Time Doesn’t Always Heal

The topic of discussion at home between my husband and me was a model who wrote a book of essays released this month. Although I have yet to read the book, I understand it to be a reflection of her life with wins and losses along the way. The press surrounding the book has sparked conversation about an incident she experienced eight years ago dealing with sexually inappropriate behavior. 

The question of her reason behind sharing the fact a client touched her inappropriately was debated. My husband felt she should have said something at the time, spoken out at the time—not in a book years later. We both agreed that the atmosphere in the video was one where touching her breasts was almost unavoidable. She was topless n the video and snuggling up to the alleged offender, as well as dancing around. If you watch the video, it would have been a challenge to avoid her breasts, but there was no clear breast grabbing.

This isn’t to say that it didn’t happen on the set and the model has clearly stated the client apologized at the time. If someone doesn’t know the whole story and offers up their opinion they might conclude that here’s another woman claiming sexual assault years later who wants to “out the offender.” That isn’t why she wrote the book and she has stated so. It’s about her experience and how she felt about being violated.

My side was that we have to do is look at the situation and how it made her feel—what I think is key. In order to explain, I’ll use the example I shared in my discussion with my husband. Back in the mid-nineties, I worked with a man whose first language was not English. He was over-confident and flirty. I didn’t pay him any attention until one day he said something entirely inappropriate. 

I have a habit of sitting with one leg under me when I’m focused on work, and that day I was wearing a skirt—one that was slightly above the knee. I was hidden in my cubicle with an opening to my left. He approached me and I swiveled in my chair. Nothing was exposed, mind you, but I clearly wasn’t sitting lady-like and wasn’t thinking when I turned. He leaned down as if he was trying to see under my skirt.

Naturally, I put my leg down realizing how I was sitting and asked what the hell he was looking at. His answer?

“I’m trying to see your pussy.”

Shocked isn’t the word. I was horrified. I felt humiliated and embarrassed. I don’t even remember what I said, but he obviously didn’t realize how inappropriate his comment was since he was standing there with a smile on his face. I turned back to my computer and he left.

Should I have reported him to HR? Absolutely. Did I? No. However, he was eventually reported by others who actually worked in his department. In any language, his behavior was inappropriate, but I had reasoned at the time that he was simply not fitting into American culture easily. Had I reported him, perhaps others wouldn’t have had to go through the same thing. I was wrong to not go to human resources.

The only person I’ve ever told is my husband—in our discussion. The model’s story triggered the memory. My point is how I felt at the time and how it was easily summoned today. A 2018 study by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) showed 80% of just under a thousand women had been sexually harassed or assaulted in some form or fashion. Based on my own experiences and those of my female friends, I believe that percentage would remain the same if millions of woman aged 18 and up were asked. 

The model was hired to dance around topless and she was fully aware of her job that day. This, by no stretch of the imagination, doesn’t mean her breasts were up for grabs. It was taken for granted that if she was willing to be topless, she must like her breasts to be fondled. Anyone who thinks that is wrong. What happened to her was unprofessional and sexual assault. I think my husband gets the point I was making and know he would never want me to feel like I did that day.

There’s a huge misconception that if a women feels empowered enough to display her body that it warrants lascivious behavior towards her. Low-cut blouses, short skirts, or high heels are worn because a woman feels good about who she is as a person and that’s how she wants to dress. It’s a barbaric belief that if a woman looks “too sexy” and gets sexually harassed or assaulted, she was asking for it. Come on. Would you feel that way if it was your wife, sister, daughter or mother? 

That’s who that woman you see in the video is—or the woman in your office, at the coffee shop, or on the street—she’s someone’s daughter. We are raising our daughter, who is now seventeen, to not only speak up when she’s uncomfortable, but to be confident in who she is and what she wants. Just talking about any potential harassment she may face raises our blood pressure and stirs up so many emotions. But, unfortunately, it’s a realistic discussion we have to have. The best we can hope for is that the statistics of sexual harassment for women drop significantly as everyone learns to respect those around them. 

“You can have regret from yesterday, fear tomorrow, but peace today by sharing your heart’s deepest feelings. A life spent being fearful of showing your soul is a life not worth living.”  ~Shannon Alder

Mastering Those Tiny Behaviors

There are times that I feel the only consistency is the inconsistency of life. Not very profound, I know and I’m aware that my frame of mind is in need of work. I have many things to be grateful for and they don’t go unnoticed. But…

Getting out of the habit of negative thinking is necessary to propel ourselves forward and it’s not always easy to do. I started reading Atomic Habits by James Clear a few days ago. My fiancé Michael gave it to me when I shared that I clearly don’t know what my purpose is these days. I don’t know what direction I want to go. I don’t feel accomplished. Blah, blah, blah…

There are so many self-help books on the market and finding one that works ironically requires the reading of a self-help book. I’m two chapters into Atomic Habits and I’m already liking the writer’s concept of making the effort to get 1% better every day—“tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.” Doing just 1% every day doesn’t feel overwhelming. It’s creating a system, not a goal. When we have a goal and we accomplish it, then what? That’s right, we’re done. However if we create a system, we are consistently getting better—even if results feel slow.  

