Sex Ed

Even Hollywood knows you don’t share a room at your boyfriend’s parents’ house. You sneak into his bed after dark like normal people.

From In Plain Sight, a show with a female lead who doesn’t talk about men all the time. Weird, huh? Not the topic I am discussing at all but interesting nonetheless.

I watched all five seasons of In Plain Sight and I’m sad because it’s over and I have to find a new show to binge and thus far, nothing has proven worthy and no, I don’t want anything that involves vampires or weird names or dragons or the supernatural so don’t recommend Game of Thrones or A Discovery of Witches or anything like that.

I want great stories about ordinary people.

And I want stories where there are moments I can relate to, like the scene in In Plain Sight where Raph’s mom doesn’t visit Mary and him to help plan their wedding because she cannot condone their “non-marital fornication.” The mom’s sister – shown in the image above – comes, but the mom refuses.

My friends.

I thought all parents were like that!

I thought all parents were against non-marital fornication. At least, I thought they did not want it to be happening under their roof.

My parents did not want it happening, even though my dad is the one who, the night before he drove me to Houston to start college, told me not to be stupid if I had sex.


(Which I didn’t. Then. I was 17. Oh bless my sweet heart.)

He sighed, rolled his eyes, and said, “It’s going to happen. Just don’t be stupid about it.”

My mom and dad did not offer joint accommodations to my boyfriends and me. We slept in separate rooms.


Imagine my surprise when Mr T took me to meet his parents.

He warned me before we went.

“They’re going to put us both in the guest room,” he said.

“That’s weird!” I replied.

He shrugged. “They pride themselves on being hip. And they’re too lazy to clean out the spare room.”

“It would feel strange sleeping in the same bed as you at your mom and dad’s house.”

“OK. I’ll ask them to clear out some space in the other room.”

Which he did.

Which made them very annoyed with me.

Because they were very busy people.

Mr T’s dad had porn to watch.

And they had decades worth of junk not to sort through.

When Mr T and I arrived at their house that first day – we had taken a 7 a.m. flight, flown four hours, rented a car, driven an hour and a half, and arrived after lunchtime without having eaten either breakfast or lunch, we walked into their house and they did not offer us a thing.

After half an hour, I asked if I could have a glass of water.

Mr T’s mom told him to get me one.

I walked into the kitchen with him and asked him if they were going to give us lunch.

“They don’t eat lunch,” he told me.

“BUT I DO!” I said.

I will talk more about this later, but just so you know, for all future visits to Mr T’s parents, I TOOK MY OWN FOOD.

Yes. I packed almonds and other high-protein snacks just so I could be sure I would have something to eat. They drank most of their calories. And the one time I ate some supper leftovers for lunch, Mr T heard about it for years, including on his dad’s deathbed.

I wish I were making this up but I am not.

I come from people who do not let you get more than half a step across the threshold before they are forcing food upon you. “I baked this strudel/cake/torte just for you!” my grandmother would tell me.

My people eat.

More importantly, my people feed.

The next morning, Mr T’s dad suggested that if I did not wish to shower in the guest bathroom, I could use the large shower in the master bath.

Indeed, Mr T and I could shower in the master bath together.

“[Mr T’s mom] and I do that all the time,” he smirked.

It’s been 22 years and I still cannot scrub that image from my mind.

Doesn’t everyone want to think about their boyfriend’s parents/their in-laws naked?

When I brought my college boyfriend home, he slept in my bed.

I slept on the floor in my sister’s room.

When I went to my college boyfriend’s house, he slept in his room.

I slept in the guest room.

He didn’t even sneak into my room because we were too scared of being caught.

When I was working and went to Kansas City with my boyfriend Tom meet his parents, he stayed in his old room and I stayed in his sister’s old room.

He sneaked into my room at night.

Like normal people.

When I was in grad school and went to Boston with my boyfriend Barry to meet his parents, he slept in his old room and I slept on the pull-out bed in the basement. He sneaked downstairs and I said, “WHAT IF SOMEONE SEES YOU?”

He was not concerned.

When I went with my boyfriend John to his nephew’s wedding in Miami, we stayed with his brother. The brother wanted to put us in separate rooms and John was not having it.

