Women and “Bad Boys”

The wall in my office was recently donned with an original screen print of Kylo Ren in his helmet. I had to mount it behind me, because if it were anywhere I could stare directly at it, I would not get anything done in that space.

I gloated about this piece for weeks before I was able to pick it up. Not only would it go perfectly with my Stormtrooper action figure, lightsaber sounding doorbell, and Death Star cup and teapot, but… I also have a real love for Kylo Ren. My husband even calls him my “emo boyfriend,” and if you follow my Instagram, you might have noticed a picture of me with a ridiculous grin on my face, standing speechless as I look at his looming figure during a character interaction at Disney World. I’m slightly obsessed.

A dear coworker, who’s been at the company for 40 years, walked by my office and looked at the picture and contemplated a moment before posing a question to me, “Why are women attracted to bad boys?”

My first reaction was to think, “He’s not a “bad boy”!”, but I immediately had a PTSD flashback to a class at university where I dared to argue that the character of Chigurh in No Country for Old Men wasn’t evil, thus enticing a rain of fire and fury upon me from my classmates and a final, “And Bri, do you have anything to share?” from the professor at the end of every conversation henceforth.

But his question did make me contemplate the age-old archetype of women being attracted to the “bad boy.” The concept consumes story arcs again and again across all mediums – books, movies, plays, mythologies – ancient stories of women wanting the bad boy that will only cause her emotional harm when there was a safer, happier choice in a kinder, gentler man. If a woman knows the risk of emotional harm is high, why would she continue to pursue the one who poses the risk?

Let’s reflect on the elaborate and beautifully complex palace that is the woman psychology. We are the mothers of the world – actually having a child is not required. We are creators and comforters. We are the balance keepers – kissing boo-boos, healing wounds, and lifting spirits. We are lovers, and appreciators of the cycles of ups and downs that life brings. We experience that cycle through ourselves, innate within the biology of our bodies. We experience it through the deeply personal involvement of birth and death. This is not to say that men don’t experience and feel deeply about these life events – only that women experience it through the pain of the effort of the creation of it all.

With this understanding, it becomes natural for a woman to be attracted to what is perceived as the “bad boy” when that character often reflects the same cycle of ups and downs that we women operate in daily. We crave a companion who isn’t afraid of that journey, who will lift us to new heights within it, and who provide us with a deeper understanding as we travel through it.

To explore the perceived “opposite” option, there is also a time, personality, and even season when a woman desires an anchor that will serve as a beacon to calmer waters. But if the relationship is a healthy one, the “bad boy” can also be or become that calm beacon. Not to mention, those who present themselves as the “good guy” often have depths that can lead to unhealthy relationships (… hello Hans from Disney’s Frozen).

So, I encourage the Wild Women of this world to find their equal in their passions no matter the stigma. Explore the reasons behind your attraction, weigh the balance between health and adventure, and always know that you deserve the utmost respect as the Keeper of Life. Surround yourself with a tribe of wise supporters who will speak truths and help you along all of your journeys – and seek a life partner who complements you, raises you up, encourages your dreams, hears your voice, and desires your happiness.

I chose a “bad boy” in many ways as my life partner, but he is a “bad boy” in all the best of those ways – and we have had a healthy journey through the rest of it – on both sides.

So, cheers to the bad boys!

Photo Credit: Artwork by Justus Brozek (Instagram: @justusbrozek)

To All the Women Who Are Still Carrying Their Calves

TRIGGER WARNING: Contains graphic content regarding miscarriage.

I have written about my miscarriage before. I have shared the depth of the physical and emotional pain hoping that the women who have similar experiences have a resource for what to expect and know they are not alone even in the darkest moments.

In honor of the orca mother who has been carrying her dead calf for more than two weeks, I feel compelled to write about the part that I previously have not dared share, because it is the part that I’m ashamed of. It is the part that hurts the most. This is the part that is the most confusing to me as I reflect back on it. And it is the part where I find the heart of Isha, the name I call this Orca mother, and mine are one.

After the pain of knowing the child you had hopes for is dead inside you – after your body bleeds for over a week trying to relentlessly hold tight to it in hopes of miraculously igniting life back into it – after the true, physical labor your body goes through as you grip the towel you have laid on the bathroom floor to catch the blood, praying that the pain was over – after that pain and blood doesn’t stop coming and you wonder if you’re dying too because no one told you it would hurt this bad – after all of that, your body finally releases the clumped mass of flesh folded into a package the size of your hand which contains the remains of what life there was. And you wonder why when you googled “miscarriage” none of this part was mentioned. You read the medical process. You read the signs about when to begin to suspect you have lost your child. You read about timelines, doctors, procedures, how to know it’s all going wrong, but you don’t read about this part. You don’t just bleed more than usual and then it’s over. You have to labor so your body contracts again and again to bunch up the placenta you had made so you can pass it through you without dilating traditionally.

