tea berry-blue (teaberryblue) wrote,
tea berry-blue

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What I Was(n’t) Wearing

I don’t remember if I was twelve or thirteen. I do know that it was sometime during Bar Mitzvah season, the spring of seventh grade or the autumn of eighth. I’m pretty sure it was after someone’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and I’m pretty sure that it happened at a synagogue, even though my memory tries to replace the space beyond archway where I waited that night with the backdrop of my high school. But I remember fairly well that I was underneath a brick archway, the kind at pickup spots, where you can wait in the rain for your ride to come.

And I remember what I was wearing.

It was a black satin sailor-style outfit– one piece, with a high neckline and long, knee-length culottes instead of a skirt, white piping on the collar. It was dressy, and conservative, and appropriate to wear to a Bar Mitzvah service. I also thought it was very grown up.

It was dark, and most of the guests had left. The parking lot lights glowed overhead, but it was well into evening and the sky was dim. There were just three of us there, waiting for our parents to come pick us up. I was standing against one side of the arch. The two boys, both boys from my grade at school, were standing against the other side, chatting. I went to a small school, so while I wasn’t friends with them and wouldn’t say I knew them particularly well, I knew who they were, what classes they were in, that sort of thing.

The funny thing is, all these years later, I cannot for the life of me remember who the second boy was. I don’t remember if he did anything or said anything. I know there was a second boy there, that’s all. The other one, I remember vividly.

I don’t know how it started, but they came over to my side of the arch, and I think they chatted with me a little bit. Harmless, casual chat. I don’t remember that either. I do remember that I was downright shocked by the question the boy asked me.

“Can I touch your breasts?” he asked, suddenly, out of the blue, out of nowhere.

I felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me. “What?” I asked him, and I hunched my shoulders over to make my breasts look smaller. They were already extremely large; I was already self-conscious of them. “No,” I added, once I came to the full realization that he had really asked that.

He seemed undeterred. “Please?” he asked. “Why not?”

I remember being mostly incredulous that he asked that. I think I laughed. I asked him if he was joking, and told him no again, more firmly, and probably with whatever kind of strong language passed for a swear in my very stuffy preteen mind.

He told me that he just wanted to see what it felt like.

I told him no, repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms. I am pretty sure I told him that was gross.

And then he reached out, and grabbed my breast, and squeezed it, with all five of his fingers. And then dropped his hand, and described it to his friend, as if I wasn’t even there anymore, now that he’d gotten what he’d wanted. I remember him saying it didn’t feel any different from any other body part, and sort of squishy.

I remember my face going completely hot, and I remember being struck dumb. I’d told him no, over and over again, and he didn’t listen.

I was lucky, I guess, that we were in a public place, even if it was fairly empty, and that my parents were on their way to pick me up, and that all he wanted was to touch my breast, because if he’d asked for something else, he clearly didn’t seem interested in taking no for an answer.

I have never written out this story in detail. I have mentioned it in passing a few times. I did drop out of peer tutoring in high school when I was assigned to tutor him. I couldn’t bring myself to tell the advisor why I was dropping out. I just explained that I was too busy.

I was wearing knee-length culottes and a short-sleeved top with a high neckline. It was black, and dressy, and conservative. It was not low-cut, or high-cut, or tight, or fitted. Because men (and boys) don’t take our clothing as an invitation. They take our existence as an invitation. A man who wants to humiliate a woman, or touch a woman in a way she doesn’t want to be touched doesn’t think about a woman as being a person with feelings and wishes of her own to be respected. He doesn’t care what she is wearing.

This wasn’t the last time this happened to me, although it was certainly the most shocking. That outfit was only the first in a line of outfits that I have taken home, and crumpled up on the floor of my closet, and been unable to bring myself to wear again. Because even when I know the things I’ve said above, girls are taught that it’s either something they’re wearing, or something they’re doing. I know it’s not. But it’s still easier to blame it on the clothes, even when the clothes were knee-length, high-necked, black, dressy and conservative.

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.

Tags: about me, feminism, memoir, politics
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