Joy

20 Apr

I hear that it’s a holiday – a holy day – today. I hear it’s called Easter.

I don’t know what that word conjures up for you, when you hear it. A Midwestern-bred Catholic who decided to expand to the larger term of “Christian” in her early college years and now claims no grand ability to judge the Ultimate Truths of the universe, calling herself no one dogmatic label but saying she is open to learning, to questioning, to experiencing, and to revising ideas – the word “Easter” conjures up a lot of rather disparate images for me.

Countless Easter baskets, each of them packed with neon green and pink and purple plastic shavings, filled to the brim with garishly designed chocolate-encasing wrappers, maybe even some of those 25 cent plastic Easter eggs you can buy at every discount and drug store right around this time of year. Probably some horrid but oh-so-delicious chocolate mockery of a rabbit. (Seriously, why do those things even exist? “Here, kiddo, today’s all about celebrating new life, NOW RIP ITS HEAD OFF WITH YOUR SALIVA-DRIPPING TEETH AND FEAST UPON ITS CORPSE WHILE ITS MELTING BODY SMEARS ALL OVER YOUR FACE!”)

Uh, yeah. Easter baskets.

There are images of family parties that pop up, too. Somebody – usually my grandmother, I think – probably made a ham. Not that I’d be eating it, thank you very much. There would be some Easter egg hunt, little plastic capsules filled with quarters and dimes and HOLY FUCK THIS ONE HAS FIVE DOLLARS strewn around the front yard or the backyard or the living room, if the weather were too wet or the adults got too lazy. I’d participate for maybe ten years or so, then help moderate for the littler ones as I got older. (“Hey, three-year-old cousin, stick with me and you’ll be good to go. I’ve got inside information.”)

For a long stretch of years, there are images of church. Me and my younger sister and my mother and every other female there decked out in our best dress, many of us probably having bought a new one just for the occasion. (Why are Easter dresses a thing? Why must small children be bedecked in white fluff and nonsense that they’re only going to complain makes them uncomfortable and probably get grass stains all over within five minutes? Why don’t we all just wear jeans? The day’s about freedom, yes?)

A lot of those years, the church-going was fairly mindless. You went to church on Easter because that’s just what people did. It was like stopping at red lights or eating soup with a spoon. That’s just the way things worked. You stood outside in the cold (because of course Missouri would decide to revert back to freezing temperatures instead of the spring it had been inching toward – I mean, wouldn’t want to overheat the occasion or anything by venturing above 60 degrees Fahrenheit…) and waited for a really long time and got really bored and then you went inside and the adults around you mumbled some stuff and belted some songs and went through this routine of sitting and standing and kneeling and sitting and kneeling and standing and burning weird-smelling stuff and generally doing lots more waiting and being bored…

And then in my first two or so years of college, there was nobody around to tell me I had to go to Easter mass. Or even what Easter mass to go to. I went because at that time, I wanted to. I went because the Catholic and then broader Christian faith held meaning for me. Helped me get through the fucking large amount of hurting I was going through at the time. A day where I could go to the Pentecostal church the next suburb over and throw my hands in the air and sing as loudly as I could in a room full of people clapping their hands and waving their bodies and smiling at me, at each other, at the ceiling past where they imagined their God to be, where we could make noise and stomp our feet and feel things because that’s just what we wanted to do, just how we wanted to show our belief and our thanks, and whatever we brought to the table, our God would find that acceptable? Would find it good?

I went to that kind of mass for a while.

And now, Easter, being a word associated with that set of religions that I’ve become not entirely sure about… it brings up flashbacks of scenes of doubt and anger – at the God I had been taught to believe in, at the men I had been told to believe. Discomfort and hesitation, because the book I was told to put so much stock in had some passages that seemed to not make sense, or to exclude people I knew were damn good people, better than a lot of the Christians I knew – more loving, more supportive, more accepting, better parents and spouses and partners and friends, sometimes even better believers – I was being told that I was supposed to “pray for their souls,” because they were sinning. Or something like that. There was a whole sector, multiples sectors of human life, human experience, that had so many rules and regulations, many of them seemingly arbitrary, that the joy there… just died.

