We only talk about death

We only talk about death.
I suppose that’s fitting because We died, too.
A long, drawn out, public, and painful death.
A love that caught fire and burned everyone in its path.
Before turning to ash.
Ashes to ashes.
Dust to dust.
Till death do us part.
We didn’t have kids.
We didn’t stay friends.
We don’t live in the same town.
The only thing left to discuss is death.
The true trump card.
You called me when her mother died.
I emailed you when your uncle passed.
Short pleasantries and then getting right to the point.
I know what happened, and I’m sorry.
On some level, I still don’t know what happened but
I am sorry.
Nearly a decade together.
Eating, sleeping, breathing, talking.
And now Nothing.
Sometimes I have morbid thoughts.
I wonder whose death would be significant enough to contact you about.
Would you come to the wake?
Would we speak to each other?
I saw you and you saw me.
But I was with him, and you were with her.
And it was just easier to pretend we were strangers.
I wonder if anyone saw the fleeting panic on both of our faces.
I flashed back to the day after our engagement.
It was at the funeral of his mom.
His mom.
People tried to smile, act happy for us, say congratulations.
But it was a funeral.
And our marriage began with a cloud of black hanging over it.
Of course, I couldn’t see it then.
All I saw were rainbows and unicorns.
Young. Happy. Stupid.
I thought I knew everything and had life figured out.
I knew nothing.
But I would soon learn.
The nothingness would become my life.
If there had been a funeral for our marriage, what would the eulogy have said?
They seemed like such a good match on paper.
They were young when they met, and people grow apart.
She was a whore. He didn’t deserve this.
All of the above.
Or maybe someone would have stood up and said
I saw it coming.
The way you see someone with a terminal illness clawing and fighting to hold on.
There’s always a last push of life.
You let yourself believe,
Maybe it will be OK.
Maybe they’ll beat this.
But deep down you know.
And everyone knows.
You’re just dying a slow death.

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Me, Too.

Obviously me, too.

I don’t know a woman who hasn’t been sexually harassed or assaulted or both. The stories are all a little different, but the gist of them are all the same. We didn’t want or welcome what happened to us, but it happened anyway. And now we live with it, bottling it up, or putting it in the backs of our minds, or quietly sharing with our closest friends and begging them for their secrecy in return.

What is hard for me is thinking about which experience was the worst. And then I feel ill knowing there have been so many for me and every other woman out there.

There was the time that I was 23, a year out of college, at my first “real job.” When I wasn’t planning special events, I enjoyed taking my lunch in the kitchen and doing the crossword puzzle with my coworkers. I tried to get as many people involved to both have the best shot at completing it and to make others feels included. One day as I read the next clue aloud, I felt a pair of hands on my shoulders. I turned to see Fred the maintenance man rubbing my shoulders and grinning as he peered over me to see the clue. Paralyzed, I just sat there not knowing what to do. I looked at some of my other coworkers to see if anyone else was having the same reaction that I was, which was “What is happening? Why is this man touching me?” No one reacted at all and instead they all shouted possible answers to the clue. After what felt like an eternity, Fred stopped touching me and walked away.

Over the next few days, I observed him doing the same thing to other women—and always the same type of women—the young ones. “That’s just how Fred is,” one my female colleagues told me. “Don’t worry, he’s harmless.”

Soon I started eating less in the kitchen and taking my lunch at my desk. If I did eat in the kitchen, I would be sure to face the entrance so that I couldn’t be surprised attacked again. And if I saw Fred approaching, I would pretend I needed to get something and would stand up. But it didn’t always work. There were half a dozen more times he touched me like this and countless times he did it to my coworkers. Believing what others had told me about him being harmless, I didn’t say anything to Fred, or to anyone about how I felt. I just took it.

It continued beyond the kitchen. My office was on the second floor and I had to walk down a big staircase to the first floor get supplies, go to lunch, or leave for the day. Often, Fred would be standing at the bottom of those stairs, talking to the administrative assistant, another creepy man named Jim. When they would see me start my descent, they would both stop talking and watch me walk down the tall staircase, their eyes looking me up and down the entire time. Sometimes they offered their unsolicited opinion on what I was wearing.

“That sweatshirt you had on yesterday,” Jim said, “It made you look…” (blows up his cheeks and stretches his arms out).

“Yes,” Fred agreed. “This is a much more attractive on you.”

I would just smile uncomfortably and say ,“Thank you.” Yes, I would thank them for simultaneously insulting me and sexually harassing me. So young. So naïve.

