shame

Me & My Pussy

As a young teenager, my playmate was my grandfather, my mother’s stepfather, who came to live with us when my grandmother died.  He lived in the basement of our chalet on the pond, a house that my dad and his friend Reme built so that we could all finally live together.  The “we” had not included my grandfather at the time of the building but one of those times when Grammy called drunk and said she was dying, it was true.  She did.  And so my parents made a bedroom and a living room and a bathroom downstairs that belonged to Grampa   

He worked at my high school as a janitor and drank the rest of the time.  

At first, when we found out he was coming to live with us, I was happy.  I loved him as long as I remembered.  He’d treated me kindly, bought me candy, took me to the beach and let me ride with him in his tractor trailer truck.  I felt special with him and, with the exception of accepting money from Tommy Lombard for the baseball of mine he whacked out of the yard and lost (we don’t need other people’s money, his face red and disapproving) I’d never made him angry.  He and my grandmother were kind to me.  And they were fun as in we did not have a bedtime with them and we could basically eat whatever we wanted and we could swim even if we had just eaten.  They fought a lot with each other but it did not seem to make a difference in how they were with me.

After my grandmother died, he stopped driving a truck.  I think something may have happened involving him and drinking and his rig but I can’t be sure.  I just know that he showed up at our house in Vermont without it and started the cleaning job shortly after.  And we started going to the drive in.

All of this is a lead up to tell you that he became a pussy grabber and I became a drunk.  I also became ashamed of myself and my pussy.  And my grandfather.  

He eventually found another woman and moved away to live with her.  Some years later he developed a palsy that lived primarily in the left side of his face.  I drove to New Hampshire to visit him but while I tried to carry on a conversation it was nearly impossible for me to feel him actually being there.  Dirty drool leaked from the left corner of his mouth, leaving a shiny path along the crack down his chin.  He asked me to sit by him and as much as I didn’t want to, I did it.  He reached his mottled hand to my knee and, while I do not doubt he simply meant to rest it there, I seized up on the inside and do not remember the rest of the visit.  I did not go back to see him again before he died and when I heard he was gone, I felt nothing.

And that’s the thing about pussy grabbers.  They’re only powerful in that they make us feel bad about ourselves and nothing for them.  I had loved him for his kindness and generosity and his happy red face and his big truck.  In the end he meant nothing to me and I had a lot of work to do to find what I meant to myself.          

 

Power to the Pussy by Nancy Coleman

Do I like this prompt?

Not at all.

Couldn’t we call it something else, say all my ancestor women - all of them dressed for church in white gloves and plain cotton underwear- do you have to be so coarse?

I am this ready to blame the woman who brings the message.

And almost equally ready to let the man slide, back off the bus at the next stop, his hands and his cock humming with delicious prowess, with new life. It doesn’t matter that this life he feels is stolen. It doesn’t matter that by the end of his not-enough bullshit day he will need to steal it again. Another pussy. Another ass. Another sweet current of electric ladyland conquest, unconsequential. I could almost let him off the hook. This is what I would prefer to do really. There is nothing to be gained from blowing that particular whistle.

Except for the young woman, a girl really, who stands frozen in shame and defeat. She has not moved from that crowded streetcar in 46 years.

While I would like to think I am so much older and wiser now, so much more competent and confident, what gives me momentary comfort is not that I know I would turn around and call him on his abuse should that happen now. No. Now I comfort myself secretly with the promise that I’m old enough that no one will be interested. I do this when I’m afraid on a city street at night, when I’m walking alone on the town common land and see a man walking toward me, when I’m in a tent in a family campground, alone. There were years when I believed I could outrun him; as I circled the Central Park running loop and he stood in the weak shade of a tree closest to the trail showing me his pale skinny dick, I could almost laugh. I don’t have that beautiful muscled arrogance now, but I have age. He’s not looking at me, I say to myself.  

I should have turned around, at least, I should have shouted something.

It’s branding, you see.

This is why it feels the way it does, hot, wrong, shameful.

Because he knows he can grab and rub and knead your flesh when he decides it’s time. He knows you are held down by stronger arms than his – the rules, propriety, politeness, empathy. He wants to claim this piece of you, and he can. You will not move, and you will not say anything. He will walk away feeling a hot mixture of strong, and you will carry his mark forever.

After the reveals of the presidential candidate’s blatant sexism and predation, one of my dearest friends confessed in an almost-whisper to me, “I know men who talk like this…”. “I don’t say anything,” he said, “because, well…” We were walking by our beautiful autumn river, I nodded and said, “yeah, I know..”

Of course I know. We all know this. We all nod and we don’t say anything because, “you know…”

We are all branded. This is how the horrors are passed on to child after child, woman, girl, boy, man, every generation, every tribe. Like this:

Honey, he’s just kidding.

Did he want something from you that you couldn’t give him?

 I’m sure it wasn’t what you thought.

You have to understand, he (has a hard life, is upset about work, is worried about you, is drunk, loves you)

But really, don’t say pussy, it’s not nice.

(silence)

So for today, one small piece of reclamation from centuries of shame. Imagine this: I am that glorious and frightened young woman on the streetcar, and I am the woman who stands up for her and says, “get your hands off her. Now. There is nothing of her that belongs to you.” I blow that whistle, and every other woman and several of the men pick up their whistles and blow them too, and it sounds like crazy music we are making, the sound of pussy, free and fertile and proud, as it should be.