I started writing this post months before the election, but I couldn’t really figure out what I was trying to say about my struggle to find a place in communities. Then last week when it became clear that a (I struggled with whether to say the following, apologies to my parents and any children if you’re reading but, though vulgar, it’s the truth) pussy grabber would become our new president, it started to become clear. Suddenly, I felt an urgent need to huddle among other feminists and anyone else who values inclusion, acceptance, diversity and keeping their hands to themselves.
Most of my life, though, I’ve avoided groups. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child, or because of sundry character flaws. To be a strong community member, you need to know your place in it. Otherwise, your place may be dictated for you, or worse, you’ll never find it. Either way, you’ll probably feel chronically uneasy.
Thinking about my discomfort in groups always takes me back to “bid night” in college—the night when women who rushed a sorority are finally offered membership (or not) after exhibiting their small-talk prowess over a period of weeks. Upon hearing the exciting news or their future Greek life, my fellow bid recipients built an exuberant human pyramid. As I watched on the sidelines I wondered, was I a base? Should I climb to somewhere in the middle? I was pretty sure I wasn’t tiny enough climb on top? Also were these girls longtime friends or something? I alternately watched the ascending bodies and gazed out the Delta Gamma suite’s picture window at Penn State’s grassy campus.
My excessive drinking that night resulted in my being escorted home by a police officer with a ticket in my pocket for public drunkenness. I was all but kicked out of the sorority for avoiding chapter meetings and not paying the fines handed down for being absent.
Fast forward past 20-plus years of community avoidance to being responsible for a four-year-old’s early education. A preschool co-op where work hours were required didn’t initially seem like my jam. But my husband and I were underemployed, and it was the least expensive option. Plus, I REALLY liked the parents who gave us a tour, and the rainbow arching over the entrance called to me. The playground with its giant sand pit and treehouse-like play structure called to Frida.
And so began my second attempt at community membership. It is a lot of work, and the school days are just three hours long, which gives me less time to work than when I had her in full-time daycare. But I wouldn’t change it. I’ve learned an amazing amount about my child, children in general and ultimately I’ve uncovered a ton about myself through my hours spent with the teachers, moms and kids of the Co-Op.
Perhaps my co-op experience primed me for a second foray into community membership. Yesterday I attended a monthly meeting called Solidarity Sundays in Alameda, joining around 75 other women (and two men) to talk about how we can support vulnerable people in our communities in these days when emotions are raw, tempers are flaring and people seem to feel entitled to behave badly. At the end of the meeting, Frida “helped” paint the “All Are Welcome Here” sign you see above.
I’m either going to continue attending the Alameda meetings or start something in my own more immediate area. I guess this community thing is pretty addictive. I hope you all are finding your own ways to get and/or provide support in the face of an administration led by and unprecedentedly unprepared, inexperienced, misogynistic, xenophobic, failed businessman. If you need ideas for ways to contribute or get involved, Jezebel published a helpful list or pro-women, pro-immigrant, pro-earth anti-bigotry organizations that need your support.