We all have letters we’d like to send, but know that we can’t. A letter to someone we no longer have a relationship with, a letter to a family member or friend who has died, a letter to reclaim our power or our voice from an abuser.
Letters where actual contact is just not possible.
Do you have a letter you can’t send?
Why not send it to The Band?
My sister called you “The Blond to End All Blonds.” There was a good reason for this. After you had been in my life, I had no interest in any other blonds until I met my husband.
I kept you on a pedestal. You were my ideal. No one could compare to you.
8th grade was a really hard year for me. I don’t know why that group of girls targeted me, but the bullying was rough. They made fun of my hair, my clothes, made me feel worthless. My mom and my sister were very supportive during that time, like they always were, but it wasn’t enough to keep my spirits up.
Then came the basketball game where I met you. I only sat next to you that night so I could have a chance to talk to the other saxophone player sitting on the other side of you. Justin was really popular with the girls, and I could never find a moment when he wasn’t talking to some girl. I don’t know why I was so brave that day. I wasn’t normally like that. I figured I could strike up a conversation with the cute blond sax player while waiting for a chance to talk to Justin.
You seemed startled, but pleased when I sat down and started talking to you. I still remember what you were wearing that day: blue jeans and an olive green sweatshirt with a bird on it, a parrot, I think. The longer we talked, the more Justin disappeared from my mind.
From then on, the weekends were what got me through the difficult weeks. My sister was always happy to let me hang out with her and her friends. I was at all of the high school football games, basketball games, and concerts – anywhere the band members would be. I would have gone with her anyway, but you were an extra incentive.
It was very flattering to have an Older Man pay attention to me. You were only two years older than me, but because you were in high school, and I was in junior high, that was a really big deal. You were always so sweet and so kind to me.
I’d never seen anyone look good in those horrible marching band uniforms, but you did. I will never forget the night of that one football game. I stood there holding a heavy quilt because it was supposed to be very cold that night. As I listened to the band teacher gruffly instructing everyone what he expected of them, I looked over at you. You grinned at me.
My heart stopped.
That was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen, and it was just for me!
You never came right out and said that you liked me back, but your actions did. I felt like the only thing keeping you from pursuing more of a relationship was the fact that I was only in junior high.
I was sitting behind you at a football game one afternoon, talking to one of my sister’s friends about the party we were all going to that night. I made a point of mentioning whose house we would be going to, for your benefit.
Little did you know you were actually going to show up!
A car pulled up in front of the house that night. I heard one of the seniors say that it looked like your sister’s car. When I got outside to see what was going on, I saw a pack of boys standing around the car. They all looked too afraid to come closer with all those big senior boys in the house. I yelled for you by name. The other boys laughed and said you weren’t there, but when some of the bigger guys came outside, and everyone jumped back in the car, I saw you.
I got up the nerve to call you the next day. Our conversation was a little weird and awkward, but you were sweet. You admitted to being with the boys in the car the night before, but wouldn’t say anything else about it.
Was I wrong to believe you were there for me?
But then came the horrible news that you were moving. I was heartbroken. After you left, I used my school connections to find out what school you had transferred to in Texas. I wrote you a letter, and mailed it, care of your new school. In it, I jokingly threatened to write to you constantly until you answered me. I regretted it as soon as it was in the mail. It sounded creepy. I was sure you would think I was insane when you read it. I never wrote again, but I missed you all the time, and always wondered what might have happened if you hadn’t moved away.
A couple of years passed, and I took a trip to Washington to visit a friend. On the way, I had a long layover in Utah. My sister was going to school there, and we took the time between my flights to go shopping. We drove to the mall and pulled into the parking garage.
As we looked for a parking place, I noticed a familiar face. I asked my sister if she thought that looked like your sister. My heart stopped again when I realized the guy walking behind her looked just like YOU. I begged for my sister to stop the car, but she was afraid she would lose me if we didn’t stay together. She rolled the window, yelled your name, and YOU TURNED AROUND!