I thought Easter was explicitly about the opposite of joy dying.

My journey of faith and un-faith and re-faith and not-quite-faith and whatever the hell the proper words for the dynamic spot of saying I don’t know all the answers and I’m just going to love and serve people and celebrate this earth and its inhabitants as best I can and hope that any deity out there will look on and understand my story, understand that I am doing the best I can in the place I am at – I don’t know exactly what to call that, but the story of getting there is long intricate and person and complicated, and that’s not exactly what I’m trying to talk about here.

What am I trying to talk about? Well, now that you’ve got an incredibly long backstory, what I’m trying to say is that I hear today is a day called Easter. A holy day. A day of celebrating that we humans, with our quirks and differences and imperfections and doubts and diversity, are free and loved. A day of celebrating the joy that can be in life.

So. Whoever you are, however you are, I wish you joy today. Joy in being completely you, without boundaries or prejudices. Joy in loving as fully as you can, without any disapproval from lookers-on. Joy in being who you are, how you know you were created. Male, female, transgender, gender queer, intersex, agender – whatever the word you understand for yourself. Straight, gay, lesbian, hetero or homo, pansexual or asexual, questioning or certain or experimenting or just trying to be okay – because I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re all doing, the entire human race, just trying to be okay – whatever your titles or creeds or other arbitrary delineations we draw between us who are all made of skin and bone and muscle, hearts and lungs and brains and hands: I wish you joy. In being you. In being free. In being loved.

No conditions. No reservations.

Only joy.

Fish and Lavender

19 Apr

The apartment smelled of fish and lavender. It was an odd combination, but then again that’s what the apartment was too, an odd throw-together of temporary and permanent lodgers, the floors and shelves strewn with things of people who did and didn’t yet live there. A large enough place to have in so short a time become both a prison and a refuge. A three-bedroom townhouse full of free lodgers who could not escape themselves.

Fish and lavender, depending which breath you took.

The oldest girl – though she felt the youngest, might as well have been for all the stability in life she’d managed up to that point (How had she managed to become the mature one? The most mature and the most fool. Ever such disparate titles to hold, reconcilable only by as much a bleeding heart as hers.) – shoved her book away, tossed the blanket off her lap and scrambled across the room for her laptop.

The younger girl – not so young as to deserve being called it, an older soul than she often let on unless you cried in front of her enough – looked up from her own tomb.

“Restless?”

The older girl slapped her laptop open. She waited for the wi-fi to connect, agitating. “I’ve got wanderlust, still.”

The younger girl only stared blankly, her eyes saying obvious.

The other shook her head. “No, not your kind of reckless abandon. I don’t want to go just anywhere, I want to go somewhere. I want to travel, to adventure. To have some place to go and some place to be and something to do.” The girl shut her mouth. And some one to love.

Her friend rolled her eyes. “So go somewhere.”

The girl shook her head. “It’s not that easy.”

Love and distance, uncertainty and security, loss and comfort. These things did not often mix well together.

Fish and lavender. You never knew which breath.

Work-From-Home

18 Apr

Oh dear Poe and Dickinson, I don’t know how you did it.

