Things, November

Having Kamel home on paternity leave has been so nice. It has also been a lesson in the differences between “men out in the world with babies” and “women out in the world with babies.”

Exhibit 1: Kamel is in the grocery store. Checker is googly eyes mad-crazy at Fae. She then says “Stay at home dads are my weakness!” to Kamel. He replies, “Oh, I’m just on leave.” She says, “That’s like a whole MOVEMENT right now!”

I am at the grocery store with Fae. The most I get is “How old is he?” “Oh she’s ______ months.” And then I struggle to open the door and pull the stroller through while also carrying groceries by myself.

Exhibit 2: Kamel posts a photo of himself holding Fae while playing video games. Comments include heart eye emojis and “What an attentive dad!”

Exhibit 3: (This is with Gabriel and not during Kamel’s current leave, for the record) While changing Gabe’s diaper in a men’s room at a car dealership with no changing station, “I’m really sorry there are no changing stations in here. You’re doing a great job, man. I’ve got 6 kids at home. Keep it up.”

Me nursing Fae at the Zoo while it is pouring down rain. I am sitting off to the side, not blocking anything, minding my own business while Gabe and Kamel run around an exhibit. The sign on the door said, “Please no strollers because of crowds” and there was maybe 3 other people in the exhibit.

“Um excuse me, you can’t have your stroller inside any of the buildings.”

“Oh, yeah… I just have this one in the car seat.” (THE ONE ATTACHED TO MY NIPPLE)

“Yeah, everyone does. No strollers allowed in any of the buildings.”

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… Not impressed, Zoo. Not impressed.

Winter is so dark. How is it possible that I keep forgetting this? Thankfully it comes on the heels of twinkle lights and social events and cozy clothing and hot tea! My god, the hot tea. A cup of tea can just CHANGE a person, amIright? Other positive winter feels include: indoor open swim for Gabriel and Kamel, slippers, Christmas lists, secret santas, not sweating, winter ale, and those crisp sunny days.

Earlier this month I saw Gloria Steinem in conversation with Cheryl Strayed and I cried 4 times during the discussion. The biggest sob fest was when an older Asian woman came up to the microphone and thanked Gloria Steinem for being such a good friend to her and for coming into her garden on Whidbey Island and for breaking her isolation due to her language barrier. Water works for days. Things I learned from the discussion:

  • When the media freaks out about young women claiming they don’t need feminism, it’s kind of a joke. A 20 year old posting a sign on twitter does not take into account the millions of women who are 30+ actively living and preaching feminism in their daily life. It is a reminder that the world views women’s contributions as being only as good as their young, ripe bodies. The voice of feminism does not end at 29, does not end at menopause! Women get more radical with age.
  • Feminism is all encompassing. It includes gay rights, all civil rights, all equalities. Feminism is for everyone. People of color have always been at the forefront.
  • At times it feels like we are slipping backwards, but these conversations weren’t even happening 70 years ago. Do not despair.
  • The most important freedom is the freedom over our own bodies and our own reproductive rights. The choice of when and where and if to have children is a basic human right. It is a domino effect of all freedom.
  • (This I did not fully realize until this conversation) Women are still not equal under the law in the United States because the Equal Rights Amendment has not yet been ratified. We are, literally, legally not equal at this time. If you think this doesn’t actually mean anything, the supreme court rules on the actual law, not the assumed law and as major cases about women’s health come to pass, it does count that the constitution does not say “All men and women are created equal.”

Fae goes to daycare in a few weeks. I’ve been sad about it all month. I’ve gotten accustomed to her. And I don’t want to be away from her. I’ll get over it. Daycare is good for her and me. But… my baby!! I want to snuggle her and see her crinkle nose smile every day, all day. The world is full of a million contradictory things I want all at the same time and cannot have.

Job Hunt Part 2: Even With A Small Child At Home?

On Sunday, while we were running errands in hell BabiesRUs I got a call back from a job I had applied for on a tech job listing site. The editor was calling to set up an interview for that day (Sunday, reminding you: Sunday) or on Monday. Because I am not one to turn my nose at an opportunity, regardless of how sketch it was to be getting called on the weekend, I returned the editor’s call and set up a formal interview for an hour later.

