Why #MeToo Matters

I attended an out-of-town conference earlier in the week. The conference hotel was a little too pricey, so I booked a well-reviewed Airbnb within walking distance. My host was wonderfully communicative, and the location was great, and while the building was a little shabby, the apartment was very comfortable. I left a positive review when I got home.

But I also emailed the host because of an experience I had with one of the building’s tenants.

One night, coming back from dinner, I took the elevator up to the 6th floor, where I was staying. The elevator stopped at the 5th floor to let another woman off. A man was waiting to take the elevator down, and greeted the woman warmly – they seemed to know each other – before spotting me and giving me a once over. He stepped into the doorway of the elevator – preventing it from going up or down – and proceeded to introduce himself and hit on me while the woman in the hallway called for him to leave me alone.

Eventually he stepped into the elevator and rode up a floor with me, asking me if I was alone, how could I be alone, was I was married, why I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. He told me he was a decent man. I couldn’t get off the elevator fast enough, hurrying down the hall to the apartment as he called after me, hoping that he wasn’t going to follow me. I shut the door and locked both locks. I assume he got back on the elevator as I didn’t see or hear him again.

Once I was safely inside the apartment, I tried to brush it off. I chatted with my partner before bed. I took the stairs in the morning. I didn’t mention it to the host as we emailed back and forth about my departure. I didn’t mention it when I got home.

And I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it if it weren’t for #MeToo and the ongoing coverage of all of the men who have abused their power to harass and hurt.

But the more I thought about it, the angrier I felt that my immediate response had been to brush it off, to minimize it, to try to believe the man’s assertion that he was a decent man. To tell myself that it was no big deal when in other circumstances, it could have been a very, very big deal. To normalize another experience where a man’s needs or desires were allowed to impinge upon my privacy, my personal space, or my safety.

I hate that it takes even one victim sharing their story to get us to take this stuff seriously. It shouldn’t be necessary. We should believe women. But we don’t, and so the harassing and hurtful behavior is normalized. And because we don’t believe women, women don’t tell their stories. And because women don’t tell their stories, the harassing and hurtful behavior has no consequences.

So I’m telling this story.

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Week 1

 

I’m struggling with feelings of shame around not doing enough. This is a constant for me – and for many, though I think working parents deal with particularly pernicious flavors of it – and it’s exacerbated by the burning need to DO SOMETHING in response to the election.

How do I get outside my bubble (workplace, profession, neighborhood, city, friend group) to be a part of change? How can I engage with things outside my bubble authentically, without constantly feeling like (or being) a white savior? How can I be active in helping prevent (or undo) the damage that has been wrought by millions of people like me and voted in support of things I find horrifying and incomprehensible?

I can speak out about the things that I know personally, but that isn’t enough, not now. Reproductive rights, women’s rights – these are small but important pieces of all of the things that are at stake. There are many more things that I care about than am knowledgeable about – social justice, access to education, the nuances of healthcare policy – and many, many more beyond that.

But then I also have a family and a job. A little son who demands my attention from the moment we wake until I leave for work, and from the moment I walk in the door until he goes to sleep. 3-4 hours/day with my child. 9-10 hours/day at work and commuting. 1-2 hours/day with my partner. An hour or so for exercise and self-care. Sleep, still broken by a child who wakes up 3-5 times/night needing my comforting attention. But everyone has these things, some with more support and flexibility, many with less.

I don’t know. I’m anxious and afraid. I need help getting outside my shell and my bubble. I’m working on figuring out what in my life can go – for now, for awhile, for a long time – to make room for what needs to happen. I need help giving myself permission to do what I can, knowing that there will always be more to be done.

Day 2

Today I did concrete things. I set up monthly donations. I signed petitions.

I read a lot of things that made my blood chill. This thread is a very good example.

Many years ago, my life was very different – probably unrecognizable to many who know me now. I was a very different person in a very different relationship. The people that surrounded me were more diverse than those around me now in ways that I didn’t recognize then, but that feel very important now.

