Stop reading this and go volunteer to help get that man out of office

I say it with a smile – but we have only a few days to keep our country from sliding into (more) disaster

A water seller in Morocco. Nothing to do with anything except with Biden as president, I am confident we will soon return to a time when we can travel. Or you know – go to the movies.

I can’t write about politics right now – I am so terrified that that horrible man will win. And if there are any Trump supporters reading this – I would have thought I would have lost you long ago. But yeah – Orange Man Bad because Orange Man IS Bad.

So I will write about some non-political stuff and then you can volunteer.

Here are some things you can do:

Send texts to people who have not voted yet. You can do it from your computer and don’t even have to talk to anyone.

If you don’t mind talking to people you don’t know, call people who have not voted yet.

Send $$$ to Milwaukee to help get voters to the polls. City of MKE voters tend to vote in person. The lines will be long, although not as bad as in April. Did you know Wisconsin is a swing state? And city of MKE sat out the election in 2016? City of MKE went for Obama before but didn’t vote last time. We need these voters. (I will be working the polls.)

OK. Some non-political talk now.

I had two job interviews recently.

The first one was via zoom.

I hate zoom. Does anyone else hate zoom? I do not need to see a person to talk to her. People have been having phone conversations (which I also do not like) for decades and it worked just fine. Whose stupid idea was it to force us to direct super high-resolution cameras to our faces from below? I don’t take selfies. I don’t let other people take photos of me. I am not interested in looking in the mirror.

But in a job interview, the supplicant does not get to call the shots.

So I got up early so my eyes would unpuff before the call, took a shower, dried my hair with a hairdryer (can’t remember the last time I’ve done that), and then, because my hair looks awful because Mr T cut it for me and he had never cut hair before but he did the best he could so I’m not mad but oh man is it ugly, I got out the straightening iron, WHICH ONLY MADE THINGS WORSE.

And I couldn’t fix it.

So strike one – Bad Hair.

Then I had to put on clothes that were

  1. Not pajamas
  2. Not my leopard-print fluffy robe
  3. Not gym clothes

Which meant that I had to wear clothes I have not worn since the Before Times.

Clothes that might hurt.

I compromised and wore Regular Clothes on top and gym clothes on the bottom. I figured they wouldn’t do a pants check on me.

(Yes, there are companies that are requiring their work at home employees to wear work clothes on their whole bodies and to show themselves at the beginning of zoom meetings.)

(As soon as things are better, people will leave these companies for better jobs.)

I had the interview, forced to look at my puffy face and Bad Hair. The recruiters looked fabulous. I hope they judge me on what I said and not on how I look.

The second interview was over the phone, so I didn’t shower or get out of my PJs before the call.

And I even asked the recruiter, who is working from home, if he had changed into his daytime PJs or was still in his nighttime PJs.

It’s kind of weird asking someone you’ve never met what they’re wearing.

So I didn’t ask, “What are you wearing?”

But I did express my relief that this was not a zoom call because I didn’t want to have to show my clothes.

Neither job pays much.

It’s like I am moving backwards in time with my career – making (or having the possibility of making) less and less money with each new job.

But – health insurance.

Which would not have been such a big deal (still a medium deal) if not for the case before the SCOTUS trying to destroy the ACA.

Oh man. I’m done.



Love and death

Our last memories have been stolen from us

My dad with, I think, me and my cousin

I bet if you ask random people on the street what their greatest fear is – if you had asked even in the Before Times, many of them would say, “Dying alone. I don’t want to die alone.”

I bet most people would say also that they do not want to be sick alone. That they don’t want to be suffering alone. That they don’t want to be in the hospital alone.

And yet, that is what’s happening to so many people.

They are being forced to spend their last weeks, days, minutes alone. Separated from the people they love and the people who love them.

They are being forced to be apart in the worst time of their life.

They are forced to endure pain and fear alone, without the comfort of a hand to hold.

It didn’t have to be this way. It didn’t have to happen like this.

