This is not the time to choose your candidate, but to choose who we are as a party. It's never been more important. Listen to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders talk about educational and economic inequity. Listen to Jay Inslee talk about climate change. Listen to all of them talk about a progressive vision for ending the horrors of mass incarceration and our Trump-inflicted immigration crisis. Then decide what you believe, and vote accordingly. But more importantly - hold whoever we choose accountable to our standards.

Republicans also had more candidates than they knew what to do with before that last election, and they chose the vision of a madman. They chose to tolerate and in many cases enjoy his abhorrent behavior either because they sincerely shared in his misanthropy or because it provided a smokescreen for passing equally abhorrent laws that reflect not the collective will of the people but top-down corporate directives that make the rich even richer while punishing the most vulnerable.

We're better than that. Make your list of the major issues discussed and argued over Wednesday and Thursday evening, and prioritize. We have a lot to do. Trump and American Conservatives have brought us to the brink of self-annihilation. Let's lead the way to a better future, for all of us. This will not be a return to normalcy - we Americans have had a skewed version of "normal" for some time time now. It's time to reposition ourselves, as citizens and as a country, toward justice and equity rather than efficiency and greed. It’s time to claim our positive as a global leader, not as a global plunderer. It’s time to look at the global world with empathy and joy, rather than power and fear.

Conservatives can thank us later, or claim in twenty years that our ideas were theirs all along. But we'll know, and we’ll be able to face our children and grandchildren knowing we’ve envisioned the world we want for them, rather than letting someone else’s warped vision guide us.

AuthorJohn Proctor
Beyond the Rhetoric of Pain Cover.jpg

I’m so excited to announce my first chapter publication in a Routledge anthology, “Notes Toward a Working Definition of Mopecore” in Beyond the Rhetoric of Pain! This is both a critical and a personal essay/chapter, which developed first out of a conversation with some colleagues, and then out of a year of intense personal and professional pain. I think it might be my best work, but maybe I always think that about the latest thing I publish. Anyway, from editor Berenike Jung’s introduction:

"John Proctor's contribution begins with a touching story narrating the anguish of his small daughter about the death of a fictional cat...Her grief taps into a deeper truth, which Proctor connects to both a historical and a very contemporary pain...Proctor consults an array of late-twentieth century thinkers and theorists as well as representations in literature, film, and television, to demonstrate the proximity of laughter and tears, but he also opens up an intensely personal and deeply touching witnessing of this moment."

You can buy it here! (Yes, I know, it’s expensive.)

AuthorJohn Proctor

Last night I was in the kitchen when my wife yelled from the bedroom. Went back there, and water was pouring down from our ceiling fan onto our bed. Grabbed buckets, called our super, ran upstairs and pounded on the door of the empty apartment (our upstairs neighbors had just moved out). I could hear the sound of running water, and it was starting to come out the bottom of the door onto the stairs. Our super, a spry, energetic, and frankly amazing Puerto Rican man in his 80s, ran up the stairs and slipped a credit card into the door. We went in and heard hissing beneath the sink. The windows had all been left open, so it was probably 15-20 degrees in the apartment. Under the sink , the cold water pipe had (predictably) burst, and by the time we found it, water had already been seeping through the floorboards into the ceiling above our bedroom. I grabbed a mop and started mopping while the super went to turn off the water and perform emergency surgery the water pipes.

By the time I got downstairs, my wife had moved our mattress into the living room. By the morning, both girls and the dog had joined us. Our new upstairs neighbor is supposed to move in today, with a floor that sinks a bit when you walk on it from the saturation.

So, how was your night?

AuthorJohn Proctor

There are unsaid others, but the theme of this year for me is simplicity so I’ll keep it to three here:

1) De-clutter my space and my mind. My personal inbox currently has 59,078 unread messages. I’m spending my spare time in January deleting messages, starring the ones that need a reply, spamming the repeat stuff that I never open, and using my device to communicate, not procrastinate. And I’ma keep my desk clear as much as I can make myself—I spent the week after classes ended cleaning up the space around my desk, and 1) I can see my floor again, and 2) I think my wife loves me a bit more with the additional 6-8 square feet in our bedroom/office. I’m imposing austerity measures on my to-do list, cutting off the tasks I know I’ll never do, and giving myself more doable long-term weekly tasks that I have a reasonable chance of actually doing. This resolution, most importantly, is led by an acknowledgement of perhaps my greatest weakness: My need to have a well-stocked stack of material unsorted and things undone.

