Contact high: The indignities and triumphs of having your Mommy help you take your contacts out. At 50.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need help as an adult. It’s even OK to ask from help from your mom – I asked mine to help me co-parent my kid, so obviously I’m cool with that.

But sleeping in my new contact lenses until she could get home and help me take them out? Not my proudest moment. At all. The moral is that sometimes you need help and it’s OK to admit it even when it’s super embarrassing. And boy, was it.

Wear soft lenses, they said. It’ll be a breeze, they said!

I’ve worn contact lenses since I was almost 16 years old – I’d graduated from bifocals I’d started wearing at 5, along with my twin sister, gaining us the unfortunate nickname Eight Eyes, because, you know, four eyes times two. Children are evil.

My parents, realizing that we needed a self-esteem boost and that we had actual nice eyes no one had ever seen behind all that giant 80s framed Coke bottle situation, got us contacts as an early 16th birthday present. We started with rigid gas permeables, basically hard lenses. They were not the most comfortable thing in the world, because they are literally a rigid piece of plastic in your eye. My first couple of years as a glasses-free being were a combination of high self-esteem – I was that real-life cute girl hidden behind those massive lenses! – and terrible discomfort and trips to Baltimore-area ERs and optical centers to extract an errant contact stuck in my eye.

OWW.

But I kept wearing those suckers anyway, for 34 years, with some pauses to wear glasses now that I had money to pay for frames I actually liked. I’d asked about soft lenses – even wore an emergency pair that wasn’t anywhere near my actual heavy prescription for like a week in the 90s while my real replacement lenses were rushed to me – but was told that my astigmatism was too advanced for them. Or my eye shape wasn’t going to work, or something. Always a no.

That is, until this year. Right before we left Florida in the summer of 2020, I’d lost one of my brand new RGP lenses right before my book launch at the Colony Hotel on Palm Beach and ordered a replacement, only to realize that it was the same lens I already had, and wearing the wrong lens hurt my head. So I mostly wore my glasses for a year to the point that there is an indentation in my face (!) that I have to cover with Rihanna’s finest makeup products. Because we are still in that pan pizza, it took me a while to get myself to an optician.

But when I did, she told me that she had no idea why no one had put me in soft lenses. Actually, she thinks she might – one was that the RPGs sometimes had more sharper vision clarity, although not so much that the soft ones wouldn’t be helpful. The more insidious reason, which I asked about and which she wryly said was probably not wrong, is that I and my insurance had been paying for the more expensive RGP lenses for more than 30 years to various doctors up and down the East Coast, and that they saw no need to save me money. I hope that’s not true. But…you don’t know.

Anyway, she ordered me a pair of trial lenses, which I happily got and, after a few tries in bathroom at her office, got into my eyes (they’re slippery little suckers) and then drove to Annapolis to visit my sister and her family. I learned two things very quickly – these were not quite my prescription. And I didn’t know how to take them out. With the harder lenses, you either yank your eye sideways and let the pressure pop them out, or use this little suction cup thing I was always losing. But these were harder to dislodge. There was pinching and pulling and glancing and not blinking. I felt like I was trapped in the damn Safety Dance.

It was a whole ordeal. My mother and my sister, now a soft lens vet, took turns literally trying to yank that thing out of my eye. It got to the point where my son was standing guard outside of the bathroom for moral support, yelling “You can do it Mom!” (Oh that kid.) My sister finally got it out, and flung it triumphantly into the trash, thinking it was a daily (it was a monthly. We had to fish it out. Insult to injury.)

And then I woke up and realized I would have to do it again. And, friends, it did not go well. Once I finally got the right prescription, there would be days I wouldn’t wear them because I was afraid of not being able to get them out. I had to go to the doctor once for a tutorial. And there was, yes, that terrible moment when I slept in them till my mother got home from a weekend trip so she could help. TERRIBLE.

I almost gave up and called to go back to the gas permeables. They aren’t comfortable and they’re too expensive, but they’re the expensive discomfort I know. It was my mother, who has become the hero of this tale, who talked me out of it. “You can do this,” she says. “It’s just a hard thing you haven’t done before. But you don’t give up. You can do this too.”

And she’s right, of course. I am a stubborn sort who hates being told “No”, who doesn’t quit things because they’re hard, but because I’ve decided they’re a dead end holding me back from something better, be it men or jobs. So I kept at it. Sometimes it took me an hour of literally taking a break and walking around the house with a glass of wine until I was ready to start over. And then one day, I just sat down and plucked those suckers out, first try. Just like that. I of course yelled downstairs to my mother and she treated my proudly and not like a sad old person who had failed Remedial Contact Removal until now.

