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I didn’t “let you do anything,” sir (a declaration)

I am one of the many women you brushed up against in line. One whose waist felt your arm slither around and hold a bit too closely as you helped me into a vehicle. A female whose body you leaned into for a hug instead of a handshake, pressing your hand into my back so that my chest came into harder contact with yours. Those are my legs you ogled in a meeting because I dared to wear a pencil skirt. It’s my laugh you heard when you told me the racy joke. My big brown eyes that looked away over a lip-sticked smile when you made the flirtatious suggestion.

None of what you did was wanted.

None of it appreciated or invited.

But, like the Republican presidential candidate, I’m sure you believed one of two things: (1) she’s giving me cues that she wants this or (2) I can do this because I’m me and she’s her.

And did I kick up about it? Did I slap your face? Go to HR? Write a blog post, even? No. So that must mean I wanted it, right? Must mean I enjoyed it? Must mean you’re allowed to be this way.

No. Here’s what really happened:

You stared at my legs. I asked myself why I didn’t put on the slacks because I knew I had a meeting with men today. Then I berated myself for the idea of changing a completely acceptable wardrobe just because you can’t focus on business in a business meeting. Then I thought about moving to another seat, one that wouldn’t give you such a good view of my knees. Then I berated myself again for thinking of how to accommodate your ridiculous actions and how un-Sheryl Sandberg that is of me. Then I thought about just taking the bull by the horns and interrupting the entire meeting to say, “If you could stop staring at my legs, I’d appreciate it,” but then all the other men in the room would either think I was an ice queen or suddenly also become aware of my legs and the other women would withdraw from me, grateful it wasn’t them but eager to not be put in the ice queen territory, too. And then I needed to stop allowing myself to care that you were ogling me because I had valid contributions to make to this meeting that would be helpful to the project, so I turned away and worked.

Or let’s talk about how you do business hugs instead of handshakes – only with the women, of course, because you’re “a hugger.” So, you throw your big arm around my shoulders and pull me in, pressing my breasts against your chest and holding me there until you’ve gotten your fill, talking the whole time about how good it is to see me and how you’re looking forward to being a part of this project, blah blah. Since I didn’t slap your face, I must have “let” you, right?

“…they let you do it,” Trump told Billy Bush. “You can do anything.”

While you were busy getting your cheap feel, here’s what I was thinking: If I say something right here, right now, will I lose my job? Will this project go south if I embarrass him and he quits? He matters more to this than me because he’s the one with the money/prestige. If he leaves, his funding leaves, too and then we’re back to square one on this. Does it really matter if he feels my breasts for a few seconds if, in the end, we get the project done and it makes a positive difference in the world? My comfort level isn’t as important as getting the job done. This is just part of it. Part of working in a male-dominated industry. You don’t want to be “that” woman who can’t work with men and get along or you’re done in this industry, Rebeca. Be a grown-up. Smile. Overlook it. Stay focused on the mission. Laugh.

I did.

I smiled. I laughed.

You took that as acceptance and possibly even encouragement.

It’s no wonder you are confused by the female outrage over that Trump video. You’ve been hugging and ogling for years and you know dang well that women are fine with it because none of them has ever objected and most of the time we smile and laugh right along with you, right?

Let me clear things up here.

I fake smile and fake laugh so I can do my job.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I can be effective in my role.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I don’t get fired.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I have relationship capital.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that you’ll keep working on the task.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I don’t slap you.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that I can be a team player.

I fake smile and fake laugh so that the situation will end and I can get back to business.

I fake smile and fake laugh.

And you see and hear acceptance, even invitation.

 

If Donald Trump becomes president, your belief system on this will be exemplified by the leader of the free world. Suddenly, the sexual innuendo, flirting, hugs, touches, and ogling will be even more acceptable because, hey, that’s how the president gets things done and it worked for him, right? Married to a topless model, living in the White House, millions in the bank – the guy is the epitome of Man of the World and what man doesn’t want to be that?

So I wanted to be clear right here, today. Make a declaration, even.

You touch me, you flirt with me, you treat me as a sexual being that you are entitled to access, you’re getting called out on it. It shouldn’t require me to sacrifice my career, but that’s a length to which I will go now. Why now? Because the threat level has risen with every defense of Trump’s behavior that I have read on Facebook and Twitter or listened to on the radio or watched on television since that video came out.

I don’t walk in a room and stare at your penis. I don’t crack jokes about its size or call it by derogatory names because I’m not thinking about it at all. I don’t picture how you would be in bed. I don’t try to determine if you want me. I do not even care that you are capable of sex. I’m not interested. At all. Ever. Even a little bit. No, not even that much. The door is closed. There is no crack in it. No window for you to climb through.

Your sexual nature is not wanted.

Not even if you’re famous.

