Canvas Lounge and The Music City Sisters were—and are—amazing. I adore Nashville and hope to live here part-time soon. I met wonderful people, made new friends and was the recipient of Southern hospitality at its finest, from the awesome host and The Music City Sisters. For these reasons, I have decided to separate the Nashville WhistleStopTour Event into two posts, so that the love, joy, and commitment that are The Music City Sisters, can be celebrated as a solo theme. Their dedication to being Sisters and supporting their community, should not be tarnished or devalued, and needs to stand apart from the ugliness that occurred at their event; but, not by their hand. This blog is meant to document my cross country trek and experiences; the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful and everything in between. This happens to be ugly. It is a lone incident that stands in stark contrast to the rest of my journey; but, it is part of the experience, and by not mentioning it, it would be contrary to the spirit of these writings. For me, I try to meet the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between, courageously and honestly; only then, can I grow.
When I was a kid, I was sent to the white school, where the teacher would make us get in line, for lunch or recess, according to height. The first person was always Shawn Doke, a gangly boy who would lean his head comically sideways to enter the door of our one-room schoolhouse. I was next, making me not only the tallest girl in the class but the second tallest person in school, even towering over the teacher. I was teased and taunted, but, having come from Indian land that is as far as the white kids would go; they thought I might have learned some sort of Indian magic that I could use to permanently zap them, like moths who get to close to a flame. By High School, I was 5’10”, tall and awkward, with the unfortunate curse of being well-read, thank you to my Grandmother, who somehow thought the ability to read and speak Latin or know the Periodic Table of Elements, would elevate me up the ladder of the schoolhouse hierarchy. It didn’t.
When I left the high desert plains of Oregon, I took with me many lessons that I had learned the hard way. I learned about bullying and racism; I learned about oppression and the human capacity for cruelty towards one another.
I do not begrudge the lessons that I took with me from Indian land; because I also took with me a firm resolve, to spread joy and uplift the human spirit. Let’s face it; there is already too much unkindness in the world.
Projects can be prickly affairs. It’s always tough putting you and your work out there; some people love it, some people don’t; sometimes they work, sometimes they won’t. This project was no different in that respect. As a writer—and a human—no matter how hard you try, mistakes can be made. My previous experiences have been that when an error happened, it might be mentioned, a laugh exchanged, a beer toasted and then we moved on, as humans—often as friends. This project, Sister Stories, was different; it brought out the worst in people. I am still trying to discern why.
For several months previous, I was the target of a stunning display of human hostility. Comments directed my way, from some within the organization, ranged from tame to foul—(some so venomous, that they are not suitable for print on my blog); I have been called names that traversed the alphabet from the B-word to the C-word to the F word, and interesting combinations in between. My character and integrity were denigrated and called into question; both publicly and privately. Initially, I was so shocked at the vitriol and verbiage, the level of abuse; that I couldn’t immediately respond. When I did, (sans insults and vulgarity), they went to my friends, with their ‘novel’ of grievances. I say ‘novel’ because that is how the recipients of the pages of emails, referred to them. I was surprised and hurt.
One of the most vocal critics had warned me—(and my friends, via email)—that they would be showing up to the Nashville event, to have a ‘discussion’ with me, ‘demand’ an apology and receive their ‘free’ book. The latter was somewhat mystifying since they had expressed in no uncertain terms, how much they hated the book and me; so why they would want another copy, I did not understand.
They showed up at the lovely venue, who was hosting the event, armed with flashcards and an endless verbal reprimand. It was mean-spirited, tasteless, classless and mostly, unnecessary. How serious must an error be, to warrant this sort of treatment? How grave and dire could the circumstance be?
I assure you, it was not that horrible; no one was blasphemed in the pages, no one ridiculed, no derogatory names thrown about, —(those were reserved for me outside the pages), no death, no mayhem.
Perhaps we have become so emboldened in this internet age, that we have forgotten how to treat and speak to people; perhaps we have become so sensitive that we excuse bad social behavior and brush it under the carpet, as opposed to giving voice to anything that might resemble insensitivity. I tried to personify positivity, wearing my enthusiasm like armor. When the evening was coming to a close, I was mentally exhausted, worn out and worn down. But, the best was yet to come.
“You just had a birthday, didn’t you,” they asked.
“No, my birthday is in September,” I responded. “I’m really excited because Ben is coming and we are going to do a photo shoot.”
“I’m going to give you a tip,” they said. The tip was that I have a very big face, which resembles that of a horse, and my smile is also too big—which does not bode well for my horse face. It makes me very toothy. The parting tip was, “You would be so much prettier if you learned how to smile.”
So the questions for me become:
1)How do I process this level of bullying and misogyny, (a word derived from the Greek, misogynia—(anti-woman) and defined as an unreasonable fear or hatred of women, thank you, Grandmother).
2) Why anyone would think it is OK, to badger, berate and denigrate someone like that, for months on end.
3) And why do they get away with it? Why is there no accountability?
For me, I wish to put a period on this project; chalk it up to one that ‘didn’t work’ and move on; because there are some beautiful and lovely people on this journey, that I wish to celebrate.
I just hope they aren’t offended by horses…
Until next time…..