because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

ME TOO: WE MUST CONTINUE TO TELL OUR STORIES

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Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Louie C.K., Matt Lauer, Donald Trump. . .

We, women, have been too quiet for too long, laughing when we should have been shouting. We dismissed inappropriate behavior and in doing so, we inadvertently allowed it. Now we see how important it is to confront bad behavior.

And the only way to make change is to speak up.

I’ve done it before, and I’m doing it again now.

Because it’s important.

In 1985, a man I cared about forced me to have sex.

It was not consensual.

“He wouldn’t stop when I asked him to stop,” I told my friends.

But no one knew what to say.

My own mother told me I’d “asked” for it.

Here’s what I needed to hear: That is terrible! It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. He was only thinking of himself. You’re not alone. You’re going to be okay. What do you need? How can I help you?

The entire trajectory of my life was altered by that single event.

I wish I could say that that night was the only incidence in which I was encouraged to dismiss inappropriate behavior of the men around me.

But it was not.

We live in a culture that has allowed men to behave badly.

We have tolerated discrimination, assault, rape.

We are seeing it now, how our silence has protected our perpetrators.

Being “nice” has not served us well.

Yesterday, a friend suggested I create a piece of art that says “ME TOO” on it. Inspired, I shared the idea with another friend and together we collaborated to create this image.

Because we’re all in this together.

There’s one helluva planetary correction happening, people.

Change is coming.

Keep sharing your stories.

People are finally listening.

If you’d like to pre-order a 12×18 print for $10 + S&H, leave a comment or message me at rasjacobson.ny@gmail.com. 

If you relate to this post, please type ME TOO in the comments.

The Hairiest Snizz

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NOTE: This post is part of the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest VI! To read more entries, and potentially win a fun prize, visit the fest page on August’s McLaughlin’s site between today and 11pm PST March 11th.

In 4th grade, I liked a boy named Johnny. I brought him fresh tangerines and chased him around the playground at recess. One night, I penned him a handwritten note asking if we could maybe go roller-skating together sometime.

The next morning I stuck the note in his cubby right before we stood to recite The Pledge of Allegiance. That afternoon, Johnny stood among the other boys in our grade and motioned for me to come over. My heart thumping in my chest, I trotted to his side.

At one point, he crouched down to retie the laces on his sneakers, and I was surprised when he touched my ankle. Standing up, he inched closer to me. I was certain he was going to kiss me right then and there, in front of everyone.

It was going to be awesome.

“You’re hairy,“ Johnny announced. “I don’t like hairy girls.”

When I got home from school that afternoon, I found my father’s razor and used it to shave my legs.

And my arms.

And my armpits.

I didn’t even have peach fuzz under my arms, you know, because I was nine years old.

Still, I shaved there all the same.

Just in case.

The threat of spending my life alone and unloved sounded worse than a death sentence.

• • •

Years later, someone I loved told me that he wanted a woman who didn’t burp, fart, sweat or have any hair on her body, except on her head. I laughed and told him that wasn’t a woman; that was a doll.

When he expressed a preference for women who were “smooth down there,” I decided it was time for laser hair removal.

I remember the technician’s rose-colored safety goggles, her gloved hand squeezing my inner thigh.

“I hope you’re not doing this for a man,” she said to my crotch.

At the time, I believed I was doing it for myself.

But it was a lie.

• • •

A few years ago, my friend Eric invited a few people to his parents’ cottage to celebrate his birthday. It was warm, and everyone was lounging around in some state of undress. At some point, Eric’s girlfriend – let’s call her Jenn — announced she was going in the water and stepped out of her long skirt.

Jenn had a lot going on down there.

Dark hair came out of both sides of her bikini bottom.

I’d never seen that much hair on a woman, especially coming from parts I’d been taught were private.

“Gross,” my husband hissed in my ear. “That’s just gross.”

