Archive for the ‘Self-esteem, self-respect’ Category

Don’t Be You

Posted: November 28, 2019 in Self-esteem, self-respect
Tags: , ,

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I was really surprised when my friend Amy invited me over to meet someone, a blind date. I dreaded that more than getting poked in the eye with a hot poker. But I acquiesced because I hadn’t seen her in a long time and I was also out of food. I didn’t have money to go food shopping and I was hungry. I wasn’t going to get paid for another three days. I had enough money in my account for gas to get to and from work, so I agreed to come over even though I knew it was to meet some guy that was recently widowed.

“You know it’s not a good idea to set him up with anyone right?” I asked her. “It’s probably too soon for him.”

She is the first person to tell you how happily married she is whether you asked or not. She’s even more assertive about this point if you’re single. She must have some sort of an odd genetic need to make sure all her single friends got married. It didn’t matter that I had been divorced a couple of times and wasn’t interested in dating, let alone marriage. She had made up her mind that this needed to happen.

I figured it would be fine and she was a great cook and I really liked her husband. He’s a very sweet and someone I respected as someone who had overcome great obstacles growing up. He was a successful business owner and obviously adored Amy. This was each their third marriage so they seemed to be a good match. I figured since she had threaten to kill him rather than divorce him, he went along with whatever she said. It wasn’t any of my business but I found her threat of death something I had never considered as a foundation for a relationship.

Maybe she was onto something.

She told me to dress very casually, which is sort of pointless since that’s the only way I dress. Having given up high heels recently because I could no longer wear them, all I wore was flats and in my mind and my fashion sense, anything that goes with flats is casual. That to me was the hardest part of growing older. It wasn’t the menopause or the hot flashes or the sudden belly I had when I always had a flat one. No it was an inability to wear high heels without wanting to scream 30 minutes later. I had ruined my feet after decades of wearing them and I miss them. I did agree to wear clean clothes and put on some makeup and maybe run a comb through my hair. I vowed I would put a bra on even though it was Saturday night which I usually spent with my dog, in my pajamas while watching Netflix and drinking Amaretto.

She gave a nervous laugh as if she wasn’t sure if I was kidding or not and I actually wasn’t sure if I was either.

I did put on a bra with blouse, clean jeans and a pair of my black flats. I did run a comb through my hair and managed to put on some mascara and lipstick.

I was as ready as I would ever be to forage out of my house on a weekend.

I wasn’t particularly nervous that night as I drove over. My biggest concern was where to park because they lived on a street that was packed with cars for several blocks. I knew if the husband’s truck wasn’t parked in the driveway I could pull up behind him.

But if the driveway was open it had to stay that way for when he got home. I understood. A man puts in his 18 hours a day and the least he can ask for is to park his own damn driveway and not have to park blocks away where his truck could get broken into and his tools stolen.

I pulled up and saw the bright red truck in the driveway and for a moment my life was happy and made sense. The planets had aligned and I arrived on time with a place to park and not having to walk six blocks and then forgetting where I parked my car.

I rang the doorbell and Amy answered. She gave me a great big hug. I brought a bottle of wine even though they didn’t drink. I had no idea what kind of wine I got but it was expensive so I figured it would taste good and I would drink most of it. A bit selfish on my part, but I had gotten dressed and driven across town, so I felt fine about paying for it. It had been a long week and I was about to be fed and maybe meet someone who didn’t annoy me.

Mike, the man I was to meet, wasn’t there yet. I almost felt sorry for him even before meeting him because I felt this could be the scenario of a lamb being led to the slaughter.

Amy pulled me into the kitchen after putting my coat and purse away and we chatted a bit. Then she said “There’s something I have to tell you and since we’re good friends I’m sure it will be okay.”

I didn’t like the sound of her voice and all of a sudden there’s a very serious vibe in the kitchen and it was making me nervous.

“What?” I asked. “Is there something in my teeth? Is there snot coming out of my nose…”

“No it’s just a little thing that I wanted to say and I’m sure you’ll get what I’m saying.”

