I came at my son with a yellow legal pad a week before he was scheduled to go away to college.
I didn’t want to wait until the day before or burden him while he was imprisoned in the car with me for the long ride. I needed to do my duty, read him his rights, duties, and responsibilities. I needed to know that he knows stuff — because he heard it from me.
One of the many topics I addressed was the issue of college campus sexual assaults on women. Fun, huh?
I started with saying that I have no reason to think that he would do any of this stuff I was about to talk about, but that
I have to have said it, and
He has to listen.
The boy shook his head, gave the kind of chuckle that told he knew he didn’t have a choice, and I talked. This is what I said, and I hope, I so hope, that he really heard me:
1. If she’s too drunk to say no, then she’s too drunk to say yes. If anyone does anything to a woman while she is incapable of consenting, it’s rape.
2. If she appears to be consenting, but also appears to be inebriated (or drugged) to the extent that her spoken consent, even her requests or begging for physical attention, are not made wisely, then walk away. Guys can say no, too. It’s not passing up on the only opportunity. Some situations are just not right and absolutely not worth it. “Nope, you’re too drunk.” Wise words.
3. Consent can be withdrawn, at any time. And it can have limits. A person can consent to one thing, but not another. She can consent to one guy, but not another. If there’s ever a no, everything stops.
4. No matter what a women wears, or what she has done in the past, or how she dances, or even if she flashes, or offers to put on a show for the guys, no one has the right to touch her in any way unless she gives consent, real consent, anew, each time.
5. Be a hero. “You think you’re a superhero anyway, so be a hero,” is what I said.
If you see other guys violating these rules , do not walk away.
Women usually travel in packs. If a girl is in trouble or heading that way, find one of her girlfriends and tell her. It can be as simple as,
“Go get your girl, she needs to get out of here.”
Her true friends will take her back to her dorm. If there’s no time for that, you can, I told him, directly stop the guy or guys from crossing the line. It doesn’t have to be a big scene or physical, just a,
“Dude, she’s too drunk, she said no, let her go,” should suffice.
And, get her out of there.
Now, as an attorney mother of a boy, I must say that I’m not entirely comfortable with him being the one last seen leaving alone with a woman — drunk or sober — who was about to be or has been assaulted. The real perpetrators or their buddies might try to redirect the blame to my son, the one who was actually the hero, as the man last seen with a victim of assault.
“She was fine when she was here, but she left with him,”
— is not something I want my superhero son to have to defend or discredit. There is safety in numbers — and witnesses.
So I advised him to go ahead and remove a woman from harm — publicly — then find girlfriends and if necessary call someone with authority — a Resident Advisor, Campus Police, or Security, or actual police. Do the right thing, be a hero, but do it safely for her and for yourself.
I told him that it’s just not okay to allow, ignore, or leave someone in danger. Remaining silent is morally wrong, encouraging it can be criminal.
Yes, I re-watched The Accused over the Summer. Thanks, Netflix. I think.
I want my son to learn and have fun in college, and be respectful, mindful, helpful, do the right thing, and be a hero if necessary. That’s not so much to ask.
Just Me With . . . words of advice for my son.
This was only one part of the multi-page outline I approached him with, poor kid.
I pray he never has to use this advice, but if a bad situation presents itself, I hope he remembers what his mama taught him, and also what Shawn Spencer said in one of his favorite shows, Psych:
You know that’s right.
Here’s a fun fact: As children grow they develop fine motor skills.
So I did what everybody does, I told him, scolded him really:
“Do not ever unbuckle your car seat. It is not safe. Do you understand me? You will get a time-out for that! It is very, very, very important. Do you understand? ”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Him: “Yes, Momma.” He still called me Momma then.
He could tell when Momma wasn’t messing around. I was using my stern voice, my serious face and my angry eyes. Mission accomplished.
But my little Houdini is not my only kid. I had had five kids in all. The three-year-old was just the oldest. Twin girls, twice, came after. Yes, They are Twins, Yes, they are Twins, Too. Consequently, we didn’t get out much. Taking a preschooler, two toddlers and two infants to any store — well, this was not an outing that a person takes lightly. So sometimes when I had to run errands and my mother was with me we would buckle the kids in the car and my mom would stay with them while I would run in and out of stores. It got us out of the house, sometimes the kids would get their naps using this method, and it gave me a little break.
The very next day after the car seat unbuckling incident and lecture, my mom and I decided to load the kids and run some errands. We pulled into the local pharmacy and I ran in. As per usual, my Mom stayed with them in the car. I was gone only a few minutes.
When I came out, my mom was standing outside of the car, all five kids were still strapped in — inside.
The doors were closed.
“This can’t be good,” I thought.
My mother was distraught. Almost in tears.
“I can’t get in.” She said. “The babies started to cry and I got out to calm them down. I — I — I — closed the door . . . and now it’s locked.”
