dear roxie jo,
(back when i thought i wanted children, that was the name i had picked out. roxane josephine. josephine is your grandmother’s name. you’d love her. she’s a hell of a dame.)
one day you may be alone on an elevator. a man will join you, and you will smile. even though you are the only two people on the elevator, he will stand too close to you. as discretely as possible, you will move away, but he will follow you. once you get off the elevator, you will go to the bathroom and cry. you might beat yourself up for crying. nothing happened. he didn’t even touch you. you have nothing to cry about. you might even think you brought it on yourself: that’s what you get for smiling.
you did nothing wrong, and you have every right to be upset.
one saturday night you might be at a party, talking to a male friend, one of the good ones. another man will come up and say derogatory things about your body. he’ll grab your stomach and say i’d fuck you, even though you’re fat. after he leaves, your friend might turn to you and say, “wow, that guy was a creep.” if you’re brave enough, you might ask your friend, “then why didn’t you say anything to him?” your friend will likely get embarrassed. he’ll laugh and shrug and say, “it looked like you had things under control.”
your friend should’ve said something. you aren’t wrong to have wanted more from him.
another saturday night you’ll go to another party. a man might try to put his hands on you. it will take you longer than you’re comfortable with to get away from this man. over brunch on sunday, you’ll tell this story to one of your girlfriends. she might ask if you were drunk. she won’t think anything of this. she’s explaining how this could’ve happened, and she probably thinks she’s saying this wasn’t your fault. it was alcohol’s fault.
it wasn’t your fault, but it also wasn’t alcohol’s fault. it’s the fault of the man who tried to put his hands on you. sometimes women don’t know how to be good allies to each other.
here’s the hardest thing i have to tell you: your fictional mother has been guilty of being a bad ally. she hasn’t always supported her sisters. and that’s okay. it’s okay. we don’t have to be perfect, we just have to do better.
maybe one day you’ll see a woman, and her outfit makes you uncomfortable. there’s too little of it, or too much. maybe you’ll know a woman with dozens of sexual partners, or a woman with none. maybe she’ll be prettier than you. maybe she won’t. none of that is an excuse to envy her or pity her. certainly not to judge her. she is going through the same world as you, going to the same parties and standing on the same elevators. she knows all the same men: the bad ones, the good ones, and the really, truly good ones. as badly as you need help and understanding and support and compassion, she needs that too.
she’s not perfect, roxie, but at the core of her being, just like you, she is good.