Me & My Pussy

As a young teenager, my playmate was my grandfather, my mother’s stepfather, who came to live with us when my grandmother died.  He lived in the basement of our chalet on the pond, a house that my dad and his friend Reme built so that we could all finally live together.  The “we” had not included my grandfather at the time of the building but one of those times when Grammy called drunk and said she was dying, it was true.  She did.  And so my parents made a bedroom and a living room and a bathroom downstairs that belonged to Grampa   

He worked at my high school as a janitor and drank the rest of the time.  

At first, when we found out he was coming to live with us, I was happy.  I loved him as long as I remembered.  He’d treated me kindly, bought me candy, took me to the beach and let me ride with him in his tractor trailer truck.  I felt special with him and, with the exception of accepting money from Tommy Lombard for the baseball of mine he whacked out of the yard and lost (we don’t need other people’s money, his face red and disapproving) I’d never made him angry.  He and my grandmother were kind to me.  And they were fun as in we did not have a bedtime with them and we could basically eat whatever we wanted and we could swim even if we had just eaten.  They fought a lot with each other but it did not seem to make a difference in how they were with me.

After my grandmother died, he stopped driving a truck.  I think something may have happened involving him and drinking and his rig but I can’t be sure.  I just know that he showed up at our house in Vermont without it and started the cleaning job shortly after.  And we started going to the drive in.

All of this is a lead up to tell you that he became a pussy grabber and I became a drunk.  I also became ashamed of myself and my pussy.  And my grandfather.  

He eventually found another woman and moved away to live with her.  Some years later he developed a palsy that lived primarily in the left side of his face.  I drove to New Hampshire to visit him but while I tried to carry on a conversation it was nearly impossible for me to feel him actually being there.  Dirty drool leaked from the left corner of his mouth, leaving a shiny path along the crack down his chin.  He asked me to sit by him and as much as I didn’t want to, I did it.  He reached his mottled hand to my knee and, while I do not doubt he simply meant to rest it there, I seized up on the inside and do not remember the rest of the visit.  I did not go back to see him again before he died and when I heard he was gone, I felt nothing.

And that’s the thing about pussy grabbers.  They’re only powerful in that they make us feel bad about ourselves and nothing for them.  I had loved him for his kindness and generosity and his happy red face and his big truck.  In the end he meant nothing to me and I had a lot of work to do to find what I meant to myself.          

 

Enough by Kristin MacKenzie

When I was ten years old, my parents divorced and I and my siblings spent the next year living with my grandparents on the farm with our cousins. All five of us slept in a newly built addition on an unheated second floor, three bedrooms and a long, drafty attic where my eldest cousin slept in a space of her own; the boys had one room and my sister and I shared another. The third room was reserved for my uncle who visited frequently. The main house below was the old, original structure: kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom and furnace room with a covered porch connected to it where the woodpile was kept. Broken windowpanes let the wind in and bark covered the floor around the carefully stacked firewood, but the furnace room door was strong and thick and the warmth of the big black stove kept the cold away. The hallway outside the furnace room and the bathroom that opened up off of it were the warmest places in the house, but dark, and I, at ten, was still afraid of the dark. When Christmas came, my mother brought her new boyfriend to stay for the holiday, making their bed in the living room on the fold-up sofa. He was in construction and had wide rough hands and barrel-chest, a beard and balding head. Before dinner dishes were washed and bedtime stories were read, I’d felt his hands more than once, resting on my shoulders and sliding down my back, heavy and insistent. I went to bed feeling sick and uneasy and woke in the middle of the night, needing the bathroom and dreading the dark. Go by yourself,” my sister hissed from under the covers on her side of the room when I woke her, asking for help. She turned back over, falling to sleep again immediately but the pressure on my bladder wouldn’t allow me to do the same. I know I counted the wooden stairs under my feet as I made my way in the dark, thirteen steps and the last one onto the carpeted floor and into the narrow passage through the kitchen. There was no nightlight to mark the way to the bathroom, and no sounds from the rest of the house. I know the dark there was warm, but I don’t remember that. I remember hands from behind. I remember the feeling of wind and the broken quality of light through the windowpanes of the covered porch. But that’s all. I woke up with my pink Sleeping Beauty pajamas, buttons up the back, fastened wrong, gapping, and a pain between my legs. When I saw my mother’s boyfriend standing next to the table, watching me, my legs started to shake and my stomach wanted to empty out, even though there was nothing in it yet. By the next day, when I went to the bathroom it felt like fire coming out, more pain that made little sense to me. I tried to explain to my mother, to my grandma, but there wasn’t anything I could explain. Just dark and cold and hands I didn’t see coming and pain that was beginning to feel shameful the more I tried to explain and to ask my own questions. There still aren’t any answers. When the same thing happened five years later with another boyfriend over another holiday weekend, more darkness and pain and confusion, I stopped explaining and left home, moving across the state to live with my cousins again in a home where no boyfriends visited. I don’t know what to call my experiences and likely won’t ever fully understand why my mind has them locked up where I can’t reach them but I’ve found a peace with what I can’t know about those nights. I know who I am and how to find warmth and safety and the kind of love that doesn’t press down on me or fragment my memories. And for now, this is enough.

