The following is from week long posts I did on Facebook last week to bring awareness to the #MeToo secrets women carry. The stories and experiences are uniquely mine, but I am in no way unique. I was told I should put them in my blog. So I did.
I was on my strawberry huffy. Oh how I loved that bike. I would ride everywhere in my neighborhood. Once, I was going to visit two of my good friends.
I saw the group of boys outside playing and almost went the back way to my friends’ house. But, I recognized some of them as my friends from school, so I went against my gut, and decided to ride past them.
My “friends” from school yelled, “Hey!” and ran to meet me. Their friends ran over as well. There were about 7 or 8 boys. They grabbed my bike and started touching me everywhere–inside my shirt, on my crotch, and one yelled out, “Gimme some pussy!”
As they were pulling me off my bike, I said, “My friend and his parents are waiting for me. They’ll come looking for me, but I promise I’ll give you some when I come home if you let me go.” The boys recognized my friend’s name, so they let me go. But, one
grabbed my shirt and pulled me close to him and said, “You’d better give us some when you come back.”
I cried all the way to my friend’s house.
…I remember my friend’s mother telling me she thought I’d better go home as it was getting late. I stayed longer than I should have, but I thought if I stayed and played long the boys would have gone inside. They hadn’t.
They all yelled, “Here she comes!” I braced myself and then pedaled as fast as I could, thinking, “I’m going to run at least one over.” They stood in the street to block me or to make me fall off my bike. I didn’t care about the group, I was determined to just hit whichever one was in my way. One was brave enough to play chicken.
I knocked him over with my bike, the others chased me as fast as they could…but, I was faster.
I was 9. #metoo
We were excited to go to the Halloween dance. He was going to take us and my dad and step-mom were cool with that because 1) they knew him as he had dated my eldest sister, and 2) he was our next door neighbor.
He knocked on the door to see if we were ready to go. My sisters weren’t ready, but I was. So, I went outside to hang until they were ready.
I asked him if he liked my 50’s outfit and if I looked like the 50’s…like “Happy Days.” Out of nowhere, he grabbed me, pushed me against the hard brick wall, pressed himself roughly against me, held my hands behind my back with one hand, and held my face with the other then began kissing me. He forced me to open my mouth and “french kissed” me so roughly I thought my tongue was going to come out of my mouth. I could taste the alcohol in his mouth.
He finally let me go. I ran in the house shocked, betrayed, and disgusted. My sisters yelled for me to come on as they were now ready to go. I didn’t say a word about what happened.
He kept looking at me in the rear view mirror the whole drive over to the party. My sisters got out together and ran to the door to see if the facility hosting the party was open. I stayed in the car.
He asked me if I liked the kiss.
I was 12. #metoo
I hadn’t been working there long, but he caught my eye. I smiled. He smiled…and that’s how it all started. It was a telemarketing position, and he would always come to me first to close the sale even if someone made a sale before me.
Finally, he asked me out. I enjoyed his company, and he enjoyed mine. We “hooked up” after a few dates, and I wasn’t impressed (you know what I mean ladies). I started to slowly pull away from him (not taking his calls, not wanting to go out). Plus, I was pledging a sorority and just didn’t have time to make time for him. I let him know we weren’t going to work out.
He pursued me…relentlessly. Then, when he FINALLY realized we weren’t going to be a couple, he made my life HELL at work. I was in college and needed the job to pay my rent and my tuition, so I endured.
He no longer came to me to close the sale (which made me lose bonuses). He would say my performance was poor and even called me into an office grabbed me, shook me, and screamed at me so loudly, HIS supervisor had to intervene.
My grades began to suffer, I was stressed and felt trapped (plus, did I mention I was pledging a sorority?)
Not knowing what to do because I needed my job, I finally broke down and called my dad. He asked me why I thought this guy was targeting me. I was soooo embarrassed to confess to my dad that I had slept with the guy, and he still wanted to be with me.
My dad reminded me of my worth, told me to set up a meeting with his supervisor to let him know I was being harassed, and to call him back after that if it continued so HE could meet him. Ha! Daddy also told me the world wouldn’t end, but this was a lesson to never sleep with your supervisor or never mix your “honey with your money” (and THAT embarrassed me even more). LOL
He and his supervisor were buddies, so nothing happened to him even after I filed a report. I ended up quitting, but found a better job, so it worked out.
Because we were roommates and would often go to church together when I moved to Indianapolis, my cousin and I had a rule. If we met someone at church we were interested in while we were worshipping together, we had to introduce the other immediately as “MY COUSIN,” so the person of interest wouldn’t think we were a couple.
