Be nice. Be young. Be polite. Be pretty. Be sexy. Don’t be too eager. Be available. Don’t be a slut. Don’t be aggressive. Have fun. Don’t drink too much. Don’t be too available. Don’t want sex. Learn to flirt. Be aware of your surroundings. Always be in control of yourself. Don’t try to control things so much. Don’t be so sensitive. Everyone else is laughing, why aren’t you? Accept compliments. Try harder. Don’t try so hard. Don’t be so loud. Cover up. Show some cleavage. Have a perfect body. Have perfect skin. Be perfect or you won’t have/keep a relationship. Don’t say mean things. Be nice or your friends won’t like you. Don’t be a MEAN GIRL. Don’t be a push over. Be smart. Don’t be too smart. Don’t be a SMART ASS. Love yourself. Don’t be so narcissistic. Be nurturing. Don’t be so clingy. Do something with your hair. Don’t wear so much makeup. Don’t be a feminist. Be someone who cares. Support the men in your life. Don’t ask for so much. Don’t be so whiny. Who do you think you are?
I told you.
I told you I was too much for you
And not to try to tame me.
I told you I was breaking into a run
And could you break too.
I told you to walk away.
I asked if you thought you could stay
And BE strong.
Your words flitted through the air
I put my shoes on
Your face told the truth.
I have kids with serious physical special needs. I have one adult kid with an invisible disability. I am a woman. I was a single mother for years. I am gay. I have had to fight to keep my kids in the midst of postpartum depression and chronic C-PTSD flashbacks, have had to fight for over 17 years to have my kids treated as capable and equal, have had to fight to be treated with a modicum of respect by a patriarchal, conservative society that only recognizes the worth of a woman who has education, who has beauty, who ‘has’ a man.
I’m pretty well versed on the subject of rights.
Let me tell you one thing that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt. Every single right we all have was bought with blood, sweat and tears by someone, somewhere. At some point, someone had to put it all on the line (and yes, that often meant their very lives and the lives of their families) to win the rights we have. There are rights we think are untouchable, inherent, innate – but let me tell you, you’re wrong. The only reason you think that is because you’ve lived in a developed world for so long and you’ve lived that time with enough privilege to believe that you’re untouchable.
Unless you are a very rich white man, your rights are NOT fucking sacrosanct. Even then, you had better tow the line and keep the status quo.
The impermanence of rights is something vulnerable people like me and my kids are super familiar with. Our rights are constantly under attack so we never get around to coasting. Many people have never even achieved the rights they deserve.
I know you’re sick of it, but look at what the head of the American empire is doing. 45 has been stripping rights since the moment he stepped into the Oval Office. He is literally shipping people out of his country, refusing admittance, tossing people out of the military, encouraging police brutality, muzzling the press, sieging affordable health care, throwing the great US of A back to the days where only cis white males mattered. Making America ‘great’ again. Making America the home of the capable, rich and white. Again.
Right now, there are PWDs pushing through their own pain and fatigue to go out every day and fight for their rights. There are people in positions of power putting their jobs and reputations on the line to fight 45’s random grudges. There are transgender people and immigrants putting their very lives on the line to just simply breathe the same air as their fellow Americans. There are children mourning the loss of parents shipped away in the middle of the night, adults being told they don’t qualify to stay in the only country they’ve ever known, POC dying daily as the target of fearful and rage happy police officers, women being forced to carry children they don’t want and can’t afford, on and on. Even in my country, where we enjoy a lot of freedom still and receive refugees, the vitriol spilling out of the White House to the south is finding a public, political foothold. Serious hate crimes are on the rise. It’s no longer socially taboo to express hatred towards marginalized peoples and to support the cause of the alt-right white male.
