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A friend once told me life gives you what you need. I believe him.

by Janelle Hanchett

I could have waited and lied to you, faked it, written something interesting or more amusing like I had my act together and haven’t been struggling, but I have been struggling, and that’s why it’s been a week of no writing.

No inspiration. What’s a girl to do?

There’s a temptation to pretend, you know, force myself to do something inauthentic. But I can’t seem to do that to you. Or me.

And the truth is there are times in my life when I’m done. Just done. I don’t know why or how it happens, but it seems like I turn some corner and boom.


Not quick and sharp or stabbing pain, but more like a low hum in the back of my mind. A burning deep down.

A quiet simmer of vague discontentment, drifting, rudderless. A sneaking suspicion my life is not being lived, though it may appear so on the outside, and I’m alone. There’s a lot of fear though it can’t be nailed down.

I just feel so LOST.

I’m paralyzed by it all. The house, the mess, the stuff. The kids, the work, the years.

I lose interest in all the things. My temper grows short. Nothing feels enlightening or, to tell you the truth, even vaguely interesting. I feel like I’m faking it. All the time. With my smiles.

Joy passes in moments like a car racing by. I hear it, but by the time I look for it it’s gone. The sound resonates in my ears as my eyes turn back to nothing.

When the pain first descends, I start looking outside for the problem. Outside of me.

It must be that I gained that weight back. I’m fat. That’s what’s wrong.

It’s our money problems. I can’t stand being broke anymore.

I need a job. Obviously!

I need to write. My problem is I haven’t written that book.

It’s my town! I hate this shithole town!

It’s my house. This house is so trashed; nobody could live in this maelstrom of crap.

I used to blame my marriage, but that got too exhausting.

I used to blame everything, anything.

But eventually, I stopped looking, because I’ve already gone down those roads. I know they’ve got nothing for me. I used to read a bunch of existential literature. Sartre gets it. Nietzsche knows. What I need is a little Kierkegaard.

I used to drink, take drugs, get all dressed up and go out partying. Get some attention from some boys. That’ll cheer me up.

But I don’t do any of that anymore.

I know there’s only one way to escape from this, and that’s to move right into it.

Makes no sense, but it’s true.

My greatest fear, I guess, is that existence is meaningless, and that my life will be spent in a shithole town doing absolutely nothing of interest, and the words in my soul will be left unspoken, and my kids will grow as I grow and die, the end. Life will pass me by as I’m running on some plastic wheel made in China manufactured for Walmart, working for something that I can’t even see, for people I don’t even know, and when I’m 80 I’ll wonder what the fuck I was doing all that time.

Why didn’t I live when I could, I’ll ask. Who was I meant to be?

A wasted life. I’ve seen it so many times.

Eventually, with a mix of fury and terror I move headlong into my pain. Because at some point, there’s nowhere else to go. And I want to get to the truth.

If my depression were a room I’d walk into the center of it, where all its energy converges into a glowing face of my own agony, and I’d look it square in the eyes and wait.

“What you got, bitch?”

And I see she’s got nothing. Just the same old shit she’s been feeding me since I was a young girl, lying awake at night contemplating infinity, the crushing weight of it all on a tiny girl’s heart, wishing I could believe the stories I heard in church.

If I look hard enough into that fear, if I’m brave enough to really look, I see she’s full of shit.

I see everything I need is already here.

I see fear exists in the past and the future but never right now, in the center, in this spot, where my feet are, safely.

Where I live, NOW.


And I feel a little compassion for her, that burning ball of desperation, that sad little whiner deep inside, terrified beyond recall, poor little thing is just sure she’s going down.

I tell her “Honey, you’ve already gone down. And you’re still here.”

What are you afraid of?

And I’m grateful, because that pain comes along sometimes to jolt me alive, reminding me that this is really all I’ve got. And I see the ways I’ve been wasting my hours.

On my phone, screwing around when people are talking to me. Absent.

In anger. Surfing the internet. Escaping.

Worrying. Talking shit. Complaining. Putting off until tomorrow. Always.

Fearing. Fighting what is. Asleep.


Until I get so desperate I pack two of my three kids up (one was at a slumber party), and grab my husband and take a whole day off, of everything, and go to the beach, to surrender to my lack of ideas, hear waves and smell salt air and feel it too, the rocks and white cold water and the burn of the sun on my hungry skin – to feel connected to something again, old friend, the ocean.

And when I’m there I see this…

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I leave laughing.

It’s still humming, the fear, prattling on in the back of my mind, but I don’t care, she’s just running the same old story.

And frankly, I’m no longer interested. You’d think she’d come up with some new shit after all these years. But she doesn’t.

I smile at her antics and drive home, realize I’ve got too much life to live now, you know. The kids want to listen to “Say Yes” by Langhorne Slim. We do.

There’s no time for anything else.

So I just hang out with her for awhile longer, let her do her thing, ride it out as best I can, until one morning I hear the ocean waves in my boy’s breath as he sleeps next to me, alive in perfect rhythm with the universe I’m terrified of.

And I realize I’m doing the same. And always have been.

Later I sit down and write to you all, telling the truth one more day.

Poppy Harlow is a douchebag, and so are her friends.

by Janelle Hanchett

Poppy Harlow, you’re a douchebag. And so are you, ­­Candy Crowley. And Lester Holt, thank YOU for your insightful words in response to the rape of a 16-year-old

These people are a bigger threat to America than Caillou. FOR SURE.

girl in Steubenville, Ohio: “In many ways, tonight stands as a cautionary tale to a generation that has come of age in the era of social networking.”