• • •

After my divorce, I took a lover. I was terrified the first time we were intimate. I kept waiting for him to criticize something about my physical appearance. But he didn’t. He made happy sounds when we kissed. He twirled my curls around his fingers, bit my thighs, and told me my body was beautiful.

At first, I didn’t believe him.

But, over time, I realized he was telling the truth, and I wept for all my years of not-knowing.

• • •

As a young girl growing up during the 1970s and 80s, I watched enough episodes of Charlie’s Angels to know that Jill, Kelly and Kate had pretty faces and slim figures. When they wore their tiny bathing suits, they did not have any superfluous body hair.

As a result, I’ve spent a large portion of my life tweezing and plucking and waxing and sugaring, believing that female body hair is unsightly and disgusting.

I see now how all of us, men and women alike, are impacted by this culture’s unrealistic portrayal of women. Women are not hairless; neither are we all long and lean.

I‘ve done many things to attract a lover.

I’ve primped and preened. I’ve told jokes and laughed at their bad ones. I’ve pretended to be interested when, in reality, I was bored. I’ve put myself on a diet, done things that I didn’t really want to do.

When you strip away all the layers, the truth is that I’ve been worrying about everyone else’s opinion of me since I was in elementary school.

• • •

Sometimes, I wish I had a chance to go back to my 4th grade self, to that day Johnny teased me in front of the boys. Instead of internalizing his criticism, I imagine myself moving closer to him, rubbing one of my hairy legs against his.

I would laugh at him and tell him that his ideas about shaving are ludicrous, remind him that human beings are mammals and that mammals have hair on their bodies.

That the messages in the movies, and TV, from friends and family and strangers, are nonsense.

That I don’t exist for his fulfillment.

I would wish him well, hope one day he might meet a woman who loves herself so much that his opinion about body hair might change, that in her arms he might have the chance to know a boundless and intoxicating love.

Afterwards, I would make my way home.

There, in the privacy of my own bedroom, I’d inspect my arms and my legs and deicide I’m good enough ‘as is’.

Instead of seeing myself as defective, I’d be resilient enough to know that one person’s opinion didn’t have to become my truth.

And instead of running for a razor, I’d walk into the kitchen and eat one of the many tangerines I’d been wasting on boys like Johnny.

What do you think about superfluous hair? Gross? Sexy? No big whoop? Feel free to share your funny stories here. I won’t tell anyone. Probably.

tweet me @rasjacobson

One August

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Click HERE to see more work by Poly Cinco via behance.com
Click HERE to see more work by Poly Cinco via behance.com

One August, a man I loved tried to kill me.

Only he didn’t kill me.

Earlier that day, we had gone kite-flying.

I stood quietly by his side watching the blue of the kite blend with the blue of the sky, watching him control the kite, make it do what he wanted it to do.

Later that night, he took my body and showed me that his was stronger.

That he was in control.

His leg weighed tons, and I couldn’t wiggle out from underneath him. At first, I thought he was just fooling around but he wasn’t laughing and he didn’t get off of me even when I told him I couldn’t breathe.

Afterwards, he took my head and tried to make me believe that he wasn’t a monster.

But he was.

Even though he sent me long, love letters filled with apologies.

Even though he put a heart-shaped rock on the windshield of my car.

Even though he tried to make me remember sweet, summer peaches.

I could only picture them bruised and split down the middle.

I remembered how he pushed me under water and tried to drown me.

How it almost worked.

Except it didn’t.

Every August, for over twenty years, I find myself remembering this man.

And, strangely, I feel an odd sense of gratitude.

Because that night, in a stranger’s room, in a borrowed bed, I learned that I could be broken.

But I also learned that I could put myself back together again.

And somehow, it’s August again and I find myself in a park wrestling with a kite.

It is windier than usual and tough to fit the cross spars in their slots because the kite fights me impatiently.

I think it knows what I have planned.

Finally, I stand up. The tails snap, wanting.

I run backwards, feeling the pull.

I run, turning my back to the wind.

