Blog by Yessica Maher, los Angeles Native.

She explores life after marriage, starting a career in her late 30's, relationships, breaking cycles of abuse, online dating, self care, fertility and depression. 

It's all over the place, but so is living. 

2016 Presidential Election Soapboxing

Warning, this is a really long post and this is your only trigger warning because my life doesn't give warnings and I usually don't either.  When I was little my parents would leave us at home (my eldest sister is a decade older than me and would kid sit us), go for a short walk and come back with stickers on their clothes that said, "I  voted."  It was kind of cute to see them leave the house, hand in hand to go vote together.  It was once a fantasy of mine to do that with my husband.  It never happened.  The one time we did vote together, the kids sat with one of us in the car and we took turns.  My parents did this when we lived in East Hollywood.  I was little and their unhappy moments were far from divorce worthy.

In middle school, I ran for office and won.  It was a popularity contest.  I had a couple of friends that didn't like my opponent and they wanted me to run against her because they thought I would win. I did.  I wasn't qualified.  I didn't even know what my job would be.  I wanted it because my friends thought it would be cool and I wanted to be cool for them.  I ran for it.  I won.  In the end, my opponent should have won.  She's currently still amazingly beautiful, smart and successful.  I'd vote for her on anything she chose to run for.  I lost touch with the people I ran for.  I don't even remember their names or who they were, but I still have a Facebook friendship with the woman I ran against. She was my Drill Team Captain and for a time was one of my best friends. Don't do what they did. The person that should hold office should be most qualified. 

Years later I would turn 18 and get to vote for Bill Clinton.  That was a big deal because I liked him enough to say that I wanted him to lead the country for a second term.  He may not have been a man I would want in my life, but in spite of his moral shortcomings, he did right by our country.

I didn't always make voting a priority.  As a stay at home mom, I was often sleep walking while covered in kid vomit.  Getting out to vote was just another thing to add to my list and it wasn't a moment of pride or joy.  As a couple, the only time we voted together was for Obama's first term.  We didn't vote for his second term.  The last time I meant to vote, I had work duties and mom duties and there wasn't enough time in my day. As shameful as that is, it really just speaks to my mindset about life in general.  This election, I'm voting tonight by absentee ballot, so nothing can come in the way of my civic duty and the voting joy I feel right now.  It wasn't a priority for my ex either.  His sample ballot arrived at my house a few days ago.

This election matters.  All of them do, but this one has elicited a visceral response so strong that I am choosing to not remain silent.  Normally I keep quiet.  I feel that so many people have fought for the right to vote that it's not my place to influence individual decisions.  It's also backlash from the times my Dad handed me his Sample Ballot that he filled out for me.  I won't say that Hillary Clinton speaks for me on all issues, but that's because she isn't me.  And no, I wouldn't want to be her.  She is a better person than me for walking through her husband's infidelity, taking him back and owning responsibility for his actions so she can command the office that she's worked so hard for.  Her vision more closely aligns with mine than Trump's does.  Even if my Dad believes she is the Antichrist. Seriously. Trump . . . Well, he's a special snowflake and I want to address his stance on certain things and how they apply to my experience of the laps I've taken around the sun.

I actually listened to one of his speeches in its entirety a few months ago, and I could see his allure to others.  The last time I tried to listen, I couldn't stop laughing.  That's a problem because I know better.  You can't get angry or make fun of the ignorant, but you can pity them. He's a bigot that isn't aware that he's racist.  He appeals to those that see Hillary Clinton as far from religiously grounded because she believes a woman has a right to control her reproductive decisions.  He appeals to the Veterans that have fought for our country, though he does it in a placating, superficial way.

It's not enough to say Donald Trump is sexist because there are enough people doing that for us.  Here's one.  I'm not even going to go into all of the issues.  It seems unnecessary . . .  overkill.  What can I say?  He makes it easy.

