All posts by justcallmetaco

About justcallmetaco

I don't fuck around --- not in my writing --- and not in my life. I'm a powerful woman who has finally found herself. I hope you find me too. I'm a Bitch who simultaneously wants to make everyone's life better, every day. I hate everyone until I breathe. It's good that I breathe, like, all the time so far in my life.

Blood is Just the Beginning

I’m melting

But others cannot see “it” this way

They can’t see my surface cracks, so carefully hidden

My surface cracks…blood is only the tip of this iceberg

What flows from the core comes from a much deeper place than my veins

Is it cold?

Is it hot?

It is thick?

Or does it easily trickle?

Does it stain?

Does that bother you?

At least “IT” exists

Scars.

Battle wounds.

Proof that I’ve felt something.

Anything.

This reconstruction cannot be expressed through mere words

like

“sorrow”

“anger”

“hopeless”

can’t compare

to feeling dead.

Lifeless.

Life —> less.

When the flowing stops

My core and surface resettle

Long after I’m dead

I will be seen with great horror and judgmental glares

“How could (s)he?!” the people exclaim

But where were you when it could have been stopped?

What were you doing when I was having a bad day?

Why were you a fair-weather friend when you knew I was hurting and reaching out?

There are ALWAYS signs.

And you missed them.

So look at me and feel the scars on your own conscience.

Because long after I’m dead,

a marked-up exterior will remain — literally

to be seen

It represents everything inside that can’t ever be.

Secret Love Song

He watched me carefully

He had never been kissed

He waited

He pretended to respect me

He took great care to hide his anger

He questionably encouraged me

He thoughtlessly apologized

He hesitantly forgave

He could not adapt

He saw me and told me he was ready

He looked at me and I felt loved and safe

He cowardly lied; I wished him karma’s enemy

Soon this won’t be such a secret love song.

Own Itself

Excluded, precluded

Scenes you never thought you’d be the last one to experience…

They’re claimed.

So woman the fuck up.

You ARE that pretty.

You ARE that lovable.

You’re a broken lost piece of stone fallen from a rock slipped off a cliff without guidance.

Happiness is in your future…no.

Instead you’ll find the suffering, and the hurt, and the ones you can help.

And you’ll take care of that.

You will lose parts of your life.

You may lose parts of yourself.

Valuable time.

But that value will own itself one day.

Believer.

Cracked

I hate my shell

When everyone’s a critic

No matter what I do to attempt to be given that Brand Name

“Beautiful.”

I’ll always come up short.

The only beauty I possess

On my whole body

Are the scars.

They make me unique

And no one else has them…

the same way,

If at all

Like a snowflake or a fingerprint

Perfect…but,

Blood red

Because they won’t melt away

Or be used as evidence

They’ll bleed and I want more

It’s too late for me

I’ll crack this shell yet

One scar at a time

So You End up Alone; Because That’s All Anyone can Afford.

I want to be “that girl” that everyone wants to be

or to be with

I can’t sever myself from this person I live through

She holds on too tight.

She needs me as much as I need her.

And sometimes

That’s all there is.

I would not share it

Because appreciation isn’t your strong suit.

Yet I’m sure it’s frequented

Even if not understood.

Too much responsibility

For one little vessel of a soul

I’m the biggest faker you’ll ever meet

Because I definitely tell people what they want to hear

Your ears will never bleed on my account.

And maybe the real me is great.

But YOU WILL NEVER KNOW HER.

Because I’m merely who you want me to be

“Let’s work it out”

Because I’m down for whatever.

“I’m sorry”; “I love you.”

Or

Are you sorry? – THAT you love me?

I’ll eat up your lines

To lie to my heart

Though I know it’s not for real

And they wear off fast

It’s what’s real to yourself that shines pure

Don’t let them tell you you’re crazy

It’s like waking up and feeling like your dream really happened

In that second

You believe

That moment has raw emotion

The next time it happens

Observe what it is you care about

Because you may be neglecting it

And once it’s “too late”

Nothing comes back

Absolutes ARE forever

I prefer to live my life in absolutes

The “all or nothing” paradox

So what will YOU order?

All?

Or nothing?

So being this FAKER…

Everyone thinks I’m happy

To the extent that if it gets to be just a little too much

Sharper than my razor

“It” breaks through

And I’m translucent

ANYONE CAN SEE

Only a few seconds to put up a front

To turn back into a wall

But don’t you dare try to break down that barrier.

I’ll have none of it.

I’m too used to feeling wrong.

And awkward.

And self-loathing.

And we should have never made it to “I’m sorry.”

Unsubscribe

I am one of the luckiest people alive. There are a lot of reasons I say that, but this post is about one reason in particular: I grew up in a world before cell phones were our everything.

This was my first cell phone.

Old Phone Who Dis

A “dumb phone.” Beautiful.

Today, I go to the doctor, make my next appointment, and the receptionist asks if I need a “reminder card” and I quickly say, “I’m good, thank you,” as I enter the date and time into the calendar on my “smart phone.”

But these phones are anything but smart. And I know I am not the first one to write about this but this is my experience and I think it is relevant to what is happening in this mad mad world today.

Go to a supermarket line, waiting room, train station, salon, basically anywhere in public, and the second someone has to wait to accomplish whatever they are there to do, you will see them reach for and rip out their cell phone like it’s the law. Obviously not EVERYONE does this, but take a minute to check it out sometime if you haven’t noticed it already because you are that person. I’m not judging you – actually I am. Sorry. 

I definitely do this at times myself. But usually only when I am uncomfortable (read: the only woman in a waiting room, etc. with a man who I am terrified of having to engage because I am afraid of men in general). I like to “people watch.” I like to observe things. In fact, I’m probably one of the most hyper-observant people in existence.

If you know me, you have experienced a time when I have observed something you were surprised about. If you have lived with me, I have found your keys (or wallet or cell phone or xyz) for you. Observation opens my mind and helps my memory. I think.

But I think my phone and everything on it makes me less intelligent. Especially because of social media – which sucks up my time like nothing else. It’s incredible. Forget about texting, Hangouts, and email. You have to multi-task that shit, dude. There’s also Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (-1000000 since Don Jon became our idiot in chief), Reddit, search engines, porn — wherever you are (!!!), millions of articles, news, opinion pieces, cartoons, dating sites, memes, recipes – all things to put on a “to-do” list I’ll never ever get to in this life as long as I have this phone.

By now you realize I find cell phones absolutely infuriating. I need to keep mine with me at all times because it literally controls what I am doing, and if I don’t have it with me (like I do not as I write this post – to keep from being distracted), then I will miss something. A reminder is going off any minute literally reminding me to do something I need to do. My brain is too distracted to just use itself anymore, I guess. 

Still, my friends and family know that I have a cell phone “policy” so to speak. If I have made a plan with someone to have a meal together, to catch up, to spend one-on-one time, or made group plans, you get the idea: my phone can and will wait. The least I can do (and I would argue you should too) is to give the person or people who has/have made time – our most precious commodity – to spend with me – my undivided attention. Literally everything else going on in the world and on my phone CAN and WILL wait. 

I’m not a monster. My phone is with me, tucked away in my purse. If I felt it buzzing persistently and/or non-stop (as it is always on silent unless there is an ongoing emergency), I might look to make sure everyone I love is okay. That’s basically the rule. If you need me, keep calling. Otherwise, leave a message and I will call you back.

A former boss of mine used to keep her iPhone on “LOUDER THAN FUCKING NECESSARY EVEN IF YOU ARE HEARING IMPAIRED.” It would “go off” throughout the work day (and after hours as I was expected to be there forever) relentlessly. Text after text. Phone call after phone call. She was obsessed, consumed, and therefore paralyzed by that thing. She is about sixty years old. In fact, I was the youngest person in that office at the time I was working there, and everyone had their phones on high volume. Mine was the only one on “buzzer mode” because – Jesus Christ – I didn’t need everyone knowing my business. 

Often, I think about people like my former boss who do not take a step back and look around. Observe. Assess. Question. “What am I doing with my time?” But it is actually worse than that. I’ve observed that cell phones are now a weapon, essentially in every sense of the word “(something that is used for fighting or attacking someone or for defending yourself when someone is attacking you: something (such as a skill, idea, or tool) that is used to win a contest or achieve something).” See: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weapon.

Warning: a one paragraph tangent. This former boss would try to control me through her text messages. She would send them while I was in the office ten feet away. She would send them while she was out of the office and I was in the office working. She would send them after I left work at 11:00 P.M. at night. She would send them in the morning. She would send them on weekends. They were always demanding or demeaning. She expected and felt entitled to automatic and immediate access to me. As for any abusive relationship, my suggestion is this: wait four or five hours to respond, if you do at all. Giving anyone who is that abusive “instant access” to you will only enable them. And you need to be in control of your own life. Trust me.

Our world at present, especially in America, is full of endless possibilities. And when I was “growing up,” cell phones were just becoming “a thing.” I eventually had my own cell phone in high school, but I ONLY used it to call my parents if I needed a ride unexpectedly or if there was an emergency. Anyone else remember “1-800-COLLECT?” What were the companies? AT&T versus MCI? Payphones where the JAM back then. “Texting” only really became “a thing” during my senior year of high school (2003-2004) and it was insufferable to hit the numbers to get the words out. At one point I remember writing down text messages I received from people to save them. They’re in a diary somewhere.

Regardless, I had 18 sweet years of cell phone-free life. A life of actual imagination. A life of going outside to play. Making up stories and scenes with friends and acting them out. There was no “interactive Furby” or whatever the heck is out there now. You played with THE WORLD ITSELF. You SPENT TIME WITH PEOPLE without checking your “status.” We were creative, and smart, and daring, and beautiful. We were perfect. We got dirty. We got into trouble. We scraped our hips jumping the curb in roller blade accidents and fell off our bikes. We utilized nature to have fun. We realized that we were allergic to caterpillars (just kidding: that was just me). We wrote in chalk on the sidewalks, and played almost-sports with our parents, siblings, and friends. I would give ANYTHING to go back to those days.

Now, I often think about bringing a child (or more) into this world. We have an unhinged racist-good-for-nothing “president.” Our country either still hates women – even the most qualified woman to be President in history – so much that they don’t stand a chance of being elected President in my lifetime, or they cannot separate a woman from her husband – which is just as troubling. We use electronics for everything. EVERYTHING. And I hate it. These devices are literally controlling us, attacking our intelligence, our ability to interact with others face-to-face, impacting what we perceive as a powerful weapon (technology) and our thoughts.

Our thoughts.

Our thoughts are precious. At our fingertips we can share our thoughts through our “smart phones” immediately. But those thoughts are lost among a billion other thoughts that are lost among another billion. Are you reading this? Am I worth acknowledging? Does anyone give a crap about my existence? Hence, my rule.

Yes. I do give a lot of craps about your existence. I cherish your gift of time with me. I crave it. Because it is so very rare now. I often wonder how soon therapy will be done via “facetime.” Fucking animals.

I think I’d be happier living some crazy cult hippy life out in Montana somewhere where no one could find me and my husband, teaching our children how to survive, and to read literature, and to play in the grass barefoot – rather than let them explore Bubble Witch Saga or whatever the fuck is out there now.

I watched two things recently that put this into sharp perspective.

The first was a docu-series on the VICE channel called “Jungletown.” A poor summary of it is that is is a “town” created by a young once-wealthy thirty-something who lost a lot of investment money in the 2008 stock market crisis. He then turned his vision into a start-up business of luring students to a “study-abroad” mess of paying for and building his “town.” These almost exclusively white, privileged students come and expect something that isn’t ready to exist yet, and doesn’t. It probably never will. It shows the natives who CAN survive but are looked down upon for their missing teeth and inability to speak English in a Spanish-speaking country. It’s ten, one-hour-long (with commercials) episodes long, and damn; I couldn’t recommend it more for 1,000,000,000 reasons.

The second is “The Circle,” a film, which was, ultimately, incredibly disappointing. I had hoped for a much better ending. I won’t spoil it as I know it was newly released to Netflix and Redbox, etc., but let’s just say that it shows how being constantly connected isn’t the best thing (like, duh, what a totally obvious crazy idea). I think it was meant to criticize “Google” the most but really hit on every company creating shit in Silicon Valley, as it were. It had some interesting plot points that seriously did not develop to fruition and drove me crazy, but it, again, without spoilers, was about total access to everything a person does in a day, with no privacy.

I, a very present online presence, often regret buying into same. My Mom is way better at anticipating the issues with such things, coming from the generations before me. She doesn’t text. She doesn’t use her cell phone for much, really. And I envy that. Yet, of course, here I am, blogging, which I will the publish on a plethora of sites hoping people will read my “important and thoughtful thoughts,” like anyone gives a shit what I have to say. Same as DJT and his ridiculous illiterate “tweets” which “speak for themselves.” God help us.

So anyway, here’s the point: log the fuck off once in awhile. Live your life without your devices. Look at the fucking beauty of everything and anything around you. Feel emotions that you can experience right in front of you in real time. Stop looking at the bullshit and anger-inducing crap found everywhere on your “smart phone.” Be me, as a 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 14 year old again.

Talk to someone you don’t know. Try to make someone laugh. Engage with other people.

I promise, nothing on your phone is important enough to miss everything else you can experience right in front of you, if you just look.

A Lonely Saturday Night

What is most important to me in a relationship?

I can’t answer that question, nor begin to define what I need. But I know I’ve got “it” with my partner.

Other relationships are different. There are categories. “Partner,” “friends”, “acquaintances,” “colleagues,” and beyond.

These are off the top of my extremely irritated mind, (in no particular order after the first one):

  • Respect
  • Time
  • Mutual Appreciation
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Trust
  • Consideration
  • The Ability to Listen to Each Other with an Open Mind
  • Communication
  • Decency

I’m sure there are many more that I could add to this simple list. But the truth is: I think we are all just doing our best.

