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Day 27: Jian Ghomeshi reminded me of having my finger bitten at a wedding

Svea Vikander, everyone wearing pants

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Jian Ghomeshi went to trial this month. And so, in a way, did Canadian women. The Ghomeshi trial is not only about a man who violated the four women pressing charges, but about whether we, as a society, trust women who tell. 

It's personal for me. Today and every day of February, I am sharing my own stories of sexual harassment and violence. Today is day twenty-seven(!), and I'm hoping to get a little levity in by sharing my experience of having my finger bitten by some guy at my friend's wedding. If you're joining us now, may I suggest that you start at the beginning, by reading my introduction here. And remember, practice self-care. The Ghomeshi scandal has one hell of an undertow. 

*     *     *

The invitation specified black tie required, bow-ties preferred. A fancy, dress-up, no kids-allowed, evening of glamour and dancing and drinks served in actual glasses. I was looking forward to a little adult time with my man, even if it involved our friend Dave's entire extended family, too. 

We packed quickly, in the way you pack when you have kids, throwing things in a bag and returning two hours later to extract wooden blocks, bits of broken down cereal boxes, and one of those little plastic syringe thingies that's used to administer children's acetaminophen, because your kids have their own ideas of the kinds of things adults do at weddings. We said goodbye to them. We told them we would call. My husband, Edward, said to me, "Your dress is hanging in the closet, don't forget your dress." "I know," I said. "Don't get offended, I just don't want you to forget it" he said.

"I know," I said, deeply offended.

As soon as we entered the limits of the city where the wedding would take place, I remembered my dress. It was a strapless black crinkly two-piece with a long skirt. And it was hanging in the closet at home. Two hours' drive away. I confessed and he laughed at me. I was mad. I knew it would be 30 years until I'd have a chance to wear it again. 

We got to the hotel. We checked in and had sex on an actual bed for the first time in months (y'all co-sleeping parents know what I'm talking about). We showered. I started to figure out a bespoke solution to my dresslessness. Fortunately, I had packed several newly purchased thrift store summer dresses and the accessories (statement necklace, peacock feather earrings, gold flash tattoos, elbow-length black gloves) I had planned to wear. I figured I could try a few of those combinations. Black gloves dress everything up. It was all going to work out. Edward went to put on his suit. 

A dark, pin-striped blazer and pants.

Pants? No. Nope.

Have you seen them?

No, I don't keep track of your dress pants, only yer underpantz.

Haha funny, they're not here.

But you have the blazer. And the pants hanger.

They fell off. Are they back at the house? What am I going to do? Maybe they're in the car.

We have 40 minutes before his dad comes to knock on the door. 

Shit.

Actually 30 because he's always early. 

Babe! What am I going to do?

Go find those pants. Wait. Put your jeans on first.

[Edward goes to check the car. Returns empty-handed]

I should buy some. 

If you buy pants, I'm buying a dress. 

What? No, the dress was your fault. You forgot it, you must suffer.

Whose fault is the pants?! You are responsible for your own pants. 

[20 minutes in which we perform various attempts to locate loaner pants, rental pants, purchased pants]

I'm going to check the car again. And if I don't find them I'm going to wear my jeans. [repositioning his incompetence as a political statement] I don't like dress codes anyway.

I'm not your wife if you wear jeans to the wedding. 

So what, I'm just going to wear my briefs and Doc Martens? 

That might actually be better. Hey, remember when I forgot my dress?

Shut up.

[Edward leaves]

[Edward arrives, panting, with pants] They… were… on the parking lot floor… someone… saved them…

The wedding was beautiful and so… pantsy. Everyone who was supposed to be wearing pants was wearing pants. It was magical.

Barbara: Hi, I'm Barbara! Aren't you just the cutest little thing, you must be the mommy friend! 

Svea: I wouldn't quite --- 

Barbara: The Swedish one. What's your name? Well. You don't look very Swedish!

