This post is certainly a divergence from my normal topic of parenthood. But, as a parent, it is still important to be mindful of current events, and the current climate of the world in which we are raising our children.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein press (ignoring the fact that this man shares a name with my super sweet, precious, amazing, dad), there has been an outpouring of social media posts including the hashtag #MeToo as a way to express the experienced sexual assault and/or harassment of the poster. It is, frankly, heartbreaking to see the numbers of men and women who have experienced these things, though I am so proud of my friends, family, and coworkers who have been willing to share, even these two words, with their social media communities.
About a year ago, I wrote down an experience that I had while still living in Baltimore. An experience that I have only shared with a few, and words written, that only a few have read. And as I am typing this post, preparing for the fact that I will be sharing this story, my heart is pounding. I fear the judgement, the shame, the ridicule, and the vulnerability that comes with sharing a story like this. I am sad to say, that this wasn’t my only experience, though this one, sticks with me everyday, when I drive through certain neighborhoods, when I hear certain names, and when I hear certain words.
Please, as you read, keep in mind that this is a true story, and I urge anyone who may experience trauma triggers, to be mindful of their head space before they read. There is also strong language. This won’t be the most graphic, violent, or scary story you hear, but it is mine.
“You’re a fucking bitch, cunt.” At least it was warm outside when he screamed that at my distancing back. I walked down the sidewalk of a neighborhood that I didn’t know when it’s dark out– and tried to find a main street.
My phone was on 4% battery and it was 3 o’clock in the morning. That rules out mom and dad, and the “perks” of living at home. And when most of your friends are married, many have kids, and you’re floating in a sea of online dating, pretty much alone, all you can do is call the one guy who you know might be awake. He answered. He came to get me, thankfully.
I was away from my mom’s Cadillac rental car that she let me borrow for the night. Her Solara had been totaled when my dad drove it into the front of a 711. Either way, I liked it better than my ’96 Toyota Corolla. The Cadillac was parked at Johnny’s, my least favorite restaurant in Baltimore, which was conveniently located closer to his place than mine.
I am pretty good at red flags. But when you start talking to a guy online who went to the Quaker school in town, right around the corner from where you went, when his mother was your aunt’s law professor, his family has a legacy of partners at a top law firm in the country, and he, himself is a lawyer, maybe you become the kind of color blind that can’t see red. When I say “you” of course I mean me. And maybe color blindness isn’t the issue. The issue is that I was so wrapped up in the possibility of a love story, of being Baltimore royalty, that I didn’t listen to myself. Later I would feel like a pathetic cliché, like I was at fault, like I was asking for it, like I lead him on, which would again, make me feel even worse for not standing up for myself more than I had.
I was asking for it. That is the worst one. I feel that women should be whoever, wear whatever, say whatever, and still feel safe and secure in walking down the street. I was wearing a long sleeved cardigan, and a ankle length maxi dress with a high neck, from the Loft. I honestly don’t know if I showered that day, I can’t remember anything except the late hours of the night. I know I didn’t shave my legs or any other parts, because when he shoved his hand up my dress, as I was blocking his hand with every bit of my strength, my immediate thought, after how uncomfortable I was, was that I didn’t shave. I’m not sure which feeling made me start to tear up.
I felt proud that my redheaded heat and muscles allowed me to fight this man off. That is the only moment I was proud of. There were others when I hadn’t been as strong. He waved his $10k signing bonus in my face when I first got to his house, after we left the bar at Johnny’s. I don’t know if I was impressed. I know I remember it. I remember him making fun of the Cadillac that I came in. He arrived in a BMW.
He made fun of my choice in wine, white over red. He made me stutter. He made me feel weak and self conscious. He made me feel embarrassed and he made me feel small. He also made me feel obligated.
I got in his car and went with him to see his house. I say “see” because he lived in a neighborhood where I had once wanted to live. I thought he was trying to help. To educate me on location. I thought his house kind of looked like my grandmother’s. I remember noticing that he had too many red oriental rugs and antique dark wood future for someone who was 27.
We watched some Game of Thrones, he had another drink, and wanted to wait to take me back to my car, so he could sober up some more. He took me into his basement and showed me the king sized bed, completely made, and told me how he had picked it out with his ex fiancé. It was from IKEA. I led the way back upstairs. He showed me his bedroom, and he pushed me on the bed.
As you know, I was stronger. And as I told him to take me back to my car, walking down his steps, he told me to get an Uber. “I’m not getting a DUI for a bitch like you.” He said– actually scoffing. I wasn’t sure that I knew that people did that outside of books– as it turns out, they do.
I walked out of his house. He actually came after me. At 3am I wonder if his neighbors heard. He laughed through his apology, asking me to come back in. And when he called me a tease, I turned and walked away. It was enough. “You are enough.” I told myself silently, and I walked down the sidewalk. He yelled after me, but eventually went inside.
I felt my breath quicken and I was certain I would faint. I sat on the curb, waiting for my friend, whom I had called with my final moments of battery, praying he would find me. He did.
I got back to my parents’ house at 4am. My sweet mother was up, waiting for me, in her pink t-shirt nightgown. And without the raise of a voice, she asked me why I had been so late, so out of touch. I told her. My heart broke more for the look on her face, than for what he had done.
She took me on a drive the next day, and her words are still clear. “I want to pour black paint all over his car, sidewalk, and house.” All I could think was, “red would be better.”
For anyone out there, experiencing pain, I am here for you. I will be your safe space if you need one.
Peace and love.