Archives for posts with tag: women’s issues

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Me too. The hashtag that took over social media this past weekend. I had to look it up, to be honest.  I had a feeling what it was, but googled it to be sure. Sadly, I was correct. The day before this started trending I shared a brief story of my own via a Facebook status. It was about the first time I vividly recall being sexually harassed, and maybe by some definitions, assaulted. In middle school, by a teacher. It was in light of the discussions of men in positions of power abusing that trust and role. Using that position to hurt women. The next day I stated seeing “me too” all over Facebook and Instagram.

I haven’t posted a “me too” status though. Why? Because I am very open about my stories of assault and harassment and date rape. I have found my voice over the last few years and I talk about it until I am blue in the face, until all my Facebook friends probably roll their eyes and think, here we go again, (I don’t care though). I talk and write and write and talk because it is important. Because for 13 years I lost my voice. Because maybe my stories will help another woman. Because these moments happened, are happening, and will happen again.

Tomorrow is the culmination of my Resistance Writing Workshop. I set out to write another piece on sexual harassment. I even have a first draft written up. In the end, I shifted to a piece on mass shootings. I will share that after my critique and edits. But at the front of my mind, when I first stepped foot into that class 6 weeks ago, was writing about sexual harassment. Before the “shocking” Weinstein story (is it all that shocking? It seems the whole industry knew) and before “me too.” Why? Because this isn’t a trending hashtag. This is real life. This is my real life. This is the real life of most women I know. Because a teacher massaged my shoulders and ran his hands through my hair when I was in middle school. (I don’t even think I had gotten my first period yet.) Because an adult coworker followed me into a freezer when I was 16, closed the door, pinned me against a shelf, and kissed me, without my consent. Because I woke up in a hospital, no underwear, questions about what happened to my genitals being barked at me by a doctor. Because a man trapped me in an elevator and commented on my legs, while I was carrying my wedding veil. Because a man masturbated in his car, next to mine, watching me, as I put my first born son into his car seat, at 10 a.m. on a weekday. Because a drunk man sexually harassed me at noon on a weekday when I was pushing my 2 year old in his stroller. And so many more instances. All of that gets lost with just “me too.” You don’t quite get the disgusting nature of these moments when you chalk it up to “me too.”

I think the stories are important. It is more than “me too.” The narrative matters. What happened? Who did it? How did you feel? How did it affect your life? How are you doing now? How have you recovered? You matter! The details matter. Me too doesn’t solve anything. Awareness, sure, but we are all aware this happens. We live it. We see it. We read it. We hear it. Now we need to change it. Talk, speak, tell your story, insist on fairness, require body autonomy, demand that your sons will walk into this world differently, men, speak up when you see it happening, not after it comes to light. Bosses, refuse to tolerate any employee feeling uncomfortable in your office/company/business. The burden is not on us victims. The burden is on society to get its shit together. To refuse to tolerate sexual harassment and assault. Maybe because I am a writer, I feel that the stories are so important. “Me too” glosses over the nitty gritty ugly details, and maybe that is what we need. A bold look in the mirror, face the ugliness, the hideousness, the shame that we continue to let people (men, mostly) get away with these acts. Then enact bold and revolutionary change.


Depending on the moment, down to the second, my desire to have a third child has been susceptible to change. Are both boys peacefully sleeping on me? Their dark eyelashes dusting their skin? Chests rhythmically rising and falling with a small snore escaping their perfectly tiny noses? Oh, the urge to create another perfect tiny human radiates through all my bones, sinew, and joints. Are both boys in the middle of a literal knock out fight, screaming, “THAT’S MINE!” and punching each other? My uterus curls up into a ball, holding a small knife out, yelling, “come near me and someone gets cut!” That is how easily I could switch between the idea of adding another human to our brood.

I love my boys. I don’t have a desire to have a girl specifically (people ask that a lot), but sometimes the lure of newborn scent and snuggle is tough to resist. Reflecting on baby photos of my rapidly growing boys can make me tenderly remember those hours rocking them in gliders, nursing them to sleep. Pressing down the memories of desperate desire for sleep and the battles of breastfeeding. The urge pops up every so often, while I simultaneously and loudly lament, “I am definitely DONE having babies.” The thought was there: the consideration then the dismissal. Shooing away my husband as he hugged me and said, “let’s make a third!” But the choice was ultimately mine.

