, I guess, where if we keep people in these limited roles, we always know what to expect.

Surprise people at your own peril. They’ll let you know it just doesn’t fit into their idea of you.

But that’s exactly what it is, their idea of you. I recently read that the opinions others hold of us is formed rather quickly. They pretty much figure out who they think we are in the space of a few minutes. After that, they process every new piece of information to validate that original opinion, even if it’s wrong.

Willowdean embodies this. She’s known by several names, which is the first way the storytellers dismantle this troubling phenomenon. Is she Dumplin’? Is she Willowdean? Is she Will? It kind of depends on the situation and her company, doesn’t it? But isn’t that true of everybody? And how much more would we know about someone if we stopped deciding who they were FOR them?

6.) Jennifer Aniston

It’s no secret that I am totally #TeamJennifer. I have been since the 90s. I was #TeamRachel on Friends, FFS. I would have been bummed as shit if she had Alyssa Milano’d me by playing a role in a troublesome show with an even more troublesome fat narrative.

But it’s Jennifer. She’s got our backs. This is especially important because she’s not just acting in this movie, she produced it.

Seriously, you guys… there’s so much awesome feminine power going on with this whole movie I can barely stand it. Everywhere you look, #girlpower.

In addition to producing it, Jen is literally the star of the show, but you wouldn’t know it to watch. She plays Rosie Dixon, Will’s beauty queen Mama, the tough-as-nails director who protects her award-winning pageant however she can. Everything has to be *perfect.* It regularly drives Will bananas, who proves the perfect spoil to Mama Perfect’s plans.

In another actress’s hands, Rosie Dixon might have been a two-dimensional character. But Jen is a master at work. She plays the part with such nuance it makes her limited time on screen even more impactful. She’s more than the unwitting antagonist. She herself is on her own heroine’s journey, because here’s the rub: she loves her imperfect daughter. Despite Will’s insistence that Rosie is ashamed of her, Jen plays the part as a true mom. When she introduces her daughter, there’s pride there. She doesn’t see a fat person… instead she sees her fears, which are honestly addressed in a painful scene between Will and Rosie.

It is through Rosie that the audience of our allies and those who love us get to see themselves and grow with us (if they weren’t already there with us before.) In that way, Rosie’s character, and Jen’s consummate portrayal of it, are paradigm-shifting.

7.) Aunt Lucy

Aunt Lucy was a character that we barely got to see, because she dies six months before any of the events in the movie take place. But her presence is felt everywhere.

Aunt Lucy was The Voice of Identity for Will in the same way my dad was The Voice of Identity for me. These are the people who, when we were kids, allowed us, encouraged us and supported us to be the unique individuals we are. There’s no shaming, just an unconditional love that sees past all our “flaws” and allows us to soar as high as we dare.

It is truly her voice from beyond that drives the narrative of the story. And the person we have to thank for that?

8.) Anne Fletcher

If you don’t know this name, you might want to jot it down and keep track of it. In an industry where female directors are often in short supply, Anne has six feature film credits under her belt since 2006, including 27 Dresses and The Proposal (my favorite aside from Dumplin‘.) In her very capable hands, Dumplin‘ is more than just another “chick flick.” It’s a rich tapestry of girlfriends, mothers and daughters and self-discovery as a girl in our superficially driven culture. She took a movie about fictional characters and made it feel like a love letter to me personally, because so many of Will’s challenges were my own. I had an Aunt Lucy whose voice was silenced right when I needed him the most. I ended up floundering a bit, but a best friend and the LGBT community would save me and reinforce me. In the end I found my voice and my own happy ending, even love more than once. To see that on the screen was… well, I still tear up when I think about it. I’ve never felt so seen.

This is why I say this is the movie I’ve waited my whole life to see. I wanted to be the one who wrote it, but you know what? I can’t even hate. (But I do reserve the right to envy. Hard.)

It is her sensitivity to and understanding of the source material that makes Anne a fierce ally. I literally tracked her down to thank her personally for this. The love she has for the material is sewn throughout the entire movie. You feel it, like a great big hug. I don’t think you can fake that kind of respect, which is necessary when you tell a tale that pulls no punches.

Technically speaking I loved several of the things she used to tell the tale, and I’ll be unpacking this movie for a long time to learn about filmmaking as a result. Suffice it to say that if when I DO get to tell my fat story, I know now who I want at the helm.

9.) Harold Perrineau

My bestie and I watch movies together every single week. It’s kind of our thing. We do it even though we live over a thousand miles apart, thanks to modern technology, but the truth is we used to do it when we were teenagers, too. We started mere blocks apart, watching movies at the same time while we were on the phone. Then, when I had to move away, we’d steal time with expensive long-distance phone calls.

We always want to share these things, and we find a way.

Needless to say that after we saw the trailer for Dumplin‘, it SHOT to the top of our weekend viewing plans.

It was the bestie who noticed Harold Perrineau before I did.

“Hey, that’s the guy from Lost,” he said.

It’s been more than a minute since I’ve seen Lost, so I didn’t immediately recognize the guy under the drag queen getup for the character of Lee. I HAD, however, recently seen The Best Man Holiday, where Harold plays Merch. Still, I didn’t recognize him until much later, when he was in full male wardrobe and zero makeup.

I find this astonishing, because normally my eagle eye for faces (which served me well working as a celebrity photographer’s assistant,) is marveled by all who witness it in action. How had I missed this??

I lost it all thanks to Harold’s pitch-perfect portrayal of Lee, the Drag Queen who ultimately becomes Lucy’s (and Dolly’s) voice in the movie.

Lee’s love for Will is instant. She takes her under her wing to teach her a few things about finding herself in the middle of all the noise that comes from living. Again, it reached right into my own past with all the beautiful LGBT folks who have done likewise for me. I have always felt at home going to gay bars, the reason for this is NOBODY understands what it’s like to be unabashedly proud of who you are like someone who doesn’t fit into the narrow cisgender/hetero norms that dominate and drive our culture like they do. They could probably pass for “normal” if they wanted to, but they know more than anyone who uncomfortable it is to fit yourself into the narrow little boxes imposed upon you by others. Conformity is a lie we live for the comfort of others, never ourselves.

Who better to teach us how to be ourselves without fear or excuse or compromise?

I can only think of one other….

10.) Dolly Parton

Another character who was there but wasn’t was Dolly Parton herself. That increases the awesomeness of this movie about, oh, 150%. I love Dolly. I grew up on Dolly. And I’m happy to say that this love endures with every awesome thing I found out about her. She is worth every ounce of idol worship thrown at her from the characters in this movie. And her wisdom guides them (and us) towards that spotlight where we finally get to shine. Anne’s use of the music was GENIUS, including how she ends the movie with one of my favorite DP songs of all time: Two Doors Down. This song was released in 1977, and I remember falling in love with it that first year I explored music on my own. The reason being? It’s a great story song.

The song basically tells of someone who can hear a party going on down the hall. Everyone’s having a good time and the listener feels alone and miserable because nobody seems to notice she’s there. The listener then decides to dry her tears of self-pity and go to the party uninvited, where she’s welcomed into the happy scene. She meets someone and they mosey on back to her place. “We’re having our own party just two doors down.”

This song is literally the message of the movie. Don’t wait for an invitation to belong. Just show up and see what happens.

I’m literally crying right now at how freaking perfect it all is.

IT’S JUST PERFECT, Y’ALL.

If you haven’t seen Dumplin’, I really cannot recommend it highly enough. This is the movie I’ve been waiting for, and I know I’m not alone.

It’s time to dry those useless tears and get ourselves together and join the party.

Our tribe is waiting. Our time is now.

Thank you, Julie, Jen, Anne, Dolly and EVERYONE involved with Dumplin‘. You’ve made this fat girl feel valued, validated and totally seen. Thanks for welcoming me to the party.

 

 

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Mind Colds and Soul Flu

My earliest recollection of dealing with depression was when I was eleven years old. It was after my dad passed away and life became too much for 1981 Ginger to handle.

I used to feel guilty about that. I’m a lot gentler with myself now. I treat her with the same kind of care I would treat an actual eleven-year-old. What kind of heartless bitch would I be if I expected from a child what I’ve always expected of myself? 1981 Ginger had just lost the person she loved most in the world, the one who loved her back with equal zeal. It ripped a hole in her very soul. Worse, there was no one around willing or able to patch it. Suddenly, she was emotionally and physically on her own. That wasn’t her fault. That was just how it was. The hand had been dealt.

I was a latchkey kid almost immediately, simply because my mom didn’t have the resources to pay for a babysitter. So, at eleven, I learned how to take care of my basic needs. I learned how to get myself to and from school, dressing and grooming, preparing my own meals both before and after school. It was up to me to police my own homework and manage my own free time. I was my own boss at eleven.

Add that to soul-crushing grief and that’s a lot for a little kid to handle, even a child known for being exceptional and mature.

Plus, it was 1981. There were no grief sessions with the school counselor, even after I ended up missing two straight weeks of school. I wasn’t punished (by the school) that I remember, but there was a VERY humiliating moment where the (male) coach (why is it always male coaches?) singled me out during class on my first day back to drill into me the shame that comes with my shameful behavior.

I skipped school. How dare I?

The thing is I wasn’t trying to be bad. I just didn’t have it in me to be good. That’s the insidious nature of depression. It steals not just your happiness, but your very strength. Suddenly normal life, which we all navigate day after day, seemed too big and daunting to tackle with what little energy I had left.

Given I was carrying a lot of buried trauma and a horrible secret about my own sexual assault, it was more than 1981 Ginger could handle. And I knew that, I just didn’t know how to communicate that to anyone else. Instead, I managed their expectations of me instead.

Everyone I knew expected me to roll with it. Everyone else I knew had their own secrets, their own trauma and their own pain. There was nothing special about me, except for the way I wanted to handle it – which in no way included “rolling” with it.

Everyone who has ever been ill understands what it feels like right before you come down with a serious illness, say, a cold or flu. You might start sneezing. Your throat might get scratchy. You may be zapped of all strength and ache all over. The last thing you want to think about is powering through a normal day. All you want to do is stay under the covers and sleep it off so you can feel better again as soon as you can.

Depression works like this because it IS an ailment. It’s not a moral failure, no matter how much my fifth grade coach wanted to categorize it as such. You’re legitimately sick. And just like nobody is going to get pissed at you for calling out if you’ve got fever and aches, no one should get mad at you for taking a “personal” day to regroup. (It’s a sick day, btw. Not a personal day. You’re not playing hooky from life. You’re legit running on an empty tank of gas and powering through sometimes makes it hurt worse.)

I felt sick, so I called out sick.

BUT, just like you don’t get better without medicine or antibiotics, depression doesn’t go away just because you gave yourself a break. Sometimes, and very quickly, it can sink you into a bigger pit of despair. If there’s no one there to help you out, it can cause way more damage than good.

Such was the case in 1981. I stayed home day after day because the problem loomed larger with each passing day. I had stepped out of line to catch my breath, but didn’t know how to get back in the swing of things. This amped up my anxiety, which had already reared its ugly head a time or two by then.

It was a witches brew. (No disrespect intended for any witches.) The problem got worse instead of better.

But it was 1981. Even though I was a traumatized, devastated child, I was expected by all the adults in my life to keep trudging along. Suck it up. Keep moving. Life goes on. There was no gentle guidance, just the same tired expectation of everyone else in my family. My mother was suddenly a single parent, with all the bills landing in her lap – including my dad’s 13-day hospital stay following his stroke, leading to the heart attack that would take his life on his birthday. My sister was likewise in an unhappy marriage with four small kids. Everyone was broke, broke, broke, and dealing with their own personal demons I didn’t even know about. I didn’t know about any of this back then because my family didn’t talk about stuff. They yelled. A lot. But never said a damned thing of any real substance.

We didn’t have a church family at that point, just a church. We had just moved and everything was new. No connections were made. And to be quite frank, churches have never brought me solace or comfort. It was just one more group of strangers, and we all know how I feel about strangers.

Worse, because we had just moved to the area, we didn’t have any friends, just family that was either old or broke or both.

My saving grace at this point in my life was my bestie. I met him in September of 1980. My dad died in December. After he watched that coach humiliate me in the middle of class, this new human, with more compassion in his little finger than most adults had in their whole bodies, decided to step up to the plate, ensuring that I never had to feel alone if I didn’t want to.

I can’t even IMAGINE what my life would have been like without him. Honestly, I don’t even think I’d still be here. He was and is my saving grace.