Work-From-Home

I am going crazy
sitting inside this house.
They call it freelance
but I call it shut-in,
this endless typing of nonsense
onto a dead screen like it’s a friend
because it’s the only thing I’ve got
to talk to,
all day,
all the time.
I will tell you my stories,
dear static of electrons and gigabytes.
I will tell you all these things
inside my head,
poured endlessly
into the wasteland of a blank word document.
That’s all you are, after all -
a parched desert that we try to fill
with the thirst of our souls for someone else,
anyone else.
And so we write stories.
The only breathing
is the rustle of the blinds in a breeze
because I left the window open again,
a forgetful reminder that there’s a world outside.
But I can’t write out there.
Too much glare across the screen
and my fingers lost the quickness of pen
in favor of jabbing at keys in frustration.
Quick, spiteful precise stabs,
anything to flood my message across that empty line.
Lines and lines and lines,
meaningless lines we try to make say something
about our loneliness
but not about our loneliness,
about something else that would be greater
than just telling the world the story
of sitting for the slow-drip torture of seconds
as our life wastes away
down the drain,
a straight shot from the faucet
because all we have are the too-hard chairs
that become our companions
and remind us constantly of the discomfort we sit with.
There’s too much bitterness on my tongue
for me to keep drinking coffee.
We try to say something other
than the sounds of a silent house and road work outside,
because that’s not a good enough story
for a mind crazed by sitting endlessly on the inside,
calling it freelance
but dying from shut-in.

To The South Fayette Boy With The Ipad

17 Apr

Dear South Fayette Teen,

I know your mother wishes your name to be kept out of public reports as much as possible, so I’m not going to mention it here. But you know who you are, and you know what you did.

And I commend you, I laud you, I am so incredibly fucking proud of you for doing it. I hope you never forget who you really are, and I hope you never forget what you did. Above all, I hope you never forget, no matter what ignorant un-law enforcement or principals in need of schooling themselves may you tell you, that was you did was right.

You were being bullied. There is no question about that. You were being sexually harassed, physically harassed. You were being taunted. Tortured, really. The slow drip excruciation of day after day where you are made a target, for no other reason than that you happened to have the audacity to exist. Day after day of wondering what knew form of personal and social flagellation you’ll receive as the hands of idiots. I understand the pain of having that knife dug into your consciousness, millimeter after millimeter. It is not a pain that should ever happen.

It is a pain that happened to me, too. I too was bullied, from preschool all the way through sophomore year of high school. I went to an all-girls school, so my form of social punishment came more through the form of clique ostracism and snide comments made in muttered cackles before my face or ruthless emails passed around behind my back. Except for the time someone decided to print one particular chain out and stuff it in my locker. That was fun.

And how did I deal with my bullying? How did I deal with being told that I was ugly and unwantable and expendable for a quick laugh? I stayed silent. I filled journals with my feelings, cried unseen in bathroom stalls. Eventually, the girls who had tried to assert that I was lesser than they realized they needed me. As middle and high school wore on, it became clear that I was undeniably, ultimately goddamn smart. And those other girls, they didn’t always complete their homework. So they needed me, to help them figure out the answers. I became outwardly called upon as tutor in the early morning pre-class hallway conferences. I garnered a group of what you could roughly call friends. I found power in being the smart one. The bullying died down as the need for me grew. I graduated high school as the valedictorian, regarded as beloved at best and with apathy at worst. The outer titters were no more.

Of course, that did nothing to calm the inner ones. I had been saved by lucky fate, not by my own hand. I carried with me the inner sense of unworthiness I had been taught for years by bullies and general life circumstances. I still believed that I was ugly, that I was unwantable, that I was less than other people.

It’s taken a whole fucking lot to change that. And I’m still not done fighting.

But you – you actually stood up for yourself. You did what I had not. You saw the injustice you were being treated with and recognized that it was wrong. You did not just accept it as some natural lot for yourself in life. You did not take the lies that others would have fed you. And for that, for that small act of self-worth, you are my fucking hero.

So recorded what was going on in class. You recorded the reality of what was going on day in and day out. Your recorded the lack of any real response, any real repercussion for the ones who were actually committing disorderly conduct. Slamming things around in class? Trying to harass another student in the middle of a lecture? Sounds like textbook disorderliness to me.

This wiretapping charge is bullshit. The only reason it’s being thrown at you is because you happened to make somebody’s life difficult by making them accountable for their own ineptness as a head of school. High school students record things during class all the fucking time. Take, for example, the college students over at Aquinas who pranked their professor, recorded it all, and put it up on the internet, from where it’s gone viral. You don’t see them getting a wiretapping charge. Why? A student recorded part of a class – not just audio but even video – and they did it all without the professor’s knowledge. But hey, he thought the whole thing was funny. So, no wiretapping charge. But record something that reveals the failure of a school administrator to deal with a real fucking problem at his school? Wiretapping! Wiretapping!

