#MeToo, and You

My fingers hovered over the keys, wondering whether this was the right or wrong thing […]

My fingers hovered over the keys, wondering whether this was the right or wrong thing to do. Forty years’ practice keep me coming back to this default: not the nuanced, winding halls of grace but the black-and-white certainty of law. I considered and weighed, and I posted.

There are three memories right off the top of my head, and who knows if more lurk beneath? Time continues to march on, though I gave it no such permit to do so, and it’s been around twenty years since the last one: a “friend” who wouldn’t hear no and proceeded to force me into sex over my objections, the technical term for which I believe is called rape—a word that’s taken me that long to say. Then there was the boyfriend of a friend’s mom, who confronted me while I was alone in a car and tried to kiss me; I remember the fleeting thought, “Maybe I just let him do it and that would be easier?” And who could forget (I’ve tried, believe me) the time I spent the night at a friend’s and the next morning, two male housemates laughingly tried to rip off the bedspread covering me so as to see what I was wearing—or not—underneath. In each case, I carried shame during and after the incident, wondering what I did to invite it, how I could have behaved differently to prevent it. This shame is what still hovers over those memories like my fingers did over the keyboard, and its persistence, for me and other women, is what led me to post my own #metoo.

I have two young boys. By the grace of God, they will do better, but if so it will only be by the grace of God, who shows up despite my weakness and somehow in the midst of it: in the exhausted sharing-of-the-duties dance my husband and I perform each day; in the weary tellings and retellings of their birth stories and what they and God put their mother through to bring them into this world; in the oft-repeated “Be gentle!” and “Look out for others!” admonitions handed out patiently and not. Yes, they will know what pain and miracles women put ourselves at the mercy of because of our biology and longings, and by the grace of God I will articulate (and feel) it not as a burden but as a gift, as beautiful. But being a woman isn’t always beautiful. It can be downright dangerous—just ask Louis CK, himself a subject of rumors about sexual predation. God help us all.

We are living in a time when such rumors can end with a man’s firing or his elevation to the highest office in the land. Clearly, we have some work to do, some things to figure out. One of the refrains I hear way too often is “this is just the world we live in”—and not just on this matter, but on so many:

I want my children to be able to ride their bikes around the neighborhood like I did when I was a kid, but it’s not safe—that’s the world we live in.

I want to be able to go to big events, but I just can’t anymore. That’s the world we live in.

I want to be able to walk to my car in the dark alone without feeling afraid, but I do feel afraid. That’s just the world we live in.

I’m trying to find the line between realism and despair, between calling a spade a spade and giving up, between righteous activism and hopeless apathy. As my five-year-old would say when I tell him it’s time to brush his teeth, “It’s tricky. There are issues.” There is rational acceptance and there is putting up a fight, and it all feels, again, like trying to choose between right and wrong.

But, as is so often the case, I found something akin to an answer on Netflix the other day while catching up on The Good Place. Eleanor was guiding Michael through an existential crisis and explained the ever-present reality of death for humans.

“Do you know what’s really happening right now? You’re learning what it’s like to be human. All humans are aware of death…so we’re all a little bit sad. All the time. That’s just the deal.”

We’re all just a little bit sad. That’s the world we live in. But we’re also still living. And so we do the best we can, whether that means pressing “post” or not, whether fighting or not, knowing that “right and wrong” were paid for long ago; that now our good intentions and bad ones, our mistakes and victories, are never beyond redemption. Even as our violators aren’t. Ugh. I hate that part.

The boys have been absorbing all things Harry Potter lately (they always make me pretend to be Hagrid, which I feel sure will need to eventually be addressed in our How to Treat Women seminars). I heard once again Dumbledore’s declaration, that help will always be available at Hogwarts for those who ask for it. And I remembered his later addendum: that help will always be available for those who deserve it. Herein lies one of the ways Gospel trumps Potter: I want to deserve help. On good days, I think I do. But on bad ones? I can’t even bring myself to ask for it. I can’t face the shame of my past or even the regrets of today. I can’t heal myself. I don’t want to post #metoo because, yes, shame, but also? I want Twitter and my feed of comedians on it to be funny again. Social activism is exhausting, and I still have to make dinner. It feels like we are all in danger of losing our collective sense of humor, and I don’t want to admit this is the world we live in; I would prefer to live in denial and its illusions of self-sufficiency, thankyouverymuch.

Back when I was still a student of the law and into pithy wall-hanging proverbs, I bought the “Keep Calm and Carry On” WWII propaganda hanging that was all the rage. You know, the one from when people were getting bombed every day. Talk about denial. Since then I’ve fallen apart way too many times to even pretend I can either keep calm or carry on. Luckily, I’ve moved from prescriptive to descriptive inspiration. Julian of Norwich has been my therapist lately, and she tells me that Jesus told her, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Perhaps this is closer to the answer than even Netflix, because here’s the real deal: what we know about what will happen is what changes the things that do happen. And all of this is because of what has happened. To post or not to post is no longer an ultimate question; indeed, what is ultimate is not a question but a statement: I am. I am then, and I am now, and I am in the future. I am, because I was and have been and will be—through everything, because of another statement, uttered in weariness and victory: It is finished. Which, were it assigned a hashtag, might look something like me too.

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4 responses to “#MeToo, and You”

  1. Marjorie says:

    Thank you for this. It is real.

  2. Sean says:

    DANG! I dig the way you brought that home for reals! I suppose it would appear to most (all?) that I sit in the hopeless despair categories most (all?) of the time. Im not sure. I tend to just despair of this life and hope in the future one. But I agree, and have experienced how “what we know about what will happen changes the things that do happen.” But man is that rare or what!? Thx.

  3. Mattie says:

    Beautiful and powerful. Thank you for this.

  4. […] say that the #MeToo movement inspired my wife is an understatement. Her attention was fixed on the flood of harassment testimonials that followed the Harvey Weinstein exposé. One day last fall, on her […]

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