They Went On Dating Him After He Raped Them

Jody was new to town and after being introduced to Jeff, agreed to hang out. Over her glass of beer, she wondered, “Now, how am I going to tell him I’m a lesbian?” He said he was cool with it. She made it clear this wasn’t a date. At one point in the drinking marathon, she spotted white granules at the bottom of her shot before everything went dark. The taxi driver reported seeing Jeff half-drag Jody up to his condo. She woke up with her clothes rearranged, knowing she’d had sex. She did a few things the scores of other women had not. Jody went straight to the hospital, procured a rape kit, and spoke with the police. And she didn’t stay Jeff’s friend.

He said he was a surgeon, astronaut, and CIA agent. His Match.com profile showed him in scrubs as well as an astronaut’s suit, and he flashed a badge on dates. In reality Jeff Marsalis was a nursing school drop-out, now known as the “worst date rapist in the nation’s history.” He went on to earn an impressive string of rape accusations, twenty-one in the Philadelphia area over incidents that occurred between 2001 and 2005. Two weeks before the second trial that would acquit him in that city, Jody pursued her case in Idaho.

Like her, the other women found him a gentleman in the morning when they came to. A few vaguely recalled the terror and panic, feeling him on them. But he seemed very caring, sent flowers to some in the coming week. Jeff convinced them through the confusion that everything was fine. Many of them told ABC News that “they wanted to convince themselves of that” and continued seeing him. I didn’t “want to be traumatized by this,” said one, “…thinking oh, he’s a doctor…trying to rationalize this.”

Help me out here.

I don’t quite think we can cast a blanket judgment that these women were stupid. Not only was Marsalis a skillful con artist but the women were intelligent working professionals. Curiously, the fact that they didn’t come across as bimbos made the jury question their testimonies in the first two trials. They were calm, didn’t cry. They had to be lying. And as sensitive as we women are, we know when something’s not right – especially with our body. The sheer number of victims also raises the interesting question on the psychology of guilt. An obligation is often a weight of guilt and in answering it, we allow someone else’s desire to overrule ours. Keep it up and your load ends up even heavier with resentment as your own prerogatives lose ground. Why are men less susceptible to the surrender of their boundaries and self-reproach in the face of their own inclinations? I’m not speaking in iron categories, saying all men are immune to people-pleasing. My guess is how we women tend to define ourselves by and draw our sense of worth from relationships more than men do. Because I don’t feel I quite fit the mold in this regard, I am confounded by the behavior of these women who swallowed the fear, suspicion, indignation, and shame, choosing instead to believe a fairy tale that the sweet-talking, smart, handsome doctor really liked or loved them and they would somehow ride into the happily ever after with him. Yes, the human condition tempts us to believe what we want to believe. We fear the truth. But why are women, over against our sixth sense, more likely to doubt our own perception and mistrust our ability to assess situations? Why more likely to blame ourself, as several of the victims later shared they did?

The defense attorney suggested that Jody was so drunk she didn’t remember wanting to have sex. But she wasn’t even conscious. “The defendant is accused of having sexual intercourse with a female who was unconscious due to an intoxicating substance,” the Idaho prosecutor said in court. “That is not consensual sex, it’s rape.” Not to mention that Jody would not have consented because she was gay.

After three-and-a-half long years, Jody and all the other victims could recover a measure of peace. Marsalis was sentenced to life, finally found guilty of rape.

When Parenting Sucks

I’m going to regret this post. I’ve avoided rants on this blog for a number of reasons, among them my great dislike for the word rant. It rubs me the wrong way, especially in its overuse. If the word is a big part of your blog, please don’t take offense. You shouldn’t care what I think. ‘S only me. Well, I never imagined my first tirade would be about my sweet, amazing seven-year-old. But if it must, it’s really about myself. Days like this, I’m mystified – in fact, undone – by this beast called parenting. Because I come up short.