I was on John’s side.

The brother <> parent.

I don’t feel weird about S-E-X around a sibling.

I was so sure I was right on this issue.


And my mother never had done this.

When John and I had visited my mom, she had put him on a trundle bed in the basement. She had done the same with my sister’s boyfriend. I was pretty sure I was on the high ground here.

I took Mr T to my mom’s for Thanksgiving.

(More on the crime of not spending every single holiday with Mr T’s parents later.)

Mr T had already met my mom at a family reunion a few months after he and I met. My mom threw her arms around him when she saw him, said “YOU MUST BE MR T I’M SO HAPPY TO MEET YOU!” and said “Come over here let’s get some food tell me everything about yourself.”

I knew Mr T’s parents for ten years before they (finally) died.

I don’t think they ever asked me one question about myself.


After a flight delay, we get to my mom’s at 2:00 a.m. and let ourselves in. We tiptoe quietly down to the basement. I look for the trundle bed in the den.

And it’s not there.

We go into the bedroom – where we see both twin beds made up, each with a chocolate on the pillow.

I look for the other horsemen and whisper, “I guess we’re both supposed to sleep in the same room.”

The next morning, I ask WTH MOM?

She shrugs.

“I’m having everyone over here for supper and I didn’t want to deal with getting the bed out of the den and well you’re both over 40 and I’m pretty sure you don’t sleep in separate rooms back in Memphis and Milwaukee so whatever.”

“Plus it’s TWIN BEDS. It’s not like I put you in THE SAME BED.”

But she did not offer us her shower.

Or reminisce about showering with my dad.

And the fridge,, after a month of her texting questions to me about what Mr T likes to eat, was full.

“Eat whatever you want!” she said.


I’m washing my hair that year

And other reasons I will never ever ever see Mr T’s brother again. Ever.

“I have to go to my grandmother’s funeral. Again.”

You all already know I don’t like Mr T’s brother, the one who insisted that Mr T, as trustee for the trust for Brother’s son, take advantage of the amazing investment opportunity that Brother’s Friend offering Brother even though Brother didn’t have the $250K required.

I warned Mr T that Friend was not doing it right – that Friend’s company’s compliance department was going to come down hard on this and it was going to be a pain in the neck and of course I was right and Mr T ended up having to deal with a huge mess.

There are so many other reasons I don’t like Mr T’s brother. Let’s just leave it at I won’t be inviting him to Mr T’s funeral. I won’t even tell him Mr T is dead.

I will tell my sister in law (not the one married to Brother, but the other one – the one I ADORE) about Mr T’s death and of course adored SIL will be welcome, but I will ask her maybe not to share the info right away. Adored SIL also is not a fan of Brother so she will be OK with it.

Where was I?



So Many Reasons.

Brother screamed at Mr T when Mr T wouldn’t give him $800 for the frequent flyer miles Brother used to attend their father’s funeral.

Brother accused Mr T of stealing from Brother’s son’s trust.

Brother accused Mr T of influencing their father to change his will. (The will that disinherited Mr T but also made him the executor.)

Brother told Mr T, when he learned we had gone to a Mark Knopfler concert, that our tastes were “pedestrian.”

Over the past few years, despite his apparent disdain for our musical tastes and for Mr T’s handling of their father’s estate, Brother has insisted that he and his wife want to “host us at [House Name].” Of course their house has a name Brother is a pretentious twit.

I am not interested.

Mr T asks me “But what do I say?”

“Nothing,” I tell him.

“But he keeps telling me they want to host us!”

I shrug. “So?”

“Don’t I have to give him an answer?”


I have told Mr T to feel free to visit Brother without me.

Mr T has not availed himself of that opportunity.

In case Mr T does need to answer Brother and does not want to say “We don’t want to visit you because you’re a jerk whose own best friend broke up with you six years ago,” what should Mr T say?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • We’re just not into you that way.
  • Texan’s mom won’t let her travel.
  • We just got out of a bad relative-ship.

What do you think? What should we say?

We all want our daughters to be on the Hooters calendar!

The wings are good so it’s cool, right?

