You patted me on the head, said I was cute, chucked me in the cleft of my chin, and patted my head again. We were standing in a church when you did this. Would it have been worse if it had been night and the church deserted? No, it was worse that it was 12:30 pm and the church was filled with people chatting away.
You asked me how old I was, “22?” with your godawful smile of yellow teeth, and I could have said, “Excuse me?” and given you the look that frightened away the middle-schoolers at the playground two months ago. I could have said, “I’m 30,” and walked away with my face blank and proud. I could have said, “What a rude question. How old are you?” and waited to hear your sadly bewildered answer. I could have said what I’ve taught my son to say when he does not like something: “No, thank you.”
But I betrayed myself, my son, my daughters who have yet to be born, my religion, and my gender because I laughed stupidly and said, “No. No.” I smiled a smile disgusting in its obsequiousness and shook my head. I glanced around at the people nearby. Not one of them came to my rescue. You introduced me to your daughter who was there talking with friends. She smiled at me but I want there to have been a nausea beneath the smile: ‘Oh, my father; he is such a pervert.’ You said, “All these young girls, and they’re all so pretty!”
I lied and told you that my son, who had said nothing, had asked for his daddy, and I walked back to the other end of the church, to my husband’s side, where you would never speak to me in that way.
Why was I paralyzed and why do I blame myself? Is it because you and my son share the same name? Is it because I am a friendly young evangelical woman who looks ripe for the picking, who would never make a fuss if untoward words were said? That’s not how we behave in church, dear; that’s not the way we conduct ourselves. It is because you are an elder in the church? Or is that why you acted so boldly, approaching a group of women who were not speaking to you but to each other, while our husbands were on the other side of the church?
My worst betrayal has not yet happened. It is that I will not leave this church. I will probably attend for as long as we live here. It would take a small rockslide of wrongs to make me consider leaving, and that is my greatest shame.