Me, too. But I didn’t realize it for 25 years.

October 16, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

Have you seen #MeToo rolling around social media? It goes like this,

Me too.

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “me, too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Copy and paste.

#metoo

So first I want to say, if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, you’re not alone. Me, too.

Second, if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, you should ONLY copy and paste this as your status if YOU ARE READY TO DO SO. Because not only need we not feel shame for being harassed and assaulted, we also need not feel shame about when we’re ready to talk about it. Some of us are ready. We have processed enough of our stories and/or trauma that we can say it out loud, even to the world wide webs. Some of us haven’t. Some of us aren’t ready. Some of us, by sharing now, would be retraumatizing ourselves and making it worse, not better. Pretty please, dearest friend, share when YOU are ready, not when the world decides you should be. OK? OK. Glad we had this chat.

And third, this is my story.

[Trigger/Content Warning: Sexual Assault]

I didn’t let my teenage daughter have a job in high school. Instead, I paid for dance tuition — usually hundreds of dollars per month we had to scrimp and save — so she could dance 20 hours each week and participate in conventions and competitions that cost hundreds more.

I was alternately embarrassed and relieved by this decision. Embarrassed because we were choosing to live a rather elitist lifestyle, pouring money into our child and not requiring her to earn it. Relieved because she wouldn’t be dry-humped and felt up by her McDonald’s manager in the drive-thru like I was at age 16. 

Oh, sure; dance taught Abby a hard work ethic, physical fitness, goal setting, and time management. It was a fantastic part of her education, and she was grateful, but still; LOTS OF MONEY and rhinestones and my kid graduated high school without ever working a job beyond the occasional babysitting gig. This was not at all how I was raised, nor is it how my husband was, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we were setting her up for a lifetime of entitlement. After all, we hear all the time about today’s teenagers who are “too good” for honest, hard work at less glamorous places like fast food restaurants. But every time I thought she could at least work a fryer during the summer and pursue dance, every time I tried to convince myself that just because it happened to me didn’t mean it was going to happen to her — every time I thought of her alone, closing the restaurant at midnight with a man bigger and older than her, my hands got sweaty, and my heart pumped faster, and I knew I was never going to ask her to apply to grill burgers. Not ever. I couldn’t do it.

Which is how, at age 40ish, I finally realized I was sexually assaulted. 

It wasn’t that I’d dismissed what happened to me working swing shifts at McDonald’s. It wasn’t that I’d forgotten. It was simply — and this has come to be even more terrifying to me than assault amnesia — that I believed my experience was wholly unremarkable. As normal as tripping over a curb or missing my seat in 6th grade math class and crashing to the ground. Which is to say, an experience that is memorable and uncomfortable but not anything out of the ordinary or worth commenting on.

THAT is how ingrained sexual assault is in our culture. THAT is how embedded. THAT is how common and mundane. That 16-year-old me thought having a man push me into a corner and rub his erection on me while trying to grab my boobs was just another, normal, unfortunate work condition. A bummer of a surprise like seeing how much of my paycheck went to taxes. A meh, whatever, shrug-it-off situation. Something we girls bitched about in the work room while we ate our $3.49 of free food per shift. But also something none of us even considered reporting. Not because it wouldn’t do any good, but because clothed sexual assault didn’t seem to rise to the “Must Report” level. Any ejaculate was contained in his pants, after all, and, if we said no and pushed him off enough, if we smiled at him so he wouldn’t be mad, he left us alone for the rest of the shift.

I read that now, and I go, DEAR GOD. I mean, DEAR LORD JESUS IN HEAVEN, WHAT THE HELL? It seems impossible to me now that I didn’t see it then. But it’s still true.

I didn’t tell my parents. The same parents who were always so good about telling me no one has the right to touch me in the bathing suit area and that I could talk to them anytime about anything which was true. I didn’t tell them because it didn’t cross my mind. I didn’t tell them until they, too, wondered why Abby wasn’t doing time at a local burger joint. My dad pumped gas as a teen. My husband washed cars at his dad’s used car dealership. I flipped burgers and worked a cash register. Shouldn’t Abby learn the same way? I didn’t tell them until we were having the conversation in my kitchen, and I answered casually, “I just don’t think I want my kid to be dry-humped by her manager.” I said it casually because I still felt casual about it. But as soon as it fell from my mouth, I did a mental double take. And ever since, I’ve been realizing how very ingrained assault is in our culture, our communities, and our lives as women navigating an unfriendly world.

