I was at my fave diner last week, waiting for a friend. It’s a diner I’ve been going to now and again for 30 years. I sat at an empty table and immediately the guys behind me started in about [US Supreme Court nominee] Brett Kavanaugh. I was momentarily hopeful. This was Massachusetts, after all.
This is not an exact transcript, but it’s pretty close.
“And what about this Kavanaugh business?”
“35 years ago!”
“I know! I mean, what guy hasn’t done something like that?”
“Yeah, they should just suck it up” (snickers all around).
I tried to block them out. I wanted to punch them or yell at them or both, but what was the point? I turned to look at them – it was three generations of douchebags, aged 16-80. My words wouldn’t change their little minds.
“It’s like they want to rule the world!” [Of course we do, dummies! And it would be so much nicer if we did, for obvious reasons.]
“The girls at my school are the worst- they don’t even talk in class.”
I was worried they were going to ruin not just lunch but the entire diner for me. I got up and moved to the counter. When they left I seriously considered pushing the lot of them down the steps onto the sidewalk, but I didn’t. They said goodbye to the cook – of course they were regulars. 😠😠😠
My friend arrived and we had a lovely lunch and a non-creepy guy she knew showed up and was nice to her. The diner’s owner (a man) recognized me and we had a friendly chat. I felt better about the diner- those assholes didn’t wreck it for me.
A few hours later I told my pal what I had overheard. She was, of course, as outraged as me. We discussed the whole situation. Again, not an exact recording.
“So a guy pushes you into a dark room and assaults you. What kind of proof do people expect to find?”
“And how can things change when people’s fucking grandpas are talking like this?”
“Norway requires gender parity in hiring. How can anyone argue that is unfair? But of course the men do. And they should require racial parity as well!”
“It’s unfair now, but in the interest of white men so…”
I can’t recall a time when gender was so on our minds and on our tongues. I went to college in the 90s, the age of PC. At times it felt over the top. I majored in Women’s Studies for a period, and honed a philosophy in those classes. Met a guy whose dad suggested he take Intro to Women’s Studies to meet chicks. Heard some crazy stories in class. No regrets.
IF IT IS A WOMAN, IT IS #metoo. Because what woman hasn’t had that experience?
I’ve had it pretty easy. I lost my virginity when I was good and ready, thank you very much. I haven’t been beaten up by a lover (or by anyone else, come to think of it). But I am a woman, so like all of us, I have some stories to tell.
Age 17 or so. I was visiting my friend John* at UMass. We went to a party and as usual I crashed in his bed with him. We’d done this dozens of times, completely platonically, and we were fully clothed, if you must know. There was not the whisper of anything between us. (This sounds weird as an adult, but it was common behavior at the time.) I woke up in the night because he was fondling my ass! I froze, unsure what to do. I pretended to wake up, went to the loo, and then moved to the couch. We never talked about it and I never slept in his bed again. We remained friends.
Age 19, riding my bike down a busy street in the middle of the day, a car was suddenly driving alongside me. I glanced over and saw the driver (a man, of course), was looking at me and jacking off! I was outraged and screamed a ready stream of epithets at him, yet he persisted. Traffic backed up behind his car. I finally had to cut across the road to get away from him. Later, he walked into the convenience store where I worked and bought cigarettes or something. It didn’t occur to me to call the police. I would still recognize him.
In university, another college I’d considered attending, either Oberlin or Antioch, made a rule that students had to ask, “Do you want to have sex?” before proceeding. It seemed a little much at the time, and my boyfriend and I immediately implemented the phrase into our relationship, asking every time. I don’t think we ever said no. It reminded me of when I lost my virginity – he was ready to go and put on a condom, and I said, “Don’t you ask a girl first?” He asked and I said “Yes, but I just never did” and then we did and that was finally out of the way.
21 years old, hanging at a lovely old man bar in Northampton with that boyfriend who always asked, I got up to play some tunes on the jukebox, but an old dude was ahead of me (was he wearing a trench coat, or am I making that up for effect?) He offered me his credits, and as I punched in ACDC, Sabbath, Joan Jett, and who knows what else, I noticed him jerking off! I was a little tipsy and gave him an earful. It didn’t occur to me to say anything to the bartender, but I probably told my boyfriend, who probably just shook his head. Men!
There are, no doubt, other, similar stories I’ve forgotten.
After college, aged 22 or something, I went back to Northampton to visit friends. I stayed with a good male friend, Matt. We’d never had anything going on, although he’d professed a crush which I rebuffed – but that was so long ago. We went out drinking and I had too much and we wound up in the sack. In the morning I told him we shouldn’t have done that, and that I never would have, had I been sober. Rather hysterically, he said, “What, are you saying I raped you!?” The next night I stayed with that old boyfriend, vaguely explaining, “Well, I just can’t stay where I did last night.” We had sex, a bit rougher than I’d have expected or liked, but at least it was consensual. A decade later I met Matt for a coffee in NYC for some reason, just to catch up I guess. We had a totally boring conversation. He had bulked out, but had retained a small head, so I win.
At age 22 or so, I cleverly dated my stalker, Mike, who was twice my age. It’s cool, tho, I was almost his stalker, and it just seemed romantic. It didn’t work out – he came on too strong (note to stalkers – hold off on the “I love you” stuff), but we parted amicably. A decade later, he started sending me increasingly intense emails. I finally responded and told him, as nicely as possible, to stop. He sent a final email so full of vitriol, I considered calling the police. Instead, I forwarded it to a few friends for advice and as evidence in case I died under suspicious circumstance!
Mid 20s, I was walking down a late night street with a charming younger co-worker. He told me a tragic personal story that ended with the heartbreaking question, “but if they were married, how could it be rape?” My whole life as a feminist, my years in college in the 90s, still I was unable to give the right answer at that moment. I mumbled something about how people who love each other can still be violent, but really I just wanted to give this guy a vaguely inappropriate hug (ps I am *not* into hugging).
Mid 30s, I accepted an invitation from my elderly neighbor, Harold, to drop in and try the apple brandy our other elderly neighbor had made. It was winter and already dark when I arrived around 5pm. Harold hustled me into his bedroom, where he had a blue bulb in the bedside table lamp, and locked the door! Harold was more than twice my age, and I imagined I could take him in a fight. I said, “I don’t know what you think is happening here, but I just came over for a chat.” I got out unscathed but disgusted and disappointed – he didn’t even offer me a drink, for crying out loud!
In my later mid-30s, after a wild party at my house, I invited a younger guy to spend the night. We made out for a minute, then he stepped back and said, “OK, what are the rules?” I said, “Well, I’m pretty drunk, so we should probably just make out.” Which is what we did. I have hope for the future.
Postscript – I have zero doubt that all my female friends and relatives and acquaintances as well as every woman I don’t know has at least half a dozen similar stories. But we rarely bring them up because they fucking suck.
*names have not been changed because NO-ONE IS INNOCENT!