Tuesday’s forecast was for heavy snowfall – up to 25 cm. The bulk of the snow would hit around 7:00 in the evening. As early as last weekend, the weather network had issued “special statements” which later upgraded to watches. Tuesday, the warning map was wall-to-wall scarlet.
Every Tuesday, I volunteer at the Cobalt library. My job is to cover the circulation desk from four until closing. On Sunday, by way of a weather notice of my own, I sent a message to the librarian:
Hey there – just a heads-up regarding the weather warnings – if we get the forecasted snow dump on Tuesday, I won’t be able to get the car out. I could walk in, but walking home in the dark afterward, especially if it’s stormy… yeah, not so much.
I fought back the urge to explain myself, to make it clear what I meant about not wanting to walk home in the dark. I wanted to elaborate about how I’d have to take the long route home, because cutting through the park in a raging snow storm wasn’t an option. Also, the last half kilometer is winding and narrow. There are no street lights. One side of the road is a steep rock outcrop up and on the other, the outcrop continues, straight down. If a snow plow came by while I was tramping homeward…
The subject of walking home in the dark has been on my mind ever since. I know what’s bothering me, and it has nothing to do with being stuck head-first in a snowdrift.
What’s bothering me is that I’ve been getting trolled lately.
“Hey, pretty lady, the celebrity in that gallery must be you!”
“Maggie, you are a beautiful woman.”
That’s all. Just two comments, on the heels of my posting a gallery of images of myself over the decades. This, in spite of my inner judges tsk-tsking and suggesting that I keep the images offline where they, and I, would be safe.
You see, this is the first time since I started blogging in 2014 that I’ve received these kinds of comments. Sure, there’s been the usual computer-generated spam, but never something like these overtures.
Do you know, I had to actually force myself to NOT reply, to NOT fall into the old habit of giving folks the benefit of the doubt, to NOT say, “Thank you, how kind,” and then see what happened. It’s either the Pollyanna in me, or it’s denial. Because if I believe that there is no harm intended, then I need not feel afraid.
Then the emotions tumbled in quick succession.
- When I finally realized that these were trolls, instantly, I felt ashamed, and regretted that I didn’t listen to those inner tsk-tsking judges.
- I toyed with the idea that I had brought this on myself.
- Screw that! I was angry. What kind of person does this? What are they after? Sexting? A hook-up? Money?
Trolls I Have Known
These trolls are no different from the abusers that I encountered over the years.
When I was seven or eight, the babysitter took my brothers and me to the park to play in the wading pool. At one point, I was sitting alone on the blanket in the shade of a tree while the sitter watched my brothers in the water. An old, grizzly, drunk called to me from a few feet away. “Hey, girlie.” He approached and squatted in front of me and reached out to poke his finger into my crotch. I crab-walked backward and that was enough to discourage any further attack.
When I had a paper route, one of the homeowners would greet me in his briefs – strategically rolled up at the leg, and down at the waist to barely conceal his genitals.
Later, when I was in high school, I used to play tennis at a park about a kilometer from home. We’d play until well after dark, and I’d walk home through the cemetery and I’d cut through the high school parking lot. One night, as I descended the long winding driveway through the school property, a group of guys approached. As they got near enough, one called out, “We’d fuck you, but you’re too ugly.”
After that, I didn’t walk anywhere alone after dark. But to this day, I cannot decide whether I was more upset by the threat of rape, or the fact that they found me ugly. It’s probably both.
In the scheme of things, these “attacks” barely meet the definition of assault. But I will argue that they were. The attackers meant to diminish me, to overpower, and to use my sex for their purpose.
The confusion, shame, and anger resonates still. Obviously.
The trolling comments, the unwelcome attention, falls into the same category – they are a prelude to attack. Lures, that on the surface are benign and complimentary, but their mission is to entrap and to harm.
I hesitated to publish this. It’s a departure from my usual fare. Why speak of something that happened decades ago?
Besides, there are countless others with brutal, horrifying abuse stories. Others who struggle to live with the devastating consequences.
I’m not really all that upset, I’m fine, actually. As a matter of fact, I must have been fine back then, because I never told anyone about the walk through the high school parking lot.
And right there, that’s the reason I am going to speak up. I was NOT fine. Today, I speak out. I am outraged at that attack. I’m going to retroactively take myself by the hand and tell myself that I need not feel shame. That my anger is justified.
Point, click, delete – trolls be gone!
If only it were that easy offline.
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Inspired by Alice who says she likes to “write about sex and bodies and minds and violence. In that process, I also think I write about hope.”
Plus, she likes arugula. My kinda gal.
Categories: Personal Growth