Sometimes it takes 20 years to hear a woman say No.
For 20 years I’ve carried the sweet memory of a college romance. The details aren’t that important and are basically universal – back seat of a car, dorm room, dance floor, it’s a story that many of us have lived too many times. But a story that until today I’ve believed was a good one.
Today I find her on Facebook and send a friend request. But instead of the expected “Great to hear from you!” reply, I’m slapped in the face with a calm, confident, “I don’t have good memories of our time together” refusal.
This is not the starry-eyed girl in a long grey “Property of…” t-shirt of my memory. This is a strong, confident woman who has done her work and found her voice. A voice she evidently wished she’d had during our late nights together. A voice that would have told me to Stop in a way I would have heard and respected.
Because I didn’t know when to stop. At the end of our fun, even magical dates, I’d betray that connection with hungry, unlistening hands. She would consistently tell me to stop, consistently move my hands away, and I’d consistently try again.
I told myself it was OK because I never used force. I told myself it was OK because she kept allowing me to try again – this must be a game she enjoys if she invites me back night after night. And I told myself it was OK because twice she did say Yes. Neither time was nearly as magical as what we shared during the dates, but the fact that she eagerly and freely reciprocated two times was enough to justify the persistence and believe that she did “want it.” Enough to let me believe for 20 years that it was a healthy, fun adventure for both of us.
But today she holds up a mirror that makes me see –finally – that I should have stopped. That I should have listened. That what was a game and a challenge for young me was an act of violence for young her. I violated a young woman’s trust and need, never even questioning if it might be hurting her. I can’t truly be part of breaking the cycle of violence until fully accepting, as I must today, that I have been part of it.
This facebook refusal is a cold shock, but I instantly know it’s deserved. I see for the first time that I hurt her, and that my sharp insistence for her body destroyed what should have been a sweet sharing of our young souls. Violence, I am forced to see, is as simple as not listening, and as powerful as not stopping at – or even before – the first No.
Write to Renew - One of our previous graduates, the talented Jay Nahani, is leading us in a Write to Renew workshop June 14th. For writers and non-writers alike, this one-d...