My story is unbelievably common. Unbelievably normal. Obvious assault and harassment experiences we didn’t see as obvious or as assault because we are subconsciously, insidiously trained not to recognize it. One of my girlfriends posted this yesterday, “I was just about to post how extraordinarily lucky I feel to have never been a victim of assault as a woman. Then I remembered the time I was drugged in a bar and (thank goodness) passed out while still in the bar, spending the night in the hospital. I guess that’s another “me too.””

We are trained not to see it, and we are trained to belittle it when it happens to us.Well, sure; I’ve felt unsafe hundreds of times around men, but it’s not as bad as what happened to ____.” Or “He only felt on top of my clothes so I wouldn’t say it was assault, exactly.” Or “It wasn’t technically rape, so… Or I knew better than to go to his room alone.” We have unlimited excuses and dismissals, really. I know I did. Until I had to decide what was OK for my daughter. It turns out what happened to me is definitely Not OK if it happens to her. Which means it’s Not OK that it happened to me. This particular assault was Not OK, and neither are the other times I was grabbed and groped; neither are the dozens of times I was sexually harassed with words and actions. Who knew? 

I’m telling you this story, friends, for specific reasons, which are these:

1. I refuse to be ashamed or embarrassed about this, and I will absolutely do my part to name the things that are Not OK — the things that Must Change — so our world has to face it and do better.

2. Not everyone can share her story. Not yet. Maybe not ever. And I want you to know, whether or not you are able to declare your “me, too,” I still see you. And so do countless others. We know you’re there. We know that for every person who can share, there are myriad more who can’t. We see you. We’re waving in the dark. You’re not alone.

3. You’re also not alone if you, like me, have suddenly become aware. You’re not alone if you realized belatedly you were assaulted. You’re not alone as you reluctantly claim membership in this club. You’re not alone as you realize how widespread this problem is and how brainwashed you were not to see it earlier. You’re not alone as you grieve your discovery of both your own experiences and of our culture as it actually is, rather than as you thought it was. And you’re not alone as you wonder what in the world we might actually do to change it.

Me, too, friends. Me, too.

With love, always,

 

 

 

 

I have poop-water on my floor. Wanna hang out?

October 10, 2017 in Uncategorized by Beth Woolsey

We spent the weekend with our toilet in the backyard because a visiting child tried to flush it. This, of course, caused water to overflow the bowl, gush from the floor, and flood the bathroom. I don’t know how the water gushed from the floor, exactly. Greg told me, but all I caught was plumbing, something something, seal, poop-water, and locking the bathroom door forever. So a kid broke our toilet, and it’s Situation Normal around here; an ongoing bio-hazard and Greg is gagging in the corner. To be clear, I don’t blame the child. I blame the child’s parents for a) teaching the child to flush, a mistake we certainly haven’t made, and b) failing to teach the child that Nothing Works at the Woolsey House, Ever.

Also, our fence gate latch and garage door are broken, our car has a flat tire, the fridge water dispenser won’t stop dispensing so we fixed it with masking tape, one kid is having a (series of) meltdown(s), two kids are recovering from feeling barfy, and, while we had a lovely time on our trip, we’re also glad to be home again. Truly glad. This is us, and I like us, even with poop-water on our floor and really poor plumbing skills.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We are who we are, friends.

I started writing this post to let you know about retreats I have coming up next month and throughout 2018, and to invite you to join me, but it’s suddenly occurred to me that I just wrote about living in poop-water, and now I’m going to see if you want to hang out. I’d rewrite this whole thing, except I feel like our relationship is past the point of pretending, so I’ll just say…

I have poop-water on my floor. Wanna hang out?

