Eulogy For A Friend


We were 12 when we met and remained best friends until our late ‘30s. Rebels in a sea of conformity. Watching Evil Dead while everyone else watched Cosby. Listening to Dead Kennedys while everyone else listened to Night Ranger. Reading Oscar Wilde while everyone else read Nancy Drew. Writing sketches and jokes to crack each other up while others played sports.

She was my shadow and my light for more than 30 years. A better writer, smarter, prettier and wittier than I ever could be. Her own shadows were deeper and darker than anyone I have known and her light so brilliant as to transform a room full of people and leave all in its glance enamored. Perhaps it is apropos that hers was not a face to grow old and lose its luster. A light that never goes out in the grieving hearts of those who knew her.

Oscar Wilde wrote, “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”

We are all better people for having known her, flawed and beautiful a woman as she was. Human as she was. Rest in Peace, my friend. I love you. Always.

  • Marley

The Evolution of Incompetence and How to Deal With It

In the last 35 years humanity has lost a lot of established institutions which were the basis of social and economic stability. The ‘80s ushered in a 40-year cycle of the slow disintegration of and ultimate total renunciation of the Keynesian economic model in favour of unchecked free-market capitalism.

Over the same time, the human population in the west doubled and the advancement of automation has erased many of the jobs of the past. This new model has given rise to the “gig” economy and an ultra-competitive market for full-time jobs with benefits. For many people this new model doesn’t work because they simply can’t compete at this level.

Some become desperate and rather than update their skills, they adapt new tactics that include dishonesty and manipulation. Many job-seekers either overstate their skills and education or blatantly lie. To weed out these people, companies have invented new ways to detect dishonesty and overconfidence in candidates including rigorous tests and hours-long interviews. The irony here is that many of the companies employing these tactics are operating under ambiguous and/or chaotic business models themselves. Job definitions are often vague and many smaller firms are not above lying outright about a position to engage “the right person.”  In other words, both parties are guilty of implementing the “fake it until you make it” scenario.

As free-market capitalism has evolved, so have the coats of bullshit necessary to conceal incompetence as success. American President Donald Trump is a perfect example. He has devoted his entire career to creating the appearance of achievement rather than being successful. On the evolutionary scale, he is the lowest form of grifter. The kind who plays the victim when someone dares call him out on his illegal practises, non-payment of services and quid pro quo dealings.

In this ecosystem, the importance of knowing your value and setting strict boundaries are paramount. As an individual gains experience, they will spot a grifter or a dodgy company from a thousand miles away. Here are a few red flags to look out for:

  • Is the potential employer vague with the definition of their demands?
  • Do they frequently draw the communication back to the topic of money?
  • Do they acknowledge to e-mails asking for concrete information?
  • Do different bodies within the same organisation tell you different things with respect to the same topic? Do they say one thing on Monday and something different on Wednesday?  This one is particularly important as it might reveal a chaotic working atmosphere and/or a communication problem within the organisation.
  • If something makes little sense, then it probably isn’t true.

The crucial fact in these situations is to communicate your desires and attributes clearly. If need be, get out and get out early. Time is money. Do not waste it on someone who will a.) likely not hire you; b.) attempt to get out of paying you for your services; c.) pull a bait and switch regarding your responsibilities once you’ve signed a contract.

For women, it often takes a long time to learn the value of themselves and the lesson that setting professional boundaries are a good thing. There is no greater word in the English language than “no.”

Childless and Happy

I was recently chatting with an old friend from high school talking about the past and where we are now. She pointed out the high number of girls from our various friend circles who grew up, chose not to have kids and are now happier for it.

I never wanted kids. Ever. When most little girls go through the phase of playing with doll babies, I had monkeys and teddy bears. One year for my birthday, I received a realistic doll baby that moved its head. It gave me nightmares.

As I got older, I was happy to babysit for the little ones of friends and relatives. Kids are fun. The other day at the grocery store, I saw a kid with a bowl-haircut carrying a very long, suggestively-curved English cucumber like a ray gun. Vigilant in his mission, he hid behind a shelf and proceeded to “shoot” everyone who walked past with his phallic weapon of destruction. I laughed for ten whole minutes. It still didn’t make me want kids. The kid’s mother looked exhausted. I went home with a great memory, but none of the stress.

