Rape on Campus: Protecting the Alma Mater

Stop rape

 

Last week, my eighteen-year-old niece graduated from high school.

She is brilliant, and lovely, and vibrant. In the fall, she will be headed to a university.

Where she will stand a one-in-five chance of being raped.

Today, news broke that Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts – a leading institution in sciences and engineering – crafted a legal defense against a lawsuit from a rape victim which was built around blaming the victim. It then went on to say it wasn’t blaming the victim, in a bizarre form of double-speak.

Let us be clear: no victim is ever culpable in their own rape. Ever.

A convertible parked on the street with the top down does not give me license to hop in and drive away. A handgun left out on a counter does not give me license to pick it up and fire it. Just because a house is flammable does not give you license to burn it down. There is not mitigation of the crimes of grand theft or murder or arson because of the makeup or behavior of the property owner. So why in the world should there be mitigation of rape for the same reasons?

After her assault, a woman I love dearly was asked “What were you wearing? Had you been drinking? Why were you at his place?” I share this with her permission, but it is, as she says “the standard shame and blame line for us girls who were asking for it.”

Let that sink in for a second. She was the victim. NONE of those questions were relevant to the assault. She could have been bombed, completely naked, and in his apartment for an orgy, and unless she enthusiastically gave her consent for the attacker to touch her, IT DOES NOT MATTER.

She is not alone. This is what cold-diarrhea Brock Turner, rapist’s victim had to face in court.

And this is what WPI’s Jane Doe – who was raped by a security guard that was supposed to be PROTECTING her – had to face at the hands of her college. And worse, she is not alone.  There are too many stories to recount about colleges participating in victim blaming in order to protect the old alma mater, but here are just a few, quoted from this Washington Post article:

Sasha Menu Courey, the University of Missouri swimmer, told a nurse, a rape crisis counselor, a campus therapist, two doctors and an athletic department administrator that she was raped, but no one did anything about it. Sixteen months after the attack, she killed herself.

 

At a preliminary hearing known as an Article 32, the [United States Naval Academy] midshipman [who was assaulted] was subjected to days of hostile cross-examination by defense attorneys who asked what kind of underwear she had on and how wide she opens her mouth during oral sex.

 

And at Patrick Henry College [a dry, Christian campus], the [assaulted] women were questioned about what they were wearing and whether they were flirting. One victim was assigned to read a self-help book on modesty. She was told by a college official to delete the e-mails, calls and texts from a young man who apologized for an assault after she asked about calling the police. The dean asked her to trust God, instead.

This happens over and over again, at campus after campus.

In fact, in one report, FIFTY-FOUR percent of college athletes admitted raping their partners. 54%. That’s half of every team. It’s the infield minus the catcher.

You know someone – more than one someone – who is a rapist.

And so do the colleges.

So yes, we should be blaming poor, unable-to-eat-ribeye Brock Turner, convicted rapist. We should be blaming the judge who coddled him, the parents who did not raise him not to rape, the society which teaches girls how to avoid being raped instead of boys to avoid raping.

But we must also blame Stanford, the school with the long history of not doing enough to prevent sexual assault, or to protect victims and punish rapists when it does happen. And the entire university system in this nation, which is in the same rapey boat.

My niece, and the millions of other women in our universities deserve and need better – and urgently.

Be a Swede

This is anthropomorphic dogshit Brock Turner's rapey mugshot.

This is anthropomorphic dogshit Brock Turner’s rapey mugshot.

 

I’m going to be continuing this week on the issue of Brock Turner, rapist.

Because it’s not just about the felon Brock Turner, convicted rapist. There is a whole lot of fault in this story, and a few people who got it right. And it plays out the same way around the country – and around the world – over and over again.

Before we begin, I again admonish you to go and read anal polyp Brock Turner’s victim’s powerful and moving victim impact statement she made to the court before sentencing.  As always, what she has to say matters more than what I or what anyone who has not been in her position has to say. Read. Her. Words.

