The Days of My Life

Me Too

It isn’t just the men in positions of power.

Unless you take into consideration that all men hold a position of power.

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I hadn’t thought much about it in years because there was no point in thinking about it. But the country is talking about this sort of thing and I can’t not think about it.

Me too.

I had a boss who once told me over email that I would get a raise if I came to work naked. I didn’t keep the email and when I quit that job I was very explicit in my exit interview that the reasons were fiscally motivated. I didn’t include that incident, which was only one of many comments, because I wanted to come off as level-headed and not a reactionary little girl. Even in telling this story I am carefully to avoid any hint of exaggeration, any description that could be described as embellished.

I had another boss who was accused of sexually harassing a coworker. She said he called her into his office alone and asked her to take off her shirt. He denied it, of course, and there was no “proof” other than the accusation. He pulled out the excuses I’ve come to recognize as tired diversions: that she wasn’t attractive, she didn’t have much filling out her bra, she wasn’t a good worker. I didn’t believe her. This is one of my biggest regrets in my life. I should have. I see now that what she said happened absolutely did happen. I wish I could go back in time and believe her. It’s just that I often wonder, if I could do that, what could I have done about it?

The head of HR for that same company was fired later that year for asking interviewees inappropriate questions of a sexual nature.

But, you have to understand, it’s not just men in power.

I started working at Safeco Field was I was 19. I’d always looked young for my age, and was asked at least once a game how old I was, most often by men. I’d tell them and would often get the reply, “You don’t even look old enough to drive!” Sometimes this was asked out of anger, like when I was responsible for carding people in the Hit It Here Café (“You can’t even drink, how can you tell me I can’t!”). Sometimes it was when I wouldn’t let them bring prohibited items into the game (“You mean a 19-year-old girl has the final say on what I can bring into the game?”). Sometimes it was to see if I’d have them arrested for what they wanted to say or do afterwards.

There were a lot of opportunities for men to say things to me. I encountered thousands of them every game. The worst of it happened when the games were over. We would stand at the bottom of the stairs and look for people leaving with their unfinished beer. We watched thousands of people leave every game, many of them good and liquored up, but alcohol consumption is never an excuse for bad behavior.

All through the egress, I’d have men touch my arms, pat me on the back, and oh so subtly (you know, not at all subtly) brush up against me, their hands “accidentally” sliding past my chest, or their pelvis gliding along my body.

They’d say all sorts of things to me. “Can I take you home with me?” was probably the most popular. But I’d get questions on what I was doing after the game. I’d be asked if I was there was keep them in line, because they were naughty boys. I’d be asked if I was in a sorority at school and if I liked to party.

(At one point I started telling people I was dating a linebacker on the UW football team. That worked until fall when it was suggested that I must be lonely since he was occupied with football.)

There was the group of 20-something guys who discussed as they stood feet away from me in line whether they would have sex with me and what dirty things they thought I’d do. There was the man who sold Grand Salami magazines outside Home Plate Gate who salivated over me when I straightened my hair one day. He wasn’t actually jerking off in front of me, but he may as well have been for the looks and words he gave me that day.

I wasn’t silent about what was happening. I talked about it all the time. I was told all the time that there was nothing that could be done about it. I’d just have to deal with it.

Most of my coworkers then were a little older, mostly college age guys. I often wonder what they thought about everything they saw happening to me. Occasionally one of them would step in and tell someone to back off when they got a little too handsy or inappropriate, but mostly they joked that I needed to be put in a cage for my own protection against the crowds.

It was something I had to put up with if I wanted to work at Safeco Field. And I really wanted to work there because it was a cool job. It was fun to tell people I worked there. It was fun to see a little bit behind the curtain. It was incredibly fun to be part of the 2001 season.

I had to put up with the constant, unrelenting harassment if I wanted to work there. I worked for a company that was contracted by the Mariners to do security, mainly bag checking at the entrance gates. We had to be nice to every asshole who walked through the gates, no matter what. So I learned to laugh off the inappropriate comments, and I learned to smile and thank men for their comments on my hair and my body and their inquiries into my personal life.

One time I didn’t. One time I snapped and essentially told a man to fuck off (not in those words, but that was the gist). He complained to the Mariners about me and I was reprimanded for the way I treated a fan. Because you can’t expect middle age men to behave appropriately. The burden is on a teenager to accept-with a smile-whatever abuse that man chooses to bestow upon her.

