Things women just know

These rules come as part of the standard uterus package

Maybe it would be OK for the mother of the groom to wear white if the bride wore black? That was not the case in this story.
Source

When Mr T and I got married, his mom asked what they should wear to the wedding.

I told her that we were getting married in a church on a Friday afternoon, so, you know – church clothes. Not super fancy, but – in a church. A wedding. So.

Not a fancy wedding but a wedding in a church.

Mr T’s dad was cranky because that meant he was expected to wear shoes. He had commented often (with great pride) that since retiring to Florida, he had worn nothing but sandals.

This was a wedding. In a church. In Wisconsin, where it can get cold, even in September.

But he wore shoes.

I’ll give him that.

Mr T’s mom dressed as if she were attending a funeral. A casual funeral, but a funeral nonetheless. She wore dark, heavy clothes.

She did not wear what one would wear to a wedding in a church.

I don’t have any photos because when my mom was taking photos, Mr T’s parents did not ask to be in the photos. My mom didn’t want photos of Mr T’s parents. And Mr T’s parents, who had a camera with them, neither took photos nor asked anyone to take photos of us with them.

(But then they were really ticked off that there were no photos of them. My mom sent them copies of the photos she had taken of Mr T and me and their reply to Mr T was “Why aren’t there any photos of us?”

I dunno – because YOU DIDN’T TAKE ANY?)

(Also – and have I told this story before? Probably but I am still ticked off about it – when Mr T and I were looking in the house for photos to display at Mr T’s mom’s funeral, we found years’ and years’ worth of bills and junk mail but not those photos. They must have thrown them away.)

(WHATEVER.)

I say all of this as a prelude to the fact that women know. We know things. It’s part of the water we swim in.

We know The Rules.

I thought everyone – women and men – knew The Rules, but maybe I was wrong.

Because when Mr T and I had lunch with some college friends, Paul and Joanne, they told us about their wedding 30 years ago.

Paul’s mother, Theresa, wore white.

I know.

I know.

I KNOW!

Wait.

Mr T did not know.

He did not share my shock.

When Paul and Joanne told us this story, I gasped but Mr T did not.

Is this hormonal knowledge? Is it genetic? Is this secret limited to women only?

In both cases – with our wedding and Paul and Joanne’s wedding, the mother of the groom violated what I thought were widely-understood rules.

Narrator: In both cases, the mother of the groom did not like the bride.

But Mr T did not know why it was bad that Paul’s mom wore white to his wedding.

I asked my friends if I could use the story, anonymizing it of course.

Paul replied, “No, it’s OK. Use ‘Theresa [LastName], Founder Of The [Nice Thing To Do] Foundation.'”

(I didn’t.)

(But I wanted to.)

But – equality!

I mean, do we want equality with men er no?

From this post on twitter

Neal O’Kelly is a piece of work. Women with a broken-done car alone on the highway or a back road deserve no special treatment. We’re equal now, right? And how long does it take to change a tire, really?

Honestly, it’s our own fault if we get murdered.


Years ago – before cellphones – I was driving from Texas to California and I don’t even remember why. I was on a highway in Arizona and blew out a tire, which is not something I wish on anyone going 65 mph in a Chevette.

I managed to make it to a truck stop, driving on the rim, which yes I know you are not supposed to do but I think there wasn’t much of a shoulder and I didn’t feel safe pulling over to the side of the road.

I was in a truck stop.

It was the middle of the afternoon.

The sun was out.

I pulled out the tire iron and started working on the tire, to no avail. I could not loosen the lug nuts.

Two men in a pickup drove up next to me.

They got out.

They said nothing as they watched me trying to remove the wheel.

They looked as if they hadn’t bathed in a few days. Or shaved. Shaved maybe ever. Long, scraggly hair with dirty gimme hats, t-shirts with the sleeves cut off, dirty blue jeans.

Sullen.

I was concerned.

I stepped back.

No, I was scared.

I looked at them and looked at the convenience store, wondering how fast I could run.

(Not very. I am a very slow runner.)

They approached me.

I stepped back again.

They looked at the tire and at my tire iron.

“Got a four way?” one asked.

What on earth is a four way? Was that what they wanted to use to kill me?

“No?” I squeaked. I would not be a party to my own death.


A few years later, when cellphones were a bit more in use but still not something everyone had, my car broke down in the middle of nowhere on a rainy night. It wasn’t a flat tire – I could have fixed that, so I was just – stuck.

A car finally drove by and stopped.

A man got out.

He stood next to his car and called out to me: “Do you need help?”

I cracked my window and said, “I need a tow but I don’t have a phone.”

He said, “I have a phone. I’ll put it on your hood and then come back here while you use it.”

