Month: November 2016

Even When Dad Was Dying, We Kept Laughing

I am one of the lucky ones whose parents, through a combination of good genes and good living and good luck, were still around when I was in my 40s. When I thought about losing either one of them, which I did rarely and fleetingly, I pictured myself sobbing next to a hospital bed, drained faces, the gaping abyss that would come with the loss of someone who had loved me unconditionally from my first breath. Then my dad got sick in June this year and died in July. And I realized I’d left out an important facet of the process of losing them: laughter. Admittedly, mine is a family where a quick wit was prized and prodded to higher purpose. A sense of humor was as important growing up in my home as was the ability to work hard, tell the truth and clean the rabbit cage without being nagged to do it. I don’t believe we were special that way; the proprietary humor that can thrive between family members is part of the …

Grief and Gratitude: Knowing Nannie Was Worth the Pain of Losing Her

In early 2007, we sat around my Aunt Mary’s dining room table talking about ways we could celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. Nannie was turning 80, and though she referred to her contemporaries around town as “the old folks,” she in no way considered herself one of them. She’d still have been driving (like a bat outta hell) if her last hip surgery for a degenerative condition hadn’t significantly weakened her pedal-pushing leg. Las Vegas came up. We sipped coffee—my aunt, my mom, my cousin Erica, Nannie and I—as we imagined a glitzy adventure littered with Elvis impersonators, convertible Caddies, big winnings, free booze and overflowing buffets. We envisioned ourselves road-tripping cross-country to party in Vegas. The things we’d do, the people we’d meet. It was even suggested that Wilhelmina might come out of retirement—Wilhelmina being my grandmother’s vagina. Come November, just 45 days before anyone could assess the fire hazard of shoving 80 candles on a cake, my grandmother left this life. That night, I laid down in her bed and slept for close to 24 …

Rings to Remember: The Art of Mourning Jewelry

When I was 10 years old, my parents gave me a copy of Gone With the Wind as a birthday present. While I didn’t understand it all, one of the many things that stuck out in my mind from the book was the concept of mourning. I learned that in Scarlett O’Hara’s world, society had strict rules to follow about behavior and attire after the loss of a family member. In just a few chapters, Scarlett goes from 16-year-old flirt to widow, and, as society dictated, being a widow she wore a long veil and black, eschewing social activities in observance of her loss. While these strict customs have mostly faded, one physical relic that remains from that time is the jewelry. Called mourning jewelry — also referred to as memento mori jewelry — these pieces commemorate the death of a loved one and serve to remind us that death will come for us too. As an antique jewelry enthusiast, I have seen many mourning pieces over the years. While I appreciated them as historical …

The Life and Death of Roses

There is a dead rose in a vase on our dining room table. “It needs more water, Mommy,” says my eight-year-old daughter. “It’s dead,” says my husband, looking up from his breakfast. “What can we do?” asks my daughter. “Throw it out,” says my husband, who goes back to eating. “No, I don’t want it to be dead!” My daughter looks at me pleadingly, and I feel another gentle lecture coming on about life and death and dead flowers being a natural part of the whole process. * * * The first time I realized that there was something dying inside of me was in my mid-40s, in the checkout line at the wine section of my grocery store. When I got up to the counter to pay, I looked up at the attractive young man at the cash register and smiled. Then he called me “Ma’am.” My age was staring me in the face, in the blank look of an attractive, young man who was simply taking my money, unmoved by my smile. I …

I’m Muslim. Don’t Tell Me It Will All Be Okay

The day after the election, I woke up crying. Not really sobbing — I just had a steady stream of tears rolling down my face. I was sad and incredibly disappointed. I pulled myself together, got my son his breakfast and then stopped, remembered, and the tears started again. I started working, and that’s when my phone started buzzing with texts all day: “thinking of you” or “I love you” or “are you ok?” and the tears would fall once again. I hopped on conference calls and someone would start the call innocently, “How’s your day?” And I couldn’t even lie: “Honestly, I’m not good today,” and we’d spend the first 10 minutes talking about what the eff just happened. It was a hard, sad day that left me heartbroken. I’m a Muslim, and half of this country doesn’t want me here. It doesn’t matter that I was born here or that I’m sixth-generation American. It doesn’t matter that no matter the linage we’re all AMERICAN, whether by birth or because we came here and became …

