Friday, May 26, 2017

I can't be what you want.

This post is going to make a number of my friends look at me sideways, probably lose me a few, almost certainly hurt several, and for that I'm sorry, but I just can't anymore.

I no longer identify as a Christian.

Haven't for a good three years at this point, and if we're being totally frank, I've been dodging this desperately since I was about fourteen. Twenty years. I saw the problems, had the proper apologist speeches and debate rhetoric memorized, and I was good at it, but in the back of my head I always knew I was singing for my supper, so to speak. I hurt a lot of people over the years, reciting those canned arguments, and I look back on that with shame that I couldn't walk away sooner. But I'm a coward at heart and social anxiety is a bitch. So now that I'm safe on the other side of a computer screen (told you I was a coward)...

There is so much toxic, abusive bullshit in the world of "The Church". Command-performance ecstasy. Emotional manipulation and outright brainwashing disguised as leadership and instruction. So much maneuvering people into speaking words they don't understand, expressing emotions they don't feel, and lining up behind philosophies, dogmas, and perhaps most tellingly, political positions that directly fly in the face of everything their own holy book instructs. Never mind that exactly *which* ideologies are enshrined changes every time you walk through a different church's doors, and each individual group is absolutely certain that they and they alone have The Real Truth.

Oh, certainly one is permitted to quibble over the nuances of Calvinism versus Arminianism(1), play word games with "a thousand years is as a day" to give the Earth another 7,000 years, even debate whether Paul really means that women should cover their hair and not speak in church, but the Really Important Stuff (abortion is murder, sexuality is 100% a choice, etc), these things are not negotiable. Yet somehow the Bible is inerrant and infallible and totally clear. And if you don't toe the line and shout Hallelujah with sufficient fervor, no matter your actual feelings on any given subject, then you're not really a good Christian. I can't do it anymore. 

I have spent most of my life in that world, where no matter what you actually know in the core of your being to be true and right and good, only this constant hyper-emotive religiosity is sufficient proof of the state of one's soul. Despite specific prohibitions in the Bible against exactly that sort of "praying on street corners" performative faith. I have yet to encounter any Christian church that does not create the precise social environment which encourages such displays of useless virtue. Indeed, practically demands them, if one is to reap the benefits of being in the group at all. And my give-a-damn is all used up, folks. I'm done.

My core beliefs have not changed, and my spiritual path is as active as it ever was. I've simply let go of the idea that Christianity as an organized religion knows what the hell it's even talking about, much less has a hard-line to the Almighty. I'm full of the realization that those core beliefs just don't line up with what the Church teaches in practice, and never did. It doesn't mesh, and I can't keep on buying a place with my voice and my talents when at a fundamental level, what I am cannot be resolved with what the Church tells me I must be, must do, must put out into the world. Please know, those of my friends who still find worth in being part of the Church, this is not a personal criticism of any of you, but of the Church as a whole, of its culture and the problems therein. I still love you, I don't think you're bad people, and I certainly do not expect anyone to alter their beliefs or expression thereof for my comfort. I'm just done pretending adherence to a religion I no longer believe does enough to deal with its internal flaws, instead of just white-washing over them to make everything pretty for Sunday morning.

And I'm going to try really hard to stop being such a chicken-shit coward about it, so at least the people I love can know where I stand.

So this is me... owning my shit. I will never experience "faith" the way that Church culture requires, and I am out of spoons to keep trying. "Fake it 'til you make it" is a fine philosophy for artists and entrepreneurs, not so much for spirituality. But I will put my shoulder to anyone's load if they need my help, just like I always have. Yell if you need me, people. Just don't expect me to pray with you.


(1) "Bad Ecumenism:The American Culture Wars and Russia's Hard Right Turn" by Chris Stroop, of Not Your Mission Field

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Birth VS Choice Divide: When loving people means making space for choices you don't like.

I've seen a lot of posts flying around, on both sides of the abortion issue. Rachel Held Evans posted a particularly compelling piece back in August that I recommend if you're of a conservative bent and open to some food for thought.

This morning I saw two posts that threw the whole debate into very stark contrast for me. One from a woman who was pregnant with a single child when something went terribly wrong, and the amniotic sac was partially through the cervix when she arrived at the hospital. Because of the laws in her state, she was repeatedly sent home over the next four days, even after she started bleeding, because the baby was technically viable, had a heartbeat, and termination was not permitted for any reason. There was nothing the doctors could do. Her child was loved, named, wanted. And could not survive. But because the law in her state does not allow a pregnancy to be terminated once there is a detectable heartbeat, she was forced to wait for four days, knowing that her baby was dying, at home, with no support but her equally devastated spouse, and when the inevitable finally came, it was that much more traumatic for the waiting.

