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When your Ride or Die Bitch, dies.

 

My Ride or Die Bitch died.

Ride or Die. Invented by bikers, adopted by soccer moms, or baseball moms, or dance moms. Adopted by suburban moms. Making mom friends is hard, doubly so as I moved here shortly after my first son was born and knew no one. A few attempts to join moms clubs failed miserably, they already had their crew and a new chick was not welcome thank you very much.

 

“It will get better when he starts preschool.” my mother in law reassured me one night when I confessed I was so lonely. In Los Angeles, I had true real girlfriends, the kind that are more family than friend and through facebook and texting we talked all the time, but I was still alone, in a town knowing no one and no one to talk too except my husband, in-laws and my toddler. And all he wanted to talk about was Yo Gabba Gabba. I am a person who needs her girlfriends and making great girlfriends has always been my superpower.

 

My mother in law was right, as she often is, and when my son Max started preschool there was a little girl in his class with white blond hair and aqua eyes and they took to each other right away. Her grandmother sometimes dropped her off and we chatted, then one fateful day her mother picked her up from school and that, as they say, was that. Her name was Kristen and she was everything I am not. Self-confident in an easy way, athletic, not- fussy. She rolled in in athletic wear, a headband and her hair up in a messy bun, she cracked a wry joke and we mated for life as friends right then and there. I don’t even know how our friendship progressed, but over those three years of preschool, we spent more and more time together joining our families for holidays and events. Texting every single day random bullshit thoughts and things to make each other laugh.

 

She was without a doubt and with no exaggeration one of the best human beings ever, and I wish you had known her because even a fleeting encounter with her left your faith in humanity restored. She was GOOD without being perfect, or precious, she was human and flawed and funny and just…ride or die.

 

She was always the first one to show up for a crisis and even better, the first to show up for a celebration. She had an endless energy, her moral code was strong, but she made no excuses for being human, her college days…well, let’s say that’s a story for another day. She was the product of two amazing, strong parents and I had never met anyone like her in the entire world.

Except one, who although totally different had the same balls-to-the-wall joy of life and relentless energy and code.

 

They both died of cancer. Carrie of lung cancer and Kristen of thymic carcinoma. The world is unfair.

 

Kristen’s cancer took her quickly, by the time the tumor was found it was large and pressing on her lungs. Chemo was scheduled and despite my trying to come and visit her after it, she would insist on showing up on my doorstep with milkshakes or something, wanting to get out and visit “while she could.” It never really occurred to me she would die, Kristen was as badass as they come, obviously she would kick cancer’s ass. Chemo worked and then it didn’t. So surgery was scheduled. I should have done more, we texted before she went in, and her family was there taking care of her, but I should have sent something funny to her hospital room. But where Kristen had endless energy, I was paralyzed.

 

She was at my hospital bed hours after my daughter arrived with steak tacos and champagne. Popping the champagne to celebrate woke my tiny newborn and she cried and we laughed and joked for the next three years that Piper would forever be traumatized by Auntie Kristen and champagne. The plan was, as soon as she was able to have visitors, to bring steak tacos and champagne to her hospital room. To pop that cork and make her laugh just enough but not enough to hurt her. Chest surgery is no joke. Instead, I was standing in the middle of Ikea when I got the call. She made it through the surgery and we were on cloud nine, but the cancer had spread to her brain and 24 hours later she was gone. The world went sideways and I’m not sure it’s righted itself yet.

 

Every day I miss her, I go to text her. So many things happen and she would just howl with laughter and she is not here to share them. She teasingly called her angelic-looking daughter with the long blond hair and aqua eyes “Regina George” because that girl has a wit that can cut with surgical precision. She’s a 9-year-old and she is stronger than I have ever been, and we teased but we love it. I want to tell Kristen that the little one she scared with the champagne is following in Regina George’s footsteps.

 

The other day Piper looked at me and said: “Mommy, Miss Kristen was your best friend.”

“Yes.”

“She died.”

“Yes, she did.” And then staring at me like Drew Barrymore in Firestarter my 3 year old said: “I’m your best friend now.”

 

Kristen would have fucking loved that. I can hear her laughter now. I wanted so badly to text her, but I can’t cause my ride or die bitch died and I am so mad about it.

 

Two days after she died my coffee maker flipped out. I pushed brew and the lights flashed and the beeps beeped and nothing happened. I hadn’t really cried, I was numb and talking to her family trying not to insert myself too much but wanting to be there all the time. I needed my coffee. Because even when your ride or die bitch dies kids still have to go to school, permission slips need to be signed, baseball games still happen, the world keeps turning. I lost my mind on that coffee maker. Pushing all the buttons, unplugging it and plugging it back in screaming at it in an ever growing hysteria. Finally, just sinking to the floor, banging my head on the cabinets and crying. Keening. Of course, it wasn’t about the coffee maker.  Eventually, my little daughter crawled into my arms and I held her tight and cried. She pulled my face up and just said “Miss Kristen?” Because three-year-olds are wiser than we give them credit for. I needed that cry.

 

My coffee maker had never done that before and it has worked perfectly every day since. If you believe in that sort of thing, and I kinda do, then that was my bitch KG forcing me forward, just like she always  did. I can imagine her laughing “that’ll make her really lose it! And she needs too.” and she’d be right. Perhaps “ride or die” goes beyond death.

 

As Mother’s Day passed I thought of her mother and her daughter, wanting to call and not being able to make myself because I knew I would be a blubbering mess, and disappointed in myself because not only would Kristen have called but she would have dropped off flowers before everyone woke up. “Thinking about you.” the card would have said. Instead I did nothing but miss her and wish I could be more like her without actually doing anything to be more like her.  “Come ON Stearns!” I hear her urging me to jump off the diving board or pitch a baseball, I am risk averse and she leaped in with a joyous freedom.

 

Reminding me of what Carrie once told me before cancer took her too quickly “You can’t fly if you don’t jump out of the plane!’ I had told her I would surely plummet to the ground and she laughed saying I’d get it eventually.

