“That’s a mighty nice dream you have there little girl. It’d be a shame if something patriarchal happened to it.” – Curtis Stuehrenberg

I’m angry about the Microsoft ad. You know, the one that tells us that little girls don’t have a chance and should stay in STEM fields and keep fighting the good fight but forgets to tell little boys to change their behavior to not be little assholes who then become big assholes. Just click the link if you want details, because this is a different story.

It’s a related story, a tale as old as time…and, as far as I know, has never been written.

The San Francisco Girls Chorus was founded in the late 1970’s by the incredible Elizabeth Appling as a training ground for young singers, a way to provide the San Francisco Opera with highly trained girls to sing onstage. This was a gap that needed to be filled, and Elizabeth was the woman to do it. By the time I joined the chorus in 1983, they were performing all over the place, and the opera was not the bulk of their performance schedule. When I reached the professional (top of five) level in 1988, I was too tall to participate onstage as a child in the opera, but I could sing in the backstage chorus. I only ever got to do Parsifal, which put me off Wagner for over 20 years.

This arrangement went on for years, and my [shorter] friends got to be onstage with Pavarotti, who apparently wasn’t great with kids and, during Boheme rehearsals, if they were in his way would yell “Move your ass! Move your ass!” Occasionally, my friends would get to do amazing, amazing work. Like singing the challenging roles of the Three Spirits from the Magic Flute. These parts were often shared with boys from the San Francisco Boys Chorus, and splitting performances made things easier from a child labor perspective. It was a rare opportunity for this amazing group of award-winning girls to show their stuff. Until 1991. You see, boys at this age “have trouble concentrating” and “don’t learn as quickly” as girls. So it was suggested to Elizabeth that the girls do the first three performances, so the boys could watch, and learn from them, and then do the final three performances. I’m not certain whether it was the boys chorus or the opera or someone else who suggested this.



Do you know Elizabeth? No? Go back and read that Living Eulogy. I can wait. Got it? Ok.

It was my final year in the chorus and I wanted nothing more to do with singing. And there was no way I was going to be onstage anyway – I was already 5’7″, and the cutoff was either 5′ or 5’2″.

My friends had been working for weeks or months on these roles. We also had conflicts on two of the first three performances, so the boys were supposed to take the first three. Also, there was no way they Elizabeth would allow her girls to be used as a training ground for boys who couldn’t learn their music or blocking. We were busy, we were in demand, and if those boys wanted the credit they could take all of the performances.

And so they did.

I am not certain how messily this went down, nor how the relationship with SFO went from there. I know it has been reestablished and everything seems fine and the girls sound, from when I last saw them at their Highlands Holiday concert in December, better than they ever have.

I learned a lot from my eight years in the Girls Chorus. I learned that talent is irrelevant without hard work, and that hard work and talent are irrelevant without teamwork and good showmanship. I learned that the show must, will, always, go on, even if you faint and the girls around you close ranks to hide you. I learned advanced music theory, and that friendships formed between girls without boys around are strong, and unsullied, and that we can have a healthy competition and still, whoever wins, say “your solo was amazing” at the end, and mean it.

But the other lessons come more strongly now, maybe because of my industry, maybe because of this increased conversation around these things, these micro-aggressions, maybe because I am weary about commercials like those made by giants of the industry in which I work. Lessons like, if we do not accept being taken advantage of, we will make room for better things, but it will be scary at first as we turn down what we know. That the status quo is some seriously unacceptable bullshit and that women will be called bitches for calling it out. That calling out unfairness will come as a shock to those who have relied on this unfairness for their own success. That I have never lost a colleague or a friendship that I missed by calling this out.

