Okay, watch this first. It will make your whole day. I promise!
(If the video doesn’t show up in your reader or e-mail, click through)
Do you remember the first time you were catcalled? I was in fifth grade, walking past the boys bathroom when a group of boys suddenly yelled (sung?) that line from a Michael Jackson song “Hey pretty baby, with the high heels on!” while hip thrusting and making awooooga! noises. One of them grabbed me around the waist and tried to, I assume, make some kind of lewd gesture. In reality it was more like the do-si-do we’d just been practicing in gym class. It was one of the most bizarre moments of my life.
First, I was wearing my white Keds (like every other girl in the late 80’s/early 90’s) not high heels so they weren’t even accurate. Second, I’d never really identified as pretty — already by that age I knew I wasn’t one of the pretty people. (I had big plastic hipster glasses back when they were still just nerdy. Does that make me retroactively cool? Let’s say yes.) Third, it was upsetting. My first reaction was to want to cry (HSP for life, yo!) but just as quickly I felt ashamed of my reaction. On one hand, weren’t they giving me a compliment? Kind of? But I felt a shaken, the way anyone would if someone jumped out of nowhere and yelled Michael Jackson at them. (Rule of life: You should only invoke the King of Pop when confronted by zombies or Pepsi.)
You are crazy. He said it so many times I believed him. I had to. It was the only explanation that made sense. The alternative – that he was a charismatic psychopath hell-bent on destroying me – was too terrifying to be considered. And so I believed him when he told me that I was “making a big deal out of nothing” when I freaked out after finding him throwing mice at the side of a dumpster and then lighting them on fire. I believed him when he told me that he was only choking me to “help me” overcome my fears. But the worst one was when he showed up at my roommate’s wedding the day after he sexually assaulted me, acting as if nothing had happened. I finally approached him as he sat, nonchalantly eating cake, and choked out, “What happened last night… it can’t happen again.” And then he looked up at me and said, “Nothing happened last night. You’re worried about nothing.” When I contradicted him pointing out my torn clothing (holding the physical evidence in my hand had made me strangely brave), he shrugged and said he’d give me a few bucks to replace them, no big deal, and went back to eating cake.
Yoga as a wet t-shirt contest? Fail, Planet Yoga. Plus, her Bow Pose is really not that well done. Not that I’m judging other people’s yoga practice but I figure if you’re going to be modeling yoga for Planet Yoga you should probably at least try and get your knees together? Although this was my first time ever photoshopping pasties – so, that’s fun.
There was a tempest in the proverbial chai herbal-infused detox teapot a couple of weeks ago when famed yoga guru and self-confessed perv Cameron Shayne put up a post about why it’s not only hot for yoga teachers to have sex with their students but it’s also very cool because it’s, like, relaxing and athletic and a natural bodily function and part of the whole yoga experience and a bunch of other garbage that I couldn’t read because I was too busy pearl-clutching over his atrocious grammar. (Lesson #1: Never trust a dude with two first names.) He argued that the power dynamic between teacher and student that normally makes such relationships verboten isn’t the same in yoga because… yoga.
“TJ is a butt turd!” My 10-year-old self sat back to admire my handiwork: drawn in permanent purple, in foot-high letters, right on the front porch. So everyone who came to our house would know exactly what kind of kid my little brother was. To this day I don’t remember what he had done that so incensed me that I thought this was an appropriate response but I do remember being super proud of myself. All the way until my parents saw it (and my brother’s scribbled response on the sidewalk) and made us spend an afternoon scrubbing concrete with bleach.
Ah, revenge gone awry. Good times! (Some other time we’ll have to talk about revenge with unintended consequences…)
But revenge isn’t just a theme for childhood fantasies and TV dramas (that star sweet, vapid Amy from Everwood as Hampton’s ninja Emily/Amanda – I still can’t wrap my brain around that one). Unfortunately as we get older and more aware of the injustices of life, it becomes more infectious. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
Forget night swimming REM, night running has always been my favorite nocturnal sport. There’s just something about running through an unlit night, the inky blackness completely obliterating my body until I feel incorporeal. Dispossessed. Airborne. In the sense of flying, yes, but also that I feel born of air. I’m elegant in ways that I never can be in daylight. I’m light and quick through the dark, a sure-footed sprite.
That is until I trip over a tree root and face plant.
Oh and did I mention that I like to do my night running set to Orff’s “Carmina Burana” or Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite? (Lie: It’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. Of course it is.) Very very loudly. And with no reflective gear, save the glow of my pale legs? And preferably in the mountains or the forest? It’s the closest I get to real magic.
It’s probably also the closest I get to really putting myself in danger too which is why I’ve not done it in years. And that’s a travesty because I used to love it.
Monsters live among us. The only problem is that there aren’t more of them.
“You must have misunderstood him.” The words rattled around my head, unsettling me. How could I have misunderstood him? The evidence – torn clothing, bloodied razor blades, notes in his own handwriting, pictures, death threats – sat before me, piled limply in the bottom of a green plastic box. (The box that was topped by a note saying “If I ever don’t come home…” and stashed in my closet where my roommate who always borrowed my clothes would surely find it.) Not to mention the bruises left on my skin. And yet his hold on me was compelling enough that even staring myself down in the mirror, my eyes tired and blank, I began to doubt my own reality. Had it really happened? Had it happened the way I remembered it? If so, did it matter? What had I done to make this happen? Was I overreacting?
If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s pretty awesome.
Eyes! EYES! Nose! NOSE! Ears! EARS!
The roar of teenage girls filled the small room at my church last night as we ended our seminar on self-defense. I wish I could say that their roar was defiant, strong, a unified cacophony of empowered (pre) women. But that’s a lot to expect from young girls who’ve just had a lesson on a very uncomfortable subject that skirted all the uncomfortable parts. There was a lot of giggling, play fighting, teasing, bluster and, to my chagrin, very little questioning.
The teacher, a 4th degree black belt from a local martial arts studio, did a great job in the limited amount of time he had. One hour is a pitifully small amount of time to cover something with the implications to be so life changing. (But one hour is better than nothing, yes?) He was better than most I’ve seen. He was smart, funny, and gave some great tips for physically defending oneself. But as I stood back and watched – my eyes less on the teacher and more on the faces of the girls watching, scanning them for any sign of panic or shutting down (there’s usually one set of eyes in every group that looks a little too cynical or a little too wise) – I couldn’t help but be disappointed. It was your standard self-defense for women class. And that’s a shame.
Tonight I played the choking game. No, not the one we played in middle school where you and your friends cut off each other’s air supply because fainting is funny. (Note to any middle schoolers, or people who just act like middle schoolers: Fainting is neither fun nor funny and that game can kill you.) The game I played tonight still involved being choked by your friends (or people you hoped to impress enough with your stupid bravery/brave stupidity to be your friends?) but the end goal was deadly serious. The goal this time was to get away, get out, get home. The goal is to live where others might die.
And so tonight I stood in a room – a room that smelled like sweat and fear and bravado and feet – with my eyes closed and waited for someone to put their hands around my neck. It’s a singular kind of vulnerability, that. Asking someone to do something to you that no one should ever have done to them. And the worst part was that I didn’t know if I was more worried that someone would choke me and I’d have a panic attack or that no one would choke me and I’d be standing alone, like the cheese in the Farmer in the Dell, except sadder because now I’m a grownup and I know too well the intricacies of being alone in a crowd.