Things that take 20 minutes (or less)

*Trigger warning*

A response to Brock Turner’s father. Click here to read the letter Brock Turner’s father wrote regarding his son’s sentencing.

If you ask anyone about what their most defining moments are; the things that have lifted them up or turned their world upside down or damaged them beyond repair, the things they will mention will likely only have lasted moments, epiphanies that occur from reading something powerful, from seeing their child take their first breath, from seeing a loved one die, from the time they went from feeling safe and happy to feeling afraid for their life and the lives of those around them.Twenty minutes is twelve hundred seconds. A lifetime. You can save someone’s life in 20 minutes. You can listen to six and a half songs. You can go for a walk, cook a meal, read a chapter of a book, drive to work, have a deep and meaningful conversation with someone – well, you probably can’t, but the rest of us can. Your son can swim 2000 metres in twenty minutes! I know that because his swim times were posted with some of the articles written about this case. Because, you know, that matters in a rape case. You can take twenty minutes out of your day (because, to you, apparently, twenty minutes is no time at all) and read the beautiful words written by your son’s victim. I hope you have. I hope you do. If that doesn’t change your mind, then nothing will.

But I’m going to try anyway, just in case you have a spare twenty minutes. You can read this, and I hope that when you do, you hear the voices of all of us in your ear, for a full twelve hundred seconds and maybe, just maybe, begin to comprehend the reprehensibility of your actions.

Here is a list of crimes that take 20 minutes or less, itemised so that your micro brain can comprehend them.

  1. Shoplifting.
  2. Mugging someone.
  3. Breaking into someone’s house or car.
  4. Shooting someone.
  5. Assault and battery – I guarantee you that if someone were beating you for twenty minutes, you would likely be dead.
  6. Raping someone – Yes, I included it! Because you seem not to realise that however long someone is being raped for, whether that be twenty seconds, twenty minutes, twenty hours, twenty years – it is rape.

What has happened in their lives prior to this life altering, devastating, damaging twenty minutes does not count. The twenty minutes is what counts. That’s twenty minutes of him panting in her ear, rubbing himself against her bare legs, shoving his hand inside her, while she lays there, uncovered, unconscious, unable to say no. Twelve hundred seconds of her being pressed into the dirt, gravel and pine needles being pushed into her skin because your son was taking what he wanted; doing what he felt like doing. Twelve hundred seconds of her lying there half naked, without responding. ‘Twenty minutes of action’, as you so charmingly put it, or, ‘the rape of a human being’, as decent people put it.

You know what takes longer than twenty minutes?

  1. Raising a son that believes women are his equals. That he is never, ever to take what he has no right to. That if he does something wrong, he should apologise. That he should mean it. That he should spend the rest of his life making up for those twelve hundred seconds of devaluing, degrading, dishonouring another human being. Of putting his hands where they do not belong. Of taking what he had no earthly right to take. That, my friend, takes a lifetime. One that your son has been granted. Use it. 
  2. Realising that your son is not the victim, and that you are not the hero. This will take more than twenty minutes for you because you have demonstrated no aptitude for introspection. Why would you ever have to?  When you can hire an expensive lawyer and casually watch said lawyer tear apart your son’s victim and then write letters stating your son’s punishment was too harsh, a tendency toward quiet reflection and seeing-things-from-the-other-fellow’s-point-of-view is seldom necessary.*  You probably spent less time on that letter than your son spent assaulting another human being.
  3. It will take the girl your son assaulted much, much longer than twenty minutes to recover from this nightmare.

She will heal, gradually, because she is brave and strong and has the support of millions. She will go on to be a productive member of society. She has already inspired people around the world to stand up and be counted. She has proven herself to be compassionate and intelligent and wise beyond her years.

She has given a voice to anyone whose voice was stolen from them by people like you, with your casual, indifferent dismissal.

With your entitled, arrogant world view.

With your fancy lawyer.

With your silly little letter.

 

 

*Thank you Sir Terry for those words. I trust that you won’t have a problem with me using them here.

 

 

 

Will You Still Love Me When I’m No Longer Young And Dumb?

Image

Yes, Miley’s VMA performance was weird. Strange, even. Unsettling. For some, downright wadafaaaa? She’s clearly doing her darndest to shed her image – she’s had a ratchet makeover and has twerked her way into the twittersphere to prove it – and the performance wasn’t even all that good with shaky vocals and limbs flying about willy (oo-er!) -nilly and the whole thing is rather awkward and train-wreck-y in a “I’m young and dumb and having fun” sort of way, but why is no one talking about Robin Thicke?

