#metoo #butnotreally

#metoo #butnotreally


I have always been extremely cautious, not at all inclined to take risks. I have usually been able to learn from mistakes and misfortunes of others. If someone else has had a problem with something, I tend to shy away from it. This proclivity toward cautiousness was the reason I have never tried any illegal drugs, I have never been drunk to the point of illness and I have gotten only one traffic ticket in almost 40 years of driving. I watched other people’s pain and embarrassment, and I avoided following in their footsteps.

But being cautious also means I have missed out on many opportunities that may have been wonderful. I don’t take risks in general. If someone, sometime, had any sort of problem, I tended to avoid similar problems. I avoided “difficult” courses in college. I gave up a job that was probably really interesting because it did not guarantee a certain income (though I was good at it and probably would have been well paid) and other people had financial difficulties. And, more importantly, being so cautious has always meant that I avoid any situation that might present a risk to myself.

The recent reports of women and men who were sexually abused by powerful people — and random strangers — has me thinking about how many situations, jobs, and experiences I have avoided because of the risk of being sexually abused. The lesson I learned about sexual abuse as I was growing up was that it was going to happen unless I stayed away from certain situations, and dressed in a very certain way. That was just the way it was. What I never learned was how to stand up for myself, and say STOP. I never learned how to protect myself, beyond avoidance. If this was driving cars, I would have learned to avoid all traffic accidents by never driving a car — effective to be sure, but terribly limiting behavior.

I was raised to be a southern lady. The worst thing a southern lady can do is to break the social norms — to be rude. Confrontation is often taken as rude behavior, so I was never taught how to confront people. I was taught to smile and ignore poor behavior, then to talk about the behavior with a third party with the understanding that the message would eventually get back to the person behaving badly, in a round-about, passive-aggressive manner.

When I was in high school, my favorite activity was drama. I loved being on stage. Being an actor seemed like a dream occupation. I participated in every school play I could, and sought out voice and acting classes outside of school. But my dreams died the day my mom explained the “casting couch.” She told me I would never make it as an actor if I was unwilling to sleep my way into roles. As I saw it, if I was unwilling to participate in these “extra activities” and failed to reach my goal to be a professional actor, I would never know if it was because I wasn’t good enough. To fail and to know I just wasn’t good enough would be hard enough. But to fail and never know what could have been would never had been acceptable. So I gave up that dream, and never went back on stage.

In college, I was really good in calculus. I worked hard, but kept an A average. I knew I was good in math when I picked up a friend’s statistics textbook (a class I hadn’t taken) and was able to understand the chapter and explain it to her. But just as I was about to consider a major in math, I picked up a science fiction novel my professor had written. It was sexually graphic and disgusting. I could no longer look that man in the eyes, much less go to that man’s office to seek advice on math careers. I had heard of other students being sexually molested by professors, and had been warned about being in a closed room with men all of my life, so I avoided another potentially dangerous situation.

Sexual abuse does not just affect people overtly. It has a ripple effect throughout society. Because some women have been abused, other women have taken themselves out of many situations completely. The overt act shames and diminishes the woman who experiences it. But the ripple effect diminishes many other women who are watching.

Women have been diminished enough. It is time to call out every abusive act, from the small to the large. No one should be diminished by another person’s crude joke, misplaced touch, or innuendo. It is not ok and should not be tolerated for another minute.


Just Jump In?

November 5, 2017


Last July, I wrote a narrative about jumping off the diving board. It was a true story. It really did take me years to work my way off that high dive. But I also meant my story to be symbolic of jumping into scary things, of getting started without knowing how it would end. I purposely didn’t end the story, but left the reader hanging, not knowing — but assuming — that all ended well, that I was able to survive my jump and safely swim to the edge of the pool. I think I really wanted to convince myself that jumping into scary things would end up ok.

My goal was to start this blog — ironically named “Just Jump In”.

I started it alright. I even paid money for an upgraded blog package because I was really going to start writing now. I think I managed two whole posts all summer.

And then CRICKETS.

I found myself back on the symbolic high dive, wanting desperately to add to my writing, but unable to make that jump. I even wrote in my introduction to the parents of my 5th grade students that I write something every day (actually true IF you count writing lesson plans and completing endless paperwork).

Last month, I read the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. Then I subscribed to his blog (markmanson.net), where he promised access to a class on writing, and has a post about starting a blog which is only available to subscribers. (I love his book AND his blog, BTW.) One thing I learned from his post is that to become a writer, you have to actually write. Not news, since literally every book I have ever read about becoming a writer says the EXACT same thing. But Mark says something more quantifiable — he said that you need to write hundreds of thousands of words, and over 100 pages on a single topic before you even know what you want to write about — before you ever find your voice.

So, imaginary reader, this blog will probably take the form of a Seinfeld episode for a while — a blog about nothing specific. My goal is to write, to find my voice. I hope someone joins me for the ride.

385 words down, 999,615 words to go.


Mount Rainier

Last week I tried to describe Mount Rainier to a friend based on facts that I knew. My husband’s family has lived in the Seattle area for decades. They have told me about the mountain, and I’ve seen pictures. But I had never been to Seattle myself, so I had never actually seen it. I had heard that it was large, but I’ve been to the Alps, the Tetons, and the Rocky Mountains–I’ve seen tall mountains. In the back of my head, I really thought everyone was exaggerating just a little bit. I was sure it was big, and beautiful–but so are lots of other mountains.

Mount Rainier is so much more massive than anything I have seen. At 14,409 feet, it is the most prominent peak in the lower 48 states. I could see it from just about everywhere I went. It wasn’t like in North Carolina where you can see the distant mountains as blue bumps on the horizon. I could see the snow topped cone of the dormant volcano from 100 miles away, looming over the horizon.

We spent a day in the Mt. Rainier National Park. We threw snowballs in July–well, I threw snowballs–and we hiked a few miles into a mountain meadow area about a third of the way up the mountain. The heavy snows from last winter were still covering many parts of the paved trails. We took picture after picture because the beauty of the area is beyond words.

Being able to learn from books and videos is wonderful. The internet can take you to places you can’t access and can connect us to the world. But it doesn’t compare to getting out in the world and experiencing it for yourself. You have to just jump in.


Just Jump In

The high diving board stood an impossible 10 feet above the pool. All summer I would watch friends line up to climb the ladder, then launch themselves into the air. Some would turn flips, entering the water gracefully with barely a splash. The boys would compete to see who could create the biggest splash. Cannon balls and jackknife dives were the tools they used as they attempted to empty the pool of its water each summer day.

All summer, I would watch from the safety of the shallow end of the pool. “It looks like so much fun,” I would think to myself, as I imagined the amazing flips and twists I would execute from that board. In my daydreams, I would break the surface of the water to the sounds of amazed applause. “How did you do that?” My friends would surround me and beg me to teach them my tricks.

Daydreams explode like the soap bubbles of our childhood without action behind them. Everyday as I gingerly sat on the blistering vinyl car seat leaving the pool, my soap bubble dreams popped.

Finally, I had enough of my daydreams. It was time for action. I was going to jump off of that board.

As I stood in the line, my confidence began to fade, as the doubts and fears tried to take over again. I watched friend after friend make the climb, dash to the end of the board, and fly into the air, landing with a happy splash. Then it was my turn.

Hand over hand, I climbed the ladder. Standing on the board so far above the pool deck, I could barely breath.

“Come on! Just jump in!”

My friends were becoming impatient for their turns as I stood there, frozen.

I inched my way to the end of the board until my toes were hanging off the edge. I looked down one last time, into the deep blue of the pool. I closed my eyes, and stepped off.