I read that the best way men can use the #metoo hash tag is to tell the stories of abuse; expose it and own it, so here goes mine…
I was twelve years old, in standard five (now called grade seven) in Miss Godsiff’s class at John Graham Primary School, in Plumstead, Cape Town. I was a shy boy who just wanted to be left alone, shy especially of girls. Two girls who sat behind me in class, [Redacted] and her friend, always used to tease me by breaking off bits of pencil eraser and throwing it at the back of my head. I hated that, hated being teased. (I’m not mentioning the name of [Redacted]’s friend, because she has the same first name as the other girl, who I touched.)
To reiterate, I was dreadfully shy. I hated going to school, and would stress about it, have bad dreams about being teased by girls. Guys, I could handle, because if a guy teased me, I’d simply hit him. I had not yet found how to use words effectively, so when girls teased me, all I could do was beg for them to stop.
We sat in those small wooden two-seater desks, and on this particular day, another girl decided to tease me. She sat in the seat to my left and proceeded to make fun of me. I don’t even remember what she said, and it couldn’t have been for more than two or three minutes.
So in a moment of anger, I reached over with my left hand. With my hand under the seat, I reached up, my fingertips brushing her dress between her legs. She leapt from her seat! Literally she shot up into the air, and called me a pervert, then went to sit somewhere else and left me alone. She never teased me again, and at that point in time, I was happy because I’d made her uncomfortable just as she had done to me.
But I’ve thought of the incident over and over again, in the years since 1984. How messed up is it, that I thought being uncomfortable from being teased, and being uncomfortable from having a hand shoved towards your vagina, are equivalent? Those two things are not the same, nowhere near the same. For what it’s worth if you read this, I am sorry. I am so sorry, and have been sorry since 1984. I didn’t even quite touch you directly, and my intentions were not as dire as many may be, but the end result was the same.
I was good at athletics back then, and after that, whether I was winning the 100 meter sprint, or completing the school cross country, I’d see her there, cheering me on and calling my name. So stupid… it didn’t occur to me, not even then, that she’d teased me because she liked me.
Ironically, though I’ve lost contact with most of my old school friends and acquaintances, both [Redacted] and the woman whose name I won’t mention, are in my friends list on Facebook. I hope they read this. I don’t expect the apology to be accepted, but I am sorry, and I learned that day that I should never do such a thing again.
Edit: I knew writing anyone’s name was a mistake… I have removed the girl’s name that I shared, since she contacted me and would prefer it not be there, especially since this post has already been shared several times. Apologies for the sloppy editing.
In case there was any misunderstanding, her name (just the first name) was included to make this more personal, and place the incident in context. (As opposed to “One day when I was 12 years old, I was pissed off so I stuck my hand up a girl’s dress”, which really doesn’t cut it for a blog post.) I wasn’t blaming her teasing me for my actions. It was meant to highlight how a troubled child might construe anything as an excuse. It was more about me being anxious and shy than her being annoying. Funny how she didn’t even remember any of it… that habit of her and her friend throwing bits of rubber at the back of my head pissed me off for months. Also, her friend who also sat behind me, didn’t really share the same first name as the girl who was the victim of my temper. It just started with the same letter. (I do sometimes embellish irrelevant details if it helps the story.) There, now there are no embellishments here.
(Why do I remember so many things, so many years later?)
The point of this is to share my wrongdoing, however slight it may seem to some, in the spirit of the #metoo hash tag… to confess to doing my part to the detriment of women, in the hope that other men may be inspired to share their wrongdoings as well. Admittedly it wasn’t much of a wrongdoing, as I was a child. But it’s still something. It’s still touching a girl without her consent, and could have resulted in trauma to her.
Was this post a bad idea? Please feel free to let me know in the comments. This blog is getting a fair amount of traffic now… around two to three hundred views a day, which is a fair amount for me anyway. Old posts receive a large portion of that traffic too, which means I cannot gauge from the page views whether a post is good or not. A couple of years ago I could, but not any more. Without feedback, I don’t really know…