Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Angry Vintage Girl

I've been seeing a lot of articles and memes and stories circulating around Facebook lately about the realities of being a woman.  On how often we are catcalled.  On how often we are threatened, both subtly and overtly.  On what we should and shouldn't do in such situations.

This is an article I read last week.  And this is the article I read today. And apparently they were enough to push me into blogging myself instead of everything just rolling around inside my head like it has been doing.  I've talked about it with friends, and with Mark.  And I've experienced so much of what these articles talk about.

I've been catcalled from a car while sitting at a bus stop.  Wearing a bulky coat and winter hat.

I've been blatantly propositioned while my then-husband was in the same bar.

I've been slapped on the ass by a stranger while I was working, just because he wanted to get my attention.

I've been grabbed by the arm in a bar and told I wasn't leaving.

I've politely refused a drink and been badgered about why I didn't want a drink.

I've had a man beg me to come up to his hotel room, "just for five minutes."

I've been followed onto a train by a strange man, who proceeded to sit directly behind me and talk in sexually suggestive terms about me on the phone.

I've had to explain why I didn't want to go home with someone.  Because my husband was waiting.  Because my boyfriend was waiting.

And you know what I did in most of those situations?  Like the woman in the second article, I smiled.  I was nice.  I did my best to appease and disengage.  Because sometimes I worry about what would happen if I'm rude, or dismissive, or if I just ignore it.  Because even though I'm stronger than I look, I'm not as strong as a man.  Mainly I did it because it's easier, and it's safer, to just smile.  Less confrontation.  Move on.  Pick your battles.

To tell the truth, though, I hate being the quiet little nice girl sometimes.  I hate smiling at men who harass me, or invade my personal space, or who assume I want to sleep with them because they want to sleep with me.  I hate not being able to slap the face of the guy who slapped my ass.

Believe me, I know most men aren't like this.  I know most men are not stalkers or harassers and would never ever hurt a woman.  They do their best to make the women in their lives feel safe and secure.  I'm unendingly grateful to have so many wonderful men like this as part of my life.

It's not that I feel unsafe around men.  I don't.  I don't know how I could function if I did.  I don't think that all men are out to get me, because obviously they aren't.  I don't think I'm a victim waiting to happen.  I have countless positive, normal interactions with men I don't know who never once act inappropriately.  In fact, I've almost always (until the past few years) had more male friends than female.  I don't spend my life feeling unsafe and threatened.

The problem is that there are men out there who aren't wonderful, who think that women are their right, who believe that certain women can't be raped, who don't care about boundaries or respect or "no means no." And that's not acceptable.

I've been lucky, I suppose.  I haven't been physically hurt.

But, it's been close.  And, sadly, infuriatingly, the scariest situations I've ever been in came from being near my ex-husband.  In every other situation, I at least felt in control.  I wasn't alone.  I was in a visually public place.  I had an exit.  I didn't feel unsafe.

But when I was going through my divorce, it was mostly done in private, alone, with very few escape routes.  And I will tell you very honestly that I was scared nearly every time I was alone with him.  My friends were worried for me.  My boyfriend was worried for me.

I've danced around this subject before, but I haven't really talked about it because I'm still a little scared.  Or ashamed.

But I'm also angry.

I'm angry at the man who believed that you couldn't rape a prostitute.  That you couldn't rape your wife.  That those two stations in life negated any right to say no.

I'm angry at the man who punched a wall when I wouldn't let him touch my breasts.  Who wouldn't leave me alone to change and instead called my name so I would turn around, just so he could ogle me and say, "I just said your name so I could see your boobs.  They look bigger."  Who cornered me and forced a kiss on me, then told me I "could do better."  Who throughout our marriage continually harassed me to send him naked pictures of myself, even after I'd say I didn't want to.  Who made me feel guilty every time I said no to him.

I'm angry at the man who made me feel unsafe in my own house.  Who, even though we were getting divorced, believed it was his right to know where I was going, what I was doing, and what I had said to people.  Who stalked me.  Who wrote that he missed the "good old days when you could stone your wife to death."

I'm angry because I married the exact kind of man who I always wanted to avoid.  I married a man who does not respect women, who believes women are less than men, who believes that women can deserve violence, if it's what they have coming to them.  (According to him, being slapped around would have taught me a lesson.)

I let that man in my life and in my bed and I hate that.  I hate that a man I trusted and knew for over nine years was the only one to ever make me feel weak and afraid.  No stranger has ever made me feel as violated or used as he did.  And I really, really hate that.

I wish I could say there's a bright side to these experiences.  But I'm not sure there is.  The bright side is that he's 500 miles away from me.  The bright side is he's out of my life and almost everything that reminds me of him is out of my apartment.  The bright side is I desperately hope I learned my lesson.  The bright side is that maybe one day this won't bother me as much as it still obviously does.

Maybe the bright side is that it makes me angry enough to talk about, and that maybe talking about it will help someone else.

That's about the best I've got for the bright side of this particular blog.  I suppose it's enough.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Missing Minute Hand, and Other Little Things

My boyfriend told me today that life is what happens in the minutia.

