Monday, October 22, 2018

For those who don't believe, Number Five

I am 23
I am living in Austin. I meet my friends' boss. He is in his early 30s. I think he's kind of hot, but - he's old and he's my friends' boss and he has a girlfriend anyhow.

Friends' Boss (FB) quits his job to return to school - out of town - for a master's degree. He comes back to Austin for spring break and shows up at a party I am attending with my friends. We talk. A lot. He has broken up with his girlfriend. So I flirt with him, as much as I know how.

(Remember, I am the girl who was not asked to a single high-school dance - except the ROTC ball, which is still weird, because I never had one nice conversation with the guy who asked me.)

In retrospect, I see that youth is its own beauty. Twenty three is gorgeous. Twenty three is firm and unblemished and glossy.

This one is the hardest to write. I don't think I have ever told this story to anyone in real life. (I may have written about it here before.)

I told it to Primo last week and his first reaction was, "But - but why did you see him again?"

And Primo is the person who loves me most in the world outside of my mother, my brother, my sister, and my other blood relations.

When the person who loves you the most questions your actions, how do you not question them yourself?

This is the one that causes me the most shame. The one that makes me question myself the most. The one that makes  me blame myself.


All I want is for my space and my voice to be respected. All I want is to sit in a seat and not be bothered by some man who decides that his desire for company overrides my desire not for company. All I want is to be able to tell a man to leave me alone and have him LEAVE ME ALONE.

No. All I want is NOT TO HAVE TO TELL HIM THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE. What makes some men think that they get to decide everything? That just because THEY WANT, I have to listen?

So FB calls me from Houston after the party. He wants to see me again.

Stupid me. I think he means take me on a date. Sure! I tell him.

He knocks on my door the next day. I don't remember what we do - maybe we do go out to eat. When we return to my apartment, I ask him - out of politeness, more than anything - where he is staying.

"With you!" he says.


That was not  my plan.

"No," I tell him.

And what ensues is an hour-long conversation - and I use that term lightly - in which he convinces me he can stay - "I guess you can sleep on the couch" - and then convinces me to let him into my bed -


This is why I don't tell this story. This is why I know this is my fault.

Because I let him.

I let him into my bed.

And then I let him - you know.

And - this is where Primo was in absolute disbelief - I let him visit me again in the summer.

This is the part I don't even understand myself. If he didn't respect my wishes from the outset, why would I let him back into my life?

He was funny and smart and - I was going to type "nice" but how nice are you if you don't respect a woman's "No!"

I liked him.

And maybe by letting him return I don't have to admit to myself that he did not treat me well? That his talking and talking and talking until I finally just wanted him to SHUT UP constituted - what? - is that a form of date rape? I don't think so. I don't. But --- I had no intentions of sleeping with him. None. I hadn't even thought he would stay over at my place, even on the couch.

This one still confuses me. I still don't know what to think.

Except I am still angry.

After visit number two, he writes me passionate letters.

He asks me to move to California with him once he graduates.

I ignore his letters. I ignore his phone calls.

He writes more letters, telling me "not to be afraid of [my] passion," which simultaneously pisses me off and makes me roll my eyes. I'm not afraid of my passion. I'm afraid of him.

He calls one day to tell me he's leaving St Louis and will be in Austin in X hours. I hear the message on my answering machine and look at the clock in a panic.

I grab my purse and leave. I don't come home until after dark.

I never hear from him again.

Four years later, my friend Cathy asked why I hadn't warned her about my former boyfriend.

The only former boyfriend I can think of is Calvin, who is getting married to my former college roommate in a few months, so I am very confused.

No! she says. FB!

Right! She is in that same group of friends who worked for FB.

"He wouldn't leave me alone when I tried to break up!" she said.

I google stalk him every now and then. What would I do if he were nominated for some important position? Today, he just rolls on his very liberal credentials (he's super big in renewable energy). Would a story about his behavior discredit him? Would my story? No. No, it wouldn't, because just re-reading what I wrote, I can see that almost everyone in the world would say that I was asking for it.

This. This is why women don't tell.


  1. You were not asking for it. We are socialized to try and make things work. We are not taught when it is time to stop doing that and make a fuss.

    We are not taught that it's okay to let the door close in his face and say "no". Or call the cops and say "Hi, I went on a date with this guy, but he's refusing to leave my apartment now? Can you come convince him he really doesn't get to stay here?". Literally, we are explicitly not taught how to do this and even that doing so would be making a big deal out of something that you "should" be able to handle on your own... It's harder to think to do things you haven't been taught to do, especially when they go against all your training of "get along", "be a capable person who can handle things" and such.

    It's hard to admit that we are not in control and we ARE that scared, and need to call for help and rescue. It's especially hard to differentiate when it's time to do that when you have media full of stories making fun of people calling the cops for frivolous reasons (different kind today than then, but still out there), and you don't want to be the subject of that mockery and you don't have a clear enough picture of the risk to decide that dealing with the potential mockery is the better option.

    I suspect the at least part of the reason (if not most of it) that you didn't say no when he asked to come again was that somewhere in your head, you were faced with the idea that if you said no, you were up for another hour long conversation where he would just wear you down again, and you defaulted to skipping that because you still hadn't gotten to the point where hanging up on him when he tried to do that was an acceptable response.

    1. Yep. This was the late '80s. Nobody talked about date rape. I don't think I had ever even heard the term. All I knew was I had to be polite.

  2. This has happened to me too, more than once, and like you I've never told anyone. I felt foolish and full of self-doubt. I didn't say no the second time (or say it enough) because I didn't want to be blamed for letting it happen the first time. It's an insidious message we get from early childhood and from every quarter.

    1. Because we should have said no, right? And if we didn't say no the first time, what gives us the right to say no the second time?

      This makes me so angry.

  3. Also - Cathy. Hmmm. Did Cathy tell you that she was starting to date FB? If not, htf are you even remotely to blame for not warning her about your former not-boyfriend? Were you supposed to pre-emptively warn her and EVERYONE ELSE you could think of to stay away from him? Sorry, but that is literally not how this works.

    1. No, it isn't. But wouldn't it be nice if we had a way to google a name and get the dating reputation?

    2. I'm sorry, I know you meant this in seriousness, but all I can see in my head now is Yelp Relationship Reviews.

      "Too whiny. Gets upset because the appetizers took more than 10 minutes to hit the table."

      "Bed skills meh. Cuddle skills A+"

      I'm stopping I'm stopping I'm stopping I'm..

  4. I'm so sorry.

    Just today, I was telling someone - I'm part of several chatrooms, and someone, I assume a woman, was saying how she has a friend whose home situation is not-great, that this friend needs a place to stay, but she doesn't want to have him at her place because he likes her 'that way' and she doesn't.

    Are you worried he'll do something? People asked. And she said no, but he'll mention it, and we'll have to have that conversation again.

    I had to ask, can this dude really be a friend to you if he won't take your 'no' for an answer? If you keep having to repeat it, again and again? All the while you're doing him a big favour?

    But he's nice, she says. He's harmless.

    I get your anger. I feel the same. I don't know this guy, but I am so angry at him.

  5. We were always taught to be NICE and to NOT MAKE WAVES. Making a guy feel bad about himself would definitely fall in the category of NOT being nice, and of making waves. It's nearly hardwired into us... wrongly. YOU did nothing wrong. It's happened to so many of us and we just let it happen so that the night will be over soon and we can shove him out the damn door.