The other post declared in strident terms that "late term abortions" don't exist. That abortion isn't necessary at all. That if a pregnancy is a threat to the mother, that's what c-sections are for. That all abortion should be banned, no exceptions, and that "ending a pregnancy" to save the life of a mother isn't an abortion at all. No mention of the myriad real life accounts of women being forced to wait while committees debate and courts decide. No mention of rape. No mention of incest. No allowances for mothers who had birth control or sterilization procedures that failed, who have abusive partners or simply cannot afford children. No mention of the struggles that will be forced upon those mothers by a culture and a government that cares only for a child born, and scorns anyone who needs help supporting that child later on. No mention of the hundreds of thousands of children waiting in our adoption and foster care system for families. 
It was purportedly written by an obstetrician. And it was written with so much scorn, such an utter lack of understanding that I cannot imagine anyone who has ever worked with pregnant mothers being so completely devoid of compassion. 

My heart hurts right now, for the women I know who have had to choose between their own life and the life of their wanted, planned-for child. Or had to choose between a short life filled with immeasurable pain for that child, or peace. The women who are being told that the brutal choice they had to make doesn't count as an abortion. Or that it does count, and they should have taken the chance of dying or letting their baby suffer and left it up to God, that they are murderers. The women who know intimately what it is to know that their baby is dying inside them, that their child cannot survive, that when the baby goes it may very well take mom along with it. What it is to be turned away from the hospital, sent home to await the end with no support because the laws in their state don't allow a "viable" pregnancy to be terminated for any reason. Or having to wait in the hospital while some faceless ethics committee they will never see passes judgment on their situation. 

The laws are written by people who have never, likely will never face that choice. Who decide in comfort and safety, without understanding the distinctions and situations they are playing with, what a mother can do to save herself, or save her child from a life that can't be lived. That is the horror that late term abortion bans force on women. Having the ability to accept pain for themselves to save their child from ever hurting taken away, and put in the hands of strangers.

It's a devastating choice I hope I never have to face, but I know that if I ever do face it, I want me, my husband, and my doctor to be the only people involved in that decision. And honestly, I hope I'm strong enough to choose to live, for the children I have at home. I hope I'm strong enough to choose to return that innocent soul to an existence without pain, rather than force them to suffer to save myself guilt. Just like I hope that if I am ever faced with having to turn off the life-support for a child who is so damaged that they will never draw another pain-free breath, and they are unable to decide for themselves, that I would have the strength to let that child go too. 

Ending a wanted pregnancy to save the mother's life, or to spare the child pain that can't be fixed or made better, these are choices no one should ever face. But some have to face it, and it's hard enough already. It doesn't need to be made harder by having their last shreds of control stripped away by politicians who don't understand how the laws they craft will endanger the women those laws affect, and care nothing for that child once it has slipped from the womb.

These aren't just stories on the internet to me. I know women who have been faced with that choice. I see how they struggle for the rest of their lives with the guilt, the shame, the aching never-ending loss. And I hurt for them, as they watch yet another round of pro-birth rhetoric threaten the already shaky ground they stand on. I watch their fear, as Roe Vs. Wade is threatened, as infanticide laws are used to arrest mothers who miscarry and mothers who access legal abortion services, as laws requiring funerals for miscarriages become reality. I see their helpless rage when the same people who took their choices away on the most horrible day of their lives are  also the people who want to cut funding to social safety net programs that feed, clothe, house, and provide doctors for the children that women are made to bear against their wishes, beyond their ability to support. The same people who let our disgustingly ineffective adoption and foster care system go underfunded, understaffed, and plagued with abuse and corruption. The mothers who bleed over this are not strangers. They are friends. They are people I love. They are real. I see them. I hear them. And I can't in any sense of conscience vote to take their choices away.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Chronic pain is a thing. We need to do more about it.

I saw this article wander across my feed today...   Taking Painkillers All the Time Doesn’t Make Me an Addict.  In it, Ms. Jen O’Neal responds as an EDS patient to a doctor (who has been treated for addiction to painkillers) who thinks that all drugs across the board (except marijuana) are evil.

It struck home.

