Tag Archives: women

White Women, Take One Step Forward: Part One

This is a two-part post. Today, I’m talking about the election. Tomorrow, I’m talking about what action to take if you feel shitty about it and want to help. It was difficult for me to write this, because I have been raised like most white women–to be nice, to never make anyone angry, to try to keep everyone happy. I ran this essay past the three questions that Luvvie suggested asking yourself before publishing something that is scary to say: 1. Is it true? 2. Is it defensible? 3. Is it coming from a place of love?

I answered YES to all three. I love us and I know we can do better.


Part One: White Women

Half of eligible citizens didn’t even vote. The half that did were divided in just about half with Hillary winning the popular vote. That leaves 25% who decided that a failed reality TV celebrity will sit at the same desk as John F Kennedy.

And the power brokers in that 25% were white women. Forty-two percent of white women decided that his platform was the one that best represented their interests. OK.

Who are these women? I know many women who voted for Trump, some gleefully and some with great disdain. Let me clarify that because I have slipped into the default speech of white supremacy when I say “women” and assume we all know I am referring to “white women.” I know many white women who voted for him. I don’t know a single woman of color who voted for him. But let’s keep the focus on white women. Some of the white friends who chose T.Rump for our country:

  • She’s an evangelical and voted exclusively on the hope of overturning abortion rights.
  • She’s a highly educated and professional woman who refused to vote for him in the primaries and didn’t plan to vote for him in the general. But her state threatened to swing and she decided to do it because she wants a Supreme Court that interprets the Constitution very strictly.
  • She’s convinced that an outsider will shake up DC politics, for better or for worse.
  • She’s mortified by T.Rump but she votes a party ticket and puts her faith in the cooler heads that will surround him. She votes for the combined power of the executive and legislative team of Republicans.
  • She’s been paying more for healthcare under Obama.

I get it. I see y’all and I appreciate your candor and owning your motivation.

I also see all the other white women, who didn’t say a word about their votes. They weren’t willing to join the fray and that is their right. We don’t all want to talk about our politics.

Some of us went to college together, or we work together, or we met in Sunday School in 1975. We love and appreciate each other. Now let’s get real.

It’s the white women who now, in the aftermath, are clutching pearls and wailing, “Why is everyone being so hateful? We’ve got to get past the anger. Give him a chance. God is in control. I’m certainly not a racist or a bigot!” I’ve been clutching my pearls, too, in absolute horror.

Have you heard any of those things? Or said any of those things?

Here’s the deal: If you voted for him, you don’t get to say how we react to receiving him as First Citizen of our great nation. You don’t get to decide that people who have been put at risk are over-reacting. You don’t even get to stick this on god. To quote the Reverend Debra Williams: “Be careful when declaring that “God is in charge!” or that something is part of God’s plan. There are things that happen in this world that should not be pinned on God. I believe that God weeps when human beings do harm, or when they allow and celebrate tragic injustice. Do not be silent.”

White people who did not vote to stop Trump do not get a pass. No grading on the curve, no excuses. If you gave your whole vote to this whole package, you are wholly responsible for the outcome. Own it. Are you feeling stereotyped? Get used to it. You’re being lumped in with some pretty awful folks, huh?

Every other group of Americans that has been specifically threatened by Trump–people of color, immigrants, non-Christians, gay citizens, ad nauseum–showed up to stop him. Not women. Oh, and we’ve been threatened. Some of us decided that the damage he was going to do wouldn’t really reach them, but the “benefits” he promised would, so it was worth it to put him in office.

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Why Is Everyone So Mad at White Women?

Collateral damage, that’s why. Let me define: “Collateral damage is a general term for deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended target. In military terminology, it is frequently used for the incidental killing or wounding of non-combatants or damage to non-combatant property during an attack on a legitimate military target.”

