Black Out

“What I know for sure, is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” – Oprah Motherfucking Winfrey

Awards season is just starting and you can bet your ass I’m parked on my leopard couch joined by four pussies and a chug. Wine is at the ready and I watch the pre-pre-pre red carpet because you know, I’m fucking cool like that. I was a little torn on watching my typical go-to network E! because one of their longtime female anchors, Catt Sadler recently left over gender pay discrimination. But as soon as I flipped to the channel, actress Debra Messing was chastising the network on the actual network while being interviewed. She fucking rocked it.

Cheers to you and the mic drop Debra Messing.

I was all dolled up in my best black lounge wear because a movement started a few weeks ago. It’s a fund offering financial support and advice to victims of sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it after coming forward.

To date, they’ve raised over $16 million from donations made all over the world. Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace first hand and being a survivor of rape, I’m all in on shit like this. Coming forward and speaking up is one of, if not the hardest decision victims deal with during the initial stages of shock, let alone trying to figure out if you can miss work, arrange childcare for legal appointments, therapy sessions, phone calls following up with detectives, etc…

The stars attending the Golden Globes wore black in support of this movement, Time’s Up.

While watching the red carpet, stars were asked why they were wearing black, not what designer they were wearing. As I sat listening to the heartfelt and moving answers, I started getting emotional (ew, feelings). This was a different sort of emotion that I typically associate and feel due to Rapegate. I realized I was feeling recognized – as silly as that sounds. In my experience of being raped, I still carry shame, guilt and a feeling of dirtiness every second of every day. I know that every other survivor I’ve spoken to has felt the same way at some point.

I found myself bawling watching the red carpet and I’m the world’s ugliest crier.

You guys. For real.

The first time in almost two years, I was feeling proud of myself. For sharing my story and hopefully helping other people. And for whatever reason, stars who have a global platform giving fucks about people like me really hit home.

Then when the show started, jokes were made and the mood was just as fun as a typical Golden Globes show (I particularly love when an actor wins and is kinda shitfaced when giving a speech because this is the only awards ceremony with an open bar). Seth Meyers opened the show with “good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen.” I loved it.

Cut to the first commercial break and an ad for the New York Times makes me want to go and get a goddamn subscription right now. Please check out my bootlegged version below:

Thing is, ever since the Women’s March last January, the #MeToo movement and now with Time’s Up, survivors like myself have a community. Support. Whether one has chosen to speak out, reported their incident or kept completely silent. And everything just seemed to come to fruition last night.

I’ve recently been told not to make rape “my cause” or that I am “dwelling” on it by being in therapy. I even had one of the closest people in my life tell me they couldn’t stand being around me because of all of my negative “rape” talk (side note: don’t ask me how my fucking day is if you don’t want the fucking answer). This makes me question myself. And, writing and talking about being raped as well as sexually harassed in a work environment have been my greatest allies because I feel like I can help others.

It’s sad that we live in a world where women have to ask for equality, respect and meaningful change no matter their socioeconomic status. Lack of opportunity, sexual violence, overall poor treatment because of difference in skin tone, sexual preference or gender is inexcusable. Period. Movements and organizations like Time’s Up allows survivors to know that they are not alone – never, ever alone – and personally speaking, being raped and the aftermath of it, made isolation my worst best friend.

I’m only seeing wine and my fur babies right now, thanks.

Trying to keep my stirring emotions in check, Oprah Winfrey took the stage receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award and holy fuck friends. It was the pep talks of all pep talks for the world right now.

It felt like she was in my living room (which, actually she was kinda) talking to me directly. I was in a fucking puddle. She not only touched on victims of sexual assault and abuse, she spoke to racism, free press, truth-telling and generally what it takes to make it through tragedy – hope.

“I’m especially proud and inspired by all of the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories….I want to express gratitude for women who have endured abuse and assault because they, like my mother had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. We’ve lived too long in a culture of brutally powerful men. For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

“A new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns it will be because of a lot of magnificent women and some pretty phenomenal men fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when NOBODY ever has to say me too again.”

FUCKING PREACH WOMAN.

I mean seriously. Can I get an amen?

Watching the Golden Globes and having Oprah Winfrey give the world a rally cry reminded me of why I’m fighting my fight. Why I won’t stay silent. Why I will hold my inept detective and the Nashville Sex Crimes department accountable. Why I refuse to let anyone else feel like a walking stereotypical rape victim, as I do. Why I remain with my personal super hero therapist, Sheila. Why I don’t give any kind of fucks how uncomfortable conversations can be when I talk about my truth. Because it’s mine.

