What is home? Perspectives on community from your friendly neighborhood nomad

 Sometimes, I worry that I am TOO much like Jean-Ralphio and then I become concerned. But, let's not think about that right now. 

Sometimes, I worry that I am TOO much like Jean-Ralphio and then I become concerned. But, let's not think about that right now. 

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” -C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

 

I have no home.

It's a dramatic statement (aka 50% of statements originating from me), but nonetheless true for its theatrics. 

My lack of a home is something I have considered philosophically in the past, but especially in the last year--and most definitely during the last two months.

A little background on my state of home-lack: 

  • Since 2013, I have moved (meaning moved myself and my living possessions for an extended period of time) 11 times (I keep whittling all my possessions down too, but there's still too much random nonsense, and I definitely need to keep my complete Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass record collection for REASONS).
  • In 2016 alone, I lived at least six weeks in five different locations in different cities, states, countries, and continents. 
  • For the last two months, I have jumped from couch to couch to floor to couch and back again throughout my Seattle-based friend circle--never staying more than a few nights in a row at one place. 

So, yeah, I literally have no home. However, I have also had the most extraordinary experiences. I have been able to live and work in places and with people that have added to me in brilliant and unexpected ways. I have been gifted opportunities that most are never even offered. 

I recognize my privilege (I doubt fully, but I am still learning), and revel in the experiences I have had--yet still I long for home.

It's odd really, my longing, simply because I am actually quite adaptable. I used to be terrified of new experiences--of losing security--but the more I experienced new things and the more security I lost, the more I learned that it will always be okay. Humans are awesome, because we always find a way to be okay with things (this is also humanity's fatal flaw, but we are not discussing that right now). 

Stick me in an entirely new situation--and two weeks later, it's like I've been there my entire life. (And, I will find the nearest place to procure apple juice, because I am also Buster Bluth.)

This is great for when it's time to start new things, but terribly painful when it's time to leave. 

We all create contextual versions of ourselves. Maybe it's you with a certain group of people, or you in a certain setting. There is a subtly unique version of you that only exists in that context. The core of who you are remains the same, but other fragments and pieces of you thrive or disappear. 

Every time I leave, I must adapt, and, sometimes, I must lose fragments of myself--fragments left to the memories of the people I leave. 

And that is home-lack that I feel: it's those far-flung fragments. 

I have never felt particularly tied to places or things--nor have I have wanted to be permanently tied to any place or situation--but I always feel tied to people. I always want to be permanently tied to be people. Like, it is EXCEEDINGLY difficult to lose me as a friend: no matter how hard you may try. I will haunt you and send you requests to hang out and/or messages relating to your personal interests.*

*At the end of 2016, when I returned from Memphis, I was house-sitting for over a month in Ballard, and occasionally went days without seeing anyone I knew. I mentioned to a friend (we'll call her Amy P.) how sad this was and how I could die and no one would know for days. Her response: "I would know. Because, a day would go by and I wouldn't have received a weird link** from you and I would assume you had died."

**A list of 13 images of moons with Diego Luna's face photoshopped into them is hardly my idea of a "weird link," but I digress.

Anyway.

I feel the longing for home, because it isn't a place. Not really. Or at least not one place. It is a feeling. In my imagination, it is a place where all the fragments of me will be joined together.

A place where I am safe. Safe to be serious and ridiculous and curious and dramatic. A place where embarrassingly earnest is just earnest.  A place where I can talk as much as I want and it is never too much (mwahahahaha!). 

This place does not exist on this earth (C.S. Lewis writes about this longing), so instead, I long for security. This manifests itself in my life in three distinct ways: security of shelter, security of freedom of movement, and security of enough money to ensure independence. 

These are the three things I crave. And, they are three things that have eluded me too often. It is a lesson I must learn again and again and again, but still I hold on tight to my pursuit of security. 

Shelter relates to improving my "technically homeless" state of being; freedom of movement connects to the horror of my semi-constant car-tastrophes (I am gonna pretend I was the first person to think of that word); and money independence is the desire to never rely on any person to pay for any thing. 

These are the three points of security that I live by. 