As soon as we could find a parking space, I was on the hunt for you, but I never found you. I cried through much of the flight to Washington, devastated that I might have just missed my chance to connect with you again.
You and I are friends on Facebook now. I’ve apologized about basically stalking you back then. I’ve thanked you for making me feel good about myself during that tough year. I enjoy seeing pictures of your family, your wife and pretty little girls. You look so happy, and I’m glad.
I’ve tried to ask you more than once if that really was you in Utah that day, but you won’t tell me. I wish you would. We all have unanswered questions that we wish someone could answer. You have the ability to ease my curiosity. It’s an important question to me because seeing you that day opened the doors in my heart to allow me to fall in love for the first time.
Thank you for being kind to me at a time when I really needed it.
I’m many things: a daughter, friend, a pet lover and a 4.0 student. I swim, volunteer, love the beach and enjoy music. I’m also a victim of a growing epidemic among teens and young adults entering the workplace: sexual harassment.
On Valentine’s Day 2007, I attended my first corporate event as a volunteer for a major media corporation. I dressed professionally in a long-sleeved pants suit and arrived early to Houston’s baseball stadium. Plastered on my face was the biggest, most secure smile I could find, in spite of the butterflies in my stomach.
This corporate event was a huge deal and I played a special role in it. Around sunrise, the radio station’s videographer arrived and began setting up his equipment. He spotted me and walked over to extend a handshake. Eager to make a good impression, I introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m Jill. I’m the poet,” I said, confidently.
“Hi, I’m Howard. I’m on-air each weekend and do video as a side-gig.”
“I know. I’ve heard you.”
“Well, I work at another station, too.”
Having varied musical tastes, I said I knew – I’d heard him there, too
When the brief, friendly banter had finished, we each continued our business, the discussion far from my mind… Until I arrived home that afternoon and discovered that within an hour of meeting me, he’d found my website and sent a highly personal email. It discussed his dating history, his taste in women, that he thought I was in my forties because “forty-something women are the hottest around;” because I was “hot.”
I wondered how he’d found my information, I told my instincts to “hush” – I was certainly overreacting. After all, the media must’ve given him my information. Pushing concern aside, I believed I needed to keep the peace for my new position and sent a simple, friendly reply.
The conversation continued as he told me he had a daughter my age and found my information through an internet search. The third day, he asked to purchase signed copies of books I’d written. I gave him my home address – easy as that.
The subtle signs of trouble were there from the beginning. The wishy-washy words to keep my feelings off-balance. On my birthday he said, “The world is a better place because you’re in it.” Not two hours later, he said, “You’d look good in black lace … and I’m not talking shirts.”
It took nearly five years for me for me to find the courage to accept that the harassment was serious and not the jokes I’d thought the man was making.
“Nice to meet you” slowly became “You’d look great in an adult film” and “The world is a better place because you’re in it” became a blend of comments like “My girlfriend is an iceberg in the bedroom,” which played to my empathetic side. Feeling “sorry” for his “plight” he claimed would “improve” if he could buy me lingerie and sex toys.
I never thought he was serious, I’d thought he was joking. I know now to trust my gut; this kind of behavior is not normal for the workplace.
By the time a box of lingerie he purchased for me was delivered to my home and I pursued action against him in 2012, I’d endured a lengthy history of requests for dates, pressure to pose for pictures and/or provocative video, cyber-stalking, emotional abuse, and calls and texts at all hours. The toll on my life was apparent – sleepless nights, stomach upset, and stress. I lived in constant fear of what the next step in his obsession might be.
