Good & Mad

The day after the election, I learned an important lesson.

Actually, I learned two important lessons.  The first is this: When you are raking leaves and you find a fun sized pouch of M&Ms that some hapless trick-or-treater lost in the chaos, do not say “Yahtzee!” and eat them.  In the week since they fell, they have been reclaimed by the earth and are no longer safe for human consumption.

The second lesson, unfortunately, left an even fouler after taste.

I was at Staples getting some copies made.  (Side note, if you sometimes wish you worked from home and not in an office setting, think about all the free copies you get when no one is looking!  It’s a nice perk, and I miss it very much.)  I had my essays for writing group and a craft pattern printed and was just about to pay, when a nicely dressed silver haired white man interrupted my conversation with the sales person to ask a question.  Let’s cast him in your imagination with the actor John Slattery.  I’m sure John Slattery is a perfectly lovely human in real life, but this guy was the same type of basic white man.  And John Slattery did that movie The Adjustment Bureau which was terrible, so I don’t feel bad fobbing this off on him.  (Spoiler alert: angels are real, but they are allergic to water.  Same basic premise as signs but with a better looking cast.)

The man at Staples completely ignored me.  He acted as if I wasn’t standing there, and once he got an answer he didn’t like, he began arguing his cause based on the semantics of the coupon he wanted to use. I waited to see if he was going to at least acknowledge me, as I would have done.  As the minutes ticked on, it was clear this wasn’t going to happen.  Then I thought over all the times over the last few years (since Trump was elected, basically) that I have been verbally interrupted or physically cut off or just disregarded by a white man and I have stood there thinking, “the next time this happens to me, I’m not just going to stand there like an idiot following my ‘respect the priesthood’ programming. I’m going to say something, dammit!”

Then I thought of an interview I heard with Rebecca Traister when her new book, Good and Mad, came out in October.  It is a book about women’s anger.  She said that she began writing it immediately after the 2016 election when she didn’t know what to do with her emotional response and the anger she saw all around her, but it had the good fortune of coming out during the Kavanaugh hearings when the anger of women in this country hit the bell at the top of that carnival attraction that tests your strength (just googled it: it is called a High Striker. The more you know!)

In that interview Rebecca Traister told a story about a friend of hers who decided that she was no longer going to step out of the way of white men plowing toward her on the sidewalk.  She decided that she had as much right to the sidewalk, and she simply stopped moving to the side.  And she body checked some people, which surprised them and delighted her.

I can’t think of a better metaphor for how I’ve been feeling since the 2016 election.  We women have been patiently waiting our turn, thinking we had achieved so much and that breaking that “glass ceiling” was basically just a technicality that would happen in time.  Be good, stay in your lane (or step out of it, but only if it serves others), and it will happen.  But then… no.  We learned.  Not only had a highly qualified female been beaten by an unqualified mediocre white man, the highest office in the land went to a misogynist and self-described pussy grabber.  We aren’t seen as equals with internal genitalia.  And all of our waiting and staying silent in the face of that pussy grabbing shit has only served to hold ourselves and our daughters back.

So women are saying, “no more!”  We are speaking up in the face of injustice!  We aren’t moving out of the road for you!  We aren’t covering for your bullshit!  And, goddamalmighty, we are not letting you bastards butt in line!”

Effectively worked up into an “I just watched Oprah” esque state of empowerment, I said, “Excuse me sir,”  I called him sir!  “But we were in the middle of a transaction. Do you mind if we finish our business?”

I was polite. I might not have been kind, but I was polite.

And he LOST his FUCKING shit.

He told me to grow up. He called me names. He used the F word multiple times. He imitated my voice. And then had the audacity to ask me “Why don’t you just grow up?”  I was shaking as I tried to pay and then tried to get out of the store but I first went to the “in” door and you have to go all the way around to the “out” door, and EVERYONE was staring at me, as if to ask what I had done to that man to deserve such a tongue lashing.

It was so bad, I went next door to Harmon’s and bought myself some flowers. Then I went home, and I logged back on to my computer to focus on work… and failed.  And then I cried for nearly two hours.

I turned to Facebook and related the story, hoping my friends would tell me what I wanted to hear.  Specifically: I was right to speak up for myself.  (Meaning this man was wrong in his behavior.)  I got the reassurance I wanted, along with a few laughs, which helped stop the flow of tears.  Then a mentor of mine left a comment that read:

The man’s actions were unforgivable. He’s a boor, and you can bet that he’s a boor at every moment of his life. I suspect that standing your ground with him would have escalated what was brutal and painful. This guy lives on escalation–especially with women. You might have turned to the clerk and asked that the clerk verify that you were mid-transaction. So sorry you had to go through this.

“Boor.”  That was the word, exactly.  “An unrefined, ill-mannered person.”  I belive completely that he wouldn’t have responded to me the way he had if I were a man.  Or even if I had been accompanied by a man.  Either way, there would have been some respect of the equality of status.  I can’t prove it, of course.  I believe that sexism was at the core of the exchange, as I believe it is why he ignored me in the first place.

I’ve thought a great deal about this exchange over the last few weeks.  It is shocking how easy it was to kick that hornets’ nest by asking for something so basic as adherence to the line system.  Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been the day after the election.  Maybe he was on edge because of the Democrats taking back the house.  Maybe I was feeling more piss and vinegar in my veins for the same reason?  I don’t know.