As we are almost completely the perpetrators of rape (not to minimize the impact of men and boys who have been raped by women, but rather the frequency), much of this post is meant for men. This is a post about choices, and rape inherently removes the option of choice from its victim. Nobody chooses to be raped. It is an act of force, it is by its very nature a denial of sentience, of consent.

As men, we have choices.

In this, we can be  sewer-pus Brock Turner, rapist, we can be his father Dan Turner, the enabler, we can be Judge Aaron Persky, the excuser, or we can be the Swedes, who did the right thing.

Be the Swedes.

Shoe full of vomit Brock Turner is a rapist, and a predator. He got drunk, and then after trying to kiss several women at a party and being rejected (including the rape victim’s own sister), he found the drunkest woman there, and targeted her.

Allow us to be clear – the victim being drunk is not a justification of her rape. It did not enable her participation. In fact, it removed her ability to consent. As she says in her statement, she was the “sick antelope.” Predator Brock Turner was the rapey lion. He saw her, and he saw an opportunity – not to do the right thing, not to make sure she was safe, but to impose his shitty little will on her. They were walking together. The victim fell down because she was drunk. And he raped her.

At trial, rather than blame himself, he blamed alcohol consumption – both his and hers.

That’s what a Brock does. Don’t be a Brock – the whole goddamned world hates skid-mark Brock.

Then there’s Dan. Dan Turner is Brock’s father. It’s natural to want to protect your children – but part of protecting your children is arming them in the first fucking place with the tools to not listen to their howling scrotum, and instead listen to the women with whom they would like to sleep. Dan never did that, clearly. Instead, after cow-farm runoff Brock committed a rape, he went all-out. He paid for an expensive lawyer and private investigator to turn the victim’s life inside out. He made sure that she was dragged through the mud, making sure she was painted as a drunken slut who ruined his sweet-but-intoxicated little Brock Dogshit Turner. Instead of saying “What the fuck, Brock, you vile little mistake,” he said “we’re going to fix this. Go start talking to high school kids about drinking and sexual promiscuity. Drinking is the problem. You are not a rapist.”

And then, after worse-than-Kim-Jong-Il Brock Turner was convicted on three counts of being a goddamned rapist, Dan had the temerity to send a letter to the judge claiming that his genetically and socially fucking deficient ejaculation Brock had never been violent – EVEN ON THE NIGHT OF THE RAPE HE WAS CONVICTED OF COMMITTING.

Don’t be a Dan. Dan’s an asshole, and he makes crusty-undies Brocks.

Then there’s Judge Aaron Persky. Elected (for now) Judge Persky, who was himself once an elite athlete at Stanford, where ingrown-backhair Brock Turner was also once an elite athlete, sentenced the thrice convicted rapist to six months in the county jail. For a crime with a minimum sentence of a year in prison in California. In doing so, he lamented catch-rag Brock’s loss of a scholarship, noted his intoxication as a mitigating factor, and stated that prison would have a “severe impact” on brimstone-smelling Brock.

Isn’t that the goddamned point?

Don’t be a Judge Persky. He creates more victims and makes it harder for the women who have been victimized to come forward and prosecute their cases.

And then there are the Swedes.

Bicycling by the scene of the crimes, Swedish graduate students noticed a man running away from a woman who was undressed and unresponsive. They chased what we now know to be legitimate-fucking-rapist Brock Turner down, tackled his raping ass, held him until help arrived for his victim and the police arrived for him.

They saw something was not right. They acted to prevent it from continuing. And they helped the victim.

Be a Swede, fellas. Be a Swede.

I wish there had been a Swede inside that party. One who saw that she was in no state to consent, and hung out to prevent her rape from happening. I wish there had been one dude who saw her and said “she’s not safe. Let me make sure she stays ok.” If there had been a Swede, maybe we would never have learned of worst-person-in-America Brock Turner, rapist. Or his enabling father, Dan. Or his wrist-slapping judge Aaron Persky.

Maybe there never would have been a victim, raped behind a dumpster, and left for some Swedes to rescue.

Be a Swede, fellas. Please. Be a Swede.

Brock Turner: Rape, Privilege, And The Failure of the Justice System

I’m angry, friends.