We would talk on the phone from almost the time we got home from school to the time we went to bed. Well, he went to bed. I’ve always been a night owl. Maybe I was just keeping watch, to make sure that the rug wasn’t going to be pulled out from under me AGAIN. Either way, I managed most everything on my own.

It’s remained that way in these 38 years since. I stumble. A LOT. But I keep moving.

When I tell my story to folks, they’re quick to tell me how strong I am to have endured the things I’ve had to endure in my life. The older I get, the more that staggering list towers. People often wonder how I possibly got (get) through it all.

Well, one foot after the other, usually. It started way back in 1974, when I had to tuck my trauma under the rug and pretend everything was normal. That I was normal. When my dad died, when other family members died, when I was homeless, when Dan went mental, when my son died, just on and on and over and over. I’d take the punch. It might bring me to my knees, but somehow I’d figure out a way to stand up again… even if it took a minute for me to pull myself together to regroup.

They call this strength. I don’t know about all that. I mean, what are my choices, really? Just like in 1981, I had to figure out a way to make it through and just keep moving. Time doesn’t wait for me, as Boston once sang. So, I keep going.

Sometimes I use anger like rocket fuel. I have to. Sadness is just a cousin to hopelessness, and there’s no calling out sick for two weeks while I wait for someone to come along and save me.

It’s always been on me to save myself, no matter how limited my resources might be.

I’m like my car. I have more than 100K miles on the odometer. My paint is fucked thanks to scrapes with the wall. My starter doesn’t work so I have to hot wire it in order to get it to start. My front bumper is always falling off, tied together with zip ties that can snap if I dare park too close to a cement parking divider.

Oh, and it’ll never be paid off. Ever.

It barely runs but I keep running it. It doesn’t get sick days. Neither do I. We’ll both keep on running on a wing and a prayer, hoping that some miracle will eventually come through.

Maybe then I can breathe again. One day the terror of merely existing will have to abate, won’t it? I’ll get to the place where I won’t feel like the walls are always closing in, right?

So, there’s no calling off life. I’m like my mom now. I have to make it all work, even when I’m sick, whether physically or mentally. Even when depression tries to come down on me like a thundercloud, giving me no warning whatsoever.

That was the day I had yesterday. My PTSD has been running RAMPANT for two weeks now and I couldn’t hold up under the strain anymore. Thanks to the lack of estrogen, and all the crazy menopausal mood swings, it hit HARD. I was just taking a shower like normal and suddenly the world was too much to handle. Snap your fingers. That’s how quick it happened. All those flight or fight feelings just overwhelmed me. In a moment I went completely dark, with feelings of devastation and hopelessness that nearly strangled me where stood.

It was right out of the PTSD textbook.

Negative changes in thinking and mood

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb

It wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay. I remained emotionally fragile for hours afterwards. I burst into tears at the slightest provocation. I raged at Steven who offered me food, when I was trying my hardest to dissect my feelings enough to figure out if I was really hungry or just trying to “feed the monster.”

Lately, since I’ve been trying to cope without reverting to binge-eating, it’s a crucial step I canNOT skip. I both succeeded and failed in many ways.

The victory here is that I was aware. Painfully, excruciatingly aware.

I didn’t self-destruct. That’s the win.

I wasn’t perfect. That’s the reality.

When people ask me how I get through the things I’ve gone through, this is it. It’s equal parts pushing through, like I was always taught to do, and being aware enough to know I can’t do EVERYTHING I need to do to get healthy. Therapy isn’t an option until we get back on medical benefits. I have to wait, doing it on my own, until I can scrape together the means to put my health first over my mere survival.

That means I’m also waiting an extra two months for my cancer screening. I’m having a harder time managing the anxiety over that delay than anything.

So, here I am. Waiting for my miracle. Driving my body and my life around with my figurative bumper falling off and jump-starting the car because I can’t get it to start the normal way.

I’ve never been able to get started the normal way, not since 1981.

But… I’m not giving up. I didn’t come this far to get this close, only to succumb to the darkness. It’s a struggle. Some days more than other days, like yesterday.

The good news is I’m no longer that traumatized, powerless eleven-year-old girl. I know there’s relief on the other side of this. I just have to get through it.

And now… I’m the adult that’s going to heal her. One fucking way or the other.

Screenshot 2018-10-09 16.47.47.png

 

 

Too Ugly to Rape.

Ever since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s compelling testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussing events that occurred in 1982 that were so troubling that they should give pause to a Kavanaugh confirmation to the Supreme Court, GOP leadership has been working overtime to undermine her story. They’ve gone after her credibility and belittled victims everywhere by treating this as NBD. They’ve even turned it into a laughing matter.

The latest shot fired was from Republican Lanny Lancaster from North Carolina, who, per Newsweek, posted a Facebook post featuring a photo of a young Dr. Ford. He said, “The media wants you to think she was a beautiful young lady who was on her way home from the tennis courts.…I just wanted you to see the real person. I wanted people to see that this is really her.”

Here’s the picture:

fake-dr-christine-blasey-ford-picture

And here’s the problem: It ain’t her.

(They’re lying again… the poor lil dears just can’t seem to stop themselves.)

Lancaster was called out, immediately and rightfully, that he was using this photo to discredit Ford by implying she wasn’t “pretty” enough to be assaulted in the finger-quotes way these fuckos seem to view EVERY sexual assault accusation.

Think about it. Why would two, good-looking boys with the world ahead of them want to fuck HER? Why would they EVER want to shove her in a room and force themselves on her of all people?

I’d like to answer that question, on behalf of the young anonymous girl in that photo.

They would do that because they felt they could. And nothing is funnier to certain teen boys than humiliating certain teen girls.

I know this because I am that girl.

I started junior high in 1982, when I was twelve-going-on-thirteen. Puberty was NOT my friend. I had greasy hair, acne and body odor, all those wonderful things that come along with said puberty, on TOP of being fat, having crooked teeth and being too poor to afford “the right” clothes. My mom wouldn’t let me wear makeup, so I walked around Mann Junior High like an exposed nerve.

This is me the year I met Scott, an upperclassman.

ginger7thgrade

Scott wasn’t plagued with the same teen ailments I was. He was cute. Very cute. He was popular. He was the kind of guy who showed up in all the “extra” photos in the yearbook, not just the class photo. His best friend was a PK, the “preacher’s kid,” the son of the pastor of one of the neighborhood churches – my old church, in fact. So, Scott had friends. He had favor. He also had a girlfriend. Maybe two. Both were beautiful, with luscious blonde hair in a perfect 80s flip, and cute little figures to match. (One played tennis.)

But that didn’t stop him from making sport of me that entire year.

We shared the same lunch, and of course we always ran into each other at the snack bar because what teenager wanted cafeteria food when you could have nachos, sodas, pizza, chips, etc.?

Not sure WHAT attracted him to me, given that every other boy in school treated me like I was made of plutonium. I guess he decided to have fun with the “joke” of 7th grade.

He wouldn’t call me names. He never once called me fat. He never once pointed and laughed. He never once made pig noises or jokes. His torment was much more insidious. He made the “joke” about me as a sexual target. People called me fat all the time, he wasn’t going to make a dent that way. Instead, he would ask me, loudly, from a line away, if I had a boyfriend. All the other kids would laugh because they knew there was no way I could. This is what made the “joke” so funny.

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two and having fun at my expense.” – Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

On the spot in front of all my peers, I felt forced to answer Scott’s question. I said no, which, of course, caused more laughter. I was humiliated as I turned to place my order, grab my food and get out of that situation as soon as possible (without the added humiliation of running away.)

After I got my food and made my exit, Scott – this REALLY cute, popular boy, with a REALLY cute, popular girlfriend, asked – LOUDLY – “WILL YOU BE MY GIRLFRIEND?”

This sent the rest of his audience into hysterics. SO funny, amirite? Why would a guy like that want a girl like this?

The jokes write themselves, folks.

He would keep the “joke” going for the rest of the year, just stuff he’d do/say as he passed me in the hall, to keep me WELL aware how funny he thought it was.

One day, he and his friends actually shadowed me home. I was walking the four or so blocks to my house, a straight shot down the main street of the school to the street where I lived. And they were behind me, at least three of them, making their comments, leaving me weirded out and self-conscious because I knew they were laughing at the way I looked in my jeans as I walked ahead. I already knew this was funny because my own freaking (male) cousin took THIS photo of me, which I found much later when we developed the film:

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Scott and his friends would talk loudly about sexual stuff and would occasionally yell, “Hey!” to get my attention, but I never turned around.

My heart pounded in my chest the whole way home. Part of me wondered if maybe Scott really DID like me. It was 1982 and I was just a kid, one who had been raised to believe if a boy was mean to you it was because he was too afraid to show you how he felt. (Gag.) And, like I said, Scott was really cute. I often wondered why he was so damned determined to make me notice him.

I wasn’t down with his friends following along, though, which felt scary even if I had nursed some ill-advised crush. I didn’t want to be alone with a bunch of boys. I barely wanted to be alone with one. So, I wondered worried if maybe they were going to follow me all the way home.

Fortunately, they kept going straight when I turned onto my street. It was still unsettling to know they knew that much about me after that, especially when they were so keen to target me.

To their credit, nothing ever happened with this bunch of boys. Scott never touched me. There was never an assault.

But we also didn’t go to a party and get liquored up, either. I can’t help but wonder how would he have used his power to humiliate me if we had?

I wasn’t pretty, certainly not pretty enough to warrant his sexual attention, but that didn’t mean he didn’t harass me at every given opportunity. He did it for fun. He did it for laughs, both for his own amusement and the amusement of his friends.

No one has to believe me for it to be true. No one has to believe me for it to have impacted my life in significant ways.

But, I’m not allowed my pain because “boys will be boys,” and “just look at you.”

This is how I looked when an old man grabbed my breasts in passing.

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What’s his excuse, I wonder? He was no boy and I was not pretty, yet that didn’t stop him from grabbing my breasts like he had every right to do so.

In October 2016, two long fucking years ago, the Access Hollywood tape dropped, offering proof that then presidential candidate Donald Trump had openly bragged about sexual assault. And you can argue semantics with me all day long but that doesn’t stop the fact what he bragged about is a criminal offense. Kissing without permission/not waiting for consent = assault. Grabbing someone by the pussy without consent = assault.

Don’t argue with me, take it up with the DOJ. It’s their rule.

“According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Sexual assault is basically an umbrella term that includes sexual activities such as rape, fondling, and attempted rape.” –

What Is Sexual Assault (and What Isn’t), According to the Law

As of September, 22 women have accused Trump of sexual assault, including Jessica Leeds, who said that he had grabbed her during a flight way back in the 1980s. Just like that old man in the auto repair shop, DJT allegedly lifted the arm rest and just went for it, grabbing her without her permission or consent, just like he had bragged about doing in a fit of locker room talk.

Of course, since he was running for president, he had to deny such allegations. Nobody wants a Rapist President, after all. He was asked about it and responded by basically saying she wasn’t sexually appealing enough to assault.

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Can we just make this clear once and for fucking all? RAPE IS NOT ABOUT SEX.

It USES sex because that is one of the cruelest ways to punish women – and they know this because they could think of nothing worse than if someone would invade THEM.

If you’ve ever read CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, one of the most upsetting scenes in the story is when the rape scene, where the perpetrator’s anger and envy of her daring to outsmart him or threaten his position in the “tribe” was reason enough for him to force himself on her. Violently. It is that intimate violation that makes powerless men feel empowered. They feel entitled to having all their needs met, including nursing their ego, and will punish you for denying them, no matter what you look like.

It is not about wanting to have sex with someone. IT’S ABOUT PROVING NO ONE CAN TELL YOU NO. And, for far too many of these men, it comes with the societal dehumanizing of women to mere things that have no use OTHER THAN the sexual. There’s a reason that certain men go right to the rape threats whenever a woman has displeased them.

It’s how they keep us in our place.

Rape. Is. A. Crime. It is committed by criminals who, by and large, pick their victims by a different code of desirability: how vulnerable the victim is, how easy the assault would be to commit, and how it would be easy to get away with. Thanks to the rape culture in which we live, which Lancaster ultimately feeds into with his vile implications, if we’re “pretty” society “gets” it, figuring it is somehow our fault, and if we’re not, society won’t believe us.

Either way, it works out GREAT for the criminal in question.