This beautiful twitter essay about a woman dying of cancer 20 years ago in the hospital, surrounded by the people she loves, ends with the nurse thinking now about how things have changed since that patient died:

Time passes. Twenty years. The nurse was young back then, but now she is a seasoned veteran. And now she holds a phone up, so that a family can look upon their dying loved one from afar. And she remembers sadly what it used to be like, before, where all roads meet.

Sayed Tabatabai, MD

This is how people are being cheated – being robbed – by COVID, and, by extension, this president and his administration.

Not only are more people dying than should be dying, they are dying alone.

Sick people and their families are being cheated out of precious time together. They are being cheated out of memories and hugs and goodbyes.

I still miss my dad. I now realize how shockingly young he was when he died – he was only 62, which seemed old to me at the time but is now not so far away and is just a normal age where people still do stuff.

But even in my sadness and loss, I have memories of our last days and minutes together.

I have the memory of sitting next to his bed in the hospice while he told us stories about his childhood.

I have the memory of sleeping in the chair in his room when he was first diagnosed and not getting much sleep at all because it’s almost impossible to sleep in a hospital. But he asked that I stay – he didn’t want to be alone.

I have the memory of both of my grandmothers coming to see him for the last time. Watching a mother in her 80s say goodbye to her youngest child, knowing she will bury him, is not a happy memory but it is still a precious one.

I have the memory of trying to get my dad to eat while he was going through chemo, doing whatever it took to tempt his appetite, even if it meant finding the nearest Burger King to get him a milkshake that he then took two sips of before admitting that he just couldn’t eat any more.

I have the memory of trying to watch the movie “Babe” with him and my brother and my sister because we wanted him to see it because it was a good movie, right? And he tried so hard but after half an hour, asked us to turn it off. He didn’t say it out loud, but I realized he didn’t want to spend the last days of his life watching a movie.

I have the memory of sitting next to him as my mom called his friends from around the world so they could say goodbye. He laughed and his eyes sparkled and when she hung up the phone, he said, “I didn’t know there were so many people who loved me.”

I have the memory of flipping through the yearbook his students sent him. He had been their teacher for only a few months when he was diagnosed with cancer and medivac’d back to the US, but his junior high math and science students at the school on the US navy base on Sicily loved him so much that they had two bake sales to raise the money to buy and send him a yearbook. They all signed it.

I have the memory of Sister Jovita, the nun who ran the hospice where he died, telling us that he told her things he wouldn’t tell us because he didn’t think we could handle knowing how scared he was.

I have the memory of hugging him with barely a touch, as even the weight of the sheet on his body hurt him.

I have the memory of my brother crying in frustration to the doctor when my dad refused further treatment. “Can’t you make him do something?” my brother asked. The doctor shook his head and answered gently, “There is nothing we can do.”

I have the memories of my cousins and my aunts and uncles bringing us food at the hospice, making sure that we didn’t have to leave to find lunch or supper. Every day, one of them drove the 35 miles from their house to the hospital to bring us a meal.

I have the memory of the going-away party we held for my dad in his room at the hospice. My grandmothers, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins came. My dad had raved about my aunt Pat’s Old Fashioneds, so she brought an entire pitcher of them. We wondered if someone in hospice should have alcohol and then we realized that was a stupid thing to wonder about and poured him a glass. We opened a bottle of champagne and toasted him. We talked about everyone he would see in heaven, including his own father, who had died at 59, his best friend, who had died in the 1960s in a fire on his ship, and our cat, O’Malley.

I have the memory of my dad finally saying that he hoped he would just go sleep and not wake up – that he was done.

I have the memory of sitting at my dad’s side as he slipped into a non-responsive state. I asked the doctor, who would come just to hang out with my dad – the same thing happened when he was first diagnosed, as well – the hospital chaplain would come just to hang out because he liked my dad, if we shouldn’t be giving him fluids via IV. “I wouldn’t let a dog dehydrate to death,” I said. The doctor asked, “Do you think that’s what your dad would want? All fluids would do would be to delay his death.”

