When the accusations against Woody Allen first surfaced 20 years ago, I was gloriously unaware of pop culture and it was nothing more than background noise. I am not a rabid fan of his work: I’ve greatly enjoyed some of his movies and greatly hated others. I did find the whole marrying-your-sort-of-step-daughter-thing creepy, but many powerful men are known for that kind of younger girl creepiness. It’s the kind of creepy to which we’ve become desensitized. We tell men they should be envious of men who can date women that young, and tell women that they’re past their prime and of no use to men their own age and for some reason we all accept it as OK.
I rarely thought about this at all over the years until much ado was made about the Vanity Fair article in which Mia Farrow said her son Ronan might be Frank Sinatra’s son and not Woody Allen’s. What was truly shocking to me was what wasn’t getting talked about: that in the very same article, Dylan Farrow, twenty years later, stuck by her story about being molested by Woody Allen.
This wasn’t a scorned woman making accusations against her former lover. This wasn’t an easily dismissed 7 year old girl that no one had seen or heard tell her story. This was an adult woman talking about being sexually abused and no one was paying attention.
No one was paying attention.
And no one continued to pay attention until her brother wrote a tweet that no one wanted to ignore. A man was able to accomplish in 140 characters what this woman was unable to do in 20 years.
For the last several months something has bothered me about this and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what. I’m a fairly skeptical person, so while marrying your sort of step daughter is distasteful, I can’t say that it makes you a child molester. There’s arguments on both sides that make fine points. The truth is beyond my knowing. It is beyond all of our knowing.
But as of yesterday Dylan has come forward with her side of the story and she is standing by her accusations, just like she did months ago in Vanity Fair. And now I know what bothered me about this: that once again a woman is struggling to be heard in our society. A woman is trying to be heard and we don’t want to listen. We want to dismiss her as brainwashed and disturbed. It is much easier for people to believe the narrative of a scorned, vindictive mother coaching her daughter into making accusations, than that of a man who has a thing for much younger women having a thing for girls even younger. Too many would rather believe in the intricate plot to malign him than in the girl-now-woman who is telling us in the clearest language possible what happened.
This is all too familiar to myself and to many women. Whether it’s something as serious as sexual assault, or the feeling that you’re being treated differently in the workplace because of your gender, too often we are told that it’s all in our head. Are you sure? Did it really happen like that? Maybe you’re just reading into things. He wasn’t coming on to you, he was just being friendly. Maybe you led him on. Maybe you’re not getting ahead because you’re not good enough. Maybe you’re brainwashed and disturbed and vindictive and scorned and sensitive and jealous and wrong, wrong, wrong.
Are there cases of false accusations? Sure. But you know what else there are cases of? Accusations that are true. Things that seem unfathomable, but are true nonetheless. Many of them. In a society where the accused is innocent until proven guilty, why are the accusers not afforded the same courtesy?
I have a troubled relationship with New Year’s resolutions. I used to be into resolutions because I used to believe that I could change my life. One year I vowed to not be intimidated by people and situations. Then I read my journal from the previous year. It seems the year before I had also vowed to not be intimidated by people and situations, so not only had I failed to nail that, at some point I became so intimidated by the situation of trying to do something about it, that I blocked it out altogether.
I am all for goal setting, but for me it always seems to be a way of pointing to exactly where I am not headed, like I’m Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club trying to get through customs with drugs so I look in the direction the drugs aren’t hidden to fake them out. Last year I forced The Husband and I to set goals for the coming year. Having probably not looked at them since, The Husband recently looked at his just last week only to realize he had achieved all of them with the exception of getting a “big comfy chair,” a situation that can be quickly remedied by the next sale at H.D. Buttercup. Meanwhile I am too afraid to look at mine. I know what I failed to achieve cannot be remedied by a sale, except to anesthetize my sense of failure with a new pair of shoes.
