Today I told my 12 year old daughter about the first time I got drunk.
It didn’t start off that way, the conversation. I didn’t write down in my day planner: Tell J all about that time you hurled into a sewer grate on Main Street of your hometown...
It started off with her describing the feeling like she couldn’t relate to some of her classmates. How they didn’t have the same interests as her, she didn’t think they understood her and how she thinks.
I knew that feeling. There was a time in early high school where so many of my peers were doing stuff I really didn’t like to do. I tried to explain that to my daughter. However, I felt like a bit of back story was necessary.
“I’m going to tell you about the first time I got drunk.”
Should I be honest about how young I was? Yes, because she’ll be facing the same choices at the same time.
“I was in grade 8. My friend’s brother had beer and we took it. I drank 3. I had no idea what 3 beers would do to someone not much bigger than you. Well I don’t remember a lot...”
Perhaps I should leave out that I woke up in my friend’s clothes, or that I almost picked a fight with the tough chick... yeah, not relevant.
“I do remember puking” on Main Street into a sewer grate. “I did and said some really stupid things.” I may have gone to a party and did cartwheels in the living room and knocked a bunch of stuff over. “The next day I felt horrible and decided to never get that drunk again.”
Seriously. It was years before I had more than one drink at a party. I still avoid getting drunk.
“Point of the story is this, when I got to high school most of my peers just wanted to go to parties and get drunk. That just wasn’t for me. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t relate to them when they told me stories of how drunk they were that weekend. I didn’t judge them, they weren’t bad people for drinking, I just didn’t feel like we had very much in common anymore. I couldn’t connect with them. I felt a bit lonely for a while because of it. But, I met a couple of other people who were less interested in drinking and more interested in music, dancing and art and then I didn’t feel so different or at least alone in my difference. You are unique in some of your interests, so you are going to have a few less people to really connect with, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you get to high school there will be new people who like what you like and your friend circle will expand.”
She seemed to perk up at this knowledge. Talk over, right?
Well, sitting here afterwards, writing my blog post, I’ve had time to look back on that drunken memory. There was a pretty disturbing thing that I realized. The party I went to was at an apartment, an apartment of a 20 year old male. I was not the only early teen girl there, in fact most of the girls there were 15 or younger, there were no early teen boys.
What the fuck is a twenty year old male doing having a party with 13,14 and 15 year old girls?
I remember a rumour that he raped a young girl (which now that I am older and wiser, I believe it was true). At the time however, I thought he was a nice guy for giving us girls a “safe” place to drink. “Safe” as in we wouldn’t get caught by the police or our parents.
But this is typical predatory behaviour.
I see now that a talk about red flag predatory behaviours needs to be had. This is different from the “If an adult makes you feel uncomfortable or tries to give you gifts...” talk.
This is a: “these are warning signs that a person who claims to like you is trying to put you in a physically or emotionally compromised position in order to force/coerce you into having sexual contact.” Talk. The talk where I need to walk the thin line of avoiding victim blaming but arming her to make choices that lower her risk of being assaulted. I want her to believe that generally, the world is a good place. I don’t want her to live in fear, but I don’t want her completely oblivious to the reality of violence against women.
I need resources, but I also need relatable stories. What I really wish was that I didn’t have to arm her at all. I hate the idea of her walking down the street taking all the precautions I do. I hate that I have to pass down this fear, this constant awareness.
Please, please raise your children to respect and understand boundaries and consent. I’m begging you because no amount of red flag recognition is going to keep all of our girls and boys safe. Risk management alone will not solve the problem of sexual violence in our communities.
We need to acknowledge that abusers were once children too, learning to respect another person’s bodily autonomy is a necessary social skill for healthy relationships, romantic and otherwise. We need to teach our children that everyone deserves to choose what is done to and what they do with their bodies without pressure from anyone else. Smashing the patriarchy starts in the home.