Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Ride Home

When I was about 15, I used to sneak out of the house on a regular basis on weekends and go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. After the movie was over, we would all go to Denny's or some late night party at someone's house but usually it was Denny's. I could walk to the movie theater from my house but I always needed a ride to go to Denny's.
I had lots of friends and we all kind of knew each other and generally, someone would drive me home. Most of the time, this guy we called Moog would give me a ride home. He was cranky about it and acted like it was this huge imposition but he always did it. Still, he kind of made me feel bad about it (later I realized that was all bullshit and he didn't mind at all but at the time I was pretty super sensitive to everything). One of the guys who hung out on occasion, his name was Paul, he used to give me a ride home sometimes. I think he was in his late teens or early 20's, definitely out on his own.
The first time he drove me home, we got in front of my house and made out for about a half hour. I wasn't really into him, I mean, I didn't go home and think about him and I didn't really like him that much. It was just, okay, I made out with this guy. The next time he drove me home, I made out with him again and it went a little further. I remember knowing absolutely that I was not going to have sex with this guy, that I wasn't going to ever let it get any further than kissing and a little touchy feely groping over the clothes.
I'm not even sure how I knew those were the parameters but I was pretty clear on it. I don't know what he thought. I never asked him. He never asked me out, he never asked for my phone number, he never made any attempt to see me outside of the occasional ride home. We never even talked that much when I was at the theater, at Denny's or in the car. I can't recall a single meaningful conversation I ever had with him.
Things I remember about him. I remember his leather jacket. I remember that he was not that great a kisser and I had very little chemistry with him. I was single and I liked being liked but I was just not that into him.
The third time he drove me home, I told him I had a sore throat and I would see him later. He was pissed off. I could see it. He made me feel super uncomfortable that night. He didn't exactly say it but you could see he was exasperated with me. Mind you, he wasn't super pushy and he let me push him away when I had enough, but you could tell he thought it was going to progress.
I avoided him for a while, he didn't always show up every weekend but the next time I looked around and saw my options for a ride home were none but him, so I reluctantly asked him.
Part of this stupidity was always that I never pre-arranged. I would go places assuming it would work out for me. I had such confidence. I would drive with someone to Denny's and never bother with the ride home. I just assumed someone would pick me up and drive me home. There were always people there I just figured would take care of me. How funny that I was never really stranded, just left with lousy options sometimes.
I must have been the height of foolish optimism that it would always work out for me. But then, I was never afraid to hitchhike or walk, or wait around for the bus. Even at 15, I was incredibly self reliant and incredibly ill prepared, always knowing I would figure it out when I had to do so.
At my age now, I cannot imagine that I was so foolish and arrogant to be so ill prepared. And yet, even at this time, I can't help but admire the kid who was so fearless and open to the option of life unfolding before her. I would never allow my kid the same foolish luxury but I see the same spirit of adventure in all my daughters.
My mother once told me the story of how she went out to Coney Island with a date and gambled her money away and then her date went bad and he ditched her. She had to pick up empty bottles and return them for deposit to get the money for the subway home. She swore at that time she would never gamble again. But I hear in that story how resourceful she was in getting out of a tough situation by thinking on her feet. My mother is hard on herself for her foolishness and I applaud her wits.
I'm lucky to carry that with me.
But that night, I had to ask Paul for a ride home so I sucked it up and did it. He smiled about it when I asked and readily agreed. The whole way there, I was thinking of my excuse to make a quick exit. I had decided I didn't like him much at all, not even as a friend and I wasn't going to make out with him and I wasn't going to continue with the charade of leading him on with my behavior.
So, I steeled myself with a lie to save his feelings that would let him know where I stood.
It was completely lame.
"Listen," I said as he pulled up in front of my house."I'm just getting over being sick. I had strep and I don't want you to catch it. So, I'm just going to go."
He looked at me. "I'll risk it," he said.
"I don't think you should. I'm just going to go."
There ensued a minor argument and a pissy little attitude about why I shouldn't go. But I wasn't budging. I did not have to make out with this guy for a ride home.
He finally looks at me and says (I will never forget this) "I'm not going to be willing to give you a ride home any more if you're not going to do anything in return. I just won't be able to do that."
I was livid. Did he actually fucking say that? Really? Out LOUD?
I looked right at him and said "Well, I will keep that in mind. And I won't ever be asking you for a ride home again."
What an entitled piece of shit.
I don't think I ever spoke to him again and I know I never asked him for a ride home again. I'm really proud of myself for telling him to fuck off. For having enough sense of my own worth to know that was wrong. For being angry.
Still, I realize that my daughters are going to be subjected to this. I realize that girls everywhere are told this is the price for a ride home. Guess what girls, you still don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Tell him you don't owe him anything. Had he been paying attention, he would have known I gave him the pleasure of my company for free and he should have valued that.
I think the worst part of this is that young girls are continually subjected to this. Like they owe someone for dinner, for a ride, for a favor. And there will be girls who will feel obligated to 'pay up'.
I cannot imagine anyone doing that to a grown woman. I have given a ride home to many a person. It's an act of generosity. I've never hesitated if I can do so. This really is something perpetrated on females, mostly teens, mostly the young and vulnerable ones. Because they don't know the rules and it's easy to think that maybe you did something to lead him on- and even in a moment of teenage exploration where I thought I might like him but decided I didn't- that I might have been obligated somehow to do something I didn't want to.
I was thinking about it and grieving a little for all the girls that were coerced, that did the thing.
This guy did not seem to care if I was willing in this action. He was fine with guilty, obligated, coerced sex. He didn't care if I didn't want to, he really thought I owed him.
It's easy to feel bad. I let anger be my guide that day. It came when I needed it the most.

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