Only Questions

Do you know how much I miss you? Have you seen me, in your head, lying awake at four, five, six A.M. because I can’t even get past you to get to bed? Do you see me there, on my green bed sheets – your favorite color – and under my yellow comforter – my favorite color – wishing we’d touch each other so protectively and safely like they do – and how you used to make me feel? Have you felt me watching you through your mind as I feel you watching me through mine? Do you know that I know that you’ve been doing the same thing? Do you even know that I know you know I know that about us? Do you know how often I break down? Declare I can’t go on? Then pull myself together again because I know you don’t seem to like who you are and you want to be different for me? Why can’t time fix us? Why can’t we go back? Back to when we were us? You and me, and happy? Before we ruined things together – accidentally – slowly – but also all at once? Why do I now have to watch our lives tumble around relentlessly because we’re separate? Why are we separated? Do you know that I know that we both think God wants us to be together? Why did He put this barrier between us, wanting us to suffer trying to work out something that is impossible? Do you know why?

Did you see when I defended you against someone who wrote the hateful things I didn’t understand on your door? Do you remember how good and warm and right it felt to kiss each other – and how often we did that for so perfectly long? Or was that all a lie too? Why can something so painful even happen? Why can’t you tell me why? Why do I envy the girls getting beaten by their boyfriends? Or men getting shot in war? Do you know I know how fucked up that is? Do you agree that being broken is better than what we are going through together while completely apart? Do you understand that when you replaced me – I died? Do you care that you killed most of me? Do you know that I walk around every single day now, pretending you never existed? Because how can I exist without you? How can I live – when you were me?

Do you know why I turned over all of our old pictures? Do you realize that doing that doesn’t matter – because I can still see every outline, crease, and feeling? Why are we allowed to capture only for a short time a happiness that we cannot keep forever? Why was I unlucky enough to find everything that fit exactly as it was supposed to except when it didn’t? Why do people believe that if they are honest in their love and try to do the right thing then bad things won’t happen? Why are we so naive? How were we so in love with each other, when you couldn’t ever really “be in love” with me? Why did you “choose” me? Why did you find me? Why did you do this to me? How can you sleep knowing you deceived me? Betrayed me? Loved me? Tortured me? Grew with me? Hated me? Connected with me? Needed me? Hated me for needing me? Not needing me at all, as it turned out? Lived a completely different life you hid from me?

Why did you make this my nightmare? Why was I the one you used and threw away? There were so many girls who wanted you and you knew that, right? So why did you attach to me? How am I not supposed to hate you forever because I love you so Goddamn much and you let me go anyway? What am I supposed to do for the rest of my life when I know that every single time I look at you I see the future of fantastic everything we would have had? Knowing that I will miss us forever? That we were the most fun I had ever had and will never have again? And what am I to do now that I know you are the worst thing that ever happened to me? How do you live with yourself – when you know that I am the only person who will ever really know you – but you chose someone else? Or am I mistaken? Was anything real? When will you admit it? When will you apologize? Why won’t you say it to my face? Why won’t you tell me the truth? Why am I still confused? Why?

Overwhelming

Despite rain

Painful riverbeds lost in transition to being frozen solid

I forgot how to speak.

And it sounded so beautiful

but only until it was heard.

Waves,

but they don’t count.

If I splashed in I’d ruin your mystery,

so I’ll tip-toe.

I’ll crack you to add to the pain that you force upon yourself.

But you want it.

You can’t be graceful to something that relies on awkwardness.

I’d never do you that injustice.

But I should let you know,

Because

You might evaporate tomorrow.

A Letter From A Trusted Source

In 2012 (emphasis added with consent):

To make decisions sober is powerful. I must focus on this. I thought, “I would like to text [man’s name who I am flirting with] that I am looking forward to seeing him, and relished in the fact that I won’t have to worry in the morning about what I drunkenly thought was appropriate.”

I hate that.

Without fail, I wake up, try to remember how I got to bed, try to piece together what I did the night before, and search for my phone to see who I texted what pathetic thing to the night before.

I HATE that.

I must state that I very badly want to go do shots of vodka and chase them with beer.

I suppose whoever reads this might be curious why I want THAT so badly. Well, now — it is a habit. It calms me. It helps me pass out. Lately, I feel the need to pass out. I can’t bear NOT passing out. My mind automatically goes to bad places. Places where I am rejected, unwelcome, not good enough, or helpless. I am a very anxious person. I know how much I am limiting myself by succumbing to alcohol. I could be doing good things with the time/brain cells/etc. that drown in alcohol every night.

I similarly know that it is not healthy on a physical level, and the longer I wait to address it the more danger I am in. I think sometimes that I will end up tragically dead.

But it’s just a drinking problem. I’m just an alcoholic. When I die from this people will say, “[my name] was an alcoholic.” And it will be left there. As if that is enough. As if that explains who I am or ever was or would only be remembered as again.

I think that the people who criticize Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger for their use of drugs to induce sleep are STUPID or LUCKY. These people can only be one or the other. Because until you are here, begging for sleep at 3:00 A.M. to escape the PURE aloneness of your thoughts — YOU WON’T GET IT.

You would think muscle relaxers would be sufficient to knock me out for the night. Nope. I’m fucked.

I can’t take it. All I can think about is the pain. And how everybody leaves. And how I’m worthless.

I guess I don’t always know who I am since I am constantly trying to discern if I am behaving the “right” way. I do know for a fact that I am ultra-sensitive.

Sometimes I just sit still and think about all of the moving parts I have to worry about. It can be immobilizing. I explain this to my psychiatrist as anxiety, but everyone is anxious, so no one really cares. I think about all the people going through such horrific things and it’s like, oh, poor me, I’m anxious.

I keep thinking, “Someday, I will be thin, and awesome, and everyone will love me.” And then I think, that day was when I was 18, and I was cutting myself.

I suppose I am an enormous fool. I have built what I have and where I am, and I have to deal with that. But I don’t want to anymore. It is very hard for me to truly accept the motions I go through every day as my life. And when I spend time with other people who I imagine to have REAL lives (as opposed to this bullshit) I get even more depressed.

I think sometimes I feel like drinking is the only thing that I have that never lets me down. But I know I have to be doing serious damage to my brain and body. How could I not be, drinking in excess by every standard every night? And no one is going to (or going to be able to) fix it but me.

There are many reasons to stop. But I also need to share what it is like for me. Remember the desperation for shots of vodka?

It gets to be around 10:00 P.M. or 11:00 P.M. and I start to dread consciousness. The idea that I will be my fully mentally aware self any longer at that time of day/night is more than I want to bear. Because consciousness hurts. And unconsciousness mends, and soothes, and takes over so I don’t have to think like my aware self any longer.

And so I get my drinks ready. And I feel such indescribable relief just knowing I’m done for the day because they’re going to take care of everything until I pass out. You see, part of this is about what I don’t have, and much of it is about what I have lost.

So I start to drink. I do not enjoy this part. It is nothing like drinking with friends at a party where you start to feel buzzed and you are happily giggling together. Alone, each sip is meant to medicate, and nothing more. I pour about 2-4 ounces of hard liquor (40% abv or higher) and chug it. I hate how it tastes so I chase it with beer.

I LOVE beer. But it is a tool when I drink alone, not a beverage. It merely allows me to choke down the liquor that I need and hate. The minutes after I ingest it are remarkable. Before I can even really feel its effect on me I am at peace for the first time all day. I know what comes next. And then it kicks in. And everything is immediately bearable.

The next step is needing more, and quickly. It doesn’t matter if I’m already drunk, falling down, slurring my words. I require more. And more. And more. At that point I have to just hope I get to bed without falling down the stairs or into the bathtub (again) pulling down the curtain and rod and turning my light out before I black out.

Then the morning comes. Amazingly. Surprisingly. And I always feel beyond awful. And I swear I will never do that to my body again because it feels so so bad. Like eight hammers are knocking on your skull and your stomach couldn’t be more disgusting and everything is too loud and too bright and too much.

And then I go through my day. And consciousness is painful. And then it is between 10:00 P.M. and 11:00 P.M. again.

She Shells

Sitting here
Thinking this
There’s nothing I can save
And everything I can lose
Where can you go when it hits?
Slam
You’re drowning now
No breath
Lost smiles, sleeping easily
They pass your fidgeting shell
What’s wrong? They say
Go to sleep. They say
Just relax! They say
You’re too sensitive. They say
Have you tried meditating? They say
But meditation leads to procreation of every single moment of pain piling upon itself growing on top of you and medication aimed at forced sedation stopped working a long time ago
You’re so free that the guilt of what you could do with that time that you’re wasting worrying has created a prison
And you’re it.

The Wrong Stuff – Part Three

It’s May! And my last “to be continued…” post was in October. So it has taken me seven whole months later to continue. But I HAVE to continue. Because.

Because there are things I forgot to write about that are included in this very heinous act of sexually assaulting someone without repercussion. Because these things are within that Cycle of Violence. Because so many years later it haunts me.

In some ways being sexually assaulted is like being an addict. And before you freak out about that statement—hear me out. If you are able to admit and talk about your assault to people you trust, sometimes it can be hard to stop bringing up. And after years you start to think “why can’t I just get over it?” And it turns into guilt, and sometimes bad habits form if not full blown addiction. Addicts face that pressure externally from the people in their lives too. People who say, “why can’t he/she just stop?” Both are victim blaming. Most addicts don’t want to be addicts, (if any at all actually do). But sexual assault victims cannot “stop” what has been done either. And often, the assaulter is someone the victim knows. And society already blames sexual assault victims every way possible so that of course we blame ourselves. So that is why I am continuing all these months later.

Because it’s not okay that I say to myself “why can’t I just get over it?” And it’s not okay to normalize sexual assault.

I’m going to remind you how the Cycle of Violence goes:

Tension building –> Abuse –> Guilt & Fear of Reprisal –> Blame the Victim –> Normalcy –>Fantasy Setup –> Tension building: REPEAT.

So, here I go. Readers beware, this content is too “mature” for some viewers. Discretion is [not] advised because it IS happening everywhere and I think it needs to be talked about more.

The last thing I wrote about grappled with this assaulter’s resentment at my request to get STD-tested. How dare I “adult” at him, right? Well, turns out, he was clean. Which he rubbed in my face. Like literally held against me as if my request were some kind of challenge. “I told you,” he warned. Then things became confusing to me.

We entered a new stage of “normalcy.” Be careful with how you understand that word, “normalcy.” In the Cycle of Violence what is “normal” is very different than what is considered to be “acceptable.” The “normalcy” phase is much more like the definition of the word: “the state of being usual, typical, or expected. Synonyms include ‘business as usual.'”

So what did I come to expect from this person? I expected that I never knew on any given day what I would be encountering when talking to him or seeing him. He was moody and inconsistent. I was tense all of the time because it was impossible to predict how he might be.

But one thing I could count on when we were together was that he would want to go out and spend time with his friends. And my opinion didn’t count.

If I needed to rest (because of law school and life in general) then I “didn’t care about him.” (And you really can only hear that you’re being “horrible” to someone so many times before you give up and at best question if they are correct and at worst actually believe them.) So I stopped trying to convince him to stay in. And we’d go out. With friends I believe I’ve already expressed I didn’t like being around.

I didn’t drink then. I never really had. But this particular boyfriend did. And all of his friends did. And most people do. And that’s okay, unless it isn’t. And what I mean by that is that if you have to drink to feel “okay” around people — bounce the fuck out. I didn’t realize what was slowly and at the same time as fast as an avalanche happening to me: I couldn’t stand being around him without drinking.

And that became “normal.”

We’d drink. He’d strongly encourage me to drink more. My life was getting really hard to understand since I had been dating him and I wanted to be numb, so I did drink more. So much that I didn’t know myself from Adam. Even though I was now in a relationship where I had to drink to withstand being near this person, I did not see the danger. I thought, “this human cares about me and would not hurt me.”

In many ways I already detested him. No matter how many times I try to answer the question “why did I stay when things already felt so wrong?” I cannot.

But alcohol. It makes you someone else.

Ready for the rape scene?

After many nights of hating him and not wanting to be touched but being intoxicated enough so that basically nothing mattered, I had one night that I will never forget as long as I live. The night of my remembered rape.

On this particular night we did not go out. We stayed in. I was so exhausted. Law school was really hell. We were watching some streaming television and yes, drinking. This rapist kept handing me more and more hard liquor without my questioning it because it had become normal. This was a routine. I would go numb and then everything would be okay and make sense.

I had taken a sleeping pill, desperate for rest from constantly defending myself to this person, from classes and studying, from life, and just generally needing sleep. He knew the effect this medication had on me. It was basically alcohol in pill form. If I went to sleep right away after taking it, it would knock me out. And I bet he was banking on that happening.

And no, you’re not supposed to take it when drinking. But you’re also not supposed to rape people. But I took my sleeping pill, and had lain down to fall asleep. Then, the suggestion of sex. I told him “No.” I didn’t want to have sex. I wanted sleep and nothing else.

I was messed up somewhat. But not enough to forget what happened next. I was falling asleep when he undressed me and forced himself upon me. I remember telling him to “get off” and that I was “tired” and “drunk” and “didn’t want to” But I was his girlfriend, so it was really okay, wasn’t it?

I kept arguing with him but he didn’t engage. He kept doing what he was doing. I cannot adequately explain what it is to be a person who no longer has control over his/her body or what is being done to it, but I’ll try. I just felt dead. I wanted everything to be over. In some ways I wanted him to kill me so I would never have this memory. I wanted him to stop hurting me. I wanted to go back in time. I wanted to stop “being” at all.

The next morning I left quickly. He’d said things that he normally said: “I love you so much. Last night was great. Why won’t you stay longer? Just a little longer? I don’t want to be alone. You know how depressed I get. I hope I don’t do something stupid.” Always with the guilt and heavy obligation to him.

I drove home and promptly told him I was done with this relationship. He ignored me. Hard. Refused to hear such assertive language against what he broke and felt he owned. I told him to leave me alone forever. Astonished at my resolve, he moved us both once again into the “Fantasy Setup” phase of the Cycle of Violence.

I was adamant. Done. Petrified of this assailant I once trusted with my body. And my life. And my autonomy. And everything I should have kept from him. I broke up with this Rapist. Pervert. Liar. Thief. Assailant. Creature. Stereotype.

Flash-forward to him “not understanding” and “trying to get me back,” since obviously in his mind he had done absolutely nothing wrong. (I’m trying to be brief; I really am. This is hard.)

Within the week I thought I ended things, I was getting texts from him non-stop. “When can I see you?” “Where are you?” “I need to talk to you.” “I love you.” “Please let me explain how much I love you so we can be together.” Trying every way he could to normalize that abuse.

Unfortunately, he knew where I lived. Unfortunately, he decided that my telling him to stay away was irrelevant.

