A few months ago, I was having a beer with an old friend. We were both in from our respective big cities, fleeing COVID and quarantine to visit our tiny, hometown tucked away in a forgotten mountain valley. We were reminiscing, rehashing old jokes and memories, and providing each other highlights of the years past and future plans. As old friends are always bound to do, we landed on relationships: past, present, and hopeful.
Since the kickoff of #MeToo, I’ve noticed that progressive men are very quick to bring it up. Constantly making sure I know they understand “Me Too.” Not harassment, or misuse of power in the workplace, sexist microaggressions, abuse, or rape. No, these good men, always call it “Me Too,” like it’s a verb bored high school students conjugate in French class, “Je ne Me Too jamais les femmes,” or a noun, synonymous with an ancient curse or alien abduction, “Did you hear? Me Too came for him.” Every date. Every male co-worker. Every platonic friend. What do you want? A slow clap for not being the biggest prick in my life today? God forbid you men do the bare minimum in life and not assault women.
So, this friend was like every other good man I know right now. He pulled out his rolodex of booty and let me know, to the best of his ability, that he has never Me Too’d a woman.
I asked, “How do you know?”
His answer was simple and respectful, “I asked.”
The night moved on. Other friends came and went around us, sitting down for a while, dishing out quick one-liners, then continuing on with the musical chairs of a small-town bar scene, where everyone does know your name, as well as your address, your parents’ landline number, who your junior high school crush was, the color of your braces, how many kids your junior high crush has now, the number of MIPs you racked up, how many times your junior high crush has been to jail, who punched your v-card, oh and your junior high crush’s cell number, let’s text him and see if he’ll come out!
During this, someone sat down at our table that I didn’t recognize. He had the bland face of someone considered generally good looking, but not striking enough to be anything other than a long-forgotten heart-scribble in a thrown away yearbook.
I leaned over to my friend and asked him, “Who is that?”
“John Doe” he said.
“Oh. The rapist?” I asked.
My friend’s face immediately changed. Thunder struck his eyes.
“Where did you hear that?”
“I don’t know. Everyone just knows.”
“Well, I know you have a big mouth. So you better know what you’re talking about before you say shit about one of my best friends.”
I was confused to say the least. If the situation had been reversed, my reaction wouldn’t have been disbelief. Hurt maybe, but not disbelief. But then, as a woman, I know better. I know that there are monsters amongst us, lurking behind the grins manufactured by the same small town orthodontist we all share. But why was it that my friend, this good man, who I think so highly of and has always shown everyone profound respect, who not an hour before told me he understands what women go through and is self-conscious of his own actions, why is it that instead of approaching what I had said from a place of empathy, or curiosity at the very least, instead met it with incredulous anger?
I know that my comment probably came off as flip and I know that it was shocking news for my friend to hear. And he was right. I didn’t have all the answers. I didn’t know the full story. I didn’t know who was involved. But I knew enough. I knew through the women’s whisper network to stay away from him. I can’t even pinpoint for how long I’ve known. I did my best to explain this to my friend. And while I didn’t know every factoid of the situation, I attempted to convey that this is what women in town said about John and what they said wasn’t gossip, but a warning. This is what women whisper in your ear in the bathroom if they saw him flirting with you at the bar. This is what women whisper in your ear when they see him walking down Main Street hand-in-hand with a young girl you hope will be okay.
I don’t think I did a good job of explaining this. I was mad, he was mad, and we were both about seven beers in. At one point, he wasn’t sitting next to me anymore, and I can’t even remember if we said goodbye to each other that night.
This night continues to bother me and scratch at my bone marrow. I talked with other girlfriends about my outrage at the hypocrisy of the good men in our lives and feeling powerless at my inability to find the words to convey how I felt in the moment. Then the other day, during my morning shit scroll, I saw it. A photo of a woman with a sign at a protest was going viraland it summed up everything I was unable to verbalize that night “Why does every woman know another woman that has been raped but no man knows a rapist?”
Doesn’t add up, does it?
I don’t think my friend is a bad man. I think he’s actually pretty great. I just need the men in my life to start doing the math.
If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/women-are-not-wallflowers/