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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.