2) Fully inhabit my spaces in my communities. This includes my family, my Manhattanville College community, my fellow educators and activists in justice reform, my elected space in the lowest-ranked body of Brooklyn Democratic politics, and any additional spaces I find for myself in advancing empathic progressive values.

3) And most important: 60,000 WORDS, MOTHERFUCKERS.

3b) Oh, and get rid of this gut.

AuthorJohn Proctor

Just now at the South Slope YMCA, I waited in line behind the commuters and parents for my turn on an elliptical. One opened, and I pounced. I was setting up when someone started tapping hard on my machine. I looked back and a middle-aged guy was waving a bleach pad at me.

HIM: <irritated> Don’t you see I haven’t cleaned the handles yet?

ME: <steps aside> By all means.

HIM: <mumbles as he wipes off the handles>

ME: What’s that?

HIM: Unless you don’t want me to leave.

ME: I wouldn’t say that.

HIM: <puts on his headphones, slows and accentuates his motions wiping the handles, and finally makes to go>

ME: <loudly> Try not to let this ruin your day!

AuthorJohn Proctor

So I’m not doing another “12 ______ Days of Christmas” entry this season - just can’t find the time and inspiration - but in absence of a new set of ditties I’ve made a little space wherein to collect previous incarnations, a tab I creatively dub Holiday Stuff. I’ll keep it up to the end of the year, ‘kay?

Enjoy it, friends, and if you can think of a smaller-scale holiday thingie you’d like me to write about, just let me know.

AuthorJohn Proctor

Two weeks ago I attending my first meeting as a newly-elected member of Kings County Democratic Committee, and last week I wrote an op-ed about it in Kings County Politics. As expected, I had a number of people telling me how wrong I am in the comments section. I will say that part of the challenge for me, as a writer, was 1) to take what was essentially an account of the event and turn it into an op-ed, and 2) to cut it by more than half to get it within the word count. My editor Stephen Witt even asked me the day after publishing it if I’d like him to run the whole thing, an offer I declined. As I tell my students all the time, word counts matter, and I actually learned quite a lot from the conversation.

That said, there are no word count limits here! So, if you’ve read the op-ed and want a deeper dive into the nuts and bolts of Kings County governance, here’s the full, uncut version.


I am not a politician. I have friends who are politicians and city planners, and I’m endlessly fascinated by (and perhaps a bit scared of) the part of each of them that is an elected official, or a lobbyist, or a person who makes decisions that will affect hundreds or thousands or even millions of people.

In spite of this—or perhaps because of it—I decided this summer to run for the lowest-ranked office of the Kings County Democratic Party, County Committee. My electoral district is two square blocks, and even that I share with another County Committee member.

Like many reform-minded non-politicians, I spent a few days this summer picking up petitions from my State Assemblyman Robert Carroll’s campaign office and walking door to door in my two blocks gathering signatures to get my name on the ballot. This was actually almost fun—I took my daughters along, got the people I knew to introduce me to people in their buildings, and finished with a deeper connection to my election district, also known as my neighborhood. I was unopposed, so once I got the signatures I had successfully petitioned my way onto County Committee. It felt good.

I’m not officially connected to any of the many Kings County independent democratic clubs that have built a coalition to challenge the ways the Democratic Party establishment uses County Committee, though I found support in the process through the Rep Your Block movement by New Kings Democrats (NKD), perhaps the most central club in the coalition. In preparing many of the new County Committee members for their first meeting, they said first that they couldn’t predict with certainty how it would go. County Committee, after all, is composed of over 3,000 seats representing every assembly district in Kings County, and has generally functioned through mechanisms developed by the party establishment—currently represented by Frank Seddio—to get a minimum number of members to attend to establish a quorum while getting as little input from them as possible.

