I have spent so much of my life fighting an illness that thrives on devaluing my presence here on Earth. This illness has forced me to fight back against an onslaught of comments regarding how worthless I am, comments coming from myself. That internal battle is exhausting in its own regard. So when you touched me and I didn't want you to, I began to wonder if I truly was of no value. Maybe I was just an object, an object that you felt you could put your hands, your mouth, your body on, without giving second thought to my tears, my personal space, my discomfort, or my ability to choose what happens to my body. But as I work through my recovery, I’ve learned the power of forgiveness, the power of letting go, and the simple fact that I will never move forward, if I’m constantly reliving these events over and over again. I tell these stories not to punish all the men who thought what they were doing was okay, but to forgive them for my own well-being, because I so desperately need to move on. It’s time I stop letting the self-loathing you have all made me feel, take up real estate in my mind, my soul, and my being. I don’t want to shudder when the people I love touch me. I don’t want to eye them suspiciously as they hold me, wondering if they too are going to hurt me. So today I tell my story, well stories, about every time I didn’t want what was happening, but nobody bothered to ask.
You were my boyfriend. I can’t deny we had fun together, and I was happy to be in this fling with you. But things happened. Things happened that I thought were okay, well at least tolerable, because you were my boyfriend. I didn’t want to tell you no. It’s hard for me to disappoint anyone, let alone someone who told me they loved me. But love is not continuing to advance as I stare off into an abyss, tears streaking down my face, body completely stiff. How could you not tell I didn’t want to keep going? How could you put your body against mine, into mine, as I lay there vacant and lifeless? Did you even care? When you did ask me what was wrong you seemed mad, so I apologized. I said it was my fault for being so emotional and not just letting things continue. It seemed as though I set a precedent that my wants were not important, so long as the man was satisfied. I felt disgusting.
You were a guy at a party. A friend introduced us. We spoke, we joked, we parted ways shortly thereafter. It was just a conversation. So when you came to say goodbye, you caught me off-guard. You said, "I’m going to kiss you, one, two, three”. I had no say before you put your lips on mine. I didn’t want you to touch me, but you certainly didn’t ask what I wanted. We saw each other again and you knew a bit more about me. I tried to shake off our first encounter, thinking it was just because you were drunk. But this time you knew I had a boyfriend and you asked me to fool around. I told you no, but you still grabbed my butt, told me I looked hot, and that nobody had to know. When I rejected you, I watched as you glared at me from across the room. I watched as you tried to flirt with other girls in front of me, attempting to make me feel jealous. I watched you and some stranger point at me and then start whispering. When I tried to ask why you were doing this, you called me a tease. I’m a tease because I rejected your advances? I’m a tease because you put your hands and mouth on me against my will? Somehow I was in the wrong. But maybe this was my fault. Maybe I was somehow leading you on. I hated myself.
You were a stranger. I was walking on a popular Boston street. I was alone, but not far from my apartment. It was nighttime, but I had walked this street before. So why would I assume that the night would transpire the way it did? I passed you and you asked if I had a cigarette. I said no. Then you asked if I rolled. I again answered no, this time walking away faster. You grabbed my arm and pulled me back. You told me I was beautiful. You made me sit down in front of an ice cream shop, holding onto me. I was shaking. I looked into your eyes for just a moment, they looked lifeless. You kept getting close to my face trying to kiss me, nuzzle me. I couldn’t figure out how to get away, and my mind was moving slower than a snail. You kept asking me to go somewhere with you; I told you I had to go home. You told me you would come with me, but I wanted you gone. I kept telling you that you couldn’t come along. I even lied and said my building wouldn’t let you in without identification. The only reason you let me go from that spot was because I promised to meet you later. I walked away slowly, feeling violated in every which way. I was suddenly afraid to walk on my own. I didn’t want to leave my apartment, even to just grab groceries, a two-minute walk tops. But as someone pointed out, maybe I should have run away and not let things go so far. Maybe I let you think that I wanted it. I guess I brought it upon myself. I loathed myself.
You were another guy at another party. It was fun to talk and get to know you. You were pretty funny and seemed genuinely kind. We talked about life and I felt a real friendship blossoming. But when the police came to break up the party, I needed to get home. I didn’t know how to get back from where we were and I didn’t want to go alone, so you offered for me to go home with you. I declined, telling you I just wanted to go to my apartment. You told me that you would walk me home if that’s what I wanted. On our way home it seemed like we were going in the wrong direction. Minutes later I realized you had led me to your building. It was late and I was unsure of how to get home. You told me not to worry, you’d walk me back soon. But instead you brought me to your room and kept moving closer, your hot breath on my skin, trying to kiss me as I sat there limp, shaking, wanting to disappear. I told you no, so you tried to pull me down to cuddle instead. Time felt like it was standing still. But the second you passed out, I jumped up and ran home. I didn’t care what time it was or how long it took me to figure out how to get back to my apartment. You had no right to mislead me and then try to put your body on mine. But then again, maybe it was my own fault. Maybe I shouldn’t have believed you would walk me home. Maybe I should have known better. The self-loathing continued.
You were a man at a baseball game. I went to watch the Yankees/Red Sox game with my boyfriend. You were clearly smashed. You kept pushing your legs into mine, taking up enough space for the both of us. Your legs purposefully brushed against mine for 8 innings. I say purposefully because had you shifted your position you wouldn’t have had to touch me, but you chose to keep pushing closer. I tried to let it slide, thinking you were too drunk to know the difference. But as we were standing at the end of the game you caressed my back, fingers lingering several seconds too long. How could you think it was okay to put your hands on me? It seems as though I’m an object, and I wear a sign that says please touch me without a second thought. The rumination began shortly thereafter. Perhaps I should have spoken up, maybe it was my fault because I didn’t clearly state my boundaries. Again, I found myself dripping in self-hatred.
Each of these stories may seem harmless, but in each situation my self-worth was smashed to pieces. I felt as though I was not a human being, but an object to be touched and toyed with. Forgiveness will not be an easy road, for my emotions surrounding each of these men are constantly in flux. Some days I despise them, other days I feel sorry for them, and occasionally I feel like I deserved each of these encounters. But the only way for me to begin the healing process is to work to forgive the very people who broke me, remind myself that these experiences are valid, and understand that none of these encounters were my fault. This is not my burden to hold. I won’t lie and say I know exactly what to do, but by writing this piece I think I’ve come to realize that I’m in control now. I’m in control of how this narrative is written, and I choose to write a different ending. This ending will include the fostering of positive relationships, the ability to let people get close to me, and a life filled with peace and love instead of fear and anger. Knowing how I want this thing to end, means I have to work through the tough emotions in the here and now. I set my goal, now it’s time I get after it, because these men will not take control of me, not again. When I’m joking with my friends my catch phrase is, “don’t tell me how to live my life”, but to these men it’s not a joking matter. This is my life, and you will not dictate how I live it.