THE RETURN OF THE CONSEQUENCE

The author as a a young turk.

The author as a a young turk.

My experiences with men have been across the board. Some relationships were innocent and playful. Some were pure raw passion and few rules. But in each, there was respect. And we didn’t have a conversation about it; by the times we’d “gotten there” there was plenty of communication, much unspoken about boundaries and knowing what was “okay.”

From the moment you meet someone, you are communicating with them. Mostly, you are telling them about yourself, and how you view yourself, how much (or whether or not you) respect yourself. My peers and I (Gen-X, if you will) grew up reading social cues and emotional cues. We knew that when someone said “yes” with a face full of dread, there was something else going on there. We knew by how someone reacted when they saw us whether or not they felt the same way we did seeing them.

But times have changed. I read Sherry Turkle’s “Reclaiming Conversation.” In it, she says young people DREAD conversation. They fear they’ll “say it wrong,” and so they prefer to text, where they can edit their words so that they “get it right.” Another reason for text is so that they have a record of a conversation (in case they need to disprove someone’s version later). Isn’t that lovely?

Lost in all this text is facial expression. Body language. The nuances and subtleties that often tell us WAY MORE than what someone is actually verbalizing.

It’s not the kids’ fault. They learn from their parents, and parents of teens and young adults now are every bit as guilty of being glued to their devices as their children. I struggle with trying to spend less time with mine, and have to set hard rules for myself.

Which brings us to #metoo. People need to get back to looking each other in the face. People need to learn what the face (and body) language of remorse, guilt, fear, unease, confusion, uncertainty, nervousness etc. etc. etc. looks like. We can “talk about it” all we want. But we’re not really listening unless we are reading the whole person.

A few times I found myself in situations I realized I didn’t want to be in. I had sex with someone just to get the whole night over with. That was my choice (in your twenties, having sex wasn’t the worst thing that could happen, even in that situation). Another time I was on a first date with a multi-millionaire who grew enraged when I didn’t want to go to his place to watch a movie after dinner. I’d gone back to mens’ places on the first date before, but it didn’t feel right here. I suggested we see a movie in a theatre instead. He grew enraged, and I told him to pull the car over.

My point is, we all get in situations that are not ideal (and I’m only talking about dating here). As women, we also have to read visual and emotional cues — that charming, attractive multi millionaire… something told me NOT to go home with him, and his response to my “No” confirmed how right I was. The sex with the “just to get the whole night over with” guy — that was my choice. I was not a victim in either of these two scenarios. I put myself in them, and I got myself out of them. I own my choices, and I learned from both experiences.

Of course there are cases far more serious than these, and I’m definitely not suggesting that women can get themselves out of every situation. Men are bigger and stronger and people (especially if we don’t know them well) can become violent surprisingly quickly, especially when alcohol is involved.

But we need to talk about communication. Talk is great. BUT LET’S NOT FORGET about emotional and social cues. Put down the goddamn devices. You may NOT text a break up, or an apology. We owe those we hurt, intentionally or otherwise, the respect of doing these things face-to-face. We need to see the hurt on their face, the harm we’ve inflicted.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina put this into practice in Larry Nassar’s case, when she let 150+ of his victims read their victim statement. He had to see and hear the immeasurable pain and suffering he inflicted on every one of them. We need to get back to a time where we not only recognize it’s wrong to hurt someone, but we are TERRIFIED of the consequences if we do. People have been consequence-free too long. #timesup


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