As a young woman, a vision of a future that included motherhood never entered my mind for a single moment. It’s not in my DNA. Speaking of genes, I was never so enamored with my own that I felt the need to pass them on to some poor unsuspecting soul who never asked to be born.

From age 16 I was meticulous regarding birth control. When I was in my early thirties, I had a tubal ligation. My then-partner was showing signs of changing his mind and I wanted no part of it. He spoke of a house in the suburbs and a family. One that looked perfect on the outside. Looked. Nothing is perfect. No one should bring kids into the world to give themselves a sense of accomplishment, to stave off loneliness or to act as window dressing for a false store front called “Perfect Family.” Odds are, if a customer were to enter that shop, they’d find its metaphorical shelves empty save for a few tins of resentment and a Costco-sized bag of dysfunction. “Oh, look! I get a free can of Neglect when I buy a bottle of Genetic Alcoholism! Yippee!” I did not want that life. Not this woman. Not this uterus. So, I had my tubes tied.

On the day of the procedure, the clinician asked me to come through the back gate to avoid the pro-life protesters. When I arrived, I asked, “Don’t they realize there are a lot of other procedures going on in here and abortion is only one of them?” The nurse shook her head, “They don’t care.” There it was. The words slapped me in the face. Any value I possessed was not for what I had or could accomplish, but for whether I could reproduce. What I wanted as an autonomous human being was irrelevant to them.

A few people have called me selfish for choosing a career, an education, and to travel and explore the world unencumbered by children. Ironically, all of them were women. Actually, there is nothing more selfish than the act of reproduction. Especially in the face of the extinction of other species with whom we share the planet. I am much more interested in helping them out rather than adding to the human population.

For those who choose to have kids, great! Be happy!  Just please keep your strollers/prams out of my way when I’m walking to work.

At the end of our online chat my old friend said of all of us childless generation x’ers, “We are living our best lives.” All perfectly content knowing that we’ll never be responsible for someone else’s future therapy sessions.

The Original Halloween: A Debra Hill Production

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This week the latest installment of the horror franchise Halloween was released to great box office success. A direct sequel to the original, it ignores all other installments and re-boots and has broken box office records.

In celebration, Jamie Lee Curtis tweeted the following:

The Tweet was shared on the horror social media page Dread Central and although it was received positively by most, there was also the expected backlash against anything celebrating the achievements of women by more than several of the rank and file immature fanboys. One commenter asserted that John Carpenter created the original film and therefore Curtis owes the success of the new film (and the entire franchise) to him. The facts beg to differ.

Halloween was co-created by a woman. Her name was Debra Hill. She is credited as the film’s co-writer and producer. It’s right up there on the screen with Carpenter’s name, although – despite their supposed literacy – many viewers have simply ignored its presence. In the minds of some fans, it’s almost like her name isn’t there at all. “This,” I replied to the commenter, “is why we need feminism.”

In the interest of fairness and equality, let’s talk a bit about Ms. Hill.

Debra Hill first met John Carpenter in 1975 when he was looking for a script supervisor on Assault From Precinct 13. A few years later, they went on to create Halloween together. She co-wrote the screenplay and also acted as producer.

Hill was responsible for all of the character development and dialogue of the three female leads. Without her, there would be no Annie with her sarcastic put-downs, no giggling, air-headed Lynda and – most importantly – no Laurie Strode, the shy intelligent final girl who sings to herself “I wish I had you all alone…just the two of us…” An unforgettable characteristic to be sure.

Hill’s realistic dialogue gave 1978 audience someone they could relate to. The scene that best illustrates this is the one in the car where Annie attempts to get Laurie out of her shell and ask a boy on a date while smoking weed. Hill herself directed the largely improvised scene, having discussed the context with the actors beforehand. The result is that we sympathize with these young women and in the end, root for Laurie to survive. Without the likability of three characters, Halloween would likely not have struck a chord with audiences of the day and would be forgotten rather than serving as a template for the countless imitators that came after it.

