Responding to the Friend Request from a Middle School Boyfriend

I see your face there, requesting my friendship. You have the same look in your eyes as when you requested other, more intimate things from me. You look much older now, though, a lot like your dad.

Your profile pic has one of those  waving American flag filters and the words, “I stand” written across it. This is one clue that already makes me wary to hit the “confirm” button. It seems on this important issue, we don’t agree at all: Why I Sit, Part I. and Why I Sit, Part II.  If you read those, it might be enough to change your mind about wanting to be my friend. Hell, even if you don’t read those, the title should give you a very important hint.

I’m sure you know that I’m a lesbian; it was a small town, and I came out just a year after you graduated high school. That must’ve been around the last time I saw you: 1997.  I don’t think I’m wrong when I say you’ve voted against me for probably the past two decades. What you might not know is that my partner is a Spanish-speaking immigrant. Let that sink in, buddy. Okay. Maybe I’m incorrectly assuming a whole lot about you from that one profile picture.

So,  enough about why you don’t want to really be my friend,  I want to tell you why I can’t be yours.

There’s a very good reason I will not be accepting your friend request. You see, I did some thinking a while back: Getting Trumped. If you look closely, you might find yourself in there somewhere. Of course, that’s assuming you recognize the situation. Let me repeat it. You’re #1. As in, the first time I remember a man sexually assaulting me.  Here it is in case you don’t have time to read the full piece about the Cheeto-faced leader of the free world grabbing women’s pussies and bragging about it and how it affected women:

#1

Though I honestly can’t remember if this is the first time [someone sexually assaulted me], I do remember it vividly. I remember it because I was old enough to almost understand. I was 13. And he was my boyfriend. It was on the bus on our way to a track meet. He was a track star in our tiny school. He could climb the rope in gym, upside down. We sat in those green plasticy leather seats. He put his hand on my leg, my knee. That I enjoyed. Or, at least, didn’t mind. But his buddies were in the seat in front of us. They turned around and peered over. And there were only guys behind us, too. I was trapped against the window. His hand kept moving down and closer. I asked him to stop. I told him to stop. But those guys in the seat ahead were watching and he had something to prove. And they kept saying, “C’mon, he’s your boyfriend!” And I kept saying no, download (1)politely. I didn’t want to be uncool. I also didn’t want his hands anywhere near me. But he did. I mean, my pants were on and everything, so I wasn’t sure if it counted for something I should tell someone. He just kept his hand there for a moment and wiggled a finger. I felt like puking. I broke up with him not long after that.

***

Maybe I mis-remembered breaking up with you. Now that I think about it, I think you broke up with me, and you sent someone to tell me (as middle schoolers do) right before I got on the bus, and I think the reason was because I didn’t put-out. Whatever the fuck that means when you’re in 8th grade. I think the reason I remember it as me breaking up with you is because I felt so relieved. Maybe I just wanted to come out the hero in this story.

Besides that incident, there were many times in the hallways of slamming lockers, where you’d try to kiss me and I’d tell you that I didn’t want to because I didn’t want people looking at me and it made me uncomfortable and you’d try to convince me and you’d do it anyway and stick your tongue in my mouth. I remember how you smelled and the jeans you wore. I remember that some of your guy friends saw and would say shit like, “Way to go, dude.”

I figure by now in this explanation of why I won’t accept your friend request you’re pretty pissed. That’s fine. Maybe you are saying, like, she’s a fucking dyke, anyway, that’s why she wasn’t into it. Or maybe give me a break, I was a kid and didn’t know any better.  Well, believe it or not, I “dated” quite a few guys in my teenage years. Almost all of them treated me with respect. There were teenage boys who were kind and listened when I said no. And here’s a weird thing, I feel like I have to thank them for being good and respectful. I feel like it’s unusual that they would behave appropriately.

How fucking horrible.

That I should applaud young men for being decent.

