Secrets and Lies

Every Sunday at 12:00 am EST, a group of postcards are published on Postsecret.com. This was something that was started a long time ago by a man named Frank who originally set up an answering machine that people could call into and leave their anonymous secrets. It graduated to an anonymous postcard opportunity that people could send in to his address, and he would publish a handful every week.

Then he started making collections of books. Devotees would make their own postcards and instead of mailing them in, they would go to bookstores and slip them inside books waiting on shelves with their rightful owners. Or the postcards would make their way inside library books, not necessarily by the last person to check them out, so one could never assume there was a clear path of those secrets.

Frank started doing live shows where people could submit their secrets to be read aloud. Now there’s a theater performance where the postcards are being acted out like little short plays. For a while, a Post Secret display was up at the Smithsonian, and a display of selected submitted postcards was set up in San Diego to visitors to admire.

I’ve been a faithful reader of Post Secret for years now. I also have a few books. But I rarely send in postcards, and I have never left cards in library books or items being sold in a book store. The past few months have been really tumultuous and I really felt the need to spill my guts – because some things were getting lost in the shuffle of current events.

My heart skipped a beat because recently, as I was scrolling down the published postcards, there was one of mine. I actually mailed off three cards at the same time. This one made the cut. My handwriting, my cut-out pictures, my outrage and fear and exhaustion. I kept looking at it. I wondered if anyone I knew was looking at it and recognized my handwriting. I also wondered if it even mattered, because I’m always outspoken, and after a while, people just tend to tune me out anyway.

But then it happened again: another one of my secrets was published. However, it’s not my type, it’s not my picture, and it’s not the entire message. Frank only used the first line and went and found a stock photo and pasted some text onto it. I was edited. 

This is what it’s like to be a woman, every single day. I honestly didn’t know that he was editing others’ post cards that were being sent in before posting them. I have no idea how often he does it. But I can tell you there is nothing I said that was illegal or immoral. He has published secrets that talk about suicide, murder, abuse, theft, and just about anything else under the sun. I can assure you that mine included none of those. Yet, he decided that I needed to be censored. 

This entire past week as we have sat through Kavanaugh and Ford being questioned, those of us women and men who acknowledge the trauma have endured either long term or short term understand this concept of being censored, and of having our experiences being minimized. When we do reveal our secrets, whether it’s in front of the entire world or it’s with something as small as a postcard, we are automatically accused of lying. In the meantime, our testimonies are changed and twisted to something unrecognizable. 

The biggest lie is that “two families are being torn apart” by these proceedings. Focusing only on Kavanaugh and Ford for a moment, Kavanaugh is only going to be disappointed if he doesn’t make it on the Supreme Court. He has had a lot of insulation from the Republican party telling him he’s a good guy, no matter what he has done and what he does now. Ms. Ford, on the other hand, has had death threats. She’s been called a liar when she can’t remember the finest of details, even though she remembers far more than Kavanaugh. In order to stay alive she’s had to go into hiding. Kavanaugh hasn’t. That isn’t equal treatment by far.

What hurts me the most is hearing from other women that Ms. Ford (and the other women) must be lying because this is the first time they are hearing about this. I know for a fact one of my family members was abused and we never talked about it, even to this day. I have had friends and co-workers tell me about their abuse from their family members. I have had friends either try or succeed in raping other friends. I have had my own experiences with sexual violence, as have countless women I am close to. During a recent discussion with another woman, we acknowledged that the official statistic is supposed to be one in six women experience sexual violence, but we don’t actually know someone who hasn’t had something happen – whether they want to admit it or not.

But we don’t sit around and talk about it. We certainly don’t call 911 the minute our sick uncles pull their dicks from our 4-year-old mouths, or when we’re struggling to figure out if we gave a friend mixed signals and if the cop is going to believe us if we call it in, even when we’re in full panic attack and the shaking never stops. (I’m saying “our” and “we” because these experiences belong to all of us.) Sometimes I don’t hear other women’s experiences until decades have passed. I can’t talk or write about all of mine.

What can we do now?
– Believe victims
– Stop shaming victims
– Stop treating men who manipulate and violate others sexually and violently as if they are the victims – they are not
– Vote for public officials who support women’s rights and human rights in November, not a patriarchy.

It’s a small list, but it will make all the difference.

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The Ex from Tex(as)

You know that saying about how you shouldn’t take a dip in the company pool when it comes to dating? (Or maybe the more succinct way of putting that is not to shit where you eat.) Well, I’ve broken that rule many, many times. How are we as adults supposed to meet anyone? And my field was traditionally dominated by men, so it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I was in the same extremely small department at a large bank (280,000 employees worldwide) for nine of my eleven years with the same employer, and I saw a lot of changes in personnel and practices. My seat was in Arizona; my boss was in California, her boss was in Texas, and we had team members in Mumbai, India. It was decided that our group would add two more people in Texas to take calls from managers and give it the very important name of Escalation Desk so as to give the impression that fires would be lit under the people handling time-sensitive problems. We added these two people at a time that I was doing the work of 2-3 people and another co-worker, also in Arizona, was being pulled to perform special projects.

