Last year shortly after New Year’s Day I was in the gym, doing some stretching. A long-time gym member, a guy in his 60s, came over and kissed me on the lips and said “Happy New Year.”
It was abrupt. Caught me off guard. And it was unwelcome.
If you asked him about it right now, he would probably say I liked it. You know why? I was ready to object in the moment and then I cowered. I felt like a weakling, but something in me wanted to just forget it and keep the peace. I see this guy almost every time I go to the gym.
Fast forward to last week. Yes, just six days ago. I was lifting weights and we got into a light conversation. He works in a service job, so I posed a scenario to him about how he would handle a certain situation with a customer.
“Simple,” he said while leering at my chest. “Show me your tits and you’ll get anything you want.”
If you know me at all, if you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, you’re saying, wow, here’s the part where the mighty Nancy cuts him off at the knees. But you’re going to be disappointed because I cowered again. I was so taken aback I was rendered speechless.
He took his swagger to the next weight machine while I berated myself. Again.
But then two other guys he knew got into a conversation with him and he declared with flirtatious bravado that he was going to slip into a shower with me, who was standing a few feet away. Incredulous, I shot him down in front of these guys. He laughed, but with an edge of disbelief.
“What?” he said.
I rolled my eyes and gave him a dismissive wave of my hand as I disengaged. Then I pounded the leg press machine into submission.
But right here, right now, on the day that entitled blowhard Bill O’Reilly was forced out of Fox News, I’m here to say it – Fuck these guys and the women who enable them. Every damn one of them.
I know. I know. I’m so courageous sitting here at my keyboard.
It’s worth noting that that’s a big part of this discussion, though. Why don’t women come forward sooner? Why do they keep it to themselves when something bothers them? Why don’t they just handle it in the moment?
Legitimate questions with a variety of answers depending on the situation. This guy at my gym has no hierarchical power over me. So what’s really at stake? Probably what I said earlier – keeping the peace. But it’s really not, is it? Do I sound peaceful right now? I am livid as my fingers fly over these keys.
Livid at the board member who picked me up at the airport when I was in my 20s and told me he wished he was that seatbelt wrapped around me. Livid at the evolved guy I worked for who imagined what I was doing in a bath tub. Livid at myself for swallowing my rage at all of it.
Once in the 1990s a co-worker made a joke about my breasts in front of other co-workers, all men. Back then my response was adrenaline-fueled – “If you ever make a comment about my body again, I will sue you for sexual harassment so fast your head will spin.” Sometimes I rise up, maybe when it’s done in front of others. I don’t know. I was shaking that day. And truly, I have been blessed to work with so many smart, kind, professional men over the course of my career.
In this O’Reilly case there’s talk of left wing conspiracy. Please. Like liberals spent the last decade-plus sending women into Fox New headquarters to bait the arrogant jerk. Why aren’t there millions being paid out in hush money in the names of Chris Wallace, Brit Hume, or Bret Baier? Why is O’Reilly the only “victim” in this grand scheme?
After seeing one of his ilk elected President and now experiencing the results of what it costs our country to let a privileged egomaniac have his way, I can’t help but feel some relief that O’Reilly has tumbled from his lofty perch. I imagine he’ll find another and continue to bloviate and treat women like they’re not his equals. Whatever.
For now, I’ll take it. I needed to tap into my rage. This is a start.