Power to the Pussy by Nancy Coleman

Do I like this prompt?

Not at all.

Couldn’t we call it something else, say all my ancestor women - all of them dressed for church in white gloves and plain cotton underwear- do you have to be so coarse?

I am this ready to blame the woman who brings the message.

And almost equally ready to let the man slide, back off the bus at the next stop, his hands and his cock humming with delicious prowess, with new life. It doesn’t matter that this life he feels is stolen. It doesn’t matter that by the end of his not-enough bullshit day he will need to steal it again. Another pussy. Another ass. Another sweet current of electric ladyland conquest, unconsequential. I could almost let him off the hook. This is what I would prefer to do really. There is nothing to be gained from blowing that particular whistle.

Except for the young woman, a girl really, who stands frozen in shame and defeat. She has not moved from that crowded streetcar in 46 years.

While I would like to think I am so much older and wiser now, so much more competent and confident, what gives me momentary comfort is not that I know I would turn around and call him on his abuse should that happen now. No. Now I comfort myself secretly with the promise that I’m old enough that no one will be interested. I do this when I’m afraid on a city street at night, when I’m walking alone on the town common land and see a man walking toward me, when I’m in a tent in a family campground, alone. There were years when I believed I could outrun him; as I circled the Central Park running loop and he stood in the weak shade of a tree closest to the trail showing me his pale skinny dick, I could almost laugh. I don’t have that beautiful muscled arrogance now, but I have age. He’s not looking at me, I say to myself.  

I should have turned around, at least, I should have shouted something.

It’s branding, you see.

This is why it feels the way it does, hot, wrong, shameful.

Because he knows he can grab and rub and knead your flesh when he decides it’s time. He knows you are held down by stronger arms than his – the rules, propriety, politeness, empathy. He wants to claim this piece of you, and he can. You will not move, and you will not say anything. He will walk away feeling a hot mixture of strong, and you will carry his mark forever.

After the reveals of the presidential candidate’s blatant sexism and predation, one of my dearest friends confessed in an almost-whisper to me, “I know men who talk like this…”. “I don’t say anything,” he said, “because, well…” We were walking by our beautiful autumn river, I nodded and said, “yeah, I know..”

Of course I know. We all know this. We all nod and we don’t say anything because, “you know…”

We are all branded. This is how the horrors are passed on to child after child, woman, girl, boy, man, every generation, every tribe. Like this:

Honey, he’s just kidding.

Did he want something from you that you couldn’t give him?

 I’m sure it wasn’t what you thought.

You have to understand, he (has a hard life, is upset about work, is worried about you, is drunk, loves you)

But really, don’t say pussy, it’s not nice.

(silence)

So for today, one small piece of reclamation from centuries of shame. Imagine this: I am that glorious and frightened young woman on the streetcar, and I am the woman who stands up for her and says, “get your hands off her. Now. There is nothing of her that belongs to you.” I blow that whistle, and every other woman and several of the men pick up their whistles and blow them too, and it sounds like crazy music we are making, the sound of pussy, free and fertile and proud, as it should be.

 

Response to Occupy Pussy Writing Rally by Anonymous

Thank you for writing “For Women to Matter.” My stomach stuck in my throat as I read "It happened on my flight back back to London last Sunday.” I was relieved. I smiled. I cheered. I felt the same ire.

