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Perfect Gentlemen

Originally posted on Blogspot 10/9/18

I had a lot of trouble writing this.  Well, I had trouble STARTING to write this–pushing myself to do it.  I tend to not take very strong stands on hot topics and politics and basically anything someone could argue with me about because I WILL scroll through comments and cry if I think someone is mean.   And I think everyone is mean.  I work in the service industry.

You’ll notice that the closest I get to a really touchy subject usually involves playing the cancer card in some respect because I know the majority of the people who read my posts wouldn’t dare challenge me on that subject knowing my body withstood the most excruciating test of physical pain and discomfort, and that I have become a fully functional (if not semi-neurotic), well-adjusted human being despite the fact that I’ve been pushed to the brink of sanity, looked death in the face, and said “not today Satan!”

But I digress.

So here I am, about to do this! Consider this me working through my feelings on recent events.  Because that’s really what it is. 

I remember when the #metoo movement started, and I remember being one of the women who posted #metoo on Facebook.  I’m fortunate enough to have never been raped or sexually assaulted, but I’ve definitely been sexually harassed sometimes to the point where I’ve had to remove myself from a situation or avoid certain people at old jobs and make sure I’m wearing loose, baggy clothing and a skull cap while walking home. 

I got followed once after work, and was able to deter the guy by pulling out my pepper spray and giving it a test run on the sidewalk.  And yeah, that shook me up a little bit, but I shrugged it off and was like “ehh, that’s NYC for ya.”

Donald Trump was elected president even after he bragged on tape about “grabbing women by the pussy” and forcefully making out with them–and I was like “okay, but is he gonna take away my health insurance?  There will be adults keeping him in line, right?”

This past year, well-respected people, many of them actors, were outed as former and current perverts and I was like “oh that’s gross.  RIP President Underwood.” And I kept on my merry way.

I’m not proud of my complacency.  But it was there.  I was pretty ho hum about it all–and I’m very sorry for that now.

It took the most recent events to jolt me awake.  I sat on my couch watching Christine Blasey Ford testifying about what was done to her all those years ago and I was shook.  Tears welled up in my eyes, and every time my roommate tried to make a comment during the hearing I snapped at her, kept having to apologize.  “I’m sorry, I’m just fired up.  I’m so fired up.”

After Ford’s testimony I was even angrier and even more on edge.  As I walked to work, a catcaller said something to me–couldn’t hear him because my earbuds were in.  But I stopped in my tracks, pulled out my earbuds and spat “DOES THAT EVER WORK?”

“W–what?”  he said, shocked.

“I said ‘does that ever work?’ “

“No.”

“I figured.”

What the hell was my deal?  And I know you must be thinking, “what do you mean ‘what’s your deal?’  It was very emotional and upsetting!”

But why now?  Why was THIS the thing that was finally waking me up to this whole #metoo movement?  It wasn’t Donald Trump or Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey or Matt Lauer or Aziz Ansari or my beloved Chuck Bass AKA Ed Westwick. 

I was not a victim of sexual assault.  I was not a victim of rape.  Why couldn’t I keep it together?

And then a few days later I was reminded of an incident that happened to me back in June.  An incident that I had been reporting to many people as a funny story–a funny thing that happened to me.  An incident that was maybe having more of an impact on me than I realized.

And so in light of these recent events, I admitted to myself that I’d been telling this “funny story” with a forced smile.  Forcing myself to laugh, because realizing the dark side of it was icky and gross and besides–nothing even really happened.

I was NOT sexually assaulted.

I want to begin by saying that I take full responsibility for my actions.  I was stupid.  Proof to naysayers, I hope, that women CAN fess up when they make a mistake.  We don’t claim to be innocent angels all the time.

But back in June, I met a guy at work who struck up a conversation with me and was gorgeous and smooth-talkin’ and seemed to take a genuine interest in me.  We talked about the restaurant and how I loved where I worked and it took me a long time to find a service industry job I could stand.  We exchanged names.  He got up to leave and I said “maybe I’ll see you around.”

He said “you will.”

And I didn’t.

But three weeks after we met, I found his name and phone number sneakily written on a business card that was NOT his but was left at the desk (presumably at some point that night when I had walked away).

