Category: Writing

It’s Not A Compliment

It’s Not A Compliment

Dear Random Stranger who walked past me in the grocery store, grabbed my ass, and said, “Nice,” in front of my three-year-old son, without ever breaking stride…

I generally believe that Karma settles most situations, and, most days, I’d usually step back and allow her to do her work.

Sadly for you, today was not one of those days.

I’m not fluent in Body Language, but I’d guess by the look on your face that you truly didn’t expect me to approach you, and the woman with you, and call you out on your troglodytic behavior. In fact, I’m honestly interested to know what you did expect.

I believe you expected to get away with it.

If my husband had been with me, you wouldn’t have had the nerve. If any guy had been with me, you wouldn’t have had the nerve.

Sadly, you are far from the first stranger to take advantage of me, and countless other women, in this way.

Is it within your realm of thinking to see a small woman alone (except for her toddler son) and just keep walking?

Should I have been the Bigger Person and just let it slide, or take it as the “compliment” that so many others have told me in the past that it’s meant to be?

Hell. No.

If you assumed you’d escape a yelling scene because my son was with me, you were right. He doesn’t see yelling at home, and he certainly isn’t going to see it because you’re a Neanderthal. But if you figured I wasn’t going to verbally decimate you so you’d feel a fraction of the humiliation I felt at your groping hand, you thought wrong.

If you thought you’d just get away with it and mosey on through your day, all self-satisfied with having gotten your hands on a woman’s ass, uninvited, you truly are seven layers of crazy.

(Can I also ask how pathetic your existence is if this is what you do for enjoyment?)

You’ve most likely done this to many women before, most (or, sadly, possibly all) of whom didn’t retaliate because that’s what most of us grow up learning to do. If you have a uterus, you learn to de-escalate these situations at a shamefully early age.

So, for myself and for every other woman you may have violated in the past, you’ve been quietly, tactfully, and justifiably served, sir, in the middle of the grocery store, in front of many strangers, right next to the ranch dressing and croutons.

I hope you remember it every time you eat a salad.

The look on your face was fantastic. Seriously. Were you surprised that I have both a brain in my head and a spine strong enough to stand up to your stupidity? You didn’t answer a single question I asked regarding what made you think grabbing any stranger was acceptable. I had the backbone to set the situation straight, but you didn’t have enough nerve to utter a single syllable in reply.

That’s how cowards act.

Your behavior was so appalling that the woman with you apologized to me on your behalf. I’m indescribably glad that I had the chance to tell her that your lecherous behavior did not reflect on her in the slightest.

When I arrived home and told my husband what happened, he was outraged; not simply because you couldn’t keep your hands to yourself (a concept that small children can grasp but that you, a grown man, somehow don’t understand), but because it opened his eyes a little more to how damn difficult it can be to navigate this world without a penis.

That whole de-escalating thing? I’m done with it. It’s a weight and responsibility that I’ve had to carry since the first time a stranger grabbed me, in a crowd at the mall, when I was fourteen years old. It’s a heavy burden and I’m absolutely sick of it. I’ve quietly minimized situations out of embarrassment and fear for my safety too many times, and every time it has also minimized my self-esteem.

We should all be done downplaying our discomfort, fear, and embarrassment at the hands of strangers. We’re minimizing our Selves every time we hold our tongues.

De-escalation isn’t a solution. Calling inappropriate behavior what it is in the harsh light of the public eye might be.

Because it’s not a compliment.

She Did It Again (Field Notes Fauxdori from Jennifer Harvey)

She Did It Again (Field Notes Fauxdori from Jennifer Harvey)

Brown Distressed Italian Leather.

Small size (3.5″ x 5.5″).

Holds up to six inserts.

Yeah. She did it again.

Show Jennifer some love in her Etsy shop. Here’s the direct link to this little piece of notebook heaven.

(Edited to Add: Jennifer made this one a little differently than the others. This notebook usually comes with one elastic inside, one insert, and your choice of whether or not you want the clasp to hold the elastics. She has a ton of optional modifications to all of her notebooks in her Etsy shop, so be sure to Message her through Etsy when ordering to make sure she knows exactly what you’d like.

Jennifer also told me she only has a little bit of this particular leather left, so, if you want one of these beauties, get in touch with her on Etsy quickly!)

The Stopping and The Looking

The Stopping and The Looking

Before you read any more of this post, take a few minutes and go read this one; without reading that post, this one might not make much sense.

My husband and I don’t disagree on much. Before we met we’d both been through horrible relationships. We knew what we wanted, and we definitely knew what we didn’t want, in a marriage. And we do NOT want to have a cookie-cutter marriage. (We certainly don’t have one. If you’ve met my husband, you know what I mean. The man is Crazy — the best kind of Crazy.)

I am blessed that he always tells me he loves me. He always tells me I’m beautiful.

If the one person in this whole world from whom I want to hear it gives me that lovely input on a consistent basis, then why don’t I feel it?

There are things he sees in me that I simply don’t — can’t — see. I disagree with nearly every compliment he gives me (not aloud, so much, anymore, but always in my head). Why can’t I agree with him on these things?

It’s because of The Stopping. And The Looking.

If you read the article I linked above, then you know what I’m talking about.

My husband says he sees beauty in my laugh lines and wrinkles. He’s touched by the five-person-exit that is my c-section scar. He’s accustomed to busting into whatever room I’m in, door swinging, Kramer-like, and shouting, “You’ve got a great ass, Harling!”

Yet I can not agree with him.

And now I finally know why. Now, it seems so incredibly simple.

I harbor the constant thought that I Can Not Live Up To That.

“That” is the idea of female perfection that is thrust upon all of us, everywhere, all of the time. It truly is inescapable. And it truly is bullshit.

