A sea of voices crying out. Story after story. Post after post. Women speaking up about being sexually harassed. Does adding one more to the mix even matter?
I had an entire generic post practically written about shame. I began writing it the week the #MeToo movement became viral but the post got derailed when I realized that my #MeToo was something I’d never dealt with and didn’t want to deal with. For the first time since starting this blog, it was something I wasn’t ready to write about. I’m still not sure I am ready to write about it now, but the story is here, at the surface, needing to get out. With so many recent stories of sexual misconduct lately, we’ve seemingly become desensitized and removed from the horrors of each situation.
It was reported in January that there have been 11 school shootings in the first 23 days of 2018 (New York Times article here). ELEVEN FUCKING SCHOOL SHOOTINGS. Really contemplate that for a second. How many of those shootings made a blip on your radar? I still remember Columbine and the widespread coverage of that horrific event. It was all any of us could talk about for days. I didn’t hear about a single one of the ELEVEN school shootings this year. The pain for those involved is not lessened because school shootings are commonplace in today’s world. Now, please don’t hear me say that people don’t care (though, some don’t I’d imagine), but many have become indifferent to the suffering of those around them. And I get it. As humans, we are self-involved, we are busy, we have information constantly bombarding us, and sad to say, there are those out there who hope to gain some sort of attention or notoriety. It can be exhausting to listen to, to sort through, and to process.
In any case, as usual, this blog and each post are more for me than for you. This is how I process. This is how I heal. Not everyone is the same. Not everyone will need to share, want to share, or are ready to share (and especially not as publically). If you have a #MeToo story, I hope you’re able to process and heal from it the way that resonates with you. Getting the thoughts and emotions out and “on paper,” has helped me through this journey, and I hit publish in the hopes that telling my story will help someone else with theirs.
This Is My #MeToo
July 2nd, 2012 was a scorching hot day in Las Vegas. When you’re in the desert in the middle of summer, it tends to get that way. It was my 5th trip to Vegas that year, my divorce having been officially final three months prior and I was living it up – 34, single and experiencing life outside of the church bubble for the first time ever. Having been extremely sheltered (self-imposed, not by my parents), I was bound and determined to have fun and be free of three decades of responsibility, doing everything the way it was “supposed to be done.” If anyone looked close enough, I was actually running away. But no one did, or at least no one said anything. (I wouldn’t have listened anyhow).
My friend and I were dressed, or rather, undressed, to the nines. We’d woken up from a night dancing in a club with some cute boys we’d met the night before and donned our bikinis, hair and makeup fully done, and cute wedges to finish off the standard Las Vegas pool outfit. In the shimmering heat, we and hundreds of others stood and drank cocktails in an overcrowded pool, enjoying the thumping music and chatting with the people around us. It was hot. So hot that our bare feet burned on the concrete when we stepped outside of the confines of the sun to check our phones, use the restroom or grab another round. As the midday sun kissed our skin and the alcohol continued to flow, we were buzzing as the day went on.
Two exotic looking women in a sea of blondes, my friend and I were enjoying our share of the attention. For most of the afternoon, we stayed close, not wanting to lose each other in the melee of drunken bodies and pool floaties around us. The drinks continued to flow and the sun began to beat down on us. At some point, my friend began talking to a cute guy and separated themselves from our group. I found myself sipping on my cocktail, swaying to the music and trying to not to melt. A guy motioned me over to a corner of the pool and we started chatting. He had a European accent of some sort which fascinated me. His friend came by and the three of us made small talk for a bit, amidst the sea of drunken revelers. Then that cute guy kissed me.
He was good looking and I was attracted to him so I didn’t mind and was enjoying the kiss when I felt his friend’s hands on my body. I tried to break off the kiss to push his friend off, but before my brain could process what was happening, I was pulled underwater. A feeling of panic washed over me as one of the men reached into my bikini bottoms while the other held me under the water. I had managed to swallow a bunch of disgusting pool water in the struggle and was trying simultaneously to kick the guy holding me and fight off the hands pushing inside me. I felt hands roughly grabbing my breasts. I felt the bottom of the pool, so I pushed hard against it to propel myself through the surface to gasp some air and tried to swim away. Coughing and sputtering, I felt myself being pulled down again when I heard a whistle and saw a lifeguard motion at us to break it up. The men dispersed quickly and I was left alone, still coughing, dazed, awash with shame.
How did I get myself in that situation? Why did I drink so much? Did I invite that kind of behavior?
My mind racing, I made my way back to my friend. By the time I reached her, I had composed myself, my mind was racing, and I felt humiliated. She took one look at me and asked what happened. I just laughed and said some guys pulled me under the water, hoping she’d laugh it off with me. Instantly sober, I told her that I was bored and wanted to leave and we made our way out of the pool. I slept that afternoon away and went to a concert that evening, determined to put the incident away. I was feeling incredibly guilty for my decision to drink so much, to put myself in a stupid situation, and to allow that to happen to me. In short, I blamed myself and in that shame, I hid it away. After that trip, ironically, I began to start dealing with the emotions I had tamped down from the divorce while avoiding the incident altogether. I kept myself very busy finally dealing with the fall out of the divorce and effectively avoiding any emotions associated with what happened in that pool.
The #MeToo movement brought it all back with an unavoidable tidal wave that quickly destroyed the protective little box I had packed it in. Seeing all those #MeToo’s made me sad. It made me angry. But most of all, it made me brave. Brave enough to peek inside that box again and face the demons. Brave enough to see the incident for what it was, understand why I felt so much shame, and begin to move forward. I’m still working on the lessons that this has taught me. This experience has made me stronger and it has made me wiser. I know that I am not alone and that many women have similar stories of being mistreated. That needs to change.