He paused.

“I have sisters.”

He knew.


Turned out it was the water pump of that car.

Actually, it was a bad rubber seal – a part that probably costs a dime or less to make but Toyota cheaped out on, which caused a $400 repair.

When they were replacing the pump, they asked if I also wanted them to replace the timing belt as well.

If anyone ever asks you this, tell them yes! Because the belt itself is not that expensive – it’s the labor to get to it, which is the same labor as replacing a water pump.

Say yes or otherwise, a few months later when your timing belt breaks, you will be spending another $350 in labor, an expense you could have avoided.


One of the Arizona highwaymen sighed and returned to the truck. He pulled out a metal thing that looked like a cross.

He returned and within three minutes, these wordless scruffy men had removed the bad tire and mounted the spare.

They grunted in reply to my effusive thanks. Thanks tainted with guilt that I had assumed the worst about them.

But – we never know.


We never know which is why I now keep a four-way in my trunk.

This is why we are furious all the time

All we want is for women and girls to be able to exist in peace. Is that too much to ask? (Apparently it is.)

I watched this video – of a grown man hassling a girl – and began to seethe with rage.

Do men know how angry we are? Do they know how much we hate men like this? Men who will not leave us alone?

I’m not hassled much these days. I’m older and I’m not going out of the house much.

But I have been this girl.

Haven’t we all been this girl?


I watched the girls at the smoothie shop who stood up to the (now-fired) Merrill Lynch investment advisor who screamed and threw something at them. He tried to get behind the counter.

He could have hurt them.

He has been arrested.

I am so proud of these girls for standing up to him. But why should they have had to? He never would have dared to treat another man like that. Never.


Girls today have tools we didn’t have. They can record these interactions.

But all that does is help us identify the perpetrators.

It does not prevent them from preying on girls and women.

It does not prevent the assaults, the rapes, the murders of girls and women.

It doesn’t help any of us feel more safe.


What can we do? I felt so helpless last summer when I watched that grown man hassle the girl in the coffee shop. Some of you gave me some great scripts and I appreciate that.

I also saw this site: Hollaback, which offers suggestions for how to help when you are a witness to harassment of any kind.

Notably, it’s not until the last option that you get to direct confrontation – of telling the harasser to stop.

Why shouldn’t we confront the harassers about their behavior?

We all know why.

But RELATIONSHIPS!

How do we know if your work is good if we can’t see you in the bathroom next to us?

1. Seats – as if men ever have to wait. 2. What really happens in there? Transitions of power, I think.

Finance needs face-to-face interactions. You need to develop human trust along with conventional technical understanding.

Random very bad manager on twitter

My friends. This claim – that people cannot have successful careers unless they are in the office with their co-workers – is moot for me, as I hope to be part of The Great Resignation until I can get on Medicare, when I will devote my time to fostering cats and volunteering in literacy programs.

(By then, I hope we will be able to – voluntarily – see each other in person again. By then, I hope everyone vaxxable will realize that Fox news and the Former Guy lied to them and that vaccines are GOOD and that if nothing else, they won’t get normal life back until they suck it up.)

You know what face to face interactions do?

They perpetuate privilege.

They perpetuate systemic racism.

They perpetuate systemic sexism.


I hear the sorrowful cries of, “But how will people develop relationships – how will they develop trust – if they are not in the office?”

I don’t know. By talking to people? The same way you do in the office?

I spent seven years in two different jobs working with people around the world, most of whom I never met in person. Or, if we did meet in person, it wasn’t until we had been working together for a while.

Guess what?

I developed relationships with them.

It is possible to develop a relationship via the phone, or skype, or zoom, or whatever the means of communication.

You just have to show a tiny bit of interest in the other person.

Me? I have to hold back. I am nosy and want to know everything about everybody, but I don’t let myself ask too many questions because then people think you’re weird.

But I do want to know. Are you married? Kids? Where did you grow up? How many siblings? What did you study in college? What do you do for fun? What do you want to do when they retire? Where did you go on your last vacation? What are you reading?

See? You probably wouldn’t want all that coming at you at once, but I WANT TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS.

And trust?

Here is how you develop trust, FINANCE INDUSTRY: Don’t screw people over. Sheesh.

(At a more practical level: Do what you say you will do. Meet your deadlines. Help your coworkers. This is not a complicated concept.)


I hear some of you saying, “WTF Texan? What do you mean face to face perpetuates privilege, racism, and sexism?”

Simple.

People like to promote – and this is not always a conscious decision – people who are like them. The people they pee next to. The people they golf with. The people they’re in the locker room with.

How often do white male executives in the US pee with golf with, or change clothes with women and/or people of color?

