Story N˚ 23: The Disappearing Act

The #metoo movement has inspired me to think of my own history of being sexually abused and harassed. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered it blatantly as an adult; I think because I mainly work with women and gay men. I understand that abuses occur with women and gay men too, but I have been fortunate in my surroundings. Or I have learned to fly under the radar of straight men…

What I want to connect to sexual harassment, assault, rape, etc. is what I see as a result of said abuses: the disappearing act that occurs in some girls and women. There is a disconnect from our bodies. Maybe we put on weight, and then start wearing large, shapeless clothing, usually black, to hide.  Clearly, not all girls wearing black, slouchy clothes have been abused, but some of us who have will do anything to make ourselves invisible.

My sex abuse/harassment history started when I was very young. The most memorable event was a playground scene, when I was 10 years old, that still makes me bristle. My friends and I were playing in the middle of the yard surrounded by the swings and jungle gym. Suddenly, a boy in my class, Bruce, started running at me from across the field. He hit into me full force and grabbed me between the legs. I pushed him away and he dashed off to do it again and again, hitting me full force with his body and clamping his hand on my crotch. I couldn’t believe what was happening. My classmates had all stopped to look on, and I could hear them making comments to each other. I was hysterical with shame and panic. Finally, our teacher called us over. I don’t know that she saw what happened, because she made us sit side by side on the picnic bench in front of her and yelled at both of us for bad behavior. I remember the feeling of having no one on my side to protect me or stand up for me.  I think this is when I started to disappear rather than suffer humiliation. As more harassment occurred in my school years, I tried more and more to recede into the background. By high school, I was wearing black, baggy clothes and doing my best to play invisible.

I love fashion and dream up outfits in my head all the time, but what I actually put on is considerably pared down by comparison. Too much shut-down training, too much beauty ideal stress. I mean, why look sexy if I will just be harassed?  It’s complicated.

I found this entry in my journal from early December:

“Sister Jones has on a cream-colored, ankle-length fur coat. I think she’s Gladys Knight for a moment because someone runs to get a photo with her. I watch her, can’t break my awe. People who are good at disappearing don’t trifle with such elegance, we don’t even play at it.”

A photo will appear in this post eventually. Maybe of my teenage self, maybe a foray into elegance… Until then, #metoo.

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