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Feeling Unsafe at Every Size

Eva Tenuto | Longreads | January 31, 2017 | 5,426 words

Our new president’s predatory attitudes towards women transport Eva Tenuto straight back to a high school teacher’s abuse of power and the relentless criticism of her junior high peers that made her an ideal target.

Posted inEssays & Criticism, Featured, Nonfiction, Story, Unapologetic Women

Feeling Unsafe at Every Size

Our new president’s predatory attitudes towards women transport Eva Tenuto straight back to a high school teacher’s abuse of power and the relentless criticism of her junior high peers that made her an ideal target.
Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Eva Tenuto | Longreads | January 2017 | 22 minutes (5,426 words)

I entered the sandwich shop and saw him at the counter, my old high school freshman homeroom teacher, placing his lunch order. I hadn’t seen him since I’d graduated 17 years earlier.

He and I were the only customers. If I got in line, it was clear, there’d be no avoiding him. I’d heard through the small-town-grapevine that he’d been forced to retire early just a year after I graduated, after one brave young woman turned him in for touching her inappropriately. I remember thinking he got what he deserved. But it never occurred to me that I was traumatized by what happened with him until seeing him in person that day made me seize up in a full body rage.

“Well, hello Ms. Tenuto,” he said when he spotted me. That was how he always addressed me, even as a high school freshman. It was only in that moment that I realized the subtlety of the language that had taken my childhood away, that made his power and authority seem to disappear, that created the illusion we were equal, as if we were both adults. “You don’t remember who I am, do you?” he asked. How could he have the nerve to think I might have possibly forgotten? Like nothing had happened between us that would stand to be memorable. But nothing did happen. That’s what I had been telling myself all these years.

“Oh, I remember you,” I said, looking him straight in the eyes. My body started to feel charged, as if my insides were effervescent. I knew this was an important moment and if I didn’t claim it, it would quickly pass me by.

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