My Experience with Jian Ghomeshi and What Every Woman (Person!) Should Remember.(Originally posted in February 2016 on www.roadtonowhere.ca).
I’ve tried so hard to let go of what happened with him. It’s easier to pretend not to care then to try and make sense of it. But those memories all came tumbling back out of hiding on that day in late October, 2014 when every device and social media account I owned was continuously beeping and vibrating violently.
Outside, the new ice on Frobisher Bay was beginning to form almost before my eyes, creating a crystalline orb on the Bay; snowflakes were drifting lightly against the window. But inside I was hot and sweaty as friends, family, randoms-I-barely-recall-speaking-to, were all wanting to know if I had seen the day's top headline:
JIAN GHOMESHI -Fired from CBC for allegations of violent sexual abuse against women
Of course I had seen it.. I'd seen them all. Even up here on Baffin Island I couldn’t escape them.
Oh… Well..how do you feel?! I want to know. Everyone wanted to know.
I’m ok. I feel...numb? I felt numb. Then nothing. I felt nothing. I am fine, totally. Totally fine.
Well...were you one of them?! One of Jian's victims?
Confusion. Followed by a deep breath. Then the question started to sink in. Inhale. No. Exhale. Nononononono, absolutely not, no. I am not Jian’s victim. I am not a victim of anything. I shrugged and felt the nothingness again, and just continued to let the phone ring and texts and emails pile up. Are sure you are ok?!
I am ok. Totally fine.
Over the next few days, I felt nauseous. Then empty. Then nauseous again. Like I was constantly going to throw-up, then I'd get the wave relief just by thinking about throwing-up. Then I'd have to imaginarily throw up all over again. There was no way this could be true. And, no, I was not a victim. It would all blow over in a few days, then Jian would go back to hosting Q- he'd probably start off his new reign by bringing on a perky, female sex-expert to discuss the secret world of BDSM; how misunderstood this growing community is; Jian enthusing intelligently with that genuine, smokey air of his- He’ll be sure to mention how he was the victim of society's ignorance for the sexually-explorative, but that this experience has only made him stronger...
Yes, that is what would happen.
But then the BDSM community shamed Ghomeshi's statement, he was dropped by his pricey PR firm and more allegations were reported. I bundled up and took an early break from my office, walking in circles in the parking lot, wishing I was a smoker.
I exhaled the illusion of toxic smoke from my lungs. I jumped, peering over my shoulder, as though someone was creeping up on me. Startling myself, I pulled out my phone, turning it over and over in my hands, not thinking anymore…
I texted Jian. He texted back right away. Anything you can to do to help me would be greatly appreciated. I need you right now. Inhale.
He never texts me back right away.
Exhale. I didn’t reply. What could I do? What did I have to offer the world? What could I say? The truth? Who should I believe anyway? Jian or the media? Who to trust? Myself?!
Who I am? Me. And my options are to be:
Or naive, brainwashed young woman.
I deleted his messages. Then I Unfollowed and Deleted and Unfriended.
Then he texted me one more time. I am going to have to go on the down-low for a while. I am getting a new number. Your support is greatly appreciated, B. All the best.
I flung the phone across the parking lot. It landed deep in a snowbank.
I did a stand-up routine a few days later, in whatever words I could muster up about it. I laughed about it all. People laughed with me. It felt good. I don't remember what I said, just that it felt good.
Tragedy + Time = Comedy. Tragedy + Comedy= Time to Heal.
Friends and family stopped asking me if I was ok. Everyone forgot about it.
Silence. Good ol' silence.
15 months later and it is starting to get noisy again. I am making an Americano with my new espresso machine alone in my kitchen when CBC News announces casually that his trial begins...today?! Turning on my computer and there it is: his face is covering, what seems like, all of the pages of the internet, all over my life. Again.
But since no one is asking me if I am ok this time, I have finally found some words, my truth and the option I needed, but didn't see: Myself.
And no, I am not ok. This whole situation is not ok.
For the record, here is my sordid history with Jian Ghomeshi:
-Fall, 2006: I begin listening to Q everyday. It seems like a good show. I am intrigued. Plus, I am a whore for CBC radio 1 programming, and have been since I before I could talk and think.
-Fall, 2008: I “like” Q on Facebook, then I add Jian Ghomeshi to Facebook because I think it would be cool if we were “friends”. My friends don't know who that is.
-Winter, 2009: Jian Ghomeshi accepts me on Facebook. I am excited! My friends think I am lame.
