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Life Lessons From “La La Land”

La La Land just swept the Golden Globes. There are a lot of reasons for that which I’ll leave to actual movie critics. I did enjoy the movie, but not in the typical “I-laughed-I-cried” (although I did) sort of way. But more in an “I’m-wowed-by-its-life-lessons” sort of way. Because some of its offerings were stunningly and straightforwardly profound. Who knew that a film featuring a tap-dancing Ryan Gosling would be a tutorial of wise counsel we’d be wise to follow and pass down to our kids? (Warning: I’m not revealing a lot about the plot, but if you’re particularly sensitive to spoilers, maybe don’t read on.)

1. Follow your dreams. Even when you’re at the end of your self-confidence rope. Even when everyone around you is a naysayer. Even when you’re eating leftover toast for dinner every night. Don’t quit. Recent studies show that older folks need to push through the discomfort of learning something new to keep their brains strong and viable. And that’s an accurate metaphor for a lot of things in life. So, if you really want it — whatever “it” is — you must find a way to propel yourself through the pain, the self-doubt, the criticism, and the nagging voices in your head telling you to just give it up. (Because, really, who do you think you are to want that thing, that job, that promotion, that role?) Sound familiar?

Okay. Sure. Not everyone is going to make it to the Hollywood red carpet. But did you ever watch a movie and think, “Wow, this actor isn’t even that good — or that good-looking — but look at him doing his acting thing and making millions”? Yes, you have. Because it’s not always the best and brightest who rise to the top. Sometimes it’s just the tenacious — the someone with that extra ounce of gumption — who happens to catch a casting agent, or boss, or college admissions counselor at just the right moment. And sometimes that someone could be you.

2. Your partner should be your biggest cheerleader. The protagonists in the film —played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling — are both chasing their dreams. Their dedication to those goals despite crippling fear and anxiety (click to read about how art imitates life in Emma Stone’s case) —  is an awesome and honorable thing to behold. They’re both industrious self-starters, but they are also each other’s most avid fans. When one deviates from his/her stated goals, the other is there saying, “Wait. What? That wasn’t in your plan. And please don’t compromise. I’m here to support you.”

If you don’t have a partner who holds you accountable to your dreams, sings your praises, shares your work, or understands your vision…what, exactly, are you doing? Let me be clear: You can be the best dog-walker on the planet and be partnered with someone who hates dogs. And, really, that’s fine. What isn’t fine is being partnered with someone who doesn’t love that you love what you do. What isn’t at all fine is being married to someone who negates your goals or squashes your ambitions. Because the person who isn’t bursting with pride and enthusiasm for you — who isn’t carrying pompons with your name on them — isn’t someone who truly wants what’s best for you.

3.  You may not end up with the love of your life. And that’s okay. Maybe that person was meant to show up in your life in a specific place or time to teach you something you’ll never forget. Once a year or so, I dream of an old boyfriend. The dream is some version of this: I embrace him and say, “You know, I really did love you.” And, you know what? I did. And he did. And when I wake up, I’m happy for it. Not happy for losing him when I did, but grateful now for the gifts he brought me.

How many of us mourn the one who got away? We fantasize about what a lifetime would have looked like with that person. Here’s the reality: Maybe it would have been pretty frickin’ great or perhaps you dodged a bullet. Best case, it would have been like any other functional marriage: a combination of sweet moments, blow-ups, rising and falling passions, quiet rages, and differences of opinion that may never be reconciled.

There’s something to loving and losing that builds our love character and muscle. Certainly, we’ve been told that formula is better than never having loved at all. But it also demonstrates that we’re capable of loving and being loved — no small emotional feats. To love someone with your whole self — while allowing yourself to be loved flaws and all — is heart courage at its finest. Because there are no guarantees. Ever.

I love movies that don’t end the way we think (or hope) they should. Because — spoiler alert! — not everything in life ends the way we’d like, either. La La Land reminds us that clinging to the illusion of camera-ready endings robs us of the growing pains which guide us toward better or different choices next time. La La Land’s teachings are simple: Be true to yourself, chase your dreams, marry the right person, and accept that things don’t always go according to script.

Because, really, how else is life well-lived?

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What It’s Really Like To Be On the ‘Today’ Show

When you’ve blogged a long while — as I have — it’s challenging to come up with topics you hope will be interesting to your readers. So, when a colleague suggested I write about my experience on the Today show, I jumped on it.