He's right.  He usually is. (He'll disagree with me on that one, but don't listen to him.)

Life has many big moments, of course.  There is birth and death, marriage and divorce, hirings and firings.  There are magnificent highs and horrifying lows.

But, honestly, I've always been more fond of the little things.  I've talked before about the little things in relationships and how important they are.  But the little things aren't just reserved for love and friendship.  They're everywhere.

And even though I sometimes get hung up on the big moments, on the milestones and exciting news, I've actually always been a girl with an eye for details.  I notice things.  I notice people.  And I have way too many accessories for my own good.  I should know, I just reorganized half of them.

So it's fitting that this week has been almost exclusively about little things, about the seemingly unimportant things.

It's been about tearing up at the groom's speech at the Valentine's Day wedding I worked.  He was adorable and gushing and kept telling his bride that he would never take her for granted, which hit me harder than I expected.  I hope that his promise means that he will appreciate the minutia of married life and will take time to do the small, not-at-all unimportant things that end up meaning so much in the days and years to come.

It's been about trying to improve the little things.  Now that I've got overall happiness, working appliances, a healthy love and social life, it's time to fill in the details.  I don't just mean going to the gym and to pole class, but trying to get my life organized.  Trying to be functional both at home and at the office, and to make both a little more aesthetically pleasing.  All of which lead to an impromptu IKEA trip on Tuesday to buy a few little things to get started on making my work space more me, or to start "classing up the place," as Ben said.  (Naturally, and in the spirit of being the resident vintage girl at Fish Eye Fun, I'm going for as 1960s Mad Men as possible with my office space.)

This week has also been about buying a pocket calendar to keep track of the days I write.  Another little thing.  Mark has his own to keep track of the days he works on projects, and I fully admit that I stole the idea from him.  So far, I think it's helped me.  For one thing, I love a challenge.  For another, the thought of all the things we both want to do and accomplish is overwhelming if I don't do something to make it less daunting.

I keep saying that I want to "get back to writing," which is as overwhelmingly vague as it gets.  It's terrifying, really, to think about writing a book, or even a short story, or (sometimes) even a poem.  Or making a work of art, or a work bench.  None of this is going to happen in a day.  It's far better, far more digestible, to think about the individual pieces.  Write something.  Anything.  Even if I hate it and throw it away the next day.  Or even if it's this blog.  It's better than nothing.  It's the little things, again.  It's nailing on one board, writing one paragraph, drawing one rough sketch.  It's the only way progress can ever be made, and I forget that all too often amongst all the big tumultuous things that have happened recently.

Finally, this week has been about the minute hand on my living room clock repeatedly falling off.  That really doesn't mean a damn thing except that it needs to be fixed, but it does tie in nicely to the theme of the week.  I suppose I could make some poetic comparison about that missing minute hand being subtle reminder to pay attention to the minute things, but Lord, that's going a bit far, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Don't Send Me Flowers

Once upon a time, on Valentine's Day many years ago (eleven, to be exact), I had my first Valentine's Day date.  It was my first "grown-up" date.  I was twenty years old.  He took me to an Italian restaurant.  He bought me a rose.  He walked me back to my dorm room and kissed me.  Later that night, we kissed more.  Two days later, we were "dating."  There was never a good reason to break up, so we didn't.  I figured that's what dating was.

Not long after, a group of my friends confessed that they didn't like him and that they didn't think I should be dating him.  In return, I chose him over my friends.  Besides, I had other friends.  And I had a long-term boyfriend for the first time ever.  What did I need a group of judgy bitches for?  In retrospect, they were more than right, even if the reasons they gave weren't truly accurate.

Not long after that, we got engaged.  Because that's what you do in a small, religious college when you've been dating for a certain period of time without breaking up.  My remaining friends were happy.  My parents were not.  They told me that my new fiancee had deliberately lied to them about when he was going to propose.  I didn't believe them.  He told me it must have been a misunderstanding.  In retrospect, they were also right, and I believe that he did lie to them, and to me, and to many, many others.

We got married, in spite of my parents' best efforts to talk me out of it.

And then, seven years later, we got divorced.  The classic love story.

I can't blame Valentine's Day.  I mean, I could if I tried.  I could blame societal expectations of romance and stereotypes of single girls.  I could blame hearts and flowers and chocolates.  I could blame Disney princes and princesses.

But it's not Valentine's Day.  I'm sure I would have gone on a first date with him regardless of Valentine's Day.  He would have bought me a flower and dinner and all the stereotypically romantic things that he knew to do.  He would have been charming and worldly.  And I would have fallen for it, because I didn't know any better.  And he would have slowly tightened the snare around me, until I had no choice but to believe that I had to stay with him, for better or for worse (and worse, and worse).

I still don't think you can blame me for not liking Valentine's Day.  

Because the memories aren't good.  At least, the more recent memories aren't good.  The expectation that Valentine's Day had to be celebrated in high style as our anniversary, and that I had to do my "wifely duties" that night even if he had to get me drunk first to do it, was always there.  