One day, he texted me 20+ times that he “needed” to see me. I told him not to come over and that I never wanted to see him again. He was coming over anyway. I told him I would not see him and he shouldn’t. Naturally he did not listen.

All of a sudden I got a text that he was 10 minutes away. Thank God, thank whoever is out there, thank anything, that my Brother was home with me at this time. I said to my Brother, “[Rapist] is coming over and I told him not to and I can’t breathe and I don’t want to even hear the sound of his voice I’m so fucking terrified of him. Please please, [Brother], get rid of him?” “Of course,” my Brother said. I said, “I’m going into the shower because I can’t bear to hear his voice. I will die.” I was shaking.

My life-saving Brother got rid of him. My Brother told him that I didn’t want to see him now or ever again and it was a good idea to leave. This asshole asked my Brother to give me something he had gotten me. (I promptly sold it on Amazon.com for a profit.) He tried to “win me back” with a pathetic fucking gift: it was a stuffed animal. Which I rejected. It was an attempt at another “Fantasy Setup” phase. Abusive assholes who think they are good people or that they can just get away with anything will justify fucking anything. At this point, I essentially broke the Cycle of Violence.

I couldn’t bear to be anywhere I might run into him. I wasn’t able to go to the funeral of one of my fraternity brother’s fathers because he was going to be there, even under the protection of another friend who did not understand why I would be physically afraid of this person at that time.

An unexpected happening I need to share with you is this: once you are raped by someone you met within a group of people, you really can’t get back into being with that group of people. I had an entire fraternity of people who I trusted and loved and considered friends “until the end.” Until I was raped.

Once I was raped I separated myself from these people more and more. Now only one person is really a part of my life. I mentioned him in the previous posts. He was also the person who offered to protect me at the funeral, and the one who believed me. You see…once an evil takes something from you like what was taken from me…you cannot stand the thought of being around anything that reminds you of that monstrosity of a memory. You cut them off. You check out. You defend what’s left of you.

Originally, I drank to fit into this life. Finally, I drank to forget this life. Scarred. Beaten. But not fucking broken. I dated this rapist no more than 2-4 months in total. In that time, I left him but continued to drink. I mention this because I believe 100% with my heart and soul that no addict becomes an addict selfishly. Something happens to him/her that literally forces him/her to make “it” go away. You also don’t have to be an addict to abuse substances to try to numb pain or try to help you feel better.

I tried to numb and ignore this for a very long time.

A few other things happened that I feel are worth mentioning although I cannot say how they fit into the Cycle of Violence.

One was that I became so broken after dating this guy — mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually — that I had lost certain parts of myself that I used to feel okay about.

And at some point, most certainly because I had been drinking, I had convinced myself that maybe I made a mistake. Maybe he was the love of my life. Maybe I needed him back. I cannot explain this feeling adequately either. You kind of have to experience it to understand. But it makes sense if you really think about it.

This person strips you of everything, slowly but definitely, until you look to him/her for answers. I felt almost like I could not make decisions for myself and that only he could reinstate who I was.

Try to think about losing yourself that much. It’s uncomfortable to think that someone could take so much away from you to the point that you aren’t even yourself anymore. It’s even scarier to think you need to turn back to that person to help you get it back. The person who ruined you in the first place.

I used to think it made me pathetic. But I’m done with blaming myself for any of what happened to me. And I hope those of you reading this (if anyone is) won’t victim blame anymore either.

Could I have broken up with him sooner? Yes. Could I have stayed sober? Yes. Could I have asked for help? Yes. Did I deserve to be raped? No. And that is the bottom line. No matter what you think of me, or what happened to me, or the decisions I made or didn’t make, the only point that matters is that I did not deserve to be raped. And rapists should be the only ones held accountable for that action. Forever and ever, period.

The Wrong Stuff – Part Two

New relationships: “love” is in the air, or so we often think. We’re smitten. Excited to have a hand to hold.

I must say that at first I was extremely hesitant to date this friend who had never been anything more than a friend. I remember in college he made me this kind of amazing “mix-tape,” so I guess you could say that I had suspected for a long time that this guy who would soon be known as my boyfriend (publicly) and abuser (privately) had liked me for a while.

I think I knew. I pretended not to – because I didn’t like him in that way. But like I said in my last post, my list of whether I ever thought about dating him or not ended with “Whatever.”

Not only “whatever,” but nothing else I tried in the dating realm had worked out. I thought of “those” love songs with a guy singing to a girl about how he was just a friend but perfect for her and was right there all along! (Think Vertical Horizon “Everything You Want.”) It really began with a “what do I have to lose?” mentality.

And I was excited. At that very specific point in my life, I felt flattered to be admired. He would say things like “I never thought you would ever consider dating me.” At that time, it was flattering. But now?

Now. Now I am an independent woman who does not find being “coveted” flattering. In fact, I am insulted by any man who gives me his opinion on how I do or should value myself. I cannot explain this feeling well. But it is akin to the “don’t tell me to smile” movement.

And I am going to emphasize this here because I think it is extremely important in recovery, but not only do I not want anyone’s opinion, but it actually disgusts me. And unfortunately for those men who think I care what they think of me, I’ve found my voice, and I’m not afraid to exercise it anymore. And I would encourage everyone reading this to find his/her voice, and dare him/her to stick up for himself/herself.

It is hard. People do not like being called out. But all of us have the opportunity to change social constructs that are no longer acceptable. And we definitely all have the right to feel safe, comfortable, and autonomous. I know I can go to extremes in this way; but I won’t apologize for that. My answer is “no, I can’t take a compliment, because it isn’t one.” I was not put on this planet for any man’s commentary.

And again, shout out to Gary, love of my life, who three years ago I don’t think would have called himself a feminist or seen these injustices among groups that I can never shut up about. But with all of the feelings we share between us, when I asked him if he thought I should be writing about this, said, “If it is what you feel you want to or need to do, I think it’s incredibly brave.” To my friends reading this blog who have reached out to me and expressed their feelings that I am being strong, brave, or fearless in writing about this – thank you doesn’t even begin to describe my gratitude. I do it for you. And for everyone who cannot.

So right now this guy and I were in the “normalcy” to “fantasy setup” phases of The Cycle of Violence. I was living my life, now with him in it, and we mused about a future. I enjoyed escaping to his apartment and watching Netflix instead of studying. We often talked about what a great story it would be if we got married. College friends who finally “figured it out.” This was like – two weeks in.

The first caution sign that flashed across my brain came in the form a of friend asking me on Facebook, “you’re in a relationship? Who’s the lucky guy?” I so vividly remember not even seeing that “post” until after the abuser answered “it’s me.” Ownership. Before I even recognized it.

Things were cute for awhile, almost. This was the “tension building” phase. He took me to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Something I told him I really never wanted to do, but he insisted. I also got shingles around that time (stress induced in a 25 year old). We went to a New Year’s Eve party that I really didn’t want to go to. I always spent New Year’s Eve with my family. Again, he insisted. I thought, well, couples kiss at midnight, right? That’s a thing? So I went. I was stressed the whole night. A pattern was emerging. I did not want to take part in some activity, I expressed said feeling, I was convinced to do it anyway. And so it went. If I did not acquiesce, it became a thing. Like, I didn’t really care about him. Like, I wasn’t making him a priority. Like, I didn’t like his friends. Like, it was my fault if he was alone.

When I was unavailable, usually due to law school, studying, or previous arrangements, he would make a point of hanging out with girls/women he thought were “super hot,” or he previously liked, or previously liked him. And he really loved to tell me about this too.

I have flashbacks to sitting in my living room during that winter by the fireplace because our heat was out and him texting me that he was going to see someone who he used to hook-up with as a result of my decision to read “Shutter Island” before the movie came out. When I asked his reasoning he said “I have more friends who are girls than guys and you’re too busy for me so what do think I’m going to do? Sit around alone and wait for you?” I thought this was odd (more “tension building” phase), particularly because I thought maybe he was capable of being alone with himself – something I learned was impossible for him. This, naturally, made me feel defensive and insecure.

In fact, I don’t think I was ever an insecure person before this abuser made a specific point of spending time with “some of the hottest girls he knew” when I wasn’t available. This became status quo. This was part of the “abuse” phase. If I was not at his beck and call, another female was – at least so he said. It didn’t matter if it was true or not. It was manipulative and made me feel like I was always doing the wrong thing. No matter what I did or said, I was a disappointment in some way.

When I am told I’m not doing well enough, I try harder. Instinct. So I tried harder. I spent less time with my friends and more time with his. I was not having fun but have always been awkward so I thought I was probably doing what I was supposed to do. Even his friends would tell me things like, “I’ve NEVER seen him this happy before. You are the best thing that could have happened to him.

TIME OUT. This is a HUGE red flag, okay? If a best or close friend of the person you are dating tells you a statement like this or something like it and you do not feel like you are in a mutually good situation, this is one of those things that people say that should give you some concern. But at the time, it didn’t register with me. But think about it.

If the person you are dating was so different before you, then who were they before? Who are they being now, when they’re with you? Why is this friend sharing this with you? It could very well be a warning in disguise. I remember hearing that from one of his friends in particular and thinking, “you’ve known him about as long as I have, so what could I have done in the last month, month and a half to change him so much?” It’s scary! It’s like when you hear people say you have to know yourself before you can be in a healthy relationship. He had no self. And we were about to become a lot less healthy.

I soon made the “mistake” (read: responsible act) of asking him of the last time he had been tested for STDs. Upon this request, he replied with a screaming tantrum in my ear, “HOW DARE YOU?! YOU THINK I’M DIRTY?!” He hung up. He called back. I was screamed at for maybe an hour, an hour and a half for calling him “dirty.” But I hadn’t.

I was afraid. Never would I sleep next to someone who was not recently tested, especially if we were not in a very monogamous committed relationship. That’s adult-ing, isn’t it? Intelligent non-abusive people understand that. He did not. I felt small. I felt embarrassed. I felt wrong.

But I wasn’t wrong. Because it’s smart to know your partner is clean. Even if you aren’t sleeping together (which we were not), it’s smart. That was probably the second extreme caution sign: how defensive he was. But I felt guilty. I was afraid of how upset “I had made him.” He literally would not stop screaming until I apologized for my request. Welcome to the “blame the victim” phase. So it went. Event after event after event.

dv

To be continued…

The Wrong Stuff – Part One

Recently I wrote a blog about a myriad of things about myself. One of those things was that I was sexually assaulted by a boyfriend, and I had some commentary on those precious few people I disclosed to, and how they let me down.

Since then, one of those friends discussed some things with me, and although I will never be able to forget his initial reaction, I feel he is in a place now where he would not react the same way to a disclosure like mine again. I believe that goes in the “positives” column.

Another thing that happened was that post and my blog got more hits due to that entry than ever before, so I guess some people out there are reading my writing. I also put that in the “positives” column.

Look: I believe my purpose in life is to exist for and to help others. So, my hope is, through my public writing at least one person will be helped. Apparently my previous post did that for someone (because she told me so), so I am going to continue down this path to sharing a lot of deeply personal stuff about myself in the hopes that someone will get the help he/she needs, or at the very least I’ll be able to begin a discussion.

So here it is. The story of how I allowed myself to be abused.

Because that’s what society describes abuse as. So it must have been me. I let it happen, didn’t I? I didn’t tell anyone. I felt something was wrong but I acquiesced to his pleas of spending time with him at the expense of everything else in my life. I accepted his reasons why I shouldn’t talk to any other men. I accepted that he should always know where I was and what I was doing “in case I needed his help.” I believed him when he said “it wouldn’t happen again,” right? If I were “better” at doing what I was “supposed to” I wouldn’t be abused, right? I probably provoked him (by having opinions), right? I was drinking? I stayed in a relationship longer than I knew I should have, right? I was protecting him, right? I made the choices, right?

Except I didn’t. Because by the time I realized what was going on, I was being manipulated by someone so despicable that he had me feeling guilty about my behavior. I was the “crazy” one. I “deserved” to be yelled at. Called up and hung up on. Stalked. Tracked. I was afraid for my life and his. Because he mentioned deep depression and threatened suicide if I left as a tactic to get me to stay.

People don’t think this can happen to them. I didn’t. It happens so slowly and yet so simultaneously quickly that you do not know it is happening. And I am proof that you cannot predict who a victim will be. I was literally working at the law school Family Law Clinic (focusing on sexual assault and violence) and taking a course on Domestic Violence Law while this abusive relationship was percolating.

Although I suspect some of you who read my disclosure know the person I am talking about, my intent is not to “out” him. It has nothing to do with caring about his reputation or not; I just do not want him to get off on learning about the power he had over me – which he surely would – if he knew how much of my life he affected. That’s the thing about abusive people; if they can manipulate you and control you – they win. They’re sick, disturbed, horrible human beings. I would like to believe I can forgive anyone. But I could never forgive this abusive rapist.

Some of you may already know who I am referring to because of time periods, etc. I am going to try to be as specific as possible without directing anyone to the abuser. However I cannot imagine that some of my friends, at least the ones closest to me, don’t already know who this person is.

Make no mistake: I’m not being coy. I don’t want to risk having this person ever reach out to me again. I have deleted him from my life in every way possible (PTSD doesn’t even begin to describe it), including  losing that friend who decided she would rather spend time with a rapist than hold him accountable for what he did to me. Harsh? Yes, I think her pretending to be supportive of my disclosure while spending time with a friend who raped another “friend” is very harsh of her. It’s abhorrent, actually. And I don’t need people like her in my life. And she won’t be from now on. Because people like that are not worth being friends with.

Look, I’m sure it was hard for this person to read what I told her (it was in a card). She knew him for years too. She was still spending time with him. He really doesn’t seem like the “kind of guy who would do something like that.” But that’s not an excuse.

As I’ve explained to my real friends, the ones who understand that disclosing an assault feels like one of the most difficult things in the world because you couldn’t be more afraid of not being believed, if any one of them told me someone assaulted them, that assailant would be out of my life immediately. Because I’m deeply and overly educated in this department. And if someone says they’ve been raped, I believe them.

I wrote a blog several years ago about knowing rapists. It can be found among my other posts here. If I saw these men again, I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from saying “I know what you did.” I might say, “I know you’re a rapist.” But what I would NEVER, EVER do, IS HANG OUT WITH THAT PERSON AGAIN. That’s not being a friend. That’s a slap in the face.

