#MeToo

Well done, Harvey. Although, probably not exactly the legacy you thought you’d be leaving behind. Alyssa Milano tweeted a note that read “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Now the phrase has been posted across Facebook and Twitter about a million times (and counting) and the rest is hashtag history.

About a dozen years ago, while I was still in local TV, I went to a television convention in Vegas and ended up at a swanky party with a bunch of Hollywood elites, complete with the entire cast of Everybody Loves Raymond. I was seated next to Larry Divney – the then-President of Comedy Central. (This story is *not* about Larry – he was a perfect gentleman). After the party, I ended up hanging out with Larry, along with a big-wig from New Line Cinema (who, in my memory, looked just like Paul Simon), the GM of an LA TV station and…a mystery guy that was also in the industry, but I was unclear on where he fit into the mix.

After piling into Larry’s limo, we ended up at Ghost Bar – the place to be for the who’s-who visiting Vegas. Sure, I was 30 – they were all in their 50s and 60s and I joked that, being the only woman, I probably looked like a hooker. But, it was sort of fascinating hanging out with them. The New Line guy was talking about producing Lord of the Rings like it was just another day at the office and Larry reminisced about the night he and the Paul Simon look-a-like came up with the idea for MTV. (Crazy, right?)

After a drink or two – the mystery guy (since I never caught his name or figured out where he worked) – who was about four inches shorter than me, 25 years older, and 400 pounds, if he was an ounce – started rubbing my arm. My TV station buddy had wandered off to the bar and this guy seized the opportunity since I was by myself. So this asshole started rubbing my arm and he said, “So, are you gonna hook this up for me, or what?”

Excuse me? Hook what up?

The confusion on my face was evident and, once I figured out what he meant, I was more than a little disgusted. I made no response. Once my buddy came back, I cornered him and told him he was not to leave me alone with that guy again. And he didn’t. However, when my male friend stayed by my side, the asshole said to him, “Oh, you’re getting that. I see.” To the guy. Like I was a door prize.

What’s funny is that – I was most offended by the fact that I wasn’t some wannabe actress or model sucking up to this guy. I was (or so I thought, anyway) a colleague. I was a Program Director – a station executive. I was married. And he…was a fat bastard. A not-in-a-million-years-if-you-were-the-last-man-on-earth dirt-bag.

So – is this some horrible trial I had to endure? Obviously not. This doesn’t even compare to what so many women have gone through.

But – when I thought about this – I realized that I have a dozen of these stories. Not TV industry people – just men. Creepy come-ons that left me uncomfortable and looking for an exit, ass-grabs by strange men in bars, co-workers, decades ago, that I was careful never to wind up alone with.

And, for the most part, I’ve shrugged it off. (Ok, there was one complaint to an HR Director when the ick-factor went too far, because when your creepy, leering, co-worker tells you that your eyeglasses and pony-tail make you look like the librarian in a porn film – it’s time to speak up.) Is it okay? Of course not. But – I hate to say it – you get used to it. I’m not saying women should; I’m just saying many do.

The one thing I find problematic in all of this discussion of sexual harassment is what I call the “First-Move Factor.” Throughout history, when someone was attracted to someone else, eventually they took the risk and made the first move. Every person, genuinely attracted to another person, who makes the first move is not a sexual predator. I mean, how would I have gotten together with my husband? (Okay – well,  made the first move there because, let’s be real, we wouldn’t be married now if I was waiting on him.) But, throughout my life, how many first moves were made? Some that were welcome – some that were not. Every time someone took a chance and misread a signal, every unwelcome advance, was *not* harassment. We don’t want a society so mired in political correctness and fear of repercussions that all men are afraid to ever make a move on the off-chance it’s unwanted.

So, maybe it’s like Justice Stewart’s characterization of pornography when he said he couldn’t list everything that went into that category, but that, “I know it when I see it.” Fat Bastard? He didn’t even know my name.  He just figured, because of his power and position, that a little 30-year-old nobody like me was on the menu. Clearly that was harassment. (And gross.)

I guess we just know it when we see it. We need to trust our instincts. I think most of us have been on the receiving end of a clumsy pass that we dismissed, and, on the other hand, most of us have been in a situation where a man’s words and actions made us nervous and uncomfortable. But, in the moment, confrontation in difficult. Over the years, I’ve never publicly called out a guy in bar for grabbing me. And when I was 18, I didn’t tell the co-worker who followed me into empty storage rooms that he made me uncomfortable. And when I was 30, I didn’t tell Fat Bastard that he was being a sexist slimeball. Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

If we can teach our daughters to trust those same instincts and speak up when behavior isn’t okay…and if we can teach our sons to be disgusted by that kind of oppressive, demeaning behavior…maybe we can get to a point when our girls won’t hesitate to stand up for themselves.

Maybe this is the start of us leading by example by standing up for ourselves.

Then, maybe our daughters won’t simply get used to it, like too many of us have done.

