I’ve often felt like a bit of a poser during Pride as a married cis-gender heterosexual woman. Pride is supposed to be a party, and while my heart has always been grateful for the party, I often felt like I was invading a space that didn’t represent me. But this year, I felt like I truly wanted to be present to let people I care for know that I truly do stand with them and want them to have their parties and their safe spaces and I want them to feel loved by all, and safe. Veronica mentioned that they were going, so I agreed to go with them. And then I realized they were marching, and we were welcome to march with them.
I was thrilled. I mean who doesn’t like marching in a parade, right? Especially when it is one of the biggest, prettiest parades the city offers up. So much color to see, so many amazing outfits, so much giddy joy. And this was exactly how I felt as we milled around waiting for instructions on what to do, how to march. One of the organizers told us where to get a poster to hold.
The goal was to begin the parade with a group of poeple carrying a poster for each person murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. 50 posters. 50 faces. 50 people dead. I was sad, but kept thinking to of how Pride is the largest party of the year in this area, and we would somehow turn this into a party. Even though we were marching to show respect for their lives, and show Chicago’s unity with Orlando, I was trying to stay focused on the celebration. Incidents like this shooting are why Pride parades exist, after all.
With a shout through a bullhorn and dance music blaring behind us, we formed rows and began a couple mile walk through several neighborhoods in Chicago that I knew would be full of faces, many that I hoped I knew. But I was surrounded by people who were joking and laughing and hugging and so very happy to be together, that I didn’t stop to think how seeing this as a spectator would be. Tens of thousands of people prepared for a party were faced with such visual proof of the murder of 50 people who had been partying in a safe space. A space not dissimilar from the Pride parade.
And as we walked, we all muttered to each other “I didn’t think about how hard it would be to see so many people cry.” And that’s what we saw. So many faces of people crying, people trying not to cry, people looking away so they wouldn’t cry. People who looked us in the eye and said “thank you”. People who hugged themselves and sobbed uncontrollably. I saw several people who I just wanted to hug. I grabbed the hand of a few sobbing strangers and squeezed them, because they were so eagerly reaching out to make a connection with a caring stranger. Grabbing the hand of a man who is crying and saying “thank you” and trying not to cry is hard, y’all.
It’s been 48 hours, and I’m still humbled and awed by the experience. There are a handful of memories that feel “very Chicago” to me, and this is now in that group. I walked for about 4 miles and saw every sidewalk we passed full of people, and in many places the sidewalks were packed deep. There were people on almost every balcony, hanging out of almost every window. I knew this was a well-attended parade, but I’d not realized how many people came out to see it, until I saw all of them. And there are so many faces that I won’t soon forget. These are some of them:
• A young girl of around 7 or 8, asking her mother “So he hurt all of these people? But there are so many of them!” As her mother cried and held her tight.
• Another young girl with a sign that said “I love my two dads.” While her fathers stood behind her, holding her, holding each other, and cried.
• The CTA bus driver in the cooling station taking pictures and blowing kisses to us.
• Two young police officers looking at the signs, reading the names and saying to each other “It’s just too many. Too many.”
• The older drag queen who openly wept without a care for her meticulously applied makeup.
• Two young, very young, women holding a sign that said “Just Engaged!!” while they held hands and cried.
• Two older women, one of whom had a cane, who held each other as one said “We should have done more to protect them.” Her partner replied with “What could we do?”
• The group of young Asian man glammed up and crying with no care about how this looked to strangers.
• So many people my age or older whose chins quivered, faces were wet with tears, who just raised their fists, or flashed a peace sign, or blew a kiss, and several who couldn’t look at any of us but cried nonetheless.
• So many young people who didn’t cry, but who just looked shocked, and a little scared.
The parade passed one of the largest dance clubs in Boys Town, the nightclub likely most similar to Pulse in Orlando, and the group of shirtless men dancing with glee just stopped when they saw us and grabbed hands with each other and others standing nearby.
So many faces. I spent the parade fighting back tears. But I wanted to look as many people in the eye as I could. I wanted to see them. I wanted to see their pain, and their anger, and their hope. I wanted them to see a stranger looking at them and seeing them, seeing how they felt. I wanted everyone I passed to know they were surrounded by people who felt the same way.
And it was overwhelming. It was physically exhausting to walk from Uptown through Lakeview to Lincoln Park, some of it spent holding a very large sign made heavier by the cooling breeze off the lake. But it was more emotionally exhausting to be a part of the largest memorial I’ve ever seen.
I was doing well through the parade. Tearing up a little, but not really crying until the end. We rounded the final corner and heard Purple Rain blaring out of a speaker. And I looked to my right and saw a dozen people, who didn’t seem to be together, crying. Ugly crying. It was too much. I lost it and looked at Tony who quickly looked away from me so he wouldn’t cry.
