We’d be pretty if we would just fix ourselves

There’s nothing wrong with us that surgery, hunger, or expensive new clothes can’t fix

From Helen Ellis’ “Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been told – by a man who is looking at your almost naked except for your underwear body – that you would be cute if you would just lose a little weight.

Raise your hand if you’ve happened to see a note scribbled next to your name: “smiles, plump.”

Raise your hand if you mom put you on a diet when you were five.

Raise your hand if you find a silver lining in covid masks because they hide your teeth, which you hate because they are yellow from the tetracycline you had when you were four.


When are we right? When are we done? When are we OK as we are?


A few years ago, my mom had to have that eyelid surgery because her droopy eyelids were affecting her vision.

Because I am pretty much my mom’s clone, both physically and psychologically (a former boyfriend who met my mom, her sister, and my sister said, “It’s not that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s that the tree placed the apple exactly where it wanted it to be.”), I thought Well, in 20 years, I will also need that surgery.

Then I thought maybe I should investigate it now, as the body heals faster when it’s younger.

I went to the doc for a consult. He spent some time looking at my eyes and my eyelids and yeah, sure, he could do it and now I needed to wait in the waiting room to talk to the money people about next steps.

While I was waiting, he ran out to me.

“I CAN FIX YOUR EYEBROW, TOO!” he said.

I raised them. My eyebrows. What was he talking about?

“Your left eyebrow is lower than your right. I can fix that.”

I had never noticed. Not once in my entire life.

I had never noticed this flaw so huge that a plastic surgeon runs out of seeing one patient to inform me that he can fix it.


A few weeks after my consult, I saw my aunt P, who is a nurse. I asked her about the procedure, wanting reassurance that it was as simple as it sounded. When I told her about the eyebrow, she gasped.

“You can’t change your eyebrow!” she said. “That’s your Grandma Sylvia eyebrow! She had it, your dad had it, your sister has it, your cousins have it. That’s your grandma eyebrow! It’s part of you!”

When I got home, I looked at photos of my grandmother.

Aunt P was right. I have her eyebrow.

Why would I want to change that?

So I didn’t.

And my eyelids droop.

And I am still plump.

And I still have yellow teeth.

And I. Don’t. Care.

I’m done with making sure my body is acceptable to others. I’m done.

A room of our own

Why do men want to be in all of our spaces?

I wrote about manspreading in this piece (Assault is not love).

I referred to it in a comment on a story in the Washington Post about the people you see at the airport.

You may be shocked to know that a man replied, telling me that manspreading also happens to men.

To which I answered, “So —- write your own piece about it, then,” but to which I should have said, “LORD HAVE MERCY WHY DO MEN HAVE TO INSERT THEMSELVES INTO EVERYTHING?”

Yes, dear, I’m sure manspreading happens to other men.

But – I don’t care about that.


I was talking to a friend about the women’s group at work. She mentioned that a VP was a member.

Need I say that the VP is male? Or is that redundant?

“Why is he in the group?” I said.

“He’s an ally,” she said.

“He shouldn’t be there,” I maintained. “The conversation changes when men are in the room.”

(And he can be an ally by hiring and promoting women. He doesn’t have to be in our club.)


There’s a woman I follow on twitter – Hibo Wadere – who campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM).

I can’t even begin to count the number of times men have popped up in her comments to tell her that MEN, TOO, SUFFER FROM CIRCUMCISION.

Yes. We know. Start your own group. Hibo’s focuses on FGM. FEMALE genital mutilation. Not male.


  1. Why do men expect women to do all the heavy lifting? If you’re against male circumcision, nobody is stopping you from advocating against it. Why should Hibo expand her group to include your cause?
  2. Men already have almost all the other spaces in the world – why do they have to take ours?
I don’t want to return to these times, but I like the concept of a women-only space. And if you haven’t read this book, read it now.

The birthday taxman cometh

Rage against the tyranny of the group gift

I don’t celebrate my birthday at work.

