Erynn Brook’s Mum Taught Her She’s Allowed to Leave

A Twitter thread @ErynnBrook.

“I want to tell you a story about how my mum taught me that I’m allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation.
I was maybe 7, I think it was my first sleepover at someone else’s house. I don’t remember the girl’s name. But before I left Mum told me that if I was uncomfortable at any point, for any reason, even if it was in the middle of the night, I could call her.
She was very clear. She said even if her parents have gone to bed I want you to knock on their bedroom door and ask to use the phone. I could call her even if it was late. And if her parents didn’t answer the door to just go find the phone and call her anyway.
She said it doesn’t matter what time it is, you won’t be in trouble and I’ll come get you.
I think I was being teased about something. It definitely wasn’t just I can’t sleep, there was something social going on. But that’s what I did.
The girl’s mom tried to discourage me. She said it was late, I said my mum didn’t care. She said I could sleep on the couch. I said I wanted to go home. She said I was upsetting her daughter, I said she was mean to me.
I remember holding the phone and my mum answered. I said “hi Mum.” She said “you want me to come get you?” I said “yes please.” She said “ask her Mum to help you pack up your things and get your coat on. I’ll be right there.”
And my mum showed up on her doorstep in pajama pants and a coat. The girl’s mum kept apologizing for me calling, my mum put up a hand and said “don’t apologize for my daughter. I want her to know she’s allowed to leave and I’ll be there for her at any time.”
I remember the little crowd of sleepover girls huddled in the far doorway that led to the bedrooms, watching all of this confused and silent. And I remember that mom apologizing. She didn’t seem to know what to say after my mum asked her to stop.
I had more incidents like that as I grew up. My mum did a lot around boundaries with me. I remember her marching me down the street to another girl’s house to ask for an apology in front of her parents.
I remember her telling 3 friends to sit in the front room with their bags packed while they waited for their parents to come get them, after I had told them all to “get out of my house” for teasing me and bullying me.
I remember her coaching me through a speech on how to resign and leave from a hostile work environment when I was in the middle of nowhere at a camp for the summer, and she offered money to get a cab to pick me and my friends up.
I can’t say I’ve always followed my gut on boundaries and discomfort. I can’t say I’ve never swallowed it in order to make others comfortable. But I can say what she taught me was important. It was and still is radical.
It’s radical to have boundaries. And to exercise them. Three things I think were really really important in what she did:
1. She always explicitly said ‘you can leave if you want to.’
2. She never questioned why, or whether I was overreacting.
3. She showed up.
But I think a lot about the girl’s mum apologizing and how… that’s the norm, actually.
What my mum taught me was radical, what that girl’s mum was teaching was the norm. ‘Just deal with it, don’t trouble anyone, go back to sleep, it’ll be over soon, don’t ruin it.’
And I still get that message from a lot of places. But my mum taught me that I’m allowed to leave.

I see what a privilege that is as an adult. For some people, for some situations, there is no way out. But sometimes, also, we don’t leave because we think we’re not allowed.

So, just in case no one ever told you (or you need a reminder): YOU ARE ALLOWED TO LEAVE.

You can leave a date, a party, a job, a meeting, a commitment. You are allowed. If you’re worried about keeping your word remember that your boundaries are also your word, your integrity.

I wanted to tell this story because the message to stay to make others comfortable is so pervasive, that without actively teaching me that I’m allowed to leave, that’s what I would’ve absorbed.
Hell, I absorbed a lot of it anyway. As an adult, at that camp job, I remember her on the phone saying ‘what do you want to do?’ And not knowing, until she said ‘do you want to leave?’ And I said ‘can I?’ She said ‘You can always leave. What do you need so you can leave?’
So, if you’re a person like me, who was taught that you’re allowed to leave, keep an eye out for those who weren’t. They may need the reminder. They may need to hear that it’s okay. They may need help. And keep telling yourself that you are allowed. You’re allowed to leave. 💜
Wow this is really taking off! Before it goes too far I wanted to say: I’m seeing this being gendered and while I am a woman and my mother is a woman there’s no gender on this message. I understand the impulse to teach your daughters this but please teach all children.
When you know that you are allowed to leave, when you exercise that boundary, the idea that others are allowed to leave also comes up. Boys stay in uncomfortable situations to fit in as well, they also deserve this lesson.
Trans, non binary and gender non conforming folks often shrink themselves for the comfort of those around them. They deserve this lesson too. Everyone is allowed to leave. No one is obliged to be uncomfortable for others’ comfort or enjoyment. 💜”

Steve Carter Gets It

If you’re an unrepentant megachurch “superstar” pastor, who has been living a double life, the last thing you want is to see your story told. Shortly before you plan to retire. By the New York Times. On a Sunday. But that’s the bed Bill Hybels made for himself.