I obviously admire Elizabeth for many, many reasons. But I have not credited her enough with making me the Nasty Woman I am today. Her powerhouse feminism and work ethic informed a generation of young women of which I am lucky to consider myself a part. She and my father are big parts of why, at ten years old, when my G.A.T.E. teacher asked us to write which roles we wanted in Macbeth, I wrote “Macbeth”, not considering that that was strange (I ended up getting Lady Macbeth, and in retrospect she is a far superior character). She’s part of why it didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t do the things I’m doing… and she’s part of why I find myself confused at the battles to which I’m subjected simply by setting foot in my industry, having a strong opinion, or being on the internet.

This is an exhausting place. We have these utterly blind advertisements by organizations with so much power making things so much worse. We have white dudes thinking that being aware of these issues is enough, so comfortable in their own behavior that it doesn’t occur to them that they are the problem, white dudes thinking they can make advertisements and health care decisions for women. And so we, simply by standing our ground, are “feminazis”, inconveniencing white dudes with conversations they find exhausting, calling them out on their shit, until they tell us that we should be nicer because we’d be better off with them on our side and that we’re alienating them.

Dudes. Have you seen our side? It is glorious and hot and big and small and kind and angry and amenable and pitchfork-carrying and smart and giggly. It pole dances, and it wears baggy men’s clothing with short haircuts. It has thigh gap and no gap. It has conversations with you to try to get you to understand, and it tells you to fuck off if it’s just lost patience with you. It has been raped, and it has healed, and it is catcalled, and called an ugly bitch, and it is stronger than anything you have experienced on your side because our side has had to work, to really think about it, to band together despite our minute differences in ideologies and appearances. We band together for the right to be a pole dancer and not be called a whore, the right to wear men’s clothing and not be called a dyke, the right to control over our own bodies, whether we want to sell them to the highest bidders or use them to nurture tiny little vacation-fund-sapping parasites. We don’t need you on our side if you want us to compromise. That’s your side. We’ve seen it, and it sucks. We gave birth to you, we raised you, and we know you can do better. You’re welcome to our side, but it’s on our terms, not yours. That’s what that means. So stop playing “devil’s advocate” with us on the internet, stop trying to explain why you’re a feminist when someone has called you out on not being one. Stop making shitty advertisements that focus on the wrong behavior. Look in the mirror, look at your sons, and know that it’s up to you whether they turn into rapists or help solve climate change, and that the former is much more likely so you have a lot of work to do. You are qualified to make an accurate commercial with Brock Turner in a P.S.A. about how to not be a rapist. If you can’t be on our side but still want to call yourself a feminist then just sit this one out. It’s easy. Just don’t do anything; we got this. The women I know could make a better advertisement than this while drunk and shooting pellet guns at beer bottles on a post.

Beliefs

We have been thrust into a position where we are arguing facts versus beliefs, and people are disregarding facts in favor of their unsubstantiated beliefs. While that’s what’s happening, I will throw my beliefs out here.

I believe in the separation of church and state. Meaning, I believe that religious beliefs should never, ever come into play when it comes to matters of state.

I believe that if religion, rather than the desire to be a decent human being, is the thing governing your behavior, you’re an asshole.

I believe that men should not have the opportunity to vote on women’s rights. Ever.

I believe straight white men would lose their shit if they were, for a day, an hour, treated the way LGBTQA people/PoC/women are treated. I believe the closer they get to equality, the more terrified they are. This is correct; because they did not lift us up, because they refuse to lift us up, they are going to come down. It’s a shame; it didn’t have to be this way.

I believe the only person who gets to decide if a man is a feminist is a woman. And that definition doesn’t apply across the board; if another woman decides you’re not a feminist, to her, you’re not. It’s not a merit badge – it’s a lifestyle. And you don’t get hero rewards. If that’s what you’re looking for, keep looking. This is what it means to support us.

I believe that the only person who gets to decide if a white person isn’t racist is a person of color. Sometimes, I’m racist. Sometimes, I’m not. I’m working on getting better, every day, but it’s literally not for me to say. That said…

I believe if you have ever, once, referred to PoC kids as “thugs”, you are racist.

