I was driving to a committee meeting last night and Madonna’s song, “Borderline” came on the radio. It was about a minute and a half into the song before I realized it was on, and I let it finish.
That would normally be the most uninteresting of sentences to write, but it occurred to me last night that it was the first time in twenty-nine years that I let that happen. You see, twenty-nine years ago, I was assaulted and that was the song that was playing when it happened.
After that, I never chose to listen to the song. But, let’s be honest, it’s not that great of a song anyway.
When you’re fourteen and allowed to go to a “teen” club that had just opened, you think you won the lottery. The fact that I had to go with the son of some of my parents’ friends was fine – it was their set up, not mine. He found prettier girls there and I just enjoyed the music – and was amused by a guy with a raccoon puppet. He clearly wasn’t a teen, and I thought he was just part of the club’s schtick and his puppetry really was quite good.
So, I enjoyed the attention he showed me, sipped on some sort of soda, and reveled in the whole atmosphere that seemed so very grown-up. We got to talking, and he wanted to go outside to smoke, which, at the time, seemed so chic, and I said I’d hang out a little. After all, it was a teen club – there was supervision, or my folks would have never let me go.
We stepped outside, I had no idea where my “date” was, nor did I care and I’m sure the puppet came along, too, although now I can’t quite remember. There was a white van nearby that I think was his, because I remember not wanting to be near white vans for about year, but who knows.
Somewhere along the way he tried to kiss me, which I resisted, because he was an adult and, ew, and somewhere along the way he grabbed my ass trying to pull me closer, which landed him with a knee to the groin, and somewhere in between both of those his hand landed on my left breast and the only thing that ever really remained clear as daylight was the sound of “Borderline” playing as the door to the club opened.
I really couldn’t tell you anything else about that night, except what I was wearing, and that’s fine. Twenty-nine years should erase most of it. That’s time’s job, after all. It’s nice to know I can listen to the song again, though it’s still stupid.
Last night I realized, almost in a flash, that because of this one guy’s clumsy aggression, I made an instantaneous shift in how I viewed relationships. For years it was impossible for me to cede control or any sort of vulnerability with a guy. All that feminist bullshit I heard growing up about “I don’t need a man,” made sense in some twisted way, and so many of the guys I was involved with had an element of weakness to them that allowed for a skewed balance of power. You can imagine how well that worked out.
Somewhere around my forties, when you really do “get” who you are and what you want, I understood those choices, and those failures, more clearly. I don’t choose or gravitate to weakness as a characteristic any longer – I don’t look for that in order to feel safe by self-protection. I choose kindness. I choose power. I choose decisiveness. I choose intelligence. I choose wit and humor. I choose devotion. These are the things that make me feel safe now.
Now, I choose not to listen to that song because it’s simply a terrible song. And that, my friends, was an interesting way to end a Tuesday.