Initially it was the usual “tell me about your background” type of conversation, but then she asked me to tell her about myself – stuff that wasn’t on my resume. I started giving her more of my background, how I had graduated from grad school and then pieced together my writing career at the height of the recession, blahblah, but she stopped me and said, “No, I mean stuff that isn’t on your resume.”

Ugh.

So, flustered, I said I had two kids, that we had moved up to Seattle a year and a half a go when my husband got a job at Microsoft…. and she chatted amicably with me about the west coast and having kids, her only child was now 22, etc etc.

Things got weird again when she suddenly said they would like to offer me a trial job. A trial job? I said. Like a contract? I asked.

Well no, not like a contract, she said. This would be 2 articles a day for 2 weeks to make sure I would be a good fit, that I could keep up with the work… especially with having a small child at home.

With having a small child at home, would I, professional me, with a masters degree and 5 years of this particular experience under my belt, not to mention the bajillion other jobs I’ve held down, even during grad school, even during undergrad, even while also TAing….. be able to complete my work?

I let the comment slide, but stuck it in my back pocket just in case, because my next question was: And what would the rate be for this?

Oh, this would not be paid. Two weeks of part time work, getting 20ish articles out of me, for freebies.

No thanks, I said, that would not be acceptable. She gave me her email address (which I pretended to copy down) just in case I changed my mind, and that was that.

Even with a small child at home, even with the cost of 2 daycares looming, even with our house savings completely halted while I am scrambling for work and taking phone interviews covered in spit up…. Even with all of that, I know I’m worth more than that and I’ll wait for it.

Postpartum Feelings

I have a few more postpartum posts coming before I can move on from this period of being, this being one of them. I have been wanting to talk about this for weeks now, but have been finding it difficult to a) fine the time to write and b) I needed to clarify my thinking on it. But I want to discuss having postpartum feelings without having PPD.

A note: Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety is serious and should not be ignored. There are many people able and willing to assist you if you feel you have postpartum symptoms that make it difficult to continue your day-to-day, have you considering self harm or harm to your child.

That being said, I have not experienced PPD. Even though being in the grips of postpartum life it often feels like everyone is watching to see if you are about to fly off the handle. The 6 week check up and even your infant’s early check ups are also about evaluating you. This makes me fidgety and makes me feel like I have to go overboard to be like, “I’m FINE, REALLY.”

Even when “fine” is relative.

Even when some days I fantasize about running away to a quiet space just to have an afternoon where no one is touching me or trying to get my attention over and over again while I’m taking, do you see that I’m trying to talk to daddy? Can you please wait your turn? Would everyone please SHUT UP FOR TWO SECONDS MY GOD.

Life with a newborn can be very hard. It is a massive transition and the little bundles of pure joy don’t make it easy. They actually do a lot to make it really really difficult. It also doesn’t help that once you become a parent  and you are a woman, a lot of people want to stick a giant sign on your head that reads MOM. I like being a parent but I would rather do without the sign.

All of this makes the time right after having a baby feel like a bad amusement park ride. That seems to never ever end. Maybe it truly never does and you just get used to the spinning and the funny way the world is now tilted. It’s exhilarating and beautiful and strange and can make you very sick.

Having two kids has been very hard for me. It is not easier the second time around. Having two is nothing like having one. Two months in and things are not easier. There are days I feel like I am drowning and completely unable to think one full thought in my own little head because of all the external demands for my time. Still being at home, often alone for 10-11 hours a day with an infant is very lonely. It is exceptionally hard work, physically, but it is also incredibly boring. My day is about killing as much time as possible in newborn-friendly ways. There aren’t a lot of options. And Fae didn’t help me out for the first 6 weeks of life with her deep hatred for the car seat and the stroller. I am sore from carrying her around, from my bones and muscles and tendons all coming back to life and sorting themselves out after pregnancy and labor, I am sweaty and sticky from the heat of another human, the juices of another human. This is physical, back breaking work. You don’t think carrying around 10 lbs is hard? Do it for 3 hours straight. Now carry around 12. Do it with a lackluster core at best, do it with stitches in your vagina, do it with incredibly heavy, aching, leaking breasts. Five days a week alone, 10-11 hours a day.