We won’t be hanging out in poop-water. The retreats are in a pristine and lovely house that’s sort of Anti-Poop-Water. Or not anti-poop-water necessarily — like, I don’t think the house has some sort of doctrinal position that’s specifically opposed to poop-water, because, let’s be honest, poop-water happens — but rather absent poop-water. Like, it’s a whole retreat to get away from poop-water, both literal and figurative. A Poop-Water Respite Retreat, if you will. Which suddenly makes me feel like I wasn’t nearly creative enough — or accurate enough — in naming these retreats, because, while I suspect there are a whole lot of parents like me who would like to attend a Writing Retreat, or a Food and Wine Retreat, or a Book Retreat, or a Mindfulness Retreat, there are probably many, many more who would love to attend a retreat that lets us rest from All the Poop-Water, you know?

You know.

I know you know.

That’s why you’re my people.

Do come hang out with me if you can. Details below.

With love, as always,

 

 

 

2018 RETREAT DATES

I’m getting ready to release our 2018 Retreat dates. Mostly, the retreats are how I get to hang out with you, introduce you to other friends of mine who are experts in their fields and all-around rad people, while doing things I think are, well, fun. This year, in addition to the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat where we give shape to the messy and beautiful stores in each of us, and the Mindfulness Retreat where we learn to be kind to ourselves and to breathe, we’re adding a Food and Wine Retreat — self-explanatory — and a Book-Lovers’ Retreat, with three books, one memoir, one fantasy, and one TBD to read ahead of time and discuss together. I could not be more happy about these options, and I hope you’re excited, too! Here are the dates:

  • Book-Lovers’ Retreat — January 25-29, 2018
  • Food and Wine Retreat — March 8-12, 2018
  • Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat — May 3-6, 2018
  • Mindfulness Retreat — November 8-12, 2018

These four, small group retreats will be located at our previous retreat venue — a stunning, 8-bedroom home with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean in Seal Rock, Oregon — and will continue our tradition of rest, respite, supportive community, incredible food and wine, and new friends all around.

Registration for the 2018 retreat will begin soon. We’ll be releasing all the details shortly. However, if you want to get a jump on registration and hold your spot first in line, please contact Maggie Peterson, retreat registrar, at petersonm1@spu.edu to let her know which retreat you’d like to attend. This does not obligate you to attend, but does ensure you’ll be contacted via email as soon as registration opens.

We’ve Fled America. You Come, Too.

September 20, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously, Family by Beth Woolsey

Greg and I have fled America which seems Very Logical at the moment and perhaps something we all ought to consider what with Rabid Isolationism, Fear of the Other, and OCD-Level Pontius Pilate Handwashing out of control in the U.S. right now. Not only will we Let No One In, we’re also set on Kicking the Vulnerable Out, but only after ensuring we’ve Absolved Ourselves of All Responsibility. ‘MURICA! We’re great again now, right?

Unfortunately, due to an overfondness for Harry Potter, Jamie Fraser, and chocolate digestive biscuits, we’ve fled to the United Kingdom, which is preparing to implement Brexit, so I’m not exactly sure we’ve traded up on the segregationist front. On the bright side, at least we’re in Scotland where there’s a whiskey distillery at literally every highway exit so we feel more prepared in case of Utter Apocalypse. I mean, there are worse things than being stuck in a country that knows how to make food from animal innards, fries everything in beer batter, and has hard liquor releases planned for the next 10-25 years. Yes? Yes. Scots for the win.

We’re here on holiday with our two youngest for their Ten-Year-Old Trip, a coming-of-age tradition started by my grandmother for her grandkids and carried on by us.

When our eldest was 10, we took her to Vietnam, the country of her birth, so she could see with a child’s eyes how beautiful and special the country is, how warm and kind its people.

We did the same for our second daughter when she was 10, to Guatemala.

We didn’t for our eldest son, who abhors travel with every fiber of his being and who begged not to be made to suffer with torture devices like airplanes and hotels. Instead, we waited until he was 15 (and until I was done thinking he’d surely change his mind and his whole personality and suddenly be capable of traveling to Guatemala, as well) and bought that kid an XBox so he could finally, violently slaughter outer-space aliens in Halo — as cross-cultural an experience as he wants, and certainly in keeping with American Values. His eyes still sparkle when he talks about it — how HE got an XBox which lasts YEARS while his poor, stupid siblings had to endure TRAVEL which lasts mere WEEKS. Then he giggles with glee at his superior choices. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now that our youngest are 10, we’re visiting parts of our ancestral homes, in Scotland and England, a trip for which we’ve been preparing for months, and we’re having every Formative, Educational Experience you might expect.

