Last summer I heard Arnold Lobel's Owl at Home and was so struck by one of the chapters that I actually wrote a blog post on it. The chapter recounts how Owl makesTear-Water Tea, which is just tea made with his own tears. The chapter recounts how he numbers the things that grieve him (pencils too short to be used and mashed potatoes left on a plate because no one wanted to eat them and music that can't be sung anymore because the words have been forgotten.) until he cries enough to fill his teapot.
Almost a week ago I was so disturbed by some things that were said by a presidential candidate that I have spent the last week engaged in a similar practice. The words that were said (I'm sure you can look them up yourself because I won't be reprinting them) described an assault and at first I couldn't figure out why I had such a visceral reaction to them. It isn't often that reading the news actually makes me cry, but I did. I also got very angry. There were a lot of people who went online to justify or excuse what was said and I found myself growing even angrier and more shaken by it.
I took myself off-line for several days and tried not to pay much attention to the news. I baked bread and did laundry and read books and I got calmed down.
Then, to try to make sense of my own reaction, I took an inventory.
When I was a sophomore in high school we went to a really crowded school and a boy once grabbed my butt in the hallway. It was so crowded I wasn't even sure who it was.
When I was 18 I started waiting tables there was the night that a man offered me $20 to bend over so he could get a good look at my rear-end. He was eating dinner with his son. I wouldn't, so he didn't leave me a tip at all. I didn't tell my manager. It never even crossed my mind.
One summer I was on a mission trip and we took a day to go to the beach. My mother was with us and she had never seen the ocean before, so it was exciting. I was standing and talking to her when a guy came up behind me and ground his hips into my backside. I was so startled that all I did was say, "Excuse me" as though I'd been in his way. He walked off with his friend, laughing.
When I was very pregnant with Jonah I was at Walmart and a man walking toward me made eye contact and then smiled while he checked out my body. It wasn't in a friendly way and I went to find my husband because I thought I might not be safe if I was alone.
I'm sure there are other things that I could recount if I took the time to really think about them, but I don't want to. I don't want to grieve these things anymore and I don't want to feel embarrassed by them. I'm fairly certain that most women could think of times when they were touched or spoken to or looked at in a way that made them feel more than uncomfortable. Maybe they felt angry or embarrassed or dirty, as though there was something that they did that was wrong. These things grieve them and they grieve me because they point out a brokenness and emptiness that can't be fixed. They highlight the danger women face in simply being who God created them to be.
I drink tea in the evenings, sometimes. Especially when I want to feel cozy and warm and relaxed. Drinking Tear-Water tea is actually not all that different. It gave me a chance to sit with the things that sadden me, and to just feel okay with my own sadness. I'm okay again, and maybe even a little more aware of how dangerous this world can be to me and to other women. I'm also glad to offer my own witness to other women who are acutely aware of how dangerous our society can be for women. Tea is always best drunk with friends.
This is what I know for sure: There are a lot of broken things in this world that and I will name them and I will not be shamed for naming them. Names are powerful things.