Consent: Beyond Words

Using speech to ask for consent is the entry point and the bare minimum. Absolutely, we much teach each other to ask and teach each other to listen for the answers. No means no. Confirm that the yes is enthusiastic. Words are what we have chosen as a species to transcend the skin and skulls that keep us separate, words and their offspring are as close as we can currently get to telepathy.

Yet this world did not teach me to say, “no,” and the greatest betrayals I have faced happened when men not only did not hear my timid refusals in my voice, but they also did not hear the timid refusals in my shoulders, in my breath, in my eyes. These nonverbal cues scream to me when I see them in other women because I, too, have raised tiny shields and tiny trumpets and gone to war in silence. I ask, “How can you not see this?”

Still, I empathize. When I was first coming out of the closet, first to myself and then to others, I felt many things but one that I sensed intensely was, as I called it, my lack of agency. I saw the way some men took of women and seemed to get what they wanted, and I did not know how to enter this dance of lust and love and get what I wanted. I was frustrated. I was angry. I felt robbed.

I think all men enter this private battle that I entered. Do we trust the story we are seeing play out in front of our eyes and teach ourselves to take what we desire? For me, such a thing was patently unacceptable. I learned my own other way and I learned to ask and the love I receive is abundant. I realized that feeling robbed was my first mistake — I am not entitled to sex or touch or love. You get those things when you are good, when you are sweet, when you are open, and honestly just when you are lucky. I realized I was angry with myself the most; for being too cowardly to even ask, let alone touch. My frustration was my own fault, and on top of that, it made me unattractive.

Yet it is not so easy to come to these realizations. It is far easier to believe that asking for consent is just not sexy, or that practicing consent is simply doing nothing at all for fear of harming anyone. It is easy to believe a false dichotomy; either I’m an asshole and I get laid, or I’m nice and I get nothing.

My first steps towards shattering these myths were to realize 1) There are a wealth of messages sent nonverbally between human beings and I can hear them, see them, feel them if I try and 2) It is better to realize quickly a woman is not interested in me and move on than to postpone the discomfort of understanding rejection. The truth is, it hurts far more to pine secretly after someone than to let go when, in the end, it turns out they don’t want you.

Consent beyond words is learning to actively listen with all of your senses. The first wall you will face is the overwhelming tsunami of “No” and disinterest that you had been willfully ignoring to protect your own pride.  There are other walls, too, that I can’t even begin to describe in one blog post.

Beyond this initial sting, you will find a peaceful clarity. You will be able to forge honest friendships, untainted with motive. You will be able to present your truer, more vulnerable, less needy self. This self is, if we’re going to be practical, a more attractive self. And beyond your new calm, you will begin to recognize warm rays of “yes” beaming onto you. One might, unsmiling, avoid your eyes with hers when you ask her flirtful questions (no) while another will soak up your interest and laugh and speak back to you (yes?). The latter may, of course, be only seeking friendship, but she will be kind to you when you ask for her kiss and she’s not interested, because she does care for you. Bolstered by this kindness, you will be less timid to ask another your heart’s next desire.

Listen and see, listen and see. Cast aside your motivations and expectations. Offer your desires as gifts of insight, not as trials of sadness v. pleasure. That is the only way I can happily live, and happily live I do.

P.S. I am going on vacation, so next time will be posting early, on Saturday.

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Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too

…here is Part 2.

You saw in my last post that, “Women Hurt Women, Too.”

Patriarchy hurts men, too. It hurts men because it self-perpetuates. Even women become willing participants in patriarchy. Even women ignore other women’s struggles; even women use #notallmen on their tweets. And a self-perpetuating patriarchy does not give men much room to be their true selves; it punishes men for opposing it.