I have the memory of a nurse shaking me awake shortly after 6:00 a.m. My mom, my brother, my sister, and I were sleeping at the hospice in a dorm room down the hall from my dad’s room. “He’s just died,” she said. I ran to his room but I was too late. How could I have missed it? He was still warm. But he was gone.

I have these memories and they are so, so sad.

But I have them.

Nobody took them from me. Nobody prevented us from being with my dad during his illness and during his last days.

These memories make me cry.

But I have them.

In my father’s last days, I got to talk to him and touch him and pray with him and sit by his side.

This is what has been taken from us now.

This is what this horrible president and his horrible, evil, inexcusable lack of leadership has done to us.

He has not only caused people to die – more people than should be dying, but but he has also stolen from people their last memories. He is ensuring that people die alone, scared and lonely. He is turning peoples’ last days into a hell.

This did not have to happen.


I will not shut up

When you assemble peaceably and it’s a riot

Laverne was very happy to have extra attention last night from our surprise guest.

Last night, Mr T and I rioted.

Oh wait.

Let me re-state that.

We went to a peaceful protest, assembling freely as is our right.

We went to a peaceful protest that included babies, children, pets, and people using wheelchairs.

And the evening ended with Mr T and a friend (“Laura”) who was also at the protest stumbling up to our back door, trying to rub the tear gas out of their eyes.

In 2014, a Milwaukee cop shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, a man who was sleeping peacefully and legally on a park bench in the middle of the afternoon.

In 2016, a Milwaukee cop shot and killed Sylville Smith as Smith was running away. Smith had discarded his gun and was on the ground when he was shot the second time.

Body-camera video from another officer — played for the jury last week — showed that Heaggan-Brown shot a second bullet into Smith’s chest after the suspect hurled his weapon over a fence and had his hands near his head. Smith was on the ground when he received the fatal shot.


In 2016, a Milwaukee cop shot and killed Jay Anderson, who was sleeping peacefully and legally in his car at a city park. No body cam, so there is no way to judge whether the cop, who claimed that Anderson lunged for the gun he legally possessed, was telling the truth.

What are you willing to die for?

When I saw Laura at the protest, I told her that at first, I had been scared to participate in a protest. But then I thought about Laura and asked myself, “What would Laura do?”

And I knew she would stand up for what’s right.

“Ten years ago,” she answered, “we were at dinner at a friend’s house. After we ate, we played Table Topics. The question was, ‘What are you willing to die for?'”

“We all answered something about our families and our children – we would die for our families.”

“But all none of us thought about anything outside of ourselves.”

I interjected. “But ten years ago, we were not facing an existential threat to the foundations of our democracy.”

Laura nodded. “But after Dontre Hamilton was murdered, I realized that I would put my life on the line so that everyone might have the same privileges that I do.”

Jesse Jackson had come to town after the DA announced that the cop who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton would not face any charges.

Laura and her friend Meg decided to go to the rally.

“Everything was fine and then we started to march. In the street. We were hesitant about that, so we stayed near the edge of the road.”

“Then the protesters started blocking intersections.”

“Meg and I just couldn’t do that. We would jump up to the curb and wait until they started marching again.”

“At the courthouse, Jesse Jackson came out with the family. He started to lead a call and response, but I was so uncomfortable and couldn’t participate.”

“The calls were full sentences, but he would give only a few words at a time.”

“I couldn’t do it because I didn’t know what the whole sentence was. I didn’t know what I was committing to.”

“It was a total white privilege thing,” she said.

This year, the same cop who killed Jay Anderson also killed a 17 year old. Yes, Alvin Cole had a gun, but he was on the ground, subdued, surrounded by several officers. The cop shot him less than 30 seconds after arriving on the scene. From the DA’s report:

Police responded to a report of a man with a gun. Mensah arrived to see other officers and mall security running after Cole. During the pursuit, Cole pulled out a handgun from a fanny pack “and the gun fired, apparently accidentally, striking Cole in the arm,” the report said.