IF Scott and his buddies had followed me home that day, they would have found that I was a latch-key kid with a house all to myself. IF they had found their way into house, either by coercion or intimidation, and then taken turns with me without my consent, NO ONE WOULD HAVE BELIEVED ME IF I TOLD THEM MY STORY. Those kids who laughed at me in the snack bar line would have been on HIS side, saying that he would NEVER do something like that. He had beautiful girlfriends. He was popular in school. And just LOOK at me:

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Fortunately for me, this was not how my story ended because Scott and his friends weren’t, in fact, rapists. They were jackasses, but not rapists. I got off easy that day not because of how “ugly” I was, but because these particular boys had something better to do that day.

But it was really the luck of the draw. It could have gone another way. For countless other girls, it DOES go that way. And society refuses to believe them because sex gets in the way of the conversation if you’re old enough to sexually attract someone.

Nobody has ANY trouble believing that I was taken from my yard as a stranger. Not one person has EVER questioned my story. Must be because I was so freaking cute back in the day, people understand why a full grown man would want to have sex with me.

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I mean, that IS the message, right? Because my assault happened to involve sexual contact, sexual desirability OBVIOUSLY has SOMETHING to do with it, right? It wasn’t merely because I was a small person with no adult around to protect me, one that could be easily coerced from my yard and overpowered at will.

That had NOTHING to do with ANYTHING. He must have just found me too sexy to resist in my cute little skirt.

RIGHT?

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I’ve spoken at length on my desire to be undesirable. But I know ugly doesn’t stop these fuckos, as evidenced with Scott above. Instead, I opted to be bigger. I outweigh most average men by about sixty pounds still. When I pass a guy on the street, he will literally give me a wide berth. I can see the stark terror in their eyes as they evaluate what kind of threat I might pose. They fear my sexual appreciation, not because they don’t want to have sex with an ugly fat woman, but because THEY DON’T WANT TO BE OVERPOWERED. They’re scared I might use MY attraction and force THEM to do something THEY don’t want to do.

Quite telling on how they view sex and women, is it not?

Yet, for my entire life I’ve been encouraged to lose this weight to ATTRACT those types of men. With every pound I lose, I feel more vulnerable. I feel more “seen.”

BUT, here’s the catch. The same thing that made me vulnerable as a child would make me vulnerable as an old person, even if I outweigh the potential attacker. If I don’t have the physical strength to run or fight back, IT MAKES ME AN EASIER TARGET. And we all know, criminals like easy targets.

So, now I am on a tract to get fit, with an eye on exercises that double as defense training. That’s my job as a woman, apparently, whether young, old, fat, thin, pretty, ugly… it is MY job to manage my own pain because IF anything happens, it’s my fault for doing X instead of Y, and no one will believe me anyway because just look at me…

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Newsflash for Donald Trump and Lanny Lancaster, you don’t get to rewrite my story for me just because you don’t like the way I look. What happened to me, happened to me… because our tormentors use our own vulnerabilities against us, which is usually BECAUSE of how we look. By making Dr. Ford less attractive, you’re not making YOUR case… you’re making HER case. I find it MORE believable that these two entitled boys would find it funny to grab her as she was on her way to the bathroom. God knows they probably wouldn’t have been caught with her at any other point… but a private bedroom? Where no one could see what they were doing, so there would be no eyewitnesses?

I would bet you money you can’t get through the day without interacting with ONE woman who has this as her story.

I find her testimony of their laughing at her MORE believable, because I’ve HEARD that laughter, and for almost exactly the same reason. I find her accounts of feeling unsafe even MORE plausible, because I remember how unsettled *I* was to know that Scott and his friends knew what STREET I lived on. That street was one block long with precisely 36 houses on it. Those were dangerous odds to me. It affected how I lived my life from that day forward. I looked both ways down the street before I walked outside my front door. I needed to feel safe, and no longer did.

Why would I do that when I looked like this, if being ugly was a fail-safe?

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I’ll tell you why. It was because someone made me a sexual target when I was 12-13 years old. And when I was 15. And when I was four. And when I was 19. And when I was eight. And when I was 11.

Ain’t it funny how an ugly gal like me could keep running into the same old problem?

And ain’t it even funnier how the men who think a woman’s sexual desirability makes her a better target for assault look like this:

Men like this should very careful with what they’re saying. If they would rather dismiss a victim and argue what exactly attracts a rapist, then I MIGHT JUST surmise that they in fact, are a rapists.

Just some food for thought. That I kind of hope they choke on.

Fuckos.

 

 

 

 

From Sixteen Candles to Insatiable: How art has failed women.

A buddy of mine swears there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. He believes if you get enjoyment out of it and it doesn’t hurt anyone else, you should not feel guilty about something bringing you joy. If I wanna listen to ABBA , Barry Manilow or country, I can do that without worrying what the peanut gallery has to say about it. I’m not listening with their ears. No one is harmed by my playlist. I just have a bunch of songs on there that the rest of the world has decided is “uncool.”

Not exactly a deal-breaker for me.

In fact, allow me to turn it UP:

Yeah, I pretty much DGAF if you like what I like. We’re different people. It’s okay that our tastes differ. It’s okay, really, if our perception differs as well. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) We’re different people with worldviews shaped by our individual experiences. We’re supposed to look at life differently.

And art is supposed to bring us together.

What I consider more of a deal-breaker is the “message” of the art in question. What message are you both agreeing to and sending forth into the world? Does it hurt people? If so, maybe you SHOULD feel guilty.

There are songs that I LOVE the sound of, but then the lyrics start and I’m outta there. I can’t agree with or endorse the message. Then and only then would I consider the pleasure “guilty,” because it instead brings me a little shame with the joy. Suddenly, I’m not enjoying it so much anymore. Ask me how long it’s been since I’ve listened to Blurred Lines. Go on. Ask.

Lyrics are big for me. When I was much younger and thought that taking the Lord’s name in vain was cursing, I would absolutely NOT sing that word in Life in the Fast Lane even though artistically I liked the oomph it gave the lyric. In Supertramp’s Goodbye Stranger, I have never ever put “Devil” and “savior” that close together in my mouth. I won’t sing it.. because words have power and I’m selective about the energy I summon.

I’m such a stickler for the message that I immediately begin to shy away from anything that, as time clears my perspective, I realize might contribute harm to another person.

This, and only this, would make something I enjoy a “guilty” pleasure, and even then… I really don’t enjoy it. Not anymore.

Case in point: Sixteen Candles.

Most girls my age have fond memories of this sweet, romantic film and its perfect teen heartthrob, Jake. The ending scene is iconic, particularly if you were ever the kind of girl that could never get the most popular boy in high school to look twice.

One of the reasons that I’m a huge Bob’s Burgers devotee is how they pay homage to the 80s culture that means so much to me. They re-imagined the scene thusly:

This warmed my heart because John Hughes is one of my first and biggest writing idols, and a shout-out to him in today’s films will make me love them that much more. (Thank you Easy A, Deadpool and Spider-man Homecoming.)

I mourn his death to this day, and also remain inspired by his brilliance to this day. This is the storytelling I aspire to do.

His movies were iconic. They defined a generation. MY generation. What’s not to love?

Imagine my dismay, and even embarrassment, when I discovered this ever so romantic ode to teen crushdom, written by someone I greatly admire, includes a rape scene.

If you’re confused, it’s understandable. The scene wasn’t written as a “rape scene.” It was written as “comedy.” The bitchy, perfect Caroline goes to Jake’s party, where she gets immediately plastered and Jake is so over it. He’s got eyes for a sweet sophomore, so he basically “turns over” his blackout drunk date to another dude.

Though Farmer Ted originally declines, ultimately he does take the car (a Rolls,) and does take Caroline home. (Sorta.) On the way, he stops to take some trophy photos for his buddies, but that’s only the beginning of the hilarity. Caroline is SO blitzed out that she starts coming onto him, this geek she’d never be caught dead with completely sober. When her head ends up in his lap, he’s not one to discourage her. Apparently, the fun didn’t stop there.

Two things seem make this scene “forgivable” in context, which is probably why we all missed it. A.) Farmer Ted didn’t know if HE did anything, so that makes him less predatory, and B.) she liked it.

That was a prevailing theme in 80s movies, apparently. In Revenge of the Nerds, our “hero” has sex with a girl while he was wearing a mask, so she thinks she’s with a guy she knows. Instead she has sex with a guy she doesn’t know, and didn’t agree to, but because she “liked it,” it was okay.

Excuse me while I go vomit forever….

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It brings me no joy to make these kinds of disturbing observations about movies I love from an artist I admire. It vexes my spirit to look back on those things I loved growing up – passionately loved – and finding the dark roots.

Some had those dark roots visibly exposed even back in the day. Luke and Laura, nuff said.

Recently I decided I wanted to make nostalgia playlists. I would start with the top 100 hits of 1979, since that was the year I “discovered” music. I thought it would be a kick to make a playlist of the top 100 and then, whenever I was feeling nostalgic, I could throw it down and take a step back to a more innocent time.

Some songs I had completely forgotten about. I saw their titles, it would ring a bell ever so faintly, and then I listened to the video and I was transported back to another time. Some songs I hadn’t listened to since the actual 80s, and it was a brand new experience to listen to the music I loved as a pre-teen with grown ears.

Imagine MY surprise when I stumbled across THIS lil’ ditty:

The lyric starts off with, “She’s just sixteen years old, leave her alone, they said.” It was written by a man in his thirties, whereupon he himself acts in this stalkery video where he attempts to woo what looks to be a teen girl. Try to get through it without taking a Silkwood shower. I dare you.

Yet, this was (and I wish I was making THIS part up,) #69 on the top 100 songs of 1980.

It’s no wonder that so many people are confused by the concept of consent. On one hand, you have these kinds of songs that are categorized as love songs by passionate men. Even Luke and Laura was excused for raping her because he was “overcome” whith how much he wanted her. This is what romance looked like back then.

Yet, art is also self-aware enough to tell you that no, for realz, though… sexual assault is bad. It has to be, because they use rape constantly as a storytelling device. This was true even if it’s a G-rated 80s sitcom.

Take, for instance, the Uncle Arthur story line from Family Ties. An old family friend of the Keatons comes for a visit and gives Mallory a hug that makes her feel uncomfortable. It became the conflict to resolve in the episode.

This aired in 1982, where the creators attempted to broach how inappropriate it would be for a grown man to come onto a teenager. Sadly, that conversation of “did he or didn’t he?” is still happening 36 years later. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

This conversation is even happening in my OWN book, BIG FAT BITCH, where a subplot deals directly with the Me Too movement, using the set of a popular TV show to do it.

Meghan was exhausted as she headed towards her dressing room.

“Some day, huh?”

She stopped in front of an open door. It was Gregory, lounging on the sofa in a dressing room papered with all his memorabilia from the last thirty years. “Yeah,” she murmured. “It was a tough one.”

He stood and approached her. “I know it’s been a long day already, but do you have a minute?”

She glanced down the hallway. Everyone had high-tailed it whenever Sofie wrapped, even Davina. “I suppose,” she said.

He pulled her by the arm into his dressing room and shut the door. She eyed him warily, but he just shrugged off her concerns. “It’s kind of private.”

“Okay,” she allowed.

He gestured to the sofa. “Have a seat.”

She really didn’t want to. She wanted to stay as close to the door as possible, because she was as ready to end the day as everyone else. “I really can’t stay long,” she said.

“It’ll only take a minute,” he promised.

She sighed. She figured it would shorten things considerably if she just did as he asked, rather than argue with him about it. She walked to the sofa. He followed behind.

“Great job today, by the way,” he said. “I really like where you’re going with this character.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “Even though Hannah is poised to take down Judge Dawson?”

He laughed as he sat beside her. “Especially so,” he said, leaning back and resting his arm along the sofa. “Judge Dawson hasn’t met his match in a long, long time. Neither have I,” he added.

She recognized the look in his eye. “What is it you wanted, Gregory?” she asked, even though she was pretty sure she knew.

He leaned forward. “I was a little concerned about Martina, actually. She was on the call sheet today but never showed up. I called her cell phone, but she never picked up. I know you have been hanging around her. So, I figured you’d be the one to ask.”

Meghan offered a noncommittal shrug. “Maybe she was sick. I haven’t talked to her today.”

He nodded. He leaned forward, trailing his thumb along her bare arm. She shivered in spite of herself. “I worry about her, you know? I had my run-ins with booze back in the 80s and 90s. It’s one hell of a monkey to carry on your back. I tried to intervene, but I don’t know. Maybe she resents me because I was able to beat my addiction. I won’t drink. Hell, I won’t even take an aspirin. I don’t know how to help her except telling her to stay away from all that shit.” He paused. “Maybe you could help me,” he suggested.

She was afraid to ask. “Help you do what?”

