Rebecca Coale - aka Becky - is a writer, musician and producer. She and childhood best friend Jessica Donalds created Dating & Hookup and founded J&R Creative Media. Becky blogs about love poetry and modern life & womanhood. She lives with her husband, Howard Coale, and their family in Manhattan and Philadelphia.
I sat on the Metro-North commuter train, taut, straight up and still, like a deer caught in headlights, danger coming at me from the side. To my right was the window, Mount Vernon and then the Bronx flashing by, and to my left was an elderly gentlemen, eyes closed, pretending to be asleep, who was grinding his hand into my leg, feeling up my thigh.
As I sat there, mortified, humiliated, in shock and in tearful awe, it never occurred to me that I was being sexually harassed.
Why had I chosen to sit alone in the very back seat of the train car? Why hadn’t I sat next to a woman? Why had I moved my bag from the seat to make room for this guy? Maybe he really was asleep and didn’t know what he was doing? Why was I freaking out about this when he was just an old man?
By the time we pulled into Grand Central, I had convulsed into a shaky lather of shame, embarrassment and dismay. But I composed myself immediately upon stepping from the train to the platform. I had to go about my day. I was going to see my then-boyfriend. Everything was going to be fine. I needed to get it together and stop being a baby.
I hadn’t meant to tell my boyfriend about this experience. But once we were together, alone in his apartment, it came blurting out of me. Tangled in caveats, disclaimers, excuses and over-explanations, I was choked up and emotional. My boyfriend was devastated by how upset I was.
But he reacted with anger. At me.
How could you let that happen? Why didn’t you get up? Why didn’t you tell a conductor? Why didn’t you just move away from this guy and tell him to go to hell?
As my boyfriend harangued me, I felt even worse. But it was because I knew he was right.
Why hadn’t I done anything? Why had I sat there and taken it?
In our society, all things good, industrious and awe-inspiring are phallic: skyscrapers, the Washington Monument, and popsicles, to name a few. However, when it comes to terrifying, nightmarish and downright frightful images that permeate our cultural heritage, it has recently occurred to me that there is an astonishing variety of monsters that look like – ahem – female genitalia.
#1 The Sarlacc (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi):
This Vagina Dentata has been assiduously waxed to allow easy entry for Han Solo & company. And I thought it was Carrie Bradshaw who popularized the Brazilian…
I took my husband’s last name with riveting gusto and speed when we got married on Memorial Day this year. Within several hours of our small family wedding in New York City, I had updated all my social media profiles, created my new email, and generally transformed my old self into my new self. Rebecca Wiegand became Rebecca Coale.
Lightning quick as the transition seemed to all my friends and followers, the decision itself unfolded over several months and took a great deal of churning introspection on my part.
The assumption is that a woman takes her husband’s name because it is traditional. Because it is expected. Because it is the path of least resistance. And/Or because we are subjects of the patriarchy and in denial about “reality.”
But modern young women are underestimated. Nosy, prying people in our social circles and slapdash journalists in the media pick out slivers of our lives and deconstruct them with high-handed judgement or blow them up and out of proportion to make observational conclusions about “trends.” Show me the article that contemplates the full picture of our current lives, rather than some winnowed down (but supposedly representative!) aspect of who we are. Show me the feature that concludes, “You know what, young women are all different, and they are all confronting a variety of experiences, and yet they are being thoughtful and self-aware. They are making smart, meaningful decisions for themselves and they’re doing a good job.”
Prior to my wedding, I put real thought into what to do with my name. And I believe most women take such decisions seriously. We contemplate and balance the personal, emotional, political, and traditional. We forge a path for ourselves that is uniquely and purposefully our own. I don’t believe there is a “right” or “wrong” choice when it comes to changing your name with marriage. I believe it is a personal choice that belongs to each woman, each person.
In that spirit, here is why I decided to ditch Ms. Rebecca Wiegand become Mrs. Rebecca Coale.
Dear Beloved dah Readers,
I was thrilled to contribute a short story of erotica to Vixely’s latest iBook. Download your copy here and enjoy the free excerpt below. I drew my inspiration from a sexy, grimy, skinny hipster DJ I once met on a hot night in Brooklyn. Bon voyage…
In the hot end-days of summer, I went to a friend’s barbecue in Cobble Hill. She lived two blocks off the beaten Smith Street track of punk-chic clothing boutiques, trendy taco joints and charming old-school edifices, like the semi-dilapidated cinema I cried in once while watching UP.
I was feeling over life, and over myself. I’d been working late every night, attempting to set a new standard of diligence that would maybe inspire my boss to maybe fight for the raise I definitely, desperately needed. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I couldn’t drag myself to the gym. Ever.
This exhaustion and malaise was all my fault, but I couldn’t see any way out of it. It was only getting worse. I couldn’t stand in line at Starbucks without gripping my fists, almost losing my shit at every person standing between me and my morning latte. I needed a change of pace.
