An Open Letter to David Meinert

We all want to think of ourselves as good people. Even when we are imperfect, and have done wrong, and been ‘pushy’ or ‘handsy’ with women. Or we used to drink too much, and maybe some of our memories of the way things went down differ from the other people involved. And, you know, times are changing. Even two or three years ago, before #metoo really picked up momentum, things were different between men and women. Never mind how things were back at the millenium’s turn, or, god help us all, the ’80s and ’90s, when rape culture was, well, culture.

But here we are.

Now, before I go any further, I want you to know that I believe you when you say #metoo has opened your eyes, and that you’re trying to do better, trying to make changes internally while also making noise to help make changes in the external world. I think it’s good you’re engaging, and I hope you find a good way to continue.

But I also believe the women in this KUOW article. And I think you should, too.

I know your memories don’t jibe. And some of them have stayed ‘friends’ with you since. Which must seem weird to you, since I’m sure if someone did to you what you did to them, you probably wouldn’t have anything to do with that person ever again. I’m also betting no one ever has done something like that to you. So maybe you wouldn’t do what you think you would do. I didn’t. But, you know, it’s not really that weird you might misremember or have forgotten something, considering the way alcohol flows through most of these stories, and how tricky memory is even when everything’s working the way it should. And staying friendly (or even actual, like, friends) with people who’ve assaulted you or even just been really shady about sex stuff is something women have been doing for, like, ever. Especially when it involves someone with your footprint. Even if it’s just going along to get along instead of, say, abject fear you might use your significant influence and power to quash them. For my own part, when I first starting coming to terms with this gender relations sea change we’re in, I wrote this confession (Serious Trigger Warning for Survivors of Sexual Assault). About a year after, a friend from college — a close friend, who I hooked up with once — asked if she was one of the people I was writing about. To my deep shame and chagrin, she was not. And we actually were (and, I believe, still are) friends.

But that’s not the real reason I think you should take these five women at their word, whatever your memories, or the stories you’ve told yourself about yourself, or them. Continue reading “An Open Letter to David Meinert”

Why I’m Giving Up Outrage

Did you hear what Trump did today? Did you hear what he said? Can you believe it?!?

So begins, middles, and ends every day these days. And if it’s not Cadet Bone Spurs himself, it’s some other mouth-breathing movement conservative saying that God’s a white supremacist or that women’s bodies have a way of shutting down conception in cases of ‘legitimate rape’ or that liberals want MS-13 to cross the border in force so they can overrun every two-bit empty-Main Street town in the heartland that just hasn’t been the same since the plant/mine/factory shut down and moved operations to somewhere the labor laws aren’t so job-killing as they are in ‘Merica.

It’s exhausting.

Worse, I’m more and more convinced that it is, if not pointless, then at least counterproductive. Let me explain.

We’ll start with the ‘rage’ part. After all, you can’t spell ‘outrage’ without ‘rage.’ And while outrage is a righteous anger, it is still anger. And anger is, well, problematic. It makes things black and white, crystal clear in the moment. But the thing is, when you’re angry, you don’t think clearly. You don’t think long-term, you don’t make smart decisions. Anger hijacks your higher brain functions and focuses them on itself, on the thing that’s making you angry. It fills your brain, crowds out other factors and considerations. It makes you do and say foolish things, things you will regret once you’ve cooled down. And while there’s a kind of power in anger, it’s a wholly destructive power. It wants to lash out, hit back. It mistakes vengeance for justice. I’m not saying it’s never useful or justified. Sometimes it’s both of those things. But rage and anger almost never get past the tactical to the strategic. They are essentially reactive instead of proactive.

Which segueways nicely to my second point. Continue reading “Why I’m Giving Up Outrage”

The Closest I Ever Came to Being Sexually Assaulted

It was the summer of 1992. I was nineteen years old, and had finished my first year of college. I was living near Ann Arbor, Michigan, staying with a friend and his family for the summer between school years.

Ann Arbor is a college town, so even in summer there was stuff to do. But we were under twenty-one, and broke (I had the worst job I ever had, that summer, or close to it, working for a moving company that required I wake up and call in at 7am to see if they had work for me that day; most days, they didn’t). But my friend was really into dancing — I liked it, too — so we would, once every week or two, splurge and pay the cover at a dance club in town. I want to say it was called Tangerine, or something like that.

The place was alright, as small-town dance clubs go. Not that I was particularly an aficionado. But I liked dancing, and I liked the at least notional chance of meeting women, so I was happy enough to go those nights we could scrape together the five bucks each the place cost.

Then, one night, I had to take a shit.

I didn’t want to do it there. The bathrooms were not the most sanitary and, worse, the stall doors had no locks. But as time passed and the pressure mounted, what I did and didn’t want mattered less and less. I couldn’t even leave the club to go find a more suitable spot, because I’d have had to pay cover again, and I had no money for that.

So I did what I had to do. What was the worst thing that could happen? Continue reading “The Closest I Ever Came to Being Sexually Assaulted”

When Someone Is Wrong on the Internet

I mean, you’re never going to change that asshole’s mind. Why bother engaging? Why roll the rock all the way to the top of the hill when you know it’s just going to roll right back down once you reach the top? You’d do better to conserve your passion and energy for something useful, like calling your Congressional representatives or digging a shelter to cache supplies for the coming post-Apocalyptic nightmare that will surely follow the decline and fall of the American Experiment.

And look, there probably are a hundred better things you can do with your time. And probably you should do them. I mean, we’re all going to die someday, which means our time is finite. Probably best we spend it doing positive things.

But you know what? There are some damn fine reasons to engage the shitheads, trolls, and wingnuts of the internet-o-sphere if you have the time, emotional bandwidth, and outrage to spare. So, in the spirit of, like, five years ago, let’s make a list, shall we? Continue reading “When Someone Is Wrong on the Internet”

Toxic Masculinity vs Depression

I knew something was wrong the moment my mom walked into my room. It wasn’t just that she was crying, though she was. In a moment I was crying, too, because it was my mom waking me up to go to school that morning. Which was not her job. My dad was the one who woke me up for school in the morning. The moment I laid eyes on my mom I knew: my dad finally left her.

I was in fifth grade. Not quite ten years old. It was the early ’80s, and I was very shortly to have the disctinction of being the first kid I knew whose parents got a divorce.

It wasn’t a surprise. Like I said, I knew right away what had happened. And to be honest, I can’t — and could not at the time — remember a time when my parents weren’t fighting. I didn’t know what they were fighting about, didn’t really even want to. It was just a thing that happened, and when it did I would go to my room and play with my toys or read a book or I’d go outside and ride my bike around the neighborhood or go knock on a friend’s door or one of the thousand other things kids did back in the days when parents weren’t expected to schedule and supervise their childrens’ entire existence.

That morning was the last time I cried about it.

Because like I knew what had happened the night before, I knew what was expected of me. What was expected of any boy who wasn’t girly or gay or soft or weak. No one had to tell me that boys don’t cry.

So I didn’t. I tamped that shit down, put on my game face, and went on a field trip to Sea World with the rest of my class. As I recall, my dad was one of our chaperones. I didn’t ask him what happened. I mean, it wasn’t like it was a surprise. The real surprise was it hadn’t happened sooner.

I remember being very proud of myself for being so mature.

It wasn’t long after that I started acting out. Continue reading “Toxic Masculinity vs Depression”