This is going to be a rather dense post, so here are the bullet points you can discuss on your Facebook walls in lieu of actually reading the whole thing:

  • Patriarchy is a system that, by its own (sloppy yet powerful*) “design,” holds itself together and pops up everywhere
  • Men are hurt by patriarchy, too
  • Patriarchy punishes men who want to be “different”
  • The fact that Patriarchy exists means that women have (valid) reasons to be distrustful of men, for their own safety. For a well written, male perspective on this, I recommend the “Women are Defensive (With Good Reason)” section of Pepper’s larger essay (which, though it is about nonmonogamy, is useful in general)
  • This distrust hurts men (especially those who are sexually interested in women), too. Men have a crisis of identity, because they are told they could be “accidental rapists” and, like, no one wants to be that
  • The Patriarchy protects subtle, hurtful behaviors such that they are supposedly invisible even to the men that do the hurtful behaviors. This hurts men, because men can begin to believe that they can’t trust themselves.
  • Part of the solution is to banish these hurtful behaviors from the shadows. One of the ways to do that is to, as men, call out other men you see doing hurtful, Patriarchy-supporting behaviors.
  • If it is not obvious to you what these behaviors are, spend more time listening to women and to feminists who have spent a lot of time experiencing / thinking about these behaviors

*Sloppy Yet Powerful is my new band name.

Liberal media is talked about like it’s a monolith, a fucking machine or a conspiracy meant to control our brains. Regardless if that is true (and I have my suspicions — a little cog named Jenji Kohan got me fantasizing about conjugal visits with particular jumpsuit-wearing actresses), there’s another monolith that controls our interactions as if by invisible gears — actually, it mostly uses social scripts — and that is Patriarchy. For the benefit of my readers that might not throw around the word “scripts” like I do, they’re not just the things Laura Prepon memorizes for her job. Social scripts are those little memorized stories that tell us what to do when we have to interact with other human beings.

Social scripts tell us that when we love someone, we kiss them, and that when we really love someone, we marry them. They tell us that when someone is being a nerd, and it makes you uncomfortable, you laugh at them. They get rewritten so that nerds can be geeks, and some geeks are cool, and if you aren’t a big enough geek, maybe you’re not cool.  Social scripts are passed down to us from our parents and grandparents and/or other guardians. They play out in our favorite TV shows, and movies, and the movies we hate but we watch anyway because they’re on TV and the remote is too far away.

“Alternative” scripts are shot down, demeaned, framed as a waste of time, and, worst and most frequently of all, not imagined in the first place. Ordinary men are Patriarchy’s unconscious deliverers, because without help, ordinary people cannot imagine their own scripts. Ordinary men aren’t told any other way to be, and are seduced by the charm of stories whose outcomes they know. Any impulse to be otherwise, to be “different,” is squashed, leaving men the apparent choice of a hyper-masculine bravado (and its spoils) or an empty valley (some people call this the “friendzone”). This personality crisis hurts, too.

This is how men do not realize that #yesallwomen experience discomfort at the hands of men. The monolith of patriarchy makes a smokescreen for men like Pan to exist in the “benefit of the doubt” arena where their behaviors are seen as “normal” and not “fucking creepy.” Because it’s “normal” for guys to “sweep women off their feet,” or “seize women in a passionate kiss” — I saw it in all the movies, ever. And it’s “normal” for women to want these things, because princesses.

(Update: when a friend told Pan that “Blotted” was too fucked up and should be left alone, Pan said we are adults and she could make her own decisions. Either he has no idea about “too intoxicated to consent” or he’s using a facade of ignorance to do whatever he wants.)

Patriarchy hurts men too in that it allows these subtle aggressions to live unchallenged. That is: any man can expect that sometimes (or often) his transgressions will be invisible. Predators abuse this system; average men bumble into predatory territory because these walls are kept hidden from them. I have male friends who tell me they worry so much that they could be like the man in the “I Need a Man” story — that someday women could earnestly tell these stories about them.

Part of me is baffled, because my friends are good men, and how could they see themselves that way? Part of me knows that even my most consent-obsessed friends have moments of blindness, where they make other people uncomfortable because they take their sexual agency for granted. The world tells them it is thus, and how can they escape it?

