Of An Age

Of An Age

My great-grandfather died of cancer when I was four. I remember running around the funeral home with my first cousin once removed; I only know that’s his full title because we come from a family with overlapping generations due to surprise-40 babies. He was only a year older than me at the time. Neither of us knew much about death. We knew we liked to run in circles and laugh.

As a freshman in high school, a classmate’s mom died. It rocked our small community. On the day of her funeral, there was also a bomb threat at the school. I don’t know if that was so we could all go to the funeral or because someone didn’t want to finish their midterms. It snowed.

I sang at the graveside service for a boy who passed away in his eighth grade year when I was a sophomore. We sang the Alma Mater. I don’t remember the words now.

My first cat died during the week of finals my junior year of high school.

During my senior year of high school, my maternal-paternal great-grandparents passed away within three months of each other. A severe stroke in August, pancreatic cancer on Halloween. I remember answering the phone hanging on the wall, my fingers twisting in the cord, standing in my best friend’s kitchen after spending the night. I was wearing my cheerleading uniform; we had a competition later that day.

My great-great grandmother didn’t pass away until the summer after my freshman year of college. She already had knitted Christmas gifts, still six months away. At the funeral home, I learned that my first cousin once removed was friends with the brother of my high school into college boyfriend. The world felt small, safe.

While pregnant with my daughter, my sorority grandma’s dad died. Despite being on bed rest, I went to the funeral. Always go to the funeral. While pregnant with my oldest son, a sorority sister died in a horrific car crash. My husband accompanied me to the funeral home. I wish the casket hadn’t been open; I can still see the marks from the fire, the bruising, the way her pink suit didn’t cover the marks of what took her away from us at such a young age.

Rose.

And then the deaths speed up and blur together. Prior to adulthood, they were separate entities, easily recalled because of their rare occurrence. A gentleman from church. An acquaintance’s mom. The father of one of my husband’s Army battalion members. My childhood dog. Friends’ mothers, grandmothers, mothers-in-law.

My step-grandfather who I didn’t call a step-grandfather; he was just grandpa. A note about that one: Our sewer backed up into our first owned home on the same day. That’s not hard to forget, the two awful things smashing into one.

Maddie.

And then the deaths got worse, more personal.

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My beloved grandfather, suddenly. My husband’s aunt, after a prolonged battle with ALS. His uncle, lung cancer. Three in three months. It felt like a cruel joke but no one was laughing. Death, death, death. Funeral, funeral, funeral.

That same summer, a friend. Too young. The anger began to build.

A reprieve.

My second cat.

And then my most cherished grandmother. And my other grandmother. And then, nearly myself. Waves crashing atop one another; it’s hard to breathe through prolonged, sustained, never-ending loss.

It’s been almost a year since Biz left us. A picture of the six of us, impossibly young, still sits on my desk. This, the one that surprised me more than my grandfather’s heart attack; the only one for whom I did not attend a funeral, a memorial, anything. Sometimes it feels like she’s still walking among us, still here now.

Today a friend from the old guard, the early days of blogging. She beat the odds once, so knowing now that she’s gone-gone feels like an untruth, like maybe we’re waiting for a punchline. But she’s gone. And we’re still here.

It’s the friends dying that feels unsettling. Don’t misunderstand me. I spent five days last week hoping and praying my husband’s grandmother wouldn’t leave this Earth just yet. I’m not “okay” with losing my elders, the two generations responsible for my existence, my moral compass, my memories, parts of my future.

But losing those in my generation—my acquaintances, my friends, my kindreds, my loves—I don’t suppose that gets easier.

I remember watching my dad put on his suit. I don’t remember who died, just someone he knew as a child or a teen or a young adult or an older adult. I remember the lines on his face. I knew they weren’t best friends, but I knew it still pulled at him in ways that I didn’t understand. Not at that age.

I do now.

We are of an age now. We speak their names and bow our heads. They remain parts of us. Forever.

 

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Stop the Appearance Shaming Right. Now.

Stop Appearance Shaming RIGHT NOW

A few years ago, a woman really, really annoyed me in a professional setting. I vented to a friend, citing everything from how she conducted herself online to her lack of writing skill to the way she brown-nosed my higher ups. (For all my worried ex-co-workers, this is not about you.) My friend indulged my rant, as friends do. Additionally, my friend knew the woman in question and had experienced the same things. I felt safe as my friend validated my frustrations.

