Timely, As Ever: Marcia Aldrich and Jill Talbot on Christine Blasey Ford and “Trouble”
October 9, 2018 § 5 Comments
Jill Talbot and Marcia Aldrich discuss the release of their Longreads essay on the morning that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Jill: When we submitted our collaborative essay, “Trouble,” to Longreads in early August, we included the following synopsis:
The essay details the trouble we ran toward during our adolescence (drinking, boys) and the trouble that found us both, including sexual assault. While we had different upbringings—Talbot attending public high school as the daughter of a football coach in Texas in the late 1980s and Aldrich attending a private school for girls in Pennsylvania in the late 1960s—we share a history of daring, of lost direction, of dark bedrooms. Jill begins the essay, and we alternate sections throughout to reflect on our wild behavior, its consequences, and our respective parents’ inability to control or contain us.
Marcia and I were delighted to receive an acceptance from senior editor Krista Stevens about a week later, but when we were asked to approve the preview in September, I grew anxious. Anxious about what I had divulged, anxious about the details that pinpointed a young man so clearly that anyone with an MHS yearbook could identify him, and anxious about describing my own reckless behavior. I wondered when the essay might run, feeling more and more a desire to run from it. And then on September 26th, Marcia and I received an e-mail from Stevens:
In light of the subject matter of the piece we want to get it out ahead of Ford’s testimony and so we’ll be publishing this tomorrow morning at 7:30 am Eastern.
Marcia: When we began our essay “Trouble,” we didn’t think about how it might participate in any specific event larger than our own personal lives. It was the second iteration of our collaborative essay writing experiment, undertaken after we completed our first essay on our mothers, and we wanted to continue the practice. “Trouble” seemed the natural next subject because it had defined and troubled both of our lives, haunted, one might say, and those are the kinds of subjects that we feel compelled to write about, that call us. Of course, I was aware of last year’s dramatic rise of the #MeToo movement although it didn’t explicitly influence me, at least I don’t think it did. I couldn’t talk about trouble without at long last resurrecting a few of the sexually disturbing experiences I had as a very young girl. Entering those experiences again was made more meaningful because I was doing it with Jill and not alone. I don’t want to say writing with Jill made it easier exactly, but it emboldened me, bolstered me.
Here’s an excerpt from the essay, from one of Marcia’s segments:
At some point he hauled me to my feet and got me back in the car and drove me to my house. I don’t remember any words between us. He didn’t get out of the car and help me to the door. He leaned across me, opened the car door and looked at me as if to say get out. Which I did. Somehow. And I walked up the flagstone path to the back porch, stumbled around looking for the key, and finally opened the door. It was way past my curfew and my father had been listening for my return. I can’t remember if he saw me or just spoke to me from behind his bedroom door. It’s hard to believe he could have set eyes on me and not known something wrong had happened.
And it’s hard to fathom what he made of my running a bath at 2:30 in the morning. But that’s what I did.
My mother never stirred.
Read the entire essay “Trouble.”
Huge kudos to you both for this blog segment and the essay. All I can say is WOW. What fascinates me most are the common experiences of women, not just the pattern of sexual assault, but even down to the details: the football player, the older brother, driving home after a party, blood, shower, not telling. My own story, that I’m reading over and over in others words, making my own words, both spoken and written, somehow redundant. How many volumes will it take to hold all our words? Too much for any library, for any Internet. I’m not sure how I feel. Validated and somehow defeated at the precise same time. Thank you somehow.
Phyllis–I too have been shaken by the similarity in the stories being revealed, the laughing, for example in Ford’s testimony and the laughing in my own early experience. There is something good, I think, about these shared experiences coming to light even if there is no justice to be had.
My own long-denied experiences have come up as a result of the hearings. Every woman I know who has talked to me or written on Facebook about these hearings has revealed an ugly experience they previously had been unable to talk about. A former student thanked me and another teacher for “noticing something was wrong” when she was a high school senior. “I was raped and didn’t tell anyone. I remember wanting to talk about it but I was so ashamed and not completely convinced it wasn’t my fault. I know teachers are mandatory reporters and I wasn’t prepared for what that meant. I just wanted to say thank you for noticing something was wrong even if I denied it then. . . I am ok now. I hope these conversations keep women talking so my daughter can feel more empowered and less shame growing up. It was liberating to type it out last night. I erased and retyped my comment about 5 times worrying it would upset someone and then deciding I didn’t care.”
She is not alone. I think it’s time people were more upset.
It shakes me to the quick to learn so dramatically how so many of us have kept silent. At least there is this opening up about what it is really like to grow up female for many. Thanks for writing.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with such candor. It’s all pretty shocking. I was especially saddened that your parents didn’t prepare you for the possibility of such assaults. It’s great you could write this together, since you seemed rather alone as victims.