For years, the role of Human Resources at this organization was done by the person who was also the CFO. As you can probably imagine, this created lots of conflicts of interest when deciding on things like what benefit package to offer employees – the cheapest one to save the organization the most money, or the more expensive one that is better for employees? Eventually they wised up and split the roles, hiring someone to head up HR.

This person immediately noticed Fred’s behavior and launched an investigation. I remember her interviewing me and asking if Fred ever made me uncomfortable. “Sure,” I told her. “But everyone told me he is harmless, so I’m sure I’m just overreacting.”

“You’re not overreacting, Amy,” She told me.

I was finally validated.

Fred was put on a leave of absence while they did the investigation. They decided not to fire him, for what reason I don’t know—maybe it was because none of us ever told him, “Stop.” But when he returned, he wouldn’t speak to me or to any of the other young women. A few months later, I left for another job. To this day, nine years later, he still works there.

Then there was also the time that I was 16, drunk at a party, and called an older guy I worked with at Record Town for a ride home. His name was Bob and he was 21, and was a senior in college.  I had been warned about Bob, and about a guy named Jeremy, who was seven years my senior. Both warnings I did not heed. Hearing “Stay away from them,” made me think they were just misunderstood and that I should give them a chance. I learned much later that they were creepy guys who preyed on young girls. I had just been dumped by my first real boyfriend who I had dated for most of the school year, and I was heartbroken.  So being flirted with by not one, but two older guys made me feel awesome.

Bob and Jeremy made it known that they were both “interested” in me and a weird competition between them developed. At the time, I had convinced myself that I was “old for my age.” But now when I imagine a 23 year old man and a 21 year old man vying for the attention of an inexperienced 16 year old girl, I get nauseous.

I don’t remember how or why, but eventually Bob won me over. He gave me his number and told me to call him anytime. We also chatted on AIM (yeah, that’s how long ago this was). He knew I was going to a party that night and told me to call him if I needed a ride.

I got very drunk at the party. For one, I was very new to drinking. For another, instead of starting off with something like light beer, we drank vodka because that was readily available in someone’s home liquor cabinet.  So pretty soon after arriving to the party, and getting shitfaced, all I wanted to do was go home and sleep. I called Bob for a ride. He drove over immediately.

I don’t remember much of what happened next. He drove me somewhere that wasn’t home. He parked the car. We started making out. I remember saying to him at least twice, “We just can’t have sex, OK?” I had only done it one other time with my ex-boyfriend and I was petrified of getting pregnant. “Of course,” he told me.

The next thing I remember was that he was on top of me, straining not to hit his head on the roof of the car, and then he was inside of me. No conversation like, “Is this OK?” or “Do you want to do this?” No condom. He just did it. I liked him so much. I didn’t know what to do or say, so I didn’t say anything. I just let it happen.

He didn’t drive me home after. He drove me back to the party. I can’t remember if I asked him to do that, or if he didn’t want to face the possibility of running into my parents so late at night. He kissed me goodbye and said he would call me the next day.

When I went back into the party, a few people asked me where I had gone. “Owww, Amy just had a booty call!” one of them said. I fake smiled. I told no one what happened. I fell asleep on the living room floor.

In the morning, I was up with the sun, totally hungover and feeling terrible for multiple reasons. One of the first things I did was I made an appointment to get emergency contraception.  Thank God I was smart enough to be proactive. I remember being afraid of what I should say if they asked me questions like, “How old was your partner?” because I knew he could get in trouble. Even after what happened, I wanted to protect him. But no one asked me that. They told me how to take the EC and warned me I might feel sick to my stomach. Too late.

Bob did call me the next day. In fact, he sort of thought we were an item after that. I remember him picking me up a few days later at my house, acting like what had happened was totally normal. And again, I went with it because I didn’t want to lose this older, cool guy. As he drove me to see his college, he blared Papa Roach’s “Last Resort.” To this day, I can’t hear that song and not think of what happened to me.

I don’t really remember what caused Bob and I to fizzle out – I’m guessing it became abundantly clear that I was never going to have sex with him again –  but thankfully we did fizzle very soon after the incident. I started to see Jeremy shortly after. His response when I told him I had sex with Bob was disappointment.

“He got to you first.” Jeremy said to me. He had lost the competition. This was the kind of guy he was. So naturally, I proceeded to date him for the next four years.

