I just read this and it reminded me of an incident that happened so long ago, I’d almost forgotten it.
My boyfriend and I were standing in a long line outside the Grendel’s Lair music club, waiting to get in. The line stretched halfway down the block, and somewhere in the first third or so was a couple having a fight.
But not really. The man was having a fight with the woman, screaming at her while she stood silent, and I watched all the people in line avert their eyes – including my soon-to-be husband.
Then he started hitting her. I waited what seemed like an eternity (but was probably only a minute or so) for someone to do something. I remember a couple of the hippie dudes in line were muttering: “Hey man, that’s not cool.”
I couldn’t stand it. I took a running jump and leaped onto the man’s back and started screaming at him. “You do not get to hit her! What’s wrong with you? Stop it!” I was pulling at his arms, trying to get him to stop hitting her.
It was like breaking a spell. Several of the men quickly surrounded the guy, and pulled him off. Several of the spectators asked the woman if she was all right.
My boyfriend didn’t say anything. I remember thinking that maybe what finally spurred the men to get involved was that they were embarrassed that a young girl (I was only 18 or so) had more courage than they did.
Maybe they knew from experience that the victim might defend her boyfriend, or even attack them, but I didn’t even care about that.
I knew that by standing by while a woman was beaten, everyone in that line who watched was giving tacit consent. And that’s the part that wasn’t “cool.”