Not even if you’re rich.

Not even if you’re the Republican party’s nominee for President of the United States.

You want to work together like two adults who are talented, intelligent, resourceful, and can get the job done? Bring it. Let’s do this thing. I am all over that like white on rice. You wanna joke and kid while we work? Absolutely. I love a fun workplace. You wanna explore ideas and brainstorm about how we can do this job better, how we can enrich the culture of this country with the stories we bring them? Holy heaven and hottest hell, yes, I am down for that.

But check the rest of it at the door. I’m not going to quit genuinely smiling just because you walk in the room and mistake it for sexual invitation. I’m not going to quit genuinely laughing because you find it sexually attractive. I like to smile. I like to laugh. That’s for me, not you. That’s me enjoying the amazing life I get to lead and the adventurous career I have – it isn’t an invitation for you to be a part of it in any way but a colleague.

Thanks for letting me set the record straight here. Whew, I feel lighter already, knowing I won’t have to have those internal debates anymore.

Now, let’s get to work.

 

 

 

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A Gentle Request for How You Respond to Jim’s Passing

Jim

James D. Seitz

On Saturday, July 30, 2016, at 11:33am, my fantastic father-in-love James D. Seitz finished his battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 82 years old. I loved him dearly. I am not loving something about the response to his death, so I’m writing.

Three years ago, the Hubs and I moved the kiddos down to Naples to help out with Jim’s care. He and Grace allowed us the honor of being a real part of this journey and, while I won’t lie and say it was anywhere in the same ballpark as easy, I’m glad we did. I’m happy we got that time with him, that my kiddos know the amazing grandfather they had, that my mother-in-love and I grew closer as we cared for the love of her life, the man she was married to for 55 years.

Now, most of my Facebook friends are actual friends. They’re people I went to school with, have worked or volunteered with. A few are readers of my novels and I have the gift of their feedback and input as I write additional stories. The folks I call “Facebook Friend” are mostly real relationships. So, rather than call a lot of people and repeat our news, I posted on Facebook that Jim had passed.

               And I got the expected “Sad” and “Love” clicks (thank you) and kind comments from people. It’s been helpful to receive all that, to not feel as if our little family is alone, to realize that a lot of people are acknowledging that a good man’s life has ended.

               But something that has kinda driven me insane is how people barely get the, “I’m so sorry,” out before they jump to, “But you’ll see him again in heaven.”

I’ve done this exact same thing to friends who lose people to death. I’ve done it a lot, even from the moment we were told Jim needed to go into hospice care. Emotion overwhelmed my mother-in-love and husband, so I’m the one who tried to give Jim the news. He read it on my face before I could speak and said, “I’m going to heaven aren’t I?”

I responded, “Yessir, and I’m a little jealous.”

So, yes, I get the instinct to focus on the positive (heaven!) and brush right past the hideous (death). But, I want to go on record as saying I really don’t like it.

I’m a processor. I need time to process, reflect, think, ponder, be quiet and still before I feel as if I can move past a significant emotion. Right now, I hurt. A lot. I’m sad. I miss Jim – even the one who couldn’t speak because Parkinson’s stole his voice. I miss how he always, always smiled when I came into the room. I miss having someone in my life who wanted to hear every single, solitary detail of every single business trip or event I participated in. I miss the one who enjoyed listening to who came with whom and who wore what to this film premiere or that gala. I miss the man who knew the backstories of so many influencers in this town – how they became the people they are today. I want to hear his stories again of chairing balls and functions and how to navigate Board member and funder relationships. I want to ask him a question and see him turn his head, look off in the distance, and give my inquiry real thought before responding with some piece of wisdom I couldn’t have found otherwise. I’ve missed all this for a long time because Parkinson’s took it away but I couldn’t mourn it because we all had to focus on the care required by that moment, that hour. Now that he’s gone all of what was taken by this disease hits at once and I miss him.

I miss him.

I don’t care right now about heaven. I really don’t. I care that right now, today, I can’t go up to his bed, kiss the top of his head, and say, “Hello, blue eyes. I love you.” I care that my mother-in-love, a woman who has been an incredible mother to me for twelve years, is alone for the first time in her 77 years of life and isn’t sure how to navigate the silence other than turning on the radio and leaving it on all day. I care that my husband isn’t sure what to do with himself now that he doesn’t have to go and lift his daddy from the wheelchair and place him into bed every early evening or run over there when Jim needed taken care of some other way. I hurt that my youngest doesn’t have much memory of her grandfather as anything other than a Parkinson’s patient and I hurt more that my eldest does and misses the grandfather he knew before this hideous disease invaded our lives.

I don’t care about heaven right now, y’all. Trying to skip over the pain doesn’t lessen it. It forces me into a place of smiling and nodding, pretending that yes, sure, I’m all good, because, hey, we’ll see him again and isn’t that grand.

