A jittery American flag light show, telegraph of shame.
Police are not allowed to snuff their red, white and blue strobes while in the presence of a suspect. Even if four squads are parked on your lawn. At 1 a.m. And the suspect is cuffed.
A jittery American flag light show, telegraph of shame.
One male boss greeted all his female staffers in the same way, a mumbling gruff “Ya’ ready?” The other women assured me after my first unsettling encounter, “He’s harmless.”
A fellow male condo owner rides the elevators all day and night and hits on females – visitors, workers, other condo owners. After one disturbing encounter with him, I was told by men and women alike, “He’s harmless.” One man added, “Probably.”
When I went through a weird period of being regularly accosted by flashers -- in the library, in my neighborhood, in Rome -- I was told, “They’re harmless.”
“Today's flasher is tomorrow's flasher,” Katherine Mair, a forensic psychologist, told a reporter in 1995. "These guys find flashing itself rewarding. They fantasize about what their victim is imagining.” https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/why-flashers-are-no-laughing-matter-even-when-the-victims-a-man-1621499.html. 28 May 1995
But in 2018, forensic psychologist Stephen Hart, argued, "It is a big mistake to dismiss flashing as a nuisance. Some flashers—whether or not they suffer from exhibitionism—also engage in other bad behavior, up to and including sexual assault. Some may start by flashing and then escalate to coercive acts such as rape." https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-react-to-exhibitionists-and-indecent-exposure-3435773
So let’s get this straight. No person who exhibits inappropriate sexual behavior is harmless.
I tear the gold cellophane tail from the outer package, flip open the carton, untuck the first Marlboro Light and, while I fiddle with a match, my lips embrace the burnished filter. And then I inhale. The first bits of tobacco tick, tick, tick as the flame consumes them, until an ember crowns.
And as I watch and listen at the party, the cigarette perched between my index and middle fingers, I lift my chin to meet the cigarette and inhale. And exhale. Lift. Inhale. Exhale.
For me, smoking was about posing like a dancer slipping from tendu to plie to releve. I think I was more addicted to the choreography than the nicotine.
Which is why I don’t understand vaping. A smoker hugs the e-cigarette in his fist, obscuring it as if embarrassed by his e-pen’s knobby ugliness or by his intimacy with what looks like a computer flash drive. Where’s the artfulness, the glamour?
Maybe grace is in the shopping for and loading of e-juice. Maybe it’s in the flavors. Maybe it’s just the straightforward lure of nicotine.
I packed light for a two-week trip to Australia. Three dresses. Two sweaters. And thankfully, one scarf. On the seventh day, after wearing each dress twice, fashion boredom descended. So, with the dresses as backdrops, one day I wore the scarf as a skirt, then as a sarong, then as a shawl. And in between I tied a sweater at my waist and fluffed the sleeves into flower shapes for a multi-function belt. I felt like a fashion goddess remaking my world in seven days.
When I told my friend, Annette, about this fashion feat she said, “Yup. A scarf is the duct tape of the fashion world.”
Duct tape. It fixes all ills. Even fashion ills.
After watching “Ask Dr. Ruth,” a documentary about German-American sex therapist, media personality and author Dr. Ruth Westheimer, I wondered if she had friends, the type of friends who listen and question and are slow, very slow with solutions. A childhood longing for her parents who disappeared and ultimately were murdered in the Holocaust might have made her too thick-skinned for those kind of friends.
I am not thick-skinned. “Toughen up.” “Just forget about it.” “Stop thinking about it.” When people said those kinds of things to me, it felt like a slap, like they thought less of me for being sensitive, for being thin-skinned. Those people did not become my good friends.
Still I felt a squeak of shame as I watched Dr. Ruth navigate the harsh media world with her ever-present smile. Until I thought about thick-skinned animals and their clod hopper ways. Elephant skin is one-inch thick in certain parts. Hippo skin is two-inches thick. That’s a lot of armor to carry when compared with human skin which is no more than .16 inches thick.
So I’m ready to I own my permeability as well as my fluidity of movement. And when my skin stiffens from the friction of moving forward, I will just shed it. Like a snake.
“We don’t heal without hurting. For a while, the cure for the pain is the pain.”
Mary Pipher in Women Rowing North.
Besides cookies, cake and an occasional Culver’s Deluxe Butter Burger, writers need field trips to feed on something other than their bodies and souls.
I’m so grateful to Milwaukee’s great institutions (and one Appleton institution) for schooling me. Here’s what I learned in one week of field trips:
When cooking and reading appeal more to me than writing does, I get a little anxious. Is the mojo fading? I still write every day but with more awkwardness and less enthusiasm.
This orchid photo reminds me to accept these fallow periods. I ignored the plant for nearly a year and still it exploded into blooms and buds.
Some people have trouble remembering the difference between fiction and non-fiction. So, instead of a sign that reads “Fiction,” some bookstores kindly label those sections in their stores as “Made Up Stories.”
Because conversations are not so easily labeled, I thought you should know that when you talk about me or speak for my state of mind, it’s fiction.
Green Parrot, c. 1820 India, East India Company School, 19th century. The Cleveland Museum of Art Open Access Collection.
Exotic sights embellish my travels. Lush rock towers partition Halong Bay. Goats ornament a Moroccan argan tree. Titanic shields shingle the Sydney Opera House. But the most exotic sight for me when I travel is me. The armor of my habits and routines falls away as I fall into new experiences and, without the usual protections, I am transformed.
I fell into mud on one trip which allowed me to cry for the first time since my divorce. An allergic reaction to bat guano swelled my face which allowed me to be alone and write all day. I fell in love for a minute with a delightful man which helped me see that another love was possible. And all that falling and swelling helped me heal from a sorrow that I would not, could not acknowledge in my everyday life.
No wonder I’m relieved to be home. And no wonder, after a couple months of routine, bon voyage is mon bon ami.
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