I believe that religion should be taught in school. All religions, with all of the other myths. Tropes are consistent across cultures, and they’re important.

I believe that most terrorists are straight white men.

I believe people would rather criticize than create.

I believe that kindness is the coin of the realm. My realm. I do not see the point in cruelty. If I want to get a reaction, I will say something kind, or create something to which people can react.

I believe that cruelty is lazy, and that sniping is for people who need a hobby. Well, no. It’s for unhappy people.

I believe everything that people do is about them and that, when people hurt us deliberately, we have to look no further than their insecurities and unhappiness. I believe I’d have been happier if I’d learned this younger; the head pat is less taxing than engaging. Sometimes I still engage, and I always regret it. It’s just them trying to sharpen their claws on me.

I believe I can learn everything I need to know about a person’s ability for compassion by seeing how they treat animals.

I believe the care of our environment is the biggest single issue facing humanity. I believe we are losing.

I believe that, the more you claim something about yourself, the less likely it is to be true. “I’m open-minded!” “I’m not racist.” “I did not have sexua relations with that woman.”

I believe we want to believe things are black and white, and our gray, gray world is exhausting. I do not trust anyone who tries to tell me that a human is all good or all evil; it is impossible.

I believe you don’t get to use your upbringing as an excuse for shitty behavior. I don’t care why you’re the way you are. It’s not that I don’t understand, that i need it explained. It’s that I don’t want to be around any resultant rudeness and lack of empathy.

I believe white people should be thinking, constantly, about the land we’ve taken from natives and the people we brought into this country against their will, how we can accept responsibility, and ensure these things never happen again. These things are still happening RIGHT NOW, and don’t give me that “I’m a quarter native” or “my family never owned slaves” shit. Even if it’s true (and it is for me, and I’m sure for lots of us), we’re part of a system that benefits us in part because it takes advantage of people from whom we continue to steal land and whom we continue to enslave (DAPL, privatized prison system). Speaking of which…

I believe prisons should be de-privatized.

I believe non-violent criminals should not be imprisoned. Time should be paid by earning minimum wage working at a small non-profit local to where they live, directly benefiting their community.

I believe the giant, giant chunk of my money that’s taken for taxes should go for the arts, for health care, and for education. I believe I should be able to choose where my money goes. I believe the military has enough fucking money.

I believe everyone should work in food service, ride a motorcycle, be in a choir that rehearses regularly and perform as part of it without having a solo, and play an instrument. At least once.

I believe that a cure for bigotry and racism is travel, and that racist bigots hardly ever leave the country.

I believe prostitution should be decriminalized and that we should stop treating women like they don’t have agency over their own bodies.

I believe drugs should be decriminalized.

I believe we should stop treating the mentally ill like criminal.

I believe we are still going to have a huge problem with violent criminals until men stop posturing and feminizing perceived weakness.

I believe we’ll still have a problem with violent criminals, and fuck those people.

I believe children are our future only if their parents aren’t assholes. I believe more children will end up violent criminals than solving climate change (crap, that’s a statistics-supported fact… one got in there).

I believe there’s no more messed-up human than the one who has decided they’re done learning.

I believe the smartest people ask questions and listen.

I believe I will not get to see all of the world that I want to see in this lifetime, but I will try.

I believe we have more in common than not, but that our beliefs will drive us apart.

I believe that loving another human being is the work of a lifetime, one that we can never perfect, but we can spend a joyful lifetime trying.

Changing Me

You don’t like me.

You don’t like something about my behavior.

I rub you the wrong way.

The answer is simple; change yourself.

The fastest way for me to achieve what you perceive to be correct behavior on my part is by modifying how you interact with me.

I’m too loud? Send me an email instead.

I’m not receptive to your ideas? Have an even slight concept of audience and timing.

I’m too opinionated? Stop having an opinion of your own to battle mine.

You know what’s not going to work? Telling me you have a problem with how I am, and then suggesting I change. I am a grown woman. How I am is one of my favorite things about me. Your opinion of how I am isn’t – how shall I put this so as not to offend your delicate sensibilities – relevant to me.

