I feel ashamed and stupid, but I think this can be helpful so I’m sharing, anyway.
I have been getting massages for the past year, at the same place, with the same male massage therapist. For the past few months I have felt the sheet getting higher on my legs, so high that I can feel a draft on my crotch and I am certain that it is visible when he is massaging my legs. But, I don’t say anything.
I wonder if maybe I am overreacting. Maybe I am imagining things. Maybe I am crazy.
At the end of this past session he reached his hands under the sheet and massaged my breasts. I lay there, frozen. He left the room. I got dressed. I gave him the usual tip. I walked to the front desk to check out and when the receptionist asked if I wanted to make another appointment, I said yes, because I didn’t know what to do.
And as I am typing this I feel like the stupidest person alive. Me, who drills my boys about consent like it’s life or death. Me, who has taught my skaters to not ask permission to go to the bathroom, but rather to inform me that they are going, because I’m not going to pretend that I have the authority to tell them when they can or cannot empty their bladders. Me, who was always taught by my parents that my body belonged to me.
So why? Why am I wondering if this is my fault? Why am I wondering if I am crazy when I know I am completely sane?
Somehow I have gotten the idea that it’s okay and even sometimes my job to sacrifice my own emotional health and physical safety to keep someone else from feeling upset. Just by measure of living in this society I have been inculcated with the idea that I need to put the comfort of others ahead of my own wellbeing.
This myth is invasive and I know if I am just becoming aware of it in my own life I am definitely guilty of perpetuating it for others. And I realize how often I hear others perpetuate it and I don’t say a thing.
Every time a mother is glorified for smiling and acting like everything is okay when it’s really not. Every time a woman agrees to a medical procedure when her gut tells her she should get a second opinion. Every time we see a woman sustain herself on coffee-alone in order to get everything done for her family. Every time it’s hinted to a woman that in order to keep a happy marriage she should sometimes say yes to sex when she wants to say no. Every time a woman martyrs herself to make sure other people don’t feel awkward or uncomfortable.
And it’s not benign. It’s not courteous. It’s not our job. It’s dangerous.
And it’s even led to me, a grown ass woman, laying naked on a table, convincing myself that the fully-clothed man above me has more authority than I do to determine what can be done to my body.
And each of us is complicit or we are not. There is no middle ground. And that is why I’m sharing. Even though it’s raw. And even though I still need to cancel my next appointment. And even though I am still working up the courage to call and tell the manager why I’m not coming back. And even though I still feel like an f’ing idiot.
(Please feel free to share.)