I learned to deal with it. I decided to be flattered by the attention, as many men told me I should be. I learned to embrace the utter disregard of myself as a person and accept that I was a visual object. I behaved in ways that make me cringe with horrified embarrassment when I think back on them now. I imagine having conversations about what it was like for me with my male coworkers and having them tell me, “Well, you acted this way. You behaved that way. You brought it on yourself.” I imagine these conversations because that’s exactly what women are told, when we have the attention forced upon us and when we try to find ways to cope with it.

My experiences feel trivially minor compared to the abuse many women suffer at work. I feel lucky for this. Yet, they truly affected me negatively throughout my 20s. They influenced the way I thought about myself and the way I measured my own worth. They colored my outlook on the nature of men. I know, I know, not all men. But ENOUGH men.

It’s not just the men in power positions, except men know they have an intrinsic position of power over women in society. They know that women will face punishment for not accepting their pervertedness. They know when we are young and trying to find our place in the world that they can influence where that place is. It took me fully 10 years to get to the point where I realize how fucked up that is.

It’s the men you work with. The men you see walking down the street. The men who go to baseball games and see a 19-year-old in khaki pants and a polo shirt two sizes too big. It’s even the men who aren’t overtly doing anything. The men who would laugh as their friends would harass me. The men who shrugged their shoulders when I talked about it. The men who dismiss the behavior as something about which nothing can be done.

It’s so fucked up. And what I experienced was minor. I feel lucky about this.

It’s all so fucked up.

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Short Story

Her friend’s father was slowly flitting away.

Her friend asked in voice tinged with desperation, “Tell me what to do. You must know what to do because you’ve been through this too. How do I handle this? How do I make the hurt easier to bear?”

She counseled, “You take a deep breath and you put one foot in front of the other.”

She told her friend this because she knew she couldn’t tell the truth.

Oh, Neti!

I have a process and it cannot be disrupted.

Sure, it could be more efficient, more timely, more helpful. But it cannot be disrupted.

It goes something like this: 1) Decide to do something. 2) Think about doing said thing and reaffirm the decision to do said thing. 3) Repeat Step 2 proportional to the benefit of doing said thing (For example, throwing out a dried up pen will take less thinking than paying rent.This is why I start thinking about paying rent 3 months ahead of time). 4) Forget about doing said thing proportional to the benefit of doing said thing. 5) Remember I wanted to do said thing and do it, wondering why I didn’t do it sooner.

I believe the colloquial term for this process is “procrastination.”

Whatever.

This process is how I find myself breathing through my nose for the first time in 5 months. This process also led to several easily preventable sinus infections, but that’s neither here nor there.

Long story short, the point of marriage is having someone who will tell you when you don’t notice that snot is running down your face in public, and to use a goddamn neti pot when your nose is stuffed with more mucus than a unit on Storage Wars is stuffed with stuff.

It has been a spring and summer of excruciating allergies. Sneezing, stuffiness, and stealthy nose running. I became afraid to leave the house without a healthy supply of Kleenex and a Husband to keep watch.

I’ve been thinking about it for a couple months now.  It’s just that the neti pot was under the bathroom sink, the distilled water was buried in the hall closet, and the devices to heat the water where all the way in the kitchen. First World Problems and a half.

A few sessions spent flushing out infected grossness and my nose feels lighter and my sneezing and snot flow have significantly decreased.

I can breathe out of my nose again!

It may have taken me longer to get to that point than others, but it’s my process and it cannot be disrupted.

Everything Looks Different From Far Away

When you leave your corner of the country the houses look a little different. A different building material, a different way of positioning the garage, a different angle to the roof. Suddenly, you realize that there are many ways to build a house and the way you’ve always seen houses isn’t the way they have to be.

Different parts of the country have different trees and different landscaping. They have rocks instead of grass. Palm trees instead of Evergreens.

It changes the way you think, these subtle differences. It kick starts something in your brain that makes you see everything differently.

This is why I want to travel. But, I don’t just want to see the differentness (that really isn’t all that different) in this country. I want to leave the country and go somewhere so completely different than what I’m used to.

Things don’t have to be the way they are. They can be better. They can be worse. They can just be different.

I like different. I want to seek it out and embrace it.

I’ve had the idea recently that I want to go to Iran. I’ve been voraciously reading people’s stories of traveling there and it has only served to stoke the fire. There aren’t many places on earth that would be so different from the United States, mostly because the picture of Iran that’s painted by the media isn’t the picture of the real Iran. Even reading the descriptions of the people and the culture in books isn’t the same as experiencing it. Reading the trip stories from people who have been there isn’t the same as being there myself.

