This is not an opinion piece. I am telling you this right now. If you would like an opinion piece, kindly go elsewhere.
This is a feeling piece. I should say: feelings are also susceptible to criticism, I understand this.
Let’s have this conversation.
To begin with, I don’t really do heroes. In school, when the teacher would pass around the getting-to-know-you sheet, the one with first pets and interests and favourite movies, I’d always pause at Heroes. Jesus was my first go-to. Perhaps it was my thundering disappointment when he turned out to be more or less fictional that ruined heroes for me. Perhaps it was the fact that I wasn’t allowed to access popular culture like most kids, so when they wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Madonna, I was stuck choosing between Eve, Ruth and Esther (Esther was clearly the winning choice.)
Later, I wrote in my big sister, which is still true.
Sometimes I’d find artists I’d stumble over who clicked in a moment where I needed someone, anyone to know what I was going through. Still, even these folks failed to fill a spot in my life that I’d call heroes. I think of Maya Angelou, whose books I stole from the school library. I think of Steven Page who sang about mental illness and heartbreak using words I wanted to line up, like pots on a windowsill, and watch all day. No matter what, though, I was on the hunt for ways any potential hero may disappoint me. I did not become attached. I stood back and borrowed what I needed and always found it wanting.
When heroes die, we grieve en masse. We share our sadness and pool our comfort. We shine the best light on them. It’s how, in the span of a week, we went from Wacko Jacko to Saint Michael.
So we post. We post old stories of heroics and villainy and we rail at each other for not seeing eye to eye on a human we’ve never met.
I engaged for a bit, then backed away. I engaged because I know the cultural fragility of any bodily rights granted to women and, even moreso, any right to construct our own experience. I also understand my friend’s need to grieve. I respect them.
So I shut up. I saved it up. I did not talk about how our conversations about permission and agency and eras and heroes left me saddened. My feelings were not important in that moment.
Now, with some time, here they are. I am not here to argue the minutia of consent, though I know that needs to happen. I am not here to talk about one man and one girl and their choices or mistakes.
What I have to say is that I am sad that I see no end to the imbalance between all genders. I am sad that my first thought when it occurred was, “we cannot have pretty things.” The whole situation leaves me hollow. I want to step back from all of the fights about whether she was 13 or 15, whether he was high or not, whether it was loving and beautiful or abusive and just say, “Fuck, let’s be good to each other. Let’s bend over fucking backward to make sure that each other are safe and loved and having an amazing time. Let’s be aware of our own safety and power and share it rather than hoard it.”
That’s it. That’s all I got.
So instead of diving into the conversation, I made myself a mix full of songs by problematic, complicated, probably broken and weird people that make me feel good things. And I promised myself that I would work even harder to be aware of the needs of those around me. What else can I do?