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Feb 14, 2020

Creative Nonfiction

Worse than Bad

I almost didn’t write this.

I slagged off my ongoing story project while arguing with myself about whether I should write this.

I’m sick of wasting my own time.

Whenever people see a prompt like “write about a date that was so terrible that you’ll never forget it,” everyone expects comedy. They expect to hear from the gal who was under the impression, judging by her date’s profile picture, that he bore a strong resemblance to Tom Selleck. However, instead of being her deliverance he had a strange resemblance to a cat named Frankenstein, he talked nonstop about himself all night, and his breath could send the undead running straight back to their graves. Oh, what a hoot!

The truest assessment of dating I’ve ever heard came from one of my co-workers when I was a bartender at a casino.

“Dating sucks, Man.”

He couldn’t have been righter. He was as right as the rain, the sun, the moon, and the stars.

However, the story that I almost didn’t tell goes beyond sucking, and it isn’t so much a hoot as a scream of frustration and a cry for justice that I’ll never receive.

This story isn’t a hoot, a lark, or a laff. It does not have a happy ending. It deals with inconvenient and unpleasant subjects such as female socialization, male entitlement, and sexual assault. It will make the reader angry, and it should. It is a most unpleasant tale.

This is your warning that if you are looking for bad date stories that are a hoot, lark, or laff, you should keep looking. You will not find that here.

A Girl Who Was All Wrong

When I was fifteen, I was a mess. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had two major mental illnesses that would not be correctly diagnosed until I was nearly forty, these conditions being type 2 bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I also had ADD, which I wouldn’t learn until I was in my fifties.

The year was 1980, and not a lot was known about the conditions I listed above. Bipolar disorder was considered a psychosis. It has since been reclassified as a mood disorder. Type 1 bipolar can present with psychosis, type 2 never does. Type 2 is harder to correctly diagnose because it is sneaky. It includes full-scale depression but presents with hypomania rather than full mania. It can be every bit as destructive as type 1 for the person living with it.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder doesn’t figure as much into my behavior in this case, but I feel that it acted as an adjunct to the obsessions that are part of bipolar disorder.

Attention deficit disorder, now sometimes known as inattentive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tends to be overlooked in people who don’t present with overt hyperactivity. I never fidgeted overtly in class. I gave the appearance that I was paying attention or taking notes, but mostly I was secretly doodling or writing notes for stories. I had a B average. I wasn’t disruptive.

I was someone that no-one took a second look at until I started acting out by cutting class and cutting myself. Then I became a bad kid, a problem child who needed to be disciplined, reined in, made obedient again.

No-one said to me “what’s going on with you, Cie? Did someone hurt you?”

All anyone ever said to me is “you’re being a bad kid and we need to fix you.”

Despite the suicide ideation and the self-harm, there was a strong sense of self-preservation at work. I became determined that no-one was going to turn me into Stepford Cie. I would die being true to me if that’s what it took. Better dead than a mindless robot.

After being incarcerated (and yes, I do think of it as incarceration) on the psych ward at Saint Anthony’s hospital for a weekend after I turned sixteen and being dehumanized and treated like trash by a good half of the “health professionals” there, I made a resolution that I would die before I would ever be placed on a psych hold again.

I will be fifty-five in two days from the time I wrote this piece, and I have stuck to that promise to myself. I intend to stick to it for the rest of my life. I may be a fuckup, a loser, society’s trash, but I will never be a prisoner again.

My ADD brain does this, which is why I can’t write like “normal” people, like the “good” writers who stick to their subject. But it does figure into the story that I’m finally going to tell.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

My friend “Lucy” was a sweet person, but she was the kind of girl who had been taught to rely on her looks and didn’t tend to engage her brain more often than necessary. Lucy was dating a guy named David, and that is his real name. I’m not going to use last names here, but I will use the real first names of everyone who deserves shame in this situation. “Lucy” doesn’t. David does.

Lucy knew that I was very shy. I was also very hung up on the idea of finding a boyfriend to “complete” me, because, of course, a girl is incomplete without a boyfriend to take care of her silly, helpless, female self. At least that’s what I was always taught. A woman without a man is like the empty sky without sunshine or something like that.

