So sorry I missed last week AND I’m apologizing in advance for this NOT being Spring Break Part 2. However, I had an epiphany this morning of such epic proportions that I felt the need to share. Yes, it’s THAT important.
The kid and I were having a discussion in the car on the way to school. Funny how these discussions always turn out to be heavy ones (and this was our THIRD just this morning!!!) Kid started talking about female professors from Harry Potter and mentioned Professor Sprout and then said, “Who has a name like sprout?”
And instantly, I was back in junior high. “I knew a kid with the last name Sprout. He was a jerk. He picked on me on the school bus. I used to dread riding the school bus because I was afraid of what he was going to say or do that day.” And then I really thought about the things he said and the things he did. And out pops, “Oh my God, he sexually harassed me!”
“What does *mangled pronunciation of sexually* harassed mean?”
Which of course spawned an in depth discussion of sexual harassment and how it’s okay to tell a girl she’s pretty or a boy that he’s good looking if it’s done in the appropriate setting in a nice respectful manner. But when it’s said and meant disrespectfully it’s not appropriate. (I do have to tailor this to the non-teenager set…for now)
Meanwhile, my mind is reeling from the realization that I was sexually harassed at the age of 12 and 13 on the school bus for over two years. And I’m thinking, why didn’t anyone stop it? Why didn’t I ever tell anyone exactly what was going on? And then BAM! Another realization, because somewhere along the way I came to understand that was just something girls had to put up with. That I just had to deal with it and hope that eventually he would stop.
He said all sorts of disgusting things to me…”Hey your ass looks sweet in those tight little shorts, can I touch it? Your boobs look nice in that shirt.” I was TWELVE I didn’t HAVE BOOBS. Let’s not mention all the times he forced me to sit with him because mine was one of the few empty seats by the time we got to his stop.
The only relief I got was in eighth grade, we were in Industrial Arts together. I was the only girl in the class (yeah, I took a lot of teasing for that) but it didn’t take the other boys long to figure out just how unwanted this boy’s attention was, and they took it upon themselves to make sure I was never partnered with him. It was like some unspoken agreement, nobody ever talked about it or said anything, but I was always one of the first people picked for a partner and it was never him. So I have to thank those other 13 year old boys for protecting me from something most of us didn’t even understand I needed protecting from.
It never struck me until this morning just how pervasive sexual harassment is and just how much we, as women, put up with it because we think we’re supposed to, because it’s not recognized as wrong. For the first time, I will admit, I’m glad I don’t have a daughter, because it would break my heart to see something like this happening to her. And I’m glad I have a son, because you can be damn sure I’m going to teach him just how wrong behavior like that is. We have already been teaching him how important it is to respect other people both physically, intellectually, and emotionally. It just never really occurred to me until this morning, just exactly HOW IMPORTANT those lessons are.
I’m still feeling a little ragey over what happened to my twelve year old self, it’s pointless, I have no idea where that kid is, nor do I care. It’s not like I can go to the school decades later and tell them this happened. What I can do is make sure my son is never one of “those guys”. And I guess that’s where I’ll channel that rage and hope my twelve year old self feels vindicated.
Next week – *fingers crossed* Spring Break Part 2.
Have a great weekend!