My brother recently recommended a writing course through Coursera to me via email. It’s similar to the platform I began taking writing classes through, called Ed2Go. Both platforms offer a wide variety of virtual courses at a very affordable price. Coursea has a more formal peer review process, which will be interesting to experience.
I registered for “Memoir and Personal Essay Writing” and just submitted my first assignment on time I might add. The assignment was called “Context in Memory,” and the instructions were to write a to a teacher or mentor recount a personal experience that had a notable impact on your life. The additional challenge was to incorporate a reference to an event that made headlines during that time and attempt to connect the experience to a significant social awareness that you didn’t possess at the time.
I’ll be curious to receive my grade and read the peer reviews in a few days. I thought I’d share it on my blog as well.
I think about you often, especially now that I’m an adult and have started retaking piano lessons. It’s the second time in the past 15 years that I’ve brushed off the keyboard and rediscovered the joy of creating music. Both of my teachers have been grateful for your instruction, particularly as it relates to good fingering while exploring a piece of music.
High school is never easy, which I’m sure you knew only too well, being the mother of teenagers yourself.
Looking back, I think one of the most difficult things about being a teenage girl, are the feelings of doubt when it comes to your own beauty and self-worth. In my case, which I don’t think is unusual, these feelings combined with a naivety about the ways of the world.
The longing to feel attractive, combined with a lack of understanding of how some men operate, can leave a young girl or a woman open and vulnerable to sexual harassment.
As far as I know, it wasn’t until 1976 until the Court ruled in favor of a woman who filed a quid pro quo sexual harassment suit against her boss. Diane Williams worked as a public information specialist, and bravely chose to refuse sexual advances as threats, or perhaps rewards for her performance, from her boss Harvey Bison. The sad and angering thing is that she was terminated from her position in 1972. It took four years for her to receive justice.
At the time, I had no awareness that this landmark event had transpired. My world was wrapped up in the world of High School and trying to fit in. In addition to the swim team, I joined the debate and drama clubs.
I loved both, and until an unfortunate event at a debate competition, I secretly dreamed of being an actress on Broadway or a powerful attorney who lived somewhere cool.
As I recall, I was one of the only females on the debate team. You may have gathered this, but I didn’t consider myself to be particularly attractive, but looking back, it seems that the debate and drama coach did.
As we were walking into the competition venue, he pulled me aside and advised me in the following way, “Beth, the coaches for these debates are all men. I’d like you to unbutton your blouse another three buttons. That will help to win them over to our team.”
I had no idea what to think. He was my teacher. But what he was asking me to do just seemed wrong, and I didn’t do it. Our team won the competition without my cleavage. However, the experience scared me, because I was convinced that I had done something to deserve the request. I didn’t comply; instead, I quit both debate and drama.
Little did I know that thirty years later, unfortunately, after multiple similar life experiences, the #metoo movement would begin.
I wish I had realized that I could have and should have trusted someone like you or my parents with the truth of what happened to me. But like so many women, I was ashamed and felt responsible for every occurrence of sexual harassment during my lifetime.
Finally, as a woman of a certain age, I have come to complete peace with it all and no longer feel any sort of responsibility for the actions of others. I’m also much wiser and will not fall victim to such treatment ever again.
As you taught me the piano, and many other things, such as how to laugh and enjoy life. I hope to use my experiences to help other women avoid and recover from such abuse.
You are missed deeply by all who knew you.
With much love,