“Save her before she ends up just like Ashley.”

She pursed her lips. She didn’t know whether she believed him or not. He still hadn’t stopped touching her. She moved her arm slightly. “I think if she is as sick as you think, it’s a job for a medical professional.”

Someone like Fletcher, she thought.

“Even more reason to check on her,” he argued. “Why don’t you come with me. We’ll stop by her house and just see if she’s okay.”

“How do you know where she lives?”

“I assumed you did,” he shrugged. “That’s why I thought you could join me.”

She rose from the sofa. “Honestly, it’s really none of our business.”

He stood as well. “That’s not how it works in a crew, Meghan. If one of us goes down it affects all of us.” He stepped closer. “We’re a family now. We look out for each other.”

She got the nagging feeling that wasn’t his intention at all. Just a convenient excuse. She knew better than to call him on it, though. “I really do have to go. I’ve got this thing with my parents. You understand.”

She tried to pass him, but he held her by the arm. “You’re scared of me,” he commented. It was clear that he could feel her tremble, yet he didn’t let her go. Instead, his voice became more cajoling. “You don’t have to be.”

She pulled herself out his grip. “I just really have to go. I’m sorry,” she said, though she knew she had nothing to apologize for. She was just trying to soften the rejection, so he’d let her go without a fight.

He nodded and let her pass. “See you tomorrow,” he called after her. It sent another shiver through her. It sounded very much like a threat.

She didn’t breathe easy until she was out of his dressing room. Her lone footfalls echoed loudly in the empty hall as she raced from the building.

(Yes, my story within a story within a story is dealing with a reputable judge being taken down by the Me Too movement. No, it wasn’t on purpose. Just a fortuitous coincidence. Unfortunately, men abusing their power is a deep well from which to draw. When influential men clutch their pearls, wondering if tugging the Me Too thread will bring their whole power structure down, crushing them in the rubble, it always makes me wonder what kind of skeleton is hiding in THEIR closet.)

Ultimately Meghan is just as confused as Mallory whether or not she misread the situation. Women worry about this. We worry about taking things too “seriously” or being “too sensitive.” Why? Because guys will say this to you when they’ve done something to make you feel uncomfortable, and they want you to minimize this discomfort because they are all under this same delusion that IF THEY JUST GET THEIR WAY, eventually you’ll come around to it.

We saw this happen with Mallory:

She’s just sixteen years old… leave her alone, they said…

This episode aired in 1982, when, no doubt, Into the Night was still playing on some radio somewhere. No wonder people are so fucking confused what constitutes sexual assault/harassment and what doesn’t.

Decades later, David Schwimmer would produce an entire series of PSAs just to show where those lines are. He starred in one of the clips, where a businessman gets too familiar with an assistant one late night at work.

If you stack all these things next to each other, to try and find where an “assault” has taken place, it would seem the only real determining factor is how the girl or woman feels in the moment. Is she uncomfortable? Does she feel violated? If so, THEN we can move forward out of the confusing thicket and declare, together, that whatever it was wasn’t okay.

This is pretty damned hard to do if you’re likewise in a culture predisposed to distrust women.

We’re too “sensitive,” you see. We take things too seriously. You can’t joke around, you can’t flirt, or else SOMEBODY is going to take it to the extreme and call you a rapist. Just ask poor Henry Caville. Not sure how that guy is EVER going to date again.

For a lot of men, masculinity depends on this “alpha” mentality that he takes what he wants. That’s what makes him a man. No real man is going to ask for permission before he sweeps you into his arms, carries you to the bedroom and makes you his.

I grew up on romance, I know how this shit works. Even now the line between Grrr and Ooops is so thin you can see through it, but back then it was so much worse. Back in my day,  good girls didn’t go all the way, so if someone DID grab you up in the arms, you were required by virtue to put up a fight until you finally gave in to what you really wanted.

If he truly loved you, he wouldn’t take your no for an answer. If you ran away, he had to chase. How far he went depended just how much he wanted you, which is supposed to be a compliment. And, just like Caroline, or whoever that girl was from Revenge of the Nerds, you’d be grateful AFTER the fact.

Excuse me while I go peal the skin from my bones….

Suffice it to say, we creators carry a great burden. Our society is both reflected in and shaped by the content we create. It’s a responsibility one cannot take lightly. I know where I have crossed the line and I own it. In my Fullerton Family Saga, Drew Fullerton was a powerful man. He was used to getting what he wanted. Enter Rachel Dennehy, who was strong enough to put him in check whenever he crossed the line. Their love affair was contentious, full of ups and downs and reversals of power, which was necessary since she basically came into Drew’s life as a subordinate. I cheered for her every single time she stood up to him, which she had to do almost consistently throughout Book 2, Entangled, when she had chosen to part ways.

Drew didn’t take lightly to that. He pushed her to the limit of consent trying to persuade her they should be together. In one upsetting scene, he actually got his way.

Well, it was upsetting for me. Maybe not to anyone else. There are many who probably read past it without nary an alarm bell. To me, however, it was devastating. That one scene sealed his fate for me. It is the reason that the series ends the way that it ends. I couldn’t make that an acceptable part of the chase, even when, in a real sense, it was the main reason he “caught” her at last.

Devlin Masters, from my Masters series, was likewise kinda rapey. He, too, was a powerful man who wasn’t used to being told no. Given his prowess as a lover, he decided to use sex as his main weapon of persuasion. Every time Coralie got mad at him, he turned up the seduction to shut her up. One scene in particular, also in the second book of the series, he gets way too close to crossing a line. This time, however, my heroine fights back.

I had to put both these men through the meat grinder to turn out something positive. They couldn’t just get away with this awful behavior and march gaily towards a HEA. That’s not okay with me.

As a creator, I’m in control of the message. That is why I must protect it, even if I plumb some pretty dark depths. Especially because I do. Each word is a virtual bullet I load in the gun. I better make DAMN sure where I’m aiming.

Which brings us back to Insatiable.

One of the hardest parts of watching the Kavanaugh hearing was seeing Insatiable star Alyssa Milano sitting in the back, who was supposed to represent all of us survivors by proxy.

But see, I have beef with Alyssa.

I like Alyssa, but I have MAJOR beef.

Insatiable is a “dark comedy” about a former fat teen who gets her revenge by becoming a beauty queen. At least, I think it is. I couldn’t get past the first 20 minutes. Not because of the fat phobia so blatantly on display. I was expecting that. I didn’t expect someone like Alyssa, who has been sexually glorified since the 80s for the way that she looks, to understand why the fat-shaming content was so problematic. She can sort of be forgiven for that. It’s not her story.

Grown men I like and admire will say that she was hot before, but she’s REALLY hot now that she’s taking on the NRA and Trump and standing in staunch solidarity with the Me Too movement. Everybody loves Alyssa, except for the people I can’t stand. Which makes me love her more.

Honestly, she’s the main reason I sat down to watch, given how passionately she strives to make the world a better place. I was on her side 100%, UNTIL I actually watched the show.

Insatiable starts at a teen beauty pageant, where the lead character Bob (Alyssa’s character’s husband) is about to coach a contestant towards a win he’s oddly been coveting for his whole life, ever since he was an awkward teen. Instead, one of the OTHER mothers decides to accuse Bob of sexual assault just so that her daughter could win.

That’s right. An awful female character decided to level this accusation out of spite, and it’s supposed to be ‘funny.’

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Bob says, and I FUCKING quote, “And that was it. I was an accused molester saying the victim made it up, which was almost as bad as if I had actually done it. It was the single worst moment of my life.”

Gee, sounds rough, Bob. I’m surprised there’s not an entire judicial committee falling all over themselves trying to apologize to you for the hell you’re going through.

This “joke,” this hiLARious comedic “plot device,” is the NUMBER one reason I had to turn off the show entirely. I bailed – HARD – when Patty’s character is challenged to reconsider her crush because he’s a reputed sex offender. “Good!” she exclaims. “Maybe then I’ll have a shot!”

Actual photo of me:

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I went after older men when I was a teenager, but not once, NOT FUCKING ONCE, did his rep as a child molester MAKE HIM A MORE APPEALING TARGET.

There are plenty of reasons to dislike this show, even though IT got picked up for a second season and Dietland, starring a fat actress telling a fat story, didn’t, but this remains my NUMBER ONE REASON.

MsMojo agrees:

Even though the majority of sexual assaults go unreported, and of those reported less than 10% (and as few as 2%) are false reports, everyone involved with Insatiable – INCLUDING ALYSSA MILANO – were perfectly fine putting this heap of garbage narrative on air with their stamp of approval. Not one of them seemed at all bothered by muddying a conversation that is already so contentious.

The number one reason women don’t report assault is because AS A SOCIETY WE REFUSE TO BELIEVE THEM.

So sure, let’s put that into the cosmos that petty women make false accusations to spite and punish men. There won’t be ANY consequences for that… certainly not a full grown man feeling sorry for himself at the hell of being accused while a grown woman sits in front of powerful politicians WHO WON’T BELIEVE WHAT SHE SAYS.

But Alyssa is supposed to get some brownie points because:

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To quote NPR, Alyssa, why are you here? We live in a society where men actually think that 99% of sexual assaults are fabricated. An irresponsible narrative like Insatiable will load their gun. How do you not know this? How do you not see this? You say you felt like you “needed to be there.”

Why? Guilty conscience? Am I supposed to give you bonus points for carrying an “I believe survivors” sign?

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The Senate floor was not where we needed you. We needed you turning a script back to its creator and saying, “I won’t do this. It’s irresponsible.”

At the very least, THE VERY LEAST, you could own that this narrative has hurt survivors… myself included. Not asking for the world here. Just could you please not be so freaking tone deaf?

Look. I get it. Art is fallible because humans are fallible. All we can do is tell our truth at the time and hope that we don’t hurt anyone. At least, that’s what I hope as an artist. I want to make you feel, make you think. That’s what good art does.

Despite the troubling parts of John Hughes’s filmography, his movies were groundbreaking. They were the voice of a generation. MY generation. It was a snapshot of our culture and everything it contained, good and bad, was a part of it. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water, burning all my JH movies in effigy.

BUT… it would be even MORE irresponsible for me to ignore the problematic parts as if they don’t exist. Instead, we can use this as a learning exercise.

I’ve been doing a lot of Then and Now collages lately, mostly to track my progress. Insatiable aside, we can use some of these movies as “before” and “after” shots to track how far we’ve come.

Hell, we can even use Insatiable for that too. If it had come out in the 1980s, it might not have drawn the same kind of ire. It’s a good thing that people found the plot problematic. We’re aware now, and the thing about being aware is that you can’t go back to blissful ignorance.

I can’t watch Sixteen Candles the same way ever again, despite the sweet sentimentality and bittersweet nostalgia. That’s a sad thing, but a good thing. Our society is not there anymore, and that’s all I ever really wanted as a survivor.

I wanted my pain recognized. I wanted my experiences validated. I no longer wanted to be a convenient prop in someone else’s story.

That is the kind of art I aspire to make now. (Well, then AND now, but especially now.) I’ll probably get it wrong. And when I do, I will aspire to take my ego out of it when you check me about it.

That’s all I can do. I kinda like to believe that John would have done it, too.

Your move, Alyssa.

 

 

That was a rough day.

Yeah, I ain’t gonna sugarcoat it. September 27, 2018 was a rough day for those of us managing PTSD from sexual abuse. Honestly, it was probably pretty rough for those weren’t personally traumatized, but care about humanity enough to empathize with those who were.

There were also a lot of people who had no compassion, much less cared about these things altogether. They were on full display, too. We got to see them all rage as if they were the bully that just got pantsed by a fed-up victim and made them look ridiculous.

They hate that shit.

 

 

If you’ve been living under a rock, Thursday was the day that Dr. Christine Blasely Ford bravely spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. She believed that she had information that should be thoughtfully considered before he was given a seat on the highest court in the country.

Given that such an appointment would put him in authority to decide on important issues, his character has been called into question by his behavior both when he was in high school and even recently. This hearing on Thursday not only gave us the opportunity to hear her version of these upsetting events, but how he might react to the accusations.

I honestly wasn’t going to watch it, just for sanity’s sake. I knew if I watched any one of those assholes dismiss her, I’d lose my everlovin’ mind. Plus, I knew her testimony could prove triggering, and that wasn’t how I wanted to spend my Thursday.

Ultimately, I tuned in. So many people I highly regard were already in the trenches by the time I got online. Figuring there were strength in numbers, I decided to brave the front line around the time they were questioning Kavanaugh. I missed much of the tantrums, for which I am extremely grateful. What I watched was hard enough to stomach.

