Sunday, January 29, 2017

I'm a Lady

On New Year's Eve, I went to a friend's house party. This is a house I'd been in plenty of times before, a house I could navigate blindfolded should the need ever present itself. Between the ages of eleven and twenty-one, I'd been in this house countless times, accompanied by a diverse crowd of friends and acquaintances.

It was around 9:30 when I walked into the house for the first time that night, dressed in a sparkly frock and high-heels, as is only appropriate for the most glitzy holiday of the year. After exchanging pleasantries with the few people who were just starting to gather, the first words out of my mouth were, "Who wants a tequila shot?" This was followed by another tequila shot (and then maybe another tequila shot?), two heavy-handed vodka cranberries I mixed myself, and a cheap beer shotgunned on the porch in lieu of a new year's kiss. I was, admittedly, drunk. I was also of legal drinking age, within walking distance of my house, among friends, and celebrating the end to a year universally acknowledged to be pretty lackluster.

I was talking and laughing and being the giddy, funny, slightly ditzy girl I turn into when alcohol enters my system. When I start to drink, I turn into everyone's best friend. I talk at a decibel that is objectively annoying, but I think every joke is funny and my dance moves are magically much better than usual. I think he probably noticed the happy-go-lucky girl kissing her friends on the cheek and screaming the lyrics to the Beyonce song playing through the speakers.

The first time he came up to me, I was alone. I was sitting on the kitchen counter (a habit of drunk me), taking a personal minute to drink water and fade into the background for a moment. He struck up a conversation, I couldn't tell you about what, but I know I found it dull. It must've been some generic calling-card question about the weather or my resolutions, but what I do remember was an unwelcome touch on my thigh. But I'm a lady and my parents always tell me that I'm too much of an "ice queen" around boys, so I brushed it off and tried to make do with the fragmented bits of indigestible conversation. I tried to smile and nod along to his boring commentary until I saw one of my friends in the distance. I waited until there was a natural lull in the conversation to excuse myself --again, I'm a lady, so I wouldn't just dart away-- jump down from the counter, and go talk to someone who could hold my attention. This continued throughout the night: he'd come up to me, make some painful conversation, I'd nod or laugh or give a non-committal answer, then flee the scene when given the chance. It's not that he was creeping me out, but he wasn't holding my attention. And it was a party after all: I came to have a good time.

Around 1 a.m., one of my best friends was growing tired. She needed a minute to be away from the natural chaos of a suburban house party, and I was more than happy to oblige her desire to slip away into the basement for a bit. She, like me, knew the house well. We knew the way downstairs, we knew how to escape for a bit. I told her about the guy I didn't know who wouldn't stop trying to flirt with me, and how I was growing more and more uncomfortable with it. She told me I looked "hot" and flirting was inevitable, even when I told her I was putting out what were, in my opinion, pretty clear "I'm not interested" vibes.

Then the song came on: "Sugar, We're Going Down" by Fall Out Boy. One of my favorite songs from my angsty youth, a song that you can't help but acknowledge. I begged her to go upstairs and dance with me, she said she was too tired. But I was drunk and, as I said earlier, convinced that my moves were perfection, so I went by myself, getting a rug burn on my knee from eagerly pawing up the stairs.

It didn't take more than ten seconds of dancing on my own for him to appear right in front of me. He took my waist in his hands; he wanted to dance with me. I immediately longed for my own space, but I'm a lady and it's just dancing, so I figured no harm no foul. I kept my hands to myself, because I needed them to emphatically fist bump and vaguely point while screaming the lyrics. He insisted on spinning me around and looking at me like I was an art exhibit, and I tried to convince myself to be flattered. Then in the final chorus of the song, while he was laughing at how loudly I was singing, he looked me in the eye and declared "Ooooookay....I'm gonna kiss you now!"

The kiss was, admittedly, not the best I've had (kisses fueled by tequila are never great) but it was the entitlement that made me run. First downstairs to tell my friend how grossed out I was, then to collect my belongings and slip out quietly. On the five-minute walk back to my house I kept telling myself that it was no big deal; girls get dressed up, go out, and get kissed all the time. I was acting like a baby, when I should be acting like a lady. But I wasn't even convincing myself.

The next morning, I felt gross, but that felt unjustified. I told myself I hadn't been assaulted (or anything close) but it was maybe, maybe, something along the lines of assault. I was an inactive party in something this random guy decided to do. Even if it's just a kiss: if it's not wanted, it's not wanted.

That's really what it boils down to: I'm tired of guys assuming they're allowed to act on us. Even if it's not technically assault or harassment or rape, it's some dude's decision to do things to us, without our go-ahead. It's the amount of entitlement in the phrasing of "I'm gonna kiss you now" as if I had no say in the matter; because he's a man and I'm a lady, it's his call. Maybe if I was sober and aware or at least reciprocating it'd be a different story, but even then it's not your call. Trust me, I'll make it obvious if I want to kiss you. I didn't.

I'm tired of guys deciding they're going to kiss us. Guys deciding they're going to come up behind us at a club. They're going to buy us dinner so we can repay them. I've had men I don't know grab at my waist when I'm leaving a bar, I've had boys I just met put their hand in my pants on the dance floor of an Irish pub. And because I'm a lady, I'm supposed to just laugh it off, say my "no!" with a smile and a glimmer in my eye. Because otherwise, what am I? Oh yeah, that's right: a bitch, a slut, a cunt...whatever vocab term is popular in the misogyny circle that particular evening.

And here's the thing: he wasn't a bad guy. He didn't attack me. Not the boy in the pub, not the man in the bar, not the guy at the house party. But they are guys that I wasn't attracted to. Guys I wasn't saying yes to. Guys who decided my say-so wasn't part of the equation.

Because I'm a lady, and when's the last time we asked a lady how she felt?

No comments :

Post a Comment