There’s A Thin Line Between Love and Harassment

As I waited in line for my very overpriced coffee in a semi-crowded Starbucks on a Wednesday, I noticed two guys…two men checking me out. As I attempted to ignore their blatant staring, I noticed something else. These two men were old enough to be my father, they were with their young kids, yet their ogling of me never ceased. But my level of safety and comfort quickly diminished. I wondered what I had done to set off their staring. Was it what I was wearing? A quick glance down at my t-shirt and too-big shorts told me no. Was my bra strap showing? Again, no. What was it that I had done wrong that they were staring at me in this way?

Nothing. I had done nothing wrong to attract their very unwanted attention. The only thing I had done was step foot in the store to feed my caffeine addiction and to read my book. That’s it. I wasn’t flirting with them, I wasn’t planning to interact with them in any way besides standing in line, and yet somehow I thought it was my fault that they were looking at me. And this interaction didn’t happen in a new, strange environment. It took place in the white, middle-class suburbia that is my hometown.

Now all of this took place in the span of five minutes, but in that time, I realized something.

How can one tell the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to harassment?

It’s a thin line…one that’s based on communication and societal perceptions. It’s forged from years of harassment and opposingly, years of kind words. The line is different for every person. But the line will always be thin between “love” and harassment.

The question is, is what do we do as a society about that line? Or is it up to the individual to understand their own boundaries? When does one cross the line?

In order to understand the thinness of said line, here are some examples of lines that I’ve heard in the past. Try to figure out which ones are “love” and which are “harassment.”

“Hey girl…oh you don’t wanna say hi to me? I get it.”

“You look beautiful today.”

“Hey, pretty mama how you doin’ today?”

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“You should be flattered that someone wants to compliment you.”

Think you have the right answers?

The answer was that all five of them could be considered harassment when you take into account the context they were in. Two of them included an attempt to touch me in some way (one grabbed my arm, the other went for my ass). Three included smiles and winks, none of which were reciprocated by me. All five produced the response of me walking quickly past them with my head down and my heart racing. See what I mean?

See what I mean?

In today’s society, the line is so thin that we are often hyper-vigilant in our quest to stop harassment. We are so afraid of making a commotion, drawing unwanted attention to ourselves. In the case of many women, myself included, we are wary to speak up against our harassers, because it could very well lead to more abuse or even physical violence.

If we expect this type of backlash and violence, what can we as a society do about it to prevent it from happening in the future?

I believe that we should teach people how to understand the difference between “love” and harassment. What I mean by this is that through education and prevention, we can help prevent everyday sexism and harassment. Of course, this isn’t a task that will be accomplished in a day. This is something that has been happening for decades, and sadly it may take time before we can truly acknowledge the irreparable damage.

Just because it’s always happened, doesn’t mean that it has to continue.




Writing In The Prison, Week 4: The Things We’ve Lost 

We’ve all lost something or someone. From old childhood toys to former friends, family members to even lost memories, we, as human beings are in a constant state of loss.

We can lament over the things we’ve lost. We can also hold out hope that we can rediscover for what we’ve lost.

This week the writing prompt for the inmates was to write a story about things we’ve lost.

But what happens if you’ve lost everything?

Many of the inmates in the correctional facility know what that’s like.

These people, whether by their own actions or the actions of others, have lost their homes, their freedom, their families.

They’ve lost their faith and their hope that things will get better. They themselves are lost, and they want to find themselves.

We all want to find ourselves. We want to know about who we’re supposed to be in this world, and what we’re going to accomplish. We want to know from the second we’re born what we’re going to have.

But what does it take to do that? Does it mean we need to lose everything to gain perspective on the world? Does dealing with loss = finding ourselves?

Does it mean that you take things  away until you’ve lost everything? Or does it mean that once you hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up?

And who can experience loss? Is it only those who have something or someone to lose? Or can anyone experience the feelings of loss? I think that a loss isn’t only for the privileged, loss is for everyone. Everyone knows in some way what it’s like to lose something, to lose someone. Some people lose more than others, but that doesn’t mean that the ones who haven’t truly lost anything don’t know what it means.

I think that the things we’ve lost are a part of us and regardless of who or where we are, the feeling of loss is something we can all relate to. And if we have lost everything, the important thing to remember is that the feelings of loss are universal, you’re not alone in your loss.

Please make sure to give other pieces in this series a read, and make sure to share.

Until next time.


Writing In The Prison, Week 3: Emotions

A few days ago was the three-week mark of my independent study, Writing In The Prison. This week, something that I noticed while teaching was how important emotions are conveyed through the writing that we do.

