I had a wonderful neighbour growing up named Mrs. Roberts. She took me under her wing and while she looked as if she could be my grandmother, she was really the only Mom I had at the time. Her and her husband John were originally from the mid-west. But they came to California to buy a small lot of land and build two homes: theirs and a small one bedroom for someone to rent. Well, I often went over to hang out, eat cookies and sometimes watch some daytime soap operas. When I was around 11 or 12 a man named Gary was occupying the small house behind Mrs. Roberts’ house. He was tall, heavier set with dark features. Black hair he kind of slicked back and was always so courteous. So much so it made me sick because he was almost "too polite". Being a sassy little girl with an attitude, I would let him know it. He would say things like, "Hello miss Padma how are you today?" or "Let me get the gate for you- pardon me, etc. And I would say, "Stop, you're too nice!" You don't have to call me "Miss".
Well he would chuckle it off. Though I really didn't appreciate his overt niceness, I still found him intriguing, what with his consistent dark attire, dark shades and not to mention he was friends with my brother's cute friends, all in their mid 20's. So I thought it was fun to pick on him as I rollerbladed up and down Mrs. Roberts’ driveway which his house faced.
One sunny afternoon, after we had our usual chit chatting and playful bickering, he asked if I liked games. I said I love games! He said, "You should come inside (his house) to play a game. At first I wasn't sure what to say. But since we had a somewhat decent, "cool" relationship I relented and said why not.
Well, the minute I stepped in, I had a very sick feeling, a pit in my stomach, something telling me something wasn't right.
He sat on his couch where the afternoon sun shone on. He told me, "We're going to play a little taste testing game if you guess what it is I'll give you some candy". I nervously laughed and said, "Okay". He said, "But wait, you have to get on your knees and you have to wear a blindfold". Now I knew I didn't feel safe. But I was afraid to seem like a "chicken" or "hurt his feelings" I took direction in stride. I knelt down before his baggy blue jeans, blindfolded.
The next thing I hear is the zipper of his fly zipping down. I could smell urine. I grew terrified. He said in a polite tone, "Ok now open your mouth".
I ripped the blindfold off and darted out the door and ran as fast as I could.
I couldn't believe what had just happened! Who do I tell my Dad? He would tell and get mad at me for going into that guy's house. My two older brother's? Would they even believe me? They can hardly stand the sight of me much less want to hear what their pesky trouble-making kid sister has to say.
What if my brother who is friends with Gary decides to beat him with a baseball bat??
I couldn't tell, I soon experienced shame, guilt, anxiety and fear. What if he tries to kidnap me or something?
I told my best friend at the time, Sarah. But I told her as a second hand story I heard through the grapevine, I couldn't tell her it was me. She said I knew something was creepy about that guy.
What's crazy to me is that although he was never able to put his “parts” in my mouth, I still felt taken advantage of. Now I know that was me trying to minimize what happened.
It's a memory I haven't forgotten, mixed up with an assortment of vivid memories: good, bad and ugly and even very beautiful.
I hope by sharing this story no girl or boy, man or woman that has ever being objectified or sexualized i.e. whistled or honked at, slapped on the butt to any level of harassment knows: It is Not O.K. or just the norm. You do not have to minimize what you experienced or what has been done to you because there isn't any physical proof or because you think others had it worse, who am I to complain. Or because you think that in some way you are to blame. You have every right to say No. To be assertive. To tell someone. To cut out, de-friend, or ignore completely the person who is trying to manipulate you through whatever relationship you have going on. Take courage and know you are so not alone.