Chronic pain is something that we demonize in this country, because for decades we have taught ourselves that anyone who depends on medication to survive and function is an addict, and addicts are weak, failed human beings. (No, they're actually not, but that's a different rant.) And because we equate medical dependency on pain killers with addiction to painkillers, people like me, who don't have mountains of medical history paperwork because our cases are relatively "mild", well, we just choose to live in pain, because getting treatment is adding one too many battles to a life that is already a war.

I have enough on my plate without a years-long fight for disability benefits, or presenting my case to doctor after doctor after doctor, praying I get referred to somebody who remembers the two sentence description of Ehlers-Danlos in the single lecture on chronic pain from medical school. I'm not exaggerating, I've actually been told straight up by the best family GP I've ever had that the single chronic pain lecture is where she remembered hearing the name "Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome". She had to look it up. I've had other doctors blink at me in absolute seriousness and express some variation of, "You have ... what, again?"

The one time I was on pain meds that worked, the doctor I was going to came under investigation for writing too many pain scripts, so he referred me out, to a Rheumatoid Arthritis specialist. Who took one look at the way I was standing (knees completely locked for stability), asked me to touch the floor, and wasn't the least surprised when I did it with flat palms without bending my knees. She knew exactly what I had, and sent me away with a new script for the same medication... at a dose that was half of what I had been taking. Without telling me. And because I was so relieved to have a proper diagnosis at last, because I trusted her, I didn't look. So I ran out (even though I only took it on days I was working), 10 days before I could get a refill, and because it was a bad pain day and I had to go to work that night and was facing a 10 hour shift on my feet, I burst into tears at the pharmacy window. Not my finest hour.

I never picked up that refill, because that one experience of "okay, we've got a druggie" looks from the pharmacy staff and every shopper within earshot was humiliating enough. I toughed out my job (that I loved, and was GOOD at, dammit), for another month, and then I quit because I was losing any semblance of stability in the face of that much constant and aggravated pain.

I haven't been to a doctor for the EDS since, and I can't bring myself to apply for disability. Which means I walk two miles every day, good day or bad, because it's teaching healthy habits to my kids, knowing that I'm buying myself hours of significantly increased pain. It means that my resume, which is 90% food service (I was a manager, for fuck's sake) does not qualify me for any job that I can physically handle, and even though I would totally kick ass as a secretary or an office manager or an executive assistant (because I'm also autistic & keeping stuff & people organized is my JAM), I don't have the experience to be considered against people who have been in the field for a decade. So no job, because I can't face convincing a doctor, and another doctor, and another, and then the pharmacist every time I pick up a refill. No disability, because the idea of that process of apply - deny - apply - doctor - deny - apply - doctor - doctor - doctor - deny - repeat until it goes to court - approve ... the thought of it looms before me and laughs as heartlessly as any cartoon villain. I can't. Just can't. Don't have the wherewithal.

And then I find out that Ohio legislators are thinking about legalizing medical marijuana, which the studies are showing does wonders for chronic pain conditions... except the proposed bill only recognizes 20 conditions where patients would be eligible (you guessed it, EDS didn't make the cut), and even then it's so restrictive as to make consistent pain management nearly impossible...

But sure, go right ahead and judge me because I'm not a size 6 and there's a pint of Haagen Daz in my grocery cart. Go ahead and tell me "just apply for disability, since you're so sure you qualify", when you don't know that the genetic test for my condition isn't reliable because they haven't fully mapped out the human genome yet, so they have to go with a clinical diagnosis, which means I am at the mercy of the doctor, who may or may not have the slightest clue what Ehlers-Danlos is or how it presents or what it means for quality of life. Go ahead and tell me how self-hypnosis or prayer or crystals or dietary supplements or therapy or massage or yoga or gastric bypass (yes, the fat-shaming was awesome) cured your "constant pain". Go ahead and tell me I should just suck it up and get a job. Go ahead and tell me "wow, I'd love to be a SAHM, and with a sister living in to help with the kids too! I'm so jealous!" Just let me inject some ground up glass into your joints and have you walk around like that for a mile or so. Then we'll talk.

We can't keep ignoring and shaming chronic pain. It is destroying lives, and treating people like criminals and failures because they'd like to be able to stand or sit or breathe or work without hurting leaves far too many with nowhere to turn.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid...