We’ve learned not to jostle the seat of the Rather Cranky Lady in the seat ahead of us on the plane, which is truly a Life Skill.

We’ve learned to be Very Quiet in the car while Mommy figures out how to drive on the left without crashing.

We’ve only yelled at each other a few dozen times, and Greg and I only made one of the children cry twice, so we’re clearly mastering Patience, Kindness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

We’re learning about other languages and cultures; our children, for example, have renamed all the sheep of Scotland “Pre-Haggis,” except when it’s raining, and then they’re temporarily called Soggy Haggis, because obviously.

We’ve done the Very Best Thing in All of the United Kingdom by riding the Hogwarts Express. And, to date, although we’ve been on Loch Ness, to Culloden Battlefield, to famous castles and forts, hiking in the Highlands, and to the Scottish Museum, we’ve also discovered the Second Best Thing About International Travel which is getting pillows and blankets on the plane. “PILLOWS, Mom! This flight is SO FANCY! They hand out PILLOWS and BLANKETS to every single person, and we don’t even have to pay to rent them!” Not to brag, but this is how to parent, friends. Set the expectations and standards bar so incredibly low that the ability to borrow a rigid, synthetic pillow product is EXCITING.

In short (too late), I’ll be coming to you from Scotland and England over the next couple weeks, and you should consider fleeing here, too. Unless you’re already here, in which case, BRAVO.

Thinking of you (but mostly of Jamie Fraser because I’m in Scotland and so JAMIE FRASER),

 

 

 

P.S. We pose for Happy Family photos like this:

But really, we mostly look strung out and exhausted, listening to audio books in pubs because Mom and Dad refuse to let us sleep, like this:

#Reality

 

On Sitting in the Ash and Mourning with the World

September 5, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

Oregon is on fire. Ash fell from the sky last night like a blizzard. We saw the sun today, a dim ball of deepest orange through the smokey sky, and I let my kids have All the Screens and Not Wear Pants because they couldn’t play outside.

I’m sitting outside now, on my back porch where I usually watch the mountain behind our house. I’m sitting outside even though my eyes are stinging and it’s like breathing inside a campfire. I can still see the mountain, but barely. The squirrels didn’t come out today. Neither did the birds. But I did, late in the day, because somehow sitting in the eerie quiet, breathing translucent air I can taste, feels like a lament that matches the inside of me.

I wanted to write a post tonight that’s optimistic and hopeful, but swaths of Texas are under water. So are parts of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Nepal, actually, even though we don’t talk them.

I wanted to write a post tonight that’s positive and cheerful, but Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, is on its way now to countries in the Carribbean like Haiti which haven’t recovered from last year’s Hurricane Matthew, and it’s expected to make landfall in Florida this weekend.

I wanted to write a post tonight that’s uplifting, but North Korea is launching missles, and our president is threatening fire and fury and sending military orders by tweet.

I wanted to write a post tonight that shines a light in the darkness, but gender and sexual minorities are under regular, blatant, and insidious attack, so light feels a little too far, like the sun hiding in the smoke.

I wanted to write a post tonight that’s at least reassuring if it can’t be rosy, but Nazis are marching in our streets while an unbelievable number of Americans are denying racism is an issue in our country. I wanted to be positive and to assume the best, but Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients – children who through no fault of their own know only America as home and country – are falling asleep tonight afraid for their futures; yet another group of people of color who’ve watched the U.S.A. rescind our promises.

I wanted to be positive and to quickly overcome the overwhelming, cumulative sorrow of today and this month and this year — and years before that full of macro- and micro-aggressions against others, that I, in my privilege, failed to see — but, instead, I’m going to sit tonight in the ash and mourn.

I’m going to sit tonight in the ash and feel sad like it’s my job.

I’m going to sit tonight in the ash and lament like it’s OK to sit and to grieve.

I’m going to sit tonight in the ash while the night grows dark around me.