Postpartum life is hard for me this time around. With Gabe I actually really enjoyed my time off. With Fae I struggle. I live for the weekends. I apply to jobs instead of making lunch if I only have time for one because getting my autonomy back as a person out in the world means more to me than delaying a meal. I really really really love her, but my current home life feels stressed and frantic and like I can’t ever quite get my feet under me. And those things are not connected. My joy for her is not related to my struggle with this new life, the life of a family of 4 with two young young young children at home. And I have 0 guilt about disliking this postpartum experience. I love every smile I get from her, and I actively seek to spend my days without her in the near future. And when I do finally get a job, I will miss her terribly.

Life is messy and makes no sense. Feelings make us human.

That’s Some Biblical Plague Shit

Every sex ed class ever. KThanx.

Also: Happy Monday <3 This is a goody.

The Guilt and Shame Spiral

I’ve been struggling with a lot of guilt about being home and not trying to work up until my due date.

Even though it would have been a huge struggle.

Even though there were days, even in the third trimester, (many days) I didn’t want to leave the couch because I felt like I had the flu.

Even though I have my family’s support and we are lucky to be able to generally afford this time off.

Except the decision has ripple effects. It means Gabe gets home later, and is gone from the house way more (like 11 hours on the bad days) because of traffic, because Kamel is busy at work and sometimes can’t leave when he should, because you need 3 people in the car to use the carpool lanes and I’m not there. It means during the months we would normally be strapped financially because of payroll timing and bill timing, we are EXTRA STRAPPED because there is none of my income to assist. It means putting off things like haircuts and having long budget talks into the night to figure out how we can pay for all the things we need to pay for and get to the next pay period without incurring more debt. It means no saving for a house.

And I struggle with this because I feel like it is my fault. It’s my fault my kid is gone too much, and it’s my fault that we are having to have the big talks about the things we cannot actually do even when we said we would because we can’t afford them, and the talks about the things we need to put off buying for the baby – the things we would like but don’t need. My fault. If only I were working.

Except my situation sucked. It was not supportive. I would have had to take major pay cuts to go to all of these doctor appointments.

Except I am doing something – I’m pregnant and it is really hard. Not for everyone, but for me. I hurt and I feel awful, even right now, even right this second I feel so gross. And when I talked to friends of mine who also have kids (Hi Jo!) they reminded me: if women had a better support system, if men had babies, if women’s health was actually valued in this insane patriarchy bullshit society then I probably wouldn’t feel so guilty. I probably wouldn’t have reason to, first of all, but it also wouldn’t be so ingrained in me that I should be “pulling my weight” and “doing it all” and setting aside my health to “contribute to society.”

As Jo said last week to me: You are not making your family’s life harder, you’re making your family.

And as much as I do want to get back to work, this is important life shit happening right now. Important! And I don’t want to feel bad about taking care of me for a short period of time in my life. The rest of my life will be working and child wrangling and partnering and all the things. Right now it’s about taking a few months and letting myself be sick at home, pushing myself to go on walks and stay active, taking the time to rest when I need it, and then eventually having time home with an infant without a looming deadline of 6 weeks hanging over my head.

And these things are luxuries currently. LUXURIES. When I type them out they seem like “well of course” things. “Well of course a largely pregnant woman would want to stay home,” “Well of course parents need time home with their new babies, and women need time to recover and heal and breast feed and and and and…” But I feel guilty and like a massive burden at times because … this small amount of time in a person’s whole productive life is seen as too much. And that’s wrong.

So, I’m working on not feeling guilty, on not feeling like I’m making life harder on everyone else. I’m working on saying, “This is how it should be.” Because it should be. Regardless of economic status, regardless of familial support. We should be taking care of each other better especially in regards to some of the most basic life experiences, the most basic life challenges. I don’t want to see more rhetoric putting mothers on some ridiculous pedestal, I want to see legislature that supports women’s health holistically without guilt or shame.