Even to this day I have a hard time writing “rape.”  I thought for so long rape looked like a stranger ripping your clothes off and forcing you to have sex at knife-point. But this wasn’t that. I knew Bob and it was my fault for getting drunk, for not stopping him, for only telling him “I can’t have sex” two times instead of however many times it would take for him to get it (if at all).  I viewed what had happened as an, “Oops! Shouldn’t do that again.” I see now that I was an underage, intoxicated girl–not woman, not “old for her age,” but a child — who was incapable of giving consent. In more cases than not, that’s what rape really looks like.

 

 

The Bubble Bursts. Trump Wins.

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Two weeks ago, we were in London on another one of our cheap travel adventures. We had booked the deal weeks before Brexit and were pretty happy that the timing worked out in our favor. But besides a cheap (er) pound, we weren’t sure what to expect over there. Would Brexit be all that was talked about? Would the pubs be crowded with people drinking away their sorrows? It was hard to know what would happen.

One night, I got accidentally hangry and we ran into the first restaurant we could find. It was busy and the only table available was a shared one in the back of the restaurant. I grumbled, but we accepted. Towards the end of the meal, our British table-mates chatted us and asked where we were from. We had joked before the trip that we would lie and tell people we were from Canada in order to avoid talking about the presidential election. But we found ourselves nonetheless confessing “Vermont.” Instantly the conversation turned to the topic we had hoped to avoid.

“You aren’t from TRUMPLAND, are you?” our British friends laughed.

“No, definitely not!” we replied.

“What a joke your country is right now!” and we agreed.

It went on like this for a little bit—them sharing they had seen Trump say  X offensive thing, us laughing nervously while trying to make it clear we weren’t supporters. Finally Dan was able to pivot to their current crisis.

“Yeah, so what about Brexit? What a disaster that was, huh?”

It was like the music in the room stopped. Instantly their moods changed. Their faces grew stern. “Actually, no. We think it’s great. We think it’s just what this country needs,” they told us. Open mouth, insert foot.

Trump winning yesterday is that interaction all over again, but on a massive scale. I had naively assumed the majority of Americans didn’t support him, that there was no way he could win, and that if he did, I wouldn’t personally know anyone who was happy about his victory. But it turns out, I do know Trump supporters:

-My friend from college who outed herself the day after the election. She said she was offended by the news because there are plenty non-white, non-males who supported him, including herself.  She is not only a college educated female, but half Mexican.

-My best friend’s parents. They are hardworking, good people, who own a local business and are constantly donating food or gift cards from their restaurant to non-profits, schools, and youth sports teams. They even recently held a Calcutta fundraiser for one of their former employee’s grandsons who is sick with leukemia.

-My aunt, who is one of the people I love and respect most in the world. She is smart, reasonable, and is another example of a big-hearted person who constantly goes out of her way for others.

I struggle to understand their decision—to understand how I can like these people when they voted for the exact opposite of everything I believe in. It hurts. It’s hard not to take their choices personally.

But if I play the devil’s advocate for a minute, voting is just as personal a decision as say abortion, the issue I work every day to protect. If these people, these good humans, could find something appealing about Trump, it shouldn’t surprise me that 59 million other Americans could, too. Do I think that all 59 million are the same caliber of decency as my friends and family? No. In a lot of ways, this race, this candidate, granted permission to the racists, sexists, xenophobes, and homophobes to come crawling out of the closets and spew hatred. And I believe that a big chunk of his voters love that renewed hatred and are thriving on it now. But I also have to believe that there are people in this country who are aching for change and for one personal reason or another, truly believed Trump is going to bring that change.

I’ll be the first to admit that I live in a sheltered, unique bubble. I work with nearly all women who share the same belief system. I love a man who has the same political leanings. And I live in a state where the majority of people overwhelming voted for the same candidate that I did. To say my bubble burst on Wednesday morning would be an understatement.

I was devastated. I was in disbelief. I had supported Hillary since the Obama primary. I bought her bumper sticker, tshirts, shared her social media posts, and even forced my way through a crowd to meet and shake her hand at a rally. I endured as a minority in my own state of Vermont through Feel The Bern, staying strong to my convictions and saying, “I’m still with her.” By Election Day, I was confident she was going to win and convinced I’d spend the night celebrating our first female president. I wore my pink Hillary shirt, took selfies, smiled all day, and even bought a giant tub of party mix to figuratively and deliciously mark the occasion. [I know now that was what jinxed it. #thanksobama]

The day after [so yesterday-wow, that seems like a long time ago-] was like mourning a death. Our office felt like a funeral home. We hugged, we cried, we supported each other, we went through the stages of grief. Everyone wore black. It was more of the same when I got home, plus frantically reading and watching everything we could get our hands on to understand how this happened.

