When the #metoo movement began in order to raise awareness about how many women and men have experienced sexual harassment or assault I debated whether or not to include myself. How much sexual harassment is enough? How much sexual assault is enough? Does sexual humiliation count?
Perhaps these blurry grey areas are part of the problem. I suppose I have several stories but this one keeps coming to mind. You can decide if it’s enough, if I can say, “#Metoo”.
Long before the age of cell phones and texting, when I was about 19, I headed to a bar downtown with a couple of girlfriends. While they kicked up their high heels on the packed dance floor I was on the sidelines avoiding the crowd and allowing myself to be chatted up by an older guy in his late 20s.
I felt witty and pretty and bright as we laughed together and talked all night. When the lights came on I couldn’t find my friends anywhere. I had no idea what to do when half an hour after close they were still AWOL.
The guy who’d been chatting me up helped me look for them. When we couldn’t find them he said he lived close by and kindly offered to let me use his phone. He even said he’d pay for my cab since I didn’t have enough cash to pay for a taxi alone.
We walked along the downtown streets, flirting all the way. Head thrown back with laughter I felt alive and attractive. He seemed kind and sincere so I let him lead the way.
We arrived at his place and his kisses kept me from calling home right away. I lost myself in his eyes and arms.
“Relax. I’ll pay your cab fare later. You can hold off on calling a while longer can’t you?”
I nodded and kissed him back, nerves fluttering deep in my chest. I really liked this guy. He laid me down on his living room floor and began tugging at my clothes. I tried to slow things down and he kept trying to speed them up.
Soon I began squirm beneath him. His weight bore down on me and the butterflys in my chest turned ice cold and I began to panic.
He suddenly pushed back from me, impatience and disgust now glowered at me where I’d so recently seen lust and longing.
“You’re a fucking virgin aren’t you?”
I nodded slowly. I was so embarrassed I wanted to sink into the floor. What had I been thinking as I’d followed him home like a lost puppy?
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
Anger sparked in his eyes, now cold and black.
“What did you think we were coming here for?”
“I… I… I couldn’t find my friends. You said I could use your phone. You said you’d pay for my cab. I thought you liked me. I thought you wanted to get to know me.”
“Whatever. Get out.”
“But I need to get home.”
“That’s your problem not mine. Get out.”
Crying now, I stuttered, “Will you still get a taxi for me? I don’t have enough money to get home.”
“I’m not paying for anything you cock tease. Get out!”
Humiliation bubbled up and poured from my eyes, “can I at least use your phone?”
“Make it fast. Then get out.”
I called home. My parents and friends were there and relieved to hear from me. I stammered into the phone that I wanted to come home. They didn’t ask questions, just told me to take a cab and they’d pay.
As soon as the taxi was called I turned to the stranger I thought I was getting to know. He glared at me, all interest gone.
“It’s 4am, I don’t feel safe waiting alone outside.”
“Too bad. Get out.”
I flowed out the door on a river of tears and waited alone, scared, tired, hurt and humiliated. I shivered and cried and wished I could just disappear.
Is this enough?
He didn’t rape me. I wasn’t brutalized.
Does this story count? Were my tears and humiliation enough?
I dodged a bullet didn’t I? Maybe I should shut up, count myself lucky? Shouldn’t I be grateful?
It’s not enough is it?
I’m not enough am I?
I can’t really say, “me too?” Can I?