Hill is also responsible for the naming of the town Haddonfield, where the film takes place. She was born in Haddonfield, New Jersey and went to Haddonfield High School. She chose all the (now iconic) houses for the locations and she even played the hands of the young Michael Myers that pick up the clown mask at the opening of the film.

She went on to work as producer on Halloween II and III and re-united with Carpenter for 1980’sThe Fog, 1981’s Escape From New York and its 1996 sequel, Escape From L.A. In 1985, she produced David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Dead Zonestarting Christopher Walken as well as the Tim Curry classic Clueand 1988’s Big Top Pee Wee.

THE FOG, producer Debra Hill, Jamie Lee Curtis on set, 1980, (c) Avco Embassy

As one of Hollywood’s first female producers, she was a member of the Producer’s Guild of America, eventually coming to serve on their board of directors as well as on the Executive Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her work on Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King, which also won a Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy for the year 1991.

In 2002, I was honored to watch Ms. Hill give a presentation at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood, California on the films she worked on with John Carpenter. Along with anecdotes from the making of the films, she spoke of the need for more women in the film industry to get behind the camera and the difficulties she faced as a female writer/producer. “I was assumed to be the make-up and hair person, or the script person…everybody called me “Honey.” I was never assumed to be the writer or producer.”

I was later shocked to learn that she was likely ill on the day I watched her speak. In 2005, after a long battle with cancer in which she had both legs amputated below the knee, she passed away. She was only 54.

In her name, The Producer’s Guild of America has established The Debra Hill Fellowship, which awards both men and women who complete an accredited graduate program in producing and “whose work, professionalism and passion mirror that of Debra Hill.”

In October of 2012, The New Beverly Cinema hosted the first Debra Hill film festival with all proceeds going to the Fellowship.

Debra Hill once said, “I hope someday there won’t be a need for women in film. It will just be people in film.” She was a pioneer who should not be forgotten by anyone. Least of all by horror fans to whom they owe a debt of gratitude for helping to create one of the genre’s most beloved modern classics. Thank you, Ms. Hill. Rest In Peace.



8 Ways Bladerunner 2049 Is Not Sexist – SPOILERS


The best science fiction literature and films deal with modern cultural and societal issues. They frequently do so set against the backdrop of a distant technologically superior albeit dystopian future. Bladerunner 2049 succeeds in this respect. As well as exploring issues of humankind’s reliance on technology, the theme that was the most prevalent was that of the male gender’s diminishing role in the new world and the emerging importance of the female. Much has been written over the generational gap of understanding of the film. Several reviews have noted that demographically, only people over 40 were interested in seeing the film to begin with and those younger people who did go to see it, decried the film for being sexist. Yes, there is female nudity and representations of male-created ideals of femininity. Yes, there is violence perpetrated against females. But this shallow criticism shows a lack of ability to read beyond the surface images and apply meaning to them within the narrative of the story. In fact, Ryan Gosling’s K/Joe spends the entire film being both manipulated by women who are both more powerful and intellectually superior to him. There are many reasons why this film can arguably be read as feminist. Here are 8 of them:


