I think it's pretty clear that in our society, we are not allowed to touch each other without permission.
I wish the event I'm going to tell you about hadn't happened. I wish I was telling you a story about a great time at the roller
rink with my family. Instead, I'm asking you to think about what gives a guy the idea it's okay to grab someone he doesn't know. I should just accept it, since this is the culture we live in, right? Yes? Except that's not right. He was wrong. It's wrong. Here's my story.
I saw the couple as I finished the turnaround. They were together, a boy with light brown wavy hair and a teenage girl with an oval face; they were laughing and talking as I went past them.
I picked up some speed and swung my arms around, back and forth to get momentum. I was relaxed and having a great
time moving fast and feeling the breeze through my hair, when
suddenly he grabbed my hand. I looked up and saw him, the same boy I had just seen with his girl. His mouth was wide open in a grin as he sang along to the song that was blasting from the speakers. His other hand was waving around in the air; he seemed to be dancing.
I was thinking fast. He was holding my hand tight, and skating at my
speed. What is this? Who is he? Where's that girl he was with? What is
going on? Why doesn't he let me go?
I was surrounded by families, kids, people. The crowd was thick, I couldn't just turn or slow down without risking hurting someone around me. I didn't want to make a scene. I relaxed my hand, but he did not let go.
All of this was in the space of a few seconds - by this time we were halfway down the long side. Since I couldn't stop or turn away I tried skating faster, faster than I was comfortable with, trying to force him to let go. I pulled my hand hard as I pushed down on the wheels and finally, I was away
I shook my hand in the air a few times, trying to sort out what happened. I found my husband, and told him about it. I tried to tell it as a laugh, a joke of a story, "Ha ha, you won't believe what just happened."
I went and washed my hands in the bathroom.
Later, my husband asked me about it. He couldn't understand why I thought this was a joke, why I wanted to make fun of it. He didn't think it was funny. I told him that yeah, it wasn't funny at all. It instead felt icky, like I was wearing coal tar or glue; I wanted to get the feeling off of me as fast as possible.
I was also embarrassed - really, really ashamed. I'm the empathy-gal, right? So maybe I did something to encourage this. Maybe I was doing exactly what my mother tells me all the time not to do; don't let your guard down, don't be open to strangers, don't put yourself at risk, etc.
I stopped feeling bad, though, for two reasons. First, I know that building empathy isn't possible without being open to new connections. It's part of what is important to me; and nothing (not even this guy) will stop me from trying to draw others in. I will keep working hard to smile at strangers, to nod at other customers in stores and to start conversations with my fellow patients at the doctor's office. I will keep myself open, and that's what I'm hoping some of you are working on too.
Second, I know beyond any doubt that nothing about my being 'open' and
'welcoming' and 'friendly to strangers' meant that I asked for this. They are almost opposite actions; what I do is about creating relationships, what he did was about treating me like a toy.
What does bother me is that I didn't make a scene. I didn't yell, or scream, or say, 'hey, you, let go' or anything like that. I didn't say no, and maybe that sent him a message that grabbing a stranger's hand is okay. Or maybe not. I'll never know.
What would you have done?
Has something like this happened to you?
- ▼ 2015 (12)
- ► 2014 (29)
- ► 2013 (60)