We Are Not Walking Pussy-Tit Dolls

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard about writer Kelly Oxford’s tweet requesting that women share the stories of their first sexual assaults. If not, you can read about it here. She posted this tweet on the evening of October 7th:

Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren’t just stats. I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my “pussy” and smiles at me, I’m 12.

By about the same time the next day, she had accumulated over 9,000,000 tweets from women sharing their stories. I tweeted my story to her, followed by this tweet to her:

The saddest thing about this is, I had to really think about which assault was the first.

In four hours, I received over 200 likes, messages, and re-tweets. Women who told me they had to do the same thing. Women who told me that they realized after they tweeted her that there was a prior assault.

I am still getting tweets about this (over 400 now), and it breaks my heart. And the other responses: story after story of girls (yes, it seems most of us were around 12) violated.

As I typed my message, I thought about it in more detail than I have ever let myself. It was the thing when I was 12 to 13 – “gripping” girls. The middle school version of notches in the bedpost. How many pussies can you grab? Gotta grab ’em all. I heard about it. A few friends told me it happened to them. One of my friends was grabbed while she was on her period, and all the boys made fun of the guy who grabbed her because he grabbed maxi pad instead of cunt. I walked the halls and wondered when it would happen to me. It seemed like it was happening to all my friends. Part of me just wanted to fit in, to be considered cute enough for someone to want to grab me, but the child part of me was terrified of the unknowns surrounding sexuality and my own body. She was terrified and didn’t want anyone to touch her in any way, much less that way. And why in the world was this the measure for being “in?” How did this become something that happened on a regular basis, for weeks?

I remember that I was in my science class, talking about this very thing, when one of the older boys (14 or 15 but still in 7th grade), asked me if no one had grabbed me. I told him no, and when class let out, he grabbed me right outside the classroom door. I remember running to gym with red cheeks. I remember waiting until math to write a long letter to who I thought was one of my best friends telling her what happened. Too shy, too ashamed to go into much detail, I wrote, “He grabbed my front.” She read my note, and to my horror, told our other friends about it. When I came out of the building at the end of the day, she was wearing a sign across her crotch that said, “FRONT.” I felt more alone and more betrayed by her than I ever had before. She was supposed to be my friend. This was exactly the moment I stopped trusting anyone.

I didn’t tell my mother. When my “friend” told her older brother,  he actually came up to me and said he was sorry someone touched me that way. Like ???? Right?! But apparently I was “in.”

It happened a few more times, the same guy again during science when we got up to do a lab, another guy in that same damned class. I’m sure I should’ve told someone. I’m sure the teachers only found out because someone braver or angrier than me spoke up. One day, we got a lecture on touching without permission. We were told that if anyone was caught “gripping” a girl, they would be sent to the principal’s office. I never heard of anyone being caught, but it stopped, probably because it got boring and not because of the threat of punishment.

No one was ever reprimanded. No one was ever taught not to treat girls this way. It was grab it if you want it. That was the first time, but it wasn’t the last. Only once I was a little older did I start slapping back – verbally and physically – anyone who tried something like that on me without my permission. That didn’t always work. In fact, twice, I wasn’t even awake to voice whether or not I wanted to be touched or engage in intercourse. That didn’t matter to him, and when he told his friends about it right in front of me, they laughed and slapped him on the back. Then I knew that none of them cared about me. I might as well be a walking pussy-tit doll, and this is the message sent to women when we are girls.

Not long after I sent my tweet to Ms. Oxford, I saw posts on my Facebook by some “friends” who were those boys back then. How much they love and respect their wives. How much they love and respect their daughters, their mothers, and I just wonder like…do you remember anything? I know I blocked out a lot of middle school, but did you? I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them don’t remember. It was just a game to them.

The stats are 1 in 6. I’m sure it’s far more than that. Woman are afraid and ashamed, and “friends” like mine make it even harder to speak up or speak out. Even though it’s horrible and heartbreaking to see all those tweets, I’m so glad women are sharing and supporting each other. We can help each other heal or at least cope, and hopefully, as survivors, we are teaching our daughters and sons to respect and protect themselves and others. My body, my choice.

You thought my fear of bridges as ridiculous as my fear of tunnels. How else could we cross relatively small bodies of water, you asked me. So as we drove the ugly trough of white concrete that bulged above the Choctawhatchee Bay, I stared straight ahead to the shore and focused on singing along with Sheryl Crow.

I never remember much about driving to Florida, but I remember that bay, that bridge, and the Tom Thumb at the crossroads.

You said you loved my voice, loved to hear me sing, and that I missed my calling as a country music singer/songwriter. I reminded you of my opinion of most country music and told you that you were full of shit. You laughed, but I was still afraid that any moment the bridge would give way and your car would drop forty feet into the swamp. I lit a cigarette the moment the wheels touched asphalt again and smoked in celebration of surviving another trip over water.

Cheap cheap smokes, back then when I was young. I had my purple Bic, the last of a quickly vanishing breed of non-childproof lighters. Adjustable flame and see-through plastic. When it finally ran out of fluid, I tried to open it to refill it. The plastic cracked and fell apart in my hands.

