If you’ve ever been shown a penis…
The responses are staggering. “The first time I was in second grade.” “I was in a park, holding my young son.” “The first time this happened to me I was 6. In a K-Mart toy aisle. I still can’t go into a K-Mart without the smell triggering memories.” “I was in elementary school.” “Was about 13, in a bookstore, w/my sister.”
You are forever changed
A man accosted me when I was a girl shopping the toy aisle in a dimestore while my mother was in the grocery store at the same strip mall. Suddenly the world was no longer a safe place. I distinctly remember standing there in shock, my face hot, my hands shaking, taking in everything around me. Every sight, sound, and smell. It struck me, even at a young age, how something strange and horrible could happen to you and yet the world keeps turning. No one else knows what happened. You are forever changed. I felt very alone.
Even though I was shaken, I never told my mother. I still wanted the freedom to go to Woolworth’s by myself. I didn’t go for a long time, however, and I never had a banana split there again.
AN AFTERNOON ALONE
I bet they wondered how
a girl could eat so much sweetness for lunch.
I swiveled on the stool
at Woolworth’s lunch counter,
spooning whipped cream from a sundae—
grownups ate egg salad on white
or hamburgers with potato chips.
I wandered with mother’s lost dollar
in the toy aisle and considered
a Paint-by-Number kit,
a light-up police car, marbles, jacks,
or a doll in white crochet whose eyes clicked shut
when laid down.
The man was sudden,
cool and damp with soft hands—
He took mine,
unfolded my fingers and pressed them
against his body, back and forth
where we weren’t supposed to.
Then he was gone.
The dolls’ eyes opened, the police cars were silent,
a waitress penciled orders in her pad,
the people sat hunched over their plates
or looking ahead at nothing.
How about you? You are not alone. Feel free to share your story, here or elsewhere. (Another trending hashtag on Twitter is #MeToo) As Robyn Pennacchia wrote in Wonkette: “It’s not a huge coincidence that so much of this is coming out now, right around the anniversary of that dreadful day.”
2016 was the year America elected a man who proudly announced that he grabbed women by the pussy and kissed them without permission, and laughed and said, “and if you’re a celebrity, they just let you do it.” A man who thought it was cute and cheeky to brag about walking around dressing rooms full of naked beauty teenage pageant contestants.
2016 was the year that this country, many women included, decided that this kind of behavior didn’t matter enough to disqualify a man from becoming president of the United States.
Something about that moment made something click in the heads of women across this country.
Let’s hope change is coming.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell the truth without shame. Based on a magazine article titled “My Father Was a Rapist”
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
2015 Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters