Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Growing up, I was a pretty good kid most of the time. Very mischievous and high energy, but not disobedient or unpleasant. Or so my parents tell me. My mom says that I was the best kid ever; my dad says "dear God, you NEVER STOPPED." So there you go, Halloweenlover as a child- sweet and hyper. Hmm, perhaps Halloweenlover as an adult too.

Anyway, my parents were also incredibly over-protective. INCREDIBLY over-protective. I wasn't allowed to walk downstairs in our apartment building by myself, I couldn't walk to the corner, my mom used to wait outside church dances to make sure I didn't leave the gym for one second. If I did, she'd later ask me why I'd gone outside when she'd forbidden me from doing so. For a long time, I was sure she had spies watching me at all times.

In high school, as one might imagine, I wasn't so keen on all of these restrictions. My friends went out with boys freely, went to parties without checking with their parents, but my restrictions were clear... No boys' houses, no going anywhere without my parents knowing where I was, no staying out too late and my parents insisted on speaking to the other parent if I was spending the night (the horror!!!). We struck a good balance when my parents gave me a cell phone for Christmas (the first of all my friends, which must have been a crazy luxury for them) and I told them where I was, with whom and for how long at all times. It worked.

I could attend parties as long as I said where they were, and sometimes I was permitted to go even if parents wouldn't be there. Given my new freedom, I rarely rebelled. I got home at the correct times, although I sometimes sped like a banshee to make it, and I never drank or smoked or experimented with drugs although they were in abundance at the parties we attended. Looking back, I wonder if private schools don't breed more drug and alcohol use, given the fact that those students often have greater access to the funds used to purchase such items.

There are only two times that stick out in my mind as my having clearly broken the rules put in place by my parents, and both times (lucky for all of us), I ended up regretting it despite never being caught.

My parents were certainly stricter than other parents, so I was often left out of late night shenanigans. Nothing too serious, just sitting by the pool into the wee hours of the morning, or staying at parties until the neighbors (or police) shut them down. Of course, I, like so many other teenage girls, had one unrequited love interest throughout high school. His name was Rob, he attended the all-boys school partnered with my all-girls school and he was oh-so-cute. During my junior year, following a particularly traumatic "breakup" with a boyfriend that had gone away to college, we became friends. Despite my best efforts to compete with girls around me, I wasn't really great high school girlfriend material. I wouldn't break the rules my parents put in place, I was really quite innocent on all matters, ahem, sexual, and I wouldn't drink or do drugs. I know that he liked me, but in comparison to far more available and willing girls, I must have been boring.

So the day that Rob asked me at the football game if I would go camping the next weekend with all of our friends, I couldn't bring myself to say no. "Camping," and you'll soon see why it is quote worthy, meant driving out to a public park in the city that was most certainly not intended for camping, sneaking in despite signs to the contrary, picking a deserted path, building a campfire, and "sleeping" in sleeping bags all piled around the campfire after drinking copious amounts. This Halloweenlover would NEVER go "camping" like that, but he asked, so I had to go.

I told my mom that I'd be sleeping at a friend's house, and to prevent the obvious questions about dirt on my sleeping bag or on my shoes, I told her we'd be camping in the backyard. She agreed, and off I was on my merry way.

It was exciting, don't get me wrong, and Rob did pay attention to me most of the night, but I was unbearably nervous of getting caught, getting mugged or attacked, or getting arrested. I couldn't relax all night, and I suspect he was rather disappointed at my unwillingness to "sleep" around the campfire. I eventually convinced a friend to leave with me when I finally decided my nerves couldn't take anymore. I told my mom about our little camping trip years later, and although she likely wanted to throttle me, she laughed instead.

In my second dalliance with rule-breaking, a friend of Rob's, let's call him Ethan, had begun actively seeking me out. He'd asked for my phone number and we'd gone out to the movies and met at parties and school functions. His interest in me seemed to annoy Rob, and so in my first move toward playing the Game, I feigned interest back. It wasn't all that difficult, to be honest. He was cute, funny, interesting and well-known as an accomplished soccer player at the all-boys school. Rob made his displeasure known to me, but I later realized that it had less to do with jealousy and more to do with real concern for me.

Ethan, I guess, was one of those supposed "bad boys" that manipulates girls with great pleasure. I didn't know it at the time, but he had a reputation for flirting endlessly only to drop a girl with great public fanfare.

Unluckily for me, Ethan behaved perfectly for the first couple of months that we dated. He called on schedule, he took me out, and he was sweet as pie. He finally convinced me to attend a party at his house while his parents were out of town. Ethan lived in a town far away from the city, in the mountains on the way to Lake Tahoe. I'd never have been allowed to drive that far, particularly to a parent-less party. My girlfriends and I loaded up a few cars, and traveled to Ethan's remote town. I was staying at a friend's house so we had no curfew and no one knew where we were.