Despite their uncertainty, NKD could make a few educated predictions, every one of which turned out to be accurate. The party, in accordance with established bylaws, would be required to hold two County Committee per year, the first being held within twenty days of Democratic primaries. I would receive a letter roughly two weeks before the first meeting, which would discourage me from attending. My notification would include a proxy card to send instead of attending, which essentially gives my vote to the party leadership.

This last prediction is the central justification County Committee reformers give for filling seats and attending meetings. A proxy voting bloc dilutes the democratic part of the local Democratic Party in the same way a superdelegate bloc dilutes the national Democratic Party: by forcing a false consensus. In the same way a large bloc of superdelegates can essentially veto even a large-scale grassroots movement, a substantial chunk of proxy votes cast by members who chose not to fulfill their elected duty can nullify even an auditorium full of committee members who actually attended. This is an obvious way that the Democratic Party, even if it leans progressive, is essentially undemocratic.

With these discrepancies in mind, my mission going into my first County Committee meeting was twofold. The first was simply, along with what turned out to be a huge bloc of reform-minded new County Committee members, to simply attend, listen, and vote. The second, and my reason for writing this, was to document, so that even if we were steamrolled by a bulldozer of proxies the process, which has been kept intentionally opaque for decades, would get some exposure to the world outside the Democratic Party elite.

I was as surprised as anyone to see the city media give County Committee some exposure over the two weeks leading up to the first meeting. Gothamist’s Yasmeen Khan wrote a piece addressing the question “What’s Up with NYC’s County Committees?” that was helpful even to me in understanding why I’d received an obviously-fake letter from my District Leaders encouraging me to just send the proxy in, something two of them had asked me in person not to do. The New York Times published an Op-Ed by Seddio himself in which berates and discourages the reform movement, to which Errol Louis convincingly responded in the Daily News.

The meeting location, Kingsborough Community College, was probably remote enough to keep some County Committee members from making the commute, and deficient enough in space not to fit the 700-800 members who did come. Correctly estimating the deficiency of the commuter bus that is the only way to get there via mass transit, NKD had set up a bus shuttle from the F and Q lines.

Once I got through the commute and check-in, I took my seat with Assembly District 44 and waited with the rest of the attending County Committee for two hours while Seddio and his people counted proxies. Toward the end of the wait, an old man at the podium apologized for the wait and blamed NKD, whose representatives were observing the process and making sure NKD proxies were accounted for. Someone passing by District 43 wryly remarked, “Democracy in Brooklyn—‘We’ll start the meeting as soon as we have the votes.’” Soon after that, the crowd started chanting, “START THE MEETING NOW, START THE MEETING NOW!” And it seemed to work—they started the meeting!

A bald man who didn’t introduce himself—I later learned he was former State Senator  and IDC lawyer Martin Connor—began by lecturing committee members on why County Committee exists and why it must be held within twenty days of Democratic primaries. He then stated that the proxies had been counted, and listed them as 555 for Frank Seddio and 130 for NKD. These numbers changed throughout the night, with the Seddio proxies eventually ballooning to over 700 as they needed them to defeat the vote of members who actually participated.

A quick word on Martin Connor, based on some day-after research. Perhaps most importantly: yes, that IDC. Connor was retained by the Independent Democratic Conference in 2014, providing legal advice and speaking on their behalf to media. It seems relevant and disturbing that the representative of the party establishment to County Committee has spent at least some of his time and energy directing and supporting the group of Democratic State Senators responsible for undermining the party at the state level, all of whom were voted out of office less than a month ago. Perhaps more importantly, though, I think this affiliation explains his determination to undermine popular vote in favor of false consensus. I would guess that this, after all, would probably be how he would explain his determination to find creative ways of ignoring nearly every County Committee member in the auditorium.

Connor did this primarily though Robert’s Rules of Order, which he wielded like a club. I wish I’d had the time and forethought to count how many times he shouted, “You’re out of order!” I soon got the sinking feeling that the only people in the room who could crack the lock and get him to listen were the lawyers.

