we’re sitting outside, soaking in a particularly beautiful day. it’s one of those infrequent occasions when grad life allows for us to be in the sun and fresh air-we’re sitting contentedly in silence, we don’t need to talk to communicate.
i check my facebook. it’s a perverse little habit, checking up on people’s lives with a push of a button, but i contribute to it with my own going-on’s in an even more perverse hope that someone reads, nay comments, NAY “likes” my status.
i notice three, nope four, uh-huh, seven status updates all regarding what i gather is being called “the Steubenville rape case.”
truth: i avoid the news. i avoid the news like the plague, because all the depravity, all the conflict, all the ceaseless debate fills me with doubt and dread, to the point where my hands get cold and clammy and i have to work really hard to pull myself out of my selfish little nihilistic moment and back into the “real world” where i can shrug the news off and pretend like the depravity, the conflict, and the debate doesn’t exist.
but it does. it’s there, and it got my attention that perfectly sunny afternoon when i was enjoying the company of my friend and a moments respite.
me (breaks silence like a hammer): “hey, what’s this Steubenville rape case that’s blowing up facebook?”
m (looks at me like i’m ruining a moment with my hammer): “you sure you wanna know? it’s crazy.”
and then i got it, all of it-all that he knew of it. and i went back to facebook and i read what other people knew about it. then i went on google and read what everyone else and their mom thought they knew about it.
and my hands got clammy and cold.
so this symptom, this damp clammy symptom is a reaction against the dryness in my throat and the wet in my eyes as i try and absorb information like this. and i can feel my symptom turning to symptoms and i feel anger and i feel rage and i feel sad and i feel….scared.
and when i get angry, and sad, and scared i lose control of my tongue- i can’t tame it. my words and my voice go dark, my thoughts get messy, and i get tangled in that mess.
and in this case, i tangled m into my mess. and it then turned into our mess.
we had a heated, complicated, juxtaposing, and frustrating conversation on rape and rape culture. we talked about our own experiences, about the experiences of others, about accountability, about responsibility, about social construction, and about how we were mad and made mad by how this case was being talked about.
we spent thirty minutes talking at and past one another, showing obvious discomfort and frustration-the tension palpable even in the midst of being in the outdoors. our body language said more than our words, each of us unable to meet the others gaze, unable to sit facing each other in the usual, amicable way we normally do.
m and i don’t fight. we don’t get mad at each other. we get annoyed, because we’re human, but word is bond between us, and neither of us has a problem being straight with the either.
but we were mad at that moment, mad at each other in fact, at not being able to have that safe space in which to communicate; mad and irritated by the others inability to listen and hear the other without already thinking of what to say next. it was awful.
but then we reached a threshold-and i couldn’t tell you how i know we reached it, or how we even reached it in the first place, but the debate gave, and suddenly, we were having a conversation again. somehow, the air cleared, and we were able to look one another in the eye (not the stink eye, mind you) and talk. but more importantly, to listen. we finally found a way to hear one another-but it was necessary that we both be made vulnerable. we both had to come to that mutual receptiveness to being vulnerable in order for us to begin having the conversation we could have been having the whole time.
the conversation was like a gauntlet, filled with uncomfortable obstacles, awkward silences, and ego. but once we pushed past that, once we got the hard bits over, we came through better, more aware, more compassionate. we re-positioned our voices and emphasized our ears over our tongues, and opened ourselves up to learning from one another. we ended up having a generative and productive conversation, and, that conversation is in part why we’re here. why we’re all here.
because having these kind of hard conversations on beautiful days with friends you love in a life that doesn’t leave much room for naps or breaks makes it unappealing, unwarranted, obtrusive.
but you see, there aren’t good times to have hard conversations. there isn’t an opportune moment to open a difficult discourse, to raise questions, or challenge the status quo. but we must. we must, or we’ll end up where we currently are: in a mess.
i challenge you. i challenge you to have a hard conversation and turn it into something that generates new discussion in a safe space. i challenge you to do this and then tell us about it. to record and share it. it’s really that important.
Speak Up, Speak Out.