 

Kristen got it.

 

Maybe it’s not Ride OR Die. It’s ride and die, or ride through death… She might not be on this planet, I can’t text her every little thought and I can’t get the chime letting me know she had something to share, but she affects me every day. Even if I can’t call, yet. I will.

 

My Ride or Die Bitch changed my life, she showed me how making mistakes doesn’t mean I AM a mistake. She showed me so many things. My Ride or Die bitch checked out way to early, but I am still Ride Or Die for her and with her, until I die. And if there is an afterlife I bet you she will be waiting with Steak Tacos and Champs and giving me that devilish look saying “You like that thing with the coffee maker?”

 

Yeah, bitch, I did.

 

Ride till death, and then keep riding. 

Are you there Becky, Karen? It’s me, Stephie. And we need to talk.

 

As white women we occupy the most privileged place a woman can be. Yeah, we have our struggles and our fights to win, but we do have privilege. Part of that privilege is a presumed innocence. Aand when we need it, a victimhood.

Listen, I get it. We are the product of centuries of conditioning that people who are different are dangerous. That anything other than tears is an inappropriate response to any confrontation, no anger allowed for us! But then, of course, tears are over emotional or of course we must have our periods. It’s a no-win situation for us. But here’s the thing, those tears…they can and regularly are a weapon against black people.

So, Becky, Karen…me, let’s chat. The time has come and gone and come again for us to put our egos aside. No, we ourselves aren’t responsible for slavery, but we and every other white person reap the benefits of institutions and mindsets that were set in place then and still continue to this day. They are antiquated and wrong and it is on us to call it out and knock it off. Racism isn’t just big horrible things, it is as they say, a death by a thousand cuts and we must examine our own part in that, and fix our course.

Take for instance the white woman who attacked the black pregnant soldier and then CRIED that she was the victim. If the assault hadn’t been caught on tape, one hundred percent her white tears would have portrayed her as the victim, and the black soldier would have been seen as the aggressor. You even see her start to cry and play the victim to the cops on camera! Now for this women, it was a conscious decision. A tactic that has probably gotten her out of situations before. There is no excuse. But many of us may not even realize we are doing it. It’s a pavlovian response to cry in conflict for many of us, we may not know how that affects others.

After reading this there are no more excuses. We must be aware and rectify our behavior.

So, Starbucks, am I right? I live at Starbucks, I am the quintessential suburban latte loving mom. I am with all my girls at the ‘bucks on the reg. One time while we were there a white man took it upon himself to notice that my toddler touched more than one Peter Rabbit apple sauce and proceeded to scream obscenities and horrible things at me. The baristas tried to calm him down, other customers came to my defense as he called me ‘white trash’ and a ‘horrible mom’, and that’s the nice things. Now, I almost did cry. I was embarrassed my toddler had grabbed a bunch of the applesauces and was terrified at his anger and the vile things he was screaming at me. You know what the baristas did not do? Even though this man was threatening me and screaming at the top of his lungs? They didn’t call the police.

The two men who were arrested last week at Starbucks last week didn’t yell at anyone, they didn’t say horrible things, they did nothing but sit and wait, just like I do when I get there before my girls. No one has ever called the cops on me for that.

The cops were called because two black men sitting calmly waiting made a white barista uncomfortable. Black people being in a public space makes white people uncomfortable, and black people pay the price for that. Here is the thing, if you are uncomfortable because a black person is sitting near you then you need to sit with that discomfort and truly think about it. Are they actually doing anything scary? Probably not. Probably they are just trying to go about their lives doing such crazy things as wait for a friend to grab a coffee. Sit with it. Think about WHY you feel uncomfortable and seriously, KNOW it’s on you. It’s on me. It’s on US. Think about how if you are uncomfortable for -let’s admit it- no good reason, just because someone is black, think about how uncomfortable it is to be a black person in this current world. Now, I would not attempt to speak for them, they are more than capable of doing that, all we have to do is shut up and listen. In the past 24 hours, I have heard stories on twitter of people just trying to go to the store, eat lunch, get into their OWN HOME and being verbally assaulted or even worse, having the cops called on them. For walking in their own neighborhoods.

There is NO WAY to deny the people in the wrong are those (us) with racial bias that says “this person must be up to something to be in this neighborhood/Starbucks/grocery store/school”. Therefore it is on US to acknowledge it. To sit with our discomfort and NOT call the cops on someone in the store next to us just because they make us uncomfortable. Think of how uncomfortable we are making them! Read this thread of  Elon James White’s of what it is like entering a predominately white space. We are uncomfortable for ages old and non-realistic reasons. Statistically, we are more likely to be killed or injured by our own partners than a random black man.

We must start recognizing it, acknowledging it and then DOING something about it. Because our discomfort is costing people their lives and jobs and it’s unacceptable. Ladies, we need to get over ourselves, because our anxiety is not based in reality and it is WRONG.

Recently a friend of mine (this story is shared with her permission) was called into HR because someone had made a complaint against her. What was the complaint? She didn’t smile enough, she didn’t greet everyone with a joyous ‘Good Morning!”and that made this one woman, in particular “uncomfortable”. She was told she was doing a good job, she was meeting all her requirements, in fact her work was stellar. But this white woman was uncomfortable. Over several meetings she was  informed  they knew she didn’t like it there or them (she did like it there, and was just fine with them) It was suggested she needed some ‘black girlfriends’ to complain about the white people too. Then they started in, insisting she clock in though no one else on salary does. Keeping close watch on her and calling her in for any minor infraction, like being 2 minutes late for a duty though she was in fact helping someone at work and they knew it. Eventually the situation because untenable and she had to make a choice, for her sanity and to show her children what was right she let her job.