One such lawyer was Robert Carroll, Assembly Leader of District 44, who stepped to the podium past numerous people who were shut down while shouting demands to make perhaps the most important motion of the night: to change the use of proxies. I forget the exact wording—I’m not a lawyer—but the gist of the motion was to effectively decentralize proxies by allowing each one only to be used within the district of the person giving it over. Even Frank Seddio, despite being party boss, technically resides in one district, so if this motion passed he would no longer be able to solicit proxies wholesale throughout Kings County. Josh Skaller, District Leader of AD 52, seconded the motion. Everyone in the room affirmed it, which seems even more astounding considering the committee members attending hadn’t yet felt the full force of those proxies tucked in Seddio’s pocket.

The next motion, the one that ended up being the flashpoint that set to flame all semblance of quorum or consensus, was brought, I believe, by newly elected District Leader Doug Schneider, who incidentally was one of the three leaders whose name was forged (and misspelled!) by Seddio in pre-meeting requests for proxies. His request seemed rather simple. The primary order of business for this meeting was to elect members of Executive Committee, the subcommittee of County Committee that actually conducts city-related business outside of coming to two of these meetings each year, and Schneider requested that each candidate on the pre-selected slates be allowed sixty seconds to speak before County Committee voted.

Of course, this motion was not simple; in fact, it threatened Seddio’s centralized power directly. Once Executive Committee is elected, they then nominate and approve the leader for the next election cycle. In order to retain stability and predictability, party insiders nominate a slate that agrees to then re-nominate the party boss, in this case Frank Seddio. The directive in asking for sixty-second pitches before the vote was twofold: 1) putting on display the suspicion many County Committee members have that the members of the proposed slate did not expect to have to win it (and in fact in many of their cases hadn’t even shown up to the meeting), and 2) allowing candidates from outside the party establishment a legitimate chance of being elected to Executive Committee and assuming real power in the party.

After hearing the motion and challenging its validity, former State Senator Connor agreed to take the motion to a vote. The vote was almost unilaterally in favor of allowing the sixty seconds for each candidate. Connor then pulled the number of proxy votes out of his pocket, which had then somehow increased in number to over 700, and declared all of the Seddio proxies to be against the motion. With those cards on the table, he revealed not just a majority-proof, but a consensus-proof proxy bloc. This was when the room erupted, and when my faith in the democratic part of our local Democratic Party withered.

Connor called the meeting into recess, and many committee members assumed this meant the meeting was over. But nobody wanted to leave, and after one district was called behind the curtain to elect their Democratic nominee for an open judgeship it was announced that the vote count on Executive Committee nominations had been challenged.

When Connor returned around 10pm after what ended up an almost two-hour recess, he announced that he would read the results of the vote count, to a roomful of boos. “What are you complaining about?” he said, obvious flustered. “You don’t even know the results yet!”

“You knew the results before you voted!” I yelled. Even I was surprised at myself.

By then, though, the energy was sucked out of the room. Looking at the agenda and seeing we had only gotten three out of eight items of business done, I saw that it was 10:15 and knew we only had the auditorium until 11pm. I couldn’t help thinking that this was the plan all along.

I got the feeling that Connor in particular by this time was just wanting the meeting to end. A resolution was passed that the new Executive Committee should vote in Kings County Democratic Party members publicly directly after the meeting was adjourned, and a number of committee members grumpily asked what the alternative was.

“I don’t know, I’ve never seen it,” he said, then laughed, “I’d like to see it!”

Someone made a motion to reconsider a vote we took earlier on something relating to the Executive Committee, as a number of committee members around me yawned.

“Did you vote for the Bova slate? Because—” And here he stumbled over some intricacy of Robert’s Rules of Order, then admitted, “Ok, I made a mistake!”

And for one glorious and satisfying moment of consensus, the audience erupted in shouts of derision and laughter. By then, though, I don’t think any of us even knew what exactly we were laughing at.

AuthorJohn Proctor

My old friend* Ned Ryun wrote a spectacularly arrogant and misguided piece for The Hill on Sunday, the day after the Senate rammed through Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, titled “We’re lucky to have men like Kavanaugh who are willing to face down the mob.” I usually restrain myself from responding, because 1) I do consider him a friend, and 2) I understand that this is his job as a hard-right lobbyist.