Mother’s Day

For all of the hallmark, corporate money grubbing, advertisement saturated day that is Mother’s Day it really doesn’t phase me. Until I remember that the companies pushing how much we all LOVE moms, are probably making mother’s who actually work for them pump in stupid places, come back to work way too soon, drain their vacation and sick days, and, in general, treat them like inconvenient burdens. Poor companies… having to employ fertile women who choose to have families…

Why I Hate Men

I woke up on Monday hating men. I am not sorry.

Here’s the thing – I have said and written (probably) about how I’m a feminist, yadda yadda, and how I don’t hate men, I love men, how I don’t want to rule men, I just want to be treated equally. Is that so hard?

But the truth is I’ve had a smoldering outrage building and building and building inside me the older I get, the more I see, the more I experience. And now I feel like it’s not just about equality, it’s about survival. I feel like I’m coming off like a doomsday prep-er, but I barely even care.

My awareness and outrage began building over many small things throughout my adult life. In college during a gender studies class I was the only one in the room to self identify as a feminist. I think this speaks to a lack of education on what that means and the social acceptance that gender inequality enjoys right now, has always enjoyed. When I was 19 I had a boyfriend scold me for wearing a tank top and a messenger bag. He told me that my school bag pushed against my boobs and made people look at me.

But it wasn’t until the most recent upheaval of legislature pushing back on women’s health issues that threaten to push gender equality back 30, 40, 50 years that I really started to feel under attack. It wasn’t until I got pregnant the first time that I really understood the importance of abortion as an option, the importance of easy and affordable access to birth control, and how punishing women in the workforce for pregnancy is a huge culprit in workplace inequality. And by punishing I mean not being accommodating for pregnancy disabilities, not awarding bonuses if a woman is out on maternity leave even if she works and achieves the vast majority of the year/quarter/etc. Not hiring pregnant women. Having a minimum of time spent at an employer before you are eligible for maternity leave (if you get it at all). Being wary of promoting a pregnant woman or a woman with children because her time may be valued elsewhere. Because the most powerful, company running men in the world are all single without children, right?

Conservatives want to restrict or abolish access to abortion, and conservatives want to be able to pick and choose what kind of healthcare coverage they offer their employees if it doesn’t mesh with the core beliefs of the company. Except none of those health related issues have to do with men. There is no insurance restriction on Viagra or penis pumps based on an arbitrary value system. Penis pumps are actually covered by medicare. 

So these political things are on going: The slut shaming of Sandra Fluke after speaking to congress. Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court. Wendy Davis and her filibuster, her necessary filibuster to block a bill that would have shut down 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in the state that provide a wealth of women’s health to an often impoverished and desperate population. And on and on and on. If those things aren’t enough to make me feel personally attacked, like a war is being waged and my vagina is at the center of it – don’t worry! There’s more.

There is the growing Men’s Rights Movement that discusses lowering the age of consent in order to lower the number of rape charges (among many other horrific mindsets). Because who are the real victims in rape accusations? Men, of course.

There was Elliot Roger’s Manifesto and his crusade to murder innocent women around the University of California Santa Barbara because, according to him, they wouldn’t have sex with him and that was a crime punishable by death. This also shed a light on how big, graphic, and angry the Men’s Rights Movement really is. Especially after so many came out in chat rooms supporting his martyrdom.

There are the domestic violence statistics that say every single day 3 women die due to domestic violence. Here are more facts.

On a base level there is Men Taking Up Too Much Space on The Train. This is the perfect example of entitlement and privilege. When the rest of us are squished, with bags in our laps, elbows in, knees crossed, pregnant and standing, disabled  and having to insist on a seat, men spread ’em wide and never even think about it. It’s not malicious, of course not, it’s just a given.