In the days since the election, I have yet to encounter any of the nastiness or hate that is clearly happening all over the country. The people in my social circles are angry, devastated, sad, and scared – but they are rising up with nearly one voice to express the desire to move forward, to love and care for each other, and to be the light in the darkness, both now and in the days to come. And this is a wonderful thing.

But it also means that I am acutely aware that I’m in a bubble, and I’m not sure how to get outside of it, particularly when what’s outside the bubble is terrifying.

I remember what it felt like to be in conversations about guns and the government, and to wonder what circumstances resulted in these otherwise lovely people prioritizing the rights granted in one particular amendment over the rights granted in all the others. I remember what it felt for casual racism and misogyny to be the norm. I remember what it felt like when my body was more valuable than my brain. And I remember, later, and then over and over and over, realizing how narrow my understanding of the world had been.

But I fled one bubble for another. And now I find myself wondering – how do we bridge these huge gaps in order to understand each other? Especially when the rhetoric of Tuesday’s winners is laced with hate? Are respect, listening, and engagement really even on the table? I want to believe that they are, but I really don’t know.

Where Do We Go From Here?

A month ago today, I emerged from the finisher’s area of my first marathon in a daze. I squatted down next to a vehicle and had an ugly, jagged, rough cry. The race had taken everything out of me, particularly the last five miles, and the tears of pain and exhaustion and depletion came from some place raw and hidden, a secret store of emotions that I didn’t know I contained.

I imagine that’s what a lot of us felt like last night, as the forecasts and our associated hopes fell through the floor, or this morning, as we woke to the reality of an America all too familiar to many.

I laid in bed this morning between my partner and our son, tears streaming down my face as I remembered the optimism and energy of the previous day, the overwhelming hope embodied in the wave of posts to Pantsuit Nation. People voting for the first time or the last.People casting votes alongside adult children or ailing parents. People flying home from all over to vote because absentee ballots didn’t arrive in time.  People casting votes they never anticipated, either due to the impossibility of a serious female candidate, or because that candidate represented a party whose values were so far off from those the voter previously held. People voting for inclusion, for tolerance, for progress, for unity, for a better country – or even just for a less bad one.

We didn’t get that.

This morning I wiped away my tears, and then I read my son the book about seeds that he requested upon waking. I made coffee. I did the dishes and put away the laundry. I put on makeup. I went to work and facilitated a meeting about statistics. I took down signs advertising events in the past. These were things I could do.

I don’t have to take a quiz to know that my love language is acts of service. But in the face of this, it’s hard to know what to do. I’m so small. I’m only one person. It’s a very familiar feeling.

So many of us are feeling so much fear and uncertainty today – for ourselves, for our loved ones, for those with less privilege or power, for our country. For women and minorities, for immigrants and the disabled, for those who rely on social programs that could be eliminated, for those whose families could no longer be recognized, for operation of a free press, for the right to practice any religion, for the health of our planet. My family has much less to fear than many, and so we owe it to others to do more, share more, help more, understand more, love more – I just don’t know where to start.

I want to challenge you to do as I’m doing right now – to list one concrete thing you can do to keep our country, your state, your city, your neighborhood, your street, your family, and yourself moving forward. And then let’s keep each other accountable, just as we’ll work together to keep our new government accountable.

November Around Here

Unseasonably beautiful weather makes for weekend days full of crunching leaves and golden light. I need to soak up as much warmth as my skin can handle in anticipation of the winter to come.

A sudden windfall in a month of austerity means getting out of debt within the year is now feasible. Being responsible sometimes feels very hard, but also very good.

And for the baby, now a toddler: first tentative steps and a confirmed first word: kitty, which is applied specifically to the cat (his one true love) and more generally to all beloved things. We took him to the zoo, where he correctly identified two kitties (the sand cat and the puma) and other kitty-like creatures (red pandas).

So much hurt and sadness and fear in the world. There are days when it’s all too much, and all I can do is crawl into bed and hold the sleeping baby – for then he is still a baby – to me and cry. But so much love and generosity as well.