So let me tell you one further thing. Things are bad and only getting worse. Those of us who have the most to lose have seen this coming for some time and a part of our spirits and hearts were crushed the day that Mr. Take-What-I-Want Trump ascended to the highest office in the free world. For many, it was a confusing moment in time, but not for us. We have been battling his ilk every day we’ve been alive. Every time we sat in a medical office being told we were defective, every time we were laughed at and dismissed by those in authority, every time we were groped and gaslighted, every time we couldn’t access the care and support we needed, every time one of our children was left behind a locked door they couldn’t open. Every time they looked at the color of our skin before they decided how to treat us. Every time we were intimidated, harassed, every time we got the ‘once over’ look that determined our worth.
Every single time they lied to our faces and stabbed us in the back.
Every time they told us we could do without.
Every time we burnt out.
Every time we got sick.
Every time one of us fell to addiction, serious illness or violence.
You weren’t paying attention when we told you then, if you heard us at all. Just like now, you told yourselves it was a sad state of affairs but had nothing to do with you.
So here’s an overdue wake up call for you. When they come for you and everyone they came for before has fallen, who will help you? Are you really willing to take that risk so you don’t have to stand up and be counted for human rights?
Disabled rights are human rights.
Immigrant rights are human rights.
Women’s rights are human rights.
POC rights are human rights.
Transgender rights are human rights.
Children’s rights are human rights.
RIGHTS ARE RIGHTS.
Are you really going to live your life with blinders on and hope you’re never targeted, or are you going to help stop this shit before it gets to your door?
What kind of human being ARE you?
“Excuse me but can I be you for a while
My dog won’t bite if you sit real still
I got the anti-Christ in the kitchen yellin’ at me again
Yeah I can hear that
Been saved again by the garbage truck
I got something to say you know
But nothing comes
Yes I know what you think of me
You never shut-up
Yeah I can hear that”
“Sometimes I hear my voice/And it’s been here/Silent all these years” – Tori Amos “Silent All These Years”
From the time I was little, I knew I needed to keep my mouth shut most of the time if I wanted to stay in the room. One of my adopted father’s favorite sayings was “Children should be seen and not heard.” Sometimes this came with a bit of humor, other times with steel in his eyes.
I was raised in the church, evangelical version. There were many Sundays with fellow church-goers at the big dining room table. Because I was born with a vagina, my job was to help in the kitchen. Cook, serve, clean: rinse and repeat. I was taught how to be a proper lady, with a napkin in my lap, knees together, using the right cutlery for the right situation. Smile. SMILE. Asking who wanted more, could I get it for you, pass it to you, find it for you, help you with it, would you like some ice cream with your pie and can I top up your coffee? Being a woman was forever being a servant.
Sometimes if I finished well and quickly, I could sit with the men at the table as they discussed important matters. The state of the world, the sermon, local politics. No one in the kitchen was talking about these things. There it was all canning and gardening and can I have the recipe for that amazing cake you made. I wanted to be at the table, in the living room, talking about what the men talked about.
I remember the silences when I’d speak from my chair. Sometimes they were short, hiccups in the tides of conversation, other times they were longer. I’d get quizzical looks as if to say “Is she supposed to be here?”. If I were really lucky after I screwed up my courage enough to say what I thought, someone would hear me and respond with humore or even sincerely. Most of the time, I was laughed at, ignored, snapped at and ultimately summarily dismissed to “go play/go look after the kids/go read/go do your homework/go outside/go practice your music/GO”.
My adoptive father, a high school teacher, ex principal, thought I was worth talking to in private on many of the same matters discussed at the table. One on one, he encouraged my thirst for knowledge and as I grew, often spoke to me as a peer. As a teenager, I helped him mark his students’ papers. He had a library that stretched from wall to wall and up to the ceiling. I spent many an hour choosing and devouring reading material and we’d discuss it at length in the car, in his study, wherever and whenever we were alone.
I wonder if anyone can truly measure the impact of a father who treats their daughter differently in front of other people than in private. I wonder if it’s possible to understand how it affects a girl when her father repeatedly stands by and up for her brother, but never for her. How damaging is it, on the scale of childhood damage, to live parallel lives where you’re smart and capable when no one is around and completely erasable when they are. Invisible. Be seen, don’t be heard. Don’t open your mouth, you’ll have to watch your own back.