I have a friend that was falsely accused of rape. First, the criminal justice system intervened and found him not guilty. Then, quite some time later, administrators in his college found out about the case and decided to conduct their own investigation and protective measures. This is how his entire campus found out. The administrators’ actions make sense in a lot of ways – they know how ineffective the so-called justice system can be and need to protect their students.

What is most painful for my friend is not the repeat “trial,” though it is stressful and hard and depressing, but the reactions of people he thought knew him better than to mistrust him. That his “friends” are quite capable of seeing him as “the enemy” now, when they happily fell asleep next to him on couches or walked arm-in-arm with him before. Now they are swatting his hands away not just from themselves but from others. I am sure he has even had moments where he asked himself what has he done, no truly, what has he done to deserve this?

Guys, the impulse to fear that you could accidentally be a predator is the right one. The system protects predators, makes excuses for their transgressions. The system will make excuses for your transgressions. It will tell you that you were too drunk, too overcome with testosterone, just trying to be friendly, just trying to have fun, just teasing a little, that girls like bad boys, or strong boys, or confident ones, that nice guys finish last. This same system means there is no easy distinction between rapists and men like you. As long as predators are allowed to lurk in the shadows, the women who have lived in fear of the shadows will see you in them. It is their right to be afraid, lest the shadows devour them.

Proclaiming “Not All Men” is not the answer. Women know not all men are like this, in fact a lot of heterosexual women look forward to the fact that not all men are like this and they might fall in love with one (or more) of them. Yet, for her own safety a woman has to assume the potential for any man to hurt her. She knows that other men and even other women will count her the most responsible for her own safety, rather than protect her from or blame the predators. She should carry mace. She should stand up for herself. She should know better, shouldn’t expect better. The world shows her it is thus, and how can she escape it?

This is how patriarchy hurts men. It assumes everyone is a participant. It tears the ground right out from under them when they resist it. It creates shadows around all of us. The solution is to shine a big blaring spotlight into those shadows. To stop protecting the transgressions of others. I know (some of) you see yourselves in those shadows, are afraid of being called to stand trial for your bumblings. But when the excuses stop, the dark mirror will break, and you will see which pieces of yourself you need to throw away with the shards. I really hope you will.

If you are not sure how to shine this spotlight, stop and listen. There are people out there who can help direct this light. There are people who see the shadows when they close their eyes in fright. It is not their job to tell you, because they have a hard time knowing if you are made of shadows, too. It is merely your job to listen.

5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having, Really

I saw an article, “5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having,” by HuffPo and got excited to get my feminist morning-read on, but….what was I thinking this is HuffPo. Of course it’s just “5 Conversations People Should Stop Having” …if they want to stop being boringgggzzzz.  Everybody talks about being stressed out, “traumatized” by their parents, annoying people, where to eat dinner, and clothes. This article is not news.

Good on HP for not resorting to all-out disgusting stereotypes, but if this was supposed to be an appeal to female readers it was weak. Actually, no. Shame on HP for implying that these conversations are only problems, only annoying, when they are had by women.

These are the 5 Conversations Women Should Stop Having, Really:

1. I am not a feminist, because… You’re actually some kind of feminish. Fine. We get it. There are so many different ways to be a feminist, and so many disagreements about those ways.  Some of us take CGS classes. Some of us raise boys up to be good men someday. Some of us burn things. Some of us just try to go about our day without ruining anyone else’s. But unless you truly believe that women don’t deserve equal rights with men…you’re a feminist. Pretty much.

I’m not going to argue with you; you can self-identify however you want, but you’re wasting precious breath that we could be spending on “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” That’s all feminism is to me.

bra-burning-is-a-lie

2. Your body is amazing/beautiful/perfect but my body is sad/horrible/flawed. Actually, I do think there can be value in comparing our bodies and our feelings about them so that we can learn and grow. But I’m sick of impossible compliments, sick of the whiplash of first trying to process the nice thing you said about me and then the gloomy thing you said about yourself.