Finding myself relegated to being a parrot in my home, I’d just like to stay human. I tell my boy eight times to do his math. Six times to come here. Seven, to clean up. By the third repeat, he should hear the aggravation rising. On the fifth, the mercurial red transmutes into its auditory counterpart commonly known as yelling. Dear Christian reader, kindly pause before you start composing your advice. Spare yourself the trouble. We don’t have to force our relationship. I know I’m not doing it right. I know I should pray with and for my son more. I know it’s his parents’ job to train him to obey promptly, cheerfully. It’s a gulf between knowing and practice. I’ve sat in on the best parenting Bible studies as early as my college days. I was geared up for this, signed up ready to lay it all down.

All, that is, except myself.

I need to get out of my own way so that it’s not so personal when I’m ignored. It’s not about my demands that must be satisfied. I want my child to submit to authority higher than his mother’s. To Playroomdevelop a sense of honor and a work ethic that lasts beyond twenty golden minutes of fresh resolve after the tears, brokenness, I’m so sorrys and I’ll work harders. On his third plea for forgiveness and promise to take lessons seriously, all noble intentions in the parenting evaporate in the indignation that this kid is not listening to me, is wasting my time. I explained to him today why I’m always driving him to work when it’s time to work. Time is one thing you can’t get back like the toy you lent a friend. You let it go and it’s gone for good. “Why can’t you listen when I’m nice?!” It’s a rational appeal my wide-eyed boy can’t answer in word or deed. Why is something so simple so illusive? I’m all angst because the question bears implications for his character. You said you want to grow up and have seven kids, Tennyson. How are you going to take care of them – make money like Daddy – if you don’t build good work habits, build your mind? I worry that you are so comfortable. Daddy and I didn’t have a giant playroom like you do. I never even had my own room. You have more toys than we counted in our dreams. But it’s not his fault he has a spacious house, has all his needs met. How to keep him thankful for all the blessings? All I know is somebody‘s working in a soup kitchen when he’s a teenager. And here I am talking about gratitude when there are women who’d give their left arm to be a mother. We’ll always find something to be unhappy about.

P1070961So we’re out almost everyday for his mixed martial arts classes. Then there are the art, drum, swimming lessons. Between my time outside and the cooking inside, this is my kitchen. Everyday. If I attempted an offense against the dishes beyond the minimal defense of trying to eke out the bowls we needed for the day, I couldn’t touch this blog. I packed Tennyson’s swim things and snack this morning and rushed to boil his eggs, steam his sweet potatoes for lunch so they’d be ready the minute the “I’m hungry” came out of his mouth fresh out of the pool. Fatigue tattooed in my bones, I served up lunch and after, told him to come read to me. I said it three times. After a month, a year of this, I was fed up. Am I asking too much? I’m surrounded by moms who talk like they’re broken record players. Many employ my favorite of parenting tricks: “I’m going to count to three…” Nice, teach the little ones to delay obedience. I refuse to be one of these women. At the same time, I can’t help feeling pathetic while blaming a child for my failings. Unless kids have some disability of sorts, they do or don’t do what they have learned is allowable. And I have a pretty easy kid. He’s wonderful on the whole, isn’t ornery, doesn’t throw tantrums.

On the way home from his art class this afternoon, I told him I called the local school. As of tomorrow he no longer homeschools. Yes, I lied. (This is where you unfollow if you were on the fence. I agree. It’s a sham I want to teach my boy integrity.) He will learn to learn and we can be happy as mother and son. Tennyson flipped out. In helpless fear, he retorted, “I’m just going to run away!” Right. Leave your palace, your stash of 1001 toys, and the mother whose life revolves around that sumo wrestler’s appetite of yours. I pulled over, pushed the button to slide open the door of the minivan. “Get out. Go.” He stayed put, then burst into tears looking older than his years. He unbuckled from the back and stumbled over to me, “Umma, I’m so sorry. I’ll do my work. Pleeease.” And half-contorted himself to be able to wet my head with kisses – generously spilling the canteen of water in his hand. I told you to place it by the window!

P1070654Tennyson, you can’t know how desperately I want to crawl out of this body, disappear and place a wiser, more easy-going woman in front of you. Someone not hung up about how things should be. You’re growing and I’m just not sure how to teach you life is not a playground. I know that by the time you read this you’ll remember how I made you feel more than the facts I taught you. I just hope you’ll still be my famously happy boy.