Maybe, too, you’re thinking, like why didn’t you say anything or break up with me? Good question. You see, society taught me that guys will be the aggressor and if I don’t accept sometimes, I lose them. And it’s bad to lose a man. And, wait, I think you broke up with me because, what was the reason again? Oh, right. Because I didn’t “put-out.”  But maybe it was more like, I didn’t accept your aggression.

Now it’s 24 years later and I’d like to go back to help young Christina in her time of need.

When I relive that moment, I imagine I punch you square in the face. All of my friends are watching this time. You don’t really cry until you get home later in the evening.

It didn’t hurt as much as it scared you, but you feel so humiliated, so powerless.

 

 

 

Sexual Assault: I Finally Get All Feminist on My Ass

Gentle reader, this weekend I traveled to Chicago to watch rugby. It was a huge deal. The seats were full of screaming rugby fans. And they cheered for both teams. I did, too. I cheered for rugby. It was an amazing experience; rugby players were all over the streets and in the bars that night. It was incredibly beautiful.

But I’m not ready to write about that part because, you see, one asshole ruined that for me. And yes, I’m still giving him the power to ruin it as I write.

It happened like this: The game was over and a small group of my friends was wandering trying to find a way out of the stadium or a taxi or anything to get to where we wanted to go. At some point we stopped to discuss what to do when I felt a slap on my ass. Now. It wouldn’t be unsual for one of my friends to do this, but something about the way it felt told me it was a stranger. Besides, they were all in front of me. So I see, out of the corner of my eye, some dude walking away.

I grabbed him by his collar, started pushing him,  and said, “If you’re going to slap my ass, at least take us on your fancy bus.”  (His friends were boarding a small, private shuttle.)  He tried to put his arm around me, and I hit it away and repeated that we wanted a ride. “Where are you going?” I asked. He tried to grab me again, around my shoulder, “Home,” he said. I pushed him and said “Fuck you” and then went back to my friends. I overheard his friend say, “Wow. You’re really good at making friends.”  And it was over.

But, you know, it’s still not over.

For the next two hours I wasn’t fun to be around. I kept replaying the whole thing in my head. Why didn’t I just fucking punch him? I could’ve just tackled him. Seriously. I was even with 5 of my rugby teammates. Why was my gut reaction to try to get something from him in exchange for that ass slap? Why didn’t his friends grab him immediately and tell him that wasn’t cool? Why did they laugh as I pushed him and yelled in his face? Of all the groups of women who are bothered, shouldn’t my group of rugby players be the one to teach him a lesson? Why didn’t we?

I want to tell you that not many years ago, I probably would’ve turned around and called him an asshole or just said something sarcastic. If I heard someone telling me this same story, I’d probably tell her it sucks, of course, but she’s over reacting. Worse things happen in the world. However, things have changed for me recently, though. With all the discussion of America’s rape culture, I want to be part of a solution. I am aware that an ass slap is much more than that; it’s a symbol of everything that comes next.

I hate myself that I didn’t just hit him right in his fucking face. I keep thinking, you know, I’m socialized, as a woman, to smooth things over and just deal with it.

So, I decided to share this information with one of my classes today. I thought it was fitting with the elections and issues, and college campuses having higher than ever sexual assault reports.  I told my students the whole story, in my most serious voice, and told them how rarely this happens to me, but when it does…. And one guy says, “Yeah, Ms. H. every time I get slapped on the ass, I just turn around and…” I cut him off. “No. This is not funny, Student, This is exactly the problem.”

Most of the girls in the class had little to say about the situation. One said she was proud of me for not hitting him. I asked, you know, how can a woman react so that a man knows he’s really done something incredibly terrible?  No one knew. I suggested, again, that if I would’ve just fucking laid him out… One male student said he agreed. That if I just beat the shit out of him, he might think twice next time.

Think twice. The assumption he’d even think about it again.

I’m now remembering about three months ago I was out dancing with friends. I danced a minute or two with this guy. When he turned to leave, he reached out his hand and stroked my crotch. In just one, quick swoop. My reaction, as always. Shock. Then he disappeared in a crowd. Again, that guy needs a good kick to the throat, too. But what I remember is the way he looked. There was this smile on his face.

Like he’d given me a gift.