Until last week. Last week that was taken away from me by my own body. Or at least, I learned about this new version of me. Without getting into the nitty gritty details of that, because I am not sure I am ready to, the bottom line is this: my ability to have more babies has become very unlikely. Writing that out sent a chill through my body. I can describe the moment I received the news. I happened to answer my doctor’s call in the middle of the park last Thursday morning. All of the children running around me in slow motion, voices distorted, my head spinning. Knowing when I hit the red end button, I had to turn around, with a smile, and ask my boys if they wanted to go grab lunch yet.

I am only thirty-two years old. I know I have two gorgeous, funny, adorable, sweet, snuggly, happy boys. I know that. I love them more than anything in this world. I live for them, if it wasn’t clear through my countless articles and posts I have written. I am thankful they’re mine. This doesn’t mean a part of me didn’t die last week, literally. It did. Even if I have already produced two amazing tiny humans. That part of my life is dead now, over. There will be no more newborn scents or wails drifting through our halls. There will be no more onesies or swaddles. There will be no more little genetic combos of my husband and myself.

Until last week, It was my choice to make or not make. That was a power piece I held. If two years from now, both boys in school full time, I missed that baby stage so much, I could have added another to our bunch. That was always a possibility. Choice. I had a choice.

I have anxiety, so of course, I have been replaying a lot in my own brain the last few days. Living in my head. Yesterday I let myself breakdown entirely. Today, I have emerged from the fog. I gave myself one day of mourning and now it is back to my usual routine. As I walked to the grocery store, headphones in, I thought about the fact that I started having babies when I was twenty-five. These days, that is considered young. I remember my OB saying to me “you are the youngest woman in my practice, except my teen moms.” This used to annoy me. Today, I am eternally grateful. What if we hadn’t decided to try for Jackson when I was that young? What if I had said no to Jason about trying to have Alex just before Jackson turned three? What if I had insisted on waiting? The thought breaks my heart.

I feel like I lost a little piece of something last week. Regardless of the fact, that at this moment in life, I didn’t want another baby, it was still my choice to make. I had more time to make that choice. Who knows where we will be in a couple years. Maybe maybe maybe. This doesn’t change our family in any literal sense at this moment, but I do feel different. I feel broken. I feel like a failure. I feel trapped in my own body. I feel like I am incapable. Of what? I am not sure. A female’s worth doesn’t revolve around baby-making, I know that. I am so much more than “just a mom.” There is more to me than that part of my life, but it is a part and a big one.

Back to that internal battle, only this time it isn’t over whether I want another baby or not. Rather, it’s that I am not broken because I can’t have another baby. It’s that in time, I will accept this new normal of my body and life. For now, I just look back at the serendipitous moments that led to me having two children before the ability to do so was prematurely snatched away from my grasp.

Male following female into blue night shadows

Yesterday I was walking home from an appointment. The boys were at camp and preschool, I was enjoying a leisurely walk home alone. Headphones in, phone out, reading through my email. I normally do not do this when the boys are with me, but hey, momma was alone. I happened to have a great email giving me an assignment for our local newspaper. I was about to send a text to my husband and then mom, when a young man, ran up beside me, out of breath. Initially I thought something had happened. He immediately started talking to me, I removed one of my headphones. He said something along the lines, “I thought you were really cute and I just had to talk to you. What’s your name?” At this point, my body language must have changed from elated, over my personal good news, to utterly terrified. I said, “I am married.” He said, “You’re married? You look really scared right now!” I ignored the comment and said, “Yes I am married and I have two kids.” He mumbled something else, sorry perhaps, I am not sure. I was rather uncomfortable. Then he turned around and walked away. I kept walking forward. Changing the purpose of my text to my husband from job to street interaction.