“Cole fell to the ground into a crawl position, where he was surrounded by several Wauwatosa police officers. Cole was commanded to drop the gun, which was still in his hand,” the report said.

“Unbeknownst to the officers (and likely Cole himself), Cole’s firearm had become inoperable because the magazine was not attached and the bullet in the chamber had been fired. Cole did not drop the weapon,” the report said.

According to Mensah, Cole pointed the weapon at him “and fearing for his personal safety, Mensah fired his gun at Cole five times, repeatedly striking Cole and causing his death. Cole still had his own firearm in his hand after being shot,” the report said. 

No other officer fired their weapon, the report said. Mensah was on scene less than 30 seconds before encountering and shooting Cole.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Protestors have been marching every night in Milwaukee since the end of May.

Every night.

They have been in my neighborhood.

The only ugly incident I know of – and this was not in the news, this is first-hand reporting – was when my neighbor across the street stood in front of the protestors as they came down our street with both hands in the hair, middle finger extended.

She also used the N-word to my neighbors up the street. Mary is white and her husband, Bob, is Black.

Our mutual neighbor does not approve.

Bob, who lives four houses away from me, wrote,

Our house was egged soon after we moved in. Standing in my front yard, I’ve been asked by “Helpersons” if I was looking for something. My family is ignored by parents we see almost daily at our kids’ schools. And I recognize the difference between genuine and forced smiles.


On Wednesday, the DA announced he would not be charging the cop who killed Alvin Cole.

On Wednesday, in the middle of the afternoon, well before 7:00, the mayor of my town announced a curfew of 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. for the next several days. He also closed all city operations, including the library.

On Wednesday, the National Guard started arriving in my neighborhood, along with police officers from neighboring cities wearing tactical gear and driving in military vehicles.

On Wednesday, a crowd of protestors marched almost ten miles from downtown Milwaukee, where the DA had made his announcement, to my city.

They encountered police, who tried to stop the protestors.

The protestors were marching peacefully.

After the protestors encountered the police, a few of them, despite shouts (caught on video) of, “Don’t DO that!” from other protestors, broke windows in local businesses.

So yes charge the persons who damaged property. I do not defend lawlessness. But I do defend peaceful protest.

On Thursday night, the police arrested Alvin Cole’s mother in the church parking lot, treating her so roughly that she spent the night in the hospital.

Yesterday, Mr T asked if I would join a protest that started at 5:00 p.m. Two hours before curfew.

I did not want to.

First, I wanted to watch TV yesterday afternoon.

Second, standing at a protest seems stupid to me.

Third, I wondered where I would be able to pee easily.

I told him no.

Yesterday, Molly Beck, a reporter for the local paper, announced on twitter,

GOP lawmakers are drafting a bill that would define a riot & create a Class A misdemeanor penalty for attending or inciting a riot, and a Class I felony to “knowingly participate in a riot that results in substantial damage to the property of another person or bodily injury.”

Molly Beck

The Wisconsin legislature, of which the majority are Republicans, has not taken up any legislation since April 14.

That is, the Wisconsin legislature has not taken up any legislation (they have barely even met) in an attempt to help Wisconsin citizens with covid since April 14.

The Wisconsin Republicans have gone to court to try to block the governor’s orders about covid.

They themselves have not enacted or even proposed any covid (or other) legislation since April 14.

The hospitals in central Wisconsin are full. They are opening an overflow facility that was built on the Wisconsin State Fair grounds.

It’s already illegal to damage property or persons.

Until last week, my only experience with a curfew was when I lived in Chile, a few years after the Pinochet dictatorship ended. I heard horrible stories about the Pinochet curfew, including one about the death of my friend’s father, who had a heart attack after curfew and could not leave their home to go to the hospital. He died.

I associated curfews with repression and I especially associated police and soldiers taking up arms against their neighbors with repression.

