Sunday, October 16, 2016


My kid saw the snarling cat faces, electronically pasted two layers deep, on the cover of The Daily News before I did. He started to giggle, as any nine-year-old boy might.

To him, the layout was funny -- just felines and fangs in the place of some letters in a word he hadn't known had a second meaning. "Look, mom! It's so funny!"

"Grab 'em by the (P 🐱 🐱 🐱 y )."

Heat crept up my neck.

We were at a sandwich shop, awaiting our turn. Ahead of us in line were several men who kept eyeing me nervously, shifting their weight from one foot to another. I hadn't noticed them until my son brought my attention from the over-head menu to the under-the-counter cats.

Impulsively, I wanted to turn over the few unsold copies remaining, but I knew the cat was out of the bag.

Instead, I focused on the discomfort of the men.

Suddenly, I felt all eyes upon me. Suddenly, I felt this was somehow my fault.

Was I supposed to stand in front of the news rack?

Was I supposed to shush my son with a hiss and a promise to explain later?

I couldn't.

Cue difficult and public conversation #357 in which I use too many words and not enough punctuation:

"It's not funny," I say with more sorrow than anger. "It's mean ... and the man currently running for president made that statement a few years ago while he was waiting to be interviewed on national television. But unlike all the rest of the awful things he's said about people, no one heard this comment until now. And now some people are saying it's just Guy Talk - locker room banter taken out of context.  But I believe what he said is much worse. It says hurting women is not only acceptable; it is one of the benefits of being a man."

I take a deep breath and look up, half expecting the ceiling to fall in around me.

With every other car in the parking lot brandishing a "Make America Great Again" bumper sticker, I knew I could be in hostile territory.

Nothing happened.

There was no audible gasp from the live studio audience.

The room didn't go silent.

The men ahead of us paid for their sandwiches and left.

Business as usual.

My son doesn't understand. Why would he? He's nine.

But my daughter understands. She was 11 when a boy she liked called her a "slut."


Don't ask me what she said to him. Or what she was wearing.
Don't tell me it takes two.
It only takes one.

She is as blameless as I was when a boy I barely knew grabbed between my legs when I was 12.


As blameless as my mother, and her mother, whose stories I never learned but I know exist from my memories of them and their abundance of caution.

They might have been even younger than we were ... back in "the good old days," when folks didn't speak of such things.

But I had never heard my husband's story -- the one from inside the locker room.  And I needed that side.

"Is this 'locker room talk'?"

"If it's not true, it could be," he admitted. "But what you have to understand is there's only one guy in there saying things that vile. No one likes him, and no one trusts him."

"You mean, except for the folks wearing t-shirts and carrying signs and erupting into applause every time he says "We're going to Make America Great Again."

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