Dudes. You know they’re paid to be nice to you, right?

A college friend – let’s call him Bob – posted on facebook how proud he is that a former student is going to be on the Hooters calendar.

Another college friend – Steph – and I – are trying to explain to Bob why this is not exactly an accomplishment.

Bob thinks we are

1. attacking the young woman who will be on the calendar and

2. jealous because we would never have been hired at Hooters.

Steph and I have tried to explain that we support this young woman doing what she needs to do but that we think that Hooters is gross and the men who go there are gross and the system is gross and that we would like to see a world where women are celebrated for their accomplishments and not for their looks.

Bob maintains that getting onto a calendar is an accomplishment.

Oh Bob.

I was talking to a teacher friend of mine. I told her that Bob was proud that a former student was going to be on the Hooters calendar.

“WHAT?” she asked.

I repeated myself. “He’s proud that a former student is going to be on the Hooters calendar.”

“I thought that’s what you said but I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He’s a teacher and he’s proud that a former student is on the Hooters calendar?”


“Good God.”

There is an entire category of eateries called “breastaurants.”

Yes, Hooters is in this category. I think they invented it.

A VP at a former job couldn’t understand why I was not happy at the idea of having a work meeting at a Hooters.

“But their wings are really good!” he protested.

This is the argument men always seem to pull out of their pocket about Hooters: BUT THE WINGS!

As if there is no other place in the world that could possibly have decent wings? As if no other restaurant could master this chicken part that used to be considered a garbage part?

As if it’s not all about the breasts? The human ones?

I tried to explain that fully-clothed women are not necessarily comfortable in an environment that exploits scantily-clad ones.

He still didn’t get it.

Then I asked, “Do you want your little girl to work there when she gets older?”

The blood drained from his face.

His eyes closed.

He exhaled slowly through his mouth.

“Oh,” he said.

“Oh. I think I see what you mean.”

Why does it have to be personal for men?

Why does it have to be their mother or sister or wife or daughter being treated badly for them to get it?

Why can’t it be any girl or woman being treated badly for them to understand?

I was a cocktail waitress at a dive bar over winter break during college. A man – an old man, like my dad’s age – grabbed my butt. I was so shocked that I said nothing in the moment.

But after several minutes, I gathered my courage and marched up to him.

I don’t remember my exact words, but I said something to the effect of, “Don’t do that again!” or “How dare you!”

He answered, “But you looked so cute!” laughed, and turned away.

My anger was cute to him.

His dismissiveness made me angrier.

“How would you feel if someone treated your daughter that way?” I demanded.

He laughed again.

“I don’t have a daughter,” he replied.

I didn’t know what to say to that.

And then I did.


Because clearly just the higher moral principle of DON’T TOUCH SOMEONE ELSE’S BODY WITHOUT PERMISSION could not be invoked. We can’t expect that of people, can we?

He had the grace to look ashamed and hand me a twenty.

Which I took.

I am still not ashamed that I took his money.

He needed to pay some kind of price.

Bob said I was bothered because I know I could never have been hired at Hooters.

He’s right – I never would have been hired there. I wasn’t pretty or shapely enough for Hooters.

But that’s not the part that bothers me. I have been keenly aware of where I stand relative to other girls and women on the looks scale since I was a little girl. I think all women are aware of that. I am well used to that fact by now.

The part that bothers me is that we live in a system where that’s how girls and women are judged.

And that Bob doesn’t see that that’s a problem.

Men go to Hooters to leer at these beautiful young women.

And they think these young women like them.


I really do think they think that the women like them.

Sit with that for a second.

They think that the women who are paid to be there and paid to be nice to the customers so that the customers will continue to spend money on beer and WINGS actually find the men attractive.

As if.

I do not blame the women who work there. It’s probably good money. I made good money when I was a cocktail waitress. I made more money when I wore skirts than when I wore pants, so I bet the very pretty, very shapely Hooters waitresses with their awful scanty uniforms make way more tips than I ever did.

I do not blame Hooters waitresses for optimizing their incomes within a crummy system.

I do not blame them for playing a game within the existing boundaries.

But the men?