I put my glass of wine down on the counter and leaned against it, braced for God knows what.

“Okay,” I said. “What is it?”

“Well,” she said and put down the knife she was using to cut to the tomatoes for the salad and turned to me.

I felt myself stiffen and wanting more wine.

“I just need you to not be you.”

I laughed and actually snorted.

“No, really what is it you wanted to say to me?” I asked.

She had a blank look on her face and it suddenly hit me that that was what she meant.

She wasn’t kidding.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Amy? What do you mean ‘Don’t be me.’ Who am I supposed to be? What’s wrong with me? What the hell are you talking about?”

I felt my hackles rise. I could see she was serious. I know I have pretty thick skin but this cut deeply and quickly.

“See, I don’t want you to get upset or offended. It’s not like it sounds. I just mean…well… you know maybe not be so…I don’t know…loud?”

I raised my voice and shouted “YOU MEAN LIKE THIS? SURE I PROMISE NOT TO TALK LIKE THIS! I PROMISE NOT TO SHOUT AND YELL AND SCREAM!”

“No that’s not what I mean,” she said, “Just don’t be too demonstrative. You know how you’re always talking with your hands? Mike is a very soft-spoken man and very introverted…

“Hold on a second Amy,”I said. “You mean you want me to meet someone that is quiet and introverted and now you’re asking me to, what? Keep my opinions to myself? Smile and nod at everything he says? Tell you what; why don’t I just fucking sit on my hands and you can feed me through a gag or something. I’m sure David has some duct tape in his truck. You could use it to tape my mouth shut and put a little slit in in so I can eat.How does that sound?”

I was furious but hurt more than anything. Her words cut me but I did not want to show it though I think I pretty much failed at that. I picked up my wine glass and slurped it as loud as I could and then belched as loud as I could. I put it down on counter without breaking it.

Photo by Alfonso Scarpa on Unsplash

“Oh I bet I shouldn’t do shit like that, right?”

She said she was sorry and that I wasn’t understanding her but I knew that I was. I understood her perfectly.

I was too much me but the problem was that was never going to change. Actually, using the word problem isn’t correct. I should say the way I am is the way I am a little bit like Popeye “I yam what I yam.”

I know not everyone is everyone else’s cup of tea but I always assumed a friend liked me for who I was.

I left it at that because there was a knock at the door and Mike came in and we met. He was a very nice man but he didn’t have a chance with me because I was fuming and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Part of me just wanted to get up and walk out but the food looked good and I didn’t want to be rude. I just figured I would bitch slap Amy later.

I left earlier than I had anticipated with only half a glass of wine. I was tempted to take the open bottle home with me but now I was just being petty. I said my goodbyes and left.

By the time I got home I was sobbing and my makeup was running down my face. It took me weeks to acknowledge how badly her words had hurt me and in hindsight, that was the end of our friendship.

I haven’t seen her since and I’ve never brought it up to her because there was nothing left to say. A “friend” who is telling you not to be you isn’t a friend.

A “friend” that is trying you to be who they want isn’t a friend. They are someone with a hidden agenda. You are a means to their end. They don’t have your best interest in mind; they have theirs.

In an odd way I was upset about being upset, if that makes sense. It was like I was that fat ugly girl with acne playing alone in the playground again. I couldn’t believe how quickly those feelings came smashing in and how hard it was to get rid of them. I was still that girl that didn’t fit in anywhere yet liked everybody. The neediness in me came back and the strong desire to be liked and admired which goes against everything I believe

I find that our wounds don’t so much heal as much as we think. I think we learn to live with them. Some of the wounds will dissipate a little (or a lot) and we can think the scars are gone, but the hurt is always there.

It still bugs me that she said what she said, and for months afterwards, I didn’t feel like myself. I felt fake and insincere because on some level, I felt what she had said had some truth to it.

It didn’t, but it threw me off for as long as I gave her words validity.

That was on me and therefore something I could change. I admit her words still sting, but now they motivate me to work hard of my sense of self-worth and value.

