Monthly Archives: July 2015

On sexism, entitlement and uppercase letters

Five syllables. They were painfully rhythmic, the cigarette in their owner’s mouth bobbing in time with each word: “You owe me, dumb bitch.”

In the spirit of proper punctuation, I should capitalize “dumb bitch.” It replaces the name of a human being — me. There’s the problem, though. There’s where I can’t capitalize it; he didn’t perceive me as a human being, one with a name, goals, interests, one who was walking the city distributing flyers for a work event she’s helping plan. One who doesn’t owe him or anyone else anything.

To him I am lowercase.

I felt belittled, my identity defined by the physical body in which it resides, that body finally reduced to two words: “dumb bitch.” Part of me wanted to immediately rant about feminism, about male entitlement, about privilege and equal pay and walking with my keys intertwined in my knuckles after dark. But part of me couldn’t process the blatant erasure of my humanity, all of it without my consent.

In a world of, “Get over it, move on,” rhetoric peppered with accusations of overreacting and over-emotionality, particularly for women, I worried I was making too big a deal out of five little words. Three days later, I’m realizing it’s OK to be angry, to feel demeaned by a stranger.

Rather than worrying about overreacting, then, I’m worrying about gender inequality, about privilege and the fact that I have a designated knuckle for each of my keys when I walk home after dark. I’m worrying, and I’m working to change things, starting with the sense of powerlessness that incident renewed in me. As a writer, I believe language is one means of restoring my sense of self.

So, I am Writer Taylor. I am Communicator Taylor. I am Tennis-Player Taylor. I am Runner Taylor. I am Reader Taylor. I am Wannabe-Paleontologist Taylor.

I am uppercase.

On slide projectors and longing for elsewhere

Travel memories work like an old-fashioned slide projector. They hum, the crunching gears cruelly reminding me I’m no longer elsewhere. Eventually, I fade into the memory once again, and the humming fades with it; I’m elsewhere for that fleeting moment. Then, click, I’m jolted to the next memory, forever too soon.

In college I traveled regularly, reveling in the fear, glee, confusion, angst and self-awareness it inevitably offers. Without the flexibility of traveling in my post-grad life, I’ve found my gaze lingering on photos of Istanbul, Izmir, New York, New Orleans (and more), bummed I can’t remember every little detail like I promised my mesmerized college self I would.

Izmir, TurkeyRather than ogle at my painting-like Izmir album any longer, I returned to the root of my fascination with world traveling, one I hope to realize.

My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Stone, broke out his slide projector only on the most special days, days reserved for faraway places and more importantly, ditching the cliché rubbish of your typical world culture textbook.

With each wheezing journey of the projector, we visited Japan, China, Russia, Africa through his travels, each slide lingering long enough to provide a tiny twinge of longing, a silent “Wait!” when the “click” sounded, ushering me into a new elsewhere. I hadn’t had time to process every pixel of the previous photo, after all!

Memories operate like the beloved, resilient slide projector, I learned when I fell off my couch the other day. While trying to find the perfect angle for my new frame featuring the Izmir, Turkey, skyline, I had plenty of time to take in the photo, to relive the memory in its fullness. That’s what I thought, anyway.

After nearly 10 minutes of juggling the frame and my level with ever-poor balance, it bothered me that I couldn’t remember every detail of that experience — how we got to that lookout area, what kind of flowers bloomed there, even the name of it.

Then I realized it’s OK to not remember every detail because when I stop worrying about the natural fading of tangible memories, I find it’s easier to re-experience the beautiful feeling of wandering, wherever I am.

On rippling water and speaking up

Cowles CommonsFountains are a good place to think, I learned last night while tracing ripples in the water with my toe, errant droplets leaping up to catch the hem of my dress. In that moment, I realized several things: Half-marathon training is fine and cool until you see your tan lines, and it’s often in moments of meandering solitude that I find the capacity to share with others.

I’ve been thinking sharing recently, inspired perhaps by my childhood of matching dresses for every holiday. There’s a photo of my mother, my two younger sisters and me in matching, hand-sewn mitten-themed jumpers, complete with turtlenecks, of course. Even then, sharing was a physical, tangible experience, one that left me glowing (ha) in a mud-brown, blindingly patterned mitten dress.

Today I continue to cling to the physical, tangible experience of sharing. I feel comfortable typing or writing my thoughts on the page, but I often feel trapped, paralyzed at the thought of expressing them out loud, to anyone.

There is something concrete, permanent, tangible, about words on the page. In their existence I confirm my existence. Maybe, I think, if I physically write them, they’ll solidify, fossilize (I like dinosaurs). They’ll outlive me and more importantly, my attempts at verbally expressing emotion, attempts I find clumsy, inarticulate, never good enough; forever punctuated by the problem of being too quiet when I should speak up and too loud when I should shut up.

Ripples in the fountain ultimately vanish, but they exist beautifully, unapologetically in the moment. I think I’ll try to be more like them from time to time.