People say cruel things and then expect me to treat them well.

People grab me at an unscheduled time to discuss something they’ve been thinking about for months but for which they are too lazy/disorganized to schedule a discussion and wonder why I am not focused on their long, drawn-out concept.

People create issues for themselves and then dump them in my lap for me to solve and wonder why I give them the emotional clearance I would a child.

Stop placing a value of zero on my time.

Have a remote sense of personal responsibility.

Develop your emotional maturity.

Change yourself. It’s the quickest way to change me.

Notice of Owner Move-In Eviction

Dear men,

we’ve been reviewing your file and, unfortunately, your record does not entitle you to additional lease renewals. In fact, we’ll be moving in right away.

We note the following violations:

wars (majority men)
bombings (majority men)
terrorist attacks (majority men)
rape (majority men)
institutionalization of slavery (majority men)
physical violence (majority men)
violence against women (majority men)
violence against children (majority men)

You’ve had since the dawn of recorded history to get it right and, well…you’ve failed. You can’t tell me you didn’t see this coming. You had, literally, all of the time in the world. You fucked it up. You don’t deserve it anymore.

So, we’ll be moving in. I mean, we’re already here, but we’re going to be taking your leadership positions; your presidencies, company CEOships, any place where you’ve been committing atrocities in our name… we’re going to need those. You understand, of course.

Don’t worry; it won’t be so bad. If you didn’t specifically perpetrate any of these crimes, there will still be a place for you. If you did, you’ll obviously go to the island. You can’t get to other land from there, but we’ll airdrop food to you once a month and let you fight it out. Don’t worry; we’ll castrate the rapists before we drop them there.

But if you didn’t participate (knowingly; we’ve all participated in some of these unknowingly.), there’s still a place for you. I think we can get rid of this bullshittery in one generation. Hear me out.

See, having a functional uterus is a very, very powerful thing. And we don’t need nearly as many of you as we need of us. One of you can inseminate a fleet, an army (see what I did there?) of us. But instead of a Genghis Khan, a Montezuma, we’ll have some new standards.

Men who do basic household chores without being asked or expecting constant thanks will take priority. So will men who take care of their children while their mothers go out without referring to it as babysitting. Men raised by single mothers. Stay-at-home dads and men who have called out their male friends for shitty behavior. Men who earn secondary incomes and support their partners without subtly undermining and men who earn primary incomes but still come home and cook because, holy crap, taking care of children is exhausting. Men who have never, not once, referred to themselves as a “nice guy”, or as having been “friendzoned”. Men who fight tooth and nail to remain in their children’s lives, at appointed times and without guilt or manipulation, after the romantic relationship with their mother is over. Men who are not just “not evil”; that is no longer enough; these must be men who are proactively good.

Straight ladies, you have a role in this, too. It seems simple, but please pay close attention; Stop. Sleeping. With. Assholes. Assholes beget assholes. Assholes raise asshole children who grow up to be asshole men and women. So, if you just STOP sleeping with these guys, then they won’t have any babies. And the only men raising children will be NON-ASSHOLEs. It’ll be magic. 50, 75 years, and it’ll be gone. No one to call “war”. No one to organize terror attacks. No shitty young men going in and shooting up schools and everyone making excuses. Mentally ill people don’t kill people. Assholes kill people. Ladies, you have the power. Just… don’t wait by the phone for the guy who’s playing hard to get. Don’t go anywhere near the guy who only makes the slightly racist comments when he’s drunk, who never seems to be kind to animals, for whom you aren’t good enough to meet his parents. Don’t settle for any drop of less than you want, and don’t be afraid to communicate exactly every bit of it; that’s your responsibility. You can do better. Do it for all of humanity.

In this way we leave the world a better place. In this way we cease wars, terrorism, slavery, violence. In this way we leave the world better than we found it, and begin to clean up this disastrous mess we’ve allowed to go on for far too long.