I don’t recommend learning your true value this way, but if there’s someone in your life who doesn’t like you just the way you are, cut your losses and run.

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

 

The fat girl

Posted: August 12, 2019 in Self-esteem, self-respect
Tags: ,

Image by pixabay.com/users/pgbsimon

It was an incredibly hot day as we wandered around the Arts and Wine Festival in San Jose. The heat was unusual for us. Sure, we had a hot day here and there when it would get close to 100 degrees, but it would quickly cool down once the fog in San Francisco arrived. The fog was magical and cooling and made everything seem right with the world again.

I loved the fog and hated the heat, so it wasn’t a hard choice to leave my house without air conditioning and go with an acquaintance Casey to the festival. It’s not that I wanted to go, as I didn’t like her much, but anything would be better than sitting in front of two fans on my bed all day. That was a guaranteed recipe for an onslaught of apathy, despair, and just the general “My-life-sucks-and-I-hate-myself” mantra that is always so readily available, with or without my permission.

I met her there and was proud of myself for remembering to put on some sunscreen. I don’t usually wear it because I’m an odd person that actually thinks the sun is good for you, but I knew I’d probably be out in the sun longer than I wanted. I didn’t bother with a hat because I can only wear one for a few minutes before it starts to give me a headache.

I found her at the entrance. She lived much closer than I so did but didn’t want me to pick her up. I didn’t ask why as I am someone who never has people over. I’ll meet my ride down the driveway, but they never make it past the gate. It was simply a matter of space. I live in a very tiny house that I share with a roommate, a dog, and two cats. My roommate sleeps on the couch and has that entire space and I stay in my bedroom. It’s only about 600 square feet and there is no place to sit, not even me. I have a bed and he has a couch.

The cats hide under my bed if anyone dares to cross the sacred threshold of the front gate, but I’ve got no place to put my dog. He’s 80 pounds of muscle and mouth and doesn’t have great manners. He gets too excited and is impossible to control once he hits his over-excited zone. He will either be happy to see someone and jump all over them, or he’ll be scared and growl and bark.

Either way, no one wins so I avoid it at all costs.

So, no one is allowed in so that I can maintain my sanity and friendships.

We greeted each other and quickly found the beer and wine stand. We bought our tickets, got our drinks and began the obligatory walking and admiring of the vendors. The heat started to get to me immediately and I wanted to leave, but I knew my house was at least another 20 degrees hotter, so I walked in the shade as much as I could.

Casey had a full-blown summer festival outfit going on. She wore a huge straw hat, large sunglasses, and a summer smock that was bright colors. She had sandals on but they had a slight heel. Her make-up, as always, was flawless and heavily painted on.

“How do you do it?” I asked. “You know, the whole make-up thing going on in this heat? Mine melted off before I even got into the car.” That was true. Though I didn’t wear much and didn’t want to put any of since it was hot and a Sunday, I had put on some foundation and mascara. I wore my usual Vaseline on my lips and had my long hair pulled back into a tight ponytail.

She chuckled. “You are so funny,” she said which is a comment I never know how to take. It’s like when someone says you are interesting. Interesting is a good way or interesting in a bad way?

No one ever answers that question.

“Well, yeah, I’m hysterical but…how do you do it? How come your make-up never smears or fades away?”

“That’s because I don’t sweat,” she said.

I had no response so I just nodded and kept walking.

We came upon a stage with all the cute little kids dancing in their tutu’s. The music was coming from 2 large speakers on each side of the stage There were a few people sitting in the seats. Probably just the parents and volunteers.

I wanted to sit down and so did Casey. I didn’t particularly care about the performance since I didn’t know any of them and it was a school event, but it felt good to sit in the shade and sip my beer. I stretched my legs out and put my feet on the portable plastic chair in front of me. Even that was hot in the shade, but it was better than walking any further. I kicked my flip-flops off and watched the kids on the stage.

There were about 10 of them and looked to be about 6 years old. The did look quite cute in their costumes as they spun around, trying to be in sync with each other as best as they could. Their teacher was in front of the stage, smiling and encouraging them. The music was loud and their smiles and pure joy made me smile and forget about the heat for a few minutes.