Rewind to the week before. It was around noon, I was walking home from our local coffee shop. Pushing my two year old in the stroller. I was using our small stroller, so I did not have my cup holder tray. I had on a tank top and shorts. They kept riding up as I walked. I kept cursing them in my mind, because it felt annoying. Pulling them down was tricky with two full hands. It was blazingly hot outside. We were enjoying our walk home. I was balancing my coffee in one hand while pushing the stroller, uphill, with the other hand. My little guy and I were just kind of chatting. I noticed a man approaching, walking in the opposite direction. He was swaying back and forth. As we began to get closer, I noticed an open can of beer in his hand. Again, it was noon. We were walking through a very family friendly park. There is a playground with a splash pad. Lots of trees and beautiful landscaping. There is a small dog park. There is an open field area for fitness programs, sports, playing, or laying around with friends and family. It was noon! As he got to us he looked me up and down, very slowly. I began to feel incredibly uncomfortable. No one else was around us. Just him, my baby, and me. I felt a twinge of alarm. He spoke. With slurred speech he said, “Damn! You got a lot of muscles on you girl.” I did not respond at all. I quickened my pace, my heart frantic to get my child away from the situation. In my head I thought “I do! If you touch me, I will use every single one of them to beat you.” I was ready to fight him off, to protect my baby, if it came to that. I did not feel safe. We arrived home safely a few minutes later. My son, oblivious to the situation.

Rewind even further. I took my oldest son to see Neil DeGrasse Tyson on a Tuesday. We walked home that night. It was not overly late, maybe around nine. As we left the theater another drunk man sexually harassed another woman. It was not me in that moment, but I did walk up to her and ask her if she was ok. My son asked me why, and I explained it to him, in as gentle of a way as I could. We moved on and continued to walk home. As we got closer to our building a group of men approached. College aged boys, all shirtless, for some unknown reason. One of them got very close to me and my face and drunkenly said “You are really good looking.” I pulled my son to the side and said nothing back. Again, that fight or flight took over. When my children are with me, flight wins, so I can avoid a fight. I had to have a chat this time, about why that was wrong and what had happened.

As I replayed the interaction yesterday, and how the young man seemed truly bothered that I seemed afraid of him, I recalled these two specific moments. There have been many others in my life, but I could write a memoire if I included every incident. My instinct yesterday was to be afraid, even if his interaction came from a genuine desire to connect with another human, society has made it so that women are instinctually afraid. We must be on the defense because of men like the ones who harassed me. I am not looking for a connection with a stranger, I am married. I have a family. I am not writing this from the view point of a single woman navigating the dynamics of meeting people. I am writing this from the view point of a woman who has been a victim of sexual harassment too many times to count. While street harassment is not studied enough, a 2014 study did find that 65% of women had experienced street harassment. I can recall moments even as a preteen, men hollering at me out of their car windows. I have been dealing with this for most of my life. It is no surprise that when this man did approach me and I realized what he was saying, that my mental and physical reaction immediately braced for another round of street harassment.

In today’s overly digitally connected world we are often lacking the face to face human connection. This is something that is discussed at length, if you Google that, you will find 25 million results. However, how can we, as a society, learn to embrace that innocent human connection, when so many rotten apples have ruined it? When these offenders have made us feel defensive and unsafe just walking down the street, with or without our children. In the moment, it can be difficult to ascertain the difference between someone who just feels drawn to you and someone who is sexually harassing you. Putting up your defense is usually the safest and most comforting reaction. Perhaps for some, at the risk of losing out on positive moment.

I do not have a simple solution. I do feel drawn to talk about it, though. I want to hear your stories. How do you navigate this often tricky balance? How do you determine when a stranger is just being genuine or if they are a threat? Are you like me, always having defenses up, because too many times you have been a victim of harassment? You are not alone in this battle, there is strength and safety in numbers. I do not feel bad that I came across as afraid, it is not my fault, I do however wish that our society was different. I wish that a woman could walk down the street without feeling the need to constantly be aware of her surroundings. I wish a woman could walk home at night, with her son, and not be harassed. I wish a woman could walk home from grabbing coffee in the middle of the day, without being harassed.