4 of Cups: #metoo and the Ocean’s Hand

My card today was the 4 of Cups: an anguish card. I’ve normally seen it as a trivial argument. Today, not so much. On social media, we’re all talking about #metoo.

I thought about listing all of my #metoo stories. I’ve been grabbed in the crotch and slapped on the butt by strangers…and friends…and co-workers. When I’ve complained, people told me I was a “femi-nazi” or a bitch. I’ve had men sensually rub my shoulders, removing clothing, and when I’ve resisted, insist, “I’m just affectionate with my women friends!”

I have more stories. I have worse stories. I don’t feel like telling them.

The story in my head today isn’t the worst of them. A man wasn’t even the cause.

It was the weekend I turned 17. A friend’s mother took me and three of my friends (one girl, two boys) to the coast for my birthday. She rented a hotel room. My parents didn’t want me to go, but I insisted. I was in teenaged love with one of the boys and would do anything to spend time with him.

The first couple of days were fun. We made s’mores at a campfire on the beach. I opened presents on my birthday night. The boys gave me porn, of course. They were eighteen and could buy it. My friend’s mother laughed when I opened it. She seemed so cool–completely unfazed by the things we said and did that made all the other parents irritated or angry.

The boy I teen-loved: “Allen.” I’d crushed on him for two years and we’d finally dated earlier that year. He broke it off after a couple of weeks, but I thought he would change his mind. My friend’s mother said he told her that I was the most beautiful girl at our school. She wouldn’t have lied to me. He must have said it. He must have liked me.

On our last night at the beach, the mom wanted to play a game. She brought out two blindfolds. She had me and her daughter put them on. Then, she announced that the boys would kiss us, but we wouldn’t know who it was. Tongues and all. Blindfolded, we each made out with the boys while she watched. I swore I would know Allen’s kiss because what we had was special, but I couldn’t tell the boys apart. Then, she told we girls to take the blindfolds off and put them on the boys. We kissed the boys while, again, she watched.

Then, we were all supposed to talk about it.

She tried to make a point. Her priest had led her and some kids through this exercise back when she was in youth group. It was something about not having casual sex…I think? Blindfolded it didn’t mean anything? I guess?

I felt weird. The boys talked about having lost their virginities, both to girls they loved. I was still technically a virgin, but up until that point, Allen was the “furthest” sexually I’d gone with anyone. Allen talked about having been in love, with a couple of girls. I don’t remember what he said that clued me into that I wasn’t one of them, but I knew. I’d done things with him I’d been afraid to do with anyone else and I wasn’t special to him. Was I just a blindfold experience?

I also don’t remember what specifically upset the girl friend, but she cried. The boys got nervous. They left to get Diet Coke. I left, too. I wanted to leave the hotel. I wanted to go back to Portland. It was late at night and I thought I’d be in more trouble if I called my parents to come and get me. They told me I shouldn’t go–that they wanted to spend my birthday with me. I’d chosen these friends over them and I hated myself for it.  I ran into the boys in the hall coming back with sodas.

“I’m not going back in there,” I said. “You shouldn’t, either.”

They laughed. I realize now they were hiding discomfort in teenaged giggles. I didn’t want them to follow me and was thankful they didn’t. I went to the beach by myself.

It was dark, it was cold. When I was little and my parents would fight, I’d sometimes steal out to the backyard and talk to the stars. That night I talked to both the stars and the ocean. Also since I was a girl, I found God far more in the ocean at Bible Camp than in the Bible or the Camp, itself. I remember how comforting the waves were. A low tide, far down the sand from where I sat on the dunes, tucked away where no one could find me unless I wanted them to.  The ocean seemed to whisper It’s okay. You are okay. 

I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I felt safe. The ocean would protect me. Somehow. Now I know it was the Goddess. I was alone, but not on my own.

A few weeks later, things with the woman got weirder. I didn’t want to hang out with the mom, anymore. The girl and I tried to be friends apart from her mother and the boys, but once we went to the movies and the boys met us outside afterward–wearing the girl’s clothes. They offered to drive me to my car, which was way across the parking lot. Instead, they drove us out of the parking lot and back toward the girl’s house, where her mother waited for us. I told them to take me back, but they kept driving. When we got to her mother’s house, she called out the front door, “I have pizza! And Diet Coke!” I refused to go in the house and started walking. The theater was miles away and we were in a part of the suburb that wasn’t conducive to walking. I found myself sitting at the end of the street like I had at the beach. I was looking at quiet bedroom community homes and not the great Pacific, but I felt She was with me in that moment.

I wasn’t going back in that house. Whatever that woman wanted from me, she wasn’t going to get it.

When the boys came to find me, I asked the other boy (not Allen) to take me to my car. He did. I went home. For the rest of the summer, the kids berated me for not hanging out with them anymore.

That fall, two classmates died in a car accident. At one of the funerals, there was a large flower wreath with the names of the three kids I’d spent the summer with. The wreath was too expensive for teens to afford. The mother had bought it. And there were four names on the signature card–they’d found a girl to replace me in that strange little clique.  My former girl friend and her mother sat in the pew ahead of me at the funeral. At one point, she turned around and rubbed my leg, asking how I was faring with the loss. My skin crawled then as it does now when I think about it.

It’s been years. I don’t know what happened to that girl or her mom.

I didn’t expect all of this to come out in this post. I never would have connected that story to the 4 of Cups. I guess, for me, 4 of Cups is about empathy and solidarity: the Me Too moment. It may also be an uncomfortable truth that’s lingered far too long inside. It’s out now. Thank you for reading. I feel better for it.

And now for something that’s made me laugh all day. Needed to revisit some good ol’ gothy Angelica Houston:

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