I don’t know what else to do. I see people just like me protesting across the country and I just—can’t. I’m tired. I’m defeated. Most of all, I think if the roles were reversed, I’d be calling the protesting side “sore losers.” And because Hillary has been nothing but the epitome of class about this whole outcome, I personally don’t think protesting is the right move.

I’m trying instead to be there for my coworkers and friends. To ask how they are doing or give a hug. I’m trying to do one nice thing a day for someone. I’m trying to take care of myself. Mostly, I’m trying to understand the “other side.” I’m trying to put myself in their shoes. And let me tell you – so far it feels like squeezing my size 10 into a pair of 5’s. Uncomfortable. Before you get all, “Wow, that’s so noble of you, Amy,” let me just make one thing clear: for every one of these good moments, I still have two that involve screaming at the TV or throwing my phone. I still cry. I still worry about nuclear war, about my organization folding, about women’s rights going out the window, about me losing my job, about the KKK, about the rights of my LGBTQAI friends, about the safety of my non-white friends, etc. etc. etc. I’m not over this. I don’t know that I will ever be over this. But I am trying to understand it, and maybe if we all do more of that, we won’t ever be here again.

Thoughts while going for a walk in the woods and being female

Who will be in the woods?

Is it too dark/too early/too late to be taking this walk?

Is it a bad idea to be wearing these headphones?

Does someone know I’m out here?

Is that parked car suspicious?

Are those two guys sitting inside that car suspicious?

What would I do if they got out and started chasing me?

Would I scream?

Would I run?

Would I be able to run fast enough without my inhaler?

Would they say I was asking for it because I’m wearing these black yoga pants and this cut off sweatshirt?

Would I try to talk them out of it?

Would I lie and say I had my period?

Would I lie and say I had AIDS, like I saw in a movie once?

Would they believe me?

Would they have a gun?

Would my dog even understand if I was in trouble?

Would she attack them?

Would she run home and get help, like Lassie?

Would I fight tooth and nail?

Would I succumb and let it happen?

Would I survive?

What would I tell my friends and family?

Would they question why I was on this walk?

Would they scold me for going alone?

Would they say I should have carried that pepper spray with me?

Would they say I should have known this could happen?

What was that noise?

Is someone behind me?

Should I take out these headphones?

Should I walk faster?

Am I almost out of the woods?

That Night One Year Ago

It was the night of the college football championship and he was meeting the guys downtown to watch the game. And I just knew something bad was going to happen. I could feel it.

“Why don’t you let me drop you off downtown tonight and you can take a cab home,” I offered to him as he zipped up his winter jacket in the living room.

“No, baby! I don’t want to make you drive me down there. You’re watching your show and you’re already in your pjs.” Technically these things were true and being a girl who falls asleep on the couch at 9:00 pm wasn’t helping my case.

“Well maybe one of the guys could pick you up instead? Don’t they have to drive through here?”

“I don’t want to inconvenience them, babe. I will be fine, I promise,” he told me.

But I didn’t believe him.

I stood up to kiss him goodbye and I found myself putting my hands on his shoulders, like a parent about to send their kids off to summer camp. I looked him in the eyes and said:

“Just promise me you won’t drive. If you end up having too much, please call me or promise me you’ll take a cab home.”

“Of course, baby! Of course I will take a cab, I promise. I don’t plan on drinking that much, so you really having nothing to worry about,” he told me. We kissed goodbye and I resumed watching my trashy reality television show, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen.

**

My fears weren’t completely irrational. Almost all of the memories I had of him were steeped in alcohol. It was the glue that held our friend group together. Activities that weren’t supposed to be about drinking were made into ways to drink: Jack and Cokes and pitchers of beer during our Friday night bowling league; Beer pong, flip cup and shots at the Halloween party; “Sampling” dozens of high alcohol percentage beers, washed down with a mixed drink or lighter beer of your choice, as we hung out at someone’s house on a Thursday night; An entire keg, intended for ten people, tapped at 8:00 a.m. at our all-day softball tournament; Every wedding, every funeral, and every birthday – alcohol, alcohol, alcohol.

For a while, I thought this sort of thing was normal. I thought this was what people in their late twenties/early thirties did. When I spent the night vomiting, crying and praying to God to let me live, my friends laughed and said I couldn’t handle my liquor; When he got sick at a party, someone would be right there with a drink encouraging him to “puke and rally” so he could be the night’s hero; When someone else confessed the next morning they’d lost a big chunk of time and couldn’t remember much (called blacking out), someone else would conveniently have a photo or video clip to fill them in, along with a degrading story or five.