So, I got basically zero sleep. Anabelle slept just fine. JJ, for God knows why, was all over the bed and couldn't lay still to save his life. Wiggle, turn, kick, toss, cuddle, squirm, "Bud, lay still," or "Back to your own bed, JJ", all freaking night. And of course he's perky and rested, and I feel like warmed-over roadkill.

Wanna know the real kicker? The only computer we have that can cope with Netflix has once again decided that it's not going to play nice. So I can't even stick him in front of an electronic babysitter for the morning.

What I *want* to do is make him sit in an empty Pack & Play with a tray of dry cold cereal, a water bottle, absolutely nothing to do, and spank him every time he wiggles or complains.

Because that's what my parents would do if I had kept them up all night, and that's fair, right? My turn, right?

Because I am not my parents, I will not be putting my 3 year old on the equivalent of lock-down. I will not be slamming doors and muttering imprecations at inanimate objects all day long.

He has a breakfast dray consisting of fruit, a peanut butter sandwich, and sliced lunch meat, which he loves.

He has a pack of crayons and a stack of fresh paper to draw on.

He has a room full of toys and books with which to entertain himself.

And I have explained to him in the clearest possible terms that there is to be no whining, complaining, or fit-throwing today, and that pretty much everything he says to me had best start with the words "Yes, Mommy."

So far, he's doing surprisingly well with that bit.

I'm doing surprisingly well with reminding him when he forgets.

The cats keep trying to trip me, I can hear the hus-beast snoring all the way in the livingroom, the baby is still sound asleep, and oh yeah... the Road Works department decided that our setback was a good spot to put a construction warning sign. Once again I seem to be the only person who knows how to load a dishwasher or put the clean stuff away, and it's a damn good thing there's a crock full of dinner ready to go, because the kitchen's closed today.


I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid,
I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid,
I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid,
I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid,
I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid,
I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid,
I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid, I love my kid.

It's not his fault he had trouble sleeping. He can't help it that he was restless. I have restless nights where I toss & turn all night long... or just get up and read a book.

*deeeeeeeeeeeeeep breaths*

Friday, September 4, 2015

Glass houses and the rule of law

It's getting political around here lately, I know. I promise, once I have a computer with a working webcam again, I will return (mostly) to your regularly scheduled baby cuteness, crafting explorations, and assorted Nolan family updates.

But for today... Kim Davis. The court official from Kentucky who closed her office and refused to issue *any* marriage licenses rather than comply with a Supreme Court ruling and multiple orders from lower circuit court judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Mrs. Davis has been incarcerated on a charge of contempt of court. Her lawyer has recently made a statement (here) that should have anyone with a working brain up in arms. Short version? She's being compared to a Jewish person living in Nazi Germany.

Just think about that for a sec. She is being held up as a modern day martyr, painted as a victim on a level with people who were murdered on a mass scale, because she refused to do her job. Her job which, so far as I can tell, does not require her to sin.

I was waiting on a friend's okay to share a response they had read, because it was simpler and better stated  than anything I'm going to come up with, but I don't feel I can wait on this any further, so I'll just make my own. Fair warning, I am LIVID over this. I usually prefer to let the political stuff percolate for a bit longer before I open my mouth, just because it takes me that bit of extra time to order my thoughts well, but this directly insults and minimizes the history of four people whom I love fiercely, and I cannot be silent.

If anything had the power to make me ashamed to call myself a Christian, it would be self-aggrandizing bigotry like this. She is not a martyr, people, and shaking our heads and turning an embarrassed eye while she allows her attorney to present her as one is no different from openly supporting her rhetoric. Let's not forget that professing a belief in God as described in the Christian Bible is damn near an unwritten prerequisite for even running for an elected office in this country, let alone winning one, certainly anything on a state or national level. The idea that Christians are being "persecuted" in this country would be laughable if it weren't so disgusting, we have never been so free and protected as we are here and now. It is that very freedom which allows people like Ms. Davis to think that their religious beliefs give them the right to ignore the law.

Kim Davis is not being persecuted for her faith. She is an elected public official who refused, in the face of a lawful order from the highest court of the land, to do her job. She closed down her office, sent all her subordinates home (forcing them to flout the law as well, whether or not they actually support her views), and refused to issue any marriage licenses at all, rather than issue them to same-sex couples in compliance with the law of the land. And yes, before anyone says it, I'm aware that Kentucky law still defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Federal law trumps state, and the Supreme Court has come down on the side of gays having the same right to marry as everyone else. Render unto Caesar, anyone?