He’s 36, married, and a father to a 3-year-old boy. Thicke has been quoted as saying that his son, Julian, “has changed everything — every move I make, I know that it will affect him, his growth and his happiness”, which is really lovely and all, but I would take that more seriously if his only response to the VMA matter wasn’t a tweet that said, ‘that was dope’. Why did he let it get that far? Why didn’t during rehearsals he say something like,

“Hey, Miley, you’re 20, you can’t even drink legally yet, so maybe don’t stick your butt into my crotch, lick my chest and stroke my junk with a big foam finger?” 

The backlash has been full-on Miley-wise, while Robin has escaped with no more than his mother coming out and saying, “Him? Loved it. I love that suit, the black and white suit,” then follows that up with, “I don’t understand what Miley Cyrus is trying to do. I just don’t understand.”

There is something deeply, deeply wrong with this. Not only with the double standards we’re all apparently happy to adhere to by placing the blame entirely on Miley’s shoulders, but also by our willingness to overlook worrying song lyrics because it’s catchy and we like their outfits. Please, mothers, please don’t be proud if your son’s career shoots into hyperspace with a song called ‘Blurred Lines”, featuring such charming lyrics as

“I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two…

and so on and so forth. Of course, it was Miley’s choice to say yes to this collaboration – I am in no way saying that Miley shouldn’t be responsible for her own actions; she is, after all (as she is so fond of reminding us) a woman now and her own person, but she is still in the process of finding out exactly who that person is.

Thicke, on the other hand, is in a drastically different stage of life to Miley and should have enough self-awareness by now to recognize that grinding his junk against a 20-year-old’s backside probably isn’t the best thing to do. Maybe it’s a side effect of being surrounded by naked ladies in his film clips all the time that has warped his brain into saying, “it’s fine, it’s all entertainment, that’s show business baby,” but if so, how sad is that? Not only sad, but dangerous. To be surrounded by those ideas day in day out numbs you not only to the weight your words and actions carry, but also to the disturbing undertones present in this song, the film clip and this performance.

The awful thing is, Miley’s behavior isn’t any worse than what you encounter in any night club on any given Saturday night. Girls think it is okay to dance like that to music like that, because they’re young and dumb and having fun, and they know they shouldn’t enjoy music like that but they do because it’s catchy and it’s dark and there’s alcohol and who’s going to notice anyway? In Miley’s case however, everyone gets to see it– whether we want to or not.

So, yeah, she crossed a line somewhere, or ‘blurred’ it somehow (har har, see what I did there?), but so did he, and his part in this is, for me at least, a little less defensible.

They both did this; all I’m asking is that someone points the (foam) finger at Robin, too.

Blind Spot

ImageWe all know The Bachelorette is awful. It truly is. Anything which manufactures situations in which people actually have no choice but to fall in love and get engaged within 8 weeks of meeting one another has to be awful. Right?

But is it though? I mean, compared to poverty and famine and Mugabe, is it really that bad? Does it have any redeeming qualities? Is it actually, for instance, a searing satire of the harsh realities of dating life, seen through a microscope? Maybe not, but what it might be is the most feminist show on television. Or at least a feminist show on television. If you squint.

Hear me out, quickly, before I think too hard about this because I’m pretty sure this theory is already wilting in my mind-grapes.

One independent girl going out to get what she wants, dating 20 guys at the same time, stating openly and honestly what she is looking for without fear of retribution. In a society where asymmetrical sexual moral standards between men and women are the norm, one could argue that The Bachelorette is, albeit accidentally, leveling the playing field. The casting of a woman in the traditional gender role of the male (complete with his inherit right to sexual liberalization – pah!) seeking out a mate; testing all available options, picking some and throwing away others while female viewers cheer her on shows we’ve come a long way from the kitchen sex bunnies of the past….but only if you overlook the fact that the main goal of the Bachelorette is to find a man to propose to her, marry her, complete her, give her life meaning, etc, etc.

See? I told you you had to squint.

Help me out here guys, I need for this show to be forgivable. I need for it to deserve to exist. Why?

Because I have accidentally been watching it every week for the past 4 seasons.

I don’t just watch it though. You can’t ‘just watch it’ in Australia. I actively seek it out. I do more thank seek it out, I download an app onto my computer which hides my IP address, which means I can go to US-only sites like abc.com and stream it online every week and –

Come to think of it, maybe The Bachelorette is really really Marxist. And, um, postmodern. Socialist? No? You know what? Screw it. It’s actually kind of brave, going on television and telling the world that what you want is to find someone to spend your life with when most people can’t even say that face-to-face to someone they’ve known since they were 2. I have a certain respect for people with that kind of courage, and if that sort of courage means they occasionally do silly things like sign up to be the next Bachelorette then so be it.

Pass the remote, Germaine.

 

Week Twenty-Four: In your wheelhouse

A Love Letter (of sorts).