-Spring, 2009: A guest host fills in for Jian Ghomeshi while he is away somewhere, doing something. I write on his wall to express my concern about the replacement host, asking for an ETA as to when Jian will resume his hosting. I believe I used the word “ear candy” to describe his voice. My friends think I am lame.
-Spring, 2009: Jian private messages me. He is intrigued by my post and my profile picture. I believe he used the word “eye candy”. My friends and I do a collective eye roll. But I secretly message him back with something witty and clever.
-Spring, 2009: Messages go back and forth, funny and casual. Then he asks for my number. I say no way. In the next message, he gives me his number. My friends prank call it pretending to be an old lady looking for her friend Mable. We hear the familiar raspy, low radio voice on the other end- It is the correct number!
-Spring, 2009: Nightly phone calls with Jian begin. We talk about everything. He even asks me for questions to use on the show! I am 21. He is 41. He definitely thinks I am an Icelandic journalist or something and that I may know Bjork (I am Icelandic by spirituality only, but I did see Bjork at a grocery store once from afar). I don’t tell him that. He says we should meet. I agree we should meet.
-April 20, 2009: We meet. At his house. He says it has to be at his house. Of course at your house. I assume it’s an impressive house. It is. Sunday at 8pm. He’s really busy before that. I don’t have to bring anything, just myself. My roommate, a makeup artist, dresses me to the nines; I look 14 going on 39. I swear to myself and my mother and all the Icelandic Elves that nothing will happen beyond an intelligent conversation between professionals, possibly over wine and pistachios. He loves pistachios.
-April 20, 2009 cont’d: I am standing at his door. I remember having red flags at that very moment; I am staring at his dumpster and have sudden chills. Then I rationalize that he is a prominent radio star at a publicly-funded broadcasting corporation and he would be super-lame and stupid to harm a nobody-Starbucks Barista and throw her in his dumpster. Plus, he loves Starbucks.
-April 20, 2009 cont'd: A blur. We dance, we march to Billy Bragg and discuss the Revolution in Iran. We tell each other everything. He wants to go to Iceland with me. He moves his hands to my waist. Ah! I want to go home. His hands move firmly to my face. I cannot move. It takes me a few moments to realize he is kissing me. His grip is so tight on my small frame that I’m grounded to the spot on his immaculate kitchen floor. I cannot breathe. But this is Jian Go-bloody-meshi! Who cares now- I want to go home!!! I push him against the cupboard. He slumps, kinda. Then he tells me he has bad anxiety but that he feels very calm around me. Will you stay the night with me? I will be gentle, he says. I tell him I am an Icelandic faery. He doesn’t believe me. I say I have magic powers that will terrify him. He frowns, crossing his arms as though he has only just noticed me in his house, and doesn't approve of my antics. I tell him I have to be at Starbucks to open the store in 2 hours. He gives me $20 for a cab and sends me away immediately. The door slams behind me.
-April 21, 2009: He texts me at 7am saying I owe him $20 for the cab ride. What a creep!
-April 22, 2009: Why hasn’t he texted me back?! Did I ruin it?! Is it over?! Why did I leave so fast?! What is wrong with me?! I am shaking!!!
-April 23, 2009: That Billy Bob Thornton interview airs. Jian Ghomeshi is all over the local media. Then the international media. I want to know that he is ok! Why? He is a creep, I rationalize. But I want to know that he is ok. We had a connection didn’t we? I calmed him down. He won't return my texts. He is all over the news, I am forced to see his face, but he won’t return my texts.
-April 24, 2009: I prank call him as an Australian journalist that wants the scoop on the Billy Bob Thornton interview. He says he would love to talk to the Land Down-Under. Then he says I have a sexy accent and he desperately wants to meet, at his house. He texts me immediately saying I almost fooled him and that I am back in his good books.
-April 25, 2009: Easter Friday: We spend it together. We talk about everything. He rests his head on my belly and his head goes up and down as I breathe. He says I am the best storyteller ever, that he reads all my posts and I should write a book about sexy Baristas in the city. “Call it Coffee Girl” he says. I’ll do it, I say. He likes me for my writing he says. Wow, I must be a great writer!!! He pushes me on the couch. He locks the door. The rest is a blur. I’m in a cab again. he texts me, you don’t have to pay me back for this one.
-Late Spring, 2009: I am gutted and confused. I hate him for making me feel this way. And I hate myself for letting him do this to me. I hate myself for being weird and ruining everything.