The dance ended and they left the stage and got ready for the next performance.

“God they are cute,” Casey said. I nodded. She was right. I scanned the audience and saw so many proud parents.

They started the music again as a young girl walked onto the stage. She owned that stage. You could see it in her eyes. Her smile was from ear to ear. She was wearing a leotard with blue glitter all over it. She had on blue ballet shoes and blue leggings. Her hair was pulled back into a bun and had blue and purple flowers.

She looked like the cutest blueberry I had ever seen.

She was also very large. She was at least twice the size of the other girls.

She began to dance and could barely contain her enthusiasm and joy at dancing for the small crowd. She glowed and I found myself smiling and silently cheering her on.

“Wow, isn’t she a little too big for this?” Casey muttered. “I mean, she’s really fat.”

I ignored her comment because I wanted to slap her for saying it. It made me sad because it was only a matter of time before some asshole came along and made it clear that she wasn’t good enough because of her weight. It was only a matter of time before she would learn that she would be judged on her looks and not her talent and contributions. It was only a matter of time before she would be indoctrinated to what was acceptable for life and what wasn’t.

It was only a matter of time before she learned that as a woman, she would have to learn to ignore what anyone said or thought about her and live the life she wanted.

I suddenly felt sad. I told Casey I wasn’t feeling well and left. I knew her comment was simply from her life of battling her weight and the naysayers she had fought all her life, but I always expect a woman to be kinder and more understanding of another.

I have battled my weight for most of my life. I’ve been thin and I’ve been heavy, but it wasn’t until that what mattered was my health, then if I was healthy, my looks and weight would figure it out.

I saw a beautiful dancer on that stage and that’s all that matters.

That’s the world I want to live in and that’s the world that I know we all fight for.

I’ve had plenty of times of people judging me and I’ve gotten old enough to no longer care, but how do you deal with it?

Following

Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash

In a world that values things more than people, it’s easy to forget what’s important and what isn’t. That can vary from day to day or even moment to moment.

One day, you have a fender bender. No one is hurt, but you’re upset that you didn’t see the car and backed into it in the parking lot. You were distracted with the kids screaming in the back seat or your day at work wasn’t that great because your boss let you know your performance could be better.

It could be a million little things that are bothering you and then BAM! You bump into the car you didn’t see parked there.

You exchange your information with the other driver, apologize profusely, and remind yourself to make sure you paid your insurance premium for the month.

You’re thankful the other driver was kind and didn’t throw a fit.

You worry that your insurance rates will go up again as you drive home, forcing yourself to pay attention.

You’re upset that you were so distracted that you didn’t see the car parked when you back up and you should have.

You take a deep breathe and calm yourself down. You debate whether or not you’ll report the claim to your insurance carrier or maybe bite the bullet and pay for it out of your own pocket. You say another prayer that it won’t be much because you’re about to be overdrawn in your checking account if your rent check clears before your payroll check get deposited.

All of these things are on your mind until you turn the corner onto the street you live and you see smoke.

Lots of smoke.

Pouring up into the sky…near your home.

You see the fire engines as you approach your home but you can’t tell exactly what is happening and you say your third prayer in the last hour that the smoke is from a house way down the street from you.

The last thing on your mind now is the fender bender.

All you can think about is your home being on fire.

Then you realize that if it is, right now all you care about is your family and pets.

You accelerate, with all thoughts of being a more careful driver evaporating immediately.

As you get closer, you can see that it’s not your house, but a neighbors home 6 houses down.

You heave a sigh of relief, suddenly grateful that you have not lost your home and family and pull into the driveway.

You stand there and a new emotions step in and it is one of compassion, worry, and care for your neighbors.

You’re happy you are safe and you are worried that your neighbors are not.

And that, that right there, is your greatest asset.

You thought I was going to say you are your greatest asset, didn’t you?

Well, you’re not wrong but you’re also not right.

Your greatest asset is more than something you can put in a Hallmark card or quickly write as in inspirational quote for Facebook.

