Friday, May 30, 2014


I was walking down the sidewalk,with a (male) friend just ahead of me when I felt it--a hand on my breast and a quick squeeze. I stopped walking. No one else did. So I shook my head in disbelief, and hurried to catch up. What else was there to do?


I was on  bus with a large group of friends, coming back from a soccer match in Florence. A man across the aisle was staring. As he lined up to exit at his stop he reached out and caressed my cheek: "che bella," he said, and got off the bus.


I was on the C train on the way home; it was late; I'd been volunteering for the NYC Hope Count that night. It was me, a sleeping homeless person, and a group of black guys being rowdy on the other end of the car. As the train neared the stop one came over and said, "You are truly beautiful." He didn't touch me. I don't know whether it was sweet, or creepy.


I was on a train, headed back to the villa. I was alone, and it was late--I was just going to make it back before curfew. An older man and two boys passed by in the corridor, looking in, and then came back and sat down in my compartment. They were chatty--wanted to know if I spoke Italian and where I was from. Pretty soon the conversation turned a bit coarse--they were laughing and using words I didn't know, but the hand gestures were pretty unmistakeable. I stood up to get a book from my pack so I could plausibly ignore them; when I sat down one of the younger ones had his hand in my seat and grabbed my ass. There was a lot of laughter at my reaction, and then some faux chivalry as the younger guys switched seats at the older man's insistence so I could be "safe." It was a long ride to Santa Maria Novella, and I had my pack on at the first sign of drawing into the station, ready to run. But the old man blocked the door. He grabbed me and pulled me in for an embrace and nuzzled my neck. And then, finally, let me go.

I was terrified and grateful that nothing else had happened. Much more could have.

I got back to to villa an hour after curfew. No one had missed me, and I didn't say a word about my train ride.


I dated a good Christian boy who allowed himself far more liberties with me than he'd ever done with anyone else before; this was my fault, because "my mind was impure" due to experiences from relationships in my past.


I sat in a room at Princeton Theological Seminary, listening to a panel discussion on sexism, harassment and abuse. The question was posed to the room at large: "how many women in this room have experienced some form of sexual harrassment?" Every woman in the room raised her hand.


I had just defended my dissertation, and bursting with pride, had ordered a new set of fabulous, unique business cards from an artist friend in Brooklyn for AAR. Handing one to an acquaintance in the hopes of networking for a job, I received this comment: "You are the sexiest woman I've ever seen." Nonplussed, I responded, "Um...yeah, they're really great cards, aren't they."

I was defending a critical, theological argument on a theology blog. I was accused of misunderstanding the point, of not having a modicum of common sense, of being "vaginal retentive," of being a buzzkill. Despite holding a PhD in Theology from a respected institution, I was treated like a child having a temper tantrum because she couldn't possibly understand what the grown-ups were talking about.
#YesAllWomen: Why it's so hard for men to see misogyny

Please understand. I'm not seeking sympathy, apologies, or pity. These things happened, and life went on. But this is what it means: this is life, for #YesAllWomen. This is "normal." This is typical. This is part of what it means to be a female body in the street, on the bus, on the train, in the classroom, at a conference, on the internet.

And part of what it means to be a female body in the church? Is it really all that different?

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Mothers give us life and our first scar. My children stretched it out and made it more beautiful.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone. May it be beautiful.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

the next round

Gearing up for the next round, y'all. But more and more, the question for me, and all the other folks in similar situations, is: how long do you hold out hope of landing that thing known as a "real job," that thing with salary and benefits? That pays enough that you can actually afford to do it, and afford the corollary expenses that come along with doing it, like childcare and takeout and help with the house? With an office you don't have to share with three others who probably wouldn't appreciate staring at those pics of your kids you set up on the desk, so they get put away at the end of your scant office hours? With colleagues? With time to research and write and publish?

I'll be honest. I've thought about alternatives. There are a couple problems with that. One is, my only other marketable skill sets are waitressing and having babies. The other is, I really, really love both my subject, the art of teaching, and the act of writing. I love the classroom--undergrad, grad, philosophy, theology--all of it. And I'd like to write another book.

And let's be honest, too, that putting 7 years into a degree, and then walking away from all that it means to you, is just a difficult thing to do, in terms of your sense of self.

So. Here I am, y'all. Exhibit JTB of the adjunct problem in academia.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Waiting: an out-of-season Advent homily (reflections on World Convention)

And I stood, waiting while the circle completed itself and everyone, in turn and by name, received the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. And in the waiting was a blessing equal to the blessing received in the gift.

In that attentive stillness, it struck me that I was quite simply at peace. I was not in a hurry. I was not thinking about what came next. I was not thinking of what I should do or not do, or what I should be doing while I waited or if people were looking at me while I waited or what they were thinking while they waited. I was quiet inside, an unusual thing for me, and that quiet seemed to have reached in from the outside, where we waited on each other.