In 2021, a whopping 8.1% (that “.1” is critical, I guess, when the number is that small) CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were women. (Fortune)

There were only four Black CEOs in the same group, a percentage that I am too lazy to calculate but (4/500) is very very small.


You know what work from home does?

It forces management to evaluate people on what they accomplish, not on how well a person can BS with the boss or on how familiar and comfortable the person seems to management.

Yes, I know the ability to schmooze and be political is necessary for some jobs.

But even if it is, it shouldn’t be the only thing. It shouldn’t be prized about actual ability, but that’s what seems to happen sometimes: the political people are valued over the competent people.

It’s not that everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder. But – it would be nice if those who do would have a shot.

(And also – even if you don’t want to climb the ladder, in many cases, you have to pretend that you do.)

When you evaluate people on what they actually do as opposed to what they look like, women are picked more often.

A number of studies have found that female-authored papers are accepted more often or rated higher under double-blind review (when neither author nor reviewer are identifiable).

Invisible Women, by Caroline Criado Perez

[A] number of orchestras adopted “blind” auditions whereby screens are used to conceal the identity and gender of the musician from the jury. In the years after these changes were instituted, the percent of female musicians in the five highest-ranked orchestras in the nation increased from 6 percent in 1970 to 21 percent in 1993. 

American Economic Review, September 2000

This is not a new concept. When I was in grad school, my organizational behavior professor (thank you, Dr Janet Duckerich for teaching this to me), asked that we identify ourselves on our papers and tests by our social security numbers, not by our names.

She wanted to eliminate as much potential bias as possible, she explained.


What if management thought about how to serve customers and employees in the best way possible instead of about how to perpetuate power?

That would be weird.

Side effects

When you finally aren’t subject to drug testing at work but don’t know what to do next

Technically, I am high.

I have never gotten high.

I’m not morally opposed to drugs. If you want to destroy yourself with heroin, go ahead. People destroy themselves with alcohol and that’s legal. Your body, your choice.

I think maybe it’s because I’ve never had the chance. That is, nobody has ever offered me any.

Except for that time in New York City, when I was 22 and a co-worker and I were walking to a club one night. A man in the corner looked at us – in our pink polos and khaki skirts – and said, “Smoke! Smoke!”

I was offended.

“DO I LOOK LIKE I SMOKE?” I asked my co-worker.

Turns out he was trying to sell, not trying to bum a ciggie.


I would like to try.

I would like to try getting high.

I would like to try getting high as long as it doesn’t involve needles. Or smoking. Or losing control of my actions.

Or if it would actually work and not just make me sick.

After a dental surgery, the doctor sent me home with 25 Vicodin tablets.

I took one right away because even though someone had just cut my gums open and done stuff in my mouth that required me to spit out blood, I was excited about the possibility of getting high. A new experience! An experience for which I had a prescription just in case I got tapped for random drug testing at work!

Twenty minutes later, I was throwing up everything in my stomach.

I didn’t touch vicodin again until years later when another doc prescribed it. I told him it made me throw up. He told me I needed to take it with food (information on the label that I had ignored because of course it didn’t apply to me and I had just had dental surgery so how was I supposed to chew?) and that my reaction meant I probably would not become addicted to it.

I tried it again.

It took away the pain but did not make me high.

(Also, it made me sleepy but wouldn’t let me sleep.)

So I still didn’t know what high was like.


I tried valerian. It’s supposed to help with hot flashes and is also supposed to help you sleep.

Didn’t work. I mean, I will never know if it works for the hot flashes because do hot flashes even matter if you can’t sleep?

Walgreen’s clerk: What’s the reason for the return?

Me: Well, valerian is supposed to help you sleep, but there’s the weird possible side effect that maybe two people in the whole universe might get that instead of making you sleep, it gives you insomnia and you’re wide awake at 1:00 a.m., wondering if you were a really bad person in your previous life and now you’re being punished. I am one of those two people.

Clerk:

Clerk:

Clerk: So I’m just going to select “other.”

Me: OK then.


A friend suggested I try melatonin to help me sleep.

I took one tablet and was up all night, ready to jump out of my skin.

I had always thought that was an odd expression and had wondered how it came about.

Now I know.

Now I know what it feels like to be ready to jump out of my skin.

I never want that feeling again.


If there is a weird side effect to be had, I will get it

If there is anything weird that can happen to someone – any bizarre, rare side effect, it will happen to me.

Lyrica, which cost $1,400 for a one-month supply – my co-pay was $140, made my hair fall out.

Topamax killed my appetite, which I liked, but also made the food I did eat taste awful and gave me double vision.

Blockers made me feel like my body was made of lead.

None of these stopped my migraines.


