Abra la puerta, that fresh new wind is blowing

A teacher forced me to kiss her in high school. She had been grading everyone on their responses to Spanish commands: “abra la puerta” and someone opened a door. To another student, “cierra la ventana.” Then she looked at me and said, “Alano…besame.” I loved the language and excelled in class, but was stupefied and surely misheard. I asked for clarification. “Besame,” she repeated. This was for a class participation grade so, embarrassed, I got up and walked past all my chuckling classmates to the front of the room and kissed her waiting face on the cheek. During passing period I went to the bathroom and tried to wash the taste of her makeup off my lips.

In junior high I raised my hand and pointed out to our PE teacher that the girls were the only ones presently breaking her rule against picking blades of grass (yes, middle school Allen could be an incorrigible ass sometimes) so she told all of them to pick as much grass as they could and held my shirt open while they took turns dumping it down my back. I have some fairly serious allergy issues and landed in the nurse’s station for the day. I covered for her.

There’s something about being a big dude that means you can “take” stuff and so you do.

I don’t know if it was the time or town, but our bodies weren’t our own – at least not in any way which truly counted. I was hazed and hazed others. A doctor repeatedly grabbed my butt during a physical exam when I was thirteen. We brought “spanking” permission slips home with us in kindergarten.

Of course our bodies always were our own and it was always wrong for someone else to impinge upon that sacredness, but such truth was (and is) a tragically slow education for some of us.

The current public conversation might be awkward for a hundred reasons, but I’m grateful for the ones continuing it — for all of my friends who shared their stories or apologized or decided to live differently or held their leaders accountable. I’m thankful for the healers. The repenters. For those who pay attention to power dynamics.

And for the opportunity to say “besame goodbye” to shitty norms.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

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