There are some crucial secrets all women should learn while they are still girls: both weight and money come and go; never suffer for a job or for a person you do not love; choose your own life before the world chooses for you.
It was an especially strange time to be an American woman in Europe; I kept finding myself trying to explain my country’s unfettering attack on women.
In the morning, I sat in the Catalan café near my home, surrounded by the old Catalans who understood the village was built facing away from the sea to protect itself from pirates and other sea threats. Juan was behind the bar making cappuccinos while tanned face men with tattooed arms rubbed shouldered with bent and wrinkled woman with canes. They all knew I was foreign, my bright smile and poor pronunciation gave me away.
I was far away from a country that treated women’s bodies as separate entities from their selves. Perhaps it is hardest to flee your country when you are the most ashamed; the television flashed photos of old white men in groups, the Spanish words at the bottom of the screen reporting news of State bans on abortion at gestation-with no exceptions for rape or incest.
I had spent the previous night trying to explain this to Italian friends I knew in Barcelona who couldn’t understand-they could not marry the American history they’d been sold with the American reality I was explaining.
Maybe, when we talk about travel we become too eager to discuss all we have found, but we are always coming from somewhere; there is no other way.
I finished my coffee. I felt relief when the news forgot about the broken United States and returned to the incoming storm of far right politicians in Spain, and then I didn’t because now the anger for this attack on my new home coupled with the shame for the actions of my old home and grew into a sort of vague exhaustion.
I learned at a young age not to discuss: politics, race or religion. Now, I try to discuss each as much as possible with as many people as possible. Now, when the world exhausts me, I kick and scream and demand answers to the questions we do not ask often enough or loudly enough.
I think of every time some well-meaning friend told me “don’t let it bother you” when a man harassed me or followed me or threatened me. I think of all the bigotry the bigots pretend they cannot see. We should all be bothered. We should be as bothered as humanly possible, and if you are not bothered, if you are not ashamed and infuriated and raging against these waves of oppression, there is no space for you in a country that claims to be free.