And there was never any mention about this precise moment.

It’s the moment you stare at this bloody flesh at 3AM alone on a dark bathroom floor and say to yourself – “What now?”

Dear Isha, I do not know. I wasn’t prepared for this. I wasn’t told there would be a decision to make. I wasn’t told there would be something to make a decision about. It would happen. I would bleed. It would be finished.

Instead, I had to do something with this. With my child. With the flesh. What do I do? There are no formal funerals for this. It is rarely even talked about! Do I put it in a baggie and place it in the fridge until I had the strength to Google “what next?” Do I wrap it up and place it in a shoebox to bury in the garden? Do I throw it in the trash and let my husband unknowingly take it out? Do I stare at it for a while? Do I take a picture to remember them by? To remember this moment? Do I flush the flesh? Do I carry it around for three weeks like this orca mother until I finally decide which path to take and at last feel like my grief, the pain, the emotions, the fear, the sadness can be let go as I let go of it?

This happens to a quarter of ALL WOMEN, and I have never seen a story or heard another woman talk about this part.

I think Isha moved me to write this for a very specific reason. I know I still have a lot of unpackaged pain and guilt about this part of my miscarriage. And it wasn’t even over at this point for me. I continued to bleed for the next 24 hours – fist-sized blood clots about every 20 minutes and filling up heavy pads between each one until I was pale and weak and sat on the doorstep of my house, because I didn’t have the physical strength to stand, until a friend could pick me up and take me to the ER because my husband had started a new job that week and was in a meeting all the way across town.

It wasn’t over for me when I “miscarried.” It still isn’t over for me. I still carry my calf. And I still think back to the moment I decided to let them go into the depths of the ocean and wonder if I did it right – if I let go at the right time and in the right way.

I am with you, Isha. Take your time.

Photo: Robin W. Baird/Cascadia Research Collective

Against the Culture

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(Trigger Warning)

There’s a cyclone building — a furry of sentiments fighting to be heard in an already volatile storm of fear. My challenge to you is to step outside of those whipping winds that are drowning the world and hone your ears towards the whispers and whimpers of a voice that has long been muted. There is a culture that has been ignored with downward cast eyes accompanied by an awkward shrug of the shoulders. Sometimes it has even been seen with a spotlight cast over it but quickly swept under the rug. Well, friends, that rug is starting to bulge and the nails are beginning to stick through. Those eyes need to look up with hands ready for education and action. It is time that the shadows where sexual harassment, aggression, assault, and rape cower are extinguished with light. No longer can it be made a pawn for political positioning. Not one more victim should be made a martyr for the cause of human decency. The voices of these children, women and men must echo over us until we, as a collected global entity, finally come to understand what we are doing to ourselves when we continue to silence it.

A woman posted on a business Facebook group asking the company if they sold maternity bras. A man unrelated to the company saw her post and responded to her asking if she had a picture of what was to go inside the product and added “lol jk.” The woman kept her composure, despite being made terribly uncomfortable by his comment, and replied respectfully saying she noticed his profile stated he was in a relationship, how inappropriate it is for him to be making such a comment and to please leave the post.

Sadly, this sort of exchange is no surprise to any woman who interacts on social media. It is no surprise to the women who interact with the world outside of social media either. What is surprising is why this woman put this exchange on another large social media group asking if her response was acceptable. Her mother saw the interaction and told her daughter that her response was inappropriate – that she had let it get under her skin and should not have said anything at all. The woman was now seeking advice from the other ladies of the group to see if she truly was out of line.

Reading both parts of this post, I had simultaneous reactions of heartbreak and rage. Like countless others, I have also been in situations where men responded inappropriately and unsolicited – and I have been told that I was overreacting with my response.