Margit’s Note: My Mourning List

After rolling out of bed every morning, I shuffle to a particular spot on my living room rug, take a few deep breaths, set my intentions for the day and then mentally list the names of the people I miss and mourn: grandparents, aunts and uncles, half a dozen pets, lost friends, parents of friends, a few people I never knew personally but left an indelible mark (this year, it was Sharon, Bowie, Prince, Leonard). These are people I just don’t want to forget. I gather them up and sort of hoard them in my head. Each time someone I love (or someone I love loves) dies, they get added to my morning/ mourning list. I once told my 70-something mom about this routine, and she laughed, “Oh, that list is going to get unmanageably long.” That may be. But, for now, it keeps their spirits alive. And, in fact, a few of them now have a job to do. Several years ago, I was dealing with some sort of pressing decision about work while walking …

Post-Election Do’s and Don’ts: Everyday Tips to Be a Better Human

DO: Engage in conversations, even if they’re difficult. Be mindful of your spending; vote with your dollar. Have coffee or share a meal with someone who you think is different from you. If you see someone being harassed, use your privilege to protect them. Do your own research by reading independent journalists and non-mainstream media. Speak up. Document hate crimes and hate speech. Make an effort to smile at someone; it could turn their day around and make them feel less lonely. Educate yourself on issues of racial justice. Challenge your thinking and behavior. Amplify voices that may not be mainstream. Be mindful in your consumption. Get to know your neighbors. Build your local community. — Suzan Bond and Kia M. Ruiz. Suzan Bond is a Fast Company contributor and the founder of Bet On Yourself, which supports independent internet creators through business, marketing, and branding strategy.  Kia M. Ruiz is a environmental and consumer resource consultant. You can read more of her writing at Bodhibear.net.   DON’T: Assume that you can pick up stakes and move to Canada. Or New Zealand. Or anywhere else. If you’re serious about becoming an expat, form a logical plan and know that …

Teaching Your Children Empathy: 15 Resources for Parents and Guardians

The 2016 presidential election made one thing clear: Empathy is sorely lacking in our society. Empathy, like racism, sexism, prejudice and bigotry, is learned at home. Here is a short list of ways you can teach your child to love, respect and value those who do not look or act like her.  1. Go beyond a play date. It’s easy to look inclusive when meeting at a neutral location but actually take an interest in your child’s ethnically or religiously diverse classmates. Hang out at their home or in their neighborhood and see how they live. More from Urban Moms NYC.  2. Be a good sport. Talk with your children about what a good sportsman looks like. More from KidsHealth.org. 3. Go help someone. The holiday season is around the corner. Invite a neighbor or classmate over for dinner. Deliver meals to boys and girls clubs, senior living facilities, then stay and engage with them. Show your kids how to shine their light on others. More from Volunteer Match. 4. Failure is your friend. It builds character, teaches humility and resilience. Encourage your child to make mistakes. More from Business …

Self Care Tips When You Are Utterly Devastated

  Karrie Myers Taylor is a San Francisco-based “self-care coach” who helps people find the time to eat healthy, get balanced and learn how to take better care of themselves. Here she offers 15 tips to heal our post-election blues. Practice forgiving… yourself: Trump did not become President because you didn’t know enough or didn’t do enough about the presidential campaign.  Learn how to forgive yourself and move on.  Here’s a great book to get you started: How To Forgive Ourselves Totally: Begin Again by Breaking Free from Past Mistakes Turn off negative media: Choose two media sites that you trust and only read those.  Quietly stop following the Facebook feeds of friends and family who are sharing inciting media on their pages. Medicinal baths & body brushes: Take 30 minutes a week to soak in a steaming hot bath to get some clarity.  Add some magnesium flakes and essential oil, and be sure to dry brush your body with a natural fiber dry brush before you step in the tub; it will get rid of all that negative media residue. Set boundaries around what …