 "But don't you believe that Christians have a duty to protest against laws they feel compel them to sin?"
(Because someone's going to ask, so here we go.) Of course I do. If the law of the land required me to commit murder, I would refuse. If it required me to submit sexually to any man who took a fancy to my body, I would refuse. If it required me to give over my minor children to the total control of the state, I would refuse. (Oh, wait... home school... so, already doing that.) I absolutely believe that people of good conscience and sound mind have a moral obligation to assess the laws as written and enforced, and respond accordingly. And by "respond accordingly", I mean don't put yourself in a position where a compromising law would apply to you. For example, the Amish do not run for public office, as doing so would require the use of modern technologies which violate their beliefs, and if elected, would possibly involve them in military activities. For avowed pacifists, that's a problem, so they just don't put themselves in that position.

If you believe that same-sex relationships violate God's law (I don't, and I can argue the relevant Scripture as well as anyone), then it's really, really simple to avoid that sin. Don't be in a same-sex relationship. Last time I checked, the law does not require Mrs. Davis to join in marriage with a woman, have sex with a woman, shake hands with a woman, or even trade air-kisses. It requires her to issue marriage licenses to couples who meet the requirements of law to wed, which, following the recent Supreme Court decision, same-sex couples most assuredly do. The law says not one word about the issuing of a marriage license being indicative of the court officer's *support* of that marriage, and in fact we expect our elected officials to do their jobs as required by the law, irrespective of their personal beliefs. Therefore, even by her own definition, her job does not require her to sin, it just plain doesn't.

One further point... and I'd say this falls squarely under getting the plank out of one's own eye before remarking on the speck in another's... Mrs. Davis? Is on her fourth marriage. Her **fourth**. The same Scriptures which she uses to support her defiance of the Supreme Court ruling also mention that divorce is unholy except under very specific circumstances, and that remarrying after divorce is committing the sin of adultery. I fail to see how her fourth marriage, by literalist reading of Scripture, is any less problematic than the same-sex marriages the law now requires her to license.

From where I stand, the walls of Mrs. Davis' house are formed from a perilous amount of glass, and she's the only one throwing stones.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Privilege Check

So I saw this on Facebook yesterday. And I had a moment of conflicting reactions, because of course all human lives matter equally. Duh, right? So I had that moment of "Yep", and my hand started heading for that share button.

And then my brain went, "Hold on there, cowgirl, privilege check."

Because, yes, all lives matter. But...

People have an instinct to demand that others notice them, acknowledge their story, validate their existence. When someone tags a post with #blacklivesmatter or #zebrastrong or #redinstead or whatever cause is dear to their hearts, there is a need to wave and shout and remind the universe that we exist too. That the lives we care about matter too. And they should.

Because we live in a society that has made the claim that all "men" (used here to represent humanity as a species) are created equal. That every human life is precious. We have come as a culture to the intellectual realization that even though those words, when originally set to paper, didn't really mean all people were created equal, but actually just meant all rich, white, straight, male people, they SHOULD mean that all human lives are equal. Equally worthy, equally valuable, equally precious.

The problem is that all our laws, our unwritten social rules, our habits and assumptions, they're all geared for the old system. And in that old system, various groups of people have been consistently treated as lesser. Less valued. Less worthy. Less human. Minorities when the ethnic majority is in charge. Women when the men are making all the rules. Non-believers when the religious leadership has the power. Children, because even a slave is bigger and stronger than an 8 year old. That's why even today incarceration rates for minorities are so horrifically out of balance, why women (all other factors being equal) still get paid less than their male counterparts for the same work, why we still fight over commandments on courthouses and prayers in Congress, why in this land of freedom and civil rights, it is still both legal and socially acceptable to hit, verbally demean, and publicly humiliate children in the name of "discipline". (Think about that, seriously. It's legal to hit kids, as long as you call it discipline, when committing the same assault upon the body of an  adult would likely result in someone calling the police. And see? There's one of my near & dear causes taking over.) Point being, when the old habits meet the new mindset, there is friction. There are people who feel the need to say "Hey, don't forget us, we matter!", because the old system says they don't, but the high-minded cultural ideals say they should.