When I have secured these three things, I WILL BE SET. I will never have to ask a single person for a single thing or any help or show any weakness at all. 

I will be the hero of self-awareness and independent living. Because, if you never have to ask anyone for anything--then you can never be denied anything from anyone. 

And, there, my friends, is the lesson. The one I am forced to learn again and again--while I try and doltishly convince myself that having a place to live, a working car, and enough money is what I truly need--and that I can do it on my own. 

Instead, as the lesson goes, let us consider community

'Cause, friends, community is what keeps me going. It's the strong rock I stand on, or the ropes I climb with, or--when all else fails--the handholds and the footholds I cling to.

Yet, somehow, I continue trying to pretend that community is something I can enjoy  only as long as I am actively paying into it. I can ask for a favor as long as I have a favor saved up in the favor bank (work with me here metaphor-wise). 

That's all fine and dandy when you are on top of the world, but the moment your car breaks down and you have no place to live and you don't have the money to fix the car or pay for rent--then it's all ABANDON SHIP! I'D RATHER NOT ASK FOR HELP FROM MY COMMUNITY BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH COMMUNITY FAVORS SAVED IN THE FAVOR BANK!

Well, as my beloved friend, mentor, and former house-mate Kelsey would tell me: "Don't be a weirdo, Meg." 

Because implicit in this favor-based worldview is a complete lack of grace.

Grace is that tricky thing that flows through all the cracks when you aren't expecting it and overwhelms you with its complete undeservedness. 

Security gained from my independent self just means I absolutely deserve it and earned it and will bask in my glorious self-awareness. 

Security resulting from undeserved grace and generosity is terrifying. Because, if I can receive something I clearly didn't earn--does that mean that life is actually just one long grace note and it's not actually about my individual greatness after all?

YIKES.

A community of grace and learning to accept grace on grace alone is the lesson I learn in perpetual cycle.

It was the fear I felt over a year ago when I launched a GoFundMe page to support my internship in Sierra Leone. My self-awareness told me to expect nothing. My community of grace left me unable to understand as one after another after another of friends, family members, coworkers, former professors, boyfriends and girlfriends of friends just started chipping in--FOR ME. It is unbelievable. You'd think I would have learned my lesson about undeserved grace.

But, then, it was living in Memphis for six months--far away from everything and everyone I knew, yet having an incredible trio of women (Kelsey, Amy, and Kim) watching out for me for no other reason but their own kindness. Believe me, I know there was no other reason, BECAUSE I WASN'T THERE LONG ENOUGH TO DEPOSIT FAVORS IN THE FAVOR BANK.

It was being in Memphis the day when three things decided to happen: my car broke down on the side of the road on the way to my internship, my phone decided to die completely, and my bank made an error and froze my account. I was in a place with zero network support (or so I thought), and independence was not feeling supes great. Here's how that experience played out: 

I was able to revive my phone long enough to call AAA for a tow, and text Kim (who was out of the state at the moment, but called both her husband and Amy). Then the phone died. Forever. 

I drove in the tow truck to a mechanic's shop. Amy was there waiting in her car with a cold bottle of water and drove me to Kim's house. Kim's husband handed me the keys to Kim's minivan to drive while my car is in the shop. I drove to my internship (somehow; no one knows how I made it without my phone for GPS), and then my place of shelter (aka Kelsey's home that she had welcomed me into).

The next day, the mechanic called (the office, cause I still have no phone at this point) and tells me that it is the catalytic converter, and that it will cost $800 to replace. I think I made an involuntary choking sound, because a) my bank was frozen and b) I DIDN'T HAVE $800 IN IT ANYWAY. The mechanic (Ms. Doris as Sandies Automotive; please go there for all your mechanic needs in the Memphis/northern Mississippi area) asked me if I was okay. I literally couldn't respond because I was afraid I was gonna burst into racking sobs. Ms. Doris then said, "Let's figure it out. I bet I can find a better priced part from one of my other vendors, and I will cut the labor costs. Can you do $450 instead?" 

^Reminder: Ms. Doris was a random stranger I had never met.

