The Black Samaritan

When my grandmother was a young woman attending nursing school, she once got into a terrible car accident.  She was driving across central Florida,  from the University of Tampa to her parents’ house in Vero Beach. 
It was dark and she saw a road work crew up ahead, so she tried to go around them on the right. She didn’t see the canal and there were no guard rails in those days. She and the car went over the edge and under the water.

A black truck driver was coming along in the other direction and he saw her car go in. “Aren’t you gonna do something? ” he asked the white men my grandmother had been trying to avoid. “There’s alligators in that water!” they replied.

So this black stranger dove into the canal. He wrenched her car door open but the pressure of the water slammed it shut on his hand. He lost three fingers disengaging from the car and coming back up for air. He had his son with him and told the boy to get his tire iron. Then he dove back under again. This time he smashed the window,  grabbed my grandmother,  and carried her to shore.

It is my family’s own Good Samaritan story. While the people of her group ignored her in the ditch and refused to help, a hated stranger sacrificed much to save her. He saved not only my grandmother but each of her descendents. I would not be here and my son would not be here if a stranger had not paid three fingers for our lives. I will always be grateful for his bravery.  

Femme Feminism

I was never a girly-girl in childhood. I’d play house with my sister, and little green army men with my cousin, and dress up as superhero’s girlfriends, but compared to my Girl Scout ballet taking natural cook of a sister, I never felt very feminine. I was abused by my friend’s father, and that changed me. I no longer felt safe being a girl, so I didn’t want to be one.

I cut my hair short, started going by a boys’ nickname, and joined a softball team. I refused to wear any dress or skirt for four years. I tried in very conscious and overt ways to present myself as a tomboy. I didn’t want to be a girl, because girls got targeted and girls got hurt. When my breasts started to develop, I dove into anorexia with abandon, desperately trying to keep my body childish and sexless.

What started as a way to influence how others saw me became something that polluted how I saw other girls. I became a Chill Girl – not like those other girls. I ate junk food and watched football and laughed at oppressive jokes, determined not to “cause drama”. I had a few girl friends, most who hated femininity as much and as vocally as I did, and lots of boy friends, many of whom mistreated or abused me, with the accurate assessment that I wouldn’t “cause trouble” about it.

Pregnancy with my son changed me again. It made me feel a connection to women across time and space I had never felt before. The good and bad, from creating life to the indignities of labor, all brought me in touch with a sense of something deeper than myself, and shared by billions of women since the dawn of our species. It was an intensely spiritual connection, startling and unexpected. It made me feel like I belonged, like I was a woman and that was a good thing, for the first time since I’d been targeted as a little 7-seven-year old girl in my play dress.

Not wanting to be targeted for being a girl turned into hating girls and all the “girly” things inside of me. This hatred of women and femininity is one of my biggest regrets. It kept me from amazing, supportive, revolutionary friendships with other women, while exposing me to dangerous, ungrateful, entitled relationships with men who did not respect women any more than I did. What’s more, it kept me in denial of my own lesbian sexuality.

I began truly embracing myself as a feminine person, capable of feminine expression that wasn’t silly or a joke, within the past two years. Since then I have made more women (and non-binary) friends than I would have thought possible. I have shared joys and sorrows with the incredibly tight network of friends I have formed, and they have lifted me up when I most needed it. In turn, learning to love the woman in myself and the women in my friends helped me to recognize that I’m a lesbian.

If I was still rejecting femininity, I don’t think I could have all these gains. I don’t think I’d feel so connected. I don’t think I’d belong. I think I’d still be surrounding myself with people who despised anything womanly in me. If you’re a woman who has a hard time making friends with other women, I encourage you to reflect on why that is, and whether it serves you well. For me, learning to love women – butch and femme and neither – has opened doors I didn’t even know were closed. And I’m grateful.

Things I Called a Man Last Night

– Cupcake noodle puff
– my sheep’s wool dumpling patty
– Mr. Wumple Buns
– Widdle Poodlebreath
– Son of Sir Not-Appearing-in-this-Film
– Mr. Bubblegum Cheesecake
– Señor Sassy Pantalones
– Mr. Matching Dresser Set
– Sugar Coated Trufflefart
– Jewel Encrusted Bidet
– Mr. Silent-But-Deadly
– Sir Confused-by-the-Premise
– All He Wanted Was For Everything To Be About Him by Fallout Boy

For the original context and more unsettling pet names,  check out this thread on my Facebook wall.