Healing Arts: In Troubled Times, Artists & Galleries to Support

There is so much happening inside of me as I question everything in the wake of this election’s results, myself and my work included. I’ve been letting the anger that comes fuel my productivity into asking those questions, researching answers and writing out an action plan. I’ve been using the grief that swallows me up to focus on taking care of myself as I process all I’m experiencing. There are so many unknowns ahead but what I do know is that I have my art, and I can use it in the service of others. I know I can use it as a way to keep speaking out, keep disrupting, keep connecting these issues to people in a way that pierces through their defenses. I have art. It has been what’s held me this week and steadied my resolve to keep fighting and standing up against hate. So I thought I’d share with you a list of the artists I personally follow and am inspired by on a daily basis. Their work challenges and informs …

14 Ways to Be an Ally Right Now

The physical and emotional well being of our friends and families require that we show up. This means leveraging our privilege, should it come in the form of religion, class, gender, race, etc., to fight against the tide of awfulness that’s coming. Here are some ways to do it: 1. Walk folks who have been specifically targeted by Trump (Muslims, Latinos, etc) home. This form is for New Yorkers who are willing to accompany their neighbors on their commute in light of recent harassment and threats toward people of color, LGBTQ folks, and Muslims. 2. Diversify your media consumption. If everyone you follow on Twitter is white and straight, and if you’re getting all your news from CNN, you’re doing it wrong. 3. Do not dismiss or diminish people’s fear. People are not overreacting, and it’s not your job to tell them to be positive. 4. Distribute information to other allies so targeted folks don’t have more work to do. 5. Make yourself available to friends who need help/support securing a passport, going to the doctor, and other things …

Vital Organizations That Need Your Help After the 2016 Election

We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch as our country sways in a direction few of us desire. As an entrepreneur and a woman who runs a consultancy focusing on social good and corporate responsibility, I personally know that we can all make a difference. And no, you don’t need to be wealthy to support those causes near and dear. Even small donations can make a HUGE difference to NGOs and advocacy groups. And if you cannot part with funds at this time, you can volunteer your time, sign petitions, share on your various social channels and certainly pick up the phone and contact your legislative leaders. Here are some vital organizations that could use a boost given the new political era we are entering. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but ones to spark ideas and get your creativity flowing. 1. Help stop hate speech and actions via The Southern Poverty Law Center. 2. Become an abortion clinic escort. Having had to cross a picket line 27 years ago when I …

Events, Rallies and Parties for Change: A Nationwide List

As thousands of demonstrators across America react to the election of Donald Trump, many of us will continue to look for ways to effect change, protest and find solidarity, comfort and inspiration in one another.  From rallies and marches to vigils and brainstorming meetings, hundreds of events are being planned for people to gather and make our voices heard.  Here is a sampling of events scheduled around the country in the days and weeks ahead. Be sure to confirm details and keep checking your social media feeds, local news outlets, community centers and places of worship.  The “secret” Facebook group Pantsuit Nation has a comprehensive list of events. We’ll be updating this list from time to time.   Wednesday, December 14 New York, NY–Young Women and Political America, with Susannah Wellford The Comaraderie NYC brings together an evening with Susannah Wellford, president and founder of Running Start, a Washington DC based non-partisan organization working to bring women to the forefront of the political landscape. Wellford will discuss “a broad range of information covering the workings of political America, …

