It was almost midnight when she made her entrance, the beautiful, fair-skinned blonde with a red flower in her hair. Unlike most of the women I saw on the streets of Morgantown last night, she wore slacks. Not a sequined miniskirt.
Three men, possibly of Pakistani descent, in a nearby booth greeted her, and one of them stood out of what appeared to be a show of respect (perhaps they all did; I can’t recall), of chivalry, and to greet her with a kiss. That was when I knew: they were a couple.
I was at Gibbie’s eating a very late supper as I watched the people around me preparing to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. The trio drank water or soda, which could mean they are Muslim. I didn’t notice her drink, which doesn’t matter anyway. What I did see was the essence of happiness and, perhaps, a twinge of trepidation, before she showed up.
Morgantown is a melting pot, filled with people from around the world who swirl around each other like vegetables in a thick stew. Many, many of them have dark skin, but I’ve never thought a problem. I’m sure most people here don’t.
I hope not, anyway. Not when every interaction I’ve ever had, as a woman, has been positive and even uplifting. Has filled me with awe at the level of respect I encounter—respect I haven’t received from most the Caucasian men in my life. In my intimate life, not my everyday, professional one, where all the men who know me are the epitome of respect.
But I digress. I watched the trio of friends before the red-flowered blonde’s arrival, and couldn’t help but notice that none of them made eye contact with me. I don’t know if that’s “the new norm” for people of Middle Eastern descent during these recent tense days, but I hope not. Which is why I smiled, when one of the youth passed my booth. He did a double take, as if he wasn’t expecting such warmth, and shyly smiled in return.
That’s when I began thinking about what it must be like for Muslims and people who don’t practice that faith but who are nonetheless lumped together, because of the color of their skin. How hard it must be, as it often is for women who are mistreated at home and even in the workplace, simply because of our gender. Because we are different from middle-class, white males whose power and influence can extend well beyond ours.
When the clock struck 12 a.m., ringing in 2016, the four friends raised their glasses in a toast. I heard the handsome fellow who shyly responded to my smile say, “with water,” and laugh. Then, as the quartet took turns hugging each other, the beautiful blonde turned to her bearded beau and they kissed. And kissed. And kissed. As all around them, the world came to a stop. It was not an ephemeral scene. It was timeless.
And it made me wish I could trade places with her, or with any of the four people celebrating in that booth. In spite of their possible troubles, to have that sense of love and happiness—that is what I want in 2016.
For you, for me, for everyone. No matter their gender, their religion, or their flesh tone. Listen, learn, and love, and see all the beauty around you.
This is my New Year’s motto.
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My latest book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.
For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.
Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!