-June, 2009: Jian Ghomeshi is doing a live Q taping at Glen Gould Studio in Toronto. He casually texts me telling me there are front-row tickets waiting for me at the CBC lobby. Coeur de Pirate and Elvira Kurt will be performing. I know how much you love them. He does know, and I do love them. And I go, dressing up to the nines, sitting front row with my best friend. We wait awkwardly after the show, watching the producers and tech-crew clean up. The studio empties. He winks and waves at me from the stage. Then disappears. The studio is dark now so we leave. He texts me Goodnight, B. I don't respond.
-June, the Next day, 2009: I post on Facebook that I am going backpacking in Iceland, alone and I am stoked. My phone rings. It is Jian! WTF?! I don't want to answer. But I do. We talk about everything. He wants to see me when I get back. He misses me.
-Summer, 2009: I go to Iceland and England. I have the best time ever. Silence from Jian. I am gutted, but I don't show it. I resolve myself to have an amazing adventure. And I do! I
-Summer, 2009: I enter a writing contest hosted by Jian. I sign my name as Clara Button. I come in second and win David Sidaris books. I call the producers and ask for a signed letter from Jian Ghomeshi. He writes “Dear Clara Button, You are a fine writer. Love Jian Ghomeshi”. Ha! Sadly, this makes my insecure-self feel slightly validated.
-2009-2010: My friends and I continue to prank call him as that little old lady looking for her dear friend Mable.
I wish. But not really. Those few months left me feeling wretched, confused, weak. Like a victim. For years, the grip on my arm, the way he was so quick to anger, the way he looked at me when I disobeyed him, haunted me. But what haunts me more, is how I couldn’t shake off the idea of him, wanting him to be in my life- the illusion of our connection. Our friendship. Our walks around Riverdale Farm, talking about the future. How could that mean nothing?
But whenever I wanted to walk away or if I'd had enough, he pulled me back.
He only needed me to help him feel powerful. He only wanted me when I wanted out. I was young. I was insecure. My life was out of control. He was in control.
Insecurity blinds us. It makes us do things that aren’t healthy for us in our quest to feel whole again. Insecurity makes us greedy, selfish, inhuman. It makes us victims to our worst selves.
I have written Coffee Girl, on my own. I have run marathons and travelled the world, on my own. I have my own life. I am happy, on my own. If a smooth-talking man were to try and make me feel otherwise, or pressure me for his own self-worth, I’d laugh and spit in his face and tell him to go buy a box of tampons and shove them up his a-hole.
But in my younger days, I was constantly battling with my spiralling self-esteem, looking to anyone but my measly self for reassurance that I was ok. Unfortunately, Jian Ghomeshi found me during that time in my development.
Today I am a still-very-young, very gay, very proud, woman. But underneath I still have so much shame that I felt I had needed an insecure man at one point in my life, not because I wanted him, but because I was searching for love and success, and felt like I couldn’t get that from myself, on my own merit. I am trying not to let that shame rise up and destroy the powerful creature I am today.
I wish we could all admit when we are not ok, then we would not have to hurt other people so much.
As a woman I am constantly being told by every human-made outlet that I am not pretty enough, that I need to tweak stuff, that I should talk less, that I should do this, but not that, and buy more. I learned late in life that I don’t have to spend my hard earned dollars on trying to play society's game that is rigged against me, but that I have better alternatives I can choose to invest in- like writing a kick-ass book about women, and doing yoga at my kick-ass neighbourhood studio, run by a kick-ass woman.
But at least I learned that.
It saddens me that after fighting against myself for so long, I sometimes have to fight against other women, the ones who call me a free-spirited hippie, or man-hater if I speak the thoughts and opinions that are my own, not scripted to me off of The View, mainstream media…or the average outlet- many of which are run by insecure, rich men (like Jian Ghomeshi)…and yes, women too.
To me, the most disturbing detail about the trial is reading all about Jian’s lawyer, Marie Henein. If Jian’s lawyer were a man, we wouldn’t even know his name. I am disturbed because this woman, as successful and powerful as she is (Yay to powerful women!), is making her living off victimizing already-insecure women, and protecting insecure sexual abusers (but that's where the $$$ are, right folks?!).
Or does Marie Henein need to defend these high-profile men (Michael Bryant, Dave Frost for example) to prove that she herself is not weak, that she is faraway from the women being picked apart on the stand? We live in a patriarchal society with a justice system designed by men in the stone ages to protect that society, so I don't blame Marie Henein for wanting to play the role of pit bull rather than be the frightened rabbit in the ring, while we all watch, frozen on the sidelines.
