I have been acquiring a list of things to be grateful for as I approach the new year. I also just read the memoir I started several months ago and have not gone back to. It seemed like a good idea to maybe try and get back into that today but I don’t know how really.

I am thinking my New Year’s canon will win out but the people next to me are talking about how she just got her license back after a DUI so I am eavesdropping. Yesterday I was listening to a woman with her friends talking about how her husband walked out recently because of her drinking after she woke up in a Boston hospital not knowing how she got there and she was at least 10 years older than me. Honestly, I think it’s awesome they are talking out loud, in public with their friends not at all judging them about this topic. If only I had those kind of balls to get back to my big memoir project.

This current conversation is amazing to listen to. She is talking about how hard it has been to find a new job because she now has a record. Amen, sister. Ask me why I am still in my current job. There’s a much bigger obstacle there than just trying to match my salary and benefits.

Anyway, totally rambling so bear with me on this forced writing project. The way it has been working is that ideas brew and brew until I have to stop everything I am doing to blog. Right now, I am in the blog not exactly having anything passionate to write about.

So maybe let’s talk women and booze. We have all heard so many stories about drunk men and all the mistakes they make. They get arrested, they fall down and get black eyes, they start fights, they pee in strange places. They sober up for a bit and do it all again. They lose licenses for a bit but nobody cares. Boys will be boys, I guess. A woman does any of those things and the crowd turns with a pitying eye, a judgmental tone, a branding of her. A Scarlet Letter, so to speak. People don’t realize that as women have taken on the positions of men, so have they taken on similar weights.

This girl next to me is saying that the experience she went through was so hard because there was no one to turn to who may have had a similar experience. There was no one she could go to and ask about what their experience might have been so she wasn’t sure how to navigate the court system, lawyers, fees, etc. She was without any frame of reference. Scared. At least she had a reliable bus system or could ride her bike to work. She is grateful for that. But she was at the mercy of the system, acutely aware that she had a record and there wasn’t a far divide between her and how a person becomes homeless and part of the system other than that she had financial support from her parents.

Amen, sister. I know exactly what you went through. You sat in a courtroom full of criminals and you wondered what separated you from them…if you actually could separate yourself from them now. You got annoyed with them staring at you because you didn’t belong there until you had to admit to yourself, you were no better than them now. You realized the only difference was your economic circumstance. Me too. My bonus was the only thing that made me different. I could pay my lawyer. It meant I would have to scale back on vacations but my mortgage was precarious for awhile. I wouldn’t lose my job but I certainly wouldn’t be able to leave it anytime soon either. Your record is a stranglehold where you have to hope for the goodness in a hiring manager to see the decades you never did anything wrong. No speeding tickets. No accidents. Nothing. But the one thing you do have is the blemish people can turn away from if they want to. You have no legal protection from that.

I want to interrupt your conversation so badly to tell you it happened to me to. You are talking about the kick in the gut to your self esteem. I know that. It never goes away. But I am still too embarrassed and afraid of retaliation in my orbit. And yet, I have very valid circumstances leading up to mine. Even the FBI who screened my PTSD felt like I was allowed this indiscretion and that it was a symptom. That someone like me would never have been in trouble otherwise. And while that’s very true, it doesn’t change that I still have to live with it. I bet you, girl in the coffee shop, had good reasons too.

I want to tell you that I love your sense of humor about your story right now. I love your friend who is making you feel so normal about it. I love that you have a new job and the coffee shop owner came by to congratulate you. I guess down here, if you are local, everyone knows your business. I was able to keep my secret much better and I am still too much of a wimp to own it the way I do my bombing experience, my rape, my harassment experiences. I love that it got you way into biking over the summer. I love that you are honest about still struggling with your self esteem. I want to tell you it’s going to be ok. You are strong. You are awesome and bold. Your community is supportive and not “judgy.” And… if you were a man, no one would expect you to explain your whole story as a mea culpa with a story at the end about the lessons you learned.

Two women standing still in an empty parking lot