There are things a woman doesn’t tell just anyone. #MeToo.
Shame. Silence seems better. Our culture’s tendency to victim-blame.
Time, distance, and a great therapist makes it easier to talk.
I think the #MeToo movement is happening, because women (and some men) have realized that the shame burden isn’t theirs to bear. They’re shifting it to where it belongs, the shoulders of the offenders.
Some mock and are dismissive of the offended. Perhaps they don’t know that they know people who have been and continue to be sexually harassed. After all, for a long time the standard has been, “Do what you will. I won’t tell.”
I won’t tell, because I’m scared. I won’t tell, because others will think I’m broken. I won’t tell, because it’s embarrassing. I won’t tell, because others will call me a whore and say it was my fault. I won’t tell…
A lot of men (and some women) have no idea what the men (and some women) around them are doing to women (and some men) they care about.
“You did what you did and now I’m telling.”
In the future I hope it is, “Do what you will and I will tell and there will always be consequences.”
By the time my granddaughter is a young woman, I hope sexual harassment will be something that used to happen, something she only learns about in history class.
I hesitated to write the below and share. Then I remembered the words of Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
My #MeToo List (Partial)
- My butt has been grabbed, pinched, and slapped by men I don’t know.
- A clean cut man sat down next to me in Chicago on the Greyhound Bus I was riding down to Orlando, Florida. I was 18 and on my way to help my friend Mindy drive from Orlando to Rochester. We planned an epic (and meandering) road trip back. Mr. Clean Cut put his hand down my pants and “fingered” me. He touched my breasts. I pretended to sleep, because I didn’t know what to do. I remember hearing one girl trying to tell others what was going on. I kept pretending to sleep. He got off the bus in Alabama. I acted like nothing had happened.
- At the first bar I worked at, a man grabbed me by both cheeks and kissed me hard on the lips. I told a bouncer. The man was kicked out of the bar for a month.
- I was raped 17 years ago on my birthday by a man who had once been a trusted friend.
- During my first stint selling cars, a customer told me I should wear short skirts, so I could flash my panties at him while he was driving. He told me I should give him a blowjob to close the deal. The next month, I sold six cars. All to women. Then I quit, because I found it too difficult to approach male customers. I never told management what had happened.
- While waitressing, a guy pulled me onto his lap in front of his wife.
- A man frequented a gift shop I worked at. He seemed nice, just a bit off. Then, a woman working at the coffee shop next door noticed him hiding behind a clothing rack, watching me. She called security. Most of the women I worked with experienced odd incidents with him and also had to contact security. Months later he was banned from the building we were in. I hesitate to go to the library, because sometimes he’s there and will try approaching me. When there, I keep my phone in my hand so I can call someone and talk or pretend to talk to someone if I see him.
- During my 2nd stint selling cars, on a ride-along a customer started saying sexual things about other women. He told me I was attractive. Back at the dealership, he talked about me in sexual terms with my colleagues. My New Car Sales Manager alerted me to what was going on while giving me numbers to negotiate with. I was both angry at the customer and committed to closing the deal. I did close it. Then, with management, it was worked out that so long as there was space in the service aisle, I would deliver the vehicle to the customer there. That way, about 5 of my co-workers would be within 10 feet of the vehicle and able to see all that was going on. If not, another salesperson would be with me as I delivered the vehicle to the customer. We would tell him that I was training the other salesperson in. If only I’d noticed his Dickie Do hat. It said, “Dickie Do: My Gut Hangs Out Farther Than My Dickie Do.”
- When Dickie Do came in to get the oil changed on his vehicle for the first time, a service writer told me that the guy had just said some things about me that he wasn’t willing to repeat. He shared that he felt concerned for my safety and suggested that I hang in the back area until he got the customer back on the road. Then the mechanic doing the change worked as fast as he could, so I could get back on the floor, doing my job.
- At the last bar I worked at:
- A man asked if he could slide his credit card through my ass.
- A man told me, in explicit detail, how he would perform amazing cunnilingus on me. That same man came back to the bar and apologized to me. He was a friend of a regular, so my guess is that the regular encouraged him to make things right. I appreciated the apology.
- There were Sex BARGO nights. It’s like BINGO. Free shots get passed out whenever the number O-69 is called and the prizes are all sex-related. I HATED working those nights. I almost never had to, because those were on the same nights as church choir practice and my manager did his best to respect our outside of work schedules. During Sex BARGO, a man said to me, “I picked this porn for my prize, because it has blondes like you in it.”
#MeToo Consequences (a partial list)
- Panic. When I was 19, I started having panic attacks. I would be at work, driving in my car, at home, anywhere and feel as if I were about to die. Big clouds on a sunny day could make me convince myself that a storm was about to come and kill me while I waited in traffic for the stoplight to change from red to green. At first, I didn’t link my irrational fears and panic attacks to the sexual assault on the Greyhound Bus. It didn’t even occur to me to tell the therapist I was working with about it. The psychiatrist I saw in the same office asked me if I’d ever been assaulted. In my next session with the therapist we talked about the assault and its probable connection to the panic attacks.
- Hives. I was invited onstage for an improv segment of a play being performed as part of a festival on the night I was raped. The man who wrote the play was in Rochester from L.A. He’d written a couple of episodes of M.A.S.H. and he took the time to tell me how impressed he was by my performance at a party after the show. I left the theater party for a birthday party and was raped by a man who I’d thought was a dear friend. During the first play I was cast in after the rape, I broke out into hives before every performance. They were there even after a couple of days off from performing. I saw my doctor. He thought I might have a food allergy and I did an elimination diet to try and find the culprit. Then one day, months later, tornado warning sirens went off at the lake my then-husband, my daughter, and I camped at. I stayed calm for my daughter as we waited it out near the underground shelter. I broke out in hives. I put two and two together and figured out that when I suppressed fear, hives were the consequence.
- Avoiding Good Things. I refused to go into an authentic Mexican restaurant for over a decade, because I was afraid of being triggered. The man who raped me and I worked together in a Mexican restaurant. After years of feeling better, I hit a bump in the road while dating. Under stress, I disassociated. I could hear the man I was with, but I couldn’t respond. I knew he wanted me to say something, but my mind was a total blank. There was nothing there. No words (and I pride myself on my adeptness with them). The incident caused me to seek out a therapist again. He diagnosed me with PTSD. On my first date with my fiancee, I told him I didn’t go to authentic Mexican restaurants ever. If you knew Chris, you’d know that it would be weird to not talk at least a little bit about delicious Mexican food. “You don’t like Mexican food?” he asked.”I like Mexican food. I like Chipotle. I don’t eat at authentic Mexican restaurants.”He hadn’t yet told me how much he ate at authentic Mexican restaurants. Some weeks he eats tacos every day for lunch. I’m so glad we made it to date two, three, and more. After some coaching from my therapist, I told Chris about the reason for my aversion. We went for lunch at his favorite spot, La Poblana. Sylvia, the owner of the restaurant served us. Everything was great. My aversion was done with. Well, it took a few times for me to not feel shaky afterwards, but the aversion is really and truly over and I get to enjoy the warmth and goodness that is eating at an authentic Mexican restaurant.
Beyond Being a #MeToo
I’m grateful for the #MeToo movement and the emerging #TimesUp movement, because I believe talking about and sharing these stories can help us reach a point where the stories become rare, an anomaly, instead of that norm no one is talking about. Also, I’m grateful for the abundance of amazing, supportive, and good men I know. Chris being the best among them (of course).