First kisses are supposed to be magical. A first kiss may be awkward, full of nerves and a heart racing so fast you think you might pass out, wondering if the other person feels the same, but a first kiss is supposed to be the kiss you will always want to remember.
Authors spend an enormous amount of time trying to create the magic of a couple’s first kiss, trying to make it as memorable for the reader as it is for the characters. Same with movies or television shows. If we’ve followed a couple falling for each other, we wait breathlessly for that first kiss – wanting to experience the wonder and joy with them.
First kisses are supposed to be magical. They’re not supposed to taste of booze and tobacco on the breath of the old man who has trapped you behind the counter of the shop you worked in at age 16. The nerves aren’t supposed to be nerves of fear. The racing heart isn’t supposed to be a fight or flight response. The wonder isn’t supposed to be wondering what you did wrong to allow it to happen; or wondering what you could have done to prevent it; or wondering what will happen when he tries it again.
Until the Me Too movement exploded a year ago – October 2017 – with the exposé of Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent avalanche of women coming forward with their stories, I hadn’t thought about my first kiss in decades. I chose not to think about it. I never told my parents what happened. Luckily for me, the commander of the base I worked on happened to walk in on that kiss and kept a very close eye on me after that. Most girls aren’t that fortunate, and many aren’t lucky enough to have it stop at a kiss.
But the events of this week have brought it to the fore again. Watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bravely speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the world about what happened to her, knowing how hard that must have been for her – because I’m not sure I could have done it – I have remembered things I wish I could forget. His name. His greasy slicked-back hair. The feel of his tongue in my mouth. The flood of relief when the Captain walked in. The shame. The feeling that I was soiled and dirty.
And now, the anger that this shit keeps happening to girls and women, while men (and some women) keep making excuses for it. Check that. It’s not anger I’m feeling. It’s fury.
I’m not even going to speak about how outraged I was at the spectacle Kavanaugh put on, or Graham or any of the other republican senators who STILL don’t understand why this was so hard for Dr. Ford.
For the past year, I’ve looked at the world differently, even listened to music differently. I can’t stand listening to Bruce Springsteen sing, “Hey, little girl, is your daddy home? Did he go and leave you all alone?” Or Sting, “Every step you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.”
It’s everywhere. This attitude that men have the right to treat women as objects, as possessions, as trophies to be won or taken by force. And so many don’t even see it. The excuses, the bullshit “boys will be boys” mantra, the acceptance of “that’s just the way it is.”
Granted, not all men are like this. Some men, like my brother-in-law, see it and actually speak up and intervene, but we need more to do it. And we all need to call it out in all of its little, insidious, pervasive forms. Especially now, when we’re facing this onslaught of white, male privilege, even up to our highest court.
This isn’t going to go away unless we make it go away.