You Lost Me at “GPS on My Wife’s Car”

Yes, I heard this. On a date. A very rare second, and now final, date. Oddly preceded by, “I’m probably revealing too much but…”. Why yes, yes you are, and I’m happy you did.

Ironically, the first date was after a sexual and domestic violence seminar at which I listened to a woman talk about being stalked by her ex-husband.  My date, I’ll call him, Terry,  was a nice, successful IT professional, fairly recently divorced. Smart, successful, humorous, devoted to his kids. The first date was iced tea and chatting about our lives and what brought us to our date – yes, online dating. Nice guy. No sparks but good conversation. Actually, didn’t think I’d hear from him again. No harm, no foul.

The next day Terry texted and asked to go to dinner. OK, maybe I missed something. I was going out of town for a week so we planned to meet when I returned. Dinner at a place I’d been to before (always a prerequisite), just outside of town midway between our homes. Much better conversation than the first outing, better energy. Until THAT. As much as us divorced folks like to say we’re not going to talk about the exes, it always comes up. We want to make sure that there is no possibility of going back. The greater danger is our inability to move forward.

Marriages don’t immediately combust. The deteriation is slow, gradual, mostly painful, and in the end liberating, with a soupçon of regret and/or anger. We try to move on quickly. In the short term we think we’re there. The farther out we get we knew we weren’t then. A year makes a difference…unless there is a GPS involved.

For Terry, his wife admitted to 2 affairs and instead of taking her at her word that she was a cheater and calling it quits, he needed to catch her. And he did. Because he put a GPS under her car. He caught her “in the clinches” in the back seat of that car. And then he waited for her to divorce him. His point in telling me the story was that his older son needed a car and “she stuck it in (my) face by giving him that car”.

I’m a nice guy, I’m smart, I’m educated, I’m funny, I work hard,  I love my kids, but don’t ever go somewhere where I can’t find you. Did I mention angry?

#dating #baddates #onlinedating #relationshipviolence #stalking

Don’t Take This the Wrong Way But…

Oh no, you didn’t…inhale really hard and suck the words back in…reverse, reverse…Control Z…something…please. There is no good that will come of this beginning. Ever.

Let’s start with the words themselves. “Don’t” or do not – starting with a negative right out of the gate. Then we have “wrong” – another negative. And then there’s the “But”; a conjunction, a joiner, BUT in a phrase like this, a joiner of two not so good things.

The speaker (allegedly) means no harm but the phrase establishes a position of judgement, of superiority, as in, “I have such amazing (pick the word of your choice) insight/perspective/education/style/beauty/talent/knowledge/fortune/finances, I’m going to tell you how to fix your little old flawed self”. Oh, oh, thank you soooo much.

The recipient (target) hears the wind up. “Don’t take this the wrong way but…” and is immediately on the defensive trying to figure out which of their terribly personal foibles has been the subject of scrutiny. Every adolescent insecurity bubbles to the surface, setting your teeth on edge, bringing back the odd eye twitch you overcame in college, the “here we go” eye roll and that little ache between your eyebrows. You want to hang up the phone, walk out of the room, close your eyes and ears, and start humming.

As the fight or flight response gears up, the pitch is made and it has to compete with the sound of pounding in your ears because of the elevated blood pressure that so kindly wreaks havoc on your heart. Oh, yeah, I’m really open to hearing this and I’m sure I’ll absorb every single word and change myself immediately and irrevocably.

Unless your, “Don’t take this the wrong way but…” is followed by:

  • …you’re the kindest person I’ve ever met;
  • …you have the most amazing insight;
  • …you have a beautiful voice;

…use a different phrase. Or better yet, resist the urge to speak at all.

#dontsayit #saynothing “donttakethisthewrongway #relationships #friendship

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This Makes It Real

I had occasion to visit one of my former students while I was attending a professional conference on Cape Cod this week. Melanie Sachs, KSC class of 2013, saw my Facebook check-in and we were able to connect for coffee and a tour of the Children’s Cove Child Advocacy Center in Barnstable.