The men who go there?

Who tell themselves that it’s about the food?

Who tell themselves that the waitresses like them?

The men – the men who sit in church on Sunday – the men who are elders in these very same churches (churches that would condemn female congregants who worked at Hooters I bet) – who call themselves Good Men – who convince themselves that what they are doing is harmless?

They are part of and are perpetuating an evil system. A system they could opt out of and even help dismantle.

Does that make them evil? I mean – THE WINGS ARE GOOD.

I am The Weird Friend who needs to apologize

With age comes memories and the realization that so many things I did were so bizarre

At least I never stole anyone’s boyfriend. (Source: Alisa ValdesRodriguez, Make Him Look Good)

Oh y’all I am cringing thinking about how, after I had visited my friend B for a weekend and her husband had insisted we go clothes and shoe shopping together because B never did anything nice for herself, I sent her a box of clothes I wasn’t wearing anymore.

I was thinking of it in terms of “We used to be roommates and didn’t we swap contents of our closets back then? I mean I totally share clothes with my sister!”

But the part I forgot was I HAVE AWFUL TASTE and any sharing was done from B and my sister to me, not in the other direction.

When I say I have awful taste, I mean it.

When I was in junior high and high school, anything my mom (who is an amazing seamstress) didn’t sew for me, I sewed myself. My pants wardrobe consisted of about a dozen pairs of polyester double-knit slacks with elastic waistbands in colors ranging from bright orange – which was translucent enough that the flowers on my underpants were visible – to mud brown to lime green.

My mom had found a remnant sale and had gotten a bunch of pieces for 25 cents each.

My mother knew how to spend wisely.

I made shirts to go with these pants and my one or two pairs of jeans. Not windowpane jeans or the other cool jeans, but regular ones from Sears. I was very proud of my shirts – I made western-style blouses with plaid fabric that I matched at the seams and with piping on the yoke. For those who don’t sew, it’s very hard to match patterns and it’s very hard to put in piping.

I also made those blouses with the ruffles on the front. Ruffles are also difficult to do properly.

My favorite shirt was a t-shirt with black and white trains on it – I wore that with the orange pants.

And I had made myself a jumpsuit with green krinkle cloth.

Do not doubt me when I say I have awful taste.

My mom made this outfit, which is why it is so perfectly tailored, but I chose the pattern and the fabric. It was green. Do you believe me now?
(Also, I thought I was fat.)

I did not improve when I got to college. My mom gave me $100 to shop for college clothes and I still remember what I bought. Even if fashion had been valued at my school, these would not have been the proper items:

  • A green Izod polo
  • A green, pink, and yellow plaid blazer – it looked very preppy
  • Ralph Lauren jeans
  • I don’t remember the rest, but I’m sure it was a bunch of beige sweaters because that’s how I rolled.

I also sewed several Hawaiian shirts and made those shorts that were like diapers that tied at the waist.

And reader, I wore those shorts. I wore them with pride.

In my first job out of college, I wore the uniform: a navy blue suit with a white or a pink blouse and those stupid little bow ties.

I did not know that to get wrinkles out of an all-cotton blouse, I needed to use starch. I did not know this until a kind co-worker asked me one day, “Are you – using starch when you iron? Because that blouse sure has a lot of wrinkles.”

My mother had not taught this secret of starching to me, for which I am sincerely grateful. I mean it. My mother has never been about “This is what a woman does. Women iron and women starch.”

My father also had not taught this skill to me. He did, however, teach me how to change a tire and the oil and the fan belts.

My parents were not into sexist stereotypes. They didn’t buy that BS. There were tasks that were required to make life move forward and everyone in the house shared those tasks. Mowing the lawn and washing the dishes and cleaning the bathroom were chores for everyone – they were not boy chores and girl chores. (I was actually kind of shocked when I discovered as an adult that some women had grown up having to wait on their brothers.)

Back to clothes. Later in my career, I discovered consignment stores and started to dress like a middle-aged lady from Boca Raton.

Not a surprise, as I was living in Miami and shopping in the wealthy Miami neighborhoods.

I thought the all-silk suits were cute! I had a green pantsuit and a peach skirt suit that were in heavy rotation.