In fact, angry doesn’t cut it. A smarter, cooler, more collected person than I might know the words, but I’m the tea-kettle in the second before the whistle. I’m the detonator in the flip between 0:01 and 0:00. And you should be too.

“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”

With that, Brock Turner’s victim began perhaps the most powerful statement on rape I’ve ever read.

Right before she was victimized again by the justice system.

Before you read any more of this, go. Go and read her statement. What she has to say matters so much more than what I, or what anyone else who has not been in that situation has to say. I’ll be here after when you can breathe again. But read it. Now.

If you haven’t yet read it, don’t bother reading on. Her story matters more than mine, and if you haven’t read hers – all of it, fuck tl;dr mentality – you don’t deserve the rest. I’m pretty fucking serious. Read. Her. Words.

Just after making that statement, after telling her rapist (and let’s make no mistake – no matter what the implement of penetration was, this was rape) in full view and hearing of the court that the probation officer’s request for a year in jail was insufficient punishment for three felony convictions, the judge sentenced Brock Turner (an asshole name if ever there was one) to six months in the county jail and probation.

Six. Months.

Three felonies.

Forcible. Rape.

Mother. Fucker.

If you don’t believe in male privilege, readers, there’s your proof.

Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky was once an elite athlete at Stanford. So was Brock Turner.

In issuing this “sentence,” Persky cited mitigating factors, including the attackers intoxication. He gave him a pass, because he was drunk. He also cited the loss of his swimming scholarship, and concluded “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

Unless he gets drunk, apparently, but then it’s ok.

Mother. Fucker.

The loss of a scholarship one has to earn? Boo fucking hoo. This was a man born to privilege, an athlete who expected special treatment, a man-child who saw a woman unable to consent and pounced.

A rapist.

And we say “but she was drunk.” If that’s what you think, if you think that she was drunk and therefore was party to her own rape, kindly never speak to me again. And keep your goddamned sons away from my daughter, because you’re enabling them as rapists. You are part of the problem.

We don’t need to teach our daughters not to drink at parties. We need to teach our sons not to be goddamned Brock Turner. That, as the victim said:

According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts.

 

My daughter’s eighth grade health classes this year have been about sex. Last week, I asked her if the word “consent” had ever come up in those classes. She said “I think we’re talking about that tomorrow.” We talked about it right then – that she is the only person in control of her body. That she is the only person who can give permission for anyone to touch her, and that she can always revoke that permission. And I taught her how to hurt – permanently – anyone who was trying to violate that consent. That’s what we need to teach our daughters – that their consent is inviolable, that there are consequences for violating that consent, and that they are powerful enough to immediately impose those consequences.

We do not need to teach them that their rapists will lose a scholarship, but that a prison sentence is too severe a punishment.

Six months in county jail.

In California, the minimum sentence for felony forcible rape is a year in prison.

He was convicted of three felonies.

Six months in county.

Mother. Fucker.

 

Rapist Brock Turner

The rapist in court.

The Unexpected Difficulties of Parenting a Disabled Child

Ben and Emma 2016

My daughter was born with cancer.

Born with it. She didn’t smoke. She didn’t eat all the red meat. She didn’t do any of the things you can do to give yourself cancer: she was a fetus. All Emma had the audacity to do was survive.

You may have already heard the story: tumor bigger than her head. Crushed her trachea and esophagus. Required about 17 hours of surgery in two different hospitals on the day she was born. She shouldn’t have lived, by any measurable standards. She spent the next six months almost not living. But then she did, after a year in the hospital, dozens of surgeries – one of which stole her voice – and a permanent tracheostomy placement.

Kids like that don’t stay out of the hospital for too long.

The other day, I tried to count the number of lifetime hospitalizations she’s had. I couldn’t. I honestly don’t know, but it’s dozens. Nearly twenty in the past 18 months.

When you parent a child with these issues, you know you’re not destined for the jet-set, and that’s ok. I made my peace with that; the joy of Emma’s life is worth any number of other sacrifices. I don’t need to visit the Caribbean, or have a fancy car, or stylish clothes. I can get an extra year or two out of my glasses, and I can do without most anything.

