25 September, 2018

A world away

It's been interesting living on the other side of the world from the place I called home for over 35 years.  With the US (and its current president) constantly in the news, I have chosen to be sort of disconnected for no other reason than, I can.  I can ignore the horrid shit that is spewing from a lesser human's repulsive mouth, ignore the hateful hurtful tweets, ignore the sexism, the racism, and all the other - isms' that have been unleashed like the tornado that ripped through Dorothy's home in 1939.

Like Dorothy, I was removed from my home state of Kansas and found myself somewhere over the rainbow where the skies are indeed blue.  Like Dorothy, when I landed, I found myself surrounded by little munchkins.  Like Dorothy, I encountered friends who helped me find my way.  Like Dorothy, I feel there is "no place like home". (in many ways)

The current political situation makes me think that if Dorothy was alive today, then she may have missed that balloon ride intentionally.  I am happy that I am surrounded by munchkins, happy that days can go by without a thought of the land I flew from many years ago.  Now don't get me wrong, I miss my family so bad sometimes it hurts and I think of them daily, but knowing myself quite well, going home (even if I could click my ruby red slippers) would not be relaxing.  Merely thinking about touching down on US soil makes my heart beat faster, makes my blood turn a few degrees cooler and I have to go find a lollypop kid to hug to make thoughts of 'the wicked orange witch' go away.

But as much as I would like to pretend that I don't care...alas, I do.  I care deeply when I read FaceBook posts from friends or a blog post such as this one from a beautiful human - As Bad As She Says

They bring the US to me, barreling over that fucking rainbow with an evil-clown grin on it's red, white and blue face.  I can run but I cannot hide.  Actually at this moment that isn't true.  I broke my damn toe goofing around so I cannot run...

As long as I love those a world away, I will stay connected to social media and it's informational consequences.  Loathing is almost to tame a word to describe how I feel about those that are governing the US.  At one particularly low evening, I found out that when you are out of tonic, gin can be added to strong decaf. coffee and V-Soy Multi-Grain beverage with surprisingly tasty results.  True story.

So where is all of this going?  I guess I feel the need to add to the frustration by baring my soul.  How as a young woman, I too, was sexually harassed, how I 'allowed' a man with daughters my age to feel empowered by belittling me because he felt he could.

I had a job at a check collection agency in Wichita, KS in 1986-87.  I was 18 years old.  I had been groomed for secretarial work taking all the appropriate classes in high school.  I loved the job.  I spent the days going through these small 'paper check sized' drawers re-organizing.  That wasn't in my job description, but when someone came to the counter to pay for an outstanding (bounced) check their receipt of payment was the actual check that the store they wrote it to sent to us (to collect upon).  If the check was incorrectly filed by someone, I was screwed - no check, no receipt. - if you do not understand any of this, it's because you are too young...

Anyway, my daily activities were filled with keeping things in order along with 2 other young women.  After about a month of working, 'the boss' asked if I would like to change my hours from 8am to 5pm to 11am to 8pm.  I agreed, since my 'morning person' personality had not developed yet.  At first I enjoyed the evening shift, with the collection staff making cold calls and complaining gone, it was quiet and few people came in so I could concentrate on the massive files as I worked my way from A to Z (do you have any idea how many John Smiths wrote bad checks - insane amount).

It didn't take long for the 'the boss' to start hanging out near me, as I was the only other person in the place.  I remember him 'confiding in me' on how he travels a bit and on his travels he 'hooks up' with many women, some my age.  I was young and inexperienced, but I felt something was not right.  In my 18 year old mind, here was a 'fat bald old man' (all of 45 yrs.) who was telling me that he's 'all that'.  I was aware that something was happening or that he was trying to progress to something happening, but at that time, I went along with his stories.  I smiled at the right time, I laughed at his disgusting words -feeling sick knowing the next day his wife and one or two of his daughters would come to work bright and early (Oh, did I forget to mention that it was a family run business?). I tried to concentrate more on the tasks at hand and will his presence away.

