Uptown Funk

In an effort to save a file, do you ever create a title with every intention of changing it once it’s complete? Yeah, that’s what happened in this case, except when it was finally done, the title actually fit the story so I decided to keep it. The story was written in response to Song Lyric Story Saturday hosted by the lovely Naomi Harvey. This was one of my favorite prompts that I stumbled upon last year and I’m so happy she’s bringing it back.

This week the prompt was “Don’t believe me just watch” and we could either use the lyrics or reference the song. I chose to reference the song and only implied the lyrics in my story.  This is also written as part of JustJotIt January where my goal is one post a day in January. If you’re interested in joining, feel free to click the link and get started.

The story ended up a little longer than I was planning at 1465 words. Please enjoy! (Quick note… there is some language in this one, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you know the drill.)

Uptown Funk

Alexandria looked down at her phone and sighed at the screen, the text she had just received from Elle taunting her. She decided to forgo an hour of texting and hit the phone button to call her friend.

“Xandi! You’re coming, right?” Her friend picked up on the first ring and launched into what Alexandria had hoped to avoid.

“Elle, be real. You know how I feel about clubs.”

“It’s girls night and you haven’t been out with us in ages. We’re going to a new place. I heard it’s pretty chill. Just your style.”

“A club? Chill?”

“Don’t make me come to your house and drag you out with us. You know I will…”

Elle’s voice had taken on an air of finality that made up Alexandria’s mind.

“Fine. But I so don’t have clubbing clothes.”

“Wanna come over and sift through my closet? I’m sure I could find you something.”

Alexandria pictured Elle’s tiny body and dreaded trying to find something in her friend’s wardrobe that would fit her larger frame.

“Uh, no thanks. I’ll find something. What time?”

“We’re all meeting at my place for pre-club shots around eight. Des has a limo lined up so no one has to be DD.”

“A limo? God, are you serious?

“Cool, right?”

Alexandria heard the excitement in her friend’s voice but couldn’t match it. This was so not her scene.

“Fuck,” she whispered under her breath.

“Huh? Did you say something?”

“Uh, no. Never mind. I’ll be there.” She held the phone away from her ear when Elle let out a squeal that would make a dog howl.

“Text me a pic of what you decide to wear.”

“Worried I’ll pick something embarrassing?”

“Jesus, Xandi, no! What’s wrong with you? I just want to see it before anyone else. I’m sure it will be fabulous. You always are.”

“I hate to break it to you, Elle, but you are actually the fabulous one. I only dream of exuding awesome the way you do.”

Elle’s laughter rang over the phone. “You’re so funny. See you soon, Bae.”

“Yeah.”

Alexandria hung up and let out an even bigger sigh. She put her phone on the counter and walked into her bedroom. She rummaged through her wardrobe for a few minutes, knowing that no matter how hard she looked, she would never find something fit for limos and clubs.

After what seemed like an hour of discarding one article of clothing after another, she finally settled on black skinny jeans, a black push-up bra and a slinky grey tank top that showed just enough to make it look like she actually had boobs, when in fact she was barely a C. A pair of three-inch black heels completed the outfit.

In the bathroom, she ran her hands through her shoulder-length black hair, applied more mascara and some lip gloss and called it good. As an afterthought, she added a few sprays of perfume. Looking in the mirror, she did her best to smile and look excited. It was going to be a long night.

**

She started to loosen up after a few shots at Elle’s house. Des brought a bottle of pomegranate vodka that was nasty as hell, but got the job done. They managed to finish it all in the time it took everyone to arrive and it was close to ten before all eight of them piled into the limo and headed to the club.

They definitely turned some heads and started the party when they walked in, hips swaying and heels clicking. Alexandria was coerced onto the dance floor multiple times by her friends, but otherwise spent much of the evening nursing a margarita on the rocks and watching the people in the club watch her group. The only other person who caused as much attention when he walked in was tall, dark and cliched with a fedora, leather jacket and tight black jeans. He looked like he should have come with an entourage, but was strangely alone. It didn’t take him long before he was sizing up their group and making his way over.

He immediately focused all his attention on Elle; and who could blame him? She was squeezed into a short silver dress that showed off her tan legs and fabulous boobs to perfection. She was stunning and she knew it. The other girls slowly faded back to the dance floor, but Alexandria stayed to keep an eye on her friend.

“Tell me you’re not buying this,” she said to Elle when he went to order another round.

“He’s divine!” Elle’s eyes sparkled in the way only alcohol and a man could make them.

“Seriously? He’s cliched as hell. I probably could have guessed his name was Jake before he told us.”

“Oh, it’s just a bit of fun, Xandi.”

“Just be careful, Bae. I get a weird vibe from this guy.”

Elle focused on her friend and leaned in to hug her. “You’re so sweet, but I’m fine, really.”

“Promise you’ll leave with us?”

“I promise!” Elle kissed her on the cheek just as he came back to the table.

“What did I miss?” he said with a wink at Elle and a dismissive glance at Alexandria.

