Please, Just Park My Car.
Once upon a time, many moons ago when I would go out with girlfriends, I was always turned off by people hitting on me. It seemed lame, intrusive and offensive and really didn’t flatter me all that much. At the time, my girlfriends would give me a hard time, tell me to loosen up and to find the humor, the charm even, in being hit on. But I honestly just couldn’t. Rather than feeling like a million bucks, it made me feel like a piece of meat.
I’ve been working in the anti-violence field for nearly 20 years. In the course of my career, I’ve encountered thousands of survivors of violence coming from all walks of life. I’m not sure if it’s simply how I’m built, (I know that my work has shaped my life as well), but in my social circles of women, I’ve never been particularly fond of being randomly hit on. I’ve always been one of the only ones, if not THE only one, in many of my friend groups who rolls their eyes, says “thanks but no thanks,” or walks away without a second look. LOSER. Keep it moving.
Now, as a mature woman, wife and mother getting hit on happens a whole lot less. But it happens! (Hey, I still got it). But my idea of flirtation at this point in my life has a whole lot to do with respect. At this point in my life and career, if someone tries to convey fondness or affection for me, especially someone that I do not know, by touching me in any way - I lose my mind. It takes all of my restraint not to turn around and scream to anyone who will listen to GET YOUR F’ING HANDS OFF! My blood boils.
My blog this week has been inspired by several thing, least of which, that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It’s a time of year that many come together to advocate and educate around sexual violence in our country. In addition, within the past month, I’ve been inappropriately, disrespectfully touched by men who I did not know and I’m pissed. For the record, I wouldn’t (and as far as I’m concerned, it’s up to an individual to use their own language for their own experiences) categorize these as sexual assaults. Rather, what they represent is the total thoughtlessness on the part of some others when it comes to women. And I’m sick of it. I’m sick of it for me, I’m sick of it for my clients and I’m sick of it on behalf of those of you reading this who can relate.
The interactions I experienced presented themselves as ‘innocent’ enough.
A few weeks ago my husband and I were at an upscale restaurant for dinner. Our table wasn’t ready so we waited at the crowded bar for a drink. As I stood next to my husband, a passing waiter needed to manage his way around me. As he did, he casually caressed the small of my back and lingered there a second longer than necessary – or appropriate, given the fact that my body does not belong to anyone other than me and we don’t know one another. I stood there, dumbfounded for a second before I could pull it together, enough to convey what had just happened to my husband who had missed the entire interaction.
But isn’t that the point? To get away with something so sly, so ‘innocent,’ so ‘accidental’ and quick, it could be as if it never happened? As if it were so small and nothing that it “no big deal?” But it did happen and for me, this IS a big deal. The waiter had copped a feel and I was left stunned. The next week or so I couldn’t stop thinking about this. I was mad.
Shortly thereafter, I had another interaction of the same kind. I parked my car at my usual garage in the city one evening to see patients. I know the guys who work there, I’ve been a regular customer for months. They’re nice to me. But on this particular day, when the garage attendant handed me my parking ticket, his fingers grazed and lingered on mine in a way that again, was totally unnecessary. And worse, made me incredibly uncomfortable. I remember I was on the phone with a girlfriend at the time and told her what had just happened. I told her again how mad I was. And worse, I wondered if I would feel comfortable enough to continue to park my car there. F HIM, I thought to myself. This is my garage. Dude, just take the keys, hand me my ticket and tell me to have a nice day.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking to yourself “what’s SO BAD about the things being described here? Isn’t this innocent? Isn’t this flattering?” And I get that perspective 100% if that’s what works for you. For me however, after encountering thousands of survivors of sexual violence, I know that these types of interactions demonstrate a complete disregard for the other person. Ultimately, these behaviors demonstrate power and control. If you touch someone without their permission and in a way that makes them uncomfortable – you’re wrong, plain and simple. And these interactions did and continue to make me feel uncomfortable.
After doing this work for many years, I know the value in offering people a space to be heard regardless of bruises, signs of injury, evidence or by someone else’s definition of something being “that bad.” I know that there is tremendous value in coming together as a community to discuss these private matters and in MAKING THEM PUBLIC. As a woman, a person, I’m so sick of this stuff that it makes me want to scream. Today, instead of screaming, I’m blogging. Thank you for reading.
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