One of the two people was Mr. Texas. He and another woman were located in our Texas office, and for almost a year, they sat idle because managers weren’t calling in for expedited assistance. After my Arizona teammate and I consistently asked for overtime to complete our work, the boss decided it was time to train the Texas people in our jobs. That was how I met Mr. Texas.

He was infuriating because he was not the type of person to offer help – he preferred to just sit at his desk and do nothing. When we would have our weekly phone-in meetings, he would not participate, and if he was forced to answer questions, Mr. Texas always sounded like we were disturbing his nap.

My work group was pretty relaxed, and it was not rare for us to spill some personal info on our conference calls. We also traded pictures of volunteering and life events. When I finally saw a picture of Mr. Texas, he didn’t look anything like what I thought he would (though I don’t know what I expected at that point). He is about 6’4″, very muscular, and very tan. After he heard some of the team members tease me about my dating woes, Mr. Texas started privately conversing with me on the company instant messenger. We had quite a few “Me too!” revelations about our dating experiences. Eventually we traded phone numbers and started talking and texting during our off hours.

I still remember the first phone call. It was awkward as hell. Here I was talking to this co-worker who drove me crazy with his laziness. I’m not even sure if he picked up on that about me, or if he did, if he actively chose to disregard it because chasing a piece of ass was more important. Obviously I didn’t let that stop me either – I love tall men, especially handsome ones.

We graduated to sexting and hot and heavy phone sessions. I miss those days! It was like making out, or as close as two people could get to that while a whole state separated us. Mr. Texas and I planned our first encounter, which involved him flying over to Arizona and us getting a hotel room (because I had a roommate). At some point it was revealed to me that when he was 15, he and his friends were stupid – they were playing jumping on and off trains, and wouldn’t you know it, his leg got caught under a train. Mr. Texas only had about 4 inches left of his right femur and wore a very long prosthetic that strapped around his hips. He walks very stiff legged because he does not have enough of his femur left to maneuver a leg with a working knee joint.

Mr. Texas and I had a great first weekend together. It was not a hindrance at all that he was missing a leg, because it actually made room for me if I wanted to get my face in his junk. He was very muscular because he was a serious weightlifter. Mr. Texas’ skin felt just like what I imagined one of those hunks in a beefcake calendar would. I was still very self-conscious about my lack of hair, so he never saw me with my wig off, but the fact that two people with prosthetics actually hooked up was hilarious to me. The only time I had to look away for fear of cracking up was when he got up in the middle of the night to pee. Mr. Texas did not strap on his leg just to go a short distance to the bathroom, but instead he hopped there. Imagine this if you can, but this 6’4″ guy was hopping on one massive tree trunk leg across the room to the toilet. I guessed that he kept on his tighty whitey underwear expressly for the same reason women wear sport bras when they are active – his choice of underwear probably kept his dick and balls from bouncing around.

I made the trek to his state the next visit. He has a very large white cat with some black patches named Sugar, and of course I’m deathly allergic, so we got a hotel room. At the end of my visit, we sat on his couch and watched some TV to kill time in between having to check out of the hotel and go to the airport. I had my head in his lap, gasping and growing hives like weeds all over my face and neck. Sugar came over and at first tried to “clean” my hair (my wig!), and when she started getting frustrated by the long fibers, she completely sat on my head. Mr. Texas thought it was rip-roaring funny and refused to shoo her off of my head. By the time we left for the airport, I had looked like I was punched in both eyes and I was snotting copiously, which wasn’t at all attractive.

We took turns visiting each other, alternating who paid for the plane ticket and who paid for the hotel. It was harder to be snappy with him at work because we had been intimate, though I tried hard to remain neutral if someone else in the work group would fight with him. We even talked marriage; he’s never been married, and neither have I, but it was something we discussed as a possibility for us down the road. Mr. Texas was twelve years older than me and held onto this idealized wedding for about thirty years. I remember it had something to do with having twelve groomsmen and twelve bridesmaids, and he wanted the ceremony to be in his parents’ church (which also happened to be where Chuck Norris would attend) – they were hardcore southern Baptists.

Unfortunately, I started feeling like he wasn’t emotionally invested in me. He seemed uninterested in my life away from work and didn’t have much to say to me when we weren’t banging. Mr. Texas also used to complain that the claim “spiritual but not religious” was not a valid belief system; you either attended church or you didn’t – and I didn’t! That shot his big church wedding to pieces.

So one week when I felt like a single woman anyway because of his disinterest, I called it off. Unfortunately, two days later the bank laid him off.

I didn’t hear from him for a couple of years, but then he started texting me again. This time around I know there is no emotional connection at all, he just likes talking about his penis and where he’s going to put it. Mr. Texas also sends pictures of his fat sassy cat Sugar, sometimes even videos of her purring, always signing off by saying that he’d like to pet my kitty. In a way it’s flattering, but in another way it’s exhausting. He doesn’t have any concept at all of what I’m going through. I can’t get excited about Mr. Texas and his dirty talk when my abdomen feels like it’s being stabbed for six hours straight.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to fly to a lover again.