Ella and the Time a Boy Gave Her a Drawing of the Chemical Structure of BenzaClin

I thought that I might tell you a funny story tonight.

When I was sixteen, I was taking a lot of medication, and one of the requirements for it was for me to take a class about the side-effects, managing it, and related topics. And it went like any class like that would go. We all got sheets about what the medication was doing, complete with drawings of cells and extensive descriptions of the pharmokinetics. I, of course, was fascinated by by the hard science and kept asking questions about chemistry.

(At some point, I will tell the story of the time I accidentally kept over twenty people from eating dinner for close to half an hour because I was interrogating a geologist for a coal mining company about the adverse effects to the environment.)

We learned about all the things we couldn’t take with the medication, which included being told at least three times a session that under no circumstances were we to miss a dose or take birth control pills without informing every doctor and their second cousins. And at the beginning of each session, we were asked about what other medications we were taking, including things like the last time we took Motrin, and about how much alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, et cetera we consumed. On the first day I said something about how I don’t consume any of the three because I like clear cognitions and a body entirely devoid of anything mind-altering, which led to me being gently reminded by the amused nurse that if I really felt that way, I probably shouldn’t be sitting in a class teaching me about a medication that would be changing how my body worked, just like how acetaminophen works on a fever.

Most of the other people in the class were nice, but there was this one boy who was my age who seemed fixated on me. But it wasn’t a good type of fixation. He was very socially awkward, had the habit of–perhaps innocently–insulting people, and would do everything he could to sit as close to me as possible–something I stopped by waiting until everyone else was seated and then choosing a seat between two other people, thus forcing him to be at least one chair away.

One day during the class, I noticed that he was busily drawing instead of staring at me. Naturally, I was ecstatic. Being uncomfortably stared at non-stop for forty-five minutes on a weekly basis is not anyone’s idea of a good time. Then, after class, he very proudly presented me with his drawing. It was–and I kid you not–a drawing of the chemical structure of the acne medication I used occasionally at the time. He had gone home, looked up the chemical formula and the structure, and drawn a picture of it for me. It was an alarming incident to say the least, and most certainly did not have the romantic effect he had intended.

So boys, let this be a lesson to you: Never give a girl a drawing of the chemical formula of her acne medication unless she very specifically requests it.

And that, my fine feathered friends, is the story of one of the many weird things that happened with me and boys that year. Maybe tomorrow might be a good day for the story about the very creepy boy who once ate Purell and later tried to lock me in a supply closet with him. I’m never quite sure why I seem to attract the strange ones.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

In Which Terrible Things Happen to Ella

When I was thirteen my friend’s mom sent the two of us to pick up some parsley from the grocery store two blocks away. We set out, happily chattering about whatever we were planning to do that evening and enjoying the warm spring air. We crossed the busy street, found the parsley, made fun of the tabloid headlines, made our purchase, and started walking home. However, right after we crossed the street, we passed a man, who reached out and grabbed my bottom.

But instead of screaming, calling the cops, confronting the man, or even mentioning it to my friend, I kept silently walking, convinced that I had imagined it. After all, who hasn’t accidentally swung their arm and hand into someone at some point. I once gave Leigh a pretty bad bruise on her face while gesticulating wildly. These things happen. And I did not want to falsely accuse anyone. Bad things like groping children don’t seem to happen in our part of town. It’s a very safe place. It just had to be an accident. Of course, I was wrong to think anything of it.

And then I didn’t say anything about it to anyone for years. I was so scared of making it into a big deal, if the contact had only been an accident. I didn’t want to cause any trouble. What happened could hardly be compared to sexual abuse. It felt like offensive to people who have been sexually abused to raise any sort of alarm of my own.

Almost exactly a year later, I went to France by myself and had four very frightening events happen within two days. I got chased down a street by a much older boy on the program who “just wanted to hug me” even when I said no several times (I got caught outside of a grocery store and he wouldn’t let go), hit on by a man in his twenties with a disturbing leer, grabbed around the waist very suddenly by another guy on the program, and woken up at one in the morning by two drunk roommates who were throwing condoms filled with water at my head. (This is not to mention the fact that I got attacked by a very large dog less than a week into the program and all of the bullying from the other Americans.) Once again, I said nothing because they were just “little things.”

When I was sixteen, I got cornered in a supply closet by a guy with several mental illnesses, and a slew of other things happened that I also didn’t mention to anyone because they didn’t seem like anything serious.

But I thought about these incidents constantly, at least five times a day. Sometimes they make me cry. I freak out when people touch me and I can’t see them first. I do not like to be alone with adult men, and I’m very distrustful of guys. The anorexia has left my arms weak enough that I can’t carry my one-year-old cousin if he isn’t resting on my hip. I am not physically strong enough to stop any sort of attack.

It wasn’t until three weeks ago that I tried to very casually drop the first grocery store incident into a conversation with my mom, who brushed it off as an accident and that “there are just some guys out there who are creeps.”

Maybe that is the truth. There is a large possibility that all of these things are comically trivial and that I’ve just built them up inside of my head, but I’m inclined to think that even if that’s the case, I do have a right to my fear.  Feeling guilty about it isn’t right. None of these things were my fault. It’s alright if I’m scared. I’m allowed to cry.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.