I want my Iowa twins to grow up in a world where nothing holds them back because of the color of their skin or their gender.

You break these hearts, you die.

This movement, uprising – whatever you wanna call it – is giving a voice to those who feel muted, ignored, unimportant, disregarded, not believed. And I can’t wait to join in.

Time’s up motherfuckers.

CBXB

 

Me Fucking Too

This shit isn’t new.

Sexual harassment has been around as long as …well, FOREVER. There isn’t one industry that a woman doesn’t deal with this issue from men in power (and not in power).

I mean, hello.

As chick in the career world, I’ve been told not to wear makeup and dress down working at a construction company home office because I was too “pretty” and the construction workers wouldn’t be able to control themselves from ogling when they came into the office. I abided by the request only to be let go about six months later for not looking “professional” enough. Is that harassment? Maybe just discrimination – but still. I said nothing. I felt disrespected, of course, and I lost my job because of my looks?

I’ve heard men at more than one company bitch about having to provide maternity leave (for women who are carrying YOUR FUCKING SPAWN and need to recover) when I’ve written handbooks with maternity – and paternity – leave included.

Most recently, I encountered sexual harassment at a job where I thought I would stay until retirement. It was in the music business and I started as an office manager. While the company worked with big and small artists alike, the core of its personnel was about 10 full-time employees (two of which were female, including myself, and were also the lowest two paid peeps there…even though we both had manager in our title).

As my comrade Slappy would say….

Going into any business environment eyes wide open, I worked with a vast array of people, which is why I loved the company so much. It was the most non-politically correct place – corporately speaking – and I was a contributor in every way. Lunch banter included topics of a dude asking me about Jesus when I was wearing only a leopard bra, an instance when I was sent a dick pic and I was once told I would be “punched in the tits” from an executive if I pinched him for not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. None of it bothered me because I dished it right back. It wasn’t unnatural to ask a fellow employee how their weekend was with the response, “I got laid,” to which I started responding, “me too.” Swapping dirty jokes, tales of road mayhem and being able to freely be ourselves didn’t create a hostile work environment because we all respected each other.

Typical office equipment.

If anyone fucked with me (say the dick pic sender), I knew I had an army of fellow friends/brothers who had my back no matter what. Once, a new sales person let it be known that he was going to “fuck” me (oh and he was married with a wife and kids). He was immediately terminated when upper management found out after another employee overheard me telling someone. I felt valued no matter what my sex. We were all working our asses off together and I absolutely loved the atmosphere.

Decor often left on my desk.

As the company grew, we opened a new division and naturally, more folks were hired. One of them, the COO of the division and I became friends. Hell, we were all friends – with more of a small business family feel, even as we became a larger company. This COO, who I will fondly refer to as Piss Ant from here on out, was the person who fired the dude who wanted to “fuck” me. Piss Ant gave me airline miles to go home to Iowa and see my ailing Gma one summer. Piss Ant ranted and raved and sat in my office for hours on end and asked my opinions on everything from work to personal matters. Piss Ant was my friend.

Thanks for the miles and memories.

Piss Ant also loved power. And as he was granted more of it through his ability to land deals and bring in the big bucks to the company.  His tiny head grew bigger. And bigger. And bigger. AND BIGGER.

One day, he’d gotten back from a rather rough week on the road. He came to my office and said he needed a drink.

So we got him one.

The actual day.

He proceeded to get shit faced during the afternoon and unload dirty laundry from years past, present and what was to be his future. I listened. I gave advice. I also grew increasingly aware that this situation was about to take a wrong turn.

Uh….u-turn! U-TURN!

While sipping on moonshine at three in the afternoon (almost every office had some sort of alcohol in it – and it was nothing for folks to have a drink around quitting time), his stories got more personal. More sordid. More wistful. Wistful as in telling me I had a nice ass. As in telling me he married the wrong woman…he should have married me (his wife was at home pregnant). As in telling me I would never get married because I was too good for anyone. And, as you are all well aware, I’m no shrinking violet.

Fuck the shrink.

I immediately shut the shit down. I told him to stop fucking talking. That he would regret this later that night and especially the next day. I was being ‘cool’ – level headed, and as I went to get him some water, he followed me out of the office and pulled me into one of our dark rooms where designers could come and rehearse. It was pitch black and he slammed the door shut. He kept saying he wanted to kiss me. I kept telling him to back the fuck off and that he was going to have regret.