What is the point of this, other than to tell you again how cool my mom is? It’s to remind you that we should never decide we’re too old to try things we might be bad at. I tried a new job last year and it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t my passion and I wasn’t good at it. So I left it and made a full-time job of the thing I excelled at, which is writing and speaking and advocating for the grieving. Being bad at a thing opened a door. Being bad at contacts didn’t cause me to quit them, because I realized there was something in it that was good for me.

Never quit if you think there’s still a good reason not to. And always be nice to your mom. You might need her to get a contact out of your eye.

NaNoWriMo: Yeah, OK I Guess. Fine.

My first assignment in the annual NaNoWriMo project, which encourages writers to finish a novel or at least get pretty close during the month of November, is to stop calling it “Yah Mo Be There,” which is a James Ingram/Michael McDonald song and is absolutely not related. However, both are fun to say, so much fun, in fact, that I spend my time snickering about it like a toddler and not writing.

Not me writing. But let’s pretend it is.

Which is why I need this thing.

I’m not going to be super forthcoming about my project at this time, as it’s a work in progress that’s in a specific stage, and because the Internet is full of people who like stealing other people’s ideas and I just don’t have time to be coming to find word thieves when I’m trying to write. I will say that I am a person who works well with accountability, whether it’s run training, Noom, or writing. (I once wound up in the dedication of my friend Kim Walsh Phillips‘s bestselling business book because she used it to GET ME TO STOP FACEBOOKING ABOUT ‘GREY’S ANATOMY’ AND FINISH MY BOOK.)

So I’m not going to be overly sharing details on this project but I will check in, because if at least one person knows to check for me, they will encourage me and, if all else fails, shame me into doing this right. Because it’s a really good book brewing, you guys. I just have to keep it moving.

Bad Art Friend: A Very Brief Note on Receipts

Because what you needed was more words on this thing.

So if you’re a writer, or just a person who consumes words on the Internet, you have likely heard of the “Who Is The Bad Art Friend?” a New York Times Magazine story. It appeared to be about an obsessive narcissistic writer who may have donated a kidney for attention and fixated on a more successful writer and the story she may or may not have written about said kidney donation, to the point where she stalked her and tried to ruin her career over plagiarism that she might have exaggerated. And maybe there was some White saviorism and racisms happening, as well musings about how unfair it is for writers to have to limit their imaginations when it comes to real life ? Also again stalking and antagonistic lawsuits.

And if you kept reading the words about this situation, you may have found that the story behind the story is actually about plagiarism that the successful writer actually admits to the point where she had to go back and change details, a confirmation of who the actual originally litigious party was (note: The more successful writer) and a shocking amount of gaslighting, escalating bullying back and forth in private emails and text threads from the organization both writers worked with, including an administrator vowing to destroy the less-successful writer and kidney donor, and the discovery that she’d been referred to with an abbreviation that includes an expletive. Lovely. Also there’s healthy use of charges of racism that seem, as we look into it further, to be a reflective defense meant to shut down all discourse. As a Black woman, that obviously plays into people who like to use words like “race card” to dismiss all inferences of racism, real or not.

Writers, of which I am one, come off looking petty, gate-keepy and shockingly dumb about something very basic, that maybe their elitism clouded for them. What is shocking to me is not that adults, even successful ones, can’t stop being jackasses to people they consider less important than them, but that they were apparently so sure of their superiority that they kept receipts. Like, extensive ones. And they kept going, which is where the information that seems to exonerate the kidney donator comes from because they couldn’t help themselves.

Have I taken part in some text threads that I would never, ever want people to see, that I am not proud of? I do. Do any of them involve bullying people, or things that admit actionable activity that could be subpoenaed? I DO NOT. Because I’m not a bully and because I don’t write that stuff down. Because I am a writer, and also a Black woman, and I understand the concept of receipts, both the “Per my last email where you agreed to pay me” kind and the “GIRL, DON’T TRY IT BECAUSE YOU SAID WHAT YOU SAID AND HERE’S THE TEXT” kind. I try to be the person with the receipts, and not the one being handed them. There’s a good T-shirt slogan.

The “Bad Art Friend” story has probably taken more of your time that is necessary, but I can’t stop thinking about it as a writer who is not famous but does have a reputation that I hope to never use to gatekeep, intentionally or otherwise. Also, as a writer, I know that so many of us became writers because we’re sometimes insecure used words to write about that insecurity, and it’s interesting that we use that to exclude other people.

