I do not think I belong with #MeToo.

I do not have stories as deep and dark as these.

I sheltered myself. I heard stories. I heard how my family talked about my cousin, pregnant in high school: “So embarrassing.” I didn’t like people anyway; I liked books; I stayed in my room and read. I did not go to parties. I did not have friends. I studied for my AP classes. I did not want to risk it. I didn’t really know what “it” was.

I do not have stories as deep and dark as these.

My first boyfriend does not count, of course. He wanted to go further, but I said no. He kept asking. I would not give him my skin; I gave him a story I had written and he said it was mean. I didn’t know stories could be mean. I refused to do more than kiss. He got mad about it and broke up with me. At least that is what I suspect. We did not talk about it.

But surely boyfriends don’t count. It was communication issues, I tell myself, not harassment. This is what I tell myself and no one else.

I used to run alone in a wooded park at the edge of the city. A few times, men at the park would stare at me as I walked back to my car. Once, one tried to talk to me. He said something about my shirt, I think. It made me uncomfortable, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as what others have experienced. It was over in a minute. He didn’t touch me or physically threaten me. Just words. I tell that first boyfriend, but no one else.

I went to the library late at night in the city, once. I was wearing a dress. I was scared walking back to my car a few blocks away. A man told me he liked my dress and tried to get me to stop walking. I kept walking. Later, I told a friend how gross it made me feel once I locked myself in my car.

Once, my boyfriend and I were crossing a street downtown. A man passed us in the crosswalk and said, “Merry Christmas!” too merrily to us. My boyfriend politely returned the greeting. After the man was out of earshot, I told my boyfriend he was just trying to get my attention because I was wearing a dress and tights.

In another city that same winter, I wore a dress and leggings. As we passed a man on the street, he said, “You look good in those leggings,” or something as innocuous and sinister as that. My boyfriend then understood the significance of the previous man’s greeting. “Merry Christmas” was not “Merry Christmas.” I did not have to tell him.

I do not have stories as deep and dark as some. I have words, glances, stares. I feel isolated, insulated. Privileged, even. Yet I do not feel alone. It does not matter whether our stories are not deep and dark—the commonplace words and stares matter to you and me, too.


Carolina Headshot_CMYK

Carolina VonKampen graduated with a B.A. in English and history from Concordia University, Nebraska. She is currently an editor by day and an editor, reader, and writer by night. Her work has been published in Spider Mirror, The Financial Diet, and WORDY by Nature. She writes book reviews and blog posts at carolinavonkampen.com.

Twitter: @carolinamarie_v
Instagram: @carolinamariereads
Facebook: @carolinavonkampen

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