This is what sexual harassment sounds like

Harvey Weinstein

Every Dog Has His Day

“I won’t do a thing… I swear on my children.”

“One minute, I swear.”

“Don’t have a fight with me in the hallway. Come in, one minute.”

“Please, I’m sorry, come in, sit here please.”

“Don’t embarrass me, you’re embarrassing me.” 

“Don’t ruin your friendship with me. Please you’re making a big scene, come in, five minutes.”

Recorded without Harvey Weinstein’s knowledge thanks to the NYPD and the Italian model who returned with a recording device the day after he groped for the first time, the two-minute recording is chilling. The movie mogul is a kitchen-sink-style predator, throwing down threats, promises and accusations while the model, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, pleaded with him to let her go. “I’m uncomfortable,” she said, “you touched my breast.”

“It’s what I do,” Weinstein replied.

A Refinery29 essay reminds us of the Margaret Atwood quote—decades old but like everything else she writes, all too true: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

With the man outted as a serial pig and sexual predator, raping and assaulting a dozen women (at current count), people in high places are now speaking out about their experiences and also in support of the victims. Emphasis on “now” as this has been going on for decades. A 22-year-old Gwyenth Paltrow was summoned to his hotel suite and asked to perform a massage on the bathrobed Weinstein in 1994. Angelina Jolie and Roseanne Arquette have similar stories. A news anchor was cornered in a hotel corridor and forced to watch him “jerk off into a potted palm,” says George Clooney, one of the few men who have publicly condemned Weinstein’s behavior as “indefensible.”

“A lot of people are doing the ‘you had to know’ thing right now, and yes, if you’re asking if I knew that someone who was very powerful had a tendency to hit on young, beautiful women, sure. But I had no idea that it had gone to the level of having to pay off eight women for their silence, and that these women were threatened and victimized,” says Clooney. “I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this, and I don’t know many people who knew of that.”

This prevarication sums it up: It’s not that people looked the other way, it’s just that they didn’t look at it at all, Clooney says. That Weinstein was a “dog,” was well enough known that it made it into a 2013 Academy Award bit. When Seth MacFarlane announced a list of five female nominees he said, per the bombshell New York Times exposé, “congratulations, you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”

There’s an ambivalence expressed in that laugh line—and the audience laughed, per the Times—that has people prevaricating all over the place. Donna Karan says she knows the “wonderful” Weinsteins (Harvey’s wife is leaving him) and denounces his accusers with the age-old question: “…are we asking for it?” And then she retracted it with an apology.

Lindsay Lohan was another of Weinstein’s supporters, offering up the narcissistic defense that he never touched her—in a whack video in which she seemed to be speaking in an English accent (shades of the Annie twin from Parent Trap?) shot in a bathroom. She took the Instagram post down, although it’s widely posted (‘cause that’s the way the Internet works, crazypants Lindsay).

Apologist Lindsay Lohan

And even my husband, upon listening to the tape I found chilling, minimized the incident: “She was wearing a wire. She was baiting him,” he said, along with, “what he said was not illegal.”

Yes, but it was wrong. And for too long that wrongness has ruled Hollywood. Will it ever end?

 

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The Pause

 

Pause is the title of a essay by the poet Mary Ruefle about menopause. It is long and, in many ways not my experience. I never felt suicidal, wanting to kill myself “with a steaming hot turned-on iron.” Ruefle (hmmm… sounds like rueful?) writes in the third person, telling you what you will feel, with no small amount of conviction, which is why I feel the urge to disagree with her. However, this part sounds right to me, especially the italicized bit:

You have the desire to leave your husband or lover or partner, whatever.

No matter how stable or loving the arrangement, you want out.

You may decide to take up an insane and hopeless cause. You may decide to walk to Canada, or that it is high time you begin to collect old blue china, three thousand pieces of which will leave you bankrupt. Suddenly the solution to all problems lies in selling your grandmother’s gold watch or drinking your body weight in cider vinegar. A kind of wild forest blood runs in your veins.

This, and other behaviors, will horrify you. You will seek medical help because you are intelligent, and none of the help will help.

You will feel as if your life is over and you will be absolutely right about that, it is over.

