This starts with a family legend of how Flanagan women throw up on dates and ends with how you should vote today. Walk with me for a minute…
Back in ancient times, the third date was the make or break date. Your first date jitters are done, you’ve tested the waters of the second date, and the third date is when you’ve got to decide if you’re diving in or ducking out. The stakes were high when my mom agreed to a third date with this guy she had known for like, ever.
Unlucky for her, she got carsick on the drive home and had to force her suitor to pull over so she could ralph on the side of the road instead of all over his shiny car. Luckily, that guy was still so into her that even a little vom didn’t keep him from asking her out again and again and again. That dude is my dad and they’ve been married for almost 30 years.
The tradition is still alive and well when we swiped our Movie Passes (R.I.P.) and settled in to watch Eighth Grade. I expected it to be an awkward movie, because you can’t think about middle school without cringing. What I didn’t expect was to find so much of myself in the main character that I physically felt what she felt.
There is a scene in the movie where this girl is trapped in a car with an older boy who acts like he is a predator and she is his prey. My heart raced, my mouth became too dry, I leaned over and thought, “I think I might throw up.” The movie ended soon after and the fresh air from that summer evening kept me from vomming into my date’s popcorn tub in the middle of a Regal Cinemas.
The queasiness triggered by that movie scene in the car is the same nausea I felt watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford tell her story of sexual assault on national television is the same spinny remembering of my own experiences with different outcomes than these girls (thank God) but with the same feeling of being so small and trapped and afraid.
The last few weeks have been hard.
It was heartbreaking to watch this accomplished, poised, smart, courageous woman not be able to mask her 15-year-old self’s terror every time her voice quivered during her story. I believe her. I believe she was the butt of the joke of two stupid teenage boys. I believe she carried this trauma with her for years. I believe that she did her best to speak up without the circus. I believe her because even if we have different experiences, I am her.
The world we live in requires women – or anyone who is marginalized for that matter – to sit down, stay calm, smile pretty and play nice EVEN THOUGH it’s okay for the ones in power to be loud, yell, and scream about what they believe to be an injustice. It will say “Shame on you for making up stories that defame good men!” EVEN THOUGH you tried to play by their rules by coming forward in anonymity just to be ignored ignored ignored until it was already too late. We are expected to put on a brave face and come forward when wrong things happen to us, EVEN THOUGH we will be dismissed. EVEN THOUGH no change will actually happen. EVEN THOUGH we remember every detail, sound, face from that day that changed our life forever EVEN THOUGH it was just an average day in a calendar for everyone else involved.
And so being a woman makes me tired.
It seems pointless to think that the outcome of all of these sexual harassment stories will be different than the same cycle of coming forward only to be made the enemy for someone else’s sin. It’s exhausting to keep explaining to coworkers why certain jokes aren’t funny. I am tired of looking over my shoulder and locking my car doors and running without headphones and being told I’m “not fun” at company events for the sake of my own personal safety. Because I’m really fun. And I like listening to music when I run. But I am tired.
After watching the Kavanaugh Hearings all I wanted was to take a nap. I was swaddled in a blanket and was just about to drift into a light snooze when it came back to me:
Taking her by the hand, Jesus said “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!”) // Mark 5:41 ESV
In the middle of my tired submission to the way things are, Jesus says to me, “Honey. Take my hand. It’s time to get up.”
And this Jesus – this low-income, refugee Son of Man born to an unwed, teenage mother with no access to proper healthcare grew up to be a brown man who was murdered as an enemy of the state for daring to love thy neighbor – is who informs who I give power to in this democracy I find myself in.
If you are a girl who was wronged for the sake of someone else’s pleasure, joke, or bonding experience, then I am so sorry. I know how tired you are. I know that it is easier to fall asleep to your trauma and deal with the weight of it in flashes while the world keeps spinning. I know it seems too big on some days, and on others you want to squash it so small that it doesn’t make you feel at all.
But girl, it’s time to get up.
This might look like seeking out trauma counseling. It might be as simple as putting on pants today. For me, getting up looks like voting. Opting out of participating in democracy because it’s easier to remove yourself from the conversation is just another way to remain asleep to everyone else’s pain. Stop numbing. Get up.
Awaken, love. Getting up out of our safe, warm blanket cocoon isn’t comfortable. It’s disorienting at first and it’s cold out there. But still you rub your eyes and arise, because the world needs your voice. It needs your perspective and experience. You matter here, no matter what the actions of others say. And no matter what happens, we’ll still wake up on November 7th and try again.