If thine is the glory, then mine must be the shame.
You want it darker; we kill the flame.
~ Leonard Cohen, "You Want It Darker"
As is so often the case, it didn’t hit me until he apologized.
Mike came into my office, closed the door and said he had been insensitive. We had had a meeting in his office the day before, and he had the Ford/Kavanaugh hearing streaming live on his computer monitor. He wanted to turn it up and listen to it. I said No. We held our meeting, but he kept turning to watch the screen, and twice he did turn it up so everyone in the room could listen. He was laughing. I put my fingers in my ears. I kept saying No. He kept ignoring me. Gee, could that be a metaphor?
Eventually I wrote #metoo on my notebook where Jason could see it. (Jason was sympathetic, but he said “Really?” like it was a rare thing, like 1 out of 5 women doesn’t have at least one encounter to forget.) We very nearly got through the meeting, until Mike called his admin in to schedule another meeting. For D., he turned up the sound and laughed and narrated what was happening. She countered with “Why is she only coming forward now? Why didn’t she say anything before 2012?”
I used to like D.
So, anyway, the apology came the next day. Mike said he knew I was uncomfortable, but he ignored it, for which he apologized. I said, “It’s OK. We’re good. For you it was entertainment. For me it’s personal.” And I teared up, and he apologized again, and I said, “No, no, it’s fine. I’m fine.”
If someone were to question me about being sexually assaulted, I would have to ask, “Which time?” And I would expect no sympathy, only judgment, because I was a party girl and I chose to put myself into those risky situations, and what could I expect? Did I tell anyone? Why would I? My close girlfriend SAW it happen and sneered at me for being a slut.
And I mean, really, it wasn’t a big deal. Any of the times. Eventually I gave up, gave in, pretended to go along with it, just to get this awful chapter over with and move on. I don’t remember the layout of the house, or what I had been drinking, or what date and time any specific incident occurred. I remember the names and faces, and the sense of implacable entitlement of the boys. In each case, I knew the guy. And in each case, I pretended afterward that we were good, just a little roughhousing among friends. I was fine.
Really, I’m fine.
Until I grab a cat nap on a fine afternoon, nothing on my mind after an exhilarating bike ride, cozy and content; and I dream of a man in my bed, a man I barely know, someone I smiled at once, who somehow thinks this gives him the right to touch me, to demand affection from me. In my sleep, I feel disgusted, ashamed, powerless, degraded. In my sleep, I KNOW what this feels like.
But I wasn’t actually hurt, right? I’m fine. I wake up and I’m fine. It’s OK. We’re good.
I didn’t want to watch the hearing because I didn’t want to be enraged. I wanted to get through the day with only good vibes toward Dr. Ford, who needed them more than I need anything at all. I can’t imagine the courage it took for her to testify. I know I don’t have that courage. I didn’t want to see this:
And a rising violence in me cuts all my circuits off.
~ Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, "More News from Nowhere," Dig, Lazarus, Dig!! (2008)
After Mike’s apology, the next day was a loss. I kept looking for someone – on Facebook, in the news, in a mental roll call of friends and acquaintances – whom I could trust. Instead, I found in myself unalloyed hatred that shook me. It felt like poison, and I could feel its progress through my digestive and circulatory systems, while the central nervous system tried to mitigate the damage with logic. I mean, you know, I was fine. Really.
But whom did I hate with this toxic intensity? Oh, you know, McConnell, Grassley, Graham, all old white men … but no. That’s mostly resignation and bitterness. Or was it the long-ago perpetrators of the minor indignities I recall so indistinctly? Naw, those boys were just taking what they thought was theirs. My mind rushed to their defense. Why, they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, so why should I get hung up on it?
Turns out, it was ME I hated. No wonder I didn’t want be enraged.
And I don’t want to hate D. I really (used to) like her. I still laugh with her, talk about her dogs and my cats, and it’s OK, we’re good. But I notice that when I see her name come across email, I shudder a little bit, and I will never trust her with anything I care about.
Really, I’m fine. I only cry when somebody is nice. Or when I wake up from a dream and understand, for a few seconds, what so many women have gone through, and relived, only to be scorned and judged and threatened. Or when I suspect that people I love may be doing the scorning and judging. I may be the least affected of the women who have been triggered this past week, but … you do it unto me.