This week’s post is a bit of a difficult one for me to post, as I am still confused and frightened by what happened.
On Friday night, after an especially rough week at work, a couple of girl friends and I decided to go out and have a dance at our local cheesy pop club. It’s my favourite place to go for a boogie, as although it’s quite grotty and dirty and the target audience is a little older than who you’d normally find in a club, it plays cheesy pop tunes from the 70s, 80s and 90s all night long and in my opinion it’s the happiest place on Earth and the place to go for a feel good night out.
It was the first time in a looooong time that I’ve been out to a club/bar without Mr OneBigStressball – nothing weird, we just have overlapping friendship groups and so when one of us goes out the other usually goes to the same place – and I was excited to have some gal time. I say I’m open with my other half, and I totally am – he gets a running commentary on pretty much my entire life inside and out and the only thing he draws the line at is me being in the bathroom if he’s pooping. It’s only happened twice in our relationship – once when I got my degree result and classification and burst in on him sitting on the toilet to tell him, and once last year, when we were both so hungover that we had no choice but to be in the bathroom together, finding suitable places to be sick/poop. So yeah, pretty open and chill.
But girl’s chat is so much different. There’s an understanding of what each other girl is talking about and their experiences, and the conversation seems to flow and never end.
Since we’d been drinking since literally the stroke of 5pm, we headed out to the club at the earliest acceptable time, 10:30, which in clubbing terms is grandma level early, but it didn’t matter. We were tipsy. We wanted to dance. So no one was going to stop us.
When we got there, the dancefloor was suitably empty for the time of night, but there were some lads there who had been to the rugby game during the day and were out on the lash, as well as a hen do, and as far as I could tell, a 40th birthday party.
With a gin in one hand and a glass of water in the other (hangover prevention) I started dancing. I’m pretty sure December 1963 but Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons was on so I was pretty stoked about that. A group of men were dancing close to our little group of 4, but as the club started to fill up, I wasn’t that fussed. I mean, if you’re on a night out and aren’t getting bumped into by other vigorous dancers then are you really on a night out?
Anyway, these lads started to inch closer and closer to us, and my friends and I, we’re friendly people. We weren’t going to stare down these men and cause a fuss because they were getting slightly too close for comfort. We just tried backing up a bit and moving away.
Then it happened. One lad decided to come right up to me, grab me round the back of the neck with his big meaty man-hands and try to kiss me on the side of the neck. His grip was so that I could feel his fingers digging into the tendons of my neck, and it fucking hurt. When he realized I wasn’t overcome with lust and gagging for him to continue what he was doing, he didn’t seem deterred. If anything he grabbed on tighter. Now, I lift weights. And I grew up with a brother who watched WWE and practiced his moves on me. Not to blow my own trumpet but I think physically I’m pretty strong. It took all my strength to get my arms into a position where I could shove him away. He laughed, pushed me on the shoulder and danced his way back to his friends.
My heart was racing and I felt like I was going to be sick. Because it was the start of the night, I just shook my head and walked away to the other side of the club, bringing my friends with me. We continued on with our night, with me making sure we were giving that particular group of lads a wide berth.
It wasn’t until I went outside for air and to have a sit down by myself afterwards that I was truly able to think about what had happened. MY neck hurt from where he had grabbed it, and I felt weirdly humiliated, embarrassed in case anyone saw him grabbing me like that – like a rag doll that could be handled carelessly and callously.
I didn’t know this man. Had never met him in my life. And he’d decided that night that it was okay to physically grab me like I wasn’t another human being just wanting to have a good time with my friends. Not that it matters, but I wasn’t dressed provocatively – I had jeans, Converse and a tank top on – I wasn’t behaving in any way suggestively. I was just being me. Having fun with my girls.
I stayed outside for a while because the thought of going back in made me feel a bit nauseous, and then decided it was time to go home. I went in and told the other girls I was going, and started to make my way back home.
Never, in the year and a half I’ve lived in Edinburgh have I felt so vulnerable walking home by myself at night. The club is a 15 minute walk- max- to my house, and the time seemed to stretch on forever. Every drunk person stumbling out of McDonalds or sitting on a bench waiting for the night bus was a threat to me and made my skin crawl. I was jumpy and nervous, and I hated that I felt that way.
When I heard someone shout ‘HI’ in my general direction, I felt my stomach drop through my arsehole. Crude as that may sound, it’s the only way I can describe the feeling of utter dread that started coursing through my body. I didn’t have my glasses on (usually don’t when I’m on a night out) and therefore couldn’t see who was shouting at me. It turned out to be Mr OneBigStressball’s best mate Ali, who had just finished playing a gig in a pub near our house, and genuinely, when I realized it was him, my legs went jelly with relief. I hugged him, we caught up for a few minutes and I continued on my way home.
I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, unable to get to sleep.
Who was this man who had grabbed me round the neck so roughly? Was it my fault? Had I given off signals that I’d wanted him to do that? Surely not. How was it that the ONLY time I’ve gone out without Mr OneBigStressball or any other male friend this happened?
The more I thought about it the more angry I got. How dare this stranger assume that I (or anyone else for that matter) had come out looking to be groped by a stranger? How was it possible that I now don’t feel safe going to my FAVOURITE club without the security of having men with me? Do we seriously live in a society where there is such a flippancy in opinion towards women that we need to think about being chaperoned to a dance?
4 days later and I’m sitting in work still seething about what happened. I’m angry at myself for not kicking off and making a big deal about it, because this man is out there, thinking that he can get away with harming women in the way he did me. I’m angry at the fact that I walked away from the man at the time and shrugged it off as if it were normal behavior that I could get over as long as I had a gin in my hand. I’m livid he thought it was okay.
I have a right to enjoy myself. I have a right to not be scared walking around the city in which I live, and I have a right to go on a night out without being assaulted.
Has anyone else been through something similar?