But it shouldn’t have been as hard for us to just get by as it has been.

I knew the medical bills were going to be enormous. These are costs everyone knows are wild and out of control. Emma’s uncovered medical expenses just for her first year (which, by the way, would have been covered under Obamacare) were equivalent to a house in the Boston suburbs. Ten houses in Detroit. Those are the expenses you anticipate, and find ways to deal with.

What nobody knew beforehand, what nobody told us, was the lifetime expense we would have. Emma, if you are reading this THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You did your job. You lived. You are worth every hardship a million times over, and the joys you have wrought in my life are not measurable in these terms. Or any. None of this is your fault, and even if it is (it isn’t), I would choose you over and over and over again.

America, this is your fault.

We’ve created a culture where an individual’s contribution to society is measured solely in dollars. Where we are so damn selfish with our tax money that we only want to pay for that which measurably benefits us directly. We have gutted our social safety nets because we’ve bought into the confirmation bias of “people who need help are lazy.” We’ve bought into the idea that the only thing you need to do to succeed financially is work hard.

We’ll here’s the reality of raising a disabled kid – especially as a single parent.

You’re going to lose jobs because you have to miss time for doctor’s appointments, sick kids, and hospitalizations. And because your sick kid raises everybody’s insurance premiums, even though that’s illegal.

When you lose those jobs, you are going to lose your insurance.

When you lose your insurance, you are going to take any other job you can get, and are going to be miserable.

When you lose your job, there is going to be very little help available to you.

Maybe you’ll get food stamps, and when you have to use them to feed yourself and your child some entitled jerk in the grocery store checkout line will yell at you. Almost every time.

You will feel invisible, except when you are not living up to the American Dream, and then you will feel like you live in a spotlight of dehumanization.

You’ll need to ask family and friends for help over and over again. If you are lucky (I am) you will be bowled over by their generosity. Lucky or not, however, you will lose or strain relationships and find judgement from people you thought would always be there for you no matter what.

When you take that terrible job, you’ll probably not be as good at it as you could have been because you’re not sleeping over the mounting bills and your sick child.

And then you’ll lose that job the next time your kid gets hospitalized, and start the cycle over again.

You will suffer from depression. This will exacerbate the cycle.

Sometimes, you’ll get a stretch of things going well. You’ll try and build a social life.

Maybe even go on a date or two.

And then people will leave you because even though you told them you have a sick kiddo, a kid who will and should demand more attention than the average kid, they don’t believe they reality of it. And once they experience it, they can’t in fact handle it.

And you’ll be pretty desperately lonely.

And it keeps repeating.

I’ve been luckier lately – the jobs I’ve done and which I hope to do are now in an area more compatible with an ability to work remotely. For thousands or more of us, this is not the case.

Its something we could fix so easily. We could value parenting over a few extra cents on our tax bills. We could say “as a society, we need to take care of each other.” We could see that providing for the welfare of those who really need it provides for the welfare of the entire community. That it makes us stronger. That we do have a responsibility to one another, those of us who share a nation and a heritage. Those of us who live in the bounty of the richest nation in the history of the world. We could raise up families who, but for the grace of whatever higher power in which you may believe, go the rest of you. We could see the EBT card in the checkout line, and instead of saying “I hate you,” we could say “I’m so sorry.” Or nothing. Nothing would be fine, too.

Because in one way or another, we all pay. And I assure you, there is nobody in my position who wouldn’t rather their child was healthy and that they could easily live the 9-5 American Dream.

She survived. And every day, we struggle to do the same.

Dads, Daughters, and Dating

Dad of A Long Long Decade Ago

 

I am not the father who will have the shotgun prominently displayed when the first boy shows up to take my daughter out.

In fact, I think that macho posturing is reprehensible. She does not owe me her chastity; I am not the owner of her “virtue.” You will not find me posing in pictures with her date, saying “anything you do to her, I get to do to you.”  You will not find me wearing those disgusting “10 Rules for Dating My Daughter” tee shirts. You sure as hell will not find me at a “purity” ball, where my daughter pledges her virginity to me until her marriage. Does it even get creepier than that? Also, where the hell do we get off saying that virginity is “virtuous,” and “pure,” but only force it on our daughters?