I still couldn't do $450, but I thanked her profusely, told her that she was a blessing (I almost went full southern lady), and that I would figure it out and call her back.

My mind raced through contingency plans (I am always creating contingency plans), but I couldn't find one that would fix this problem. 

I called my father to let him know the car situation. He shocked me by saying that he and my mother could put in on the card and that I could pay them back--because something would work out.

I gladly accepted this grace, but took secret comfort in the fact that I would still be paying it back though, okay, so maybe twisted up, it was actually totally earned right?

No.

Later that day, I received a message from my sister Sarah saying that she and her husband Trevor would like to give me the money to pay for my car. I couldn't believe the shock of this generosity. I literally tried to not accept. Aka "It's all good and covered. Imma just pay back our parents." But, nope, instead, I had to accept the gift COMPLETELY UNEARNED. THE HORROR.

When I picked up my car the next day, (with Amy getting up extra early in order to make the transfer from Kim's minivan to mechanic's shop before work), I had been given a shocking amount of grace: from Amy, from Kim, from my parents, from Sarah and Trevor, and from Ms. Doris (and also from my friend Kate who watched like six hours of Justified with me via online chat the night before just to cheer me up).

None of it was earned or deserved. It was community.

I wasn't gloriously independent.  I was inextricably connected. 

 

My continued and extended lesson in grace and community has been occurring the last couple of months as I lack shelter (not sure yet where I will be sleeping tomorrow night), have a car with serious issues (not sure yet if it will run in the morning), and only make enough money to just barely cover bills (student loans and phone bill are already paid for this month whooo).

I have become an elemental human: most days begin with the thought where will I sleep tonight and include a search for food. 

Some days, (usually those days between student loan payments and payday), there isn't much food, and some days, my assurance of shelter comes very late in the day (or night).

Every day includes me asking someone else for help.

Yet, here is my privilege: someone always steps up to help. 

I have have slept on the couches, bed, and floors of dozens of people all over the world. Dozens more have given me a meal or let me do my laundry.

And, not a single person has ever expressed anything but open generosity. 

I am reminded constantly of Mr. Rogers advice to "always look for the helpers," because they are everywhere.

I also constantly hear in the back of my mind: "Don't be a weirdo, Meg." Accept the grace and generosity of others--with the full knowledge that you didn't earn it nor do you deserve it. That's why it's grace. 

So, here I am today. Still learning the same lesson in community, but hopefully with a little more humility and perspective. 

Thank you to every person who has shown me grace-filled community. It is not forgotten. 

 

{I am also still totally open to sleep on your couch or floor (I am the succulent of house guests! You can completely forget I exist and not even water me--and I will THRIVE!), so totes keep that in mind. ha!}

 

"All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we're giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That's one of the things that connects us as neighbors--in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver." --Mr. Rogers

 

-Meg

 


In Seattle, there is an actual housing crisis; thousands of people are not as privileged as I am, and spend each day without any security. There are an estimated 500 families who sleep on the streets each night.

Please consider supporting: 

Mary's Place

Seattle's Union Gospel Mission 

YWCA'S Emergency Shelter


Born Free and Equal: Human Rights Day

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

-A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan wrote these words more than half a century ago, but they remain, as always, perilously relevant.  Patti Smith performed it today while accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature on Dylan's behalf, and the timely parallels were clear and overwhelming; painful and hopeful. 

And today, International Humans Rights Day, so designated to remember the date of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we can also see our way through in the same manner: clear, overwhelming, painful, and hopeful. 

The message is not timely because of a sudden increase of human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The message is timely, because human rights violations and crimes against humanity have continued to persist since the beginning of humans. Since the first human disenfranchised another human through greed, self-interest, or fear (and really doesn't it always come from fear?), humans have trampled on the intrinsic humanity of one another whenever possible. 

"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

-The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Humans write these words; humans ratify these words; humans follow these words; and humans destroy these words. 

We know that the world is only as just as there is justice for every person: for the disenfranchised and the exploited, and for the powerful and the abusers. 

On this Human Rights Day, I make a survey of the pain in this world and it crushes me. There is too much. It cannot be done. I am useless. 

