Things Haven't Changed, They've Just Gotten Worse: A Reflection On My Old Diary

Author's Note: I would like to acknowledge that women in other parts of the world are faced with far worse and women have dealt with much harsher in this country before, especially women of color. This is just my own personal experience and moment of realization when it came to my own life.

I sat down to work on a writing project this past October during the Kavanaugh v Ford case. It has been a disheartening time to be a woman in America for the past two years - men who admit to sexual assault are climbing to the most powerful positions in the country, the criticism of #MeToo, the evidence and sentencing displayed during assault trials. It seems that while there are tons of voices speaking out and standing up for women’s rights, there are just as many telling them all to sit back down. It was hitting me hard and bringing my attention to how men were treating myself and others lately.

This was not the purpose of the writing I set out to do. I wanted to bring some comedy to the world by pouring over my middle school diary and pulling out the most embarrassing passages I could find. I wanted to make people laugh and to distract from what was going on in the world. Instead, I realized that it hasn’t just been the past few years. I've always been dealing with emotionally or physically abusive boys. And it was normalized.

The very first passage I read had already caught me off guard. It was a few days after Valentine’s Day, where students could buy carnations for other students, and I highlight a boy in my sixth grade class who told me that he knew someone who had gotten me one. After I didn’t receive one, a friend asked him why he had lied, and he said that he, “wanted me to get upset. He said that he wanted to see me cry.”

In eighth grade, one of my close friends walked me to the door of his house when I was going to walk home, telling another boy we were hanging out with to stay put. When he hugged me goodbye, he picked me up and told me, “This is when you wrap your legs around me.” When I told him it wasn’t, he insisted that I owed him another hug. I then wrote, “He hugged me for, like, five minutes then pressed me against the door. I was reaching for the handle when his friend walked over, so he let go of me. I ran home. I’m probably overreacting, but it scared me.”

In March of the same year, I talk consistently about a boy who I called “Stalker” because he wouldn’t leave me alone but also wouldn’t talk to me in person. He consistently spoke to me while he had a string of girlfriends and ignored me when I told him what he was doing was wrong. At one point, I wrote, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.”

I talk about a boy who slapped me across the face because I was telling someone what a good friend he was and he misheard me and thought I was being mean. I talk about my best guy friend who, after I tripped and fell against some desks and couldn’t move my arm, asked me where it hurt and then hit that spot as hard as he could. In March of 2012, I include a list of reasons I hate myself, labeled 1-14, and they all have to do with how worthless the men in my life make me feel.

I read an account of my first date with my first boyfriend, where he “said something mean but then offered me a hug. He teased me the whole time. And it was perfect.” It’s my last entry in the diary, freshman year of high school, but it reminded me of the other events I didn’t write about. Like how two years later, he would send me lists of things I did wrong every day. And six months after that, he’d shove me and then get upset when I said it’s not okay. “Stop. You’re making me feel shitty,” was his only response.

I think of years after I left that relationship and the rights that strangers and loved ones have felt that they had over my own body.

And I think of now, and how I thought maybe everything had gotten worse, that it had changed, but it turns out, it hasn’t. The internet and the headlines are acknowledging these issues and events, which we didn’t all have access to before. I’m just more in-tune to it, and I wish that my younger self could have been too.