**Content Note: sexual harassment (specific)**
Today I opened Facebook and encountered many #MeToo posts. Some told specific stories and my stomach clenched at the sickening familiarity. Others posted just the hashtag and my eyes welled with tears because I know the pain held by some of these friends. Men and women alike wrote compassionate and supportive comments about the trending topic and I felt their solidarity and care. Some observers are shocked and never would have guessed how many women would or could say #MeToo (whether or not they choose to share).
It’s been moving and powerful to read these posts, and it’s also been emotionally challenging. For years I have wrestled with when and how to write or speak publicly about personal experiences with difficult topics. This month I’ve been doing a series of posts for #Write31Days called Messy Me Makeover but I stalled out because I was starting to write about the harder more vulnerable stuff; I saved those as drafts because I wasn’t ready to publish. It’s rarely easy and it’s usually messy.
Part of my #MessyMeMakeover is pressing in to the discomfort of sharing the messy parts of life – not just my physical home, but my personal lived reality whether past or present. So today I feel compelled to write a series of stories called “When I say #MeToo” offering some of my own examples behind the hashtag. Even though it’s rarely easy and it’s usually messy, it’s also deeply important.
When I say #MeToo
I’m talking about that older boy, the one who maybe had a sister your age. The one you glanced at shyly, and smiled at his jokes, and flushed at his attention. The one you thought was generally a sweet guy. Except for maybe that one time.
We were on a youth trip, standing at the back of a bus waiting to unload at the campground. He came up behind me and pulled my sweater backwards, tight against my breasts, and held it there with his hands. With my top firmly in his grasp and my body close to his, he turned me around so he could size me up. Literally.
I was suddenly a game contestant of his own amusement park booth.
He tugged at my sweater, looked at my chest for a good long moment, and announced his estimation of my bra size. Like a seasoned carny he guessed right and my personal stats were broadcast over his loud speaker to curious gawkers.
I still remember that sweater. It had wide black and gold horizontal stripes, the colors of my high school. But I wasn’t in high school yet; I was only 13. He was older, more experienced. He laughed and shrugged, bragging he was right about girls’ bra sizes most of the time. He, apparently, had acted as judge multiple times. But for me, it was the first time my body had been pushed into the limelight.
It was startling. It was embarrassing. And it was confusing.
- Was I supposed to be proud of my boobs because they attracted attention?
- Was I supposed to be ashamed of my boobs because maybe they were too small?
- Why did this seem like no big deal to him but felt like a big deal to me?
- Was this normal? Or am I some kind of freak show?
With these #MeToo revelations, we’re seeing how many women get thrown into this circus pageantry.
“Step on up, center stage!
Hey, don’t just walk on by,
I know you wanna play…
I’ll guess your weight. Your age. Your cup size.
Show me your spanx. Your botox.
Your padded push-up.
Impress me, fool me, get a prize!
C’mon, who’s next?”
I was a confused contestant at 13, but I am now certain of one thing:
There are no winners in this game.
Do you have a #MeToo story that connects with this one? I’ll read your stories and hold them with care if you want to share them. Thank you for reading mine.
- Day 7 – Banged Up and Broken Down
- Messy #MeToo (Part 2) – My Stalker