Posts Tagged ‘news

One time, when I was walking across the Acme parking lot, a man driving a giant  delivery truck started talking to me from the cab.

If you are unfamiliar with Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Acme may be a bit confusing to you. Although the Acme Corporation is most famous for providing Wile E. Coyote with complex contraptions that never worked as intended, in Pennsylvania, the Acme was the local grocery store.

Today I think it is owned by the same company that owns Stop and Shop. In the ‘80s there was nothing at all remarkable about it. I remember waiting in long lines at the Customer Service booth while my mom picked up pictures when I was younger, and buying the Weekly World News there along with a selection of Healthy Choice frozen dinners for my grandmother when I was older and I did the shopping. Once, I stuck some shampoo I bought the previous day back on the shelf because I immediately hated the smell of it, knew it couldn’t be returned because it had been opened, but also felt it would be a waste to throw it away when so little had been used.

I do feel a little bit bad for whoever else ended up buying that shampoo, if it freaked them out that it was already opened. My hope is that maybe they were so excited for strawberry shampoo they didn’t notice.

Anyway, I don’t know what I’d purchased on this particular night, but it was something, because I remember strolling across the parking lot, swinging my plastic bag full of purchases in the carefree way young girls have always swung bags as they stride off toward their futures or their cars in the parking lot. What I do know is that the man driving the delivery truck rolled down his window and started talking to me.

There was nothing remarkable about most of his conversational attempt, but I do want to remark upon how abruptly it ended. After a few rounds of probably pleasant inanities, he asked if I was in school.

“Yes,” I replied. “I go to Lower Merion.” Because why not share that with a stranger in a parking lot? I was dumb.

“Oh, is that one of the colleges in the area?” he asked, which I thought was weird. How could you be in Merion and not know what Lower Merion was?

“No,” I said, overwhelmed with disdain. “It’s the high school?”

I could not have been more scornful, but I don’t think that’s entirely what motivated his response. Which was:

“Oh, SHIT, you’re in high school??!?!!?” before rolling up his window immediately and driving away.

So my point here is, while it is entirely possible for an older man to mistake the age of a high school girl, it isn’t an accident if he continues to pursue her after finding out the truth. Especially if that pursuit leads him to call the local high school in search of her. Everyone has it within him to roll that window back up and drive on down the road. If they’re not doing that, it is because there is something deeply wrong with them that they cannot prioritize the safety and well-being of children. And an unwillingness to protect the most vulnerable should be an immediate disqualification from holding a leadership position in our society. That delivery guy got it; I just hope Alabama gets it too.


One time in the Johnnie’s Foodmaster that is no longer located in Inman Square, I saw a man fondling himself in front of the granola bars.

Obviously, the recent revelations that Louis C.K. deliberately masturbated in front of unwilling women put me in mind of this incident. Although, actually, it wasn’t the revelations themselves; there have been rumors of C.K.’s predatory tendencies for several years that, as a person who reads a lot of entertainment news, I have come across again and again without remembering the incident in the FoodMaster (please notice my restraint in not referring to it as the FoodMasturbater).

So it wasn’t that the news about C.K. was finally, at last, being acknowledged, but his statement confirming the allegations, specifically, this part near the beginning:

“But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

Better minds that mine have already discussed how C.K.’s statement, full of admiration and self-regard and “bravely” “taking responsibility” does not actually constitute an apology, so I won’t rehash that. But I will point that, having never seen him before, the guy in the FoodMaster did not have the power of my admiration, but I was still in a predicament because of his penis.

Which, I should clarify, again, I did not actually see. Johnnie (let’s just call him Johnnie, because that’s easier) was fully clothed there in the aisle of the grocery store. But there was no mistaking what he was doing:  his hand was inside his pants, clearly gripping his genitals and stroking them in a way he found pleasurable. He was wearing a blue and white striped shirt, like you might imagine a Greek sailor wearing in a film from the ‘40s, and he looked me squarely in the eye, with an expression on his face that said “Yes, I am staring directly at you while fondling my penis in front of granola bars. You can’t stop me, and I will do worse if you try.”

And, indeed, I could not stop him. Not by myself. So I went to the Customer Service booth. I was glad a woman was staffing the booth that afternoon because she would believe me, but I still felt bad that I was making this her responsibility. She was startled by the news but still was ready to act, and I, relieved, went back to my shopping.

But the most upsetting part of this entire incident – wherein a stranger fondled himself in front of me in a grocery store – was several hours later when, at home, I told the (male) friend with whom I had plans that afternoon what had happened and he responded

“Are you sure? You have a tendency to see these things.”

(I will tell you right now that I am still friends with this guy. There’s every chance in the world he is reading this right now, and an equal chance that, if he is, he doesn’t remember it all. )

I insisted I was sure. “His hand was in his pants and he was staring at me.”

He wondered if maybe Johnnie’s hand was in his pocket.

(If you’re worried you are maybe the friend, I’ll narrow it down: this is a different friend than the one who said I should have just laughed at the guy who exposed himself to me, the only girl on the Red Line after midnight; it’s also not the friend who said “Well, you must have been doing something,” when I called because someone was following me in their obviously unobtrusively-painted terrifying black van as I headed to the ATM in Coolidge Corner at 8:30 one summer evening.)

I, a college-educated woman, did not feel like defending my ability to tell the difference between a pocket and the waistband of a pair of jeans. Plus, I was busy trying to remember when else I had ‘seen things’. So I dropped it, even though I did not understand why a stranger in a supermarket – a stranger who would masturbate in a supermarket at that – should be believed and I should not.