Wait! Before You Unfollow Everybody…

Maybe you’re sick of social media at this point. We get it. We’ve been unfollowing friends from high school left and right. It’s hard to navigate the need to stay engaged and focused, and our need to take care of our psyches. It’s my job to be on social media all day long. Intermittent breaks aren’t just necessary, they’re mandatory. But when I come back to the screen, there are certain people and pages I follow to keep challenging my own beliefs, point me toward helping to change the future, and give me a much needed laugh — occasionally all at the same time. Here’s a short list of the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that keep us going in these dark days. Facebook: Periods for Politicians Formerly Periods for Pence: P4P organizes direct contact campaigns with a focus on reproductive justice awareness. You want to legislate my body? You’d better know how it works! Pantsuit Nation: This started as a private group in the week before the election to show broad support for HRC. It now …

Here’s Your Protest Playlist: 11 Songs to Fight the Power

One of the things we love about music is its power to tap straight into the emotions you need to feel and get out, the ones that defy words and logic. This week saw me put in my earbuds and walk and walk and walk, finding messages in every song I heard that helped me process shock, disappointment and fear. I’m trying to be ready to move on. And if you are too, I’m sharing a list of inspirational protest songs to fuel you for the hard work ahead of us. What would you add to the list? “Can’t You Tell?”  — Aimee Mann In the run up to this election, Dave Eggers’ 30 Days, 30 Songs project saw artists released 30 songs in the days leading up to Election Day, “united in our desire to speak out against the ignorant, divisive, and hateful campaign of Donald Trump.” It’s no longer a campaign but a presidency, which just makes the need for creative protest and creative community more urgent. I mean, as Aimee Mann notes, it’s not like …

Your Post-Election Checklist for Taking Action, Taking Care and Dealing with Your Feelings

It’s only been a week. And yet, here we are. After the 2016 presidential election results we find ourselves distraught, depressed and still in shock. When we feel this confused and despondent, we here at TueNight like to ground ourselves in lists, action items and game plans. What can we do to help? What’s next in the fight? Where can we go to find peace? How can we help our kids? How can we make sure we’re being good allies and opening up our hearts and minds? To that end, we enlisted our TueNight crew and friends to compile a massive checklist of everything we might need right this very minute. It’s a very special edition of TueNight that we hope will both mobilize you and give you some peace. Clip-n-Save… Self-Care Tips When You Are Utterly Devastated — Karrie Myers Taylor Post-Election Do’s and Don’ts: Everyday Tips to Be a Better Human — Suzan Bond, Kia M. Ruiz, Madeleine Deliee Events, Rallies and Parties for Change: A Nationwide List — Gina Zucker 14 Ways to Be an Ally Right …

How to Throw a Party for Your Pussy

I want to talk about sex. Though my friends will tell you I always want to talk about sex. Anyway, my freshman year in college, I went to a fraternity party and met many people, both male and female, who would go on to become my dear friends. I also met a really good-looking guy who caught my attention; he was shy and yet, once engaged, very direct and smart. I ended up upstairs with him in his loft bed, peeling out of my Norma Kamali snap-front dress with that satisfying pop pop pop, trying not to hit my head on the ceiling as I did so. We laughed a lot, and we had fun. Truth be told, I can’t remember exactly what we did sexually – if we went “all the way” or not – but I am positive we had a lot of fun. The next night, I went back to that same fraternity with my dorm hallmates and circulated around the party. I saw my previous night’s lover across the room, waggled …

How A Fox News Feminist Changed Things From the Inside Out

Fun fact: I never considered myself a “feminist.” I hated the word as well as the connotations it suggested. But my mother — my biggest fan and toughest critic — changed all of that. She, too, started out as a reluctant feminist.  Sure she believed in women’s rights. Yet, when she came to the United States, she strived to be the opposite: a quiet Indian immigrant, existing between the lines as a med school resident, striving to be the best doctor she could be, but never questioning authority or stirring the pot. That was until the director of Yale School of Medicine told her she could be chief resident if she was more assertive. “Assertive” meant she was committed. “Committed” was a direct shot to chief resident, and “chief resident” meant she would be the BEST.  She would be granted access to what was known as the “Vatican” of Yale medical school. At 27 years old, she would have instant street cred, clout and a possible bump in salary. It also meant she could cut …

