Meanwhile, girls learn from an early age that it is rude
to reject boys. They learn to “let them down easily” and
never humiliate them. They learn to give other people
what they want, and to put their own desires second —
especially when it comes to sex. And few girls get any
sex education, either at school or from the culture they
consume, that encourages them to think about sex in terms
of what they actually desire, as opposed to how they will
be perceived by others.
Recent abstinence-only curricula
have included messages like, “Girls need to be aware they
may be able to tell when a kiss is leading to something
else. The girl may need to put the brakes on first in
order to help the boy,” and, “girls need to be careful
with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl
might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking
Even when girls learn comprehensive sex ed, they
frequently don’t learn how to ask for what they want, or
even how to think about what that is. “We, as a nation,
are uncomfortable with women having pleasure,” Lynn
Barclay, president and CEO of the American Sexual Health
Association, told Bustle in 2015.
I really like how Ms. North took the latest revelation during a transient phenomenon (the #MeToo movement) and took it back to the basic problem: unspoken, unexamined limitations and expectations placed only on women, starting shortly after birth. So I think men should keep getting called out, and here is why.
The bar for getting a man fired for sexual harassment is impossibly high. Men rarely go to prison for abuse. Therefore, to provide some ACTUALPRESSURE on men to behave better, women publicly denouncing behavior of men must continue. Men should be recalling their previous actions and feel unsure. They should question assumptions about who deserves what in society. Guilt and shame aren’t enough. Men should feel fear. Once that happens, we might have a shot at inculcating TRUEEQUALITY in our next generations and making laws supporting equality of women and men.
I’m pessimistic to the point of dismissal that the United States will ever pull itself together enough to be a credible progressive voice on the world stage, but we can continue looking elsewhere for examples. Like Sweden:
[In Sweden] For a girl to own her sexuality meant she owned her body,
she owned herself. Women could do anything men did, but
they could also — when they chose to — bear children. And
that made us more powerful than men. The word “feminist”
felt antiquated; there was no longer a use for it.
In America, a woman’s body seemed to belong to everybody
but herself. Her sexuality belonged to her husband, her
opinion of herself belonged to her social circles, and her
uterus belonged to the government. She was supposed to be
a mother and a lover and a career woman (at a fraction of
the pay) while remaining perpetually youthful and slim. In
America, important men were desirable. Important women had
to be desirable. That got to me.
But the American woman is told she can do anything and
then is knocked down the moment she proves it. In adapting
myself to my new country, my Swedish woman power began to
wilt. I joined the women around me who were struggling to
do it all and failing miserably. I now have no choice but
to pull the word “feminist” out of the dusty drawer and
polish it up.
I want Ess to have “Swedish woman power” and I fear that, here in the United States, we can only give her a shadow of that power.
Ess, you’ve been pushing everyone’s limits lately. Seeing what you can get away with, asking for things you’ve never asked for before. And tantrums — those are something else. But then we get to share a magical evening with you — one where we play at the kitchen table and build with dominoes together. One where you are smiling at us and imagining worlds and telling us you love us and giving HUGE hugs. Your mama had this Christmas instrumental channel on in the background and it kind of set the stage for thinking about the experiential and the remembering self at the same time: it was a rare gift to simultaneously enjoy the time with you while also experiencing the meta part. How important such the memory of tonight will be in the future. We love you Ess. Forever and ever. Thanks for spending 2017 with us.
Eighteen years of serving this website over insecure HTTP are over: I installed a certificate for HTTPS, though I suppose the purpose is more not wanting to be left behind than any true need. I’ve read it could make the site go faster, and I’ve read it might make it go slower, too. I suppose both could be true.
Some vignettes. I’m going back through random text files, where I’ve littered little phrases to jog my memory:
There’s this one: you come into Essie’s bedroom in the morning, and you see that she has extricated herself from her sheets, carefully arranged and folded them, and is sitting very carefully in the small bit of mattress that remains uncovered. She may have her father’s penchant for orderliness.
“Mama, where a pizza go?”
“We ate it, Ess.”
“Get it outta my tummy. I need to eat it back up.”
Essie has woken up. Singing a song by herself in her room. She’s singing Baby Beluga. She doesn’t have those ‘s’ sounds yet, so we hear “Baby beluga in the deep blue shhee.”
“What did you dream about, Ess?”
I put Ess on my shoulders, which is a great way to carry her. I’m sure I’ll look back and regret the times I asked her to stop pulling my hair and flopping over my head because though it does hurt, there’s a lot more joy to carrying her than pain. Anyway, she was sitting up there and suddenly got really agitated. “Dada! Put me down, put me down!” I was initially unconvinced that anything was actually wrong, but she carried on, and so I set her down. “My leg feels funny!” Then I realized it had fallen asleep. The first time she’d ever felt that — and we were there for it. She walked it off in the aisles of Whole Foods. She’s reluctant to sit on my shoulders, now.
