“She looked older.”
I haven’t said anything about the Roman Polanski mess because A.) thinking about it makes me disgusted with humanity; and B.) other people have said what I wanted to, only better. But since Roman Polanski has used the tired “she looked older than she was” excuse, and since I just wrote a post yesterday about being a girl who “looked older,” I thought I’d address that excuse, and how and why it’s completely bullshit.
Like I said yesterday, I wore a woman’s size ten when I was ten, although I didn’t yet have boobs. That’s what saved me: I had this big ol’ butt, but I was flat as a pancake. If you saw me from the back, I probably looked 25–from the front, though, it was painfully obvious that I hadn’t gotten my period yet. And that I liked unicorns and stuffed animals and probably unironically listened to Hanson.
But the boobs came in eventually: I was a B-cup by the seventh grade. Like I said, I recently saw a picture of myself from that time and misjudged my own age by five years. But even though my bodily development was ahead of schedule, the rest of me was right on track with average. By the time I was twelve, I was perfectly aware of what body parts were involved in the act of procreation, but I wasn’t quite sure how they fitted together or which did what when. I had a book about the female body, but it didn’t contain diagrams of anyone’s reproductive equipment. I stole numerous trashy romance novels from my mother, but they were all maddeningly nonspecific. My knowledge of sex was fifty percent fact, forty-five percent supposition, and five percent “HIS THROBBING MEMBER.”
In other words, I was your typical pre-teen geek.
At twelve, I didn’t think about sex much—okay, that’s a total lie, I thought about sex all the time. I just didn’t think about it in relation to me. I might imagine having sex with Taylor Hanson, but in my fantasy, I was no longer twelve. I was tall and blond and probably about 25 (making what Taylor and I were doing QUITE illegal). And when I had thoughts about that special boy in my class? I didn’t dream of boning him; I dreamed of kissing him, chastely, on the mouth. And even THAT felt illicit and daring.
I was twelve. I was a child. Sex was something that would happen in the far future, when I was very, very different. It didn’t factor into my day-to-day life. I did not think of myself in sexual terms. AT ALL. So when I threw on a pair of short shorts and a tight tank top one hot summer afternoon to walk up to the shopping center and buy a coke, two things were on my mind: 1.) I was going to offend the populace with the sight of this much jiggly, untanned flesh; and 2.) I didn’t care, because it was so fucking hot that if I wore any more clothing I would DIE. I would just plain fall to the ground, dead on the spot from heat exhaustion. So even though my outfit was revealing and the idea that everyone could see that much of me was embarrassing, I didn’t change it.
At no point did I think, “Hmmm, these shorts might send the wrong message,” or “This top is a little too tight—maybe I should put on a baggy t-shirt instead so I don’t cause a riot.” I didn’t think of myself in those terms. It never occurred to me that something I was wearing might be interpreted as overtly sexual, because even though I didn’t tell my friends this, I still played with my dollhouses. I WAS A KID, FOR FUCK’S SAKE.
And kids don’t worry about dressing too sexily.
Anyway, so I went up to the shopping center and bought a coke and started walking back down the strip of stores. And this guy was behind me—an older guy, and good-looking—and he was muttering something I couldn’t quite hear. This was before the age of ubiquitous cell phones, so I don’t know what I thought he was doing; I just knew he couldn’t be talking to me. Nevertheless, he made me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed in a way I couldn’t quite articulate, so I ducked into a drug store and browsed for five minutes or so. Figuring the coast was clear, I went back outside.
He was still there. And this time, I could hear what he was saying.
“Girl, you got a nice ass!” he announced, falling into step a few feet behind me and clearly ogling my rear end. I was flummoxed. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before, and I had no idea what to say or do. Instinctively, I sped up and pretended not to hear him. But his pace quickened to match mine, and his stream of “compliments” didn’t let up. This went on for a couple of minutes, until I reached the movie theater at the end of the strip mall and he walked off into the parking lot. I heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Which I just about choked on when he pulled up next to me IN HIS CAR.
Yeah, that’s right. I was twelve, and my “swain” was old enough to drive by himself.
He followed me almost all the way home, y’all. For a good two or three blocks, he trailed me in his car, shouting things I couldn’t hear and didn’t want to. I just kept walking steadily, pretending he didn’t exist and hoping to God he wouldn’t hurt me. He was clearly a crazy person, and I was clearly not safe as long as he was around.
I have never, ever, been so afraid, either before or since.
He eventually veered off onto another road, and I never saw him again. But even though “nothing happened,” my view of the world was never quite the same. Before that day, I was not afraid that someone would try to hurt me or invade my personal space because they wanted to fuck me. After that day, I no longer had that luxury. Or rather, that basic human right.
Thing is, if you asked that guy, he’d probably claim he did nothing wrong. He’d point to my outfit and say that I was dressed like a slut and should have expected to be treated like one. When informed of my age, he would have assumed that I was “fast” or some such shit because of the way I dressed. When informed that I’d never so much as kissed a boy, he would have rolled his eyes in disbelief, but would have countered with “Yeah, well, it’s still not my fault. She LOOKS way older.”
And you know what? I did. I really, really did.
But why the fuck does anyone think that matters?
Why the fuck is that ever an excuse?
I have never met a person under sixteen who could convince me that they were above the age of consent after more than five minutes of conversation. Because guess what? She may look older, she may even act older (if by “act older” you mean “has clearly already had sex”), but at the end of the day, she isn’t older, and it shows. There will be conspicuous silences and curious remarks if you try to engage her in an actual, adult conversation, because she is not an adult and does not know how one talks.
No, you probably won’t be able to figure this out if you’re too busy staring at her chest and trying to figure out how to get her to sleep with you to actually listen to what she’s saying.
No, you probably won’t figure this out if you introduce yourself to her by telling her that you want to fuck her.
No, you probably won’t figure this out if you’ve already decided that she’d make a good fucktoy and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make her one.
No, you probably won’t figure this out if you just plain don’t want to.
So yeah, that whole, “She looked older!” thing? Only works for people who believe it’s too much to expect that you like, talk to a woman before you fuck her. In other words, it only works for assholes.
But man, the world sure is FULL of assholes these days…