          Last night I dreamt I went to my old wheelhouse again. It seemed to me I stood by the front door and could not enter, for a liquorice padlock and barley chain barred the way. I called out in my dream, but there was no answer.  Moving closer, I peered through the pasta curtains and saw that it was deserted. Suddenly, the way it does in dreams, bread appeared in my pocket, and I took it out. It was warm and crackled in just the right way as I sat down on the front stoop, glancing furtively around. I ate it; bites too loud in the unforgiving silence.

It sounds stupid, unimportant, ridiculous, to dream about something like that. Most of my dreams are exactly that, but not this one. This one wrapped me up in a blanket of yesterday and kissed my forehead, a bittersweet lipstick mark left behind.

What I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t stupid to me.

This is a love letter, of sorts, to all the food I can no longer eat.

To the pasta, durum or soft wheat; you entered my life the way you left it – with ease and tender tastes and loops and swirls and bowties. The last time I had you the water spilled over the pot, and I tried to avoid using a strainer because I’m lazy. You stayed patiently in my freezer waiting for me to fulfil your destiny (you almost got eaten by my roommate but I saved you, remember?). It hurts my heart to leave you for a lesser substitute. This I promise you – I will love you, only you, not your lesser imitations, for the rest of my life.

To the KFCs, the Burger Kings, the Subways and especially the McDonald's. You were there for me when I needed you most – in moments of weakness, solitude, and, on one occasion, in Switzerland when you were the only thing I could afford. I drive past you now and see your golden arches through the fogged up window of my car, soft and alluring. Regret lingers in my chest; regret for things lost which cannot be regained, for the damage you did to me which I asked for. For the fact that the choice of what I can and can’t eat has been taken from me.

To the meat pies – I will miss you on the days when all I want is to be a kid again; to remember the times mum picked me up from school, and I would beg for a pie and I would get you, sometimes, if I promised you wouldn’t ruin my dinner. The pastry was soft and the meat hot; one or the other spilled all over me and I would lick the sauce off my fingers, sticky and sweet and not caring I looked like a grub. You, more than anything, more than photos and love letters and report cards carefully kept (“Stephanie is a friendly and outgoing student who would benefit from more time spent not talking in class”), are my childhood. You are my childhood, and I put you away with the teddy bears and the frilly socks with a heavy sort of sadness in my soul.

To the chocolate – O! The chocolate – the milky sweet melting moments we have shared are now locked away forever in my secret heart of hearts; a souvenir of the past, like so many smeared post cards from my father, illegible after years of being read, and re-read, and held to my chest with tears in my eyes. Thank you for all that you have given me.

To the bread, who has known me all my life. On cold mornings, fresh from the bakery or the oven; I have kneaded you, I have cut you, I have toasted you, I have squeezed your crust and felt it splinter under my fingers. You are the best and the worst of them; I want so badly for you to still be a part of me, but that hope has been taken from me. You were my wheelhouse and I have been served an eviction notice. I am outside of my wheelhouse now, looking back at it from some far-off place, imagining how you are getting on without me, now that you have made it clear how much you don’t want me. You make me sick, you’ve made me sick for years only I didn’t know it; I blamed grief and stress and myself while you and your gluten destroyed my insides, and I can’t look back without feelings of betrayal forcing me to feel hate for the thing I once loved so dearly.

I said this was a love letter, of sorts, but really this is goodbye.

I will venture off into the wilderness of the health food aisle and allergy information blurbs. I will explore the exotic lands of Quinoa and Millet and leave the shores of wheat, barley and rye behind. I will face the future with feathers in my heart and the knowledge that I will be truly well for the first time in years; that this is something I can control; that I will be happy and won’t cry for no reason; that I won’t need to get treatment for illnesses I don’t have. That I won’t have people telling me I’m anorexic and that I’m disgusting and should be ashamed of myself. I will build a new wheelhouse, made from rice and salad and fruit, and I will live in it, one day, when I grow into this new world of mine. And I will not talk of you again; I will not tell of my dream, for the dream is mine no longer. The dream is no more. 

NB** The first paragraph and last few lines are inspired by the opening chapter of 'Rebecca', by Daphne du Maurier.

I've never posted anything so true to life before. I wrote this because I have been recently diagnosed with coeliac disease after years of feeling unwell and being tested for everything under the sun. I am so so happy to finally have a diagnosis so I can move on with my life!

As I have never posted anything like this before (completely from my own point of view, non-fiction), I would love to hear what you think. 

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Inconceivable

Have you ever wanted those five seconds back? Just those five seconds? Like the moment when you reverse into a pole because you weren’t looking, or when you stub your toe on the bath, or when you’re talking about someone and they walk up behind you?
 
Lyn knows how that feels. If she had been more careful, she wouldn’t have tripped. If she hadn’t tripped, she wouldn’t have fallen. If she hadn’t fallen, she wouldn’t have lain on the floor at the bottom of her stairs for two hours, calling out to a neighbor with a voice that grew weaker with each passing minute, waiting for her husband to come home.
 
