This Feels Personal

My therapist, via phone from Colorado told me today, “try not to think of it as personal; but it’s divisive” after I told her about realizing a former friend had unfollowed me on two social medias.   I was hurt, not knowing when it happened, as I’d dutifully liked probably every baby photo this person posted.  I realized this on election night when this person posted an illustration of the president-elect riding a tank, holding a large gun with an eagle flying above him.  I’d done much in the past to lift this person up with me professionally, and what I got for it was someone who treated me disrespectfully in work situations and could not cease “locker room talk”, also in work situations where, if anyone was the boss, I was.

I’d thought my forgiveness was mutual, but I guess I underestimated how much I’d been disliked as I grew and evolved in my former role at work.  An evolution that meant taking responsibility for my own actions, which meant not being friends with people who couldn’t understand the boundaries, couldn’t sit with me at lunch and goof and know a little bit about my personal life and then not be completely inappropriate in the moments when I was running the show.

I don’t usually post much on “the book” but I lost my shit on election night.  It felt good.  I had woken that morning thinking: “This is the day the first woman president is elected.  I can’t believe I just had eight years of democratic rule and I’m getting eight more years – from a woman!”  I pictured the situations where I may have been made to feel like a dumb chick, and how I could feel safe in the knowledge that our country was under female governance.  Finally, no one could be validated in sexist behavior anymore.  Hillary was watching!

As the horror of Tuesday unfolded, I, like my friends, raged online about the stupidity of my fellow Americans, the shocking reality that such a truly awful, unqualified person could be elected to the highest office on the planet, the reality that it makes hating on everyone who isn’t a straight white male okay for the insecure fuckers that need to feel reassured in their patriarchal entitlements.  I unfriended several people out of my own fear of being trolled by my larger online friend group after one person from high school I hadn’t marked “acquaintance” snuck through, and I heard through my sister that my angry post reached and potentially offended at least one family member.  Why am I not allowed to be offended by their voting for the abhorrent Republican candidate then?

And here’s why I am offended: As a woman, I’ve been treated disrespectfully by colleagues in professional situations where it was imperative I be in calm control, and it shook me to my depth to know they were clearly not supporting me. I’ve been told that it was my fault they related everything I did to my need to find a man (as a single woman in her 30s) because I’d told them about my personal life and dating experiences (because I thought they were my friends).  As a teenager, I was groped in the dark in a costume closet at my high school by two guys I also thought were my friends.  They flip the light off in the closet as soon as we are in it and start grabbing me.  As a teenage girl, you don’t know what to do in these situations.  Part of you wants attention from these guys who are your friends, but not this kind?  You tell them to stop, and then you never tell anyone.  As a twenty two year old living in New York City, a man begs to go through the turnstyle with me on the train.  My metro card isn’t scanning and when it eventually works, no one else is on the platform and he squeezes in with me.  Because, I am scared to say no, to be disagreeable despite my deep discomfort with his request.  Naive as I am when he didn’t steal my wallet I feel I just helped a teenager who is trying to get somewhere.  I turn around and look at him and he is masturbating as he says “thank youuuuuu…”   In Detroit, at age twenty-nine I am at a red light in a car I’ve just bought, a man pulls up next to me and masturbates with his back arched so only his penis is in the window.  When I back up to get away from him and (hopefully) turn right and drive away he does the same and is aggressively next to me again.  And we just elected someone who is on tape saying he forcibly kisses women and grabs them by the crotch (nevermind the piles of other accounts out there of inappropriate behavior towards women and girls).  This might be a joke for a non presidential candidate, but like Bill Clinton was skewered for smoking pot, a presidential candidate is held to a completely different set of standards.  As a reality star the president-elect can be an asshole.  As a president you most certainly can not.

It’s not lost on me that Hillary’s email scandal (an actual non scandal caused by the carelessness and technical inefficiency of her aides and herself) was brought up AGAIN because of Anthony fucking Weiner.  More than once in the debates her opponent brought up Bill Clinton and his conduct in the 90s.  We are talking about male sexual transgressions.  But what about Hillary herself?  She’s got nothing like that on her record.  But it seems our president-elect’s wife can have all kinds of trash in her past (nothing I’d actually skewer a woman for, but I’m making a point).  It’s okay, because she is married to someone who hates women, and clearly he owns her and nothing she does matters anyway.  Therefore, Hillary is repeatedly denounced for Bill’s affair.

It hit me in the days before the election how much Hillary had been through, how tough she is, how much people dislike her for it.  And that she kept trying, and kept working.  And why is it always brought up that she is hungry for power or something?  Don’t all politicians have to be hungry for power?  Otherwise how can you do that job?  But people find this so distasteful in a woman.  What the fuck is her opponent if not hungry for power?

