An Open Letter to a 40-something “Bryce”
I see you, Bryce.
Lots of time has gone by and now you have children of your own. Perhaps, even a daughter.
Do you believe in karma? You must. I see you post that “overprotective dad” meme or make those jokes about wielding your shotgun at the door of your daughter’s first dates. Of course, you are her protector. You love her, you cherish her, you honor her. But sadly, what drives you is not love at all. It’s guilt, isn’t it? Guilt and the overwhelming, paralyzing fear that your worst nightmare is about to come true. You are terrified that a teenaged YOU is about to ring the doorbell to pick up your darling girl.
Someone who sees her not as the beautiful, intelligent, worthy angel she is, but as someone who is “asking for it”, a thing for his pleasure… his use. A disposable object to be used to boost his devastatingly fragile ego. Although he looks like he’s got it all, you know his self-esteem teeters between weak and fractured. He feels worthless and powerless, so he eagerly clamors for a distraction at the expense of HER innocence.
DING DONG… there he is at the door. Is your daughter ready? Have you taught her yet? You know… how to not get raped by guys like you? Of course you have. Your guilt and your attempts to tamp down your secrets have prepared you well.
Not only have you taught her universal safety tips like parking under streetlights and how to hold her keys between her knuckles as a weapon when out in the world, but you’ve been sure to teach her very specific things. Don’t get into a car with that popular boy she doesn’t know very well. Don’t drink too much or stray from her friends at parties. Don’t let that boy come to the house when you and mom aren’t home. You’ve been hypervigilant in providing that tutelage, because you know all too well what could happen if she doesn’t.
But how about your son? What has your avoidance, denial, guilt and shame driven you to teach him? Have you taught him not to be a rapist, like you? Probably not, huh? But you should. You really, really should, because memories are sticky things, aren’t they, Bryce? Perhaps you have attempted to go on, attempted to sleep at night, but those demons surface. They surface, because you know in all reality, that you ruined two lives that day.
First, there was her…
You thought she was “easy prey”, yet when you took her virginity, you were genuinely surprised since your friends who joined you that day said they already had. When you no longer saw her at school, did you wonder if you were the cause? Did you even care? When you heard all the rumors and helped spread them, did you think of her or the repercussions she would face? Did you think of her feelings in any way, or were you just thinking of your own 30 seconds of sick pleasure? Do you think of your own daughter as you try to drown out the truth?
And then there’s you…
Most men like you choose to cover the depth of your wrongdoings and insecurities with feigned bravado and arrogance. Now in your 40’s, things look pretty good on the outside, but I know you have dealt with your share of depression, anger, guilt, and self-loathing.
I’d like to think you have deep remorse, that you’ve learned some lesson, that you empathize and you’ve grown, that you got help and tried to heal, but simultaneously I know it’s much “easier” for you to shroud your pain. Most likely you try to self-medicate it away with alcohol, with drugs, with strings of broken relationships, with self-defeating thoughts, choices and behaviors.
Your unresolved regret feeds your dysfunction.
Or worse, you were able to float in narcissism and denial long enough to delude yourself that your choices didn’t do *too* much damage. I mean, there she is, right there on Facebook. Seemingly happy and healthy enough… successful enough… with children of her own. You think, maybe she forgot about what you did. (She didn’t.) Maybe it wasn’t that bad. (It was.)
How do you do penance without accepting the true depth of responsibility for your actions, Bryce? You are not exonerated simply because no one posts “Survived getting rumors spread about me” or “Was able to move on after being repeatedly humiliated” or “Lucky to have a healthy sexual relationship with my husband even after being assaulted by Bryce at that party in 1988”. Wake up.
Stop kidding yourself and take real action.
I hope your shame makes you angry and that your anger turns into action beyond pithy warnings for your daughter. There is an entire generation of young men being corrupted and lured by the false benefits of toxic masculinity, and your son is about to fall into the same trap you did.
Dig deep and find some way to teach him (and any young male you are a role model to) to NOT BE LIKE YOU. Tell him that bad choices can haunt you and that you regret days that you can’t take back. Tell him that hurting people, taking advantage of your power and keeping up those appearances weren’t worth selling your soul.
Just as it is up to you to teach your daughter to keep herself safe, it is up to you to teach your son to NOT RAPE.
Because, if not you, Bryce… then who?
Yours most sincerely,