I’ve been on Today twice. Once to talk about midlife divorce, and once to talk about raising three sons. Some people dream about being on national TV — and here’s where you might expect me to say, “But I’m not one of them.” But, unapologetically, I am.

Those of us who throw our work into the public arena and hope it sticks, know the highs and lows of doing that. But, despite the peaks and valleys, we forge ahead. We do that because we have a message we believe is valuable — whether we’re experts in relationships, dog leashes, or the stock market. And we want to share that message.

That being said.

Perhaps one day you’re watching Today (or a show like it) and you see a guest who’s just a regular person (like you) sharing her message. And you think, It would be so cool to be on a national talk show!  But how does that happen to everyday folk like me?

I was asked to be on because — daydream spoiler! — I had a publicist who made it her mission to get me on. But, first things first: If it’s your heart’s desire to be on one of these shows, you have to declare it. You can’t hide in a closet and expect the producers to come knocking, because they won’t. They have too many other qualified guests banging down their door.

Today wants you,” I remember my publicist saying. And those were about the headiest three words I’d ever heard strung together. They were interested in research I’d conducted on women in midlife choosing to divorce which eventually became the premise for my book, Without This Ring. I’d surveyed hundreds of women and the powers that be at Today liked that.  Because, like all media outlets, they like numbers. Big ones.

I was invited on the show again after an article I had written about mothering three boys quickly went viral, garnering over a million views (again, big numbers). I was slightly more relaxed the second time around, but not by much. (This was a year after my first appearance, and Kathie Lee and Hoda clearly had zero memory of ever meeting me before. But, true to form, they were their friendly, this-isn’t-going-to-hurt-a-bit selves.)

The experience is pretty surreal. You arrive at Rockefeller Plaza early in the morning and are ushered through the crowd gathered outside their studios. You’re greeted by a super-friendly page who directs you to hair and makeup —  a long, narrow room with a line of salon chairs positioned in front of a wall of mirrors. My first time there, I glanced into the mirror only to see Christian Slater(!) standing behind me looking just like Christian Slater should — only shorter. Okay, I thought, I’m really here. Because here is where real stars come to do their star thing.

(My second time there, I waited in the green room with Idina Menzel and Christina Ricci. Carson Daly strolled by. A celebrity I recognized — but couldn’t and still can’t name — told me she liked my dress. I couldn’t say, “This old thing?”  because it was obviously brand new. That, and I’d shopped for it like a feral maniac. I mustered a thank you instead.)

I digress.

The hair and makeup folks quickly and magically transform you into someone who looks like someone who should be on TV. When you’re TV-ready — and barely recognizable to yourself — you meet with the producer. If she’s never met you before, she’s doing her due diligence to ensure you won’t embarrass anybody — which you’re already pretty sure you’re going to do.

Before long, someone says, “Five minutes!” That is the exact moment your nervous system goes into overdrive. For a moment, you almost wish the floor would open up and swallow you whole.

You’re then escorted to the set which looks eerily familiar. You realize that’s because you’ve seen it a million times before on TV. Kathie Lee and Hoda make their entrance and they’re lovely and welcoming. People have asked me countless times, “What are they really like?” And my answer is always, “Exactly what you think.” Hoda is reserved but warm, Kathie Lee is a bundle of infectious, chatty energy. And they’re both pretty gorgeous. (At this point, you may or may not attempt to awkwardly embrace Kathie Lee because you’re a huge fan.)

The segment commences and, in a nanosecond, it’s over. And you can’t remember one thing you — or anyone else — said. And everyone is saying, “Great job!” but you have no way of knowing if that’s true or whether they just don’t want you to commit hara-kari in the studio. After you “come to” you realize Hoda and Kathie Lee have already disappeared to another set for their next segment. And, just like that, it’s over.

In case you’re wondering, you’re not paid to appear, but you do get national exposure for your message. They did put me up in an average-ish hotel the night before taping. I didn’t see them there, so I’m guessing Christian, Idina, and Christina made other arrangements.

Being on Today didn’t change my life, but it gave me an interesting life experience. And, as you know if you’ve gotten this far, something to blog about.