  1. K’s boss is a woman. He does everything she tells him without question. He even kills his own kind (he is a replicant) because it is what he believes he was made to do. A belief she reinforces regularly. He does not question her, even when he is questioning his own identity. It is implied several times that he is a ‘’good boy’’ placing him in an inferior position.
  2. K has a virtual holographic girlfriend. Joi is young and beautiful. The first time we see her, she is dressed in typical 1950s housewife attire fretting about the results of a new recipe that she has made for dinner. This era is considered by many American males as being the ‘’good old days’’ when women knew their place. The fact that she is entirely a creation of K’s fantasy version of a perfect woman is not meant to be ironic or demeaning and it is far from sexist. Rather, it places K in the role of a man who has created an outdated fantasy for himself and refuses to see reality. It makes him seem ridiculously old-fashioned. It is even explicitly said at one point that he ‘’doesn’t like real girls’’ and that Joi is nothing more than a product manufactured for his shallow needs. She holds no relation to anything close to a real woman. She feeds his ego over and over and it is though her suggestions that K ultimately comes to believe that he is the first replicant child born naturally. In other words, it is because of her that he believes he is special. When she gives him a human name, she calls him ‘’Joe.’’ Because he’s just an average Joe. This is true in every way possible.
  3. K is led to the group of rebels by a female prostitute with the aid of Joi. In other words, a female who is seemingly exploited every single day, uses the manufactured image of ‘’Joi’’ (the male’s ideal girl) to get what she wants from him. She exploits his need to fulfill his sexual fantasies by ‘’syncing’’ up with Joi. Here the word ‘’syncing’’ takes on a possible double meaning. One is technological, combining the virtual and the real. The second, conceivably comically meaning refers to the long-held common male-originated myth that women who reside together can ‘’sync up their menstrual cycles.’’ Like this myth, K’s sexual experience with the synced up hooker is also not what it appears to be. She doesn’t really like him. It is merely a ruse to lead him to the rebels, who are…surprise…led by a woman.
  4. The leader of said rebels informs K that no, he is not the special child. It’s a lie whose idea was planted by a fake woman and reinforced by the actual special child, who is…another surprise…a woman.
  5. When he visits this woman, Dr. Ana Stelline, he finds her to be a memory maker. In other words, she creates the identities of and is therefore responsible for the psychological make-up of every single replicant on the planet. She is a creator. When K asks her if his traumatic childhood memories are real, she answers vaguely (but not untruthfully) with tears in her eyes that ‘’these things are true.’’ K (and the audience) read her tears as sympathetic to K’s difficult childhood. Later, it turns out that they were HER traumatic memories. She was crying because of her own trauma and K was so wrapped up into his own need to feel special that he (and we) completely misread her emotions and her response. Despite her having a compromised immune system, she is emotionally and technologically superior to every human on earth as she is the first of her kind. She cannot be touched, hugged or physically exploited as she lives in a hermetically sealed bubble. She is the special person and the one who will bring revolution. The future does not, therefore lie in the hands of the average Joe because he is little more than a slave to his own antiquated ideals. At the end of the film, when confronted with a giant nude, over-sexualized holographic image of Joi, K comes to the realisation that his entire purpose, unbeknownst to him up until that point, was to fulfil the mission of the replicant rebellion led by a females. The memories that he thought were real, were actually those implanted by the true miracle, who is female. He is little more than a puppet.
  6. The use of Las Vegas as an outdated, dead city as a backdrop. K enters flanked by large dominating statues of female figures. He is small within the frame and they look as though they are going to eat him. Once inside the city, we are bombarded with images of old -school masculinity. There are holographic showgirls, and Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley sing the songs that gave them their reputations in their time, of being ‘’man’s men.’’ Even Deckard, who, in the first film was at his peak in terms of stereotypical maleness, limps along slowly and is flanked by a lame old dog. It is obvious that their time is over. The entire city is covered in a layer of sand and dust waiting for the last winds of change to cover it over forever, with only the women at the entrance remaining.
  7. Corporate magnate Wallace is a blind man who both physically resembles and speaks like a religious prophet. The first thing we see him do is to create a woman replicant. When he discovers that she is incapable of breeding, he destroys her by stabbing her in the reproductive organs. The film then immediately cuts to the reaction of his female replicant assistant, the very strong, but mercenary Luv. She sheds a single silent tear. Wallace represents every old-school man that clings to religion and wealth and attempts to exert control over womankind’s bodies in 2017. Luv’s tear can be read both as sadness from seeing a fellow replicant cut down but also as sadness for having participated in the cutting down of a fellow female literally at the start of her existence. x Even so, it is Luv who at the end of the film, obliterates the old male ideals of the feminine when she literally stamps out the existence of Joi by stepping on K’s emulator where she is stored. She is the ultimate traitor.
  8. When Wallace meets with Deckard, he makes it perfectly clear that Deckard’s falling in love with Rachel in the first film was entirely outside the realm of his own agency. Whether possible because he was programmed to do so as a replicant (which is highly hinted at in the Director’s cut of the original film) or simply because he is a human male is irrelevant. Deckard was simply the sperm donor falling prey to his own idealized view of women. It was Rachel who was more important as she would would give birth to the child who will bring revolution in a chapter as yet unwritten in the Bladerunner universe.