My Body

My Mom had three daughters and miscarried twin boys sometime before me.  I gave her varicose veins and thyroid problems. She was done and I don't blame her.  She's since expanded her family through adoption. When I was born, she wanted to have her tubes tied.  My Dad didn't consent and the doctor wouldn't perform the procedure.  My Mom wasn't able to make a medical decision about her own body because it was 1978.  I'll never understand what makes a man think he has some form of entitlement over a woman's body.  Even if he is my Dad.

Today, I watched a friend's video where she spoke about the 8 boys that cornered her and put their hands all over her body.  I'm starting to think that is some sort of rite of passage.  In the 8th grade, I had to walk to a quieter section of campus to get to my electricity electives class. I appreciated the class, and have used what I learned to swap out outlets in my home. I was the only girl in the class, and on a daily basis, boys would slap my ass, or grab my body, uninvited, as if I was theirs to own and touch.  I complained to the teacher.  In a perfect example of male ineptitude, he shrugged his shoulders and told me, "boys will be boys."  I wrote, "Yessie's butt" on the bottom of my gym shirt, covering my butt in an attempt to own my body (no irony intended) and adopted the attitude that owning what they were doing to me was what I wanted, taking away their power and the allure of a sexual assault.  Saying I wanted what they were doing was what made it stop. Sexual aggression isn't about arousal, but about power. I complained to teachers and faculty and it wasn't until the end of the semester that I changed classes.  The boys were never punished.

I have serious "What the fuck?" moments when I think about the fact that there's a man running for president that thinks it's okay to grab a woman . . . To demean her because he has some sort of right and authority over the way she looks . . . And people want to award this behavior because they are afraid of a woman that is great at being a politician in the way we would expect any man to be.  I have friends that think this is okay.  Seriously.  Line up her offenses and see where men in her position have gone wrong and you'll see she's vilified because of her gender, and not held to the same standard because she is lacking a penis. For Trump to get away with his admitted behavior after how I and many others treated Bill Cosby shows me that race is still a huge issue for our masses.

I grew up being told to never travel alone, or go to bathrooms alone because it's safer to travel in numbers because being a woman means we should always be in fear because we are always vulnerable.  I learned that when I'm catcalled or approached on the street, it's less likely to turn scary if I smile and give the attention they're after. It has shadowed my interactions.  I often tell men that I think they're beautiful, but that usually doesn't mean I want them.  It's a way to own unsolicited assessments of my looks.  If I do it back, it's not invading my sense of self with what I'm interpreted as.

I'm used to a friendly hello,

being whistled at,

catcalled,

asked why I'm not smiling,

having a tongue stuck out at me suggestively,

having my ass slapped when walking in close spaces with groups of men,

walking the long way to avoid quiet streets,

thinking of personal safety when planning a night, or day,

letting someone know where I'm going and who I'm with when on a date,

telling someone when I'm heading home because I might not make it home,

not trusting a drink if I didn't see it poured,

being followed down the street, 

not drinking enough to relax if I'm not with people I know or trust,

unsolicited dick pics when online dating.

With my boys, I hope to raise them in such a way that they know they are responsible for the sexual culture they live in.  We all affect each other.  We're all responsible. 

We don't need to elect a president that normalizes sexual aggression as locker room banter.  I know too many really great men that respect women and themselves too much to act on an impulse.  I don't attack the cute men running past me.  And I don't expect a medal for my self control either.

Digging deeper, I considered a late term abortion with my youngest child.  I was deeply depressed.  It wasn't the depression where you tell people you want to kill yourself.  It wasn't a cry for help.  Many late nights were spent sitting on the floor with a handful of pills next to the bed where my ex and our older two were sleeping and preparing to kill myself without a note.  I was crying silently and scribbling in a journal. It was in those moments that my son would kick me and remind me that he was there and wanted to live.