Your greatest asset is what you do with you. It’s:

Your empathy

Your ability to understand others

Your level of ethics

Your integrity

Your moral compass

Your ability to be kind

To be decent

Sometimes it feels as if you have to be mean and unfeeling to get through life. There are days when the worries and stress of the world, or just the day, weigh on you relentlessly.

Sometimes we feel weak if we aren’t constantly being rude or unkind. We don’t understand why life has become such a burden.

We feel justified in snapping at the person who is moving slower than molasses in the store aisle and you can’t get past them.

What do they expect if they are slow AND blocking the aisle? What? They think they’re the only person on the planet?

There are always plenty of reasons to be mean and unkind, but there are just as many to be kind and decent.

Your biggest asset is when your heart reaches out to resolve a problem. When you let yourself be kind even though the world has given you plenty of reasons to be ornery and mean.

It is your heart and soul that is your biggest asset and it is often not your first reaction when you’re about to take the bait.

It’s important to give yourself a second or two or three to decide how you want react to a situation. Your emotions and actions are always your choice and one else’s.

And that’s what puts you high on the food chain.

Your ability to see, to decide and then to act.

No one is perfect, but don’t fall prey to those that tell you to be harsh in order to get ahead. Pay no attention to anyone who tells you that you don’t matter or you don’t make a difference.

Kindness can never be overrated and if you find yourself tempted to lash out, don’t beat yourself up if you do.

The beautiful thing about time is there is another moment right around the corner.

You are important. You influence the people around you and you make a difference in their lives.

Life is hard enough without being too hard on ourselves.

Your biggest asset is what you do with you.

I had a very interesting conversation the other day with a male colleague of mine. He’s a very wonderful man and the same age as me, which is 62. So that puts us in the age of when things were much different at work than they are now.

Actually, not different just at work but just about every place we women exist in. What I mean by that is I have seen many changes over these 6 plus decades and we are definitely heading in the right direction. But we all know we have a long ways to go.

He thought it was very sad that all of these things were happening and it was making it unsafe for men in the workplace.

My response was dripping with sarcasm (that probably burned holes in the floor as it dripped off my teeth) “Oh how sad for you and all the men. It breaks my heart that you now feel a bit unsafe in the workplace. Must be terrible.”

This stopped him in his tracks for about half a second and then he continued to explain his point to me. I actually did understand what he was saying but the problem was, he was not understanding what I was saying.

And there we have it. I looked at him and asked “Have you ever told a man that he was acting inappropriately towards a woman?”

He sort of looked around and mumbled a few things while I sat back with my legs crossed and just looked at him with a bit of a smirk on my face. I couldn’t help it.

For that is the point. It’s not that we will get rid of men who act badly towards women. They will probably always exist. Always have and always will.

What we need are more men stepping up and putting those bad men in their place. You do that enough times and hopefully they will learn that they can’t get away with it anymore.

We don’t need any more talk about this. I’m sick and tired of having to hear this shit as it hits the fans. Yeah, I’m glad this is in the headlines and people are talking about it, but the question is, what are you willing to do about it?

I’ve survived, as many women have, endless times of being sexually harassed and assaulted. We women know all about this. I’m just sick and tired of good men looking at us with a blank stare and asking “What are you talking about?”

I’m sorry but they know damn well what we’re talking about. This is not something new to them and I think their objection is that they’re being held somewhat accountable now for the actions of others.

As well they should be.

Weinstein had a whole shitload of people that helped him with his abuse for decades. Believe it or not, it’s not so much his abuse and being a predator that pisses me off. It does, but it’s all of those people that helped him with it for so many years. He could have been stopped dead in his tracks if just one person had stood up to him. Okay maybe not one. Maybe it would have taken hundreds. I don’t know.

And maybe there were people that did and we haven’t heard about it. If so, I would like to hear from them and find out what happened.

Evil and badness exist simply because we let it.

So to all my male friends and colleagues that understand, I thank you.