I am not saying that women and girls with mental illness shouldn’t be in romantic relationships. I am saying that we tend to be targeted by predatory males. Have you ever heard the absolutely appalling statement that crazy chicks are great in bed? Yeah, there are pigs wearing the skins of human males who think it’s okay to target women and girls with mental health issues, to use vulnerable women to help them get their rocks off, and we as a society give a pass to guys saying things like that. “Boys will be boys” generally translates to “predators will be predators, and we’re giving them a free ticket to engage in all the harmful predatory behavior they want to with a pat on the back to boot.”

To get back to the incident at hand, Lucy’s boyfriend David set me up with his friend Tony.

Readers may be wondering why I have it in for David. All he did was arrange a date. Maybe he didn’t know what a creep his friend was.

He knew, and he didn’t care. For the sake of protecting the innocent, I could change David’s name to “Bob” to protect him, except that he isn’t innocent. David’s true character will be revealed later.

The weekend rolled around, and David, Lucy, and Tony came to pick me up on Saturday night.

Grabby Tony

I was fifteen and Tony was nineteen. These days, I think many parents would have said “are you out of your mind? You are not going out with a nineteen-year-old boy!” But this was 1980, and nobody saw the age difference as a big deal, including my parents. Also, since Tony was my friend’s boyfriend’s friend, they assumed that he was okay.

Tony seemed okay at first, but I didn’t feel any kind of connection with him. He was the older brother of an acquaintance in the class ahead of me. His brother had always been decent to me, so I told myself that Tony was probably fine, although I couldn’t see myself going on another date with him.

The four of us went to a 7-11 so David could put gas in the car and Tony could buy beer. In 1980 in Colorado, it was legal for a person over the age of 18 to buy 3.2% beer. We went to have dinner at McDonald’s, and from there, we went to the movies. It was in the movie theatre that the trouble started.

Tony reached over and put his hand on my thigh. I moved his hand away. He held my hand for a minute and then reached over for my thigh again. He forced a kiss on me. I don’t remember anything about the movie. I remember that I just wanted to get away from him. I walked out of the theatre. I don’t remember if Lucy asked David to give me the key to the car or if the car was unlocked. I went out to the car to have a beer and be left alone.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone for long. Tony was soon out in the car, groping me and trying to climb on top of me. I tried to put my beer between us. He refused to take the hint. I don’t remember if he took the beer from me or if I put it aside so it wouldn’t get spilled in David’s car. Tony grabbed my breasts. He started undoing my pants. He asked if I was on the pill. I truthfully said I wasn’t, naively hoping that it would stop him from trying to go any further.

“You want me to put on a rubber?” he asked.

“No!” I exclaimed.

I don’t remember exactly what I said next, but it was something like “I don’t have sex on the first date.” I think I probably wanted to make it sound like I wasn’t a virgin, whether because being a virgin was uncool or whether I was aware that some guys thought it was hot to take a girl’s virginity, and I was aware that Tony was probably one of those guys. Either way, I hoped that Tony would leave me alone and let me finish my beer. I didn’t care if he thought I was a lousy date, I just wanted him to keep his hands off me.

“Well, we can just make out for a while,” he said.

She Didn’t Want To

I remember that I didn’t fight back when Tony took off my pants. I don’t remember if he slobbered all over my breasts or not. He probably did. There are numerous reasons why I didn’t fight back, and most of them are reasons that people with a healthy self-esteem won’t understand.

I wasn’t physically afraid of him. I could have kneed him in the groin if it came to that. I could have screamed. I could have told him in no uncertain terms to take his fucking hands off me. I could have gone into the theatre and called one of my parents to pick me up. But I didn’t want to make a scene. I was raised to be a lady. Ladies don’t make scenes. Ladies don’t hurt boys’ feelings. This is contradictory to the fact that ladies are also not supposed to have sex outside of marriage, but Ladies are Good and Quiet and Pliant.

Whatever the case, I ended up turning into a rag doll. I allowed this creep to thrust his fingers into me. That’s the part I remember. I don’t remember doing anything to him, although he may have put my hand on his penis and demanded a hand job as reciprocation for his “pleasing” me. I didn’t enjoy what he did. It hurt, and for some reason I didn’t tell him to stop. Maybe I was afraid he would hurt me worse if I told him to stop. For whatever reason, I was psychologically incapable of doing anything except lying there and allowing it to happen.

I told myself that it wasn’t rape because he didn’t put his penis in me. I told myself that nobody would be on my side if I said he assaulted me, because I didn’t try and stop him. I figured the less I said about it, the sooner it would go away.