HOWEVER. I am trying to teach myself to hear the little plea in such statements: “Please see that you are privileged and acknowledge your advantages over me because you are socially recognized as attractive.” Because I know I’m a minx with glorious hair (er, actually, that I don’t face discrimination for my weight, physical health status, and race), I think I hear this plea and I try to answer it when I can.

Sometimes, though, it isn’t so obvious that I might have a particular privilege and it really just comes across as another beautiful lady telling me I’m more beautiful-er than she. Um?? Girl you’re amazing. I guess I’m just supposed to say, “Stop it, no you are.”

Here’s the conversation I’d rather have: “I’m dissatisfied with _____ part of my body and I’m reaching out to you as another woman to help me contend with that. Maybe I just need you to boost me up, or maybe I need you to agree with me that you are fortunate to not have this problem and that it’s ok for me to feel disadvantaged sometimes.”  And I’d also like to make time for this super special conversation, “I am proud of _______ part of my body and I’m reaching out to you as another woman to help me celebrate that.”

shut-up-prettier

3. “She needs to stop wearing the Hijab.” One woman will say, the Hijab is a symbol of oppression, and muslim women (in America) should not wear it. Another woman will say, it is her choice, her freedom of religious expression: “Don’t bother her.” The two will argue, neither side will concede.

Which of the two will also say that revealing clothing degrades women? Which of the two will counter, it’s her choice, let her wear those daisy dukes and boob toob? (It’s not always a predictable pattern.)

We should not argue over how much or how little cloth we use to cover our bodies. We should instead agree that what is more important is our freedom to choose for ourselves. Whose eyes do you feel when you get dressed in the morning? I’m a femme lesbian; I feel the eyes of women who might think I should put on a flannel instead of a frock. I feel the eyes of women who see the advantages of my femme invisibility, and yes I acknowledge and understand them to be true. I ask them to see the loneliness in my femme invisibility, too.

Can’t we just agree the whole point is to have the freedom to wear what you want? Please let the communities who wear particular items of clothing discuss within their own communities about the symbolic significance and/or necessity of those items, and shut up and enjoy your high heels and/or combat boots.

Bad-feminist-fuck-it

4. I’m not like other girls because…. You. Are. Not. Like. Other. Girls.  I know. Thing is, we’re all incredibly different from each other.

Don’t tell each other this, don’t believe this. If you form a friendship on the basis of, “It’s ok, we’re not like the others,” you won’t make it through those moments where she is like all the others. You’ll be sniffing out each other for signs of the enemy, The Conforming Woman. You’ll want so badly to be seen as Not A Typical Woman that you’ll erase yourself, you’ll erase entire identities.

The only time we should see each other as fellow women is when we are on the same team, when we are sharing in our suffering or our growing, when we’re listening to the experience of someone who is going through “woman” differently than we have — or soul-touchingly “the same.”  Otherwise we should see each other as other human beings.

Which leads me to….

5. I have all guy friends because I don’t get along with (normal) women (but you’re an exception).  If this is a conversation you hear yourself frequently starting, you need to Just. Stop. Go stand in a mirror and practice a new conversation: “I don’t understand why I’m insecure in my ability to relate with other women. I need to heal this in myself.” I get that it’s tough sometimes to form relationships with women when the patriarchy often pits us against each other, but if you believe it’s only other women that are the problem, then you’re part of the problem.

This conversation breaks my heart more than all the others. When a woman starts this conversation with me, I wonder, does she think she’s not getting along with me? Does she think we have reasons to be enemies simply because we’re both women? “I’m not like other girls, don’t fear me,” she says as if it’s a truce.  Excuse me, but I like women. I love women, actually. You can’t take that away from me. You can’t make me some sort of “not really a woman” woman.

