The first adult penis I saw was attached to a complete perv who decided it would be thrilling for him to pull it out his Dolphin shorts (1980) and hang upside down on the monkey bars at the park where I was playing with one of my best friends. I also took in the rest of him. Strawberry orangish hair, beard, glasses. His artistic choice to upgrade his perp factor by hanging upside down, made the sad little member all the more ridiculous. Even to ten year old me.
I didn’t freeze. I didn’t get scared. I got emboldened. Perhaps a fight and flight hybrid. My friend and I hopped on our bikes and decided that on the count of three we would yell-
as loud as we possibly could. And we did, watching him over our shoulders as we biked quickly away, exhilarated, frankly, by our victory.
Later that day, after my mom called the cops, we also felt a sense of pity towards the young police officer who was clearly so uncomfortable asking us questions about the “incident.” The juvenile officer was blushing and embarrassed, and I remember thinking, even then, that his uncomfortable visit to our home to question us was a waste of time. To this day, I could tell a sketch artist exactly what that man, all of him, looked like.
The second time some asshole whipped it out in front of me was that same year not even a block from my home, where I was, again, riding my bike (which in hindsight I now see was my getaway vehicle on too many occasions). He pulled up next to me in his shitty brown sedan and asked for directions to a street that was literally yards ahead. Except for his pants were below his knees and he was sporting a boner, its ridiculous ugliness jetting straight up. The whole scene was ugly and confusing.
But again. I didn’t freeze.
Flight kicked in, and I hopped back on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could out of there.
There are too many of these stories. My friends who grew up in New York City have too many to count. And they become more insidious when they cross the line from creepy stranger to colleague, boss, or even friend.
As a mother to two daughters, I have been trying to figure out what in ten year old me had the wherewithal to know that she had the power to get the f away from trouble. It is a conversation we have in our house. A lot. From the time they were little, we talked about listening to your gut, that voice inside, that “uh-oh feeling” as some parenting experts describe.
That voice? It’s almost always spot on. But some of us push it down.
In recent weeks so many women have been speaking up about having that feeling. On the way up to Harvey Weinstein’s room for “a meeting.” With a boss or colleague. A teacher. A mentor. No arena seems to be spared.
Now is the time to get so loud about this.
LIKE SO LOUD.
I am hoping women and men of our generation can put a stop to this so that my daughters and girls like them do not have to move through the world on high alert at all times. These stories have shed a light on how exhausting it is to be a girl or woman in the world. Always with peripheral vision in play. Turning down the music on the headphones when running to be on the ready. Positioning yourself in work meetings just right. Gaze lifted and a little bit of that “Do Not Fuck With Me” expression on at all times.
Now is the time to stop all of it in its tracks. All of it.
Not all girls and women have the same reaction. Some do freeze. Some are victimized for reasons that no one of us should judge. But those of us who have a rambunctious, loud, bike riding ten year old inside them must speak up. And not stop speaking up. Until this is no longer the norm. We have to. This needs to end.