The same can be said for being 1% worse every day, however that consistency is a habit that maintains itself. What I’ve learned (but, deep down probably already knew) is that the change has to be made within our identity. This is our self-image, judgements, and biases—what we believe.  We need to build identity-based habits on “who we wish to become.” 

He used the example of two people who want to stop smoking and they are offered a cigarette. One says, “No thanks, I’m trying to quit.” The other says, “No thanks, I don’t smoke.” 

See what he did there?

The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to be become a musician.

The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to be a runner.

He states it’s a two-step process to change your identity:

1) Decide the type of person you want to be. 2) Prove it to yourself with small wins.

We all do the same thing convincing ourselves who we are and the book lays it all out:

“I’m terrible with directions.”

“I’m not a morning person.”

“I’m always late.”

“I’m not good with technology.”

By repeating these negative things, it becomes who we are. Our inclination to change is non-existent if we believe we are incapable. Just remember it take just 1% improvement each time—baby steps, people.  We know that feeling, the warm-fuzzy sensation when we have a win. I’m thinking I’d like that feeling every single day, even for the little things. I am a winner (oh, yea).

So, I’m working on my identity and bringing you all along with me. Hopefully, you’ll join me as sometimes it does take a village to bring on change. We will all focus on not necessarily what we want to change, but who we want to become. Think about it this way, every 1% we give toward changing into who we want to be will accumulate. This will direct us toward changing our beliefs in who we are. 

I’m not simply writing this blog, people—I am a blogger. 

Retain Your Individuality and Be Yourself

I’m not sure if it’s an age thing or just mind over matter, however I am finding that I am not nearly as judgmental as I used to be—about almost everything. I came across a quote from Gwyneth Paltrow: “The older I get, the more open-minded I get [and] the less judgmental I get.” In my 20s and 30s, I would readily look at someone and sum up who I thought they were and the personality that went with their behavior. More often than not, it wasn’t flattering.

Women have a talent for noticing other females as they walk by. We can tell you what someone is wearing from head-to-toe, with just a glance. It’s not always used for judgment purposes, it’s just something we do instinctively, I think. What I’ve noticed about myself lately is I don’t harbor any cynical thoughts about what a woman chooses to do with her personal style. I have a greater appreciation for how women present themselves and it’s overall admiration. Is that maturity on my part? I’m not sure, but let’s call it that.

I started to think about the reversal of that and the feeling of being judged by others. While we were out this past weekend, I wondered if women looked at me and judged who I am by how I looked. Did they assume that I didn’t have any issues with my weight and have always been a size six—that it came easy for me? That I must not have any children who seem to be blamed for mothers not taking care of ourselves.  That I don’t care about how my hair looks because…well, let’s just say humidity isn’t my friend. Of course, I assume too much and perhaps not a single person even noticed me. However, being a female, I know how women think—not all women by any means, just in general. 

I’m not quite on board with the “I don’t care what people think” school of thought just yet, but I’m working on it. I wonder if someone is judging me for my nose piercing or if they think my breasts must be fake or that my shirt is inappropriately low-cut or my leather pants are a bit much to have dinner at the local taco joint. It’s is a full-blown job being comfortable in my own skin and having these thoughts don’t help. And why should I care what others think?

I shouldn’t.

It’s discouraging and brings down my confidence. We women have enough to deal with and need to feel a sense of camaraderie with those who would understand—judgey-judy doesn’t wear well on anyone. I want to project what I feel on the inside by how I look on the outside. Some days I feel sexy, on some I feel energetic, and on some I feel impossibly introverted. So I will wear the sexy low-cut top, or cut-off shorts with a cute t-shirt—and on the introverted days, I may just stay home in yoga pants and a tank top (but they’ll coordinate!).

My best friend—someone I’ve known since childhood—is enviously comfortable with who she is. It’s the most beautiful thing about her. If she wants to dance in the middle of the grocery store parking lot to a song blaring from a car driving by, she’s gonna dance. If she wants to wear a short, black dress cut down to her navel with high heels to the aforementioned taco joint, she’s gonna rock that look. You will notice immediately that she loves who she is as a woman.

And, she has never been the judgmental type, with always a positive thing to say about everyone—no matter what. The topless, drunk girl at the festival doing cartwheels? “Well, okay then…you go girl!” I love this about her and being in her presence encourages me to be the same. In fact, it makes me feel good about myself. The difference between us is that she may do a cartwheel too, whereas I wouldn’t want the attention it would provide—oh, the judgment. (Just kidding, I wouldn’t do the cartwheel as I did it once a few years ago and thought I was going to die. My insides felt like I stirred everything up with an old, wooden spoon.)

The goal is to not apologize for who I am and not care what others may think of me. The only person I need to answer to is myself. I know this. And because I know this, it is something I will work to correct it as the feeling of being limited for fear of judgment is exhausting. I want to be as comfortable in public as I am at home with my family. 

I do encourage my 15-year-old daughter to be confident with who she is and express her personality however she wants—with age appropriate limits, of course. She’s better than me about not worrying what people will think. I do step in when she is about to leave the house in a shirt that looks like she practiced origami with it before putting it on. However, I let her wear it if that’s what she wants. Maybe it’s a style or maybe it’s laziness, but either way, it’s her choice. Rock that wrinkled shirt!

“Always be yourself. Retain individuality; listen to the truest part of yourself.”

~Marilyn Monroe