Dear Scarlett

Dear Scarlett,

I want to tell you not to go to the bar that night. I want to say, just stay in with a good book. But I know you, if I tell you not to you'll only be more determined to do it. So get dolled up, go to the bar, listen to the band and dance your heart out. But listen. Listen when your best friend tells you to stay away from him (they work together and there have been rumors). Listen when the things he tells you don’t sit quite right. Listen to your body when he dances too close and makes you uncomfortable. Listen when the red flags go off in your head. And please, please, please, listen when your gut tells you absolutely not to go home with him. Like Mom says, nothing good happens after two AM anyway.(Believe it or not, she knows what she’s talking about).

I write this fully knowing that you won't listen to any of it. It’s Saturday night, you worked hard this week and you deserve to let off a little steam. You will go to the bar. You will fall for his charisma, his charming compliments, his dimples. You will dance most of the night with him, even though he makes you uncomfortable. You will ignore your friends, their warnings and your own gut instinct. You will ignore all the red flags. You know better than to get yourself into a bad situation. And even if you did, you know how to protect yourself. You know everything.

You will live to regret that night. For years you will replay it in your head. All the times you could have, should have, stopped him. All the times you had an easy out but didn't take it. You could have ignored him like your friend told you to. You could have turned him down when he wanted to dance. You could have left when your friends did. You could have gone home at bar close. But you didn’t. 

You will replay the morning after too—you were still wearing last night’s now disheveled clothes, your mascara was all over your face and the old lady in her Sunday best mean mugged you—surely thinking how irresponsible you must be. You tried to pretend everything was ok because you felt so numb you weren’t sure it even really happened. Taking the hottest, longest shower of your life, you didn't realize you were washing away evidence. Why would you? Your body had never been evidence before. 

You will never be the same woman who got dressed up that night, you are different now. You will never trust your gut instinct (or any man) again. You will become paralyzed in the thought that you can’t protect yourself against anything. You will stop thinking you know everything. You will never go into the dark alone again. You will stop writing. Not writing will cause you to bottle your emotions and that will cause many explosive nights. 

It will take more than a decade but you will eventually be stronger for it. You will eventually help other women because of your strength and your compassion. You take self-defense classes and learn that you are not alone. You will eventually start writing again. The first time will be an ugly drunken night. (Who knew all you needed was a little scotch?) With the floodgates finally open you will feel more like a survivor and less like a victim. You still don't go into the dark alone. Maybe you never will.