Do you remember your first time?
Not that time.
I'm talking about the moment that you realized you don't have to sit and be berated by someone. I have this theory that as an adult, I shouldn't be yelled at. Unless, I'm about to step in front of a bus, DON'T YELL AT ME.
I'm good with the cheering for football teams and screaming "Go" at swim meets, but I can think of very few times when I should have to sit and take it while someone yells at me. I think as children we grow up knowing everyone else has authority. We sit compliantly while parents or teachers or coaches or principals list our shortcomings in very loud voices.
I was in my 20s and had finished grad school when I realized that I could get up and leave as an ex-boyfriend pounded on his steering wheel explaining why I was wrong.
I can picture the scene. It was the week after Thanksgiving and I had flown from my new job in Florida to Baltimore to be with a sometime boyfriend. The problem was, I had started seeing a new guy while I was in Florida, so I was pretty ambivalent about seeing this guy. I'd already purchased the plane tickets and I wondered whether I should give this older guy in Baltimore a chance.
I explained to him ahead of time that I was conflicted and he uged me to come. "We'll just have fun!" he promised. But things became uncomfortable quickly. On the second day, I asked him to drive me to my friend's house in nearby Maryland.
We pulled up outside her apartment and I could see the vertical blinds in front of the sliding glass doors as we sat in the car. The ex-boyfriend began to get upset, his voice rising as he explained why I couldn't do this, how wrong I was.
Looking back, I, of course, had made some mistakes. I should have cancelled my trip, but that didn't give him the right to yell at me.
And as I fought off tears, he pounded on the steering wheel for emphasis, and I felt my hand close around the door handle. I pulled it open and grabbed my suitcase.
I walked away.
"You can't just walk away," he yelled.
But I could and I did.
I can still remember that feeling, that realization that I didn't have to sit and take the yelling. Such freedom!
Even now I can breathe deeply and imagine a weight rising from my chest.
The ex-boyfriend later wrote a letter apologizing and we did meet up again, parting on better terms.
I wonder if this is something all women figure out or if there are women who still feel like they deserve the yelling, the list of shortcomings, the abuse.
Whether male or female, I don't have to take it, and on the few times I have to exert my rights to walk away, I recall that first time.
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