I was up till 3:30am on election night.  When the news announced that Hillary had called to concede, I broke down.  I was hopeful to that point, I really was.  To think of her, a dedicated public servant, a scholar, a legitimate politician, a Secretary of State (!) having to call and concede to this gross epitome of every wrong thing about the United States, in addition to a blatant sexist, racist, xenophobic caveman – it killed me to think about.  This was around the time of the realization of my social un-friending.  It’s the constant decision of a woman like me – will I be successful, or will I be liked?  Will I be angry, or will I be liked?

Wednesday, she delivered her speech as the bigger person that she is.  I saw myself, in my idolization of boys as a little girl.  Not only could they pee standing up, but they seemed to have all the glory (except for maybe Wonder Woman and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders). In kindergarten, like the “In A Sea of Princesses Dare to Be Batman” meme, I actually was batman for halloween, in a too big costume I could barely see out of in the school parade.  As I got older, I looked up to rock stars.  Why was it ok to look so cool if you were a guy but unladylike if you were Courtney Love?

I thought of when I went to the college radio station at eighteen, and, intimidated by it being all boys, I decided not to try and have my own show (I later made a couple guest appearances on male friend’s shows).  I thought of the times I’d been embarrassed or disrespected by coworkers.  The high school friends grabbing me in the closet.  The subway, the stop light, and the time I walked into a newsstand in New York and a faceless person (I was too shocked to turn around quickly enough) put their hand up my summer dress and grabbed a handful of my ass.  The time my ex boyfriend told me that when he first met me he thought there must be something wrong with me since, at thirty six, I hadn’t been married or had children.

And mostly, the time in elementary school, when I’d finally gotten the ball in bombardment (like dodgeball but both sides throwing balls).  A popular, athletic boy said “give it to me!” and I didn’t.  I remember being thrilled with the ball actually in my hands, the power to finally throw it!  I threw the ball myself.  I hit no one; I wasn’t that strong or fast.  The gym teacher (who enwrapped girls in awkward and uncomfortable bear hugs as they left the gym) said “why didn’t you give it to Brandon?”  Oh, how they program us when we’re young.

Hillary was me at that moment.  Every time someone had told me I couldn’t do something, and it was implicit.  Because you’re a girl.  And could it ever be so blatantly obvious, as she had to concede to this utterly unqualified buffoon, that ultimately, it had so much to do with this, with her being a girl.  Even if that’s just because people don’t like girls like her.  Another woman steps aside and lets a less capable man take her place.

Some people have said to the numerous protests going on: please stop.  Give the guy a chance.  The peaceful transfer of power is so important.  But I say:  BRING IT.  If this is what it takes to uncover what’s really going on here?  Let us rage.  Let each person scream to the world that they are no okay with the hate speech that the president-elect normalizes.  Let us scream to the world that it isn’t okay for the country to AGAIN be subjected to rule by a candidate who doesn’t win the popular vote.  Let us, as women, stop worrying about being liked, and be okay with being angry. And let us not give up.

Note: I don’t in any way claim that my plight as a white woman is anywhere near that of a woman of color, a black man, a Muslim, a refugee, etc.  But it’s how I feel how horrible this result is, and have empathy.
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Cutie the Blind Horse

When I was thirteen I caught the horse bug for real.  I can’t remember how it started – I had always loved animals.  But I started riding horses (English, so I could jump) in Andover, Massachusetts, and my sister and Mom soon followed.

By the summer after my freshman year of high school, my Mom had found a very odd barn on the north side of town owned by “sisters” who seemed unlikely to be from New England.  Mom, who is on her third horse just since moving to Colorado in 1995, first attempted horse ownership with an unfortunate mare named “Call Me Cutie”.

I don’t think I had quite realized yet how my mother’s involvement in my hobby (and my first boyfriend) were affecting my interest in riding, but Cutie did not fit my ideal of who my horse would be.  Mom had explained that Cutie wasn’t very pretty, but she was very sweet, and Mom had ridden her and she was calm and a great first horse for us.

Cutie was anything but cute, the poor thing – the horse equivalent of being forced to buy all my clothes at our town’s Marshall’s.  I can best describe her now as some sort of dappled Roan.  But then, I rode her, as Mom urged her daughter with the great seat (that’s a riding term for sitting a horse nicely) on our new mare.  And someone started the tractor.  Cutie bolted across the arena, terrifying me and herself.  I really didn’t like her then.  She was homely and scary.  Cutie was a nervous wreck.

I don’t remember what happened next, but Cutie must have been returned to her previous owners, who discovered that she was blind. Cutie had never revealed this as she was ridden on the same familiar paths daily.  Only the new surroundings showed her less obvious flaw.

Our next horse, “Wayward Wendy” was a beautiful dapple gray with triple crown winner Seattle Slew in her blood.  Like most thoroughbreds, she was “off the track”, having committed a few slow races before being dressage and hunter jumper trained.  Wendy made un-asked for flying lead changes and would squirt at the boys when she was in heat, halting in front of them in the riding arena no matter who was waiting for her to move.


