Originally posted 11/02/17
Apparently! Mike Pence and I share at least one personal policy. What?! Girl, yes. Okay, here’s the situation…
Now that I’m married and not as, ahem, perky as I once was, I tend to forget that men still find me attractive. Don’t get me wrong, I feel very beautiful. I just can’t imagine anyone worth looking at twice lusting after me. If you catch me wearing makeup, it’s likely because I’m sick, tired or losing a battle with a skin blemish. I wear gym clothes most of the day because, you never know. Four days a week, my hairstyle is comprised of the braids I wear to keep naps and knots from forming while I sleep (at least I don’t wear my scarf outdoors). I am forgetting how to eat cute in public, so I’m sure I inhale food like it’s the first meal I’ve had since being released from captivity. The point is…what was my point? Oh yeah, the point is that I am getting older.
No, that’s not the point. The point is that I have to be reminded that men still find me attractive. It’s not (completely) because my memory sometimes fails me. It is more likely because I simply don’t notice men in that way. Therefore, I assume men don’t notice me in that way. However, I will not make the mistake of allowing this assumption to lull me into stupidity… again.
When I was 19 years old, I was dangerously stupid. Someone had made the mistake of telling me that a silly test classified me as a genius. This means I was also stupidly dangerous, because I thought I knew much more than I did. Like Neil deGrasse Tyson said (paraphrasing) I knew enough to think I was right but not enough to know I was wrong. Keep that in mind as I relay the details of the story.
I was 19 and married to a soldier. Just like most young, married, military couples, we had other military couple friends. One couple was closer than the rest. Let’s call them Victor and Victoria. Victor worked with my ex-husband and Victoria was a very close friend. We were the kind of friends that visited each other daily and had to pull ourselves away from hours of chatting and giggling to prepare for “the guys” to get home. When they were in the field, I stayed over Victoria’s house, because she lived on base and we both felt safer together. After one such overnight visit, I accidentally left a few of my things behind. I cannot remember whether I called to say I was coming over, or Victor called me. I think he called me, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I do recall him telling me it was okay to come over, because Victoria would be home from work in about five minutes.
I waited about 20-30 minutes to give Victoria ample time to get settled at home, then I headed over. I expected Victoria to answer the door, but it was Victor. He said that she wasn’t back yet, so she must have taken a detour to shop somewhere. We laughed at the joke as I stood there waiting for him to hand me my things at the door. Instead, he invited me inside.
At this point, Friend, you probably have alarm bells going off. I know! You must remember what I told you though. I was dangerously stupid. It never crossed my mind that stepping into my friends’ home was inappropriate in any way. I had been across that threshold hundreds of times before. Besides, I did not think of Victor as a man in the same way that my brother is an anatomically incorrect Dylan Bratz doll. I have always mentally emasculated male partners of my loved ones. It’s just a thing.
When I stepped in, I expected to grab my belongings and go. I left my purse in the car and hadn’t bothered to roll up the windows or lock the doors. Victor told me that Victoria had left a pair of jeans she’d been meaning to give me. I knew what he was talking about, so I asked him where they were. “They’re in the bedroom on the dresser. Go get them,” he said as he headed toward the kitchen to check on the food he was cooking. At that moment, I began to feel strange. It did not seem right for me to be in my friend’s bedroom without her there. Still, I did not think Victor had any ill intentions, so I hurried to grab the jeans along with my things and turned back to the living room. “You can try them on to see if they fit,” he called from the kitchen.
Are you screaming at me right now, Friend? Don’t scream at me. I know!
“That’s okay,” I called back. “I’ll try them on when I get home.”
“Don’t be silly.” He peeked around the corner from the kitchen. “If you go all the way home and realize they don’t fit, you’ll have to bring them back.” He disappeared again. “Besides, she’s going to give them to (other friend’s name) if they’re too big for you.”
In that moment, I only wanted to be out of that house. I still did not think Victor was plotting anything nefarious with his pregnant wife on her way home. (I know you are smacking your teeth and rolling your eyes at my ignorance. Of course, she wasn’t on her way home, but I’m going to have to have you keep the noise down.) I only knew that it would not look good if she rolled up on me in her bedroom with her husband in the next room. I slid my jeans off, slid hers on and slid mine back on faster than Usain Bolt. By the time I was zipping my own jeans, Victor opened the door.
He stood significantly taller and broader than my 5’8, 130 lbs. His frame blocked the entire doorway passage. The realization that he had planned this moment smacked me in the face like a brick of ice.
“Are you finished already?” he asked, a vulgar lust dripping from his words. My heart began drumming in my ears. My breath was shallow as I plotted all the things I could use to strike him hard enough to get out. I should have been terrified standing there, able to read his foul thoughts in his expression. My mind told me to be afraid, but I wasn’t. I was pissed!
I was disgusted that he would think the thoughts he was, so obviously, thinking. I was outraged that he would try to compromise my friendship with Victoria. My skin crawled under his lascivious gaze. My eyes dared him to act upon me against my will. In that moment, I felt capable of castrating him with my teeth and nails if he laid one finger on me. I gathered every ounce of hate and furry I felt in the prickly hairs of my skin and told him to move. He looked at me for a long, silent moment then stepped aside. If I had any doubts about his intentions (which I did not), they were erased as he followed me to my car.
“Victoria doesn’t need to know you were here,” he said, leaning into the passenger side window with a smile. “Nothing happened,” he chuckled.
“MOTHER-BLEEP IF YOU DON’T BACK YOUR A$$ AWAY FROM MY CAR!” I wanted to scream and spit in his face. I wanted to punch him in the junk to make him feel a semblance of the humiliation, pain and shame he had brought upon me. I wanted to claw his despicable eyes out, so he could never look at another woman that way. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. My brain was thudding against my skull and words would not form. Nothing happened. My hands shook so much, I fumbled to put my key into the ignition. Nothing happened. I couldn’t dislodge the lump in my throat, because I knew that would mean tears. After what he had just taken from me without even touching me, there was no way I was going to hand him my tears.
I backed out of the driveway and sped home. My body was shaking and I felt a feverish pain shoot up my spine. I barely made it to my bathroom to vomit. I could not stop myself from crying. The utter shame, humiliation and stupidity I felt threatened to swallow me. I collected myself enough to tell my ex-husband, through sobs, what happened. In his eyes, I was overreacting, because Victor did not physically assault me. He said that the way I was crying, he thought I had been raped. Nothing happened. (There are many reasons he is my EX-husband).
I told Victoria, and she believed me. She kept asking the same questions in different ways. His answers kept changing, but mine didn’t. Mine couldn’t. You don’t easily forget a moment like that. It stays frozen in time. She wanted to believe in him, so she stayed anyway. He was her husband and they were having a baby. I saw her at her baby shower and once more, years later at another duty station. I still mourn our lost friendship and take responsibility for putting myself in that position.
Never again! After that incident, I vowed to never put myself in a situation in which I could be attacked or my motives questioned. I have followed a strict rule—I am NEVER alone with my friends’ or sisters’ husbands. While I am in a relationship, I am never alone with any man who is not a member of my family. To that extent, I agree with Mike Pence for not wanting to place himself in a compromising position. However, I find it completely normal and acceptable to dine out or have coffee in a public space with members of the opposite sex. I may be dangerously stupid, but I’m not crazy.