Reading:
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantell, because the mini series was remarkable.
House of Light – Mary Oliver, because reading poetry to the toddler feels like a good use of our quiet mornings
Bedtime in the Meadow – Stephanie Shaw, because try as he might, the toddler hasn’t been able to destroy it, unlike all of his board books
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson, because she slays me, and her writing about pregnancy and gender and identity feels very relevant
A Thousand Mornings – Mary Oliver
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates, because I have learned more about race and privilege in the last six months than the whole rest of my life to date

Watching:
Fringe

Eating:
Spontaneous Persian food
Pie for days
Pasta with fennel, kale, and lemon
All the pears and apples

Drinking:
A second cup of coffee, as the toddler was up before 6 for a second day in a row

Doing:
139 miles to go to hit 1,500 on the bike for the year
Not enough running, but with good reason
Catching up on all the postcards I didn’t send during this year’s 31 Postcards
Babyproofing all the things

Planning:
A Thanksgiving menu (hint: it contains pie and a Vegducken)
An intranet communication plan
New hats for everyone
Eliminating my debt

2015 Q1 Report

It’s March 31, which means it’s time to revisit my specific and measurable resolutions for 2015.

Run a marathonTabled for 2015. I really had my heart set on this goal, but after a lot of conversations, the decision not to train for a marathon came down to logistics and lack of sleep. Next year. Next year!

Read 12 non-parenting books: 0 completed. Also 0 started.

Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. No progress, but it’s been a loooooong winter with a tiny baby.

Keep a journal. Success! I have written in my journal at least every few days since the beginning of the year, making notes about each day even if I didn’t manage to write ON that day. There’s a lot of complaining about lack of sleep.

Reduce debt. After some serious consideration, I decided to reprioritize my financial resolutions in favor of paying down debt before building savings. Credit card debt ticked up nearly $4K in January with the last month of a halved paycheck plus needing to prepay for vacation and work travel. My tax return plus reimbursements from work took care of that; in total, credit card debt is down about $1K since the beginning of the year. Additionally, I increased my payments to my student loan by 50%, putting it on track to be paid off in the next two years.

Rebuild my savings. Tabled. It makes me anxious to not be putting money in savings each month, but eliminating debt is a higher priority.

Take better care of my skin. Success! I have moisturized every day since the beginning of the year. Now to see if I can do sunscreen…

Start flossing. Success! I have flossed every day since the beginning of the year. I don’t see my dentist until mid-May, but hopefully he will be impressed.

This is what is different.

Today is the end of my second week back to work. Now that the holidays are over and everyone is back in the office, I’m being asked regularly how it is to be back, how we’re managing, what life is like as a working mother.

I’ll tell you:

There’s all the normal day-to-day stuff from before: waking up with an alarm, making coffee, hunting for parking, endless meetings, trying to avoid ordering take out at the end of a long day, wanting to watch another episode of something but giving into sleep instead.

Add to that a layer of baby activities: nursing before getting out of bed, changing two diapers in the hour before work, keeping the baby entertained while trying to make coffee so that Nicolas and I are both a little more awake before I leave, rushing home to happy snuggles and more nursing, hoping the baby doesn’t fall asleep for the night an hour after I walk in the door.

Also add the angst of separation. And the weirdness and frustration of needing to fit 2-3 pumping sessions into an already busy work day. And half a dozen photos or video of the cuteness (and crying) happening at home. And the constant calculation of whether anything extra – a doctor’s appointment, stopping for groceries, a workout – is worth the extra time away from the baby.

It’s amazing how quickly your priorities change. I was told this would be the case, but I didn’t understand it until I experienced it.

We’re in an incredibly fortunate situation: I like my job, and my salary is enough that Nicolas can be home – full time and indefinitely. We don’t have to bundle the baby and all of his accouterments off to daycare in the morning. Nicolas is great with the baby and also isn’t subject to the sort of cabin fever that would be killing me right about now. Pumping is easy for me. My employer is supportive of families and has a very flexible leave policy. I get to work from home one day/week.

It’s hard to be back. But it’s also good to be back. And there’s not a damned thing that will get between me and the door at the end of the workday now that there’s a sweet little boy who needs his mama waiting at the other end of my commute.