I had been dating somebody pretty regularly until then, but he was gone for six weeks and at that point we hadn’t decided we were exclusive–so I figured what did I have to lose?

“Would you think I was a total idiot if I told you I JUST found your phone number from three weeks ago? 
–Jesse”   SEND

Fast forward another week, and we had a date to meet for drinks after work.

The day of the date, I was physically nauseous.  I had never been out on a date with someone who was not involved in the arts in some respect.  With someone who had a real big boy 9-5 job where he made big boy money and had a big boy apartment on the East side.

What could he possibly have in common with a wannabe actress who had no direction or clue what she was doing with her life?  He obviously just wanted to hook up, right?  Did I just want to hook up?  No, I didn’t.  I wasn’t looking for that.  Maybe I should cancel.  Maybe I didn’t even want to go out on this date.  Maybe what I really wanted was for ‘other boy’ to come back and confess his love for me and live happily ever after or MAYBE I should just be alone for the rest of my life!  Regardless, I was not mentally ready for this date. 

He got out of work later than I did, so I decided to go to a bar around the corner and have a glass of wine to calm my nerves.  Opening the big glass door of the bar with my heart in my throat, I was relieved to find two co-workers hanging at the bar as well.  They called out to me, let me join them.  Gave me a shishito pepper and asked me what I wanted to drink.

“Just one glass of sauvignon blanc for me!  Just one!”

I let them buy me four.  I had four glasses of wine and a shishito pepper.  Not exactly a great big meal to soak up all that alcohol.  But after the first glass of wine I was so relaxed!   I felt so good!  After two, I was starting to get excited about my date.  After three and four–BEST DATE EVER ALREADY AND IT HADN’T EVEN STARTED!!!! WOOOHOOOO SPRING BREAK!

(——>at this point I feel the need to inform the reader that due to health issues, I really didn’t start drinking until age 23/24, and even then, it was a rare occasion that I had too much–and too much for me is not that much.  I’d only ever thrown up twice from drinking, and had only experienced one truly awful hang over where I thought I was dying.  So let’s just say we are STILL figuring out our limits<—–)

I received a text an hour later with the name of the place to meet him.  I downed a glass of water and walked halfway there before getting an Uber the rest of the way. 

When I got to the restaurant, I spotted him sitting at the bar and slinked my way inside unnoticed to use the bathroom.  I looked at myself in the mirror and remember thinking “whoa baby, you are drunk.”

But I drank a glass of water…right?  I should be fine…right?  Just one drink more…right?

I met up with him and we moved to our REAL destination spot which was right next door.  He seemed to know everyone who worked there, and we were led to a cozy little corner table.  (It did cross my mind…does he do this all the time or something?)

Well, I’m pretty sure I only ORDERED one drink.  But by the time I had the first drink (my fifth of the night), my memory started to get fuzzy.  I know there were more drinks.  They kept appearing.  I know he was charming.  I know I was charming (shocking, right?).  The conversation, from what I remember, flowed effortlessly, thanks to the 5-8 alcoholic beverages of different varieties!

Here’s where the story becomes less silly (and kinda gross).

I know I threw up in the bathroom before I left.  I know it must have been pretty clear how drunk I was.  I remember holding hands and kissing him outside the restaurant.  Not making out.  Just kissing him very lightly–it was sweet!  (Less sweet when you consider that I probably wreaked of puke and had bits of shishito pepper on my sweater).

…but then the next thing I remember is joining the Ralph Club in the back of a cab.  A cab I don’t remember getting into.  Heading somewhere–I have no idea where.  Presumably to his apartment?  But to be honest with you, because of the severity of that black out between the kiss and the vomiting in the cab, I have no freaking idea what happened in between, or what was said.  For all I know, he said “hey, wanna get in this cab?  I know a sex trafficking ring that’s been looking for a blonde” and I could’ve said “Hellllllllllll yeahhhhhhhh!  Let’s do it!”

At this point, I would like to, again reiterate the fact that I drank too much, and that’s on me.  I thought I had to prop myself up on alcohol because I wouldn’t be interesting or funny or smart enough.  I take responsibility for this.
After throwing up in the cab, I know it was ME who flung open the door at the next light with no regard for anything but getting out and getting home.  Date over. 

