Many years ago. A stranger passing in a doorway as I exited and he entered a pharmacy on Market Street in the middle of the day on a Saturday. He reached down and grabbed me.
In my shock, I managed to whip kick him, though not hard. As I held the door, he lifted his arm to punch me, but he thought better. Knocking my head through a glass door would be a clear criminal act, but somehow grabbing my crotch wasn’t. And as if to prove him right, I walked away, never reporting the incident.
And a summer in college, when I got stuck with a job at the pro shop of a public golf course. When I needed to go into the back storage room, a dark and dreary place, to get inventory, my boss would say “Don’t get raped.” It was his joke.
He was a noticeably uneducated man, and I chalked it up to class differences. He wasn’t at all menacing, nor did I feel unsafe. It felt like a cultural disconnect, a small indignity I bore in this rotten minimum wage job.
It’s only in retrospect that I am shocked at how horrendous those words were, how they could have broken me if I actually was a rape survivor.
That’s the thing about Me Too. It’s heavy. In many cases it is a reliving or even a reframing of past events we may have tolerated, borne silently, brushed off, endured. There is a toll on all of us, not just the perpetrators who are identified.
In this awakening, many of us feel a new anger and exhaustion in realizations, a sorrow for not speaking up, or renewed anger in circumstances that would not allow us to.
These are the stories I choose to share but not my only stories. Many of us have other stories we can’t or won’t share, but we are silently, sleeplessly replaying them. It’s the Me Too tax.
I do not enjoy watching powerful men fall. Doesn’t matter their politics or their industry. There may be justice in it, but there is no joy. These stories have really just rekindled a lot of old pain.
If Harvey Weinstein had been outed a year earlier, we would likely have a different president in the White House. Indeed, I have been unable to find empathy for the disaffected Trump voters because their choice endorsed or excused Trump’s mysogeny and sexual predation.
There are no winners. Still, justice and truth are cleansing. I hope women continue to speak up, though I don’t relish the headlines and fallen heroes.
At the golf course there were groups of arrogant men who would come into the pro shop. They bothered me much more than my hapless boss. That sense of entitlement is the real danger.
I recall a man walking in, looking at me behind the counter, and saying “Tees.” I knew what he meant but responded, “Excuse me sir. What did you call me?” He blanched and stopped for a long minute. When he saw me smile he rephrased. “Sorry. May I have a bag of tees please?”
I hope the re-education takes hold before the backlash. This feels more like a revolution than a movement. There will be victims and sleepless nights on both sides.
I find my pleasure thinking of the men who have not been outed but who realize they could lose their lucrative careers if a woman speaks up. I love that reversal of power.
I like to imagine them writhing in sweaty sheets, their past offenses haunting their dreams.