But, then, I am reminded that I am not here to save everyone. I am not here to save anyone. We are not here to save--but to love. 

Perhaps, you are overwhelmed today by the injustice around you. Perhaps, you feel hollowed out, because you recognize that close family members and friends are participating in that injustice. Perhaps, you are bent under the guilt of your own complicity in serving injustice. 

That's real. Stare that knowledge straight on, and understand it. Accept the consequences.

And, then, as my sister would tell me, do the next right and good thing in front of you today. 

Stopping crimes against humanity and protecting human rights are the ultimate purposes, but we cannot be overwhelmed by the insurmountable nature of these opaque and somehow vague goals. 

Instead, we must each do what we can. Bob Dylan wrote, "I'll know my song well before I start singin.'" We each have a song. The individual passions and pains which drive our empathy and pursuit of justice.

I am always glad when I hear someone's fight for justice and it is something I had never considered. I am glad, because that means someone else is fighting for something that I would have let slip through the cracks. 

So, know your fight (and you can have more than one), because you are needed. 

"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person."

-Mr. Rogers

So, on this Human Rights Day, I just want to affirm your life, your fight, your will, your purposes, your goals. We need the activists and the artists and the listeners and the nurturers and the teachers and the healers and the leaders and followers and the thinkers and the scientists and the workers and the friends. 

But, remember, we can exude all our energy and our brilliant thoughts and our righteous pursuit of justice, but if we don't have love--we accomplish nothing. 

Remember that the point of humanity is love. That doesn't strip the consequences, and there are real consequences, for dismantling and trampling another's inherent dignity. 

But, still, there can be love. 

So, today:

  • Know your song
  • Make a plan of action
  • Do the next good and right thing in front of you
  • Remember empathy, remember justice, remember love

Or just ignore my inadequate words and listen to Dr. Maya Angelou instead:

Day of the Girl, Harassment, and Why it Hurts When the Men in Our Lives Support Trump

 Me as a girl child. I can confirm that these remain my only three expressions: light disdain, having "fun," and terrifying joy.

Me as a girl child. I can confirm that these remain my only three expressions: light disdain, having "fun," and terrifying joy.

So, yesterday was International Day of the Girl Child. I actually started to write this post last night, but typed the title in, and got so exhausted with the world—that I promptly fell asleep.

Day of the Girl was enacted by the United Nations to celebrate and promote girls, but also to work towards ensuring that girls are given the protections and fundamental human rights that every person deserves. This is about healthcare. This is about education. This is about personal autonomy. This is about ending child marriage and ending female genital mutilation.

But, this is not simply about issues that happen “over there.” Because, sure, in the United States, girls are guaranteed equal access to K-12—but are they being supported and encouraged to pursue whatever academic path they choose? Child marriage is illegal in the United States—but are girls being adequately protected from abuse and harassment? Are girls being taught and supported and encouraged in their own personal autonomy? Is society proving to girls that they have control over their own bodies? Are the people in power ensuring that there are serious consequences to anyone who destroys personal autonomy through harassment and assault?

The answer is no.

Absolutely, some people are being held accountable. Absolutely, there are people who are teaching and encouraging girls. Absolutely, there are people who work to ensure the well-being and safety of girls.

But, not enough. Never enough.

As a society (and a world), we throw complex messages at girls from a very young age:

You have to protect yourself! Danger is everywhere!

You are weak! Your tears show that you cannot control yourself or your emotions!

You have to be pretty and feminine or no one else will want to be around you!

You can’t wear that! Boys/men might see you and they cannot control their thoughts or actions!

You have to have wear makeup, but not too much makeup—the right makeup, so it looks like you’re not wearing any makeup!

You can’t walk/visit/eat/dance/run/shop/sit/live/breathe in those places. They’re not safe for you, and if something happens—it will be your fault!

You have to remember that every single male is a threat!

You shouldn’t be such a bitch! He was trying to be funny!

You shouldn’t be so loud and bossy!

You talk too much!

You don’t get what you want, because you never ask for it!

You should smile more!

You shouldn’t have smiled so much—you were leading him on!