I have usually liked my co-workers, but I don’t like being the center of attention and I dunno – I just don’t want to have anyone make a big deal or even a little deal about my birthday at work.

I have tried very hard to keep my birthday on the DL. At an old job, I was glad to move to a new group where nobody knew anything about me.

I took the day off on my 40th birthday as I did not want any of the 40th birthday stuff to happen.

I returned to work the next day to find my office decorated with black streamers and headstones and all that stuff.

I was not happy.

And yet, because of peer pressure and “but she went to HR to get your birthday and then worked so hard to do this!” protestations about my group’s admin, I had to grit my teeth and thank her for the thought.

That’s not to say I won’t celebrate other peoples’ birthdays. I am delighted to make brownies to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday. But that’s low key and it involves chocolate. No office decorating involved. Just food. And nobody even needs to know it’s about a birthday. We gather around the chocolate and are happy and that’s that.

So I am not a total Grinch, but – imagine my surprise when I saw a message to my group at work soliciting money for a gift for the boss’ birthday.

  1. You never gift up at work. Never. (See authority Alison Green at Ask A Manager about this issue.)
  2. I don’t even have a 2 because this whole thing is so egregious.

When did it become A Thing to Give Money At Work To Buy A Birthday Present? (FOR THE BOSS?)

(I have a really good boss. I like her.)

But I don’t buy birthday presents for my own family, including Mr T.

Seriously. We all have all the stuff we need. We joked that if we had had a big party when we got married, we would not only have insisted on no presents but we would have required that all guests leave with a set of towels or a lamp.

(We didn’t have any guests other than immediate family because Mr T’s mom and dad were against our marriage but agreed to attend the wedding anyhow. We were worried they would get drunk and make scenes and it would be too mortifying to have our friends see that and GUESS WHAT THEY DID GET DRUNK AND MAKE A SCENE.)

The only reason I work is to increase, not decrease, the amount of money I have.

Why should I 1. give money 2. for a birthday present 3. for my boss when I don’t even spend money on my own family?

Again – I really like my boss. But not as much as I like Mr T or my mother and even they don’t get birthday presents.

So – when I saw the message to the group, I called the organizer, who is also a friend of mine, and said “Nope. I don’t do that.”

This is the beauty of not caring about Having A Career.

I. Don’t. Do. That.

PS My friend who is doing the collecting also hates the whole concept and is trying to kill the practice in our group. She, too, has never seen this sort of thing at work. She’s an ally, but she still has to care about her career.

A tale of two abortions

Yes, women really will die

The doctor above is in Wisconsin. She was waiting to know if she could perform a D&C on a woman whose pregnancy was no longer viable.

Thanks to the Roe vs Wade overturn and thanks to everyone who voted for that monster, Wisconsin has reverted to an abortion law written in 1849 – one that forbids abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother. Three physicians need to agree on the diagnosis that the abortion is necessary.

A law from this century also requires

  • An ultrasound that the “provider” (I hate that term – it’s a physician) shows the patient
  • In-person counseling
  • A 24-hour wait

BUT TEXAN! you argue. THE WOMAN IN THE STORY ABOVE – THERE IS NO WAY THAT BABY WILL SURVIVE! WHY SHOULD THERE BE ANY QUESTION?

Well her life isn’t threatened, is it?

Except it could be. And once sepsis sets in, it could kill her in less than 12 hours.

So let’s look at two possible incomes. I will use my own experience as an example.

Wedding week version 1

I am, much to my surprise, pregnant. We weren’t trying but we weren’t not trying, either. So there you go – the thing that I had feared almost my entire adult dating life has happened but it’s not a disaster.

We’re having a very small wedding – immediate family only, mostly because we fear how Mr T’s parents might act around our friends and my relatives. They are mean drunks and they have made their disdain my family clear in the past.

Plus they have made their dislike (this term is probably not strong enough) of me very clear.