I want to tell people how friendly Iranians are. I want to describe what it’s like to wear a head covering when I’m out in public. I just want to know what it’s like to be there.

I’ve long been fascinated by the Middle East, yet I’ve always accepted that I couldn’t go there because of their views of women and because the Middle East is unsafe in its un-Westernness. I think that’s just silly.

I feel like it’s where I need to go to seek out the differentness that I want, and Iran is among the most fascinating of the places I dream of seeing.

And After All, We’re Only Ordinary Men

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I have a complicated relationship with patriotism, the military machine, and the United States and the way it behaves on a world stage (never mind the domestic). But I can’t discard the moments in history that are huge and meaningful, these moments in history that changed the world.

The landing at Normandy, D-Day, was 70 years ago today.

My Dad gave a beautiful eulogy at my Grandfather’s funeral. I only read it a couple years ago, finding it in his desk after his own death. He wrote that his Father didn’t change the world. His impact on the world was doing the ordinary things. Waking up in the morning, going to work, providing for his family. His impact on the world was doing the ordinary things that made their lives full and wonderful.

But, 70 years ago he was there.

This ordinary man was there for one of the most important moments of the 20th century.

He wasn’t an internationally acclaimed military leader. He wasn’t featured in newspapers or the movies with incredibly stories about his bravery. He was an ordinary man who was part of a moment in history.

The generals and the politicians didn’t make D-Day happen. History was changed by men like my Grandfather at Omaha beach on this day 70 years ago.

I’m incredibly proud of that.

He Rocks in the Tree Top All Day Long, Hoppin’ and a Boppin’ and Singing His Song

Don’t read the comments.

This is the best advice a person can give you about the internet.

Do not read the comments. Because you will always wish you hadn’t.

It’s great advice and I’ve been learning to follow it. Comments make me angry and sad and diminish my loosening grasp on the idea that humanity actually wants to be good.

(And while I agree President Obama isn’t what I desire in my Chief Executive, I don’t really see how he’s to blame for the cut to public transportation in Seattle. Oh, my bad, Internet Commentator, it’s ALL liberals. Wait, it’s the conservatives? Now, I’m confused.)

In part because of the endless, pointless internet babble I gave up Twitter for Lent. Since my return, I’m utterly bored by it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic outlet for narcissism (and you’re just not a good American without that), but nobody cares about your narcissism and you probably really don’t care about anyone else’s.

Unless, it bothers you for some reason.

Their grammar isn’t good. They Tweet about weird things. They commit Twitter Faux Pas, which you yourself have invented in your head and expect the entire world to adhere to.

So you do the thing that we do in this age of Internet Commentators and you call them out for it. It’s for their own good! You’re just trying to help!

Oddly enough, people aren’t responsive to your “constructive” criticism when you rant at them on the Internet!

Sometimes people do need to be corrected and need something about their behavior pointed out to them. But it’s almost never going to successful unless it’s a trusted friend in the right situation.

I’m not sure where the line is between just being a jerk on the internet and where it becomes cyber bullying.

Just realize, it’s not your job or my job to try to force people to behave the way we want them to. We’ll probably fail at changing their behavior. We may inflict unnecessary psychological damage upon them. We will, for sure, look like assholes.

Maybe the best internet advice is to just not make comments.

Words of Love, Soft and Tender, Won’t Win a Girl’s Heart Anymore

You know when you’re watching a movie about a romantic conflict of some sort and you’re screaming at the characters, “Just say this! The whole problem will go away if you just say these words!”?

Real life feels like that sometimes, only you’re the character who doesn’t know what the words are. There are conversations you have, throwing words like darts only to watch the words helplessly bounce off the board.

The right thing to say must be so obvious to anyone watching this little romantic comedy!

All the relationship advice is to talk, talk, talk. It doesn’t seem to matter that when the words are wrong the talking doesn’t solve anything.

We talk too much. We probably talk our relationships to death.

I was thinking about this while watching the season finale of Nashville and screaming at the characters, “Say this! It’s what you feel, so just say it you silly goose!”, and I realized that it all comes down to honesty.

The words are hard to find because honesty is hard to express. To ourselves, to anyone else.

All the relationship advice is to talk, talk, talk because talking is easier than being honest.

Pure, terrifying, humbling honestly. That’s what the best relationships are made of.