Harm on an unintended target. Most white women I know had very clean and precise reasons to vote for T.Rump. They sincerely don’t support “all that other mess.” I didn’t mean for my vote to take away your marriage rights–I love gay people!–I just want the lower taxes he promised. I didn’t mean to destroy healthcare guarantees for people with pre-existing conditions; I just wanted my premiums to go down.

I didn’t mean to blow up the house to kill the spider.

Well, it’s done. The thing about candidates is that you vote for the whole enchilada, not just six beans and 1/2 teaspoon of the sour cream.

So OK, white women who voted for T.Rump. You exercised your right to determine our country’s path as is your privilege. However…

HOWever…

Don’t turn your back on the rest of us while the debris falls from the sky. I have seen scads of  very nice white women today saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?” or “I don’t want to see all this ugliness.” “We need unity and to remember that we’re all Americans.” “I’m going to take a break from Facebook–too much anger and name-calling.” All after electing the name-callingest, angriest candidate who had no problem attacking Americans who crossed him.

You can’t dig a ditch then complain about the mud.

Or bake a shit pie to serve to the rest of the country then not eat your slice. Pull up a chair and have a seat at this table.

None of us gets a pass on experiencing what happens next. What is already happening. Not one. Whether you voted for Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein, or Depp, there will be no flouncing. I am not allowed to clutch my pearls and wail at how AWFUL this is then turn my back on it. I don’t get to say, “This isn’t my problem–I voted for Clinton.”

If you sincerely don’t want “the rest of the package” that comes along with whatever you DID like about this candidate, it’s time to start using your privilege and power to STOP the parts you don’t want.

Don’t want to be considered a racist? FIGHT FOR RACIAL JUSTICE.

Don’t want to be lumped in with the deplorable hate groups that have been emboldened by Trump? STAND UP TO THEM.

Don’t like what Trump has threatened and Pence has actually done to rob gay citizens of equal rights? SHOW US YOU ARE NOT GOING ALONG.

Use your privilege and your power to prove that you are not like those other people.

Keep the Change

Maybe I wasn’t the only woman buying a pregnancy test at Kroger at 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning–this is a college town after all–but I’m pretty sure I was the only one with gray hair and an itemized tax return.

So…yeah. I had been feeling anxious and snappish for a few days but when I couldn’t sleep that night becasue the waves of anxiety were washing over me and my heart rate was in the triple digits while lying down–it hit me. My period was late. Several days late. And in 35 YEARS, that has only happened twice. I remember those two times clearly because their names are Vivi and Carlos.

Pregnancy tests are super accurate and fast these days. They’re digital too, so instead of that cryptic blue line that I had to search for with Vivi, this time the digital readout window said:

LOL SRSLY? UR OLD

I was so relieved that I woke G up to tell him the good news. He got things a little muddled what with being asleepish and it being 2 a.m. and me starting with, “I’m having an anxiety attack. Can you keep me company? My period is late and I just took a pregnancy test.” (This was the moment when he truly woke up and yelled “OH SHIT!”) It took him a few moments to hear the “IT WAS NEGATIVE!!!”

Finally got to sleep at 4 a.m., only to wake up a few hours later convinced that the test had to be wrong. Seriously–twice in 35 years. And those two times were already awake and getting jelly on the Roku remote. The anxiety rushed back over me in a flush.

I made an appointment with Dr. Web MD and started searching specific things like “am I old enough for menopause even if I have a child in preK?” I found the results somewhat unclear because there is NO WAY I AM OLD ENOUGH FOR THIS:

  • Average age of onset for perimenopause: 47. HA! I am 47 and a half, so that can’t be it.
  • Low sex drive. I wouldn’t call it “low.” More like “riddled with fatigue and resentment.”
  • Mood swings. Oh, fuck you, Web MD. I’m still in my prime. (sobbing)
  • Trouble sleeping. I can sleep FINE. In hotels. And during the day. As long as the ceiling fan is set to warp speed. And 50 mg of Benadryl doesn’t hurt.
  • Hot flashes. I don’t have “hot flashes.” I have anxiety that rushes over me in a flush. Totally different.