Getting Free from the Stigma of Pretty

I have a pussy. I also have uneven saggy boobs, a substantial belly and a pretty face. And while I can’t say anyone ever directly took those things from me, I’ve only recently begun to feel like they are MINE. I grew up with a feminist mother, but I also grew up in Los Angeles where everyone seemed beautiful and thin and highly valued for it — including me (ok, maybe not thin but close enough). I was smart and funny and magnetic, but pretty was by far the most praised — by loved ones, by strangers, by boyfriends and by the girls at school who hated me because, “I thought I was the shit.” I remember being interested in my appearance at a young age, and in looking back during all the painful unpacking work I’ve done, I can’t help but wonder how much of that was actually innate and how much was social expectation — a desire to be “good,” to be validated. But I was more than just pretty; I was sexy — …

5 Things I Wish I’d Said to the Men Who Grabbed and Groped

 It’s inevitable. Someone wrongs you, and then you think of the perfect response hours later. Here are some of the things I wish I had said to the numerous men who have flashed me, touched me and invaded my sexual space over the years: When I was maybe 10 years old, my little sister and I were walking home from the bus stop after school and our neighbor, an elderly Irish man, was outside of his home waiting for us. He was creepy and not all there mentally (knowing what I know now, I wonder if he had dementia or if he was drunk). Anyway, he had his penis out, and he was trying to masturbate as he was talking to us on the street corner. I didn’t quite grasp what was happening, but I knew we had to get out there. I never trick-o-treated at their house after that. To him I say: “Leave thy neighbor alone.” In middle school, my best friend and I were standing on the street outside our town’s main shopping mall …

How I Evaded a Stalker in Thailand

He was an expert. He played me — all charm and smile — when being played hadn’t occurred to me yet. He sidled up to my breakfast table in the Thai guest house where we were both staying; he asked questions. Before I had had two bites of my banana pancake, he knew where in Thailand I was living and working: the town and the school. Because I told him when he asked me. He was grizzled and rugged, in need of a shave. Australian, he said. He told me his name was Joe, and he didn’t tell me his last name. He was twenty years older than I was; I was 22. I excused myself from breakfast and, inside my rented bamboo hut-on-stilts, changed into shoes I could walk in. I packed my day pack and set out to explore before the sun rose too high. I had been in Thailand four months. On this school holiday, all my buddies had other plans and I decided to travel alone, against the advice of my …

TueNight Live: Photos From Our Pussy Party

We had to do something. So we decided to host a Pussy Party — an election-prepping, Thursday night edition of our typical TueNight Live events. For this live storytelling evening, where we read many of the stories in this issue, we partnered with Industrious, who hosted us in their lovely Brooklyn second floor cafe. Through ticket and t-shirt sales, and a matching offer from the Harnisch Foundation, we were able to donate $1000 to RAINN and $1000 to Crisis Text Line. Here are some of the photos from a rowdy, sassy and moving evening of tales, courage and women.   TueNight Editor-in-Chief Margit started us off with her Pussy Grabs Back t-shirt and a big party whoop.   Diane Di Costanzo warmed up the crowd with her piece The Boss of Me  —  the true story of a naive new hire and a too-forward boss.   Powerhouse Hitha Herzog brought her perspective about being a feminist on Fox News. And Instagram star Melinda Alexander (@MuMuMansion) wowed us via video with her plan for us all to #GetFree. As always, the crowd used break …