I’m going to sit tonight in the ash while the world burns, and I’m going to pray without words, because words aren’t enough.

And in case you’re sad, too — in case you, like me, need the reminder in our rush to fix the world that we can also mourn with those who mourn — you’re invited to join me. To just be quiet. To sit in the ash. And to pray and hope and wish without words.

Waving in the dark and OK with that for now,

 

 

 

 

P.S. This is a doodle by my friend, Heather España, who also prays without words:

 

A Small List of Meant To’s

September 2, 2017 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I meant to be skinnier than this by now. I meant to stop eating All the Cheetos. I meant to be less snappy at Greg, and to make healthier food for my kids.

I meant to be more Godly. To, like, actually love those who hate me, and to do it with ease after so much practice.

I meant to have my book proposal done, not just close to done. And I meant to have my room picked all the way up, including the nightstand which instead has a tub of buttercream frosting; cinnamon graham crackers, mostly gone; a dusty hair band; 4 green earplugs and one orange, partially chewed by the dog; two empty glasses of water; various Lego shrapnel; and a Special Rock gifted to me by one of the children that looks like Every Other Rock, but apparently isn’t.

I meant to have the front yard manicured. Or, if not manicured, at least not mostly dead with blackberry brambles and wisteria and the occasional baby oak tree wrestling for control. Whenever I see someone having a yard sale, I wonder whether I can sell my yard, too. Surely there’s someone out there who needs an extra front yard.

I meant to have organized my laundry room such that I can find panties and a bra. Also, shirts. Also, pants.

I meant to be a gardener, boxes brimming with late summer bounty. I have the boxes, but I haven’t seen them for years, hidden as they are under one wild yard growth or another.

I meant to be a letter writer and a card sender and a person who keeps personal correspondence alive. I meant to be a checkbook balancer and an excellent money manager and have more than $50.05 in savings.

I meant to read books that make me smarter and make me think and make me cry and feel triumphant, but if anyone needs a somewhat smutty and wholly spectacular vampire or werewolf series, let me know; I’m apparently your girl.

I meant to be cultured and to prefer spending time in museums and art galleries than pubs and tiny coffee shops. I meant to be able to pull off elegant should the situation arise.

I meant to have bathrooms that smell like freshly laundered clothes, or, at the very least, like buckets of bleach, instead of like stale kid urine that went there to die. For that matter, I meant to have clean laundry that smells like freshly laundered clothes instead of old cheese and green olives.

After 23 years, I meant to have marriage figured out, and, after 19 years, to know which parenting manual actually works.

I meant to do all these things and a thousand thousand more. I meant to, but HAHAHAHAHA! Nope.

But I’ll tell you a tiny secret. I also decided to be a better friend to myself. To treat myself like I’d treat a girlfriend, sharing her microfailures over wine, making little confessions of Not Enough, and spilling her small bits of shame, hoping she can be known and still loved. The kind who listens to the admissions, then shrugs and hugs and says, But look at all you ARE. Look at all you are, friend. Look at the way you drink in life. Look at how you love your littles and your bigs. Look at how you love your world. Look at how you TRY. Yes? Look at YOU and see the You I do. The one who is so much more than the Meant To’s. So much more than Could Have Been’s. So much more than the Not Enoughs. You, my friend, are fabulous. You, my friend, are seen. You, my friend, are loved BECAUSE of who you are, not in spite of it. 

So in case you have a list of Meant To’s — one that you rehearse — a list of all your wrongs which is the opposite of Love — look at all you ARE, friend, and trust me here for just one second:

You are worthy of infinite love.

You just are.

That’s as true a truth as I know.

Now read it again and trust it for one more second. And one more. And one more. Until you can hear it echo inside of you for a minute. And then an hour. I hear that’s possible. And then a day.

I’ll practice, too.

With love,

 

 

Marital Strife: Your Help Requested

August 22, 2017 in Beth, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

There’s no easy way to say this, friends, so I’m just going to jump right in.

Greg, the love of my life, father of my children, sharer of my bed, scr itchy batterer of toast, locks the door when he uses the bathroom.

He locks the door.

Every time.

Without fail.

LOCKS IT.