And let’s all lament their “promising football careers” and the “lasting effects of jail time” on boys so young.

I have an idea: If you don’t want to go to jail, don’t rape people.

And let’s emphasize how sorry these boys were and really, REALLY emphasize how drunk intoxicated out-of-her mind this victim was. Let’s make it clear that she made some seriously unladylike choices that put her in a position to be raped and THOSE POOR BOYS they were just BOYS being BOYS. I mean, what are they supposed to do when faced with an unprotected vagina?

Just for funsies, let’s play a little game. Let’s pretend the female who was raped was a male. Let’s pretend a 16-year-old boy got drunk, fell semi-conscious and was raped and urinated on by classmates, and it was video-taped and texted about.


Wouldn’t the rapists be monsters, now? Wouldn’t they be sick fucks who took advantage of a person who was just having fun, just out for a little fun one night, like all teenagers do?

Think about it. I bet the media would have a very, very different reaction. Setting mainstream homophobia aside, it’s interesting to think about whether the focus on the victim “making bad choices” and “compromising oneself” would exist were the victim male. I mean if a girl gets drunk she’s potential rape material. If a boy gets drunk he’s having fun.

Here we go again with the same old narrative: it’s the woman’s fault.

And apparently, if you’re CNN or NBC or whatever, if you’re a boy who gets drunk and fingers a girl against her will and then urinates on her and slaps your penis against her hip in front of a bunch of people while she lies there half-unconscious, and you videotape it all and text about it and brag to your friends – well, you’re just a boy being a “boy” and it’s just fucking heart-wrenching when you get punished for your ILLEGAL behavior because WHAT ABOUT YOUR PROMISING FUTURE?

Yes, such promising futures as douchebag misogynistic football stars.

It’s really too bad they didn’t make it all the way to the big leagues, where they could rape women and get away with it! Yay!

Alright, to get away from sarcasm for a minute, when I first thought about these media outlets practically in mourning for the rapists, insinuating the classic “boys will be boys” rhetoric – I got all pissed off, like “how dare you call my son a rapist,” (which what they’re doing when they imply that all boys would be rendered powerless in the face of an unconscious female).

And I got all irate thinking about the way the media deployed the offenders as “just regular ol’ boys” doing boy things…rather than calling them what they are (individual monsters).

But then I started thinking about their douchebag coach who was all but condoning their behavior, and I started thinking about the thousands of comments on social media demonizing the girl, and the people in their town sending the victim death threats. And I started thinking about the boys’ parents and teachers and coaches and friends throughout their lives and all the people that could have or should have taught them some self-respect, some basic decency toward others, some simple fucking humanity.

And I realized they are every boy. Or they were, at some point.

They started like my son.

And they grew up, and they were told women are property and playthings, and that men are tough and sexually driven and the ones in charge, and they were shown every day that women are objects – tools to satisfy their desire. They were spoon-fed misogyny and the subjugation of women. They were built. They were structured. They were molded into the monsters that spoke of a “dead girl” getting “so raped.” Between fits of laughter they showed the world what they’d become.

I’m not saying they aren’t responsible. Obviously. They are undoubtedly horrible specimens of people and are wholly responsible for their crimes (um, do all boys grow up to be rapists? No, so clearly society isn’t the only problem here.) I’m glad they’re there, and I’d like to dropkick their football coach and the aforementioned idiotic media reps.

But it’s too easy to think they are just individual demons, that they’ve just made bad choices because they come from “bad stock” in a “backward town” in wherever the fuck – like the coach and their parents and classmates and local citizens are just an anomaly, a strange occurrence of twisted humanity, and we can all just fall back in our smug superiority, because we’re so much better, raising such better sons.

Although yes, that’s probably true.

But check it out: when we dismiss them as exceptional, we ignore the systematic violence toward women being deployed every single day on a million different fronts.

And we ignore the systematic violence toward men being deployed every single day on a million different fronts.

Because we’re all dying here. If girls are sex objects, and men are the mindless victims of testosterone, unable to control themselves in the face of drunk female, it’s pretty clear to me that we’re all losing here.

Men are monsters. Women are the preyed upon.

But we’re all losing our humanity.

And when I look at my boy and my girl, I’m terrified that society is going to see them as a “boy” and a “girl,” with all that those labels involve, and it’s going to work to mold them into the crap of humanity we see on television on a daily basis. And on the streets. And everywhere.

I see my kids and I see humans who are going to walk along this earth like all the other humans who have ever been and ever will be, and I know it’s my job to teach them, teach them to be human. But I’m fooling myself if I think I’m all there is. Like my husband and family and I are it, like we can single-handedly negate every sick and twisted outside influence on our children.

As if I can fix a broken society by being a “good mother.”

There’s more to this story.

And we better figure out what it is, or we’re all going down.

It makes me sick to think about the whole thing: those boys raping that girl, laughing and giggling and bragging about it, the burden the victim will carry the rest of her life, the town and coach and media defending the rapists, offering their condolences to the criminals.

The attitude of all of it: “Sorry, I’m just a boy, and that’s how boys are.” I’m just a poor weeping boy in a court room! I’m just a high school football star! I mean no harm! I’m just a boy being a boy because that’s how boys are!

No, no they’re not. You’re a fucking criminal, and you deserve to be in jail, and my son and father and brother and husband would have kicked your ass if they saw your sad selves abusing that girl.

Because they’re men.

Or they’re women. WHATEVER. Call ’em what you want.

They are humans.

And that’s how we are.

Until we become something else, I guess.