The day to day adventures of a girl who refused to give up her dream!
Thursday, April 7, 2016
The dark we know well
I was just reading an article about a female's ability to de-escalate a situation. I've been doing this my whole life. Most of us females have. We were sexualized before we had the ability to fully understand sexuality. I watched my mother try to de-escalate my father's anger. My brother's anger. Cope with everyday sexism. She taught me to de-escalate. Not consciously. I learned by watching her.
When I was thirteen years old, just beginning to develop breasts and having not even had my first sexual experience, a male cousin copped a feel while pretending to pet the kitten I was holding close to my chest. I knew what he was doing. Make no mistake, perverts, we are fully aware of your inappropriate contact. And I had no idea what to do about his uninvited molestation, but sit there and wait until he stopped. I remember thinking this cousin was handsome when I was five, he was a full seven years older than me, and at first I was thrilled he was actually talking to me, having a full conversation with me, interested in me. Until I realized why he was even talking to me. So, he could pretend to touch me innocently while touching me inappropriately. And then I was ashamed, embarrassed and confused.
When I was fourteen, I went for an eye exam and the eye doctor started taking my pulse during the exam. He lifted my wrist and pushed it right up next to my breast so the outside of his hand was touching it and he just left it there for what seemed like forever.
When I was fifteen, I walked ten blocks in New York to the theater. My first Broadway show on my own. I was all dressed up, wearing a lovely dress and heels. I was catcalled and whistled at for the entire ten blocks. Grown men said the most disgusting things to me.
When I was seventeen, I was walking to the bus stop in my Steak n Shake uniform. A man screamed across the street at me, wanting to know how much I would charge for a blow job. I was mortified. When I didn't answer him, he became extremely hostile and abusive. I was terrified he would cross the street. I kept my head down until the bus got there.
It took until I was about twenty four for me to tell a strange man to take his hand off me. Before that time, bosses had touched me, strangers had grabbed my ass on public transportation, drunk men in public had threatened me and boyfriends had beaten me up. Violence and sexual situations was such a regular and frequent part of my life that I had grown to accept its existence. I was only beginning to find a voice in it.
Once I was waiting for a drink at a crowded bar and a man squeezed in next to me.
"Give me your phone number!" he demanded.
"I don't even know you. Why would I do that?" I said.
"Just give it to me."
"No," I said, deciding to just be direct. In the past I would have said I had a boyfriend or I was waiting for someone or whatever socially correct excuses I had cultivated to de-escalate.
"Fucking stuck up bitch." I was greeted with.
Because I said no. Men like this prefer the dance. They keep you talking, keep you engaged. But basically they push in on you, they touch you, they invade your space. I was trying to shut it down sooner. Engaging in this brutal honestly got me called a lesbian, a stuck up bitch, a whore, a fucking slut. It got my life threatened. A man can go from "hey baby" to "I will fucking kill you" in the time it takes for a woman to say "no, thank you."
Please don't bother to tell me all men are not like this. We are aware. Very much aware that all men are not like this. I am married to a man who is not like this. Men who are not like this are not the problem.
Once, a man I was dating was very, very drunk in a bar with me and I watched him looking at a girl standing next to him, the spaghetti strap of her dress had fallen down off her shoulder and was hanging mid arm. For some inexplicable reason, he took hold of the strap and raised it up on her shoulder and patted her shoulder. He kept walking. He didn't even realize what he had done and assuredly, he meant no harm by his action. But he did not see the look of pure terror in the girl's eyes when he touched her. He didn't even register this action as something that would cause terror. But it does. Because we can't tell what kind of man you are and we have learned that men can be dangerous.
We have often had to try to calm someone down and make them feel better so he will not get more angry, more violent.
One of my boyfriends co workers used to sexually harass me every time I walked into the restaurant where he worked. He would make lewd and disgusting comments to me every single time. Telling him to shut up did no good. Standing up to him, ignoring him, avoiding him. None of it worked. And everyone around me tolerated or laughed off his behavior. Get a thicker skin, I was told. He's harmless. I wasn't exactly afraid of this guy but it still bothers me that everyone in that situation decided that his behavior wasn't a problem.
Worse even was that he was hired on later at a restaurant where I was the manager and he proceeded to attempt to sexually harass me there as well. Even though I was the boss, several male employees made sexual comments and propositioned me. Instead of feeling that I had the power to fire them, which I did, I feared they would use their sexual harassment against me to find a loophole. I enlisted my co-manager, who was male to discipline and fire them when the time was right. All I could do at the time was de-escalate the situation to protect myself. But they were fired for other reasons. What they did to me went unpunished.
The worst part of all of this is that I am so desensitized to it half the time, I don't even register it happening. It takes someone else to be appalled by it a good deal of the time. It's so regular and normal to have to put up with it. To walk around it, to try to deal with it. It makes me sad. It mades me angry. It makes me wish it would change.