So, I had hauled myself out of bed on that Sunday afternoon. As I walked over to the barbecue, I cursed the missed opportunity to toss, turn and try to sleep the day away, but I was also pleased with myself for going out in sunlight. I was ready for any distraction from my day-to-day.
The grass in my friend’s backyard was tall and dry, itchy on my legs as I stood among her two dozen friends. Flies buzzed everywhere, but it was too humid to swat at them, except when they settled en masse on the picnic table of food. Still, the urban grassland ambiance beat the gray refrigerated cubicle where I spent most of my waking hours. I felt warm, slick with sweat, and it enlivened me a little. My sense of crushing lethargy was lifting.
I heard him before I saw him, focused as I was on downing scoopfuls of guacamole.
He was spouting commentary on Marx: “Communism has never truly failed, because it was never truly tried.”
I glanced sidelong his direction.
I do not believe we have reached The End of Courtship, as The New York Times has just posited. I have been wooed by far too many emoji-riddled late-night text messages and been the recipient of too many deeply thoughtful gestures on the part of the guys in my dah to think we are living in the end times of romance.
Courtship is just different now.
Our generation has changed and evolved. As Ryan O’Connell pointed out (admirably withholding “duh” from the discourse), wouldn’t it be strange if everything in dating had stayed the same? In fact, given the over 50% divorce rate of our parents’ generation, we would be doing something wrong, nay, insane, if we were meeting and mating exactly in their way and expecting a different result.
Our current post-dating world, as we call it here at Dating & Hookup, has long been alive and well. In fact, we welcomed The Wall Street Journal to this modern romantic landscape in August of 2010. Traditional dates are no longer the norm. They’ve been benched on the sidelines for years as people connect and fall in love through all kinds of other ways.
Still, it can be hard to shake the notion that we should be dating. Guys should be asking us out, and bringing us flowers, and riding into our lives full-armored on white steeds. Right? Right? If he really liked you, if he was just that into you, if he was worth your time, he would date you right?
Alas, or rather, Hooray! People are falling in love every day. The journey to love and life-partnership could – should – be exciting, dynamic, and leading to amazing relationships (see: Dating & Hookup Book). We just all need to dive into our new romantic reality.
I got my post-dating wakeup call four years ago when, in an explosion of awkwardness, I inadvertently met the ex-wife of my (then) Boyfriend Prospect on our first date. Or, “date” I should say, because I’m pretty sure by any traditional definition…you DON’T meet ex-wives on dates.
God bless and damn the networking-non-date. The best and worst one I have ever been on started pure and innocently. They always do.
Tim was a colleague of mine who worked from home. We had friendly e-correspondence and I knew his address, because I processed his paycheck every other week. When I moved to his neighborhood, I emailed him to see if he wanted to get coffee or a drink.
I had no agenda! I swear! I didn’t even know what he looked like! I was really just in the market for friends, acquaintances, some work gossip and a few tips on neighborhood spots.
Tim and I met at a local bistro and one drink turned into several. An hour turned into two. Three? His hometown was a family vacation spot I knew well; we both had a passion for ancient history; we loved jazz; we had so much in common!
You feel The Slow Fade coming on, but you refuse to accept it. Everything with this guy had been going so well! But now his texts are less enthusiastic, if he writes you back at all. There are suddenly no plans in the works. All the hope and excitement you felt is floundering in the face of lost momentum. Maybe you can salvage it. Maybe it’s all in your head. Maybe you should text him just to see. Maybe you should like his Facebook status. But deep down inside you know the truth: no matter what you do, his next move will be to blow you off.
As a veteran of our crazy, confusing, post-dating world, I am all too familiar with this non-breakup. In general, I think it is best to let The Slow Fade run its course. Why insist on closure? Why risk looking crazy? If it’s going to be over, then let it be. Who cares?
Voila – the inescapable problem. Sometimes you really do care. You cared about him, and you sensed a future of romantic possibility. A night of bashing his disappearance over drinks with your girlfriends won’t make you feel better. The hurt cuts deep, because it felt like what you and this guy had was real.
I was so frustrated I wanted to kill someone, or myself, on the elevator ride to the fifth floor. There was never going to be cell reception in the swanky, mirrored steel box. Still, I stared down my iPhone, willing the LTE to kick in, praying for half a bar of mercy.
Pressed all around me, the downtown literary types – who were probably going to the same cocktail party I was – tittered to each other. But I couldn’t draw my attention away from the phone. Why wouldn’t it connect to the network? The timing was awful. I was sure that in the 75 seconds I stood helplessly suspended in the air shaft, Nate would finally text me back.
Not that it really mattered. I knew that he would get in touch, eventually. We had been gchatting all day and had met for drinks three times in the past two weeks. Both of our offices were a block from The Modern and we’d become just as well acquainted with Akil the bartender’s gin martinis as we had with each other. But tonight I had to go to this book party in the Village, and Nate had a client dinner in Tribeca. We had gchatted about meeting up at the dimly lit, underground Australian bar on his block in Soho, later in the night. I loved the idea.