You said it wouldn’t be much longer before we were in San Destin and inside a house of strangers to me. With only you for a liaison. I was as afraid of that house as I was of the bridge.

It rained every day but even so, I went out on the beach, fully dressed because it was still too cold for swimming. In the drizzle, I danced and sang in my head.

You made me feel things I’d never felt. Cute in a skirt. Protected, sheltered, and yet afraid at the same time. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t intentional. Once the fear connects itself to the pain, it’s hard to ignore. It’s hard to shut it down and move on. I had to shut it down and move on every time you touched me and looked at me that way.

I was young, and I didn’t know any better, and I should have. It isn’t all your fault. Like with so many other things, I didn’t know when to stop, to say “Enough,” until it was well beyond the point. The fear of being without you matched the fear of being with you. The fear ate up everything until there was nothing left. Then, one day, the fear was gone, too.

I’m okay with bridges now, as long as I can see the other shore. I can see a way out. I still can’t abide tunnels.

Bus Rides

We always sat together for the bus ride home. The two players who bridged the boy-girl gap, but not the only two who practiced together. At that age, I felt it was a measure of myself that a boy found me tough enough to be a real competitor.

You were my friend, too, for that spring. We had English together and sat side-by-side there as well, but it is the bus rides I remember. Ten girls and ten boys on a sketchy school bus, rumbling from the match back to school, back to the school parking lot where I would get in my failing Volvo and you would get in your failing Mercedes. Yuppie mothers’ hand-me-downs. But the bus rides.
Cold evenings, just after sunset, but I never put on my leggings. In the dark, next to each other, our thighs and shoulders touching even though there was room enough for them not to.
I was so sweet, so nervous, so unsure of what or who you wanted. There were two girls who vied for your affection, your attention, but I was the one who had it. For that spring.

So young, so green. Our hands touching, your pinky sliding over mine. Chill bumps on my arm. My heart lurching when your warm palm slid over my hand and gripped it for the first time. I didn’t look at you. I just sat there, touching you – hand, shoulder, thigh. Sometimes we talked. Most times, we sat there and just looked at each other. Every week. I remember the night I played in sleet, and the teams stayed so late that it was full dark and close to my bedtime when we got on the bus. I fell asleep standing in a Taco Bell. When we got back on the bus, you told me to put my head on your shoulder, and I fell asleep against you. When we got back, you woke me. You rubbed my cheek and squeezed our joined hands.

There was never pressure, just affection. We never even kissed. We were friends who cuddled, until one of your girlfriends decided we shouldn’t. After that spring, we didn’t. We didn’t even talk anymore.

Chris

I haven’t talked to her in eight years. What do you say to someone after they tell you they don’t even know you anymore? I think it’s good-bye. We never said good-bye, but we let go.

I see her occasionally. Images only. Her sister and I are Facebook friends, so she shows up in family celebration photos. Untagged. I was looking at one the other day and caught the side of a face, a swatch of her dark hair, a hand holding a camera. I studied the hand. No, not her.

Her fingers would be chewed – the nails, the cuticles. She gnawed them until they bled. I never understood how she could stand to do that to the skin, the very delicate skin on top of the finger, right below the nail. At any given time, at least three of her fingers would be wrapped in bandages. She tried quitting. Tried smoking instead. Didn’t work. Always went back to the fingers.

I’m always excited to catch glimpses of her, to see what she looks like now, what sort of woman she became on the surface. But, I know this photo isn’t of her because I know her, always have.

I wonder if she wonders who I am now. I wonder if she wonders if I still claw my skin. I wonder if she ever noticed that I did.

Not Much To Say

I haven’t written here in a while now. I don’t have any books updates to speak of, as my publishing company was sold and the new owner is trying to sort out a bunch of backlogged books. They deserve their chance at getting published before mine. Besides, I’m still mulling over whether I want to update my contracts.

On the writing front, I’m kind of stuck. I need to create a disaster, but I don’t know what kind. The characters are powerful, so anything that doesn’t outright kill them is going to piss them off royally. This means I need to do some rewriting, but I can do that only after I decide whether to kill some characters.

So, while I try to make up my mind about where the Camellia series will go and how it will end AND try to make up my mind about new contracts, I am playing Sims 4. I’m getting back into DDO a little. I’m still working on perfecting my monk in Diablo 3. And of course, I’m still teaching.

I’ll figure it out some time soon. Hopefully. I especially need to because I have a novel I want to write that I think has great potential. Actually, I have three. Probably more. Okay, time to go scramble some eggs.

Bully’s Eye

I am being bullied at work by a senior professor.

I am not the only one.

I am the only one who is ready to take it to the next level and have a discussion with the dean about stopping it.

This means that I will either become a hero, and the bully will really,truly, and absolutely despise me, or I will be treated like a hysterical, crazy woman to be burned at the stake. Well, I suppose they might just tell me to thicken my skin. They also might tell me to get a lawyer and sue the bully. In any case, I’ll have a huge target on my back (or head), and in any case, I don’t see it ending well.