Honestly though, I don’t know Marie Henein, or anything beyond what has been reported in the media, so I really shouldn't pass judgement. I really don't know what her story is. I do wish her well. But I ask that she show kindness and mercy to those women who took a big risk and came forward.
While I remained silent.
And also for the record, I know two other young women who have had similar experiences with Jian as I did. Both were young, beautiful and spunky women. Ironically, both were also baristas. Both of them met Jian via social media and were avid Q listeners; they were his Followers and he reached out to them, flirty and forward. One of them never responded to him again and snickered at his flamboyant text messages, reading them out loud to her boyfriend over sushi one evening. She told me Jian became angry and threw a temper tantrum when she'd rejected him, saying he didn’t understand why she wasn’t “affected” by him like all other girls were.
The other woman that confided in me was so distraught and upset when Jian stopped responding to her. And later, after he'd turned aggressive, she called me, asking for advice on her situation. She said she was worried about his anxiety and she wished she could help him. I told her sternly to move on; no man is worth your tears and he has to take care of himself. She was 20 and he was 44 at the time. She didn’t want to share the intimate details of the rest of her experience with him to me, and frankly, I understand completely.
We are ok now. We are not alone.
The last time I saw Jian Ghomeshi was in September, 2013. I waited for him on the grass outside of the CBC, on an unseasonably hot, sunny day. He sauntered out of the building, 45 minutes later than planned, gushing that he was so happy to see me again. Finally, B, it's been sooooo long. He gave me a hug, and signed copy of his book , 1982. I chuckled to myself inside- what an ego this douche bag has!
We kept in touch somewhat over the past year and a bit, after I had moved to Iqaluit. For my own sanity and healing it was important to reconcile with him, as proof that I was strong enough to handle myself in his presence, in the presence of older, insecure men. If I can handle them and stand my grown, I can achieve anything, I rationalized.
Ironically, Jian and I actually became friends again, sort of.
I don’t know the details of what the women on trial went through, but I am choosing to believe them. I standby them. Who knows how they will fair in this perfectly corrupt system of ours so it is my duty to listen to their testimony even if it is crushed in court due to lack of evidence. Manipulation and emotional abuse are just as harsh, if not worse, than physical abuse. And I think there are enough stories out there to showcase the instability and emotional insecurity of this one man, Jian Ghomeshi, towards a number of women.
Unfortunately, the stories of young women rarely hold up in court- unless we are acting in the best interests of a man or corporation- Don't even get me started on the time I sustained 3rd degree burns on my foot when a broken brewer spilled on me while working a closing shift at Starbucks. The company tried to get me to sign many documents saying that it was my fault, that I was careless, that I was wearing revealing clothing instead of proper safety wear; that I was too tired, emotional, etc, etc and therefore I must deserve to rot at home with no salary or medical assistance to heal. Luckily I knew better and didn't sign. All I wanted was for those millionaire executive dorks to fix the goddam brewer!!!
Never, ever sign the rights to your story away. I have learned that again through trying to publish Coffee Girl. Every company wants my story, but they don't want to pay me for it! I am a young, inexperienced woman, so I should freely give it away, right? Wrong. I'll publish it myself, thanks.
Maybe your story is not admissible in court...yet, but I promise down the road you will find the courage to tell it, and there will be someone, somewhere listening who will stand up with you.
Though, if I were in that court room, Marie Henein would rip me to shreds over all my prank calling and for using an Australian accent dishonestly. Fair enough.
All I truly know is that I have to face the consequence of my actions everyday, and that my experiences in life have given me confidence, empathy, and most importantly, vigilance. I do not trust people easily, women or men. I take myself seriously. Whatever Jian has done, I hope he is brought to justice, real justice.
Do I believe Jian Ghomeshi is capable of a violent assault against a woman? Anyone can fall victim to their own insecurities and after spending time with Jian, I know that he has many, very many.
I am no longer, not in any way, associated with Jian Ghomeshi. I am freely speaking for myself.
I wish all the people who are involved in this difficult case healing. I hope it is not a vicious, cut-throat court battle like the one that the the good ol'media is predicting. What would that accomplish in the long-term? More suffering. More insecurities. More tragedy.
Tragedy + Healing = Truth.
We live in a society that wants us to be insecure, that wants us to feel broken. Why? Simple: More profit for the big boys on top! The best thing we can do is tell the truth when we are ready, and accept it…and then laugh about it, heal. Fine, call me a free-spirited, dirty hippie- I'd rather be one of those than a chronic victim of insecurity, my own or someone else's.
Ok, that’s my story. Now I’ve let it go.