And, as Carrie Fisher taught us, mailing the occasional cow tongue in a Tiffany box when trying to get your point across doesn’t hurt, either.

 

 

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I Think My Dog Has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Meet Jack and Sawyer. My head-case rescue dogs that I’ve had now for over nine years.

Jack & Sawyer

Well, they were head-cases. Now they are well-adjusted, borderline-friendly pups.

That’s Sawyer on the left. Sawyer is an ultra-sensitive, timid, attention whore. And I think he has OCD.

More than a year ago, my husband and I started waking up to our bathroom rugs being bunched up in a pile on the bathroom floor every morning. Every. Morning. Curious.

At bedtime, the rugs were laid out flat. Jack and Sawyer were curled up on the double-size dog bed on my side of the bed – like so:

Jack and Sawyer

(I know – super cute, right?)

Anyway, several months ago, I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of one of the boys getting up and going into the bathroom…and digging at the rug. By the light of my phone, I could see Jack, sleeping peacefully next to me. Then, once he’d completed his task, Sawyer ambled back to his bed, curled up, and went back to sleep.

Like nothing happened. Psycho.

Exhibit A:

rug

And, because, apparently he can’t sleep if he doesn’t mess up both rugs in the bathroom, Exhibit B:

rug 2

He wakes up in the dead of night, goes and messes up the rugs, and goes back to bed. Every single night.

So, the obvious question surrounding Sawyer’s nocturnal activities is WTF?

Is he dreaming that he’s making a daring prison escape? Does he hear termites in the foundation? Does he subscribe to Chaos Theory and feels the need to make a small, nightly gesture to his ideology?

Sigh. Alas, we may never know. Where’s Sarah Marshall when you need her?

Sarah Marshall Animal Instincts
Sarah Marshall in Animal Instincts

 

 

Wear The Damn Swimsuit.

Have you all heard about this thing going around called “Wear the Swimsuit?” Apparently it started with a spunky, middle-aged writer (not this one) who started spreading the idea that women needed to wear the damn swimsuit whether or not they felt good about their beach bod because your children weren’t going to remember if you were chubby or had spider veins – they were going to remember that you took them to the beach and played in the sand with them.

This sentiment spoke to me. Not because of the children angle (while I totally agree with that as well), but because I know so many women that avoid things because they don’t want to put on a swimsuit. Or they don’t have anything to wear that fits. Or because they’ve gained 10 pounds since the last time they saw you.

My mom was this way. On her roller coaster of weight losses and gains, she would fluctuate between being social and reclusive. She dreaded parties with old friends when she had put weight back on and fretted over formal events when she’d have to go shopping.

And life is short. Hers was. Would anyone that ever knew her have cared if she came to your bbq fat? Or just that she came?

This idea reminded me of a column I found and actually framed for my mother many years ago written by Erma Bombeck called “If I Had My Life To Live Over.” (It’s been passed around the internet and manipulated over the years so here is the original 1979 version.)

Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.

So, the whole “wear the swimsuit” thing is not a new sentiment – but it’s an important one.

Don’t go to bed mad.

Say you’re sorry.

Pause the show you’re watching and answer the phone when your mom calls.

Burn the pretty candles.

Wear the damn swimsuit.

 

 

This Week in ‘Overestimating Your Own Intelligence’

So, I got a little click-happy on Amazon this week and stocked up on reading material.

First, I bought these:

The Hating GameCinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)

Because The Hating Game sounded like a funny rom-com and the more I read about The Lunar Chronicles, the more I felt I needed to give them a read.

Then things got a little weird.

Next, I bought this:

Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour

Because I thought, well gosh, I’d like a quick little primer on astrophysics!

And then, because no one was there to stop me, I bought this:

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory?? Shut up. You had me at superstrings.

Because I thought – you know what’s been missing from my life? A basic understanding of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics!

So, yes. I’ve greatly overestimated my intelligence in my recent book-buying excursion. Although, I do know that string theory is not a game children play with yarn, so I feel like I’m starting with the proper foundation.

Well, I’ve had my broadcast TV phase, my lawyer phase, and my writer phase. Maybe this will be the start of my astrophysicist phase. Just kidding. I hear they make you do math.

All’s Fair in Love and Book Reviews.

I read an article by an author who said never – never – read reviews of your book online.

Okay, but did he mean like never ever? Or just kind of never? Because never seems sort of impossible, right? (For a slightly neurotic, first-time author like me it proved to be, anyway.)

And I looked. That’s right. I read them all.

Here’s the funny thing about reviews of your book – a good review makes you smile and puts a spring in your step. For about a day.

A bad review is like that popcorn kernel that gets stuck between your tooth and gum that you can’t seem to dislodge no matter how hard you try…because the popcorn kernel is in your soul. Giving you something to poke at late at night when you’re trying to sleep.

So even though there are substantially more good reviews out there, the few bad ones are the ones that got under my skin. Which is probably why that author said DO NOT READ THEM! A-ha. If only I had the ability to listen to sage advice when it is presented to me.