Don’t do that. But if you do, don’t keep receipts that prove it.

Catch my act on the road, virtually and in-person!

Credit: Rissa Miller Creative

Little darlings, it’s been a long, weird lonely pandemic. And we’re still in it. But my dance card is filling up with appearances, both in person and otherwise. Some are things you can come to (maybe masked, with a vaccine card) and others you can visit via our old pal Zoom. Either way, it’s nice to see you.

October 31, 2021: Good Grief Festival, virtual

November 11, 2021: Zibby Owens’ Moms Don’t Have Time To Travel retreat (now virtual private event)

November 20, 2021, 1-4 PM EST: Lockdown Literature Author Reading, Tatnuck Bookseller, Westborough, MA

Kevin Hart’s “Fatherhood” and widowed parenting: What if it had been me?

Warning: Spoiler alert for a recent movie and some frankly depressing speculation about death. Sorry.

Widowed parents have to deal with a lot of “What if” moments that don’t solve a daggone thing. But they cycle through our brains anyway because our lives didn’t work out the way we’d planned, so it makes sense to ruminate on this stuff. Like…What if our partner was still alive? What if our kids could have had the opportunity to have two parents? What if our partner had died when our kids were a different age – I mean, if they had to go and die on us anyway – so that there’d be more memories?

Having just watched Kevin Hart’s delightful, if comfortingly predictable widowed father movie “Fatherhood,” I’m reminded of my biggest “What if” – What if I had died and my husband had lived?

Yeah. I told you it was depressing. You were warned.

In the movie, which is based on a true story, Hart’s character is widowed shortly after the birth of his daughter, and decides that rather than move them both to Minneapolis, where he and his wife were raised, or just letting his in-laws take the baby, that he’s going to do it himself.

This sets up the usual flailing single father montage – he can’t get the baby, whose name is Maddy, to sleep. Her poop confounds him. Strangers not expecting a single dad ask where Mom is (RUDE). The all-mom parenting group he seeks help from initially assumes him to be looking for the nearby AA meeting because they’ve never heard of a single dad, which makes me want to punch them. Snooty moms.

As I watched Hart’s character, Matt, gamely navigate the wonders of doing a little Black girl’s hair, or try to look good with a baby sling, I think about my husband Scott, and what it would have been like if he’d been left to raise our son, Brooks, who was not quite two, when the stupid widow event occurred. What would he have made of having to deal with a baby Afro? I was the primary diaper changer – would he have mastered it? Would he have taken the baby to the Ravens bar by himself to watch the game each week without me there to take him home at half-time?

Here’s the thing: Scott was an amazing dad. Awesome at it. Lived for it. Still pisses me off that it was stolen from him. So when I think about how he would have fared without me, I chuckle and know he’d have knocked it out of the park. It would have been a smelly mess up in that house for a minute, but he’d have been an ace.

Dude was the most loyal person I’ve ever met, and he loved me like a champ, so I know that he would have done everything in his power to honor me by stepping the hell up. He’d have sought help – I’m sure my mother would have moved in, just like she did when Scott died. He would have bought every single baby book and contraption. The child and he would have matching Ravens jerseys for every single day, and Brooks’ current knowledge of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the Hallmark Channel would have been replaced with wrestling and NFL scouting guides.

I also know that, like with Matt in “Fatherhood,” Scott would have found a cute new girlfriend, because widowers seem to be more attractive in the dating world than widows. And that would have made me happy, because Scott was all love, and that love deserved to be given and received. 

So why are we even talking about this? The movie reminded me, as most things do as a widow, that nothing in this world is guaranteed to work out the way you planned. But humans have a wonderful way of stepping up to challenges, a beautiful resilience that crops up from corners of our soul we barely knew existed. Our villages stay close. Our ability to pivot gets a workout. Our priorities change. We learn to go with the flow, even in a direction we don’t anticipate. We just do.

“Fatherhood” is a tribute to how we do what we have to do, whether or not anyone else approves, or whether we do it the way anyone else we love would have. We will get things wrong. We will say or do the wrong thing. We will try really hard and sometimes it’ll all blow up anyway.

Here’s the thing: I get a lot of credit for surviving something terrible that I don’ think I had a choice about. I did what I had to. I pulled it together. Scott would have, too.

You know what you did last summer? Probably not a lot. And it’s OK to do the same this time.