We all wore t-shirts that said #weareOrlando. And for an hour on Sunday, I truly felt like we can hold each other and get through this pain and make our world safe for everyone. No matter who we love. I’ve looked in hundreds of sad eyes and I need hope to prevail. I need to hope that the Pride parade returns to being one of every city’s largest parties.
And my wonderful husband created a time-lapse video of his view of the crowd during the parade.
I watched a video yesterday that struck me in a way I wasn’t prepared for. It was a video showing a large rubber raft landing in Greece full of people fleeing Syria. It started small and then got larger and I could see there were children and elderly and men in the prime of their life and women my age and younger. And volunteers in Greece were greeting them, carrying people from the boat to the shoreline. Removing cold, wet clothes from children and wrapping them in blankets. And this was heart-warming.
But then I saw a girl of about 12 get carried to the shore. Everyone else who was dropped on the shore was instantly wrapped and cared for or being hugged by others on the beach before them. But this girl began to say a name repeatedly. She looked frantic and panicked and then a volunteer with a three year-old and seven-year-old boy called to her and she turned and saw what I could only assume were her brothers and the relief that flooded her face broke my heart and sent me into a crying jag that felt cathartic.
Because I recognized myself in that girls face. And it was through watching her face light up with relief and love at the sight of her brothers that I saw my own past differently. Because I was her, once upon a time. I was a twelve-year-old refugee. I didn’t flee an oppressive regime. I fled a father. I fled a father with my mother and my two brothers who were the same age as this girl’s brothers. My father was a tyrant. He wasn’t trying to destroy a huge population, just a population of four. Or five if you count him, because he certainly ruined himself, too.
When I got a call that made me realize that we were fleeing our tyrant with literally the clothes on our backs, I was scared and elated at the same time. Both of these are emotions that can leave a physical taste in your mouth. Copper pennies and strawberries swirled together on my tongue as I ran out the door of the safe house I was hiding at to get into a pick-up truck that would take us to safety. But it wasn’t until I got into the pick-up truck and I realized that both of my brothers were there already that I relaxed. I was so worried that they may not have made it. I don’t remember why I was doubting they’d be there, but I remember strongly the feeling of relief that slid through my body, like a splash of cream poured into hot coffee.
Thanks to the kindness of strangers, and no thanks to the rude comments of police officers (at least I made it to twelve before I learned that police couldn’t always be trusted to protect you), my family has made it. And, I think we’re better off. Far better off than we would be if we’d stayed. But my mother’s fear of the tyrant we left was greater than her fear of being a refugee dependent on others for our shelter, our food, even our clothing.
But that relief on the girl’s face is the beginning and the end to me being able to understand her situation. The night we escaped our tyrant we slept on clean, warm beds. As the house manager at the domestic violence shelter told me, “You’re safe now. You have nothing to fear here.” But this girl’s journey is far from over. Very far from over. I have no idea where she slept that night, or who is helping her with food and shelter and dry clothes. I have no idea if there is an adult who can help her navigate what is sure to be a troubling and exhausting time.
But I look at that girl, and I see myself. I hear of so many politicians and even regular citizens, some of whom I’m even related to, who swear we should turn away all of these people. And I’m reminded that not everyone can be empathetic. And this makes me sad. Because as much as it hurt to truly recognize that feeling on this girl’s face. It also healed me a little. It made me realize how far I’ve come from that night. I have hope that she gets relief and help and is able to lead a happy and healthy life. Because I deserved that much out of life, and I feel everyone does. But mostly I’m happy that recognizing an emotion on a stranger’s face, a stranger on the other side of the world, leads me to feel like we have something in common.
Maybe? This here site has been a little broken for a long time. It is still a little broken. I need a Textpattern update to truly fix it. But the instructions for doing that make want to cry a bit because they’re so over my head. But a few months ago, they would have made me want to cry a lot. So, I’m not complaining. It could be a lot worse.
So, now that I have my blog back up. I just have to figure out what I might want to talk about. Of course I’ve had dozens of ideas in the last several months, but no idea what any of them are now that I can post again.
Old School Bloggers
I started keeping a personal blog in July of 2001. That’s almost 14 years ago. And I’ve barely written the last couple of years, and slowed down significantly several years ago. But I’ve been thinking about why that was. And there are a variety of reasons, which may only be interested to people who have gone through this process themselves, but may be interesting to people who are still blogging who were blogging years ago, or maybe even to people who think about blogging. I don’t think my experience or thoughts on this are unique. But I do have them. So here are some of the reasons why I slowed down and mostly stopped writing:
- My job got a lot busier. At one point I often had an entire hour hear and there throughout the day to either read people’s blogs, to follow long chains of random links to read, or to write about what I’d read. That’s rarely the case. Now, if I want to write, I’m likely to do it while I’m at work because I’m at a computer and the other things that could distract me are less interesting and it is during my “lunch hour”. I leave my desk to eat lunch about once a month. I most often eat my lunch while continuing to work. This isn’t very helpful, but I decided I’d rather work through lunch than stay late a while ago. And now I’m at a point where I’d rather force myself to take an occasional personal break and let work carry over to the next day unless it truly can’t be avoided. So, I may be able to write more.