In Australia in the 1980’s, there was a huge push towards awareness of domestic violence. This was a good thing, because it meant that healthcare workers (who are often the first people outside the family to see the results of such violence) felt more comfortable in asking the tough questions.  It also meant, unfortunately, that sometimes they looked for something that just wasn’t there.
 
Lyn’s husband came home and he could barely see the digits on their phone through his tears. Lyn comforted him from where she lay on the floor, knowing that right now he needed her.  “Come on baby, just focus. Just do this for me, and then I want you to go pick the kids up from soccer, they’ve been waiting.”
 
Lyn’s husband wanted to wait with her ‘til the ambulance arrived, but Lyn wouldn’t hear of it. She kept picturing her boys sitting on the curb in the darkening night; soccer ball under one arm, their tiny faces hopeful as each car drove by. She couldn’t bare it (it turned out that a kind mother had taken them home with her own boy; she knew Lyn wouldn’t be late to pick them up without a good reason). The husband nodded and kissed his wife. He made her more comfortable with a pillow and a blanket, and sped off to find his boys.

The ambulance arrived. Lyn was lying there, alone, bloodied and bruised. They couldn't believe that a husband would leave his wife for any reason when she looked like that. They decided that Lyn was the next poster girl of domestic violence. They refused to take her in until she admitted that her husband had done this to her. Lyn begged them, and it was only when her husband arrived home with her boys that one ambulance driver said to the other, “Come on mate. She needs help. Let’s just take her in.”
 
At the hospital, they inspected Lyn, searching her all over. Bruising covered her back, dried blood pooled on her forehead where she had smacked her head on the stairs. They looked at her; so tiny, so young; so obviously, in their eyes, a victim. “You need to tell us the truth. This is a safe place. Did he hurt you?”
 
They refused to scan her when Lyn didn’t give them the answer they were looking for. The husband took Lyn home, and the fresh-faced idealistic resident folded his arms across his chest, watching them. “I’ve just changed her life,” he thought, and he felt good about it.
 
Slowly, Lyn’s body healed, but not in the way it should have. Bones fused where they should never fuse, torn muscles never worked the same way again. She learned to live with the pain. She began to gain weight. She saw doctor after doctor, each looking at the initial report from that night in hospital, each seeing that the resident had written that there was no obvious injury, and therefore no need to scan the patient.
 
She was diagnosed with depression and subscribed painkillers and anti-anxiety medication. Sometimes, if Lyn took enough, the agony stopped for a little while. She saved the really good painkillers for special occasions, like when her sons graduated from high school, or when they got married. On those days, she was able to sit without pain and just be a mother. On those days, she cried because she was proud.
 
One day, her therapist moved away and referred Lyn to a friend for her continued treatment. Lyn was excited to meet him; he was a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist looked at her, looked at her records and decided to send her for some scans, just to see if this patient who had been labeled over the years as a hysterical liar who likely suffered from Munchhausen’s could possibly be telling the truth. Maybe, he thought, she hadn’t ever been given the benefit of the doubt.
 
Twenty-six years after Lyn fell down the stairs, Lyn got her scans. She was immediately referred to surgeon after surgeon, all of whom said she weighed too much for the surgery to be a success, until one surgeon said yes. He’d give it a go. He said she had one of the worst backs he’d ever seen, and after this he’d need to look at her neck, her hips, her knees and her ankles.
 
I met Lyn when she was recovering from her fifth surgery.  I went in to take her blood pressure. She was happy. She was grateful. She told me her story. I had to leave the room to stop myself from crying in front of her. There was no place for how I felt about what she’d been through in her life. When a person is that vulnerable, bearing scars from surgery in places no-one should ever look, looking up at you with tearful eyes and matted hair and no make-up and hooked up to machines with tubes coming out of them every which way, telling you they’re grateful, you cannot fall into pieces. You suck it up. You hold back their hair, you wash them, you feed them, you take away their pain and you listen to them. 
 
Later that night, I called my dad up and told him her story as best I could without bursting into tears. He’s a doctor, and he nearly vomited when he heard how she had been treated. I asked him how this could have happened, how it could be possible that here in a first world country with excellent healthcare and fantastic standards could this be possible.
 
“Oh love I don’t know. That’s…Some people just…slip through the system, I suppose. She was just one of them.”
 
Sometimes I think about Lyn, and wonder how she is now. I think about everything she’s gone through, and I hope her and her husband can do all the things they wanted to do together but couldn’t because Lyn was too damaged. Sometimes I think about her grandkids, and I hope she can lift them up without pain.

Sometimes I think about those five seconds, and how different everything could have been. Just those five seconds.
 
 

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