Now you guys need to get the show on the road and get this shit to stop. We’re sick and tired of it.

unnamed

I know this statement to be true from personal experience. The details aren’t important except suffice to say, if you value your life, don’t ever tickle me.

The interesting part of the above statement are the number of people, once learning of my loathing and aversion to being tickled, take it upon themselves to tickle me. I’ve had it happen so many times that I never tell anyone unless they try to tickle me. If they respect my wishes, no harm and no foul.

If they don’t, they usually try it again.

That is usually the last time I talk to them.

One person at work, years ago, came up behind me and poked me in the ribs. I jumped and swung around. He was a friend and was just doing that rather than tap me on the shoulder.

I told him I hated to be tickled and please not to do it ever again. He said he was sorry and that was that until about a week later.

He did it again, but this time, he laughed. Yeah, he thought it was funny and that I was being dramatic. I once again swung around but this time I was angry.

“Don’t do that!” I said. He smiled and apologized again. He said he forgot. Uh huh….

About 3 weeks later, he did it again, but this time when I turned around, I made a fist and used the full power of my arm and torso to slam it into his sternum.

The look on his face was priceless. I watched him try to breathe. I helped him to sit down in a chair and stood there and waited.

Once he could breathe, I leaned over and put my face up close to his and said “I warned you. You decided not to listen. If you ever do that to me again, I will bring you up on assault charges and the next time, you won’t be able to stand back up.”

I then went to HR and reported what had happened.

He quit a few weeks later.

Predators are patient and calculating. They take their time. They move in, slowly and intelligently. They are aware of everything around them and they know exactly what they are doing. I suppose some of them are bold, but maybe not all. I can’t say for sure, but it would not surprise me to learn that it’s true.

It’s not natural for an adult to want to tickle and play with children exclusively. It’s not right that they always want the child around, to sit on their lap, to always be rough housing with them. This is about extremes. This is about just a bit too much interest in your child. Trust me, as a person who doesn’t have children, unless we’re closely related, I don’t want your kid around if we’re hanging out. Shit, I don’t even want my relative’s children around too long. I love kids and I love having them around, but not the entire time.

I was fortunate that my parents didn’t care for this particular adult very much, so my exposure to him was limited but the one time he was alone with me, he pulled that shit. The tickling was torture AND HE KNEW IT. He knew damn well why I started to cry and would…not…stop. The more hysterical I became, the more he tickled. He only stopped when someone walked in.

Years later, his crimes and perversions were found out. I recall hearing of his death and I smiled.

I am far from an alarmist. I don’t go looking for problems where there aren’t any but I do pay attention to those around me. When I see children, I always make sure they are OK and someone is with them. But I always look to make sure. I look at them for a moment.

Of all the women I worked with in jail, the greatest number had been abused/molested as children and young adults. Many got into drugs. I can’t say that the reason is solely the abuse, but I can say that many of them resorted to drugs to escape and ironically, many became prostitutes to earn the money for the drugs and because they were “taught” at a young age that their only value was to sexually please men. That’s a tough one to “let go” and “walk away from.”

No one has the right to touch me unless I tell them they can.

No one has the right to determine what my emotions should be.

No one has the right to decide how I should look, act, or dress.

My point of view is this:

If you violate my physical body, one of two things will happen:

1) I’ll lay you out and you won’t be able to get up.
2) I’ll die in the attempt.

There are no other options.

“What do you mean I can’t be here?” I asked. All I wanted to do was take a class in auto mechanics. I had gotten my first car and figured it would be a good idea to learn how a car worked.

The High School teacher rolled his eyes and walked me to the door. “No, this class is only for boys. Besides, you’ll just be a distraction to them. Now run along and go to your Home Ed class,” he said and walked away and closed the door in my face.

I went to my school counselor and said I wanted to add a class to my schedule. When I told her which one, she laughed and shook her head.

“No, only boys can take that class,” she said and looked at my schedule. “You already have enough credits to graduate, so don’t worry about it. Now, aren’t you supposed to be in Home Ed? Hmmm? Now run along before you get in trouble,” she said and picked-up her phone and started dialing.

