CW: consent, sexual assault, church people being weird.
I’ve spent the last hour rehashing something I’d forgotten, and it has left me a little worse for wear.
The weird thing about being single is that in moments like these I could use a hug. But I only have a cat to cuddle, she hates cuddles. With every boundary I have to put up, my need for physical touch decreases dramatically. I don’t even like hugging people I generally like to hug. Maybe a warm mug of chai will suffice.
And back, with my chai.
It’s a great chai called Punjabi Mix (or something like that) by Bean Addiction in the Barossa. Girl goes on wine tour, buys tea, you know how it is.
I started back on chai again because my dietician was so kind to me the other week, and suggested that my chocolate craving in the evening is probably a form of self care, and maybe I should try a nice tea instead. So, here we are, the hard story mostly written, and a mug of chai by my side.
A few weeks ago I was doing some life writing for a competition I enter every year. There was a hero in the story, but as I typed out my accurate recollection of the evening, something occurred to me: this person isn’t a hero. In fact, he’s kinda a dud.
So tonight I sat down and I wrote 1500 words about what happened next. And what happened next is that this kid who seemed pretty nice when we first met back when we first started school (which I talk about in the life writing story) actually was super sleazy and wouldn’t take no for an answer, and in this case, it was always a no, because… just no.
In regard to the #Me Too movement, a lot of women are telling their stories. I’ve told a tiny section of mine tonight in a story that I don’t even know what I’ll do with. Maybe it’s just telling the story to myself. (Which is basically the point of journalling.) Or maybe it’s part of something bigger, I don’t know. In real life, a lot of people knew that he had a crush on me. But a year after my final rebuff (the silent treatment), he met someone, and claims he never liked me, the only girl he had eyes for was his first and only girlfriend.
For a long time I’ve believed this was just a way of him covering up the fact that he actually liked someone before meeting ‘The One’. But now, given what I know about power and control and harassment, I’ve changed my mind. Maybe he wasn’t lying: maybe he never liked me, and it was just a power play.
Romance novels in 2019 are showing a lot more consent scenes: ‘Is this okay?’ ‘Can I kiss you?’ ‘He looked at her with hungry eyes and she nodded.’
(that last line… please don’t let anyone know I have a massive HELP debt for a literature degree.)
It kind of reminds me of a friend I used to know, who told me how much she loves being single, and flirting. ‘It’s fun,’ she said, but I don’t know if those guys realised she was actually flirting or not.
In tonight’s story I relay a couple more anecdotes which add to that question — what did I do wrong? For a long time, I believed that my behaviour might have caused some of this, but as I consider a much bigger incident, one which I could have pressed charges for, and didn’t, I’ve decided that very little of the blame, if any of it, is my own fault. In every situation I discuss — the sleazy guy, the street harassment, the sexual assault on a date, the constant nagging from church elders — in every situation I had no power. There was no flirting, and there was no consent. There just was.
So, here’s what’s not flirting: cornering girls in cupboards, asking why their jeans make that annoying v-shaped cross thing (blame thunder thighs, my friends), repeatedly asking out the same girl, trash talking her boyfriends and asking about whether she would ‘do things’ to you. Not okay, and not flirting.
(PSA: flirting generally involves both people engaging in banter, conversation or that weird accidental touching that you have possibly witnessed on Sex Education in Netflix.)
Here’s how all of this could have been addressed, but I’m forgiving AF so all good: in church and youth ministry, if you’re going to talk about relationships, talk about what makes a good relationship, not just telling kids not to have sex. If someone says that Joe Goe gives them the creeps, make an effort to help the person. This might mean ensuring that your don’t send off the person and Joe Goe alone to help stack chairs or whatever, and it also might mean talking to Joe’s parents instead of lecturing the other person about what she should have done to prevent Joe from being a sleaze ball. Also: no means no.
I’m really grateful that my kids are going to grow up in a world where it’s okay to say no to things a lot. I was always scared of being rude or impolite. It was a hard no from me, Joe, but you didn’t listen, and now you feature in this blog, damnit. I hope you are a better person than you were then.
For a long time though, I believed that if you were in it for the long haul, the person you liked would eventually see you were The One. I don’t know that Joe felt like this, he was probably just horny and rude, but it’s something we see often. Disney movies are the worst for it, and how many of them to we see during childhood?
Maybe you had a Joe in your life, or maybe you avoided one. Maybe you wanted a Joe, as my old housemate did, and then got one, and changed your mind. Trust me, you don’t want a Joe. But you probably want a chai, and if that’s not good self care, I don’t know what is.
I called this blog ‘heavy’. As my journey of singleness continues, more and more of my past unravels. It’s heavy work for a person who is already in her head a lot of the time. Writing seems to be the only escape at times, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. Or even an intense way. It’s just how it is. This incident didn’t shape my life. Hell, I’ve hardly even thought about it since I was 16 and totally ashamed by this dude’s insinuations. But, like a lot of things, it’s taken me until now to realise that something wasn’t right, and that the blame doesn’t fall on me. All I did to cause this weirdo’s attraction was just live and breathe.
Oh yeah. Don’t worry about me. I’m completely fine. I’d say if I wasn’t.