The Afterlife We Call Legacy

I wondered why Bill Clinton’s and Michelle Obama’s tribute to Maya Angelou sounded so familiar. The eulogies were beautiful and compelling, but it felt like I was hearing the speakers replay a long conversation I’d just had with them on color, courage, and identity. It hit me. They were talking like contributors to my Race Around the World. I grinned thinking Yeah, Michelle would’ve written for the Race. Anyone have access to her for my next series? I felt awe seeing the ripples of Maya’s influence upon people who would become pillars of the most powerful nation in the world. When Maya was a little girl she was afraid her voice had killed a man after the rapist she’d named was found dead. She quit talking for six years. Maya didn’t know she would find it again, a voice that would bring life and healing to those who listened.

Here’s Bill: I first encountered Maya Angelou as a young man when I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” It was written in 1970 about the time I started law school, and shortly after it came out, I read it and I was the one who was struck dumb. She called our attention to things that really matter — dignity, work, love and kindness — things we can all share and don’t cost anything. And they matter more than the differences of wealth and power, of strength and beauty, of intellect. All that is nice if you put it to the right use, but nothing is more powerful than giving honor to the things we share.

I got chills hearing Michelle. I was struck by how she celebrated black women’s beauty like no one had ever dared to before. Our curves, our stride, our strength, our grace. Her words were clever and sassy, they were powerful and sexual and boastful..but she also graced us with an anthem for all women, a call for all of us to embrace our God-given beauty. And oh, how desperately black girls needed that message. As a young woman, I needed that message. As a child, my first doll was Malibu Barbie. That was the standard for perfection. That was what the world told me to aspire to. But then I discovered Maya Angelou, and her words lifted me right out of my own little head. Her message was very simple. She told us that our worth has nothing to do with what the world might say. Instead, she said each of us comes from the Creator, trailing wisps of glory.

Dr. Angelou’s words sustained me on every step of my journey, through lonely moments in ivy-covered classrooms and colorless skyscrapers, through blissful moments mothering two splendid baby girls, through long years on the campaign trail where, at times, my very womanhood was dissected and questioned…Words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House. She touched me, she touched all of you, she touched people all across the globe, including a young white woman from Kansas who named her daughter after Maya and raised her son to be the first black president of the United States.

As a kid, I kept to peers who were bicultural and shied from those more Asian than I out of a sense of superiority. Not thinking that I myself was above those who were more traditionally Asian but because I had bought into the myth that white culture was superior. The blonde on TV was cooler than my parents. I’m obviously over that. I wish I were the measure of my mother.

When Oprah took her turn to speak at the memorial service, I saw more clearly than ever the power and need of role models for all children. Being able to see ourself in the mirror of a hero gives us hope to dream bigger than our circumstances. I marvel at God. I am just in awe that I, a little colored then Negro girl, growing up in Mississippi, having read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” for the first time, read a story about someone who was like me. I was that girl who loved to read. I was that girl who was raised by my southern grandmother. I was that girl who was raped at nine.

I remember when I opened my school in South Africa and I said to her, oh Maya, this is going to be my greatest legacy. And she said, not so fast. Your legacy is every woman who ever watched your show and decided to go back to school. Your legacy is every man who decided to forgive his father…Your legacy is every person you ever touched. Your legacy is how you lived and what you did and what you said every day. So true, sister Maya. I want to live your legacy…Each of us who knew her, those only touched by her words or those who were able to be blessed to sit at the kitchen table, we are next in line to be a Maya Angelou to someone else. It’s a challenge that I embrace with my whole heart.

I caught philosopher Stephen Cave on radio last month when he maintained that all fears, like those of flying or driving, really come down to the fear of death. He said we can’t imagine not being. In the post What If You Weren’t Afraid?, readers brought up the matter of healthy fears, what some consider necessary survival mechanisms. We’d better be afraid of anything twice our size wielding a weapon – fangs or knife. I’m no evolutionist but oh yes, we do want to live and keep living. I believe our wish to leave a worthy legacy is the desire to live on beyond death. Our afterlife.

