me: Hey, honey, guess who follows me on Twitter?
me: Taye Diggs!
Dennis: Huh. Oh, yeah, look that up — I think there’s a story about how he follows thousands of random people.
me: … WHY WOULD YOU TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME?
me: … so I put it on my Tumblr and—
The Fella: You don’t have a Tumblr.
The Fella: …
me: I’ve had a Tumblr for, like, a year and a half.
The Fella: You have a WordPress.
me: And I have a Tumblr. So I wrote it up on WordPress, then added it to my Tumblr and linked the Tumblr entry to the WordPress entry. And I should probably link the Tumblr entry back to the WordPress to close the loop.
The Fella: You have a Tumblr?
me: I have a Tumblr. I sometimes link my articles there, but I mostly use it for Social Justice Warrior stuff and cat gifs.
The Fella: You have a Tumblr.
me: I have a Tumblr. All those times I showed you silly cat videos from my Tumblr feed, you thought…?
The Fella: I thought you went to Tumblr.
me: Yeah, I have a Tumblr.
The corker: This conversation was about a post in which I made fun of men who don’t know women lead independent existences. If you’d like to know more about my independent existence, see my contact info on my about me page.
Engaging in conversations about street harassment on Twitter is like saying that reluctant “Hello” back to a strange man who says “Hi!” on the street: sometimes it’s fine, but mostly it just means he latches on and follows you, yelling, for the next five blocks, and you never know which it will be until it’s happening.
Women don’t owe men their attention, on the street, on the subway, or on Twitter…
… but Twitter has a block button.
“I don’t want to put the group in danger. I was trying to go in deeper with this. At this point, it’s clear that they’re trying to exterminate folks.” Elon James White‘s overnight coverage (Tuesday, August 19th) in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Outside, they’re just gassing everyone. If they see a human being, they throw a gas canister at it.”
The family was gathering for Thanksgiving, oh so many years ago, when my beloved elderly aunt called from Florida. Her long-planned flight to join us was cancelled in deference to a storm and she didn’t see the sense in trying to reschedule; she’d stay safely home raise a glass to us on the day.
My little niece L. burst out “But what about her turkey?” She didn’t mean a plate overflowing with meat and gravy and stuffing. She meant a piece of paper on which L. had traced out her hand, then lavishly illustrated it in marker, adding feet and feathers and a landscape of spiky green grass and, incongruously, a wide-brimmed cockel hat with shiny buckle jauntily posed on the turkey’s head. She’d drawn one for each of the diners expected on Thursday and written their names on each picture.
“We’ll mail it to her,” the grown-ups assured her. And on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my father (L.’s grandfather) and I went out to do a last errand and took L. with us. We stopped at a mailbox and held L.’s hand as she strained up to drop the stamped envelope into the box.
“Aunt P. will love getting this, L.,” I murmured.
“Yeah?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah. It was sweet of you to draw it for her, and to send it to her. It will be such a good surprise!”
“Oh, yeah! Imagine her opening her mailbox to find that envelope in it, and opening it to see your picture! She’ll be so touched you thought of her.”
L. screwed up her face in serious thought, picturing Aunt P. at some imagined mailbox. Then her eyes lit up. “Will she CRY?!?”
Over smothered laughter (and not-so-smothered laughter from my father, ahead of us), I said “… I think she might, a little bit.”
I’ve been telling this story, now and again, for a dozen years – because L.’s question gets to the heart of what we are often asking ourselves about gestures of kindness and consideration. Is this a big gesture? Is this a small gesture? Will it make a mark in the heart of the beloved? How can we know what word or gesture makes a difference until it does – or it doesn’t?
Aunt P. is gone. L. is a high-spirited, talented young woman at a college halfway across the country from her family. And I am a writer who just finished a film essay about Mother’s Day – a film essay that made me tear up a bit when I wrote it, and again when I proof-read it.
And I understand L.’s question better than ever. Because when I wiped away the trickle of tears, I thought with great satisfaction “Will this make them CRY?” and “Yeah, I think it will.”
D: That’s Randolph Scott on the right.
E: That’s Randolph Scott? I never recognize him. It’s a mental block. I always think of him as a villainous type.
D: He is the villain in this.
E: I mean look like a villain. He looks so harmless. He looks like half of Gary Cooper.
E: You know what I mean! He looks like if Gary Cooper and Ralph Bellamy got together to make a, a, a second banana.
E: … that sounded so dirty!