The Vine: June 4, 2014
Something happened to me today, I am so ashamed of myself, right now I don't know how I will ever forgive what I did.
I live in a semi-nice neighborhood, but we are a funnel for a trail that has a lot of inebriates. Today, when I was very busy with other things, the doorbell rang. Usually I ignore it, but my husband was home, yelling for me to answer (he was in the bathroom) and I went to the door. A younger girl was there, looking very like other women who have come to our house requesting money. She tried to talk to me, but I was trying to keep my dogs inside, all the while saying, "I am very busy, I can't talk right now!" Then she said she had been raped. I know I sound absolutely cynical when I say, women in the past have come to my door asking for money — because they have been abused. When I say, "I will call the police!", they take off. I said, "You need to call the police," and when she tried to talk further, I shut her down and closed the door.
It turns out, she is a neighbor I have never seen before. I want to say she is about 19 or 20, and after I shut the door, I looked out the window and saw her crying on the curb. I realized I must have misjudged the situation, and when I went out, her mother, who I did recognize, was walking up my drive. I fully expected her to blast me, but instead she said her daughter had been raped several nights ago, and was going around to the neighbors, warning them that there might be gang retaliation. They live right across from us, so she wanted to warn us about potential danger.
To say I felt like an absolute and total shit is an understatement. I went out and apologized, I tried to express how out of line I was. She was very kind and accepted my apology.
I feel in a way I am looking for confirmation that it was a weird situation. Who sends their daughter out to the neighbors, alone-telling them she was raped? But more than anything, I need to figure out how I can live with myself, to be so cruel to a young girl at the door. I feel like in one day, I found out I was a totally different person than I thought I was.
One more thing, and I want to say "in my defense" but I feel I don't deserve that consideration — due to my upbringing, I am so averse to any kind of drama. I don't want myself, or my family (I have a daughter), to be dragged into any kind of drama-filled or unsafe situations.
I honestly don't know what I am asking for here — except an honest critique of how other people would have handled the situation. I feel this has made me take a hard look at myself, and I don't like what I see. How do you live with something you are so ashamed of doing?
You're being way too hard on yourself. You'd never seen the girl before; you've gotten burned before by randoms ringing the bell and asking for money with tall tales; and the actual story sounds highly hinky to me in the second place. "Gang retaliation"? This isn't to say nothing happened to the girl, but there's so much missing information between "a mother and daughter are going door-to-door to inform the neighbors she was assaulted" and "…for their safety in the event of drive-bys" that I kind of don't know where to start. Retaliation against whom? Is this relevant to the neighborhood in the sense of a marauding felon threatening the area? Why wouldn't a leaflet have sufficed? Were the police called?
All that by way of saying that this is highly irregular, and if the mother accepted your apology, you need to forgive yourself and let it go. Telling the girl to call the cops and closing the door does not make you the asshole in a Biblical allegory who stepped around the Good Samaritan to go to a shoe sale, or failed to set a plate for Jesus. It makes you a woman who lives in a city, in an area where troubled scammers try to get what they can with bullshit stories, and as a citizen who is repeatedly and highly outraged by the Veterans' Administration's various spectacular fuck-ups, I used to struggle with the same thing when I was thousand-yard-staring the fourth guy in twenty blocks to claim he just needed a couple bucks for the subway to get to the 23rd Street VA, because I'd carry my Uncle J the whole way there from Brooklyn if he wanted, but most of these guys never even did a push-up. You know? No judgments; it's hard out there. But you can't believe everyone, it's not smart.
You handled it fine. I work at home, so I can't just open the door to every Jehovah's Witness and college student trying to get me to donate to the Sierra Club; I don't open the door to anyone I don't know or who isn't wearing a branded uniform, period, so you're already nicer than I am. When you realized the neighbor wasn't asking for money, but was actually a neighbor and was trying to pass along information, you apologized to her mother and she accepted it. I think the more important question is WHY this is bothering you so much — why you're punishing yourself to this degree for what reads to me as an appropriate and practical response to the situation. What anxiety is this tapping into for you? What else is going on in your life? Any crises at work or with the fam that have you questioning your moral instincts?
Now and then, it's good to get gut-checked with something like this; it's good to think about how you want to be in certain situations, and mull over how you might try to do better or differently next time. It's especially good if you're modeling behavior for a child, so you can contemplate how to talk to her about this incident or what you want her to take from your reactions. But you have to ease up on yourself. That story sounds like a load at first, to me anyway. The readers might beg to differ, but I think it's better and safer to obey your instincts; you can apologize later if you have to.
Tags: etiquette roommates