All I wanted was to be able to fall asleep at night and maybe not have hot flashes at 2 a.m.

A friend suggested CBD.

So I tried it.

The stuff I got at the CBD store didn’t do anything for me, I don’t think.

When I was visiting my mom in Colorado, I missed my chance to get some edibles with THC. Mostly, I suppose, because I was lazy and how do you ask your mom to borrow her car so you can buy pot?

Maybe I blew it. Maybe I needed something stronger than the Wisconsin CBD.

Maybe I need the Strong CBD.

So I bought some.

And have been trying it for the past ten days.

Every morning, Mr T asks me how I slept.

“I don’t know,” I’ve been telling him.

Because I still lie awake trying to sleep, but once I am asleep, it’s weird. I don’t even know how to describe it. I have memories of things happening in the immediate past but when I think deeply on them, I realize I might have been dreaming – that it didn’t really happen.

And even though it turns out that CBD helps many women who have bladder pain, it can sometimes cause bladder pain.

Guess which category I am in?

Yeah.

Awake, bladder discomfort, and bad dreams.

I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

We keep our pain to ourselves because we’ve learned the world doesn’t care

Both “penis” and “pain” start with “p.” Coincidence? I think not.

“This tool is used to stabilize the cervix when they place an IUD. So if you’re like me and have been repeatedly gaslit about how you can’t possibly be in so much pain, here’s why you were in so much pain, and why they DEFINITELY knew it right then and there.” Source

The other night, Mr T sprained the top of his foot. Or something.

We are still in our COBRA election period (we don’t want to elect and pay the back premiums) and our ACA insurance doesn’t start for a week yet. So we do not have an official diagnosis because that would require going to a doctor and our doctor’s group won’t tell us how much an office visit costs and of course there is NO WAY we would go to the ER because that’s like giving a blank check to an alcoholic and pushing him into a bar or a liquor store, so we used the Doctor of Google to figure things out and it looks like a sprain, which isn’t something a doctor can do anything about anyhow.

Mr T sprained his foot.

It hurts.

I guess.

I have never sprained anything, but I have broken my toe three times and I know these things can hurt.

But he spent the immediate post-injury time explaining his suffering to me VERY LOUDLY.

And he spent the next day sitting in bed with his foot elevated – which was the right thing to do – and explaining more of his suffering to me.

It was like a Man Cold. Only it was a Man Sprain.

I now know ALL THE PAIN THAT COMES FROM A MAN SPRAIN.


I have endured migraine headaches for days.

I have had menstrual cramps that made me throw up.

The people around me never knew.

Why?

You know why.

I stayed silent.


On Day 3 of a headache, if I mention it to Mr T, he will express shock. Why didn’t I tell him?

Because telling him doesn’t make the headache go away?


When I was in high school, my mom took me to the doctor for my cramps.

The only option the doctor gave me was birth control pills, which I thought (at the time) to be only for Bad Girls and I certainly was not one of those.

The doc did not attempt to convince my mom – who also had very painful periods – that this was a medical intervention and I spent the next few years just sucking it up.

It wasn’t until I was in college that another doctor offered ibuprofen to me. It was by prescription only back then and I was supposed to take 1600 mg at a time.

You were supposed to take it before your period started but of course I wanted to preserve the pills for when I actually did have cramps – I didn’t get them every month – so would wait until the cramps started to take them. They didn’t work so well as a catch up, so I still had bad cramps.

But I stayed silent.


I didn’t see a doctor about my headaches – which started when I was in junior high – until I was almost 40.

I thought everyone got headaches and having a headache was just part of life.

Yeah I was in pain – so what?

Wasn’t everyone?

I got headaches and I took aspirin and sudafed – I thought they were sinus headaches – and joked about my sinuses but never complained about the pain.

I stayed silent.


I needed a biopsy for something. Bad periods, probably. By now, I was an adult and had jumped on the birth control bandwagon, only I had a hard time finding a formulation that did not give me unpleasant side effects.

By “unpleasant side effects,” I mean

  • a splotch of discoloration on my forehead so bad that complete strangers stopped me to ask me what was on my face
  • breakthrough bleeding (“Stick with it! It will stop!”)(It didn’t.)
  • still getting cramps.

Yay womanhood amirite?

Do you remember the image at the top of the page?

Wait. I’ll put it here again.

That’s the tool a doc uses when he places an IUD. I am guessing – docs and nurses, chime in here – it is also the tool he uses when taking a biopsy.

BTW, I am using “he” as my default pronoun for the doc here because I cannot believe a female doctor would do this to me. And the doc I had was male.

Anyhow – my doc warned me I might feel “a pinch.”

I passed out.

I stayed silent, but – I passed out from the pain.