No, instead, you’ll find me teaching my daughter to respect herself, hopefully helping her in making good decisions about the people she wants in her life in any capacity. You’ll find me consoling her when she gets it wrong, and cheering her on when she strives to get it right. You’ll find me giving her honest information, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for either of us. And hopefully, you’ll find her choosing to date people who respect her, who will treat her gently and kindly-and not because they are afraid of me, but because they are the kind of people who treat others gently and kindly. You’ll find me teaching her that she is the only person who makes rules regarding her body (unless, alas, the GOP wins the presidency. Those old white dudes seem pretty into making rules for women’s bodies).

It’s not for me to scare your boys, it’s for you to raise them right.

I say all that because the following anecdote may seem contrary, and I didn’t want to give the wrong impression on where I stand on the matter.

A few years ago, the kiddo had a little crush on a boy in school. Totally benign, the way crushes between fifth graders have been and always will be. She was probably ten years old at this point and we had already started discussions about her bodily autonomy and whatnot, so she knew the following was all in good humor. Also the kid she liked (and she would be very clear in saying today that she has no crushes other than Adam Levine) was then and remains a kind, sweet, smart boy who shall remain entirely anonymous.

Regardless, this boy’s mother happens to be an attractive woman who may or may not be a single parent. I never got to know her well enough to say more than “hello,” and pass some small talk when hanging around in the pick-up lines or what have you – but I’d be lying if I said I had never entertained the possibility of her being single. And so, one day, the kiddo and I had a conversation which went something like this:

“[REDACTED] did this funny thing in school today.”

“Oh really? You and [REDACTED] sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” I am the paragon of maturity.

“Dad! Stop,” she admonished, blushing and likely developing a deep-seated resentment.

“Ok. Sorry. Did you know his mom is single?” You know. She *might* have been single.

“Ummmm…”

“So. You could date [REDACTED] and I could date his mom! It would be so much fun!”

“Ummmm…”

“Seriously. We could all go out to dinner together. You know. Double date.”

At this she sighed, hung her head, and walked down the hallway to her room. Upon reaching her door, she looked up with hang-dog eyes.

“Dad. I’m a single lady,” she said, sighed again, and closed her door.

At the tender age of ten, I had cracked the dad-daughter dating code. I would date the mothers.

And thus, another step on the long march to king of all fathers was taken.

 

 

Finding Space to Get It Wrong

Making room for making mistakes

There is no such thing as the perfect parent.

Those of us who write about our lives cannot help but put our best face forward. Even when we write honestly (and I always try and write as factually and as emotionally honestly as I am capable), this very fact becomes part of the image we put forth. When we write about parenting, we place our great mistakes in the role of life-lesson learned instead of some run-of-the-mill screwup we made because we were tired, or cranky, or just plain blew it.

Sometimes, many bloggers just make it up. The perfect marriage. The perfect kids. The lessons imparted from every venture to the top of some mountain, or to a volunteer cause.

Or from a brand everyone is just delighted and honored to work with.

Last week, Josi Denise called shenanigans, and while it rang a bit “Bye, Felicia,” she called us parenting bloggers out in a way we need to be called out. She admitted to faking it. She called out industry, and fellow bloggers. She pulled apart what used to be a writing venture and has turned into a cottage industry: the “mommy blog.” I don’t exempt us dads from it, either. We’re just not quite as marketable, except as morons who would rather let their babies sit in their own feces for three hours while the big game is on.

I don’t write “sponsored posts” (read: commercials) and I never, ever will. I abhor a branded “twitter party” (read: long-form audience participation ad – “Q1. How does being Zestfully Clean make you feel confident during those stressful mommy hours?”) and have muted or unfollowed every account I can find that participates them. I’m not sure I exactly fit into the culture Denise called out, but I’m not sure I don’t – and it got me thinking about the things about which I *don’t* want to blog.