I feel like I’ve fought for my boys’ brains their entire lives. I’ve railed against what the world has told them a “real woman” is, because the world’s idea of what a real woman is couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve tried to instill in them an appreciation for people’s actions over their outward appearance, and I’ve done all of this with a ferocity I honestly didn’t know I had. (One son’s huge lesson in how much a person’s actions speak to how much they love you: I chased a guy who had pulled a gun on my kid about five seconds before I pulled up to pick him up. Yeah. Fierce. Don’t mess with my kids. And don’t try to mess with my kids’ heads, either.)

If I look at my boys’ actions and listen to the things they say, I think I’ve done a decent job of teaching them what a real woman is. But, how can I know for sure? I mean, look at what we’re up against here. Too many people, men and women alike, think:

  • A woman’s worth comes solely from her partner’s opinion of her.
  • Women don’t deserve equal pay.
  • Women owe men their bodies.
  • Women are weak.
  • Women need to be perfect in every way.

Now, most men don’t understand why women feel this way. They don’t understand it because they don’t think like that, and I could never say enough about how grateful I am for the many, many men who do not engender these kinds of ignorant thoughts.

However, as Dan points out…

Guys, when you Stop, and when you Look, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve told the woman in your life how beautiful she is or how much you love her; every Look completely negates every compliment you’ve ever given that woman and replaces it with negativity and pressure. Guys… read that line again. Seriously. You may not believe it, you may not understand it, but it is absolutely True. Every lingering glance at digitally-created perfection on a magazine cover, every click on a pretty actress’s Google image listing, raises the bar in that woman’s head to the unattainable standard that society has set.

And pretty soon, as Dan eloquently points out, a guy can find himself in the horrid predicament of not being attracted to anything that is real.

How to fix this? I can’t pretend to know, really, except for two things:

  • Women: you are Real. You are amazing. You are worthy. Find that worth in yourself and stop depending so much on needing that input from the men in your life.
  • Men: make your actions match your words. Try to overcome the falsified societal pressures of what Beautiful is. Make sure you aren’t accidentally taking away every positive thing you’ve ever said to that woman in your life with the habit of Stopping and Looking.


ChicSparrow Notebook for Class Notes & Journaling

ChicSparrow Notebook for Class Notes & Journaling

Before you watch this… click over to ChicSparrow on Etsy (the brainchild of Jennifer Harvey) and have a drool at all of the loveliness. I understand completely. Then come back and watch this video!

(Edited to add: Because so many of you good people requested the exact same notebook from Jennifer, she has so kindly named it after me. 🙂 Here’s the direct link:

Leather Traveler’s Notebook – “The Carie Harling” )

Applause Before 8 A.M.

Applause Before 8 A.M.

In order to tell you what I really want to tell you, I have to give you a little insight into what a Frat House Morning looks like on a school day.

In a nutshell, I get six kids to four different schools every school day, with a toddler in tow. While I only drive two of them to two different schools, I do make sure everyone is awake, fed, and presentable before they leave for the bus stop or the Frat Cab, whichever is their mode of transportation to school.

Every single school morning, at 7:30, I drive Jack to his elementary school, which is about six blocks from our house. I realize we could walk, but, if we did, I wouldn’t be back home in time to drive the next Frat Boy to his school, so we drive.

Every single morning, Jack gets out of the van, I watch him walk into the school, and I pull away to circumnavigate the other half of the rectangle of roads that will take me back home.

And every single morning, the same dad rides my bumper for three blocks until I make my left turn.

(OK, it isn’t every morning. That is to say, he isn’t necessarily riding my back bumper every morning, but he’s always tailing someone within my view way too closely. We’re all there at the same time driving the same cars in the same direction, every school morning, so he’s hard to miss.)

Bear in mind, every road within a 100-mile radius of my home is an Ice Rink of Death right now and has been for months. We all need to be careful, especially when there are kids approaching from every direction, on foot, trying to get to school.

This morning, I had to wait for oncoming traffic before I could make my left turn and escape the chaos that is The Morning Drop-Off. Bumper Boy (yes, he’s been so annoying for so long that he has earned a nickname) had been on me for his usual three blocks, following so closely that I couldn’t even see his headlights in my rear-view mirror. I had actually watched the front end of his SUV dip three times when he rode up so closely that he had to slam on his breaks to avoid hitting me (quickly followed by immediately riding right up my back bumper again. Can you say, “unteachable?”).

Then something amazing happened.

Something astonishing.

In the words of a mom who saw it and texted me afterwards, “That was beautiful!”

Right in the middle of the stand-still traffic, I put the Frat Cab into park and got out.

Bumber Boy and I were going to have a chat. I had had Enough.

I didn’t have far to walk as he was, as usual, right on my rear bumper. And none of the traffic was moving anyway. As I approached his window, he cracked it a bit.

Mustering all of the patience that a mother of seven could possibly contain, I calmly, firmly, as-nicely-as-can-be-done-through-gritted-teeth said,

“You’re following way too closely. You do it here, in front of a school, to everyoneevery morning. Stop. It.”

I turned around, walked back to The Frat Cab, continued to wait for the traffic to move so I could make my left turn, and finally made my exit.

Bumper Boy didn’t move until I was gone.

As I made that left turn, the kind woman who left a gap so I could go (a mom whose son goes to school with mine) put her window down and applauded.

The man in the car behind her did the same.

Before I got home, I had three texts from parents and two from teachers, all of whom were in that tangle of traffic with me, and all of whom have dealt with this man’s apparent lack of depth perception since August when the school year began.

I wonder what the morning drop-off will be like tomorrow.


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