When the #MeToo stories started appearing on social media; when I read on someone's Facebook page that every womanyou knowhas been a victim of sexual violence, my first thought was:
I've been extremely fortunate on so many levels in life -- not the least of which being that I have no memories of traumatic sexual assault.
Now, watching so many brave women speak up about their experiences, there is a small part of me that feels, ridiculously, like an impostor -- a woman who secretly cannot relate to what is clearly a systemic and global issue affecting women (and indeed, all humans).
Which says something -- doesn't it?
That a woman with no history of sexual assault should feel excluded from some kind of global female membership.
Then, at 5am Saturday morning, while half-asleep and half-listening to Bruce getting in the shower, getting dressed, and puttering around the kitchen making coffee for an early call time, I remembered.
I remembered the 30-year-old chef at the pub where I worked as a waitress at 17 years old. He offered to walk me to my car and then tried to kiss me at 11pm in a deserted parking lot.
I remembered the swami I'd met through a friend in northern India, who dressed all in white and didn't wear shoes and offered to teach me about Hindu spirituality.
The first time we met, we played chess and he gave me a cardamom seed to chew while we discussed my grounded "4" personality.
The second time, he invited me to come work as an "assistant" at his yoga studio in Paris.
We were sitting on the floor with our backs against a wall. And then I watched as his far leg rose from its resting place; peaked in the air above us; and started crashing down across my lap. It was like watching a tree fall in slow motion: tiiiiimmbeeeeeeerrrr.
I don't think I've ever stood so fast in my life.
And in response, he laughed -- as if to say, silly girl.
I walked back to my guesthouse in the rain that afternoon, feeling entirely alone in the universe.
For days after, India felt unsafe in a way it hadn't for the first three months I was there. Suddenly, the sea of staring male eyes that felt merely uncomfortable before, now felt dangerous to wade through.
Of course, these experiences are nothing compared to the trauma other women have faced.
But what does it say, that at first they didn't even occur to me as relevant to the #MeToo conversation?
On a level, my knee-jerk #NotMe reaction was a way for me to subconsciously opt-out of a tough conversation in which everyone has a role to play.
As these women of the Senate suggest after sharing their #MeToo stories, this is not an issue that can be solved by victims or by women alone; it has to be a movement that everyone can see themselves inside.
To this end, I was floored the other day to receive an email from a colleague, a man and a doer of great work. With respect and gratitude, I am re-posting what he shared on his Facebook page, below.
May his courage inspire each of us to ask the question:
How canI participate in this conversation, rather than tell myself a story... that lets me off the hook?
FACEBOOK POST: Unedited and with some curse words.
1. I've either contributed to or been witness to hundreds of conversations of cavalier, misogynistic, generally shitty "locker room talk."
2. I've stayed silent when I knew friends were being unacceptable in their pursuit of, or response to a woman. I should have checked them, and I was too weirded out and concerned about my feelings of weirdness to check the shit out of my homie! One incident especially sticks out here.
3. In Jr. High, at a school dance a girl consented to a peck in the kissing booth, and I forced a french kiss on her! THAT'S ASSAULT! When she ran out and told her friends, "he tried to stick his tongue down my throat!" I said the opposite was true, that's gaslighting! I remember being verbally harrassay to another girl around this same time..thinking it was cute and fun and all that.
I hadn't thought of the kissing thing in over a decade to be sure, and I'm ashamed to write it now. I was 12-13 but this shit starts young. I don't think I've done anything as egregious since, but it matters and I can't say for sure. If you'd asked me a few months back, I might have said I've never done anything, because I hadn't thought of that experience in years.
I forgot about it, I wonder if she did?
I have to say how much I've been pondering today whether to share this. I hate for my mom to read it and all the mom's in my life who loved me and love me. I hate to think of what all my ferndale homies, my movement folks etc etc etc think! But that's not my concern. My instinct is to follow this with my "good guy" bonafides, but that's not the point.
The point is that all the MILLIONS of women writing "me too" had no choice in that reality, they had a choice to share it and had the courage to do so. As a guy, I did have a choice in that scenario and I made the wrong one. The FUCKING LEAST I CAN DO IS HAVE THE COURAGE TO OWN UP TO IT!
MY DUDES!!!! I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT DOZENS OF MY FRIENDS HAVE A STORY SIMILAR TO MINE...WHERE YOU AT???? IT'S OUR TIME TO FACE OUR SHIT! To face our shit and face each other and get real about not letting shit slide!
Unfortunately, I'm responsible for at least one, "me too." Are you?