Tough and Tender

My new coworkers are lovely people. Truly. So lovely that they plan baby showers for grandmothers-to-be and second-time fathers-to-be. Isn’t that nice?

No. That is ridiculous.

Here’s the thing. I’m kind of old school about showers. You get one baby shower. One. It is when you have your first baby, and you get it when you’re the mother-to-be. (The father-to-be gets the gifts too, so he’s not being slighted.) You do not get a “sprinkle” when you have each additional kid. You do not get a grandparent-to-be shower (what the HELL?)  And I do not come to your shower, nor do I contribute to a gift, unless you are the mother-to-be and it’s your first kid.

Or not even then. As it turns out.

Because today, there was a surprise shower for my coworker and I had completely forgotten about it, which means I neither contributed to the group gift nor got her a separate gift. So while she opened everything and then read aloud the names of all the people who contributed to the group gift, I was essentially outed.

Who has two thumbs, hates baby showers and is an asshole? This girl!

Top of that, I had already eaten and was full, therefore keeping me from being able to graciously indulge in the sinful goodies my other coworker had prepared for the occasion.

Also, I really didn’t want to be there. Everyone else was taking pictures of our friend while she opened all the cute gifts, and you know what I took a picture of? The guys who felt obligated to come, who were sitting in the farthest back corner of the room possible. I wanted to sit back there too. On the way back to my officle, I stopped in one of theirs and mouthed, “I hate baby showers.”

Sometimes I’m not at all convinced that I’m a normal woman. Then I consult with another one and find out I totally am, because it’s possible that we all hate baby showers.

******

But then it turns out I’m something altogether different.

Tonight I had a meeting with my local state delegate (also a prosecutor)  and the executive director of an anti-sexual assault organization, who is also a lawyer and experienced lobbyist, about our new potential efforts at gaining more ground for crime victims. I learned very early in the meeting that the first part of my hopes had already been secured; someone else I’d spoken with had already accomplished the goal of getting information printed on peace and protective orders that will let complainants know when their respondent has been served with the order—commonly the most dangerous time in the process for the complainant. My push had actually been for something similar: giving them access to the information I fortunately had with my stalker, so that they will know when an incarcerated perpetrator is released, transferred or up for a probation/parole status change. Happily, I’m told they think they can get that done.

The other effort is to strengthen the home detention criteria so that people who are served with peace/protective orders are subject to reincarceration and/or no longer eligible for the home detention option. This is a trickier hope for a lot of reasons particular to both my state and general laws, and it might not happen. I understand that, but I want us to make the right argument. And though this is the trickier hope, my delegate and his colleague puzzled out several scenarios, hypothesized about how it might work, talked about ways they could answer legal challenges and ways they might have to regroup to work around them, and did it all while both educating me more about how the system works and treating me as an equal, even though I never went to law school.

Those of you who have read about my stalker and the effort Rick and I — along with several other committed victims’ rights advocates — made real will know how much this means to me. I found myself a bit choked up as I thanked them for their time tonight. During our meeting, they had told me how rare a stalking conviction is. Between them, they’ve only seen a handful. It’s a difficult statute to prove; the fact that the police caught my stalker in the act made a  huge difference. Hearing that made me feel two very different things: gratified about the severity of my case after wondering whether I was “worthy” of a stalker, and terrified for all the people who don’t get the justice they need. Every time I think through my experience, I remember how exhausting and necessary it all was. The fact that so many people deal with the unending fear of the circumstance without ever having the benefit I got from the bone-wearying process after the arrest is a crime in itself, and an inexcusable one.  When I got home from the meeting, I felt so grateful for the work others have done on my behalf that I cried.

******

Then I read a Facebook posting about a former coworker who adopted a seven-year-old girl from Ethiopia. He and his wife have been raising her for a couple of years now, dealing with all the triumphs, challenges, laughs and fears that come with suddenly having a desperately wanted daughter who has to catch up to educational requirements in a language she has to learn all at once, while also dealing with some physical disabilities. One of his new coworkers just heard the story of how my friend and his wife brought their daughter home and was moved enough to ask if he could feature the story on his website. My friend said yes. But then as he dropped his head and shuffled his feet, he asked if there might be a way to help raise the funds he and his wife need, because they know a boy in Ethiopia who needs them now, but they don’t have the money yet.

I hadn’t known my friend was ready to adopt again, but the second I read the words, I burst into tears. I checked the fundraising site and found that they’d already far exceeded the goal. I thought about it for two seconds and then said, “Fuck it, I’m posting this anyway,” and put it on my FB page.

This afternoon I felt like a callous, dysfunctional jerk. Tonight I feel like an exposed underbelly. The generosity of others has laid me bare. There’s a strange mix of emotions I can’t pinpoint.  It’s like the expansion of the universe – inexplicable and beautiful and terrifying and out of my control, full of darkness and light and an energy I want to protect and evade.

Today I am completely human.

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12 thoughts on “Tough and Tender

  1. Human is good. Awesome progress on the stalking front… you certainly weren’t lucky to be stalked, but the cause is benefiting from having such a passionate, articulate person advocating for victims’ rights. Well done. And yes – I, too, find I’m more inclined to cry because of the goodness in this world than from depression. I think that’s a good thing. I’ll never regret those tears.

    Finally: RIGHT THERE WITH YOU on the baby showers. Even if I like the people and are happy for them and it’s their first child and they need gifts – I’d rather NOT watch them open each one. Just have a party, collect the loot, then send thank yous after you privately open them. A GRANDMOTHER shower? What the hell does she need? A weight-lifting belt so she can carry the child around? Don’t feel bad for hating it. Your response was normal. And clearly your colleagues need some better reasons to celebrate… so maybe you could come up with some faux milestones for them?

    • Thank you. I just came from a class where we were discussing the difference between social change and social service, and I realized that this effort is both.That’s a tremendous feeling I haven’t been able to find a word for yet.

      When you cry about the good things… is it sobby-ugly crying? ‘Cause it kind of weirds me out when that happens.It’s like all the Whatever that I haven’t been reacting to suddenly comes up all at once.

      Except baby showers. My reaction to those is pretty universal and usually involves eye-rolling.I don’t know what the grandmother got because I didn’t go to the damned shower. On principle.

  2. Showers. — baby, wedding, whatever — are awful. Period. There are always wounded people who have to attend. The woman who just got jilted. Who just had a miscarriage. Who has tried everything to conceive with no luck. They are gatherings for the walking wounded.

    • Yes, I think you’re right. I’m trying to figure out what’s changed, because my friend Joey once noted (and I hated to hear, but now kind of accept) that I feel things more deeply than other people do. I find that terrifying. But I know I have had rough emotional times before and I wonder if I’ve somehow deadened that a little in order to avoid that psychological place. Gee, I can’t wait until insurance gets its act together so I can check on that with the shrinkapist.

  3. Everyone hates showers . Even the people the shower is being thrown FOR. But it’s a necessary evil. However, everyone loves trying to help good people do good things. I think that’s the difference. I have often rolled my eyes and snarked my way through a painful shower. It doesn’t make you awful, it makes you human as well. And if we stop caring about others and their plight and efforts to make this world better, even if it’s just by one African orphan at a time, we have lost that humanity. It is good to know we ALL are still so human.

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