Hello Darkness My Old Friend

So I feel kind of bad… after leaving all of you high and dry for over a week with no new posts, now I’m not even going to give you a fun, light-hearted story about killer bunnies or mugger macaws. This one’s damn serious and dark, but I need to get it off my chest.

This post does contain “me too” triggers, so please bear that in mind before you proceed.  I won’t be offended if you don’t read further.

Also, there is strong language, just an FYI.

 

So yesterday someone I know and respect posted not one, but two “jokes” online referencing the recent coming forward of women who have been sexually harassed/assaulted. I’ve seen versions of these comments before and they never really phased me because the people saying them were assholes, and assholes are going to say asshole things; I don’t pay any attention to what those people say – because they are assholes.

But these comments – they struck me in a deep and personal way I wasn’t at all prepared for. To have someone I know and like say such tone-deaf things really shook me up. Not only did it upset me that a good person would make light of this topic, but it plunged me into a dark place regarding my own “me too”s. I mean, when the whole “me too” thing started, I posted my “me too” status, remembering what happened to me, but somehow that didn’t trigger any emotions related to those memories.

But this? This cocked the gun and blew my mind and heart into a million pieces.

To understand what happened, some background is required. In my junior year of high school my social circle shifted to a new group of friends outside of school. Having found these friends through the BBS world (blast from the past) and gaming, they were basically all guys. The few girls I knew in the ‘circle’ at that time were more peripheral friends of friends or were dating my actual friends, versus being the primary people I hung out with. About half the guys treated me like a kid sister they needed to protect (in addition to being the only girl I was also the youngest in the group), and the other half just treated me like they treated all the guy-friends in the circle. We would often jokingly flirt with each other, but we ALL knew it was just that – joking with each other. Physical contact was normal – hugs, back rubs, sitting on someone’s lap – but it wasn’t some innuendo of something more than friendship.  Hanging out until all hours of the morning and then literally sleeping together on the same couches, floors, etc. was a regular occurrence. And I never felt, or had reason to feel, uncomfortable or unsafe.

In many ways I think this, along with the fact that I wasn’t the type of girl that most guys found themselves physically attracted to, made me very naïve.

When I was about 20, my then-finance-now-husband and I went to a party at a friend’s house. In addition to ‘my circle’ of friends, there were a lot of other people there I either knew only in passing or had never met before. But these people were friends of MY friends, those guys I trusted and felt comfortable with, so it never crossed my mind that they would be or act any differently.

As was usually the case, there was no plan for the party to end before morning, and having consumed more than a reasonable amount of Goldschlager my husband crashed fairly early in the night in one of the upstairs bedrooms while I continued to hang out. I’d been chatting and doing the same innocent/ meaningless flirting with the people I just met as I did with my friends. I hung out a lot in particular with one of my friend’s friends who I’d never met before; funny guy and fun conversation. But eventually I started getting tired and needed to secure myself a corner and some random pillows and blankets to lay down and get some sleep. This was not easy – single guys living on their own are not known for their linen selection, and there were a lot of folks looking for places to sleep and things to sleep on/under. So when I managed to make myself a passable sleeping space, and the guy I’d been talking to asked if I minded if he shared a corner of it, I never thought anything of it. As I said, at one point or another I’d literally slept with about a quarter of the guys at that party, and this was a friend of those friends which meant he was a good guy and it was totally fine.

I’m sure it is no surprise reveal or suspenseful “what next?” to you that I was in fact devastatingly wrong in this assumption.

So it started with general “hey I really enjoyed talking with you tonight” and “I’m so glad we met” to “you’re pretty awesome.” Which just seemed flattering. Then it became a back rub. Now again – – my 40 year old self, and likely you reading this right now, are thinking “What the hell??? Why would you let some guy you just met touch you?” But remember, this was normal behavior between me and my friends, and furthermore it had been a completely safe type of interaction with those people for over four years; it just didn’t trigger warning bells.

But then the back rub started to wander to places it shouldn’t, subtlety then not so subtlety. I made light of it, kind of shrugging his hands away with a “hey thanks for the back rub but I’m gonna try and get some sleep now.”

