This morning, I awoke to messages from strangers, alerting me that my face had been photoshopped onto naked pictures and posted on a porn site with over two millions and viewers. The pictures are down now - but in the moment, I felt so much shame and embarrassment and fear. The pictures had been posted next to screenshots of my real information. Viewers had my name, workplace, and hometown. Chillingly, all of the posts seemed to be religiously motivated, fetishizing my beliefs.
That’s the less interesting story.
The more interesting story is about the lady in the second photo. Kathy started as my landlady, but has quickly become a grandmother figure to me. When I told her what had happened and showed her the pictures the first thing she said was: “Sorry baby, but that don’t look like you. Your tits ain’t that big.”
The second thing she told me was the story of her first love, Eddie McCloskey. She was a cheerleader and Eddie was, of course, the quarterback. When they were 17, they tried to elope - but when she arrived at the Bethlehem, PA train station, Eddie wasn’t there. To her horror, his mother and sister were waiting instead. His mother slapped her in front of everyone at the station and his sister demanded that Kathy return every gift Eddie had ever given her, including “that 12 Cent engagement ring turning your finger black.” His sister told her that the cheap ring was turning her finger black because Eddie had never really loved her at all.
Kathy was shamed and embarrassed by Eddie’s family in 1952, sixty-seven years ago. I was shamed and embarrassed by an anonymous coward, today.
But as I sat in Kathy’s living room and listened to her recount the day she thought her life ended, I looked around and smiled at the life she had began anyway. After being stood up and put down, Kathy Garcia moved to New York City and became a bar maid. She dated, she married. She had a son, and then grandkids. Kathy is my land lady and my friend - and today she was a reminder that no person or situation can take away my ability to make something beautiful. Love replaces fear, and strong women replace 12 Cent engagement rings and bad photoshop jobs.