As in, not only did they tell Mr T not to marry me – according to them, I am a gold-digger, to which I say that I am not a very good one – but also threatened to boycott our wedding, to which I said Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

Yet Mr T wants his parents at his wedding so he finally uses the one weapon he has in his arsenal: He tells them I am pregnant and that if they ever want to see their grandchild, they will come to our wedding.

(I wasn’t going to let them see my kid even if they did come to the wedding, but I was letting Mr T do Mr T. No way would I expose a child of mine to their toxic anger and constant criticism. I had seen how they treated their other grandchildren.)

The Friday before our wedding – at ten weeks, I start spotting.

On Saturday evening, Mr T’s parents arrive.

Late Tuesday morning – the earliest appointment I can get, the doc tells me that nope, the fetus is dead. I go by myself because we don’t want to tell Mr T’s parents what’s going on. It’s none of their business.

At 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday – again, by myself, I have a D&C. The D&C doc came into work early – she did not want to let this wait. “It can cause problems if the tissue isn’t removed,” she tells me.

Wednesday evening, with me high (or trying to be high) on the vicodin they gave me – it hurts to get a D&C – Mr T and I take his parents out to dinner and to a karaoke bar so they can hear him sing. Mr T happens to be an excellent singer, a talent he inherited from his parents, and one we thought would please them to see. Nope. When Mr T starts to sing, his dad starts raging that it’s TOO LOUD and walks out of the bar.

On Friday, we get married.

And here we are today. Older, no kid, but alive and mostly happy, although our country is turning into a banana republic and that is distressing.

Wedding week version 2

On Friday, I start spotting.

On Tuesday, the doctor says nope, the fetus is dead. But because my life isn’t in danger, there is nothing he can do. We just hope for the best – sometimes, the body expels the tissue and that’s it.

But sometimes, the tissue becomes infected.

On Thursday, my mom, my mom’s gentleman caller, my brother, my sister, and Mr T’s bonus daughters arrive. They are the people I want to see.

Also on Thursday, new things start happening with my body. In addition to the spotting, there is a nasty smelly discharge. I get a fever but I have chills at the same time. And the pain is getting bad.

I call my doctor. They fit me in after regular hours. I make some stupid excuse and leave the house – none of the people I love know I’m pregnant. The only ones who know are Mr T’s parents and they never say a word to me about it. (Even in Version 1, they never say a word. Ever. Maybe they thought Mr T was lying to them and I never was pregnant?)

The doctor runs some tests. It could be an infection that could be – could be – life threatening. Not always. Sometimes, it just leads to a hysterectomy, which is not life threatening.

“I need to get two of my colleagues to look at your chart before we can go further,” he says. “I can’t do a D&C unless two other physicians agree that it’s necessary to save your life.”

He makes an appointment for me to get the required ultrasound, but can’t get one until Monday. He also makes an appointment with a counselor, but a counselor isn’t available until Monday, either.

Sepsis after a miscarriage is rare.

But I am the lucky person who always gets the bizarre side effects of everything. Does Benadryl put you to sleep? It keeps me awake. Does Lyrica solve your headaches? It not only does not solve my headaches, it makes my hair fall out. Plus I am a “geriatric pregnancy” and that’s a risk factor for sepsis.

On Friday morning, my doctor calls me: the tests show sepsis.

“You need to come to the hospital right now so we can try to treat the infection with drugs,” he says. “And we need to do a D&C, but until you have the ultrasound and talk to the counselor, I can’t even take it to the hospital lawyer.”

Sepsis can kill in less than 12 hours.

Instead of getting married that afternoon, I get IV antibiotics.

But it’s too late.

I die.

The End.

ABCDEFU (angrier)

Get angry and turn that anger into action

Gayle wrote this song about a breakup, but I think it’s an anthem about women and our current situation.

I’m thinking about anger.

I’m thinking about women’s anger, specifically.

There are so many things to be angry about. So. Many.

But we’re taught to be nice. Not to get angry.

My friends.

It’s time to get angry.

