DEAR MOTHER PHAWKER,
Ok, here’s the setup: Back in 1989, I was in a band and playing a show in Nuremberg, Germany, with three other bands. I was the only woman, hanging out in the dressing room, which was in a basement down a LONG hall, far away from anything. A dude from one of the other bands held forth with a long, rambling, liquor- and heroin-induced diatribe about how women didn’t belong in rock. OK, whatever, asshole. But then he threatened to rape me. There were eight other people in that room, all men, and not one of them would even make eye contact with me. Obviously, I was afraid — if he (or anyone else) had attacked, me there was no way anyone else would have been able to hear my screams or come to my rescue, because we were in the basement and the music upstairs was loud. I took the first opportunity to get up and run away, and my bandmates told the tour manager, who was outraged and kicked the would-be rapist’s band out. Today, 18 years later, the guys sends me an apology via MySpace. I don’t know if it’s been on his mind, or if he’s in a 12-step program and he’s at the “making amends” step, though a program-forced apology would mean less to me. And judging by his comments, I don’t think he has any memory of saying he was going to rape me, either. Should I respond? Should I let him be my friend on MySpace?
Busted, Disgusted and Wondering if This Guy Can Be Trusted
Short answer: Yes, forgive him, ungrudgingly and without hesitation. Add him as a MySpace friend? Maybe not. Forgiveness is a two-sided coin: On one hand, gaining it can release someone who has done wrong from what could be life-altering guilt. On the flip side, giving forgiveness can free the wronged party from carrying the soul-burdening ballast of anger and resentment. Either way, forgiveness is the currency with which we pay for our happiness. So yes, Mom believes that with few exceptions, sincerely-sought and generously given absolution is a gift to you as much as it (hopefully) would be to him. Does that mean this guy doesn’t deserve to hear — from you — exactly what he did on that blacked-out night, and why the terror you felt was deep enough that you carry it to this day? Hell yes he should hear it. Recount it to him, with the benefit of 18 years? hindsight and a mature command of your feelings. Then ask him again if he still wants forgiveness — and if he does, give it to him. I guarantee the burden that lifts off your shoulders will be about the same size as the one that comes off his. Should you add him as a MySpace friend? Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but to me, “friending” someone is tantamount to saying you welcome them into your life, you approve of their presence in your social orbit. Forgiving him might finally give you the ability to put him, that whole experience, and how it made you feel, out of your mind for good. Will adding him to your list of friends — and thereby giving him permission to contact you in the future — help you achieve that? You owe yourself the freedom you’ll feel by forgiving this guy, but you don’t owe him friendship. Also, Mom wonders why an apology that came as part of a drug recovery program would mean less to you. In my own experience, having received such mea culpas, they actually can mean more. At least you know the person who did you wrong is now sober and clear-headed enough to understand the consequences of his or her actions. Just a thought.