Like the time I accidentally grabbed a poorly-labeled bottle of 1/2 strength hydrogen peroxide and used it to flush my then-toddler’s feeding tube instead of the nearby sterile water. Or the time the same tube got caught on the straps of her carseat as I was taking her out of the car, and I accidentally ripped it out. Or the time she told me she couldn’t breathe right, and I trusted the numbers on a machine instead of listening to her, and she ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.  Or the times early on in dating where I disappeared because I wasn’t interested or was too overwhelmed by life and just couldn’t date anymore. Or the times when I fell in love with women who were completely unavailable to me. Or the times after my divorce when I was so bad at dating I self-destructed good relationships. Or the times I couldn’t separate the enormity of dadding a special needs kid from the need to be good at work and instead of asking for help I just flailed poorly at everything.  Or the time I stayed with a woman who was entirely wrong for me because it felt preferable to being alone. Or the inability to invest in friendships the way they need to be nurtured because of a lack of emotional energy. Or the digitally-dusty half-memoir sitting in the cloud without progress. Or the bags of chips and extra tacos that gained back the weight I lost. Or any number of other daily disappointments we foist upon ourselves.

There are not lessons in these. There is no neat 500-word summation that leaves us with a greater understanding of the world at large. There isn’t a smile in the sudden ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds and illuminating the dust motes floating through the windows because I didn’t have enough energy left after doing everything else a single parent has to do and also to dust. They are just things that happen.

Sometimes, we just fuck up.

Maybe we should write that more often, instead of portraying everything as rosy or illuminating. Maybe we need to write all of reality. Maybe the flailing about for an anchor is the meaning. Maybe I wouldn’t be so worried about it if I was Zestfully clean.

Maybe we all need to give ourselves the space to make mistakes, and the freedom to leave them as what they are: transient, sometimes hurtful, and maybe even devoid of meaning. Even to our sponsors.

 

On the Radio

Ben and Emma 2016

Occasionally, I am able to con the good folks at WBUR’s Cognoscenti to publish some of my drivel. Even more occasionally, I go in and record said drivel for the radio. This is, perhaps, one of the pieces of drivel of which I am most proud. In it, I recount an experience I recently had watching my daughter stop breathing following surgery. It was terrifying and monumental, and ultimately ok.

One of those pieces broadcast today. You can read it by clicking the link above or listen to an abridged version below.

Give it a listen, won’t you?

The Two Brains

Treadmills. Ugh

 

“Oh, not this shit again,” my asshole brain whined as I approached the treadmill.

“You know the drill,” said my inner masochist. “My time to shine.”

I stepped fatly onto the machine and busied myself with my earbuds, curious as to how this would all shake out.

“We’ve already been through this. It sucked.” Asshole had a point.

“Yeah, and we lost seventy pounds.” Oh snap.

“And then we gained it all back. Plus some. Why bother?” I imagined the Taco Bell down the street. Time for anything supreme.

“Welp,” said the masochist, “you snore. Because you’re fat.” Sigh. True that.

I’m not fat. It’s this bag of Nachos Bellagrande masquerading as a person who’s fat. He’s our Uber.”

Ouch.

I start the C25K app on my phone. Day one, run one. Take that, asshole brain.

“See? The Uber knows where it’s at,” said my masochist.  Damnit.

“Begin brisk 5 minute warm-up walk,” said the too-chipper voice of the app. She sounds foxy, but Mormon foxy.

“Ok,” said masochist brain.

“SHUT UP YOU HARPY,” yelled asshole brain.

I started to walk as the treadmill spun up to 3 MPH.

“Goddamnit,” said the asshole brain.

“Just 3?” asked the masochist.

Two minutes in, and I started to sweat a bit.

“Ew,” said the asshole.

“Yeah, that sucks,” said the masochist, “use your towel.”

I used my towel.

As I dabbed at my glistening brow, asshole brain began a chant in time with my steps.

“Fuck. You. Fuck. You. Fuck. You.”

“Begin running for one minute,” said the foxy Mormon.

“Nope!” said asshole brain.

