Maybe you’re tired of reading blog posts from people like me, who have so much to say about our government, our rights, and the travesties being inflicted upon the innocents. Maybe you don’t find the strong voices raisied in a symphony of solidarity and refusal to hide their pain quite beautiful to hear, like I do. I find it beautiful because I have joined in the song, and now that I have found my voice, it’s hard to stop singing.
If you’ve grown weary, take heart; we all have. We are weary of having to repeat painful stories in order to be heard by that one person who might be able to make a difference on behalf of the legion. We are weary of reliving the past in order to secure a safer, more promising, inclusive world for those who come after us: our kids, grandkids, and their kids and grandkids. If my telling my stories a thousand times means that my granddaughters will never be assaulted or harassed and my grandsons will treat all women with respect and equality, then I will rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, until my vocal cords are nonexistent. And if you’re tired of this movement, and if you hear our symphony and consider it noise, well, you can fuck off. Go live in your bubble, but be comforted in the knowledge that, even though you do nothing, others will still work to secure a safer world for your kids and your grandkids. You’re welcome.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me just say that, for me, the Kavanaugh “situation” has been more uncomfortable than the #metoo movement. Coming to terms with my sexual assault was something I had done a while ago, and telling my story was quite liberating. Looking back at other instances where I had been harassed or touched inappropriately was unsettling, rage-inducing, and offered inclusivity into a club we women never wanted to form. It did bring home the absolute horror of the realization that so many of us had been violated. The taking to task of these men and their horrible acts was long overdue. Getting at the root of it – the idea that men seemed to be genetically predisposed taking as if it was their right – was a particularly nasty can of worms to open. It had to be done, though, and it will ensure that we raise stronger girls who will never allow what we endured.
No, Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t make me angry at men all over again, because that has always simmered underneath the surface, like hot lava waiting for an earthquake to create a fissure in my earth’s surface so it can bubble up and over. His lies, or gross minimizations, about his high school and college years and the amount of drinking, the shenanigans, and the excess of the 80s are what ticked me off. I came of age at the same time, and while I was not of the privileged class who could have beach and pool parties, access to clubhouses and golf clubs, and spend shocking amounts of money on alcohol, I don’t think my experience was that much different. Where there was a will, there was a way, and parties might be held in the woods or in the home of a lucky classmate whose parents took a weekend trip, and money was always found for that alcohol and procurement was guaranteed as long as one could get to New York state or had a fake ID or an older sibling/friend/romantic interest.
His underplayment of those years was pure, unadulterated bullshit. His explanation of words used in his yearbook made him look like an idiot, but even more so, a lying liar pants. We used those code words; we knew what they meant. That he could sit there and lie about their meaning was breathtaking to behold; this was his job interview for the highest “sit in judgment” job in the land, and he was doing a spectacular job at instead providing an example of a really bad witness. Not credible, indeed.
Those words, though. “Ralph”. “Boof”. “Devil’s Triangle”. “‘Skis”. “FFFFF”. If you were an 80s teenager, one or all of them were familiar. They were commonly used. They were well-known. And he lied, plain and simple.
The 80s were well-documented, both in books, in film, and in music. John Hughes films laughingly, belovedly perpetuated the sex and drinking culture of the times. The hair, the clothes, the drugs, the booze, the parties. We thought we were so sophisticated, drinking our mixed drinks when we could get good alcohol, wearing the tightest clothes possible, teasing our hair up to the rafters, and worrying endlessly about “doing it”. What teenager isn’t hormonally challenged? These elements do not change, but the 80s were a time in which the social mores began to rapidly shift from “saving it until marriage” to “do what feels good”. The 80s were all about excess in every sense of the word. More. We wanted, needed, deserved more. And we found ourselves in situations. Lots of them.