My innocent response happens far too often among teens and young adults unprepared for workplace sexual harassment. Today’s teens and young adults are not alone in dealing with job-related harassment. According to Adolescents at Work: Gender Issues and Sexual Harassment, thirty-five percent (35%) of high school students reported they experienced sexual harassment in their part-time work. Of the 35% who were sexually harassed, 63% were girls and 37% were boys. In 19% of cases, perpetrators were supervisors, and 61% of the time harassment came from coworkers.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between flirting and harassment, but it’s never okay for an adult to flirt with a child. It’s not okay for someone in a position of power to flirt with or suggest improper behavior. Such behavior in the workplace is illegal and companies must have guidelines in place outlining zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
If you are going through something like what I experienced, I want you to know that this is not your fault. Nothing you did or didn’t do caused this to happen. This did not happen because of anything you said, your choice of friends, your appearance, or your personality. Anyone who harasses another is a bully. Bullies are cowards that pick on the strong and innocent, simply the person is there. No more, no less. You are not guilty of anything, even if you initially went along with the harassment. The blame is with the harasser; you are a survivor. You can heal.
You deserve respect.
From the minute that you feel awkward about a work-situation, tell someone you trust and begin documenting every comment, action, or event that’s left you feeling uncomfortable. If you’ve received e-mails, save screenshots. If you save the e-mails, don’t alter them in any way. If someone says that they don’t think what you’re going through is that bad,” remember – it’s not their place to judge. You own your truth. You own your boundaries. Only you know what you will or will not accept.
While someone else may tolerate behavior that bothers you, it’s your life and your decision. You’re allowed to end uncomfortable situations; no job is worth trauma, torment, or the health toll enduring daily abuse can cause, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. You cannot always leave your job, but you can stop the cycle of harassment. The harasser wants your silence; don’t give them the satisfaction.
Some may believe you’re weak for choosing to address sexual harassment and strive for change, this is not true. You are not weak; you are courageous and brave, trying to make the world a better place for others; that is an admirable aspiration for anyone.
As the result of my journey, I reached out to a therapist to help me understand what had happened. My therapist put the harassment this way: “The harasser is an annoying gnat you can flick away until the pest becomes smaller and smaller on your horizon. By standing up, speaking out, and refusing to accept abuse – you are a big flyswatter with the power and will to end the cycle of harassment.”
If your boss, co-worker, or friend demands your undivided attention, calls you five or ten times per day, follows your every move on and offline, or starts mimicking your style or words, there could be a deeper problem.
Stand your ground; know your boundaries; always listen to your inner voice. Respect, trust yourself and you will get through this. I told my story and put the spotlight on my harasser; you have the power within you to do the same.
Even on the darkest day in your fight against sexual harassment, always remember you’re worth so much more than workplace abuse. You will come through the experience with greater awareness and more compassion for others. You have a bright future ahead of you and you will survive this.
I believe in you!
We were the best of friends through high school – “The Three Musketeers”. We were going to be best friends for life. Sometime during senior year, they started changing. Drinking. Smoking. Having sex with anyone who looked their way.
That wasn’t for me. I chose not to party with them. They teased me about it, joking that I was the “good” one.
Not long after graduation, there was a situation where I chose my family over them. It all blew up, and the bullying and stalking began.
They prank-called me. They pitted our mutual friends against me with ridiculous lies. They showed up to my workplace and said they were going to kill me. They sat behind me in college classes and loudly whispered to others about how horrible I was. How I was an ugly, sad person. How they had just “pretended” to be my friend for all those years. They told all my secrets to anyone who would listen.
This continued for almost two years.
After the death threats at my workplace, I let them know that I would take out a restraining order if they ever contacted me again.
I blocked them on Facebook. I graduated from that college and went to another one in a different town. I changed my phone number.
Though I haven’t heard from them for years, I still feel sick when I think about them. They caused me incredible stress, self-doubt, and loneliness.
I don’t talk about it much, because I don’t want to give them the pleasure of knowing that they got under my skin. I left out many details of the story, and details about who I am, just in case they find this.
I’m now a happily married woman with a great career, an amazing husband, and a great group of true friends.
But I feel like I’ll always be looking over my shoulder, waiting for their next move.