This world does not deal kindly with the truly brave. And you, oh teenage boy who had the audacity to stand up and say that something was wrong, were truly brave to do so. Whistleblowing is always a risk. But you did it. You recorded the truth. You did what you needed to do in order to throw undeniable concrete evidence at the face of those who might have otherwise told you that it was “all in your head.”

You stood up for yourself. I am sorry that the adults that should have stood with you instead told you to step down. Though to your mother – from what I hear, you’re doing a damn good job of supporting your son through this. Please, keep reaffirming that he did the right thing. He’ll probably tell you that yeah, Mom, he knows. But it’s still something he’ll need to keep hearing anyway.

Oh teenage boy with the ipad, you used technology to fight injustice. You did not stick your nose where it didn’t belong. You weren’t meddling in someone else’s affairs. You had every right to do what you did. If the government seems to feel that it can run around willy nilly wiretapping every goddamn means of communication there is in the name of “fighting terrorism,” then I say that you, too, should be perfectly free to record in your own public space in the name of fighting the terrorism you were encountering. Because that’s what it was. A couple of idiots trying to make themselves look big by making someone else feel small with attack after attack on his person and his sanity.

So they used spitwads instead of IED’s. Words instead of bullets. I thought we’d all realized by now that the ridiculous rhyme about “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is absolute crap. If this country allows libel suits, then it damn well recognizes that words can hurt.

And this time, they were hurting something so much more important than a public image. They were hurting a person.

And did you stoop to their level? Did you hurl insults back? Throw a punch? Become one of them? No. You recorded them, made them accountable for their words. You very calmly brought their own actions, their own selves against them. You made them sit down and shut up and learn about responsibility and consequences for once.

Something, it appears, your principle doesn’t understand how to do.

Spitwads, scare tactics, daily verbal harassment – you “would not classify that as bullying,” Mr. Skrbin? Great. If I were near South Fayette, I’d be outside your office with a straw and a whole lot of spit to shoot at you tomorrow morning. I mean, you did say there wasn’t a problem with that, didn’t you?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Dear teenage boy who lives in South Fayette, you really are a hero. I am sorry that incompetent adults are trying to log you as otherwise. I hope they realize how they wrong they are. Because odds are, your story is going to inspire some other students elsewhere, too, to finally stand up and say that they are taking no more. That they are done with being bullied. That they are human being with real fucking worth and other people better damn well recognize it.

Because you, dear teenage boy with the ipad, are a human being with real fucking worth. Other people better damn well recognize that.

Don’t you ever stop recognizing that, either.

Sincerely,

A Friend

The Night The Moon Was Eaten

15 Apr

Yesterday, April 14th, was my 23rd birthday. It was actually one of the loveliest times I’ve had on my birthday in a while. I woke up to a super sweet email from my boyfriend, got to spend the day with old and new mates, and then climbed to the roof of my apartment with a couple of my oldest friends to watch the lunar eclipse. A blood moon on my birthday? Why thank you, galaxy. That was an awesome gift.

And that time on the roof, wrapped in a blanket talking about everything and nothing in particular as the moon waned and waxed and became saturated with its bloody hue before us, as the moon took on an oddly placed shadow as the earth passed by the sun in front of it, causing the moon to look almost as if something were eating it – well that, of course, inspired a story.

So thank you, to everyone who made my birthday wonderful with your well-wishes and hugs yesterday. One day after my birthday, this, a story, is my gift to you.

 

Thank you to Casey Handmer, friend and photographer of this fantastic timelapse photo. Permission to use this photo must be obtained directly from him.

Thank you to Casey Handmer, friend and photographer of this fantastic timelapse photo. Permission to use this photo must be obtained directly from him.