- I wrote a book. It isn’t a great book. It may not even be a good book. There may be a lot of things I’d wished I’d done differently, but I wrote a book. In 4 months. It was a long and stressful and enjoyable and fulfilling summer, and it broke my brain. It’s been five years, and I think I’m finally healing. It was a great experience, and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to do it, but it was hard to create and write 300 recipes in a short period of time. It was also hard, at first, to write descriptions that fit either the 150 or 65 word limits. But I got really, really good at it. So good, in fact, that it has felt really, really hard to write more than 65 words on anything since.
- Twitter. I joined Twitter. In the 5 minutes I would force myself to take on occasion, I would be able to catch up with a large handful of friends. Or, I could read one long-winded blogpost. So Twitter matched my reading time. It also matched my attention span since after reading everything I read while writing the cookbook also made it incredibly hard to read long things. Even a newspaper article would have me rolling my eyes with lack of focus 3 paragraphs into it.
- Blogging changed. The people I “came up with” also stopped blogging. Many shut down their sites entirely. While going through an old list of blog links from 2005 or 2006, I was amazed how many now redirect to a site that is obviously squatted on by a spammer. Many others are still up, but have nothing new since 2008, 2010, 2012. It makes me sad. All those people who were influential to me are just gone, disappeared. Although, thankfully, many of them are still a part of my life. We’re friends IRL, or at least on Facebook or Twitter. But the days when I would put up a blogpost and hope that the awesome woman who linked to me one time in 2001 would read it and give me a comment expressing interest are long gone. Our blogging culture has spread out, refocused, changed. And maybe that’s okay.
- It’s hard to write everyday. It really, really is. As an adult, it is hard to spend time on hobbies that seem frivolous. Especially when you know people who lost jobs, partners, friends, opportunities because someone went back and read their blog and changed their opinion of them. This hasn’t happened to me, thankfully. But there are times when I wrote something that was misunderstood (usually because I wrote it in a rush and left out my mental context) by someone I cared about and this resulted in me hurting them. And I don’t like hurting people. So it became harder to write, knowing that if I wasn’t careful, I might hurt the feelings of people I care about. That fear, that still has me feeling reluctant to keep writing.
- Google Reader shut down. This in and of itself is bad. But what was especially bad was that I had a great list of all the people whose blogs I read in there. And I didnt’ follow directions very clearly and I ended up deleting them. I lost an address book of sorts. And recreating it seemed like a good idea for a few minutes, but then became overwhelming. So now I have a Feedly account that I occasionally check in on. But not as often as I could, and mostly because it feels incomplete.
- It is so MUCH easier to just read what other people write. When I started blogging, there was often one story a day that would stick with me, and I’d ponder it and think about it and read different versions of the article or issue and then write my thoughts on it. But now? I read that one article and think, “interesting” and then I think “what else happened?” I’m just not taking the time to ponder. To think deeply. To consider. And, I fear, that it is making me a less considerate person in general. And since I don’t like hurting people I care about, I want this consideration back.
A couple of decades ago, a friend I no longer know told me I was very competitive.
My gut reaction was to say: “I’m not that competitive! You’re far more competitive than I am.”
But I thought better of saying it because I feared she would think I was being competitive.
So, instead I asked her: “Can you share an example? I’m not sure I know what you mean.” (I hadn’t even gone to therapy yet, so I’m still kinda proud of my response.)
She told me: You’re always comparing yourself to other people. You’re always looking at people and seeing all the things they do better than you. You’re always looking at your result and comparing it to the result of someone more experienced than you.
This conversation left me in a mental state of confusion and self-doubt, for a very long time. I found myself definitely comparing everything I did to everyone around me, and I always came up lacking. My effort needed more passion, my drive needed more focus, my skill was always amateurish.
I was probably 22 or 23, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that everything I did paled when compared to other people with more experience and resources than I had. At least now it makes sense. But at the time I kept thinking, “but I’m in college! I should be so much better now!”
My friend then suggested that I stop competing with other people, and instead compare current-me to previous-me and see how I was doing. And that helped, a lot. And despite the fact that our friendship ended many years ago because we were both hurt and stubborn, I still remember her saying this to me and I still try to force myself to stop comparing my effort to the effort of people around me.
So, it makes it hard to come here and have the desire to write, but have the words fizzle before they make their way to my fingertips on a keyboard. Why? Because there are so many people writing great things about feminism, writing great things about food, writing great things about craft, writing great things about every topic under the sun. And me? Well, I don’t even know as much about cast-iron as I once thought I did, because I found someone else who writes about it deeper and better than I do or could.