After church, he came up and talked to my cousin. I could tell he was feelin’ me because he kept sneaking a glance my way while they talked. My cousin forgot “the rule,” so I introduced myself as his cousin to make things easier for the guy. I could tell he was relieved…He contacted my cousin that night to get in touch with me.
He was a nice guy. I felt the sparks right there in the sanctuary, but because I had been celibate for three years and was focused on delving deeper into my relationship with Christ, those carnal “sparks” indicated to me I should run and resist! But, he was fine and he made me laugh (I’m a sinner saved by grace. ?)
We ended up dating for a while. What I didn’t know when I met him was he was a recovering crack addict. So, I became his drug…and he became mine. Our physical addiction was so strong that when I finally “came to my spiritual senses” and realized our relationship wasn’t God’s best for me (so much so that once I literally stayed in my room and held onto my bedposts to keep from going to the door while he begged me to let him in–that was too much y’all).
He understood when I told him we needed to stop seeing one another. And we stayed cool, often still seeing one another at church or around.
But, one night, I stopped by his place to get some of my things I had left. We had dinner and laughed and talked. I told him goodbye and he asked me for a “goodbye kiss.” I told him I didn’t think, knowing our history, that that was a good idea…but I did it anyway. That one kiss transformed him into someone I didn’t know and he roughly refused to let me leave.
When he finally let me leave, he tearfully apologized and asked me if I could ever forgive him.
Funny thing is, until my good friend told me, I didn’t think “rape” applied to my situation because we had once been intimate.
I moved to Indianapolis to teach and to go to grad school…and because The Lord propelled me to go. I knew when it was time to go, and I knew when it was time to come back home.
When I returned home to Texas, I took a job at an urban high school and determined I would complete my master’s degree. I was so excited to teach there because of its legacy. I was tough on my students and I pushed them–mostly to disprove the voices many of them heard from family, teachers, and even the voices in their own head that they couldn’t excel.
One thing that bothered me was the sexual pervasiveness I noticed in the school. The way some of the girls dressed, the way some of the men responded to those girls, the way the boys responded the girls, and the way some of the men responded to me. I just could not believe they thought it ok.
So, because I truly believe that wherever I am is where God needs me to be, I knew I needed to be the difference.
I was receiving unwanted, inappropriate advances on all fronts. I ignored it for a minute, but when I addressed it, I addressed it head on.
One security guard in particular commented to me…every…time…I…passed…by. Mostly it was just the two of us in the hall at the time. I had to hear, “Hey now! Here she comes with that pretty paper bag skin!” or “Um, um! You sholl wearin’ those pants Miss Hudson!” or “I know some man can’t wait to marry you and have that all to himself!”…every dang day!
I also had to contend with it in the classroom. I had one student in particular who leaned back in his desk, looked me up and down, and licked his lips at me everyday like he was undressing me with his eyes…every…single…day! This particular student was about 6’4 and, based on his actions, had grown women respond to his advances as he thought them appropriate with me.
I’m a “nip it in the bud the first time or expect more of the same” kinda girl, but I was new and learning the cultural of the school, so I ignored that mess longer than I should have, and it was stressful.
One day, one of my students heard the security guard say his foolishness to me when I walked by and then complimented me on the attention I was getting. I stopped him right there and explained to him inappropriate attention in a work environment was NOT praiseworthy! I then told him to come with me.
I went with him straight to the security guard and tactfully but firmly told the security guard that he had the young boys in the school thinking it appropriate to speak to women that way. And, if he ever opened his mouth to speak inappropriately to me again, especially in front of students, he would no longer have a job. He needed to be better…if not for himself, for the young men he was in charge of.
He and the young man were dumbfounded.
Next it was my student’s turn. In class, I called him into the hall. On the way out of the classroom, he did his little wanna be cool stride like we were going out into the hall to make out. I closed the door and apologized to him (which TOTALLY threw him). I told him I apologize for all the women who looked at who he was on the outside and treated him, a young boy, as if he were a man. I told him licking his lips and checking me out may have made other women he encountered giggle, but it did absolutely nothing for me as my self-esteem was intact, and he needed from that second on to sit up straight in his desk and respond to me as his teacher. And, if he did anything other than come into my class prepared and ready to learn from the second we walked back into the class on, he would no longer be in my class!
He stared at me in shock…then entered my class as a student from then on.
After that, I began to hear that I was “different” and I noticed my male students would come during their lunch or when they had free time and just hang out. They would sit and read or come as a group and talk to one another during my planning period while I graded papers or ate my lunch. I prayed for whatever burdens they carried where they felt my classroom was a safe haven, and I knew why The Lord had me there.