 
Yours,
Marisa
 

I’ll make it to the next one

(Originally posted in Phreddiva January 7, 2013)

Or, “Don’t Call it a Hobby”.

This post is long overdue.
No, it’s not directed at you. It’s a general, long-brewing feeling. It has been exacerbated recently by people being very. very. very. excited about my upcoming wedding. This is awesome. I’m excited, too. When people are more excited about that than they are about a performance, it’s confusing and, well…hurtful. Sit back, have a drink. It’s gonna be a long one.

First of all, the people who attend my shows humble me. Their effort acknowledges the culmination of 30 years of work, and they make me cry with their support. It means… the world. My world. It means everything. This is not about them.

It happens Every. Fucking. Time.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your show. I’ll try to make it to the next one.” What follows are a litany of excuses that are the reason I’m not a manager for money. I don’t care. I don’t care why you didn’t go, and your need to awkwardly defend your choice of time and money is degrading to both of us. It is not a priority for you, and I understand that. And that is fine, for fuck’s sake, it’s beyond fine. We have lives, we have priorities, and we cannot all be best friends. Who has the time? So this isn’t about not going to shows. It’s only partially about the gross excuses with which we all feel the need to placate each other. It is a lot about a few other things.

If you know me, you’ve heard this first part of this before, and it bears repeating – I have been doing this, as of September 2013, for 30 years. 30 years I have been performing. Rehearsing. Dedicating time and effort at a rate of, oh, let’s say 100 hours of rehearsal/practice per 1 hour of performance time, for … well, longer than most people have been doing most things. Longer than most people my age have been masturbating. Think about it. At that age, to go to school, then go to rehearsal while other kids were doing homework, then come home and do my homework while other kids were watching TV. And to practice at home on non-rehearsal days after school. Every day. And weekends of music theory and rehearsal and performances. Since I was *7*. Yes, it’s dedication. Yes, it’s an insane amount of time and, yes, it’s a practice the culmination of which can be observed. For, theoretically, entertainment. You hate opera? Fine. I’m not the biggest fan of kids (except my nephew. he doesn’t count. he’s cuter than all other kids. and smarter.). Hear me out, I’m going somewhere with this.

If we are lucky, we have dear people in our lives. We enjoy them, what they have to say, their insights, conversations with them. We become friends. We support each other’s endeavors – we go to their birthday parties. We go to their weddings. Their baby showers. Their bridal showers. Their Landmark Shit. Hopefully, they celebrate ours. If we are fortunate enough to have artistic and creative friends, we support them. We buy their wares. We purchase their services. We promote them. We attend their events. This is what friends do.

Now. Sometimes. Occasionally. Ok, often, there are people who fall into the category of traditionally accepted milestone celebrations (birthday/wedding/baby/showers/yaddayadda) who do not participate in the latter, creative milestones (making art. opening a store. starting a clothing line. whatever.). We are provided opportunities to support their life choices. This is fine. This is great. Good for them. Where this falls off is when we celebrate them, and their choices, and then… well, and then they don’t support ours.

Here’s where the outcry of time and money comes out. And where I say… bitch, please. We all have 24 hours in a day. Most of us work 8 of them and, in the Bay Area, commute for two more. This leaves 14 hours for most people, minus the 6-8 we sleep, to prioritize. Weekends? Weekends, parents Parent, creators Create, homeowners Homo… wait. You get my point. We have the same amount of time in the world, and how we fill it shows the world, and those closest to us, our priorities. So, if I attend your performance/talk with you on the phone/send you a card/go to your kids’ birthday/go to your birthday/attend your talk/send you a text/[even]post a funnny to your facebook wall because it made me think of you/help you to promote what *you* create, these are my ways of prioritizing you. They take time. Additionally, if I need to purchase a gift or service I’ll try to purchase it from one of my creator and/or business owner friends. Because I want to support them more than I want to support some stranger. Because I want to see us all be successful.