Still, the minute Lindsay Graham frothed at the mouth I was throwing my headphones across the room and contemplating exactly how one goes about buying (and using) a meat grinder. My husband, who now works overnight audits, had just come to bed. “Should I go sleep on the couch?” he wanted to know.

I was fit to be tied.

Thankfully, I live in a state with legal cannabis. I was able to get back into the fray up until the time Ted Cruz took the floor, at which time I muted the MF. For some things, there isn’t enough weed.

(Cory Booker and Kamala Harris both gave me life, though. Special props to the both of them. Booker/Harris – or Harris/Booker – 2020. I’m THERE.)

Despite all the stabbity, and there was stabbity to spare, I managed to get through the entire upsetting hearing without stress-eating or binging. Given how angry I was, how utterly upset, I was frankly quite shocked that I managed even to maintain a fast through it all.

For those who aren’t aware, I have been doing Intermittent Fasting since 2016, where I give myself a short window per day to eat all my calories. I found best results for myself at an 8-9 hour window, but there are days when it’s as short as 6. (Yesterday was a sixer, today was 7.)

Not only did I maintain my fast, but I also have been trying to cut my sugar consumption by having some days where I have more decadent sweets and some days where I abstain. Since I had ice cream yesterday, I was going to keep it more sugar-free today. That meant I was going into this thing without all my usual coping mechanisms.

I medicated the CRAP out of my PTSD, though. Trust.

I was surprised that I managed to pull off this ED victory in the face of the awful triggers that were scattered around like broken glass everywhere I figuratively stepped. Like, for a minute when I realized what I had done, almost accidentally, I felt… normal. Like, is this what it is like to handle life in a healthy way? How lovely. It doesn’t hurt. There’s no high, there’s no crash… just… peace.

I needed that today.

Once the hearing concluded, the station where I watched it had their little post-show commentary about it. They showed some video of Dr. Ford’s remarks, which broke my heart. I felt her pain. It was an echo of my own.

I remember the day that I decided to speak publicly about my own assault and the courage it took to do so. I was fourteen, in Mr. Newton’s Speech class in 1984… just two years after Dr. Ford’s assault, come to think of it. Interesting coincidence, considering the content of my speech.

We were tasked with taking a Current Events story from one of the news magazines (Time, Newsweek, etc,) and writing a speech about it. I read through the magazine I chose but didn’t really see anything that stirred my spirit enough to speak about it.

See, I had to feel passionately about it or else I couldn’t have done it. This was after the choir event I talked about on my writer blog, where I had suffered great stage fright when I was in eighth grade. So, I was MAJORLY intimidated to get up in front of my class full of boys AND girls who already defaulted to finding fault with me. I can still name the boys in that class that used to render me mute because I’d rather stay silent than say the wrong thing.

Yet, here I was challenged to speak to them.

I decided to make my speech on sexual assault and victim-blaming. In it, I outed myself as a survivor. I watched how the boys responded to the salacious topic with nervous giggling that quickly gave way when they realized that a victim stood right in front of them.

By the end of that speech, which was every bit as passionate as you might expect, all those kids, including those boys, gave me resounding applause.

I wonder if any one of them were thinking about that today. I doubt it, but it would be nice to know if what I said way back then stuck.

I talked about being a child survivor, which I already knew was safe. Nobody was going to say it was my fault. Nobody was going to ask what I was wearing. Nobody was going to suggest in any way that I “asked” for it. This was the source of my anger back then. All assault is awful, which means the way we parcel out our compassion for the victims is outrageous. I wanted to be a voice for those who weren’t as “lucky” as I was, to sway their detractors into seeing that we went through same thing. What was done to me as a child is no different than what was done to Dr. Ford. The only variable was severity. You’re basically comparing someone who got a finger cut off verses someone who lost their whole damned hand, but it all sucks. It all hurts. It all impacts the victim in adverse, lasting ways.

After the class was over, I had more than one girl come to me to thank me for what I had said, to confess to me something they’d never confessed to anyone; that they, too, had been abused. One came from a super religious family where her uncle was the offender, and she knew if she said anything no one would believe her.

When they ask why so many don’t come forward, I think of her.

And now, I’ll think of Dr. Ford.

I can only imagine how hard today was for her, or how much it took out of her. I only spoke in front of about twenty people. She did it in front of the world. She did it in front of very powerful people, the very people who influence our laws and are supposed to serve us and our greater good.

She did it in front of people that she knew were going to dismiss her, who wouldn’t believe her.

Despite the crack in her voice when she recalled this painful, pivotal event, they would not believe the words she forced from her throat. Despite how earnest she might sound, or how true it may have been… she knew that they weren’t going to believe her.

It is a rare form of privilege I guess that it had never occurred to me until  today that someone might not believe me either. I had never considered such a thing. Mostly because everyone I have ever told HAS expressed that they believe me. No one has ever doubted me, questioned me. Even when I went to therapy in the 8th grade, I never had anyone ask why I didn’t press charges or report.

Everyone just accepts that I was a four-year-old who made four-year-old decisions. I had nothing to gain by lying about it.

I guess it also helps that my testimony wouldn’t be an inconvenient truth. If my rapist had been a powerful man with a rep that couldn’t risk being tarnished, would they still believe me then?

After seeing what I saw on Thursday, I have my doubts.

I have my doubts about a lot of stuff right now, to be honest. I can no longer tell myself the lie that things will work out just because the alternative is unthinkable. I made that mistake in 2016. I watched in horror as the thing I was so sure couldn’t happen, happened. So, to me the possibility that they will confirm this guy is every bit as likely as postponing everything for an official investigation.

Maybe more so.

I can’t fix that, which sucks. Helplessness is a big part of of the trauma. That’s what sexual assault does. You are overpowered, forced to behave in a way you normally wouldn’t because you don’t think you have a choice. Anyone who bullies me or badgers me or won’t accept a “no” will trigger me. Hard. That’s why I hate aggressive salesmen. (And yes, I mean men.) Dealing with someone like that will shut me down or, if they’re really persistent, make me combative.

If I say no, accept the no.

Unfortunately, we now occupy a very unaccommodating landscape, where things that are important to me could literally be snatched right out of my grasp, and there’s not a damned thing I can do about it.

I mean, yeah. Vote. I got that. I do that. I’m not the one you need to worry about getting to the polls. Not only do I go, I make sure at least ONE more person goes. (Usually it’s 4 or better.) I push voting. HARD.

But when you consider what happened during the LAST election, and past indicators from elections throughout history, I just…

I just don’t know that it’s enough. I’ve been fighting this battle since I was a teenager. That’s 30 years, you guys. And progress has always been one step forward, two steps back.

What I saw today scared the shit out of me. I watched congressman after congressman nearly trip over themselves trying to apologize to HIM, even after hearing her emotional testimony. They didn’t believe her. They didn’t even hide it. Every single revelation was like a punch in the face.

“I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.” – Dr. Christine Blasely Ford

I don’t remember a lot about what happened to me. It’s been fairly deeply buried over the years. I have more “snapshots” of what happened that I have to piece together. One very vivid memory is that after he was done, he told me to stay where I was, that he would be right back.

For some reason I couldn’t even BEGIN to understand, I thought he was going to go get a gun and come back and kill me.

I really don’t know why a fairly sheltered four-year-old child would immediately think this. I’ve always had an active imagination. Maybe some of my daddy’s westerns had sunk in. Of my very few memories from that time, I remember my dad watching Bonanza. I can see the opening sequence clearly.

Either way, I remember with perfect clarity the terror I felt in that moment. This was after the attack, so I was already pretty confused and upset. Nothing felt right. Everything felt wrong. And I knew in that moment that this man was perfectly OK hurting me.

It was like I knew on some level that he wanted to get rid of me.

Hearing that part of Dr. Ford’s testimony makes my stomach hurt. I know that terror well. I know what it feels like to be sexually violated, then immediately fear that isn’t the worst thing that is going to happen to you.

Once a person violates your trust this way, it’s damned near impossible to trust anyone fully ever again.

At least, that’s the way it’s worked for me. Your mileage may vary. When I became a teenager, I went down the promiscuous path that so many victims do. I began having consensual sex when I was fourteen. I had sex with plenty of guys I shouldn’t, but I never saw those events the way I saw the initial attack when I was four. In those later relationships, I knew what I was getting into. I got to make my own choices. They didn’t make me feel powerless, instead I felt powerful.

And yes, it’s probably pretty fucked up that I felt that way but I was a traumatized child trying to figure it out as she went along. I got things wrong, hurting myself and contributing to the hurt of others along the way.

Still, when young girls came to me, like that fellow freshman telling me about her uncle, I never discounted their pain even if their experiences were different than mine. It was too easy to see where they were similar.

So, I always defaulted to how the girl herself felt about things. I didn’t judge her. I didn’t question her. I accepted what she said.

And I’ve had plenty of opportunities to compare notes with other girls and women. EVERY single time this subject comes up, I’m not the only survivor in the bunch. Years ago during diversity training at an insurance job, I sat in a group of five women. ALL of them had a Me Too/abuse story. People I had worked beside for months, and I had no idea.

You generally will never know unless someone chooses to tell you, and very often they won’t.

If you’re looking for a reason, I’ll refer you back to today’s debacle.

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me.” Dr. Ford

No one wants to rip open these old wounds, particularly for an audience. I have spoken about what happened to me in generic terms, but whenever it got deep into it in therapy, I bolted as fast I could. I don’t like talking about it because I don’t like thinking about it. And frankly, this is a painful type of intimacy to say the words to another person.

I thought about what I would say if I were to admit the details of what I remembered to me here on this blog for a public audience. Most of it is scar tissue, but some of it scares the crap out of me. Full-body shudder even THINKING about forming the words together.

Still, most of it is tender but I can talk about it. So, I guess I’ll just go as far as I can. Trigger warnings for whomever might need one. This isn’t going to be easy for either of us.

I was playing in my front yard. It was afternoon. We had just gotten back from the grocery store and my mother was taking groceries into the house. Our kitchen was in the back part, so she was way far away from the yard when I spotted a stranger walking down the sidewalk towards us. This is a picture from the front door. The kitchen is towards the back. That is me in the front, wearing what I typically would have been wearing around that time.

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I didn’t know to run away from a strange man because I was unafraid of adults as a kid. My dad was much older than my mother, so we always had adults around. Most were enamored of me because I was cute and precocious. Imagine all this BEFORE being damaged.

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I couldn’t tell you much about him. I don’t know what he was wearing. The snapshot in my mind has some details but I’m not sure how accurate they are after all this time. It seems he was wearing khakis, a shirt and jacket. Maybe it was blue? He had brown hair, a white guy Afro like they wore in the early 70s. He had a full mustache and beard. That much I remember. Men with facial hair freaked me out pretty much my entire childhood just because of him. No one is more surprised than I am that my husband has been wearing a goatee since our first year together. I never trusted them when I was a kid. They were pretty much a deal-breaker.

In 1974, however, I didn’t know any better.

I’m not sure if he smiled first or not, but I felt safe enough to be playful. I should probably acknowledge that to say this makes me feel shameful. Naughty. Bad. Still, I totally had no clue what danger awaited when I disappeared in between the bushes.

It was one of those irritating bushes that always messed with my allergies. The piney green kind. (Juniper maybe?) They’re also spider havens, so they suck on all levels and I’ve hated them ever since.

Back then, these particular bushes sort of grew in a square pattern, so there were plenty of nooks and crannies in which to hide.

I can’t remember the address of the house. I can barely remember the inside. I have maybe ten memories total of our time there, if that. But I can remember that fucking bush. It was my cave back then where I regularly played. So, I darted inside, playing hide-and-seek like a child would.

Whether I had his attention or this caught his attention, he stopped and asked me if I liked playing games. I said yes, because I was a four-year-old kid. He said that he had a fun game we could play but I had to go with him. Mom was way back in the kitchen remember, so when he began walking, I made the decision to go with him.

We didn’t walk very far. A block or two maybe. I couldn’t tell you where, exactly. It was far enough from my little limited four-year-old existence it felt like Mars. Still, I don’t feel we went very far before he stopped beside this house with a tall wooden privacy fence.

We were at the side of the house, where there wasn’t a whole lot of room. You know how enclosed side yards can feel. Maybe this is where my claustrophobia comes from. The space felt tiny. Uncomfortably so.

Could be because he was big and I was small, though my mind won’t let me explore that possibility much. There has to be SOME reason that it scares me silly whenever I begin to “shrink.”