So, I think my reluctance to write something that is just okay is keeping me from writing. I used to not care what people thought about my writing. Because I wasn’t writing for them. I didn’t care what they thought. And now? Do I suddenly care what people think of my writing? I don’t think I do, but it has felt like I would be better served to read other people’s writing than I would be to write my own items. But that feels painfully one-sided now.
I’ve tried incredibly hard since I was 10 to not be a racist and not do racist things. I’ve not always succeeded, but I’ve tried and will continue to try. And I’m so very, very far from where I started at the age of 10. But still, even now, after taking college courses on where racism and history and privilege intersect, I still have that gut instinct to say “But I don’t do that/think that/feel that” whenever I read or hear about something that is “typically” white. And it occurred to me today, that there is so much more written about/spoken about that is “typically black” or “typically Latino/a”, etc. And I can’t help but feel that people who are black, or Latino/a, etc., are also feeling the urge to say “But I don’t do that/think that/feel that”.
And so I encourage you to suppress that urge when reading this article published on Gapers Block. I do not want to enable any deaths of anyone. I haven’t been silent, but I also haven’t been as vocal as I could. So, yes, “All Lives Matter”, but its time we all started thinking about people who aren’t ourselves who need more help than we do. As soon as unarmed white people are killed by police every 28 hours (or less), I’m willing to talk about how police need to stop treating white people so poorly. But until then, I’m going to focus on how “Black Lives Matter”. And I ask you to do the same. Especially if you’re not black.
My interactions with the police
Too long for the #crimingwhilewhite hashtag on Twitter.
I’m 43. I live in Chicago and went to high school and college in Columbus. I’m not a “bad” person and really haven’t committed any major crimes. But I’ve done some dumb stuff (like speeding, or turning the wrong way down a one-way street). And I can count the number of times the police have pulled me over or talked to me on the street on one hand. And the closest I’ve ever come to having a cop yell at me, was when I stopped to watch them arrest an African American man who had illegally run across the street, against a red light, to catch a bus. Something I’ve done hundreds? thousands? of times in my life. He tried explaining to them as they forced him to lay facedown on the sidewalk while he was handcuffed, that he was just trying to get to the daycare center because if he was late he had to pay a fine. (This was on Michigan Avenue in front of the Hancock Center in 1998 or 1999.) The cops laughed at him and said “If you do the crime, you gotta do the time.” I was confused, and appalled, and simply stared at the cops (probably open-mouthed in shock) when one of them pointed at me and said “Hey, Red! Get moving!”
I was pulled over while driving 9 or 10 years ago. And the cop just wanted to ask me what I thought about our Prius. Because his wife was thinking about getting one and he was talking to people who owned one to see what they thought.
I had gone fabric and pattern shopping with a friend that I was making a dress for 7 years ago. I had skipped dinner and was starving. I was driving north on Ashland when a cop pulled me over. I had no idea what I’d done so I told him (with a hand shaking from hunger) as I handed him my driver’s license and insurance card, that I didn’t think I’d blown a stop sign. He looked at me and said “There are no stop signs on this part of Ashland.” He paused and looked at me. “Are your hands shaking because you’re scared?” I shook my head and said, “No, I skipped dinner and am just really hungry, I think.” He handed back my cards and said, “There is a McDonald’s one block away. I need you to pull in there, eat a small hamburger at least, and sit for 20 minutes before getting back in your car. My wife has diabetes and blood sugar is nothing to take lightly.” I did as he said and thought “what a nice guy!”
I almost got pulled over two years ago while driving through the far south side with a friend while looking for a shop that sold a particular Chicago-sandwich (the mother-in-law). We were driving down a street, there were blue surveillance camera lights on every corner, it was almost dusk. We stopped at a red light. A cop car had been behind me and pulled up beside me. My friend and I were talking and laughing, the cop in the passenger seat was looking at me hard. I smiled at him and then picked up my WBEZ travel mug, took a sip from it and put it back in the cupholder. I turned back to look at the cop who was shaking his head, said something to the driver, and then smiled and nodded back at me. And it was in that moment that I realized he thought I might be “lost” and was going to offer help. Or he thought I might be looking to buy something illegal.
My interactions with the police are so very minimal. So very minimal.
These are practically my only interactions with the police for the past 10 years. I’ve been lucky. I’m also a white woman who “looks normal”. My visible appearance gives me privilege that I wouldn’t have if I were a 16-year-old black male in my neighborhood.
The apology I wanted
Thankfully, very thankfully, Ani Difranco made a true apology. And she thanked people for calling her out. This was the apology wanted. This brings tears of relief. I cry easy, so they’re real tears.
Thank you, Ani.
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