I called my sister, because she has both a medical degree and a uterus. Her diagnosis was, “Duh. At least you save money on tampons, right?”

I called my friend who’s a few years older and she said, “Yeah, you’re going to want to kill everyone but it gets better. Try yoga. And drinking.”

I called Big Gay and, after a lot of commiserating, she said, “Well, I will say that I feel more comfortable in my own skin at this point in my life.”

So there’s that, I guess. I’m going to be the sweatiest most self-actualized mom at kindergarten registration.

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I wrote this a week ago but I’ve been too afraid to publish it. We’re not supposed to talk about “lady parts” and what they do, right? I’m tired of the sense of shame I have about the way my body works. I have periods and I am grateful for them because they made it possible for me to create two people from scratch. (Well, it started out as more of a back rub than a scratch.)

Our girls deserve to know that the way our bodies work is miraculous and normal. When Vivi and I were in the Wesleyan bookstore last month, she hollered, “WHAT ARE TAMPONS?” across the store and I knew it was time to start The Talk. I didn’t get a talk–my education about what my body could and would and SHOULD do came from the teeny folded up square of paper with the diagrams and instructions inside the tampon box. Periods were something we whispered about and worried about, not something we straight up discussed.

When I googled menopause, I felt like I should erase my browser history, like it was something embarrassing or uncouth. Like I was failing in some way, admitting defeat. When I called my friends and family to ask questions, it made me nervous, like I was asking them how much they paid in taxes this year or whether they ever bit their own toenails.

Hell, I’m nervous about putting this out there but I thought it was funny and true. And I want other women to know that I’m in the same boat. My therapist assures me that there are a lot of positives about moving past periods and into the next phase. Let’s talk about those! How sex is more fun when you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant. How you can buy ALL the white pants and ride a white horse down the beach at daybreak.

This is totally me at the beach next year.

This is totally me at the beach next year.

It’s strange–knowing that I’m going to be different from what I have been for 35 years. The most of my life that I remember. What’s ahead?

I had all this on my mind when I went to Wesleyan for Alumnae Weekend. At the luncheon for the class celebrating its 50th reunion, I looked around at the other women at our table and realized that they are all about 20 years older than me. Every single one of them has gone through menopause and come out the other side. They’re lawyers and teachers and writers and designers and community activists. They are moms and grandmoms and dog moms and aunts and great aunts and daughters. They are smart and kind and funny and compassionate. They are beautiful and glamorous and genuine. They’re my sisters.

As in every other phase of my life, I can’t wait to grow up a little more and be just like them.

Then I went back to my hotel to take an afternoon nap with the fan on High. This video popped up in my Facebook feed and I HOWLED with laughter!

 

The Cool Kids

We do a good bit of this...

We do a good bit of this…

If I have one wish for my daughters, it is that they will find a tribe of girlfriends like the ones I have found.  I’m lucky to have a couple of tribes–the GHPers from high school, the Wesleyannes from college, and lately, the Cool Kids from work.  “The Cool Kids?” you ask?  Yep, The Cool Kids.  All capitalized.

Along the theme of “choosing yourself” instead of waiting to be chosen–we named ourselves The Cool Kids.  It seems that not a single one of us (except maybe Susan, the elegant blonde and Nicole, the sassy one) was a cool kid in high school.  We were the B team, on the margins, always worried that we might be found out and kicked out.  So now that we are All Grown Up, we decided to become The Cool Kids.  Our table in the cafeteria is the one ringing with laughter, the one people walk by and say, “Y’all are having too much fun!”  Nope, no such thing.

...and a little bit of this.

…and a little bit of this.