Yes, I will, I said. Yes, I will protest.

When we got to the protest, we found babies, children, pets, and persons using wheelchairs.

We heard chants and singing.

And then we watched as Humvees with men in tactical gear and cradling machine guns arrived. And they weren’t even just from our local police department – they were from PDs in neighboring cities and counties.

We were a group of babies, children, and out of shape middle-aged people.

The fine for violating curfew is $1,000. Mr T and I decided we were willing to pay for one fine but not for two. He, along with much of the 5:00 p.m. crowd, would stay past curfew.

I saw my friend Laura. I have seen her only twice since covid time began. She, too, was planning to stay past curfew.

“[My husband] is out of town,” she said. “If I get arrested, will you feed my dog? Or make sure my neighbors who have the key feed him?”

Of course, I said.

Before curfew, the police arrested two people who were standing in a crosswalk holding a sign.

I came home and started watching twitter.

I heard helicopters and sirens.

I saw video of the police, in full riot gear, including the big plexiglass shields, kettling the protestors.

I heard the pops of items being launched. I saw that it was tear gas.

Commenters on twitter said that if people don’t want to be tear gassed, they shouldn’t violate curfew.

Unlike you smoothbrains i can choose to support neither failed ideology. We probably agree on quite a few things, but you gotta be a bitch about the small shit we don’t agree on. I’d say suck start a shotgun but you’d probably pass out if one was ten feet from you.

Twitter commenter to me

If it’s OK to tear gas people for violating curfew, is it also OK to tear gas them for not wearing a mask?

If it’s OK to kill suspects for going to the 7-11/sleeping on a park bench/sleeping in a car/passing a bad $20/being subdued on the ground after shooting yourself in the arm, is it OK to kill people for violating curfew?

Alvin Cole’s mother was protesting police brutality when she was arrested with more police brutality.

My great-uncle was a cop in Milwaukee. For a while, he was in assistant chief. After George Floyd, my dad’s cousin wrote to me,

I was highly incensed and angry about the killing of Floyd in MN. You know my dad was the assistant chief of police back in the 60’s-70’s. Before he got this promo he was the personnel director, in which he had the responsibility for hiring and firing cops. Then the government stepped in with their new laws which literally gutted the acceptability levels and significantly lowered the hiring standards. My dad told me they…abolished the psychological testing/reviews. My dad predicted the results back then: you would end up with a few crazed gun happy goons that were on a “power trip” and you could do little to prevent their hire.

The cop who killed Floyd had 18 prior writeups for use of excessive force. He should have been fired long ago.

I watched the online photos and videos of police in riot gear hemming in peaceful protestors three blocks from my house. I smelled the tear gas through my open windows. I heard the helicopters overhead.

I have to believe that most of the police and Guard were horrified to be placed in this position. I know my father, who was in the Wisconsin Guard when he was in college, would have been appalled.

I heard voices outside my house.

“It’s locked! Let us in!”

It was Mr T and Laura.

“We started running when they started tear gassing!” they gasped as they rubbed their eyes.

I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a towel and a washcloth for Laura.

Mr T was rinsing his face in the kitchen sink.

“Get a towel for Laura!” he suggested.

I looked at Laura. “It’s like he doesn’t even know me.”

I put on my mask and got a chair, some water, and some bread for Laura.

We listened to the sirens and the helicopters.

On twitter, people posted that they could taste tear gas inside their houses.

I wonder if they could taste the tear gas in the nursing home that is on the corner where the tear gas was launched.

I wonder what country I am living in.

Law enforcement personnel authorized the use of chemical (tear gas) and less lethal munitions (pepper balls and paint balls) in self-defense only as small children were present in the crowd.

Police department statement

I. Am. Speaking.

Will you shut up, man?

Remember when the king of Spain told Hugo Chavez to shut up? Good times. Dictators and bullies should always be confronted.

I don’t even know where to start.

I am done, done, done with these jerks who try to talk over us and who accuse us (women in general, not me, because I am not successful) of having professional success only because we slept with the right person.