Then laying side by side with inches of space between us became “wow this blanket is small! It’s cold in here! Hope you don’t mind my scooting over” which turned into him rolling on his side pressing the length of his body against me. I did think – this doesn’t seem right; but my next thought was “you’re kidding right? One, you aren’t the girl who guys try to put the moves on, and two he knows your fiancé is upstairs. It IS cold in here and the blanket IS too small for both of you. Stop overreacting.” So I just scooted myself over a little bit to give myself some space. He shifted and scooted closer again.

Then more talk of how sweet I was, and how lucky my fiancé was, how he hadn’t managed to find anyone to be in a relationship with, how lonely he was, how he wished he could find someone just like me.. all the while touching my arm or my hand or my shoulder…

At that point I was actually getting uncomfortable. But I was young, stupid and didn’t want to ’embarrass myself’ by making a scene, so I pretended to be asleep figuring he’d just stop. At least five minutes passed and I started to relax and drift to sleep. Then he spent about half a minute moving about and I thought “see – he’s shifting and getting comfortable so he can get some sleep too.” Until he reached over, took my hand and pressed it forcibly onto his now naked crotch, whispering in my ear that he knew I wanted to touch him and it was okay, he wanted me to.

I went from horizontal to vertical faster than I thought possible for my rotund self, ripping my hand out of this pretty firm grip in the process. I shot out the front door to where one of my close friends and several acquaintances were hanging out and talking outside. I clearly looked upset and having this guy hurrying after me apologizing and saying it was just a misunderstanding made it quickly obvious something had happened.  My friend placed himself in the doorway and in no uncertain terms told the guy to get the fuck away from me. After several attempts to come out anyway, the guy gave up and I crumpled into the corner of the porch, stunned and shaking.

So yeah, horrible. Really fucking awful actually. But like I said, I really hadn’t given it much thought in years, even when typing my “me too” into my Facebook status.

But then yesterday – those posts changed everything in a matter of just the few moments it took me to read them. I was back in that moment – stunned and shaking in the cold and dark, feeling lost.

And there’s a reason for that – because as bad as what happened that night was, what came next was worse.

One of the girls, who was dating one of my friends, said, “Oh man, that bastard. He did it to you, too?”

………… you TOO????

………… this was a fucking THING????

And it turns out she was not the only one who knew this about him. They sang me the little “theme song” they had for “Molesting <name redacted>“.

A. Fucking. Song.

They laughed it off. Oh he’s so desperate to get some, he pulls this on every girl he meets. Ha ha.

……………. ???

I mean, they did ask if I was okay. They did keep him away from me until my husband woke up and we could get the hell out of there. But these people, people I trusted, KNEW this guy had done this before; he had done it to some of THEM. And not only was he still at this party in the first place, but they didn’t bother to say something to me? To warn me?

It was clear that they didn’t think it was a big deal. It’s just a little harmless groping and he never actually ‘gets any.’ Ha ha, isn’t he so pathetic?

And so I laughed too ‘cuz what else could I do? Ha ha, yeah, so funny. What an amusing catchy song. Fucking hilarious.

And besides – maybe it was my fault. I had ‘flirted’ with the guy and how was he to know that wasn’t really ‘a thing.’ And I hadn’t actually ever said “please stop” so maybe he thought I was into it. And I didn’t ‘get hurt’ so clearly I was overreacting; these ‘were’ the reasons my friends didn’t think it was a big deal.

And I think it’s really, really important to say: in all fairness – we were ALL young and dumb; the oldest person there was probably only 23. I don’t think there’d been any malicious intent in not telling me about the guy, just carelessness. And I don’t think there’d been any malice in the laughing at it either, just the stupidity of youth.

But seeing those posts yesterday – seeing some one I like and think is a good person making jokes about this issue – it plunged me back into that moment 20 years ago, when people I knew and trusted turned what happened to me, what has happened and will continue to happen to thousands of women – into a joke.

To their credit, when I pointed out the wrongness of the jokes to them, the person really did listen to what I had to say and realized they’d been wrong. They apologized and immediately deleted the comments…

But even with that, I haven’t quite made it in from the cold yet….

Flocking Together

I’m at it again. Off on another work trip. So there’s A Story. There’s always A Story when I’m allowed to go off on my own  – see my prior two assassination-related posts. At least there were no death attempts this time, only attempts at theft and minor bodily harm. I see this as a step in the right direction.

On today’s episode of “What Will She Get Herself Into Next?”

