If you know anything about me you probably know that I am not much of a tv or news kind of person. Left to my own devices, I would probably not even own a tv. I spend most days in silence or with music on in the background and happily find myself ignorant of most of the worlds calamities and dramas until the evening when we’re winding down for the day and happen to turn the tv on for background noise.
That’s where we found ourselves last night around 9:00–kids in bed, relaxing together on the couch, looking for something to mindlessly watch. And because we’re over 30, we have a slight obsession with tv news dramas. You know, Dateline, 48 Hours Mystery and the like. If you’re our age and you say you don’t watch those, I know you’re lying. It’s just a thing. I don’t know why, maybe it’s all the drama our old bones can handle.
Regardless, we happened to turn on the Dateline special on the current Harvey Weinstein scandal. Normally, I half listen and half nap through most nighttime tv (because I’m tired, people. Life is exhausting) but as these women started to explain their experiences, I sat straight up. Chills ran down my spine and old, long lost memories flooded my mind.
I remembered being 8. I remembered being innocent. I remembered a sand pile in our driveway that I loved to play on. I would spend hours building trails for the ants that lived in there. I was oblivious to most of what was going on around me and happy in my own little world. I remember someone behind me. Someone I knew. A neighborhood boy, much older. I remember his hands rubbing my shoulders and touching me inappropriately. I remember not liking it. I remember him kissing me. I remember shuddering. I remember telling him to stop and that it was weird. And I remember him saying:
“I just can’t help myself. You’re so pretty.”
I don’t remember how I got away. I don’t remember being physically hurt. I don’t remember much of what happened in the moments directly afterwards.
But I sure as heck remember that I felt like it was my fault. I remember the shame and guilt and weirdness that I associated with the whole entire situation. I remember trusting that person and then feeling confused by his violation of that trust.
I remember it being the first time that my physical attractiveness, my WOMAN-NESS, as an EIGHT year old seemed dangerous, like a weapon that can be used against me at any time. Something I wasn’t even really aware of having was being used as an excuse for really bad behavior, and I was defenseless against it.
And I know that I didn’t say anything. To anyone.
I’m pretty sure that the first person on this earth that I told was Jeff, last night. I don’t even think I wrote it down in my little purple diary that I kept locked up with that tiny little key.
I was that ashamed.
And I think of my sweet little baby girl, now herself approaching 8 years old. I think of someone touching her in that way and stripping her of the innocence of believing that the people you know are good and want to be good to you. And I want to scream.
And I want to scream for my 8 year old self. For what she didn’t deserve. For what she didn’t even process or understand until 30 years later. I want to scream because I know I’m not alone. Because my story is not unique, and in the scope of this world, it could have been so much worse. And because somewhere right now another 8 or 9 or 10 year old girl is not writing down something horrific in her little purple diary because she’s ashamed. Because she thinks it’s her fault. Because she thinks that somehow if she was different it would not have happened. If she looked different, acted different, talked different.
So #MeToo matters. It matters a lot to me. It matters to my 38 year old self and it matters to my 8 year old self. It matters for every girl or woman who has ever felt powerless to defend herself against someone that wants to take something from her that isn’t theirs to take. It matters for women or girls who walk away feeling ashamed. Who feel like what happened to her is somehow her fault. Who feels dirty. Who wants to change how she looks or how she talks or how she walks so that it doesn’t happen again. Who somehow bought the lie that something inside her caused this to happen.
And #MeToo should matter to you too. For all of these reasons and so many more. Because for every story that ends with a hasty retreat like mine, there is another story that doesn’t. Because these are our mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.
And because I am not unique. And it’s time that we start taking the shame out of our pain and talking about it.