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Women: Run Like Hell From This Kind Of Relationship

I’m seeing a new relationship trend emerging among my clients. And, frankly,  it’s not a good one. What’s a trend in psychotherapy? Well, it’s when you start hearing very similar stories from several clients — enough times that it makes you go hmm. Lately, for example, I’ve seen a spike in generalized anxiety which many trace to the uncertainty they feel about the political future of our country. But I practice in Massachusetts, so there’s that.

The unfortunate trend that’s surfaced over the past year or so is one I call the Non-Relationship Relationship. I’m primarily hearing about it from women in their twenties and thirties who date men, but I’m betting it also applies to dating across the lifespan and to same-sex couples.

Here’s how the Non-Relationship Relationship (NRR) works: You’re in a relationship with a man. You see him several times a week. Maybe you’ve even met his parents. The sex is good. He texts you every day. He introduces you to all his friends. He takes you to his office Christmas party. You’re planning a vacation together.

All good, right? Except for one thing: He refuses to call your relationship a relationship. And, perhaps more importantly, he won’t agree to exclusivity. In other words, he won’t commit to being faithful.

But you spend so much time together, you’re not really worried about him being with someone else, right? I mean, where would he even find the time?

But then he goes to a bachelor party in Vegas or flies off to a company meeting and now his reluctance to call your relationship a relationship starts to take on meaning. And the hard truth of the NRR is he can do whatever his little heart (or whatever) desires when he’s away from you. Guilt-free.

Now, the twist to the NRR is he’s been honest with you from the get-go. So, when he comes home and admits he hooked up with an ex-girlfriend at his class reunion, what’re you going to say?

Of course, you’re angry and hurt. And you tell him. But it gets you nowhere because he’s got the NRR rulebook as his fallback. He was just doing what he already told you he might do. In his mind, he’s congratulating himself on being Mr. Open Book.

Gaslighting is a popular component of the NRR. Being gaslighted in a relationship means your partner tries to convince you that something you know to be true is a figment of your imagination. And, done right, it makes you start to feel a tad crazy.

In the NRR, what you know to be true is that you really are in a relationship with this guy. But because he doesn’t want to name it as a relationship, because he wants to leave the door open a crack, because he thinks he’s being truthful, you start to question your truth. You think, Maybe he’s right. But isn’t this a relationship? Maybe it’s not. What defines a relationship exactly?

In addition to feeling confused, you pile on worry and jealousy. Because, without a real commitment, you can never establish trust. And, without trust, you’re a chaotic mess every time he goes out with his friends or has dinner with a female coworker. Because, why shouldn’t you be? You’re in a relationship with a guy who claims you’re not.

Why are so many guys adopting the NRR? Simple answer: sex. Remember, my sample is mostly from younger women dating their male cohorts. And these guys in their twenties and thirties don’t want to close off the possibility of hooking up with other women. They’re happy with the NRR because they get to have all the benefits of a relationship with you (companionship, friendship, intimacy) without having to walk away from the opportunity of sex with someone else.

If you’re in a NRR, do you see he’s having his cake and eating it, too? That he’s taking all of the good from you but exploiting it by infusing your day-to-day with insecurity and self-loathing?

The self-loathing piece comes from knowing you’re not doing right by yourself. You’re not saying, “Look, I’m worth more than your two-bit honesty schtick. Commit to me or there’s the door.” No, instead you’re holding out for him to change his mind, to pledge his devotion and fidelity so you can get on with it. Hear me here: This is not going to happen.

If you’re in a Non-Relationship Relationship, know that you’re choosing it. No one is forcing you to tolerate this painful mind game. Why be with someone who is pretty much telling you you’re not enough for him? Because — if you don’t already know — you are enough. You’re more than enough. And the guy who deserves you will know that.

Act like a goddess and be treated like one. Act like a punching bag and brace yourself for the blows. If you want to find out what you really mean to him, put an end to the NRR. If he doesn’t value your relationship (as you already suspect), you may be saying a permanent, healthy goodbye. If he’s willing to abandon his NRR policies to hold on to what you have, he may be a keeper. In both scenarios, you end up with something invaluable —  your dignity and self-respect.

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The Kind Of People Who Divorce *PODCAST*

 

Are you wondering if you’re the “kind of person” who gets a divorce? You’re not alone.

Psychotherapist and best-selling author, Abby Rodman, explores why we don’t think we’re that “kind of person” until we do.