I walked to my Home Ed class and sat down. The teacher gave me a disapproving look. I didn’t care. She was right in the middle of teaching us how to make cookies. Cookies. What the hell did I care about cookies? I sat at a table with 3 other girls. They were giggling and talking about boys while they added the exact right amount of butter to the batter. I watched them for a while.

“Susan, what are you doing this weekend? Anything exciting?” one of them asked me.

I perked-up. “Yes. Jeff is going to show me how the brakes work on my car. Then he’s going to show me how to replace them…”

All 3 of them laughed. “What kind of a date is that? Good grief, why would you want to learn that? That’s for boys! Besides, there are mechanics for that,” one of the girls said.

Their giggling increased. I took the 2 raw eggs and threw them into the batter without cracking them open. They gasped and one grabbed the eggs and took them out. She held onto them protectively in case I decided to do it again. The girl stirring the batter moved the bowl closer to her and put her arm around it and sneered at me.

“You know what your problem is, Susan? You don’t understand how things work. You don’t accept your place. You’re not supposed to know how cars work because it doesn’t matter if you know or not. And if you’re going to date someone, do fun things instead of working on his car. Boys like feminine girls and getting all dirty and greasy is not feminine!” she said.

I took a handful of batter and threw it at her. It hit the bowl and she shoved her seat back and gasped.

I was soon back at my counselor’s office. Later, I was put with another group of girls in Home Ed. I graduated knowing how to bake cookies, how to keep brown sugar moist and a bunch of casseroles.

That summer, I applied for a job at a gas station. I still wanted to learn about cars and figured maybe I could while I pumped gas and cleaned windshields. This was in the day when we still had full service gas stations.

The manager laughed when I asked for an application. I felt my face turn red, but I didn’t budge. He looked me up and down and smiled.

“Nah, I don’t think so. I can’t have you pressing your titties against the windshield while you clean them.  You’ll only cause trouble for me. Go home and bake something instead,” he said.

“Give me the God damn application! You have to! It’s the law,” I said. I had no idea if it was the law or not. I was only 17 but it sure sounded good.

“Fine!,” he said and handed it to me. I sat down and began to fill it out. I knew he wasn’t going to hire me, but I felt like annoying him.

The application asked me about my periods and required intimate details. I sat back and thought. Since I wasn’t going to get the job, I decided to write down the most disgusting and gory details that I could. I finished it and handed it back to him.

I watched him read it.

I watched him cringe.

I smiled and walked out.

In college, my Sociology teacher told sexist jokes throughout each class. Most people laughed. I tried to be a good sport but I couldn’t do it any longer.

One day I raised my hand and waited for him to call on me.

“Yes?” he asked while he still laughed about the rape joke he had just told.

“What do these jokes have to do with the subject?” I asked. My voice shook a bit.

“You obviously don’t have a sense of humor,” he said and proceeded to carry-on with the subject.

“And you obviously are an asshole,” I said.

I, once again, was asked to leave class.

After the 3rd time he kicked me out, I dropped the class.

Over the years, so many have told me:

“You need to do something about your hair.”

“You need to lose/gain weight.”

“What’s wrong with you that you don’t have children?”

“You should do as your husband tells you.” This one always made me laugh.

“You should play hard to get. Don’t ever let a man know what you’re thinking.”

“Aren’t you just a bit too young/old to wear that? You should dress and act your age.”

“You can’t write, so don’t even try.”

“It’s up to you to keep a man. You know how they are…”

“You need to behave yourself and stop being so loud and vocal. It’s not ladylike.”

The list is endless.

Just because people say things, it doesn’t make it true.

It’s only true if you say so.

So, disagree…completely and go live your life.

Not theirs.

“Here’s to all of us!” Cheryl said and raised her glass to toast us.

Us. The four of us women who had somehow formed a friendship over the years. As our glasses clinked and as we continued to laugh, I felt happy. For a moment, all was right with the world.

I had known Cheryl for a long time. We had met at a business convention many years before. We each worked for a small business and began networking with each other. Soon we were helping each other and a friendship had formed over respect, hard work and a similar sick and twisted sense of humor.

