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Tough Conversations

#metoo, Guest Posts, Tough Conversations

To #MeToo or Not to #MeToo Should Not Be The Question

February 19, 2018

By Megan Wildhood

In October this year, I scrolled through about five pages’ worth of Facebook statuses saying only “Me too.” A hashtag began to appear before the phrase. It was three or four days before I was able to figure out what was going on. I would say I’m relatively informed, so it was unusual for me to be so clueless. Even after much reading, I have to say I’m confused. I’ve come articles explaining #MeToo as a social media campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault, a way for women to take their power back over something they’d long been silent about, the beginning of the move from social movement to social change. I’ve read denouncements of the campaign’s exclusion of male sexual assault victims. I’ve tried to keep track of the various spin-off campaigns. Articles detailing various women’s hesitation about whether to post #MeToo, deliberating whether solidarity was a good enough reason to post or demanding that those willing to post also share their story to “legitimate themselves” proliferated. No matter the angle, each post was complete with tomes of vicious infighting in their comments sections.

It was not a difficult decision for me not to post #MeToo but it’s become extremely difficult to explain why. Our culture, hyper- and singularly focused on identity as it is, simultaneously allows and demands that you be whoever you say you are in the moment. If you’re a sexual assault victim – or if you care about anyone who is – you’ll post those two words preceded by a sharp sign (the original hashtag) or you’re a liar. In a culture where the most visible means the most valuable, it’s not surprising that we’d continually have such awareness campaigns. What’s surprising is that people think they’ll help. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Guest Posts, Tough Conversations

Have A Rib

February 18, 2018

*Max (front) with his brother Jake (in Mickey ears) at Disneyland 1994

By Suellen Meyers

My son Max is sensitive and particular about certain things. The day he is born I swear he looks at me from his bassinet, smirks, and begins to cry for a bottle.

As soon as he is able to articulate his needs, he insists on wearing only Fruit of the Loom low-cut socks, as any other type drive him crazy. He pulls them as tight as his little hands can, then thrusts out his feet so the nearest adult can fasten his shoes securely over the taut material, to the point I fear his circulation might get cut off. When he rides in the car he cries, “My waist, my waist.” He tells me the seatbelt smothers him. I feel helpless and perplexed by his pleas for relief. In the front seat, I cannot manage much more than a “We’ll be there soon,” hoping that will calm him. It never does.

I become aware of Max using drugs when, as a freshman in high school, he is expelled. Higher than a proverbial kite on eight Xanax, he is found doling out peachy colored pills like candy to classmates as they passed him in the halls.

He does his first rehab stint at nineteen. Outpatient. He lists heroin addiction on the intake form, albeit I don’t think he ever met a mind-altering substance he didn’t like. I beg the doctors to put him in an inpatient program, but insurance won’t cover it.

By the time he is twenty-one he’s been using for years, still, I am surprised when I receive the phone call. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting, Tough Conversations


June 7, 2017

By Kristin Wagner

When I say goodnight to Christopher, I curl up next to him in his tiny bed. We listen to the first half of the nursery rhyme CD we’ve played every night for the last six years. I stay cuddled with him until the end of “The Three Little Kittens”; I use my hand as a puppet version of the disappointed mother cat mouthing the words, “And you shall have no pie” then I use my hand to kiss his cheeks as I tell him I love him and sneak over to Nicholas’s bed.

I rub Nicholas’s back and talk with him about his day until “The Wheels on the Bus” finishes up. We have a ritual of conversation that is identical every night, and is repeated on days when he feels most anxious or sad. I ruffle his hair and say, “I love you. Sweet dreams and good night. I’ll see you in the morning,” which he then repeats verbatim, “I love you. Sweet dreams and good night. He asks me, “Are you staying up?” “Yep.” I then wander back over to Christopher for one last hug before I turn on the seven minute CD. As a final reassurance Christopher often throws an arm around my neck tightly then releases me with a sweet but sassy, “You can go now.” Sometimes he has already fallen asleep and I sneak a kiss on his forehead then tiptoe away.

One night, when Nicholas was nine and Christopher was seven, I went to give Christopher his last hug. He perched a little stuffed owl named Syrup on my nose and said in Syrup’s high voice, “Hi, how are you today?”

That moment fell over me in a sort of crushing happiness that felt a little unfamiliar and scary. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Tough Conversations

English Club: A Story of Gang Rape, Trafficking, And A Dragon

May 21, 2017

CW: This essay discusses rape and sex trafficking. For survivor support, contact RAINN for confidential online and phone support,

By Katie Ottaway

For three years all I remembered was the tea. The tea wasn’t even that good.

I was abroad teaching English, and planning a summer of pre-dissertation research.  My classes were in the evening, and it was not uncommon for my students to bring friends to audit.  In the few minutes before I commenced my advanced English class, I overheard a conversation that a handful of my male students were having in their local language.  I didn’t catch it all, but I understood that they were talking about me, and my class, and falling asleep.  They were discussing whether or not I would make the cut.  There was some discussion of numbers.  At the time, I naturally assumed that they were critiquing my pedagogy, maybe discussing if their new foreign teacher was hot or not, and talking about finances as most students do.  I didn’t like the fact that they were talking about me within a few feet of me, thinking that I couldn’t understand, so I spoke to the class in their language for the first time.

After class, one of the students approached and asked if I had understood their conversation.  I bluffed a little, and replied that I had understood enough of it.  His eyes widened, and he assured me that they were talking about a different class and a different teacher.  He only returned a couple times, and never made eye contact.  His friend, G, who was privy to the conversation maintained good attendance, and even became somewhat of a teacher’s pet. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Tough Conversations, Vulnerability

The Poetry of Awkward Silence

February 26, 2017

By Benjamin Bagocius

I like awkward silences.

They are the unwieldy soul of social interaction. We often labor to exclude rather than befriend their wildness. I want to reclaim awkward silences, to listen for the ways their mysterious voices restore poetry to everyday conversation.

Awkward silences speak the language of poetry. As with poetry, awkward silences can be uncomfortable – but also liberating. They are breaks from habituated responses when something new might happen, supersaturated opportunities to rethink ourselves and each other. Generally framed as the worst possible social interaction, the awkward silence can be one of the most productive moments of our shared, public life. After all, awkward silences are never conditions of solitude. They emerge from encounters between two or more people. Just as poets need readers, and readers need poets, awkward silence, too, is about relationship. This is where its greatest promise lies for reimagining our public life together. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Tough Conversations

Conversations On Baseball, Zombies, and Death

November 5, 2016

TW: This essay discusses suicide.

By Meg Weber

My daughter was six years old the first time she asked me for details about Melissa’s death. She knew Melissa had been my best friend, that she had died, and that I missed her. I had staunchly avoided any other details.

One morning, just over a year ago, Kai finally voiced her questions. “Why did she die? Did she get sick? Did she want her bones to be a skeleton?” Although we’d talked about scattering Melissa’s ashes, I had purposefully skipped over describing how bodies become ashes.

I hadn’t explained how Melissa died, mainly because walking in the forest on a clear blue sky day is something I want Kai to be excited about, not scared of. I want her to love trees, not fear them. But the day she finally asked her litany of questions, I told her the truth. Melissa had been hiking in a forest and a big part of a tree broke off and fell on her. “Momo, did her blood come out? Momo, why didn’t she just run really fast to get away from the tree? That’s what I would have done.” Continue Reading…