Not that my life in the last year turned out poorly – far from it. My life had many more ups than downs including travel, a new home and many, many great times spent with friends. I drank great wine. I made and ate great food. I discovered I could cook an amazing pork shoulder. But in terms of the things I wanted to achieve, I’m don’t think I hit one. Are my goals too high? Do I not work hard enough? Do I even care if I still managed to travel and drink and eat with friends?
So as the end of the year approached and I found myself in the normal holiday fugue of constant cooking, I realized the one resolution that I could get behind this year that seemed not just desirable but actually somewhat achievable, was:
I hate wasting food. We like to cook. We like to have people over. There are always leftovers. We’re doing a better job at not having to throw leftovers out and that makes me happy. We can do better. I am learning to throw things in the freezer before I have to throw them in the trash. I am expanding my concept of when I think a food has gone off and trying to go by how it smells and tastes instead. I am also finding ways to re-purpose leftovers. The last day of the braised pork shoulder when thrown in the Cuisinart made excellent pork rillettes for toast points. Chicken can become soup. You can make risotto with farro if that’s all you have and leftover risotto becomes arancini. Friends and I have been growing comfortable bringing leftovers to each other’s houses, whether it’s a leftover side dish to add to dinner or a potluck of fantastic after Thanksgiving appetizers and cheeses.
Last night I looked in the fridge at the delicious food we had bought for New Year’s and thought, “I am not going to throw away this salami or bread or cheese because of a date on the calendar.” I’m tired of starting the new year with a list of things I tell myself I can’t eat, things I’m going to deprive myself of. Enough. When I’m good my weight never fluctuates as low as I would like, but when I’m bad it never fluctuates as high as it should, either. I should take that as what it is – a win. Who am I trying to be a size zero for? No one I give a whit of a fuck about cares. Not being a size zero has ever gotten in my way of traveling or reading a book or going to an art museum or making myself laugh or smiling at something clever my cats did.
Exercise? Pfft! I can already tell you I’m not going to have a lot of time. “But you need to make time.” Fuck you. I’ll make time for things that matter and that I enjoy and on the days that is a regimented exercise program I will do that. What I will make time to do is waste less gas. That means walking to the grocery store, the post office, the neighborhood restaurants and movie theaters. Being outside. Talking to neighbors.
That leaves me with one last thing to waste less of and that is time. This one is trickier. I like to think I’m already beginning by wasting less time with resolutions I either can’t or won’t or shouldn’t care to achieve. I’d like to find more time to be a tourist in my own town and check out the exhibits or shows that are often gone before I hear that they were here and awesome. I’d like to find more time to write things like this, things that I’m not getting paid to write and yet make me feel like just as much of a “legitimate” writer, sometimes moreso. In a world where our time is always feeling increasingly, irretrievably crunched, how do we do this? Maybe instead of making goals, I need to write a list of activities that are priorities so I know which ones matter when I feel pressed for time. Maybe I need to make sure that I do two of them a day or find one thing that wastes my time a week to eliminate. “Wasting less time” also means saying “No” to the things that I know won’t make me happy.
And sometimes I think what I need is to also redefine what “wasting time” is. Is staring out the window, looking at the sun falling on trees a “waste of time?” Is having a cup of coffee without paying bills or reading emails while I’m doing it? Is it “wrong” to binge watch a season of a TV show without being in bed with a fever? The guilt I feel over not doing a laundry list of things that include both laundry and making more lists would say, “Yes.” But why? Why deny myself something that makes me happy, that supports the hard work of others, and that gives my brain a break from the voices that tell me what I should be doing and why I’ve already failed. It only wastes more time thinking that time has been wasted. And that’s time I need to smile at something clever my cats did.
The Husband and I are serial entertainers whose schedule has just changed drastically. This has presented some challenges as to when we can do our serially entertaining. Like Dexter, the pressure of my “dark passenger” not being able to plan a dinner for 6 two nights a week has built up to the point where this week I had a psychotic break and found myself typing the phrase “we will have something on the stove for a light supper.”
I don’t really know what a light supper is either, and I typed those words. But if I had to guess, I would say that a light supper is something akin to a salad. When I close my eyes and picture it, is has melon balls on it. Neither of these things are prepared on the stove.
