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Lying, for Safety.

A friend shared a link to Gretchen Kelly’s blog post, The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About, about the constant & everyday sexism women are exposed to. It’s a good read. (I did NOT read the comments & since it has now been picked up by HuffPo, I would suggest not even looking at them, unless it’s to give Gretchen kudos.)

I won’t catalog all of the everyday bullshit I’ve put up with over the years, there’s no time. But I guess it can all be summed up by this one experience I had while working in a toy store. Someone complained about a male employee’s behavior against me. I had complained on multiple occasions, but it all fell on deaf ears. I was 17 & I soldiered on. I freaking loved that job.

When our district manager finally got involved, I was asked to document the behavior. I made a list of the things that came most immediately to mind. It wasn’t anywhere near exhaustive. Copies were giving to everyone on the disciplinary panel. 

Every single woman cried while reading it. “I didn’t know how bad it was.” “I didn’t know you were dealing with this.”

Yes, they did know. I had told them. But everyone shrugged it off. In spite of the fact that I was a minor, everyone, me, my female coworkers & bosses, everyone shrugged it off. Because it’s so common that it’s NORMAL behavior.

Until my daughter became a teen, I never realized how much I LIE to men. Lies to de-escalate. Lies to make distance. Often lies about my husband being nearby or on the way & definitely lies about having a husband or boyfriend in times when I didn’t. And lies that are an opportunity to work my husband into a conversation (My husband LOVES that movie! etc).

It’s the sick, fucked up fact that some men will respect the idea of a husband more than they respect my comfort or wellbeing.

I recently lied to a creepy patron, because I went to the library after hours & he was lurking in the bushes (innocently using the wifi, but he hid from me & then scared me. He was recently out of prison & had been asking overly personal questions about me earlier than afternoon). In a fraction of a second, I lied & said the silent alarm had gone off. That if I didn’t call in, they’d send a cop out.

The speed which that lie rolled off my tongue was unnerving. My teen daughter saw the whole exchange. Earlier that day, I had lied & told him that I don’t USUALLY work alone, usually I have a partner, she was just out that day.

We teach kids not to lie. To always be honest. But screw that. Lie all you want, sweetie, if it gets you out of a scary situation. Hell, lie to the possibly nice guy, because you can. not. tell. which ones are going to freak out at you for giving them an honest “no, thank you”.

I know how screwed up that is, but it wasn’t born in a vacuum. Sadly, all men get to lie in the bed that their crappy brethren made, because my safety & my daughter’s safety is more important. Many, many women know how quickly things can get violent.

Passing Each Other in the Hall

I had a good dream about my brother, finally.

It wasn’t a dream that had a plot, or really made much sense, but it was the feeling of the dream that was good.

We were traveling, my husband & kids & I. We were in a hotel & the hotel room was full of the bustling commotion that comes when everyone’s getting ready for a day in an exciting new city. They were chattering & happy.

I stepped out the hotel room door, into the hall. The hall was full of this sunny orange light. It was warm & cheery.

There was my brother! Coming toward me down the hotel’s hallway.

He was younger & happy & moving so confidently & giving me that look he had when he’d see us again after a long time apart. The look that made you feel brilliant & loved but also a little like meeting your hero. You want to impress! You want to make him think you’re the most clever & cool person in the entire universe! But you know that even though you’re only reasonably clever & occasionally cool, he loves you so much & thinks the world of you.

He’s moving towards me & I’m filled with the same Kid Sister feeling I felt every single time I ever saw my brother. I’m gleeful & nervous/excited.

He smiles at me & hugs me, but he doesn’t really stop moving. He says “I’m sorry, but I really have to be somewhere, to get something done. But we’ll get together & we’ll go see the town.”

My brother moved off down the hall, and like for so much of my life, I watched him move on without me.



But in my dream & even now, I believe him. I believe that we’ll be together again, in the warm sunny light, happy in the excitement of a trip, as we’re lacing up our shoes for a day together in exciting new place.

Delayed Response

Things had so quickly taken over my train of thoughts after I had calmly parked the car a block away, making sure I didn’t lock my keys in the car in this strange town, double-checking that I had grabbed all of the important papers for the interview, looking up the street to see how far I had to walk, that the near miss had gone completely out of my head.