These are just a sampling of the messages that are explicitly and implicitly taught to girls from a very young age. I know that every woman I know could add another ten each off the top of their heads.

So this is the society we have created for girls and for those girls when they age into women. This society that constantly tells women to feel the threat, but also to take responsibility for any threat, but also they are too weak to protect themselves!

And in society, also live the boys and men (dealing with their own uniquely messed up gender standards).

As girls and women, we interact with and love many of these boys and men: they are fathers, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, friends, boyfriends, husbands, co-workers, teachers, pastors, etc, etc, fellow human beings.

Some of the men we interact with say and do terrible, destructive things to us.

Others, we love and respect.

(And, sometimes, we still love the men who say and do terrible, destructive things to us.)

It’s of those men we love and/or respect that I am writing about today.

Because many women are feeling betrayed right now, as many of the men in our lives are confirming what was always a nagging doubt in our minds: they don’t really care enough to try and understand you.

And, it’s all because of the man running as the Republican nominee for President of the United States—the most powerful elected position in the world—Donald Trump.

Why is the betrayal now, instead of years ago when Donald Trump first started spouting toxic nonsense?

I (and many others) have always been firmly horrified by Donald Trump. This post right here timelines some of his terrible statements and actions while campaigning (and it only goes up to February of this year). His words and actions have been and are hateful, and incite hatred. He has said and done horrible things to people based on race, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, nationality, age, and, yes, gender. His ugly statements about and actions toward women have been a constant thread through his life and campaign.

But, the video released last weekend of Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault was somehow just too blatant to be ignored or explained away as “just words” (as his other toxic statements and actions have somehow and wrongfully have been explained away). This was something that must be confronted and denounced, correct?

I am going to post a transcript of the video. I am sorry to do this, especially as it is upsetting to read, but I have learned that many men have heard the explanations for why these words are “inappropriate” or “locker-room talk,” but not the actual words themselves.

Unknown: "She used to be great, she's still very beautiful."
Trump: "I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I'll admit it. I did try and fuck her, she was married."
Unknown: "That's huge news there."
Trump: "No, no, Nancy. No this was [inaudible] and I moved on her very heavily in fact I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said I'll show you where they have some nice furniture. I moved on her like a bitch. I couldn't get there and she was married. Then all-of-a-sudden I see her, she's now got the big phony tits and everything. She's totally changed her look."
Bush: "Your girl's hot as shit. In the purple."
Multiple voices: "Whoah. Yes. Whoah."
Bush: "Yes. The Donald has scored. Whoah my man."
Trump: "Look at you. You are a pussy."
Bush: "You gotta get the thumbs up."
Trump: "Maybe it's a different one."
Bush: "It better not be the publicist. No, it's, it's her."
Trump: "Yeah that's her with the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful... I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything."
Bush: "Whatever you want."
Trump: "Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