The Night The Moon Was Eaten

Something was eating the moon.

Killey leaned back against the thatched roof and stared up at the sky above her. Bale, her little brother, a mere seven years in this village of ancients, had been the first to see it. He’d run screaming through the town, child that he was, screeching in his sweet little voice the same way he would have if a cow had gotten loose from the fields or a stranger had come visiting or a particularly choice piece of candy had just been given him by one of the elder ladies. Bale had not quite learned the art of tone differentiation yet.

And so he had gone streaking through the streets with his shouts naked of discernible emotion beyond urgency and surprise (what kind of urgency? surprise at what?) repeating those two unassuming words over and over again.

“The moon! The moon!” A chubby little hand with its chubby little fingers stretched up toward the sky, waving in no particular direction round the galaxy. “The moon!”

Eyes had turned skyward. Eyes had widened. Eyes had shut.

Smiles turned to swallowed groans.

The moon – that was no typical waxing. That was no mere shadow. It was in entirely the wrong place for this night of the lunar cycle. No, that darkness – it was no usual momentary lapse of our beloved lunar orb. And – eyes opened only to grow wider once again – it was getting bigger. Right before our eyes, the moon was being swallowed up.

Something was eating the moon.

Within moments, ladders were raised and roofs were climbed. Families sat atop their homes, feeling safer in the height and the open than trapped between a lid and the ground. Whatever it was, if the moon was not enough for it and it came to swallow the earth next… Well, the ground did not seem like a particularly safe place to be.

And so we sat on our roofs and watched as the darkness chewed away at the lunar orb.

Something was eating the moon.

“Papa,” I whispered early in the night, “why aren’t we doing anything? Why are we just sitting here, watching?”

Papa had sighed and pulled me closer at that. “Killey, dear, what can we do? The moon in her fortress is far, and there is no certain way to reach her. The veil between us is vast. We can do nothing.”

Except sit. And wait. And hope that the darkness swallowing the moon would deign to return her to us once again.

There was so little left of her. Just a mere scrap now. Soon, there would be nothing but a hole of where she used to be.

The night blew on. The moon continued to fade as we watched.

And then, suddenly, there was nothing.

For what felt like hours we sat on our roofs with bated breath, hoping to see some sign of return of our moon.

But for so long, nothing.

“Papa!” The entire village turned their heads toward our hut as Bale’s voice pierced the air once again. Around me, I could see the faces of our neighbors blanch. No tone was needed to see what had sparked Bale’s outburst this time. The terror on his face was so thick it dripped into the night and leaked in puddles on the roof around him.

“Papa,” Bale’s voice no more than a whisper this time. “The moon is bleeding.”

Papa’s gaze jerked to the sky. All eyes returned to the moon. Yes, Bale was right. There, up where the moon kept her court, was the tiniest sliver of a moon returning to us. Except she was not waltzing back to us, finally free of whatever monster had tried to imprison her in its jowls.

No, she was being regurgitated.

Up in the sky, the monster hacked up the moon queen, bit by bit,coughing up a pile of ragged flesh. The moon we were seeing returned was no longer the cool, pale glow of the star courtiers that danced around her. No. Now, the moon, she had turned sickly, undeniable blood red. And as we all sat and stared, her white gown was only drenched all the more in that frightening color of dying.

“Papa?”

But my father said nothing. I saw his lips move and the knob in this throat slide as he gulped down hard.

I did not like it when Papa was afraid.

The moon was so saturated with blood now that even the glow she cast on our fields reflected the laceration of her veins. A wind rustled through the corn and the cows moaned at the sight of the grass turned the color of rust before them. Around us, the world creaked and cracked and wailed.

Disturbed.

I sat down on the thatched roof, bracing my feet against the straw. Boring old blessedly normal straw. My knees were shaking. I pulled them toward me and held my arms around them tight, trying to make the shaking stop. Bale stumbled over the slippery thatching and plopped next to me. He buried his face in my arm.