It’s not grand today. Please let it be okay that it’s not grand. Just for a little bit. We can rejoice in stuff worthy of rejoicing about in time. For now, I need to take a friend’s very wise advice and be gentle with myself. I need to let myself recognize that even though this was a long, long battle that I thought gave me time to be prepared, I was wrong. It still hurts. Each day is a little better than yesterday – I laughed a real laugh yesterday morning with the kiddos, went to the office, and even managed to keep a lunch date with ladies from my neighborhood – but it still hurts. And I’m going to let it hurt for a little while longer. It should hurt. A truly wonderful man is not here anymore. It should hurt.

I try to think of what I will say to people in the future when I hear that death has taken someone they loved off this earth. I don’t think I’ll jump to references of heaven. I think I’ll say, “I’m sad that you’re sad,” or “I’m so sorry this pain has come,” or borrow from my wise friend Mary and say, “Be gentle with yourself.”

Anyway, I do appreciate all of you who have offered comfort and even those of you who have jumped to the heaven references. I know you mean well. I know that. I love you for that. I just wanted to ask you to let me sit here in this remembrance of him and missing him for a little while longer before I have to take a deep breath, set it aside, and pick up full time living and hoping again.

Because even the promise of heaven doesn’t give back the exact same as what was. And saying goodbye to what was…takes a little while.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2016 in Life Lessons

 

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Final Lesson of a Friend

ImageDr. Jack Acree, my pastor for several years and a dear, brilliant friend, went Home to the Lord last Saturday. Brother Jack and I shared an enormous love of books. He forgave me my fiction predilection, I ceased attempting to understand his nonfiction obsession. True or non, though, we both loved good stories and I think he’d get a kick out of the one I could tell today, having just arrived home from attending his funeral service.

Arriving at the church with my husband and son brought its own swirl of memories. Next door was the church where I’d been honored with incredible support from Brother Jack in 2007 as a group of ladies and I worked diligently to create a women’s ministry in the face of opposition from those who liked things just as they were. It was also the church where the deacons forced Brother Jack’s resignation, a story on its own that serves as a stark example of what happens when a leader of deacons desires power and control more than exhibiting the kindness and humility our Savior practiced. Brother Jack, though, taught me how to love and pray for enemies by his walk through that particular fire.

I tried to set those memories aside as we entered the church and saw familiar faces from those days. Walking down the aisle with my seven-year-old son, I began to answer his questions of why Brother Jack was in that box and to assure him that, yes, Brother Jack’s soul was now in Heaven with Jesus. We hugged the family, said our Until That Days, and circled back around to find seats for the service.

That’s when I ran into Dr. Don McCulley – my pastor from elementary school and junior high. I babysat his daughter waaayyy back in the day and had just been surprised by a friend request from her on Facebook yesterday. We hugged, said it was good to see each other, then went on our way. I didn’t have much time to reflect on the strangeness of seeing him in this place…two towns and two decades removed from the last place I knew him…before the service. With confusion, I watched him file onto the stage and take a seat alongside our pastor, our worship minister, and two other men. Hmm.

After two speakers shared their memories and reminded us all why we loved Brother Jack, Dr. McCulley stood up. He, too, began sharing memories of this friend he’d known since seminary days. He talked about visiting Brother Jack, about talking on the phone in those last days, about their days on the golf course discussing theology.

And, despite the tears over how much I’ll miss Brother Jack this side of Heaven, I realized a smile rested on my lips. Here stood the embodiment of a characteristic both Brother Jack and I so love about the God we serve: His infinite storywriting. Brother Jack knew me as a married woman, as a mother, as a ministry leader, as a member of his flock. I knew Dr. McCulley as a student, a daughter, an adolescent, an employee, and a member of his flock.

Here, in this place, I learned that two men separated in my life by two decades and two towns had known each other for years. They no doubt shared lots of laughter and words along the way.

It’s like discovering a prequel to a favorite novel. How incredible, how brilliant, our God must be to weave our lives in ways we may never even see until we see Him face to face. How much fun it’s going to be, to see each other again one day and realize how we all fit together! We don’t know how our relationships this side of eternity play into our existence there, but it’s awfully fun to think about running into Brother Jack, telling him I want to introduce him to my friend Dr. McCulley, and having both of them exclaim, “Hey, I remember you!”

As a writer, I often share the lament with my author clients about keeping characters straight – especially when writing a series where relationships get entangled and untangled. What a God, that He not only keeps us all straight, but is working with every single one of us individually toward His ultimate purpose: everyone experiencing his love and forgiveness.

One last flash of insight into the God we adore from my friend and pastor who spent a life loving Him: Brother Jack.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Life Lessons

 

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