So pardon the interruption while I will not give this ex-friend the leniency I might have once upon a time. Because I’m the victim. And I trusted her. And she did the worst thing you could do: ignore it and carry on her relationship with the “him” that she “knew.”

Anyway, if you ask me (in a private forum) if it is a specific person (a/k/a was it ____________?) I will tell you. I will. Because I do not owe this abusive liar anything. He already took more than he was entitled to away from me. But to quote a mentor, “He used to live in my brain rent-free, not anymore.”

So here I go. I was a third year in law school. I was **still** too attached to my college boyfriend who I leaned on too much for it to be healthy. I wanted to be with him, and he couldn’t be with me. But he was one of my best friends. And I was definitely still in love with him.

After a year-long relationship during my first year of law school that could not be classified as anything but a distraction, I entered the world of online dating. Needless to say, online dating wasn’t for me, and I quickly exited the scene.

I was four years out of graduating from Rutgers. And law school SUCKED. I HATED it. It was tormenting me. I was still in love with someone I needed to get over, and an old friend from Rutgers who I occasionally kept in touch with invited me to see him perform at an event.

I knew this person for six years at that point. Tired of going to clubs on Friday nights with my “friends,” standing in the corner with a look on my face that said “I don’t want to be here, I don’t want you to talk to me, I detest this scene, I’m attempting to be normal but you bore me, and I dare you to even try to talk to me because I don’t need an excuse to destroy you with words in mere seconds,” (quick shout-out to Gary, the love of my life, who loves that part of me) and needing some time with people I knew, I accepted his invitation.

I went to the event. It was fine; I left. This guy’s ex was there and made comments that sounded jealous, which I dismissed. This was only a friend, after all. Later that night, though, he was texting me asking me if I had ever thought about us dating. I hadn’t. But he planted that nugget. So I started thinking about it. I remember my thoughts going something like this:

  1. I’ve known this guy a long time, he is funny, he’s charming, we’ve always had a good time together.
  2. The man I’m in love with doesn’t want to be with me and that hurts my heart, a lot.
  3. What have I got to lose? I need a distraction.
  4. Maybe I could think of him in that way.
  5. Everyone loves him, so he’s got something going for him.
  6. Whatever.

So I eventually answered him that I never had before but maybe it could be something. I couldn’t have been more wrong about this person.

I had no idea the nightmare that was about to unfold. I thought highly of this guy that I thought I knew, and I trusted, and decided to give him a chance. I felt in control. I thought I was in a much more powerful position than he was, since apparently he had “coveted” my affections for some time.

But the next weeks and months would be nothing but this:

dv

To be continued…

The Right Stuff

A problem I face on a daily basis is other people placing me into convenient little “boxes” which help them to try to understand me:

    Female (check)

    Girl/Woman (check)

    Attorney (check)

    Feminist (check)

    Annoying feminist (check)

    In your face feminist (check)

    Associate, not Owner (check)

    Liberal by most definitions (check)

The list goes on. All of us, I presume, face some sort of category “placement” challenges.

What continues to get to me is that due to being grouped into one or more of these checked boxes, people think they know me. I mean, like really know me—to the degree where people will tell me to my face what they assume I think and “surely must feel.”

This post turned into something longer than I anticipated. My reasoning and explanation for this list follows. I appreciate anyone willing to read it.

These are the things I’m assuming you do not know about me:

1. I would have no problem whatsoever defending an alleged rapist. As an attorney, that is my job. Every person charged with a crime has a right to competent counsel. Someone who is charged has (and should have!) the right to an attorney. Our legal system is not “just.” On your best day you could not navigate it without competent representation. What one is charged with means absolutely nothing to someone who wants the best possible outcome for all human beings (that’s me; I’m writing about me). Do I love criminals? Of course not. But, are too many people charged who are innocent? ABSOLUTELY. When you are sworn into the Bar you make promises. And one of those promises is to always advocate for your client; not to lie, but to advocate. Even as a former Sexual Assault Advocate I have no issue with this. When I was interviewing for jobs and listed that I was an Advocate on my resume it hindered me because the interviewer assumed I would not be able to simultaneously be an Advocate sometimes and an unbiased criminal defense attorney sometimes. It infuriated me. Because I’m not one thing. People having an amazing capacity to be one way in certain situations and another way in others without making them hypocrites. Short sighted people vote this way.

2. I’m a Christian who doesn’t necessarily believe that Heaven exists – and that is 100% okay with me. I go to church. I’m Episcopalian (and as a sect we do believe in Heaven communally). Heaven does not comfort me and Hell does not scare me. I live now. What I do on this earth before I die matters. That’s what I believe. I try to do the right thing, help others, and be as selfless as possible. I fail a lot, but I succeed a lot too. I do believe something happens when we die. This belief is in line with lyrics from the band OAR’s “City on Down”: “Well, in the end my friend we will all be together again/Clutching onto my hand/In a valley we’ll stand/Just living again.”

3. My church: accepts, marries, and loves all gay and lesbian people. And I do not think God would disapprove of that in any way, shape, or form. Pointing to the Bible to try to prove me wrong won’t affect me, as I believe the most important rule of Christianity is “love and accept everyone.” Christians who disagree are not following Jesus’s Commandments. Quoting Jesus Christ, the Book of John, Chapter 15, Versus 12-13: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Quoting Jesus Christ, the Book of Romans, Chapter 12, Verse 10, states, “Be devoted to  one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 8, Verse 17, states, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” So, the really common theme here is love. Love, love, love, love, love. Neither God nor Jesus ever tells us to hate anyone. So all of that “God hates homosexuals” bullshit you see protesters toting around is completely made up – and those people are insane – and also wrong.

4. If John Kasich was the Republican Presidential nominee I would have seriously considered voting for him. These needs some fleshing out (because for some reason I feel the need to defend myself here, as I’m often “attacked” with accusations of my motives for supporting Hillary Clinton). Before the primaries, I attempted to challenge every Bernie supporter to give me at least one reason they did not like him as a candidate. This was met with an inability, or unwillingness, to do so. My unconfirmed but strongly believed theory is that if you cannot list at least one thing you do not like about your candidate, you do not know your candidate. (I intentionally made this challenge within a single party, so it really only related to the candidates in the primary election.) Bernie supporters gave me plenty of reasons they hated Hillary, but fell short when it came to assessing Bernie. Not that I’m obligated, obviously, to tell you this, but I was not always sure I would vote for Hillary. I did extensive due diligence on all major candidates, from both parties. Despite what many people think (and I AM offended by this assumption because it puts me into an insulting “single issue voter” box) I did not decide to vote for Hillary just because she is a woman. That is so incredibly ignorant and misogynistic it’s pathetic. I believe Kasich was the ONLY reasonable Republican candidate, and advocated for bipartisanship as often as the other loud-mouth idiots would let him speak.

5. I care way more about other people than I care about myself. I’m working on getting healthy but it’s not easy. I’m an Empath, which means I have an abnormal ability to take on the mental or emotional state of another person. I do not see this as a bad thing except that it is the cause of my abnormally crippling anxiety.

6. I believe people who outwardly judge me for what I say and/or do misunderstand the amount of thought I always put into the things I say and/or do, and are therefore not worth my time. Unfortunately for me, I often end up giving them my time in the form of  thought, reaction, or self-doubt. I do not make decisions without thinking them through —from a sickening number of angles. I think of a lot of reasons TO do/say something and NOT TO do/say something. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes awkwardly slowly, but I promise you, it happens.

7. I believe that what comes out of the mouths of those who judge me says way more about them than it does about me. I wish more people who are suffering because of the way others treat them could ignore it, but it is admittedly extremely difficult. I often utilize the quote, “how people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours,” to recenter myself when affected in this way.

8. I love football but I hate the NFL as an organization. They are the Scientologists of sports. They don’t protect their players, and every October is the NFL’s “celebration” of Breast Cancer Awareness month, when some players wear pink stuff in “solidarity,” (fucking please — you’re all full of shit) and they encourage you to donate to certain non-profits. Spoiler alert – most of that money never makes it to anyone who needs it. October is also Sexual Assault Awareness month. Given everything that has surfaced in the past ten years alone, the NFL is actively, selfishly, and I would argue intentionally ignoring this issue by choosing not to campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness — rather than Breast Cancer Awareness. Bless all the breast cancer survivors, but “c’mon, man!” (See ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” for this reference.) Everyone is already aware of breast cancer. Best guess? — The NFL does not want to bring any more attention to Sexual Assault than it is required to, since its players have been proven to be  continuing to commit Sexual Assault season after season. After all, the majority of Sexual Assault is committed against women, and that’s bad for business. Sexual Assault is something one human being does to another, whereas breast cancer is a disease you cannot get by being raped. (I’m guessing this is “their” idiotic thought process.) And it’s “smart business” (read: disgraceful, pathetic, and typical) to make profit by exploiting people while purporting to care about an issue. But it makes the NFL a horrible organization! They should do the right thing and admit players have a problem with Sexual Assault and Domestic Abuse and show some respect for at least half of their fans (yeah, that’d be women). I won’t hold my breath until next October waiting to see players wearing teal (the official color of Sexual Assault Awareness month) stuff in games. Because breast cancer is so much more profitable! The NFL makes a tremendous amount of money selling pink — anything — “in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness,” and they’re pretty much laughing at you for buying these items. P.S. Did you know that more domestic violence incidents occur in America on Superbowl Sunday than any other day of the year? If you didn’t, it’s because the NFL doesn’t give a fuck about women, Awareness, or anything other than exploitation for profit.

9. I believe addicts are deeply misunderstood. If you’re not an addict, you cannot possibly understand how addiction works. People who know addicts and/or live with addicts get close to understanding, but it is an impossibility to understand addiction unless you’re an addict. Just like if you don’t suffer from crippling depression, you should stop assuming you know what will help. You can’t know the hell that is chronic depression or a major depressive disorder. You can’t know how anxiety can stop you from doing almost any thing. I mention both addiction and mental illness in this section because the two very often go hand in hand. The point is every single judgment, assumption, or prediction that you make about addicts and/or people with mental illness is probably misinformed. Just so you knowMy advice on this is to listen to an addict or someone with mental illness if he/she opens up to you. Listen to them, and do not offer advice. We don’t need advice. Especially from people that are not like us. We need hugs. We need a willing ear. And we need to know that people exist who love us “anyway.” (Think about the implication of that word — ANY way. ANYWAY.) And just because I feel like sharing this, while in college, I watched an episode of “Intervention” about an alcoholic which changed my life. She got sober and went on to be an Interventionist herself. That was a very happy ending to a story I wish I didn’t understand so much.

10. I am a survivor of sexual assault. I could not come to grips with this for a long while. Even after Sexual Assault Advocate training which literally defined what happened to me (as in THE definition of sexual assault is exactly what happened to me, again, by definition), it took me years to accept it as abuse. YEARS. I didn’t make it up. I’m not “crazy.” And no, I’m not “okay.” I was drugged, assaulted, and I did not consent. It has only been within the past two or three (2-3) years that I accepted this. Spoiler alert: aside from my current boyfriend who has not met the assaulter, the people I told (probably because they DO know him) did NOT react in a supportive way. I got a, “Sorry you felt like that,” while pictures of that friend and my assaulter surfaced post-disclosure to her on her Facebook page; and an, “It’s hard for me to imagine him doing something like that,” from someone who I used to respect and also trusted with many difficult feelings over the years, and will never trust again. Basically everything I post on social media concerning “things you should not say to sexual assault victims,” or “the reasons survivors don’t report,” or, “why victims of assault stay with their assailant,” IS personal to me. Even after I broke up with this person, he would not leave me alone until he found another girlfriend. Once, he even came to my house with an apology gift in hopes of getting me back, you know, the honeymoon period in the cycle of violence. (If you do not know what the cycle of violence is please educate yourself. You can do so very easily by clicking here: http://www.dvsolutions.org/info/cycle.aspx.) I begged him not to come to my house — but he didn’t care, and he did not respect anything I said. Thank God my brother was there to make him leave. And to further explain how fucked up these situations are, once he found another girlfriend, I tried to get him back. Again, unless you are a survivor or victim of this type of thing you really cannot truly understand how it might affect you. It was one of the most confusing times in my life. I contemplated suicide — I don’t know how many times — and self-harmed to a seriously disturbing place — because of this person. To this day I cannot stand the thought of him having so many friends and being so beloved, knowing what he did to me. And those of you who might ask me “well then why don’t you tell his friends?” see mere sentences above explaining that I did tell two mutual friends, and I was dismissed AND not believed.

So, there. Now you have a background on me that maybe I should be more hesitant to share. But I want to be taken seriously. And I want to be believed. And my instincts tell me that to achieve your respect, that is the reader’s respect, I have to give you some basis for my “claims.” I hope those ten things accomplished that goal.

Here’s some more insight before I get political. If you’re “new” to me you may not know that I had been for several years a rape crisis Advocate. Out of law school, having zero connections, it took me over two years after taking the Bar Exams to land a job working as an attorney. Prior to that, I worked three poorly paid part-time jobs just so I could pay the minimum on my student loans each month and keep my parents from having to pay my bills. I was beyond depressed.

Imagine, graduating from Rutgers with as close to a 4.0 GPA as one could get without actually getting a 4.0, taking LSAT classes because I knew what a horrible test-taker I was, getting an excellent LSAT score, graduating with a JD, taking two Bar Exams 2 ½ months after graduation from law school (two exams in three contiguous days in two different states, by the way), passing both (Oh my God!!! What?! I was so sure I failed!!!!!), only to find out there were no jobs available to my “highly qualified self”(cheers, 2008!), making a grand total of $19,000 in the following year, and OWING back taxes for not being “employed” – according to the law – by any of these three companies.

Why am I giving you such personal details about my life? Because you don’t actually know me when you probably think you do. Do you know what it is like to be put through the hell of Seton Hall School of Law (going to that school was the worst decision I have ever made in my entire life and I regret it daily) where they teach you that you’re in the top 1% (I kid you not – an actual lecture I was exposed to) of the population “just by being there,” and after graduating and passing two Bar Exams not being able to find a job for my “1%-er self?” According to that “institution,” I should be supporting the candidate who is going to further tax the poor, because I ought to be a 1%-er! But I’m not in the 1%. And my best guess is, if you’re still reading this, neither are you.