When someone feels that need to wave their arms and shout "HEY, WORLD, I MATTER!!!", it tells me they feel unseen. Unheard. Small. Pushed aside. Ignored. I know what that feels like, and I don't much care for it. So I try, really hard, to resist the urge to shout back "I MATTER TOO!!!", because it doesn't always have to be about me, and because of my skin color and growing up with relative wealth, it very often is about me, or the people I focus on. Someone else asserting that the lives they care about matter says not one word about the lives I hold dear mattering any less, just that their lives matter equally and they feel like no one is paying attention. So I try to take a breath, keep my mouth shut, and listen for a while. Acknowledge those lives that someone feels are being swept under the rug. Validate those feelings of powerlessness. Make eye contact, communicate that they are equal in my sight. (And that's a tough one, because autism & eye contact are not great bedfellows!)

Because I want my children to grow up in a world where those high-sounding words aren't just words. Where all human lives matter to an equal degree. I want them to see their mother taking that moment to pause and acknowledge another's situation, so when they grow up, they will remember that they matter, but so does everyone else. I want them to learn, when someone screams out "I MATTER!!!", to respond not with "I MATTER TOO!!!", but with...

I see you. I am listening.

Tell me your story.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

So Fifty Shades opened in theatres today.

Yet another time when I've kept my mouth shut because PTBs forbid someone who hasn't taken a flying leap into the fandom have an opinion... but here goes.

My father was Christian Grey. My mother was Anastasia Steele.

He was handsome, charming, financially comfortable, educated, experienced. She was young, bright, and terribly, terribly naive. He was funny, and brazen, and could talk her into accepting lavish presents. She was a beautiful girl from a very small town, running away with the man who promised to show her everything, if only she obeyed his every whim. He was an actor worthy of the reddest of carpets. She was fooled.

She told me once that she knew on her wedding night that she had made a mistake, when he flew into a rage over nothing and flung his ring at her head.

But she stayed. Because he didn't mean it. Because his mother was a hag who brought him up badly, not his fault he has temper problems. Because she must have done something to provoke the outburst. Because good girls don't get divorced, a marriage is a contract, after all. Because it wasn't always bad, sometimes he was amazing! Because she had moved with him thousands of miles from home and if she tried to leave he would take her children. Because if she could just pray enough, be perfect enough, love him enough, he could change. Because, because, because.

I'm not going to even touch on the two-bit half-assed ignorant portrayal of BDSM, except to say that a Dominant who behaved in such a fashion would swiftly find themselves blacklisted with nobody to paddle. As a whole, the community polices itself well, and abuse/rape/consent issues are not tolerated.

The problem with Fifty Shades is not the kinky sex. The problem is that it's practically a how-to manual for sociopaths to gas-light themselves a nicely trained long-term punching bag. Sticking the fairytale marriage + children on the end of it is the most dangerous part, because it is exactly the conclusion that every abuse victim convinces themselves will happen if they can just be perfect. It tacks the ultimate carrot onto the myth of "If I love my abuser enough, they can change. If I love them enough, I can fix them. And if they're still being bad to me, it's my own fault."

What adult people do in the privacy of their homes with full informed consent all around, that's their own business. But Fifty Shades sanitizes portrayals of stalking, manipulated and withdrawn consent (did the definition of rape change when I wasn't looking?!?), and a dozen other points, dressing them up in silk sheets and champagne, that all come down to one thing, an abuser grooming a victim. We should not be normalizing this.

Let's be real here for a sec. This is not a love story, it is an abuse fantasy. Which is fine, lots of people have rape and abuse fantasies, but the vast majority don't go and live them out in daily life. For those that do, there are domestic violence laws. (Woefully inadequate, but that's another rant.) So if that's what cranks your motor, then fine, crank away. Not my kink, but whatever. Just don't try to tell me that it's a beautiful love story, or a dynamic and growing relationship, or anything other than an abuse fantasy. And don't give me that line about the "intended audience" either, books in the grown-ups section don't come with age ranges. So just don't. Call it what it is, acknowledge that's what turns you on, and process that for a bit.

Because I am the child who grew up in the house at the end of that narrative. The huge, spotlessly clean showpiece of a home. The isolated, broken mother, an intelligent and beautiful woman reduced to arm candy. The handsome, sociopathic dad, who flies into a rage if he is given a salad fork instead of a dinner fork in his table setting. The children, groomed and trained to be the next generation of victims. It's not harmless fantasizing. It's real. It happens every single day behind locked doors in rich neighborhoods, abuse is no respecter of wealth or station, race or creed. To you it might be your bedroom play, but to me, it is the first 22 years of my life. It affects my decisions and behaviors to this day, and it can never be just fiction.