Y’all, I was 32.

I was 32 and I looked like I was on my way to a mah-jongg tournament.

When I think now about clothing swaps with B and with my sister, I realize with the clarity of hindsight that I was always accepting their castoffs because THEY HAD GREAT TASTE.

My sister was and is always on trend. She got the hair and makeup gene that I most definitely did not. She always looks fabulous.

And B was the same. When we lived together, there wasn’t much I could take from B because she is built like a model and I am definitely not, but she was always very well put together: she did her hair and her makeup and dressed perfectly.

But they were not shopping my closet.

Gee why is that I wonder?

I was – and still am – the Glamour Don’t. As I write this, I am wearing the same thing I have been wearing for pretty much the past three years: a pair of running tights that I do not use for running but like because they are elastic and don’t hurt, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. And slippers.

My hair, which I have been cutting myself since our hairdresser retired plus covid, is in a ponytail. I washed it yesterday and might wash it tomorrow, but as I rarely go out in public anymore, I might not. Mr T is out of town, so – eh. Who cares?

Honestly, I am becoming the crazy old cat lady I was always scared I would become only now I wonder WHY WAS I SO SCARED? Why was I so scared of becoming a cat lady? It’s FABULOUS!

But also – why did I ever think anyone would want my clothes?

B, I am so sorry! I am so sorry for insulting you. I promise I meant no offense. I was clueless, not malicious. If you took those clothes straight to Goodwill or even put them in the ragbag, I would not be surprised and for sure would not be offended.

What if the tools are the problem?

It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools – but what about craftswomen? The tools are not built for us. Neither is the system.

What do pianos have to do with this?
(Photo by Steshka Willems on

Did you know that the standard piano keyboard is too big for 87 per cent of women and 25 per cent of men?

That means that no matter how hard girls and women try, they will strain their hands as they try to play certain pieces.

That means that no matter how hard girls and women try, there are certain pieces they will never be able to play at all – because the handspan required for certain chords is too big for their hands.

That means that no matter how hard girls and women try, more men than women will become professional pianists, even though boys and girls start piano lessons in about the same proportions.

In this amazing podcast by Caroline Criado-Perez, she interviews a woman who bursts into tears as she plays a piano keyboard designed for smaller hands for the first time.

What would our world be like if our tools – our systems – were designed for us?

Do you remember the book Lean In? The advice was basically that if we women would be a little more assertive, things would go our way.

Underneath that advice was the idea that it’s our own fault for not leaning in. That we are the ones in charge of how we are treated and if we don’t get what we want, well – we’re just not working hard enough.

And yet.

Guess what?

It’s not us.

It was never us.

It was the keyboard.

It was the tools.

It was the system.

A study published a few years ago in the Harvard Business Review showed that even when women lean in – when they behave the same way as men, we do not get treated the same.


But as we analyzed our data, we found almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women….

Our analysis suggests that the difference in promotion rates between men and women in this company was due not to their behavior but to how they were treated

This indicates that arguments about changing women’s behavior — to “lean-in,” for example — might miss the bigger picture: Gender inequality is due to bias, not differences in behavior.

Harvard Business Review

We thought it was us. We thought we were doing it wrong. We heard things like this in our performance evaluations:

“Jessica is really talented,” he said. “But I wish she’d be less abrasive.”

Kieran Snyder

While men heard this:

“Steve is an easy case,” he went on. “Smart and great to work with. He needs to learn to be a little more patient, but who doesn’t?”

Kieran Snyder

We are bossy and it’s bad. Men are aggressive and it’s good.

Words like bossy, abrasive, strident, and aggressive are used to describe women’s behaviors when they lead; words like emotional and irrational describe their behaviors when they object.

All of these words show up at least twice in the women’s review text I reviewed, some much more often. Abrasive alone is used 17 times to describe 13 different women.

Among these words, only aggressive shows up in men’s reviews at all. It shows up three times, twice with an exhortation to be more of it.

Kieran Snyder

We thought we were doing it wrong.

But it was never us. It never was.

It has always been the keyboard.

It has always been the tools.

It has always been the system.