Because Nate had never kissed me, even as our knees and legs and arms and hands had touched and wandered as we sat closely on the couches at The Modern, even as his hands had found their way up my skirt in the cab rides we shared back home – first to his doorman building, then off on my way alone to the Brooklyn brownstone I shared with some girlfriends. I told myself each night that he hadn’t made a move out of respect. I was always a little tipsy during the cab rides; Akil’s martinis were strong.
And so it felt like tonight – on Nate’s block, near his apartment, without overt drunkenness – would be the night something would happen. He would finally kiss me. We could express all the tension, excitement, energy, longing that had been building up. I couldn’t wait. But he had to text me back! We’d been gchatting about the possibility of meeting up all day, but we hadn’t really made a plan.
Becky here, straight from the altar to share firsthand my thoughts and newly acquired wisdom regarding the wedding planning process – and how not to go crazy, homicidal and/or suicidal as you prepare to tie the knot.
1. Get Over Yourself. Someone wants to marry you! That’s awesome. You deserve love, congratulations, well wishes, and maybe even a crock pot on this momentous occasion. However, you have not been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. You have not been elected President of the United States. You have not published The Great American Novel. You have not Cured Cancer. Furthermore, your wedding day will (hopefully) NOT be the best day of your life. There are (hopefully) many, many, MANY more days of joy, transcendence, emotionality, and pride on the horizon. You have so much to look forward to, like family, babies, travel, career success and more. You’ll be sharing it all with the person you love, to whom you will be married.
So be grateful, above all else. Don’t act like you’re the sh*t. Don’t make unreasonable demands of your friends. Don’t indulge in psycho-drama with your mom, wedding planner and assorted relatives. Conduct yourself with humility, sanity and perspective, and you will find that the wedding planning process and all the loved ones around you will morph into more sane versions of themselves as well.
In case we needed any further proof that dating is dead, I was asked out on a non-date BY A DATING GURU. Like seriously, a dating guru. I won’t reveal his identity because I don’t need the bad karma, but for real: this guy writes a dating column in a major NY publication, runs a private practice advising women on their love lives, and is writing a book about how to get guys to date you. And he just asked me on a Non-Date… But let me start at the beginning.
It was a typical NYC evening and I found myself at a book party full of publishing and media types. Over white wine and soft cheese, I was introduced to a tall, handsome man. “You’re both writing books on dating!” our mutual friend exclaimed and then moved on to mingle elsewhere in the crowd.
“What is your book about?” Mr. Dating Guru asked me, sidling in for greater intimacy. (This guy wants in on my dah, I thought to myself, but I’m going to keep it professional and see where it goes.)
I’m moved by the history of marriage these days, now that I’m a wife. Marriage, we believe, has always provided a degree of certainty, of commitment, of a mutually-understood and community-sanctioned life bond. Marriage is our bulwark in the raging, lustful, ambiguously churning sea of the post-dating world.
But marriage wasn’t always like this. Like this solid foundation, like this cornerstone.
In fact, for much of the past 2,000 years of Western Civilization, a spoken contract solely between a man and a woman was enough to signify marriage – and to allow for sexual intercourse to take place. Which left many couples confused as to the exact nature of their relationship. To wit:
Ladies, GOOD NEWS. A startup has just launched that will simplify your period for you. HelloFlo promises to send you what you need (aka, tampons, panty liners, pads, the works, depending on how heavy your flow is) when you need it (aka, five days in advance so you don’t get stuck at work with a frothy mess below and no recourse but to staunch it with flinty paper towels from the rest room, run out to the drug store, and return past your boss’s office with a see-through bag of generic super max lilac scented tampons because that was all there was on the shelf. Yes, this has happened to me.)
That said, it doesn’t sound like HelloFlo has solved the uniquely feminine and critical crises of PMS, cramps, achy muscles, sore breasts, chocolate cravings (or in my case, cravings for RED MEAT) or any of the other inconveniences of Aunt Flo’s monthly visit. However, being a pragmatic lady, I will submit that getting organized, supplied and prepared is a very good start to mastering the natural pain-in-the-ladybits that is our biology.
All of which has led me to reflect, in rather nauseating detail, on the most horrific menstruation moments I have experienced in my 2+ decades on this planet. Here’s the top 3, starting with:
1. THE FIRST TIME I GOT MY PERIOD. It was brown. Brown? Had I gone in my pants? How could I throw out my underwear without my mother seeing? What was I supposed to do about the fact it wasn’t stopping? Mind you, all of my friends had gotten their periods by this point – I was a late bloomer, having kept my totally andogynous, skinny, boyish, boobless frame for years after everyone else had developed hips and tits – so I knew all about getting your “first period” from other girls. But it had never occurred to me it would be brown. After a day of stress and worry, I realized what was going on with my body and I decided to get excited, despite the gross color.
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