Perhaps it’s my age showing: at the outset of #MeToo I surely did have one large, life-defining #MeToo moment to share, but the other day another episode popped into my head completely unbidden, just Pop! there, in the middle of an only semi-related conversation. I wonder of my middle-aged sisters, those of us raised amid the juxtaposition of Tradition and Women’s Liberation, are they popping up for you, too?
I was barely 17 years old and definitely out where I should not have been, definitely drinking, definitely doing all manner of things with a pack of older kids and young adults of whom my mother most definitely Did Not Approve.
One of the coolest of the boys, a young man really, he was 22 to my 17 and we’d been really flirty, started tickling me. Funny at first, then irritating. We were sitting on the floor of a large living room, in a house filled with other kids and young adults ranging in age I’d guess from 16 to 25. The tickling became more aggressive, I stopped laughing and asked him, firmly, to stop it. It became more aggressive and I was now pinned to the wall and being “tickled” but really more molested by a human larger and stronger than myself. I was now not only not laughing, I was yelling Stop It Now, which served only to amuse him and all the other people, male and female around us.
There was a flicker of fear in my anger, which was now thrumming through my veins and bringing with it the gift of adrenaline. I played a lot of tennis as a teenager and my legs were strong. Somehow, in a break from his grip on me I pulled my legs up, planted my feet in his chest and propelled him away, jostling people as he nearly landed on the coffee table. I was up and out, his outraged, “What the FUCK….?!” and all the others, “Oh, she’s maaaaaaaddd…..” ringing out behind me. I neither knew nor cared who. I just wanted away.
See, I was the uncool one, protesting this little bit of assault. It was all in fun! What the fuck? After I asked nicely. After I told firmly to stop. After I YELLED to stop. Just a little fun. Why was I being such a baaaaabyyyyy? What’s a little public molestation among friends? Cool girls just put up and shut up. You want to be the cool girl, right? To which I say, fuck all of that.
This wasn’t a repressed memory, it’s always been there. I just didn’t think of it, in the way women raised in the 60’s and 70’s were taught to compartmentalize, to go along to get along, no harm, no foul, even as we were being told to reach for the stars and take our rightful places in society. We could have it all, we were told. Just don’t protest too much at the indignities you’ll be required to tolerate along the way.
So, my sisters of say, 45+, are you remembering these things, too? Are events and incidents you once passed off as the price of womanhood, suddenly looking a bit different to you now?