Alternate Title: Decency Saves Lives.
This is about four men I haven’t talked to in well over fifteen years. They were never particularly close friends of mine, but each played a pivotal role in my life.
The first three are Dan, Steve, and “Toga” Greg. It was the summer after I graduated high school and some girlfriends and I drove 45 minutes to attend one of Toga Greg’s house parties, as we’d done many times before. I helped myself to a solo cup of Captain Morgan and 7 Up. I left my drink with a girl when I went to use the bathroom, as you’re told to do for safety. The problem is, she didn’t watch it. It was pretty obvious to my best friend Tori that something had happened when all of a sudden I couldn’t move or speak coherently. She called our high school friend Steve who picked up our other friend Dan and drove quite a ways to come to our rescue. Most of the memories of that night are lost to me forever, except for the relief I felt looking up and realizing I was safe in Dan’s arms as he carried me out of that house party to Steve’s car. I have a few mental screen grabs of Tori, Dan, and Steve’s scared faces as I intermittently vomited and passed out on the floor of someone’s parents’ basement. I woke up the next day and went home as if nothing happened. I never said anything to Dan or Steve about it, and they never said anything about it to me or anyone else, to my knowledge.
Months later, I was a 17 year old Freshman at Millikin University heading to class in Shilling Hall when my cell phone rang. It was Toga Greg. Class was starting and the hall was emptying, but I was compelled to answer. I could barely get out an incredulous ‘Hello?’ before he said, “I have to tell you something, I’m so sorry. A couple months ago when you got sick at that party, it was because someone drugged you. It was actually a guy I know. I just found out. He didn’t know you were my friend, and…I’m just so sorry. For what it’s worth, you were safe the whole night and I’m never talking to him again.” I was stunned and relieved at the same time. Part of me had forced myself to remember that night like you would remember a nightmare: vague and shadowy, but hearing his words all of a sudden it was over for good. When I think of the integrity it took that 20 year old boy to call me up months later to apologize and give me the gift of peace of mind, I’m still overwhelmed with gratitude. We never saw each other or spoke again; but if he hadn’t had the courage to call me that day, I’d have wondered about that night forever.
The next story is about my sophomore year of college and a boy named Matt. He’s actually the second boy I ever kissed; I was a Junior in high school and it ended up being a somewhat awkward experience so we decided to be friends. Cut to a few years later when we attended the same college…I’d had too much to drink at a wild costume party at his fraternity house. In the middle of kissing in his room, I suddenly realized I was about to pass out so I crawled onto his bed, curled up and immediately fell into a deep sleep. What he could have done in this moment: anything. What he did: put his hoodie on me over my somewhat scandalous theme-party costume, locked me safely in the room so no one could find me compromised and went to find my best friend to take me home. About a year ago I watched the documentary The Hunting Ground about the prevalence of rape on college campuses. As the credits of the documentary rolled, with tears in my eyes I looked up Matt on Facebook and sent him a very random and overdue thank you message. He replied modestly, reassuring me not to worry about it.
My point in sharing these unflattering stories of myself is that all four of these men had the capacity to destroy my life; I unwittingly gave them that option. But they chose to protect me. They were just acquaintances who put themselves between me and the types of guys who could have done me indelible harm, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. It bears repeating; anyone that has a #MeToo story is entitled to exactly as much blame as I’m entitled to my good fortune in these situations: which is none. Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is to do what is decent. Decency can save lives.
So here’s to the heroes in my life and the heroes in yours. If you’re reading this and part of the #MeToo movement, I hope that for every horrible man that happened to you, there’s a good and decent man who was there for you a different time. If you’re a young girl reading this, do as I say and not as I did; Blackout is a fantastic Britney album, but never a good look for a lady.
If you’re Dan, Steve, Greg or Matt: thank you so much for your decency, it may very well have saved my life.