Drinking soon became a catalyst for a lot of really bad things; it fueled fights, injuries, drinking and driving, our friend group imploding and both of us getting divorced.

The great thing about losing a group of friends is that it gives you perspective. I had time to look back and realize just how much time was wasted getting wasted. I asked myself, “Do you miss that lifestyle, do you miss them?” and the honest answer was/is no. We had all grown apart years before and drinking was the only thing keeping us together. I knew I didn’t want to live my life that way anymore.  Alcohol had never been important to me—it was the social time it created that I valued—so it was really easy for me to change my habits.

It wasn’t so easy for him to change his habits though. He had been our group’s heaviest drinker—the life of the party who never wanted to leave and never wanted to stop. He was the person who couldn’t stop.

He had also recently started to reframe his obsession with craft beer as not a problem, but “a hobby.”  He told me he was an integral part of the craft beer community and that he loved his beer people. Whereas other people’s hobbies might be reading, his was following every brewer and brewery he could think of on Twitter. Instead of pictures of him, his family or his friends, his Instagram only contained carefully constructed photos of rare beers and brews in #properglassware (glassware that matched the beer they contained). Instead of a cute cat video or a photo album of a recent vacation on his Facebook, his updates were brags about waiting in line for the release of a popular beer and selfies of him consuming his victory. His restaurant choices, his vacations, and the ways he spent his weekends were centered around craft beer.  All of this was chronicled in a blog he appropriately named brewsandbooze. I slowly started to realize he had a problem.

When we talked about it for the first time, he agreed he had been drinking a lot lately, but assured me he was in control. To prove it, he quit drinking…for two months.

**

I woke up to the sound of the back door slamming and someone stumbling around the kitchen. I looked at my phone—2:30 a.m. From my bedroom, I could hear the dog get off the couch and make her way over to greet him. As soon as he saw her, he started weeping and said, “Sadie, I did a reallllly bad thing.”

I called out to him and he made his way into the bedroom, still crying, still stumbling and reeking of alcohol.

I asked him what bad thing he did. He told me he got a DUI.  I was livid. But as I listened and tried to make sense of his drunken tale, I realized he didn’t just get a DUI. He got into a car accident, he totaled his car, he was arrested, and he could have been killed or killed someone else.

I couldn’t listen to his story. All I could think about was how I offered to drive him downtown, how he promised to take a cab home, how he lied to me, and more than anything, how he was an alcoholic. I told him we were done and I meant it.

The next day, as he dealt with things like getting his totaled car out of the compound and calling a lawyer about the DUI, it became clear that he was starting to feel the weight of this accident. He looked like a scared child and just kept saying, “I could have killed someone. I could have killed someone.” He told me he was done drinking—forever—and that I had to give him another chance. I didn’t believe him. I told him, “Too bad.” It was my parents—the same ones who had been in love with my ex-husband—who convinced me I had to give him another chance.

Oddly enough, him not drinking took a toll on our relationship. His personality changed and we both had to learn who Sober Dan was. We had to find activities to do that weren’t centered around alcohol (try that for a week and you’ll see how hard it is). I also spent the first several months living in fear that he would drink again. It was terrible to feel so insecure in a relationship and to spend your time apart wondering if this was the time something would happen. After he’d come home from a concert, I’d quiz him about who he was with, what his NA options were, and if anyone pressured him to drink. When he had bad days at work, I expected to find him with a glass of whiskey in his hand. I mentally prepared for the moment when I would have to confess to friends and family that he was drinking again and I’d imagine the disappointment I would see on their faces.  I was 100% absolutely positively convinced he was going to fall off the wagon and that we were going to break up for good.

But that bastard did what I hate more than anything—he proved me wrong.

Today is his one year sober-versary. The “me” from last year who doubted his commitment to never drinking again is still in shock about this milestone. But the other me is so proud of him. They say things happen for a reason and I’m a true believer. That night a year ago was exactly the wake up call he needed to change his life. The fact that he walked away unscathed and no one else was injured is a miracle. Not drinking hasn’t always been easy and it hasn’t always been hard, but it has always been the right choice for him.