He laid me on the ground on my back. I’m pretty sure I was wearing a dress. A short one, like little girls wear.

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I don’t remember if he took my underwear off or not, but the more I think about it the more embarrassed I felt that we might be caught, and everything he was doing at that point I knew was absolutely wrong. I was instantly humiliated. And more vulnerable than I have ever felt in my life.

I don’t remember seeing much of him before laid on top of me. I’m pretty sure he only unzipped his pants. I don’t remember seeing his penis and penises don’t necessarily traumatize me now… unsolicited dick pics aside.

I’m pretty sure I felt it, though. An evil stump. Hard and foreign. Scary.

Then he was thrusting. It wasn’t very much. Maybe three or so. I’ve been asked if I can be sure he penetrated me, and to be quite honest I really don’t know for sure. I don’t recall if I bled. I don’t remember being sore. Like I said, all that is blissfully buried. All I can say is that I knew at a VERY young age that things went inside the vagina, and after a very few thrusts sex ended with some form of liquid coming out of the penis. (Way back then I thought it was pee.)

There was no preamble. He had me on my back and then he was thrusting and then he was done. It took mere minutes to wreak absolute havoc on my whole life. At least… that’s how it felt. Everything was happening in FF while my entire being was on pause. It went so fast I felt I couldn’t stop it, but so slow I was petrified we were going to get caught and I’d be in MORE trouble over this naughty, confusing game.

Imagine. *I* was worried about getting caught.

Then he was sitting me up and telling me to be quiet (maybe I had already started to cry?) and that he was coming right back but I had to be really quiet.

I was confused. I was scared. The minute he left I started to cry in earnest. The people inside heard me and found me. They contacted the police, who had already been called by my mom. They returned me back to my mother. It couldn’t have taken all that long.

I remember standing in the doorway of that house, with two policemen (and yes, they were both men,) standing there next to me, watching me as my mother knelt to ask me if the man had touched me under my “panties.”

I can’t type the word without it making my skin crawl. I hate that word to this day. I also don’t care for short skirts anymore. Whenever I see anyone wearing those super short ones that barely cover the ass, it strikes terror in my heart. I’m like, “How do you NOT feel vulnerable?”

I remember the looks on the faces of the policemen, even if I don’t remember the details of what they looked like. Come to think of it, I think it was dark in the living room. I remember a light being on, and that the darkness only made me feel more uneasy. Maybe the whole thing took longer than I thought, by my inner editor cut the reel down to pieces so I could blissfully hop over the more distressing details as I tried to process what happened to me.

But I could tell from the way they were watching me that something very serious had happened. Something bad.

I felt shame immediately. I was already humiliated, and now I wasn’t just caught by anyone. I was standing there with the POLICE. I knew it was bad for me to leave the lawn without permission. Was *I* going to get into trouble? What could possibly be worse?

Having grown up in the church, I already knew that God punished sinners. I had disobeyed my mom, so clearly that was what I was. Clearly, that was what he did. Who could I tell at that point? I couldn’t tell my parents. I wouldn’t tell my sister. I couldn’t tell anyone at my church, which I don’t remember even going to way back then. (But knowing my dad I’m 100% certain we did.)

I don’t remember having anyone I could tell. This was before school. Before friends. I managed it on my own, already thinking that it was my fault so I kinda deserved it. It’s no real surprise that I spent a lifetime punishing myself.

And people have sympathy for me. They always have, ever since I came forward nine years after it happened. Like I said before, I enjoy the rare privilege of being the kind of victim it makes sense to believe. Why would I lie? No one is going to suggest that I was making it up to keep myself out of trouble. I didn’t tell anyone what happened to me until it was way too late to do anything about it. If anything, my lie protected HIM. And I never went after him, that was never the point. The thought of being in a courtroom in front of him strikes fear like you would not BELIEVE into my heart. (Even though he’s the main reason I wanted to become a lawyer, a prosecutor, so I could make sure guys like him never walked the streets again.)

Still… I never wanted to see HIM again. I was too afraid of what might happen if I did.

We spoke about the YouTube series, Impulse. THE worst triggering moment I had during the show was when Henry visualized her assailant holding her younger self by the hand. Years ago, I had a nightmare about my attacker, one of the only ones I remember. I came face to face with him and experienced all the terror I felt when I was in that side yard, crying because I thought he was going to come back and kill me.

Seeing a rapist holding a little girl by the hand rocked me to my fucking core. I. Can’t. IMAGINE. summoning the strength/courage to face off with him in court. AS A CHILD.

“Why didn’t you report?” they ask.

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Why don’t you jam your genitals into a meat grinder?

I never wanted to say anything, so I certainly had nothing to gain that day I stood before Mr. Newton’s speech class and told all of my (pretty, popular, normal, healthy) peers my story. I was a fat, awkward kid who didn’t fit into any one niche. Painting myself with this brush wasn’t going to do me any favors.

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Where did I find the courage to do it anyway?

Anger.

If PTSD sparks that fight/flight/fright reaction, I’ll hit the throttle on “fight” any day of the week. I’m mad this shit happens. I’m mad the way we treat people. Imagine me, being a kid, not telling anyone about what happened to me, and seeing people who DO report it being vilified. Imagine what that did to me.

Imagine what it did to all the girls like me who watched that circus today. Imagine what they felt every single time those men told Kavanaugh what HE was going through was hell, and they were so very sorry.

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The little girl in me wanted to throat-punch each and every one of them.

Instead of pointing that anger inward, I turned it around and let it burn the world down like a flame thrower. I can do that now. I’m not a scared little girl anymore. And no matter how hard they make it, I’ll use the same anger that fueled me in 1984 to fuel me now. Only now, I’m armed with facts, statistics – THE RIGHT TO VOTE – and the best part of all – a sisterhood.

Something remarkable happened Thursday. A lot of people who thought they were in this thing alone discovered their tribe, their thunderous, outraged, powerful tribe determined to care for them. There were people there reminding some of us that we were allowed to take it easy. And we could, because we knew they had our backs. There were those watching that hearing for those of us who had to walk away from it. They stood with us. Beside us. Sometimes in front of us, shielding us.

There are some who will tell you that Me Too has gone too far, and innocent men will be (and are) being punished/destroyed as a result.

All I see is that people the some had sought to destroy are coming together, stronger as they lean on each other, louder as their voices rise in the silence, letting their oppressors know they will not be silenced.

They’re trying to overpower us and yet we have allies. We’re not alone anymore. We’re not managing by ourselves (and doing more damage than not.)

Thursday was a horrible day. But it was also a great day. Because it gave me the one thing I’ve been missing for a long, long time.

It gave me hope that things could be different, even while there are so many fighting to keep it the same.

I don’t know what today will bring, or how it will shape the world around me. But I do know one thing I don’t think I knew 11/9/2016: I’m strong enough to fight back this time.

And if I’m not… it’s okay for me to lean on others who are.

Because of that, I was able to truly care for myself in healthy ways. It was okay to feel the pain because it’s not going to destroy me.

Not anymore.

Not. Ever. Again.

Beach Week: now code for He Said/She lied.

I don’t know how old I was when I first watched The Accused with Jodie Foster. I remember being much younger than I had to have been. The movie came out in October 1988 but I didn’t see it until it was out on VHS, which meant I would have had to be at least 19. However, the stark memory I have of the intense rage I felt lands a lot younger than that.

Mostly because I’ve been pissed off about this stuff for a VERY long time.  It’s easy to bleed together. Time fogs up that rear view mirror, which is fortunate if you happen to have monsters staring back at you.

If you haven’t seen it, The Accused is a movie about a woman who is gang-raped in a bar by three men while a crowd of male onlookers watched/cheered. Suffice it to say, it’s based on a true story. Jodie won an Oscar for her portrayal as the victim/survivor of the attack, who decided to bring all her assailants to justice… including those who simply watched.

Their crime of passivity, she decided, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. No matter if she was drunk/high or dancing provocatively, even flirting, she did not deserve to be brutally raped by three men in a public place. (Note: I could have stopped after “raped.”)

And she most CERTAINLY didn’t deserve to have HER reputation destroyed as a result, which is exactly what happened.

It is a movie I’ve watched exactly once, so excuse me if I’ve muddled some details. Though I am a repeat viewer of exceptional (and not so exceptional) movies, I refuse to watch this again. The rape scene was traumatic for me as a survivor of sexual assault. I was enraged to the point of a rare violent reaction the second I saw those men cheering on as they watched. Had I been at a bar where this had happened, murder would have occurred. (Mine or theirs… somebody woulda died.)

I keenly remember the hopelessness that I felt. It was so difficult for me to simply watch this without being able to DO something to stop it, which resurfaced all those feelings I had regarding my own attack(s.) And, because I don’t do scared well, I got pissed. Like, really mad. Like… really, REALLY mad. Like, you didn’t want to be anywhere around me ESPECIALLY if you were a guy.

Whether or not they knew what they were doing was wrong, they got a big kick out of “punishing” the local “slut.” For the worst men, this includes sexual assault.

(I also judge men who like to tell these kinds of stories just for their own personal thrill. From what I’ve seen and read over the past 48 years, that’s JUST ABOUT EVERYONE. Just like a thin person can’t write a fat person, men cannot write rape without it coming across… exploitative and pornographic. It’s gross, guys. Stop it.)

The worst men will feel a certain entitlement to get what they want when they want it. They don’t need your consent, as it turns out. Many will ply you with booze until you cannot resist, then take what they want whether or not you want to give it to them. It has been socialized into them forever that this is okay and accepted. Hell, even my own idol John Hughes crossed this line a couple of times, with Farmer Ted having sex with the drunk Caroline, and Bender sticking his face into Claire’s nether regions.

I can’t even TALK about Revenge of the Nerds. The only good thing about that is that John didn’t write it.

The worst of the worst men will do all this and more for an audience of other shitty men, who find it all so entertaining.

The reason The Accused traumatized me so much is because movie was created to incite a reaction, talking about something that could (and did) happen. This is a real thing, guys. And it’s grotesque and completely unacceptable.

Yet, our culture will bend itself over backward to MAKE it acceptable, or at the very least excusable.

Case in point, Steubenville.

In August of 2012, a group of about fifty local kids got together to party before the start of the school year. Not so unusual. Parties are a big part of teen culture. We’ve been watching some form of this for… well, ever. Teens get together to party, you know there’s going to be some form of excess, whether drinking, drugs or sex. Some of my favorite movies involve teen parties, Dazed & Confused, Sixteen Candles, Uncle Buck, Mean Girls, etc.

By 2012, most of us have an idea what these parties look like, thanks to movies like these.

The popular kids, especially the revered jocks, get together and celebrate the invincibility of youth in the only way they know how – rebelling against the “rules” and doing what they damned well please.

Hell, I’ve even written a few of these scenes myself in my book The Leftover Club.

We’ve watched these parties. We’ve been to these parties. We know these parties. These parties were what we had before we had Vegas. What happened there stayed there. No adults were privy to the events that took place or else we’d all still be grounded.

Except, things didn’t stay in the Steubenville party thanks to a little thing called social media.

By morning, the victim, a sixteen-year-old girl from across the river, would learn of her own sexual assault through pictures that were taken and circulated among this group of kids. These were events that she couldn’t remember herself, because she was blackout drunk, kinda like Caroline from Sixteen Candles.

Unlike Farmer Ted, who drove her to his friend’s house so he could get some pictures of him with the pretty, popular girl, the Steubenville guys carried their victim around from party to party, where people assumed she was “asleep.”

They took pictures, too, as well as digitally penetrating her and trying to force their penises into her mouth as they took pictures of her unconscious, naked body to share with their friends for a good laugh.

When the case started to break open, this small community was fractured into people who believed the victim and those who wanted to protect the perpetrators. Given they were football players smack dab in the middle of football country, where we regard athletes as local heroes, it turned out to be a tough sell EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE PICTURES TO PROVE ABUSE HAD OCCURRED.

One of the coaches went on record saying, “What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something.”

This is their go-to, apparently. Girls have to blame boys for being bad to cover up being bad, which makes them liars by default, because boys are never bad.

Say the men who lie to cover up the bad things they did, who attack the girl for being bad.

AIN’T IT FUCKING PECULIAR?

The Accused and Steubenville were 24 years apart, but they might as well only have been a day. The fact this victim had to fight the social biases of the town to get justice proves that when it comes to women, whether you’re a grown woman or a teen girl, you deserve to be raped and humiliated if you dare misbehave, like going to parties/bars and getting blackout drunk.