Not being in the top 1% as advertised, and because our tax system is what it is, I paid income taxes on an unconscionably low amount of money in both 2011 and 2012. Over 10% of what I made was owed to the government. And when your exhausting part-time jobs produced a yearly earning of $19K, it’s really REALLY hard to reconcile that with how our country DARE defend it’s tax schedule. A lawyer working out a payment plan with the IRS based on a pathetic take-home amount is not what I imagined when I signed up for law school. What a no-good scrub loser I was. Still, I looked every day with the remarkable support of my Mom. Desperate to nail a legal career yet, I went on dozens and dozens of interviews that ended with “you have an impressive resume, and I know you’d made a great addition, but with so many recently fired trained attorneys with experience who are willing to work for the same pay you are, we’re going to have to go in another direction.”

I was not then, (nor am I now), in a tax bracket that felt fair. But unlike Trump, I paid (and continue to pay) my taxes anyway.

Being a Sexual Assault Advocate helped me during this depressing and seemingly hopeless time of unemployment to do something with a purpose. For those of you who do not know what being an Advocate entails, you’re not alone. I’d say as a summary, most importantly, Advocates will meet a victim of rape or sexual assault at the hospital to make sure his/her rights and best interests are being presented and protected. This includes but is not limited to: ensuring an investigative police officer/detective was not intimidating nor pressuring a victim into reporting if it was not in her best interest (I say “her” only because I never was called out for a male victim), making sure accurate information was being given to the survivor, including her options, (in this state she does not need to report at that time and has up to 90 days to decide whether or not she will while the county police department is obligated to hold “Jane Doe” evidence), interfering if the nurse was asking inappropriate questions or making inappropriate comments (such as inadvertently victim blaming), and making sure the victim was — at all times treated with dignity and respect. Advocates in this state get “alone time” – by law – with assault victims and a privilege exists there that is similar to attorney-client privilege. I could not, and would not, repeat what was said to me, and no subpoena could make me disclose anything in those conversations, which were, ALWAYS absolutely heart-breaking.

Aside from empathizing with the survivor, one of the most difficult things was standing up to police officers who are trained to collect information to “get the perpetrator” as quickly as possible. I met some of the most respectful police officers I ever have during this time. And I met some really awful ones. For example: “Well, she either doesn’t care if this guy does it again or she’s lying,” was a repetitious theme from some officers who very intentionally said these things within ear shot of the victims I came to protect. If you’ve seen an episode of “Law and Order” you may recollect scenes where the detectives interrogate suspects by lying to them, bullying them, or saying they had information they didn’t, to try to get them to confess. If you are the victim of a rape or sexual assault, you may get the same exact treatment. “Victim blaming” does not do justice to defining what happens to these girls (the youngest I assisted was 14) and women. These girls and women are sometimes interrogated like they are the criminals. And whether the detectives are trained to conduct all interviews the same way –  across the board – in cases of rape, that’s not okay. Because it is hard enough to admit it happened, but going to a hospital is harder. And having to take medication to prevent STDs is even harder. Getting sick from those medications will happen, (most victims vomit as a result, elongating their trauma) and hospital visit, which is hard. And opening your legs so a nurse can swab every part of your most private areas is probably the hardest.

And it’s protocol to call police officers to investigate in these situations. If a victim wants what is known as “a rape kit” to be used, the police are almost always notified and they will be there even if they are not wanted. I cannot affirmatively state that is always what happens, but every case that I was called out on the detectives were there even if the victim did not ask for them. When I’d get a call at 2:00 AM, my only hope was to get to the victim before anyone else, because if I didn’t, misinformation was already delivered to the victim, guaranteed. And, although I believe the officers were just doing their jobs, what they said and did was not often appropriate. It is NOT always in the victim’s best interest to report. More likely than not, a victim knows her assailant. Maybe it’s her mother’s best friend’s son. Maybe it’s a coworker. Maybe it’s the father of her children who she relies on for money to put food in her children’s stomachs so they don’t starve. Maybe she was drugged and cannot remember what happened to her (which the detectives often construe as lying). Maybe she’s a stripper who herself believes she was “asking for it.” But whether to report the person who assaulted her is ALWAYS her decision, and should be. Whether you agree with me or not is irrelevant. There are laws in place protecting victims and Advocates because someone with a conscience decided it was time to let the victim rather than the assaulter make decisions for himself/herself.

Despite what the media would have you believe, I have heard horror stories that would shake you to your core. Victims do not want to report. They blame themselves most of the time. And that is on ALL OF US. They think they should not have been walking alone. They think they shouldn’t have been drinking. They are getting texts from their rapist while in the hospital who are making sure “everything is cool.” They think it was their fault they left a (non-)alcoholic drink unattended and trusted their friend(s) not to put something in it while they were in the bathroom. They think “this wouldn’t have happened to me if only I had….” And that is on ALL OF US. So when Trump says something like Hillary Clinton jumped at the chance to defend a child rapist and laughed about it, I TAKE IT VERY FUCKING SERIOUSLY. I’m offended that he could be that despicable, and you should be too.

Although this post is not exclusively about politics specifically, I will say its relevance here must be acknowledged. As much as I cannot stand Trump, I have zero percent idea what goes on in his head. Because of the plethora of sound bites we have from him (mostly due to his inability to stay out of the spotlight), I think I know what he is like, but really, I only know him insofar as he allows me to. I “know” what he portrays, and I put him into boxes that help me identify, or classify him in certain ways, (e.g. as a misogynist, sexist, racist, egotistical, hateful, uneducated, unprepared, and unable to form a complete sentence). The list goes on, but you understand about the “boxes” now. The same goes, of course, for Hillary Clinton, although I am far less privy to material that allows me to place her into similarly tidy little boxes. What I “know” about her is what she allows me to know, (e.g. her resume, her policies, her willingness to work with the candidate who did not win the primary so that his policies would be incorporated into the Democratic agenda, that she does not hold rallies inciting violence against dissenting voters, that she opposes “race-policing,” that she has foreign relation connections and experience, and that she remains composed while being called horrific things by a lying maniac). Again, the list goes on, but you get the idea.

I find myself now needing to defend Hillary Clinton briefly as it pertains to a particularly heinous attack on her character from the most recent debate. Trump accused her of willingly choosing to represent a rapist and laughing about the incident, specifically stating she was seen laughing about getting the guy off. Fact: Hillary Clinton was a Public Defender at the time who was assigned to a charged rapist’s case. Fact: Hillary Clinton was not comfortable with the assignment. Fact: Hillary Clinton’s boss reminded her that she could not reject a Judge’s assignment. Fact: Hillary Clinton did laugh after the case was over – but not about “getting the guy off” (especially since he didn’t “get off” but was convicted of a lesser included offense). She uncomfortably laughed in an interview about how she could no longer accept that lie detector tests were reliable since her client passed his polygraph. Fact: Defending someone charged with a crime does not mean you agree with the actions of/support that criminal. Because of course it doesn’t, if you have the capacity to think.

For a full examination of the above, please see the following article: http://www.snopes.com/hillary-clinton-freed-child-rapist-laughed-about-it/

My favorite excerpt summing up my point perfectly (emphasis added): “As Hillary Clinton said while looking back on the case: ‘I had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability, which I did. He later pled guilty to a lesser included offense. When you’re a lawyer you often don’t have the choice as to who you will represent. And by the very nature of criminal law there will be those you represent you don’t approve of. But, at least in our system, you have an obligation. And once I was appointed I fulfilled that obligation.'” So, to sum up, Trump said nothing true about Hillary Clinton’s role in this case, and Hillary Clinton once again is able to meaningfully articulate aspects of the legal system that Trump, who is not a lawyer (though he does get sued a lot) does not understand.

Because you are more than one thing, if you are an attorney you can represent an accused criminal AND still be someone who does not support the crime of which that criminal is accused. This seems obvious to me, but apparently there are a lot of you who don’t understand (or can’t comprehend) that. It’s not hypocritical. It’s THE point. Actually, it takes an incredible amount of restraint, intellect, and compassion to represent someone who may or may not be guilty. I am hearing people say that Hillary Clinton is a hypocrite for representing criminals when she was a Public Defender. The job of a Public Defender is to represent those accused of crimes who cannot afford to pay for counsel. So taking this proof to its logical conclusion, the many people who think Hillary Clinton is a hypocrite for performing her job, are putting her into separate boxes when they should be the same ones.

As Hillary Clinton stated, Public Defenders defend a lot of criminals, because fortunately, at least for now, every person has the right to counsel (and I encourage EVERYONE to invoke that right if you’re ever in a situation where it comes up). The complexities of our legal system necessitate attorneys being appointed to those who cannot afford them (including myself, sadly, by the way) Our legal system is a minefield. I’d never represent myself should it be necessary – because the law is so complex. Unless you are a criminal lawyer (and even then), on your best day the legal system is stacked against you — HARD.

So I guess my ultimate point is: open your mind as to why people may be the way they are. I promise you that you know victims, even if you don’t count me, because sexual assault is common. And I promise you that victims are blaming themselves for what happened to them. And I promise you that making light of ANY of that is the reason our society is the way that it is. And I promise you one more thing.

It is on all of us.

You’re Not That Innocent

Politics. Everyone’s favorite topic. The echoes of “is it summer or fall in an election year? YES! THAT’S MY FAVORITE!” are running through your mind, your friend circle, your Facebook friend circle, and best of all – yes – your extended family’s email chains.

On the exact day I turned eighteen, I marched into my freshman year history teacher’s classroom and said to him, “remember when you said you would help us register to vote if we came to you when we turned eighteen? Well, that day has arrived for me, my friend. Sign me up.” And he did. I remember him saying how few of his students actually took him up on that offer. I might have been the first one that year. Having a June birthday, I was shocked. I thought, “Why would that not be the first thing you did when you turned eighteen?” So naïve. So thirsty to exercise my law-given right to vote.

When I was a sophomore in college, my Mom, seeing this spark in me ready to ignite, gifted me with a pin stating “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” and I proudly wore it “defiantly” on my standard blue backpack – all around campus. This was 2004, and President George W. Bush defeated John Kerry. (I yearn for his time as our President, now, not at all ironically.) After Bush’s 2000 defeat of Al Gore “hanging chads” win, I was outraged. I was paying attention.

Circling back: it was that easy for me to become a registered voter, something I took for granted at the time. I am privileged in that way. But all these years later what I do not (and cannot) understand is those around me who dismiss politics and the right to vote, claim politics is something they cannot “get into,” simply do not want to bother with, or do not want to risk friendships over. Because to me, being an informed Citizen – one who now takes Citizenship extremely seriously, and the right to vote never for granted – means getting deeply involved in politics, getting outraged, and paying attention.

I sincerely do understand why people do not want to be bothered. Discussing politics is taboo. Friendships are challenged and possibly ruined, people get really really nasty, and everybody lies. (See: “House,” the television show.) Plus, being informed is such an obligation. I mean, most of us have jobs that wear us down, chores that we barely have time for, bills to worry over AND pay, and relationships to maintain.

But do you know what is worse than all of that? Being uninformed, believing it is not worth your time, and not exercising your right as a Citizen of the United States of America to vote on any given election day.

Let me tell you why.

To disregard politics, an informed decision, or voting at all is to do a tremendous disservice to yourself, the people you care about, and the country as a whole.

Give me a few minutes to say a few things. Please. Because if I can change the mind of just one person I know who is not planning on voting November 8, 2016, it would literally make my year worthwhile.

Think of this: your vote counts as much as President Barack Obama’s. And Robert De Niro’s. And Lady Gaga’s. And [insert a celebrity you admire or hate here]’s. You may think your vote does not matter. It does. Every person who goes into a voting booth is making a statement. And that statement is “I give at least one fuck.”

In all seriousness, exercising your right to vote, is, in my opinion, your responsibility if you qualify under the following two conditions:

  1. You live in this country and are a Citizen; and,
  2. You have the access to and are able to vote.

Why? Because there are people who gave their literal lives so that they could. Because there are people who are stripped of that liberty every minute of every day before they realize it. Because there is no excuse good enough not to.

I know; you’ve heard it all before, right?

On August 6, 1965, black Americans were finally given the unencumbered right to vote. “The Voting Rights Act, signed on August 6, 1965, aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment (1870) to the Constitution of the United States.” (See: http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act.) That’s 178 years after slaves were counted as only 3/5ths of all other 5/5ths of people. Think the “Three Fifth’s Compromise” is unimportant? “The effect was to give the southern states a third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored, but fewer than if slaves and free persons had been counted equally, allowing the slaveholder interests to largely dominate the government of the United States until 1861.” “We Hold These Truths to be Self-evident;” An Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Roots of Racism & slavery in America Kenneth N. Addison; Introduction p. xxii (and, sadly, Wikipedia). Yes, really. Essentially, this allowed slave owners to use slaves as a way to cast more votes.

Bored?

1965 is only fifty-one (51!) years ago. That blood-ridden right is not even close to being as old as your grandparents, or, presumably, if you are reading this, your parents. Your parents have been alive longer than black Americans have had the right to unequivocally vote as Citizens of this country. And it wasn’t even an election year.

Women (read: non-black women) were “afforded” the right to vote on August 18, 1920. One of our current Presidential Candidates knows this as the Nineteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and I guarantee she exercises it. That’s a mere ninety-six (96) years ago. Non-black women have been allowed to vote for a mere forty-five (45) years longer than black Americans. That is, in many cases, less than one lifetime in years. As a woman – I can affirmatively say – that sucks.

Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for many rights for black Americans; the right to vote being just one. He was murdered within three (3) years of that right being won without restraints. He is one of the most famous persons to be killed fighting for the right to vote, but he certainly has company. And “women’s suffrage” is not just a meme. People literally died for the right that I see too many friends and acquaintances dismissing as “not worth it.”

It is the year 2016. An election year. And although things have changed since 1920 and 1965, certainly, many people cannot vote “easily.” There are registration barriers (a simple Google search will do you wonders) everywhere. “In 2016, 14 states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. The new laws range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions.” (See: http://www.brennancenter.org/voting-restrictions-first-time-2016.)