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Race. The colour of my skin, the flare of my nostrils, the texture of my hair, the S of my backside. I am none of these; I am all of these. Race. My mother is caramel, my father pure chocolate, and I am hazelnut. They taught me that education and excellence would open any door. I believed it; still believe it. Race. Raised in Nigeria, I live in The Netherlands. I temper the directness of the Dutch with the verbosity I think Nigerians inherited from the British. Race. When I look in the mirror, I see a girl, a woman, a lover, a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, a mentor, a coach, a writer, a warrior — all I have been, all I now am, all I will one day be. When I look in the mirror, I see me. What if my father were Australian and my mother Chinese? Would I still be me?

Timi at Livelytwist

clker.com

clker.com

 

I hate being judged. Who doesn’t? But we still do it, all the time. Where I come from, Pakistan, many of us live in constant fear of what people say or think of us with someone always breathing down your neck.  It’s difficult to break away. And the sad part is, I was no different. I labeled people based on how they looked, talked, walked, on their work, race, and beliefs. But now my heart can’t take the burden anymore. I want out of the vicious cycle. Standing in front of this mirror, I rejoice at my diversity as a woman, Muslim, Ghilzai-Punjabi-Pathan, Pakistani, Canadian. I celebrate my many faces. And I keep on against the urge to judge because I’ve been on the other side. The reflection in my mirror is no longer blurry. I can finally see.

Nida On the Road to Inkrichment

 

As a girl, I wished these Korean eyes were bigger. It hit me that I never wished for blue eyes or brown with long Caucasian lashes. Only that mine were rounder. And there’s this nose, the most displeasing part of my face that I grew to forget as my sense of self took shape around deeper things: my gifts, faith, values. These lines, a chronicle of the choices I have made in self-neglect. Always too busy to primp, to nurture Self. And the lines that also tell of things outside my control, Mom’s enviable genes that passed me over. The woman in the mirror is the youngest she will ever be. I see naked imperfection. It is what my boy looks upon everyday. My breath catches. To him, I am the clearest face of God.

Wayfarer on A Holistic Journey

 

What do you see in the mirror?

The Race Around the World: Behind the Scenes

So I’m taking a breather, slowing my pace, taking stock. Behind the unassuming titles in the series has been a lot of work. I have combed through the submissions and tapped some contributors for as many as six drafts for the clearest chronology and descriptions. I would not be surprised if my “Would you please clarify what you mean…” has pursued the poor writers into their dreams at night. The feedback on the Race has been overwhelming. I am deeply grateful for responses like K’lee’s from Obzervashunal:

“[You] touched upon something so universally potent, you have created something so unbelievably amazing here, a groundbreaking series. I know you feel it, but I hope you REALLY feel it. If this were a book I had the privilege of sampling, I don’t doubt I would buy it. It feels so GLOBALLY impactful. Thank you for taking this on!” Other awesome readers who also saw this project as an ebook forced me to consider it, and consider it from several angles I did. I’ve decided it’s not feasible. Even if I had the time to put a book together, the legalities, pricing, copyright present themselves a thicket I don’t have the wherewithal to cut through. You not only have embraced my vision of exploring what is unique and universal across cultures but have dreamed for me. And you pull me up to higher ground. I wish I had more than thanks for you.

I was also taken aback by the response on my own story. One reason writing is a challenge is that you’re so deeply in it. When you’re your own topic, objectivity is even harder, if not impossible. You just don’t see what others do. I was surprised by and appreciated how you took to the glimpse of my autobiography. What I, in turn, found interesting was observing you, my reader. Watching you graciously welcome guests, investing time in their stories, willing to broaden your mental horizon. My own perspectives are limited by my experiences, and so it’s been neat to see others find fascinating an opinion or event that happened not to hit me in any particular way.