It’s not only the inmates writings’ that have emotional depth but ours as well. Every word we write, every story we tell is based on real things that have happened to us. It up to us to show the world what we want to say. What this means is that there can often be deeper emotions behind the words we write.

We’re given prompts to help us along in our stories, but everyone interprets those differently. For example, one of the prompts for this week was “write about an encounter with a bully.”  What I saw in the inmates writing was their real passion; they knew exactly they wanted to tell their story, emotions and all.

It’s because of this passion that I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the class.

Please don’t forget to like and share.

Until next time.

Writing In The Prison, Week 2: Empathy versus Sympathy

Yesterday was the second week of my independent study, Writing In The Prison.

And this week, something that I noticed while teaching was the emotions that were expressed, and how they were reacted to.

Several of the stories this week were deeply personal, and due to their personal nature, it also brought strong emotional reactions as well. Which is completely normal in any situation, but in this particular situation, I wasn’t completely sure how I should react.

This is where empathy versus sympathy comes into play.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
Sympathy : feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
Can we as humans be both empathetic and sympathetic? Or can we only experience one over the other?
In the case of the inmates, it felt as if this class serves as a unique bonding experience for them, as it is allowing them to share their thoughts and feelings with each other. But while the teachers share as well, it feels like there is still a disconnect between us. Because while we are part of the class, we still are part of the “Them”.  Even though we do not hold the same authoritative positions as the guards, we’re still volunteers in the facility. We have the freedom to leave at any time, and we technically do not have to return. We choose to come each week, for different reasons. We do not fit into a proper category because of our freedomswe are not inmates, and we are not workers.
But I know it doesn’t mean that we don’t care. In fact, I would argue in some ways, we are more compassionate, as we only get an hour to learn more about these people, and to learn more about the facility as well. And in turn, the women in the class, and the workers at the facility only get about an hour to learn more about us. Which means the limited time is allowing us to move faster, beyond the bonds of small talk, to really get to what matters.
And I think that is what makes this opportunity so special.
Until next time.

To Connect Or Disconnect, That Is The Question

Recently, I’ve been inspired to disconnect from electronics. For a little while at least. 

This past weekend alone, I spent over 12 hours staring at various screens,and it was draining. No matter how much I tried to relax and take a break, the screens were always there to lure me back in. 

Even now, I’m using my phone to write this very post. 

The first thing I do in the morning? Check my phone.

Going to bed? Check my phone.

Free time? Usually on my phone or computer. 

It feels like we as a society are glued to our screens, without realizing the repercussions. Instead of going to a library to look something up, we quickly type it into a search engine to avoid making any effort to try.

Human interaction? Why do we need that when we have the Internet to occupy our time?

Now I know this all sounds harsh, but when you really think about it, maybe harsh is the wake-up call we need to get away from our electronics and self-reflect. 

But before I disconnect, let me just Google ” best ways to self-reflect”. 

What To Do When You’re Fasting

1) Eat a big meal the night before. It will hold you over for a little while. 
2) Try to stay in one place. Moving around may make you dizzy and disoriented.

3) This fast also includes refraining from drinking. So make sure you’re hydrating in the days before.

4) Don’t look at videos/pictures of food. You may think you can handle it, but you most likely cannot. 

5) Get rest at some point during the day. Very important.

6) Try not to think about eating, or really anything food related. It’s for the best.

7) Make sure you have enough food. This is very important. Arguably the most important. 

8) Make sure you have enough for leftovers. Nothing is better than having leftovers after a big holiday.

9) Know why you’re fasting. In the Jewish religion, we fast as it is a sacred commandment. It is a way of self-denial, to atone for our sins. 

10) Be thankful for what you have in life. Because nothing is better then spending the holidays with people you care about. 

Priorities (And How I Can’t Get Mine In Order)

Happy Sunday! And Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing father’s out there, including my own!

People are always talking about priorities. What they need to accomplish, what other people should be trying to accomplish, and what you need to accomplish.

Why is it that we are so fixed on the idea that we always need to have everything organized and completed, or we feel like a complete failure? And it’s not to say that everyone is like this, but I am making a claim that even if people do not consciously realize it, we are constantly trying to figure out what we need to do next, and how much time we have to complete it.

It starts from childhood. We are told that we have limited time, to play, to watch TV, before the day is over. And it continues for the rest of our lives. We have to go to basketball practice, to study for our exams, to fall in love, get married, have kids, work hard, retire and finally it ends. And then the cycle passes on to those who come after you.

And if we miss one of those things? Our whole life plan is off, and it’s all over. Unless we find something else to prioritize. It’s a cycle that never ends, but each cycle is based on the individual who utilizes it, and that cycle is impacted by our environments and those who are in it.