“So! Any big plans this summer?”

In a normal year, this is a pretty straight-forward question. Are you taking a vacation, or selling a limb to pay for summer camp for your kids, or just hanging out in the backyard of the home you’re already paying for and inviting friends over for semi-expertly grilled foodstuffs? But since March 2020, nothing at all has seemed normal, and after a summer of mostly hiding in the house and trying not to contract a deadly virus, the very idea of plans that involve breathing around people you don’t live with seems…weird.

And yet – Quarantine Summer 2020 has, for many people, begotten Wilding Out Summer 2021, as isolated and now hopefully vaccinated souls try to make up for lost time by doing all the things. Taking all the trips. Going to all the crowded clubs. Eating at all of the buffets. DOING ALL OF THE THINGS. (Admission: I spent last summer hanging out safely and hermit-like on my porch in West Palm Beach, then moving my entire life to Baltimore, where I spent the rest of the summer hanging out safely and hermit-like in my friends’ guest house until we bought our own house and I hermitted there until my kid started school. So I was like a travel hermit.)

Suddenly, plans are a thing that you’re expected to have again, and not something you didn’t have to have…nay, were obligated not to have, because safety and stuff. I am a person who loves having plans – I may be naturally obnoxiously social. But the very real state of the world, virus and violence-wise, as well as turning 50 and being delighted about not having to do anything if I didn’t want to, made me reconsider. There’s a pressure that comes from suddenly being invited to do things – inside, even – and not being able to use “Y’all know I don’t breathe on people” as an excuse.

I mean, you still can use whatever reason you want to not go anywhere you don’t want to go, because nobody gets to tell you what to do. You’re a grown adult and “No” is still a complete sentence. But it’s not even about not wanting to go to specific things, but getting used to the fact that you’re allowed to go anywhere. I had kind of gotten used to assuming that all the parties and Happy Hours I was invited to would be on Zoom, so the first time I got an invitation that didn’t include a link, I was confused. You mean I’m supposed to leave my house for this?

So when I was asked about plans, I really had to think about it. We do have a few plans – I managed to pile together enough pennies to pay for a week of baseball camp and then theater camp for The Kid, and we are taking a week’s staycation during the week of theater camp in a nearby city we stay in all the time, but this time in a hotel I actually paid for in advance and didn’t try to Hotwire the day before. I mean, I actually PLANNED it.

But I’m not afraid to say that a large part of the summer is going to involve sitting on my front stoop writing pop culture stories for various publications while my kid plays with neighborhood friends down the street. I’m going to train for a half-marathon while my knee yells at me and I try not to notice the “You go girl” responses from well-meaning fellow runners surprised by a larger woman running. I am going to create new potato salads. I am going to watch Patrick Swayze movies. I am going to change up my wine of the month selection.

And then I’m going to plan not to plan, unless I decide I want to.

I’m Leslie! How can I help?

I just spent a few days being energized by my business coach and dear friend Kim Walsh Phillips, the mega-energized leader behind Power Professionals and many, many people who needed help scaling, starting and publicizing their businesses through social media and more. (She literally encouraged me to finish my book, Black Widow, by including me in the forward of one of her books and saying “Where is your book?”) One of the things she preaches that’s stuck with me is using every platform you have at your disposal to get your word out there. This blog has been languishing like a romance novel heroine trapped in a tower – pretty but lonely.

No more of that!

Not only am I going to be updating this at least every other day with everything from essays to appearance notes, but I wanted to use this one to tell you about things I (since I am my business) can offer you:

  • Freelance writing for publications (specialties include entertainment reviews, essays on grief, culture, parenthood and more, and general features)
  • Corporate features (Professional bios and articles suitable for Websites and professional organizations, for artists, musicians, attorneys, educators and anyone who wants a fun, vibrant presentation of who they are)
  • Podcast and print interviews (specialties include grief, pop culture, parenting, pivoting and reinvention and more)
  • Speaking, both online and in person with Covid precautions
  • Contact leslie@lesliegraystreeter.com for rates. Can’t wait to help tell your story!

At the close of a school year: Ruminations of an imperfect remote learning parent

A model’s recreation of my excitement for school to be over.

“How many days left?”

My first-grader is perched on the edge of our couch. He’s been logged into his remote classroom for approximately 2 minutes and already he’s focused on the giant red X’s he’s obviously drawing on a mental calendar in his head, counting down his time left attempting to learn times tables and reading within shouting distance of his LEGO set.

And the LEGO are winning.

