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Senior Momentum - November 2016 - Zoë Tummillo

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With No Frame of Reference...

by Zoe Tummillo

It’s a primary frustration for many of us that a contemporary listener can be incredulous and skeptical about positions held, situations managed and actions or non-actions taken decades ago, concerning personal victimization. For them, it can feel like absurd ancient history in an unfamiliar context they cannot even vaguely relate to, and for which they have no frame of reference

There probably isn’t an adult anywhere who has not experienced frustration trying to communicate something sensitive, from their past, to someone in a remarkably different social paradigm. When a lot of time separates us by age, and limited information prevents reasoned insights, trying to find common ground can be nothing less than an exercise in exhausting exasperation 

Remember those classes in school when we studied the various “Ages?” There was the Stone Age, the Iron Age, the Age of Dinosaurs, the Explorations, the Renaissance, the Industrial Age, etc? Welcome to what I call the Age of Acceleration! (Don’t blink – you’ll miss a lot). In my opinion (enhanced by genius electronics), forward motion on all levels got fast so fast that many important things began to be left behind, passed at high speed without notice, run over, thrown aside, mistakenly overlooked or just plain ignored. Among the rubble are the comprehensive and relevant “social studies” you and I remember – the foundation kind; the insight and information factors that provided bridges from one generation to the next, and facilitated the development of vital frames of reference! In many aspects, teaching such became expendable. (It takes too much time.)

Today’s generation finds it somewhat puzzling, if not disturbing, to imagine a society of generations in which it was OK and acceptable to take unwanted sexual liberties, openly and risk-free -- with impunity. Many women, if they became victims of unwanted sexual advances, basically had no serious recourse, as recently as 30 or 40 years ago. It’s just the way it was. They knew they were objectified. Rarely, in general, did society at large (or the Law) regard the victims seriously, sympathetically or respectfully. Frankly, much was handled with a wink of the eye, a there-there, or a you’ll-get-over-it.

In regrettable hindsight, our older generations facilitated much of that indifference; we did it by tolerance. It’s a regrettable gift we unwittingly gave to particular predators. Now, it often bites back with questions from “enlightened millennials:” Why did you wait? Why didn’t you do something when it happened? Why were you silent until now? Well, the simple answer is: It was different then, and that may be hard for you to understand!

The taboo is still a diehard. It’s one of those leftover, pre-women’s-movement unwritten laws of grin-and-bear it. Women (with few exceptions) don’t easily bring it up, don’t easily seek help; they just shut up and lock it away. Thus, much of the ugly history is unknown. It seems each generation has to re-experience it and plough thru the muck all over again! And, lest we forget -- false accusations can – and do – ruin the lives of good guys.

Something good is happening. Brave women of all ages are using this Age of Acceleration to break out of the silence that was historically so precious and safe for our grandmothers who used it to heal and save face. Today, with courage, millions can be reached in seconds – and with anonymity. 

The recent election campaigns managed to turn sexual abuse, assault and misconduct realities into competitive sport. Again, at the expense of victims, past and present, revelations concerning outrageous behaviors are ridiculed and debated as if the subject was as innocuous as a weather report. Accusations and denials are passionate, inflamed and even dangerous. I try not to judge. I have daughters and grand’s, and I have my own agenda in all of this. I try to see the grain and the chaff

More important, I also have sons, good men all.


Zoë Tummillo is a Business & Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Commercial Writer, dba COMMUNICATION CONCEPTS, in private practice since 1974. In addition to Commercial work, she writes “Senior Momentum: A Series of Situations”; “Pieces of My Path”©, essay memoirs of growing up first generation Italian American; and Senior Momentum: Front And Center!©. To contact her: email: writingservice@earthlink.net