Once I manhandled him out of my way, I opened the door and went into the bathroom. When I came out, the note below was on my desk, folded neatly. As he sat in a chair in my office and giggled drunkenly, I responded the most flippant way that I knew how and told him he needed to go home.

Oh, you want to kiss me? In your fucking dreams.

And he did. And he called to apologize. And I told him that we all make mistakes. But I kept the note. Because I knew what happened wasn’t in the slightest bit OK.

Our working relationship recovered because I think as a woman, (and anyone else who has put up with this shit before) I HAD to move past the situation professionally. But personally, I was enraged. And confused. And conflicted. Piss Ant was my superior. Piss Ant was my friend, right? (Obviously wrong). What was I to do? Who was I to tell? What would be believed? Piss Ant was the company cash cow. What would this do to my career? Would this give me a tattletale reputation in the still small music industry Nashville?

WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING?

This is what goes through minds when sexually harassed, assaulted, abused.

I stayed silent.

Piss Ant was promoted to CEO. I was promoted to the executive team and I had no problem going toe-to-toe with him and his dictator style of micro-managing. He once called me to ask what my employees were doing. When I rebuffed with a ‘what are your employees doing’ it turned into a two hour conversation about how he can run his division and I can run my department. He didn’t like that – but was always quick to apologize when he overstepped boundaries or knew conversations got heated for no reason due to himself.

He didn’t just bully me. He abused his power, he fucked with people for his own ego purposes and no one in the company was upset that he traveled 90% of the time. After I was promoted to his level as an executive, the work environment got extremely hostile and toxic for me. It felt like a personal witch hunt. Here was a man who used to show people a video I made while in an ‘80s cover band that showed a helluva lot of skin (you can’t see anything – trust me, my dad made sure of it) – to acting repulsed when he saw a photo of me modeling for a fellow employee’s jewelry line (who later became my direct report).

Said employee’s jewelry site was linked briefly (like 30 minutes) to our company Facebook when she was featured as the weekly team member. When Piss Ant clicked the link and found the above picture (that had been posted 10 months prior), he called and I immediately removed the link. You cannot tell it is me. My name is not mentioned. The company name is not mentioned but I completely understood why it needed to be unlinked. Problem solved, right?

Not so much. Three weeks later, I’m sitting in an office with Piss Ant, the president of the company, and an ultra conservative business consultant who knew (knows) nothing about the music industry and this photo is again brought to my attention. Piss Ant said an employee’s wife complained. When he told me who, I went to discuss the situation with him and he had no clue what I was fucking talking about. It was Piss Ant who had the “issue”.

One week later, the employee I had ‘modeled’ for – a member of my team – was terminated without my knowledge because they were ‘eliminating’ the position. A fucking social media position. Uh huh.

One month later, my position (which consisted of human resources, all administration, marketing, branding, production of new website, public relations, merchandising, company culture, company events, outside events, all things internal and external communication wise) was ‘eliminated’ and I was told by Piss Ant that I could now report to a new hire with 30 years of experience. The hired person was 29 years of age (who no longer is with the company – surprise – and has posted on their consulting website that they created everything I did at my tenure with the company. Classy fucking people, I tell ya). If I didn’t accept the new position offered to me (the social media position they eliminated just a month before), it would be considered a resignation on my behalf.

I was told that after almost four years with the company (who still had a former executive on a six month severance, which included healthcare and phone coverage) that they owed me nothing. As the conversation among us four executives got heated, we decided to take the night.

Well, you can imagine how that sat with me.

I was totally fine with it.

I came in the next day, knowing what was going to happen. I wasn’t going to be put into a corner, lay down and take it up the proverbial ass. When I brought the situation of sexual harassment with the note to a fellow executive, I was told to keep quiet, or I would receive no severance. The president had taken pictures of a box of wine I kept by my trashcan under my desk – again no secret that drinking took place at the office, as every single manager had either a mini fridge or a full bar in plain sight. I was told their lawyer was powerful, to take my severance, and they would send an email out to the company saying they eliminated my position and we would part ways (the email sent said I left of my own accord – again FUCK OFF).

Did you guys know I like to drink? Fucking secret’s out.

After I signed termination paperwork, tears were shed by Piss Ant as he walked me out the office front door and he said he didn’t agree with the way things went down. He didn’t agree with my leaving. He didn’t agree with the hire that was made in my place (FUCK OFF. He went to lunch with the replacement, gave the replacement the budget I had created, handed my department over, etfuckingcetera). He said he wanted to help me find another job. He said he would call. AS HE BAWLED.

I have yet to hear from him.