Then there is everything about pregnancy and child rearing. That socially it’s seen as a woman’s job, a woman’s sacrifice. Do it all and do it all well. It’s my choice as a woman to be pregnant so it is also my burden to carry. This child is 50% his, but let’s not inconvenience the fathers with having to go to all of the doctor’s appointments. Let’s not wake them during night feedings because we wouldn’t want them to be tired at work. Let’s not expect them to make professional sacrifices in order to be home with a sick kid, wouldn’t want them to miss out on that big work opportunity he’d get to travel for, men can’t really be trusted to ask the right questions at the pediatricians office anyway, right?

And now I’m having a daughter and what kind of world am I bringing her into. The kind where women’s health is still politicized, where walking down the street without comment is a privilege and only one you can enjoy if you’re in the company of another man. Where catcalling is a compliment, bitch, can’t you take a complement, I’m just saying you look good today. A world where if she has babies her partner may be ushered into the dad’s club of working from home possibilities, an understanding male boss who looks the other way when he’s got to check out early to grab a sick kid, while she takes the smallest amount of time off after giving birth so that the family doesn’t lose too much money and she doesn’t look too bad to her employer.

I woke up on Monday hating men because, whatever… I’m tired of you, men. I’m tired of playing nice and trying to get you to see my side of things. I’m tired of arguing semantics and politics and who has the right to what and what freedoms are we really restricting, and and and they are MY freedoms you’re restricting. Those are my streets I’m waking down, with my legs that don’t require a comment. That’s my seat your shoving your knee into on the bus, and no I will not give you a smile. Does the United States really think a company is going to have its feeling TOO hurt by providing birth control to female employees? That if a company provides birth control then the company might not get into heaven? I mock that. I mock it all day long. And I don’t mock the Men’s Rights Movement, I take it seriously. It’s a terrorist group made up of people who hate that they can’t just take whatever they want whenever they want and the desire that binds them happens to be between women’s legs. My legs. The legs of the little girl inside my belly.

So we’re no longer buddies, men. I don’t think we ever really were. You probably think I’m crazy and need to lighten up anyway.

Real Life Conversation: Misogyny

In the car on the way home from work last Friday a real life conversation happened and half way through I was already crafting the blog post in my mind.

Kamel: You know, something interesting happened to me today. I saw my first ever Tesla with a woman driver!

Lauren: Oh fun!

Kamel: And… I have to admit something. My first impression of it was totally not good.

Lauren: …. why?

Kamel: Well… my first thought was that she was driving her husbands car. It’s AWFUL! I know! Why is that my first thought? Isn’t that bullshit? It’s just so pervasive and part of this weird gender thing that happens in society! But, I mean, there is no reason why that could not be her car. She looked professional and everything!

Lauren: It IS pervasive! It is everywhere! I definitely have my own assumptions on what “Soccer mom” cars look like and stuff.

Kamel: But really expensive cars I always assume a male owner/driver. Except for the Porsche Cayenne.

Lauren: Because that is totally the stay-at-home-mom-mobile!

Kamel: EXACTLY! And if I saw a man driving it I’d think…

Lauren: … oh, his car is in the shop. And his wife must be soooo annoyed.

Kamel: YES!

Lauren: Yeah, this is really fucked up.

Kamel: It is.

 

**Do you have secret gender norm ideas? What do you default to?

Maternity Leave is Not a Handout for Whiny Bitches

But it’s also true that these companies are capitalizing on a serious weakness in our social contract. The United States and its corporate structures were built with one kind of workerfrankly, with one kind of citizenin mind. That citizen wage-earner was a white man. That this weakness is being addressed by employers faster than it is being addressed by Congress contributes to the widening of the class chasm. Policies that account for the fact that women now give birth and earn wages on which their families dependand, for that matter, that men now earn wages and provide childcare on which their families dependshould not be crafted by individual bosses or corporations on a piecemeal basis that inevitably favors already privileged populations. They should be available to every American. But until we see a large-scale, national refashioning of family leave, the economic fates of childbearers will be left in the hands of the private entities that employ them.

You can read more of this article here.