We have spent a whole school year like this – When we moved to Baltimore last summer we bought this house just in time to register him for the school down the street, although he’s never set foot inside it, because of COVID. So he’s been not only learning trapped in a house with me, near the tempting toys and refrigerator and whatever is happening on the street outside the window, but his class friends are mostly just faces on a screen that he’s never met because he’s never been to school with them. It sucks. But it was what it had to be.

Sometimes when we go to the school on days when they exchange books or give out holiday pumpkins or stockings on the blacktop playground, we run into his friends, and he’s either really excited, or shy, or sad. The week in March after some kids went back in person – this was like a few weeks before my first vaccination shots (I am fully vaccinated now) and we live with my 73-year-old mom, so we made the decision to keep him at home – we walked past a kid bounding out of the school doors with his backpack, and he was sullen and angry for the rest of the week.

“Why does he get to go back and I don’t?” he asked me, sobbing, the next day.

“Because his mom made a different decision that yours did, and I only had the information I had, and I did the best that I could. And I’m so sorry that hurt you honey, but we’re alive,” I said, knowing that I literally just said “You can be alive, or you can be happy” and it sucks. But it was what it had to be.

It wasn’t all awful – When I’m making lunch in the kitchen I can hear him reading out loud, and he’s a proud, confident reader. He’s a science wiz, and has been inspired to watch documentaries about dinosaurs and planets. There’s also a lot of laughing, and even as the kids go back in person this fall – PLEASE LET THESE CHILDREN GO BACK TO SCHOOL IN PERSON – I know there are lots of Zooms in his future as a student and a professional, and he’s an easy conversationalist.

We are privileged to have good WiFi, technology, food, and a situation where I can work from home. His teachers are a joy – when we turned in his books on the blacktop last week, one of them gave him a class award that he was the most “Relaxed,” meaning he was calm and didn’t let things ruffle him. Lord knows that’s a skill! He has access to health care and family he can talk to. It may be easier for us to navigate this awfulness than others. But it’s been awful watching him try to meet people through a computer screen, watching him have to show a patience that even college students haven’t mastered, just to pass math. I want normal, but I don’t know what that is anymore.

So my kid is not the only one in my house who is counting down the days until virtual school is over, and whatever the summer’s supposed to be begins. We’re still in a pandemic, and since Powerball eludes me, I can’t afford a whole summer of camp. But there’s a week of baseball camp, and then a week of outdoor theater camp, and a few days a week with a fun arts teacher/sitter/nanny savior of my life. He will run and play and laugh with real actual children. He will be away from screens and from my couch.

And we will plan whatever normal school is now. And hopefully not be counting the days.

“Don’t you have enough?” Knowing your worth and being ready to bounce if your price isn’t met

There’s many, many miles between being a visionary showrunner who’s made billions for one of the world’s largest corporations, and a high school junior washing trays down at the Burger King. But something about mega-producer Shonda Rhimes‘ interview in The Hollywood Reporter reminded me of the first time in my life – but not the last – when I was faced with the cold-water reality slap that my employer didn’t understand my value and was never going to.

It’s so true I have it in my bathroom, courtesy my friend Stephanie. Ya heard?

So I bounced. Was my bounce, as Rhimes’ was, from ABC to Netflix? No. Most of the time, it was from fry rack to cash register. But always a better cash register. That’s solid advice, no matter how much money you’re making.

In her interview, Rhimes talks about how her relationship with ABC, for whom she created “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How To Get Away With Murder,” “Scandal,” “Private Practice,” and more, had been souring for a while. She felt she was getting pushback and oversight on creative points that her ratings and income would seem to prove was unwarranted. She was at the end of her rope already, and then she had her camel back-breaking straw moment when a Disneyland comp ticket she’d secured – after a hassle – for her sister, a mere $150 perk over the two tickets she was allotted as an ABC employee, didn’t work. And when she called a top network exec for help, she was told “Don’t you have enough?”

Whew.

Not only would it have been absolutely no problem for this man to just call Disneyland and let THE FAMILY OF THEIR CASH COW in, with some mouse ears and funnel cake for their trouble, but there was insult piled onto the injury. The exec didn’t just say no – he implied that Rhimes was asking too much, that she was an ungrateful peon who was stepping beyond her station, when at that time she had basically paid for the whole station. And all the monorails.