We, the adults, were locked out. The children were locked in. Turns out I was right. This wasn’t good. The keys were in the car.
I tried not to panic. After all, the car was running and the air conditioning was on, so they wouldn’t cook in there . . . but still, it’s not good to leave five children alone in a car and I didn’t know how much gas I had.
Options: I could run home and get an extra set of keys. But that would take too long, and my mother was losing it. I didn’t want to leave her alone with the kids. My husband was never really available during the day and worked too far away, anyway. I could call my Dad to do it, but he’s hard to get a hold of . . . so . . . I guess I’d have to call the police to break into the car. This was not a proud moment. “Why? Why, do I ever leave the house?” I wondered.
Well, hello there, Mr. Panic.
Then I remembered — my son — the big boy, the one who has motor skills!!! The boy can get out of his car seat and unlock the door!!! He has the ability. He has the manual dexterity. I’ve seen him do it — just yesterday. “It was worth a try,” I thought.
And so . . . one day after having scolded the boy for unbuckling his car seat and making him promise never to do it again —
I begged, “Honey,” I spoke kindly but loudly through the closed window, “Momma wants you to UNBUCKLE YOUR CAR SEAT and UNLOCK the door!”
He looked away from me. “Clearly,” his three-year-old mind must have reasoned, “This is some sort of test and I’m not going to fall for it, nope nope.”
I cooed, “No Honey, it’s okay, it’s okay, really, Momma says it’s okay, PLEASE get out and let us in. Please, you won’t be in trouble!!!! I promise!!!!”
I saw him roll his eyes toward the ceiling, away from me. His hands stayed at his sides. He was more still than any three-year-old could possibly be. It was impressive, really.
My mother was crying by this time and apologizing, she felt really, really badly. But I had to get to the kids.
Me to my statue-like son, “Honey, please. Please!!!!!! It’s okay, I promise. Get out of your car seat. Momma needs you to get out of your car seat! PLEASE!!!”
This child would not even acknowledge that I was talking to him. Again, it was impressive. And comical. I had literally just made him promise never to get himself out of his car seat and here I was begging him to do just that. It was like a sitcom.
“Pleeeeeeease!!!! Momma says it’s okay.” But that boy was NOT going to fall for my obvious trickery. “Momma said no,” he must have thought, “Momma said no.”
We had started to draw a crowd. I was beginning to tear up, too. The girls were useless, too young to manipulate their car seats, arms to short to reach the locks. And . . . they’d started to cry again.
This was not good.
In the end, my obedient son never unbuckled his car seat. Some nice gentleman drove me home (I wasn’t far, and thankfully I’d left the house unlocked). I got my spare keys and everybody was fine.
—- Except my mother. It took her a long time to recover.
We didn’t go out for a while after that and when we did, no matter what the kids were doing, my mother never got out of the car again.
Just Me With . . . five car seats, a mom, and a son who had learned his lesson, damn it.
On Twitter I dubbed it “The New Walk of Shame for The Single Woman — Going Out Alone,” though there’s nothing really shameful about it. It’s just not something that I want to be so . . . obvious, or frequent for that matter. But of course it is what it is.
Still, as I walked out of my house in the ‘burbs, wearing a little black top, jeans and heels on a Saturday evening right before nightfall, I felt the little ick. Perhaps under cover of darkness I would have felt differently. After all, I was just going out. I wasn’t turning tricks or anything. (Ironically, even prostitutes are usually getting into a car with someone. Not me. Solo all the way.) Still, I felt weird, exposed.
In the first place, I hadn’t felt like going out at all. I was exhausted and frankly, tired of going places alone, tired of driving. I also hadn’t been sleeping well and had forgotten to eat — again. See, Confessions of a Skinny Mom. Additionally, I tend to be “melancholy” (sounds so much better than clinically depressed) and it’s hard for me to get out — yet that is exactly what I must do, or so I’m told. Plus, I really hate driving and this was going to be about a thirty minute ride. On the other hand, had I stayed home, well, there may have been tears or chores or nothing special, followed by guilt and anger for the tears, chores or nothing special. See Weekends Off. I would have beaten myself up for not going out on the one of two nights a month when the kids are gone and when this time, coincidentally– luckily, there was actually someplace where I could go — alone. Oh yeah, there was a whole carnival fun house of competing emotions going on my head. So I forced myself to go out. This again is where it is helpful to have people with you. When required to meet someone or when a friend is picking you up, you can’t bail. That little voice that says “just stay home” is naturally squelched. But when going out alone, well, a woman can change her mind at the last minute. A woman’s prerogative. No one would be disappointed, no one would be left waiting, no one would be the wiser. I confess that I have driven myself places, or attempted to drive myself places and gotten lost, not found parking, etc. and ended up turning around and going home without ever having left the car. This has happened, more than once.