I found myself, along with my colleagues, on an 8 hour layover in Dubai. No matter how nice a business class lounge is, no one wants to spend 8 hours in it. So I shared a taxi to the Dubai Mall with my colleague who was meeting a relative for lunch. Not wanting to crash their party and not wanting to shop at the Mall <shudder>, I decided to go to the Aquarium. (No, having the words ‘Mall’ and ‘Aquarium’ in the same sentence is not a typo.)

Who doesn’t have a 2-story aquarium tank & a 3rd floor aquatic zoo in their mall? Peasants, that’s who.

Being an anxious introvert, this was akin to a miracle ‘drug’ in the middle of a long day+ of travel. Quietly relaxing for a few hours on my own WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE SMALL TALK WITH ANYONE, all while enjoying some cool animals? Yes, please!!!!

So I meandered though the giant aquatic tunnel (amazing), and headed up to the zoo (also awesome). I saw penguins and giant crabs and thousands of fish and a 1,650 lbs/16.5 ft crocodile (those measurements are also not typos). I petted baby sharks and I had a chit-chat with a snub-nosed turtle who I believe thought I might be the bearer of snacks (alas I was not, much to his chagrin). A solid 90 minutes of enjoyment. 

My last stop was heading up to the “suspension bridges.” I HATE SUSPENSION BRIDGES. I am afraid of heights, and walking on anything more than one foot off the ground that MOVES while I’m walking on it is right the hell out. But there was an owl up there, and I love owls, and the only way to get close enough for a picture was to brave the bridges. So I managed to get a shaky, palpitating picture of the owl and quickly moved off the bridge to the closest solid platform available, composing myself for the trip back across. It’s as I was hanging out there, minding my own business looking out over the fish tanks and such, all while trying to remember how to breathe, that he pounced.

He was all nice at first – making eye contact and moving to stand next to me. But then he grabbed me and he tried to take my earrings. I said no and tried to get away but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He stood there looming over top of me, digging into my shoulder, and tried to grab my purse. I was able to drop the purse behind me between my body and the railing of the platform. He tried to snap my necklace off of me and scratched my neck in the process, but I managed to keep him from getting it. He tried for my wedding ring, too. Once I finally got away I was able to snap a few photos as he chased me across the bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GUY?

…. What – did you think I was being mugged?

 

But really…

IT WAS THE COOLEST THING EVER!

He’d landed on the railing at the far end of my platform just a minute or so after I got there. And despite all the “Don’t Touch the Animals” signs, every damned person that came through that platform for the next five minutes had to try to pet him, poke him, or otherwise touch him; AND set camera flashes off in his face while shouting baby talk at him.

After the second group of jagoffs moved on after giving up on him doing anything other than trying to bite them, it was just him and I up there. He gave me the stink eye and I just stayed where I was and quietly told him I was just hanging out and I promised not to harass him. He cocked his head at me and after about half a minute took a couple of steps towards me. I just stayed where I was – leaning on my arms which were folded in front of me on the railing – and I talked to him quietly about how annoying it probably was that people wouldn’t just let him be. He’d made his way over little by little and after about 2 minutes was standing right beside me. He stuck a foot on my arm and when I still didn’t move, he climbed on up. And this is how I ended up with a 2 foot tall Hyacinth Macaw perched on my shoulder in a mall in Dubai.

The jewelry and purse (metallic handle) heist attempts of my embellished version of the story were not just me being hyperbolic – he did try to steal all of it because “Oooooo a shiny!”, but a quiet “no-no naughty bird” or gently bumping his head away with my own allowed me to keep all my stuff…. Okay I actually had to take the hoop earrings off and hold them in my hand ‘cuz those were too tempting to give up on, but the rest he was reasonably easy to deter from taking. I  quietly chatted to him and hung out. And hung out.  I tried to straighten up in preparation for moving on my way a few times and was rewarded with a not-so-gentle nip to the ear each time. Got it – staying right where I was.

But of course, there were bound to be more people coming through there at some point. And now of course they looked at our little tableau and figured – “Oh look how tame, LET’S POKE HIM.” Never mind that I was neither touching, nor even making eye contact with the giant bird with the bone crushing beak perched on my shoulder, and I certainly wasn’t getting in his face carrying on like a banshee turned up to eleven – because I AM NOT AN IDIOT. These new atrocities were met with the same attempts to bite their fingers off. One of the morons actually asked me why he wasn’t biting me and I said, “Because I am not being an asshole.”

