We’ve been friends for 20 years now. Not call each-other-up-and-share-every-secret-hurt-or-feeling kind of friends. Not even let’s-go-to-lunch-and-talk-about-people-we’re-mad-at kind of friends.
But friends in the sense we worked together at the same newspaper 20 years ago, served on United Way and church membership committees together, like and respect each other, laugh at one another’s jokes and care very much about each other’s well-being. Had we not showed up and ended up sitting beside each other at a political rally on very hot night last August where she spotted me 10 bucks for a hotter-than-hot burrito plate and promised me a couple of shoots from her Aloe Vera plant, we probably wouldn’t have one another’s phone numbers.
In this crazy life merry-go-round, she’s the kind of friend we all need – and can’t have too many of. I’m the kind of friend who can keep a confidence. That’s why I can’t and won’t tell you her name. But she asked me to tell her story.
I hate that I have to tell it. I’m proud that I am able to. My friend only asked me to share it for her, to keep her anonymity. Telling it, she hoped would free her from her pent-up angst, her lingering shame, the hurt and the disillusionment she’d held for all of 52 years.
She sent me her story in an email. I asked if I could pass it on in this week’s column. She said, “Please do. I know you’ll – underline you’ll – protect your source.”
Here’s a little of what my friend wrote in that email.
“I believe every word of what Dr. Christine Blasey Ford says. Every. Word… And I know why she didn’t come forward sooner. Because the exact same thing happened to me, it happened 52 years ago.”
My friend said she was 15, maybe 16, and wanted more than anything to be accepted, to have a boyfriend, to fit in. Didn’t we all? I sure did, and I could so identify with what she was saying. A cool, slightly older guy asked her on a date, to a party on the other side of town.
What could be a better foot in the door with the cool crowd than a date to a party with one of the coolest? My friend envisioned a party where they would be with several other couples. I could only imagine her surprise to walk in and see she was the only female there.
From the get-go, my friend was uneasy. Before too long the uneasiness became a well-grounded almost paralyzing fear. She found herself surrounded by the inebriated, cheering, leering mob-mentality guys, and, fortunately, in her fear managed to escape to a bathroom and lock herself inside. Miraculously one of the group realized the insanity of the situation and helped her escape out the window.
“I never told anyone what happened,” my friend wrote. “Not my mother, not my best friend, no one. Because I was a teenage girl who thought I had made a mistake, and I should never have gone with that boy.
“I should never have thought anyone cool and popular would want to take me to a party.
“I should never have put myself in a spot like that. And, after all, I wasn’t actually raped or anything, so there was nothing to tell. If I told, everyone in school would know how stupid and naive I was. In the ’60s, in my school, the worst thing a girl could be called was a whore, and that’s what I would be if I told.”
By the time I finished reading my friend’s story, I felt like she’d sort of morphed into me, or I’d morphed into her. I have my own stories, tucked away where I hope they’ll never resurface. I know very few females who don’t. At dinner the other night with two other friends about my age, where stories were exchanged of our cute days and naïveté, I felt like there was an anchor of sadness on my heart. I added stories of the things I know our children face today – abuse and misunderstanding of sex.
Knowing too much and understanding too little are a heavy burden for us all.
I too believe Dr. Ford’s story. She has no reason to lie. But its leak won’t affect the confirmation of the Supreme Court Justice one iota. I don’t have any answers.
Except this. Abuse needs to stop. It’s wrong. It’s cowardly. It’s cruel. And it is not OK. We have to respect each other.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is an instructional assistant and freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly bi-weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.