I grew up in a Christian household.  I personally view life as starting from the moment the sperm meets the egg. There are so many things that can stop that from happening and anything I can do to help it along should be done.  How amazing to step into the face of a miracle and take part in it.  I've always felt this way, but for a time, I couldn't see how I could be what I needed to be.  Being born is the most difficult thing any human could ever do.  Everything after that and your body naturally fights to survive.  Anything after that comes to the negotiation of our choices from moment to moment.

My family couldn't understand why I would have a third child when I had two with autism already and couldn't afford the children we had.  I couldn't get emotional support from my ex. I kept pushing back survey ultrasounds so I could schedule them where he could find out the sex with me until my doctor said I would miss the window of time to get the clearest picture of my son's health.  I can't tell you how many times I cried in my obstetrician's office, going over the literature for an abortion because I couldn't see a way out of the loneliness of being a single parent while with my ex.  I stuck it out for the kid that kept kicking me when I was down.  He is the reason why I'm hyper aware of how I'm doing now.  I will never slip into that kind of sorrow again without seeking help.  But I almost aborted him.  I didn't.  I got to snuggle with him all morning.

I made choices with my body.  I wasn't just pregnant.  My body changed before I knew the seven children I carried were part of me.  I had tender breasts, a constant need to run to the bathroom with a full bladder, heartburn and exhaustion.  I cried because I was happy or sad or because I didn't know how I felt. I was sensitive to smells and was constantly working my abdominal muscles by dry heaving. I avoided pain meds, coffee, alcohol, rare meats, deli foods, chocolate, green tea and any other thing that could harm each child I carried.  My body shifted and grew.  I learned what stress incontinence is.  I pushed a person out of my body, leaving slackened muscles and stretch marks in their wake.  A pregnant woman isn't just pregnant.  She is a bringer of life and sacrifice.  I chose this for myself, but it's ridiculous to believe I have the right to make that choice for any other human.  It's insane to think a man would be able to make this decision for women he has never met.

Who I am

I come from an international family.  Right now, my Thai/Burmese mom is in Thailand with my caucasian/Okie step-dad.  My Dad is a mixed concoction of African American.  My siblings through adoption are Vietnamese, Mexican and African American.  It's not enough to say we are okay with other races because we're Facebook friends, or we've been together at work or a barbecue.

296517_2072268680098_4468233_nGandhi once said, "If you really wish to overcome your pain, find a young [Muslim] boy, just as young as your son . . . whose parents have been killed by Hindu mobs. Bring up that boy like you would your own son, but bring him up in the Muslim faith to which he was born. Only then will you find that you can heal your pain, your anger, and your longing for retribution."

Profound, right?

It's not enough to claim connection in superficiality.  We must learn to appreciate other cultures from their perspective and not your interpretation of their experience from the distance that we're accustomed to.  

I'm a native from L.A.  It's normal to live next to a neighbor for several months but never notice him until you start dating people and you notice him because you start looking at others as potential dates. You realize that the guy next door showers at the same time most evenings and after his first noticed shower, a nice neighbor might suggest he should invest in curtains.  (No, I'm not a nice neighbor.) 

A long time ago we were called a country that was a melting pot, and then we became a bouillabaisse.  I have no idea what we are now, but I know without the unique amazing attributes we carry as individuals, we'd be lacking so much as a whole.  (And it's not just my obsession with white boys that have no idea how amazing they are or globally sourced food joy.)

When Trump says something offensive, like making all Muslims responsible for the actions of a few . . .  I could name some of the things my ex did, compare them to Trump and clump all men into a category, but that would rob me of the fan girl moments I've had with my latest really tall glass of water.  I would be robbing myself of some amazing fantasies and epic geek outs. My post the other day was ignited from comments Trump has made about "the blacks" or calling himself "a negotiator like you guys."  He doesn't see how his diction distances himself from the black and Jewish community or anyone else that he can't see as a contemporary. I don't need to hammer out all of his shortcomings in this arena either.  You can go here for a fun little snippet. There are so many more links I could share with you, but I get to vote tonight, and it's not just for the next President of the United States.  I have other issues I get to learn about.

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