Bush: "Yeah those legs. All I can see is the legs."
Trump: "It looks good."
Bush: "Come on shorty."
Trump: "Oh nice legs huh."
Bush: "Get out of the way honey. Oh that's good legs. Go ahead."
Trump: "It's always good if you don't fall out of the bus. Like Ford, Gerald Ford, remember?"
[As Mr Trump attempts to leave the vehicle he struggles with the door]
Bush: "Down below, pull the handle."
[Mr Trump exits the bus and greets actress Arianne Zucker]
Trump: "Hello, how are you? Hi."
Zucker: "Hi Mr Trump. How are you?"
Trump: "Nice seeing you. Terrific. Terrific. You know Billy Bush?"
Bush: "Hello nice to see you. How are you doing Arianne?"
Zucker: "I'm doing very well thank you. [Addressing Trump] Are you ready to be a soap star?"
Trump: "We're ready. Let's go. Make me a soap star."
Bush: "How about a little hug for the Donald, he's just off the bus?"
Zucker: "Would you like a little hug darling?"
Trump: "Absolutely. Melania said this was okay."
Bush: "How about a little hug for the Bushy, I just got off the bus? Here we go, here we go. Excellent."
[Mr Bush gesticulates towards Ms Zucker as he turns to Mr Trump]
Bush: "Well you've got a good co-star here."
Trump: "Good. After you. Come on Billy, don't be shy."
Bush: "Soon as a beautiful woman shows up he just, he takes off. This always happens."
Trump: "Get over here, Billy."
Zucker: "I'm sorry, come here."
Bush: "Let the little guy in there. Come on."
Zucker: "Yeah, let the little guy in. How you feel now, better? I should actually be in the middle."
Bush: "It's hard to walk next to a guy like this."
Zucker: "Wait. Hold on."
[Ms Zucker changes position and walks between the two men]
Bush: "Yeah you get in the middle. There we go."
Trump: "Good. That's better."
Zucker: "This is much better."
Trump: "That's better."
Bush: "Now if you had to choose, honestly, between one of us. Me or the Donald, who would it be?"
Trump: "I don't know, that's tough competition."
Zucker: "That's some pressure right there."
Bush: "Seriously, you had to take one of us as a date."
Zucker: "I have to take the Fifth [Amendment of the US Constitution] on that one."
Bush: "Really?"
Zucker: "Yep. I'll take both."
[They reach the end of the corridor]
Trump: "Which way?"
Zucker: "Make a right. Here we go."
Bush: "Here he goes. I'm gonna leave you here. Give me my microphone."
Trump: "Okay. Okay. Oh, you're finished?"
Bush: "You're my man. Yeah."
Trump: "Oh. Good."

Awful, dehumanizing, ugly stuff, right? For women: too real, right?

And for women, this is too real. If it was just talk between two men: it would be sexist and dehumanizing and wrong. But, it doesn’t end as the misogynistic talk between two men. It is the experiences of women.

After this video was released on Friday night, Kelly Oxford, on Twitter, asked for women to tweet her their first assaults: for a day, she received over 50 responses a minute. By Monday, over 27 million had responded or visited her page.

That should horrify everyone.

Every person should realize that Donald Trump needs to have consequences for his abusive actions.

And when women saw the video, and were sad (and reminded of their own experiences) but not at all shocked that the video existed—men should have listened and responded.

Some did; many who already had seen the toxic nonsense coming from Trump had never supported him or accepted him or let him off the hook. And, they were quick to denounce this latest monstrosity. That’s good!

And, then, there were others who had stomached and tolerated Trump’s toxicity, but managed to denounce him now. That’s better than nothing. (Although, pro-tip: when speaking out against sexual assault, it is perfectly fine to refer to women as simply “somebody” without attributing their humanity to a man they are related to; i.e. somebody instead of somebody’s daughter, wife, sister, mother, second cousin twice-removed.)

And, then, there were still others—who continued to support or tolerate Trump or whatever.

These are the men I am writing about. These men who brush aside the experiences of the women they know and love. These men who twist and turn to justify supporting a man who admits to sexually assaulting women. These men who love and care about us, but not enough to listen.

Please, listen.

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of rape in her lifetime.

1 out of every 3 American women report having been “been victims of a rape, beating or stalking, or a combination of assaults.”

I am pretty comfortable based on a survey of, oh, every single woman or teenage girl I have ever known, that every American female experiences sexual harassment at some point in her life (and to be real, it’s mostly all the time).

Donald Trump’s bragging about sexual assault while Billy Bush laughs and encourages it is what being a women in the United States is all about.  

And, so, to the men who love and care about me, please listen to my experiences:

{I want to make it clear that as a white female who has lived most of her life in the “progressive” Pacific Northwest—my experiences are minimal in relation to my friends who are women of color and/or trans women or who live in a less so-called “progressive” place.}

Being female is:

Carrying a weapon with you everywhere you go (mace or a taser) since you were teenager. And when you realize that you don’t have your mace with you, but feel unsafe, you hold your keys in between your fingers and remind yourself to aim for the eyeballs.

Taking the public bus to school when you’re sixteen, and having an old man say, “Hey, schoolgirl, smile!” while he leers at you and you try very hard to ignore him and sink into your seat and maybe become invisible.

