The Background

{This Ain’t no Bandwagon – part II}

Last week, I decided I needed to go all in with #MeToo. Not necessarily for me. I’ll get nothing out of this except maybe a feeling of catharsis. But … my daughters might need to understand why I feel so strongly about it

I was the youngest, and a daughter, born to a dairy and tobacco farmer. I enjoyed daydreaming in front of the television and reading and fishing.

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I was good at school and swimming. I played the piano because it was a solitary pursuit and it got me away from the farm for at least one evening a week. And that was about it. I always felt like I had to do certain things, be a certain way, follow the right course, in order to be valued and appreciated. I was not raised to ask for help, was not raised to need help. That was weakness, and weakness was failure, and if you failed, you failed alone. I was not raised to find my own way, or make my own path. I was raised to conform.

I assure you, I sucked at it. But I tried.

Reading was what lazy people did. And Dad was not going to be accused of raising lazy children; not even ‘the girl.’ If you wanted to be someone, you went to the garden on weekends and pulled weeds or dug potatoes. In the summer, you picked corn and broke beans and canned tomatoes, and later on you helped plant tobacco. For fun,

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you pulled taffy, baked fried pies, and picked bushels of apples off the ground for apple butter. After school in the winter, you spent long hours in the barn with your feet absolutely freezing no matter how many socks you wore, pulling tobacco leaves and hanging sticks. There was a radio going, but the buzzing of the tin space heaters were so loud you couldn’t hear anything.

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Once my cousin and I (I didn’t have any sisters, neither did my younger cousin so we were together a lot) were on the back of the tobacco setter, making the endless, tedious rounds, water dripping to make the red clay muddy, and our fingernails so dark with dirt

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it wasn’t until they were cut that they were clean. And we sang.  Each new round of plants and water, we had another song from school or off of the radio that we sang with each other.

We were not allowed to set plants together after that. We were obviously just goofing off, if we were singing and enjoying each other’s company as well as the work.

Somewhere around this time, my sarcasm and passive aggressiveness were given life.

I became very good at them.

But enough about my defense mechanisms and super powers. Here’s the deal. I wasn’t pretty, I never did get the hang of fixing my hair so it looked like I knew what I was doing, and I certainly wasn’t ‘cool.’ I was a pubescent girl, not at home on the farm or in the “city school” where I went. Nothing says “outcast” quite like rolling up to the front steps of middle school in a beat up pickup truck, metal pipes on the bed, welded together to make the homemade bars which held in terrified calves Dad was taking to the stock pen after he dropped you off.

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Don’t get me wrong: I love my parents, they loved me, and I am not ashamed of this background. Even then, I wasn’t embarrassed. Not really. I was, however, an awkward, pubescent, backward, insecure, self-doubting, uncertain girl who felt out of place and conspicuous for all the wrong middle school reasons.

 

So after eighth grade, I left.

I went to high school in the county with kids from my district (because we don’t have neighborhoods in the county), and I knew I didn’t like whoever I had been, so I reinvented someone new I wanted to be. She was sharp, smart, friendly, confident, blasé, and proud of who she was and who she was going to be.

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It worked.

For about four years actually it worked out quite well.

I could almost believe it myself.

I was in the drama club, I graduated with honors, I had friends, I had best friends, I had the most fabulous boyfriend, and I’d been accepted to a four-year college majoring in science – mainly because it drove my dad crazy. Both the college and the science.

I wish I could make this stuff up. My dad’s advice, given in utmost authenticity, was that I didn’t need college. I was a girl. I needed to stay in town. Yes, I needed to be self-sufficient and not rely on anyone else to pay my bills, but what I needed to go to school for was a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary.

Now, I am not good with kids. Of any age.

Needles and blood either make me ill or lightheaded.

And I have no head for business or organization. None. Nada.

I could write, a lot and well. And I loved all things really, really old and buried. And I was passive aggressive and had successfully found “imposter syndrome” (before it was a thing) to be quite cozy. I had no reason to believe that college wasn’t going to go just as well for me.