Visually, Bladerunner 2049 is stunning. I would encourage the younger generation, to look for meaning in these images as they are presented within the narrative in relation to the characters and their actions.  History will be kind to this film. There is more going on here than meets the eye.

George A. Romero’s Feminist Themes

Yesterday, we lost the most influential filmmaker to the horror genre in generations. George A. Romero was single-handedly responsible for creating the zombie sub-genre with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. Known more for his themes of anti-consumerism, he also wove threads of the changing roles of women in society throughout the narratives of many of his films. On first glance, one might say that Night is outright sexist in its representation of women. I used to think this way. The adult female characters in are all ineffectual. Barbara is comatose from having witnessed her brother’s death, Helen Cooper speaks her mind but never really does anything and is constantly overshadowed by her loud-mouthed husband Harry. Worst of all, we have Judy who stupidly follows the lead of her boyfriend Tom all the way to her death.

But there is one more female that must not be overlooked. Karen Cooper, the feverish little girl who was bitten by a zombie prior to the start of the film. She is the future. It is surely no coincidence that she utterly destroyers the previous generation, stabbing and consuming them. Karen generates the biggest impact (and the biggest scare) of the entire film. Even today, with more almost 50 years of gore in its wake, the garden trowel scene loses no impact. Drawing a parallel with societal change, the scene is violent, painful and leaves the viewer shocked and slightly sad.

For the next 2 decades, Romero’s subsequent films consistently featured stories concerned with the role of women in society as perceived by both themselves as well as the men around them.

Season of the Witch (1971), which was originally titled Jack’s Wife, is not a horror film, although it does contain the plot device of witchcraft. Produced in 1971 Witch is very much a reflection of the period when feminism and the Women’s Liberation movement were gaining traction in America. The lead character of Joan (Jan White, who coincidentally shares her name with a very real famous witch) is very much “a product of traditional patriarchy who seeks individualism and freedom from oppressive conformity” (Wilson).

The first scene in the film is a dream sequence in which Joan follows her husband Jack (Bill Thunhurst) through the woods obediently. He ignores her and allows the branches he is parting to whip back and scratch her face as he passes through. Further on, Joan sees an image of herself swinging happily on a tree-swing dressed completely in symbolic white. Before Joan can reach out to her own self- image and grab happiness, Jack reaches into the frame, attaches a collar to her neck, and leads her around on a leash for the remainder of the scene. It ends with Joan receiving a smack on the nose with a rolled newspaper and left alone in a kennel while Jack is away. In match-cut that retains Joan’s seated position in the cage, she is suddenly sitting in her home, creating the visual association that Joan’s home is like a cage.

Joan is led around by a realtor, who describes her life to her as if it were everything anyone could ever want. The house is nice and up to date for the time period. Her kitchen has all the best appliances and her closet has “all the latest styles” but the dream turns into a nightmare when Joan once again encounters her doppelganger. Instead of being happy as she was on the swing, this time she is an old hag who has wasted her life being “Jack’s wife.” When Joan awakens in her bedroom, reality and the nightmare are the same. Reflecting Romero’s typical anti-consumerist stance, a seemingly deal socio-economic situation is actually a slow death for Joan where she will grow old and die lest she break out of her role as a financially dependent wife and mother and declare her independence.

Mirrors feature prominently within the overall mise-en-scene and help to illustrate the shallowness of Joan’s attempt at an internal transformation via external sources. There are many shots of Joan inspecting her face and other parts of her body as well as applying make-up to help turn back the clock. Beauty is only skin deep and therefore not very different from the labels that society places on women. To truly change and become happy, Joan will have to reject her social conditioning, and embrace an ideology more progressive for the time period.

Following a visit with her friend to a local self-proclaimed witch for a Tarot card reading, Joan is intrigued and immediately converts from Catholicism to Magick. She embarks on an affair with a younger man and eventually kills her abusive husband “accidentally” as she believed him to a be a prowler.

The dog imagery at the open of the film comes full circle to the end where she is tied up with a collar during her initiation rights into the local Coven. She is now making her own decision to be objectified, even if she is not consciously aware of it. True change was difficult for women in that time, even for those who desired it. Perhaps Romero is saying that changing our ideology does not make us any less a slave to it.