I know. I wish I had a way to ease the blow, too, but in the absence of that, I’m just ripping off the band aid. If you need to stop reading for a bit to catch your breath, I understand. Take your time.

Here’s the truth:

Whenever Greg feels the need to potty, he just… goes.

He stands up, walks out of the room, blithely enters the bathroom without a public announcement and, CLICK, turns the lock.

I don’t…

I can’t even…

I just…

He acts like it’s normal to potty alone.

Like he doesn’t have to make sure all the kids are occupied for the foreseeable future.

In separate rooms.

Plugged into screens.

With enough snacks to last through the full zombie apocalypse.

And restraints.

And a brick wall barrier.

And reinforced cages.

And the suspension of disbelief required to think maybe — this one time — they won’t Houdini and Shawshank Redeption their way out.

Greg acts like he doesn’t have to submit an application in writing to the Sanitary Oversight Commission seeking approval for a Solo Toilet Expedition, then wait ages, like all good citizens, then resubmit his paperwork months later because, after a series of phone calls during which he was mostly placed on hold or disconnected, he learned his application was incomplete… or never arrived… or was lost or misfiled… and finally, give it up as a lost cause LIKE THE REST OF US DO and live with the knowledge we may never get to pee again.

Instead, Greg believes the urge to void is sufficient to qualify a person to potty in appropriate facilities while prohibiting others to enter.

It’s infuriating.

It’s as though Greg believes he’s an adult human. Entitled to privacy. Entitled not to broadcast his boy parts to the household. Entitled to 15 minutes to sit alone, undisturbed, and scan his Facebook feed. Or play a whole game of Sudoku. Or read Wired magazine. Or have one entire, chronological thought, start to finish, without myriad interruptions ranging in intensity from “the dog just barfed on my bed” to “COME FAST THERE IS A LOT OF BLOOD.”

It’s as though Greg doesn’t subscribe to the MacGyver style of pottying wherein one, with extensive training honed during years of difficult missions, improbable scenarios, and close calls, must be prepared for anything, at any time, to go horribly awry. Where one must solve issues that arise only with items on hand like one’s wits, lack of dignity, and a dirty sock. Where one practices one’s Kegles not because one is disciplined to exercise one’s pelvic floor, but by actually having to repeatedly stop midstream to pull someone’s foot splinter or run to check on the stunned child who thought jumping backward off the swing set was a good idea and, “HE’S HURT REAL BAD, MOM.” Not that MacGyver is necessarily all that interested in his pelvic floor, but if he was, this would undoubtedly be his modus operandi.

Listen; I don’t want to be overly dramatic about this whole situation, but Gregory sits there long enough to leave a red imprint of the toilet on his butt and legs, you guys. I mean, I imagine he does. I don’t actually know definitively, because Greg also pulls his undies all the way up, AND his pants, AND he zips and buttons them, AND washes his hands — for the recommended, thorough amount of time — before he emerges, rested and refreshed, which makes me bitter and enraged.

I do not know what to do about this, friends.

When I catch him, I knock knock knock knock knock on the door, and I speak in staccato words to match. Like “WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING. IN. THERE?” And “O.M.G! DID YOU SERIOUSLY. LOCK. THE DOOR. AGAIN?” And “STOP IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT.” But none of my lurking, knocking and pestering behaviors are working. NONE.

Surely something can be done about this. Surely there’s a way to end my misery once and for all. Surely there’s some way to force Greg into the kind of co-dependence and subservience to one’s children such that he will feel he does not deserves to lock the bathroom door, as well as the kind of unreasonable godlike pride required to believe that if one does actually lock the door, the children will all literally die.

Please, wise friends. Tell me what to do! Remove all bathroom doors? Put spikes on the toilet? Handcuff Greg to All the Children as a symbol of solidarity and sympathy with his long suffering wife who’s figuratively shackled to them all the livelong day?

In conclusion, help me, friends. You’re my only hope.

With love,

 

 

 

P.S. Sorry to air our dirty laundry like this. I think we can all agree, though, that it’s past time to seek help.

I Duplicated My Daughter’s Instagram Feed (Because the Internets Need a Laugh, Dammit)

August 19, 2017 in Beth, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Dear the Internets,

This is a cautionary tale.