But I’m bringing it up again, today, because of Louis C.K. Because you, guy who is reading this right now, you, guy who shook his damn head over and over this week over Louis C.K., you need to do better. On the simplest level, you need to believe the women in your life when we tell you that someone masturbated in front of us. You need to trust that we are telling you the truth when someone is threatening us, even if it means trusting us more than someone you’ve never met. You need to understand that, even though you would never hurt a woman, there are men who will, and if we are so unfortunate as to encounter one of them, we need you to take our side. The power you actually wield, even if you are not a famous (and, now that we’re being honest – completely overrated) comedian, is not based in our admiration, but your understanding that you have the ability to improve women’s lives simply by believing that we deserve better from everyone. Including you.

Listen, don’t tell anyone I said this, but sometimes the worst part of my job is talking to faculty members. Not all of them, of course, but some of them, the ones who’ve spent their entire lives working in academia, the ones who view the entire world as their classroom, the ones who think everyone else spends their time just waiting to hear them speak.

If you can’t read between the lines there, I’m talking about the white guys.

I spoke with one of these guys earlier today, a guy with a theory about what happened last night, a theory that explains why Trump won. I observed that a lot of people have theories today, and he responded smoothly that, as a History professor, his theory was maybe worth a little bit more.

To tell you the truth, I was both looking forward to and dreading talking to this guy today. We’ve spoken many times about the election over the past year, and he, as a History professor, does indeed have some keen insights about political doings, even if his tendency is to express them in a way that I’m could generously describe as muddled, or ungenerously describe as designed to demonstrate his own intelligence rather than actually communicate. Interesting, to a point, but more interested in a receptive audience than in what someone else – maybe not everyone else, but probably me – thinks.

We spoke yesterday about the election, agreeing that Hillary winning was the only possible outcome. When I awoke this morning to the impossible, I thought back to a conversation we’d had over the summer, in July, about barbecues. Whose barbecue would I rather attend, he asked, one organized by Hillary Clinton? Or one organized by Donald Trump? Without hesitation, I responded “Hillary Clinton.”

This, it turns out, was the wrong answer. Trump would be the better barbecue, you see, because “you don’t know what he’s going to do.”

But Hillary, I argued, would be prepared for the barbecue. Hillary would make sure there would be adequate utensils, and napkins, and a crudites platter for nibbling while things cook on the grill. Hillary would have veggie burgers available, knowing some of her guests don’t eat meat. Hillary Clinton’s barbecue would definitely include watermelon, and beer, and games for the kids.

That Hillary Clinton would plan a barbecue that actually feeds her guests – including me – wasn’t a strong enough argument to overcome the  Trump-led spectacle, before the topic changed entirely to the racial aspects of watermelon, a conversation so reasonable for two white people to be having that I engineered an reason to excuse myself post-haste and returned to the desk. But I thought about the Trump-led barbecue for a while, because there was a flaw in the ‘spectacle’ argument, and as not a History professor, it took me a while to put my finger on it.

Eventually, I realized the flaw is that, actually, we did know what Trump would do. By that point, in July, Trump was entirely predictable. He would be his own true turd self, and while we may not be able to predict exactly how that would manifest, we knew it would be rude and vulgar and cruel, it would be entirely self-serving, and it would be filled with lies.

Of the many things I thought this morning, one of them was “Well, I guess [you] got [your] barbecue.” Followed by the realization that he would be in at some point today and we would try to dissect what had gone so wrong. Well, he would offer his dissection, and I would offer mine.

So after his theory, I offered to share one of my own. One of the strange things about the results was that so many women – white women – had turned out for Trump, rather than Hillary. How could this have happened?

Well, he interrupted, that was a problem he’d always had with Bill Clinton, the accusations from women.

I did not point out that Bill Clinton was not running in this election. Also, it should be noted that at no point did I ever ask for whom he’d voted. Instead, I pointed out that many women had accused Trump.

They had?

Yes, I insisted, a touch incredulous. I couldn’t tell if his disbelief was genuine or a misplaced pedagogical device.

It was genuine. He didn’t know that.

But you heard the Access Hollywood recording?

Yes, of course he’d heard that.

Afterwards, many women came forward to detail his assaults. I believe the last count was 14.

He hadn’t heard that.

It was in the news.

Question mark?

All over the news.

That, see, was the problem. He doesn’t get the news in the way you or I do, as a passive consumer. He has to seek it out, search for it, effortfully follow up on stories. This one, he missed.

He did not seem concerned about this. It seemed unfortunate, but, obviously, unavoidable.


And this is the problem I’ve had with today. It’s not the students in the Trump tee shirts that I have grudgingly held doors for, or the people with whom I strongly disagree. It is discovering that people – because it’s not just him; he came in to the library at the end of my long day of seething at the meme from the Bernie Bros – still in a snit they didn’t get the revolution that conveniently popped up right in front of them and that they’d fought so hard for for all of 5 months and so clearly deserved; the meme stating that had Hillary not rigged the primary, Bernie could have won last night,  tone deaf to the implication that women can only win by cheating, but also, somehow believing that this woman, who’s so clearly guilty of something that she’s been investigated non-stop for nearly 2 decades, and yet so wily that the charges never stick; that this grasping, devious woman would rig a primary and then somehow leave the general election to chance? Somehow, her long streak of underhanded wizardry fails just when she needs it the most, all so they can absolve themselves from the results that we all are responsible for, that we all have to live with, except them less than everyone else. This, from people I know, people I assumed were on my side, they have sold me out, don’t care at all that I might now starve at a barbecue – while others face so much worse – while they sit back, having been right all along, and enjoy the spectacle. The hardest part of today is coming to terms with the fact that it is not just the other side that lacks compassion; it is our team, too.

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