Then out of nowhere, a teacher asked me if I was sleeping with some of my students.
I was horrified then saddened that those poor kids couldn’t be kids anywhere! Shocked, I told the teacher that it said more about her that she could think that than anything it could ever say about me.
I later asked my students about the rumor and apologized to them that something so horrible could be spoken. They told me, “Oh, yes Miss. People who think that way, mostly adults, can’t understand that you’re not that way, and that students could just genuinely like and respect you. But, those who know you know the truth, and we didn’t think you needed to hear that stuff, so we didn’t tell you.”
He began with small compliments here and there. “You have such a peace surrounding you” (or something to that effect) and “You look nice today.”
The compliments and the long stares came
more and more frequently and he even started jokingly calling my boys HIS sons.
It got on my nerves. But, once again, I didn’t say anything directly, but began not making eye contact and half speaking/laughing whenever the boys and I were in the shop.
I loved my barber, so I didn’t want to change shops, and I thought the guy would get the hint (of course they never do). Plus, I knew his type. If I was direct, he wouldn’t take it well, and I didn’t feel like talking to or explainin’ nothin’ to some dude who couldn’t get the hint anyway. So, I asked my friend (his boss and owner of the shop) to talk to him about easing up on the flirting with clients.
Apparently, my friend must have told him it was specifically me because his naive solution was to pretend I no longer existed–as if to punish me for speaking up. You know the type–not speaking when I say hello to the group, no longer looking my way or acknowledging I exist. ?
Initially, the foolishness angered me because I get so annoyed with men who believe YOU should feel honored by their advances and then become angry if you aren’t. But, I got my wish of him chillin’ with all that, so I was good.
That was over 4.5 years ago. He still doesn’t speak.
I was 43. #metoo
Day 7 – Completion
So, why such candor? When #MeToo began to trend, I was just as shocked as some of you with not only the women who hashtagged (yep, that’s a verb now), but also the NUMBER of women who hashtagged.
Then, I began to read friends and strangers saying they were initially afraid to even use the hashtag because some people still didn’t know, they were embarrassed, and they were ashamed.
I also began to read negative commentary on why famous actresses waited so long to speak up on Harvey Weinstein and also commentary along the lines of, “Her too?”
So, because I’m a Christian, a writer, and known for my smile, I have the advantage of 1) knowing I’m forgiven, meaning I’ve long ago released all shame 2) being the voice for the voiceless 3) recognizing people only see what they see but often have no clue of your being an overcomer because, well, you have a beautiful smile.
1) Because it was cathartic–yes, my experiences helped mold me, but they did not define me. I’ve always been an overcomer and have long since emotionally and spiritually overcome my pain and shame. So, I’m good y’all. Really I am.
2) Because I wanted to bash men. I love men. I have some great men in my life and always have. My dad, cousins, friends, uncles, brother-in-law, and awesome boyfriends who treated me like a princess were always around to let me know those idiots were the exception, not the rule. Those were snapshots of a few men in my past. And, to be honest, that ain’t even half of some of my experiences.
If you noticed, I shared an experience from each decade of my life. I also added a picture from that same timeframe to show my smile continued, my life continued, and I still achieved my goals. I shared things no one knew–not my family and not even some of my closest friends. Women just deal. We just keep it moving. We keep smiling.
My experiences are uniquely mine, but I’m not unique. EVERY woman has a secret shame stored away or a secret story she’s never shared. I guarantee it!
I hope in some BIG way my sharing can cause a young girl or woman to know it wasn’t your fault, you will get through it and live the life God prepared in advance for you to live, you have NO reason to feel/carry shame from this day forward, you ARE valued and valuable, and you are beautiful simply…because…you exist.
I also hope my sharing will help men who didn’t know now know that every look, shout out, unwanted and incessant critique, touch, belittling comment you think is a compliment, forced sexual encounter, and yes stare…chips away at the essence of a girl or woman to make her begin to believe she’s not a whole, beautiful, complex and marvelous being, but pieces and parts…but, forgive yourself if you’ve ever done that in the past if you’ve grown. And pray for the girls or women from your past that you’ve ever knowingly or unknowingly, individually or collectively affected.
Ladies, you don’t have to share as I have. A journal will do. But, please vocalize and release. I love the conversations that have begun. The boldness women everywhere are now embracing to share their story. I’ve even heard from some people I never thought could have experienced, let alone could have overcome such trauma.
I applaud you. You are and have always been worthy.