Because a white woman thought she didn’t like her, because she didn’t smile at her every morning. Since her expectations weren’t being met, surely this woman was at fault.Racism doesn’t need to be big and violent to  be destructive. The daily subtle stuff is almost worse, what could she do? Her concerns were laughed away, but in the end she still suffered the consequences. She, like these men at Starbucks, did nothing wrong. When was the last time you were followed around a store to make sure you didn’t shoplift? When was the last time you were accused of stealing an article of clothing at Old Navy just because you were wearing it, while BUYING more clothes? These things happen all the time and there is no excuse for us to be surprised by it any more.

A recent special hosted by Oprah featured photographs of lynchings and white people were SUPER upset about the photos. Not about the lynchings, but that the photos of dressed up white people smiling and cheering black bodies hanging from trees made them uncomfortable. Good. It should make us uncomfortable, the last known lynching was in 1982 and that was fucking yesterday as far as history is concerned. So, no I am not sorry if these photos made you uncomfortable, they should. Don’t look away from them. From our shameful legacy, and then realize that while we may not be hanging black bodies from elm trees, we sure do make the world more dangerous for those who just want to go about their lives.

You know who was the most uncomfortable? Those who were lynched, their families and their relatives who now look upon those photos and see their loved ones swinging. It’s brutal, its evil, and it is murder. We must reckon with our past.

 

There is no excuse to look away.None. From here on out, there is NO EXCUSE to be surprised these things happen. These things happen every single day.

 

The other day I held the door for a black woman, she looked at me like I had three heads, like that had never happened before. A white woman holding the door for her. Like things happen, a day or two later I read a thread on twitter (I will update when I find it) by a woman who had been bumped into by a white woman who then apologized. She said this was the first time it happened. Her feed was followed by similar stories.

White women. WHAT THE FUCK. Hold the door for whoever is behind you, or in front of you. If you bump into someone, say sorry. If someone passes you on the street smile and say hello. I don’t expect any praise for doing these things and neither should you…this is the very baseline of human kindness and manners.

Imagine if someone had simply said hello to those gentlemen? Imagine if we made an effort to notice when we are feeling uncomfortable in the presence of black people and KNOW that that is generationally conditioned racism?

 

No more being surprised by this. No more sitting quietly while it happens. When we know better, we do better. We must all be the starbucks patrons who stood up for those men.

It starts with us, and it starts with our children. White women, we need to get over this crap and lead the way. We are not white saviors, that’s gross, but we must not buy into the ages old soft racism that is dangerous to those around us. We must put aside our egos, and we must stand up for what is right.

It’s on us.

 

  • I am still looking for some of the twitter threads I reference here, I did not save them as they went past, so hold tight. I will update.

I was not there. A Mea Culpa from a white girl from whitesville

Ferguson

Yesterday I took my six-year-old son and we took the Metro down to the March For Our Lives. If the first Women’s March was cathartic and the second energizing, then this march was inspiring. Beyond inspiring. There weren’t words. This march was far more intersectional than the Women’s March. Though my little pocket I happened to march with was quite diverse (by chance, I went with another white suburban mom to the first and with my husband to the second) overwhelmingly it was…embarrassingly white. My friend Danielle and I even remarked on it as we applied gold glitter uterus tattoos to our cheeks and carried our INTERSECTIONAL FEMINISM NOW posters printed from the ACLU.

It was cliche. Don’t get me wrong it was a life-changing experience, for me and nothing can negate that. Not even self-reflection.

I came home from the march yesterday, emotionally exhausted. As Emma Gonzalez stood on stage silent first we were quiet, then the weeping began spreading through us, people took care of one another, many holding strangers as they became emotional, a man behind me in a blue do-rag covered his face with his sign, to hide emotion. I held my baby to me and just cried.  Someone down the way began chanting “Vote them out!” And that spread for  bit, but then we quieted again, peace signs for the older generation and Katniss tributes from the teens (and me cause, hello? Girl power) starting going up, along  tears as we rode the roller coaster of being among almost a million people held captive in silence by gun violence.

Of course, I went on Twitter because is anything really real if it’s not on twitter? I saw tweet after tweet saying  “Where were you when black kids were taking to the streets? ” and ” We have been protesting this shit for years, where were you?” The authors were filled with rage, and that rage is righteous.

It was a  gut punch. Because I was not there. And the truth hurts. I’m an extremely progressive liberal. I write op-eds, everyone knows I am a loud mouth Nasty Woman and knows where I stand. I donate money and time to causes I believe in. I write letters and postcards and call my reps I have hard conversations with family and friends, I vocally call our racism and demand our media do better.

But still, where was I? I was at home with my kids.

When Baltimore erupted after the murder of Freddie Gray I could have been there in 30 minutes. But I wasn’t. Sure, I was tweeting like crazy, amplifying black voices and sobbing with fury but I was not there.

I wasn’t on the street. It wasn’t until the Women’s March that I took to the street, it’s my regular thing now..but before? Nah. I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, possibly the capital of political navel-gazing, there were always protestors on the greens of the County Courthouse and I thought they were pathetic. As a teen I thought,  get a job, hippies!  When I moved to the Bay Area we didn’t protest, we partied. In Los Angeles? We worked…and partied. No protesting. I hadn’t thought of protests in decades and protestors to me meant white people in dreds and tie-dye banging drums on the idyllic courthouse lawn. Get a job. and wash your hair.

But then…Trump happened and though I was involved in progressive causes, suddenly the America I had taken for granted, was in my face sliding away. Just like that, I was marching.

But my America was, always had been different from others. While I knew it intellectually, peripherally, now I felt it viscerally. “We will survive this!” people say, and I think “People haven’t survived this already”

Awareness is a funny thing, I was aware before…but there are layers and layers and layers of awareness. Each one aches because how could I have NOT known before? We are only as aware as the information we have access too and I had more access than most, but still, there were atrocities happening right under my nose and I had no idea.

None of this is an excuse, or an attempt to center myself, or whitewash it. It is my mea culpa.

I grapple now, in this time of labor pains amongst us on how to speak out the right way. How do I do it without centralizing myself? How do we step up and speak out without inadvertently assuming the white savior role? (Can you hear the smallest violin playing for me?)

