Tim Lineaweaver sincerely wants to know: What should he make of a situation where a woman gropes him in public?
Let me set the stage for you:
The house: Plus size, sitting on an emerald green private peninsula overlooking a stunning panoramic water view of Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod.
The party: An annual catered late August 5-7PM affair with an eclectic mix of people including artists, musicians, scientists, filmmakers, doctors, trades-people, and at least one therapist.
The victim (me): A 57-year-old white male therapist, happily married for 20 years, father of 3 grown children and proud grandfather of four.
The perpetrator: A fifty-something married white woman, mother and oncologist of some renown.
The crime: As I bent down to hug and air kiss one of the hosts, the perpetrator moved swiftly toward the target just cleverly out of the peripheral vision of the victim. The grab was not a light playful pat nor was it a flirty, saucy pinch. More, it was a full on digit-expanded assault resulting in a taut handful of the offended area.
The initial reaction: A quick backhanded slap as she retracted her hand with the stealth of a boxer pulling back his fully-extended jab. Fully in fight or flight mode, I legged it out of the area with a quick backward glance to try and read her face which was passive, betraying not much at all, perhaps best described as, “Whaddya want from me?”
The aftermath: What to make of this? Being a man I am well aware that all things are not equal in this instance. At this party, were I to have done the same to a woman though, the best I could hope for would be social condemnation: a short shocked collective gasp, conjuring words such as lech, pervert, groper, cad, freak etc. At worst, what? Asked to leave, disgraced, a huge diminishment of local reputation? Would arrest even be a possibility, attorneys! Egad! I know given gender differences in power, physical strength and force, maybe all these worst-case scenarios would be right and proper.
I can also say this is not the first time something like this has happened. Several years ago I was deep in the weeds at my last job as a manager of a busy behavioral health division in a frenetically paced community health center. Pumped full of anxiety and with jangled nerves at the end of a long week, I jumped in my car and drove hurriedly to my son’s hockey game a couple of hours away. Grinding through ungodly traffic, I screeched into the crowded parking lot and hurried through the doors of the rink pausing to score some soothing, stomach-warming hot chocolate at the concession stand and then happily took my place standing in the balcony overlooking the ice. No sooner had I sighed relief and took a warming draw of my hot chocolate I felt a sharp shooting pain-pinch on the butt. Startled, my hands reflexively shot up in the air and a big slop of the brown liquid doused my shirt and jacket. I spun around to nab the culprit and there was a local hockey mom of ill repute with a leering grin directed my way as she glanced over her shoulder and hastily sped away. As soon as I saw her face there was absolutely no surprise. Let’s face it, I have spent fifty-plus years in hockey rinks and I know well they are teeming cauldrons of dysfunction, with highly misguided notions of what it is to be a either man or a woman.
This particular cocktail party with this particular group of people was not a place I would ever have expected to be groped. I am left to wonder what to make of it? When you think of it, most human behavior is a form of communication. And this communicated something along the lines of I am crossing your physical space to a place most anyone would consider to be a bodily-no-trespassing zone. I am left to assume this was a physical fuck-you.
Polling friends about the ass-grab, women and men alike, has brought me a widely varied number of responses including the following: “You should have been flattered. You should have confronted her right away, saying with moral certitude that’s inappropriate! It was a sexual act. It was an aggressive hostile act. She likes you.” I asked one woman what she would do if this happened to her husband and she ran into the perpetrator at the supermarket and she was clear that she would make short work out of the perpetrator. My eighteen year old son, a very even-tempered guy, said if someone did such a thing to his girlfriend he would be forced to defend her honor and I can’t disagree with that sentiment.
Perhaps it’s just a simple as one friend put it: “Just be grateful she wasn’t a proctologist.”