It was the mid-90’s.
A small group of friends and I went to the annual Over The Line tournament in San Diego, one of the city’s oldest traditions. OTL is known for its drunkenness, topless women, and just all-around debauchery. Some call it “Mardi Gras on the beach”. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people come out for this yearly event every summer and even though it was my first time going, I wasn’t afraid at all of the craziness we were walking into.
My friends and I walked around, watched some of the teams play, and as the games wound down for the day, started to make our way towards the wide road which would take us to the main parking lot. Along that road were peoples’ Van’s and RV’s. Many of the RV’s had people hanging out around them and on top of them.
As we continued to walk, I heard a man shout from about 30 feet away. “Hey you in the white shirt!” I looked up to the top of the RV and a good-looking guy about 25 or 30 was pointing at me. We made eye contact. He said, “You have a nice smile!” I smiled at him. He continued, “I’d like to cum all over it.”
Laughter erupted. Time stood still for me. “What a dick!” one of my friends yelled. We kept walking. No one spoke of it again.
I sometimes wonder what happened to him. The guy at the over the line tournament. The guy that used me to make himself look cool. The guy that I assume never thought twice of what he shouted to me and probably so many other women. I wonder if now, twenty plus years later he is the father of daughters. I wonder if he looks back on his youth and regrets some things he did and said. I wonder if he gives a shit.
Because for me, my humiliation turned into anger and then turned into rage. Rage for my humiliation. Rage for the discomfort it caused all the people that saw and heard it. Rage for all the women who saw it who wanted to say something but couldn’t. Rage for all the women who saw it who didn’t care. Rage for the part of me who stayed silent. Rage for the fact that if I did say anything, it wouldn’t have really mattered. Rage for the fact that I knew this. Rage for all the times I had in fact shouted something back in retaliation only to met with something worse. Rage for the notion that “that’s what you get when you go to the Over The Line tournament”. Rage for living in a world where “that’s just how it is.”
My rage wasn’t expressed that day. I stuffed it away with all the other emotions I didn’t know what to do with. I lashed out at my then-boyfriend. I gave the middle finger to any and all cat-calls I received. I was aggressive and was quick to be mean.
And it wasn’t just him. It was years of sexual harassment, having my ass grabbed uninvited more times than I can possibly count, being cornered at parties and being afraid while I looked for an exit or a friend, being followed to my car, and being met with “that’s just how it is.”
What does one do with that much rage?
I look back on my behaviors that I’m not proud of and I know why. It came from a lifetime of feeling helpless. Of feeling like I don’t matter. Being told that’s just how it is, or worse, feeling like it was my fault.
So, what do you do with that much rage?
You name it. I used to be afraid to tell people I was that angry. So, I’m saying now, I was that angry. Still angry, but I don’t let it drive.
I also tell the story. It helps me process and be heard. And I write about it like I’m doing now.
I’m angry it happened, but I don’t feel rage anymore. I’ve forgiven that guy and all the others. I hope now they know…but that’s not for me to seek out or give too much thought. I can also raise my son to understand that behaviors like that are unacceptable to do to other human beings, and to call it out when he sees it.
So, with that, I ask you: What do you do with your anger? If you have rage, what do you do with that?
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