I can tell you the outcome, however, if you’re raised to be a people-pleaser who defers to men (aka a LADY) like I was.
You double, triple-think everything you want to say. Is it bullet-proof? It had better be or you’re going to be dismissed at best, ridiculed and attacked at worst.
You read a room. You read it well. You know the looks, the body language that means a man only wants to hear their own voice.
You think a man is worth more than you are. You are for taking care of babies, cooking, cleaning, holding the fort, looking good… and if you do all that, and do it well, you can have a career if you like. You may even get to keep it if it doesn’t conflict with a man’s priorities.
You internalize gender expectations in an extremely damaging way. Your brain is secondary to your sex, always.
You pass what you’ve learned, what you’ve experienced, on to your children. You do so in part because you want to protect them and in part because you don’t know better.
You take forever to realize that your voice doesn’t need permission, your space is your own. It’s equal to any man’s. You don’t have to pay the toll of beauty, ‘fuckability’, approachability, subjugation, familial connection.
You manage until you know better.
Then you fight.
I broke up with my girlfriend 2 weeks ago.
Breaking up sucks. There are no two ways about it, it SUCKS. Even if you’re like me and were trying to hang onto a relationship that was on life support and should have had its plug pulled ages ago but you’re just too stubborn and blinded to give up…it still SUCKS BALLS. Ok, not literally since this is a lesbian relationship we’re talking about, but you get what I’m saying. It’s awful.
This is even true when you’re the one who wanted the breakup. Let’s say you’re feeling pretty good about your decision for a while. You’re walking around thinking about how things are so much better now that she’s gone – the toilet paper is on the right way, there are no dirty dishes in the sink, you don’t have to watch her stupid shows anymore, you don’t have to watch one more goddamn fucking kitten video, you don’t have to have long conversations about her stupid friends and her fucked up family, you don’t have to share the bed with anyone but the dog…yeah, it still sucks. Unless she was THE worst girlfriend in the world (and, seriously, we can’t have all been with the worst gf in the world, can we?), the happy freedom dance is going to – at some point – come to a screeching halt. Aaaannnnddd…cue the deafening silence.
You’re going to miss her. Even if you don’t want her back EVER, even if you hope she falls off the edge of the flat earth inside her head, you’re still going to miss her.
You’re going to miss the way she smells after a shower. You’re going to miss the way your bodies curved together in bed like someone designed you to be spoons of the same size. You’re going to miss the way her eyes lit up when she talked about something that, well…made her eyes light up. You’re going to miss the way you looked at her across the room and felt a swell in your chest. You’re going to miss her hands and her hugs and her laugh and
I broke up with my girlfriend 2 weeks ago. I’m ok, relieved even. It was not a good relationship, especially not towards the end. It may not have been right even in the beginning. But it still sucks, big time. And for once in my life, I’m not going to run on and pretend that it doesn’t. I’m going to feel every feeling there is to feel during this time and hope that I can keep growing into the person I will need to be when I meet the love of my life.
If I meet the love of my life. The dog is pretty happy to have the bed back, just sayin’.
Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn
- “Shake It Out” Florence & The Machine
Let’s start this with something heavy. Literally.
Two and half years ago I had all my reproductive organs removed. Little did I know then that it would be the catalyst for the final leg of my journey into authenticity, a journey that up until then was largely being walked by my subconscious.
The pain I went to the doctor about grew from an annoying twinge under my skin to a debilitating lead ball of pain deep in my abdomen in a matter of months. Canadian health care, being the equal opportunity underfunded sludge that it is, assured me it would get to me before long. Unfortunately for me, long was not a terribly well quantified concept. I couldn’t stand up straight. I couldn’t care for my children, I couldn’t farm, I couldn’t make it through a store without being fodder for old ladies wondering why I was crouching at the end of aisles focusing on the next breath, just the next one, goddamn it no, I don’t need you to help me up.