2013. In addition to the shedding of unhealthy habits and relationships, one of the themes is reciprocity. In work, in love, in relationships, in friendships… in everything.

Some unpleasant truths come up when we look for reciprocity. When we are not mercenary, necessarily, but we look at what we give, in time and in energy, and what is returned. And, folks, the numbers, they aren’t adding up.

All you had to do to get to be a year older was not die. And, you know, given the odds of 2012… thanks for that.

For your kid to get to be another year older, all you had to do was not kill your kid. Good on you.

For me to get on the stage with a leading role in an opera takes… well, more work and more years and more dedication and tenacity than most people who haven’t done it can conceive. In addition to those years of work, years, dedication and tenacity, it takes approval from other people over whose judgment we have no control, and constant, inexplicable rejection by them. And, after each rejection, we do the impossible – we get up and ask for more. And they wonder why artists are nutty and hyper-sensitive. Point being – I had a show running for 4 weeks last year. The previous one of this magnitude was in 2005. I have no guarantees of another, and any noises people make about their certainty of my having another major role (closer to their home, for their convenience) show an utter ignorance of this field. “I’ll come to the next one” is hollow and downright infuriating. I perform all the time. One a year, one every 18 months, the Big Ones? Not asking too much from people who call themselves friends.

Additionally, a performance is entertaining. Music is FUCKING AMAZING, and opera, holy shitballs, this shit is difficult and incredible. What it takes emotionally and physically is like a trapeze workout, jogging, and an all-night fight with your lover that ends in incredible sex, all at once – trust me, I know; I’ve done the legwork. And the armwork. And the… yeah.

What we do for FREE when there are more people onstage than in the audience is the last trembling leaf of fall – bittersweet and brilliant.

Is it worth the cost of two drinks? 1 fancy drink + tip in San Francisco? 3 packs of cigarettes (I’ve no idea; I haven’t bought cigarettes for a boyfriend since I can remember.)?

The outliers are people like my friend Suzanne, who has a toddler, an infant, is pursuing her own operatic, teaching and directing career, and makes it to a significant number of my performances. Oh, did I mention she drives up from Gilroy? In return, I come to as many of hers as possible. We make it a priority.

For someone to live in the same area and not have *specific plans* or illness the evening of a major performance, then call themselves my friend and miss said performance in the same breath…well. You and I have different definitions of friendship…friend.

I would much, much rather a person celebrate with me my specific, directed, hard-won life choices than celebrate a milestone that simply means I’m above ground. If it’s not a priority, that’s fine, but please, don’t invite me to your birthday party. Thanks for not dying. I’ll try to make it to the next one.

No, I Will Not Fix Your Computer

I am the Program Manager for a lab/think tank of mad, wonderful, creative, fantastic, hilarious, witty and kind scientists, innovators and engineers within a large software company. Mostly, I work to get our scientists’ crazy creations (usually in the form of algorithms) into our software, and I help innovators to build stand-alone apps out of these explorations. I’m not in tech support, HR, design, marketing, branding… any of that stuff. To say I adore the work I do is a gross understatement.

In the past week, I have been tagged in two negative FB posts about my employer (like I’m going to approve that; you’re why Zuck made timeline review), contacted at night via text to bitch about my employer, and emailed several times with tech support requests. This is in one week, folks. This says nothing of near-strangers who mispronounce my name while asking me for free software, or wildly unqualified people I barely know asking me to get them a job.

Now, I love some of you. I like some of you. Others of you I tolerate. Still others of you I keep around because watching your facebook antics is better than going to the movies (and I really just don’t like leaving the house). This isn’t about just one of you. This is about the entitled feeling that some of you apparently harbor that I can be some sort of punching bag / answer portal / rant receptacle / Santa Claus for a giant organization.