The landscape is changing and that is a good thing, and (cry me a river) sometimes it’s hard to get it right. For instance, I had been using POC and was corrected and told to use black people when talking about, you know, black people. I was embarrassed but I have no ego about this so, easy breezy. Using the right nomenclature for any group is a given once you know what is right. I was wrong, that’s an easy fix.

But reconciling the past, and having NOT shown up….that’s much harder. All the past. From the dawn of my ancestors landing her in 1631. That, is much, much harder. And I’ve decided the only way is brutal honesty. With myself, and with my kids. About everything.

So, where was I? Sure, this march was planned and I had time to put it on my calendar while many are not and I’d need someone to watch the kids and blah blah blah…or are there other marches planned and I am not tapped into where they are being publicized?

Whatever it is the brutal truth is I didn’t show up for Freddie Gray because I was scared. Not of the protestors, but of how the police treat the protestors. I can see with my own eyes how they roll out the military vehicles and escalate the situation. And I am scared of that. I am a coward. Because of course, every single person who is on the ground in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in Sacramento just this week is also scared. But they’ve been marching for their lives for centuries and that will to survive, to be heard, is stronger than fear.

I know that now in the safest and sweetest of ways. I have been gently lowered into marching for our lives, coddled by cops who smiled at me, and people who welcomed me. I never felt in danger at any of the marches I’ve attended and only once has a cop so much as snapped at someone near me. Yesterday I watched the National Guard take selfies at their tank-like car parked to block the street. It was, in a word, adorable.

But tank-like cars like that have plowed right down streets of protestors before and will again. And I think we know why.

So where was I? Scared as shit of being run over by those tanks. And that is no excuse.

Ferguson

It is no small thing that the path to this protest filled with cute white kids, from a good school district leading the charge is paved with cute black kids who were ignored, many also from good school districts. They sounded the call and we did not, could not or worse, would not hear.

I’m so fucking ashamed of us and so sorry.

I saw the media show picture after picture of cute white kids holding signs and I thought…I was there. There were TONS of black kids, kids of all colors and ethnicities, with yarmulkes, with turbans, kufis, hijabs all with amazing signs. Media, can you be bothered to showcase them?

The kids are not going to wait for us to get this right, as evidenced from the March yesterday. They’re not going to let us get away with showcasing only white kids. Working to protect only white kids.

I am sorry.

Perhaps the best way for us to reach some goodwill is for people who look like me to show up and shut up. To lock arms and be silent except to join in the collective cries.

Being there in spirit is not enough now, it never was. I need to be there, arm in arm with you. Because you do matter to me. I need to get over the fear. There is no other way.

We have to show up. I am late. I am sorry. It’s not enough by a longshot.

I am sorry I wasn’t there. I was ignorant and blind to it. And that’s privilege.

If women are leading the resistance, then black women are leading the resistance. Listen to black women. No one knows how to march for their lives like black women. I am in awe and still mortified that this is a country where this is their normal. Where a mother has to take her son around to introduce him to her neighbors and say “This is my son, he lives here.” Because being a black person in your own backyard with a cell phone can be a death sentence, but shooting up a high school with an assault rifle marked with swastikas and you get arrested gently. If you’re white.

This has to stop.

I was not there. I will do better.

 

 

Guns, my father, and knowing sometimes people don’t come back.

My dad. My middle, Huckleberry, sits and waves just like this.

 

The gunshot, the blood, the murder itself is a heavy stone dropped from a great height into our lives. Immediately everything is violently displaced. Though we continue existing, though what has been displaced settles… the ripples pullulate outward for decades. Generational repercussions lessening until it’s simply family lore. And even then, there is still pain.

A gunshot ended my father’s life when I was a young toddler. A blank canvas exists where my memories of him should be. My father figures pieced together from television shows and friend’s father’s over the years. I can’t recall his smile or the scent of him as he held me close. No sound of his voice rings in my ears. I am left with no wise words or funny dad sayings to repeat to my children now. He is a story. A tale of death.

My mother and grandparents, and aunt and uncle- the first ripple- don’t speak of him. Not much anyway. More now, that decades have passed. For survival, I believe they detached. We do what we have to to keep going. I grew up knowing very little of him. Perhaps it was too painful to share him, to see his pictures, to keep any part of him with us, so for their survival he was banished. His body cremated so there is no grave, in fact, I do not even know what happened to his ashes. This hurts. I would like to know. I searched for things to make him REAL when I was young. And there was nothing. Nothing but a violent death, a trial, a man living in a prison responsible. As I grew older and wiser I searched out more and more details on the one thing I had; his death. I know too much of what happened to my father, and not nearly enough of what made my father my father.

I was raised in the aftermath of a tragedy, a news story, a made for Dateline murder. I wasn’t shot. I feel the ripple effect every single day.

When his murderer was executed; a new ripple was created for me. For this was the first tangible thing that happened to prove my father was more than a story. And what a horrible thing that was.

As a child I often felt detached, a watcher of a movie of my life. It took a kitten, stray and depending only on me to break that barrier. Now I have children and there is no barrier and they feel a ripple everyday. They are far too young to know the details of their grandfather’s death, but they know he is gone since I was a baby.

They know they will be told I love them every time we say goodbye, they know I have hugs and kisses and reassurances for them every I drop them off at school. Even on days when a school shooting isn’t in the news. (Do those days exist anymore?)

I try to lessen the effect on them. The ripple. I try to give them the I love yous, without telling them every time I let you go I think I will never see you again. Because I grew up with that. Everytime I said goodbye to anyone I simply assumed it would be the last time I ever saw them. Because it happened. Because it happens. Because yesterday parents said goodbye to their kids and they will never see them again. Because yesterday 17 children said goodbye to their parents, to brothers and sisters and they will never see them again.

The one thing I have is knowing that my father died standing up for what was right. There is a clear, specific cause and effect for us. I ache every time someone says these tragedies are senseless. These children, these deaths…they’re not senseless, we simply choose to be blind. We refuse to tackle the perfect storm of toxic masculinity, supremacy, lack of mental health care and being able to buy an assault weapon at Walmart easier than getting a driver’s licence or adopting a rescue pet. There is sense behind their deaths. It’s a terrible sense.We must not look away.