I hate the word “pussy,” the sound of it, the derision, all of it. I was taken aback when I read it and was yet somehow pulled in by the rawness. It was compelling. I couldn’t turn away from the way you were telling the truth of what we have all experienced.

Recently, I was at a girls’ night out party and I was saying to the host’s husband that they had a beautiful home. He said, “Oh it goes on and on. Would you like a tour of the bedroom?” Even now, as I write that, I am stunned at my obtuseness. 

I remember feeling afraid and clamoring a little inside my head as to how to veer off or change what was happening. I saw one of my good friends in my peripheral and thought of saying, “hey come on…” but it was all happening too fast. 

I kept a wide berth as he showed me around. I kept/keep telling myself it was innocent, so I continued taking small steps into danger. Peeking past him into a walk in closet. Letting him be between me and the door in the bathroom. God, what was I thinking?!

Later my friend half asked, half joked about my tour. 

I sort of put it out of my mind until I read your piece and I realized it had done something to me. Like a small sliver of fiberglass in your finger, you can’t see it and can only feel it at certain angles. You put tape on it so it won’t affect your grip, but it still does. You scrape it with a knife, trying to remove the invisible, but it’s still there.

I texted my friend after I read your piece and the night came back with more foolish clarity. 

“I meant to tell you later that I was scared. That I thought for a brief moment of asking you to come with. That I wondered what I would do if something happened, however small, and how it could change everything: me, our group of friends. I was nervous and relieved when I came out the same as I went in.”

But the truth is we never walk out of those things the same. They leave their mark. I’m not sure what I would have done with that night if I hadn’t read your post, but I’m glad you wrote it, and with such unflinching fire.

Beautifully and boldly done!

For Women to Matter

At first, it was just another one of his -isms.  Then I really started thinking about it.  How many times in my life have I literally and figuratively been ‘grabbed by the pussy’?  Off the top of my head I can count at least four times.  By men both known and unknown to me.  Men I trusted and knew and men I didn’t.  What I cannot count is how many times I have not felt safe in my body.  And yet, nothing has actually “happened” to me.  

Let me pause here.  

The above was written about a week ago.  What followed was a piece in which I listed all the different ways I’ve been figuratively and literally “grabbed by the pussy.”  I wrote it, read it, edited it and rewrote it.  Over and over.  I didn’t know I need to write it but once it was written, I was surprised by my own near-desperate need to rant.  In the piece, I wrote about how it’s 2016 and women are still tolerating this.  I wrote about how, like my mother says, when it comes to mens’ behavior, we get what we tolerate.  When I was finished writing, or maybe I should say, when I exhausted myself of the subject matter, I set it aside for a week.  I let it sit.  I almost let it go.  

But somewhere in that week of sitting, two things came flying back to hit me in the face.  The first: my own victim mentality.  To assume that ‘pussy grabbing’ happens to us because we, as females, tolerate it?  Wherever did I get that idea?  That is certainly not what my mother meant.  What she meant is that we do not have to tolerate a damn thing we don’t please.  And it’s certainly not my fault or your fault or anyone’s fault other than the person who commits the offense.  See, this is the problem with this problem: it is self-perpetuating only because boys will be boys and girls will be girls.  Women have assumed too much responsibility for too long.  We tend to do that.  We’re used to it.   

The second thing that came flying back at me?  It was the thing that convinced me not to let this one go.  

It happened on my flight back back to London last Sunday.  I sat across the aisle from a group of drunk English men returning from Eastern Europe.  “We’ve been drinking whiskey all day!”  They boasted to no one in particular when boarding.  Mid-flight when a mother and her toddler walked down the aisle and one of the drunks accidentally whacked the toddler on the head, he was horrified and slurred apologies profusely.  Ten minutes later the pretty flight attendant walked by collecting trash said, “Are you finished already?” One of them hollered in response, “Nah, he lasts a long time, don’t worry…”  

My blood pressure spiked.  I’m sick and tired of men behaving like this and getting away with it.  Yeah yeah, I get it, they were stupid and drunk.  But even drunk people know right from wrong.  Smacking a baby in the head is not okay.  So why is it okay to yell rude, lewd sexual comments at a woman bringing you a continual supply of beer?  To answer this question, here again I am fighting the temptation to blame the flight attendant for not speaking up herself.  While I'm also berating myself for not speaking up, I'm forgetting about all the perfectly respectable sober men sitting right there who also, like me, did nothing.  This is not about what we’re doing wrong as females because we aren’t doing anything wrong.  It’s almost not really even about boys behaving badly anymore.  It's about collective responsibility; who is and who isn't assuming their part.  

