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Me, too

October 21, 2017 | #metoo,Harvey Weinstein,Hollywood,Men,Power,Sexual assault,Sexual harassment,Women

Me, too.

My pastor talked to me about what a wonderful and healthy thing pornography was. I was alone with him in his car. I was 5. When I was an adult, I learned that he was later arrested for molesting children. How many voices had to be heard before that ever happened? Or, asking another way, how many children had to be hurt?

I spent the night at a friend’s house. While there, her two older brothers crept through the hallway by her room. They were naked.

I went with a friend to a family gathering. I was told to go meet her grandfather. I stood by his chair. He reached under my skirt and, with his long, sharp fingernails, pinched the skin on my butt until he drew blood.

I went with my family to visit another family’s house. The grownups sent me off to play with their son in his room. I’d heard he had a train set. Instead of playing with it, though, he forced kisses on me and put his hands on me. I told him to stop. He did it again. I was 7.

I was on a playground with my older brother. Another boy, who was much bigger than I was, picked me up in a big bear hug and shook me. I screamed for him to let me go. I cried and begged my brother, who was at least as big as this other boy, to make him let me go. My brother laughed.

When I was in confirmation class, 8th-grade boys made gigantic rubber bands by stringing together dozens of regular rubber bands. Some of the boys were taller than my father. They, in their man bodies, were all bigger than I was. They sat behind me, and throughout the class, snapped my butt with the gigantic rubber bands. It hurt and made me cry. Nobody said anything or made them stop; not even the pastor, who led the class. This happened all year. I was 11.

When I waited tables, a man grabbed my ass as I put his plate on the table. The owner, a married man with children, fired me because I wouldn’t flirt with him. I was 16.

In September of my last year of college, an 18-year-old freshman went missing. Women and girls were terrified. Women who had night classes would wait together outside for rides, instead of walking home in the dark. They held “Take Back the Night” marches. They wrote articles and letters to the editor. They bought mace. Police found the freshman’s body in December. Two men raped and killed her and left her naked body in a field.

When I lived alone in my 20s, a man I’d known as a friend for years, visited me in my home. Without asking, he followed me to my bedroom, pushed me down on my bed and tried to kiss me. Another man — married with children — I’d known as a friend for years, stalked me and left dozens of messages on my answering machine. He knew where I lived, and I knew he was in town, so I left my home and stayed away for an entire day and night.

Side note on waiting tables: As much as my husband loves his daughters — and he grew up in socialist Norway where women and men have closer equality than many places in this world — he still sometimes doesn’t get it. He’s told one of our daughters, who is always helping others, that she should be a waiter. This bugged me at the time, but I didn’t know why. A little more recently, I shared my experiences as a waiter in the presence of my husband, some friends and our kids. Even after my husband heard this story, he still — at a later time — told our daughter that she should be a waiter. I was dumbfounded. Did he not hear my story? What part of my experience did he want our daughter to have? Then it occurred to me, he must see my experience as a one-time thing, because he CAN see it that way. But if he heard the stories of all kinds of women who have worked as waiters, maybe then he would see that my experience was not an isolated incident. (That’s the power of #metoo.) Otherwise, he’d still believe that our daughter could sidestep an experience like mine. Because he makes the mistake of believing that his daughter walks through the world like he does, not like I do.

Husbands might not understand. Until they do. Chris Richards is a pop-music critic for The Washington Post. His wife, Caitlin Gibson, is a feature writer there. In December 2016, they both had stories that ran on the same page. Both their mailboxes filled up with email. Many of Gibson’s emails called her vulgar names. None of the emails to Richards did. In fact, he said, he’s never been called vulgar names by readers, but it’s routine for Gibson. You can see his Twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/Chris__Richards/status/806611671871606784. In case it disappears, here’s a screen shot:


I spent a lot of time in my children’s elementary school, volunteering in their classrooms. When one of my children told me that some boys were calling a girl some awful names, I spoke to the teacher and then the principal about it. The principal had talked to the girl and her parents. He was convinced that her capacity for understanding was diminished, and she was not hurt by the names. He missed the point. Did he talk to the boys and their parents? If he didn’t, he should have. When the boys called this girl a freak (or worse) and grownups didn’t stop it, it’s not only about the impact that has on the girl. What does it do to the boys? It allows them to dehumanize another human being, while at the same time diminishing their own humanity. And what does it do to the children who witness that behavior? It normalizes it. This is how it starts.