Oh well. Some of the good ones make it all worth while.

Lisa over at LostInLit called it “Hilarious, Witty and Quite Charming.” And Lisa (I know – I’m winning with ‘Lisas”!) over at LisaLovesLiterature gave it 5 stars! And Becky on Goodreads said I “hit it out of the park!” Megan over at ReadingBooksLikeaBoss added me to her “Book Recommendations” tab! And then I found this young woman who goes by The Lone Reader who did a very funny and enthusiastic video blog about it. If I can make anyone rattle on that fast about my book, I certainly should be able to overlook a few naysayers.

So if *you* have read my book – and liked it – please leave me a review 🙂  (And I’ll try to keep myself from reading it). If you read it and didn’t like it – my name is spelled N-i-c-h-o-l-a-s-S-p-a-r-k-s. Be sure to get that part right.

 

I’m the ‘Windows Vista’ of People.

Ok, Mac people – bear with me – this analogy will be short.

The year was 2007. We were all happily acclimated to our Windows XP operating system when, bam! Microsoft dropped Windows Vista on us and we collectively went, “Thanks for nothing, a-holes!”

Because Windows Vista was that shitty little upgrade nobody asked for.

It was buggy and slow and didn’t seem to make anything better. But Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, said, “Tough shit. You’ll use it and you’ll like it.” (But it only lasted a couple years before Microsoft got tired of our bitching and came out with Windows 7 – but I’m not here to give you a primer on Microsoft operating systems.)

So, what’s my point?

Well, a couple of years ago I started this blog so that I could write silly posts about stupid things that I found amusing and thought maybe other people would find amusing, too. Then, almost two years ago, my mom, my rock, my BFF, died, suddenly, for no good reason because her heart (despite being healthy and barely 67 years old) went, “That’s it – I quit.” And just stopped.

And then this blog took a wicked hairpin turn and became a place where I wrote mostly about grief. (No, that isn’t the Windows Vista upgrade I’m talking about. Stay with me.) For those of you that have been following along, these last two years have been the roller coaster of a lifetime. And I would come here and talk about terrible, heartbreaking things (but marinate them in sarcasm, hoping to get a laugh here or there). But, regardless, I sort of took you along with me as I figured out my own post-apocalyptic world.

So, here’s my point.

When you lose a close parent or someone important, the general consensus is “You really won’t start feeling like yourself for a year.” Truly. Many people who had lost a parent said the same thing. A year.

Well, the first year came and went. And true, the grief ebbed and I was gradually less of a shit-show. But I kept waiting to feel like myself again. Now I’m approaching two years. And it hit me: There is no going back to the old me because she doesn’t exist anymore.

Cue the Windows Vista metaphor. I’ve been upgraded! Those bastards! I’ve been force-fed the system upgrade I never asked for and that certainly doesn’t seem like an improvement to the prior version. This version isn’t as happy, is slightly less compassionate, has a much narrower bandwidth for bullshit, and crashes regularly around birthdays and holidays. The only possible upside is that this version is proven to be wicked resilient and excels at letting shit go (because they apparently narrowed the “Bullshit Meter” but expanded the “Fuck It Meter“).

So, since I had shared the rest of this Mr.-Toad’s-Wild-Ride-esque journey with you, I figured I would share this revelation as well. If you’ve lost your person, don’t keep waiting to feel like yourself again, because you’ll be waiting a really long time. Just start looking for positives in the system upgrade (that you didn’t want or need) and hopefully you’ll find an improvement or two that will make the You 2.0 version worthwhile.

And to those that know me who preferred the Windows XP version? We apologize for the inconvenience, but that version is no longer supported.

 

Defacing Public Property.

img_20161028_171652Okay. It was actually a book signing. But it was my *first* book signing so it seemed a little strange that people wanted me to write in a perfectly good book.

Last Friday I was fortunate enough to take part in the author reception at the Fall Discovery Show held by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. So…lots of authors and lots of booksellers. Or something like that. It was a blast.

My favorite comment of the night was a young woman that hurried over to my table to tell me that she had read the description of my book and that she “had to find me” because my book was something she “needed in her life.” I know, right? Super cool. And I’m pretty sure she didn’t confuse me with someone else, so I’ve got that going for me.

Funniest comment of the night: someone said “So?? What do you like better? When you were an attorney or now, being a writer?”

To which I replied (likely with little grace, thanks to the two glasses of wine): “Oh, I’m still a lawyer.”

They replied (with what seemed genuine astonishment) “Really?”

Yeah. Really. “I’m pretty sure a lot of authors have to keep their day jobs,” I said. “Unless you have a dream about pale, sparkly, teenage vampires!”

Okay. I didn’t say the part about sparkly vampires – but I thought it. But, for all those authors, working the day job and moonlighting as a writer? I gotta say, seeing my actual book in actual print…made all that moonlight worth it.