I thought about how & why I felt guilty for not slapping the shit out of this man. But then I remembered the few times I directly told men to stop. Like the time a guy leaned in to kiss me at a bar. I told him no. He pushed me and called me a cunt. I was a cunt because I told him he couldn’t kiss me. Or the time I was buying cat food at Petsmart on a Sunday afternoon & the man in line behind me repeatedly touched me. I politely asked him to back up. He screamed in my face & told me he was going to take me into the parking lot (the parking lot of a Petsmart and Whole Foods, mind you) and strangle me until my eyes popped out of my head. I thought about how the manager at Petsmart called the police who ended up detaining the man, but also made sure to tell me that it would be wise for me to not engage with men like that. I thought about how I was told to walk away and be the bigger person. I was supposed to be the bigger person when it came to politely asking a man to to stop touching me who then immediately told me he was going to kill me. I thought about how women are constantly blamed for antagonizing men. I thought about how elementary schools enforce dress codes because heaven forbid a seven year old girl is wearing a shirt without sleeves. I thought about how many times I’ve heard men say women overreact. I thought about how Donald Trump boasted about grabbing a woman by her pussy. I thought about all my co-workers & friends who shared stories of their boyfriends and husbands being so out of touch to women’s experiences with men. How they don’t understand that this is such a huge part of girlhood. How they don’t understand that we can’t even let our guards down at the grocery store. I thought about all the times I’ve heard men say they didn’t know, as if that’s an excuse.
I tried to go about my day, but I could still feel his hands on my thigh. (I can still feel it tonight, and it is still nauseating.) The whole thing played in my head over & over again. I thought about whether or not he knew what he was doing was inappropriate. I thought about what he said to me. “You wouldn’t be wearing shorts that short if you didn’t want to show it off. Let me see.” I was on my way to work. My shorts aren’t that short. And even if they are, the length of my shorts doesn’t give him (or anyone) permission to touch me.
My friends have been on my ass to get back to writing on a schedule again. Unbeknownst to everyone, I’ve been beating myself up about it, too. I miss my regular writing days. I miss my stories. Winter to spring and summer to fall are hard times for me, and according to my psychiatrist, hard for a lot of her patients with bipolar disorder. So, treat us gently. Love us a lot. Get to know us. We’re good people. Help us celebrate and bring awareness to our illness today and remind us that we’re not alone.