How did The Cool Kids begin?  Well, I made a speech about employee giving at New Employee Orientation and I began by saying that my baby had kept me up all night (Vivi) then went on to mention that the cancer support center for which we were raising money had really been a great resource when my fiance was diagnosed with leukemia.  Heather came up to me at the break and said, “So it sounds like everything turned out OK?”  Um.  No.  Well, eventually, but….no.  She was mortified, but had the strange similarity of also having been a young widow.  We bonded quickly over that shared part of our past.

Then one day, Heather and  I were having lunch in the cafeteria and Jean joined us.  Jean is a palliative care nurse, and she and I had talked a lot after Richard died.  A week later, Erica, a nurse like Jean and a singer like Heather, came by and fit right in.  And Susan joined us a while later, the woman who used to intimidate the hell out of me because she was so wise and elegant–but funny and genuine too.  Heather started working for Jana and Jana joined us, too.  Libby and I started talking babies when Carlos came along.  And Courtney had a little boy, too.  Then Courtney hired Nicole and she fit right in.  After about a year of evolution, there we were…The Cool Kids.

Jean's Merry Christmas.  I still have a jelly worm in my purse.

Jean’s Merry Christmas. I still have a jelly worm in my purse.

What does it mean to be a Cool Kid?  It means that we fill in the gaps for each other.  Last year, Jean confided that she had never really had a nice Christmas.  So we got together and surprised her with a Christmas lunch with all her favorite things:  a Loretta Lynn album, a tiny tree decorated with jelly worms and dog biscuits, books, and dog toys for her Scout.  She couldn’t believe it.

When I was at home on maternity leave, Erica made me black bean burritos that I could eat with one hand.  When Erica went to Chile for five months, Heather kept her dog like a member of the family.  Libby and Erica get their sons together to play XBox.  Nicole and Susan swap baseball mom stories.

Two of us are adult children of alcoholics and a few of us need to hear those lessons.  Some of us know about grief.  Some of us know about divorce.  Some of us are learning about divorce.  Susan has been married for the longest time and she shares advice that begins with, “I remind myself, ‘Don’t Kill Wes…'”

Two of us have left that place where we all worked, but we still get together for Friday lunches.  A few of us just survived a hellatious few months on the job, with the help of our tribe.  Sometimes Jana comes to lunch with two phones, but she comes to lunch.  Sometimes Libby can only stay for 15 minutes, but she’s there.

Warrior Dash 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

When Erica is out of paid time off, Heather picks up her son from school and gets him to his playoff game.  Courtney brings books for Nicole’s son to share.  I pass Vivi’s clothes to Libby’s daughter and Heather sends her son’s toys to my son.  When Libby is making hairbows for her daughter’s softball team, she makes extra for Nicole’s daughter.  I buy books that I loved for Libby’s little bookworm.  If there’s a birthday, Courtney bakes a cake from scratch that would make Julia Childs pull her hair out in envy.  Susan once came to my house and decorated for a birthday party in the June heat because I had strep rash and was nine weeks pregnant kind of sick.

Go, girl!

Go, girl!

We cheer for each other.  When Nicole is running, I holler from the sidewalk.  When Libby wants to do something crazy, Courtney and I lace up our shoes and get muddy.  When Heather took a sabbatical, we mailed her a birthday party in a box.  When Jana won Boss of the Year, we shouted Hooray!  

Wrong one of us and get the stink eye from all of us.

Our friendship really shined through this weekend.  One of us needed to reclaim a rental property that she had been leasing to a person she used to be married to.  Ahem.  Not the best of situations.  He, despite a month’s notice, hadn’t done SHIT.  And let’s be honest–he hadn’t done shit for SEVEN YEARS.  That place was Single Man Nasty.  Like cheese that expired in 2010 and old underwear beneath the kitchen sink.  The toilet was so filthy that we thought about just buying a new one.