With the front of the kite facing me, I release it into a gust and pay out line and pull back to increase the lift.

In thirty seconds the kite is far out over the lake, pulling hard.

I run around the muddy field, making the kite dip and soar, dive and swirl.

From the ground, I control that rainbow diamond in the sky –  make it answer my commands.

I remember how he hated things that refused to be controlled and so it is with great swelling pleasure that I release a new kite each year.

I like to imagine him chasing after the dropped driftwood reel, his hands outstretched, the Screaming Eagle kite a quarter of a mile up, blazing.

Blazing.

Like me.

NOTE: This piece originally appeared on Deb Bryan’s blog. I needed to call this one home.

Overnight Camp: A Kiss and Tell Account

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paradise

Summer camp was the best gift my parents ever gave me. At overnight camp, everyone shared clothes, shaving cream, stationery, and secrets. There were no locks: only doors that creaked and banged to announce comings and goings. On Friday nights, I sat at a fire-circle facing the quiet lake, chanting prayers and singing songs in Hebrew: songs, which, until then, had felt strange and foreign to me.

At camp, everything made sense, and when I linked arms with my friends, I felt a peaceful connection to nature as if G-d had fashioned a golden cord that started from the sun, zig-zagged over to the stars, dropped down to earth, and connected every one and every thing. All at once, I wanted to stay there forever.

In 1979, I was 11-years-old. Our camp director invited a bunk of boys and girls to his cabin for a “special” evening program. It was dark outside and the yellow glow from a single bug light cast strange shadows over everyone’s faces. I remember sitting outside his cabin, the one with the peeling paint, feeling excited. Expectant.

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Click photo to see other work by Sonia Poli

When the director emerged, he carried an empty wine bottle tucked under his arm. He explained the rules of a game called Spin-the-Bottle. Before that night, outside of relatives, I’d never kissed a boy my own age before.

After what seemed like hours, the bottle pointed at me. Shimmying to the center of the grassy circle on my knees, I leaned in toward my partner and when our lips met, I gave his bottom lip a little tug with my teeth. He pulled away from me, looking terrified.

“What happened?” somebody asked.

“She bit me!” The leery recipient of my wonky kiss moved back to his place in the circle where he checked to see if I’d drawn blood.

Later, when we girls laid in the darkness atop skinny mattresses, we dished about the game, rehashing who had smelled nice and who had the worst breath and who we wouldn’t mind kissing again. If we had to.

Don’t get me wrong.

It wasn’t appropriate.

But it was fun.

Looking back at the summers of my youth with an adult sensibility, I see how the tail end of the 70’s “free-love” ideology contributed to a climate and culture that became unsafe for campers and staff and, in some ways, that carefree mentality precipitated the desire, perhaps even the need, for the tedious forms we parents have to complete today.

But for a little while, it worked.

Once upon a time, overnight camp was a place where it was okay to be a wee bit naughty.

No one cared if we scribbled our names on cabin walls.

Or if we snuck into canteen to eat a few extra candy bars.

If we showered during a thunderstorm.

Or if we practiced kissing.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 9.56.09 PM
Mmmm.

I suppose I’ll always feel nostalgic about the summers of my youth. For a few weeks, we got lost in a kind of magic.

Nature provided the perfect backdrop: the lake sparkled in the sun; blackberries hung from bushes heavy and ripe, waiting to be picked and shared; leafy trees rustled in the darkness as we hurried down dusty roads toward something that felt close to love.

Without television, email or Internet, we really were cut off from the outside world. Together, we pretended time was standing still even though we knew it was racing forward. Is it any wonder we fell into each other with our mouths wide open, without asking questions?

