When I say #MeToo
I’m talking about that guy who wouldn’t stop liking you, even though you didn’t like him back. The one who kept asking you out, even though you kept saying no. The one who maybe started getting meaner about it, even though you maybe tried to be really nice about it.
It started with him lurking in the hallway outside the cafeteria, watching for me to get in line to buy a donut at morning break. I didn’t know his name but he made me uncomfortable right away. The way he stared at me from a distance. The way he showed up where I was, appearing through the doorway to stand right behind me. Really close. Too close.
He gave me the creeps and I didn’t want anything to do with him. And that was the problem. As the days and weeks went on, he grew more and more determined to get my attention and I had decided to ignore him and hope he’d give up, move on.
One of his friends, a girl in the grade above, said that wasn’t fair; I hadn’t even given him a chance. But I didn’t want to give him a chance. Maybe it seemed unfair to him and his friends, but sometimes you just have a gut feeling that you can’t explain and nothing can wash it away.
My gut feeling was right. His crush turned into obsession and his pursuit escalated from persistent annoyance to physical intimidation, verbal threats, and stalking.
- He called my house repeatedly and wouldn’t hang up. We had “caller controlled disconnect” so it allowed him to stay on the line even if we hung up our end, and made it so we couldn’t call out until he gave up. (If you aren’t familiar with this glitchy feature of old landline phones, read the note and first two paragraphs here.)
- He cornered me in the crowded parking lot after school. He warned me that if I wouldn’t go to the winter formal with him, I’d better not go with anyone else. It was the “Swirl” dance – ladies’ choice – so I invited a big tall football player who towered over him in relative size. Even that didn’t stop him from threatening to crash the event and forcing me to give him at least one dance. I tried to enjoy myself but I also spent the whole night nervous he would come and try to follow through.
- At one point he shoved me up against a locker. It hurt and left me shaking in shock. He held me there, breathing his frustration into my face, spewing angry words. I spent my days at school constantly looking over my shoulder to avoid contact with him.
The scariest moment was when he showed up at my house. An older kid from school called and said the guy was waiting for me outside and “just wanted to talk” to me. My younger brother and I were home alone. I was 14 and he was 12. We looked out the front window and saw my 16 year old stalker parked on the street sitting in his car. My brother quickly helped me lock all the doors and windows.
I wanted to call for help, but the accomplice wouldn’t get off the phone to free up the line; he badgered me to go outside and talk to his friend and insisted he wasn’t going to leave until he saw me. My brother channeled all the toughness a seventh grade boy could muster and took the phone and yelled and swore at him to get off. We hung up. But every time we picked it back up, he was still on the line.
We couldn’t call 9-1-1, we couldn’t call our neighbor who was a firefighter, we couldn’t call my dad at work. We were just stuck freaking out, talking about what we should do if he came to the door or tried to break in. My mom eventually came home and my stalker quickly drove away.
That was when my dad showed up at HIS house. Suddenly the guy stopped bothering me and completely kept his distance. I didn’t know why things had changed and only found out later that my dad had tracked down his address, knocked on his door, and gave him his own scariest moment. No actual physical harm, but a direct promise of consequences that the kid must have taken seriously.
What a terrifying world that women often feel they can’t defend themselves and must rely on the power of other men to protect them from the dangerous ones. I was grateful for the males in my life who were willing to stand up for me. My dad. My football player friend. Even my little brother. But what a sad and awful reality that we should face harassment and harm in the first place.
This needs to change.
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.