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….