Cartoon by Bill Watterson
Part II- The Boys
The Slap heard ‘round the Playground
I remember liking boys from the moment I was in Kindergarten. Every year of grade school, there was a new boy who I thought was cute. Nothing really ever came of these crushes except once in first grade when one of them admitted to having mutual feelings towards me. His name was Russell and once during recess he came up to me and tried to kiss me. He decided to make himself extra appealing by rinsing his lips (more like soaking them completely) with water from the drinking fountain. He chased me around with dripping, slimy lips trying to kiss me. Where did he learn that “irresistible” tactic? I was furious. But he was so persistent that I felt I had to throw him a bone. This is the plan that my genius brain hatched.
Russell: C’mon! Kiss me!
Me: (giving in with frustration) Fine! (I kissed my hand and put it on his cheek)
Russell: Hey! You just slapped me!
Me: What? No I didn’t!
Russell’s little follower friend: Yes, you did, I saw your hand on his cheek!
Me: No, I didn’t mean to!
Teacher: (comes over sensing some grade school drama) What’s going on you two?
Russell: Danielle slapped me!!!
Teacher: Is this true??? (shocked because clearly I was the perfect student normally)
Me: (weighing my options. Do I admit that I kissed my hand and put it on his cheek because he wouldn’t leave me alone and I just wanted him to shut up? That’s too embarrassing to admit. So….) Um, he was trying to kiss me so I slapped him because I didn’t want to kiss him!
Teacher: Both of you come with me!
The conclusion to this playground soap opera is that I had to apologize to Russell (and somehow our parents got involved too, which was devastating) but I don’t remember him suffering any consequences or even being made to apologize for trying to kiss me, or as it should be more accurately described: sexually harassing me!
The fact of the matter was that I was too ashamed to admit what actually happened because I felt partially responsible for him chasing me around trying to kiss me. Why? Because I had a crush on him and he knew it and he was going to milk it. This guilt complex that I dealt with that day, too embarrassed to fess up to the truth because I felt partially to blame, is the same complex that stayed with me for the next 27 years. And I’m not blaming first grader Russell for this. I’m not necessarily blaming anyone for this because it’s not about the blaming. The fact of the matter is that there was something deep inside of me already at age 7 that instinctively felt that I couldn’t come clean about the fact that I didn’t want to kiss this silly boy because I was guilty of having these silly feelings towards him.
In light of the current #Metoo movement, I realized something. I have, as well as many other women, dealt with this crap our entire lives. My self-defense was seen as more punishable than his trying to kiss me. This is problematic. And while I feel that both men and women should be held responsible for their actions, we are in dangerous territory if a young girl is too afraid to admit that she didn’t want to be kissed because she knows that having a crush on that boy might make her appear guilty in some way. Having a crush on someone does not mean you want them to kiss you. You aren’t “asking for it” because you are attracted to that person. This, I believe, is a highly successful ploy by the enemy to ruin the confidence of young girls and to instill in them at a very young age a sense of worthlessness and fear of men. I also believe that this is a result of a successful ploy of the enemy on men, who at a very young age, learn that they can have control over females, whether physically, or emotionally, or both. This pattern often continues for the rest of their lives.
This has obviously stuck with me as a pivotal moment in my young life. It was a moment where I understood that culturally, I had to be compliant and willing when it came to men and if I wasn’t, there would be consequences. This is horrifying to me as a grown woman and just I pray that my own daughters won’t grow up in a world where this is normalcy.
And for all you men and boys out there, here’s a tip: washing your lips with water and approaching a female for a kiss whilst resembling a drooling basset hound is not attractive. Just in case you didn’t already know. That one was free, by the way.