Today, I was walking my usual route from my college campus back to my apartment and thinking about the shit I still had to get done for the day. I make a lot of lists in my head when I’m alone. The things I have to do. The things I have to do, but probably won’t. The top five things I would love to happen right at that exact moment. The things that could kill me in that exact moment. The ways I imagine Adam Brody proposing to me one day (if you say the name Leighton Meester, I will hunt you down), you know, typical-totally-healthy thoughts to have.
So as I walked around in autopilot, I didn’t even hear the man come up behind me. I’m not sure if he said anything to me, but when strange hands cupped my ass, I quickly realized I had company. And as I turned to see a man I had never met before touching my body without my consent, my hands reacted before my list-making-brain could catch up.
I punched him.
I punched him square in the face so hard that his nose bled. And in the flurry of emotions and reflexes, I immediately blurted out, “I’m sorry!”
I stood there and apologized for defending my body from unwanted advances. I said sorry to someone who disrespected everything about me. I felt a fleeting moment of remorse for hurting a man who might have tried to hurt me even more. It was so sick and bizarre, and I’m still trying to process why that happened.
As women, we have learned to be sorry for so much. We will apologize for the way we look, the way we act, even the way defend ourselves. We’ve been taught to feel guilt for the imperfections. Don’t love yourself too much. Instead, be sorry for the things you can’t change. Don’t let anything about you make someone else uncomfortable. But your own comfort will never be a priority. Apologize to the high school administration for your shorts being too short. Apologize that it’s hot and you have too much womanhood spilling out.
Apologize and feel ashamed of your own body. Never expect apologies in return.
I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve made self-deprecating jokes about the size of my breasts because somewhere inside, I’ve convinced myself that I should break the ice about my flaws. I’ll point it out first and be apologetic through humor. I’ll make some, “but at least I’ve got a great ass” quip when I’m dating someone new and feel like I’ve let them down with my small chest. I apologize, blaming myself for a flaw I can’t change. Something that I shouldn’t even call a flaw. My own body is not a flaw.
My body. MY fucking body.
To the man who I punched today, I want to clarify something. I am sorry, but not for hitting you in the face. I am sorry that you never learned respect. I am sorry that you were never taught the importance of consent, of asking someone before invading their personal space. I am sorry you have no idea how to be a decent human being. I am sorry that you think your needs and wants are of higher importance than anyone else. I am sorry you are so disgusting. But I am not sorry for punching you.
I am done being sorry for how my body affects others. I will stop making lists of what I can do differently to please people. I will not think of what is my fault. This list of apologies stops now. My independence, my fire, my self-defense-punching abilities are nothing to be apologetic for.
These bruises on my knuckles will remind me of that.