As the hours of stupid teenage antics stretched by, Ethan asked me if I'd like a tour of the house, wink wink, and I stupidly agreed. When we got to his room, he implored me to come inside and see his bedroom. Then to sit on his bed. Then to lie down. And then he got pushy. And mean. God, my heart is pounding as I write this. Somehow, it was only then that I realized I might be in trouble. And I got scared. The music was blaring in the downstairs rooms, I hadn't told anyone where we were going. And he was being forceful despite my moves to leave the room. It felt like an eternity of him pushing me down and trying to grope me while I became increasingly upset. I still can't understand how a boy so young could have such malice in him. I began to cry and fight against his efforts and scream out when I could. And for some reason, he just stopped. He stopped while flinging insults and barbs and names, but he allowed me to flee the room, where I found an empty house and friends that had left without me. Luckily, I'd been one of the drivers and no one had taken my car so I grabbed my coat and keys and ran out of the house.

I cried during the long drive home for reasons that I couldn't yet quantify, but later I knew how close I'd come to having my life changed. And although certainly I suffered no great harm, per se. I left without anything truly awful happening; I think that night left me with serious distrust of men and a good deal of paranoia.

When I finally went away to college, I was never one of those girls who would comfortably go to boys' rooms or attend parties with abandon. I always worried for myself and for my girlfriends because I knew what could happen in a minute, even with someone you thought you knew.

And Rob? I did tell him what happened and he apologized for not warning me. We ended up being good friends that flirted quite a bit but nothing more. He went to my senior prom with me, we chatted on the phone quite often, we hung out regularly at his house and out at parties. But alas, never became love interests although I have no real reasons why.

I didn't tell anyone else what happened that night, not my parents and not my friends. I think I was ashamed of my stupidity, and of course, I worried that somehow it was my fault. I'd driven out to his house, I'd gone on the tour, I'd led him on. It wasn't until college that I put into words my fear and the lesson I'd learned. Now I'll tell anyone, and I'll certainly tell my future children and their friends. I was lucky, and I know how very many people aren't.


Kristin said...

My heart was pounding when I read that. Hon, I'm so glad you got away from that jerk. Makes me think of that girl from Alabama who disappeared while on vacation to Aruba. It sounds like she just met a cute guy, was having fun on her senior trip. Not thinking about something bad happening. And then something did. We as teenagers and college kids do so many stupid things. I'm amazed any of us make it out unscathed.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Oh, Halloweenlover! What a moving post. I'm so thankful that you got away that day. It's such a frightening lesson to have to learn.

I'm glad those days of scary parties and half-conscious choices are over for me. But now that I'm a parent myself, it frightens me even more. Note to self: sign Baby Blue up for karate lessons...

Frankie said...

What a powerful, powerful story. My heart was pounding reading it, too.

I was also a "good girl" nerd in high school, and I am happy I was. It led me from making a lot of mistakes that could have seriously jeopardized my future.

Gawdessness said...

It was all his fault!
All of it.
something like that happened to me when I was a little older and really, really drunk.
Thank God there was a friend watching out for me that night!
What a wonderful post, I want to read it to my kids.
Wow. Gave me the chills reading it.

susanne said...

it was certainly NOT your fault at all! Thank god you got out with a huge fright instead of something else. *keep smiling*

Ninotchka said...

This should be published in a teen magazine, I swear. So well written, HL. I did many a stupid thing and had a very similar experience once. Scary as hell. I look back and realize how lucky I was.

z. said...

My friends and I have talked many times about how we know not a single person who doesn't have a similar or worse experience. Me included. I'm glad you got out ok. We do such dangerous things when we're young and we usually don't realize it until after the fact.

The Daring One said...

Senior film project in college, a documentary about rape and sexual assault, called Never Me.

Hours of interviews with survivors, counselors and rape crisis workers. This is the way it really happens, not in a dark alley, not with a stranger jumping out.

So scary. I'm glad you lived to tell and educate.

Chris said...

Unfortunate isn't it how many of us have the same experiences. I had a very similar experience.

jo(e) said...

What Z. said. So many women have had an experience like this.

It is not fair.

Suzanne said...

Oh, HL! I'm so sorry you had to go through this. What a scary experience. And brave of you to recount it here. Thank you.

Running2Ks said...

As Gawdessness said, his fault.

Never yours.

And, I have been in that situation. I am so sorry you had to go through this. So sorry.

Oh my goodness, and I admire your strength and conviction.

Scrivener said...

I'd have sworn I left a comment on this post way back when you posted it...

Glad you got away, and totally not your fault at all. This issue is becoming one of my major sources of despair--if every woman has a story like this one, or worse, as seems to be the case, then what hope is there for the future? If there are that many men that screwed up, and that many people, men and women, suffering as victims of sexual violence, how do we make any progress?