A young man at the place I volunteer told me a few weeks ago that Kamala had clearly slept her way to the top.

I replied, “Disagree with her on policy and her record – that’s fine. But that’s bullshit that she slept her way to her success. Honestly, if it were that easy for women to sleep our way to power, don’t you think we would all be doing it?”

Another volunteer, who is another Woman of a Certain Age, chimed in. “I know I would have,” she said. “If I could be rich just by sleeping with someone? I would do it.”

A member of the Wisconsin Republican party, which has time on their hands because it’s not like the Wisconsin legislature has met in the past six months or anything, tweeted this:

“If there are any questions on how to sleep your way to the top, Kamala will have an advantage,” Best wrote. His post included a meme that said, “She will be an inspiration to young girls by showing that if you sleep with the right powerfully connected men then you too can play second fiddle to a man with dementia. It’s basically a Cinderella story.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  1. Cinderella did not sleep her way to the top. She made an awesome dress with the help of some cute rodents. I don’t think she and the prince even kiss.
  2. Let’s say Kamala (I know I should say “Harris” but Kamala is such a great name) did sleep her way to the top. I want to learn from her. Show me how to sleep with the right powerfully connected men so that I, too, can win court cases and be elected with (consults wikipedia) 3,000,689 votes.

Of course, I am assuming that everyone she slept with voted for her.

But what if she also slept with people who didn’t vote for her?

Because there were 1,416,203 votes cast for her opponent.

What if she slept with all the voters but not all of them voted for her?

How much time would it take to sleep with (3,000,689+1,416,203) = 4,416,892 people?

Leaving out the logistics of travel, etc, let’s assume 30 minutes per encounter.

That’s 2,208,446 hours, which is 92,018 days, which is 252 years.

252 years of sleeping with people to get their votes.

(That doesn’t even include the jurors on all of her trials.)

But my math might be wrong. My assumption of 30 minutes per encounter might be wrong. Please feel free to correct me.

Still, she would have been busy.

Which is why she doesn’t have time to let anyone talk over her.

Im Speaking Kamala GIF - ImSpeaking Speaking Kamala GIFs

Which is why hearing the VP trying to shut her up and hearing her response to him inspired joy in the heart of every single woman who has ever been in a meeting with men and wanted to shout, “WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST SHUT UP I AM TALKING IT’S MY TURN.”

We are so tired of being talked over. We are so tired of men interrupting us and not hearing us and saying what we just said and getting credit for it even though we are the ones who said it. We are so tired of being condescended to and being explained to.

We are tired.

And we loved it when Kamala told Pence “I’m speaking.”

Even though he knew she was speaking.

He knew and he spoke over her anyhow.

But she did not take his crap. She told him to shut up shut up shut up.

She did it more nicely than that, but that’s what she meant.

And even with that, she had to be careful.

Because heaven forbid she speak too loudly. Or too womanly. Or too meanly.

Because no matter what she does, she is going to be judged.

By jerks, I might add, but it must get tiring to be criticized all the time for doing normal things like frowning and talking and raising your voice because we all know that sometimes the only way to get men to listen is to scream and they don’t like it and ask why you don’t just ask in a normal tone of voice which is when you tell them that you did but they ignored you.

It fell to Harris to remind the vice president, “I’m speaking” — something he already knew but chose to ignore. If Harris had raised her voice in those moments, she would have been labeled shrill. If she had frowned, she would have been labeled a scold. If she had raised a hand, she would have been called angry or even unhinged.

Washington Post

Which is a whole other thing – having to scream to be heard and then being chastised for not speaking softly. Which you did do. You did speak softly. You knelt at a football game.

That didn’t work.

So now people are screaming.

Why should anyone be surprised?


It’s the water we swim in

When a candidate can be elected president despite bragging that he just “grabs ’em by the pussy”

I posted something on facebook from Jane Casey’s new book, Cruel Acts – a paragraph about a male detective asking a female detective why the murder victim, a young woman, had not walked the most direct route home.