What do you remember about summer camp? And if you didn’t go, do you wish you did?

tweet me @rasjacobson

{NOTE: Sunday, my son left for 7 weeks at overnight camp. He’d better not do any of the things I did. Also, I’m joining the peeps at Yeah Write. Such a great community. Come check us out.}

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To Bra or Not to Bra: A #SoWrong Moment by Misty

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SoWrong
Click on the eyeball to be directed to other writers who are participating in this series!
You guys, Misty is sharing her humiliating moment today, and it’s a doozie. For those of you unfamiliar with her, Misty is Mister-ious. {Did you see what I did there?} Like sometimes I wonder if her name is really Misty. You see, I’ve never seen Misty. I’ve only seen her sandals, the avatar she uses in association with her comments. Readers of her blog know Misty has kids and one helluva husband. She claims to be a lawyer. But there are no pictures of her. None. After reading this piece, I feel able to say with some degree of certainty that Misty has boobs. Follow my girl at Misty’s Laws. You can also follow her on Facebook.
• • •
To Bra or Not To Bra

I’ve never been very fashionable.  This statement was never more apt than during my teenaged years.

Back in the early nineties, there was a trend in fashion of girls wearing these leotard like shirts that had snaps at the crotch, like a baby’s onesie.  I have no idea why these things were popular for grown people, but I owned a couple of them.  Some of them actually looked like shirts, until you got to those hanging flaps with the snaps at the bottom, but if you were wearing one with pants, sometimes it wasn’t obvious that it wasn’t a regular shirt.  I had one or two of those kind.  However, I also had a few of the other type . . . the stretchy ones that looked like a leotard.  And when you pulled those little flaps down to snap them below, it became even more . . . taut.

One night, when I was about 17, I was getting dressed to go out with a friend to a high school wrestling match, where I would also be hanging out with a guy I was “dating.”  (Those quotation marks are an entirely separate embarrassing story, thanks).  I had just bought one of those stretchy leotard type shirts, but had yet to wear it.  I figured this would be a good time to break it in.  It was a long sleeve, deep forest green shirt, made of a pretty thin material.  However, when I tried it on, I realized that it just didn’t really look right.  In an attempt to get a second opinion, I called upon my mom for her advice . . .

Me:  “Does this shirt look weird?  I mean, you can totally see the outline of my bra and the straps right through it.”

Mom:  “Yeah, it does look a bit odd.  What if you just don’t wear a bra?”

Me:  “Really?”

So, I took off the bra and we both viewed what it looked like without it.  Please note, that at the time I had 17-year-old boobs.  They pretty much stayed right where they were supposed to, as this was years prior to me birthing two wee tots  that would proceed to use them as their own personal udders.  They were perky at that point, is what I’m saying.

Mom:  “I think that looks better.  This way you can’t see the straps!”

Me:  “Ok, if you say so . . .”

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It was pretty much EXACTLY like this, but with less penis (and more boobs).

And yes, I actually left the house, with my mom’s blessing, nay at her beseeching, in a thin (practically sheer) top, sans protective boob covering.

Did I mention it was winter? So, it was cold outside. Not in my bedroom as I was getting dressed, but definitely outside. Pretty sure you can figure out what that means.

When I picked up my friend and “boyfriend,” I was wearing a coat, but when we arrived at the gym, I removed the coat. Did I mention it was chilly in the gym as well? Yeah. So that was when the problem became evident. Well, to everyone but me, I suppose.

Instead of realizing the wrongness of the situation, I instead just went about my business, all oblivious-like. You see, I was a teenaged girl.  And I was sitting on bleachers, watching a boring sporting event with another teenaged girl.  So, to pass the time, we engaged in a favorite activity of all teenaged girls everywhere over the history of all teenagedom . . . cattiness.

That’s right, we sat there being snarky about what the other people in the gym were wearing, and basically made fun of things that we thought weren’t “cool.”

After listening to us engage in this activity for a while, my “boyfriend” looked over at me and said this:

“How can you make fun of how other people look, when you are sitting there with your boobs hanging out for the world to see?”

Wait . . . what?

Well then. Wasn’t that just a punch in the gut. Really, it was like a smack upside my foolish head. So, instead of crawling under the bleachers to hide, I just went ahead and put my coat back on, and wore it for the remainder of the wrestling match.  Talk about a reality check.