Obtuse social media commenters have tried to make this about Rhimes’ entitlement, as she could have bought that extra ticket with her lunch money, but they’re missing the point. She already had the ticket – she just wanted it to work. And she was slapped down for expecting even that. Sure, she had asked for one extra ticket than normal. Let’s be real real, son. Do you think no one else ever asked for one more ticket? And she wasn’t just someone else – she was ABC for a very long time. Y’all know that if, like, Brad Pitt, who was not an ABC employee, had showed up with all eleventy-three of his beautiful children, they’d have let them all in, given them the GOOD mouse ears, FastPasses and a gold cart personally driven by Goofy.

It was in that moment that Rhimes realized that she wasn’t valued, no matter how much value she added, so she called her agents and told them that if they didn’t get her a deal with someone else, she would be getting agents who would. Good on her. What’s appallingly familiar to many of us – and I’m going to say many of us are women – is the suggestion that we are asking too much to ask what we’re worth. That we are divas. That we are lucky to have gotten where we are and we shouldn’t ask anymore.

I have been called a diva many, many times in my career, and I don’t back off from that. Throw me those roses and hand me a glass of something bubbly, if that means that I ask for what I’m worth. I have made a lot of money for a lot of people, and it has been implied and sometimes plainly stated that I had all I was gonna get so I should be grateful and take it. Which is when I started re-doing my resume. I haven’t always done it fast enough, but this is something I learned back at that Burger King, where I had worked for almost two years. I dare say that I was among the most dedicated employees at the time – I never stole food, never snuck my friends extra fries, never developed a sudden “cold” when I didn’t feel like working. I actually remember calling, legit coughing, before a Sunday evening shift, and being told that not only could I not have off, but that they didn’t believe me. Teen Leslie was a Girl Scout, basically, and having my integrity doubted was almost as painful as my sinus headache.

And when I got there, coughing, the manager said “Oh wow, you are sick!” He also admitted that I had never given anyone reason to believe I was a liar – quite the opposite – but that it wasn’t worth trying to find someone else to fill my shift.

As awful as that was, I stayed there for a while, even though I never got the one thing I asked for, which was to be trained on the register. I was there for two years, and every time I asked, there was an excuse. They had too many cashiers. They would train me the next shift, but could I please for the moment go get the trays from the dining room, and maybe check the bathroom? (Note to Humpty Hump – Getting busy in a Burger King bathroom is nasty. Don’t do that.) The closest I ever got was handing out shakes and Dr. Peppers out the drive-thru window behind the real cashier.

It wasn’t just that I was being told no, but that it was implied that I wasn’t good enough to work the register, that there was something wrong with me that made me relegated to the bathroom and the dining room. So one day I just handed in my apron and quit, then found a job selling fudge and singing behind a register (finally!) at the late, great The Fudgery at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. (For the record I wasn’t the best cashier what with the math and stuff, but I was honest, punctual and did good harmony.)

That moment laid the groundwork for me, to slowly claim my worth – I admit I was always better at this at work than in relationships. There was my first paper, a Black community weekly, who refused to pay me enough to move out of my parents’ home in Miami and questioned my loyalty to the community when I asked for a raise. “If that’s not enough, you can leave,” I was told. It wasn’t enough. So I left and moved to Pennsylvania. They implied that I was betraying Black people for wanting to be financially solvent. At least I think that’s what they said. I was walking out the door.

The lesson would come full circle years later, as I waited with other Central Pennsylvania reporters to do a satellite interview with Howard Stern, who was bringing his show to the area. There was a familiar-looking woman sitting near me who kept looking at me like I was familiar to her too. Finally she leaned over.

‘This is a weird question,” she asked, “but did you ever work at a Burger King in Baltimore?” YES THAT’S WEIRD. But I nodded that yes I had, recognizing her as a not-terrible manager.

“You’re that nice girl that quit and no one knew why!” she exclaimed. And the whole story came out, a decade later. Apparently I was not imagining the conspiracy to keep me off the register, but it wasn’t because I was a bad employee, but because I was a good one. I was reliable and spoke kindly to the customers in the dining room. I didn’t complain about the bathroom, or digging flaming burgers out of the broilers. They were afraid that if I was trained on the register, I would be valuable to another fast-food joint and leave. So they kept me down, taking me for granted and letting me think it was my fault. And when I left, they were truly flummoxed because it was so easy to take me for granted that they forgot why they were doing it and assumed that I thought I was worthless, too.

SCREW THAT. Shonda Rhimes knew what we all should – that we are worthy. That people are making money off us. And that it’s not even about the money, but about wanting not to be a chump. There aren’t enough FastPasses to buy that knowledge.