Hillary Clinton, Not Okay, Vote, Women

Not Okay. Again.

Last week I was making a return at a Nordstrom’s store situated in the northern suburbs of Seattle. All was very quiet on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 PM on the third floor. I was the only customer in sight. My back was to the escalators and while exchanging information with a very young saleswoman I heard it. Right behind me.

“In my day we didn’t stack women’s underwear on tables for everyone to see,” he growled. I could feel him a few feet away. Those little hairs on our neck? They really do prickle when adrenalin flows.

I smiled at the gal, got very still then heard closer behind me,

“Seriously, you bitches need to do something about this.”

I looked her in the eye, did not turn around and said, “Does he come here often?”

She continued to smile and said without missing a beat,

“Oh, thanks goodness, I thought he was with you. No. Never seen him before.”

I laughed too loudly and said “Ah. No.”

And that’s when I felt a very new feeling. I wasn’t scared. I was completely enraged. Expansively enraged.

He moved next to me, fiddled with some pamphlets, commented on our vaginas. I folded my hands around my bag and turned to face him. I was seriously sweating and ready to deck him. This was not ok. Again. The language, the attitude, coming into our space — ladies lingerie for god’s sake. Like a bad movie rerun after all the news, the endless pussy jokes, the locker room talk from Donald Trump. Not. Okay. At. All.

Then he swiveled, circled the sales counter, got very close to another saleswoman and started to talk in a low voice. Not breaking her smile, my saleswoman asked for my signature, then answered a phone call.

“Yes, I did. White male, pony tail, white shirt, back of the lingerie department. Thank you.”

I looked at her in total respect.

“What did you do? I asked, keeping an eye on him.

“No need for phone calls,” she smiled. “We just have to press a button.”

I was flooded for love for this young woman, her professionalism, her smile, her calm. And deeply saddened that standing in our women’s sanctuary we had to protect ourselves. Again.

I looked her in the eye and said,

You are awesome.”

As I headed to the escalator two men took got off and split to either side of me and headed to the back.

Not ok. Again. But here’s what is happening since Donald Trump opened his mouth: Women are not scared, we are really, really angry. We are people, not objects of filth, voyeurism, sexual predatory behavior and let me emphasize, this behavior is not acceptable anywhere. Not in a bus, not in a house, not in the street, not at my feet.

Know the difference between OKAY and NOT OKAY. Or you might get smacked by a sweating writer with a bag full of books and bras. And I guarantee it will hurt.

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Women

Notice.

A few months ago at a college reunion I told a woman I barely knew that she was beautiful. I had been so struck by her stunning calm, her sweet smile, her kindness to other people that day. Her face fell when she heard my words. She narrowed her eyes, checked sideways to see if her husband was listening, glared at me and hissed in a whisper,

“Don’t say that!”

And quickly walked away like I was toxic.

I tell my daughters and son they are beautiful always and forever because they are and always will be. They are my works of art, marvels of DNA and history and memories.

But we woman don’t say beautiful to each other. Well, women have said to me “you look great!” which I instantly translate to “you didn’t look so good the last time I saw you.” Then there’s “you’ve lost weight!” and I cringe because what I weigh is none of their business nor is their assessment of my body type sought after at any time.

We tell each other that we are dressed well, or our hairstyle looks good, or our shoes are glamorous. Exterior compliments. Men or the fashion industry or the magazines rate, weigh and place cultural values on our looks. But for a woman to call another beautiful, in a completely a-sexual manner –the kind of beautiful that is a state of being; not of hair, or clothes, or skin? Highly unusual.

Why don’t we — as women — acknowledge when another woman glows, or looks happy, or truly radiates beautiful?  Why do we let others be better judges?

Her fearful glare had warned me  “back off  you are embarrassing me, my husband won’t like that,” and indicated to me that no one had told her enough or, sadly, at all, that she was beautiful. After the reunion incident I decided more notice was necessary, not less.

Strangers hug me after I say it. Girls smile. Men (yes, I am not exclusive) kiss me on the cheek. Let me tell you something: you will feel as good as they do when you say “you are beautiful.”

A random stranger brought this home today. I was headed to an early ferry, my hair a mess, my jacket rumpled and not quite awake. The morning was so sweet, the coffee so perfect, my car smelled so like heaven packed with dahlias, sweet peas and apples that I had jumped into the car not caring at all about my appearance. I may even have been still wearing my sheepskin slippers.

The ticket lady handed back my change and said, “you are so beautiful, and so early in the morning.” I looked up at her and said “thank you” and cried all the way down the ferry dock.

It was nice to be noticed for the right reasons. It was even better to have a woman tell me.

Notice the beauty. Pass it on.

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“Carnation”, oil on canvas, Emma Dane Garfield 2015

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