I have decided that I don’t regret standing up for myself. And I would do the same thing over again, and I will next time, even having had this experience of being put back in my place. I reject the binary choice that I seem to have: I can either be a doormat or a bitch.  I can’t control the way others respond.  Especially those who are accustomed to inspiring doormat behavior in those around them.  Maybe I will start carrying my Dudeist Priest badge in my wallet so the next time this happens I can pull it out and say, “Respect MY priesthood, bitch!

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(Actual photo of John Slattery in The Adjustment Bureau)

The Tiny Professor

Matt found this package of colorful cauliflower in Ethan’s backpack when he came home from school.

“What is this? A snack you are saving?” he asked.

“No, no! I can’t eat that! It’s for my research!”

Ethan is six.

“You mean it’s for homework?” I asked. “What are you supposed to do with it.”

“No, not homework,” he said. “I’m researching them.”

We were stumped. “What are you researching?” Matt asked.

“I want to know how they grew like that, that’s all.”

We put the package in the fridge after that. I’m not sure what experiment he has planned but it’s the best excuse a 1st grader has used to get out of eating vegetables that I’ve ever heard of.

But What Would the Logo Look Like?

I had a dream that I was the owner/operator of a canoe rental shop named “Row vs Wade,” because even my subconscious loves puns. I woke up laughing but also knowing it wouldn’t work. For one thing, I live in Utah, which is a desert for both water and pro choice liberals. The bigger problem is that we also suffer from a lack of a sense of humor, so I guess I won’t rush out and license my brand… yet.

It would be a good fit in Seattle. Or Austin. Maybe I should look into that license… just in case this career in pharmaceuticals doesn’t pan out.

I Voted

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine made a statement about the stupidity of “I Voted” stickers.  He called them a waste of money. I rolled my eyes.  Lately I feel like I can’t go a full day without rolling my eyes at a white man.  (In fact, the other day, I was trying to drive out of grocery store and a middle aged white man stopped on the sidewalk, right in front of my car – in a clearly marked exit – and began to tend to a hangnail.  It lasted so long, I began to narrate.  “Behold, the middle aged white man in his natural environment. Notice his complete confidence in his status of his surroundings. He is oblivious to the needs of others, and is even unconcerned by the fact that he is stealing that shopping cart.  An act which, no doubt, will be blamed on a brown child.”)

I took the sticker thing personally because, not long before, I was lamenting about the fact that I voted by mail and therefore would not be getting a sticker. It is a small thing but I love them.  I love the way wearing one makes me feel, because it reminds me of how lucky I am to be living in this time and place, no matter how frustrated I am with the system as it stands.

My grandmother (my Mom’s Mom) was born in 1909.  William Taft was president. The “Gilded Age” was ending, but it would be another five years before “The Great War” began.  And, in 1909, women could not vote.

As of 1870, all American men had theoretically been granted the right to vote through the 15th amendment. (“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”  Of course, in practice, we know the exercising of this right was more complicated and fraught.)  The fight for women’s rights had picked up steam in the 1840s, but still had a long way to go. In 1875, the US Supreme Court unanimously decided in Minor v. Happersett that the 14th amendment (“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws) did not grant a woman the right to vote.  The justices granted that a woman was a citizen but determined that the right to vote was not a constitutionally protected right of all citizens.

The fight raged on for many decades, and it got ugly.  Many people (including a number of women) were against votes for women.

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Nonetheless, as they say, they persisted.

 In 1918, 100 years ago, some white women of England were given the right to vote.  They had to be over 30 and either own property or be the wives of property owners.

White women of the United States were granted the right to vote in 1920, when my grandmother was 11 years old.  This is not a historical figure that I have only read about.  I knew her; we had a relationship. She died when I was a teenager.  Women got the right to vote a mere 24 years before my mother was born.  It will be another two years before we can celebrate 100 years of Women’s Suffrage in the United States.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, my point is: that was not very long ago!

Many other groups had to wait even longer.  In 1924, Native Americans were granted citizenship and given the right to vote. In 1943, Chinese American immigrants were granted citizenship and the right to vote.  African American women were not able to vote in some Southern states until the 1960s.

The forefathers of our country sacrificed and labored so that we could have this experiment in democracy, wherein the right to vote was given to white men of property.  Since then, thousands of people fought and died to secure the right to vote for every citizen, and the fight goes on.  In Florida, people are voting this very minute to determine if convicted felons who have served their time should have their voting rights restored.

The vote is the important thing. The sticker is just the little side thing that you can wear with pride, if you so choose.  But I want that fucking sticker.  Even if I have to make one for myself.

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You don’t have to want the sticker.  But please vote.  No matter who you are, someone made a sacrifice so that you could.  Getting out there and voting is the only way to say “thanks.”

Spoiler Alert

I just heard this story on an NPR podcast about a pair of Russian researchers who got in a fight in Antarctica. Apparently, they had spent way too much time together in their cramped quarters, and one of them thought it was funny to ruin the endings of the limited number of books available on the research site to pass the time.  The other guy didn’t think it was funny, and stabbed the spoiler in the chest.  Vodka was involved.

Do you ever hear a story about a crime and get a little chill because you realize that, under a very specific set of circumstances, you could be driven to violence, and even murder?  Yeah… well… Antarctica, vodka, & confined spaces?  Those are some extreme circumstances.  A book spoiler would be like match in a gas can.  In his place, I totally would have stabbed that bitch and then launched into a parka clad rendition of the Cell Block Tango as they hauled me back to Saint Petersburg.

By the way, the “victim” didn’t die.  He was transported to a hospital in Chile for treatment.  Hopefully, while he is there, he can get some rehab for his dickishness as well.