How are we gonna blame guys for just doing what comes naturally to them, like fucking an unconscious girl, dragging her around like a rag doll, taking pictures and POSTING THEM FOR THE PUBLIC? It’s not their fault, after all. They were just having a good time, and some bitch took it too seriously.

Now their whole future is fucked up, and I’m supposed to feel sorry for them, even if they’re some Stanford student caught having sex with an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, in full view of complete strangers. Somehow my sympathy is supposed to default to the person MAKING THESE AWFUL CHOICES, rather than the victim who is too incapacitated to resist, but will live with the consequences FOR A LIFETIME.

Complete strangers (men) and even judges (men) all tell me that such a minor indiscretion, while unfortunate, shouldn’t derail HIS bright and shiny future.

Which brings us to the new rapist dog whistle… Beach Week.

Brett Kavanaugh has been nominated by McPussyGrabber-in-Chief for a lifetime appointment in the highest court in the land, the one that will make defining judgments on cases that will affect people like Jodie Foster, the Steubenville rape victim, Brock Turner’s victim… and me.

When a woman from Kavanaugh’s past came forward to suggest MAYBE he shouldn’t have such authority, we were immediately thrust back into the rape culture that gave us Steubenville and Brock Turner. Immediately men of authority wanted to dismiss the accusation out of hand. We say that so many of these rape cases are reduced down to he said/she said after the fact, but what we REALLY need to acknowledge is that is more a matter of He Said/She Lied, because that’s exactly how they take it.

They default to the man’s side of the story as the truth, and in doing so reinforce this social stigma that women cannot be trusted by virtue of being women.

Our nos mean yeses. We can’t be trusted with our bodies. EVERYTHING defaults back to male authority reigning supreme, so we can protect the people in our society that are TRULY important: the men.

We watched this happen with comedian Chris Hardwick recently, when his ex wrote a pretty upsetting essay regarding their time together. I watched how the Internet divided itself into groups. There was the #IBelieveWomen group, who took Chloe at her word and accepted her story as true. There were others (men) who, even though they didn’t know Chris Hardwick personally, wanted to “wait it out” and get his side of the story so that they could make their decision (on how to defend him) then.

I noted that none of Chris’s wealth of celebrity friends said shit to defend him or refute the claims. To me, that was much more telling.

Regardless, he kept his job(s.) Whether her claims were true or not, Chloe will go down as an unfortunate footnote in his wildly successful story.

WHEW. Close call, huh, fellas?

As of today, a total of three women have come forward to say Brett Kavanaugh was inappropriate to them in high school/college. As expected, the group defending him (mostly men) are clutching their figurative pearls (their crotches,) worried about all the powerful men that this kind of thing could put out of a job… because APPARENTLY the kinds of things he’s being accused of ARE PERFECTLY NORMAL, YOU GUYS. Clearly a part of EVERY successful man’s history.

Just boys bein’ boys, amirite?

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Note that they are both white, affluent men. Note that their compassion immediately defaults to a white, affluent man.

A friend of mine once said to me she was worried about her (white) sons growing up in this current environment. I told her that her sons were growing up in a culture where they rule as freaking kings, there’s nothing for her to fear evening up the playing field. It just means that men will actually have to live UP to their reputations rather than hide behind them. That’s where the work lies.

I, for one, am not afraid for my sons. I’ve raised two boys who would never THINK to do such a thing. None of the men I know personally would do such a thing. I’m totally not worried about any of them. And the only men I would go after ARE THE ONES WHO HAVE DONE THE UNTHINKABLE.

Did I say one thing about Neil Gorsuch? No, I did not.

Yet, they have defaulted to the position that this is yet another “witch hunt,” where the “evil Democrats” have begun a smear campaign to take down these political powerhouses out of some sort of “spite” that they “lost” the election.

Seriously, that’s their play. They can’t afford to lose because they want a judge on the SCOTUS who will fight for their conservative beliefs (abortion,) and they will put their support behind anyone they think will help them.

(They likewise have the audacity to scream at us that if this were a Democratic nominee, we wouldn’t care WHO he raped as long as he kept abortion legal.)

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Ultimately Matt proves his own point that a certain party IS willing to sell its soul to the devil as long as he backs their political agenda. That’s what has happened to the Republican party ever since they elected an admitted sexual offender who has had 1.) his own wife depose that he raped her, 2.) bragged about seeing teen girls naked, 3.) made inappropriate sexual comments about his own daughter, 4.) bragged about circumventing consent and “grabbing” pussies just because he could, and 5.) HAD SIXTEEN WOMEN COMING FORWARD AND SAYING HE DID EXACTLY WHAT HE BRAGGED ABOUT DOING.

But that’s okay, because Trump can seat a judge who will overturn Roe v. Wade, so everyone who supported him made peace with ALL of that.

God appointed him, dontcha know.

Never mind that Trump’s own aide was accused of giving his MISTRESS an ABORTION SMOOTHIE that nearly killed her and definitely “killed her baby.” Funny how none of these guys care about THAT.

Nor do they seem to care TRUMP HIMSELF might have paid for an abortion for one of his many affairs.

If you’re a (white, rich) man, abortion is an option.

It’s the (poor, minority) women who can’t be trusted with their own bodies enough to manage their reproductive health, even when the United States ranks HIGHEST in the developed world for maternal mortality.  A pregnancy could actually KILL HER, particularly if she has limited financial resources.

At no point does she give over her consent to an outside entity to tell her how to manage her health, but, as a woman, that’s what our society expects of her. We’re supposed to give it up to men we don’t even know, just because THEY know better than US what is best for us.

Small government, my ass.

And people wonder why the conversation around consent is so muddy. Lemme break it down for ya, fellas:

IF IT HAS TO DO WITH MY LADY PARTS, IT’S MY FUCKING DECISION WHAT HAPPENS TO IT. PERIOD. CASE. FUCKING. CLOSED.

Needless to say, as a woman, and as a rape survivor, I have some opinions on what type of judge I think might be fit to preside over the law that shapes my existence. As a mother, a Christian and someone who, you know, cares about other people, Kavanaugh lost my vote the second this happened:

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Maybe I’m just too old and Southern, but manners make a man to me. If you can’t show some human dignity to someone on the opposite side, you don’t deserve to preside over them.

I’ve felt that way since this:

RICHARDS WILLIAMS

And we won’t even TALK about this:

Kovaleski

Needless to say, I feel MORE refinement is needed, not less.

When three women come forward to say that Brett Kavenaugh has behaved “inappropriately” (illegally,) I believe it’s necessary to take a closer look at what is going on, instead of the kneejerk “He Said/She Lied” we’ve gotten so used to in this culture.

HE’S A JUDGE, FOR FUCK’S SAKE. Even HE should want to weigh the evidence, or at the VERY least understand why allegations should be investigated, not ignored.

But… our world doesn’t seem very well equipped for that type of careful examination. Hence why so many are so rabidly trying to stop it. We tug at this thread THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD WILL FALL APART.

At least if you’re listening to people like (the uncool) Joe Walsh.

This has put me in a constant state of trauma since the whole thing began to rear its ugly head. I have felt unsafe since November 2016 FOR THIS VERY REASON. The world that they’re crafting has no place for a woman like me. They want us to shut up, keep quiet and do what we’re told.

Fuck. That.

Whether 1988, 2012 or now, it is a FACT that sexual predators prey upon women, using whatever they can to isolate/disarm her so that they can have what they want when they damned well want it. There is no amount of alcohol she could consume that would make that OK. There are no parties that she could go to that would make their punishment fit her “crime.”

Anyone who could float such a ridiculous notion has clearly never been sexually assaulted. Your privilege is definitely showing.

“Why didn’t she come forward thirty years ago?” they cry, as if they would have believed her any easier if she had. (Case in point Steubenville, where there were photos, or Brock Turner, where there were witnesses, and they STILL didn’t believe it.)

As the victim of sexual assault, I can tell you it’s no easy thing to come forward. When you are raped, you are stripped to your emotional core. It’s like a wound that never fully scabs over, but right at the beginning, when it’s fresh and new, you walk around like an exposed nerve. EVERYTHING hits you. HARD. That eases with time, thank God, but the triggers are still there. Forever. The minute we are sexually assaulted, we’re doing a lifetime sentence. Which is pretty fucked up, considering WE DIDN’T ASK FOR ANY OF THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE. Yet, the ones who get sympathy from our pathetic rape culture are the rapists themselves.

So, when those triggers get pulled (and they will,) all you can do is muscle through it and power on, exposed nerve or no. Lifetime sentence, like I said.

Recently, a friend recommended the YouTube series Impulse. He wanted to know what I thought about how they presented a story line that revolves around a young girl’s sexual assault. The interesting thing about this story is that it is unafraid to blur the lines of reality a bit. It’s also a sci-fi type show, where the victim actually has the supernatural ability to teleport, so some mind-bending is to be expected.

How they did it with a victim of sexual assault, though, was courageous and dead-on accurate. Almost painfully so.

I watched the entire first season on YouTube. Jeff watched the first two episodes with me, Steven the rest. I didn’t want to be alone. It was a good thing that I wasn’t. The whole series was full of triggers. Some I expected, some I didn’t. Some require further digging into my own troubled past, to confront some of my own beliefs and behaviors. It’s a long conversation I don’t plan to have today, aside from this one little nugget that fucked me up the most.

Like I said, they weren’t strangers to blending the lines of reality so you had to make your mind up about stuff as well. Sexual assault is a key place where that happens on the regular, and why such a thing is critical when we think about Brett Kavanaugh and his past behavior.

In the show, the heroine is a young girl named Henry (Henrietta,) and she happens to go out with the most popular boy in school, Clay. Because of course, he’s popular. Of course, he’s cute. Of course, she’d WANT to spend some time with him.

These are the worst offenders, because their rep is their greatest shield. They’re charming, good-looking, they can (and do) get away with anything, which means they’re going to do it again and again and again. They have no incentive to stop, especially now that someone like this can reach all the way up to the most powerful office in the nation.

When you’re famous, you can do anything. Right?

They know that anyone who comes up against them has the burden of impossible proof. It’s usually their word against his, and as we all know… he said/she lied – ESPECIALLY when they already have a “sterling” reputation.

(And even, turns out, if they don’t. They just need a penis. And white skin. And money.)

Like most girls who know their “Nice Guy” assailant, she probably feels pretty safe in his company. The girl from the Steubenville case said she followed her attacker to another party initially because she trusted him. And she will continue to trust him, to default to #NotAllMen, until he inevitably crosses that line. It can happen at any point, even after they’ve started making out.

Even if she wants to have sex.

This is where everything always gets so murky for folks, who have been trained that rape is a violent act that happens in the bushes by some icky stranger. Most times, however, that isn’t the case. Statistically speaking, only 28% of perpetrators are strangers; three out of four times the victim actually knows her rapist, which makes it even HARDER to report. (He said/she lied.)

Impulse tackles this head-on. It was pretty ballsy. You have a mixed up girl and a cute, popular guy. What really DOES happen in his pickup truck that fateful night?

The storytellers decided to show us EVERY possible alternative. The first scene is, of course, the real one, which shows without bothersome nuance that she said no when he hit the throttle and he didn’t give a shit. He was going to get what he wanted anyway, and she should feel LUCKY that she was in that truck with him. EVERYONE wants a piece of Clay Boone.

She’s about to LEVEL UP. She should be grateful.

Upon reflection, however, the victim HERSELF, who cannot report this because of some extenuating circumstances, can’t quite remember the events exactly as they happened any more than he can. In hindsight, neither remembers it exactly as it happens, but rather varying “edits” of the events that have more to do with who they are and how they see themselves, rather than the actual event.

Either way, this shows how time does neither any favors. As time wore on, she views it with self-blame and diminishes it. He views it as a conquest and diminishes it. Nobody else knows, they keep worshiping him, and it all just diminishes, buried as soon as the dust settled.

(Actually that’s not true. Someone on her side confronts someone on his side, and he knows on some level that it’s true. This could be the reason Brett’s party-boy partner-in-crime Mark Judge is in hiding.)

It was actually fairly upsetting to me to see Clay’s POV, because I knew in that instant that was how most of those types of attackers live with themselves. They rewrite it in their heads according to their fantasy of how it must have happened, because nobody in their right mind would be happy about being a rapist. She was into it. She had to be. As such, they spend no reflection, thinking of how their actions might have harmed another person. To them, Beach Week was all parties and drinking and good times.

For someone else, Beach Week was when their innocence ended and they stopped feeling truly safe.