But then, after reading a couple of things in particular, I got to thinking about how stupid a reason for giving him a pass that second one is. The first was a Facebook post by my cousin Leslie, who has been fighting for international women’s rights at the United Nations:

“This is not mob rule. This is women’s voices finally being heard.”

The second is from “The Price of the Ticket,” one of James Baldwin’s last essays, written in 1985:

“A mob is not autonomous: it executes the real will of the people who rule the State…A mob cannot afford to doubt: that the Jews killed Christ or that niggers want to rape their sisters or that anyone who fails to make it in the land of the free and the home of the brave deserves to be wretched. But these ideas do not come from the mob. They come from the State, which creates and manipulates the mob. The idea of black persons as property, for example, does not come from the mob. It is not a spontaneous idea. It does not come from the people, who knew better, who thought nothing of intermarriage until they were penalized for it: this idea comes from the architects of the American State. These architects decided that the concept of Property was more important - more real - than the possibilities of a human being.”

Most if not all civil rights issues in the United States revolve around the notion of property and who controls it. The personhood of women and people of color has always been especially enmeshed with the white male notion of property upon which our government was founded. Any “constitutional originalist” - like Ned, like Brett Kavanaugh and every other conservative Supreme Court Justice - subscribes to this original notion of property-over-people, and it directs their thought. This is what separates the mass protests we’ve seen in response to Kavanaugh’s forced confirmation from, say, the mobs of angry white supremacists in Charlottesville: one is resisting a property-obsessed, white nationalist State, and the other is enforcing it.

This is not a subtle distinction. Any pundit, Ned Ryun or otherwise, who conflates the two doing it intentionally. He may be just doing his job, but if that’s where the jobs are, then maybe we need to be seriously questioning what we want our jobs to be: consolidating property and the power it entails, or distributing it?

* I ran track with Ned and his brother Drew, and his family was very kind and welcoming to me during my brief stint as a fundamentalist Christian my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. We keep in touch via social media, but haven’t seen each other in decades.

AuthorJohn Proctor

Seventeen years ago, Muslim extremists crashed separate planes into the two towers of the World Trade Center in downtown New York City for the express purpose of killing as many inhabitants as possible. Forty-seven years ago, New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered heavily armed state troops and local correction officers into the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York for the express purpose of killing as many inhabitants as possible.

2,996 people were killed and over 6,000 were wounded on the morning of September 11, 2001. Most if not all of the city’s surviving population was prevented from contacting friends and family outside of the city by nearly universal cellular equipment failures. Forty-three people were killed on the morning of September 13, 1971 and the number wounded has never been fully accounted after decades of government obfuscation. Every single one of the facility’s survivors was prevented from contacting friends and family outside the facility by Governors Rockefeller’s specific instructions.

One attack was an attack by a foreign threat on our unsuspecting general population, a fact many Americans deflect by imagining a government conspiracy. The other was an attack by state Governor Rockefeller with full support from President Nixon, followed by an actual conspiracy to hide it for decades afterward.

Both were acts of faceless violence motivated by fear and hatred.

Both are rightly considered dark days in American history by anyone who remembers them.

If you are, like I am, too young to remember the Attica massacre and wonder why you should care, just remember that next year will be the first year that a large number of college freshmen will have been born after 9/11/01. Do we want them to forget?

AuthorJohn Proctor





AuthorJohn Proctor

It's about Trump and oppression, and sentences and truth, and Rikers and language, and other things, with some of my own sentence diagramming art to go with it. Here's a bit:

"Language is also the primary paradigm governing the structural understanding of ourselves, and as such is perhaps the most powerful tool not just of academic disciplines, historical narratives, and generational tradition, but also of repressive governments, rapacious industrialists and capitalists, and dusty schoolmarms and mansplainers. To Control the Message is to dictate how to use our common language: to put it in a box, to diagram its meaning as if any word or sentence or thought had only one meaning, as if any person or institution had the right to impose that meaning on the rest of our shared world."