Actually, that’s just what I wanted to say.

Instead I said something to the effect of – I’m not trying to touch him, I’m just being still and quiet, so he has no reason to bite me. This not very subtle hint was clearly too subtle as they essentially shouted “Awesome”!!! and tried to poke him again. He finally walked across my back and placed himself on my opposite shoulder so that I was between him and everyone on the platform. During the next lull he actually pressed his whole body weight against the side of my head, almost like he was relaxing – “Thank GOD they are gone!”

This bird and I are clearly kindred spirits. Will all you people please just shut the hell up and go away?! Birds of an introverted feather flock together.

This carried on for about thirty minutes until he finally hopped down next to me and I headed to leave. Halfway across the bridge I heard squawking and turned to find him running along the rope railing towards me (hence, the picture). As soon as I made it to the next platform and stopped, hop-hop-hop and he was back up on my shoulder again. About five minutes later another large, loud group began to approach and he said his finally farewells and headed off to where no one could get near him.

Smiling at such an awesome experience, I headed out of the aquarium, which of course took me through their gift shop.

What choice did I have but to buy this????????

 

P.S. So yes, K-Middle, bluebirds DO in fact get me dressed in the morning apparently. #insidejoke

 

A Very Meta New Year

It’s not at all uncommon for me to have strange dreams. They tend to be very vivid, and they tend to tell a story. But that story is always a little “Alice Through the Looking Glass ” – everything’s a little weird and jumps around in strange ways that theoretically makes sense in Dreamland, but make absolutely no sense once I wake up and think about it.

But apparently 2018 has decided to up the ante.”Weirdness” is so last season – we’re into META now.

Unfortunately I woke up this morning with one hell of a migraine. (And before you get too excited, yes I said MIGRAINE, not hangover. My New Years Eve wasn’t nearly interesting enough for a hangover – not so much as a sip of champagne). So I took some medicine and promptly fell back to sleep in an attempt to evict the tiny dwarven assholes tunneling in my brain. And this is the dream I proceeded to have –

I was walking through a store wandering up and down the aisles looking for something. At first I can’t remember what I might have actually been looking for, but I stumbled upon a friend who was like “Hey the headache medication is over here.” (In the dream I totally knew this person and we’re good friends. But the person didn’t have the same name as someone I know, didn’t look like anybody I know, and at least as I recall they weren’t supposed to represent anyone I actually know. But they were absolutely my friend. This is important.)

So we find the medicine and I’m trying to decide what to get, and for some reason I cannot figure it out. So dream friend – he puts his arms around me, cradles my head on his shoulder and starts kissing me. (Apparently all I needed was a little Love Potion No. 9????) And dream me is like “Whoa this seems awkward! I’m happily married, dream friend!!”

But then I wake up. And realize that I’m still in my bed at home and the reason I was dreaming about somebody kissing me was because my husband has come home to comfort me since I’m sick, and he has crawled into bed and is kissing me. It was just reality influencing my dream. This happens to me all the time so it’s a perfect explanation (and this instance is certainly much less traumatizing than the old “I have to pee in my dream…”)

So my husband snuggles with me and we talk for a few minutes about how I’m feeling and whatnot. It’s really helping me feel so much better just to have him all warm and comforting next to me. As I’m drifting back to sleep he asks me about my trip to the drug store – was dream friend able to help me find something to help my headache?

And then I wake up. I am immediately hit by the blazing pain of my migraine and I’m confused. I’m looking around my bedroom trying figure out where my husband went. Did he go to the bathroom? But I realize that I’m on the opposite side of the bed as I had been, so my husband must have gone back to work after I fell asleep. My head hurts so badly and I’m really sad that he had to go back to work because I want him here comforting me.

I rolled over and looked at the clock and became completely confused. Wait, it was only like 30 minutes since I’d taken medication and crawled into bed. How did my husband get home from work, spend any time with me, and have already left again in such a short amount of time? And… I don’t think I went to the store to get medication…

It took me a full two or three minutes to completely come to the realization that my husband had never been there.

I’d had a dream (my husband coming home) about having a dream (my friend and the store) about what was going on in real life (my migraine).

Wow, 2018. Clap attcha.