By 1978, Dawn of the Dead’s Fran (Gaylen Ross) has a career, speaks her mind, learns to shoot a rifle and becomes a helicopter pilot.  All despite being pregnant. She is smart and quickly adapts to the new reality of the zombie apocalypse, even when her macho male counterparts suffer from battle fatigue. In 1985’s Day of the Dead, we have a lead zombie-fighting, gun-toting scientist named Sarah (Lori Cardille), who was perhaps the most badass of all his female characters. It’s her movie and she carries it well.

1980’s Knightridgers gave us Romero’s most richly diverse cast of females. The film deals with highly principled motorcycle enthusiast Billy Davis (Ed Harris) who wishes to live outside the confines of an increasingly shallow and materialistic society. To accomplish this, he creates his own private Camelot in the form of a self-sufficient medieval style nomadic commune where the members move from town to town putting on motorcycle jousting shows for the local citizenry.

The group includes artistic misfits from just about every walk of life. There are bi-racial couples, homosexuals, doctors, entertainers and craftspeople, who have made a “conscious adult decision” to live under low-income conditions in exchange for the ability to live as they wish outside the stifling conventions of “normal” society.

The women inside the group are portrayed as strong and independent. At first, bike mechanic Angie (Christine Romero), puts up with a lot. She is constantly cheated on by her boyfriend Morgan (Tom Savini). Once she realizes her value as a human being at the behest of her gay friend Pip (Warner Shook), she speaks her mind freely and confronts Morgan telling him that although there is no one else she is interested in courting at the moment, “someday there will be.” Additionally, the lesbian character of Rocky, quickly identifies as one of the best bikers in the group.

Conversely, life on the outside in the straight world is portrayed as lonely and shallow for women. Julie Dean (Patricia Tallman) is a bubble-headed sweet teenager who runs away from her abusive home to join the group and embark on a whirlwind romance with Billy’s favorite knight Alan (Gary Lahti). The girl’s father is portrayed as an oafish drunkard who beats his wife, Helen (Iva Jean Saraceni) regularly. In the best shot in the film, we see Helen crying in her kitchen, dwarfed by large, neutral colored empty walls.

After realizing Julie is too young for him, Alan brings Julie home and leaves her crying on the curb in front of her house. When the light in the front room turns on, Julie raises her head with an expression of abject fear. Her father will beat her for running away. Rather than give the audience resolution on the matter, we never see this character again. It is an editorial choice that resigns the audience to the depressing fact that things like this happen all the time. Knights in shining armor aren’t real and sometimes, men just suck.

Although his output dwindled in quality over the last decade, George A. Romero will always remain a legend for creating the flesh-eating living dead sub-genre. I’d like to remember him as a feminist as well.


Works Cited

Belton, John. American Cinema American Culture. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2009.

Dawn Of The Dead. Dir. George A. Romero. Perf. Gaylen Ross, Ken Foree, Scott             Reiniger and David Emge. Laurel Entertainment, 1978.

Gagne, Paul R. The Zombies That Ate Pittsburgh: The Films of George A. Romero.

New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1987.

Knightriders. Dir. George A. Romero. Perf. Ed Harris, Tom Savini, Christine Forrest and Patricia Tallman. Laurel Entertainment, 1980.

Nemiroff, Perry. “Interview: Survival Of The Dead Writer-Director George A. Romero.” May, 2010. <   Of-The-Dead-Writer-Director-George-A-Romero-18735.html

Season Of The Witch. Dir. George A. Romero. Perf. Jan White, Bill Thunhurst and Ray Laine.     The Latent Image Group, 1971.

Williams, Tony. The Cinema of George A. Romero: Knight Of The Living Dead.

Great Britain: Wallflower Press, 2003.

Wilson, Brian. “George A. Romero.” Senses of Cinema. November, 2006.