After the match, I went to drop off my friend at her boyfriend’s house nearby.  He lived with a few other guys, and we all went inside to say hello and socialize for a bit.  However, I didn’t take off my coat. When one of the guys asked why I was sitting there all bundled up in my coat, my friend oh so helpfully told them why.  To which, their incredibly understanding and empathetic response was:

“Show us your tits, Misty!!”

I chose to decline their kind entreaty, and instead I slunk out of there, completely and utterly mortified.  And I have never not worn a bra out of the house again.  Some lessons I guess you have to learn through experience.

Thanks a lot, mom.

 tweet me @rasjacobson

My Lilly Pulitzer handbag giveaway ends today at noon, Eastern!
Click HERE for details! It’s not too late. Unless it is.

What Made the Happy House Happy?

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You left such positive comments about my recent post regarding our second home, I felt I needed to let you in on a little secret.

You know how I told you my husband fell in love with a sandy lot?

It’s true. The lot was nothing but sand when he first saw it.

But he also saw this:

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Now you see why we call it “The Happy House”!

Talk about *erecting* a house.

What other construction related double-entendres can you think of?

Wow, I’m really *opening myself up* for this one.

If it helps, imagine you are building a home in Florida.

Speaking of which, I wonder if it is *warm and wet down there*.

tweet me @rasjacobson

NOTE: This was my 469th post. You can’t make this stuff up.

 

An Old Flame, Doused

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I have often reveled in the wrongness of things.

Growing up, I cut Barbie’s hair and pushed straight pins through her ears.

I told people I was making earrings, but mostly I wanted to make holes in Barbie’s face.

As a teen, I gravitated toward recklessness. Once, on vacation with friends, I disappeared on the beach to kiss a boy whose name I didn’t know. My friends were mad, but I chose the taste of cigarettes and beer on a stranger’s lips over my own safety.

For a while, I was in an unhealthy relationship.

We had an understanding.

Kind of.

I mean, he created the rules.

And he meant well, I’m sure, with his flattery and charm.

When he touched me, I swooned with gratitude.

Because he knew how to make me feel.

Not too long ago, I ran into this person.

Though he had aged, I remembered his dimple, how easily he could undo me with a word or a look. And I was surprised at how, after all these years, my body still responded to his touch.

I watched his mouth move and remembered the place where confidence collided with arrogance.

I saw how little he had changed.

I know he believes he is a good person.

But I know him to be a juggler who thrives off secrets and lies.

A person who craves power and uses people as playthings.

For a time, I allowed myself to be part of his secret life.

Allowed myself twice to be used and discarded.

In an odd way, seeing this person again helped reaffirm the treasures that I have at home.

Things that should not be trivialized.

It’s funny. I don’t crave recklessness the way I used to.

And secrets taste like vinegar on my lips.

So while I enjoy more than my fair share of double-entendres and flirtations, there are places where I draw the line.

Danger paired with exhilaration can feel something close to love.

But it isn’t.

Ever run into an old flame? Someone who was not good for you? What was that like? Do you revel in wrongness? How far are you willing to go?

This week, writers were asked to use this photograph to inspire our post. My piece is a hybrid between fiction & non-fiction. We had 450 words. I got it done in 386.

tweet me @rasjacobson

Somebody That I Used To Know

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Warning: This post contain content that may trigger survivors of abuse. If this is an issue for you, you might want to skip today’s post.

They have been playing this song on the radio a lot.

And it’s bringing things up for me.

See, there is this man who is trapped in the fabric of my limbs’ history.

For better or worse, we got tangled up many summers ago, and even though I set him free, he returns in memories.

When I think back to the best night of a most perfect summer, I remember fluffy white towels and hot showers and blueberries bought fresh from a crooked fruit stand.

Stevie Nicks sang for us, husky and low.

He was the leader and I wanted to follow.

And it was good.