Let’s say you have a kid at college.

And let’s say that college is in Hawaii.

Let’s say your kid chose that college because, OMG, BEACHES.

And let’s say she’s using those beaches to her full advantage.

Let’s say she has an Instagram account.

And let’s say it’s full of beach and bikini pics, because that’s apparently her area of giftedness.

Let’s say you’re scrolling through one day and you see a pic of her with underboob. UNDERBOOB, friends.

 

Let’s say you think to yourself, “Self, you are the mommy. Self, you should DISAPPROVE. Self, it is IRRELEVANT how adorable she looks in this pic. Self, you taught her to never, EVER, put boobie pics on the world wide webs. Self, you should DO SOMETHING.”

But then let’s say you think, “Self, she’s an adult. Self, she gets to make her own choices. Also, Self, because you can see how very white her underboob is, now you know she’s not been sunbathing topless. So HOORAY! LOOK AT HER MODESTY.”

Let’s say you call her and congratulate her on the underboob pic. Because that’s what a mommy does, right? That sounds like appropriate Christian leadership.

“Nice underboob,” you say. “I see you haven’t been sunbathing topless, so I guess there’s that?”

Let’s say she agrees with you entirely.

Then let’s say you decide, because you lack overall good judgement and common sense, that you think it would be the Very Best Lesson for her if you were to duplicate her shot, except with your own, fluffy, 43yo mom bod.

But let’s say when you tell your kid about your plan, she thinks it’s HILARIOUS and not embarrassing at all, because apparently you have embarrassed her So Many Times already, you’ve burned the ability out of her.

So let’s say you go to Hawaii and do it.

Because the world is a horrible place right now, and God knows we all need a laugh.

 

This, friends. This is why you DO NOT TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR. It leads to this type of behavior, and God knows SOMEONE needs to save you from your Good Ideas.

To make matters worse, my kid has friends who are equally unembarrased by me, and duplicated this pic…

 

 

…with me on a public beach, because their judgement is as questionable as mine.

God, I love them.

(Also, that’s a lot of fabric I pulled up my ass.)

The End.

Literally.

Except for this bonus twinsie pic, because that’s what we do around here. #MotherDaughter #CantTellUsApart

And also this twinsie pic.

It’s a real mystery, I tell you. I mean, who’s who??

In conclusion, we can pray a special prayer for the poor college boy who had to take these photos. He’s the real victim here.

With Love,

……..

 

 

And Now Here’s the Longest P.S. Ever and the Story Behind These Pics…

P.S. Once upon a time, a few months ago, my eldest child graduated, utterly relieved, from her Very Conservative Christian high school. It was the one with the dress codes. The one where the book, The Purity Principle, a horrifying account of how a man’s lust inevitably leads men to pedophilia, child abuse and prison (um, what??) was assigned as a biology textbook — yes, A BIOLOGY TEXTBOOK. The one where my kid was cited for the time her sweatshirt fell off her shoulder to reveal a (don’t be alarmed) Bra Strap. The one where she decided to henceforth quit wearing bras altogether because she is Willful and also Her Mother’s Daughter and so Logic dictated if Bra Straps were a Serious Problem, she would eliminate them entirely, bless her Rebellious Heart. The school where there are far More Stories like this one, from both my kid and others.

Now, to be fair, the school had some lovely, wonderful things about it, truly. There’s no doubt the staff there Meant Well. There’s no doubt they were dedicated to their work. There’s no doubt they were working hard to shape a generation of people who can change our world for the better. Unfortunately, their views on sexuality, women, and modesty rules were simply Not Some of those wonderful things.

Nevertheless, the summer before my daughter’s senior year, she signed the Dress Code. Her mommy stood beside her, telling her if she wanted to attend This School, she had to not only sign it but agree to abide by it without complaint. It was a prerequisite for attendance, and if she didn’t agree with it, I told her, I’d happily sign her up for a different school. She could choose, but she needed to choose to live by the rules if This School was her choice.

She signed it.

Then, in early October, five weeks after school began, the administration issued a new dress code. New rules. New specifics. No warning. Just a sudden shift of policy.