These children’s deaths will ripple for generations, those who did not die are still wounded, their children will be, their grandchildren will be. And unless we do something, soon everyone in America will be caught in the maelstrom.

And no offence, but I don’t want you here. I don’t want anyone else here with me.

 

When they tell us to ‘smile’


Feminist Baby knows how to deal with this aready.

By now it has happened to you, if not it will. Some man or even the White House Press Secretary will deem your face unacceptable and insist you rearrange it to their liking. 

 

You might be walking down the street, to school or to identify a body – whatever, and some man will suddenly cry “Smile! You’re too pretty to frown!” or some variation of the same theme. It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed to the nines or in sweats and Ugg boots, men always feel free to comment on our appearance and how it somehow should be altered to make their world a prettier place.

It won’t even matter if you are at the Women’s March, some man will say “Free fuck Trump souvenirs! All you have to do it give me a smile!”

You may want to punch him in his smug probably unshaven face, a completely valid emotional response, or perhaps just scream an obscenity at him. You’d certainly be warranted. Maybe you, like most of us, give a small reflexive smile, all while wishing you had a foam capsule hidden in your cheek to suggest you have rabies and he is next. Despite the fact commenting on someone’s appearance is rude to begin with, we have been trained to take it, lest we ourselves appear rude. But enough with that. I suggest we all take a deep breath and employ all the weapons in our arsenal. Including our smiles.

 

To get you started, here are a few inspirational come-backs you can use.

 

Go for the gut:

 

-It’s just that smell…is that you?

-It just seems wrong to patronize the socially challenged.

-I don’t smile at ugly people

-Your fly is down, and there is nothing there you want to show off.

– Drop and give me twenty.

-Your mama must be so proud! Be sure to tell her when she tucks you in tonight.

 

Dark responses :

 

-Smiling feels wrong when I am about to kill you

-I lost my smile in the war

-Sorry, you remind me of my uncle that  touched me in the bad place

-I am just waiting for the results of my biopsy.

– Give them a big creepy smile with dead eyes and just stare at them. A little too long is just the right amount.

 

Hit him with TMI:

-Sorry, it’s just that my dog died and these infertility hormone shots are just making me crazy. Plus I feel like I am going to puke at any second, and I can’t eat anything but all I want is a tuna fish sandwich. Do you like Tuna? You seem like the kind of guy that like tuna but rarely gets it….

-It’s just that my uterine lining is sloughing off and it feels like the physical embodiment of that time this guy that looks a lot like you made me sit through a Lord Of The Rings marathon.

-I have nerve damage in my face. I was rendered incapable of smiling by men who think I am here to make their world more aesthetically pleasing.

– *Burst into tears*

 

Snarky

-Why, are you gonna give me a cookie?

– That never occurred to me!

Smile big, start skipping and singing

-What? What? (pretending not to hear)

– Thank you for reminding me I am only here to please you.

 

Depending on my mood these are the two favorites I use on a weekly basis:

 

-*Waving hand like Obi-Wan* I am not the woman you are looking for.

-Awe. Bless your heart.

 

Then go buy yourself a latte or a bloody mary. You deserve it for not burning it all down. And if you want to smile a self-satisfied smile while you drink it, go for it. 

So, let’s talk about those pink “Pussy” hats.

 

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I was recently told “Not good enough. Dig deeper” on a Facebook thread about the infamous Pussy hats. Immediately I felt confused,  defensive, and upset. But then I really thought about it. Sometime  our privilege can blind us to seeing farther than our own noses. I had stated that the hats were great last year, pink was for planned parenthood and has been the default color for girl for ages…but things take a life of their own and  while it was empowering to be in a sea of women of all skin colors (though admittedly a touch heavy on the white chicks side) But I will be wearing something else this year.  And then I snidely remarked that if anyone  thought that hat was a true representation of a vagina…well, I don’t even know.

It was a FB comment, short and not containing all I wanted to say. I thought perhaps my message was clear but it wasn’t. So I spent an hour reading op-eds and articles about the start of the pink hat movement and now. The tone has really changed.

Everything happened fast and furious and the pink hats were something that could be shared on line. They were quick and easy to mail, a way to show our upset and unity against Trump.  They made a powerful visual. A sea of pink so deep and wide we couldn’t even actually march because there were too many of us to move!

A year has passed, and while our wounds (well, mine anyway) are re-opened every day by some new fresh hell of a program being cut, or an abuser gas-lighting a nation and his ilk feeling emboldened to bring blatant racism out into the open, some things HAVE changed. One of those things is the meaning and value of the pink hat. Many people don’t feel that the pink hat is inclusive to them.  Women means ALL women. Of all colors. Of all orientations. Cis or trans. Many of them are saying these hats do not represent them. And while we may argue “it’s just a hat!” and “that’s not what we meant!” is the pink pussy hat really a hill to die on?

I sure don’t think so. The pussy hat is safely in my closet with all my other memorabilia from the march and from seeing Hillary, I’ve put it away for my daughter. Maybe she will think it’s a cool show and tell. Maybe she will roll her eyes and think I am ridiculous for saving every little thing, including but not limited to a gold press on tattoo of a uterus. I think fondly on that day, packed like sardines surrounded by a million women and more than a few men, protesting. Sometimes I look back on that moment when I feel alone and need to recharge.

This year we march again, all of us, arm in arm as we watch our democracy slip dangerously into banana republic territory and I want to make it clear I am with all women of all colors, shapes, sizes, orientations, cis or trans. I AM WITH HER.

To do this we must accept that there was racism in feminism. While white women fought for rights, women of color watched their children, cleaned houses and were not allowed to fight alongside them. and in fact were quite vocally excluded from benefits white women were hoping to reap. We cannot go back in time and fix that, it’s past. But there is much we can do now, and an easy one is listen and put away the hat. What does it cost us, as white women, what do we lose as white women to acknowledge the past and work to make our current movement inter-sectional? We lose nothing and we gain everything.  We are, ahem, stronger together.

