Betrayed

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This piece is not meant to represent any specific person, place, or event. It’s a compilation of conversations and experiences I’ve had in many different places. I’ve written one experience here to represent many. Any similarities to specific people, places, or events is a mere coincidence.

“If you’re so miserable, why don’t you just do something about it? Everyday you come in here and you just complain. Just get another job already,” Sandy said.
It was late. We stood near our counters. The department stood empty. Yellow track lighting glared above us. The chrome counters glistened. Bright shades of lipstick waited in their black heavy plastic units, ready for the next day’s clients. Her counter always looked great. I was in the process of dusting mine with an old powder brush.
“Wow. OK black,” I said.
“What?”
“Pot. Black.”
She gave be a blank stare.
“Pot calling the kettle black.”
“I’m not miserable.”
“You complain as much as I do.”
“I don’t complain everyday. And I don’t complain about my job. I’m working through bigger life goals. And I’m doing something about them.”
“OK. Got it,” I said, a little too loudly and too aggressively. But I was pissed and all I wanted to say was, Fuck you. You absolutely complain as much as I do. And when that’s the only thing you can think of to say, you walk away. Conversation over.
Her voice rose the further away I got. “I’m just not telling you about them.”
My eyes grew wider, in what I can imagine was my mother’s, I’m going to silently punish you face. “OK, I got it, Sandy.”
“Well if you’re so miserable don’t take it out on me,” She turned away.

Which I should’ve seen coming. A few weeks back I told her that a co-worker took some products from her counter. She told a mutual friend of ours. Our mutual friend told me. I did not know she already knew, that she had been the source of the information. I told her, because I thought I was doing her a favor. She flipped out. Completely and totally melted down. I was shocked. It’s not like I had betrayed state secrets. This wasn’t the Pentagon for Christ’s sake.

Sandy seethed. “I told Alison that in confidence. I can’t believe she told anyone. Who else did she tell?”
“No one, I’m sure. She only told me because we’re all friends. Listen, I thought I was doing you a favor. I thought we were friends. I would want to know. Jesus Sandy. What’s the big deal?”
“That’s fine. It’s not you. I just know I can never trust her again.”
“OK, you’re overreacting.”
“I don’t think so.”

I walked away from her counter. Fallout would come. She’d confront Alison and punish us both. I was too chicken to tell Alison I’d told Sandy. I can’t remember if she’d told me not to say anything.

Sandy confronted Alison. Alison, indirectly, communicated to me, she knew I’d told. In the end, it seemed, it blew over. We shared laughs, covered each other’s counters while the other went on break. In general, we enjoyed an ease and camaraderie one needs when working together in about a 500 square foot area.

Until last night. Sandy’s sanctimonious direction to “find another job if you’re so miserable,” revealed she hadn’t let it go. Her barb, “I’m doing something about it. I’m just not telling you,” was a clear message. It was meant to impugn my character. I can’t be trusted and I’m too afraid or too lazy to find another job.

Sandy got me when I least expected it. So yes, she won. I know that revenge can feel sweet in the moment. I hope she enjoyed it because the effects are final. Maybe she just wanted it that way. Alison’s the only ally I have left. I plan on protecting that with my life. No one can survive that floor on her own. You’re bait.

Dear Monica, We Are The Villains

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New York Times Insider

I saw HBO’s 2002 documentary on Monica Lewinsky, Monica In Black and White, not too long ago. I wanted to understand her. I’m in a different place in my life now. Was she, as I thought at the time, a seductress, a home wrecker, or was she, as I thought now, a victim of male dominance and power? The truth is simpler and far less sinister.

Monica fell in love. She doesn’t see herself as a victim. She was a woman who reached for what she wanted and got it. “I have a crush on you,” she said to him that snowy day when the building was nearly empty. He took her into his office and the two of them passed the time.

Following the Ken Starr witch trials, she went on to give interviews and pose, scantily clad, in every major fashion magazine, which seemed unseemly to a world working so hard to shame her. How dare she. Show some regret, woman. Who do you think you are? You’re not above our wrath. And she wasn’t. Because we won. After that she tried to live a normal life. But the joke’s on her.

What do you mean you’re not going to give us sex, Monica? You have no purpose.

She received her Master’s at the London School of Economics, but when she returned home, she couldn’t get a job, even as a volunteer. Some hiring managers went so far as to interview her just to see what she was like.

She’s the circus freak. The Bearded Lady. All because she had sexual relations with the most powerful man on the planet, who unceremoniously dumped her, because for all of his power, he was as much a coward about ending things as any man.

My journalism instructor, once the AP Entertainment reporter, said he’d been one of the army of journalists camped outside her Beverly Hills home. I shared this piece from the Guardian. Monica has put her life together and, as the first cyber-shamed person in the world, uses her story as a spring board for an anti-bullying campaign. Her talks have put her in front of audiences on the Ted stage and at Facebook headquarters. They’re taught in schools alongside Harriet Tubman. She has created an anti-bullying app. It’s a hug. Two arms wrapped around a shaking heart. She hopes to spread empathy, and, to save kids from suicide.

In his email my professor wrote back, “None of us really thought of her or what she was going through. I’m sorry about that now.”

Nobody wants to think about her, but it’s a problem for us. Monica may not have been Bill’s victim, but she’s ours. We shamed her. We scarlet letter A’d her. She should be part of the national conversation about slut shaming, but she’s not even a footnote.  We’d have to admit we were wrong. And we’d all, especially those of us on the Left, prefer to think of ourselves as better than that. Right about now, we should be asking her for forgiveness.

She’d give it. One gets the sense that she’s generous and loving.

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The New York Post

Nevertheless, Monica’s 22-year-old specter lingers over Hillary and Bill, perhaps not directly, and not for everyone, but for those of us who lived through it. Ken Starr ripped a hole in the nation’s fabric, and sealed a Monica, Hillary, Bill-shaped scar there. Can’t you see it? There, just out of the corner of your eye. Yeah, when you’re least expecting it, her image flits across your awareness. You wonder, what happened there? What really happened? Did Hillary really forgive Bill? Did she know about all of his indiscretions? Why did she really stay with him?

Inquiring feminists want to know.

Monica was a child. Hillary was a wife and mother. Bill was the leader of the free world. I imagine he did it because he could. Monica did it because who wouldn’t? Hillary stayed, perhaps, to heal the country.

And we? We’re the real villains here. Our drive empowered Ken Starr and created a media landscape that would go on to look more like the Enquirer in twenty years, partisan, salacious, vicious and grievance driven.

We slut shame. We call one another bitches and cunts. And when a guy says, “You’re too needy,” or after sleeping with you, “I’m not looking for a relationship right now,” or goes missing for days or weeks at a time, it’s fine. His momentary needs matter more. Even if they outweigh the needs of the entire country.

In spite of us Hillary has shaken off the filth of those days and remade herself. But, as Obama’s presidency blasted a klieg light onto the rabid racism that still seethes in the dark places of our continent, we’ve only just begun to see the effect a woman president will have on the culture. It will divide us and hurt us while lifting us to new grounds of strength and hope. She will show how we are strong, while we reveal how we are foul.

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The Los Angeles Times, Mark Fritz

And Monica? Her narrative is tied to Hillary’s as well. She’s a model for 21st Century strength in different ways. She survived the burning at the stake.

I’m not sure what’s in store for us. We are the mob. We destroy with impunity.  It just feels good. Perhaps I’m just being pessimistic. If we can elect a black men, and now a white woman, perhaps there’s hope for us still. I’m just not sure.