“Wouldn’t she have wanted to go straight home? Get indoors where she was safe?”

“Not if she was concerned about them knowing where she lived. She’d never feel safe again if she led them to her door, even if she made it inside without coming to grief.”

Derwent shook his head and walked away.


“Just….” He swung back to face me. “What a way to live, that’s all. Working out what risks to take. Who to trust. Walking fifteen minutes out of your way to give yourself a better chance of making it home in one piece.”

“That’s life, isn’t it? What’s the alternative? Staying at home?”


“You’re not serious.” I folded my arms. “If anyone should stay at home, it’s men. They’re the ones who cause most of the trouble.”

“Like that’s going to happen.”

I posted this passage, along with the comment that Mr T had been very surprised to learn how much time women spend trying to prevent being attacked. He had also been surprised when I told him about the line that the biggest concern men have about a blind date is being bored while the biggest concern women have about a blind date is being raped and murdered.

Mr T is one of the good guys.

Mr T is one of the good guys and he had no idea how much we women think about these things.

Actually, we don’t even think about how much we think about these things. They’re just part of the background. Of course we don’t go running after dark. Or park in a spot away from the lights at the grocery store. Or give our real phone numbers to strangers. Or use our real names on dating sites. Or do anything but meet in a very public place when we meet men for the first time.

We don’t even think about this things. We just know.

Discussion ensued on the post, with a friend, who is a kind, thoughtful man, noting that women also commit crimes and that there have been a number of car robberies perpetuated by women recently.

And that’s when I realized that he didn’t know I was talking about rape.

I had said women worry about being “attacked.”

I thought everyone knew that meant rape.

I thought everyone knew that rape is what we worry about.

Oh sure I don’t want to have my purse stolen or be carjacked, but when we go to self defense classes?

It’s not to learn to protect our bags.

It’s not to learn to protect our cars.

It’s to learn to protect our bodies and our lives.

A self defense class instructor told us we could gouge out the eye of an attacker – but asked if we really wanted to hurt someone that badly.

Um. Yes.

If my gouging out your eye keeps you from raping me, I can live with that. I will not lose one minute of sleep over it. Attack me at your peril.

The instructor was male, by the way.

Sincere question to my women readers: If you had to choose between being raped and gouging out the eye of an attacker, which would you pick? Maybe I’m just mean. I don’t know. But I will take disfiguring the man who is trying to hurt me over letting him hurt me.

A couple of years ago (have I told this story here?) I was – I guess the proper word is assaulted.

I thought I was too old for that sort of thing. I didn’t think Women of a Certain Age were sexually assaulted.

I was walking home from the State Fair on a major street at dusk.

I had passed a young man – a boy of 15, as it turned out – at the corner. We were the only ones on the sidewalk, so I had caught his eye and nodded.

You know – a Hi we’re both here we’re human it would be rude to ignore you kind of thing.

I left him behind and continued walking, reaching back to adjust my underwear once I was sure I had no witnesses.

And I felt a hand on my butt that was not my hand.

I spun around.

“Maybe I can help you with that,” the kid said. The kid I had seen a few blocks before.

He had followed me.

And he had grabbed my butt.

And he was just – looking at me like this was something perfectly normal. That he, a complete stranger, could touch my body.

I was so shocked that I just shooed him away, saying, “Stop that! Stop that right now!”

I continued to walk, expecting he would go away.

He did not.

He kept following me.

I tried scolding him because – he was 15. “I’m old enough to be your [very young] grandmother!” He should have responded to scolding.

He did not.

I tried shaming him: “What would your mother think if she knew what you were doing?” He should have responded to shaming.

He did not.

Instead, he just kept following me.

And it was spooky and weird and confusing because I am A Middle-Aged Lady and he was a teenager and it was just bizarre.

He wasn’t big – only an inch or two taller than me, I think, and I probably outweighed him.

But I didn’t know what he was going to do.