I can only hope that no one ever treats his daughter the way he treated me. The way he treats women. The way he treats other humans in general. But I sure as shit hope karma gets him.

Karma’s coming for you Piss Ant.

Sexual harassment isn’t new. Hostile work environments aren’t new. Men (and even women) abusing their status of power isn’t new. It’s also not going away anytime soon. But for me, this is about standing the fuck up for yourself. This is about standing up for those who can’t – or don’t – or feel unable (as I did). This is about awareness. This is about placing responsibility where it belongs. On the harassers. The predators. The abusers of power.

It’s not me. It’s YOU.

My takeaway from my horrible work experience(s), the career ruiner (what if I told? what would it do to my career in the music industry? would I be judged?), my anger (I still carry) is this –  it elevated me and gave me the gusto to tell when I was raped a month later.

I will never be silent. Ever again.

I will shout forever.

For you.

For me.

For them.

ME FUCKING TOO.

CBXB

 

 

Summer Shenanigans

When I heard the grand jury decided to drop my Rapegate case against The Rapist due to lack of evidence, I was bummed – maybe more numb – to say the least. This meant that it was truly over. The criminal portion anyway. Because whether I like it or not, the aftermath of this trauma is still something that I grapple with daily – and know that I always will. But instead of staying cemented where I was upon receiving this news (on my leopard couch, with Ted on my chest naturally) I inched ahead as life proves it stops for no one.

I got this.

After finding myself jobless at the beginning of the 2017, (nothing like being the most impatient person on the planet, waiting for an excruciatingly slow criminal system with nothing but free time on my hands!) I finally landed a new gig. Hey-oh!

Think they get me? More pink please!

A positive work environment is such a welcomed change from what I’ve experienced the past two years – a bully with too much power feasting on the misery of others and a washed up, drugged out psycho who failed to wear any undergarments to work for a boss. This job is a big score for me!

With the help of family and very close friends, I stayed afloat financially – paid my rent, my car note, fed my fur balls and made a much needed trip to Iowa to see family. Less than a year ago, the Dumb to My Dumber, Aunt Crazy Pants, was suddenly diagnosed with terminal cancer after going in for a hip issue.

Can you tell we’re related?

While it has proven a difficult road (as cancer is nothing short of a fucking motherfucker), her attitude and determination to maintain a semblance of her normal life has shown me strength like no other. We watched my Nashville Predators hockey team comethisclose to winning the Stanley Cup together.

Who doesn’t quilt while watching sports?

We even went out and about to grace her presence at the local Mexican restaurant where she is basically a celebrity after a round of treatment.

Three amigos.

Please keep Aunt Crazy Pants in your thoughts, as she’s now under hospice care in her own home. Although, she hasn’t lost her sense of humor.

Her best “Ouiser” impression from the movie, Steel Magnolias.

While back in the Hawkeye State, I also got to see the two peeps who never cease to put a smile on this face.

Princess B was going to frolic her way through her first dance recital and I put my heavily honed make-up skills to work, as her first go-round wasn’t quite the desired outcome.

Her method.

Our shared method.

 

Sheer perfection. And she fucking knows it.

Due to the sellout of the recital, Prince B and I stayed behind for a snuggle date after a little Star Wars walkie-talkie fun.

No Princess Leia here.

Snuggle monsters.

After the babes went down that evening, the adults got into cocktails and had our own recital, reliving dance moves from show choir past.

Sis still has the moves. Obvies.

Catching up with two of my Iowa gal pals it felt like I’d just seen them the week prior, when I hadn’t seen them in a few years. Isn’t that the best feeling?

Fresh start to the evening.

Guess which one of us has our shit together?

Margaritas with mom rounded out my trip before I headed back below the Mason Dixon Line.

In between trying to figure out my headset attached to my work phone…

You guys, seriously. How does Britney Spears do it?

…and lounging weekends away at the pool…

Bring Your Own Boxed Wine,

…the cat cuddling has been heavy-duty.

Spending the majority of the Fourth inside due to rain didn’t quash my celebratory spirit in the slightest.

Red, white and shoes!

With a little red, white and booze.

However, up in Iowa, the spirits weren’t as joyful.

The Nashville weather even cleared up enough for our small trio to head up to the pool, guzzle some cocktails, order a pizza and watch the largest display of fireworks in the nation from a distance.

Keeping it classy!

Back at it after a holiday, I still can’t figure my fucking headset out.

Being blonde is hard.

But it’s nothing a cocktail and a bubble bath can’t fix.

Cheers to the second half of summer!

CBXB