by Kim Jorgensen Gane
I wrote “Trigger Warning: Mothering Boys” months before the news of the Stanford rapist’s sentence infiltrated every social media platform, and rightly so. These were my words, my truth. I wrestled with them. I worked with Shawna to make better sense of them. To be clear. To find the love in the experience and be able to express that, too.
I read the words before a live audience. My dad was in the audience. My mom was. My brother left before I read my piece. We simply ran too long for his aversion to all things that might whiff of “drama” to him. i.e. girl talk.
My brother is raising four daughters, so when he cornered me at my niece’s birthday party and said, “Dad told me about your talk. I just want the guy’s name,” I was momentarily taken aback. His posture. His complete lack of. . .compassion, sensitivity, concern. . . apology. . . ? Maybe?
He said it again, “Tell me the guy’s name.”
I let out my breath. “I’m not giving you the guy’s name, *Fred.”
“Because this is why girls don’t tell. Your attitude, attacking me like this. This is why girls don’t tell.”
“Fine, you’re not going to tell me the guy’s name? We don’t need to talk about it here. I don’t do drama.”
“Why not, Fred? This is the perfect place to talk about it.” My hand sweeps the area around the kitchen island, just steps away from where my brother had cornered me, where all four of my nieces were sitting and where all conversation had stopped. “You have four daughters.”
My brother says through clenched teeth, “Fine. You want to talk about it. Let’s go outside.” I’m shaking. My nails are pressing half moons into my palms. We sit outside across the fire pit from one another, facing each other like opponents when–aren’t we supposed to be on each other’s side? Through our parents’ divorce and five stepparents we’d managed to pretty much stick together, yet here we were facing one another like this. He was already a little drunk. I had only just arrived.
“Why won’t you give me the guy’s name?”
“Because this. You. This attitude is exactly why girls don’t tell. We don’t want someone we love to go to jail. This is completely the wrong response to a situation like this. You’re acting like I did something wrong. I’m shaking talking about this with you right now and it’s more than thirty years later.”
“Well it explains a lot, that’s all.” I start to think maybe we have a glimmer,
“My history. Yeah. . .”
“No. It explains why you hate men.”
Stunned. I’m stunned. “That’s not fair,” I sputter. “I do not hate men. I love men.”
“Well everything you post [on Facebook] makes it pretty clear you hate men, and now I know why.”
“I do not hate men. I love men. I’m actually married to a pretty evolved guy, a feminist even. I’m raising two boys. I do NOT hate men.” I’d worked so hard to find the love in my story. The love for my two 13-year old boys who had triggered these fears in me. I’d even worked to find compassion for my rapist, for whom clearly no one had ever defined rape or sexual coercion. He was the son of a single mom. They were poor. He had no male role model. These weren’t conversations we were having in 1983. I had hoped to make a difference in that conversation today, in this age of promposals and sexting, for my boys and the girls they will encounter. Yet my dad hadn’t *received* that deeply important piece of “my talk,” and he certainly hadn’t relayed it my brother. And my brother hadn’t even bothered to ask to read it, seeing as, you know, he’d left before my turn at the mic. It was a deeply troubling conversation with someone I love.
And then news of the Stanford rapist came out. And I felt validated. Yet, even more troubled at what an incredibly long uphill road we have to conquer.
I look behind me, over the last thirty-plus years, and I’m not even sure we’re at the mid-point. But I know with even more certainty how important my contribution is to the conversation, and I get another wind.
Kim Jorgensen Gane is a writer and performer in Michigan. She is co-facilitator of #Write2TheEnd, a motivational workshop to keep writers in pursuit of their dreams and achieving their goals. Find Kim on Twitter here. You can view her oral performance of “Trigger Warning: Mothering Boys” for Listen to Your Mother below.
*name changed for privacy
This piece was written in response to the emergency call for compassionate #LinkYourLife posts.