On Shifting Sands

Dear Amy,

I’m so worn out from being riled up. I feel beset on all sides by tides of anti-woman, anti-feminist, anti-choice, anti-science, anti-reason sentiment.  These are times that fracture my brain, times that create in me a powerful and unstoppable need to passionately scream out THIS IS WRONG WRONG WRONG to anyone within listening distance.  I have been so traditionally a mediator, a relativist, a gray area advocate, a bridge between viewpoints, growing up amongst religious family and community, abandoning it (the religion, not the family) but still maintaining relationships with people of widely differing political and moral viewpoints. I’ve been so good at toeing the line.  But these days, I am incapable of fence-sitting. My feminism is ramped up to Defcon 1 and I don’t care who knows it.

Two nights ago, I was walking down a darkened sidewalk and a middle aged guy was walking toward me on the same side of the street. He was ambling, in that way that everyone knows, in that way that you can tell that this person has an agenda.  Sure enough, as he got nearer he called out “Miss. Miss” and veered toward me. There was no one else around. I veered away into the street.  He kept approaching, beginning a speech about two children nearby in a car who needed something something and I interrupted with a very sharp “NO”, and kept walking past him.  He called out again, loudly,  “Well you DON’T gotta get a attitude with me, white girl”.  I wheeled back around and yelled back “YES, I DO, AND FUCK YOU.” And then I full-tilt ran to my car, realizing I had just deliberately antagonized a guy who may or may not have been trying to do some uncool shit to me.  But you know what? Yes, fuck him. For approaching a strange woman alone at night and expecting any other reaction than “leave me alone”. Fuck him for making it about race. Fuck him for trying to shame me about it.

Someone I know and respect (a man) posted a link on Facebook to an article in favor of mandatory ultrasounds for women seeking abortions.  He added his own comment referencing people who “insist upon calling themselves Pro-Choice” and suggesting that such people should be in favor of women having “all the information” they can. Historically, my reaction would be to seethe, silently, and move on.  I do not typically take the bait in such cases.  This time, however…my brain exploded with repressed ire. I replied with a long vitriolic screed that ended with something like “WE’RE NOT IDIOTS, I’M PRETTY SURE WE KNOW THERE’S A BABY IN THERE THAT’S WHY WE WENT TO THE CLINIC IN THE FIRST PLACE OMG.” He had the grace not to reply, as the exchange surely would have deteriorated from that point.  But I just can’t STAND it, Amy.  The unmitigated NERVE of men who know nothing about what it means to have a uterus, the crippling (and, in my case, terrifying) responsibility of carrying and bearing a child, men who deign to make decisions for us, to presume that a woman is not VASTLY more knowledgeable about her own reproductive system than a male lawmaker (or just any random dude off the street) has driven me beyond my habitual coddling of other people’s sensitivities.  The sheer idiocy of female supporters who set back the cause of women’s rights by following along in this madness simply because the church and/or party line has dictated that they do so has turned me into a fiery mushroom cloud of personal relationship destruction.  Bottom line: do what you want with your own body, but don’t you dare tell me what to do with mine. This isn’t the 16th century and this isn’t a theocracy. Women get to be people now. This is what choice means. If you can’t agree with me on this point, then you’re a jerk and I just don’t care about your feelings anymore. I am a walking rage-face.

I mean, not you, Amy.  I care about your feelings.  Um, so…how are you?


Dear Annie,

Are you on your period or something? Take some Motrin and crawl into bed for a couple of days. It’s unbecoming to be out walking around the world in such a state. It’s a disservice to women, who should always have freshly blown-dry hair, and pleasant smiles, and a benevolent, bendable will. Women should be pretty and malleable and agreeable. They should take catcalls as compliments!

I don’t know, was that funny at all? I think the part about your period was. Maybe it ended there? I haven’t gotten my period in over a year now, so I’m not up on menstrual humor. I’ve been walking around for the last two days trying to figure out how to respond to this, and I’m still not sure. “I understand your rage” doesn’t seem like enough. And yet, I do. And yet, anger is not an emotion I feel all that much anymore. I don’t know how to identify it currently?

Generally speaking, as a new mom, I’m all smiling and cooing at my baby, smelling her baby head, going for walks, watching her watch the world with this newborn sense of wonder. I am looking at her look at trees, thinking about what she must think when she sees such things. I’m three weeks away from the end of my maternity leave, and I am grasping every last second of Babyland that I’ve been given.

And, of course, as the mom of a little girl, your letter is hard to respond to because it makes me want to shut down, think about something else, put my fingers in my ears and sing LA LA LA LA. To think of anyone pestering her on the street or telling her to do with her body…I don’t know what it does, because my brain shuts down in defense before I can get there. Baby head smells, baby carrier, trees.

Don’t get me started on all the BS currently happening with abortions. I’ve had it up to HERE with people calling pro-choice people pro-abortion, because, as far as I can tell, that’s just not what it is. I don’t know anyone who is like HOORAY ABORTION, but I know a whole bunch of people who believe that it’s a woman’s right to choose. And I am with those people. And I say this AS A MOTHER.

Otherwise, all is well here. I go back to work at the end of the month, and I’m currently trying to figure out how to cut my hours at work as much as possible while still being able to get all of our bills paid. This, for me, feels VERY radical. Jason continues to look for a teaching job. Violet is four months old this week, and she is impossibly sweet and has shifted every possible thing that could be shifted inside me.


3 thoughts on “On Shifting Sands

  1. ryabbc says:

    Amy, I think even the fact that you are appreciative and loving and able to have (some, it’s never easy to have a lot!) time to be with Violet in these exciting early months is a testament to the fact that you deliberately chose to have a child. Even if there is a job struggle (and these days, who doesn’t have one of those!) you knew that for the most part you’d be able to provide for her health and welfare. Smelling babies is a lot more enjoyable when you aren’t scrambling for day to day survival or wondering if you’ll have some support from a spouse or any other family member.

    Annie, sometimes, lately I get very VERY angry. Sometimes I just get sad. I’m trying to find the place were I can channel the anger better so that I don’t just have to bottle it up because sometimes there is just SO much, and who has TIME, the extra energy for so much anger! It’s exhausting, and I’m already scrambling (though very fortunate in SO many ways).

    • palmerton says:

      Yeah, I think as much as I didn’t really want to write this blog, getting it out has helped me expunge a lot of my anger so I don’t misplace it onto unsuspecting elderly men who call me “sweetheart” when I buy a pack of gum. -AP

  2. This is so full of truths both beautiful and heartbreaking; I feel very lucky to have read this.

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