No matter how attractive or unattractive you are, you have been used to having others look you over when you stood at the bus stop or at the chemist’s to buy tampons. They have looked you over to assess how attractive or unattractive you are, so no matter what the case, you were looked at. Those days are over; now others look straight through you, you are completely invisible to them, you have become a ghost.

I do feel invisible, which, Frances McDormand tells me is the best thing that will ever happen to me:

‘You become sexually invisible to both men and women. You gain the power of not giving a shit,’ McDormand says in a profile about her in the NY Times Sunday Magazine.

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Frances McDormand, Difficult Woman

And I love Ruefle’s last lines, finally hopeful, and explaining why the pause exists in the first place:

You haven’t even begun. You must pause first, the way one must always pause before a great endeavor, if only to take a good breath.

Happy old age is coming on bare feet, bringing with it grace and gentle words, and ways which grim youth have never known. 

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Behold the Upholder

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has a new book called The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too).

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I really like the writer Penelope Green, so I read with more interest (than Rubin warrants?) a profile of the author and her slightly Jungian online personality quiz. I say slightly Jungian because it’s also slightly Cosmo-like, with your choice of answers tipping their hand toward your ultimate score or judgment. Green likened it to the Sorting Hat ritual, which makes me, as an Upholder, “a high-working Hermione type,” per Green. Briefly, Upholders like to comply with rules—both externally- and self-imposed. They value discipline above all, which is a good thing (in my view). But it’s my belief that good qualities have a flip side, and Upholders tend to feel discomfort breaking rules, sticking too rigidly to “promises,” even the most meaningless. Here’s an example: I’ll promise myself I’ll be home from gym, errands, whatever by 12 noon to start work. If I find myself at the Whole Foods at noon, I’ll feel pressure to get home, skipping what I need to do at the Chase, even though I’d be no more than 20 minutes “late,” with no one impacted. Except me, who still needs to go to the Chase at some point.

How does this help me, knowing I’m an Upholder? How does it make my life better, happier?  Rubin has built an enterprise around all this, so perhaps I have to dig (meaning “buy”) more—pod casts and an app, along with all her books.

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An Exodus of Editors

Within a few weeks time, Nancy Gibbs of Time (32 years at that magazine), Elle’s Robbie Myers (16 years), Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, and Glamour’s Cindi Leive (17 years) announced they were leaving their posts. None of them seemed to have real plans, save Carter’s decision to live and drink wine in France for awhile.

They also share this: all of them are in the old-to-really-old age range, they all pulled down a $1MM or more (Carter at $2MM) and every single one of their magazines is tinier and less profitable than its ever been.

Keith Kelly (no spring chicken himself) piles on even more grim stats in his article, heralding the end of days for the “celebrity editor.”

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Meanwhile, back at Time Inc., we are undergoing a months-long McKinsey operations review and launching new revenue streams like PetHero, a program where for $20 a month, members can get, in addition to pet toys and products, discounts on health care for pets.

Which sounds to me like a final death knell for editors, those of us left.

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Of course you’ll recognize your parents in heaven

This from the heart-breaking poem called “Washing the Elephant.”

And here’s the heart-breaking part:

What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize your parents in heaven,” instead of “being one with God will make your mother and father pointless.
Lily sent this to me after a weekend in Florida, visiting not one but two in-laws in not one but two Memory Care facilities in not one but two cities, not one but two hours away from each other.
In many ways, mother-in-law Mary is already gone. She who rests her forehead on the tabletop as we converse with her, falling asleep, startling awake, drifting off again to who knows where. Come to think of it, we didn’t even think about taking a photo of us together.
On the other side of the state, father-in-law Al is all too aware of his decline. He is failing, before our very eyes, but so slowly, that it comes as a hard surprise when whole functions disappear: walking, conversation, self-feeding. He wants to tell us a “cute story,” but its meaning evaporates after a set-up that involves a company, its sales force, a trip to another city.
Perhaps to compensate, we took many, many photos of him. As if to keep him with us? His last few words with me were so lovely: “You classed up this whole operation,” he said of me about my role in the di Costanzo family.