Seeing. Standing up. Speaking out. By men, most especially. (Men, collect your people.) This is how it ends.






Others write about this:

“Dear Men: It’s You, Too,” Roxane Gay, The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/opinion/metoo-sexual-harassment-men.html

“The woman behind ‘Me Too’ knew the power of the phrase when she created it — 10 years ago,” Abby Ohlheiser, The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2017: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2017/10/19/the-woman-behind-me-too-knew-the-power-of-the-phrase-when-she-created-it-10-years-ago/

“#MeToo, #ItWasMe, and the Post-Weinstein Megaphone of Social Media,” Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, Oct. 19, 2017: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/metoo-itwasme-and-the-post-weinstein-megaphone-of-social-media

“The Conversation We Should Be Having,” Rebecca Traister, The Cut, Oct. 19, 2017: https://www.thecut.com/2017/10/harvey-weinstein-donald-trump-sexual-assault-stories.html

“What school dress codes have to do with Harvey Weinstein,” Soraya Chemaly, The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2017: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/10/20/what-school-dress-codes-have-to-do-with-harvey-weinstein/?utm_term=.ce009dbaf44e

Posted by Becky @ 3:14 pm | 1 Comment  

Father’s Day without you

June 19, 2016 | Dad,Family,Father's Day


You visited me in a dream last night. That hasn’t happened for a while. As usual, you didn’t talk to me. You were busy doing something for me, though. You were working on my taxes. You wore a checked short-sleeve shirt and dress pants. You also wore fuzzy slippers. “Where did he get THOSE?” I wondered. At some point, I realized this was a dream and I might not see you again for a while. I didn’t want to waste my chance, so I walked up to you and gave you a hug. You wrapped your arms around me and held me tight. Thank you for that. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

Posted by Becky @ 9:50 am | Comments  

Books: The Fiddler in the Subway

June 11, 2016 | Authors,Books,Gene Weingarten,Journalism,Writing


Title: The Fiddler in the Subway (Simon & Schuster, New York, New York, 2010)
Author: Gene Weingarten is a nationally syndicated humor columnist and writer for The Washington Post. He is the only two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. With his son, Dan Weingarten, and cartoonist David Clark, he is the author of Barney & Clyde, a daily newspaper comic strip launched in June 2010. He lives in Washington, D.C.

What happens when you pick up the last book you will ever read? When the writing is so good that it will ruin everything else for you? Gene Weingarten’s writing did that for me. This book — The Fiddler in the Subway — is a collection of feature writing he has done at The Washington Post. Two of the pieces won Pulitzer Prizes.

Only three stories in — The Great Zucchini, The First Father and The Ghost of the Hardy Boys — and I thought, “If you want to write, read this book. If you want to teach others to write, use this book. When I write, I want to write like this.” It is beautiful, masterful stuff.

Reading further, I thought, “I can’t recommend this book. I just can’t. It will ruin every other writer for you until the end of time. I don’t know if I can read anything else after this book.”

Then I mustered my best Jimmy Dugan voice and yelled, “There’s no crying in journalism! Why is he making me cry?”

I read “Pardon My French” on the 72nd anniversary of D-Day in Normandy. It’s the one that made me laugh out loud. Then giggle at how delicious it was that he found just the right way to get the most honest responses from French folks. He calls it the Machine. I call it hilarious.

Every paragraph in “Fatal Distraction” is a punch to the gut. I almost couldn’t bear to read it. But I let Weingarten take me by the hand and gently lead me through the horrific experiences of the people in this piece.

Weingarten quotes Franz Kafka: “The meaning of life is that it ends.” This is the heart of everything he writes. This is what breathes life into every word.

Is this the last book I’ll ever read? Well, no. I could no more stop reading than I could stop breathing. I will, however, measure everything else I read against Weingarten’s writing.


Thanks to Jeff Sharlet, who suggests so much good writing. He led me to Weingarten. “Thanks” is not enough, but it will have to do.


Posted by Becky @ 10:33 am | Comments  

Poems & photos: LOVE IN THINE EYES

May 4, 2016 | Love,Photography,Poetry


PHOTO: Old valentine © DMBR

—Victorian verse

Posted by Becky @ 8:42 am | Comments  

When purple became the color of mourning

May 1, 2016 | Music


PHOTO: Mementos on the fence at Paisley Park © DMBR

I took my daughters to the Twin Cities yesterday to celebrate turning 12. Since we were there, we drove by Paisley Park. We had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect what was there. Officials blocked off the turning lane. (I had to drive to the next stoplight and make a U-turn.) They posted “no parking” signs. Nearby businesses chained off their parking lots. But I still found a place to park. Hundreds of cars. Hundreds of people. Everyone in their own little world — alone or with their group — and yet together. Subdued. Quiet. Kind. Even in cars, letting someone in. Almost as if the whole thing were orchestrated. We walked along the entire length of the fence. As we made our way back to the entrance, we heard from a car making its way back out of the area the unmistakable tune and lyrics of “Little Red Corvette.” Perfect ending.