And he would send me flowers at work every year.  Which sounds nice, of course.  And really, complaining that my husband sent me flowers makes me feel like the bitchiest bitch that ever bitched.   And maybe I am.  Because sending flowers is textbook romantic, isn't it?  It's thoughtful.  It's what every girl wants her significant other to do, right?  Why couldn't I just get over myself and appreciate it instead of being such a bitch?

Because I didn't want him to send me flowers.  And I told him I didn't want it.  Because I didn't think we had the money to be spending on ridiculously overpriced Valentine's Day flower delivery or even on slightly-less-overpriced birthday flower delivery (and we didn't).  Because I didn't like the attention of getting flowers at work, of getting fussed over, singled out.  Because I didn't like that he continued to do something that I had repeatedly asked him not to do.  And because really, being sent flowers on Valentine's Day or my birthday doesn't mean much to me at all.  If he had to spend the money, I'd rather he had spent it on a book, or something that was more uniquely me.  Something that showed that he knew me, or cared about what I wanted, instead of sending me flowers because he "wanted to," or because it was proof he was doing what he was supposed to do as a husband.

I know, I know.  What a bitch.  I admit it, truly.

I also freely admit that I'm a cynic.  I'm not claiming to be otherwise.  For all my sappy ridiculousness about Mark, I remain, in general, a true cynic.  I'm skeptical of romance, of "happily ever after," of elaborate romantic gestures.  And not just because I've experienced the darker side of them.  I've been this way for a while.  I'm the kid who wanted the library in Beauty and the Beast, not the prince.  I never idealized the pretty and perfect couple.  I'm a Beatrice and Benedict girl, a Ron and Hermione shipper all the way.  Give me the awkward and clueless, the bantering, the odd ones out.

Basically, I'll be fine if I never have a romantic Valentine's Day date again.  

But I'm also fine if you have a romantic Valentine's Day date, and if you want to get millions of daisies delivered to your deserving lap or if you want to bury yourself in boxes of chocolates from your one true love, or from that guy you just met on Tinder. You go for it.

Because although I may be a bitchy cynic, I'm also, ironically, terribly in love.  And because of that, I wouldn't want anyone else to miss out on a moment of what could be something amazing.  But don't wait for Valentine's Day to show someone you care.  (And don't wait for romantic love.  If your friends want to get together and eat red velvet waffles and drink champagne on Valentine's Day, by all means, go for it.)

Don't wait for a Hallmark holiday, or for a day that society has deemed acceptable for sappiness.  Don't wait a day.  Send flowers (to those who appreciate it).  Write a poem.  Sing a song.  Buy them nachos.  Compliment their butt.  Watch their favorite movie, be it romantic, comedic, or slasher.  

Celebrate what makes both you and the person or people you love unique and special.  And do it as often as possible.

And God damn it, don't send me flowers.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Turning 31

Well.  I turned 31 last week.

I suppose this now makes me an old maid.  Certainly past my prime.  Or some kind of bullshit like that.

31 isn't that exciting of a number, really.  It's not sweet 16, or 21, or even 30 (that somehow dreaded societal milestone of being "old").  It is, if anything, just another step closer to the more-dreaded 40, when you might as well just give up and die.  Or something.

It doesn't seem that dire to me.  Sure, I'm 31 and divorced.  But it could be worse.  (I could still be married!)

Maybe I'm just lucky in that I've always had friends who were older than me.  I'm currently the youngest person in my close friend group.  Most of my friends are 40 or close to it.  And, shockingly, they haven't all become hunched-over crones and cranky old men.  They're all still awesome and gorgeous and amazing.  My boyfriend is 13 years older than me.  It doesn't seem to matter in the least, except when I haven't seen a major 80s cult classic and his jaw drops.

Getting older isn't a bad thing at all, in my opinion.  If anything, I like to think think I've improved with age (or at least gotten more full of myself).

Sure, I have more aches and pains when I don't get enough sleep.  I'm more susceptible to hangovers.  I can no longer sleep solidly for 12 hours at a stretch.  My metabolism isn't what it used to be.  Late-night events are the bane of my existence.  There may be the beginning of wrinkles.  Smile lines.  Whatever.

But my life has certainly improved.  I'm more comfortable with who I am.  My birthdays have gotten better, if less elaborate and more chill.

This year, I essentially threw together a birthday party in a few days.  It was low-key.  I made cake.  People wore onesies.  We colored.  It was awesome.

And I had Fish Eye Fun. Of course.

I spent my actual birthday with Mark, for the second year in a row.  We both took the day off, had lunch, did some shopping on Delmar, went to the Mid-Century Modern exhibit at the Art Museum, browsed my favorite vintage store, and finished the day off with tacos.  It wasn't much, but it was perfect nonetheless.

I still have a childlike love of my birthday, in spite of all my old-maid-ness.  Do I care that I'm 31 and should therefore resign myself the the drudgery of middle-age adulthood?  Hell, no.  I still want to take the day off work and do fun things.  I want to have a party and wear a tiara make myself cake and have total jerks put trick candles on said cake (I'm looking at you, Sandi).

I want to be continually thrilled at life and all it's brought me.  And I certainly don't think that's a bad thing.

Bonus 10-year-old footage of me on my 21st birthday.  Some things never change.
Except my hair color.