In the summer, Mykala told Ess we were going to see the Okee Dokee Brothers, a lovely, folksy, local group of kid’s musicians. Ess thought that would be fine, but she had one question: “are they humans… or animals?” Of course, when Ess says it, it is more like “amimals” which, coincidentally, is quite close to Wanda Gág’s made-up word (“aminals”) for a story about a dragon called “The Funny Thing.” Ess hadn’t heard that story yet, though. Maybe “amimal” is more of a universal word, the way “mama” is pretty universal because stopping the air with your lips is one of the first things we learn to do, so “mama” is one of the first things we are coordinated enough to say.
Years ago (like, 2004, the time we first met), Mykala gave me Genevieve the Owl. I never would’ve imagined that our daughter would be playing with that little owl, 13 years later, calling her “my favorite toy in the whole world.”
Or how about this, watching your daughter… gently… flap… her imaginary butterfly wings while watching a scene in The Secret World of Arrietty.
Or this: let’s say Ess is driving you crazy, refusing dinner yet demanding food later, running about knocking things over, literally making eye contact with you while she does precisely what you are asking her not to do. Or, as Mykala would describe it, “Tuesday.” But imagine all that, and then you peek around the corner, and now she’s singing an original song to the Christmas tree about how beautiful it is. She asks that you leave the room, because it is a private tree-only performance.
At a certain point, we have had enough of conversations
that take us away from our own thought processes, enough
of external demands that stop us heeding our inner
tremors, enough of the pressure for superficial
cheerfulness that denies the legitimacy of our latent
inner melancholy – and enough of robust common-sense that
flattens our peculiarities and less well-charted
We need to be alone because life among other
people unfolds too quickly. The pace is relentless: the
jokes, the insights, the excitements. There can sometimes
be enough in five minutes of social life to take up an
hour of analysis. It is a quirk of our minds that not
every emotion that impacts us is at once fully
acknowledged, understood or even – as it were – truly
felt. After time among others, there are a myriad of
sensations that exist in an ‘unprocessed’ form within us.
Perhaps an idea that someone raised made us anxious,
prompting inchoate impulses for changes in our lives.
Perhaps an anecdote sparked off an envious ambition that
is worth decoding and listening to in order to grow.
Maybe someone subtly fired an aggressive dart at us, and
we haven’t had the chance to realise we are hurt. We need
some quiet time to console ourselves by formulating an
explanation of where the nastiness might have come from.
We are more vulnerable and tender-skinned than we’re
encouraged to imagine.
I quote this at length because it is so-so good and if it ever disappears from the internet, I’d like to have some of it here. A great, brief, read.
Another round of library books Ess is reading — she is rapidly moving beyond board books and into these easy-reader ones. Basic plot seems to hold her attention now, and we see the storylines incorporated into her imaginative play.
Those Mo Willems ‘Elephant and Piggy’ books are a hoot. Also, does anyone know how to pronounce “Bob Staake”?
With the recent dusting of snow and the consistently cold temperatures, I think biking season is over. This means I have already taken my last ride with Ess on the front handlebars. It gives a dad watery eyes: the first realization of this, and then typing up the thought now. It’s hard to see something that brought so much joy be taken away by dispassionate, objective time. It makes you feel small, powerless, helpless. Mykala anticipated this day six months ago, and when I wasn’t thinking of taking a bike ride this past summer, she was, and got us out for jaunts I wouldn’t have even thought of. Even Ess helped out: asking to go on rides when I least expected it.
I was walking yesterday along the path of our longest route: an 11 mile tour of the parks and stream in Woodbury, and something caught my eye: 20 saplings in a row! I’d heard autumn was a good time to plant trees, and here they were. Strange, though, a closer look revealed potting soil and seeds between each young tree. Then I remembered: this was an entire line of pretty big trees just earlier this year! Which tripped my memory about something else. Earlier this year, Ess and I spent multiple bike rides talking about how these trees don’t quite touch yet, but someday they will. And we could go back there and see their branches reaching out towards one another. We could go see these very trees, and with just the passing time, they’d be bigger and someday form a solid line of shade. Now, they’re gone.
There’s no big truth here — I have no overarching philosophical conclusion from the anecdote. But it does show me that, sometimes time goes by and things proceed exactly as you think and sometimes not.
After an amazingly long time facing the back of the car (over three years!), this is the day after Ess said she wanted to face the front. Shortly after this was taken, she saw the windshield wipers going for the first time, and literally was squealing with delight watching them swish swoosh back and forth across the windshield.