Walking down the street on the rich, old, white Kirkland waterfront in the middle of the day, and having two men sitting on the Starbucks patio with a dozen people around them call out asking you if your leggings are painted on, and telling you that they look good while they smirk.

Being poked with a pencil on the bus when you’re a teenager and looking back at the man who laughs and then pokes you again.

Going for a walk while chatting with your mother on the phone and over the course of the ~9 miles being cat-called/harassed/told to “come here” ten different times. And that’s not just ten different men, but ten different instances (some being groups of men).

Trying to pretend you can’t hear or see, and hope they don’t get angry.

Learning how, when you are cornered, to acknowledge the man enough so that he won’t get angry, but not enough that he will continue to try and talk to you or bother you.

Clutching your phone/mace/keys every time there is a man walking behind you at night.

Sharing your own personal self-defense and safety tips with your female friends while you laugh—even though no one thinks it’s funny.

Having men laugh at your experiences. Don’t you know that women in Saudi Arabia aren’t allowed to drive?

Responding to a male professor’s incredulous question of what kind of problems women at your university could possibly face by saying, “intellectual belittlement”—and having him laugh and say, “I meant real problems.”

Telling a different male professor that the textbooks are entirely exclusionary to women, and literally reference being for men only again and again—and then being told that I should “try and learn from a male perspective for once.”

Hearing multiple male professors say that they guess women just can’t see/understand/learn certain things the same way men do.

Remaining calm when several guys in your almost-entirely-male class laugh out loud when you ask the professor a question about how women were included historically in the particular topic of that day’s class.

Sitting in Sunday School as a child and being told that Eve ruined everything, Hagar was evil, Bathsheba seduced poor David, Martha was a haggard old maid, and every other woman in the Bible was either a "bad prostitute" or a mother of an important guy.  

Smiling awkwardly, because you don’t want to be rude, when a man asks you if you’re going to college to get your MRS degree.

Attempting to not look too obviously uncomfortable as men withhold payment for their coffee until you “smile for me, honey.”

Recoiling when strange men touch you in public, both “accidentally” and blatantly—too many to remember every individual experience.

Making spur-of-the-moment judgements about whether that man is dangerous or just trying to be friendly.

Experiencing living in another country, where even though your skin color and Americanness grants you a significant level of protection compared to women who are nationals, you are still sexually harassed every day—and even have a group of male “friends” of a friend joke to your face about buying you and maybe selling you too.

Tamping down your speech and couching it in “maybes” and “what do you thinks,” hoping to make your words as palatable and acceptable as possible.

Worrying that you will be thought of as too bossy and loud every time you express an opinion.

Failing, but not through lack of effort, to keep your tears inside when hit with deep stress, fear, or disappointment—and then hearing men say that they will talk to you when you are able to control yourself.

Shrinking to make yourself smaller--to take up less space; become invisible--on the streets and in public as strange men call you a bitch or worse for not interacting with them.

Crying as your friends share their stories of harassment, abuse, and assault.

Hoping that men will listen and care—but being disappointed too often.

Donald Trump not only doesn’t care about women—he is actively harming and abusing all women (and non-white men, LGBTQ+ men, immigrant/refugee men, men with disabilities, low-income men, non-“Christian” men).

He admitted to it himself. But, he didn’t apologize. It’s just talk, right? Why get upset?

He doesn’t understand.

Please, I want you, men who support Trump, to understand.

Somebody (‘s daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, friend, peer) is being hurt, and you aren’t listening.

 

My five-year-old niece is being raised by her awesome mother and awesome father to know that she has value and power exactly by being her: being strong, empathetic, smart, loving. She recently declared that she wants to be a “Preacher and a Scientist!”; she wants to save the trees; she wants to make sure people without homes have a place to live; she wants to study worms in a microscope; she wants to draw fairies; she wants to make sure all children have shoes and access to clean water; she wants to be an American Ninja Warrior; she wants to go the next class-group in ballet; she wants to be loved and heard.

She is going on to great things one way or the other, but wouldn’t it be better if she knew a society (and world) where the men in her life—relatives, friends, teachers, coworkers—helped make the society safer and better by listening and caring and doing something about it?