Feeling the need to respond to these things is the kind of thing that got me where I was in March. Because apparently that sign that says “don’t come near me, I’m kinda unstable” on many people’s foreheads says “no seriously, I can handle it” on mine. NOT responding feels *amazing*; I’m doing that almost exclusively now (except when someone contacts me via work email to report a bug. YES. Go for it; I’ll get it to the right place, and I am literally vested in making our products better; you know who you are. Same goes for close friends; the ones who were invited to our wedding but are too shy to ask for software. Seriously. YOU’RE the ones to whom I want to give my 5 discounts a year.). But with everything else, I’ve crossed over to where I should have been with this before; annoyance. Seriously? If your first response when you’re annoyed at my employer is to contact me via private channels and/or during off-work hours…please just go ahead and fuck right off. If we’re not super-close, I’m not giving you my very limited software allotment for the year. And don’t get me started on the awkward dance of telling an acquaintance why they’re not qualified to work at my company. I don’t come to the place where you make sandwiches and bitch about your corporate advertising campaign. Have some respect for boundaries or, if my employer is the only reason you have contact with me, go ahead and click “unfriend” and delete my contact information.

And will someone please get me this? It’s juniors so it’d have to be XXL.

It’s still better than when I worked for Kaiser.

John Doe has the upper hand

It’s been a rough week for men. We’ve laid a lot of knowledge on you and it’s been … a lot. I, literally, can’t imagine. The floodgates are open. What women have known their whole lives is being suddenly laid bare and it’s coming as a shock. I’ve been conditioned through a series of ongoing experiences, and people are responding in various ways to my verbalizing this conditioning. Instead of asking me to change or defend my conditioning, some men have acknowledged the situation and are taking on the challenge of changing the condition. They’re amazing, but they certainly have their work cut out for them. 

What got me here? A partial list. Warning; you will not, think of me the same way after reading this. So go carefully. Most of the time, I care about taking your feelings into account when voicing my opinions. This is not one of those times. This is a partial list of times when not only were my feelings not considered, but I was viewed as what many men see when they look at me; a receptacle. 

On the other hand, if you want to know why I joke about even the most awful, inappropriate things… look no further! Because, with shit like this, one must laugh.

Between the ages of 5 and 7, I was molested repeatedly. When my mother, rest her soul, finally found out, she blamed me. I should thank her, because multiple therapists (the rapists! I crack me up.) have said that my immediate rebellion against her blame led to my identifying as a survivor, not a victim, and my questioning of authority, which is part of my charm (I made up that last part).

When I was 8, my parents went on a rare vacation. They were gone for a week. The couple taking care of us assigned the household chores to me and my sister, as my brother clearly would not be assigned any chores.

(When I was 12, I began working out 3.5 hours a day. When I was 15, I was able to bench-press my own weight and have never been able to bench-press less.)

When I was 18, my boyfriend anally raped me during sex while I quietly whimpered and said “no”. If you wonder why I didn’t fight back more fiercely, you’ve never had an unlubed dick in your ass that you didn’t want there. Years later, he emailed me to “talk about it”. I ignored that. Last year, mutual friends invited him to an event where I was singing and, though they knew there was “history”, they didn’t know anything specific, and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want everyone to be uncomfortable. 

When I was 19, I left a bar on the arm of a new beau. A jealous woman (not someone with whom he was involved) emailed him later, referring to me as a “sweetmeat”. My IQ is 156.

When I was 19, I was in London with a boyfriend. I wore a miniskirt. We walked by a bar and an African man got his hand up my skirt and grabbed … everything. I turned, screamed, called him the n-word and spat on him. He laughed, and I was humiliated because I’d never called anyone that, ever, before or since. I am still ashamed.

When I was 20, I waited for the 71 (or 7, or 6) on Market after a goth night at DV8. A yuppie in a BMW pulled to the bus stop, pulled out his penis and began masturbating while looking at me. I had a knife in my hand the whole time. I still hate the 3-series. At least the men who thought I was a hooker when I waited bus stops were honest, propositioning and then apologizing and driving away when they realized I wasn’t for sale.

