Growing up in the 80’s, sitcoms were a big part of my childhood.
Television was so different back then. We didn’t have reality TV or “dramedies” or scripted shows made to LOOK like reality TV. We had laugh tracks and recycled storylines and happy endings.
There were a few predicaments that were prevalent in television shows during that time. There was the person who promised to be in two places at once, running between dates frantically and hoping not to be caught. There was the hypnotism gone wrong. There was the “subliminal messaging” plot where a girl or guy would try to control someone’s thoughts by whispering in their ear while they slept as the person sleepily repeated their words.
It was ridiculous, and I absorbed every bit of it. I still have a secret desire to be hypnotized one day. (my thoughts on Kirk Cameron, however, have drastically changed…but that’s a whole other issue)
Last night, sleepy and with my tongue loosened by the drink I’d been sipping on after dinner, I confessed to my husband that I whisper in Lucy’s ear every night as she sleeps.
“You’re so smart,” I whisper, tucking the comforter in around her shoulders.
“You’re the strongest girl I know,” as I nestle her stuffed unicorn, Strawberry, next to her on the pillow.
“Did you know that you’re my dream come true?”
“You’re brave and tough and I am SO proud of you.”
I giggled sheepishly as I climbed into our bed. “I don’t even know if it really works like it did on television,” I told him. “But it’s at least worth a shot, don’t you think?”
It’s a little sobering when I realize how afraid I am. And what I fear most often, when I gaze upon Lucy’s sleeping face, is that years of intentional parenting — with all of the blood, and sweat, and tears involved — could be completely unraveled by a leer, a catcall, a strategically placed hand, a condescending dismissal.
I’m afraid of raising a daughter in a world where the hashtag MeToo is necessary. Where we, as women, have to lay our deepest shame bare in order to facilitate the tiniest change. Where we have to relive our most difficult and vulnerable moments because men can’t get their crap together.
I’m afraid of raising a daughter in a world where the burden is placed upon her. To dress right, to act appropriately thankful, to look pleasing, to smile, to dress in a way that is flattering, to not “let herself go,” to not drink too much or find herself alone with the wrong man, or God forbid, give the impression that she was asking for it.
I’m afraid that I don’t have enough time.
I’m afraid that I don’t know how.
Over the past couple of days, I have shared some of my feelings and experiences, not just with rape, but with embarrassment. With harassment. With the zillions of ways that women are made to feel small nearly every single day. And as I shared, friends commented and shared their own stories.
But many more messaged me privately.
“I can’t say this publicly…” they start. “but…#MeToo.”
It was their boss, they tell me. It was a police officer. It was when they were 15 or 17 or 28. They were on a date and needed him placated enough to just drive them home. They needed their job. Everyone in town loved him and they wondered if maybe they HAD been asking for it. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time. It could have been so much worse. And yet…they still think about it. It has changed them. It still hurts.
I am afraid.
Every one of these stories has a special place in my heart. I cherish them as I gently, carefully, place them in the part of me that grows weary. When I’m accused of “hating men” or asked to “just talk about recipes” or get an eye roll as I begin to impart some truth on someone who REALLY needs to hear it…
When I’m thought of as too loud or maybe even a bitch.
Your stories remind me that I am not loud enough.
A few weeks ago, I boarded a plane for a press trip. As I sat quietly in my seat, a man who had been very obviously staring at me in the airport, walked down the aisle, making eye contact with me. Loudly, he began to yell to his friend about how unlucky he was. He wanted to sit next to the “hot girl.”
“WHY CAN’T I EVER BE LUCKY??” he asked, loudly, staring at me.
Face burning, I buried my face in my magazine, embarrassed by the commotion. I thought of all the men seated around me and how nice it must feel to always belong. To never worry that unwelcome shame and discomfort could be dropped at your feet at a moments notice.
And I said…nothing.
I’m not always brave. Many times, I just want to get through that moment with as little commotion as possible. I look away. I read a book. I pretend not to hear. I stop being loud and bold and angry. I make myself invisible.
I am afraid.
I am afraid because I can’t sneak into your bedrooms at night and whisper into your ears. I can’t tell you that he doesn’t decide what you’re worth. That it wasn’t because of what you were wearing. That it’s not your fault for having that drink. That you deserve a promotion based on your hard work. That your daughters will be safe.
But I think that I’m tired of whispering. I think I’m tired of us taking turns hiding behind each other. I think I’m tired of us second-guessing, asking “is it just me? Am I crazy? Do I have something stamped on my forehead?”
I think instead of whispering, I’m going to shake you awake. I’m going to grab your hand. And together, we are going to unleash a primal scream.
It is not our fault. You need to do better.
NOT. OUR. DAUGHTERS.