When we said goodbye that August, I leaned against a brown Chevette. The leaves were still green when he put his hands on either side of my head and squeezed. He took a red lollypop out of his mouth and when we kissed, our teeth scraped together.

I should have known then. Because lollypops are too sweet. They are filled with artificial flavors and colors and objects in the mirror appear closer than they are.

One year later, he used his body like a weapon and blew me apart.

So I think of him each August.

I can’t help it.

These days, we have no real connection.

But I wonder if his wife knows about what he did. His children?

I wonder what they might think about the man in the expensive suit, if they knew he once gutted a girl like a fish.

How well do we know our partners? And would we really want to know their darkest secrets?

What music brings you back to dark places? 

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

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My 12-year old son recently shared his 7th grade yearbook with me, so I pulled out one of mine from a box in the basement.

As I flipped through, I remembered that in 1982, a guy named Tad* was a major theme.

“Who’s Tad?” Tech’s eyebrows arched.

“Just a boy I liked.”

My son saw people wishing me luck with Tad.

He also saw a disproportionate number of people leaving me ominous messages, warning me to be careful.

• • •

I’ve been wanting to share this story for a long time, and I’m excited to share the rest of it at Kludgy Mom‘s place!

Gigi is one of my most favorite bloggers, and back in May she asked a bunch us to imagine spending the entire summer at a remote cabin on the beach with a bunch of girlfriends. We were supposed to picture ourselves, in the evenings, gathered around a bonfire, maybe with a glass of wine, sharing in great conversation and the exchange of ideas.

I’m closing comments here today in hopes that you will follow me to the bonfire where I’ll tell you about the first boy to gut my heart.

Click here & meet me at the beach.

I’ll be waiting for you.

*Author’s Note: While this story is true, it should be noted that the guy I liked was not named Tad.

How My Son Discovered The Opposite Sex

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Around six weeks before school ended, Tech got glasses.

About two days later, he discovered girls.

I know this because at six weeks before the end of the academic year, I had printed out all the addresses and stuffed all the envelopes to be sent to everyone who was invited to attend his bar mitzvah.

“This is it,” I said, pointing to a 3-page list. “See that box over there?” I tilted my head towards a grey cube filled with envelopes. “Those are the people who are invited to your bar mitzvah. I’m taking them to the post office tomorrow, so you might want to take one more look. It’s your last chance to make any changes.”

I was thinking omissions. Cuts.

As in: That-kid-is-a-jerk-take-him-off-the-list.

Tech eyeballed the list and looked at me in horror.

“Where are all the girls?”

Had I handed him the wrong list? I peeked over his shoulder. No, it was definitely the same list we had reviewed two weeks before. The same list he had given his ultimate super-duper stamp of approval.

Tech’s voice went up two octaves. “None of my girl friends are on the list!”

Then he barfed out ten girls’ names I’d never heard before.

Ever.

“They have to be invited!” Tech waved his hands wildly. “Why aren’t they on the list?”

I wanted to tell him that he had never mentioned these girls, that the only girls he’d ever named in his life were the people connected to the families on the list.

But I didn’t.

We simply went through the school directory and gathered the extra names, addressed the additional envelopes, and affixed a few more stamps.

After we delivered the invitations to the post office, Tech and I sat in the car. His guard is often down in the car. I figured I’d give it a try. “That was a good snag on your part,” I smothered my son in compliments. “It’s weird that so many people weren’t on that last list. How do you think that happened?”

Tech had his nose in a book, so he spoke absently.

“I’m not sure.” He turned a page. “When I got glasses, a lot of blurry people suddenly came into focus. I guess I thought they were already on the list.”

He says he thought they were already on the list.

I say he had a testosterone surge with a side order of corrective eyewear.

Whatever.

In the end, nearly all of his friends – young men and young women alike — attended his bar mitzvah.

And he was beyond happy to celebrate with them.

How old were you when you noticed the opposite sex? And what do you remember about that time in your life?