Friend of a friend
Two years ago I went with friends to house party on New Years Eve. I was nervous to go to a stranger’s house for a party, but felt reassured that my group was so large. I didn’t know everyone in it well, there were lots of “friends-of-friends” but since everyone was someone’s friend I felt safe.
A couple hours in, I was in the kitchen refilling my drink and some guy I didn’t know came up behind me and started doing some dance against me like I was a pole. I think he was just doing it to make his friends laugh. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that I would have a problem with him touching me. I tried to act like I wasn’t bothered by it, just rolled my eyes and walked away. I didn’t want to be the bitch at the party who made a big deal out of nothing. When I got back to my group, one of the many friends-of-a-friend I was there with shook his head. “What a jerk,” he said. “He doesn’t even know you.”
It’s just occurring to me that even if the night had ended there I could still write a story about it, could still call what that guy did against me wrong. I’d never even thought that I could really be angry about just that alone.
It didn’t end there, though. Fast-forward another couple of hours, another couple of drinks. I wasn’t having as much fun, though, not since the guy at the drink counter. I stayed, though, because it was a party and you just didn’t leave a party for no reason.
I walked into what I thought was an empty bathroom, but the same friend-of-a-friend was in there. I apologized and started backing out, but he was just washing his hands and told me he was almost done. I stepped past him and waited against the wall for him to be finished. Instead of opening the door, though, he closed it. He hopped up on the counter and started talking to me. Something about the conversation felt weird, I think just because the way we were positioned in the bathroom I couldn’t easily leave. He knew I had to use the bathroom, too, so it would have been really awkward for me to just say “never mind” and walk out.
I wasn’t saying much, hoping he’d get the hint and leave, but he just kept talking. Then, without any warning, he said “God, you look so fucking hot tonight” and strode across the bathroom toward me. He kissed me almost before he finished his sentence.
I didn’t want to be kissing him. I hardly knew him and I wasn’t interested in him at all. I don’t know what made him think I wanted to kiss him, or maybe he just didn’t care. He held my face to his with one hand and roughly ran his other hand all over my body. It was like he knew it wasn’t going to last long and he wanted to say he had touched everything he could. I tried to pull away, but I was trapped between him and the wall. It was hard to breathe with his mouth pressed against mine. Finally he pulled back and just stared at me for a minute. I don’t know why I didn’t move then, but I felt frozen. Then he winked at me and walked out.
It’s been years and I still don’t understand what happened that night. It would be so much less confusing if he hadn’t called the pole dance guy from earlier in the night a jerk. But then I think back to it and I remember what he said: “He doesn’t even know you” and I wonder whether he thought his “friend-of-a-friend” status meant that he “knew” me and that somehow made it OK. Did he think it was OK because he complimented me first, if a pre-groping “God you look so hot tonight” can really be considered a compliment? Did he think that I wanted to kiss him or did it just never occur to him that a kiss like that should be wanted?
I think the thing that still bothers me about that night is that I didn’t leave the party. Just like after the pole dance guy earlier in the night, I returned to the couch amongst my no longer safe feeling group and waited. I pushed that experience down somewhere with years of catcalls and inappropriate comments and waited for the night to be over. When friend-of-a-friend asked for my number at the end of the night, I didn’t tell him that he had made me want to cry, I didn’t tell him that I could still feel where his hand had grabbed between my legs, I didn’t tell him that I hadn’t had a sip of anything, even water, for the rest of the night because I didn’t want to have to use the bathroom again. Instead, I lied and told him I had just gotten a new phone and didn’t have the number memorized yet. I told him I’d get his number from a friend and give him a call. I didn’t give him a call but I did let him end the night thinking he’d scored with me instead of scared me. For that, I will stay angry with myself, but for the rest of it I will be angry with him. And it was wrong.