These are the facts of my maternal/working life:

  • When I got pregnant with Gabe I was accruing sick leave and vacation pay, both to be exhausted during my unpaid leave, for any sick days due to pregnancy (which there were many because oh god) and doctor appointments etc.
  • There were times during that pregnancy that I worked more than 40 hour weeks in order to make up time, pre-approved, so that I wouldn’t have to use my accrued time off for doctor appointments. As a pregnant woman working more than 40 hours a week fucking sucks.
  • About half way through my pregnancy the company changed policies and my sick leave stopped accruing, so my plans for a do-able time off were chopped in half. That sick leave was quickly drained with monthly doctor appointments and actual sick time. I actually cried at work when this new policy was announced. The official reasoning was: people were using their sick time too much. (Imagine that, people using sick leave instead of coming to work and/or using their PTO that is being squirreled away for other plans. Once this stopped accruing for people, we got the NORO virus at work and people were dropping like flies.)
  • By the time I had Gabe I had accrued 10 days of vacation which covered the first two weeks of my leave. I had also applied for disability with the state of CA which would cover me for 6 weeks at a certain % of my pay that I can’t remember right now. Because CA government offices were on mandatory short weeks due to budget restraints, my claim was not processed for a month, where I received no pay and needed to ask my parents for money to pay my student loans. After being on the phone, on hold, for hours while trying to feed and comfort a new born baby, and refaxing and remailing various documents I finally was awarded disability pay.
  • I had job protection during my leave because of FMLA, but I had no financial benefits. After 7 weeks I went back to work. Kamel took over baby-wrangling for a month of his own FMLA leave and used his vacation time with the option for actual paternity leave (at a certain % of his current pay) once his vacation was used up that we opted out of because the cut in pay would not have been sustainable.
  • With baby number 2 I got pregnant once I had been with a company for an amount of time that would have put me over a year with them once I gave birth, just like I had with Gabe.
  • The problem is I’m a contract worker. So even though I work full time for 1 company, I’m actually paid by another. I receive no PTO, no sick leave, no holiday pay, and no job protection.
  • If I got hired at any time after becoming pregnant full time at the company I show up to every single day I would still not be covered under FMLA because I wouldn’t have TECHNICALLY worked for them for a year. Because I had spent all my previous time actually being paid by the company that is contracting me out.
  • If I had applied to full time work elsewhere after finding out I was pregnant I would also not be protected by FMLA and may not qualify for any leave benefits imaginary company would hypothetically offer.
  • My contract ends at the end of April, at which point I will be leaving my job and the money I make here. I am lucky and full of privilege because we can afford our rent and our daycare and our bills on Kamel’s salary. To an extent. We cannot afford those things with 2 children, so about a month postpartum I’ll be job searching like mad.
  • I haven’t even approached my boss about a possible leave allowance or job protection. Why? Because I don’t want to fucking have that conversation where either they tell me “no, sorry” or they offer me 6 weeks and I have to act grateful. I am not grateful. I’m not doing 6 weeks again. 6 weeks fucking sucks. I want to take the time I need to breast feed my kid successfully and not dry up in a pumping room that’s actually a normal overly used conference room where people try to bust in while my tits are out. I want to bleed in peace. I don’t want to be rushed. Yes I’m applying for jobs a month out, but those things take time, interviews take time, it’s all on my clock anyways.

Not having children is an excellent life choice. It gives you freedom and extra money and lots of positives. But! Technically speaking, if people just stopped having kids the human race would cease to exist. Life as we know it would end, the economy would shrivel up and die, and the earth would rejoice because we would finally stop trying to kill it.

But that’s not my point… my point is, having real time off to heal and recoup after childbirth (And 6 weeks for vaginal and 8 for C-section is an absolute JOKE as my hair is falling out, as my nipples are cracked and scabbing over, as my body is a giant squishy sack of pudding and nothing except yoga pants looks appropriate), having the ability to nurture an absolutely broken human who doesn’t even have control over moving their own limbs initially, who has to eat every 2 hours regardless of whether it’s the sun or the moon pouring through my bedroom window, and yes also having the grace to afford two horribly sleep deprived people the chance to figure out what the fuck they’ve got themselves into is not an ENTITLEMENT. It is human. This is a human thing. It’s as human as helping an elderly person cross the street, it’s feeding the poor, it’s community, it’s the village we all came from at some point in our human history. When is policy going to reflect that?