We moved barns when we had her, and she lived a couple miles from our house.  In one of the loneliest and most picturesque summers of my teen years, I would run from our house to the barn and ride Wendy bareback at dusk.  Wendy reared up and bronced when under the saddle, (yes, just like a bucking bronco), and I miraculously never fell off her until the day she spooked when I was walking her cool and my feet weren’t in the stirrups.  I almost broke my neck in an irrigation ditch and would never ride her again.  I’d still run to see her and sit in her stall, she’d kiss me as I’d trained her to, and I could cry with my head on her neck.  I loved Wendy, and I never stopped being her friend.

Wendy had back trouble (hence the broncing and rearing up) and was likely drugged when Mom met her and bought her.  I mostly relate to her type – striking, misunderstood, and passionately in love with a bad boy (the Palomino Billy – so much so that she rushed a gate and opened the skin on her chest on its corner to get to him).  But I’ve never felt more like poor Cutie than my first weeks in a new city, at thirty-eight, and not on vacation.

I love to travel, and normally, I love getting lost.  It’s the best way to find new places.  But, being someplace new when you have work to do is a whole different story.  I never moved someplace for a job before.  I always moved someplace to find a job – and finding a job is filled with all this desperate exploring and not having money and filling out applications and learning the landscape of a city… as you worry it’s going to spit you back out to its environs, dumb broke loser that you are.  I’ve done that one so many times, and mastered it a couple at least.  I fought for my place in those communities, and felt like an earned member.

My last city – I knew how dialed I had it.  Yes, it was blowing up and changing all around me, I couldn’t stand my new neighbors, but I had my super cheap place (and the broken garbage disposal that came with it) in a fantastic location a mile away from my primary place of work.  I knew where to go, where to park, bartenders and CEOs and artists and pools and back roads and dog sitters and free eyebrow tints and comedians and every brand of locally available kombucha and tequila.  I had pick up dry cleaning service for God’s sake.  And could barely date a guy who hadn’t slept with one of my friends.  But then again, access to verified reviews on the same.

My new city is a life I’ve never lived.  It’s very grown up, and that’s scary.  I feel I’m already destroying my brand new apartment for the simple fact I’ve never had such a nice place to live before; I don’t even know how to care for it.  Destroying it includes chipping a baseboard and scraping paint from the walls in separate mirror and poster hanging incidents.  I already spilled a Campari Soda on my brand new couch because I am a boisterous, unfiltered, and clumsy girl.  My daily disasters range making a wrong turn or exit at least once to forgetting my wallet and having to Venmo someone money for our meeting and my gas, to being on the wrong side of the fucking highway for the bank.  Everything is new and I have so much more to deal with other than just that new stuff.  Like my career.

I’ve been embarrassed by how flummoxed I am by the combination of Siri’s bad directions (Austin’s roads and highways are weird, they really are, and she just doesn’t get it) and the complexities of entering someone else’s apartment building garage.  I pride myself on my organization and efficiency.  I really do believe in minimalism.  I really never forget my license or lose things.  Except lately.

Lately I’m the opposite of efficient because I literally never know where I am, have no idea how long it takes to get places, am always late, am always overheated (Texas), and forget to pay my bills (overhwhelmed).  Therefore, I feel like a child who was dropped in a grownup world, and just can’t take care of her shit.  Because I really did stretch my adolescence into my late 30s, I’m struck by how much fancy apartments and taxis weren’t a part of my old life, even in a rich white people town like Denver.

I had no idea how used to my old city streets I was – I was so anxious to get to a place full of people I hadn’t met yet.  And that part is nice, but I’m surprised how my self esteem plummets with the part where they don’t know me.  No matter how far away I get, I think I’ll always be that small town New England girl with the shitty outfits from Marshall’s.

Wayward Wendy was sold as a companion horse and got to live out the rest of her life on Cape Cod.  The day they picked her up and took her away, she whinnied loudly, desperately, as the trailer pulled out of the drive.  It was painful.  My Mom and I were crying.  Mom called the new owners and was told “she is such a nice horse”.  That was all she wanted to know.  I hope she lived a long and happy life near the ocean.

I am not quite ready to retire yet.  And also don’t want to be sent back home.

I still haven’t had the “big night” I associate with myself as I’ve always known me.  The first thing I’d do in a new city was to find the very hippest bar I could attend and stay at it as late as I could.  I haven’t had time for those kind of high jinks.   Though I do experience the world through my work and the friends I meet through it:  restaurants, venues, swimming pools, and the like, my favorite inroads to a new place are the grocery stores (where I’m wandering around looking for syrup) and the outdoor spaces, where it actually feels different than where I’ve come from.  Texas to me is swimming holes, butterflies, mesquite trees, these lizards I keep seeing, the surprisingly charming crickets of September, the country music on the radio,and oh, the six dollar negronis.

Yes, a fucking six dollar negroni and butterflies.  I may be blind, but my eyes are open.

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