About a month ago, I was sexually assaulted at a yoga class.
I was the only woman in the room, which, in hindsight, should have been a red flag. We began in plank. I got into the pose I’ve been doing for ten years. He sighed loudly.
“Come down.” he said. “I really didn’t think I’d have to teach plank today, but I saw a few that were just…ugh…”
When I came back into my plank, he straddled me, reached under my body, and hit my pubic bone three times. “Lift here,” he said. My face flashed hot. Then he dug his hands between my buttocks and thighs. “Tighten here.” I dropped to my knees, and he walked away. I did end up leaving early, but not before he came back again and again, openly invading my space and groping my body under the guise of “correcting” my postures.
When I got home, I cried to Ryan, and then questioned whether or not I was just imagining things. Was he being sincere? My wise friend always says that when you don’t tell people what bothers you, you don’t give them a chance to be better. I happen to also teach yoga at this gym, and had his number, so I called him. I told him he made me uncomfortable. His response? “Yeah, well, I learned those adjustments from a woman…so…” After I hung up with him, I called my manager. He was promptly fired.
My dad is a fervent Trump supporter, so when the video of him bragging about doing this very thing surfaced, I felt I had to tell him about my experience. I told him in the car, and for a long time, he sat in the driver’s seat, not speaking. Then he said, “I can’t believe you stayed there and let him do that to you.”
Yesterday on the playground, my seventeen-month-old son made friends with a nineteen-month old black girl. At the bottom of the slide, she reached for his hand, and I was overcome with emotion at the sight of such innocence. The little girl’s father marched over with purpose, snatched her from the slide, and shot me a look over his shoulder as he walked away.
I was just processing what had happened when a middle-aged black woman walked up from the same direction.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “That’s my son and granddaughter. We’ve had a bad day.”
“That makes all of us.”
“We just had an…incident this morning.” She lowered her chin and looked at me. “Racism.”
She didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t ask. I told her I was sorry, and she told me that it was nothing she hadn’t dealt with before. She told me God had a plan, and that God was watching all of us.
That’s when I realized the shock that I’d felt that morning knowing our country could elect such an overt racist as its leader was a result of my privilege. I wasn’t aware that this racism, direct or indirect, was so widespread. But this woman knew and had a personalized way of coping that she could simply fall back on. For me, it was the day the world changed. For her, it was a Wednesday.
Today, I had a pleasant surprise: my friend David, who owns a landscaping company, was doing some work next door. I hadn’t seen him in a while and it was so good to see his face again. I asked how his wife was.
“Not good. She’s upset.”
Old conversational habits took me over. No sooner had I exclaimed “Oh no! Why?” did I understand exactly why she was upset.
“Trump. You know, this morning, I told my guys not to come early, like they usually do. I told them we’d wait for everyone to get to work, to stay safe. But it didn’t work. Someone threw trash at me today, called me a wetback, told me to go back to my country.”
Again, when I told him how sorry I was, he proved he could meet hate with integrity. “You know, Megan, we are not of this world. This is His world. We’re all here for His purpose. You just remember that.”
People who voted for Trump because of his economic policies (which I’m sorry to say, are just not true—manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back. If they did, you’d have to live like a Vietnamese factory worker to compete, and trust me, you don’t want to. Also if you’re reading this, your taxes are probably going UP, not down) and people who voted third-party because they just didn’t care who was in power sent a message. They may not have meant to, but they implicitly approved of my sexual assault. They didn’t do it intentionally, but they were satisfied with that grandmother feeling less than worthy of respect. They may not have known it, but they found the attack of my brown friend acceptable. So if you see me around in the next few days and I don’t seem chipper, this is why.
The good news (because there’s always good news) is that people are taking the words of Michelle Obama to heart: “When they go low, you go high.” I’m ready to get to work.
So now that we have the good and the bad, here’s the ugly: remember that manuscript I told you about so long ago? It’s gone through four rounds of edits with a professional editor and it’s very nearly ready for presentation to literary agents. If they dig it, it might be published and become a real live novel. And as of Tuesday night, the story of four young people of color struggling against a tyrannical government and an entertainment-sedated public is horribly relevant.