The Great Bikini Experiment

Swimming. I love it. I have always loved it. I learned how to swim in the community pool in my hometown and grew up swimming and snorkeling in the cold, fresh waters of Lake Ontario in Central New York. Being a chubby kid, I always wore a one-piece swimsuit. In my ‘20s, I moved to Los Angeles, a.k.a. “size-zeroville.” During my time there, I rarely went to the beach, partly because my partner at the time wasn’t a beach-goer, but mostly out of the fear that I would be mistaken for a beached whale. In my head, I envisioned a humiliating experience where I would be captured in a tarpaulin under the guise of “rescue”, hauled to deep water and subsequently released to the sounds of self-satisfied applause from good-looking, blond, skinny, be-sandaled do-gooders. Los Angeles. It isn’t good for the self-esteem. Unless you’re Margot Robbie. I’m sure she’ll be just fine.

Then, in 2013, and 2014 I went to the South of France. I wore my normal one-piece.

Both times, I looked around and noticed that I was the only one. Once again, I felt out of place, but this time for a very different reason. On every beach I went to, there were women of all sizes, shapes, ages and ethnicities all around me wearing bikinis. All of them seemed relaxed, happy and enjoying themselves. Amazingly, they didn’t seem to care if people stared or judged them, and in fact, few people did (at least openly), as they were more interested in their own beach activities. Equally, there were men of what (in the USA) would be considered questionable age and physical condition wearing speedos. They didn’t give a crap either, and you know what? No one went blind for having to look at them. There were no children crying or running away in fear and I’m assuming no one ended up having their day ruined from watching the old Italian dude in the budgie smugglers playing with his grandchildren happily in the Mediterranean.

At first, I was curious as to whether this was a by-product of the body-positive trend I kept reading about on social media, but I was assured by some friends that this was simply the normal way of life for continental Europeans. So, in the spirit of “when in Rome…” I decided, this year, to find out what it would feel like, at the age of 40+ to wear a bikini for the very first time in public on a beach with other human beings present.

I was delighted to discover that in the shops in London, there are comfortable, flattering bikinis in cool colours available in my size, which is not huge, but definitely on the “curvier” end of the scale. Second, I was delighted at my spouse’s reaction when I told him about my purchase and explained my nervousness. He loved the colour (dark turquoise), and said it made me look like a model. I jokingly said “yeah, for the fat girl websites?” “No.” he said. “For the websites where the models are healthy, curvy women. Not girls. Women.” He clearly he knows about some websites that I don’t.

Off we went to France for the third time. Oddly, I wasn’t worried about wearing the 2-piece. But, I was worried about how I’d feel about wearing it. So, I wore the standard cover-up for the walk to the beach. Sort of like a security blanket. I put up my sun umbrella, laid out my towel, and sat down. I surveyed my surroundings and decided to go for it. I slipped off my shorts and top and lay back on the towel. I did it. I was there in my bikini with people. There were no screams of horror or whale-rescuers. There was only the sound of the waves, people chatting and laughing in different languages and the glorious sun warming my skin. Oh, crap. My skin. I looked down at my pale white delicate belly and lower back that until that moment had literally never been exposed to the sun. I was like a ghost compared to all the other people there. I was astonished at how quickly one self-esteem issue can morph into another. I was even more concerned with the thought of a painful sunburn and skin cancer, so I grabbed the 50+ sunblock for albinos and applied it liberally.

Then came the moment of truth. I got up into a standing position, where I wouldn’t be able to suck my tummy in. I walked from my spot on the beach to the sea, past all the people with their beautiful bronze skin. Every step made me feel better about myself. I had conquered it. I stepped into the sea and noticed an attractive older man following me with his eyes. Whether he was thinking “Man, that lady is hot!” or “Wow, that’s sad.” didn’t matter to me at that moment. I had successfully adopted the French “Zero fucks given” attitude. The sun and sea were warm and glorious and I swam the backstroke to my heart’s content. The water felt great on my back and stomach. It was freeing and absolutely lovely. My advice to anyone asking is, do it. Don’t let the world of perfect skinny bronze bodies and judgmental assholes keep you from trying it. Maybe we can even change the beaches of So Cal. One chubby lady at a time. I realized body positivity comes from both within oneself and within the society around you.

On my way back to my towel, I felt happy and relaxed just like everyone else on that beach. Then I spied a woman with no top on and remembered that all the beaches in France are all optional topless. I chuckled to myself. There’s always a new challenge.

How the Brock Turner case proves that little has changed

In the autumn of 1986, my best friend and I, who were high school freshman attended the annual homecoming dance. The night started out as any other of this kind in our small town school, meeting up with friends, comparing outfits, discussing music and who else we might see that evening.


