31 October 2016

Family Eruption

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of women's safety in contemporary America.  Could get ugly.

Just when you think that everything is going along swimmingly...  a shark fin is spotted in the harbor!
What the heck does that mean?  Well, I thought that everything was going really well with my dad and the teenager and then shit blew up this weekend.  Sigh.

Actually, everything is still going well with my dad and the teenager, it's my younger brother who is the problem.  Here's how it went down:

Friday afternoon I got a text from the niece asking if I would call Gramps and let him know that she could get herself home from work on her own.  I asked, 'What's going on?'  Turns out my brother, not her father but the other brother, has decided that it is too much trouble to pick her up at the transit center (or work) when she has a late shift.  He says that it's too hard on the grandfather to stay up past 9:00 pm.  Mind you, the grandfather did not say this, only his pampered son.  AND, it was her first day on the job.

The transit center is not far from their house, but it is a dangerous place in the dark, with all sorts of miscreants, punks and homeless people hanging out and relative isolation physically from the rest of the community.  You have to cross a bridge and descend a stair to a platform alongside the tracks and overlooking the freeway -- there is no street access or businesses nearby, it's very isolated.

So, my brother decided that it was too late for our dad to go out at night, and he certainly couldn't be bothered to shift his lazy ass off the couch to pick up the kid, so she'd have to get herself home after her work shift ended at 9:15.

I AM SO ANGRY WITH MY BROTHER!  AND MY DAD!  AND MY OTHER BROTHER!

Fucking straight white men and their fucking straight white man PRIVILEGE!  My blood was boiling!  It's still at an active simmer!

Not a one of them has ever been afraid.  Not a one of them has ever been threatened.  Not a one of them has had to endure the hidden violence of cat-calling, of being followed, of being accosted while waiting for a bus or a train.  They haven't been shoved up against a wall while some man presses his engorged dangly bits against them.  They haven't had to deal with the realistic fear of being young and female in the city (or anywhere).  They have never been raped.  They are so fucking oblivious!  And entitled!

The first thing I texted back to my niece was: I will pick you up at work.  I don't want her to have to quit her job because she has no one to rely on within her family.  I don't care if she works or not, that's not my issue, but I don't want her world restricted to the daylight hours and the small safe zone she has around the house.  How many of us have had to conquer that in our lifetimes?  I remember back in the 1970's when my mom picked me up at the school bus stop in the car when I had late practice in high school.  It was about a tenth of a mile; we could have counted our steps between the two spots, but it was along a main road with no houses or businesses within sight or earshot and my mom didn't feel that it was safe for me to walk home in the dark.  All I can say now is, Thank you, Mom, for being worried about me.  I will gladly continue to pay that forward.

*** Take a breath.  I need to as well. ***

I'm mad at my younger brother.  Full stop.  I'm frustrated with my dad and older brother (father of the kid).  There are multiple layers of angst rearing up in my family right now, and some of them are extremely unsettling, but one thing ties the three adult men in the family together: their willful blindness to the peril women face on a daily basis.  If they lived a week in our shoes, they wouldn't begin to understand what we have known since childhood: the world will hurt you.  There are bad people who seek to control and debase you.  Every action will be judged and found wanting.  Do not talk; dress; act; look; behave; speak; (etc) that way, or pay the consequences.  It doesn't matter how nice, quiet, sweet, unassuming, invisible you are -- the world will hurt you.

*** Ok, take another breath with me...***

My dad and brothers are looking at things like: how far away is the transit center?  Not the reality of; what is the transit center like at night for an 18 year old girl?

My older brother thanked me for taking his daughter to the self defense course.  I said, yes, but a single class does not make a black belt.  It would be foolish for her to assume that because she has completed one 3-hour class that she can go anywhere with impunity.  Fortunately, she is smarter and savvier than they are.

The other big issue raised was that she should be driving herself.  Now, that might have been expected if she were living in the rural suburbs where she grew up, or even the suburbs around Portland, but she lives in a close-in city neighborhood and works downtown.  You tell me how leaving her car in a parking garage and having to get back to it safely late at night is a safe strategy... These men have never lived our lives.  I'm sorry, but parking garages are very dangerous.  That's our reality.

Upshot: I'm picking up my niece after her late shifts and dropping her off at her/my dad's house.  My younger brother is out of the equation.  That's good.

The other upshot: my younger brother has said some things to me that make me seriously doubt his mental state.  He is making up a new history for himself that doesn't align with what we lived.  That's pretty concerning.  Also, he has a lot of influence with our dad.

Pollyanna note:  I dropped by my dad's house this morning to check on him when my brother wasn't there.  He appreciated me checking in and is feeling better about things.  He is still 100% supportive of the kid living here and is enjoying her company.  Also, Pollyanna #2, I'll get to see the kid more often and I count that as a good thing.

***Go ahead and take a few more breaths.  Shake your head.  Breathe again.  We all need it.***


5 comments:

Middle Girl said...

Focusing on the upside--you and niece spending more time together.


breathing deep cleansing breaths.

8thday said...

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but let's face it, it takes women. Men have always been rather useless in that area.

I share your frustrations not only with the lack of safety for women in general but also the willful blindness of men to recognize, acknowledge and do something about it.

One thing I would add is about your warning "Discussion of women's safety in contemporary America". As bad as it can be for women in America, it is far, far worse for the majority of women in other countries.

Your niece is very lucky to have you watching out for her.

e said...

MG - thank you for joining me in focusing on the positive! And the breath.

8 - yes, you are right, it IS far, far worse for women in other countries. But, maybe it is at least acknowledged as dangerous in those places? It's the unwillingness to see the danger that is disturbing to me.

Em said...

I am grateful she has you.

Secret Agent Woman said...

It's a good thing you are there to step in. Your brother is a jerk. And yes, I wish men could live briefly as women just to really understand what it is like to be so vulnerable.