The first time this happened – I was nine years old. A little boy in my class had a crush on me, and our mothers thought it was adorable enough to get us together to kindle a friendship. I remember it being bitterly cold outside. There was snow on the ground – just enough to blanket the soil of the harvested corn fields outside our farm house. That’s where we were playing. We were pushing each other around in a blue plastic sled when he simply stated he wanted to go inside. As any good friend would, I obliged. Warming up, we sat on the floor in front of the TV in the living room when he said he would be right back, got up and walked away. Some time passed. I still sat on the floor, knees under my chin and arms wrapped around my shins, when he came running into the room knocking me over and pinning me to the ground with his body. Holding down my arms, he started kissing all over my face and neck, trying to move down my body, as I wrestled to break free from him. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I knew something inside me was violently fighting against it. Something was screaming – telling me my person was not my own, my body was being taken advantage of – I was being taken advantage of – but I didn’t know why or for what purpose.

After a few short seconds, I was able to kick him off. I ran upstairs to my bedroom and sat at my desk wondering what had happened and what, if anything, was to be done. At that time, I only had beads hanging in my doorframe – and no means of locking him out. Moments later, he came charging again into my room. Several strands of those beads were ripped, the strings broken off of the doorframe. He landed on my bed, and before he could say anything, I stood up and finally yelled at him to get out – we were no longer friends! He showed remorse and said he was sorry but stayed in my room until his parents came to pick him up.

I remember standing on the stairs next to my mom watching him leave. Once the front door was closed, I turned to my mother and told her what had happened. “He pushed me to the ground and kissed me,” I told her. I didn’t have the words to describe any other details about what had happened. I didn’t know to say, “Mom, I was harassed. Mom, I was forced into a sexual situation that I didn’t want and didn’t understand.” Instead, I had to let her know in the simplest form. Her response was much like what the woman who had shown the Facebook posting to her mother received – and much like what many of us women are told when we share moments of sexual harassment. “Oh, he just likes you,” she said. “It’s no big deal.” You’re overreacting. You’re making too much out of this. Brush it under the rug and be sure to wear shoes while in the house.

My mother and I turned and walked back up the steps.

I didn’t know the consequences that would follow me through the years from this experience. Only recently have I come to discover that this moment was a catalyst in a life of trying to reconcile wanting, and at the same time not wanting, attention from boys. I even dumped a boyfriend when I was 14 for kissing me on my cheek without asking. My consciousness still had not been able to clarify whether this was right or wrong. But again, I was berated for my response to the kiss – I was overreacting. Such attentions are suppose to be flattering.

At one point in my life – shortly after college – I believed I had reconciled what had happened. They were just kisses. It wasn’t really a big deal. We were both so young and surely he didn’t know what he was doing at the time. As social media is designed to allow us, I reconnected with him with a simple friend request. He is married with a wonderful family. He looked happy through the limited window that social media gives us. All things were great. But something was still not settled. Each time I saw one of his status updates come across my news feed that antsy twitch would start again in my consciousness. My heart rate would pick up, and I would become anxious. No, I couldn’t do this to myself. I unfriended him and decided it was time to truly examine my experience. It was no longer something to be brushed away. It was time to allow its true definition to be written. I had been sexually assaulted. I no longer needed anyone else’s approval of this definition. I had it for myself. Now, I could move forward.

Years later, while in a successful, satisfying and joyfully overflowing marriage full of love – I am able to look back on these situations, place identity on them and sort through them. It leaves me with an enraged voice for the women (and men) who are continually harassed and told to be silent by the generations before – and even our own. Without a shift of focus on what sexual harassment truly is – and the broad scale it encompasses – we will never start to educate and begin the change that needs to take place to stop it. We will continue to make excuses for those executing it, and we will continue to silence the voice of those who are victims. Let’s not allow another generation of children to be raised to think that the calling for a woman to smile to make her more attractive for a man is just a consequence of her gender. A woman contributing to the commerce of a business should not be the subject of a trolling man seeking his own sexual satisfaction. A little girl kissed against her will should not be told it is playground antics. It leads to men who believe women are made for their pleasure – who are meant to be objectified and ranked according to their desires – and it leads to women who believe a whistle on the street is flattering when the tiny voice of panic is doused with “but it’s okay.” Stop justifying!

By allowing such things, we give rise to children with sunken shoulders. We give rise to women under the outstretched palm of an an overbearing man. Instead, let’s empower! Let’s educate our children. Let us listen to what they are trying to tell us. Let’s give voice to our own grown society and stand in unity to fight against the oppressors who cultivate the rape culture of our society. Give back the faith that there is community and comfort on the other side of such pain – and offer light for a future where this culture is no more and their voices no longer muted. #womenunited #empoweredvoices #neveralone