Additionally, an estimated one in thirteen (1/13) of African Americans reportedly cannot vote due to felony convictions. (See: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/07/one_in_13_african_americans_ca.html) Statistics are skewed no matter what so it’s relative. But I am a lawyer. I took more criminal law courses than any other type of course in law school. And black people indeed disproportionately lose their right to vote due to criminal sentencing.

Read that last statement again, please. “Criminal sentencing” – not actual “beyond a reasonable doubt” guilt. That means that a huge percentage of our population loses the right to vote because of an unfair legal system.

What I am trying to emphasize is that you do not have to commit crimes to lose your right to vote; you merely have to plead to certain ones. This difference cannot be stressed enough. Our judicial system punishes people who go to trial.

That means, if you are not rich (read: upper middle class and below), and you cannot afford an attorney, you will be pushed through a system that is so under-funded that you will be encouraged to plead guilty before you even realize the effects of that action.

Seriously.

A Public Defender will probably do whatever he/she can to get a criminal Defendant to plead out. It’s faster, it’s cheaper for America, and if you actually go to trial and you are found “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” you will get the maximum sentence for whatever it is you are convicted of — JUST for “wasting” the time of every party involved just because you exercised your right to a fair trial.

Seriously.

I was taught this, and it is true.

Fact.

Real life.

For this and many other reasons, I earnestly believe convicts should not lose the right to vote. There is a significant chance that a convict was persuaded to plead to a conviction, guilty or not. And, a disproportionate amount of minorities are convicts. Therefore, a significant portion of our population is, on a consistent basis, losing the right to vote because of our legal system, which is, in fact, weighted against minorities, which of course, changes the outcome of elections. If that seems unfair to you (and it should), go vote about it.

Before I finish, let’s not forget the non-Citizens. It is estimated that a majority of adult American Citizens cannot pass a Citizenship test. I doubt Trump could. Where I work, I encounter more non-Citizens than Citizens. If you are close to New York City, you likely know or have met non-Citizens or immigrants. But yes, there are still people who come to this country seeking all that it offers and willing to go to great lengths to obtain Citizenship status. Because it means something to be an American Citizen.

So that right to vote, is not something to be taken lightly.

I cannot say what is at stake in this election. I can hypothesize. I could tell you that I believe Donald Trump is a dumber Hitler who will ruin our country because he does not understand how it runs. I could tell you Hillary Clinton will not let that happen although she likely will continue the work Obama started. I can tell you that candidate Trump wants to mark, account for, and do who knows what else, to an entire ethnicity of people (much like Hitler did in the Holocaust) and a terrifying number of people support this crusade. I can tell you some states are probably voting on whether or not to legalize marijuana. I can tell you next year your birth control might be so expensive you cannot afford it on your salary after paying the minimum on your student loan balance. I can tell you that any candidate who does not understand the laws of our nation certainly will not respect those of any other — and could very well get us all killed.

But what it boils down to is this: there are a lot of people in this country who want to vote — and cannot. And as much as I wish those who cannot vote (due to lack of availability of registration, a loss of rights, or other incapacity) could have the vote of those of you who waste it, that’s not how our country works.

So vote.

Pay attention.

Get outraged.

Give at least one fuck.

Vote because you can when so many cannot. Vote because somewhere there is a person who cannot vote because he/she has never been able to take a driving lesson, own a car, or to obtain a driver’s license which is required for voter registration in his/her state. Vote because our legal system allows people to lose the right to even if those people are innocent. Vote because you want to “cancel out” my vote.

But please, I beg you: educate yourself and vote.

Vote because you were not always allowed to. And vote because you might never be allowed to again.

See something, say something: Why #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter hurt everyone.

We are living in a scary time. People are afraid. Tempers flare instantly and expand more than ever when one person disagrees with another. And the word that keeps popping into my mind is humanity.

Humanity. Synonyms include: compassion, brotherly love, fraternity, philanthropy, humaneness, kindness, consideration, understanding, sympathy, and tolerance. On this day, it is far-fetched to expect humanity in exchanges between humans. That, too, I find scary. Terrorism (however any particular person or entity chooses to define it) is in the news daily; we are essentially fighting at least one race war at any given moment; and all of us are constantly picking “sides.” Generally speaking, humanity and its synonyms are hard to detect, let alone experience. So, I am on a mission to propel into motion an effort to change that.

Let’s start with understanding. How many of us have engaged in a conversation with another person that lead to a conclusion of “you don’t understand,” leaving us frustrated and perhaps insulted? I am willing to say most of us. So, I hypothesize we should try harder to understand one another. I have been doing this lately with an exercise (a mantra, really) I like to call, “checking my privilege.” I obviously did not create this phrase, (and could not even find who used it first), but, here’s a solid definition:

“When someone asks you to ‘check your privilege,’ what they’re really asking you to do is to reflect on the ways that your social status might have given you an advantage – even if you didn’t ask for it or earn it – while their social status might have given them a disadvantage.'” Finch, Sam D. “Ever Been Told to ‘Check your Privilege?’ Here’s What That Really Means.” Standard blog. Everyday Feminism. Magazine Everyday Feminism, July 29, 2015. (See http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/what-checking-privilege-means/ written by Sam Dylan Finch.)

Checking my privilege allows me to attempt to step into the footsteps of a person to whom I would not necessarily ordinarily be able to relate. And guess what. It actually changes how you look at the world.

This post is not about feminism. Anyone who knows me knows that I now live, breathe, and grapple with feminism in nearly every aspect of my day. My point being, I’ve stepped into enough shoes of other women to feel comfortable saying I do not need to check my privilege pertaining to women, in general. That being said, I would not be honest if I did not acknowledge that none of us are just one thing. I am not just a woman. I am not just white. I am not just a survivor. None of us are just anything.

Approximately two weeks ago I went to a crowded grocery store with my Mom. Upon entering the store I saw a black man, approximately 6’ 4” and I’m guessing approximately 250lbs, wearing a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt. All I can remember about the T-shirt is that it said “Black Lives Matter,” had some sort of fist on it (to me a gesture of empowerment), and that it had a black base with white lettering/design. As a supporter of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, I thought about asking him where he got the T-shirt, but then thought maybe this was a situation where that might not be appropriate, and so I should check my privilege. So I didn’t ask him. I continued shopping.

Between 2 and 5 minutes later, two uniformed police officers entered the crowded grocery store, and I was not the only one who noticed them. By coincidence, I was facing the man I previously described, and saw his demeanor change from that of a routine shopper to one of pure and absolute fear. The uniformed police officers entered the store with a shopping cart, and spent maybe a minute deciding on what type of sandwich rolls they were going to get, procured said sandwich rolls, and left the isle. I confess I watched them less than I did the black man wearing the Black Lives Matter T-shirt. From what I saw, the uniformed police officers did not notice the black man in the Black Lives Matter T-shirt. But I noticed them. And he noticed them. Because from the moment these uniformed officers entered the store, this black man could not turn his back to these officers. He tried covering the message on his T-shirt while simultaneously trying not to make it obvious he was doing so. He literally could not take his eyes off of these uniformed police officers.

And I couldn’t take my eyes off of this “exchange.” This man only finally relaxed when the uniformed officers left the isle. In those moments, all I could think was, “Oh my God, I cannot imagine what he must feel like right now.” I saw the fear in this man. I saw the look in his eyes while he watched the officers. I saw how tense he became, and I saw how relaxed he was when the officers finally left the area.

Here is where I make assumptions and attempt to put myself in that black man’s position in those moments. This is what, in light of everything going on in our society, I imagine this man thought or felt. If I were him, I would be afraid. I would wonder if I made a move they considered threatening, I would be shot. I would be concerned that my Black Lives Matter T-shirt could incite these officers to start something with me just because it so often has across the country before. And I would not want to be seen.

Now, stepping back out of this man’s experience (and my assumptions of what it was), I am sad. In a crowded grocery store, where more than 300 people must have been, this man seemed to fear for his safety because of the presence of uniformed police officers. Please take a few moments and really think about that. Police officers are supposed to protect and serve the public. That is their duty. But this man, wearing a T-shirt with a message many police officers reflexively do not appreciate, was afraid because of these uniformed officers. Because so many black people have been shot and killed, (read: murdered), without cause, by police officers who had no reason to kill them. Some of you may disagree with that last statement; the statement that there was no reason to kill these black people. Maybe that is because you adhere to the constant cry of the officers’ “fear of life” defense.

I cannot and will not ever accept a “fear of life” defense in the case of an unarmed person being killed because of the color of his/her skin. Go ahead and try to make the argument to me that these officers had a legitimate reason to fear for their safety/lives, and I will hear “facing a black person is a reason in and of itself to fear for your safety/life.” To reiterate, because I cannot make this point enough, what I hear you saying in defending these killings is that the color of one’s skin is in and of itself a reason for a police officer to fear for his/her safety/life. And the skin color that a police officer is excused for fearing is black. Because that’s what is continuing to happen all over the country, is it not? I could not possibly cite all of the unjust race-based murders by police officers in recent weeks, months, or years, but please feel free to research it yourself and be horrified.

I will reference what I find to be one of the most disturbing shootings as of late, which is the case of Charles Kinsey, who thankfully did not die. For those who have not heard about this shooting, a link explaining the story is here: http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/New-Video-Shows-Moments-Before-and-After-Man-Was-Shot-by-North-Miami-Police-Officer-387716761.html. This was a situation where a black man was lying on his back with his arms and legs extended, and in doing his job, was trying to comfort an autistic man who had escaped from the group home where this black man worked, and for all his efforts, was rewarded with being shot in the leg. To quote the above article, “The video shows two officers standing behind light poles several yards away, their guns drawn. It lasted for 3-4 minutes, then Kinsey was shot in the leg….“’My client asked why did you shoot me? The officer told my client, “I don’t know,” that was his words verbatim,’” attorney Hilton Napoleon told NBC 6. “’Another officer asked, “Why did you shoot this guy?” and the shooting officer said he didn’t know why he shot him.’” And then to add insult to a complete lack of logic, “Police said officers responded to the scene after they received a 911 call of an armed man threatening suicide. Officers tried to ‘negotiate’ with the two men and at one point, an officer fired, police said in a statement.” Can I just ask, who brings weapons like this to a suicide threat? What was the thinking there? Put the gun (read: toy truck) you intend to kill yourself with down or we’ll shoot you? What the actual hell? And this story had a happy ending, because at least the man who was shot by police lived. Come on, humanity. My final quote from the article, “’He’s an unarmed person who got shot doing his job.’” Why is that okay?

Horribly, what upsets me about the above incident further is that a white, male, barely acquaintance, accused me of posting the story on Facebook from “an inflammatory website” and that maybe further video evidence would show why this police officer had a valid reaction; that perhaps he meant to tase him, not shoot him. Already, even in the face of video evidence, people coming to the defense of the police officer who shot an unarmed, unmoving, cooperating black man. That should not be. What is it about these incidents that makes people jump to defend the people who are hired, paid, and expected to serve and protect when they are shooting and killing a disproportionate amount of black people? My answer to that question would be either “ignorance,” or “people with privilege need to believe that what they have been taught is correct,” because otherwise, the world is not, gasp, fair. Or, these people are just delusional racists who do not care about a group of people who are not the same as them.

So, we’re dealing with the murder of black people, because they are black. And this is not a new phenomenon. If you can, I urge you to watch the movie “Fruitvale Station,” starring actor Michael B. Jordan, based on the true story of the murder of Oscar Grant III by a white police officer on New Year’s Eve/day 2009, arguably one of the first cases in which a police officer was held accountable for his actions due to cell phone video evidence produced by the crowd. It’s heartbreaking and real and necessary if we’re ever going to embrace checking our privilege and stepping into one another’s shoes in hopes of achieving the coveted humanity. The police officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served a whole 11 months in protective custody for this murder, for your information. #NotJustice.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement started on social media on July 13, 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. The movement grew after Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner of New York were both killed by police without, in my opinion, legal consequence or adequate explanation.

So here it is. For those of you who do not understand #BlackLivesMatter: I urge you to try.

I do not know the first person to compare #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter, but I traced at least one tweet echoing my sentiment to an Arthur Chu on Twitter (@arthur_affect) who tweets, “Do people who change #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter run thru a cancer fundraiser going “THERE ARE OTHER DISEASES TOO[?]” Of course all lives matter. Was that ever an argument? The obvious point is that black lives apparently matter less than all lives in a nation where you can be shot for doing nothing except being black. I hereby and forevermore reject (and detest) the #AllLivesMatter movement as ridiculous.

Now, to those of you who adhere to the #BlueLivesMatter “movement,” created to support police in the face of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, all I can say is, shame on you. By creating this hashtag you are saying it’s us versus them, cops versus blacks, uniforms versus black civilians. Pardon the interruption in your misplaced excuse for self-righteousness, but these ideas are not mutually exclusive, and the fact that anyone would perpetrate such a hate-based disgusting idea is not exercising humanity or understanding or anything remotely close. You are making it worse. Stop it. It’s pathetic, weak, and ugly.

Of course police officers’ lives matter. Of course an officer’s job is difficult, scary, intense, emotional, and dangerous. But if you put on that uniform, and hold that badge and gun, I need to know that you have gone through sufficient training to do your fucking job. Because right now, there are cops all over this country, the supposed United States of America, who are making you look bad. And the #BlueLivesMatter “movement” is adding to your lack of ability to make a rational, carefully calculated, informed decision. I do not envy police officers. I respect them, for the most part (barring those cops that do not adhere to the principles of protecting and serving the citizens of our nation). But every day that you are a police officer, every day that being a police officer is your job, your vocation, your choice, you are getting paid to do the right thing. And the right thing is being able to tell the difference between an actual threat and someone who happens to be black. If you cannot do that, you should not be a police officer, period, end of story. To quote Presidential Candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, “One murder is too many.” Mic drop. And yes, sadly, she was alluding to the murder of black people by police officers.

Black people do not get to wake up and decide to be black. They do not get paid for being black. It’s not a choice to be black. You have to be black every day of your life and hope against all hope that you are seen as a person and not a color. Imagine that. So do me a favor and stop it with the bullshit of #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter. All people are not oppressed. And police officers are overwhelmingly saluted, praised, and martyred. #BlackLivesMatter is about those who need a movement to be treated equally.