Read the rest here

Thanks so much to Karen Babine for pulling it out of me in strands. It's also pretty fucking awesome to be the written company of Nicole Walker, Terry Ann Thaxton, Michele Morano, and a roomful of other amazing written voices in the issue.

AuthorJohn Proctor

I woke up this morning with a start. We all have those occasional flashes in unconscious states, where myriad things we’ve been consciously thinking about just come together. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about not just my work at Rikers but the horrific things that are happening at our border and the ways we fear and even demonize the Other—those people we think the world would just be better off without. We are becoming entirely too comfortable with the idea of indefinite detainment for people we fear because don’t know and/or understand them. And we’re becoming—and this is the most important part—we are becoming alarmingly comfortable using the law as a weapon to strike these people down. I think of all the people we use the law the stigmatize, whether it’s calling the cops because someone is non-violently bothering us, lawyers using our incredible precise surveillance state to make lawbreakers of anyone they decide to make lawbreakers of, the sickeningly abstruse term illegal alien. Every day our general public—you, me, and every Other we don’t know—are becoming less knowledgeable about our increasingly volatile world, while our institutions—our governments but much more actively our corporate ecosystem—have access to more and more information about us.

Yesterday my cousin, who is in her twenties and in med school but I get the impression has been asking herself the difficult questions people ask themselves when they are at the points in their lives where they are consciously making decisions that will affect who they are for the rest of their lives, sent me a Facebook message asking if I knew how she might find an inmate or inmates to become pen pals with. I asked her if she had any preferences for whom she’d like to reach out to, and she only that they be adult. This struck me when she wrote it, and has stuck with me since. I’ve told myself and anyone who would listen that my primary motive for this work is empathy. This has perhaps sometimes been simply a catchword, or a way of getting around the fact that I went in without a firm pedagogy. But I believe, more and more each day, that unrestrained (ok, perhaps just less restrained) empathy is our only way out of the situation I describe in the paragraph above. I want people, myself included, to listen voluntarily to the stories of people whose stories they currently think are unimportant, even reprehensible. I want more people to decide, like my cousin, to write to one or more of the more than 2.3 million people currently incarcerated in the U.S. I want people to consciously humanize the many people we encounter on social media whose ideas we detest (this is always a tough one for me). I want us to have conversation, rather than linguistic warfare.

I’m no longer terribly religious, but this is my little Sunday sermon to all of you, my friends. Be good to each other. And be good to each Other.

AuthorJohn Proctor

Today was pure fun—I got to meet both Zephyr Teachout and Cynthia Nixon! I've recently won a seat on County Committee, the lowest ranked position in the Kings County Democratic Party, and I was at a picnic for new County Committee members when I looked over and saw Nixon next to me, looking at me curiously. She then asked, “Is your name really John Proctor?”

That was exciting, but I have to say my favorite part of the day was the ten minutes I got to spend talking to Teachout. We discussed my work at Rikers, Judge Jonathan Lippman’s proposal for closing it, and differences  and similarities between Michelle Alexander’s and John Pfaff’s reasoning about the rise of mass incarceration over the past 40 years. All I could thinking after getting a photo with her was, This is a uniquely talented, immensely intelligent, and sincerely empathic human, and exactly the person to take the state forward as a leader in the fight against mass incarceration. I’ve never been so compelled to vote for a person into office as I am for her as State Attorney General.

AuthorJohn Proctor

MAN #1: “I wish I could read the paper faster. I never get it done by the time we get to the office.”

MAN #2: “My grandfather used be able to read the Times in an hour, and he could summarize everything in it except the Arts section.”

MAN #1: “You’ve told me that story three times already. It doesn’t make me feel any better.”

AuthorJohn Proctor

I wrote this little vignette last summer in Iceland, and promptly forgot about it. It seems too simple to submit for publication now, eight months later, but I'm kind of fond of it. And makes some perverse sense to share it now, in January - To misquote Mark Twain, I've never met a colder winter than summer in Ísafjörður.

