I left the theatre last night in a bit of a daze. Carlos and I had gone to see our son, Christian, in a seminal play called “The Other F Word.” He was incredible in his performance and the play itself – an original, devised play based on true stories – was a revelation.
My immediate reaction to the title was to insert Fuck. That’s the F word, right? I totally missed the subtlety of the preceding word, “Other.” While Fuck plays a very important part in the play, it is not the protagonist (for once!) but occasionally is the catalyst.
Feminism. That’s what it’s about: a hard look at changes in feminism and women over the past 20 years. We’re already a long way from the shivering male-dominated women of the past and still moving away. Moving away from the hard-nosed angry feminists who forged their blazing path. Moving away from the bitter man-hating. Moving away from burn-your-bras.
Feminism. Aspects of women and their real life struggles: women through the eyes of men, women through the eyes of women, women through the eyes of themselves. Society’s look at women, lesbians, gays, friends, lovers, partners.
Sitting there in the packed black-box theatre, with scores of people turned away at the door, we, the lucky ones, sat mesmerized by the performance. I was transported to places in my memories, then in my values and finally into my soul.
How we have changed. How we have evolved. While I might not agree with some of the trends that are taking place, I can empathize with them all. It stirred up some long-buried hurts inside me, of events that changed the course of my innocent, idyllic life in Montevideo, Uruguay.
It was the summer of 1973 when I finally caught the eye of the most amazing boy at the swim club. He was everyone’s jock, everyone’s hero, everyone’s friend. At four years older than me, he had always been my idol and now that he’d left his long-time older girlfriend, I finally stood a chance.
I knew nothing about dating or boys at the time, but I was determined to learn fast. He was breathtaking and I hung on his every word. Summer flew by, long days of swimming, training and competitions. Great camaraderie and towards the end of summer, in February 1974, I turned 14 and we'd been close almost all summer.
It happened at the farewell summer dance. We danced, we kissed, and there was beer and smoking. Those crazy days when cigarettes and drinking had nothing to do with sports. Exhausted by the heat of the clubhouse, we wandered off down to the rugby fields, far from the noise and chatter. He smoked and drank as we walked and talked, this enormous strong boy and I; and I knew I was in heaven.
It’s dark out where we are, all the floodlights have been switched off and the club is hidden way behind the tall juniper hedges. Then next thing I know, he’s kissing me and pushing me to the ground. He’s kissing me and rolling on top of me. His whole mouth is inside mine and without warning, his hand is inside my shirt, under my size nothing bra and I freeze. I’m not kissing him anymore, I’m screaming, I’m crying, I’m scared. And I’m squirming.
My insides have turned to jelly and I’m shaking and pushing to get this man off me, who’s twice my size. He’s jamming his knee between my legs and pushing them apart while he continues to rape my mouth.
Everything inside is screaming STOP!! STOP!! I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t like what’s happening. STOP!!
“STOP!!! Please stop!” I’m clawing, twisting and heaving to move him off my skinny body.
We’re fully dressed but I feel naked. I’ve just managed to get his hand out from under my shirt, but he’s panting and slamming his groin into my hips.
“STOP! Please stop. I don’t like this!! What are you doing? It’s … not … r – r -right ...” I’m sobbing now, all of my strength dissolved into tears.
Something has made him stop.
“What?” He hoists himself up on his hands still pinning me with his hips as he stares at me from above, his head blocking out the night sky. “Why the hell are you crying?” he grunts.
It’s my chance. With every ounce of strength I twist and roll, knocking his arm so he topples and I’m out from under him. I’m still sobbing, but I don’t think I notice at the time because all I can focus on is standing up. I can’t stand up! My legs are like Raggedy Anne legs and I seem to have forgotten how to breathe. My shirt ... torn.
“What the fuck are you whimpering about?” he barks, standing up and brushing off his jeans.
“I – I … I don’t think … that was … very nice …” I blubber.
“God! You’re such a baby. I knew you were a baby.” He hisses straightening his shirt and walking away.
I’m humiliated, but my mother is coming to pick us both up. I have to catch up with him and we have to leave together.
“Please … please wait,” I gasp, horrified as I watch my idol walk out of my life. “Please, help me up.”
“Get up, then,” he barks, yanking me by the hand, “God, I can’t believe I’ve wasted my time with such a baby. We’re done. Nobody’s ever going to be interested in YOU, I can assure you that.”
He storms off and I follow him, broken, afraid and disgraced.
Christian came back on stage and was crying. His performance was so riveting I forgot he was my son. This lovely man who'd made us laugh, wrung us out and let us into his world became a broken man, twice jilted who only sought normal. He was crying and he made me cry. The actor touched my soul. I cried for him and I cried with him.
I cried for his loss.
I cried for his failed relationships.
I’m crying because his performance for some of us is so real.