A #MeToo Essay by Amy Thorstenson
When I was 16, I won this scholarship to spend the summer abroad along with a handful of other American teenagers. We lived with host families in the same quiet little neighborhood in Brittany that’s up in the north of France, near Normandy. You know, that beach from Saving Private Ryan.
I was an awkward kid, not very good at making friends. So even amongst this group of other teenagers who were also precocious enough to win this friggin' summer scholarship to France, I was still at the bottom of the social ladder. I, um... I read a lot of Kafka that summer? Alone, in my bedroom, in my host family's house. But before you go thinking I was this super hip kid, reading Kafka in France, you should know I also listened to a lot of Matchbox 20 that summer, so. I was a mixed bag at best.
Point is, I was not cool. But my host mother happened to live down the street from the host mothers of the two prettiest and most popular girls in the group, and the three French women (bless their hearts) encouraged the two girls to take me along on their little outings and adventures.
So one day the three of us are just taking a walk around the neighborhood, them chatting about boys or whatever and me lagging behind. And up ahead, there's this guy, this grown man, just hanging out by a little provincial brick wall. Nobody else around, just this guy and three teenage girls. The other girls were totally absorbed in their conversation, but I noticed there was something weird about the guy. I couldn't quite put my finger on it right away, but something was wrong. My eyes were seeing something my brain could not parse into a factual reality.
Now at this point, at the age of 16, I hadn't ever actually seen an adult man's penis in real life before. I mean I knew what it was supposed to look like, from diagrams in health class and from reading a significant amount of sexually explicit fan fiction, but I'd never actually seen one in action.
But after staring at this guy for a minute, I finally realized what was so weird: his fly was open, his dick was out, and he was vigorously jacking off. I mean really going at it. But the popular girls were still oblivious.
"Uh, guys?" They paid no attention to me. "Um, there's. Look, that guy, he's."
What could I say? What words could I even use?
It only took them a second more though, and they noticed too. And as soon as all three of us saw him, the moment we all made collective eye contact, he... well, he smiled. And it was not a comforting smile. It was the smile of a furiously masturbating Frenchman in an abandoned street when three American girls just happened to stroll on by.
The other girls did not take my measured uncertain approach. They screamed like only teen girls can and I, riding their energy, screamed too. The masturbating man, enjoying this, took a step forward, and that was all the girls needed. They seized each other's hands, and the one on the end grabbed my hand, and the three of us took off running. We ran and ran, hand in hand, certain the creep was following close behind but not daring to glance back or to slow down for even a second.
I remember thinking, "I'm cool! I'm holding hands with these cool pretty girls and we're scared together and we're running from the same thing and a popular kid has never included me in something like this before in my entire life!"
We ran for blocks until we got back to my host family's house, whereupon we never mentioned the incident again. Our encounter with the masturbating man was like a battle we all silently agreed not to talk about and the handholding was just, you know, what you do when you're down in the trenches. Weird shit happens on the battlefield. Doesn't mean it changes your civilian life. They went back to their giggling and being pretty, and I went back to my Kafka and Matchbox 20. But that frantic escape from a French dick hung in the air for the rest of the summer.
I guess it's true what they say, studying abroad will provide you with experiences you'll remember for a lifetime.