FEMINISM MUST BE INTER-SECTIONAL OR IT IS NOT FEMINISM AT ALL.

That means so much more than a pink hat. So let go of what the hat meant last year, honor it. It really meant something to me, then but it served it’s purpose.  The resistance, the people are what matters, are what create change. Not a hat. So I will be there in DC marching, and I won’t be wearing a pink pussy hat. I ordered a Mueller Time hat. I hope it comes in time.

For many of us the Women’s March was our first protest, and it was amazing. It was inspiring and inspirational, but the pink pussy hats aren’t like the best souvenir from the best concert we ever went to. Women are in peril in this country. Starting with marginalized women. It is on us who occupy the center to pull focus to them. If they are saying loudly “these hats don’t represent us and in fact make us feel excluded” it costs me NOTHING to say. No hat, got it. I don’t take it personally, I just take off the hat and double down on plans to be vocal in my support of women and their causes. All women.

The real question is does our love for a pink hat supersede our love for our fellow women?

There is only one correct answer to that. No.

Then grab a blue wave hat, or a rainbow hat, or an RBG or whatever you want, and meet me on January 20th.

Cause we have work to do.

 

 

2017 was the year I became Fucking Furious.

2017 was the year I became fucking furious.

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I am Fucking Furious. And I left all my fucks to give about it in 2016 when defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory and we unleashed a serial sex abuser, liar, and all around evil maniac on the world at large. I’d like to say I got angry right away but it took a good long while from the time I tucked my daughter into bed telling her the world would be different in the morning and the morning when I woke her up and it sure as hell was, just not as we had hoped.

 

And I am Fucking Furious.

 

In every way, so far, my day to day life has not been practically affected. No one has come for me, my children, my friends or -and this is my son’s biggest fear- no one has come to cart away his friends. My home life is the same. I shop at the mostly same stores, I do the same things. But every day, though this hasn’t yet landed on my shore, I fight. I call. I resist. I speak out. I am petty AF and tag Susan Sarandon on twitter with “I AM SO ENERGIZED!” when one year olds are separated from their parents by ICE, when a young man adopted as a baby is sent back to a country he has never known, ripped from his family here in America and promptly commits suicide. Super energizing, right?

I know it’s not enough.

 

I am Fucking Furious at the media who still insists on publishing “Who knew it would be this bad?” op eds. WE KNEW. EVERY HILLARY VOTER KNEW. WE FUCKING KNEW AND WE TOLD YOU.

 

I am Fucking Furious that a candidate who got the second highest popular vote win margin all while fighting misinformation, lies, conspiracies and OMG HER EMAILS, is still labeled a ‘flawed candidate.” All candidates are flawed. Human beings are flawed. But even if she didn’t get to shatter that glass ceiling (adjusts tinfoil Hillbot hat and whispers “I bet she did win and it will come out eventually”) she is still not given her due. I am furious  that sexism and misogyny played such a significant role, and that fact is denied in countless ways even as male reporter after male reporter is fired for sexual harassment or abuse…including more than 10 who helped shaped the negative narrative around our first female major party nominee and popular vote winner, ignoring her policy and plans opting to shame her for emails, interrupting her at every turn all while lobbing softballs at a man who brags about grabbing women by the pussy.

 

I am Fucking Furious.

 

2017 was the first time I finally understood the urge to scream “NOT ALL….” because white women elected Trump. Finally, I understood the desire to not be in that group. Because, I worked my ass off to make sure that very thing wouldn’t happen and it wasn’t enough. I am Fucking Furious at white women for so many things. And I’m unbearably rage shaking at the way we raise girls in this country. Because I know all too well that being raised a white girl is to be raised with Stockholm syndrome, identifying with our captors, feeling grateful for scrap. Because there are large areas of this country where information is still controlled and filtered and so many women don’t even know the damage of internalized misogyny. I am Fucking Furious about that. How do we fight that?

I am Fucking Furious that Time named #MeToo the Person of the Year and didn’t have the founder of that movement Tarana Burke front and center on the cover. It’s not that fucking hard, Time.

I am Fucking Furious that making a statement like “Nazis are bad” or “White Supremacy is wrong” are controversial. They should be the baseline of existence. I am fucking furious that Black Lives Matter is compared to terrorist organizations when truly it’s more like Mother’s Against Drunk Driving. Black lives DO matter, and it needs to be said loudly and often because right now in this country black bodies are piling up at an alarming rate due to police violence, and how to we all take a breath, step back and fix this? I am Fucking FURIOUS that a Baltimore officer stepped up to speak truth about this and hey! What do you know…he was murdered before he could.

I am Fucking Furious at purists who set us back decades because progress is slow. I am speechless at what is happening in Puerto Rico and how our news cycle is a veritable Jackson Pollack of disasters and lies. I am Fucking Furious that LGBQT people are being ushered back to the sidelines while “very good people” march with tiki torches.

This year I read the quote “They didn’t burn witches to silence the ones they burned. They burned them to silence the ones who watch.” That hit me. The collective ‘they’ has been trying to burn me since I was 14 and yet here i am. Like Hillary Clinton, I won’t burn. I don’t burn. You can call me names and send me threats on twitter. That’s just like every other Tuesday if you’re a woman.

 

I am Fucking Furious, and 2018 better look the fuck out. Cause I am not the only Furious Woman.

A Life Of Yes

22089035_10154741332530876_2540192492880392141_nShe looked over her trashy magazine at me and said “I don’t want to say I’m pissed you haven’t written anything; but I’m pissed you haven’t written anything.” A few moments later she slapped my thigh, asked if I knew how to swim and challenged me to a cannonball contest. It was a hot July day in what I had declared “The Summer of Yes” and after two summers at the pool together, she has  to ask if I know how to swim. Clearly the previous summers had been a little less yes and a lot more that water is cold and I don’t like to get my hair wet.