But down swept The Cool Kids, in a bustle of good intentions and steadfast “get yo ass outta here”-ness.  Jean loaded stuff on his truck and backed that trailer up like a girl who grew up on a hay farm.  Hit the road, Jack.  Heather put together a trundle bed that Erica had procured and when she didn’t have the right tools, Nicole called her husband to swing by with the toolbox.  Nicole and Jana snatched a knot in that kitchen, even bleaching the floor behind the refrigerator.  Courtney shampooed rugs while Susan crawled around on her knees cleaning stains out of the carpet.

Coolest Cleaning Crew Around!

Coolest Cleaning Crew Around!

Libby washed the blinds while Terri cleaned a ceiling fan that was black with dirt.  I spent an hour scouring muck out of the tub.  And Erica?  She may have gotten there late because she wasn’t going to miss church, but damn if she didn’t hit that forsaken toilet like it was nothing but a thing.  Cleaned it with a toothbrush and a smile.  I learned that if you have a nasty mess to clean, invite a couple of nurses to help, because they aren’t afraid of ANYTHING.  Through it all, we laughed.  The sweet aunt and uncle who brought lunch for our weary work crew said, “I’ve never heard such laughing!”

And in the middle of all that GROSS, Jean looks over at me and says, “This feels so good.  To help out, doing something together.”  I said, “Yeah, it’s one thing to love somebody enough to clean their toilet, but it’s a whole other thing to love somebody enough to clean their ex-husband’s toilet.”

There comes a time in every one of our lives when we look around and think that it’s all gone to hell.  I’m so grateful to know that when that day comes for me, I’ve got the Cool Kids.  A good set of girlfriends is the key to life.

This Little Light of Mine

So far, so good.  My run of luck with extemporaneous speaking holds.  Every time I’ve been called upon to speak as the President of the Wesleyan College Alumnae Association, I pull something out of my….thin air.   Instead of sitting down in my study and crafting a wise and inspirational message, I compose in the car as I drive.  My remarks are scrawled on the back of Dairy Queen napkins or written in the margins of the program.

Thursday, as I finished up my tasks at work, I pulled a pink Post-It note off the stack and scribbled, “This Little Light of Mine…” and shoved it in my purse.  That was all I needed to get the idea going.  You’re humming it now, right?  Yeah, me too.

This-Little-LightBefore the Candle Lighting ceremony, it’s my job to give some words of wisdom to the graduating class.  Something that celebrates four tough years of diligent academic pursuits.  Something that encapsulates the sisterhood that we hold so dear. Something they’ll carry with them into the years after college, something that will call them back to the fold.  Something with a chorus that any three-year-old can remember.

Back in the fall, I had spoken with this same senior class at the beginning of their last year at Wesleyan.  The advice I gave them that day was:  “Do the Next Right Thing.”  They remembered!  On Saturday, I asked if anyone recalled the advice and my friend Paula (who’s heading to the University of Louisville for her MFA!) hollered it out.  So proud of her!  They made it–they did each little thing that brought them here, to the last few days before they graduate.

But, as it is with life, each accomplishment brings us to the next…”What next?”

And wanting to answer that question for the seniors?  THAT, is how I found myself doing something that scared the ever-loving shit out of me in the name of sisterhood and gifts.  

I sang.  I sang near a microphone.  A microphone that was on and pointed at my face.  I sang on a stage with 1000 people waiting to hear what I was going to sing.  Gulp.  

I am an expert at lip syncing.  I only sing in the car by myself.  Or in the shower if everyone else is out of the house.  I don’t sing.  

Seriously.  When I realized what I had just talked myself into up there on that stage, I wanted to pass out.  But I opened my mouth and croaked, “This Little Light of Mine…”

And a chorus of voices sang back, “I’m gonna let it shine!”

Huh.

I croaked again, “This little light of mine…”

“I’m gonna let IT SHINE!”  They were getting into it!

Bring it on home, Ashley!  Sell it to the cheap seats!  “This little light of mine…”

“I’M GONNA LET IT SHINE!”  

Before we lost momentum, I waggled my hands in the air and they kept going!  “Let it shine!  Let it shine!  Let it shine!”  