Join Abby Rodman as she talks about the negative effects of labels and self-judgment when you’re contemplating divorce or going through it — and how to be kinder to yourself in the process.

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The Kind Of People Who Divorce

I spent what felt like a hundred years wondering if I should divorce. I had a lot of questions and no answers. I knew I wasn’t happy but, really, wasn’t happiness overrated? I wondered: Were other married couples happy? Was that a thing? Maybe we’re all in silent cahoots slogging through the misery.

Truth is, people in good marriages begin their days making the unconscious, weightless decision to remain married. People in bad marriages begin and end their days in a conscious state of relentless tension and confusion. I know firsthand what it is to have your brain held captive by a never-abating drumbeat of sadness, anxiety, and unrest. Truly, I thought I’d go mad.

Should I stay? (No.)

Will things get better? (Definitely not.)

What are my options? (Few.)

Am I happy? (Hell no.)

Can he be happy? (No way.)

Is this normal? (Really?)

What should I do? (Get a divorce, dummy!)

I knew the answers but I ignored them. Instead, I’d say, “I’m not the kind of person who gets divorced.” And I believed that. So, for a long time, I didn’t. Instead, I prayed like hell.

Of course — how silly — there is no “kind of person” who divorces. I know that. You know that. But maybe I thought I was different somehow. I was a serious person. I wasn’t frivolous. I was a doer and a fighter. I would fight.

What I didn’t understand is that in order to fight for a marriage, there needs to be a marriage. When you fight for a marriage, you’re fighting for the glue — the connection, the intimacy, the love — of it. Or you’re fighting for the memory of that glue — if you’re lucky enough to remember where you put it.

But what if you simply can’t find it because you never had it in the first place? Or it left the building too long ago? Then, you must ask yourself— as I did, perhaps as you do — just what you’re fighting for exactly. The yearly Christmas card photo? That summer vacation on the Cape?  Of course, the kids. Always the kids. The very same offspring living and breathing their parents’ misery. (Because, you know, that kind of day-in-day-out toxicity is always optimal for their growth and development.)

Quick, think of an unhappily married couple you know. See how easy that was? And you don’t even need that couple to confess to their marital farce. You can smell the stench of their discontent a mile away. It’s hard to miss their edgy tones, their lack of playfulness, the conversational distance they keep. And the eye-rolling. Always the eye-rolling.

“No one will believe it when I tell them we’re divorcing,” a client said to me recently, explaining his hesitancy to make the announcement. To which I say, “I wouldn’t bet the house on that.”

My client thinks people will be surprised — as I did, perhaps as you do— because he’s such a family man. You know, the kind of person who doesn’t divorce.

Whatever my client thinks he’s hiding, I can almost guarantee he’s not doing it nearly as well as he thinks. He claims he’s holding back from divorcing to spare others the shock of it. But what he’s really avoiding is the shock of admitting to himself he’s the kind of person who gets divorced.

It is true, divorce forces you to look at the whole of your existence through a lens you thought you’d never need. And, as things come into focus, “I’m not that kind of person,  becomes, “Who knew? I just may be.”

But divorce? Really? You’re not lazy, uncaring, or irresponsible! So, how can it be you who is considering divorce? Of course that couple down the street is divorced because, well, they’re them. But you? You’re you. And last time you checked, you’re not that kind of people.

Years ago, a therapist asked me point-blank, “What the f*ck are you doing in this marriage, Abby?”

I didn’t have a good answer. I assume it was because I thought I wasn’t the kind of person not to be. I wasn’t the kind of person who would dismantle her life brick by brick. I wasn’t the kind of person who would saddle her kids with divorced parents.

But then, as it turned out, I was and I am. I am that kind of person because I knew I couldn’t be happy where I was. I am that kind of person because I wanted to show my kids it’s okay to want more. I am that kind of person because I chose health over heartache, strength over fear.

I am the kind of person who gets divorced (and did!) because I get to choose what kind of person I am — free of labels and judgment. And I’m proud to be that kind of person because I know the fortitude it takes to make such a monumental change.

Are you the kind of person who divorces? Perhaps you need look no further than your bathroom mirror. And maybe there, staring back at you, you’ll see that kind of person. The kind of person who deserves something better and damn well knows it: You.