Knowing when to take a hint, she left them to it and made her way to the bathroom. It was a long enough line that some of the women were going into the men’s restroom, but she decided to wait it out and by the time she made it back to their table, it was empty.

Looking around, she was able to see most of her group bouncing away on the dance floor. The only one she couldn’t see was Elle. She made her way over to Des and had to shout in her ear to be heard.

“Did you see Elle leave?”

“Nope.” Des swayed down her side and back up in rhythm to the music, not catching on to the concern she was feeling. There was just something about Jake that made her skin crawl and the thought of Elle leaving with him made her nervous.

She left Des and the others to their dancing and went back to their table to send Elle a text. She gave it ten minutes with no answer before she decided to see if she could find her. She walked around the club, looking intently at each face and each couple. She walked back to the bathroom and checked the stalls for her friend’s heels. No sign of her.

Trying not to panic, she made her way to one of the bouncers at the door. “Did you see my friend leave by any chance? Tiny silver dress. Long blonde hair?”

“Lady, do you know how many of those I’ve seen tonight?”

Rolling her eyes, she mumbled under her breath, “Thanks for nothing,” and walked out the door.

She looked up and down the street but didn’t see Elle. She couldn’t say what made her walk around the side of the building, but she followed her gut and turned the corner. It took her two seconds to take in the scene in front of her before she was running toward her friend yelling, “Hey asshole! Leave her alone!”

Jake looked up from where he had Elle trapped on the ground, crying and kicking her legs. With a smile, he stood up and tried to help Elle off the ground but she scooted back out of his way, batting at his outstretched hand.

“Get away from me, you fucking jerk!” Her voice shook and hitched as she leaned against the side of the building.

Alexandria made it to her friend’s side. “Oh my God, Elle, are you okay?”

“Hey, I didn’t do anything she wasn’t asking for.” Looking up at Jake, Alexandria didn’t even think twice before punching her hand out as hard and as fast as she could, connecting with his groin as she yelled, “Fuck you!”

He let out a whoosh of air and doubled over with a grunt.

Alexandria turned back to Elle and started to help her up. “Come on, hon. Let’s get out of here.” When she stood up, she looked over at Jake doubled over and decided it just wasn’t good enough. She kicked him as hard as she could in the face and watched as he fell to the ground. “Piece of shit!”

She looked at Elle who was still shaking, her mascara streaking down her face. “I don’t think he was expecting that.”

Elle smiled through her tears as they walked together back to the main street.

She knew it wouldn’t erase what had happened, but Alexandria was sure they both felt better knowing Jake the cliche would walk away with something besides a smirk on his face.

My Story #yesallwomen

I was sitting on the train this morning when I came across this post my daughter shared on Facebook.  I first came across #yesallwomen when Chuck Wendig wrote about issues surrounding it on his blog.  His post started my thought process, then reading the one today pretty much threw me over the edge.  I can’t say I was sobbing on the train, but to say tears welled up in my eyes and I had such an influx of emotion that I felt ready to burst would be just about right.

I don’t own a twitter account, but I feel strongly compelled to share some of my experiences.  So many women have already done it and I applaud each and every one because it isn’t easy.  It especially isn’t easy when you receive the kind of comments and feedback that are happening on the Twitter feed.   Don’t think this is easy for me either, because it isn’t.  Even as I sit here, I’m wondering if this will stay a draft or if I should really do that thing where I hit “Publish” and send it out into the big bad world of people scrutinizing it and judging it either good or bad, right or wrong.  At this point, I’m not sure what the answer is, but if I knew for certain my story could help just one person, I wouldn’t hesitate.  In her article linked to above, Janne Robinson wrote, “I do identify as being an activist, and an advocate for human rights.”  I believe I fall into this category as well and if I can do one small thing, then I will, even if it matters not at all in the sum total of everything.

The sad thing is, when I started thinking about #yesallwomen,  I wasn’t really sure if I was “one of those” women or not.  But even from just the few posts I’ve read from the Twitter feed, I realize I have more experiences, more stories than I’m going to mention here – when I titled the piece “My Story” it is really only small snippets, moments among many that have happened in my life.  In fact, the more I thought of it, the more I remembered; the more I realized I have behaviors that are directly related to these experiences.  Some of the experiences happened in public places, but far too many of them were men I loved and trusted.

I walk about two blocks from the train to get to work every morning and yesterday morning I accidentally made eye contact with a guy walking in the opposite direction.  I gave him a small smile of acknowledgement then quickly put my head down.  He proceeded to make a point of  looking directly at me and said “Good Morning”.  I looked up and mumbled good morning than walked a little faster the rest of the way to work.  It is heartbreaking to me that I have been taught to be cautious on the street; that god forbid I make eye contact with a man lest he take it as some sort of invitation; how when he said something, my stomach jumped into my throat and it actually scared me; how I questioned his motives in simply saying good morning to me.  But honestly, we (all women) have been trained to be this way.  We have learned to be cautious and to not give too much lest it be taken in ways we don’t mean.