Light supper is something they say on invitations to pyramid scheme presentations and what it really means is, “Don’t get your hopes up.” And I guess that’s what I meant as I tried to navigate my new social frontier. “Don’t get your hopes up because we don’t quite know how this is going to work yet.”
What exactly is our new social frontier? Did we have a baby? Are we caring for an elderly parent? Being forced to not go within 100 yards of a middle school? No. We are simply getting up at 6am. Yes, I know, most of the world does this every day without using bullshit Junior League invitation phrases like “light supper.” Most of the world does this without having to develop a new social strategy.
I should add that in addition to the 6am wake up call, The Husband works until nine, ten o’clock at night. We’re not complaining, we’re thrilled! Yay work! But a lot of times this means Friday nights, too, and as I’ve said, we’re social people. This leaves Saturday nights as our only nights to socialize and one night isn’t enough for all of the people we love and want to see and catch up with. When you only have one night a week you find yourself booking into January and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.
That leaves us Sunday to try to get creative with. As we’re up early Monday morning we’ve learned that doing anything Sunday night is a disaster. We stay out later than we plan. We drink more than we wanted. We leave things that need to be done before the week starts for when we get back from our “very reasonable, no reason this should go longer than 2 hours, 7pm dinner” only to find that is does go longer, sometimes by hours and now our week is, in a word, fucked.
We’ve experimented with brunches. Brunches out are a good alternative, although like some kind of hobbit, I find I have to have a meal before the brunch, otherwise I get way too hungry by the time we get there, get seated and actually get served. Brunches at home take a little getting used to. As fun as they can be, I can’t help thinking it defeats the purpose of a Sunday to have to get up, put on pants, a face of make up and get your house cleaned for guests. Plus after you have cocktails for breakfast, there’s not much direction for the day to go in but back to bed. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why not do brunch without the cocktails?” Sure, and why not forgo breakfast altogether and just go with friends on a 2 hour hike while I’m at it? Neither option is going to drag my ass out of bed on a Sunday. I’m a serial entertainer. Not an exercise bulimic.
The next idea was late afternoon drinks. We could have breakfast on our own terms, get everything we needed done for the week by 4:00, and then have some wine and cheese. Seems like the perfect compromise. Unless you’re the psychotic person who realizes that you’re going to have to cook something for yourselves to eat for dinner anyway, and that it’s just as easy to cook for 4 as it is for 2 and besides you can’t quite kick people out of your house when you clearly have something simmering on the stove. It just seems rude. And speaking of rude, somehow you do feel you need to convey that while dinner now will be served, you need to be in your jams and watching Homeland by 8, so this dinner proposition is really more of an end of the night thing, not the beginning of it. And by the way, all of this is much more thought than most people give any social gathering they’ve ever participated in, including their own wedding. Most people would lead a quiet life of not seeing friends on Sundays and be happy with it. But I can’t say no and I suck at boundaries and I’m an extrovert and need to see people, according to my therapist, and that’s how I find myself employing the marketing school phrase “light supper” in an email to people whom I want to have something to do with again.
OUTCOME: I had a delightful time with friends, was in jams by 9, and am well-rested and hangover free this morning, so the 4:00 wine, cheese, “light supper” plan is not a bad one. Incidentally, the light supper was boeuf bourguignon and roasted potatoes which there is nothing “light” about. However, all can be prepped ahead of time, which makes is a perfect dish to literally “have on the stove” when you’re friends arrive.
When I hear a rape joke, I have a range of reactions. Sometimes it’s been laughter. Sometimes I’ve felt a weary indignation. After a year of women being a political punching bag and the “rape is OK” culture of places like Steubenville, it’s at times just one more reminder of how we’re being devalued as people and that Mad Men often looks like the fucking future. Sometimes I have even felt threatened. Yes, sometimes it feels creepy to be out numbered by guys who are laughing about sticking a dick in a woman against her will. Some people just give off the vibe like they’re acting like they’re kidding, but if they suddenly thought they could get away with it they’d be the Mayor of Rapeville on Four Square.