The Times tells Hybel’s personal secretary’s story:

“That first back rub in 1986 led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he fondled her breasts and rubbed against her. The incidents later escalated to one occasion of oral sex.

She said she was mortified and determined to stay silent. “I really did not want to hurt the church,” said Ms. Baranowski, who is now 65, speaking publicly for the first time. ‘I felt like if this was exposed, this fantastic place would blow up, and I loved the church. I loved the people there. I loved the family. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. And I was ashamed.'”

These #MeToo stories are starting to read like 1980s Madlibs. “The first [type of sexual encounter] led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he [verb, past tense] her [a body part] and rubbed against [a different body part].

And saddest of all, the “and I was ashamed” phrase, is an oft repeated, concluding refrain.

The New York Times story alludes to how Hybels’s spell on the church members left them so enthralled with him they couldn’t believe Baranowski and the other women who told similar stories. How dare the women even make the allegations many thought. To this day, that’s the view of the church elders who are proving better at group think than leadership. Initially, the #2 and #3 church leaders, Heather Larson and Steve Carter, both a generation younger than Hybels, rallied around Hybels who they felt was being unfairly criticized.

After reading the Times story, I poked around a bit at Larson’s and Carter’s social media. I learned that almost immediately after the allegations fell on deaf ears at their church, they started to feel remorse for not siding with the aggrieved women.

Larson’s mea culpa to the congregation can be viewed here.

Carter did one better by resigning yesterday upon reading the New York Times article.

He explained:

“I am writing to announce my resignation from Willow Creek Community Church, effective immediately. The new facts and allegations that came to light this morning are horrifying, and my heart goes out to Ms. Baranowski and her family for the pain they have lived with. These most recent revelations have also compelled me to make public my decision to leave, as much as it grieves me to go. Since the first women came forward with their stories, I have been gravely concerned about our church’s official response, and it’s ongoing approach to these painful issues. After many frank conversations with our elders, it became clear that there is a fundamental difference in judgment between what I believe is necessary for Willow Creek to move in a positive direction, and what they think is best. . . . I offered my resignation many weeks ago, but I was requested to delay an announcement and continue with my duties until the leadership determined how to make the decision public. At this point, however, I cannot, in good conscience, appear before you as your Lead Teaching Pastor when my soul is so at odds with the institution.”
Thanks to courageous women like Baranowski, the future belongs to the Steve Carter’s of the world, not the Bill Hybels.

The Sky’s The Limit

No world professional cycling team has gotten in touch with my representatives yet. While that offer still stands, suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by other enticing job opportunities in every imaginable sector of the economy.

I’m thinking about taking one of the many seats now available in Congress. The House would be cool, but I like the ring of Senator Byrnes and not having to fund raise non-stop. Nothing against Kansas, Minnesota, Texas, Nevada, or Arizona, but I think I’ll hold out another few weeks so that I can choose among even better states. Looking at you Colorado, Washington, Oregon.

ESPN analyst could be a cool gig. Living exclusively with hopelessly sports-challenged women, I don’t get to talk sports too often, but I could throw that switch. It would be a shame wasting talent like mine on reporting scores and spewing statistics. Maybe an eponymous sports and culture show or one dedicated to endurance sports.

Celebrity chef. I have that special cooking somethin’ somethin’ and I’ve grown accustomed to the fame this blog has brought me. Mercurial, check. Telegenic, check.

Hollywood actor/director/impresario. How hard can acting be? I’m mean they’re all pretending. And barking directions and funding projects? Not exactly rocket science.

My charm, smarts, and humility make me an excellent candidate for all of these openings; however, a few other things truly make my selection a no-brainer. I don’t make inappropriate comments to women about their appearance. I don’t grope women. I don’t ask them to come to my hotel room for “meetings”. I don’t greet them wearing only a bathrobe. I don’t expose myself to them. I don’t force myself on them. I don’t threaten them with reprisals.

I always thought my education, work experience, and professional friendships would tip the balance in my employment favor. Suddenly, not being a sexual predator Trumps all of those things.