When I was thirteen my father owned an apartment building. We lived downstairs, Marcus lived upstairs. I used to hang out with Marcus because my dad was at work all day and Dad liked Marcus—he had been the one to suggest that we become friends. My mother would never let me hang out alone with a man but my father knew he could trust me. Marcus was eighteen or twenty and had already graduated from high school (a real grown up!) so he would never think of me as a girlfriend because I was so young. I wasn't even in high school yet. This is how girls think when they are thirteen.
One day Marcus pinned me against his bed and pushed his tongue into my mouth and his body was big—so big I couldn’t push him away—though I tried. I struggled and I thrashed my head from side to side as he lay on me kissing and kissing and grinding on my virgin body through our clothes. I didn’t know men did this—I thought he was a grown up, and I thought that meant I was safe with him. He had a full time job at the hospital, was respected by my dad (the doctor) and wearing white scrubs. I had kissed three boys, nothing else so far. My entire sexual experience at that point was just kissing.
The only reason he stopped grinding and kissing was because I got my fuchsia lipstick (carefully applied, after I curled my hair that morning) on his work uniform. Then he was mad enough that I thought he would hit me. He didn’t. The point was, he chose to stop kissing me and holding me down and rubbing against me. The only choice I made was in wearing bright lipstick. I ran away and he washed his shirt. If you asked him today, his only regret would be the lipstick, not the holding me down part. He probably still thinks I owe him a new shirt.
When I was twenty-six, I ran into a friend of my boyfriend’s at a bar. He held me against the wall in the back hallway. I was on my way to the bathroom. He trapped me between his arms and forced his tongue into my mouth and I kissed him back, because I didn’t want to anger him. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to risk pissing him off, so I kissed him back until I could escape to the ladies’ room.
When I was forty-one I met a close friend of my new boyfriend. We played bocce, and I was on his team. My boyfriend was seventy-three feet away. And this friend of my boyfriend told me, “I’d love to bend you over and fuck your ass right here.” And I smiled and joked because I didn’t want to see what would happen if I wasn’t charming. I had already learned how to evade. It wasn’t by being strong. I’m 5’7”. I’m not tiny. But not I am big enough to win a struggle with a man.
And this is the sort of man who is our president-elect. A man who bragged about walking in on teenaged beauty pageant contestants. A man who said, “Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
I have been grabbed. I wasn’t raped. I was just plain lucky. I was fit and lithe and young and I had muscles and they weren’t enough. I wasn’t raped only because of the mercy of the man who held me down. And our president-elect is a man who holds girls down and kisses them.
I won’t lie there and kiss back this time. This time, I will know not to let him follow me down the hall to the bathroom. This time I will know that eighteen-year-old men and thirteen-year-old girls are never just friends. This time, I’m forty-three and no longer of interest to men like them, if I’m lucky.
Let’s not fool ourselves. My bravery is only metaphoric. In the flesh, of course I am not that strong. I learned and relearned that it is easier to let a guy grab you by the pussy and not fight. I learned that when they want to kiss you, you go along, and wait to escape. Acquiescence is my only hope.
Hillary wasn’t my ideal candidate. I didn’t believe in her the way some of my friends did. I voted for her for many reasons, but perhaps the simplest way to describe it is that I knew she would never grab my pussy. And with our president-elect I have no such reassurances.
Copyright © 2024 Lara Lillibridge
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