When I was 21, I got my motorcycle license. Please don’t get me started on the ridiculous shit people say (“Do you ride a motorcycle?” WHEN I’VE JUST PULLED UP ON IT) to a woman on my motorcycle. Just know that the chapter starts here.

When I was 21, and Bondage a Go-Go had just been on TV for the first time (after I had been attending for 2 years), my ass was pinched. It had been a safe place. I have been back once since then, wearing long pants.

Between the ages of 24-26, I was in polyamorous relationships and learned how men respond when your answer isn’t “I have a boyfriend” but simply “I’m not interested”. Hint = it’s not good.

When I was 24, I bought my cadillac (now an art car) from the priest who baptized me. He grabbed my ass three times during the transaction, saying “that’s good stuff”. It’s hilarious now because it has to be.

When I was 25, friends watched while my boyfriend screamed at me for minutes upon minutes upon minutes in the parking lot after a thunderdome fundraiser. My response to being screamed at is to shut down; I don’t find responding to emotion with emotion to be productive. He shoved me, though was careful to do it in a way that no one saw it. The only people to do anything were two friends who called me the next day to check on me; one, a male friend with whom I’m still close, was angrily telling me I deserved better. No one ever spoke to him about it, though many people knew him. A female (no longer a) friend maintained her friendship with him and accused me of lying.

When I was 27, I wore a catsuit for Halloween. A drunk male friend grabbed my ass repeatedly. I told him to stop. He said “we grab your ass! That’s what we do.” He didn’t listen to me. He got a talking to by two of my angel male friends who had to be convinced to not physically hurt him. Final resolution came from a personal apology visit with a mediator. 

When I was 28, I had a gig at the St. Francis. In a rare turn of events, I was allowed to keep the suite overnight and invited a friend. We pushed the bed up against the window so we could watch the sun rise over the city with nothing between us and the window, like flying over the city. I felt magical, wonderful, overjoyed to celebrate the city. I went out to buy overnight supplies for us – ice cream, wine, contact lens solution. On the way back from the store, a guy walking by grabbed my ass. I dropped the groceries, breaking some items, and cried. The guy kept walking. My friend asked why I hadn’t done anything, hadn’t even hit the guy. I didn’t have a good answer.

When I was 29, Luke left me alone in the car at night to go to the ATM. While Luke was 15 feet away, a man approached the car to talk to me. When I looked away from him, he approached Luke to distract him while another man approached the car. I rolled down the window to call to Luke and only then did he, sweet man, realize what was going on. I was furious with him for not being more aware.

When I was 32, I bought my beautiful home with my then-boyfriend, now husband. It came with a hot tub. My neighbor made sure to tell me how much he likes when my lady friends come over and hang out in the hot tub. We are right now in the process of building a solid wall on that side of deck.

When I was 34, I went to Italy for the first time and realized why Italian men think American women are easy; we are so unaccustomed to positive expression of romantic interest that I’m sure any American woman in her twenties would fall over with shock of flattery, convinced her suitor was in love.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called a bitch or a cunt for not responding when someone approaches me with something like “hey, are you spoken for?” or “you wanna get with me?”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been followed (ladies, if this happens in public, I spit. I want to make myself as disgusting as possible. If it happens in an isolated location, I sing opera loudly. I also walk down the middle of the street, singing and carrying a knife. I would rather look foolish than (see above)).
I can’t count the number of times I have been told to “smile” and then been called a bitch for not smiling.
I can, on two fingers, count the number of times a man I didn’t know bought me a drink and told me I was beautiful. Both didn’t even try to engage me in conversation. It was so flattering, I’m still in shock.

But I’m sure these are isolated incidents. I’m sure most men are great. I’m sure I don’t need to be on my guard, and I should probably fear this equally from women. No need to worry about your daughters.

They’ll just end up on the pole (see how I joke?).