“Slow the f**k down; you’re going to get us, or someone else killed!” I yelled to my husband.
I am usually not so dramatic (okay, maybe I am). But in my defense, legally going approximately 130 mph on the German who-the hell-cares-about-speed-limits-
My husband, normally a gentle and loving man, but self-professed car fanatic, borrowed a car with a fancy-schmancy engine from a friend earlier that evening. He thought he would make the most of our rare, kids-free night out. Who could blame the guy? He works hard and deserves to play hard too, right?
Well, yes and no.
Earlier that evening, I had mentioned to him that I didn’t really feel safe driving around in such a beast. Seriously, the engine sounded like it wanted to devour our souls. The ride to the restaurant had been thrilling, I’ll confess. I may have even smiled and laughed nervously just a little bit. However, I was at the limit of what I found comfortable. I begged him just before leaving our pizza paradise, in my half-joking, half-serious way to please drop me off at home before enjoying his second gas-guzzling speedgasm of the evening.
Despite my remarks, his brain apparently didn’t compute any of this information. Hence, my subsequent shouting profanities at him and praying I would get another chance to see our children again.
When we arrived home, I couldn’t speak. The words simply wouldn’t come out. Silence. The silence might have lasted weeks if he hadn’t snapped me out of my daze by asking, “Why won’t you talk to me?”
I told him.
I told him that when he didn’t listen to me, and didn’t slow down like I had begged him to, it felt as if I was being raped — again.
My rape had happened over two decades ago, long before my husband and I had ever met. However, it remains to this day an issue for me and our almost 12-year marriage. My husband knew that I was a 16-year-old virgin and dating someone I really liked and trusted. And he knew that the physical and emotional trauma had almost destroyed me. Almost.
“What? Oh my God. I am so sorry. I never intended to…I thought you were having fun. I remember you were laughing and…” he replied, voice cracking.
“I did laugh, but I also clearly told you ‘Slow down!’ ‘Not so fast!’ and ‘Please stop!’ However, this was all ignored,” I explained. “I didn’t consent to being driven around like we were on a NASCAR racetrack. You have a right to do anything you want to your own body, but you do not have a right to do anything you want to mine!”
I have been teaching our children since they were toddlers about consent and body safety. The tenets of which are: You are the boss of your body and everyone else is the boss of theirs; you must always get permission before doing something to someone else’s body (such as tickling, wrestling, hugging, etc.); and you must stop right away when someone tells you to. The stopping is the trickiest part for my kids, especially if they are having loads of fun in the process. But hey, they’re still little kids; they have a lot to still learn. My husband, on the other hand, should have known better.
“You are right. I am so sorry,” replied my husband. “What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again? Maybe we should develop a safe word or something?”
A. Safe. Word.
A safe word theoretically has more power than the words No or Stop. It means someone has reached the outermost limits of their comfort zone. It means no more joking around. It means someone could get hurt if the activity continues. In other words, you don’t screw around with the safe word, or else. The safe word means business.
Unfortunately, safe words have a bad reputation. Normally, when one thinks of a safe word, one conjures up images of people having all sorts of kinky sex. That’s too bad, because safe words are truly a gift for everyone and, dare I say it, can even be family-friendly to use.
I thought his idea was brilliant. We then agreed to let our children decide what the word should be, since we figured it would be important for them to also use it with us whenever they felt they needed to. The word lederhosen, suggested by my daughter, was eventually the winner.
Honestly, now, I am so in love with our safe word. I wish we could patent it, sell it, and retire to a private island, because it has truly transformed how we all listen and respect each other’s bodies. The power of this word has proven itself many times over, when “no” or “stop” didn’t quite do the trick.
Parents, want your kids to stop climbing all over you when you are trying to type an urgent email to your boss from home? LEDERHOSEN!
Kids, want your mom to stop trying to slick those hair wisps down with her spit or to knock-off placing sloppy kisses on your cheek? LEDERHOSEN!
Of course, safe words can backfire on parents once and a while…
My children believe they should get to choose when to clean their rooms, take a bath, or see a doctor, because, as they put it, “It is our bodies and we get to choose. Lederhosen!” However, they are slowly learning about the rare occasions where the safe word must be overridden and those are matters exclusively relating to health and safety.
Nice try, sweethearts. Now, please clean your rooms before you attract bugs to it.
I have, since that fateful date night, regained trust in my husband. Now, when we are all cruising on the Autobahn, my husband knows he might hear me peep, “Lederhosen” and will lower the speed. No more drama. No more silent treatment. I am proud of him for this. He is demonstrating to our children how to show respect for someone else’s boundaries.
He gets it now and I love him for that.