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Are You Invisibly Divorced? *PODCAST*

 

 

Do you feel your marriage is coming undone? Are you still living with your spouse but the relationship is unhappy at best? Perhaps you’ve joined the ranks of the invisibly divorced.  Psychotherapist Abby Rodman clarifies what invisible divorce is — and how to know if you’re in one. Invisible divorce isn’t victimless — and it may have dire effects on your health and well-being. Listen in!

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Pre-Thanksgiving Plummet: Dreading The Holidays?

New England winters provide the backdrop for what the quintessential holiday season should look like: the colorful majesty of turning leaves, the beauty of the first snow, and crackling fires on chilly nights. Cue the pine trees with snow-dusted branches, apple-picking, and skating on ponds — and you’ve got the whole shebang.

It all seems so idyllic when you envision it, but for many it’s a challenging time of year. Think about it: When someone tells you to smile, it’s really the last thing you want to do. The holidays “tell” us to be joyful, but sometimes that’s the last thing we’re feeling. Even those who go through the motions — putting up the tree, cooking for multitudes — may be filled with a generalized dread that starts at the beginning of November. It’s what I call the Pre-Thanksgiving Plummet.

The Pre-Thanksgiving Plummet sneaks up on you. You’re still flying high on warm memories of summer, while enjoying the relief of cooler temps. Then, without warning, a heaviness takes root in your chest. The holidays are around the corner. You may feel overwhelmed — there’s so much to do! — or inexplicably sad. While others seem excited for the next couple of months, you’d rather pull up the covers and set your alarm for January 2nd.

Are you experiencing the Pre-Thanksgiving Plummet? Here are some of the reasons why, and what you can do about it:

1. Grief. Nothing spells holiday like family and friends. If you’ve lost someone close to you since last holiday season, enjoying this year’s may prove challenging.

What to do: Honor your sadness and your loved one. It’s okay to say, “You know, I’m just not ‘feeling’ the holidays this year. I really miss Mom…” Come up with ways to remember the person who’s passed. Light a candle for them or ask those at your table to share a positive memory of that person. Just because they’re gone, doesn’t mean you can’t include them.

2.  Alcohol. Sorry, folks. Alcohol is a depressant. Unfortunately, it tends to flow quite freely around the holidays. If you’re already feeling down, adding booze to the mix is not going to help.

What to do: If cutting out liquid cheer for the whole season feels unrealistic, decide instead to limit your intake. Choose the way you enjoy alcohol the most, and let that be your bye. Perhaps you like a nice red with dinner, or you can’t pass on Grandma’s eggnog. Choose one and stick to it. And don’t go to holiday events thirsty. Hydration is your friend.

3. Loneliness. Loads of family gathered around the tree? Huge crowd around your Thanksgiving table? For many, that’s just a fantasy. If you’re lonely this holiday season, you’re not alone on that front. Simply being around other people is not the answer. Sometimes we’re loneliest in a crowd. The only real cure for loneliness is connection.

What to do: Do good. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Deliver a meal to an infirm person. Hand out gifts to kids who otherwise wouldn’t get any. When we do good for others, we feel connected to them and something much bigger than ourselves. Bonus: You’ll be connecting to your best self as well.

4. Relationship woes. If your primary relationship isn’t good, nothing’s good. That’s a fact. And it’s especially true around the holidays. Not only is the season touted as the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also sold (by endless advertising) as the most romantic time of the year. If your relationship is suffering, so are you — and there’s nothing merry about that.

What to do: If your relationship is stormy and volatile, agree with your partner to put your differences on ice for a few weeks. You may not be smooching under the mistletoe, but at least you won’t be throwing daggers. If your relationship is quietly miserable, find ways to celebrate that don’t include your partner. Whatever the case, ask yourself how many more unhappy holidays you’re willing to spend with this person. 

5. Sun and Exercise. Lots of us get plenty of both in the summer months. But now daylight hours are waning. We wake up in the dark and spend our days indoors. As the weather grows frightful, we’re also not so eager to go for that early morning walk or jog.

What to do: If lack of daylight is getting to you, a therapy light box may help. If less exercise is making you sluggish, work in some time at the gym or take up that new winter sport you’ve always wanted to try. And keep reminding yourself: Summer’s coming.