And if she knows I’m gay, do I not count as a woman, because I might look at her the way a man does? Does she think I’m not capable of valuing her as a person rather than a person I’d like to touch naked?

Does she realize the poison she is spreading between women by perpetuating this conversation?

Straight Girls Pt. 1 “Mean Girls” as seen by a notorious Toaster Taker

Consider this a letter to my fellow humans of the feminine persuasion.  Dudes, let me know in the comments if this was at all valuable to you. Frankly, I wasn’t thinking of men when I wrote this. I could write a book on this subject (Straight Girlz), so let’s go ahead and call this Part 1. This has less to do with the “straight” part of “straight girls” and more to do with women in general, but through my personal perspective as a kissing bandit. I have probably smashed faces (and other…) with maybe 3 bonafide lesbian chicks. The rest have been varying levels of bisexual or straight. So very many straight women. I swear I don’t specifically target them. They’re drawn to me — outgoing, harmlessly femme; I think they feel safe and welcomed. Not just the ones that kiss me, but the ones that befriend me also surprise me with their warmth and trust. Often women will tell me “I don’t normally get along with other girls” or “I prefer hanging out with guys.” How do I manage to break down social barriers and engage women on deeper levels? Am I just appealing because they project or sense a level of desire in me (as a lesbian) that they find familiar from men? Is it just my pretty hair? Or am I managing to do something else… My friend wrote to me about her recent experience (anonymity preserved for work reasons):

Friend1Oh. Surprise, surprise. I finally kissed a girl that I liked it. Sami

??

You accidentally a word. Not sure if you finally liked kissing a girl, or one finally liked kissing you

Friend1 haha…I kissed a girl…well…and it worked out anyways it didn’t tweak my usual “that doesn’t work” reaction Sami Sexuality is fluid so maybe something changed for you Friend1

I dunno. There might be a few girls I can kiss and it would work out. I’m pretty sure there aren’t a lot. I’m definitely not anything beyond heteroflexible.

I wanted to know what was special about this kiss. Why, when she’d always asserted that this wasn’t a thing for her, did she have a successful experiment?

Friend1 I think bubbly, friendly, outgoing girls maybe sometimes work for me. I know the first time I managed to successfully kiss one without it tweaking me was similar in that respect. Girls who are a bit oblivious to the fact that I may not actually be bi…and are just super friendly/warm and bubbly, I guess. Sami

You don’t want to be targeted maybe?

Friend1 I think part of it is that for the most part I don’t trust women, in general, because so many of them are so catty…and this personality type tends to be fairly opposite the catty persona that I feel comfortable with it? I mean, this girl, she heard I didn’t feel well and immediately took me downstairs and hooked me up with cough drops and was just super sweet. The more I learn about her…she is a straightforward gal…so, someone I would get along with easily.

Sami

Women in general are nice at the core. I don’t know why they catty front has to be prevalent

Friend1 This doesn’t account for your basic nerd/lezzie girl types I tend to get along with just fine, as well, of course.

Sami It’s interesting to me that you operate with so many categories

Ok, I started to get a little rude. Really though, women need to STOP acting like their problem with other women is other women. If you categorically cannot get along with an entire gender, it might be something you’re doing wrong. My friend rocks for taking my criticism in stride.

Friend1 Haha! I think I do nowadays because I used to just think it was women, in general, that I didn’t get along with. Then, as I got older I noticed there were certain personality types/traits that I got along with a lot better. I grew up, though, with mostly boys for friends. I thought a lot of girls were just plain mean.

Her younger self’s perspective is one that I see perpetuated even by women my age and older. I’ve come to realize that since our society evaluates women strongly on a rubric of “niceness,” failure to perform to the gender is read as “mean.” Saying it like it is? Mean. Standing up for yourself? Mean. Setting clear and firm boundaries? Mean. This analysis is further muddied by the fact that “mean” is also willfully taken on as a strategy by women who see its value in power plays. If a woman (nice) is expected to be docile, and gentle to the point of weakness, then the opposite (mean) is brassy and cruel to the point of strength. Your popular “mean girl” will be perceived as mean both because she is rated on the mean-nice scale and because she draws her ideas of power from the anti-feminine ideal: act like a man to game the system. Then of course she (the popular girl) overcompensates in other stereotypically feminine roles (make-up, clothes) and we hate her for being a hypocrite. You really can’t win. How do I pull people out of this overwhelming network of social scripts and assumptions so I can have a decent conversation, or even make a friend?