In this quiet chapel was a group of people from all over the world, who had spent two days talking, thinking, praying, dreaming and planning together. They had been strangers to me, but in this moment of sharing and waiting in the ritual which brings Christians of all traditions together, I realized that I belonged here in this room.

Born and raised Church of Christ from Cradle Roll to college, there have been many times that I have felt alien in my church. Sometimes it has felt like a wound, but I have learned how to live with it. Don't put pressure on the spot; move carefully; be wise, be cautious, be diplomatic, be circumspect; make sure you take the hits that come somewhere else so they don't hurt too bad, and turn the other cheek. It's become normal, this mode of faithfulness to my church.

But in this room, I belonged. In this room, my wounds were cherished as much as my gifts. In this room I was welcome. In this room, I was waited on.

The Churches of Christ have always been a part of something larger than themselves--all churches are--even if we have worked hard to ignore it, at times. In this room full of people from all over the world, from all the branches of the Restoration movement, celebrating our unity and common history and anticipating a future together, I felt for the first time in a long time that I was glad, deeply glad, to have grown up in this particular expression of Christianity, this peculiar, rational, contentious, deeply faithful bunch of God's people.

So I cried a little bit, and that was okay.

And then it struck me: we were not simply waiting on each other, but God, too is waiting on us. We make space and time to sense it in the celebration of Communion, but it is constant. God is waiting on us--though most often we think we are waiting on God. We say to each other, "those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint," and it is true; but God, too, waiting and watching and hoping and anticipating as we learn to embrace each other in the unity of the Spirit.

I am so grateful in this moment for the work that the World Convention (Christian-Churches of Christ-Disciples of Christ) has done in the many years since its founding, the work that we are preparing to do in the future, and the gift of belonging that I received so unexpectedly in that Communion with my sisters and brothers from around the world.

Unity is a mysterious gift, rooted in the very life of God: created in the same image, saved by same Savior, gifted with the same Spirit, we are indeed one, in ways that surpass recognition, assent, doctrinal agreement or even volition…and for this I give thanks and praise. Amen.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

a letter from my daughter from three days ago

transcript (faithful to spelling and grammar):

Dear Not Mom anymore
I dispise you
go away NEVER come back
you will make me estatic if you do that. Becose
you want to make me happy
goodbye and good ridence forever

I know it's a bit twisted but all I really feel in looking at this letter is a sense of bursting maternal pride at how well my 7YO expresses herself. #goClare

Sunday, March 09, 2014

"NPR Listener"

I'm blessed with a commute that takes me, three times a week, out of the WNYC station range just as I enter the WHYY station range, and in the mornings they basically play the exact same schedule so I can switch from one to the other without missing a single syllable of my morning NPR. It's awesome.

Except for the weeks when they run back-to-back fundraisers. That double whammy gets really tiresome. WHYY goes first and then, just as they end, WNYC cranks up. That can make for a long commute.

This last time, I found myself getting annoyed at more than just the repetitive appeals and aggravating interruptions to programs for their plaintive pitches. Usually I even find it somewhat mesmerizing, the smooth blather and wordsmithy that goes into the whole thing by these professional talkers... But this time, over and over, I heard something that really bugged me: a crude appeal to intellectual elitism that made NPR listeners, and a fortiori the elite of the elite who donate or become members, the "us" opposed to the "them," the ignorant hoi polloi who listen to (sniff) commercial radio. Every morning for about two weeks I heard some version of this on and off for an hour and a half. "We know that you, our listeners are intelligent and want to be informed" or "just think how many times you've been at a party and started a conversation with 'I heard on NPR' and immediately became the smart person in the room" or "take those few cents a day you spend at the vending machine and feed your brain instead" or "in personals 'NPR listener' has become code for smart and cares about the world" and on and on. The longer I listened the more appalling it became.

And then one morning I found myself shouting back at my radio, "NO! I mean, shouldn't public radio be for everyone???"

Finally WHYY (which, may I add, is a great station and I generally <3 actual="" and="" blunt="" campaign="" ceased="" content="" focus="" it="" its="" message="" none="" of="" on="" p="" producing="" programs="" s="" smart="" squarely="" straightforward="" stuff="" stupid="" support.="" tactic:="" takes="" that="" the="" them="" theme="" there="" this="" time="" turn.="" us="" v.="" was="" wnyc="">
I've been a (very minor) contributor for WNYC for a few years now. I'm proud of it, and all the more because they didn't slide into that insidious message of intellectual/social elitism.

This was a few weeks ago now so I'm not exactly timely in blogging about it, but it's been simmering on the mental backburner ever since. We spend so much time lamenting the fractured, ideologically driven state of mainstream media in this country--and the way that it both reflects and furthers the epistemological divide in the public. And one of the things I heard from both stations is how public radio, because it is non-commercial and primarily listener-funded, stands apart from the rest of mainstream news media in this ideologically and commerically driven epistemological division. Except that, if you're simply recreating another split, how can you pat yourself on the back for standing apart?

So next time, let's remember: public radio is for everyone. Even, and maybe especially, for the folks don't listen to it. Yet.