“Killey, I’m afraid,” he mumbled as best he could with his nose and mouth smushed into my skin.

I swept a hand lightly through his hair, fixing a few of the tousles. “Me too, Bale.” Against my arm, Bale started to sniffle. “Shhh, Bale. Come here.” I pulled him into my arms and rocked back and forth, humming softly. His little sobs quieted. I continue to croon over his tiny form, a lilting strain from nowhere in particular.

Papa came and sat beside me, listening. He’s always told me he likes it when I hum. He says it reminds him of Mama. She used to sing all the time, he says. I just like to hum, but I like it too, that maybe I could be like Mama was.

Papa leaned in so he could catch my notes better. After a while, he nodded and started humming too. It wasn’t quite the notes I was doing, but he played around them, so it sounded nice. His humming was more repetitive than mine was.

The family on the roof next to ours started humming too, something close to what Papa was doing. Soon, the humming had spread through the whole village, and all the thatched roofs were vibrating with the low chant of families sitting on top.

I wanted to laugh in delight but just put the happiness into what I was humming instead. Bale lifted his head, eyes still droopy with sleep, and smiled up at me. He sat up in my lap and craned his head, looking around at all the other families.

Suddenly, Bale’s body went rigid in my arms. His breathing stopped for just a moment. Relief flooded my melody when his body went loose again and he turned to me, his eyes wide again.

“Killey,” he said breathily. “Look.”

My eyes immediately snapped to the sky. The moon! The moon…

The night had long since carried away the torn and bloodied strips the monster had vomited in the moon’s palace. We had watched as the red mess was replaced again by emptiness.

But now, the emptiness was not complete.

Now, there was something else in the emptiness.

I tiny little sliver, a small glow.

The moon. She was coming back.

And she wasn’t bloody anymore.

“Killey! The moon is coming back!” Bale turned his young eyes, nearly as wide as the moon themselves now, towards me. “You’re healing her.”

I glanced at Papa. He shrugged, his face surprised and uncertain. I don’t know, his eyes told me. But his mouth kept humming.

I kept humming too. Just a little louder.

I met eyes with the woman on the roof next to us. I nodded up at the sky, trying to show her. She looked up, saw. Her eyes got wide too. Came back to rest on me. Nodded.

She looked across the way at the roof next to her, to tell her other neighbors too.

Soon, the village moan had turned to a murmur, a resonant melody punctuated by gasps and caught breath as the rest of the families on the roof looked skyward and saw the moon returning to us, growing whole once more. Coming back from the dead.

All around, our humming filled with wondering. Was it because of us? Had our song saved her? Or had it just been the moon herself, always cheating darkness out of death, just like she did every month?

We didn’t know. So we kept singing anyway.

And the moon kept coming back, brighter. Just barely on the edge of waking, Bale giggled from where he was curled in my arms. His eyes fluttered close, some dream finally claiming his tired mind. Around us, the village song slowed and softened to a close. The moon was back. She was safe. The monster in the darkness had not claimed her yet. Our guardian in the sky was still safe at her post. She had not been eaten down to nothing.

Which meant that for now, we would not be eaten down to nothing either.

Gently, I shifted Bale so he was draped across my shoulder and started down the ladder so I could put my little brother properly to bed. Papa smiled at me and nodded, but stayed where he was, stretched out on the roof, looking upward at the sky. At the moon.

Bale only stirred a little as I jostled him on my way down the ladder. “Shh, Bale,” I whispered, willing him to stay safe in dreamland. “It’s alright now.”

Still more asleep than awake, Bale nestled closer to my neck, his head held right in the crook at its nape. His small arms tightened their grasp around me. His eyes fluttered open, searching the sky for a moment before the lids dropped close again. I carried him inside and laid him gently on his bed. His eyes fluttered open one more time, looking up at me. Drowsily, Bale smiled. “Killey,” Bale murmured in his sleep. “Killey, the moon – Mama came back.”