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So here’s to “the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines and frown lines on the face” And here’s to the rest of the poem:

Washing the Elephant

Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash
the elephant, begging the body to do it
with soap and water, a ladder, hands,
in tree-shade big enough for the vast savannahs
of your sadness, the strangler fig of your guilt,
the cratered full moon’s light fueling
the windy spooling memory of elephant?
What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize
your parents in heaven,” instead of
“Being one with God will make your mother and father
pointless.” That was back when I was young enough
to love them absolutely though still fear for their place
in heaven, imagining their souls like sponges full
of something resembling street water after rain.
Still my mother sent me every Saturday to confess,
to wring the sins out of my small baffled soul, and I made up lies
about lying, disobeying, chewing gum in church, to offer them
as carefully as I handed over the knotted handkercheif of coins
to the grocer when my mother sent me for a loaf of Wonder,
Land O’Lakes, and two Camels.
If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence.
Of the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading
through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants
made to walk through the Queens-Midtown Tuunnel
and down 34th Street to the Garden.
So much of our desire like their bulky, shadowy walking
after midnight, exiled from the wild and destined
for a circus with its tawdry gaudiness, its unspoken
pathos.
It takes more than half a century to figure out who they were,
the few real loves-of-your-life and how much of the rest—
the mad breaking-heart stickiness—falls away, slowly,
unnoticed, the way you lose your taste for things
like Popsicles unthinkingly.
And though dailiness may have no place
for the ones that have etched themselves in the laugh lines
and frown lines on the face that’s harder and harder
to claim as your own, often one love-of-your-life
will appear in a dream, arriving
with the weight and certitude of an elephant,
and it’s always the heart that wants to go out and wash
the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories
that have only memories to feed them, and only you to keep them clean.
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Hire Your Mom

I’m drawn to articles about ageism, especially as that relates to women who achieved real success and, at the age of 50 or 60 or even older, still have it. “It” being some combination of experience, expertise, management skills, a strong work ethic and the potential to grow in a job. Currency, in a word.

But the workplace views her as a worker whose currency has been so devalued she’s not even considered for positions for which she’s well- (or over-) qualified,

(I see errors I’ll let stand that reveal bias in my own writing: “60 or even older” and “still.”)

An editor and one-time EIC of McCall’s, Sally Koslow is “lucky” enough to have published novels, she writesUnhappy Retirement in The New York Times. So while she doesn’t appear to be struggling, she feels the bias all the same: “In my mid-fifties I was shown the door,” says Koslow, who wrote the novel “Little Pink Slips,” about the magazine world. “The old saw goes that on a deathbed body wishes they’d spent more time at the office, but I suspect many women whose careers stop prematurely do.”

She makes the point that women who choose (and who can choose to) take off a few years, or a decade, to raise children, have a narrow window to achieve success. Rejoin the workforce at 35 or 40 and you have 20 years to succeed. After that, if you’re Koslow, you’re joining “the gig economy,” as she calls it, while admitting that hers is a pretty good gig. On the other hand, a woman I met recently spoke of her current gigs, hustling for video and film projects after having worked on staff at Saturday Night Live. “To make ends meet, she works at the food-sampling table at B.J.’s,” a mutual friend confided to me.

So I join Koslow in her plea to HR people everywhere: “Hire someone’s your mom’s age.”

 

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Anger in America

Lizza-Scaramucci

“Angry” is the word used to characterize Trump’s base. Collectively, these voters had long been fed up with feeling marginalized, left behind, left out, and laid off. Then Trump rose up to give voice to their anger, pointing fingers of blame all over the place (but especially at “the Dems” and “Crooked Hillary”). There’s a funny New Yorker piece called “Don’t Blame Yourself,” enumerating all the things that are no one’s fault (but especially not the fault of the guileless “you” in the piece): “Your teeth were fine until that dentist said you had a bunch of cavities,” and so on.

