Category Archives: Activism

The Me Too Tax

Me too.

Many years ago. A stranger passing in a doorway as I exited and he entered a pharmacy on Market Street in the middle of the day on a Saturday. He reached down and grabbed me.

In my shock, I managed to whip kick him, though not hard. As I held the door, he lifted his arm to punch me, but he thought better. Knocking my head through a glass door would be a clear criminal act, but somehow grabbing my crotch wasn’t. And as if to prove him right, I walked away, never reporting the incident. 

And a summer in college, when I got stuck with a job at the pro shop of a public golf course. When I needed to go into the back storage room, a dark and dreary place, to get inventory, my boss would say “Don’t get raped.” It was his joke.

He was a noticeably uneducated man, and I chalked it up to class differences. He wasn’t at all menacing, nor did I feel unsafe. It felt like a cultural disconnect, a small indignity I bore in this rotten minimum wage job.

It’s only in retrospect that I am shocked at how horrendous those words were, how they could have broken me if I actually was a rape survivor.

That’s the thing about Me Too. It’s heavy. In many cases it is a reliving or even a reframing of past events we may have tolerated, borne silently, brushed off, endured. There is a toll on all of us, not just the perpetrators who are identified.

In this awakening, many of us feel a new anger and exhaustion in realizations, a sorrow for not speaking up, or renewed anger in circumstances that would not allow us to.

These are the stories I choose to share but not my only stories. Many of us have other stories we can’t or won’t share, but we are silently, sleeplessly replaying them. It’s the Me Too tax.

I do not enjoy watching powerful men fall. Doesn’t matter their politics or their industry. There may be justice in it, but there is no joy. These stories have really just rekindled a lot of old pain.

If Harvey Weinstein had been outed a year earlier, we would likely have a different president in the White House. Indeed, I have been unable to find empathy for the disaffected Trump voters because their choice endorsed or excused Trump’s mysogeny and sexual predation.

There are no winners. Still, justice and truth are cleansing. I hope women continue to speak up, though I don’t relish the headlines and fallen heroes. 

At the golf course there were groups of arrogant men who would come into the pro shop. They bothered me much more than my hapless boss. That sense of entitlement is the real danger.

I recall a man walking in, looking at me behind the counter, and saying “Tees.” I knew what he meant but responded, “Excuse me sir. What did you call me?” He blanched and stopped for a long minute. When he saw me smile he rephrased. “Sorry. May I have a bag of tees please?”

I hope the re-education takes hold before the backlash. This feels more like a revolution than a movement. There will be victims and sleepless nights on both sides.

I find my pleasure thinking of the men who have not been outed but who realize they could lose their lucrative careers if a woman speaks up. I love that reversal of power. 

I like to imagine them writhing in sweaty sheets, their past offenses haunting their dreams.

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Sweet & Sour Summer Scrapbook

It was the summer of Charlottesville. Of the steady continuation of political madness. Of spending lots of money and yet somehow not going anywhere interesting. Of piled up work deadlines in a badly understaffed office. Of my best friend moving to a different hemisphere. Of family obligations. Of other people traveling. Of sheetcaking and weight gain.

And yet there were these moments…

New York with the Cousins

When my in-laws, niece, and nephew visited us for the first time ever, we hit the road! Center City, Lancaster, Hershey, and New York. Here’s Rockefeller Center with the gang.

  

I made my pilgrimage to Hamilton (the theater, anyway) and Jessica’s Nintendo Store pilgrimage went well. Randy’s Eataly pilgrimage, not so much. (Turns out there is pizza kids hate, and it is rather expensive!)

Tourist excess and counterfeit heroes in Times Square, a perfect way to introduce Robin to Manhattan.

Chicago with Dena

Hanging with Dena, my dearest friend from college and one of my favorite people on the planet. I got to see her beautiful newish house (a bungalow with a garden and lots of character), drink margaritas, and see a Paul Gauguin show at the Art Institute.

Philadelphia

Sweet city excursions with my boys.

Urban walks with dear friends.

Chill out time on the banks of the Delaware.

Family Time

Weeklong visits from Papap…

…and Granny.

The Eclipse

So nice, in the wake of Charlottesville, to have a massive and monumental, nonpartisan distraction like this one. Science is real, and we all share the same sky!

Art Acquisitions

   

I found a new obsession with street art this summer and an overall renewed interest in art. Plus the purchase of three new paintings and the perilous discovery that you can buy art on eBay, much of it quite affordable.

Grand Camp for Robin

   

Lots of good time with pap and with grandmas: swimming, Birthday date at Eat’n Park, chasing rogue soccer balls, and a preseason Steelers game!

Grand Camp for Us

Drinks up high at the Skygarten. Followed by blissfully sound, uninterrupted sleep.

Lunches and happy hours at cool Center City joints. And lots of housecleaning, overtime, and errands as well.

The Kesters’ 50th Anniversary

We shared quality time together in Milwaukee. Plus a trip up north to Marshfield to attend mass at the church where they were married, 50 years to the day after.

There were pleasant and meaningful visits with extended aging family, roadtrip antics, fresh and squeaky cheese curds, and a little multigen baseball in between.

Glasses

I bought new glasses the same day I got to meet Seth Godin at a conference. I will always associate my new look with my favorite marketing guru in glasses.