My doc dismissed it. “You have a highly-developed vasovagal response,” he told me.

Yay.


After a day in bed with his foot elevated, Mr T’s calf suddenly cramped.

“OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!” he yelled. “OOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!”

He was – LOUD.

LOUD.

I rolled my eyes.

It was a cramp.

Everyone has cramps.

“OW THAT HURTS!!!!!” he yelled.

And so on for the next 45 seconds.

Mr T did not stay silent.


I have only my own experience to draw from. I am one of the luckiest people in the world: I am white and educated with some degree of financial security. I am a woman, which makes me a little bit less lucky than a white man, but as a white woman in America, I am still at the top of the list compared to women in other parts of the world.

I know that.

But I also know that we women share – or seem to share – certain experiences, experiences we have simply because we are women.

Our pain is not taken seriously. Not in the US and probably not anywhere else.

It gets worse for Black women (for all Black people, actually), even in the US.

And maybe this is something I can help fix. I can’t solve period poverty. I can’t solve child brides.

I can solve human trafficking and domestic violence and rape in the US by paying attention to elections.

And maybe, we women in the US can solve the pain problem by getting loud. It’s the only way they’ll pay attention.

Be. Loud.

BE LOUD.

Happy new year

If you’re vaxxable but not vaxxed, please get vaxxed

This is what the world can look like if you have a high vax rate and people mask in public.

This is also what the world can look like if you have a high vax rate and people mask in public.

When Mr T and I went to Spain in late November, Spain had an 80% total vax rate. At the time, children 12 and under were not eligible. The vax rate among eligible people is 90%.

Spain had a much lower death rate than the unvaxxed places like Florida.

Get vaxxed, please, so we can get back to life.

Life with an engineer at Christmas

We take our victories where we can find them

We weren’t going to have a tree because covid has killed all the joy in life but then we thought we shouldn’t let covid and the anti-vax idiots ruin everything so we got one.

Mr T hauled the decorations down from the attic and started sorting the lights.

The first two strings he tested didn’t work.

On the third, only half the lights would illuminate.

He was getting a bit cranky, but I did not suggest that we buy new lights.

We are of the Tribe That Does Not Waste

I mean, I never would suggest buying new to replace something that still sort of works. The only things I buy new these days are underwear and socks. But I should be able to make it until I die on the blue jeans I have now and if I do need more before then, I will get them on eBay for about ten or 15 dollars.

(I heard someone say that once you’ve tried the $180 jeans, you never go back, but this person had family money.)

I got the lights for 25 cents a strand at the Episcopal ladies’ thrift shop in Colorado Springs in 2006 so we have not yet gotten our money’s worth and will be darned it we are going to replace them.

Mr T finally found a strand that worked and, after we had rotated the tree several times trying to find the best spot – we did not buy the symmetrical tree, he carefully placed the lights on the tree.

“Carefully” is how he does things. It’s good to be married to someone who has that characteristic for when it matters.

(It usually doesn’t matter. Dishes don’t need to be scrubbed for a minute each. They can be put away even if there are a few drops of water clinging to them. But I digress.)

Mr T put the lights on the tree and plugged them in and it was beautiful.

The next morning, the bottom half of the strand went dark.

Mr T did something – I left the room – to repair it. The repair involved being grumpy, which is why I left.

The next morning, same thing.

More grumpiness ensued.

I suggested removing the Bad Strand and replacing it with one of the remaining 10 ten strands of Episcopal Ladies Lights.

No, that was a Very Bad Suggestion! Removing and replacing implies loss and surrender, I suppose.

In which The Lights Become A Symbol of All That Is Going Wrong

“Everything I do is going backward,” he said.

“Every time I think I have finished with the trust, there’s a new issue. Every time I think I am done with my brother, there’s another issue.”


In Mr T’s defense, his brother is a total nightmare. Mr T’s parents disinherited him but made him the executor of their will and the trustee for the money, which went to their grandchildren and which has required that Mr T deal with his brother on a lot of stuff.

Don’t do this, OK? Leave your money to whomever you want – it’s OK not to leave money to your kids, but don’t make your kid the executor of your will and the trustee for the trusts. It’s a ton of work and if you are leaving any amount of money, you can pay a lawyer to do the work.

Especially don’t make your child the executor if you are disinheriting him. That’s just an asshole move.


“Every time we think we are getting close to maybe getting back to normal,” he said, “there’s another issue. Now we have Omicron. The whole world is going backwards.”

A few hours later, Mr T announced he was going to Lowe’s.

To buy a new tool.

A new tool that would help him identify – something about currents and bad currents vs bad bulbs or something.

“It’s sold out everywhere, but Lowe’s has a store brand version of the tool and it’s on sale,” he said.

