An open letter to those who debased my body
You probably don’t remember those days. We were young, only in high school. You were caught up in your own drama, as I was in mine. Our hormones and insecurities ran rampant. It’s likely that you’re probably not the same person anymore; I know that I’m not. But do you know that the things that you said and did stayed with me all these years? That in the twenty plus years since we graduated high school, your words and actions were a part of how I defined my body and self worth?
I know that you don’t remember how you tortured me in Spanish class, referring to my breasts as “melones” during the food unit. I know that you don’t know that I quit Spanish, even though I’ve got a great ear for language, simply because I couldn’t fathom the thought of being in class with you. I took an Italian class the year after, because I loved language, but hated you. As it turns out, you didn’t only live in Spanish class. One of your compadres found me in Italian. He asked if we could be partners on a project, and used that chance to try to get me to have sex with him. I gave up after that, and stopped taking languages, because I was sick of learning how to say “harassment” in multiple languages.
You probably don’t remember referring to me as “Breasty” and “Dolly Parton” as I walked down the halls, because I had the misfortune of being a D cup at 16 years old. You didn’t want to date me, but you made lots of attempts to grab my breasts- on the school bus, when you came by my house and pushed me down on my bed with my parents downstairs, when I tried to go to my locker, and you grabbed my head, jammed it into your crotch, and yelled, “Blow me, bitch!” You probably don’t remember making fun of my weight, my chubby arms and thighs. I suppose my breasts are what you remember, if anything.
I don’t want to pretend that this is limited to guys. I remember you too, girl who shoved me into the lockers in my 10th grade PE class. I was so scared to go to class I almost failed that quarter. I avoided the hallways you walked down, because I was terrified of you, and I breathed a sigh of relief when you graduated. And I have to say, when you turned up on my Facebook friend suggestion list, I totally stalked your profile. And I was more than a little happy to find out that you’re trashy with overly plucked eyebrows. Karma.
I’m not sure why all that happened. Is it because we got the messages from society that it’s okay to treat each other that way? Did I as a girl get the sense that it was okay to be objectified? Or did I just attract all sorts of special snowflake assholes? Maybe, because it seems like plenty of people manage to get through high school without bullying, harassing, or jamming girls heads into their crotches. So maybe it’s society to some degree, or maybe all that shittiness is just you.
I suppose that’s not really your problem, that it’s my shit to work through, and I’ve been toiling away at it, so that I started to see my body outside of the categories you boxed it into. I worked hard not to see myself as too fat, too soft, too short. It’s taken age, exercise, pregnancy, and nursing my babies to realize that my body has value, and not because you liked or didn’t like it. It has its own worth for what it can do, not what pleasure you derived from it. I look at myself in the mirror now, and some days your words and actions still haunt me. But more often than not, I can see a strong, resilient body, one not unlike the soul that resides within it.
The worst part is that I know that my story is not unusual. There are way too many posts like this out there on the internet, too many tales of bullying and harassment. I know that I am unfortunately not unique. I also know that maybe you’ve changed, because you have girlfriends, wives, and daughters, and you’d be beside yourself if some asshole treated them the way that you treated me. I hope that you are teaching your sons to treat women better than you did, and that you’re telling your daughters that it’s not okay to be a mean girl. I’ve processed what happened, and I will teach my children to be kind and resilient, and not to perpetuate the all too common cycles of abuse. I forgive you for what you did, on the caveat that you teach your children to be better than you were. It’s our only hope for real change in our society.