When Hillary Clinton played into Trump’s narrative with her regrettable “basket of deplorables” remark, she further evoked the ire of the angry populace who, during campaign season, had been given permission to be angry and loudly so. No longer do they have to suffer in silence. The reaction is parallel to that of the stereotypical redneck who now feels emboldened to mock people who are educated. Or bigots who now feel it is OK to disparage “liberals” as “PC.” America no longer has a prevailing “live and let live” or “agree to disagree” culture. People are dug into their anger, hardened by their grudges, and, seemingly, would rather see their country fall apart than make progress toward a shared goal. Because the divide between Trump and his supporters and everyone else is too great. We don’t, actually, share anything. We don’t have anything in common, or so it seems.

I am thinking of this on the train, where I find myself sighing overly loudly in the direction of a woman on her cell phone, loudly conversing about this and that. When I catch her eye she gives me the finger.

Anger in America.

And, finally, I’m remembering a little incident at a recent Zara sale. The cashiers’ line was long and slow. A woman asks, loudly, if she might go to the front of the line because she is illegally parked outside and needs to return clothing right away because the 30-day return window ends today. No one speaks up. I say “I’m sorry, I’ve got to say ‘no,’ to that. We’ve all been waiting at least for 20 minutes.” The woman grumbles something like: “Well that’s a New Yorker for you.” I say, “Well you did ask. And it’s not like it’s a medical emergency.” To which she says: “Not everything’s a medical emergency, lady.” Which is a stupid retort and I stupidly replied “can’t argue with that.”

Anger in America.

I wrote all this before Anthony Scaramucci unloaded onto The New Yorker an expletive-laced tirade against Reince Priebus. It’s getting worse.

 

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Women + Wine

From Quartz, an article that promises to reveal “the real reason women drink too much wine.” The writer, who is now sober, points to the literal wash of alcohol all over the media, her office, the birthday card rack and even billboards: “Driving home from work, I pass billboard ads for Fluffed Marshmallow Smirnoff and Iced Cake Smirnoff and not just Cinnamon, but Cinnamon Churros Smirnoff.” The birthday card thing is something I’ve noticed too — with their jokey invitations to “rose all day” and also:

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But, no, the real reason she’s an alcoholic is that she is an alcoholic, as it turns out, and it’s really damn hard to be a women in this world.

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Warning: The 5 Most Dangerous Women Your Husband Knows

No surprises here and if you don’t want to read it, here’s the list: colleague; ex-girlfriend; local MILF; personal trainer; babysitter.

The only news  is that this is from TheGirlfriend, a new editorial vertical from AARP for “women ages 40+ (we’re talking to you, Gen-Xers!) to convene, confab, commiserate and learn more about the ways life is affecting us right now.”

I will reserve judgment even while applauding their tastefully clickbait-y headlines, including “Do I Drink Too Much Wine?” (The short answer: maybe, but not as much as she does.) This lead me to a much-shared Quartz article about why women drink too much, aka why they are super-double tanked. It’s better. Stay tuned.

 

 

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Men behaving badly

 

 

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Jennifer Weiner

In an opinion piece called “The Men Who Never Grow Up,” Jennifer Weiner observes that “Americans have a soft spot for our troublemakers and scamps,” excusing the bad behavior on the part of one particular “honest kid” with a dismissive “that’s politics”—even when that kid is 39 years old and his scampishness appears to have included colluding with the Russians to interfere with the presidential election.

“Women and nonwhite men don’t have it quite as easy,” Weiner writes, trenchantly: “If boys will be boys, then girls must be grown-ups, whose job it is to protect men from their worst impulses.” Or serve as post-indiscretion apologists: “like boys in the locker room,” appeased Melania Trump about her husband bragging about his pussy-grabbing prowess. Also implicated in that incident was Billy Bush, who excused his own poor judgment with “I was younger, less mature, and acted foolishly in playing along.” He was 33 at the time.

When Anderson Cooper pressed Melania, she stayed on point: “It’s kinda like two teenage boys — actually they should behave better, right?” she said.

Cooper: “He was 59.”

Compare all that with condemnation heaped upon female celebrities behaving badly. Lindsay Lohan, while not one of my very favorite people (except for her star turn in “The Parent Trap” 10 years ago, when she was adorbs), is a pariah. Confusing, yes, so here’s the bottom line: men who behave badly are forgiven, women are not and, salt to the wound, must clean up the messes made by males.

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