I’ve spoken with people I trust and respect immensely about the scene I observed in that grocery store. And since I’m sure by now you’re wondering why the hell I entitled this article in part “See something, say something;” strap in. We’re told by authorities that if there is a potential terrorist on the loose, we should be more observant than ever, and if we see something suspicious, we should say something to people of authority and to the police. My challenge to you sits in my first point about humanity.

As a feminist woman, I have, at times, pretended to know a female who I did not know who I saw as a target for sexual assault. Perhaps I will write about my own plethora of experiences with assault and near sexual assault another time. Here’s merely one. When I was in a crowded elevator full of couples leaving a wedding and two men who knew each other stepped in, and those men started making comments as the floor numbers went up about how I was dressed, and the attention I must have been trying to get, and how I had to formulate a plan to get to safety as quickly as possible during that short trip in that elevator, and how that elevator stopped at the floor of the garage where I knew my vehicle was parked, and how I expected (extremely naively) that someone, anyone, would intervene, and how I was chased to my car by these men, and how I barely made it inside my car and locked my doors before their crusade to do God knows what to me was abandoned, and how I posted this incident on Facebook, and how the reactions were 99% about what I should have done differently, and how I realized that the problem was not me, and how I realized that as a society we are conditioned to blame the victim (any victim), and how I had the power to see something and say something and potentially save a life in the future (and so do you), I understood.

But I wish I understood further. And I wish I had the foresight to do this myself in that grocery store. Because if you ever experience a situation like I did, if you ever see something that isn’t right, for example, a black male afraid for his life because uniformed police officers are near him, maybe, just maybe, you will say something to him. I wish I had walked up to him and said anything. Maybe, “hey, how’s it going?” Or, even better, “hey, I really love that shirt and want to get one for myself, where did you get yours?” Because I choose to believe that we can understand one another if we try. And I think it needs to start with you and with me. I believe that I could have calmed down that man by acknowledging what was going on. And I wish I had. Maybe it would have been received poorly, but maybe it could have been a lifeline during a time when a harmless person was terrified for existing around law enforcement. Maybe I could have caused the officers who had not previously (as far as I saw) noticed this man to notice him, which maybe was the last thing he wanted. Maybe if I approached him he would have been more distressed (after all, when I put myself in his place, I did not want to be seen). I’ll never know.

I’ve since bought a couple of different “Black Lives Matter” shirts. As a white woman, I have my reservations. To wear one, I felt, I could be offending someone. But as a very dear black (and it pains me immensely to qualify him in this way, though I feel it is necessitated by my acceptance of his words) friend and mentor to me said, “It takes balls, nay, ovaries, to wear that shirt, no matter who you are. And your intentions are what they are. And people are going to receive things as they will. In my opinion, anyone who wears that shirt is brave.” And I have to agree.

It is not me against you. It is not police against black people, even though to me it often feels that way. It is not #BlueLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter versus #BlackLivesMatter. It is not about being right, wrong, educated, ignorant, or anything in between. It is about equality, and how at this moment, in the world we live in, it does not exist. So I will continue to get in your face. I will continue to make you uncomfortable. I will continue to check my privilege and judge yours. I will keep trying to put myself in another person’s place, and I will continue to challenge my beliefs. I won’t stop until there is equality and justice for all. We pledge allegiance to a country that promises its citizens liberty and justice for all. I’ll be here challenging what’s wrong while I wait for that promise.

But what I won’t do, what I’ll never ever do again, is acquiesce and stay silent.

Why I OWN my short hair (literally) and how people try to take that away from me.

Short hair for women carries a stigma. And here’s why you may not even know you’re part of the problem (and more reasons I don’t blame you).

To quote the famously badass Emma Watson (at least that’s how she’s known around my apartment) about her short hair: “I felt more myself with that haircut. I felt bold, and it felt empowering because it was my choice.”

Huh.

I begin with this because I assume someone – many many someones – in fact – asked Ms. Emma Watson what the hell she was thinking cutting her hair “that short.” Not — much more relevant questions, such as, “what is next for you after your empowering speech to the UN?” (You may find the transcript here: Transcript of Emma Watson’s UN Speech and believe me it is well worth the read.) In a society where impressive female actors are *STILL* asked about what they’re wearing — in contrast to impressive male actors being asked about their performances — during red-carpet events, I’m not surprised.

Before I digress, this particular post stems from something I have noticed since my most recent haircut. Yes, it is short. Yes, I’ve envisioned it for months. Yes, I love it.

The problem I am having, however, is a subset of everyone else’s reactions to it.

Do not get me wrong. I appreciate each and every compliment I get about this haircut. I am in no way trying to diminish the kindness both males and females have expressed towards my choice to cut my hair so short.

But the truth is, it does not really matter to me what you think. Because I did this for me. So why do I *STILL* feel the need to write about this?

I will say if someone comments on my hair he/she almost universally says something like “I love your hair” or “it’s so cute!” Thank you. I appreciate that. Unfortunately, following that compliment, I am almost universally asked “but how does your boyfriend like/feel about it?”

Because I am committing a violation of sorts.

When I get asked that seemingly innocent follow-up question, I hear many things.

I hear “that’s nice that you are comfortable doing that, but what does the man in your life think?” (Because his opinion matters just a little bit more than mine, right?)

I hear, “what you have done is abnormal for a woman. How has it affected your relationship with your heterosexual partner?”

I hear, “was he at least consulted?”

I hear, “there is no way a man would have ALLOWED you to do that unless he really really loved you.”

I hear social constructs forcing these words out of otherwise rational peoples’ mouths — perhaps without them even realizing it is happening. And it bothers me on levels even I struggle with. Suddenly I feel defensive – conjuring the need to explain my decision.

Except this is my hair. And my body. And my choice.

So, instinctively, I unwillingly bite my tongue and state, in reply, with 100% honesty and truthfulness that my boyfriend indeed LOVES my hair. And I am glad — and I suppose — yes — lucky — that he does. Because so many men do not. And so many women do not.

But what I want to say – nay – scream (upon reflection about how many times this follow-up has been asked) when people ask me what my boyfriend thinks, is: “IRRELEVANT!!!!!! WHY ARE YOU EVEN ASKING THAT QUESTION? DO YOU REALIZE HOW INSULTING THAT IS? AS IF I SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT MAKE A CHOICE ABOUT MY BODY BASED ON MY BOYFRIEND’S PREFERENCES. AS IF IN 2015 IT IS ACCEPTABLE FOR YOU TO STILL BE SERIOUSLY ASKING ME THAT QUESTION.” And what if I said “he hates it — he thinks I look like a man?” How would that conversation continue?

As a matter of fact, my manicurist (who has met my boyfriend many times) upon seeing the haircut exclaimed, “Oh my! I love your hair! But what about your boyfriend? My husband won’t let me cut mine. My friend cut her hair, and her husband got angry and made her get extensions.” Sadly, my surprise level was at zero percent.

To his unyielding credit, when I approached this subject with my boyfriend, sharing my observation, he shook his head in dismay and with resentment stated, “I don’t understand that! Why do people DO that?

Gender identity can be extreme. In fact, I upset many people when I wear this t-shirt: Gender is Here Not Here. People get uncomfortable; people I would not expect to get uncomfortable get uncomfortable. It certainly is open to interpretation. But to me, it means how we perceive gender is in our minds (due to innumerable factors) — not based on what genitalia we have.

But I am constantly explaining, explaining, explaining — because I feel a deep desire for others to take a peek inside my mind at my thoughts about gender. And I want to change opinions.

I know I’ve lost “friends” over my constant bombardment of attempting to change views. It’s worth it to me.

I am in the minority. I know this. I am denying that long hair defines me as a woman. People not only assume I am a lesbian, but actually ask me if I am – based on my appearance. This is not new for me. I have dressed/acted/participated/looked differently than the social norm for most of my life.

As a result, I must: be a man-hating feminist; love only women; or, be “acting out” because something is wrong with me, etc. None of these incorrect assumptions offend me, because there is nothing wrong with identifying in these ways (with the exception of “hate” being acceptable to me). What bothers me is that these assumptions are being made at all.

Let me be clear – nothing I ever do makes me feel like I am identifying as a man on purpose. I actually believe everything I do is perfectly aligned with being female. So, why are these biases making me feel confrontational?

SOCIETY. Society says to women like Anne Hathaway, Emma Watson, and Natalie Portman, “why would you ever cut your hair THAT short?” in a blatantly accusatory “THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU DID THIS” way. Well why the hell shouldn’t they? That’s concerning to you, oh Asker of questions? You could ask these amazing women anything — but they cut their hair and it’s armageddon. WHY IS THAT?!

To my boyfriend’s unwavering support and analytical credit, he mentioned that sometimes people ask him how I feel about his beard. Some people even going so far as to say to him, “you’ll never get a girlfriend with that thing.” So certainly neither gender is immune to these situations.

I guess my ultimate point is this: I love my hair. I’m glad if you like it too. I’m perfectly fine if you don’t. What I hope you will ask yourself, though, is why you don’t like women with short hair, if you don’t. Does that really — REALLY affect how you see someone’s gender-identify? If it does, why? Should it? Does it make you uncomfortable? Why?

Ultimately, what I truly want for those of you who may ask these follow-ups maybe without realizing where they come from, is for you to think about why you do.

If you care to, maybe do some self awareness assessments as you’re wandering through this crazy life. What assumptions are you making about people you don’t know? What assumptions are you making about those you do know?

Stereotypes abound. That is a fact. Biases flourish and are exploited every single day through myriad mediums. I challenge you to be above that noise.

And finally, not to be harsh, but, if you do not like my hair because you think it makes me look like something other than you feel “I should look” — guess what — that’s your issue. But.

Know that you are not alone.

Know that I do not judge you for asking this follow up.

Know that all I want is equality.

Know that if you reject these ideas I believe in my very core that you have a long way to go. But I love you anyway.

And, I just hear too many “I love it, but I could never do that’s!” to not say something.

It does not matter what you say, what my boyfriend says, or what my employer even says.

I am a female with short hair who feels empowered and feminine and bold, because it is my choice.

Sexual Assault, Harassment, and Why You’re Not Angry Enough

This isn’t about me. It’s about you.

For the first time, I am disclosing, publicly, that I know rapists. Men whom I know have sexually assaulted women I know. Men whom I used to trust. Men whom I said hello to when I walked down the hall in school. Men whom I was friends with. Men whom volunteered. Men whom are outwardly likable. Men whom I’ve come across after I’ve learned of their assault, and whom I had to keep from crucifying publicly to protect the Survivors’ rights and autonomy, and to honor and respect these Survivors’ wishes.

You see, I am not someone who likes to see horrible people get away with horrible things without consequences. But obviously that seems basic. Even a rapist could relate to that.

I don’t want to brag, but, I’m a Feminist. And an Advocate. This post is not only close to my heart — it is a presentation of the matter occupying my brain for a majority of the day — all day — every day. And you, reader, are not angry enough. This should not be happening. This needs to stop.

I also know Survivors. Victims. Men and Women. This is an everyone problem.

And despite the way media (and by that I mean the definition of the term: the main means of mass communication regarded collectively) portrays “the world,” sexual assaults are overwhelmingly historically under-reported.

Someone can be sexually assaulted no matter his/her color, class, race, sexual orientation, religion, gender, financial status, marital status, age, weight, height, or intellect. Essentially, rape knows no boundaries. And because of the nature of the crime, Victims are ashamed to report. But let’s be clear. It has happened to people (PLURAL) that you know. That is a fact. And it has probably happened to someone who you are close to. Someone you see every day. Someone you love.

Sexual violence is about power and control. It is not about sex. That is also a fact. A couple of things. A women who has been sexually assaulted by a man is not “asking for it.” A man who has been sexually assaulted by another man does not automatically become gay, and he’s also not “asking for it.” Woman can be sexually assaulted by other women.

Although I get my fair share of what I call “intellectual idiocy,” I will say that the amount of positive feedback I receive because of my voice far surpasses the critics. And if you’re offended by what I have to say, well, take a number.

But drop your preconceived notions. I do not hate men. I don’t hate men for being men. I don’t automatically support women for being women. And I am not a stereotype.

Harassment. Within the last 3 months, two women who I know from different walks of life reached out to me to tell me they were harassed on the street. To paint a better picture, let me make it clear that these women did nothing except exist in order to receive this treatment. For logicians: they existed –> experienced harassment. Both women, when telling me their stories, had an instinct to correct something within themselves to prevent it from happening again. And that’s a problem. These women came away from these incidents feeling like they had done something wrong. And that’s a problem. And let me say that sexual violence, assault, and harassment are the primary crimes that elicit this reaction. The, “what should I have done differently?” reaction. And that’s a problem.

So when you see and/or hear me criticize the portrayal of women, it’s because it matters. Somewhere along the way, we, collectively, as a society, accepted that these things may happen. And I would argue that not only do they happen, but they are encouraged. They thrive and flourish. They are universally not appropriately addressed or corrected.

Let me tell you about the women and men I know who have been raped, sexually assaulted, and harassed. They are GORGEOUS — although this is not about their personalities. They are intelligent. They are funny. They were exclusively participating in an activity that should have been safe for themacross the board — when they were assaulted, raped, or harassed. And THEY DID NOT DESERVE IT. They didn’t deserve how it made them feel at the time (fear). They did not deserve how it made them feel after (guilty; ashamed; dirty). They did not deserve it at all.

In fact, even if a person is standing before you naked, he/she isn’t “asking for it” and doesn’t deserve anything. If someone drinks or drugs to the point that he/she cannot consent, it is not his/her fault for not being sober enough to stop the assault. What it is, is a crime.

And you need to get involved.

You need to intervene when you see someone being harassed. You need to help someone who looks like he/she could be taken advantage of. And you need to help complete strangers who need help. (For example, if I see a stranger on the street being harassed, I have, at times, walked up to her and said, “oh! There you are. I’ve been looking for you,” and escorted her away from a threat.) Simple. Lifesaving.

You see, we live in a society that asks “Why?” But not in the productive, scientific way. In the basest of ways. In the ways that say, “something must have provoked this treatment.” Wrong. The sole person at fault in any sexual assault, rape, or harassment scenario is the perpetrator or harasser. There is LITERALLY, and figuratively, NOTHING, ANYONE, can do that can justifiably provoke sexual assault, rape, or sexual harassment. And I’m going to go ahead and affirmatively say that if you disagree, you are wrong. If you disagree with that statement, you need to sit down and think about what actions you could take that would make it acceptable or appropriate for someone to sexually assault or harass you. Is the answer, “no acts. None.”? I thought so.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as to where my feminism and anger come from. And to those of you who have been monitoring my crusade into public awareness and outrage, hopefully this gives you a little more perspective as to why.