Still, someone has to do it. Someone has to make it stop because the behavior is prolific and grossly unfair.

One Percent Other: The Duke of Hazards

From the first time someone paid Brazen to jump off the roof of the elementary school, he knew he wanted to be a stunt man.  He had no sense of self-preservation.  Anyone who hung out with him could attest to it.

In a school that was 49% white, 50% black, and 1% other, Brazen was one of the few in the “other” category.  He was unusual to look at, having inherited his Iranian father’s skin tone and coarse black hair as well as his ginger mother’s summer blue eyes.  His mid-teen growth spurt left him with awkward long legs and arms.  When he wasn’t in school or up to no good, he was running, knees and elbows pumping, and a foot-long braided rattail flailing behind him.

Brazen loved to do stuff no one else would dare, and he would do almost anything for almost nothing.  His toady and his best friend watched him eat twenty cockroaches, the big kind, for fifty bucks.  Any given weekday, he could be found taking money from other kids in exchange for an exhibition better suited to a sideshow than lunchroom entertainment. He always gave his audience what they wanted, and he craved the attention, which made him perfect for Ms. Cornell’s drama class.

When he wasn’t running lines or painting sets, Brazen passed the time walking across the auditorium on his hands, trying to see how many folding chairs he could jump, or just sitting in a circle of mostly girls and telling stories of the many and varied ways he’d broken bones.

They sat rapt, and he told the story well, despite the inevitable cracks that come with a boy’s changing voice.  “So three summers ago, my mom was dropping me off at the skate park every morning, at like nine, before she took my sister to band camp.  G-Man’s dad has a pick-up, so he brought the ramp.  P-Dawg has a friggin’ six foot half-pipe at his house, but my mom won’t let me go over there anymore since we got caught smoking, so we were at the damned park everyday.”

“Brazen, don’t cuss at school,” Ms. Cornell called.

“Sorry,” he sang back and looked at Toady.   Dropping his voice, he said, “You know she’s pregnant?”  The kids in the circle turned to look as Ms. Cornell, a tight-bodied, smoking hot redhead, as she gave stage directions.  The other kids whispered that they heard she got knocked up by a twenty-two year old, and she would be thirty in a few months.  “Yeah, well, if it’s true, then she’s a MILF for sure.”

“Ew,” Rasia, a pretty, light-skinned black girl who Brazen hoped to get to second base with, said.  “Tell us about the skateboard.”

Brazen looked at her, cocked his head, and gave her his best pirate smile.  “If it pleases m’lady.”  He batted his eyelashes at her.  “Yeah, so we did tricks all day, and we got bored real quick, but it was like an hour before my mom was supposed to get me.  So, we set the ramp up near some cars in the parking lot, and I hung out by the red light.”  Brazen paused to let the suspense build.  “So, this guy in a truck drives by, and I grabbed his bumper, staying low so he wouldn’t see me in his mirrors.  When I got near the ramp, G-Man yelled at me to let go, and I like swerved over,” his hand shot out toward the girl next to him, “so I could hit the ramp.”

“Man, it was wicked,” Toady said.

Brazen grinned at him.  “I hit the ramp solid.”  The fingers of his right hand swooped across the palm of his left.  “I caught some serious air.  I even made it over the car, but when I landed, I shattered both tibias.  My fucking knee caps—”

“Brazen!”

“Sorry, sorry!”  Brazen bumped the edges of his palms against the middles of his shins.  “My knee caps were down here.  G-Man had his cell phone.  I thought my mom would kill me.”

Eyes wide with sympathy, Rasia said, “I can’t believe you can still walk.”

After soaking up as much attention as he could, Brazen ran through his lines, which he’d already memorized, and then counted down the seconds until the bell rang.  He visited his locker, and then visited Rasia’s locker where he was rewarded with a kiss for his heroic feat and recovery and a hand slap for trying to cop a feel.

When Brazen walked out the front doors of the building, he felt as though his day had been fairly productive.  Then, he saw Ms. Cornell cranking her car.  Tossing his books aside, he ran and leapt onto the hood just as she backed out of her spot.  When she realized she had a fourteen-year-old boy clinging to her car, she slammed on the brakes, which sent him slamming into her windshield.

“Get the fuck off my car you crazy child,” Ms. Cornell shouted through the glass.

Brazen just smiled.  “You shouldn’t cuss at school, Ms. Cornell.  Give me a ride home?”

Ms. Cornell rolled down her window.  “No.  Your mom is probably already here, so go on and get off.”

“Okay, I’ll get off,” he said as he scooted over to the driver’s side of the car and stuck one foot on the ground.  “I get off to you all the time.”

Ms. Cornell frowned.  “That is just,” she shook her head, “go on.”

After blowing her a kiss, Brazen did just that.  On his way to his mother’s van, he accepted a congratulatory high five from a boy two years older than him and decided that his day turned out far better than he could’ve hoped.