I take my car to be serviced at a great and convenient place near me that provides a shuttle service to and from your home while it is being repaired. I need that, because, like many survivors, I have a huge problem with social isolation. I literally have nobody to ask for the favor. Taxis are so expensive, buses run infrequently there, so I need the shuttle.
Almost two years ago, I had left my car for servicing and was being shuttled home by an older male valet. He was super chatty and we began talking about movie trivia and shared a few chuckles. Somewhere close to my area he asked me why I did not have my boyfriend go with me to drop off my car and take me home. I told him I did not have a boyfriend. He then asked a few personal questions. My antennae pinged. But I answered anyway. He then commented that he found it hard to believe I was single as he said I am an attractive woman and told me of his suggestion of where to meet a guy (his suggestion: church). I began getting restless in the seat.
It was a very hot summer day and I was wearing shorts (not short ones either). As we pulled into my development, he casually brushed my knee. I moved, hoping it was a mistake. Then, all while gabbing about suggestions of how I can meet men, he rested his open palm on my thigh. I froze. Then, still talking, he began sliding it onto my upper inner thigh. I felt nauseous and dizzy.
I found myself at a total loss of words and in full panic. Immediately, i was back with my incestuous grandfather, who had a “thing” for my thighs. I felt I could not breathe and was starting to dissociate, not hearing but a roar, my vision becoming tunnel-like. As he was slowing the car down, approaching my street, I told myself that if he continued up to the crotch of my panties, I would jump out while the car was moving!! Yes, that is how unassertive yet frightened I got. I am embarrassed by this admission.
Upon seeing me open my car door prematurely, he withdrew his hand surprisedly, and said, ‘not yet young lady!’. I wonder if he registered my panic. He stopped in from tot my place, and kept talking, talking, talking. I rushed out of car and ran inside. I do not remember what he was saying. As soon as I got inside, I burst into tears and laid down. I think I dissociated , or fell asleep. I was in full frightened young girl mode. Victim. And I knew he would be the one to come get me to bring me back to the car shop to pick up car.
I made support calls, and tried to bring forth my assertive adult. I am not proud of the fact that I got so passive. I realized that I was triggered into such a deer-in-headlight stance because he was so reminiscent of my grandfather: grey haired “dirty old man” (he told me he was retired and doing this valet work to supplement his retirement). I was sick but practiced voicing something to him when he came back. When he did return to pick me up, I saw that there was another female in the car and felt immense relief. But I did not feel comfortable bringing it up with a stranger in the car. What if they ganged up on me, as she seemed to be hitting it off with his “friendly” self. In hindsight, I wonder if she subconsciously represented a woman not believing me (i.e. my mother not seeing the abuse).
So I did not say anything. I just wanted to take my name and address and phone number sheet out of his log. I did not want him to have it for good. Upon arriving at the car shop, he was saying goodbye to the other passenger and I reached between the seat to his log and said I’d like to keep my information private and tried to remove the page. He argued with me, saying it was safe, that he is trusted with everyone’s information. I spoke a bit loudly, “I don’t want you to have it, I want it.” and snatched the sheet out of his log bruskly. He then turned to the lady and made a comment about me being an unpleasant ride. And I exited, flying high in my head.
Flash ahead to now. My car maintenance light has been on for weeks and the steering wheel is vibrating on the expressway. I have been trying to work through my avoidance of this man and thus the whole dealership. I need to return for service. I never reported him; much to dismay and disappointment of select helpers. I just did not feel up to it. And now that I am stronger, I felt too much time has passed to lodge such a serious complaint. So, here’s what I did: I brought my car in. And asked for another valet. I told myself that I would let them know I preferred another and leave it at that. Let them make of it what they will. It would likely reflect bad on him, but so be it and that is all I was going to get into.
I had done a lot of internal work to get to this plan. But i did it and I am proud of myself. I worked with my differing parts to stay present and be safe in a way that felt comfortable to me. I was lucky: that man is on vacation. I know I may face him again someday. But I am stronger and plan to ask for another valet. If he is only one there to drive me, I will hold my head up and exude an “F-you” vibe and not let my wounded little girl anywhere near him. F- him if he thinks I am an unpleasant customer. This may seem like a small victory to some but it is really quite huge to me.
The image depicted in this post is of a bookmark I am making depicting my inner young girl mentioned above. She is sometimes represented in my art as a young mermaid. I have my own iconography in my art. Clocks are often references to dissociation, mermaids figure into my abuse history. I loved mermaids as a child. One thing (of many) I liked about them is that they do not have girl parts and legs – so can never be raped. They also reference silence and innocence. Today I work with my mermaiden in a loving and accepting way and try to usher her out of isolation and silence. I protect her.