But all jokes are like this for everyone. They affect us all differently depending on who is telling it, our environment, where we’re at mentally and how good the booze is.
Overall though, most of what I feel when I hear a rape joke these days is boredom.
I’m not here to debate whether or not you can make a rape joke. (You can. We have free speech.) I’m not here to debate whether or not they’re funny. (Some are. Some aren’t. And everyone has a different opinion about this, just like all jokes.) I’m not here to debate whether or not feminists think they’re funny. (Some of us do. We don’t all think alike.) I’m here to say that “Rape Jokes” have become the “Airplane Jokes” of our day.
Hearing a comic make a rape joke is like watching a baby poop in the toilet for the first time. “Oh, did you do that all by yourself? How cute.” Eventually you will poop every day and it will just be called joke writing and you won’t need a parade every time you do it celebrating how “edgy” you are. Besides with the proliferation of rape jokes, they’ve become about as edgy as musing, “What’s the deal with Chicken McNuggets?” Call me when life happens to you and you have something interesting to talk about.
And here’s a suggestion: easy on the outrage when someone doesn’t like a rape joke. You’re beginning to sound like the fucking gun nuts screaming about Obama. No one’s coming to take away your rape jokes. You don’t have to go out and stockpile rape jokes or buy them at “Rape Joke Shows” with Bitcoin. As long as we have free speech you can make your rape jokes same as someone can make a statement that they didn’t like them. And by the way, people are allowed to not like them and say whatever they want and it doesn’t mean that anyone is policing your mind or interfering in your “safe space.” Jesus! For people who love to make fun of rape, these comics sure need a “safe space.” I love hearing about the sanctity of a comedy club like it’s a Women’s Shelter or a poetry group at Breadloaf or a Pagan Menstrual Circle. Let’s not kid ourselves. A comedy club is where people get shitfaced and listen to dick jokes while comics do blow and people embezzle the money they’re fucking comics and the IRS out of.
And sometimes something awesome happens and we go back and we chase that high like the fucking addicts we are and we are so lucky no matter who doesn’t like what we said. But if we can dish it out, we can take it.
It was midday and I was feeling like a load from the bottle and a half of wine and 2 boxes of See’s Chocolates that I split with The Husband during a House of Cards marathon the night before. The salt that I sprinkled on my caramels in an effort to make them salted probably didn’t help that bloated feeling. Having finished the morning’s writing and not quite ready for lunch (as if I could ever be hungry again) I put on my sneakers to go for a walk.
I live around the corner from a middle school; we occupy the same, over-sized block. To go around this gigantic block is approximately .6 of a mile, a nice number that I can add up and feel a sense of accomplishment. (Two turns means I’ve gone over a mile. Four turns is almost 2 ½!) The school’s large athletic field occupies a corner of this super block and I often pass the kids in gym class struggling to run laps and I resist the urge to yell in support, “I suck at running, too! It’s OK!”
On my second turn around today I walked alongside a threesome of boys playing basketball and as I walked passed them I heard, “Show me that ass!”
It hit me that this was probably aimed at me, and I was further convinced when I turned around, saw the boy looking at me, his hand cupped over his mouth as if he’d been caught saying something he knew he shouldn’t, but still with a look on his face like he thought he was hilarious.
I debated what to do. I thought I was just going to move on. The
kids boys had mocked me before on my walks, probably shouting out things that were borderline harassment and I had been in a kinder mood, or just too lazy to do anything about it. Kids should be able to do things like stand on a playground unsupervised and swear or be loud or whatever without having some unrelated adult such as myself narc on them.
