Me @ 13
I was 13 years old the first time a man groped me in public.
I was going up the escalator from Powell St. Station in downtown San Francisco. I was going to meet my best friend to go window shopping, try on clothing at The Emporium and most importantly to buy some coveted Hello Kitty at the dream superstore. Stickers. Pencils. Candy too beautiful to eat. 13-year-old stuff.
I felt something between my legs. I jumped and looked behind me. A few steps down was a man, at least 30, holding a bunch of shopping bags. I thought he must have bumped into me with one of those many bags. I turned back around. I walked off the top of the escalator and as I started to veer away he called out “You know you liked it!”.
I was stunned. Paralyzed by fear. And shame. I froze like a fucking deer in headlights. I couldn’t speak. Since then I’ve fantasized about kicking him right in the dick and sending him falling down the escalator and ending in a crumpled heap at the bottom. But I didn’t do that. I did nothing. I managed to start walking again. I have no memory of the rest of the day. I’m sure I told no one. Not my friend. Not my mom. I felt that it was somehow my fault. Shame zippered my mouth shut.
I already knew that shame. I was sexually assaulted when I was 3 years old, repeatedly at my daycare center. Calling that shit “child molestation” is severely minimizing and normalizing. I was sexually assaulted by a grown man. Consequently I was scared of men and what they wanted to do to my body from that young age. But puberty brought an onslaught of daily aggressive sexual harassment from grown men. Men old enough to be my father.
And that “Smile!” shit will be another post. Men telling girls and women to “smile!”. When we are all walking around guarding against the bombardment of looks, comments and gropes. “Nice ass!”. “Baby got back!”. “Nice tits!”. “Spare some pussy?” from a homeless man panhandling.
Yeah. None of that makes me smile.
Why does no one talk about this with their daughters? Their sons? No one told me this would start happening. I thought it was my fault. I hid my body as best I could but discovered it didn’t really help that much. I developed a very strong “Fuck off” force field and deflected some of the unwanted attention. I ignored much of it. Told some to fuck themselves. But this force field can push all men away. I’m sure I was too scary or jaded for some guys my own age to approach me. I still struggle with removing my bullet proof aura. I want to be seen. But I learned to be invisible.
What a dilemma.