Neighbors

Parties and playdates and pizza! Oh my! We enjoyed multiple block parties, spontaneous gatherings, lots of beer drunk curbside with fantastic people. Yoga classes, trips to the pool, corn hole, and other local pleasures.

Baseball

In Philadelphia…

   

…and Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. Lots and lots of it. Five games in total!

All in all, not a bad summer. The world is still off its axis. As Harvey retreats, Irma approaches, hovering over fall beach plans. The rebuilding begins in Texas, Trump tweets his small-minded hatred, and we write our donation checks. I text my friend in New Zealand, and life carries on…

Uprising, Part I: Washington

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The last two weeks (the first of the Trump administration) have been like dog years, a swift and startling onslaught of executive orders attacking all that is dear to us.

I started this post in the heady afterglow of the Women’s March on Washington. I still feel the buzz of it and am heartened at its momentum. So, about that march…

Representing:
I met marchers from all over the country: A mom from California marching with her 9-year-old son, a group from Atlanta who had slept on an overnight bus to get there, people from Idaho and Kansas. I was texting with a dear friend who drove up from North Carolina. My friend ventured off and met Alaskans. I saw small groups of Canadians marching in solidarity.

We Win: The signs were brilliant: clever, funny, smart, hand-drawn and artistic. If I were undecided, I’d pick our side for the humor. For wit, #trumpbookreports was only the start. Agree with us or not, you’ve gotta admit, we’re sharper.

Favorite Signs:
“Ignore the tweets. Follow the money.”
“I can’t believe I am still marching for this shit!”
“Tweet others like you’d want to be tweeted”
“Resistance is my cardio”
“I’m with her” (8 arrows pointing in all directions)
“I’m with her” (photo of the Statue of Liberty)

Lots of kids and husbands marched. Women of all ages and backgrounds. People in the crowd were so generous to each other at every turn, I cry as I type the words. Nothing but kindness among us.

Marching Moms:
Need a tissue? Some water? Someone offered it before you could ask. I had bandaids and wipes in my clear plastic backpack, and I was surely not alone. After 4 hours of standing at the rally, there were offers of ibuprofen and snacks in the crowd. This is civility. When I offered a new friend a rubber band for her poster, she accepted it with awe. I just laughed. “Yeah. There are hundreds of thousands of moms on the mall right now. If you need anything, just ask.”

Small Acts of Grace:
The mom and her daughter sitting on a curb near JFK with a hand-lettered sign that said WELCOME
The woman in her front yard handing out granola bars to marchers
The church with its doors and bathrooms open to marchers
The National Guard members who looked on with smiles
The police and locals who thanked us for coming
The protesters who thanks the police and guard for their service

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Celebrity Distraction:
Somehow we ended up behind the stage, in front of the speakers’ hospitality tent. It was hard to hear speeches, but we saw all the speakers. Had no idea we were effectively on the march’s informal red carpet until someone yelled “Oh my God! There’s Cher!”
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I did feel old when I had to ask repeatedly who people were. Lots of stars from Orange is the New Black. Katie Couric is tiny! So is Scarlett Johansson. And this nice woman named Emma Watson came by to shake hands…
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Favorite Swoon: Meeting Michael Moore, who went on stage in a baseball cap and returned in a pussy hat. He stopped to talk with the crowd and gushed to us that Alicia Keys has just hugged him; he was as star-struck and real as any of us. His smart speculation is that Trump will not complete his term. The guy’s been right before.
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I was thankful for a comfortable spot to stand with a sightline to the stage, though I was sorry to not be able to hear all the speeches. I heard enough of Angela Davis to cry. And I was lucky enough to miss Madonna completely.

Marching:
We were close enough to the action that organizers actually addressed us, explaining that they had expected a turnout of 200,000 but they were estimating we were over 600,000. Too many people to march! The march route was clogged with people, positively jammed!As we hit the potty line the plan changed (or maybe the organizers worked with police to close more roads?) and we marched down multiple roads to Pennsylvania Rd. We never did make it to the White House, but the fun was in the movement.

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Guilty Pleasure: Marching past the Trump hotel and waving our middle fingers in the air like lighters at a concert. I know, I know, but it just felt so luxuriously fun.

Favorite Chants:
“We need a leader! Not a creepy tweeter.”
“We will not go away! Welcome to your first day!”

The Aftermath:
Over a half a million protestors and not a single arrest. An activist friend marveled at how tidy things were in our wake: very little litter, rubbish stacked neatly next to overflowing trash cans. Compared to the many anti-war protests she has attended, she said the difference was stark.

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Follow Up:
I promised I would not allow myself the indulgence of blogging about this until I did 5 things to follow up. So here is what I have done in the meantime:

  1. Signed White House petitions asking Trump to disclose is tax returns and to put his businesses in a blind trust
  2. Marched in a Philadelphia protest during the GOP joint congressional retreat, attended by the Cheeto himself
  3. Asked Senator Pat Toomey to reject Betsy DeVos’s nomination as Education Secretary
  4. Attended a meeting of local activists to organize follow-up and next steps, for info sharing and midterm election action
  5. Joined the ACLU

The Women’s March set an important precedent. As protesters flocked to airports last weekend, I saw that this is the beginning of a time when ordinary people stand up for what is right, and that is what gives us power.

On this day, oh so long ago, we stood up against all that Trump represented. Now we march onward, in bigger numbers, in cities across the country, to stand against what he is doing: his lies, his policies, his attack on American values and institutions.

Our march has only begun.