I want to live in a world where people I know, who know I’m “safe” to talk to because I will never blame them, do not reach out to me to tell me they’ve been harassed [again]. I want to live in a world where my friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and co-workers don’t disclose to me their stories after they know how passionate I am about this. I want to live in a world where the victims of sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment do not feel guilty because of what some criminal did to him/her. I want to live in a world that condemns attackers. I want it to never be okay for someone to get away with: cat-calling, pulling over on the side of the road to intimidate someone walking to his/her job, forcing himself/herself on someone who trusts the assailant, pouring a girlfriend another drink so she won’t be conscious enough to make a decision, or drugging someone at a party and raping her. I want to live in a world where an observer to behavior consistent with these actions will step forward, and say something.

But until we do, I want to and will help these Survivors and Victims carry the weight that waits for them at the end of every assault.

If you or anyone you know is a Survivor or a Victim, I encourage you to seek resources to help you through your trauma. You are not alone. People, like me, do care about you. I’m not a police officer who will want you to press charges. I am not a doctor who will want to run tests on you whether you like it or not to see the extent of your assault.

I am an Advocate who wants you to know your rights and options. Who wants to tell you that no matter what situation you were in, and who you were with, and what you were wearing, you are not at fault. I want you to know that whatever it is you need to get through it, there is someone who wants to help.

I will not ask you why this happened to you, because I already know.

And I believe you.

And I stand with you.

And I will fight for you.

Cunning, Baffling, Powerful

I’m a Christian in the sense of the word you don’t understand. I’m a Christian like Apple’s lawyers read the iTunes manual for real when they click “I agree.”

Last week my Priest told us in his Sermon that the accounts in the Bible of miracles Jesus performed are in danger of ruining Christianity in our modern day world. I couldn’t agree more. When someone finds out that I am a Christian, the conversation inevitably goes something like this:

Other: YOU’RE a Christian?

Me: I am.

Other: But you’re so intelligent.

Me: Yes.

Other: How old is the Earth?

Me:…

Other: I thought you were a feminist.

Me:…

Other: Aren’t you liberal? I thought you supported equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Me: You are misinformed.

Doesn’t matter. By the time I get to the whole misinformation spiel, I’ve already lost them. You see, it’s not an easy time to be a Christian. And not because we are being persecuted, (although we certainly are globally). But because — these modern days —everyone is a scientist and an atheist and a hipster — and trying to know it all.

I – along with many in my Parish – will admit to you freely that Jesus may not have literally walked on water. Jesus may not have cured incurable diseases. And Jesus may not have fed a seemingly unending number of people from a specified amount of bread and fish. As my Priest shared, the Episcopal Church has a slogan, “He died to take away your sins, not your mind.” We’re a thinking people. And it’s my belief that if the misinformed-know-it-alls took a few minutes to really think on what we’re trying to accomplish as Christians, they might take us seriously.

When someone criticizes my religion, I do what I always do with criticism: I absorb it, dissect it, I argue with it, and ultimately I take what I need and leave the rest. You know what the criticizer does? Nothing.

So how can it be that a thoroughly educated person my age believes in God AND believes that I am on this Earth to do His work? Because for me, it makes complete sense. And enough has happened in my life that even the greatest of narcissists cannot convince me otherwise.

Some of my friends have this notion that Christians want to punish them and make them feel guilty for their choices. Some people have the mentality that because they do not feel they have received any discernible benefit from God, He must not exist. But my feeling is that most people cannot be bothered these days to find out for themselves.

In order to understand Christianity and its potential in your life, you have to exercise with it. You have to ride with it in your car, and take it with you on your walk into work. You have to eat with it and drink with it and use it to help you sleep. You have to turn to it when you don’t know what to do. You have to understand that every persons’ misfortune is an opportunity to give back to a power that has given you everything. And above all, more than anything, you have to want to.

My life has benefited from being a Christian. I’ve been shamed. But, I’m not walking around with religious guilt. Instead of pretending that everyone else’s problem isn’t my problem, I try. I certainly fail lots of times. But at least I try. And giving back? There is NOTHING better than helping someone in need. You won’t get there with drugs, (wo)men, or money. And appreciating what you have – and what you have to GIVE (infinite, by the way) – is everything.

For the non-believers and believers alike, I leave you with a story.

I’m a clinically depressed person. But I always had hope. Then my Dad died in January. And part of me died too. And the love he showed me, and the activities and stories we shared, were suddenly ripped away. [Sort of like when a relationship has ended badly, and a person has been emptied from a space in your life he/she once occupied a significant part of.]

And I had things to occupy me. And they weren’t enough. And being alone has often been my demise. And one Sunday, the worst of all days forever and ever, Amen, several months ago, I was the loneliest I had been. And I went to a lookout, because that’s where my gut took me. And it was quite cool that day, but just starting to get warmer, especially without the wind. And I sat on this cold hard rock. And there were some people around, but everything was quiet. And I’m sure I looked utterly crazy hugging my knees and rocking back and forth as tears streamed down my face.

And I hated so much then. And I hated that my Dad wasn’t there holding my hand. And I hated that I couldn’t remember the last time he hugged me because his ribs (read: lung cancer) prevented it, because he was the best hugger in the whole damn world. And I hated that I could only talk to him, and not get an answer back. And I wanted to be where he was. And I prayed at him. And as I felt my thoughts and words dying, I came up with a final phrase: “radio silence.” And I swear on my life and science and anything else, that seconds later, the flags on the flagpole above me started ringing. And whatever “that” was, it was my miracle.

The Efficacies of HorsePlay

Just a quick note before bed.

You know that saying, “mind how you treat others, you never know what journey they’re on (or what they’re going through, etc., etc.)?” Well, consider yourself informed that following that advice would make the world a better place.

I have a lot of problems. Some of them can be solved. Some cannot. The ones that connect are those that are beyond me. They elude even the greatest of intentions. The fact is: when these unsolvable problems are especially poignant –  someone’s crappy attitude, unnecessary quips, misappropriated anger, and general lack of decency –  these problems get set on fire. (Read “The Hunger Games” if you think that’s not full of repercussions.)

So just don’t “say” without thinking. “Sayers” don’t always have to “say.” Just like “naysayers” don’t always have to “neigh.” (Couldn’t help myself.)

Tomorrow I get to go back to work after requiring some extremely necessary unhealthy days off to an environment where I will be punished for being sick. Many people have to deal with such shenanigans. I just want people to know that what you say — matters. A lot. So if you’re going to call someone for any non-personal reason tomorrow, please stop and think for a moment that you have the potential to make or break their day.

Denial – it’s Not just Limbo Anymore

August 4. Still up past midnight on a school night. What a naughty woman I am.

I used to be with a boyfriend who was obsessed with preaching that “being happy” was a stupid goal. In interviewing me for the position of His Girlfriend, he asked me if I thought I deserved to be loved by someone else. Although now I look back at that with condemnation, at the time, I suppose he was just projecting issues from former relationships.

But, it always stuck with me. Since when is believing you deserve to be loved a prerequisite to relationship status? In fact, I believe this question comes from laziness of the purest form: if you ask me if I am worthy of you and I say “yes, I believe I am,” then you can hold that against me whenever I need reassurance in the future, forever, and ever Amen.

Of course I’m conflating two issues. The first is that our partners have become lazy. We date people who expect us to maintain our own emotional needs so that they can go on with their lives without worrying about us.

The second is that happiness is not something to be desired. I’ll never know what that old boyfriend wanted out of life in place of happiness. Although I could just ask him, I no longer care enough about his opinion to bother.

The funny thing is that for all of my feelings, I am a remarkably happy person. There are things that are awful that happen in life. Accepted. But I’m happy. I’ve never been less than grateful. I’m privileged and well loved. I have had opportunities others haven’t. I get to work and get paid. I can make decisions for myself.

My problems only inflate when I look to others for recognition or acceptance/approval. For example, I had been accustomed to doing something that no one I knew thought was acceptable. Yet, it made me feel better, every time I engaged in it. I was taught that this behavior was unacceptable and would have “serious consequences.” So I did it better. Secret-er. (Sic.) Guess what. I still feel better when I do it and there are no consequences. But when it peaks beyond it’s secrecy, I become ashamed. And I ponder this.

So why do we lie to ourselves and pretend that the status quo will make us happy? I myself advocate that I shouldn’t care if my boyfriend(s) think someone else is beautiful when they haven’t told me I am in…as long as I could remember. But you know what? It still feels shitty to hear it. I still care…and I resent that tremendously. First of all, because I’m not here to be pretty for anyone. So, I hate that I feel bad about not feeling pretty. And second, because — damnit — I’m not a robot. I have feelings. I want to be maintained. And I expect my loves to read my very intricate and perfectly logical/emotional mind.

Let’s be clear:

1. I simultaneously do and do not care what you think.

2. I want to be loved and happy and I want to create those things for myself. Your disapproval or detrimental commentary makes me violent.

3. “Justified” is the best television show you’re not watching.

4. I get to determine what makes me perfect – and you get to determine what makes you prefect.

5. If I’m worthy of anything, it’s self-love. No one else on this planet gets to define, outline, suggest, or ANYTHING otherwise – that I could be better “if….” And that goes for you, too.

Feeling numb – by your own hand – only works to some extent. It’s helpful in getting by moment to moment. But really. When you wake up in the morning and face yourself…the numbness is gone, and getting it back won’t fix a thing you have in front of you. I have always believed I’m my own worst enemy. But it scares me that I could be someone else’s as well.

Back in the Habit, Liar.

It’s August 3, 2014 after 1:00am. The summer has been immeasurably weird because of several reasons: the most emphatic of which is that my Dad is not alive anymore. It has also been cooler. I’ve additionally been living outside of my own home for the first time in seven (7) years. With a guy. (How weird.) And although I am at an age where it is acceptable for young women to live with their partners before marriage, my circumstances seem utterly bewildering.

I find myself craving the written word. As if vocalizing “things” just allows them to escape into the nothingness I feel on a daily basis. If I read something, or write it down so it can be read again, I am preserving that thing. And preservation is valuable. Trust me. I’m a doctor.

I know that people lose their parents. It’s the nature of things, supposedly. But I’m not satisfied with any of it. As the one year mark of my father’s illness approaches, I’ve been reflecting far too much on the events of one year ago – day to day. I’m thinking about the order of things. And how everything is simultaneously real and not real until it punches you in the face and you black out from the harsh throb of what is known as “the truth.”

I always thought “the truth” was such an ominous phrase. I could never relate when someone, anyone, insisted on being told “the truth.” Sometimes I think it makes more sense to accept what we’ve been given, because the truth is usually worse. I know people – myself included – that advocate that “the truth” is better than “not knowing.” But guess what. When “the truth” is undiagnosed stage four lung cancer and “not knowing” was the belief that my Dad’s ribs were really just bruised from his fall months ago, I didn’t appreciate “the truth” when it came out TWO FUCKING WEEKS before he died.

Now, those of you reading this might say, “that’s just one example. The truth will set you free.” WRONG. “The truth” is the worst. Because as long as you don’t know, your Dad lives to spend another Christmas Eve with you in church. The routine you’ve had of going to brunch together every single Sunday for the past six (6) years doesn’t die with him. And peoples’ condescending bullshit doesn’t get shat into your ears.

Here are things I know to be “the truth”:

1. It’s fine to say to someone whose Dad gets sick and dies after being fine 2 1/2 months prior “at least he didn’t suffer long,” if you don’t know what else to say. Nevertheless, to those of us who have lost someone that this is small consolation when the person you had – and always did – has been ripped from our lives irrevocably in less time than it takes to get your tax refund.

2. Going through the process of the Memorial Visitation and the Funeral are NOT the hardest parts of losing someone. They’re easy compared to the infinite emptiness that consumes you immediately after those events. I can never forget the compassion, love, and support of the week after my Dad died. People showed up who I didn’t expect to see. And for me it was an altogether enlightening experience where I realized just how much I knew about my Dad and his life. I knew more faces there than I ever imagined I would. But it fades.

3. “The truth” is IT DOESN’T GET BETTER WITH TIME. I’m in a numbed dumbed haze of denial. That’s how I get through each heart-wrenching day. Every day that my Dad isn’t here is not a day that I get used to it. It’s another day that my Dad is not here. And things don’t get better; things only CHANGE. I just keep trying not to think about it because “the truth” is that if I did I might be keen on joining him – wherever he is.

4. The horrors I knew when my Dad was sick (read: dying) were unprecedented to me. Imagine a man who could heal anything, no longer knows where he is or what is going on. My Dad would lose consciousness and not remember that it happened. He became increasingly paranoid, especially after a “nurse” woke him at 4am to drain his cancer fluid – left him alone – and in his state tried to call for help, fell out of bed, and cut his head open, needing stitches. Imagine he was never the same after that incident. Imagine learning about this after you were already at work for the day, and having to wait until that night to THROW DOWN.

5. I had always believed in God and my religion (Episcopalian). Since my Dad died…nothing. I can’t. It’s not that I think God could have stopped anything, prevented it in some way. I just can’t go to church anymore, knowing that just a short time ago my Dad would be in that pew next to me, singing our hymns, bearing the Chalice during Communion, and making every single person in coffee hour afterward feel like he or she was there just to talk to him or her.

I can’t yet come to grips with any lesson I might be entitled to learned postmortem. In fact, I resent that I’m entitled to anything at all.

Right now, as it stands, I’m the most well-adjusted zombie you’ll ever meet. My ability to make clients and others feel special is unwaivering. But don’t be fooled. I’m a lot dead inside. I swear to God that the MOMENT my Dad died in front of me, something died within me too. I was no longer attached. I’m gone.

I’m not dead. But now, I do anything to feel numb. I do things that I cannot admit to on the internet (for fear of a retribution — which I do not care about nor think is acceptable — but feel obligated to let alone anyway). I judge people more. I can justify anything away. I’m not the person you used to know. I’m better and I’m worse. I’m good and I’m evil. I’m pathetic and I’m worthy. I am successful at being a human fucking being. I am successful at surviving.