Sami Women are obsessed with being nice, at the expense of being fake. Since the opposite of nice is mean, fake-nice comes across as mean Friend1

there you go fake nice=mean at least, that’s how I feel about it disingenuous can’t trust people like that Sami

Thing is, it’s not actually mean. It’s just fake. Get real with her and the fakeness stops

Friend1 that’s a good observation .. “Get real with her?”

I really struggled to explain myself here. It’s not something I had consciously analyzed before.  I just…do the me…and the friends…happen.

Friend1 Maybe most girls are just nicer to you because you are cute so they want to be seen with you. Sami

Haha sure but it’s still fake-nice until they realize I’m going to be real with them Friend1

Maybe I just prefer dealing with women who are real from the beginning…and don’t know how to deal with fake nice.

She makes an excellent point. It’s not her fault if women observe her naturally open and interested nature and throw a wall up in her face. She is fair, genuine, and very used to managing expectations and relating to people (she deals with young-ish ones for a living). But I want to deal with fake nice. I find it immensely rewarding to get people to come out of their shells, even if it is a shell made out of gender shenanigans. Or maybe I’m a jerk that just likes to poke people out of their comfort zones.

Sami Just see it as insecurity. Validate them and the insecurity goes away. Unless it’s insecurity matched by ego/arrogance. Then sometimes you have to call their bluff Friend1

That probably explains the difference I run into between the women I get along with and the ones I don’t in a nutshell. Validate them? Like, “Wow, I really like those shoes (if I genuinely do),” you mean? And what’s up with the “calling their bluff?” What do you mean by that? Sami

Well, like, it’s never something you can do verbally per se. But you can disengage from their bullshit. You have to direct the conversation in a way, don’t react with the script that we all know

And after you call their bluff, you have to be nice for real I typically will kinda zone out when the fakeness is gushing. Then I chime in with the conversation I want to have. Faker will typically get a bit unsettled by this. I look for an opportunity to mitigate her fears. Get her on my sailboat and give her a life preserver Friend1

LOL…I guess that makes sense. I am constantly redirecting student conversations from where they want to take them back to the class concerns in ways that kind of broadside them. I use humor and self-deprication to move them back in the right direction…maybe a mild insult that gets their attention without really insulting them. Kind of the same thing? Make it more comfortable to have a real conversation? Sami

Sure, stuff like that, as long as it’s recoverable. Kinda like hey I know what you’re doing and knock it off, but I understand how you feel I do it too

We hinted at a few strategies.  Let me elaborate:

  • Disrupt the script – do something unexpected
  • Refuse to play the game — you don’t have to prioritize being “nice” over all else. I, for one, get more out of life with “honesty.”
  • Being “fake-nice” will often get misread as “mean” because most women know exactly what you’re doing, at some level. Even if they don’t feel like you’re being mean, they’ll often balk at your apparent insincerity (and they may not even understand why they don’t like your demeanor)
  • …Regarding getting along better with teh menz, they may not see life through this same lens and so they interpret “nice” as just plain “nice.” So maybe that’s why you get along better.
  • Extend olive branches. Make the effort to truly connect. Show that we’re all on the same team here.  If you “don’t play the game” but also skip this step, then you’ll fall into the category of “girls don’t like me because I don’t act like a girl WOE is meeeee”
  • Use the “benefit of the doubt” both to show that you will be considerate to her point-of-view, but also to allow yourself to believe she doesn’t hate your guts already
  • In other words, be “actual” nice
  • Don’t assume that girls are mean and awful and it’s not in any way your fault you get along with boys better.  YES it’s a systemic problem but the only way we’re going to get around it is if we do actual work to relate to each other like human beings and not “mean girls.”