To his credit, he paid the fare and got out as well.  Followed me, produced a water bottle seemingly from nowhere.  I kept trying to get away from him because I was so embarrassed but he kept with me, I’m assuming to make sure I got home okay.  He texted me later to make sure I got home okay.

And here’s why it took me so long to feel truly scared by the experience: in the parts of the date I remember, he was a gentleman.  I was the drunk, sloppy mess.  I was the problem.
Leave it to my sister, Jackie, to point out what I wasn’t acknowledging.  In recalling my “hilarious disaster date” while we were on vacation, she said “I wanna know where he was taking you in that cab.  If he was such a nice, perfect gentleman, why didn’t he send you home BEFORE you threw up in the cab?  He must’ve been able to see how drunk you were.”

I didn’t have an answer.  I think I just said “ahh well, I was the one who got too drunk.”

I still feel like that.  Because it’s true!  I put myself in an awful position and it really, truly bothers me to this day.  I amsmarter than that.  It scares me to think that I was completely unaware of what I was doing and consenting to. 

But it’s my fault!  I did that!  RIGHT!?!?
Like I said, working through my feelings folks.  Gotta work through my feelings.

I think this occurrence is partially why the Kavanaugh issue woke me up a bit. I realize they are two very different stories, and Christine Blasey Ford was NOT 8 drinks deep when this happened…but even if she was…like…that’s still not okay.

What I think struck a chord with me was the idea that nice guys…perfect gentlemen with big boy jobs and big boy money and East side apartments…perfect gentlemen who coach their daughter’s basketball team and are nominated to the supreme court…can also be NOT-so-nice guys when sex and booze enter the mix.
I’m ashamed of that night. I really am.  But something still feels icky about it.  Something other than my actions.

Surprisingly, he asked me out again…although I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because he liked me or because he didn’t seal the deal.  I honestly don’t know.  I ended up declining for multiple reasons, one of them obviously being that I was pretty humiliated.

I’m still conflicted by the whole raucous.  He seemed like such a nice guy…but also, where were we going?  Where did all these extra drinks come from?  Wasn’t it obvious I was LIT?  Maybe he just didn’t know how bad I’d gotten?  But then how was it not obvious?

I dunno.

I wanted to tell this story for two reasons.  Reason one being so that I could feel my way through it and sort out my thoughts, as I said before.  Reason two being that I think that more women who have NOT been sexually assaulted or raped need to get passionate about what’s going on and not think that these issues are irrelevant to them.  Because assaulted or not, these issues are about you and the validity of your experiences and your words.

I’m not saying you need to picket and protest and march–unless you want to!  That’s great!  That’s activism!  But let’s stop being complacent and stay on top of the issues.  I hope you’ll look at your dating experiences and make sure the gentlemen are real gentlemen and that you are always giving valid consent.  Talk through your experiences with your close friends (and your sisters) so they can say “hey, maybe don’t go out with him again because I don’t like how he did this orthat.”  (I hope that doesn’t sound like a battle cry to misinterpret every male gesture as sexual assault–but you know what I mean.)  It took Jackie saying “so where was he taking you?” for me to rethink this whole scenario as maybe not the “cutesy drunken tale” I thought it was.

And be NOT LIKE ME on your dates.  Keep your wits about you.  Take care of each other.  Don’t drink to oblivion because you think you’re not enough. 

It’s a cautionary tale, too.  Don’t think for a minute that I haven’t thanked whatever divine intervention made me vomit back to reality in that cab.  Do I think I was about to be brutally sexually assaulted?  No.  I don’t.  Do I think I was probably very likely to find myself having sex in a scenario where I wasn’t really able to give coherent consent?  Yes, I do.

If you wanna shoot me a message and discuss, I welcome it.  But please don’t try to fight me in the comments section on here or Facebook or anywhere.  Because as I’ve said–I’m just sorting through feelings here. 

We all need to sort through our feelings.

Oh.  And vote.

Love,
Jesse

By Jesse Pardee

Stream of consciousness blather about my blackheads and mindfulness quest.