I am Not an Afraid Person

I watched the video of the woman walking through NYC like most everyone else did. As I watched my anxiety level rose and rose and rose. I was that woman. In that moment I was her, but also I am her tomorrow and I was her yesterday and I am her right now.

I am not an “afraid” person. I am the person who walks up to a man harassing a woman with a small child outside of the grocery store for money and tell him to get away. I see that she is afraid and doesn’t know what to do and doesn’t want to scare her children while she waits for someone to pull the car around so I tell the guy, “Enough, get out of here.” Even though Kamel tells me I’m going to get stabbed one day. As I’m leaving a movie theater I notice a woman being intimidated by a man next to her car. I ask her if she is ok. I am not afraid. I will be bigger and louder. I will not let someone who feels alone be alone.

But I always feel threatened.

Walking home from work one day a group of drunk men were walking towards me. One was carrying a 12 pack of beer in one hand. I tried to silently move around them, but he moved to block me. I moved to the other side of the sidewalk, but he shadowed me. He did this again until he was right in front of me. I pushed the shoulder that was holding the beer so he was off balance and called him a jerk and danced around him and kept walking as they all laughed.

At work in the elevator I notice when I am the only woman.

Having a kid has not made it better. Getting commented on, asked to smile, or when threatening men try to engage with my baby – those things make me feel like a wolf surrounded.

There is a lunch place I go to near my office. I often get a sandwich “with no cheese please.” It shouldn’t matter why. But every single time I order it, if there is this one guy working that station, he says, “With extra cheese?” and he smiles at me because he knows it is a joke. I say, “No thank you,” cheerily. Sometimes I notice he puts cheese on my sandwich anyway. One time after maybe I’ve requested no cheese 7 times, he tells me I should get it with a different kind of cheese than is listed. He says I’ll love it. I say, “no, just no cheese please.” He says, “oh are you allergic?” and because I am bad at lying on the spot I say, “No… I just… don’t want the extra calories.” And then he makes a comment about that but I am no longer hearing him because I am just feeling strangely violated. I am feeling ashamed. Why do you think it is your job to tell me what I will like? Why do I have to explain my food choices? Why is this a constant issue when it is just lunch, I think I know what I want for lunch.

And maybe it is just someone in food service trying to be chatty. But it doesn’t FEEL that way to me. It feels exhausting. It makes me not want to go there anymore, to have this song and dance about my simple lunch choices. And I wonder if a dude came in every day and said “no cheese,” would that guy tease him and poke at him about cheese? I can’t imagine it. I have never seen it in the many lines I have stood in. Would he question another man’s choices?

At a different lunch place I am eating alone in a big booth. I like the space. There are plenty of seats so I don’t feel guilty. A group of men sit at a large booth across the room. They are laughing and looking at me. One or two of them make direct eye contact as I flick my eyes over the room. I immediately worry one of them will try to come over. I immediately worry that they are talking about me, looking at me, that they will call out to me. I feel very small, I feel embarrassed. I try to remember that I am a grownup and that I’m fine. I go back to reading my book and waiting for my food. But it is too late. I’ll keep my eye on them the rest of the time.

I’m not an “afraid” person. Being threatened has just become the normal current running just under my skin. Deflecting, avoiding, and having to always be willing to be the loudest one in the room so that someone else will see if it comes down to it. I am so tired.

 

**Edit: I re-read this and I remembered what I wanted to say. So, don’t tell me they are just trying to be nice and don’t tell me it’s a compliment and don’t tell that I’m being sensitive and relax. If you can’t handle keeping your mouth shut there is something wrong with YOU, not me, not every other woman who just wants to walk to the store, to go about her day, without fielding comments and side stepping potential threats. Don’t tell me feminism isn’t important. Don’t tell me men are harassed just as much, that we should feel bad for showcasing their behavior, don’t tell me this is racism, don’t disregard this voice. I’ve seen and felt enough for a lifetime of proof this happens in every situation, with every age,with every body type, race and religion.