When the hardware store is your Happy Place

Is there anything that makes a man (or some men – maybe some women – the desire to fix things is not a trait associated with sex and here I am repeating sexist stereotypes – I should be ashamed of myself) happier than going to the hardware store?

My former boss used to leave the office occasionally when he needed a break and would go to Menards to wander the aisles.

Another former boss told me, “I’m tired of all this corporate drama. I just want to be a floor manager at Home Depot.”

Two hours later, Mr T returned, triumphant. He had also stopped at Aldi and gotten German butter cookies from the Christmas aisle, so the trip was worth it just for that.

He pulled out the new tool.

“Watch!” he said. “Watch this! It tells me [stuff that I don’t remember but is about electricity etc etc]!”

The tool flashed green and red as he moved it from bulb to bulb. He replaced the bulbs where it flashed red, but the rest of the strand remained stubbornly dark.

“Maybe this one?” he said as he replaced another bulb.

I got bored and went downstairs to watch TV.

Fifteen minutes later, he came downstairs in triumph.

“IT WORKED!” he said. “IT WORKED!”

And now we have a tool that can be used in the future for – I don’t know what. We have a highly-specialized tool that we may never need again.

But for one small moment, we made a step forward.

Happy holidays, everyone. Enjoy the victories, no matter how small.

Will nobody think about the white male sexual harassers?

In a world without men, women would be fat and happy and we would never wait to pee. But we would settle for a world without sexual harassers.

Yes, an older man at work once started massaging my neck and shoulders. I was wearing a suit, but even if I had been showing my shoulders, that is not permission for a man to touch a woman at work.

Old (male) friend: I miss Al Franken. I wish he hadn’t resigned.

Me: But – that photo of him, pretending to grab that woman’s breasts!

Friend: But aren’t there so many worse men? And it would be so good to have him in politics now.

Me: There are worse men, yes. My friend R, when she was an associate at an Austin law firm, pushed back on a sexist comment a partner made. The partner answered, “Don’t forget I’m the one who does your performance evaluation.” She found a new job out of state.

Friend (who is a lawyer in Texas): I would never do something like that!

Me: I know, but every single woman my age – every single woman you see here – Mary, Karen, Stephanie – has experienced some kind of sexism and sexual harassment at work. Every single one. So I for one am glad to see the harassers finally getting what they deserve.

Friend: But if we get rid of all those men, there won’t be anyone left!

Me:

Me:

Me: Did you really just say that if we get rid of all the harassers, there won’t be anyone left?

Friend: Oh. Right!

Me: There will be me. There will be Mary. There will be Karen. There will be Stephanie. If we had power, I don’t think we would do any worse than the harassers.


A few years ago, Mr T was running for the state legislature. He had run for the seat before, unsuccessfully. But this looked like it might be the year.

He announced in November, a year before the election. This, apparently, is a common strategy in the political world: announce early to dissuade others.

He started campaigning in March, which includes collecting signatures for the nominating papers.

(Where we live, a candidate must collect a certain number of signatures to get on the ballot. I think it’s like that in most places in the US, which is why I am always so confused at movies where someone decides to run for office right before the election and voila! they’re on the ballot. That’s not how it works, Hollywood!)

In May, a woman announced that she, too, was running.

She was running against Mr T in the primary, not against Mr T in the general.

Mr T was frustrated. This woman was an unknown. She had not participated in party activities. She had not volunteered on other campaigns. She was not playing by The Rules.

We tried to figure out how to defeat her in the primary.

Turned out she and Mr T agreed on all the issues.

If you agree on the issues, then you have to make your campaign personal.

Mr T did not want to go there.

He did not want to make any personal attacks, even personal attacks veiled in nice language.

Then he met her.

“I LIKE her,” he told me. “I don’t want to like her but I do.”


Fitbit started in 2010.

It took them until 2018 to add a period tracker.

(And even then, they didn’t do it right: “Fitbit’s period tracking feature only allows women to log their menstrual cycle if it lasted for 10 days or fewer.“)


By Bestrossi – Self-photographed

In Katrine Marcal’s latest book, Mother of Invention: How Good Ideas Get Ignored in an Economy Built for Men, she talks about Aina Wifalk, the inventor of the walker you see above.

Wifalk was training to be a nurse when she contracted polio. She invented the walker to help herself and others with her physical challenges.

She made almost no money from her invention.

How could she? As Marcal points out, 97% of venture capital goes to men – and that’s a current figure. Wifalk invented the walker in the 60s.

Would a man have invented this same thing?

Maybe.

Maybe.

But how many men do the shopping? How many men do the daily errands? Would men have thought, “I need a basket so I can get the groceries home?”

Maybe.