 

She whooped me in that cannonball contest. But it was so fun. And the kids, especially my kids were absolutely delighted I was in the water. I got in the water every single pool day after that. Every single day.

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SUMMER OF YES, DULLI! She would scream at me, long after the summer had ended, whenever I hesitated, second guessed myself or was scared. Summer of YES.

 

Kristen Gorman was True North. If she said something was messed up, it was messed up. If she deemed something good, it was good. Her moral compass was impeccable, yet she was loving, forgiving, her negative judgments were not handed out easily, but she had no time for toxic people. She did, however, have infinite time for those growing and learning, whether they were 6 or 60. But man, she called it like she saw it, and she was always right.

 

I don’t remember meeting her. I remember her telling us how she saw Max at age 3 at the ELF school picnic and thought “that looks just like a guy I went to high school with! And there he is…” One of the luckiest events in my life was that Max and Riley were placed in the same class.

 

You cannot think of Kristen without thinking of family. Above everything, Kristen loved her family. Not only are they fiercely loyal to one another but they have the incredible ability to extend their family at will. We all want in on that Riley action, because there is almost no where else in this world you can feel as a part of something great, something GOOD. They opened their home, their table, their hearts to me and mine, Kristen had claimed me and so without a moments hesitation, Bill, Bridget, Shannon, Jackie and Pat let me in.

 

When we had a house fire Kristen was there the next morning with cupcakes for the kids and a fountain Diet Coke for me. There is nothing like a fountain Diet coke.

When my daughter was born she was there that evening, with steak tacos and champagne. Popping the cork work my tiny newborn baby and scared her. Kristen joked she would always be traumatized by her auntie KG.

 

Kristen had an innate ability and an endless energy to BE THERE whenever she was needed. Weakness of any kind was not her thing. Accepting help and letting us comfort her, to have us be the ones to show up with cupcakes or tacos was hard for her.

 

Wisely, Kristen told me she had cancer in a public setting. Whispered over the fire pit in her parent’s driveway. Shannon nearby, came over to help explain. As always, Kristen was positive. I laughed as they cracked jokes, because she said she didn’t want me to fall apart, though even if she hadn’t said that, I wouldn’t have in front of her. Her job at this time was not to take care of me. I shook it off, there were kids who needed hamburgers and can they PLEASE have a sprite? Miss Jackie said they could! I also solemnly swore I would not google Thymic Cancer.

None of us believed I would keep that promise and I did not. I did however promise myself that I would be the friend who brought the funny. That’s kind of my specialty. “are you going to make me shave my head?” I asked, as she said she was out-shedding her dog, Dyson. “I mean, I will. In a heartbeat, but I have to tell you, you will rock the bald head. You’ve got the noggin for it. I’m going to look like that woman from Total Recall.” She laughed and told me I could keep my hair. But I would have shaved it in a heartbeat. I would now if I could have her back. I have no regrets. I talked with her about how hard it was to have others in pain over her health. I was able to give her perspective on how powerless we all feel. How could the inimitable Kristen Gorman be sick? Neither our brains or hearts could understand. She vowed to let people help. But as many times as I tried to bring her milkshakes post chemo or come visit she would always say the same thing “I’m coming to you, Dulli, while I can!” She meant before chemo really knocked her down and surgery sidelined her for a while. A week or two, she said. She was walking down that aisle, for Shannon’s wedding.

It was incredibly important to her that her cancer not overshadow Shannon’s day. No cancer talk at the shower, she insisted. No cancer talk at the wedding.

 

That’s a promise I can keep.

 

My last text to her before her surgery was that I loved her. I did. I do. I always will. It never occurred to me we wouldn’t be texting one another ridiculous gifs (or just beaming them from our brains, whatever it ends up being) when we were 90.

I was going to being her a Fountain Diet Coke as soon as she could have visitors. We held our breath all day during her surgery, only breathing when we got the text that she was out, most was gone, but radiation would do it. I think all of us, channeling KG thought,  let’s do this. But cancer had other plans.

“where is your book? I’m waiting for your book?” she nudged past my fears, yet again.

 

They always say those who go early have too much life in them. Kristen was full of life. And life was joyful. Kristen is my third friend to be gone too early due to cancer. And like both Carrie and Susan, she was full of life. Full of joy. The world is a darker place for the wont of Kristen Gorman.

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Her last text to me was that we have a life of yes to get too. I can’t believe I have to do it without her, but I cannot think of anything I could do more to honor her life is live a life of yes. To pick up the mantel. To be there when others need me, without being asked. To spread joy. To nudge others past their fears. To stand up for what is right, but to make room for those who want to learn and grow. Maybe even learn excel, she loved a good spreadsheet.

 

 

To live a life of yes.

I read the news today, oh boy.

This is a terrorist act. Photo By Ryan Kelly, Daily Progress
I realized about twenty minutes into our time at the playground, surrounded by children’s laughter, that mine were the only white kids there. There was no value attached to this observation, the day was mild and sunny, not too hot, not too cool, just right for a bunch of kids to climb and scream and swing and slide. Oh yeah, there was a zip line too. The reason we were there. Maybe that’s privilege for you, not immediately assessing the racial breakdown of any situation.

My oldest spun around and around with three brand new friends, boys about his age, their faces a blur of smiles and giggles, while one just slightly older and taller pushed them on the tire swing.  They took turns spinning each other so fast I had to look away before I felt dizzy with both feet firmly on the ground. Their laughter and screams of delight louder every go around. My six year old worked hard standing on tip-toes with another boy exactly his height as they struggled together to be just big enough to truly do the zip line. My baby girl, made a beeline directly for two girls, probably 7 or so. She always wants to be where the big girls are. I worried she was cramping their style as she is only three and they were clearly playing a game together, but when I tried to distract her so they could play alone they already knew her name and said it was okay, she was cute. They wanted her with them, and I sat on a wooden climbing apparatus and smiled as they adapted their game and helped her go up and down the slide for twenty minutes straight.

