Quotes from Jeannie Vanasco's "Things We Didn't Talk About when I was a Girl"

in abuse •  3 months ago 

Here are a spate of quotes from Jeannie Vanasco's recently published and radiant memoir, Things we didn't talk about when I was a girl.

When Mark apologized, he said he’d been drinking, then admitted that there was no excuse for what he did, then reminded me again that he’d been drinking.

Reading about the legal considerations for memoirists, I almost laugh at the suggestion of securing consent. I should ask him?

HIM: It’s not like I set out to do this. If I hadn’t been in that basement.

So he could have controlled himself had he not carried me into the basement?

When I called my college boyfriend from the party, he was with his family in North Dakota for the holidays. I described what Mark had done. I am so sorry, I told him. I was drinking, but I thought it’d be okay. You shouldn’t apologize, he said. That’s a crime. That’s rape. It’s not rape, I told him. He used his fingers. I can fly to Ohio, he said. I want to know where that guy lives.

The first time my first boyfriend insisted I go down on him, he was a college freshman and I was a high school sophomore. He stood by his bed. From where I knelt, I could see his black rifle case. I started crying, told him I wanted to stop, but he pushed my head down, kept it there. I really don’t want this to be about my first boyfriend. So let me try to get him out of the way. The road rage continued throughout our relationship, usually in response to my not having sex with him. He’d speed past stop signs. He’d cry, say things like, Can’t you see how much you’re hurting me? And somehow, I’d end up apologizing.

HIM: I have to say, I read your book in one sitting and then I couldn’t sleep. I just sort of sat with my thoughts for the next eight hours. You know, it’s just tough to be—my contribution to your story is mental illness.

ME: Well, you understand—

HIM: It’s just tough. I’m not blaming you for that or saying that’s unfair.

ME: What I mean is, what happened was, sure, hurtful, but I already was having a hard time.

When Mark used the word rape, I felt uncomfortable instead of vindicated. I think that’s because sexual assault (and sometimes I even drop the sexual) allows me to ignore the particulars.

The particulars: someone suggested (likely Mark) that I should be carried from the living room into Mark’s basement room; Mark and Jake carried me into Mark’s basement room; Mark told Jake that Jake could leave; after Jake left, Mark undressed me; Mark put his fingers inside my vagina as far as they would go; I cried and Mark told me not to cry; Mark told me I was dreaming; Mark took his fingers out of me and masturbated over me.

Why would Jake have suggested Mark’s basement room? I can almost hear Mark suggesting it. But I can’t offer proof, and I feel so much pressure to provide proof, which is why I’m interviewing Mark. Yet why should the proof be up to Mark? Why should he get to decide what happened?

I think of the detectives saying, Is it possible that his hand slipped? My newspaper advisor never admitted to rubbing his hand up my thigh and between my legs. But Mark admitted to assaulting me, to sexually assaulting me. Mark admitted to raping me.

HIM: When we were in high school, feminism felt like a thing that had already happened. And like we had kind of gotten somewhere halfway around equality.

ME: Right.

HIM: But it had kind of stopped. Which, yeah, is certainly not the mood now. Yeah, the #MeToo movement happening concurrently with these conversations is, I don’t know, fitting. Not the easiest thing. It’s just every time I see a #MeToo story, it’s just like it’s Me . . . too.

When Mark ranked his pain, I instantly thought, No, I was in a worse place. I was depressed. My dad died. But maybe Mark did feel just as sad or sadder. Depression isn’t necessarily caused by an event. Still, I’m mad at him for saying that. Sarah’s right: he kept equalizing our experiences.

ME: I think over the years, it certainly, what happened did impact the way I viewed men. The way I still view men.

HIM: I mean, it would have to, it seems like. I know it impacted—go ahead. I don’t want to interrupt.

ME: It impacted how I felt about relationships, men, sex.

HIM: I can understand that totally. I felt similarly.


No, no, no, he can’t understand that totally. He did not feel similarly.

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