It wasn’t until I curled up in bed, appreciating the warmth of the bed & the softness of the new sheets & sleep began to over-take me, that the details came rushing back to me. The way the winter sun, breaking out of the thick clouds for the first time in weeks, hit the little boy’s curls & lit them up like golden fire. The father, grabbing at his son’s shirt, stretching the shirt out until the striped fabric thins & slips from his fingers. The red, white & blue rubber playground ball bouncing & then rolling to a stop in front of my car. My breaks screaming and startling sparrows out from under a car parked to my right.

The father had fallen off balance when his son slipped out of his hands. The boy, running gleefully, headstrong & oblivious, to reclaim his ball, disappeared entirely as he bent over in front of my car, so small he was completely obscured by the hood.

In another flash, the man was at the child, picking him up, spanking him. His slaps on the butt were fueled by his own fear and the desire to protect his son from future pain. The boy sobbing and kicking, scaring the tiny sparrows up into the air again, now from under a car parked to my left.

The ball falls from the toddler’s hands and rolls under a car, sticking underneath, in the exact place that’s most impossible to reach without wallowing on the ground. Too bombarded with his inner thoughts, the father doesn’t notice a change in his son’s cries, or has had enough of that patriotic rubber ball & walks away, not even slowing down for a second to consider retrieving it.

It all happened in a flash and left my thoughts in a flash, not 5 minutes later. But the temporarily-buried memory came back, bringing with it a pounding heart, goosebumps on my arms, the flush that grows from my chest to my face when I’m embarrassed or panicked. Safe, snuggled into my bed, my husband at my side and no ability to hurt that curly-haired toddler or break his father’s heart, I experience the fear that should have hit me, 8 hours earlier. The paralyzing “what ifs”, the cyclical thoughts of a young life lost beat inside my chests until it was hard to draw breath.

As I fought to get my heart rate back under control, I hoped the father was sleeping better than I was, putting the experience behind him immediately after promising himself he would keep a better hold on his son, when he walks down that busy road in the future. I was positive the little boy was just oblivious to the danger he escaped as he had been earlier that day, in the suddenly bright winter’s sun.

Refreshed Perspective

I was doing a lot of running around in town the other day, for my boy. We took him to see The LEGO Movie & he fell in love with the little blind packs of minifigures you can get from the movie.

He very rarely asks for anything specific, the last time was Christmas 2008, when he asked for discontinued Teen Titan toys, so I was going full Super (Crazy) Mom, looking for these dang things & everyone was sold out. We live 20 miles out of town & there’s no “Just hop to the store for one thing”.

As I crossed to the opposite corner of the town, I thought “Man, I’m hungry, my husband’s almost off work, but I have 2 more stops. I wish I lived in town, so I could finish this up later.” But I can’t because of how far out of town we live. I was tired & grumbling & cranky at the world.

I checked the last 2 stores & decided there was no way I was going to cook dinner when I finally got home, so I stopped at the grocery store that’s next to the exit to the highway, grabbed a chicken meal & got in line.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy looking at me, it gave me a weird vibe, but not a dangerous one, so I didn’t think much of it. Until he said “HEY! I haven’t seen you since high school!”

I have no freaking clue who this guy is, but he gets in line behind me, so I’m stuck. He’s got an adorable little boy with him & I make small talk with the kid & ignore the guy while the checker rings me up. As I’m trying to swipe my card, the dude says “Man, you sure new how to party.”

Yeah. I knew how to party 17 years ago. Yep. That’s why I have a kid that’s about to turn 16!

I paid, grabbed my bags & headed for the door, hurrying through the parking lot because I didn’t want to get stuck chatting in the parking lot with this guy that remembered me as I was at 17.

That’s when I thought, “Thank fucking God I don’t live in town.”

Sometimes life gives you reminders that you live the way you do for a reason. For me, my desire not to hear “You sure knew how to party!” like I’m still defined by my teen years in a small town, is much stronger than my desire for speedy shopping.

Ick! I was really struck by how the thoughts juxtaposed each other. I enjoyed every long mile of the drive back home to my podunk town on the edge of nothing, even if the trip was a total Lego-man failure.