Svea: I know, I -- 

Barbara: But still, not bad. Hey Bill, this is Svetlana. We knew little Davie when he was just a wee one! I remember he was wearing his little British coat and he was so cute and I remember he said to me, "These toggles are too difficult!" [bursts into laughter]

Svea: Aw, how old was he?

Bill: I betcha he can handle those toggles now, huh?

Edward: What? Oh, look, there's our other friend, I'm going to say hi. Excuse me.

[He leaves Svea alone at a party of drunk and sex-obsessed older adults for thirty minutes]

[ten minutes pass]

Jill: Yes, so that's how I ended up working in poultry pharma. 

Svea: That's interesting, I work in mental health -- 

Barbara: He was so cute! "These toggles are too difficult!" Hahaha. You're the best! [gives Svea a hug]

[another ten minutes pass]

Iggy: So you found yourself a good catch, huh? Pretty lucky. I mean, I'm smart but I was talking to your husband and he's really smart.

Svea: I like to say I married the first man I met who was smarter than me.

Iggy: [yelling] Oooh, too bad I'm so dumb! I'm so dumb! [pretends to hide under the table cloth]

Barbara: Hi, I'm Barbara! So nice to meet you!

[another ten minutes pass]

Jon: Would anyone like a drink from the bar?

Svea: [slightly raises her gloved hand to catch his attention] I would, please. A gin and tonic?

Jon: [grabs Svea's hand] [raises it to his mouth as if to kiss it] [bites her finger really hard]

Svea: Ow! What the heck? Did you just bite me?!

Barbara: He was soooooo cute! He said..."'These toggles, they really are…" "these toggles, I can't…" He just couldn't do those toggles!

Svea: Yes, toggles are really great. I love toggles. All toggles all night. [to a woman nearby] Jane, how do you know the couple?

Jon: [returns, hands Svea the drink] You met my wife! This is Jane.

***

This was a good night. Everybody was happy for the couple. The food was good. There were hanging glass sculptures and polished concrete and even waiters with miniature plates of gourmet French fries wandering the dance floor. I was not upset about having my finger bitten. I wasn't crying into my satin gloves in a bathroom stall. 

But I did immediately go to find my husband. Just because .... I didn't want to get bitten again? I could have "made a fuss," as Kristie talked about yesterday. But I wanted to keep up my end of the social contract that says that weddings are not a night for resolving conflict but for ignoring it. So I needed someone who would silently demonstrate, to the biter, an investment in the sanctity of my body. In other words, a father or a husband.

I needed him so that the incident would once again become an impossible, absurd thing that would never happen. It was only his absence that made it a possible, actual, weird and painful thing that did. It could happen with Jon's wife Jane sitting there; it could happen with a hundred other adults rejoicing all around us. It could happen if I was an adult with hopes, dreams, and a right to remain tooth mark-free at weddings. But with my husband gone, my boundaries seemed suddenly negotiable. To many men, consent is conceived of as a matter of opportunity.

These aggressions encourage a return to codified gender roles, as women seek out the implicit protection of a man or a group of women instead of facing the social consequences of doing something unpopular, like yelling. Or biting back.

Years ago, my (then new) husband and I were at a family dinner in a nice restaurant. Husband went to the washroom. The man we had been speaking to leaned around the candle on our table and kissed my fingers as I held the menu. I moved my hands away and continued to read it. When I mentioned it to someone else years later, she didn't think it was inappropriate, really. After all, this man is a close relative. But I asked her, Why did he have to wait for Edward to leave the room? 

And there, folks, is your answer. 

Or you could just leave my goddamn fingers alone.

*** 

Tomorrow: I might write about statutory rape, I might not. Tune in regardless. And also to me talking about this project in an upcomong interview on The Rational: this Monday (Feb. 29th) at 6PM PST. Thanks!

***

Svea Vikander is a Swedish-Canadian radio host and therapist currently residing in Berkeley, California. Find her on twitter (@SveaVikander) and Instagram (@SveaVikander). 

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