Friend1 Thanks for all the insights. I might understand women when I’m ninety. Sami

didn’t know I had them til you asked! Give me more insights on getting girls in the kissing mood! Friend1

Be super nice and helpful and welcoming? Sami

Will try that haha

Guys don’t totally suck (I learned on my birthday)

(Hey guys, I got Prismacolors for my birthday! Enjoy the new doodles.)

I can’t say the last 7 days were uneventful — I had a birthday and 2013 became 2014 — but there isn’t a whole lot I’m willing to share on a website with my real name on it (Summary: lots of booze & bangin’). I do have a little story for you:

On my birthday, I discovered that the place I always think is Redwing but is not Redwing is also not Livewire. Nope, it’s Nunu’s.  But, you can’t blame Kateyln for taking me to the wrong, “U-shaped bar with booths,” because that, Livewire is.  Eh, it’d work. Never expecting much for my birthday, I put up check-in on facebook like my bat-signal and waited to see which friends would show.

I really mean I don’t expect much for my birthday. It’s the 27th of December, and I’ve spent most of those in a car ride to grandpa’s house in SB. My parents made the day special by letting me have the newspaper first and sometimes we’d pick up In’n’Out.  As I’ve gotten older, my birthday has become less of an addendum to Christmas in a bad way (hello child, you are getting a COMBO present and it is clothes!!), and more of an addendum to Christmas in a good way (combo present: DSLR!!!). First off, no one forgets my birthday checks. Also, I haven’t completely abandoned my childhood fantasy that all the lights and tinsel are put up just for me.

The “wrong” bar and my general lowered expectations for birthdays should have set me at unease, but maybe I just feel like I can do anything in a pair of Jeffrey Cambell’s and 1000 square inches of electric-grape leather. Maybe I could even accept free drinks from strangers.

electric-grape-leather-80s-comic-strawberry-blondeThe first person to show up was Katelyn’s bestie. She brought me a wrapped gift that was very obviously alcohol.

no-wine-gift-in-the-barYeah, no, that had to go straight to the car. The two girls left me in the bar to attend to my whiskey and a PBR tall can. I finished the former and took taxes from the latter. Just standin’ here by myself, looking gorgeous and bored. Twiddle thumbs.

Two dudes approached me and the first one said, “Hey, Sarah?” Close enough, and with my face-blind-ish-ness I assumed he knew me. We very quickly established he did not. I’m really good at talking about myself so I slipped in seamlessly that it was my birthday. (I’m lying; I announced it without context like a proud 5-year-old.)

He immediately offered a birthday shot. The way he did all the talking, I figured he was trying to wing-man for his shaggy-haired friend. I thought I knew what was going on there. Whatever, I could take his alcohol and reject his friend. Leather. 6 inch heels. It’s my birthday.

And then something kind of magical happened. The three of us took our shots of bourbon. My friend Marina arrived. He saw I wasn’t alone anymore, and told me he was glad to meet me, he’d be over by the pool table. He was glad to meet me. Past tense. As in he just bought me a shot and would be leaving me alone. I gave him a big hug I was so pleased.

I don’t want to undercut the rarity of these kinds of occurrences. I don’t want to dismiss the damage my gender faces at the hand of institutionalized sexism and asshats. I’ve certainly seen my fair share of bullshit. But something about that moment felt very….normal. Like it happens every day. Like 2014 is going to be different for me.

It’s the serenity that I felt that I treasure most. I know I’ll have to continue sharpening my skills of graceful rejection. I know someday some guy is going to put his hands on me and act like I was asking for it. But this little moment, this freely given shot, makes it worth it to keep my heart open.

Thank you, Bryan, wherever you are, for giving me something special for my birthday.