I was only a month or so into the new hours when I was offered 'personal secretary' position to 'the boss'.  I knew deep down in my core that I should not (and would not) under any circumstances take that position.  No one had taught me how to spot a pervert.  No one had told me that what 'the boss' was doing to me was wrong.  On the contrary, everyone thought that I should take the new job, that it was a great opportunity for such a young woman.  No one taught me how to listen to that churning feeling in my gut, but I somehow knew I could.  I was also 18 and living with my parents.  I didn't need that job, I was not going to starve if I didn't have it.

As the universe provides, I received a pamphlet in the mail from the Nanny International School and Placement Service which was enrolling for their next semester and I signed up -unbeknownst that my future would soon be set in motion.  I remember feeling a surge of pride as I told 'the boss' that instead of taking him up on his offer I was quitting.  He tried to talk me out of the school, how working for him would open doors, how I was making a big mistake.  I also remember his wife sitting there asking me about the school, telling me that it was an interesting venture and her husband, 'the boss' ignoring her.

There are moments in your life where respect abounds.  Situations that you will remember like they were yesterday.  I drove home that evening knowing I would soon be rid of that dirty feeling, be rid of 'the boss'!  Knowing at some level that if he had indeed had all the women he claimed that he had, it was just a matter of time until he tried to add me to that list.  I walked into my parents home that evening and stated that I had applied to Nanny School and that I had quit my job.  My dad's jaw dropped and he stared at me in disbelief.  He started in on me, telling me that I had blown a good job (pun intended).  With his archaic idea that for a female, a secretarial job is the end all be all of professions, he was upset and was letting me know.

Once I hit my teens, I had open communication with my dad.  I respectfully could say what I  thought and that although I may not get a standing ovation from him, he had to have felt a bit of pride in my assertive actions -sporadic as they were.  Like a strong-willed daughter who frustrates the shit out of you, as you walk away thinking 'that a girl'.  I think that deep down he knew this unmarried daughter of his would be an albatross around his neck, but with a sly grin he was up for the challenge.

Frustrated at his scolding I blurted out "Oh, I guess I could sleep with him also" and an unusual silence entered the room.

He stared at me with a look I had never seen on his face (an expression I can still envision today) then he quietly asked "Did he do something to you?" -and today as an adult with teen children in my care, I understand the impact of that question.  How that sort of a question can change everything in an instant, how it takes an unimaginable amount of courage to ask it.

I answered with "No, but he wanted to."

My father simply said "Okay' and walked away and nothing ever was said about that job.  It was like I never worked there at all.  He never ever brought it up again, which was probably his way of dealing with the humbling possibility, with the idea of what could have happened had I listened to his advice.

At the time I had no idea of what I had escaped.  But over the years, I was able to recognize spiraling degrading situations.  Recognize - yes, but usually not until they reached a intolerable level was I able to stop them. 

I used to stomach the jokes, the snide remarks, the pawing, the gestures. I laughed away the advances and the comments.  It wasn't until my middle 30's that I realized that I had a choice.  Of course leading up to that time, I had been invited to take a personal protection course and I became addicted to the feeling that comes with that kind of mental and physical strength.  I became an instructor and watched women go from a floppy wrist slap, to screaming and lunging (all within a few hours).  

From there I enrolled a karate course and starting teaching children karate/personal protection and how to be aware of the 'tricky big person'.  I watched little girls, who's femaleness had not yet developed,  hit the bag and scream at the top of their lungs. 

I got my concealed handgun license (although I had no desire to carry one) and then started taking Krav Maga classes.  It wasn't until I saw through the power and manipulation that I was able to stop being a nothing surviving in a world of somethings.  The word 'no' held a powerful new meaning and I had the skills to back it up.

In the realm of what's going on in the country of my birth, this is just a blurb.  Another story, another woman who society had molded as a lesser being; taught that it was okay to be treated as such.  But it stops with me.  As the foster mother for many teens, I am raising them to know they have a voice.  They are being raised in a 'developing country' where women's rights are basically theoretical, but as a human being, they have the right to know they have the right to be heard.  I will do anything in my power to try to lessen their chances at becoming a statistic.

On the other side of the world atrocities are happening at an alarming rate, and I don't mean the side I am currently on.  I miss my family and friends, but I do not miss the United States of America.

I also miss Triscuit Crackers. (#carepackage)