So why can’t we just simply just sit back for a little bit and not worry about what we have to complete next? And if we manage to relax, even for a little while, what happens if we completely neglect our priorities? What happens then?

And what if all we focus on is the completion of priorities? What happens if we never have time to relax, and we become overwhelmed with all that we need to accomplish?

So many questions, so little time. Hopefully I can answer some of them in the near future and report back. That’ll be one of the next things that I plan to accomplish.

The good news is that writing this post was a priority, so I can check that off of my list. Now, it’s on to the next thing, and then the thing after that, and the thing after that….


10 Tips For When You Get Lost In Florence (Because You Will)

Happy Friday!

I spent most of this week exploring Florence, and managed to get lost a few times. While I was wandering around, I came up with this post idea. Enjoy!

1. Even though Florence is a smaller city, you will get lost in the first few weeks. Know that now, and you will feel better when you’re panicking at 11 PM trying to find your way home.

2. You are terrible at reading maps. Stop trying to make sense of them and go ask someone in a cafe. Trust me.

3. The wifi is spotty here, stop trying to use Google Maps in the middle of the street. It will not work, no matter how hard you hit the refresh button.

4. When someone says look for an landmark, make sure they’re specific about what landmark they are talking about. Florence is old, and almost every building looks like it could be a landmark.

5. Give yourself enough time to get places, otherwise you’ll be running around frantically looking for where you’re supposed to go.

6. Vespas and cars will park ON the curb, not next to it. They also will not stop for you, even when you have the right of way.

7. Bikes will also park on the street, and you will run into them. Frequently.

8. When you get lost, don’t stare at a map in the middle of the street, you will look like a desperate tourist, and people will try to sell you things.

9. Wear comfortable shoes. I cannot say this enough. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. Also, keep Band-Aids on you at all times, you WILL need them,

10. Getting lost in Florence is one of the best things that will happen to you. You are lost in a beautiful city on a once-in-a lifetime trip. Take the time to explore your surroundings, you won’t regret it.


Self Esteem, Meet Coming Home For The Holidays

Happy Tuesday!

I am now home for the next few weeks, until I fly out for my semester abroad! So keep your eyes peeled for more blog posts.

As I just mentioned, I am officially back in my hometown for break. And as anyone coming home from a long time away knows, coming back can be rough sometimes.

That’s because people still remember who you were back in high school, and they don’t know who you are now. Past memories come back to embarrass you in the middle of the night; you do everything in your power to avoid anyone you know. Because you don’t want to remember who you were.

For example, I was in the gym the other day, and I saw two girls who were from my high school class. And even though my self-esteem has improved since I went to college, it suddenly felt like I was 15 years old: I had to impress them by any means necessary. I tried to go faster on the machine, I pretended not to notice them; even though every few minutes I shot them a glance to see how they were doing. After talking to a close friend of mine from college, I realized the problem was not with them, but with me.

I had allowed myself to “wilt” around them, to forget all that I had achieved while I had been in college, and how much I have grown by being there with my friends. It was a problem that I had been dealing with for the past few years but I could never figure out the root of the issue. And even when I asked the people around me, they couldn’t figure it out either.

So the main question is…why do we do this? Why do we feel the need to revert back to our former selves any time we face our past?

Personally, I think it’s partly a habit or a defense mechanism. We feel the need to remember who we used to be, so that we can grow from those experiences.  Or maybe, we revert to who were once were because of the potential fear of judgement from our peers. If one person is more successful than another, it may feel like the latter will suffer a blow to their self-esteem. By coming back to a familiar place, it can bring up past memories for an individual.

Everyone has insecurities. And even if a person was considered to be “popular” by societal standards; it doesn’t mean that they also didn’t have insecurities of their own. And sometimes, it can take years for those insecurities to go away, and sometimes they never do.

But the important thing to note is that who you are now is not who you once were. We as humans adapt and grow as we age, and our mistakes in the past will become distant thoughts in the future. But it is when we cannot let our past mistakes go, that we hinder our future lives. It’s important to remember that we all have moments of insecurity; but we can’t let it control how we behave because then we will not be able to fully grow as humans.

Until next time!


I Am Not A Poet (Or, Why I Don’t Claim To Be)

Happy Monday.

I cannot call myself a poet. Yes, I love poetry, and I love reading/writing it, but I refuse to call myself a poet.


Because I feel that the second you give yourself a name or a label, you are branded with it. You are now known as a poet, and that means people expect poems from you.

It’s the same thing with any career. Are you in business? Then you, my friend, are a businessman. Are you involved with teaching? Then you must be a teacher.

There are so many different ways we can describe what we love and what we want to do other than our labels. The world is not simply black and white, nor are we, so our labels shouldn’t have to be also.

Have a great Monday!