The Case of the Bad Panties

In 1992, I was 23 and the girl who had sex on the first date, if not before. Not coincidentally, I was also drinking too much and dating a lot of low-wattage losers. After a few drinks, I found myself far more interested in what my date was like with his clothes off. To get him to shut up, my underpants came down. But this strategy was getting me nowhere. I was beginning to suspect that it might be better to date people who didn’t bore me into having sex. It was around this time I was asked out by someone I actually liked, a person in whom I potentially could invest time and energy. He was a gentle, shy creature, the type who might be scared off by my willingness to — well, by my willingness. How to keep myself from jumping him pre-appetizer? The beauty of my solution lay in its simplicity: I would wear a pair of panties too embarrassing to reveal to him. The panties in question were a pair of …

Nope, It Doesn’t Need to be Steamed, Sprayed or Douched

A few years ago, I was talking with a relative and the talk turned to douches. I don’t remember how we got on this subject, but there we were, biding our time at the grownup table of a kid’s laser tag birthday party, talking about vaginal cleanliness. I was saying that while I had previously douched every month at the end of my period, I had stopped because it gave me a fire crotch of yeast infections. I had even given up the long, super-hot baths that I loved. “Wait…you don’t douche?” my relative asked, her voice full of judgment. She side-eyed me. She might have even sniffed the air in my vicinity; I couldn’t be sure. She’s only about seven years older, but suddenly I felt like I was talking to my mother or my grandmother, the women who raised me. Growing up, a hot water bottle with a hose and applicator attached always hung inside the shower in our bathroom. At some point, I must’ve asked what it was for and was told …

Women in Midlife Share Memories of Sexual Assault

When we talked about doing an issue around sexual assault, there was a collective head nod. So many of us have experienced incidents in one form or another. Now in our 30s, 40s and beyond, we may have shrugged off the minor incidents, worked through the more egregious attacks with our shrinks or kept them locked up in a secret brain vault. But we’ve never, ever forgotten. We asked a few of our contributors to share their stories — reading them we find a common theme of confusion and shame that lingers. Collected here, these vignettes remind us we’re not alone and that there’s power in sharing.   Il Bastardo I’m 20 years old in Europe traveling with a girlfriend over the summer. We’re in Pisa, having pizza at a cafe after the requisite tower viewing. My friend is an extrovert; I’m an introvert. At the cafe, she’s talking and laughing with our waiter. She even asks him for a cigarette. This mortifies me, but I can’t tell if it’s because it seems potentially dangerous …

Spared From Assault: Did My Mom Teach Me or Am I Just Lucky?

I don’t have a sexual assault story to tell. I wasn’t raped, attacked, groped by a stranger, pressured into sex, molested as a child. I did have a male camp counselor tell me I’d be beautiful when I grew up and hug me close one time. I proudly introduced him to my mom! There was also the exposure to a vibrator via a clueless girlfriend of my dad’s: “Oh, it’s like a massage machine. Here’s how it works!” It felt great. I was five; I couldn’t figure out why my dad wigged. I saw guys in parks with their things out. In college, there was a peeping Tom outside our house who got caught. As a teen and young woman, I had encounters that could have gone badly but my male partners respected “no,” or maybe I said “yes” at the right times. Overall, I had luck on my side. Many — most — of my female friends didn’t. The million women who tweeted Kelly Oxford their sexual assault stories in the course of one …

Editors Note: Nasty Women Vote

For a long time, I didn’t want to take a side here on TueNight. Blame the old-school newspaper journalist in me who doesn’t think reporters should take a political stance — or the fact that our site is all about middle-aged lady essays, not politics. But then. I don’t even have to list it for you. You know what it is, what he is. The pussy grabber. A friend texted me that her daughter told her the fourth grade boys at recess have a new game: “Whoever touches the most girls’ butts wins.” I actually texted her back, kind of downplaying it, saying that “oh, that’s the age where body parts are like a hilarious, weird thing, right?” She countered, “I agree, but in this instance, I think it is Trump. You can imagine the scenario: The kid sees the news and then asks the parent, ‘What does pussy mean?’ And they fumble, ’Oh, son, it’s a bad word for a girl’s bottom…’ And then they grab.” Another friend said that as she and her …