Thilde remembers the dark side of the 1980s

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David Kramer and Thilde Weems. From Moon Dress coming to Rochester from L.A. with love

You first met Thilde Weems in Moon Dress coming to Rochester from L.A. with love. For many 50 somethings, the ongoing Supreme Court nomination has triggered memories of high school and college days. Today, Thilde shares some of her memories. Interestingly, like Brett Kavanaugh, Thilde kept a kind of diary. (Life before the internet was so much more touchable; apparently, I am the Dave mentioned in one page.)

The dark side of the 1980s

The image is from the Brown phone directory that Thilde kept next to the phone in the hallway. Apparently, I am the Dave mentioned

I took a step back writing for many months to focus on my own well being and healing. While I have made substantial progress, today I feel I am right back where I started: alone and a sense that no one really cares. The recent hearings with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been triggering. Just when I thought I was on top of my feelings and memories, they come knocking. Again.

Watching the hearings brought back memories of attending a private boarding school and an Ivy League university during the late 1980’s. A few months ago, I turned 50, as did many of my classmates and peers.  Now, all of a sudden, our generation is at the pinnacle of power. We were born in the late 60’s, grew up in the late 80’s, and now are fully grown adults facing enormous change and upheaval in our culture and country. We have to acknowledge our history in order to progress and improve the current state of chaos and confusion.

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The 1990 Liber Brunensis.

Here’s what I remember from ages 16-21. The culture of “elite” private education on the east coast was wild and lawless. There was a lot of exuberance and extreme partying. Sixteen year olds were doing coke, LSD, marijuana, and binge drinking on a regular basis. Sexual indiscretions were the norm and abundant. There was no guidance and rape was poorly understood and under reported, if at all. It was all a total hilarious blast until it wasn’t anymore. Rock and Roll. Then the consequences came: addiction, depression, poor academics, understanding the fall out of poor sexual choices and the definition of consent and rape.

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Thilde graduating.

What was clear to me during this time was that as long as you did well academically, nothing else mattered. Ethics and religion had long been removed from the school system and females were integrating into a system that had been males only for decades. An insular “frat boy” culture was already in full swing by the time females were attending in greater numbers in the 80’s. I remember my first semester at Brown as a freshman. I was befriended by a group of sophmore females that attended the frat parties on Wriston Quad on a regular basis. I went to a few of those parties and ultimately moved on to other interests in the following semester. Enormous amounts of alcohol were consumed by many. We didn’t have the term yet, but this was “hook up”and “rape” culture to be certain. A long tradition of hazing and desensitization to violence among males in fraternities was now including enormous amounts of alcohol and females. I suppose we thought it was “funny” or “crazy” but in retrospect it really was quite horrific. Some frat houses were notoriously bad and to be avoided altogether.

One memory in particular was having our apartment on Brook St. broken into one Saturday night.  I was at home sleeping with the deadbolt locked on my bedroom door. I awoke to my roommate knocking notifying me that some guys, whom she suspected she knew, had broken into our apartment while she was out, ransacked her bedroom, left a shit on our phone in the hallway and wiped their asses on a sheet that they left behind in the living room. She just laughed and neither of us even considered calling the police. I was more annoyed than anything that she hung out with these drunken turd boys in the first place. It was uncool then and it’s still uncool. Brown University was benign compared to stories on other campuses.

The hallway in question Halloween 1988

The hallway in question, Halloween 1988

There were a few boys that I met at frat parties. Some were very sweet and I wanted to get to know them. However, for the most part, they just wanted to hook up.  Hooking up with males in college was very unpleasant for me. It seemed like there was a lot of pushing and shoving and emotional withdrawal and numbing. There was little follow up or follow though, and just unsatisfying all around. Brown was and remains progressive. At the time, I was studying psychology and pre med. I remember taking classes on women’s health, human sexuality and development, but it always seemed about the anatomical chart or some fixation on the act itself and never managing the emotions of vulnerability around intimacy and consent. Yes, we talked about “the clit” and how to use a condom, but never about: “what if I don’t want to have sex?” or how to navigate decisions and choices around intimacy and relationships.