I was victimized during the 80s. I also got myself into situations because I was taking full advantage of the expectations we had come to assume we should have access to. If you went to a keg party, you drank yourself sick. If you went to a college party, your responsibility was to drink all the drinks, as fast as you could, because this meant you were having fun. I was a typical teenager during this time, dressing up, caking on the makeup, shellacking my hair, and drinking all the drinks as fast as I could. Two weeks into my freshman year in college, I was boasting of being able to drink a whole bottle of Southern Comfort in an evening. I drank tequila shots like an old pro. Beer was not my first choice because it took too long to get the feeling I had come to love. You see, I was the daughter of an alcoholic and another parent who had, at the very least, a serious drinking problem. I was the granddaughter of an alcoholic. It all came very easily to me. Halfway through the school year, I was filling soda cans with alcohol and carrying it to lunch, dinner, to class. I was blacking out. I was loud and boisterous. I was agreeable. I was a drunk. All those years of drinking in high school were the minor leagues compared to college. I was going all-out, trying to win some elusive championship.
One weekend, a bunch of us gathered at another campus for a big party. One of our group was dating a guy who attended that school and he shared an apartment with a couple of other guys. They were all of legal age. None of us were. It was a big affair, with many dozens of attendees, probably closer to 100 as they came and went. It was hot, sweaty, and the drinks flowed freely. I smoked my first, second, and last cigarette ever at that party, thinking, “Why not?” We all took turns puking in the toilet, the tub, the kitchen sink – anywhere we could find. We held each other’s hair, sobbing slobbishly that we loved each other. At one point, a couple of the less-inebriated of my friends forced me to walk around the block in the bracing, early Spring night. “You need air or you’re gonna pass out,” I was told. It didn’t matter. I continued drinking. The next morning, I would vomit blood, my mouth tasting like an ashtray. I never smoked again, but drink? Oh yeah. I recovered for a day and then it was right back to it.
At some point at that party, I passed out, sitting up, on the couch. I don’t know how long I was out, but it was long enough for a dozen or so guys to pose with me, their arms around me, some with their hands on my breasts, while someone else took pictures. To be fair, when I came to, they told me what they had done and we all had a laugh. All of us – male and female. I didn’t feel violated, and I don’t now. It was “just the way it was back then”. That I could laugh it off made me in on the joke, you see? Not the butt of it. And then, when the photos were developed, I laughed even harder.
Except that I felt more than a little sick to my stomach, and red with embarrassment. I hadn’t had sex with anyone, but what if those guys weren’t as chivalrous (and I use that word loosely) as they were that night? I looked like a whore. Deep down, I felt a little bit like one, too.
But that was the 80s, you see. Looking back, meeting the wrong guy that following summer and almost immediately getting pregnant, thereby consigning myself to over a decade of diapers, formula, runny noses, and endless sleepless nights probably saved my life. Being poor saved me from the alcohol that would have made things not better, but more pleasant. Putting my children before my desire to float away on a cloud of inebriation saved me from inevitable blackouts and a sick liver – bastions of my family history.
When my kids got older and I got out of that bad marriage, I fell off the wagon for a time. It all returned so quickly and so easily; the euphoria, the self-confidence that came in a bottle. I was also in quite a bit of physical pain due to health concerns, so adding prescription narcotics was a natural progression.
I am fortunate that I came to my senses. I am fortunate that I realized that I was dangerously prone to addictive behaviors. I am fortunate that I learned to accept that having mental illness isn’t a death sentence, but alcoholism is.
What does any of this have to do with Brett Kavanaugh? Well, I recognize that guy. He’s any of a hundred different guys I encountered in the 80s. Lots of them went on to recognize the same things I did, and changed, and grew.
Some of them didn’t. And I don’t think Brett Kavanaugh has, either. I think that deep down, he’s still that insidious, puking, lying, frat boy who probably did some things he’s not proud of. He never took responsibility, though. And he’s trying to get everyone to think he doesn’t need to. And that, my friends, is why he’s dangerous.
And Dr. Ford is still a hero.