Being online these last two days and reading all of the “Me Too” posts is saddening. Every woman probably has a story of if not rape, then some form of harassment or intimidation. Mine are no different than most, I’m sure. But for the Grace of God I was never raped. I am one of the lucky ones.
The one story was more of a betrayal of trust. Like so many people that are looking for comfort, I fell for a story of hope. When I was in my twenties, my father died. My grief wasn’t the straightforward grief that I felt when my mom died 3 years ago. The grief for my mom was pure grief with no regrets. My mom knew how I felt about her and I knew how much she loved me. My dad was not so easy. He was a difficult and unhappy man, an un-recovered and unrepentant alcoholic. His life was one of pure misery and many failures. My mom and I left him when I was 20 years old and my betrayal of leaving, was an unforgivable offense. Unforgivable because my mom tried to leave him many times in my childhood, but like many children of alcoholics, I loved him and stayed to take care of him. That meant my mom had to return. When I left, she left for good and my father never spoke more than a few words to me after that.
His death was somewhat of a surprise to me because generally speaking, people as miserable as he was tend to live forever, or so I thought. At the time of his death I was taking a real estate sale’s course two nights a week and I didn’t want to miss it. I confided to the teacher, who had a habit of calling on people and putting them on the spot, that my dad had died and requested that he not call on my that evening. He was very understanding and during the break, we walked to an ice cream place a few storefronts up and I told him about my dad. The instructor was a recovered alcoholic, an older and well respected real estate agent in the area. What I didn’t know was that he was also a serial philanderer and because of my rosy colored glasses when looking at the human race, I never saw what was probably obvious to most people. A few weeks after the class ended, this much older, well respected gentleman invited me to dinner to “talk me through” my dad’s death and to talk about work. At the most, I expected him to attempt to recruit me. Let’s be clear, he never laid a hand on me, but after dinner, he asked me to come to his office, we had dinner very nearby. He sat on one sofa and I sat on another and we started to chat. At one point, this well respected, married, pillar of the community looked at me, patted his lap and beckoned me over. I was stunned. To this day I do not remember what I said but I do remember what he said. He tried to make it look like I had a dirty mind and that I had given myself away by “misunderstanding” his intent. The betrayal of a man, old enough to be my father, pretending he cared about my confusion and sadness over my father’s death and the relationship we had, cut me to my core. I was so embarrassed and horrified that I went around for days without telling my husband what had happened. I didn't’ tell anyone at first, I was so embarrassed that I had been so stupid. When I finally worked up the nerve to share with my husband his response was “I could have told you that was going to happen but you would have gotten mad at me and not believed me”. And he was right. My now ex-husband’s view of humanity was so much more jaded than my rose colored view. Years later I found myself standing next to this man and I literally started to shake and my heart hammered. I wasn’t afraid of him, but the humiliation and shame of falling for such a low trick still stings to this day, 30 years later. He has since passed away and when he died, I thought of my father whose favorite expression when someone he didn’t like passed away was “I never speak ill of the dead, but good, he’s dead”. I wasn’t happy he died but I wasn’t sad either and I chuckled at the irony of my dad’s expression applying to this predator.
Another story, a friend of my husbands, who tried to kiss me once and then acted like it was my imagination. Sorry Charlie, a woman doesn’t imagine a man whom she trusts, a friend of the family, try to kiss his best friend’s wife on the lips. Nope.
Another and very frightening thing happened to me the first year the Flyers won the Stanley Cup. I cut school that day, I’m thinking I was 14 or 15. I attended the parade and then followed everyone down to the stadium where there was a rally. It was wall to wall people, literally and we were packed like sardines. All of a sudden men started grabbing at my breasts and vagina. I could hear laughing. It was so crowded I couldn’t tell who was doing it and I couldn’t move, let alone run. To this day I’m afraid of large crowds and mob mentality. I know in my heart that if those creeps decided to take it further that day, there was nothing to stop them.
I won’t get into the innuendos of men who do not know me well enough to make them, the inappropriate touching in crowded places or the catcalls and kissing sounds men make when a woman walks by a construction site. You just learn to look straight ahead and act like you can’t hear them. Then you get called a stuck up bitch. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great sense of humor and I can kid and flirt and make innuendos with the best of them. With people I know well. With people who understand I’m kidding. With men with whom I trust to never touch me inappropriately.
So yeah, me too.