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Party goer from the 1980s.

It is not surprising now that we are reflecting on our history. It’s more important now than ever to look at how we treat each other and relate to each other in this world. It’s not useful or effective to deny that these things happened. It is useful to bring some openness and dialogue to this ongoing issue around sexual consent, appropriate behavior and assault. It seems also vital to honor the emotional vulnerability involved when entering into an intimate relations with anyone, as well as treating the other individual with empathy and respect.

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  1. George

    Thilde, this was such a candid, refreshing and enlightening read. As someone who came of age in the 90’s, graduated in 2000, and went to colleges (St. John Fisher and Emory University) throughout the 2000’s, sadly your descriptions feel all too familiar. I totally agree that “It’s not useful or effective to deny that these things happened.” One of the great tragedies of this whole story is the lack of critical analysis. As a nation we are far too content to turn events like this into a melodrama with simplified heroes and villains. I believe that Kavanaugh did these things. I also believe that he grew up, gained responsibilities, learned how to respect women, and has lived a different life for the past three decades. People change. That may be the only thing I can say with certainty about humans. Don’t get me wrong. That does not mean he should be given a pass for lying. Nor does that mean he should not be held accountable for doing terrible things to women when he was younger. It just means that the process in which these transgressions have come to light make it nearly impossible for him to admit what he did without getting crucified. It also prevents our society from fully grasping how and why sexual assault and gender violence occurs. It makes for riveting television, but I doubt that it fosters a national discussion that leads to healing. Does Dr. Ford deserve justice? Absolutely. But far too many people are throwing stones from glass houses. Having said that, I need more time to digest your words and how they effected me. This is really my gut reaction. In no way whatsoever do I want to discredit the courage it took for Dr. Ford to do what she did. I also believe that Judge Kavanaugh-if he remembered what happened-should have confessed to her years ago.

  2. Thilde Weems

    George, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! Sadly, there was not much in the way of apologizing or confessing to misdeeds back in the day.
    With regard to the present day, I would like to emphasize my belief that we can understand how we got here as a culture by looking at our past. We can make better choices now and be honest and respectful to others.

    As for the Kavanaugh/Ford issue, I cannot speak to the veracity of their comments or the protocol of airing dirty laundry at a confirmation hearing. I do know what I saw, which was a man who was crying like a baby, throwing a tantrum, dodging questions, and generally openly defiant to senators questioning him. He was inarticulate at best, rude, reactive, evasive and just not all that impressive for a Supreme Court Justice candidate. That is my 2 dollars.

  3. George Payne

    I cannot agree more. I find myself contrasting his performance with the memo issued to the GOP by the prosecutor Rachel Mitchell. In that document she raises numerous questions about Ford’s testimony, including incompatible gaps in her timeline, inconsistencies in her memory, peculiar omissions, unfounded assumptions, and meta questions about her psychological state of mind both now and then. One may not agree with Mitchell’s premises and conclusions, but it is, I think fair to say, legally persuading. The judge’s presentation, on the other hand, lacked argumentation all together. The great legal scholar and judicial mind, failed to come up with an actual criminal defense. Instead, he decided to have a brawl. His performance may have jump started Trump’s support, but it revealed a candidate who is not equipped with the emotional stability, political objectivity, and universal love for the Law that is required of a Supreme Court Justice. When he told Senator Harris that he did not watch Ford’s testimony, I knew that something was wrong. Here is a man who thinks like an attorney, who is a seasoned judge, and is a highly regarded legal genius. Why would he not want to watch her testimony and pick apart every single word? Who better to create a legal defense on his own behalf than Judge Brett Kavanaugh? That’s not what happened. A sexual assault expert prosecutor from Arizona had to do it for him. That alone should be disqualifying.