I honestly think if we had done the second verse, Michael would have jumped in on the organ or someone would have jumped up clapping.  The simple joy of that song just does something!  It. Was. AWESOME.  

That was the whole message I left with those young women:  When you leave Wesleyan, take that light that you’ve been given here and let it shine.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.  Because a candle can light a thousand other candles without diminishing itself. 

 

2013 - 1the world needs

 

 

Sunday Sweetness–Your Wings

There are going to be times when the place where you were resting safely falls away beneath you.  Your job disappears in a reduction in force.  He comes home late from work with lipstick on the collar.  The doctor calls you personally with some odd test results.  You hear, “We did everything we could…”  

Or it just dissolves.  One day the branch is there and the next day it’s not.  Gone.

Those moments are going to happen.  But your wings will be there in that same moment.  

bird-photo-21

A Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf once wrote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

Well, now I have one less excuse to write my Great American Novel.  Here is my room:

It's so CLEAN!!!!

It’s so CLEAN!!!!

This is a short list of  things that will not be allowed in my room:

  • Sticky fingers
  • Legos
  • Nick Jr
  • cymbals
  • whining
  • kvetching
  • malingering
  • moaning
  • farting
  • dirty dishes
  • Gogurt
  • any of those TV shows with Hitler or aliens or Hitler’s Aliens
  • Juice
  • Glitter (with exceptions made on a case by case basis for drag queens)
  • Glue
  • Glitter glue

Any stains on the carpet will be made by ME.  Any books left lying around will be left lying by ME.  If the window is left open, it was left open by ME.  The only person flopped out on the couch in front of an open window with a book…shall be ME.  I will NEVER walk into the room and find anyone else already in there because no one is allowed in this room except by express invitation from ME.  Seriously, I am going to put a sign on the door like a teenage girl.

My Grandmother Eunice's platform rocker.  I loved this chair when I was little because it was low enough to let even the shortest legs reach the ground and rock.

My Grandmother Eunice’s platform rocker. I loved this chair when I was little because it was low enough to let even the shortest legs reach the ground and rock.  Not that any short legs will be rocking in it anytime soon…

A short list of things that will be allowed in my room:

  • daydreaming
  • napping
  • lolling about
  • lollygagging
  • ruminating
  • vegetating
  • cogitating
  • staring
  • lounging
  • sprawling
  • contemplating
  • musing
  • pondering
  • mouth breathing

This morning, I snuck down there for five minutes to sit in Grandmama’s chair and look outside in peace.  Out one window, I could see three fat birds waiting in the sourwood tree for their turn at the feeder and the moon hanging white against the morning sky.  It was quiet enough in my room to hear the moon.

Once I get a couple more bookcases in there, I will officially have more bookshelves than books for the first time in my adult life.  I hesitated to put a TV in there–it’s a sanctuary, after all–then I thought about being able to watch a movie with cussing and/or kissing whenever I wanted to.  I’ve got a table that will be my writing desk and a futon for flopping.  An old traveling trunk that Richard found in a dumpster for my coffee table.  His grandmother’s floor lamp from the 1930’s to read by.  A painting of a mother and child that G gave me a few years ago.

That shelf?  That shelf is high enough that I can put precious things OUT OF REACH.  There’s the print of a sleeping puppy’s belly that I bought in an antique shop in Bath, England.  Tiny dachshunds I picked up in a model train store in Aachen, Germany or some at the Lakewood Flea Market.  Copies of Vermeer paintings I brought back from Amsterdam.  And a sampler I found in my Aunt Mary Fuller’s things after she died.  She was Grandmama Eunice’s younger sister and a real sweet lady.  It reads, “Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.”

Grandmama Eunice's baby sister, my Aunt Mary Fuller. left this sampler.  She was a sweet lady.

Grandmama Eunice’s baby sister, my Aunt Mary Fuller. left this sampler. She was a sweet lady.

Amen to that.  Now get out of my room.