Then I mentioned the offending woman’s appearance in a photo she uploaded to Facebook.

“Stop it right now. Tear apart her writing. Feel frustrated with the way she speaks to you. But her looks are off limits.”

I argued the point for approximately two-point-five seconds. Then I stopped. I realized I was wrong. Way wrong. I didn’t mention her looks again. Eventually I didn’t have to deal with her at all as I continued on down my winding career path. The interaction with that old friend, however, stuck with me.

And it’s bothering the hell out of me lately.

It started during the election. Anti-Hillary camps attacked her appearance, bringing up eye bags or wrinkles or how exhausted she looked or the weight she put on since she was in college. (You’re kidding me with the weight thing, right?) Pro-Hillary people argued that others shouldn’t attack her appearance; they should gauge her Presidential ability on the way she answered questions in debates and talked about policy.

These people then turned around and called Trump a Cheeto.

I engaged in the Trump appearance-shaming until that conversation with my friend popped back up in my head. And I sighed. I hate that nagging conscience of mine. I also hate being wrong, especially on moral and ethical grounds. I then tried to only retweet those who chose to address the issues at hand rather than poke fun at how the 45th President looks. I didn’t maneuver that endeavor perfectly, but I tried.

Three times in the past week I’ve watched smart women whom I admire go after the Trump women or KellyAnne for their appearance. Twice in the past week I’ve called them on it, because I’m straight up tired of it.

Listen: Unkind people, mostly women, have said unkind things about my appearance for my whole life. A fellow student in high school used to make fun of my size, of my clothing choices, of my eye shape. She made my senior year a veritable hell. Of note: it also happened in Christian settings. Thanks, Jesus people! It happened again in college, to a lesser extent due to a larger amount of people. Still, people commented on my appearance, both things I could control (things I liked to wear; things I didn’t know about like tweezing your eyebrows) and things I couldn’t control (yes, I know my eyes are shaped differently than yours; yes, I have knobby knees; yes, my teeth are crooked despite having worn braces; yes, my ears stick out a bit).

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When I moved to Ohio, it didn’t happen for awhile—because I didn’t interact with other human beings other than my husband and his family for a long time. As we began to grow our family, I met more people thanks to things like story time at the library and weight checks at the hospital and, as they got older, sports and school. People were slow to adopt me in this small community because I come from away. I was slow to adopt people because, well, I have trust issues and I’m an introvert (INFJ). Eventually I made some trusted, smart, lovely friends who loved me for me, all my quirks included.

I also made some not-so-friendly-acquaintances along the way who chose to make negative comments about my appearance either to their friends who didn’t realize little birdies exist or via social media. I’m nearly thiry-six-damn-years-old and this shit is still happening.

Guess what? You don’t have to like my hair. You don’t have to like what I wear. You don’t have to like my eyes or my legs or my thighs or my belly or my stretch marks or my makeup or my ears or my weight or my breasts or my arms or my cheeks or my butt or my feet or my fingers that swell too easily due to a kidney issue or even my fucking kidney. You don’t have to! But you do have to treat me with respect if you expect to remain in my life in any shape or form. You do owe me the simplicity of being a decent human being. You don’t have to be my best friend. You don’t have to like me. You can tell people I’m bossy or rude or stubborn or depressed; all those things are true. I own them. I apologize for them frequently. (Sorry again for any recent bossy/rude/stubborn issues. I won’t apologize for Treatment Resistant Depression, but I will continue to work on it with my doctors and therapists.)

But leave my looks out of it.

Leave the Trump women alone for their looks. KellyAnne is evil enough without commenting on how she looks. If you didn’t want people talking about Michelle Obama’s looks, whether the comments were racial or just about her arms, then stop making these kind of comments about women across the aisle—however wide that aisle might be. Like all the way to Russia.

Stop.

Stop it right now.

Attack policy. Rant about the lies. Question everything. But for Pete’s sake, and Pete was my Papau, act like a grown ass adult and leave the way people look out of it.

My chin hair and I will thank you for it.

Stop Appearance Shaming RIGHT NOW