About an hour in, my friend, whom I shall refer to as Marie, was asked to go for a walk by a senior, whom I shall refer to as Brad. She was quite keen as Brad was popular, attractive and a successful athlete. We were both quite excited at the prospect that he might take the opportunity, once alone, to ask her out on a date.

How naïve we were.


Over an hour passed before I saw her again and I was beginning to ask mutual friends and acquaintances if they had seen her in the venue. I was getting nervous as were supposed to share a ride home together and my Mom would be arriving shortly.


I waited by one of the exits. A few minutes later, she entered from the direction of the football field and approached me, still wearing the black and white paisley jacket that I had loaned her that night. She locked eyes with me and grabbed my arm, digging her fingernails in so deep that it left marks. She began to cry hysterically and I quickly pulled her into the bathroom before the ever-judging gaze of our classmates fell upon her. When I stepped behind her, I saw that her entire backside was covered with near freezing, soaking wet mud. It was in her hair, on her neck, all over her clothes and on her shoes. To be honest, I don’t remember what she said to me in detail, other than that she begged me not to tell anyone, especially her parents, who were staunch Catholics. It was obvious that something physical had happened between her and Brad she feared punishment for pre-marital sexual activity. I tried to comfort her and promised her that I wouldn’t say anything. Something I regret more than anything in my life to this day.


We rode in the back of my mother’s car in silence and upon arriving at my house, my mother, who did not notice the mud in the dark country night, went into the house. Marie and I sat in the car for over 2 hours while she recounted every detail of what had transpired between her and Brad that evening. It started out innocently enough, with them walking out to the sports fields in the cold autumn air, chatting and eventually holding hands. Then he kissed her. Her first kiss, which she recounted as any girl of 14 would. There was shyness and wonder and romance in her voice. Her tone changed as she described how he then grabbed her and pushed her to the ground, pulled down her jeans and forced his fingers inside her. She told me about how he explained everything he was doing to her as he did it because she was so much younger than him and she needed to learn. Then he raped her. When he was finished. He blew his nose into the grass by holding one nostril shut with his dirty fingers that had been inside her, and walked her back to the edge of the football field so that no one would see them returning together.


When she was finished talking, I took Marie inside, and washed her in the kitchen sink. The bathroom was too close to my mother’s room and I didn’t want to wake her. I gently wiped her neck and removed the dead grass and mud from her hair. I cleaned her back and discovered scrapes and bruises under the dirt. I made her a snack and tucked her into the guest bed next to mine. She kept asking me not to say anything. I never did. Instead, I watched her gradually grow into a self-destructive person, instead of the successful confident woman she had the potential to be.


Years later, when we were both at different colleges, she called me to tell me that Brad had contacted her out of the blue. She confronted him angrily over the phone telling him that he ruined her life, which by now was a life filled with drugs, failed abusive relationships and friendships, anxiety, depression and deteriorating grades.


He replied, “I know, I’m sorry. So… do you want to meet up?”

It is this kind of male entitled thinking that brings me around to the Brock Turner case. If the graduate students had not happened up Emily Doe’s assault that night in January 2015, there would be no Brock Turner case. Just as there was no case against Brad because of my own and Marie’s foolish silence and fear.


Brad is on Facebook now. He has daughters. I wonder if he thinks about his brief “actions” from that night 30 years ago when he hugs them. I wonder if breaking our silence in 1986 would have even mattered.


I had hoped that time would change things. Sadly, it is clear to me, through the marginalization of Mr. Turner’s “actions” by the male authority figures around him that it has not. The blame is still placed on “party culture” and alcohol, and they do everything in their power to shift the responsibility everywhere except where it should lie on Brock Turner. Without proper punishment, this young man, who bears a striking resemblance in family background, athletic achievement and even physically, to the Brad in this story, will not likely learn his lesson. 30 years from now, he will have a great life. While, Emily Doe will struggle with self-esteem and trust issues for many years. The fear of being judged and punished was and still is very real for young women everywhere. Empathy must be taught to all young people. Now. And we, as adults need to pay attention, and teach them that “actions” have consequences.