The Greater Conversation

I’ve silenced myself a lot lately regarding the world crises surrounding us — I don’t want to add to the noise, particularly in the sphere of social media. I try (but sometimes fail, of course) to only share a personal perspective when I feel it might offer something unique, and/or it might advance the conversation.

Unfortunately, when it comes to nail polish that was created to help prevent date rape, I wish I could just change the conversation. I don’t get what the hell we are talking about anymore.

It’s Halloween, 2004. I am 17 years old and dressed as a devil: I’m wearing a red tank top with a short black skirt and black kitten heels, and a headband with fabric, sequined devil horns attached to it.

After picking up one of my high school friends, Kate, we arrive at a house party hosted by one of my coworkers at the time — the coworker and I are both salesgirls at a local surf and skate shop.

I had already worked at the shop for over a year at this point, but my coworker was new. I didn’t know her well — all I knew was that she was in college, and that I was excited to be invited to a college Halloween party.

Kate and I walk into the house, which is lit only by novelty black lights. Fake spiderwebs hang from every wall and every corner. The sound of death metal fills the air. The house is filled with mature-looking ghouls and goblins holding plastic red cups, each containing the respective guest’s exact liquor of choice.

We knew this because when we turned to enter the living room, a full bar stood before us. And, behind it stood a bartender dressed as a zombie, hurriedly taking cocktail orders from some guests — one of which is my coworker.

She greets us and introduces us to the zombie bartender, who is also her roommate. The bartender’s face changes as he looks Kate and I over. It’s the sort of look that Kate and I are used to as attractive young women on an occasion such as this.

“Get these ladies some drinks,” my coworker says.

“Of course! What would the beautiful ladies like to drink?”

Kate and I hesitate and turn to look at each other. Life as a 17-year-old in 2004 mostly consisted of drinking Smirnoff Ice, and hating it.

“Do you ladies know what a Tom Collins is? I make a great Tom Collins.” He smiled sweetly.

“What’s in it?” I ask with faked, casual interest. “I can’t drink tequila.”

Zombie bartender roommate (ZBR) lists the ingredients and assures us we’ll love it. We agree to give it a try, because we have no real opinion about alcohol, anyway — our only strategy (as most teenagers’ strategies go) is to avoid the same kind of alcohol that has already caused us to puke our brains out during our short, illegal history of alcohol consumption.

ZBR makes our drinks while we engage in some small-talk with my coworker. With our Tom Collins’ in each hand, ZBR exits the bar area and personally hands us each drink.

“Try these,” he says with another sweet smile.

Kate and I take a short tour of the house and the party, then stop back into the living room.

“I think I’m already drunk,” Kate says to me. I look down into her cup. She’s only consumed about a fifth of her drink.

“Yeah, same. These are pretty strong,” I say in response.

Except, I feel intoxicated, but I don’t necessarily feel drunk. Something didn’t feel right, but I also wasn’t sure.

Kate accidentally drops her cup.

“Shit,” she exclaims as she rushes to the floor to overturn the cup and salvage some of the beverage, and does. Her supply has gone from 4/5 of a cup to 2/5.

“You can have some of mine,” I say as I pour some of my Tom Collins into her cup to even it out. “I have to drive.”

Five minutes later, with each of us still halfway finished with our one and only cup of Tom Collins, we are heavily slurring words and falling all over the place. I feel dizzy, and need to sit down on the couch.

ZBR comes and sits with us.

“How are my two beautiful ladies feeling?”

“I feel a little dizzy,” I say, clutching my head.

“So do I,” Kate says.

“Why don’t the two of you come lie down in my room? I’ll get you some water and take care of you,” He says as he puts his arms around both of us. He kisses us both on the head.

We both nod, and we both instantly know. ZBR leaves to prepare his care regimen.

“Do you think he put something in our drinks?” Kate asks me with a serious, but also seriously intoxicated facial expression.

“Yes. How could we be this drunk? Also, this isn’t what it feels like to be drunk, is it?”

Kate shakes her head like a broken bobblehead doll. We are both very fucked up, and we are both very scared. We immediately understand that as time passes at this party, things will only get worse.

At the same time, I am not in a position to drive anywhere. At the same time, we decide that we would rather die in a car accident than experience what is about to happen.

ZBR strolls back into the living room. Before he can escort us into his bedroom for a night of “care”, Kate and I run out the door and across the lawn towards my car holding each others’ hands tightly.

We jump into the car, and decide we are too horrified to be anywhere near the house. Desperate, I start the car and drive ever so slowly and carefully to a friend’s house nearby.

We both cry the whole drive. We both cry and vomit the rest of the night.

It was obvious that when the zombie bartender listed the ingredients for the Tom Collins drink, he forgot to mention one.

Every time the date rape drug is mentioned, I think of him and that story. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only time someone has slipped me the date rape drug — I just remember this story the most vividly.

It’s easy to criticize the idea of nail polish that is meant to prevent date rape, and it’s easy to do it for tens of thousands of reasons — all of which have probably been cited somewhere on the Internet. I probably agree with most, if not all, of them.

But, it’s important to dedicate a thought to the situation at hand. When Kate and I had no idea what was going on, I would have given anything to have had anti-date rape nail polish, or an anti-date rape red plastic cup, or an anti-date rape devil horns headband.

I would have given anything to not have reactions like, “We were lucky,” or “Driving that fucked up was better than getting raped.”

While the goal is and always should be — first and foremost — to educate, we must realize it takes time. We must realize there is not enough time to educate someone once they’ve already slipped you the drug and you’re losing your state of mind.

We must realize the story I told will happen again and again during the education process. And, we must realize that the education process will never be quite complete and will always need to evolve, and that the education will be lost on some, and hopefully not on many.

With these realizations, we should not place blame on those who try to help, even if it’s misguided. When you feel like and/or become a victim, you would most likely take any form of practical help.

And, finally, with these realizations, we should be happy to have this conversation and to share any and all of our perspectives. This is the education process.

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