On the question of a cat call…

11 Apr

In modern feminist discussions, there’s a lot of talk about cat calling. The general sentiment seems to be that cat calling is rude and invasive.

I mean… yes, having someone shout something at you unexpectedly is by definition invasive. But… I am not yet completely satisfied with the discussion around cat calling.

For example, earlier today, I read a Guardian article trying to clarify where the line is between acceptable flirting and sexual harassment. (It’s part of Laura Bates’s series, “Everyday Sexism.”) I generally agree with the article, especially the last two points about context appropriateness (eg. “flirting” in a job interview is a definitive no go) and “am I actually, all things considered, just being a bit of a dick?”

Yeah, that last one’s a question people should probably just ask themselves, like, all the time. Sending an email? Don’t be a dick. Talking to a customer service representative over the phone? Don’t be a dick. Trying to ask someone out? Don’t be a dick. Basically unless you are somehow a sentient cock or some kind of dildo, don’t be a dick. Simple stuff.

But… I do have some hesitations about some of the Guardian article’s assertions. Obviously, pretty much all summary articles need to taken with a grain of salt. There’s no way that six very short phrases are going to capture the mess of grey complexity that is the scope of human interaction in the sexual realm. The Guardian article is by no means definitive or comprehensive. Guidelines are guidelines.

Like point number four, “Is this ‘advance’ actually just a shouted and uninvited assessment on my part of this person’s attractiveness/body/genitals?” I’d say there’s some wiggle room there.

Why? Because there’s a huge range of variation on “shouts” and “uninvited assessments.” What they are, how they were made, the vibe behind them, the person who made them, the person they were made out… There’s a spectrum there that I’m pretty sure runs the gambit from “completely acceptable” to “you will burn in hell forever.”

Let me explain. In my own subjective, personal case, if some guy (or girl) came up to me with very politely folded hands and a mousy little voice mostly mumbled under they’re breath ’cause they’re that quiet and a body posture not at all aggressive and a personal space bubble that kept them at least three feet away from, if this person came up to me and said in full blown self-defacing awkwardness, “Um, excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt your day, but I think you’re very pretty. Okay, I’ll just let you go now…” I WOULD FEEL SUPER HELLA ALL THE UNCOMFORTABLENESS.

Ummm why was the person so awkward? Why were they so mousy about it? Were they trying to hide something inappropriate under the comment? And that body language… why were they so self-defacing? Are they okay? Are they being bullied? Abused? What’s their mental health state? DO THEY NEED A FRIEND? DO I NEED TO MAKE SURE THEY’RE OKAY? Oh god, now it’s my duty to go make sure they’re okay and make their day better and try to fix whatever hurt in their life I can ’cause they gave me a compliment and there’s so much lack of clarity in this situation and oh god all I wanted to do was go buy groceries…

Plus there’s also the fact that the person actually approached me to talk to me. Came up to me. Joined our personal spaces. Even though (s)he stayed three feet away. As unaggressive as that is, I actually feel like the flow of my life has been more violated than if I’d just been able to keep walking. It was well-intentioned, but I still ended up feeling more violated than I would have if some random stranger had just shouted something at me that I could have just immediately written off and gotten on with my life. Grocery shopping. Whatever.

But again, that’s only one scenario. I personally have actually been sexually harrassed by an ex-mentor who got too testosterone-headed and decided he wanted to tell me something outside the house of a graduation party we were attending and began saying stuff like “I’d love to see you with your hair down some time” and “man, your legs just keep going,” and decided to “wrap up” the interaction with a hug that he wouldn’t let me out of even when I started to pull away. Thank god someone else decided to leave the party at that moment and shouted at us, causing the ex-mentor to jump away from me guilty. In that case, the uninvited comments on my physicality, confidently made though they were, were most definitely sexual harassment. Too close, inappropriate context, indication of discomfort on my part – lots of reasons.