LESSONS SOME OF US LEARNED
I learned how ignorant I am. The back-and-forth with the contributors and readers taught me so much. I kept imagining Simpel Me (who wrote Part 5) was black just for the word Africa – until I added white in the title White in North Africa. I literally had to spell out what color he is to get it. Asian-Australian. Modern-day Lakota Indians. A reader mentioned Black Canadians. I hadn’t realized such groups existed. I also noticed that how we approach life and view ourself very much drive our view on race. It doesn’t go just the other way around, as the questions I’ve posed imply. Elizabeth, for instance, revealed that the fear of being hurt that she carried from old traumas impacted her relationships across racial lines. She, along with two other contributors, shares a bit about what the dialogue over her story did for her:

“Participating in the Race was a fascinating experience. I told my story somewhat hastily, truncating rich experiences and failing to articulate that appearance and accomplishment matter less to me than character and kindness. The responses were overwhelmingly supportive and encouraged me to now engage, rather than stand idly by in the face of intolerance and ignorance. It was during these rich exchanges with the readers that I realized the nebulous hostility I’d sensed from non-whites while growing up was due to this unwillingness on my part to engage and to my own perceptions, rather than reality.

Reading the other contributors was inspirational and daunting. Living as ex-pats, relating the divergent existences of being called a king one minute and living as one of the crowd in a big city the next, and following God’s response to intolerance are some of the highlights from this series for me. Thank you for including me on this journey, my passport and soul heavily stamped with broadened understanding and appreciation from my travels.”  The Race: American Cities, Part 4

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Jenni says, “Firstly I’d like thank HW for coming up with this idea and having the tenacity to see it through. The editing and back and forth alone would have taken time as well as balancing the diplomatic knife edge of ‘suggestions’ about another’s writing style and format but I cannot argue with the results. Reading the stories from the Race so far has been fascinating and participating in it myself was a unique experience. It was so strange to put into words ideas that had been nebulous feelings rather than direct insight and having to delve into the whys and wherefores of the past and the role my ethnicity played in it was a more than a little humbling.

It is one thing to ‘know’ that one has been fortunate. It is another to see it baldly exposed with the obvious unfairness between my life and that of those who’ve not been as lucky. Humbling doesn’t really quite cover it – mortifying is probably closer to the truth. I think I would feel worse if I had not realized much of this years ago when I was reaching for ways to rebuild my world. While I had been aware of the doors my ethnicity and class opened for me, I had taken it for granted and not really looked at the why. Writing for the Race I was forced to put into words and so clarify to myself how being a WASP had impacted my life. When I went through my break/melt/shatter down all those years ago I had to rebuild my life all over again. In the process I realised that while the world in which I had always swum was ‘easy’ it wasn’t what I wanted or who I wanted to be, and thus I started to reach for the new and break down some of the ingrained attitudes and test my boundaries regarding how I saw the world and people in it. But it wasn’t until I participated in this project that I gave it ‘formal’ thought or clarified it in a way that could be explained to another.

The honesty in the different posts and the genuine interest and connection others made to my piece and the other participants made me glad that I had been as forthright as I had. I hope to continue to grow into my life and I think the lessons pulled from my subconscious during this task will be of great assistance in the future, giving me a kind of clarity I had lacked regarding the direction I am taking with my journey. Thank you for walking with me for part of the way.”  The Race: Down Under, Part 8

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Shazza says, “I’m blown away that anyone cares. My story didn’t seem interesting to me. But I guess when you write it down, it does resonate because so many people have experienced some form of racism. Some of the stories really jumped out at me. I didn’t want to stop reading those. I wanted them to continue.

The dialog, feedback, and follow-up did make what I had to say more meaningful. This exercise opened up my narrow view of racism, and that’s the most exciting thing that happened. I must admit I’m a narcissist when it comes to racism, making it seem as if it only happens to black people for the most part. I know that is untrue, but sometimes I’m short-sighted in my thinking. So I’m glad I’ve been corrected with the bigger picture. I love the bigger picture. It’s so much better. Being in a box is bad, and you just opened mine up. Thank you for that, D!” The Race: Black Canadian in California, Part 9

It struck a chord in me that Elizabeth said being white is important to her and Shazza discovered she loved being black. Being unapologetic about your race. It is what I shared in my own storytelling, that I have come to feel more fully American and more fully Korean than in years past. I thoroughly appreciated Jenni’s humble acknowledgement of and appreciation for the way she’s considered color to have stacked life in her favor at times.

Your encouragement has been fuel for the road. The race continues, onward and upward.