By the end, I couldn’t leave my bed.
I got a small glimpse of what it would be like to live with the most crippling, eviscerating condition around as it marked its territory with the relentless waves of chronic pain. It’s not good. I popped the pretty pharmacy pills like they were candy. When I woke up gasping in the night and couldn’t get down, the ER docs with their furrowed brows said they’d do whatever it took to get me under the knife. It still took over 6 months from acknowledgement to finish.
I’d had 4 children: 3 vaginal births with no pain relief and one C-Section. I knew pain, but the mass straining to get out of my middle taught me I knew nothing, nothing at all. I jokingly called it my “tumor baby” and planned its slow, twisted death. Judge all you want, the fucker was trying to kill me.
They finally slotted me in and sliced me open from side to side. The surgeon removed a 14.6×8.7×8.4 cm “thin walled dermoid cyst” (“mature cystic teratoma”), my uterus with adenomyosis, two ovaries with smaller cysts, endometriosis on my fallopian tubes, and my cervix. It was all some seriously fucked up in there.
I learned a few important things in those months that I’d like you to know.
- When they take your reproductive system all at once, it fucks you up in ways you can’t imagine. There is relief of pain, sure, but then everything that kept you ticking had better be replaced by something artificial or you’re going to have a hell of a time keeping your head above water. If you have a particularly brilliant OBGYN like mine who thought it would be fun to send me home with no HRT, call them and make them change their mind. Go to their clinic. Go to their house. Show up at their gym and don’t leave until they fully understand that the sweaty, freaked out mess of a human being you are is their fault and they had best fix YESTERDAY. Hormones are just not meant to be candidates for the cold turkey approach.
- If you’ve been a good girl and staying in a hetero marriage “for the kids”, and you’re busy thinking your dumbass husband will step up and take time off voluntarily to help so you can have surgery if something goes wrong and he’s NEVER STEPPED UP BEFORE, who is the real dumbass there? Probably you. Make some friends as insurance. They’re usually better anyway.
- If you’ve been hiding shit from yourself, it will all come out. Your hormone roller coaster was more important to your impulse control than you’d ever thought possible.
- The medical system doesn’t give a flying fuck about women and their reproductive system, except if something of interest – like a baby – is coming out of it. This is because the medical system is full of women but almost exclusively run by men. This hasn’t changed in millennia. It isn’t going to change unless we get fed up with dying because woman parts are too weird to talk about.
- HRT takes time for your body to accept. You are going to get HOT in a fraction of a millisecond, so HOT that you think you are literally going to explode into an inferno in the middle of dinner. No one will notice until you are planting your bare ass out in the snow in a failed attempt to cool off. You’ll discover a whole new meaning to dressing in layers. The good part is that if you were like me and always cold before the surgery, you will be able to move to the Antarctic in a tent and enjoy outdoor BBQs in your shirt sleeves for quite sometime.
- You will have little patience. You’ll be frustrated. Be kind to yourself. Your guts just got ripped out. If this happened routinely to guys, they’d be down for a year and then need a special rehab program to get them back to 100%. And the problem that caused them to lose their insides in the first place would be solved already for about 110 years.
But by far, the biggest thing I learned is that life is short. I was almost 40 when this happened and I thought my biggest personal issue was reaching middle age. Now I know I was lucky to reach it. If 40 was the middle of my life, I’m a truly lucky woman. I got to have more time. So many of my sisters don’t get this. Their results don’t come back labelled BENIGN. They might not even make out from under the scalpel.
Every day is precious. Live your life for you and for no one else. Don’t be afraid to get as loud as you need to, don’t be afraid to shake the walls until those who are sleeping finally hear you. Don’t be afraid to embrace how important, how inestimable you are. It’s not vanity, it’s an under-acknowledged truth.
We matter. Damnit, we matter.