“BRING IT!” shouted the masochist.

As my steps increased in rate to a slow, fat 6 MPH, the chant increased with it.

“fuck. you. Fuckyou. fuckyou. fuckyoufuckyofuckyoufuckyou”

It was getting harder to pass the sweat off as glistening.

“Resume walking.”

“FINALLY. ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL US?” moaned asshole brain.

“Yeah, prolly ok to take a break,” agreed masochist brain.

I slowed my pace back to 3.

“You have completed run one of eight,” purred the Mormon.

“OHHHHHH no,” said the asshole brain. “TAXI!”

“Breathe through it,” said the masochist.

I imagined that the foxy Mormon looked like the women in the gym: tight leggings and sports bras over Yoga bodies, but she also was a bit judgy.

“How are you the only person in this whole goddamned gym sweating, fatso?” inquired asshole brain.

He had a point. The middle-aged dude next to me had just set his treadmill for “THE MIGHTY PEAKS OF EVEREST” or some shit, and was running nearly vertically at a full out sprint while texting and not sweating. I hated him. I hoped his sherpas killed him when he stopped for some kale and quinoa bars.

“Begin running for one minute,” said the foxy Mormon app in the judgy sports bra.

“WE JUST STOPPED RUNNING! SOMEBODY SHOOT HER PLEASE” said the asshole brain.

Masochist brain tried to say something, but was not audible over the rhino-like thunder of my footfalls.

“fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou,” shouted asshole brain, clear as day.

I wondered how that happened.

“I bought a megaphone, Jabba,” he shouted and let a long squeal of feedback burst out of the megaphone.

Masochist brain zipped up his gimp mask. I continued to run.

“You have completed run two of eight.” I was sure that judgy foxy Mormon ice queen was smirking at my moobs.

Some point later, I completed my cooldown. I turned off the Mormon, and told her to put on some damn clothes.

The asshole brain was sitting in a corner, crying.

Masochist brain said “Ok. Weights?”

It’s going to be a long process.

 

The Loneliest Number

Joy Division Love Will Tear Us Apart

A single father must hold two hearts.

The first heart, the dearest, perhaps, is the one wholly devoted to his child. This is the heart that wakes up in the middle of the night at the slightest cough. It is the heart that breaks for his sick child as he tries to sleep next to her in the hospital. It is this heart which is conditioned to protect his daughters above all else, and which his brain must check in order to allow her to blossom. This heart fills as the days pass, and aches as his daughter grows ever closer to growing away.

This is as it should be.

His second heart bleeds.

It is this heart he holds for himself, tentatively extending it to others in the hopes they will help heal old wounds. He retracts it when new pins are brought forth, only to be extended again when he thinks the recipient holds no pins. Some day, this heart hopes he is right. This is the heart we must hide from our children while it bleeds, and show as often as possible when it is whole and healthy and held.

It is not an easy balance.

When he dates, when he finds partners, before he can fully be with her she must know him a parent. And yet, as a parent, he does not want to involve her until he knows they are fully committed. It is a paradox I have yet to navigate successfully. I have a remarkable child I wish to share with just the right woman. For her to be just the right woman, she’ll have to love my daughter like her own – which risks pins in both of our hearts.

Hers has been stabbed more than once. Mine more than twice.

One of the difficult things when dating as a parent with a disabled child is that our lives are unpredictable. Things can be sailing along smoothly and suddenly we get two years of hospitalizations and stress. It can be hard to date us. It can be harder to love us. It takes a person of remarkable understanding and patience, a person with a boundless capacity for love. All too often, we discover too late that the person we suspected has these things does, in fact, not.

And so we retract our hearts. We mend. We fill our first heart with love, and we dine out for one.

And we tell ourselves it will be ok. Even when it doesn’t feel like it possibly can be. Even when love tears us apart. Again.

This blog is reborn. It will be an extension of that second heart to you, readers. It will document my attempts to extend it more personally to someone special, along with parenting, politics, prose, and products. Basically, whatever I feel like. Read if you like, but keep the pins at bay, won’t you?