Ick. Just ick. I’m angry. And I feel gross. And did I mention I’m angry?
A little back story.
Late last month I had a “big” birthday – I’ve entered my second half-century on this planet. I’m a firm believer that every birthday is a good one. Each birthday spent in good health is a “win.” I’ve never shied away from telling people my age – it’s just a number. But this one held some gravitas for me. Not completely sure why, but it’s probably multifactorial. Part of it is that I’ve now entered the age of invisibility in the media – ads on T.V. for anything fun feature people my sons’ ages. There’s no beer commercial featuring 50-year-old women having a good time watching a football game. Part of it is that my 40s were really good, and I’m a touch sad to see them go (not that my 50s can’t be just as good, if not better).
So anyway, Doug and I went out of town for this occasion. I made my birthday temporarily invisible on Facebook. It was, of course, lovely to get birthday wishes from family and close friends, but I was not inundated by reminders of my age by hundreds of people who only knew it was my birthday because of a social media prompt. I played my hand close to my chest, deeply enjoyed a vacation with the love of my life, marveled at the beauty of mountains and oceans, and quietly contemplated the fact that women with grey “highlights” like mine have bit parts in television shows as someone’s mom or as some random administrator in a hospital, but almost never a main role.
As kids-these-days say, “whatevs.” Every grey hair on my head has been well-earned, I am deeply satisfied with my life, Doug and I have raised three pretty spectacular human beings, and I have another half-century’s worth left to give to society, both personally and professionally, fun-media-demographics be damned.
And hey, if I’m in the no-longer-sexy demographic, at least I don’t have to deal with unwanted male sexual assholery anymore, right?
Which brings me back to my feeling-gross/icky/angry introductory sentiments.
I may be a bit understated in my descriptions because, as a woman-of-a-certain-age, I of course have a certain level of propriety in my speech and demeanor, so due to my expressive subtleties you may have to stretch a bit to grasp the intensity of my feelings in this story:
I work out in a pool three mornings a week. My regular fitness center was closed today, so I went to the branch in a glitzy suburb a few miles north. I arrived early enough to get in a quick dozen freestyle laps before the Aquafit class started. I pulled up for air at the end of my swim, and took a minute to catch my breath. As I did this, some man was taking down the lane marker so the pool would be ready for the group fitness aqua class. He looked at me, started talking about how he might be screwing the lane line hook the wrong way, and asked me how I was. I said “fine thanks, how are you?” to which he replied (I kid you not): “Much better now that I see your beautiful blue eyes.”
Um, what the ever-loving fuck? I did not know this guy. This was not someone with whom I had a friendly, joking relationship. This was a total stranger in a pool.
I gave a one-eyebrow-raised look of shock, hopped out of the pool, and went to rinse off my goggles before the class started. I got back in the pool, with about 30 other people, as the class began. The guy seemed to know a bunch of the people there. I kept my distance, and noticed him eyeing me not infrequently.
The class involves a lot of movement and travel around the pool. I’m fairly fast, so was able to stay away from the dude for the first part of the session. Then the instructor handed out the water-dumbbells for the second part. I nabbed a pair, and made my way towards the shallower end of the pool. I was filling my dumbbells up with water as I headed away from the deep area, and noticed I was approaching where the man was now standing. I made a sharp right to go around him, and as I did, the motherfucker reached one of his dumbbells out under the water and hit me on the ass with it.
Again: What. The. Ever-. Loving. Fuck?!?!
I gave him a glare that would have frozen molten lava, and placed myself several people away from him for the remainder of the class.
I have been armchair quarterbacking the play-by-play in my head the rest of the day.
After class, I felt like I could not shower enough – just felt disgusting. Soaped and rinsed three times.
Went to the front desk on my way out and asked to speak with a manager. The lady at the front desk asked what it was regarding. “A creep,” I told her. She stepped to the side with me and asked what had happened. I relayed the story to her. She said she was very glad I said something, and went to get the manager. Told the story to the manager, who also said she was glad I told them, and wrote down my description of the jackass. We looked at a few pictures of people who had signed in that day, but not everyone swipes in and his picture was not there. The manager said she thinks she knows who I was talking about, and would get the sign-ins from last week and will call and have me come in to look at a picture and make an I.D.
So I didn’t let it go, but I should have played this better.
I should have said something about the impropriety of his comment as soon as he said it. When the pig had the audacity to touch me, I should have yelled loudly right then for him to keep his hands to himself. Or given him a punch to the throat. Kind of a toss-up on that one. Or I should have said something immediately to the instructor.
I fed into, and by doing so, contributed (just a skosh) to the fucking rape culture that still fucking exists in this country in 20-fucking-19. I didn’t want to make a scene. I wanted to give his inappropriate comment the benefit of the doubt – maybe he was just socially awkward and trying to be “nice.” And the fucker was really big – at least 6 feet tall and probably 250-300 pounds – I was actually physically intimidated by him and didn’t want to piss him off. So he got away with it. He got to keep his sense of entitlement.
If this prick feels comfortable enough to behave as he did in a natatorium with 30 other people around, what would he have felt comfortable enough to do if he had crossed paths with me in an unpopulated parking lot? What else does this fucker feel entitled to do? Who the fuck does he think he is?
No, it wasn’t rape. Not even close. But it was disgusting. It was threatening. It rammed down my throat a reminder that this world is full of pig-men who think that women exist for their pleasure and amusement. A reminder that rooms full of men make laws about my body, so that if this pig were to rape me, he could be assured that I’d have to carry his child if he impregnated me (and yes, I still ovulate). So I spent some time today contemplating whether, with the current multi-state attacks on women’s reproductive freedom, I and all women who are done having children should take on the risks of having our uteri, ovaries, and Fallopian tubes surgically removed (since nothing else is 100%) to take away some of the potential power of rapists in a society that is moving back towards treating women as incubators and chattel. The repulsive, entitled behavior and the reproductive legislation is undeniably linked.
My eldest son, when I told him about today, asked if I had “kicked him in the fucking balls,” and assured me that he’d immediately post my bail if I were ever in such a situation again and reacted with that particular maneuver. My middle son stressed that this asshole should have no power over me and my feelings – that if I’m upset by him, then he’s won, and I should write and process and then try to let it go and let myself feel strong. My youngest made me lunch and spent the day next to me.
All three of my sons, and husband, and my brother, used the same exact words when I finished telling them about today: they all said “I’m really sorry you had to deal with that asshole.”
Not all men. Definitely not all men. But the disgusting few, that repugnant segment that thrives on wielding their perceived power over others, makes me want to puke.
I’m fine. I will not allow that dick to cause me any more stress (and if I were to feel ongoing or undue stress, I’d be sure to debrief with a professional). I will make sure the athletic club identifies who he is so that it’s on record and if someone else complains about his assholery in the future it will be a documented pattern. Fuck him. And next time I will have the presence of mind to say something in the moment. I’m 50, for fuck’s sake, and I’ll say what needs to be said.