No wonder women are tired.  Tired of hearing about this and tired of living it.  And yet, again, for me personally, nothing has actually “happened.”  Nothing except, now that I think about it, my whole adult life has revolved around the fact that I am deeply frustrated by not just a patriarchal culture but the deep-seated idea (make whatever pun you will of it) that because I have a vagina my life is somehow subtly marginalized.  That’s a nice way of saying that because I don’t have a cock, I’m the one who must give up her career, her dreams, her job, her opinion; I’m the one who — when she gets knocked up has the man tell her, “I’ll support you but you’ll be doing this 90% on your own.”  How long have we been like this?  On our own?  I can’t think of one man in my life, gay, straight or otherwise who stands up or speaks out for womens’ rights.  

It takes every ounce of strength for me not to erase that last sentence.  Why?  It makes me feel guilty—no, ashamed.  As though perhaps that’s MY fault for not knowing enough brave men or men brave enough or simply one single man who can be bothered enough to speak up for women.  That is, for me.  For my sisters.  For my beautiful, brave, inspiring female friends who are mothers, teachers, therapists, artists, caretakers.      

When I started becoming more involved with the LGBT community, an entire universe unveiled itself to me.  I had no idea what the LGBT community had been going through.  How I did not know they were and still are being treated poorly and unfairly is simple: I’m not LGBT.  

It’s in this way that I can sympathize with the straight male.  How could the average man have any idea of what it’s like to go through their lives as though their genitalia were potentially up for grabs.  What it’s like to stand on the bus and wonder if any of those people — bigger, stronger, faster than them — might want to do something with their body that they do not want done to them.  What if men wondered more often: does this person respect me?  Here and now and behind my back?  Is my coworker of the opposite sex who is less experienced, less skilled and less senior being paid more than me?  

It’s not their fault men are clueless as to what it feels like to be cornered in a dark room by someone three times their size and weight.  I am not blaming, I’m sympathizing.  Why?  Because that’s what women do.  We’re wired that way.  Sympathy however, can only go so far.  We have to start taking care of ourselves.  No one’s going to do it for us.  My mother taught me that, too.  And so maybe now is the time we will, for once, stop taking care of everyone but ourselves.   

((SIDE NOTE: In Japan male public officials are walking around wearing pregnant suits, learning what it feels like to be pregnant: on a bus, at the supermarket, hanging laundry.  This is a good start.  And there should be more exercises in female-oriented compassion.  Imagine Donald Trump in a pregnant suit.  Now there’s a pig flying if I ever saw one.))  

I am not an angry person but I wake up fiery these days.  Something inside me smolders when I read the news, I fume when I read Facebook.  All before I even have coffee.  I read this morning that the American Psychological Association has tips for coping with this campaign.  I didn’t read the tips but catch myself wondering if they involve punching.  

A few months ago when I was feeling really zen, I was thinking about why it is that Trump came to be where he is, running for president.  Not why in the logical or practical sense but more in the, ‘what does this have to do with the emotional evolution of the human race?’ sense.  I asked myself: for as much as I don’t like the guy, in what ways am I exactly like him, intolerant, ignorant and hateful?  Perhaps his uninvited arrival into our waking world is a nightmarish calling of sorts: to take a good inner glimpse of our own personal Trump(s).  But that was a few months ago.  And well, the zen ship has sailed. 

Nevertheless, I am grateful to The Donald.  If it weren’t for his foul mouth and ill-will towards women, politics would have never been this personal.  I am not looking to make peace.  Not right now.  That can come later.  Right now, what I want is for women to matter.  I want black, yellow, orange, brown and refugee lives to matter; LGBT equality; gun control.  And if that means I have to rage, well, watch me.  Read me.  Hear me.  Better yet, join me.