How do we know which one was telling the truth?

The sad fact is that we don’t. We weren’t there. We couldn’t witness it. We have to wade through a shit-ton of nuance to whittle the truth – or some variance thereof – out of it.

But if there’s any question about it, shouldn’t we try to ANSWER it BEFORE we give this guy a LIFETIME appointment in the highest court in the land?

I mean… isn’t that kinda what courts and justice are for?

No one is out to tear down an innocent man. We simply have questions. Closer inspection SHOULD prove his innocence if he has nothing to hide and has done nothing wrong.

It is his, and all his supporters’, resistance to this that is a HUGE RED FLAG, that is legitimately hurting EVERY. SINGLE. SURVIVOR. who is watching these events unfold.

Don’t believe me? Just take a gander down Twitter. Brave survivors are making their discomfort known. (They are likewise being judged for it. Call me snowflake just once. See what happens.)

In my mind, he should WELCOME the opportunity to prove them wrong DOING THE VERY JOB FOR WHICH HE’S APPLYING. That’s what the Justice System is there for. To prove innocence and correctly assign guilt wherever evidence supports it.

The fact of the matter is that he’s applying for a job and we’re his new employers. He will be working as a public servant, so he shouldn’t shy away from answering to the public if they have questions. (And I have a LOT.)

If the constitution states, “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court,” then shouldn’t we vet the hell out of anyone who gets the lifetime gig there? Why am I getting demonized for this?

For the rest of us, who have to do background checks and drug tests and credit checks to get a regular job, is it SO outlandish that we are holding him to a HIGHER standard? Why is that a bad thing? Why is that wrong? Why is that PARTISAN, FFS?

I, for one, am not going to default to his innocence just because he’s the guy. If He Said/She Said, he has to be JUST as reasonably guilty of lying as she is, otherwise it’s a tilted system that favors one gender over another. If you don’t believe me, just look at all the men out there losing their minds because we dare suggest SHE said/HE lied, just by believing her story.

It’s going to take more than his word for me to let these allegations slide, just like it’ll take her burden of proof to make them stick.

Forgive me if I don’t want someone who is OKAY with this circumventing of justice presiding over me. Forgive me (or NOT) if I don’t want a society that’s okay with raising our girls to believe that their voice has no value to the conversation. Every time a woman makes an accusation, there are plenty who suspect that she might be lying just to harm him and take him down. People tell me there are more good than bad, but honestly – I see y’all out there, making your comments, showing where your alliances lie. I see the think-pieces and click-bait articles of men who are too “afraid” to talk to women now, or hug women, or date women (looking at you Henry Caville,) because they’re “afraid” of the Me Too movement painting a red R on their terry cloth robes.

With every mealy-mouthed objection to “wait and see,” your hemming and hawing just reinforces what we women have already been brought up to believe:

Our timing is inconvenient, our pain is questionable, and it’s almost always our fault.

And people wonder why we don’t report it.

fuckoff

So, yeah. It’s been a difficult week for me. It’s been a difficult week for anyone who has been violated. This is what we’re up against. And we are never, EVER allowed to forget it. Instead, we get to hear you cryin’ about the poor “menz” who shouldn’t get their life derailed because of a stupid mistake.

Oh, you mean like GETTING BLACKOUT DRUNK or GOING TO THE WRONG PARTY?

Yeah, you’re right. THAT SHOULD NEVER PERMANENTLY FUCK UP SOMEONE’S LIFE.

Instead of asking these women why it took them so long to come forward with their stories, maybe we should be asking ourselves what we might have done to make that so difficult for them to do in the first place. Are we in the “boys will be boys” camp where this kind of thing is excused and allowed as “lock room talk” and boys misbehaving? Or are we in the other camp, who knows that our girls – AND OUR BOYS – deserve better than whitewashing these events that have legitimately hurt countless people?

I know which one I belong to. I got shoved into that camp quite ruthlessly when I was four years old. I didn’t report because I felt shame, AS A FOUR YEAR OLD, for disobeying my mother and leaving my yard without permission. I thought I would get in trouble and further punished, so I said nothing. After being sexually violated as a small child, I couldn’t IMAGINE a punishment worse.

And no, I can’t give you exact details. I don’t know what I wore, or what day it was, or what month. I couldn’t even pick HIM out of a lineup after all these years. He was a stranger to me then. He’s a stranger to me now. Time, pain and shame have dulled each and every memory I buried under pounds of flesh to keep other sexual predators at bay so it never happened again. (Yet, it happened again.)

All I knew is he had a beard and some 70s white dude afro, and he was smiling and friendly so I trusted him enough to follow him away from my yard.

This has been the downfall of far too many women. I’d tell you to ask the victims of Ted Bundy, but you can’t. Cuz they’re dead. That’s what they got for THEIR mistake.

70s Afro Guy hurt me, THAT much I know for a guaranteed fact. You can believe me or not, it won’t change what happened.

When I was fifteen, I was at an auto repair shop because I liked the owner in a way my mother SO wouldn’t have approved of, so how can I report when some old fart grabbed my breasts out of the blue, when I shouldn’t have been there in the first place? I was a stupid teen girl flirting with an older man. Can you imagine trying to build a prosecution case around THAT?

Still, as “bad” as my behavior was, it didn’t warrant my being raped or groped without my consent. And anyone who thinks such can go straight to hell. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

The way I see it, the #NotAllMen crowd should be the ones who demand we question Brett Kavanaugh the most. Not ALL men suggests that there are SOME men who do really bad things. If Kavanaugh is truly innocent, he can withstand the scrutiny. If he’s not, then we should know this BEFORE he gets a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.

This. Is. A. Reasonable. Request.

It is to your benefit, guys, that we know who these other guys are so we can tell you apart. Otherwise you go under the same umbrella, which you don’t seem to like very much.

I gotta tell ya that right now, you all look the same to us, taking up your pitchforks against a woman who dares to come forward and tell her story. Despite how many daughters, mothers, sisters, friends you know personally, you’ve defected to the side that defends men by virtue ONLY of their being men. He said/she lied. And if it IS true, it’s her fault anyway.

Do you not grasp how much harder are you making it for the NEXT victim to come forward, no matter what her story or background? Do you even care?

Don’t bother answering. We already know.

And I only have one thing to say in return:

#TimesUP, motherfucker.

 

Installing a Love filter on the Internal Selfie

I’ve never been big on pictures of myself. I’ll take thirty of my kids, my pets, or even the same park I’ve been going to for six years, but if you want to find photos of me when I was younger, they’re few and far between.

Last year, in an effort to utilize Snapchat more, I began taking selfies. The filters were fun and it quickly became a thing my bestie and I did. Not to brag, but it’s turned us into proud streakers.

That said, selfies that I share publicly, even though I made it a point to force myself to get more comfortable with it, still go through an editing process. I’ve tried to remove myself from that equation when I pose with other people who want their pictures taken with me. I figure if they want the photo, they know what I look like so I just smile and let them edit it for themselves even though I’ve found that I’m a lot like the Two-Faced woman in Seinfeld, where I can be attractive in one pose, but repulsive in another taken mere seconds later.

This is why I like the Snapchat filters so much. They ease cruel self-flagellation that has been instilled in me since birth.

Even cuter still is Bitty Me, my bitmoji.

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You’ll notice that I didn’t shy away from making my Bitty Me fat, because I’m fat. I’m nothing if not literal. This makes posting those Snapchat-filtered selfies a little challenging for me outside of Snapchat. I know that you’re seeing a photoshopped version of me, like a mask or disguise. Surely when you see me in person, you’ll be utterly disappointed. Or you’ll know me in person, and know what a big fat liar I am. I’m NOTHING like my pretty Snaps, right?

Except… you won’t be disappointed, because you will probably see more than the scars, particularly if you already know/love me. That’s the kindness filter, and my Internal Selfie doesn’t have that.

See, that’s the thing about the Internal Selfie – it already has a filter. That filter is shaped by the world around us, telling us how to view ourselves. If you’re a woman, even if you’re young and pretty, there is a long list of defects and faults that can still be highlighted and identified. God forbid you actually LIKE how you look. Such a thing simply isn’t ladylike.

We’re conditioned to downplay our attributes and spotlight our imperfections. This is why my model-thin future daughter-in-law was freaked about showing her collarbones in her wedding dress.

We recently did a dress reveal for those in the wedding party who weren’t able to go dress-shopping with us. Do you think THEY saw her collarbones the same way she did? Total strangers in the bridal shop couldn’t take their eyes off of Brittany. She glowed.

I was feeling pretty self-confident that day too, mostly because the day wasn’t about me. Then we had to pose for pictures and, remember what I said earlier? I just grinned and grit my way through it.

I could pick myself apart like crazy, instead, I put my photo up against another time I wore the same shirt, to remind myself where I’ve come.

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Can’t hate on THAT, now can I?

When the people who love me see me, they’re not seeing the scary Alternate Ginger. They view me through a Love Filter, one that blurs away all those imperfections society at large is so quick to point out. They see me for more than a collection of parts. They know my rocky past. They aren’t expecting everything to be in place. In fact, that I clean up so well after all I’ve been through often takes them by surprise. “You look great!” they tell me, though it’s so damned hard to believe them sometimes.

That’s why I’m so grateful for the photos now, because *I* can see for myself how far I’ve come. I’m going into my 50s so much stronger, healthier and happier than I went into my 30s.

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I’ve been doing a lot of these collages lately, to remind myself where I’ve been, where I’m going, and to stand strong in the moment. I’ve fought VERY hard to be here, with so many things working against me through the years. Yet, I keep getting up and moving forward. Instead of picking myself apart with each and every photo, I want to throw a little Love filter on there myself, because that chick in the photo is pretty darned amazing. I know what she’s been through, what she’s conquered and what she’s accomplished more than ANYONE, and if I had just learned to be gentler on that little girl way back when, maybe I wouldn’t be so insecure today.

I certainly wouldn’t be waiting for some After photo to justify my taking the damn photo in the first place. Newsflash, Ginger: THEY ARE ALL AFTER PHOTOS. That, in itself, makes them beautiful. Not because I’ve lost weight, but because I’ve survived life. If you know anything about my life, you know why that’s freaking incredible. (And why I’m a major badass.)

This was me as a four-year-old, after we moved from Lubbock (where I was assaulted,) back to my hometown of Abilene. Sure, she looks like any other adorable 4-year-old. Except she’s not. This little girl was hiding a secret that she thought would make the whole world stop loving her. Back then, she felt like she’d been ruined, cursed, punished. She’d done a bad thing (gone off with a stranger,) so anything bad that happened to her afterwards with her fault.

As such, this is a little girl whose entire world has been blown apart… and she’s learning how to hide it all behind a normal smile.

 

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When I look at her now, I feel such sympathy for her. I want to give her a big hug and hold on tight, letting her know that despite it all (or maybe, even because of it,) she would go on to do incredible things. She’d be loved by so many wonderful people, each one viewing her through a more merciful filter than she ever viewed herself.

She would spend the next 45 years trying to make up for being bad by being the best she could possibly be. Yet, every time anything truly spectacular happened, she’d self-destruct because that Internal Selfie filter was turned to self-loathing. It simply wouldn’t accept that anything truly great was possible. Her curse was her fault, after all. She deserved to suffer.

Can you imagine me saying that to that little four-year-old girl? I know I can’t. Yet, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Can you imagine hating yourself so badly for something that wasn’t even your fault?

No matter if I left my yard with a stranger or not, I don’t deserve what happened to me.

It’s time to turn on that love filter. It’s time to see myself through a gentle, softening lens that minimizes the damage and enhances the beauty, because there is beauty there to behold.

It’s okay to embrace that. Better still, it’s okay to celebrate it.

I honestly have shied away from sharing photos with anyone with the bestie just because I don’t want to put anyone off by the photos that I send. My Insta is mostly motivational quotes or pictures of my pets or kids. Not me. I’m afraid to do me. I’m afraid that anyone scrolling past that photo of me will automatically unfollow because no one can truly handle it.

Can you imagine? I’m all about celebrating the beauty in other people, but when it comes to myself I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

So, the challenge going forward is to wrap my fucking mind around it. I’m a beautiful woman who deserves to be loved. If you don’t agree, that’s fine. You’re not one of the ones who is destined to love me.

For those who do, thank you for seeing me through a different filter. I will no longer edit myself out of your life, or my own memories. That seems to be where everything got so off-track so long ago.

That little girl still needs a big hug from those who don’t want to let go.

That starts today with the one person she needed to love her, forgive her, accept her the most.

It starts with me.

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