My daughter disagreed with much of it. No yoga pants, for example, but body-hugging, stretchy jeans were fine. Athletes could wear their work-out gear to school if they had practice in the afternoon, but my daughter and her dancer friends — despite 20 hours per week of rehearsals starting immediately after school, and long pants and zip-up jackets as gear — could not.

She felt suddenly examined, under a microscope with her adorable, fit dancer body and emerging sense of self; teachers and staff watching her body closely for rule-breaking. She began to write papers on Modesty Culture and Purity Culture and ways they lead to Rape Culture. She became grossly uncomfortable with the heightened interest in her butt and breasts and how much of those, exactly, the teachers could discern by studying them. She felt yucky every day, and she asked me what she ought to do about the new dress code. Should she abide by it? I told her she should abide by the first one she signed — the one we talked about and thought about and agreed to follow after consideration about whether she could do so. But changing the rules? Nope. She didn’t have to abide by those.

I talked to the principal. She did, too. I explained she would be following the code she’d agreed to but was not responsible for the sudden switch. We both told him how uncomfortable she was with the perpetual eyes on her body, adults looking to see if she was too sexy, blame for boys not being able to pay attention in school. This, in jeans and baggy sweatshirts. But the Bra Strap! The principal said he was “sorry she feels that way.”

The teachers, of course, were trying to be consistent and to apply the rules the administration dictated. They were wrong, I believe, but they were caught between bad rules and their leadership.

As for me, I was raised in conservative, fundamentalist Christian culture. It took me decades to unravel what modesty means, how I was responsible — or, more specifically, not responsible — for the behavior and thoughts of others, and how I might patch together a better understanding of how “modesty” relates to loving God and loving my neighbors as myself, on which Jesus said hang all the laws. The more I studied the more I realized the impetus forced on women to dress in a manner so we don’t cause men don’t objectify us, lust after us, and the more angry I became. It wasn’t only unfair, it also wasn’t what Jesus taught us about how to love one another, and it was purely subjective, utterly illogical, and always in flux. There was no way to “win” in modesty culture. No way to ever be blameless.

There’s not a static definition of modest clothing, after all. It changes, always, with the culture of the time. Christian women these days, in nearly every denomination and sect, are able to show their elbows, their ankles, their knees — body parts that were considered sexual in Victorian times. And yet we Christians forget that it was a rebellious woman sometime, somewhere — an “immodest” lady who shunned the dress code of the time, who refused to follow it — who led to our ability these days to wear capris, t-shirts, to go for a run, to swim at the beach. Instead, I watch Christians defend our current conservative culture’s understanding of what “modesty” means. As though these rules are hard and fast. As though a man lusting after a woman in leggings is her fault and not his. Elbows, after all, were once a temptation, and yet we no longer believe a woman’s elbows will lead a man to sin. You know why? Because culture changed. Because our expectations of men changed, too. If everyone throughout history believed we ought to adhere to dress codes of the time — enforced those codes and never challenged them — we would still be wearing high-necked collars, long sleeves, boots, and long skirts in our recent 90 degree weather. Thank God for the women who challenged those notions! Thank God I can sit outside while I type this, in my sleeveless REI hiking dress — knees and ankles on display before God and man, harlot that I am — and enjoy the sunshine.

Eventually, my kid who attended a private Christian school grades K-12 wanted Anything But That for college. She was exhausted by the rules meant to keep students “safe,” but which caused harm. And, in her words, “I just feel like Jesus cares more about things other than my bra strap, Mom.” Truer words, right? Truer words.

So now my kid is in Hawaii, living by the beach and wearing All the Bikinis, with her ass and underboob showing. She’s also a hard worker, conscientious, smart, hilarious, and she has a fantastic community of amazing friends who support and love each other well. She’s confident, and she knows who she is. She’s fiercely achieving her academic goals. She’s done with the bullshit parts of religion, and she clings to a Jesus who challenged cultural norms to love people well. She knows what she believes and why she believes it. I could only be more proud if she would wear a damn helmet when she’s on her boyfriend’s Vespa. (PAY ATTENTION, CHILD; THAT’S ALL I WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY.)