But I have a third scenario to tell you all. Earlier this week, I was actually walking to the grocery store. As I made my way towards the entrance, I had to pass by the table area nearby where people chill, eat, wait for their ride, whatever. As I approached the area, a shades-wearing guy looked up from the sandwich he was eating, smiled (thankfully after having the courtesy to smile), lowered the sandwich, and, looking at me, exclaimed a very appreciative “Woooooow!” It all happened in two seconds of knee-jerk spontaneous reaction on his part.

Yes, I blushed. But I also smiled. Genuinely smiled. And laughed, called out a thank-you, and kept walking. I went into the grocery store, and the guy went back to his sandwich. He didn’t stare at my butt as I walked away, he didn’t make any move to approach me, he didn’t make any more comments. He just smiled at me for the additional two seconds I maintained eye contact and then went back to his day, letting me go back to mine.

Did he shout? Yes. Well, he raised his voice. But it was not a holler; it was an honest-to-goodness exclamation that I was allowed to hear. If he’d just muttered it under his breath, I’d have been creeped out. Alright, you just have your private little fantasy session there, dude, whatever… His smile was sincere. It was genuinely pleased. It honestly probably is the same smile that smacks itself on my face whenever I unexpectedly encounter a dog on the sidewalk. Or that would appear if suddenly one of Van Goh’s works plopped itself in front of me. Whoa! Intense aesthetically pleasing thing that I wasn’t expecting!

Because honestly, that’s how that cat call made me feel. I was an unexpected work of art. A thing of beauty to be given admiration in its own right, not because the guy had any agenda of ownership for it. His voice was respectful, not leery. Then there’s the fact that what he said wasn’t super invasive. It was just a “wow.” A sentiment. Not a specific evaluation. He didn’t name any of my body parts, or label me anything sexual, or imply I owed him anything, or ask me for anything, or try to sound suave. He just communicated his own personal response. “Wow.” Simple. Clear. Non-aggressive. Generally not offensive.

He kept his distance, didn’t try to force himself any more into my space than he had with his prior reflexive response. He didn’t try to get anything from me. He didn’t stick around and try to interact with me more. No. He gave me a compliment – uninvited and shouted – and then went back to his sandwich. Like a normal dude who just happened to see something cool. And that was that.

I don’t think that was sexual harassment. I don’t even think that was even flirting. I think that was just one human’s positive response to the aesthetic of another human that he was kind enough to share with her.

Maybe I’m reading into the situation what I want to see. Entirely a possibility. But I don’t think I am. I have been sexually harassed. I have been cat called. I have been leered at. I have been stalked. I have been complimented. I have been respected. I have been protected. I have been allowed to fight for myself. I’ve seen a variety of human action and reaction, and I think that I have enough social intelligence to at least be able to correctly pick up on the general vibe of an interaction.

So. Cat calling. Not always a cat call. Sometimes it’s a harpy shriek. Sometimes it’s a sincere commendation.

Cat calling is grey and tremorous territory. There is an art to compliments. All in all, I suppose the lesson is that if you’re going to try to venture there – just don’t be a dick.

Unless you are a dildo. Then you may be a dick.

shitty pitcher poetry

10 Apr

Inspired by the fact that the lack of adequately stocked kitchen cupboards and a typo, a compilation poem of fairly shitty verse accidentally by my roommate and me. Enjoy. Laugh. Deride. Whatever.

 

A Pitcher Thought

We do not have a pitcher thought,
a tall, cool draught of hospitality
and ice cubes to offer on a front porch,
a long pour of shared success
with its sugary taste, satisfaction.

The pitcher is a self-sufficient plant,
a long tube and a cup held up by itself.
Very scientific.
Very exotic.
Very sharp.
It’ll hold the water for you,
pour you a little should it get too full.
Stand beneath its bower;
it will provide.
Tempt you to come closer, peer into the depths,
let it discover the taste of your soul.
A depth where there is no bottom,
only an end.
The pitcher is a carnivorous plant.

It’s a vessel for thoughts -
thoughts pourable,
and fluid;
magnetic poetry.

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