Sometimes I get a notification from WordPress: “Your stats are booming!” I used to get excited, thinking it must be a publisher in New York reading every post I’d ever written and reaching for the phone to call me with a book deal which would come with a huge advance.
I went to the stats page to investigate and for some reason my last post had attracted the attention of three dozen Canadians. Why? I looked at the tags and categories. Were they drawn by the word “England?” I’ve written loads of posts about England. The only words that were different were “shopping” and “charity shops.” Who knows?
Maybe I have a Canadian stalker. Or three dozen.
Everyone I know is talking about the powerful men in media and politics who are being outed for sexually harassing or assaulting women. All I can say is: it’s about time. And I’m not surprised. It’s happened to me at least a dozen times. No one famous, but plenty of regular men who had some kind of power over me by virtue of age, title, or size. It stopped when I hit my 40s—one advantage of getting older.
I never reported any of the incidents because first, I was very naïve and often unsure what was even happening. Maybe I was misinterpreting things? I mean, the social worker who was helping me get my act together after I spent two months in a psych unit after trying to off myself when I was 16—when he said he’d like to see me in a lace nightie, he was just trying to help me feel like a woman again. That’s what he told me. And that 30-something guy who stopped his car at the bus stop and asked if I wanted to go party—I was 18 and eight months pregnant—he didn’t really want to …? No! That’s gross! I must have misunderstood.
And surely that Greek Orthodox minister hadn’t meant to press his hard-on against my derriere in that crowd of people at the Justice for All rally, right? Wrong. When I turned around in shock, he smiled as if to dare me, “What are you going to do about it?” It must have been my fault. I had thought how handsome he was and maybe he had sensed that and thought I would like what he did.
Surely my boss’s boss had been fiddling with the coins in his pants pockets when he stood next to my desk talking about nothing and staring at my boobs, right? I had just started that job and really needed it. It was 1986 and I had never heard the term “sexual harassment.” It never occurred to me to report him.
A friend described how she tried to get her husband to understand what it’s like.
“Imagine there’s a third kind of human out there. They’re a foot taller than you and 50 pounds heavier. They own everything and run everything. And they want to fuck you in the ass. Every time you go for a job interview, you know they’re imagining you naked. They walk past your cube and look at you sideways, and you know they would like to bend you over, pull down your pants, and fuck you in the ass. They brush up against you and act like it was an accident, but you know they just wanted to cop a feel. If you say anything, you’ll probably be out of a job and nothing will be done anyway because HR works for them.”
Back to England, and a more uplifting note. There are things about the UK with which I have a visceral association. One is the little teaspoons. Below are my American teaspoon and a British one, which is larger than many. Every British home has loads of these. Something to do with tea, I think. I bought a couple at the £ Store to remind me of the UK.
Then there are the wood pigeons. When I asked Lynn’s husband, Richard, What’s that bird?” he replied, “What bird?” He didn’t hear them anymore; their call is so ubiquitous.
It’s this call and these spoons that made me smile every morning.