It’s time to get angry about abortion and school prayer and Miranda warnings and the EPA.

And it’s time to turn that anger into action. Many of us have the luxury of time, a luxury that younger women do not have. Let’s use our anger and our time to make sure that younger women have it better than we did, not worse.


What that means at a practical level is that I work to make sure Ron Johnson, the great embarrassment, is not re-elected.

That means I volunteer on Mandela Barnes’ campaign.

That means I get out the vote – that I volunteer to help with voter registration and that I write postcards to encourage people to request absentee ballots and to vote and that I encourage college and grad students from out of state to register to vote in Wisconsin if their home states are safe Democrat states (like Illinois) and that I make sure that my friends with kids at out of state colleges make sure those kids get Wisconsin absentee ballots.

Here’s what we all can do:

  • Volunteer with or donate to the League of Women Voters in your city or state. They register voters.
  • Volunteer as a pollworker. We need people to operate the polls. Two years ago, for the spring election that the WI Legislature Republicans refused to postpone, the city of Milwaukee could open only a handful of polling locations – most of the usual pollworkers are older didn’t feel safe being out with COVID. Many people prefer to vote in person. Help ensure they have a place to do so.
  • Write or call your senator and your congressional representative in support of voting rights, even the ones who won’t do a damn thing, like Ron Johnson. Get it on the record that their constituents disagree with them. I don’t know if that will accomplish anything, but it takes very little time, so it’s not like you’re losing anything.
  • Write and call your state legislators to support voting rights. This includes
    • Expanding early voting days and hours
    • Allowing ballot dropboxes (looking at you, WI jerks who took them away)
    • Increased DMV hours so people can get the IDs they need in states that require voter ID
    • Getting rid of voter ID requirements. Honestly, people.
    • Restoring voting rights for felons
    • Ensuring people in jail awaiting trial know they can still vote and helping them get ballots
    • Ensuring out of state college students can register to vote in your state
    • Allowing absentee ballots to at least be opened before the polls open on election day so that the counting of the votes can be faster and easier
    • Allowing a third party to take an absentee voter’s ballot to a dropbox or a mailbox or the city clerk (ballot harvesting)
    • Allowing people to give water and food to voters waiting in line at the polls (I mean – some of this is SUCH BULLSHIT)
    • Ensuring that the clerks send representatives to old folks’ homes to help residents vote
    • Reducing or eliminating requirements for “indefinitely confined” status, a status in Wisconsin that allows you to vote without a voter ID and also ensures that you automatically get an absentee ballot for every election (otherwise, you have to request one each time)
  • Make sure that everyone you know is registered to vote. Send them to vote411 to register online.
  • Know a kid who’s going to college out of state? Figure out which state needs her vote more, then make sure she’s registered to vote in her college state or has requested an absentee ballot from your state.
  • Know a kid in college in your state? Are her out of state friends registered? Again, figure out which state needs the vote more and encourage her to register and, if necessary, request an absentee ballot.
  • Send Liz Cheney a postcard and tell her she is awesome for upholding democracy. 416 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
  • Donate to the good candidates, no matter where they are. Even good people with a good message need cash to pay for campaign literature, web hosting, postcards and stamps for thank you notes to donors, snacks for volunteers, etc, etc, etc.
  • Volunteer for the good candidates in your area. This can mean knocking on doors to talk to voters, leaving literature at the doors of voters, helping at a phone bank, or texting voters.
  • Maybe go to a few marches. It doesn’t hurt for the world to see crowds of angry women. In the movie Selma, LBJ tells Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, that King needs to get a crowd to Washington, DC, so that LBJ has cover to push the Voting Rights Act. Politicians look for reasons to act and not to act. If thousands of your constituents support something, it gives you a reason to vote for it.

The suffragists were beaten and jailed and forced-fed.

We have it easy in comparison. We don’t face the same level of danger they did when they showed their anger. Use your anger. Use your rage. Donate time and money and let’s take what’s ours.