Le Medecin.jpg

So much of our lives exists in the margins outside the frames of our Instagram feeds. Take, for example, a strange little piece of French ephemera tagged to a bakery in Ísafjörður, Iceland on someone’s—for example my own—feed. The framed piece, or rather its digitized presentation, evokes perhaps the Alps in the background and a strange, vaguely disturbing scene in the foreground. Two women seem to have been in some sort of skiing accident. A man is either attending to them or accosting them (the only words of the piece, “Le Médecin,” imply the latter, but the subtleties of their mannerisms hint, to my wife and me at least, at the former, but this could simply be due to the overblown, grotesque representations of mid-Twentieth Century kitsch). And, most notably, a boy in the background in skis, hangs from a tree over either a fence or a ledge and seems to be spying on the other three. They are all smiling—that posed, fakey smile we give when we know our picture is being taken, when we’re conscious of our surveillance.

At least that’s the way my wife and I see it as it looks over both of us eating crepes at a small table in this Icelandic bakery and talking about Brooklyn in the margins of the shot she takes on her iPhone.

“It reminds me,” she says, “of that new coffee shop in North Slope, the one that took over Gorilla Coffee. Did you hear about the sign they posted over their bathroom? This piece just reminded me of it. Apparently the new owners put it up as a joke, but it depicts someone peeping in on the women’s bathroom. I heard about it on the Park Slope Parents listserv.”

“Ah,” I sigh. “I can already guess how that conversation went.”

“Yeah, and the Comments sections on the blogs posting about it. I think the last thing I heard was a dad accusing them of promoting rape culture, and the owners saying people should stop being so sensitive.”

“The ever-present Brooklyn hipster-vs.-parent debate.”

“There aren’t any hipsters left in Park Slope,” my wife says. “I think they might want to at least try to appeal to their customer base.”

“I think some of our fellow Park Slope parents might try easing up on the hypersensitivity.”

“Better to be hypersensitive than insensitive,” she says.

“I disagree,” I say.

“We come from a generation that told us not to take these things—the male gaze, imposition on women’s bodies—seriously,” she replies. “We have two girls I don’t want to subject to that. Or at least I want them to stand up against it when they see it.”

“I want our girls to be able to identify oppression when they see it, and laugh at it,” I say, then add, “That’s power.”

“I just want you to be aware,” my wife says, “that you are speaking from a white male perspective, with the privilege that entails.”

I stop looking at her, fixating on Le Médecin. “I guess I should just stop talking then.” I continue talking. “I wasn’t speaking from privilege. The opposite, actually: I was speaking as someone who has overcome plenty of class-based, systemic adversity, mostly because I learned to laugh at it. That’s what satire is—undermining oppression by laughing at it.”

My wife has stopped talking, but I can’t.

 “You just took my position, which I’ve thought about at length, and made it into a stereotype. You say I’m speaking from a position of privilege, but I think it’s a position of maturity.”

My wife has stopped looking at me. She’s looking out the window, whatever argument she might make tucked away for another time. It’s probably right at this moment that I realize I’m mansplaining. I want to continue with this argument, to see it through to its conclusion, but I see in her icy gaze that I’ve already proven her right.

“Right now,” she says, “I don’t feel safe in your company.”

We sit, both of us looking out the window at the hotel across the street, or the fjord this hamlet is situated within, or the cloud-capped cliffs looming over both sides that block out the sun for two entire months of the winter—both of us shrouded from each other. Her hands are in her lap, one of my legs is crossed over the other, and the French doctor, the women, and the peeping-tom skier gaze over us into the online ether, smiling.

AuthorJohn Proctor

For the past 12 days, I've essayed various aspects of this strange and wonderful season. Here they are, collected in their entirety for your yuletide bewilderment.

Pee Wee Herman asking you not to drink and drive, the Bullet Boys threatening violence on Rudolph, Lou Reed and George Harrison being Lou Reed and George Harrison...

Everyone's got one of these stories. Hopefully.

With special guest appearance by Andrew Carlsen, Todd Schartung, and a gang of skinhead toughs.

What was it with the Fifties and eskimos?

For my friend Liz Blood, in absence of 12 full days of the sacred...

<insert black heart emojis>

On the road again.

You want none of this Santa.

That Santa gets all the girls.

Christy Merrmas and Holly Happy Days!

It's alright. I love you.

AuthorJohn Proctor