I knew something was wrong the moment my mom walked into my room. It wasn’t just that she was crying, though she was. In a moment I was crying, too, because it was my mom waking me up to go to school that morning. Which was not her job. My dad was the one who woke me up for school in the morning. The moment I laid eyes on my mom I knew: my dad finally left her.
I was in fifth grade. Not quite ten years old. It was the early ’80s, and I was very shortly to have the disctinction of being the first kid I knew whose parents got a divorce.
It wasn’t a surprise. Like I said, I knew right away what had happened. And to be honest, I can’t — and could not at the time — remember a time when my parents weren’t fighting. I didn’t know what they were fighting about, didn’t really even want to. It was just a thing that happened, and when it did I would go to my room and play with my toys or read a book or I’d go outside and ride my bike around the neighborhood or go knock on a friend’s door or one of the thousand other things kids did back in the days when parents weren’t expected to schedule and supervise their childrens’ entire existence.
That morning was the last time I cried about it.
Because like I knew what had happened the night before, I knew what was expected of me. What was expected of any boy who wasn’t girly or gay or soft or weak. No one had to tell me that boys don’t cry.
So I didn’t. I tamped that shit down, put on my game face, and went on a field trip to Sea World with the rest of my class. As I recall, my dad was one of our chaperones. I didn’t ask him what happened. I mean, it wasn’t like it was a surprise. The real surprise was it hadn’t happened sooner.
I remember being very proud of myself for being so mature.
It wasn’t long after that I started acting out. Continue reading
[Serious trigger warning for survivors of sexual assault. You don’t need to read it. The important bits will be requoted in what follows.]
I didn’t want people to know. More than that, I didn’t want those things to have happened.
But they did happen. I did those things. And if it’s taken this long for me to human up and acknowledge them, well, that’s on me, too.
I could make excuses. I was young, dumb, and full of cum. I didn’t know any better. I came of age in the ’80s, when rape culture was just culture. Men were supposed to want sex, and anything shy of actual or threatened violence was on the table for getting it, be it deception, cajoling, or just getting her drunk enough to let you take her panties off and do what you wanted. I was a product of my environment.
Those excuses are bullshit. Basic human decency isn’t hard to grasp once you admit to yourself that other people are people.
[For the record, I still don’t want people to know, I still don’t want those things to have happened, those things did still happen, and I’m still sorry. Like then, I am still terrified of hitting ‘publish’ when I get to the end of this, because even though I don’t think of myself as a good person, I still prefer that other people do.]
Sadly, and sadly unsurprisingly, not all men took that watershed moment to reflect on rape culture and their place and participation in it, either personally or politically. Sadly, and sadly unsurprisingly, not all men are taking the opportunity now. But some are. Continue reading