 

I looked around at the 25 or so kids and felt the oddest mix of wanting to cry and yet feeling hopeful. The kids, man. The kids are alright. They didn’t care one bit who was black and who was white. It’s the adults who are messed up.  They were the same age and at the same place and within moments had learned who liked baseball or basketball. Teen Titans Go or Loud House. Nats or Orioles. The important things. They ran and played until everyone was tired and thirsty.

 

As I left one of the women with them complimented my daughter’s hair and mine. “Exactly the same”, she smiled and I made her laugh when I said “I just told the salon to make mine match!” and while we laughed we told one another to have a wonderful day.

 

Last night I watched in disbelief as men carried Tiki Torches, perhaps gotten on clearance at Walmart or Pier One, through Charlottesville, VA. They surrounded a Church. They screamed horrible words at people there to pray for peace. For love.

 

Things kids just know.

Denis Leary’s voice rang in my ears. “Hate is taught. You know what my three year old hates? Naps. End of story.”

Today I cried as I watched white men in khakis, white polos and MAGA hats, arms extended proudly proclaiming “Heil Trump!” I watched them wave Confederate Flags, Nazi Flags, I watched someone purposefully drive a car directly into those there to say no, White Supremacists, we don’t want that here. I watch them in their tactical gear, some in bike helmets and elbow guards, perhaps hoping there will be a roller blade race later, screaming they want their country back.

 

But it’s never been ours, we stole it.

 

I see pictures of black officers being taunted and their deaths called for, and still they stand and protect these monster’s right to free speech. A man on instagram with the username CumRefugee calls me a slut. I’m at a loss. I get a message on FB asking me to “calm down”. I reply, you are free to look away. Perhaps also, look at why you want me to calm down.

The President of the United States speaks and blames both sides. He has a literal Nazi and a White Supremacist in his staff. How much longer can we pretend this isn’t the game plan? I hate him.

The news breaks there is a fatality. Is this death the first official life lost in our new Civil War? I tell my husband if they come to Maryland I will be there, and I know he worries. But I want my kids to see me standing up for what is right.

 

I won’t calm down. I won’t quiet down. People are dying. There is a young man with locs wearing a yoke and chains and it takes my breath away, moments later I cannot help but laugh as I see two middle aged white guys carrying wooden shields attempt to fight and fall upon one another in a pratfall that would have made The Three Stooges proud.

 

I don’t have an answer, how to get to these Nazis and Klansmen, for the media can vacillate on naming them all they want, we know. How to show them a fundamental belief system they’ve been taught is faulty and is causing death. How to show them love is better.

 

But I won’t be quiet. And if you need me, I’ll be driving out the darkness with the light I will find at the playground.

 

Because kids, man, they get it.

I feel bad about my tankini.

me back in the day. I thought I was fat.

me back in the day. I thought I was fat.

 

 

 

I bought a tankini. I mean, I see them everywhere and they look cute on other women, comfy, easy to use the loo in at the pool and of course, they give great coverage to those of us who have, shall we say, some extra padding about the middle and are self conscious about the bum? Yes, let’s go with that. I’m padded.

I bought a tankini.

And the moment I put it on I felt bad about it. For some reason to me, the tankini felt like I had tossed in the last towel. Like, that’s it. I’m no longer a woman. I’m a MOM.

It felt shitty.

Suddenly, and without warning it hit me; this is it. I am a middle aged suburban mom. And that moniker, that thought, was diminutive. Disheartening. I am so much more, aren’t I? Is everything that made me special gone? Is this it? Is the tankini a woman Invisibility Cloak?

Because, of course I love being a mom, not just a mom but their mom. It’s the greatest experience and even when I’m exhausted and they’re cranky it’s still rad. It’s just that everything is different, including- especially my body.

I also love my mom-bod. After years of abuse it somehow managed to build three totally rad, bad ass, cool small people that I not only love more than anything in the world, I like. So I love this bod. 35 pounds heavier than it was, flabby about the middle, my adorable formerly pieced belly button is now stretched and kind of an outtie thanks to diastasis recti (the gift that keeps on giving…as in giving you comments from strangers asking how far along you are). I love it. I am utterly at home in it; but I am also completely uncomfortable in it.

How do I dress this body? Nothing fits like it did. What’s that saying? I wish I was as fat as I was when I thought I was fat? That. And fat or not, it applies. I used to grab clothes off the rack, not even trying them on and go. I knew what worked and what didn’t.

Now? Not so much. I am far too old for the juniors department, and I’ve no desire to spend a ton of money to look like I’m homeless (I’m looking at you Urban Outfitters). The “women’s” department is too old for me…I am not ready for stretchy pants and resort wear. But JCrew? Loft? Yes. But…I have a three year old. Are shirts that must be ironed, really applicable to my life? This is why Target has the market on moms. I can grab Capri Suns and a sundress. It’s both awesome, and depressing. Am I the girl who can’t even take a half an hour to go to an actual clothing store and find something? Don’t I deserve that?Is that selfish? But then again, that Mossimo top is kinda cute…Then there is the real issue: I don’t look like myself. I don’t like how things look on me. I am out of sorts. Will I ever see a picture of myself again and like it? Am I so vain?

Then the mom-guilt kicks in. Mom guilt is like Miranda Priestly “Millions of girls would KILL for your job” and don’t I know it. So many friends who have lost babies or had trouble getting pregnant, staying pregnant. Do I even have, I don’t know, the right to feel wonky in my own body, now that it’s performed it’s miracles?

What do I want? Other than to get over myself and accept my new awesomely heavier body?

Right now all I want is a cute bathing suit, even a tankini, in a matching pattern, or at least a bottom that isn’t black or navy. Apparently it’s cute bikinis but if you want one piece or tankini it’s mostly black, navy, maybe a blue and white pattern.

Bikinis are fun! One pieces…well we might as well put you out to pasture. Maybe I’ll just go ahead and get an old fashioned swim dress.

Because for reals, I feel bad about my tankini.