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Walking Identity Crisis Posts

How to Remember

I suck at selling things.

Even at the library, since we’re trying so hard to boost circulation, I’ll often try to hand-sell a few extra books. People always turn me down… and they don’t have to pay anything!

Whenever I have a home party, I’m always demurring – “You don’t have to buy anything if you don’t want to! Just wanted to invite you because I like you! Ha ha!”

So why did I decide to crowdfund this book? (I’m asking myself the same thing.)

Today is my 36th birthday. I’ve been writing since I was in third grade. This is my fourth novel. The others all stink. I didn’t know how to construct a story, I was writing to trends, I didn’t want to be labeled as a certain kind of author.

I lamented and tore my hair about this. “How can I build a brand when I don’t want to write just one thing?” I said to my author friends. They told me to focus on the book I wanted to write: make it good. Make it something you would want to read.

So this is it. It’s about Miranda Underwood, who wakes up one morning feeling… off. She realizes she’s lost a year’s worth of memories. She’s a neuroscientist, working for a shady company called MindTech, which operates out of a secret basement office in Fairlawn – or at least she was until now. She’s got to figure out what happened to her. And you’ll get the explanation through Ben Baker, a computer programmer who tells the other side of the story during the year Miranda has lost.

I’m trying to figure out how to sell this to you, and maybe people who sell things for a living will have better answers. But what I’m thinking is that you’re buying potential. I believe in this book – I really do – and if I sell enough copies, I will get the editing and industry knowledge that the story needs to succeed. You’ll be helping to launch it. Holding the baby’s hands as she grows into a toddler, as she begins to walk on her own.

I’ve got 90 days to make 250 people buy this book. If I get up to 750, I get a higher tier of editing and marketing, and cover design, too. That goal may be a stretch, but I would love your support in helping me reach it. (But if you don’t want to, that’s OK too… No, Cari, stop!)

White Boys

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Yesterday I accidentally started scrolling through Ed’s Facebook feed. I happened to light on a post that pissed me off. Not because of the post itself, but because of the commentary.

Black woman: Shared a video about what happens at work when black women talk to white women about her hair. Captioned with: “This happens to me”

White man: This is dumb and racist. White people don’t talk to black people like that.

This man then proceeded to argue that the video portrayed white people as looking stupid and ignorant. The black folks on the thread continued to share their authentic experiences, and this man continued to silence them.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this. I’m not a black woman, so I cannot speak for them. I can amplify them and hear them. And I keep thinking about how I’ve seen women and people of color silenced every day. In social media, in real life. Every time I hear a white dude start speaking with the words “Actually,” I cringe.

Don’t try with the “not all men” tactic – we all know that there are plenty of warm, generous, and humble men in this world. I’m talking about a systemic problem. Read Rebecca Solnit. Mansplaining is a thing. I’m getting really tired of being told to smile when it isn’t necessary. Yes, I smile at the customer service desk, and I expect my staff to do the same – when patrons approach us. If I’m sitting there working on something, you better believe it’s my natural RBF. I’m not in a show choir.

Now I’m a big fan of being real. Read Brene Brown. I know that my experiences don’t speak for everyone in this world. I’m a white woman with a generous amount of privilege. I was lucky to be born with a high IQ and a lot of resources. Hear me out, and if you don’t like my theory, I’ll happily admit I’m wrong. Because that’s what people should do.

I get the sense that many white men have a tendency not to admit when they’re wrong. They’re not supposed to be wrong. Because they’re also not supposed to admit that they have emotions. They silence others because if they don’t, they have to acknowledge their shame. This is also a systemic problem.

So I’m trying to raise two white boys who acknowledge other people’s differences, hear other people’s experiences, are self-aware, and have emotional intelligence. Boys who aren’t afraid to share and who aren’t afraid to feel hurt when they make mistakes. Who show affection in public and say they’re sorry. Men who say, when a black woman talks about her experience, “Hey, that sucks! I had no idea you go through that at work. What can I do to help you?”

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Not Your Body

One of my friends is nearing her first baby’s due date. She’s a public librarian, like me. She’s been sharing the things people say to her. Recently, a barista gave her the side-eye because she ordered a half-caf coffee. Half-caf.

I was never judged openly for my coffee choices. But my friend’s posts are bringing back all sorts of memories. When you are pregnant, and you work with the public, you are a magnet. I felt like I had a glowing neon sign around my neck all day. I wanted to hide in my office and never come out. Both times coming back from maternity leave, I reveled in the anonymity of a flat (well, flat-ish) belly. I was able to fade into the background again.

Here is a selection of things people said to me:

“Damn, you’re huge!” With Oliver. This patron shouted this to the entire computer lab.

“Are you having twins?” Seven times at the ALA conference in San Francisco. I was four months with Oliver.

“There must be quadruplets in there!” Four months with Henry. I was really mad at this guy, but then I felt bad because he suffered a heart attack a few weeks later.

“When’s your due date?” Every freaking day in the last trimester. Both kids.

“Are you coming back to work after? I don’t think it’s proper for a mother to work.” With Henry. I didn’t know what to say.

“I thought you might be pregnant. You look bigger.” I was 12 weeks with Oliver.

“You’re not, like, a fat pregnant woman. Most pregnant women just look bad. You look cute.” Me: ….

I wonder why people don’t see anything wrong with any of these comments. But to get to a finer point – my body is not your business.

I am lucky that I am not an attractive woman. I’m pretty generic-looking. I’m not ugly, but I’m not stunning. I’m easy to hide in a crowd. The handful of times men have said things to me at work, I have felt icky and gross. I can’t even imagine how attractive women feel. What gives men the right to say whatever they want? Besides years of power and oppression…

But it’s not just men. Most of these comments came from women. Sometimes I thought women were trying to identify with me, if they were remembering their own pregnancies, but I never understood why they had to mention my size. In the case of my friend, what did that barista have to gain by saying something to her about her drink’s caffeine content? Did she think my friend was going to turn around and say, “Oh, you’re right, barista! I’m now going to limit my caffeine, and my baby’s growth will not be stunted! You are a life-saver! Here is a medal!”

I’m not pregnant or nursing anymore, but if I’m going to have a conversation with a woman about either one of those topics, it’s going to be because she brought it up first and she might be asking for my advice. I don’t know how to stop the rest of it, but as I do with most things, I’ll start by being kind.