 

What We’re Teaching Little Girls

I recently experienced the following at a grocery store…

In the check-out line behind me was a young girl who couldn’t have been older than seven or eight.  She had long hair, was wearing a floral print dress, and by all accounts seemed like a typical, innocent child. She was buying popsicles with her Dad, scoping out all of the magazines, and this is the conversation I overhead:

Girl: Dad, wow. Look how fat Kim Kardashian is…
Dad: Wow, yeah she is.

Girl: And oh my goddd, is that __? It doesn’t even look like her. You can totally tell she has had plastic surgery. I bet she has had a face lift, maybe more!
Dad: Yeah, I think you’re right. She’s barely recognizable.

Girl: Ugh, look how ugly Mylie Cyrus looks with short hair! Why would anyone want that haircut?
Dad: I don’t know, honey. It does look pretty bad. I prefer the long hair myself.
Girl: Me, too. I would never want to look like her!

!!!

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There are so many problems with this conversation that I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll dive right in with the little girl.

Socialization 

This girl is seven years old and has already been socialized to believe the most important thing in life is beauty. And not just any type of beauty—beauty that’s defined by being blonde, white, and thin (with long hair, apparently). She thinks that anything that strays from this is bad, wrong, ugly, and undesirable.

What is arguably the saddest part of all of this is that the standard of beauty she so badly believes in and presumably wants to emulate doesn’t exist and no one has ever told her differently. Those aren’t real people she sees on the magazine covers. They’re airbrushed, photoshoppedliquefied, perfected versions of someone they used to be. And she probably won’t learn this until it’s too late.

Did you know half of girls between the ages of 3 and 6 worry about being fat?  Don’t even get me started on thinspiration or thigh gap.

Little girl's diet plan

One little girl’s “diyet” plan, found by her mom

Girl Hate

Another huge problem is that this little girl has already learned girl hate. She’s been taught all women are in competition with each other and that she should dislike any female that could potentially be prettier, smarter, or better than her at something… And if she suspects any of those things, she’s learned to pick them apart.

Wow, look how fat Kim Kardashian is.
Ew, why would Miley Cyrus do her hair like that?

You might be thinking, she is only talking about celebrities…does this really matter? YES, it absolutely matters because she I guarantee you she will do this with girls her own age, if she isn’t doing so already.

Reinforcement

Even though I truly believe our society is to blame for what this little girl knows, I still find myself angry with her father. He is her role model and did nothing but reinforce everything she said. Wow, you’re right. I think she did have plastic surgery. Yeah, I’m not a big fan of short hair either.

Was it possible that this dad had a really long day and was just absentmindedly saying anything to appease his kid? Sure. But something tells me he truly believed these things and may have even taught his daughter some of it.

There are so many teachable moments with kids. During this short time in the check-out line he could have easily talked to her about body image, worth, respect, the concept of beauty, or even some age appropriate sex-ed!

IE: Actually, honey, Kim Kardashian has gained some weight because she’s having a baby, and that’s the normal, right thing to happen.

The Dad happened to be an elected official. I don’t know why, but I expected and hoped for more from him.

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Change

I have a niece that’s three years old and is obsessed with weddings, fairy tales, and princesses. Her favorite color is pink and her favorite activity is putting on makeup, a crown, and prancing around the house. When anyone gives her a compliment, nine times out of ten it’s, “Oh, Maddie, you are so beautiful.” She always cocks her head to side and starts laughing, as if to say, “I know.” Her five year old brother Jack experiences the opposite. People seem to have a list a mile long of words to describe this boy: smart, inquisitive, caring, compassionate, strong, and, sure, cute. So why is it that Maddie, even at three years old, is constantly reduced to her looks? Why doesn’t anyone tell her how smart she is? How capable she is? How strong, or compassionate, or good she is? I try so much to relay these messages to her when I see her, to let her know she’s more than just a pretty face, but it disappointingly feels like an uphill battle I’ll never win.

Tonight made me realize more than ever that this isn’t the world I want my future daughter or son to grow up in. I don’t want them believing their worth is measured by the symmetry of their faces, or the number that appears on a scale. I don’t want them to hate other kids and people around them who aren’t blonde, thin and white. I want my future seven year old daughter to not know what the word diet means. To not know what plastic surgery is. To recognize the images she sees before her in grocery check-out lines aren’t real and don’t matter. To spend her summer nights chasing fireflies barefoot in the grass, or telling scary ghost stories around a campfire with her friends. To scrape her knees. To get dirty. To eat ice cream cones. To be a child. And to remain that way for as long as possible.

I just don’t know how to make this happen and that’s what saddens me the most.