The summer I was 15 I took a sewing course at the University of British Columbia. I made a beautiful wool dress. I enjoyed the course so much I asked my mother if I could take the next level course.
I took the bus to UBC. The bus ride consisted of getting the Dunbar bus at Dunbar and 33rd, and then transferring to the UBC bus at 10th and Alma.
On the first day of class, as I was taking the bus home, a group of boys started to harass me. They catcalled, and then one came over and sat beside me and put his arm around me.
I was so scared.
I rang the bell and I got off the bus somewhere around 10th and Alma. I felt relieved they didn't get off at the same stop.
I walked home, afraid to get back on a bus. I realize now that the bus driver did nothing. Maybe he hadn't noticed, but he did nothing.
When I got home I didn't tell my mom what had happened. I was embarrassed. I somehow felt like it was my fault.
I simply told her I hadn't enjoyed the class and didn't want to go back.
I didn't go back.
I have never told anyone this story.
Until now. And now as I write this I am weeping.
I am weeping for that 16 year old girl that was almost date-raped, and as she was being driven home by the offender she kept apologizing. She. kept. apologizing. And she never told anyone.
I am weeping for that 19 year old girl who was bitten on the arm in the UBC pub as a group of boys challenged each other to bite the ass of any girl walking by. I put my arm behind me in self defense and he bit my arm. He left the mark of his whole mouth, top and bottom teeth. All of them.
I didn't do anything. I went back to my table embarrassed and horrified. One guy actually came over to my table to see if he had met his target. I don't remember what I said, but those marks took a while to disappear. I guess I am lucky he didn't break the skin. I didn't tell anyone. Not any of the women at my table. No one.
I remember walking down the street as a newlywed and a car full of boys yelled "YOU ARE SO FUCKING UGLY". I heard from others in that little town that they too had been yelled at with the same words. We laughed about it.
It wasn't funny.
I remember sitting in a bar one summer evening with my husband and a man sat beside me and grabbed my thigh and told me it was fat. I didn't tell my husband until we got home why I had wanted to leave the pub so quickly.
So to my 15 year old self, my 16 year old self, my 19 year old self, my 22 year old self I want to tell you something. I want to tell you that I should have yelled back, told my mom, pressed charges.
My daughter is organizing a #catsglareback event in Halifax that will take place in a few hours.
These are her words:
"For every time you've felt unsafe walking in public. For every time you've been barked at, yelled at, sworn at. For every time you've been grabbed. For every moment you've been told to be flattered. For every time you've been told to 'stop making a big deal out of nothing.' Reclaim our streets. Reclaim our voice. Reclaim our moments. #catsglareback"
So because I can't be there to march beside her, I have reclaimed my voice and told these stories.
Because I don't want my nieces, and grand-nieces, and daughter and women anywhere to have to go through this anymore.
And I don't want my nephews and grand-nephews, and son and men anywhere to be painted by the brush of our experiences with men.
And I am still weeping.
But this is part of the healing process. This is what I need to do because I couldn't do it all those years ago.
This is my promise to myself that on my watch I will be silent no longer.
Cats glare back.