I was there when she got divorced. I was there when she had to fight for child custody. I was there when she began to date again and I was there when it would all fall apart.

Kim was a woman I had met via Cheryl. She was her administrative assistant, but I always called her “Cheryl’s secretary” or “Cheryl’s bitch” just to annoy her and get her to laugh. She was younger than the two of us, single with two toddlers and worked as hard as Cheryl and I. I was often her comic relief for the day.

I had just recently met Lindsay a few months earlier. She had applied for a job at our office but we weren’t hiring at the time. She looked scared and desperate. I took her application and talked with her for a while and found out Cheryl had sent her our way. I felt bad that we didn’t have anything for her, but she accepted the rejection gracefully.

We were celebrating tonight. As hard as our lives had become, we decided it was time to get away from everyone and have some fun. We were all overdue for a girl’s night out and I felt my spirits lift as soon as I sat down to dinner with them. I had been the last one to arrive, so I sat back and sipped my wine while they all got me caught-up on the latest gossip and shenanigans.

When it was time to leave, we all regretted having to go back to our lives but knew it was a necessary evil. But being able to step off the planet for a few hours had done us all a world of good.

As we were walking down the street towards the parking lot, two young men were walking towards us. We were still talking and laughing. I wasn’t paying any attention until Cheryl stopped.

They were blocking our way. I looked up and stopped. I thought maybe Cheryl knew them.

“You!” said the man on the left as he pointed to Cheryl. “You, I’d do in a hear beat,” he said. His friend laughed.

He looked at the rest of us. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but before I could figure it out, he pointed to me and said “You’re the second one I’d do, so you’re passable. You’re totally fuckable.”

We were confused and looked at each other. I felt my face turn red and my hackles rise. I pulled on Cheryl’s arm and motioned for the other two to follow.

As we walked past, he pointed to Kim and said “You’re not very pretty, but if I was drunk enough, I don’t think I’d mind.”

Kim stopped for a moment. I reached over and grabbed her hand and pulled her away. It was late and the street was dark and deserted. We had a block to walk before getting to the parking lot.

As Lindsay walked past, he stopped her. His friend just chuckled the entire time, nodding his head up and down in agreement.

“You’d I’d throw back. You’re fat, ugly and I bet you haven’t gotten laid in years,” he said and laughed harder.

That did it. Both Cheryl and I looked at each other. For a brief nano-second, we understood each other. We both walked over to Lindsay. I grabbed her hand and pulled her away. I saw the tears in her eyes. As I was walking away, Cheryl pulled her pepper spray out of her purse and sprayed it on the man’s face.

The screaming was a pleasant sound. So was the sound of his friend running down the street.

Cheryl calmly put her pepper spray back in her purse and walked away. We followed.

When we got to our cars, we weren’t sure whether or not to laugh or cry. I was shaking and decided if anyone asked me about it, I would play dumb. “I don’t know nuthin ’bout no pepper spray” was going to be my story if anyone asked.

Lindsay was crying. His words hurt her badly. She was sensitive about her weight.

But we were celebrating the weight she had gained because she had survived cancer. She was well again, eating and for the first time in a year, not only had she stopped losing weight, she was putting it back on.

We tried to lift each others spirits, attributed the cruelty to the meanness of some people, but no matter how hard we tried to talk ourselves out of it, the severe judgement of one mans opinion of our looks and sexual appeal cut deep.

Yes, I admit it cut deep for a moment and that pissed me off. Who was this stranger, this nobody, that thought he had the right to arrogantly decide that our value was based on our sex appeal?

He was nobody, that’s what he was.

There are plenty of nobody’s around. Every article that tells you how to be. Every ad that shows you what else you need do or buy to be more appealing. Every TV show that shoves “the ideal woman” in your face. Every movie that has the beautiful woman in high heels, saving the planet and still able to keep her make-up smudge free.

These are all written by nobody’s and as long as you say they are correct….they are.

I disagree completely.

We are all good enough just as we are.

I started carrying pepper spray after that…