But I was within steps of the school’s front office. And the memory of another walk, again in my own neighborhood just weeks before, when a group of men in a van pulled up alongside of me, started driving slowing while saying things like, “You’re very pretty,” was still fresh. Seriously, Dudes! WTF! Do you think I’m going to think this is a great opportunity and just jump in the van? Has that ever worked? Or is it just about making me feel threatened and unsafe? Who’s to say this kid won’t grow up to be a creeper like this someday? Or worse? I want kids to be loud and swear and talk about sex and whatever the fuck else they yell about when there are no adults present, but I also want boys to grow up respecting women and not harass them. This is not a KIDS thing. Girls don’t stand on a playground and yell at men who pass them by, “Show me the dong!” And I guarantee if a boy is yelling it at me, he’s probably making similar rude comments to the girls he goes to school with, most likely the ones who hit puberty first, and that’s just bullshit.
So this is what I decided. I didn’t want to point the kid out. But I did go into the office and tell them what happened and that perhaps they could teach the kids about respecting women and not harassing them. I pointed out that if the kid said it to me, he was probably saying it to the female students, too. I decided not to bitch about the constant trash on the sidewalks and in the grass that those children generate and how someone should teach them about ecology, too, while they’re at it. Although I did wonder why I was bothering to recycle and preserve the Earth for the next generation when clearly they couldn’t be bothered. And then I cut my walk short.
Being unemployed is expensive. At a time when you most need to enact austerity measures (That’s what I try to call it, so it sounds European and like something I might actually want to do) it is virtually impossible to do so and not just lose your mind from utter uselessness and boredom.
Unemployment costs. And here’s where you start paying, in excuses. Let’s examine the facts:
I am unemployed, therefore I have time for all of those household projects I always said I never had the time to get around to.
- Cleaning out the closets yields 2 pairs of shoes that need fixin’. Cleaning off the desk results in finding a print I need framed. And of course I’m going to renew my LACMA membership. Now I actually have time to go! And I should go for free since I’m not working! Even if going for free later means paying $90 now.
I am unemployed, so now have time to see all of my friends socially.
- This means lunches, drinks, dinners out. Maybe you have those friends who just want to meet for a hike instead of a cocktail, but I have the type of friends who need a couple of cocktails to even think about hiking. You can’t catch up during a yoga class despite what they show you on Sex and the City. And saving money by eating in still means spending money on food and wine and $4 cupcakes. I can’t serve my friends Top Ramen and 2 Buck Chuck. That wouldn’t be very European.
I am unemployed, which means I need a new wardrobe so I can become employed again.
- This may not be true, but it certainly sounds good to yourself when that Nanette Lepore dress or Sam Edelman pumps go on super sale (or just sale) and you say to yourself, “If I’m going to present myself as a confident brand that people are going to want to do business with I should look the part. If I’m going to be promoting a book in the press, I will need something to wear.” Never mind the fact that your business is dominated by men in sweatpants wearing tee shirts of the Cookie Monster inside a Grateful Dead logo or that most of your “press junkets” are podcasts.
I am unemployed, which means I work from home.
- And guess what you notice when you work from home: your home needs some work. Staring at the same walls while your ideas “percolate” will usually just yield ideas about what you can change on those walls. If I’m going to write in this chair, I could really use an Eileen Grey Table next to it so I have something to put my latte (READ: wine) on. And I could save money on lattes if I buy an espresso machine. Any why is every light bulb in this house burnt out? Does the water filter really need to be replaced this often? How much are they? Was my laptop always this slow?!
I am unemployed, but I will be employed again so….
- So go ahead and spend that savings! Or rack up that debt! It’s rationalizing like this that created the debt crisis in our country, but it’s also the same rationalizing that keeps me from waking up in the night screaming so I will take it. (And that pencil skirt while I’m at it!) After all, I accumulated no small amount of debt in my 20’s and while I no longer have the same amount of eggs that I can sell to rich couples if worse comes to worst, I’m sure I have other useful organs that I can comfort myself with the idea of selling.
I don’t want Hillary Clinton to run in 2016. Not because I don’t want her to be my President. I desperately want her to be my President. I voted for her in the ’08 primary and considered writing her name in for the general election. No, I don’t want her to run because I like her too much.