I have had men lean out of cars and cat-call nasty shit to me, whistle at me, you name it, just for walking down the street.  I’ve been that woman who said NO but it happened anyway. You really do think all the things you hear: he’s my boyfriend/husband and we do this all the time; what’s the point in fighting; let’s just get it over with so I can get the hell out of here or go to sleep; maybe I pushed him too far and he really can’t stop… I pushed him too far, like I have more power than he does over his sexual drive simply by my femininity.  It has happened several times and one of those times I was drunk and barely coherent enough to put up a fight, but I did say NO and I damn well know I didn’t participate in any way, shape or form.  He was drunk too… I told myself all the excuses, but should there be even one excuse for it?  I’ve also read that this shouldn’t be considered rape.  And the sad thing is, I’m on the borderline of thinking it isn’t either.  Because it wasn’t violent… Because it was someone I trusted and loved…

But looking back, I still felt violated.  I still felt like something happened that shouldn’t have.

I was working a few years ago as an administrative manager in a sales office.  We used to call it working in hell because there were pretty much zero redeeming qualities about it, except they paid relatively well and I kept telling myself there was no way I would find another job paying what I was making there without a degree and the type of work I do.  There were two salesmen who started within a few months of each other (they were brothers) and right away, all the women realized these two had no sense of personal space.  I cannot tell you how many times I told both of them to back up, to not touch me, to not say those things to me.  I never went to HR, because, I don’t know… I handled it.  I have a voice.  I can tell them to fuck off, and I did.  So. Many. Times.  One day, I was helping one of them and he was grateful for the help and I guess he thought he would thank me by rubbing my shoulders. Now, you might think this is pretty innocuous behavior, but it made me feel uncomfortable so I asked him to please stop.  He put up his hands and spluttered some halfwit apology and then he proceeded to say “I didn’t know…”  Which pissed me off.  I ended up raising my voice – I had told him multiple times and of course he knew and blah blah blah.  Once he left my office, I let the matter go because, status quo, and again, I had dealt with it.  The guy ended up telling his boss, no idea why, and I ended up in HR.  But not for the reasons you would think.  They did the obligatory are you okays and what happened routine, then proceeded to ask me if I had yelled at him.  Later the same day, he had come back to my office to ask about his SPIF money, which I happened to be in charge of,  and I snapped at him.  I did.  I’m not going to lie.  I was tired, he was still on my shit list for sexually harassing me, I was overworked and buried up to my eyeballs… I could count the reasons.  Anyway, I ended up getting in trouble.  I was told he had been talked to as well, but it struck me as utter bullshit because it screamed to me of retaliation and they bought into it.  Poor guy… he was short on funds and wasn’t making money and somehow I’m supposed to be sensitive and nice even though he can walk around invading my personal space, touching me and saying vile shit to me, but that’s okay because… I don’t know…  It isn’t okay, but the message I got from that employer was, you can’t be angry.  You can’t snap at them, even when they cross the line, especially when you cross the line too, even though you had ample reason to be angry.  So I continue to ask myself, did I really cross the line? Really?

I was told by my first boyfriend that it was my fault we had gone too far because I decided to wear leggings (we were Christian and not supposed to have sex until marriage).  I think I remember this one so vividly (it was 21 years ago) because it is difficult for me to wear “revealing” clothes.  I could say I was shamed by my father as a little girl when he would yell at me for wearing something he didn’t like and tell me to change – because religion and a male not taking responsibility for his thoughts but instead blaming it on his female daughter? I don’t know.  But, to this day it is hard for me to wear certain types of clothing.  And that day, I had stepped out of my comfort zone to wear something that empowered me as a woman and made me feel good about myself, only to be told “that turns me on, so it’s your fault I can’t keep my hands off you”.

I could honestly go on and on, but at the end of the day it just makes me sad.  It is sad that we live in this type of culture.  That men believe some of the shit they say and mock us for telling our stories.  That the victim is blamed more often than not.  That high schools actually have unfair policies about what young women wear as compared to what they allow young men to wear to school.  That it feels unsafe to walk down the street and do what comes naturally to me as a human – to smile and say hi to a man – simply because I’m a female.

I agree with Janne Robinson, it will take both genders to fix this problem.  It will take us all looking at that thing we do when we say things like “that’s a girl thing” or “that’s for boys” because when we say things like that we continue to buy into the separatism and inequality that persists in our culture.

There are great men out there.  I know this.  I believe I’ve finally found one, but we struggle every day because I’ve had some pretty awful men do bad shit to me in my life and it makes it hard to trust.  It makes it hard to have a meaningful relationship because the men I trusted most in my life were usually the ones who hurt me the worst and sometimes I see them in my boyfriend.  But we continue to live and survive and love because I love that wonderful thing called love.  I do.  And that, along with strength in unity, is what can help solve this problem.

All women have stories like mine.  Yes, it is all women.