A Stolen Kiss

I was seventeen, working as a hostess for a waterfront seafood restaurant. I loved the location and the semitropical plants and most of the staff, so I put up with hard work for low pay. Some of the adult male customers would flirt, and a bartender who had my back would shout out to them “Fifteen’ll get you twenty!” warning them I was too young for that. I could have stayed there, if not for one of the cooks. He grabbed me one day, pushed me into the walk-in freezer, and followed after me, trying to force his tongue down my mouth. It wasn’t the worst assault I’ve endured, but it shocked me and upset me, and when the owner refused to censure him, I was forced to leave my job. I’ve been able to largely walk away from that moment. It sucked, and it was his fault, and I wish it hadn’t happened, but it’s over.

Color photo shows "Unconditional Surrender" sculpture in Times Square

Color photo shows “Unconditional Surrender” sculpture in Times Square

I can’t imagine how much harder it would be to move on if every five years there was a “romantic” event commemorating the assault with a “Kiss In” in Times Square, or if giant statues depicting the assault were on display from Florida to California, or if people hung photos of that moment in their dining rooms and dorm rooms. The assaulted nurse in the famous V-J Day photo is forced to be reminded of the incident, over and over and over again, by people who have decided it was a good thing. A celebration, an indication of joy, a representation of good times ahead. For her, it was a stranger holding her “in a vice like grip” as she has said.

We know the story of the kissing sailor photo. We know from his words and hers and from the photographer’s that he was drunk, that he was unknown, that he grabbed her from behind and forced a kiss on her before she could react. The actual facts of that day are not up for debate, but debate them people will. Over the past few days since the sailor’s octogenarian death, I’ve seen many people defend the assault. They tell me I’m reading too much into the photo, that times were different, and that surely she enjoyed it. Her own words on the matter don’t seem to account for anything.

I’m glad none of my assaults have been turned into “romantic” and iconic images. I’m glad when I walked out of that kitchen, I got to leave the memory of what his face looked like behind me. Moving on is a gift and I think if the public at large was heavily invested in defending my assailant, it would be much harder to come by. It doesn’t matter if you like the kiss. She didn’t. It doesn’t matter if you can imagine a scenario with consent that would fit the image. Her consent was never asked for. I for one won’t try to benefit from another woman’s violation.

Eyeshadow Rule of Thirds

One of the most versatile makeup basics is the eyeshadow rule of thirds.  Essentially, if you have a color gradient of three coordinated shades it will look good.

Having lighter colors toward the center of the face and darker colors toward the outside makes the eyes appear wider and brighter. Also, mascara and false lashes both show up better against a lighter background. 

See the instructions here http://facearmor.tumblr.com/post/126850542126/eyeshadow-rule-of-thirds-use-a-bold-shade

image

Walk the Walk

There’s an expression that it’s easier to “talk the talk than walk the walk”, easier to say you support something or agree with it than to live it out in your daily life. While I like the idea of men who support feminism and its goals, I am routinely disappointed by men who get credit for a paltry minimum of effort towards the cause.

It’s easy to say slut-shaming is wrong, while forbidding your teen daughter to wear a crop top because “it sends the wrong message”. It’s easy to say rape is wrong, while offering the women around you a litany of safety tips you’ve never had to use a day in your life. It’s easy to say you support abortion rights, while calling the women who get them “sluts”.

It’s easy to say you support women in the workplace, while asking your wife to be the one to quit her job and stay home with the kids because you are paid more. It’s easy to say you admire ambition in women, while insinuating the woman who got the promotion you wanted did so by sleeping with the boss. It’s easy to say you support equal pay for equal work, while incorrectly suggesting women are probably paid less because they take less valued careers.

It’s easy to say you want a partner in your marriage, while leaving all the emotional labor of maintaining connections with friends and family to your wife. It’s easy to say you’re a highly involved dad, while calling the sparse time you spend as primary caregiver of your own children “babysitting”. It’s easy to say you support equality, while doing less than half of the housework, even in dual income homes.

I want allies who will walk the walk, who will prioritize the careers and ambitions of women, and actually do the thankless work that occupies so much of women’s time. My challenge to any men reading this, particularly men who live with women, is to catalog all the chores required to keep your life (and the lives of any children or pets you may have) running. Start by writing down the chores you do, and then ask the people you live with what chores they do and write those down as well. Look at your list. Include everything from daily cleaning to running errands to scheduled vehicle maintenance to doctors appointments, all the things that make your home function. Are you really doing half? Are others over-burdened? Could you stand to take on more? Challenge yourself to do not just half, but more. Odds are high any woman you’re living with has spent years doing more than half, and simply going to half-and-half now won’t erase that extra burden. Really make it up to her.

Young man washing floor in protective gloves

Young man washing floor in protective gloves