I tricked myself into thinking it had. After a couple more attempts at different majors, my sweet spot was in Mass Communications. I wrote and produced scripts. I took care to learn all of the equipment in the studio and then long hours filming and editing.

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I lost my fabulous boyfriend, but I found new friends. Amazing friends.

I found I had actual talent in something besides words.

I discovered I was technically minded and seeing and then doing was the same as mastering. I could support myself without being a secretary.

I got a job.

Things were amazing and my future was bright. I found I not only liked tequila, but I could shoot it with the best of them. My friends were guys and I trusted that they would have my back. And they did.

I now know it was a charmed existence. Seriously. I was seriously lucky.

But I was still in there somewhere. My “Self” hadn’t grown much, buried now beneath this Imposter I was becoming oh-so-proud-of. Who’d never been considered pretty before. Who’d dated only one or two people. Still an awkward, insecure, self-doubting, uncertain girl who felt out of place and conspicuous for all the right college reasons.

I graduated. With honors. With job offers. I’d made it. I was free and off the farm. Myself and this Imposter were going to change the world. You know how it goes.

I got an apartment.

I got promoted.

And then. Things began a long, sustained crumbling process from there.

The Fear

{ Next week: “Why didn’t she say something?” }

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This Ain’t No Band Wagon

Since all of the tumult and outcry over Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent fall-out, I’ve wondered and pondered on how – or if – I should approach the subject. I’ve never been one to jump on a band-wagon. I’ve never seen an episode of The Walking Dead. It was years and years later that I sat through E.T.  I’ve never even read Fifty Shades of Grey or a Twilight book. Not so much because I’m a rebellious soul; I just never wanted to be considered a conformist.

But this?

It’s been thirty years, after all. For me. And then I started reflecting.

It was forty years ago. And thirty years.

And twenty years.

And fifteen years.

It never really stopped, did it? And I let it go on, didn’t I? Why did I allow it to go on? What was wrong with me that I didn’t say something? Why didn’t someone want to get involved to stop it?

What was wrong with me?

I have daughters of my own now. Young adults, ladies, beautiful inside and out. What do I want them to know?

Yes, something was wrong with me. But not from the victim standpoint. Not that caused men to take advantage. These men were predators and opportunists and trollers that smelled weakness and moved in for an easy kill.

The weakness? That’s on my parents. The easy kill? That’s on me.

I do not want my daughters to feel they have no recourse but to take it and stay quiet.

What was I thinking?

When my husband and I began discussing having a family, there were bumps in the road, so to speak. One of them was that I wanted my children to grow up strong, assertive, self-respecting, respectful, and unafraid to challenge authority. I wanted them to be like my husband; to not grow up under the circumstances that I did. I wanted them to be strong.

I didn’t want them to be like me.

I’m happy to say they are all of the above and it is mostly thanks to my husband doing exactly as a father should and teaching them acceptable, appropriate behavior and how real men (all people) should treat them.

However, I’m also happy to say that I can have some part of that, too. – Now.-

How it’s not easy for me yet, but I finally can at least stand up for what is right, and point out what it wrong, and not worry that I will regret it the next day.

Because.

Because there are consequences. Not the ones I was threatened with if I spoke up.

But because there are worse things than losing a job. Or having to choose between which gets paid for the month, rent or groceries. Or not feeling anyone, close to you or otherwise, really believes you.

Because every time you think you’ve moved on, that it’s behind you, you’re on better, different, respectable path, it comes back to mind. It never leaves you. You don’t forget.

There is the humiliation and degradation.

There is the wondering, what would’ve happened if I had …?

There is: what if my daughters are put in this position? What do I have to tell them?

There is the shame and regret.

A lot of regret. Regret that is not your fault, and yet, it’s there. It’s hateful and hatefilled. It ruins many a night.

And so.

That’s why I’m writing it out. It may take three or four weeks. But then it will be there. And whether it makes me feel better or not, doesn’t matter anymore. Does it? Maybe a little. But probably not as much as it would’ve years ago.

What’s mattering is maybe someone else will not keep quiet, because of my story.

Maybe my daughters can feel stronger because of it.

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