Melanie was in my Case Studies in Violence class in the 2013 Spring Semester. Her semester project was on Erin’s Law and the development of child advocacy centers, two topics about which she is passionate. Erin’s Law, named after Erin Merryn, a friend of Mel’s and a child sex abuse survivor, requires public schools, pre-K through 12) to provide age appropriate, prevention-centered child sexual abuse education to children, and educates teachers and parents about what to look for and what to do.  It has now passed in 26 states (yay NH!) and pending in 17 others.  About Erin’s Law

Child advocacy centers (CAC) provide services and support to child victims of sexual abuse and children who have witnessed domestic violence.  The CAC model focuses on the needs of the children and their families (Mel is a family advocate). Interviews take place at the centers which have a homelike feel with lots of soft colors and toys, as opposed to police stations which can be scary and sometimes make the child feel that they are in trouble. The Children’s Cove CAC has 2 comfortable and quiet living rooms (waiting areas), one on the main floor where we entered, the other on the ground floor where the families enter. Children’s handprints decorate the walls in the stairwell that leads from the main floor to the ground floor to the interview areas. The handprints belong to the children who have come through this center and the walls are full. Yes, that many kids.

In each interview room there are 2 big comfy chairs, a table, a box of tissues and the obligatory video and audio equipment. One wall is a two way mirror that hides those behind it; those waiting to hear the disclosures of these little people who have endured things we should not even have to imagine.

We then moved up to the third floor as Mel introduced me to the staff members we encountered along the way. In (mental health health coordinator) Cherie’s office there is a locked door that leads into the examination room. CC employs a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) to avoid the trauma of the ER (unless an emergency of course) and this is her workspace. Cherie unlocked the door exposing a lovely soft yellow-green room with bright pictures, toys and a gyn exam table about 1/2 the size of one that would be used for an adult. This took my breath away. I experienced a profound sense of sadness that we needed to have a tiny little exam table for these tiny little children who have been preyed upon by adults with no concern for anything but their own hideous urges. The green frog socks over the stirrups and the stuffed frogs on the table did little to camouflage what happens there.

I am not feint of heart and have seen my share of the terrible things that happen in life, but this room, this table, made the horror of child sexual abuse real to me in a way I had not experienced before.

One in 4 girls and one in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. I encourage you to check out the awareness campaign at the link below. We can keep our children safe together.

Children’s Cove Awareness Campaign

#childrensadvocacycenters #children #childsexualabuse #keepthemsafe #cacs

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The exam table at the CAC. 

 

About A Flag and a Sister

In about 3 hours, we will flip the calendar to June 14th.

The date is important for 2 reasons: it’s Flag Day, first declared so by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. But more important, it is the birthday of one of the kindest, most forgiving, loving and understanding people I have ever met; my sister Nancy Guthorn Harrington.

Growing up she was a little bossy, probably just a little resentful of having to take care of her younger siblings but when push came to shove, she was Mama Bear and she still is. Growing up in a “survival of the fittest” environment (with 7 siblings) being tough was our armor. We all had it and we still do. With Nancy, you would never see it and that’s what made it so powerful.

As the siblings grew older and apart, some by miles and some years, distance and time mellowed us. Careers, lives, relationships, birth, death, marriage, illness, sadness, kids, no kids, brought us together in different ways and for the most part, at different times. We have been, at best, asynchronous in the things that have shaped our lives.We can recite the dates of birth, deaths, weddings and divorces, the exact legally documented moments of the events that changed our lives but it is so much harder to name those moments when someone helped us reframe them, helped us make sense of them, and put them into context without judgment. And that is where Nancy mastered the art of humanity.

There is no blame or guilt, we’ve all got that in spades. There is love, there is listening, there is forgiveness, there is my sister.