You won’t want to read this post, just as I don’t want to write it. But it is five o’clock in the morning, and I have been awake most of the night. Now I am up, my shoulders are hunched, my neck is sore and my throat is tight. I feel sick and unless you are a sicko, you will too.
I am remembering them all, one after the other, the inadequate, bullying men.
The stranger who felt up me and my friend the night four of us were packed like sardines in sleeping bags on a floor in Kilkenny. Someone we didn’t even remember speaking to that evening who felt it was okay to rummage about under our clothes as we slept. As each of us woke up, molested, we just turned away and shrugged him off, pretending we were still asleep. We probably all had breakfast together the next morning. There was no screaming or yelling. We thought we’d done the wrong thing, sharing a house with people we’d just met: asking for trouble.
The man who poked my stomach and told me I was fat (I wasn’t) and should watch how I dress.
The driving instructor who tweaked my ponytail and put his hand on my knee every time I had a lesson. (I loathed him. It never occurred to me I needn’t go back).
The man nearly old enough to be my father, a teacher at another school, who drove me home on an icy night, stopped the car and lunged, knowing that if I got out of the car I couldn’t run, because the road was like a skating rink.
The married saddo in the Hillman (L)imp who used to watch us eat our lunch in the park when we were in the sixth form. We called the police the day he left his car and crept into the bushes to get a closer look. Our teacher (male) stopped the policeman questioning us about the incident. “He was enjoying it too much” said the teacher –a good man.
The time I was kerb-crawled on the Saintfield Road. The man in the car pulled up three times as I walked the mile home from where the red bus stopped. Eventually, he followed me into our park. Why didn’t I go to a neighbour’s house? Why didn’t I yell? Instead I ran home and spent the afternoon in fear he would find me. I told my father what had happened when he came home from work. I remember the look of embarrassment on his face. “There’s no way you can be got at here” was all that he said “Sure aren’t you all right now?”
That’s right. No harm done. Or was there? All these incidents happened before I was 17 years old, before I had even left school. I will spare you everything since. 40 years later a measle rash of #metoo on Facebook has made me think of all this again, triggering memories that make me feel angry and sick. I can hardly believe I put up with it. I can hardly believe we all put up with it. It seems millions of girls and women put up with it still.
Usually, I link my blog posts to Facebook. Not this one. It is too private. You shouldn’t have to read it, and I shouldn’t have to write it. None of us should have to live it, then or now. Good night.
Thanks so very much Liz! So sorry you have these stories, so very sorry!
I don’t have the stomach for my own stories, my daughters’ stories, my sons’ stories. Still shoving them away, we are all striding forward and much more assertive and clear, but still…
thanks L. sending you huge hugs.
Didn’t want to read it. Couldn’t not. I cannot bear for my beautiful granddaughter to have any of this ahead of her. Sending you solidarity vibes.
You’re right. We shouldn’t have to list the incidents; we shouldn’t have to feel that sick, heavy stone of shame; we shouldn’t have to explain to the good kind men who love us how dirty those experiences made us feel. But it needs to be remembered and said, because otherwise the silence condemns our daughters to go through it all again. Peace, my sister, we did nothing wrong.
Thank you, Liz. Needs to be said – and yes, its all of us. In many, many ways.
Dear Liz, Like you I’ve been reflecting on the ‘me too’ stuff on Facebook and, of course, it is me too, although I hesitated before writing more. When I was very young, 13 or 14, being sexually harassed (and what I would now see also as being sexually assaulted but didn’t at the time) was constant and confusing. And then getting older it continues and I maybe thought of it as ‘bad sex’ rather than calling it for what it was. And so, yes, of course it was all of us. Bravely and well written darling girl. Love, J.
Thank you, Liz, for saying it out loud for all of us.
You are brave, you are bold, you are beautiful. They are none of these things. They cannot even get close to imagining these things. They sullied something physical but they could never, ever get close to touching your spirit: that which makes you shine, that which makes you give and care and feel, that which makes you joyous, that which makes you live, truly live, that which makes you love and be loved. You were hurt but not broken. You rose despite them. They stay pathetic, pitiful, and dirty. I am so sad you are a ‘me too’ but so happy you are a survivor not a victim. You are an example of how to do it. Thank you Liz and my arms around you x
Thanks Lou. What lovely things to say xxx