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Tough Conversations

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Tough Conversations

English Club: A Story of Gang Rape, Trafficking, And A Dragon

May 21, 2017

CW: This essay discusses rape and sex trafficking. For survivor support, contact RAINN for confidential online and phone support, https://www.rainn.org/get-help.

By Katie Ottaway

For three years all I remembered was the tea. The tea wasn’t even that good.

I was abroad teaching English, and planning a summer of pre-dissertation research.  My classes were in the evening, and it was not uncommon for my students to bring friends to audit.  In the few minutes before I commenced my advanced English class, I overheard a conversation that a handful of my male students were having in their local language.  I didn’t catch it all, but I understood that they were talking about me, and my class, and falling asleep.  They were discussing whether or not I would make the cut.  There was some discussion of numbers.  At the time, I naturally assumed that they were critiquing my pedagogy, maybe discussing if their new foreign teacher was hot or not, and talking about finances as most students do.  I didn’t like the fact that they were talking about me within a few feet of me, thinking that I couldn’t understand, so I spoke to the class in their language for the first time.

After class, one of the students approached and asked if I had understood their conversation.  I bluffed a little, and replied that I had understood enough of it.  His eyes widened, and he assured me that they were talking about a different class and a different teacher.  He only returned a couple times, and never made eye contact.  His friend, G, who was privy to the conversation maintained good attendance, and even became somewhat of a teacher’s pet. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Tough Conversations, Vulnerability

The Poetry of Awkward Silence

February 26, 2017
silence

By Benjamin Bagocius

I like awkward silences.

They are the unwieldy soul of social interaction. We often labor to exclude rather than befriend their wildness. I want to reclaim awkward silences, to listen for the ways their mysterious voices restore poetry to everyday conversation.

Awkward silences speak the language of poetry. As with poetry, awkward silences can be uncomfortable – but also liberating. They are breaks from habituated responses when something new might happen, supersaturated opportunities to rethink ourselves and each other. Generally framed as the worst possible social interaction, the awkward silence can be one of the most productive moments of our shared, public life. After all, awkward silences are never conditions of solitude. They emerge from encounters between two or more people. Just as poets need readers, and readers need poets, awkward silence, too, is about relationship. This is where its greatest promise lies for reimagining our public life together. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Tough Conversations

Conversations On Baseball, Zombies, and Death

November 5, 2016

TW: This essay discusses suicide.

By Meg Weber

My daughter was six years old the first time she asked me for details about Melissa’s death. She knew Melissa had been my best friend, that she had died, and that I missed her. I had staunchly avoided any other details.

One morning, just over a year ago, Kai finally voiced her questions. “Why did she die? Did she get sick? Did she want her bones to be a skeleton?” Although we’d talked about scattering Melissa’s ashes, I had purposefully skipped over describing how bodies become ashes.

I hadn’t explained how Melissa died, mainly because walking in the forest on a clear blue sky day is something I want Kai to be excited about, not scared of. I want her to love trees, not fear them. But the day she finally asked her litany of questions, I told her the truth. Melissa had been hiking in a forest and a big part of a tree broke off and fell on her. “Momo, did her blood come out? Momo, why didn’t she just run really fast to get away from the tree? That’s what I would have done.” Continue Reading…