And if a man had invented it, he could have gotten venture capital and developed the product himself and gotten rich.


It took Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successful challenge of a sexist IRS deduction to start changing sexist laws in the US.

In the nineteenth century, the Supreme Court ruled that women had neither the right to practice law nor the right to vote. In the mid-twentieth century, the Court approved “beneficial” practices by states making women’s service on juries optional and approved Michigan’s law preventing women from working in bars unless a male relative was present when they were working.

Harvard Law Review

If these sexist laws did not apply in your lifetime, they probably applied in your mother’s lifetime.

It took a woman to challenge these injustices.

I know I know I know. Not all men are like that. Not all men.

But in general I don’t see men leading the fight to end sex discrimination.


Mr T withdrew from the race so the opponent could run unopposed.

“I agree with her,” he said. “I like her. And I think she has a better chance of getting elected. All I want is to have our views represented in the legislature.”


Let’s try a world where women are in charge, OK?

When you see your college boyfriend/fiancé for the first time in 30something years

How many people can we hold in our hearts?

When I was 19, I fell in love for the first time.

I thought it would also be the last time.

I thought my college boyfriend – CB, let’s call him – and I would get married and have children and live happily ever after.

We took long walks around campus late at night and named our children. We went two-stepping with our friends. We went to movies in the chemistry lecture hall. We talked about how lucky we were to have found Our Person at college. So sad for all those other people who would go through life unmatched!

(Also, he kissed great. This is important. To me, anyhow. It’s important to me. And he was an amazing kisser.)


(I mean – he was an AMAZING kisser.)


We planned to get married after he graduated, a year after I graduated.

Our parents had met. We had the church and I had the dress.

I had gone through the Catholic pre-Cana stuff, muttering to myself as I signed the papers promising to raise my children Catholic (he was not Catholic), “when they let women become priests.”


The Catholic Church, 35 years later, is still not letting women become priests.


I had a job in Houston, but I was going to move with him to wherever he got into grad school. His parents were worried that if he married me, he might not complete grad school, but I was willing to move for love! And CB was (and still is, I expect) an extraordinarily focused man.


He was so nice. He was a kind person who is still friends today with the friends he had back then. He was a good man.


He did get his PhD. Even if he had been married to me, he would have gotten his PhD. I have no doubt.


At our recent homecoming, I ran into a friend I had not seen in a long time.

“Half my conversations this weekend,” he said, “have started with, ‘I am so sorry for’ – whatever it was. All I am doing is apologizing for horrible things I did when we were students.”

“Me, too,” I said. “Me, too.”


Before I started dating CB, I went out one time with a very sweet guy who took me to Gilley’s.

On the way back to campus, his car broke down. We were in the middle of nowhere, still far from Houston, back when there was space between Houston and Pasadena. I was scared. We were out in the country. It was dark. I didn’t know how we were going to get back. I was sure there was an ax murderer waiting for us.

Even once we found a pay phone, no taxi would come because we didn’t have an address. He finally had to call his roommate to get us.

I would not talk to him again. He called and left messages. I did not return his calls. We had a class together that next year and I wouldn’t even look at him when I walked in the room. There were only about 20 students in the class, so it was obvious when one student was giving another the cold shoulder.

At our 15-year reunion, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

It was Gilley’s Guy.

“I AM SO SORRY FOR BEING SUCH A BITCH TO YOU!” I gasped.

And I meant it. Lord have mercy he was just a sweet boy who was trying to impress me and I wouldn’t even talk to him. I don’t even remember if he accepted my apology, but we did talk for about 15 minutes, so I guess maybe he did? I hope so.


I hadn’t dated much (except for Gilley’s Guy and two guys in high school, one of whom turned out to be gay – Hi Keith!) when CB and I started dating.

I definitely had never been in love. I definitely had not had a long relationship.

I started working after graduation and meeting new people (ie, men), some of whom I thought were cute, and I started wondering if maybe I really wanted to get married.


I decided I did not want to get married.

It was absolutely nothing that CB did. He was a good person. We didn’t have a big fight. One of us didn’t cheat on the other. I didn’t discover he was an addict or an alcoholic or bad with money.

We were so, so young. We had Things, but everyone has Things. We were babies.

I broke up with him a few months before the wedding and – well, it wasn’t an easy time.


I have had long relationships since CB. I have even had marriage proposals. (From men other than Mr T, that is.)

One of the worst things about breaking up with someone is disappointing my family. After I broke up with Tom, the boyfriend who came after CB, my mother said, “Please don’t bring home any more boyfriends until you find the one you’re actually going to marry. I can’t take getting to know another one and then having to lose him again.”