On this particular night I got the ick walking to my car. It probably hadn’t helped that I’d just watched the Season Five Sex And The City Episode where Carrie does not have a “Plus One” for her big book release party and admits to loneliness, Charlotte admits to not liking the sound of talking about her divorce and Miranda avoids telling a man she’s become a mother. All three of those hit home for me.
So as I walked to my car to go out, my feeling was somewhat reminiscent of the traditional “Walk of Shame” home that a woman makes in broad daylight, wearing the same clothes from the night before. That look screams: “You had somebody last night, you were doing something all night, but now you’re on your own, and everybody knows it.”
I felt like the walk to my car in daylight and heels screamed: “Single woman, all alone and trying to get some action.” It’s my own paranoia, fueled by the fact that I’ve been known to “people watch,” and I know that if I saw myself going out like that in daylight — alone on a Saturday evening— I’d say,
“I wonder where she’s going?“
I just wanted to get in my car as quickly as possible.
I realize that the fact that I play music gives me a huge advantage for going out alone. Music provides me with night-time activities, like jam sessions, or going out to listen to other musicians I know play, where I can have a really good excuse for being alone, even in bars. This particular event was a jam session/fundraiser for a music studio run by a guy I’d gone to school with many years ago. I’m on his mailing list and get impersonal invitations all the time. I’d never gone before. I’d never really seriously considered going. But this was going to be the night that I would actually go, damn it. I felt obligated — not to him — but to me. It was a timing thing. It was a night I could go, and a place to go.
The studio was at a location I’d never been to, in the part of the city where I’ve gotten lost more than once. But it is a new world now. I wasn’t really traveling alone, not anymore — now I had my new best friend Miss GPS, who right now is a very polite British woman. Let’s call her Emma. Emma tells me when to turn and when to “take the Motorway.” I programmed Emma and she guided my journey. Once I “reached my destination” and parked, I checked in with my Twitter friends, who were giving me the thumbs up for going out alone.
Okay. Lipstick on, glasses off. Valuables (meaning Emma) hidden, car locked. I retrieved the entry code for the security door from my email invitation and was ready to go. Following the prompts, I entered the code on the door.
Unfortunately, the call went directly to voicemail, which was full! Crap. No one was answering to buzz me in.
I tried again, repeatedly. This is when having someone with me might have been helpful. You know, someone to complain to, bounce ideas off of . . . someone to make me not look so stupid. I mean, picture it, a woman alone, dressed for going out, in an iffy neighborhood, standing in front of a building and —– no one is buzzing her in!
Tragic, I tell you. Tragic.
I went back to the safety of my car. Safe, that is, from the public humiliation of being rejected by a security entry door. I was about to tweet about my epic failure of the night and go home, when, out of the corner of my eye I saw that someone had opened the door. It was my Knight in Shining Armor (or, more accurately, some guy in a Lucky Brand Jeans Tee-Shirt)! Yay! Someone had been sent down to let me in! My calls were not unanswered! I was not going to be left alone in my car to do the drive of shame back home. I was going in!
The Lucky Brand guy whom I’d never met showed me upstairs in the not completely renovated warehouse type building, walking me down long narrow hallways of exposed brick. We took the freight elevator up. I wondered for a moment whether I should have told someone where I was going so that if I were to say — go missing — my loved ones would have a general location to give to the police for questioning.
But no worries, I safely entered the studio, full of people who were not scary. I panicked for a split second when I didn’t see the only guy I expected to know. But he was there, and when he saw me, he gave me a hug and said,
“What a nice surprise.”
First part of my mission had been accomplished. I had arrived, alone, albeit slightly overdressed. But I was there. Doing the visual room check it appeared that most people came with someone, of course. Some were couples, some were related, some were friends. While the people were open with introductions, they mostly talked to each other. I immediately joined the jam, avoiding the standing alone awkwardness. When I wasn’t playing I parked myself in an area to watch and listen (and where, by design, I didn’t have to talk). One other good (or bad) thing about music events is that a person can be there and never really have a conversation at all and, more importantly, the lack of conversation is not so obvious. This makes my attendance “minus a Plus One” a little less alone, and it comes as quite a relief to my road dog, Ms. Social Anxiety, who is often with me, even if no one else can see her . . . bwa ha ha ha.
In the end, though, I got out of the house, out of my neighborhood, and stepped out of the box (a different type of music, even played a different instrument for a little while). Plus, I do love music. And it is absolutely true that music brings people together without any talking at all — it breaks down both language and more importantly for me, social barriers, and really, how cool is that?
My English Electronic Friend Emma and I returned home safely — under cover of darkness.
Just Me With . . . no shame after a night out, alone.
And I got hit on . . . Where Did I Put My Fake Boyfriend?