6. Stop Doing the Thing. Whether it’s putting up outdoor lights, making Christmas cookies for your neighbors, or throwing the New Year’s Eve party everyone counts on — and you dread it with all of your being — give yourself the gift of not doing it. The world isn’t going to stop if you don’t bring homemade latkes into your office, or you don’t send handmade Christmas cards.

What to do: Stop. Just stop.

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Dear Sexual Assault Guy: I Want To Be You

Dear Sexual Assault Guy:

Just for today, I want to be you. Come on, don’t by shy. You know who you are — you’re the guy who violates women’s bodies. Why do I want to be you today? Because I’m a woman and a therapist and there are things I need to know. And, because you’re not exactly known for owning your actions, I need an answer to a seriously burning question.

Millions of women have come forward this week — on Kelly Oxford’s #NotOkay Twitter feed, on their Facebook pages, in private conversations — to bravely reveal their experiences with sexual assault of all stripes.

Some of their perpetrators were strangers, some friends, some relatives. Many women described violations beginning in their early childhoods. Some were heinously violent, some subtly deplorable. I doubt I have to do the math for you, but if millions of women are coming forward, that means nearly just as many men are violating them.

So, here’s my burning question for you:

WTF?

I’m pretty sure you won’t give me a satisfactory answer and that’s why, just for today, I want to be you. So I can know, truly know, what makes you tick. What thoughts you have before you touch a woman who doesn’t want to be touched by you. What faulty wiring prevents you from making a better decision. And what, exactly, you tell yourself after your dirty deed.

Am I overthinking this? I imagine you fight the urge to be sexually aggressive and exploitative. Am I wrong? I assume you’re consumed with self-loathing and guilt. Aren’t you?

What goes through your mind in the moments before you grab a stranger’s breast on the street? Or while you rub your crotch against a woman in a crowded subway train? How do you rationalize “grabbing the pussy” of a pre-adolescent girl in a dark hallway, while her parents sit ten feet away in the kitchen?

I want to be you so I can explain to society who I am and why. So I can ask for help. So I can warn women to stay away from me at block parties, on buses, at corporate retreats. So I can feel what it feels like to be an ultimate piece of human garbage, while going on with my day — and my life — peacefully. (Only after I’ve robbed the peace of those I’ve violated, of course.)

I do so want to be you. So I can talk to other men like me and tell them what they’re doing is so wrong it defies comprehension. So I can realize the damage I’ve done and live my life out trying to correct for it.

There are so many, many good men. Men who don’t grab the privates of women who don’t consent to it, who don’t whisper crudities into the ears of prepubescent girls, who don’t inappropriately comment on the body parts of their own daughters.

But to you, I must ask again, WTF?

The accepted definition of rape — that it’s an act of violence, not sex — has long angered me. Stabbing someone is an act of violence. Forcing your penis into someone’s vagina against her will is a depraved sexual act. When you stab someone, you’re hoping to wound or kill them. When you rape someone, your goal is to demean them while getting off in the process. When you touch a woman’s body without her consent, you’re doing the same.

What talent or success do you use to hide your true persona — that of a sexual deviant? Are you the music teacher, the bar manager, the real estate tycoon, who feels it’s your right to grope any girl or woman who crosses your path? (And, just between you and me, do you ever privately suspect you’re a monster inhabiting the form of a human being?)

Years ago, I worked as a social worker in a hospital. One day, I was showing a male family member of a patient something I had written in the patient’s chart. He was standing next to me as I pointed to the note I wanted him to see. “Oh, that note there?” he asked, as he raised his hand to point at the chart, deliberately brushing my breast with the back of his hand in the process. It was so unexpected, it took me a couple of hours to realize what he’d done.

When I told my supervisor, he said, “Find me that guy so I can knock his lights out.” My supervisor was a good, decent man — an actual human being — who couldn’t bear the thought of someone getting away with that behavior. Because — newsflash! — good men don’t tolerate that shit.

And just so there’s no confusion, you’re not one of the good guys. I don’t want to hear about your selfless deeds, your charitable givings, your churchgoing ways. I don’t care about your rescued dog, your recycling, your sobriety. Because none of those things matter when you walk this earth as a sexual predator.

On second thought, I don’t want to be you — not for a day, not for a minute. And you shouldn’t want to be you, either. Because you’re depraved, your behavior is criminal — and you need help. You need a support group, or medication, or a shack in the woods far from female humans.

