He was returning to his seat which was next to mine. I was sitting at the table in between him and my husband. As he sat down, he put his hand on the center of my back, as if to scratch it. Once he was sitting down, he said “I could never un-hook a woman’s bra through her shirt.” I laughed, not because he was funny; because he wasn’t. Frankly, I wasn’t sure of how to respond to a man I hardly knew who had just tried to unhook my bra in the middle of a restaurant.
This wasn’t his first “joke” of the night. He had made a few jokes about how his wife had “taken care” of him that morning. He commented about the other women at the table, making remarks about their bodies and clothing. He drank – a lot. At one point he had two drinks and three shots sitting on the table in front of him. The men we were dining with continued giving him drinks; he continued drinking them.
While I was having a good time with the other people around me, I had this surreal feeling of being in two different places at the same time. I was there in the restaurant making small talk with the other diner’s at my table while at the same time; I was on-guard. I was remembering similar events from long ago that had much more serious, dangerous consequences. I noticed I was having a recurring thought; “Just get through it. Don’t upset him. Just get through it.”
These thoughts were so automatic, I didn’t realize until the next morning that the previous night, I had reverted back to my eleven-year-old self trying to get through a visit with my drunk father and his very drunk, very unsafe friends.
Sitting there in my kitchen with my husband chatting as we drank our morning coffee, I replayed the previous night’s events. My husband commented, “You looked like everything was okay.”On the surface, everything was okay. This guy was just an idiot, I knew that. Or rather, my adult-self knew he was an idiot. The inner child that lives deep inside me, the one who has an intimate knowledge of how dangerous drunk idiots can be, knew there was a dangerous, unsafe man sitting next to me.
I hadn’t realized until I began talking how upset I was. I was angry at that man’s behavior, but also angry at myself.
Intellectually, I knew it would have been pointless to try to explain to this man how uncomfortable I would have been had he succeeded in unclasping my bra. I knew better than to try to “get through it.” I should have left. But I didn’t. I know why I didn’t get up and walk out. I didn’t leave because at the moment I began to feel unsafe, I reverted to my eleven-year-old self in a scary situation. Back then, I didn’t have the luxury of being able to get up and walk out. I knew what I had to do. Just get through it. Don’t upset him. Just get through it. That was how I handled these types of situations back when they were a regular occurrence in my life.
Suddenly, in my safe kitchen, with my safe husband; I remembered. I remembered exactly what it felt like to do what I had to do “just to get through it.
For the first time, as an adult woman, I connected with the impact of the fear and what it took to “just get through it” for my eleven-year-old self. And for the second time in less than twenty-four hours, I was simultaneously experiencing the past and the present.
While talking it through, I realized I was doing the work I’d promised myself I would do when my past came back to visit. I took a moment to offer compassion and respect to that eleven-year-old girl for all she had endured and all she had conquered. Then I took a moment to acknowledge myself for all I’d been through and how far I’ve come. I know I still have work to do, yet I am humbled to know I’ve created a life that supports me when I have these reminders.
Lockey Maisonneuve is the founder of the Let It Go Workshop. This workshop is a combination of yoga, discussion, journaling and meditation. Upcoming workshops in Ca., NJ. Click here for workshop registration. Lockey and the MovingOn program have been profiled in magazines, television, radio. Print: Shape Magazine, Origin Magazine, and Yoga Mantra + Health Magazine. For more information about Lockey and to sign up for her weekly Tao of Bacon, go to www.lockeymaisonneuve.com.
Image courtesy of Bessi.