In the last few years, Hillary has established herself as that tough talking, no nonsense friend who you call when your other friends are going to pieces but then can also surprise you by giving you a hug when you least expect it. She’s the one you and your friends elect to drop the hammer when something goes amiss on your girls’ weekend and you need someone to fight with the concierge to try and get that room upgrade. In Sex and the City terms, Hillary is the one Carrie asks for when she’s stuck in the bathroom and can’t get her diaphragm out. And Hillary would turn to Miranda, hand her her scotch and say, “Tell Bibi Netanyahu I’ll call him in 5.” (In my dreams of hanging with Hillary, she drinks scotch.)
As such a trusted and beloved girlfriend, the last thing I want to see her do is run for President again. Why would she want to? Hillary has spent the last 20 plus years getting beat up in the political arena. She has achieved the rare position of political hermaphrodite who gets pummeled for being too much like a man as well as too much like a woman. When she’s tough they want her soft and when she’s soft they want her tough and when she gets a blood clot they want her dead, otherwise she’s just faking it. Why would she want to go through 2 years of dredging up everything from Benghazi to what she wore to a state dinner in ’94? Doesn’t she deserve a chance to just hang with her girlfriends, sleep in and go shopping?
The Presidency is like that ex that your “way too smart for this bullshit” girlfriend keeps going back to. Oh, for a few weeks it will be a honeymoon period with Hillary as the presumptive nominee and Bill out there stumping for her. But then it will start. As a woman, they’ll criticize her for things that would never criticize Biden or Romney. (How much does she spend on clothes for the campaign trail? Doesn’t she feel her daughter would have been better off if she had been in the home instead of chasing a career?) As Hillary Clinton, they’ll bring up every thing she’s spent the last 20 years explaining and make her waste another 20 explaining it. (Hey, remember that cookie baking comment?) I know Hillary is tough and can take it better than anyone, but why would she want to? We need to grab her by the shoulders and scream, “No, Hillary, no! He don’t love you!” And then we need to invite her over for wine and a Colin Firth marathon just to show her what she’s missing.
Sometimes it’s hard to measure your success in life. You know your life is different than it was 5 or 10 years ago, but when you’re still sending out emails to try to get friends out to shows, it’s often hard to feel like you’ve made any real progress.
But 10 + years do go by and even you have to admit that life is different, not just for yourself, but for many of the people you came up with, too. I’m always amazed that people from this part of my life still like me or ever did. I look back on myself then – and the enormous chip on my shoulder – and often wonder how it was I didn’t alienate everyone I came into contact with. But your 20’s are a little like being in a war and when you run into someone from the foxhole, you both have the unspoken agreement that you did what you had to in order to get through it. You are happy to see them as they are part of a select group who know what it was like being holed up in the bunker or coffee shop, the sounds of 1,000 hacks bombing in the background. The combat of your 20’s behind you, you now live more according to the accepted behavior of civilized society, not the least of which is the happiness you are legitimately able to share in your friends’ successes. Gone is the deeply held belief that our chances of success are inversely proportionate to someone else actually achieving it. Instead you now have an appreciation for how much work goes into it, constantly, still, on a steady basis. You know that anyone who is still here humping it, who didn’t just say fuck it and move to someplace reasonable, deserves your respect and congratulations.
It’s these things I’m mulling over after my friend Retta texted me a photo of her awesome US Weekly spread this morning. Kind enough to give me a plug in her Tory Burch hobo explosion, it makes me grateful that I still know so many people from my enlisted days and that I was able to keep my shit together long enough to engender some good will among my compatriots.
8pm show at Akbar 4356 West Sunset Blvd. Super fun bar and an even better show!
Super talented comedian & writer Laurie Kilmartin (Conan) & I (Tess Rafferty, composter, infrequent Cardio Barre attender) have joined forces this holiday season to create the one place in Hollywood where 2 female writers are in a room together.
We’ll be selling and signing our books, Recipes for Disaster & Shitty Mom, at Dustmuffin in Silverlake. Both are great gift ideas and the store has many more. Champagne will be served and we’re doing readings at 4 and 6, but signing all afternoon.
Come in and take a break from shopping and leave with your list finished!