If you don’t stop or get help, know you’re ruining lives. (Say it: “I’m ruining lives.”) While you’re giving in to your basest instincts, you’re stealing part of a woman’s soul. While you’re eyeing your next victim, you’re potentially destroying her ability to ever trust men. While you’re touching a child in the way only consenting adults should touch, you’re compromising her chance of ever having healthy relationships. So, seriously, WTF?

I know you won’t answer, so, instead, I’m giving you permission to make my burning question your own. Please, next time you’re tempted to sexually assault, stop and ask yourself: WTF?

And then, for the love of God, do something about it.

 

 

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Dear Sons: Please Don’t Vote For Donald Trump

Dear Sons,

Please don’t vote for Donald Trump.

Now that all five of you are of age, you have the beautiful right to vote in this beautiful country. If it’s true that every vote counts, please don’t squander yours.

Donald Trump is the face of everything I’ve taught you not to be: a hater and a blamer. Not convinced? Need I remind you about his revolting suggestions which include: 1) building a wall dividing us from our old friend, Mexico, 2) prosecuting and punishing women who have abortions, and 3) deporting millions who’ve lived peaceably and industriously in the US for years?

Should I also mention his newly-revealed defenseless comments about assaulting women, and the narcissistic non-apology that followed? His unforgivable imitation of a disabled reporter? His deplorable critique of the parents of a Muslim soldier who lost his life in defense of this country? His well-documented, never-ending misogynistic commentary?

What’s that? Don’t like your other choice?

Hillary Clinton is a liar, you say? Great. Find me a politician who isn’t. When you locate that needle, I’ll be all ears. For whatever secrets she’s kept, for whatever untruths she’s told, there’s nothing truer now than Clinton has become the new whipping girl of an old guard. Steeped to their own politically padded knees in lies and duplicity, her finger-pointing detractors and colleagues are hardly beating their own paths to the pearly gates of truth and transparency.

And Benghazi? Please, let it rest. For God’s sakes, if Ambassador Stevens’s family doesn’t blame Hillary, what’s your skin in the game? Think you know more about what happened there than they do? You don’t.

Save your breath arguing that Lester Holt was biased during the debate. I watched it, and I agree. And good on him for being that brave. Maybe things would’ve turned out differently for Germany in the 1930s if more journalists had been free to speak and write about the disastrous turn their country was poised to take. So, let’s take pause and be doubly thankful for our First Amendment. Because every day it protects the dozens of well-respected news outlets dismissing Trump as a viable, sane choice for the presidency.

In a few short weeks, this will be over and done and the people will have chosen their next president. But, in the end, what will we have learned? As the rest of the world watches this election slack-jawed with disbelief, we’ve pulled back the curtain on a not-so-pretty revelation: We’re a nation of angry folks.

Several weeks ago, talk show host John Oliver made a brilliant suggestion. He proposed Donald Trump step down and admit he’d entered the race simply to expose the flaws in the political system…and in us. Oliver would have Trump say, “I openly ran on a platform of impossibly ignorant proposals steeped in racial bigotry and nobody stopped me. In fact, you embraced me for it. What the f*ck was that about?”

Ah, now wouldn’t that be great?

If the voters in this country are so disgruntled that they’ll support a politically inexperienced megalomaniac in his bid for the presidency, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why? There are clearly things that need fixing. But I’m guessing The Donald isn’t the one for that job seeing that the ideology he’s selling depends more on fanning flames than addressing the cause of the fire.

Boys, you and your generation are our future. With the right outcome in this election, we’ll resume our imperfect quest to make good on the freedoms and rights promised to all Americans. Are we there yet? No. But what good can come of time-traveling back to shameful eras in American history marked by hate, fear, and prejudice? And that’s exactly where Trump would have us go.

We don’t need Trump to make America great again. It’s already great. Do your part to keep it that way.

I have faith you will do the right thing on November 8th. That the values and ideals you’ve grown up with will prevail. That the acceptance of those who look, or sound, or dress differently than you will triumph in your hearts and in the voting booth. That you’ll recognize a dangerous choice when you see it. That you will not confuse true patriotism — now or ever — with exclusion or xenophobia.

And that you’ll seek to uphold all that is good and right with these United States of America — one vote at a time.