Posted by Becky @ 12:55 pm | 2 Comments  

Poems & photos: Day Dreams, or Twelve Years Old

Birthday,Family,Forest City,Photography,Poetry,Twins


My baby girls recently turned 12, so I took some license, replacing “ten” with “twelve.”

I measured myself by the wall in the garden;
The hollyhocks blossomed far over my head.
Oh, when I can touch with the tips of my fingers
The highest green bud, with its lining of red,

I shall not be a child any more, but a woman.
Dear hollyhock blossoms, how glad I shall be!
I wish they would hurry – the years that are coming,
And bring the bright days that I dream of to me!

Oh, when I am grown, I shall know all my lessons,
There’s so much to learn when one’s only just (twelve)! –
I shall be very rich, very handsome, and stately,
And good, too, — of course, — ’twill be easier then!

There’ll be many to love me, and nothing to vex me,
No knots in my sewing; no crusts to my bread.
My days will go by like the days in a story,
The sweetest and gladdest that ever was read.

And then I shall come out some day to the garden
(For this little corner must always be mine);
I shall wear a white gown all embroidered with silver,
That trails in the grass with a rustle and shine.

And, meeting some child here at play in the sunshine,
With gracious hands laid on her head, I shall say,
“I measured myself by these hollyhock blossoms
When I was no taller than you, dear, one day!”

She will smile in my face as I stoop low to kiss her,
And – Hark! They are calling me in to my tea!
O blossoms, I wish that the slow years would hurry!
When, when will they bring all I dream of to me?

—Margaret Johnson

PHOTO: Hollyhock near Forest City, Iowa © DMBR

Posted by Becky @ 11:27 am | Comments  

Poems & photos: Good Fortune

April 22, 2016 | Photography,Poetry



Good fortune is a giddy maid,
Fickle and restless as a fawn;
She smooths your hair; and then the jade
Kisses you quickly, and is gone.
But Madam Sorrow scorns all this;
She shows no eagerness for flitting,
But with a long and fervent kiss
Sits by your bed — and brings her knitting.

Heinrich Heine

PHOTO: Flower, Cody, Wyoming © DMBR

Posted by Becky @ 5:03 pm | Comments  

Poems & photos: Friendship

April 21, 2016 | Florida,Friends,Photography,Poetry

© Rebecca Gjendem


Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words — but pouring them
All right out — just as they are —
Chaff and grain together —
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them —
Keep what is worth keeping —
And with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.

Dinah Maria Mulock Craik

PHOTO: Azaleas, Tampa, Florida © DMBR

Posted by Becky @ 7:53 am | Comments  

Poems & photos: One Heart

April 19, 2016 | Forest City,Iowa,Photography,Poetry


Look at the birds. Even flying
is born

out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, open

at either end of day.
The work of wings

was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Li-Young Lee

PHOTO: Grackles flying over trees near Forest City, Iowa © DMBR

Posted by Becky @ 12:20 pm | Comments  

Books: Writing Home

September 30, 2014 | Authors,Books,Family


Title: Writing Home (Hearth Stone Books, Royal Oak, Michigan, 2005)
Author: Cindy La Ferle‘s essays and columns have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Reader’s Digest, Country Gardens, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, Writer’s Digest, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Daily Tribune and many other publications. She lives with her family in Royal Oak, Michigan.

What a wonderful collection of essays! Cindy La Ferle is a great observer of human nature, and she is a brilliant writer with a calm and assuring voice. Many of her essays brought me to tears, especially the ones she wrote about her son. My children are in between the stages of childhood and teenage-hood. I look into their faces that keep changing yet staying true to who they are — and I try to savor every moment with them. Her words remind me that this motherhood ride is an exciting one with the milestones speeding by in the blink of an eye.

“The sacred is in the ordinary. It is found in one’s daily life — in friends, family, and neighbors; in one’s own backyard.” Thanks, Cindy, for reminding me.

Posted by Becky @ 1:40 pm | Comments  

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