In first grade a boy pulled my hair because he liked me.
My sister got proposed to on the playground in second grade by one of her classmates with a fake ring and she came home crying every day. The teacher literally had to call his parents to get him to stop.
In sixth grade I got a message on AIM from a boy asking what I’d think if he kissed me. I was too embarrassed to reply and too embarrassed to tell anyone I avoided him during every recess because I thought he’d try anyways.
At a sleepover in seventh grade my friends and I snuck out to meet up with a group of ninth grade boys at a park. One of the boys asked if I wanted to go somewhere alone and then told me I was ugly when I said no.
In ninth grade, a senior asked me to prom in front of a bunch of people at a pep rally. My heart was racing. I was giddy; you know that feeling when your heart is in your throat but in a good way? I said yes!! They erupted into laughter and I realized his invitation was an ironic performance for his friends.
By eleventh grade I’d already plotted out my early graduation from high school and was visiting older friends at college. I went to a party and I drank to the point of blacking out. I woke up on a couch with a guy who said we didn’t have sex, just made out. That was my first kiss. I thought to myself, at least it wasn’t awkward.
In college, my virginity followed suit. Same story as my first kiss. Different guy though. At least it wasn’t awkward.
Before my sophomore year, I met a man at a party and he told me I was beautiful. No one had ever said that to me before. We ignited like gasoline and I was in love with him a couple weeks later. For a year he taught me that love was sacrificial. Love was waking up with no recollection of the night before or reasoning for why my body hurt all over. Love was when a man said jump and a woman said how high? Love was comforting him when he felt guilty for cheating. Self Love came in the form of birth control pills because that was the only thing you had ownership of when it came to your body.
(Just to be clear: I went on and learned about actual love with clearer vision thanks to my fam, friends, therapist, emotionally stable men, etc)
Years later I fell in love with a guy who was overflowing with love for me. He loved me so much he would’ve bled out for me even if I only needed an ounce. He was going to buy the perfect diamond and give me the blue eyed strawberry blonde babies of my dreams. He loved me so much that he didn’t want anyone else seeing my legs in a skirt like that. He loved me so much that he wanted to make sure everyone knew it when he’d go through my phone while I slept.
The one time I ever rode in the front seat of an Uber, I was only traveling a mile down the road but it was pouring out and I was crying although I can’t remember why… completely unrelated detail. The driver put his hand on my bare thigh and slid it up my dress. I got out at a stop sign and ran in the rain.
One of my best friends had a roommate who was scraping ice off of her car at five in the morning wearing puffy winter clothes when a man threw her down and raped her in the street. They never caught him.
There’s a lot of talk lately about EXTREME CIRCUMSTANCES. What deems something “bad enough” for an investigation, for an abortion, for a restraining order, for a divorce, for a call home to their parents… what makes someone a monster? Monsters come in many shapes and sizes and unfortunately for women, we’ve grown up with a special kind of monster. That monster is the one who let us believe that a boy is mean to you because he likes you. That monster is the one who whispers whore in our ears after we lose our virginities. The one who says you’re asking for it if you go out in public wearing THAT. The one who whistles at us when we’re walking alone and we’re made suddenly aware of the reality that if he chases after me, I probably can’t defend myself.
This has been an open letter to anyone (I’m not attacking anyone specific; my loving, supportive father will read this and probably reflect for a moment, too) who has an opinion on women’s rights. Have you ever been chased around the playground by kids who are trying to kiss you? Have you ever been called a bitch because you had to forcibly remove yourself from a situation where a boy was trying to put his penis in your mouth? Did that escalate too quickly for you? I’ve listened to stories between both ends of that spectrum and far beyond it to the point where I’ve lost count. Have you ever felt uncomfortable in an Uber? On the street? In an elevator, just because you’re nakedly aware of your vulnerability?
I wholeheartedly do love being a woman. I am lucky to say that I love having the body I’m in. I feel strong as a woman, knowing I have been underestimated and underpaid and taken advantage of and I’m still here, independently living a life that I’m proud of. A lot of women aren’t as lucky. A lot of women are in relationships or situations that they can’t move on from because of the kids or the money or the tragic reality that sexual abuse cases rarely go anywhere in court. Or because America is trying to regulate how we control the bodies that we are born in. The bodies that we have spent decades learning how to love. The bodies that for many of us, have been our only homes for as long as we can remember.
So why, excuse me for this, the fuck are there so few of us who have a legitimate say in what has happened to them and what we are allowed to do with them?
I guess we were conditioned our whole lives for this.