On Monday, when I passed on CB’s greetings from this weekend to my mom, she wrote back immediately, “And I MISS CB, too! I had mentioned to someone just recently how sad it was ‘lose’ him after his being a part of our family.”

Thirty five years and my mom still misses him.


Another bad thing about a breakup is not knowing how the story ends.


Who among us hasn’t googled an old boyfriend to see what’s happened in his life? It’s not just me, right? I’m not the only one who is insanely curious about what happened? Who they married – their children – their careers? Please tell me I’m not the only one.


So of course I knew a bit of what CB was up to. I can see things online and we have a lot of mutual friends. I knew he had married and had children and was doing the work he had always wanted to do from the first time I met him. But he had never come to a reunion before. I hadn’t seen him in decades.


Am I the only one – even though I am very happily married – who wonders what it would be like to run into an old boyfriend?

Please tell me I’m not the only one who pictures stepping outside of the party into the quiet courtyard, still and lit only by the moon. I’m alone and I look great because this time, unlike real life, I actually did lose 20 pounds before the reunion. I’m wearing something immensely flattering, including high heels that don’t even hurt. My hair looks fabulous – no grey! – despite the Houston humidity and my skin is only 20 years old. I have mastered makeup.

I sigh and look up at the moon, wistfully – holding a glass of champagne? Only I don’t like champagne and if I had a glass of it, it would be in a plastic cup, which isn’t quite the same.

Suddenly, a shadow falls in front of me. I hear a voice. It’s CB!

And – I can never figure out what he says, probably because I’m the one who broke up with him so it would really be on me to approach him except there’s no way I would do that because I wouldn’t impose like that on someone who is now happily married to someone who is not me. You don’t get to have romantic scenes when you’re the one who did the breaking.

But really, the key part of this story is that I look great. Hold that thought.


I met Mr T at our 20-year class reunion.

I love him.

I am happy with him.

He’s a hottie and he’s my friend.

But – I like reading alternative histories.

Not only do I want to know how the story ends, I also want to know how it might have ended. What if I had taken Path A instead of Path B?


At our reunion party on Friday, I saw a classmate I had not seen since we were undergrads. We were not friends, but we both worked in the faculty club. I remembered him because his twin brother was also at our school.

We spent 20 minutes talking. What had happened over the past years? How had the story ended?

He said one of the nicest things I think someone could say about me. He told me, “You were always kind to me when I worked at the faculty club, and I always remembered that.”



Saturday morning, before the football game, I was talking to one of the friends CB and I have in common. He said, “Just so you know, CB is here.”

“Oh!” I said. “Oh.”

I didn’t know what to think.

This was not how I had planned it.

Not that I had planned it – but you know.

I was not expecting this.

But.

“It’s been 35 years,” I said. “That was a lifetime ago.”

Which it was. It’s more than half my life ago.

But do you ever really stop loving your first love, even when you have found your last love?


Every reunion, Mr T sees his first love. He has seen her when he’s had to go to her city for work.

They did not date in college, but were close friends and he was in deep love with her.

He has not stopped loving her.

But he also loves me.

Is there room in our hearts for our first and our last loves at the same time? And maybe even for some of the loves in between?

Are these loves all the paths we could have taken? Would we have been equally happy with any of them?


PS I like Mr T’s first love. I consider her my friend.


I was nervous. What do you say to someone you have not seen for decades who was once the most important person in your life? What do you say to someone you hurt deeply? What do you say to someone who you know has moved on – as he should! – but is such an important part of your history? Someone who shares a biography with you? The older I get, the harder it is to develop deep relationships – we don’t make those emotional connections the same way, I don’t think.

What do you say when you don’t want to think that this person has dwelled on you, because of course he hasn’t, but when you want to acknowledge that you caused pain?


Also, I thought, REALLY? THIS is the year I see him? The year with COVID hair and wrinkles and the 20 pounds not lost and not one stitch of makeup on my face because I decided I am done with all that but perhaps just a little bit of mascara and some light eyeshadow might have made me look not so washed out.

Old jeans, a black t-shirt, hiking boots.

REALLY?

Yes I am superficial and vain. Not vain enough to dress up or fix my hair, but still vain. Lazy vain.


“Do you wish you had married him instead of me?” Mr T asks.


I saw someone come up behind me. (A shadow fell…)

I turned – and there was CB.

“Hi,” he said. “Remember me?”

I didn’t know what to say.

He looked the same. Exactly the same.

Only he didn’t – he was the same man but older – but when you look at a memory, maybe time freezes?

He smiled, so it seemed safe to ask, “Is it OK if I hug you?”

And I hugged him and he hugged me back and I thought, “I think maybe he’s forgiven me” and I felt a weight leave me that I didn’t even know I was carrying.