When David and Lucy came out of the movie theatre, we went to get more food and more beer. We went for a walk around a lake. I tried to concentrate on enjoying my beer. I gravitated towards David and Lucy. David was being friendly to me at that point, so I saw him as an ally. Tony was pissed off because he hadn’t gotten laid. He threw his beer bottle into the lake. He behaved in a passive-aggressive fashion with me. I knew for certain that I hated him at that point.

David dropped me off at home. I can’t remember even acknowledging Tony. When I was asked how the date went, I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I didn’t mention what had happened. When I went to change clothes for bed, there was blood on the crotch panel of my panties.

Rumors

I remember telling Lucy that I didn’t want to see Tony again. I told her what he had done to me. Like most girls at that time, she supposed that since there was no PIV, it wasn’t rape. She said she was sorry she let David set me up with Tony. I told her that it wasn’t her fault, and it wasn’t.

Our classmate “Kelly” was there and overheard part of the conversation. She asked for Tony’s last name, and I told her. I said that he was Kurt’s older brother. I’d always known Kurt to be a decent guy, but I am revealing his real name because Kelly said that she’d gone on a date with him and he had “Russian hands and Roman fingers.” I asked her if he ever forced her to do anything sexual. She said that Kurt was harmless, but he’d always try it on with a girl to see how much he could get away with.

David didn’t have much to say to me after this incident. Lucy ended up breaking up with him in favor of dating a guy in his twenties. At the time, I was excited for her. At this point, I think about what a creep he must have been to want to fool around with a sixteen-year-old girl.

One day David approached me and asked me if “it” was true. Puzzled, I looked at him and asked if “what” was true. He said that Tony told him that he had gotten me pregnant.

At that point, I was completely outraged.

“That bastard most certainly did not get me pregnant!” I snapped. “He didn’t even have sex with me. He’s a liar!”

“Okay,” David said, shrugging his shoulders. “He really likes you, you know. He was wondering if he might be able to see you again.”

“Absolutely not!” I said. “He tried to make me have sex with him, but he didn’t get to. Who else has he been spreading this rumor with?”

“I don’t know,” David said, seeming angry. He turned and walked towards his locker.

“David, wait a minute!” I insisted. “If there are rumors about me, I have a right to know what they are. Who else knows about this lie?”

“I don’t know!” David snapped, turning on me with an angry expression. “Just leave me alone!”

I’ve never understood David’s attitude towards me. Was he so far up Tony’s butt that he was angry with me for slagging his friend off? Did Lucy get mad at him for setting me up with Tony? Did he think that I was responsible for Lucy breaking up with him? I felt sad and hurt, more because David, whom I thought was my friend, treated me so poorly than because of the ludicrous rumor that Tony was spreading.

Lies

It was about a month after the incident with David when I got a strange phone call. It was a girl’s voice on the other end, demanding that I leave David alone.

It didn’t sound like Lucy’s voice, but I asked “Lucy, what’s wrong?” because the only girl I could connect with David was Lucy. The girl repeated herself.

“Just! Leave! David! Alone!”

She sounded more upset than threatening. I later learned that David had started dating a girl named “Lisa,” with whom I was acquaintances, but we weren’t close friends. Another acquaintance told me that Lisa was very possessive of David.

“Well, I don’t know why she’d see the need to tell me to stay away from him,” I said. “I don’t have anything to do with him.”

To this day, I’m unsure where Lisa got the idea that I was any threat to her romance with David. I wonder what lies David may have told her about me.

I will probably never have an answer to that question, but I do know now that I have been lying to myself for forty years.

I told myself that Tony didn’t rape me.

I told myself that it wasn’t rape because he didn’t put his penis inside me.

I told myself that there wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway, so it was best just to forget it and move on.

I started acting out that year. I started cutting classes and doing lots of drugs. I ended up on the psych ward after a guy that I really liked decided to use me for sex and then dump me. I screamed in pain when he tried to put his penis in me. That made him angry or uncomfortable, so he got rid of me. I started cutting myself. I once lay on a bench behind a church and slung my backpack around my neck in hopes of strangling myself.

My parents were distressed by my behavior, but they blamed everything on me. I wanted to know why guys think it’s okay to use girls for a piece of ass. The only advice I got was not to allow myself to be used that way.

I learned that my feelings count for nothing and that men and boys can take whatever they want and never face consequences.

Even I denied for forty years that I was sexually assaulted on that night.




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