I didn’t know if he had a knife.

I didn’t know why he wouldn’t react the way I expected him to.

But I did know what my fear was and it wasn’t that he wanted to steal my purse.

This was someone who had laid hands on my body without invitation. Who thought that he could touch me without asking. And who exhibited no shame about it. And who was not going away.

This is what we fear. This is what we take the classes for. This is why we automatically seek the light in the parking lot and look under the car and in the back seat before getting into the car. This is why we tell our friends where we are going when we meet a new man someplace.

“Would you rather be raped or have your arm broken?” Mr T asks.

I don’t even have to think about it.

“I’d rather have my arm broken,” I tell him.

Which – now that I think about it, why? Why is rape worse than a broken arm? Let’s suppose a rape that did not involve other physical pain or harm to my body. Why would it be worse than a broken arm, which takes weeks to heal, not to mention expensive doctor visits?

Is it the reminder that we are so powerless against men? That every bad thing they can do to each other, they can do to us and do something worse? The reminder that we have to watch out for them all the time? That we never know whom we can trust?

When I was a girl, my father told me that if someone tried to steal my purse, let it go. “Your purse is not worth your life,” he said.

“But not all men!” the men say. “Not all men!”

I know. Mr T says he never thought his walking behind a lone woman on a dark street would be a problem.

“I would never hurt someone! Never!”

And I know he means it. I know it’s true. He would not ever hurt someone.

But how is someone who doesn’t know him supposed to know that? We have to judge all men by the actions of the bad ones. We can’t take the chance.

I told the kid who grabbed my butt that I was calling 911.

I called 911 and described him as I looked at him.

He kept walking toward me.

I jogged across the yard to the nearest house and leaned on the doorbell.

The kid kept walking toward me.

A man opened the door.

Of course I have to be all Midwestern about it and preface and explain. “I’m so sorry to bother you but would you mind if I stood in your entryway for a few minutes until this guy goes away I’ve called the police but he won’t leave and I just need to stand someplace.”

And of course the man let me in because he was a decent human being.

I was mortified at barging into someone’s house – a stranger’s house.

Note this: I am more concerned as I write this that I had inconvenienced someone than over a possible threat to my safety.

The other think Jackson always tried to impress upon Marlee – and Julia- was what you had to do if you were attacked because you’d been foolish enough to ignore his advice in the first place and go down the dark allay.

“You’re at a disadvantage,” he tutored them. “Height, weight, strength, they’re all against you, so you have to fight dirty. Thumbs in the eyes…..

One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson

After that woman was raped in Central Park – the one who dared to go running after dark and for whom five young men were falsely convicted, probably thanks in no small part to a full-page ad against them taken out by the same president who bragged about grabbing us by the pussy, I was arguing with a college friend.

“How could she have been so stupid to go running after dark?” I asked.

“Why shouldn’t women be able to go running after dark?” my friend replied.

I shook my head. “Everyone knows you can’t do that.

Jackson was forever warning Marlee (and Julia, come to that, but she never listened) about the foolishness of going down dark alleys. “Daddy, I’m not even allowed to go out in the dark,” Marlee said reasonably. Of course, if you were a girl, if you were a woman, you didn’t need to go down a dark alley in order to be attacked. You could be sitting on a train, stepping off a bus, feeding a photocopier, and still be plucked from your life too soon by some crazy guy.

One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson

Everyone knows you can’t do that.

It’s just that the foremost narrative possibility our culture affords unaccompanied women on the side of the highway is not liberation, desire, quest– but rather rape, death, some combination of the two.

Glenn, Noah, and I don’t worry too much about our presence “provoking” strangers. We are free to be obtuse. Rarely if ever do we fret about finding ourselves in a situation where we’re, say, screaming into a man’s palm….deep inside….is the unshakable certitude that obstacles will melt if we white men but whistle. Each of us takes it for granted: I am no one’s prey.

In the Land of Good Living, Kent Russell

Everyone knows.

And nothing changes.