I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t pissed off at the time, but I was hardly going to hand over to them the power to ruin the rest of my day, let alone scar me for life.
I was a senior in high school in 1981. While at gymnastics practice, I experienced something somewhat akin to Christine Blasey Ford’s traumatic and life-altering sexual assault, except my reaction to it was decidedly different.
I had left the gym to go out into the lobby and get a drink at the “good” drinking fountain—the fountains in the gym were a half-assed affair where the water’s pathetic attempt at dribbling out necessitated a serious amount of slurping and sucking (remember: this was 1981, decades before everyone—not just we serious athletes—carried around a bottle of water). As I was walking away from the fountain to go back into the gym, two members of our varsity boys’ basketball team—at the time undefeated and the reigning heroes of the school—grabbed me and proceeded to drag me into the boys’ locker room. Based on the fetid odor of boy sweat, the team had just finished their practice and were occupying the locker room where I assumed they were showering and changing into their street clothes. I can’t tell you much more because as soon as I saw where the guys were dragging me, I squeezed my eyes shut and didn’t open them until the “ordeal” was over.
So, there I was, in my gymnastics leotard and bare feet, in the smelly boys’ locker room where—and I’m just conjecturing here based on all the whoops and hollers and stupid boy laughter—I’m sure all manner of male junk was shoved in my face.
Of course, I started screaming at the top of my lungs hoping someone outside the locker room would come in and rescue me because I did not want to open my eyes and see a bunch of my classmates balls-ass naked.
Soon after I started screaming, my coach Mr. D_____ came into the locker room. I could tell something was different because it became unmistakably quieter. Without a word to anyone, Coach grabbed me and proceeded to lead me out of the locker room.
And here’s the part that really sucked. He yelled at me because I allowed myself to fall victim to these boys’ prank. He yelled at me because I was out of the gym when I should have been practicing back walkovers on the beam. He yelled at me because I had the audacity to leave the gym to get a drink at the “good” fountain. He yelled at me because, well, because he thought this was all my fault.
What happened next? Sufficiently chastened by Coach, I hopped back up on the beam and continued practicing my back walkovers.
What didn’t happen next? I didn’t tell my dad because he would have come unglued and kicked somebody’s ass. I didn’t tell the boys’ varsity coach because I didn’t think it warranted that much attention. I didn’t tell any of my friends who the two guys were who dragged me into the locker room, or, if I did, my friends didn’t think it was important enough to tell anyone else. In short, it happened, and I got over it.
Thirty-seven years later, I’m pretty sure who one of the guys was; I don’t remember the other. If I were asked to testify under oath about the incident, I’d have to say it happened so fast that I do not remember who the two young men were.
Am I permanently scarred because of this incident? No. Why? Because I realized, even at the time, that these were boys being dicks. I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t pissed off at the time, but I was hardly going to hand over to them the power to ruin the rest of my day, let alone scar me for life. Have you ever acted like a dick? I know I have.
Now, before you get up on your hind legs and cry out a fresh string of lamentations about how I’m a mother of two girls and how can I be so insouciant about this whole sordid event, let me reiterate, if you didn’t already draw this conclusion.
I was not physically hurt, nor was I psychologically hurt. Honestly, the worst part of all this remains my coach’s reaction. I’m nearly positive, though, if in his dotage he remembered this today, he’d chide himself for his poor sense of judgement.
I also realize that if this were to happen today, the fallout would be far different than it was in my small high school in 1981. The sh*t would hit the fan, careers would be destroyed, counselors would be on hand to provide comfort to all the victims, and most likely, two relatively decent guys who stupidly decided one afternoon to be a couple of dicks would lose everything. But, like my 17-year-old self, I refuse to be a victim.
If today any member of that championship team were to be nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court, you can bet this story would never see the light of day. You can also bet—based on the fine men each of those boys have become—that I’d throw my support behind any one of them.
What does that make me? I’d say it makes me a realist who understands the difference between the way adolescents act versus the manner in which adults should comport themselves. All I am asking is for perspective.