From The Other Half, a manuscript in progress rebutting the author’s 1996 memoir, Half a Life, which describes her relationship with her husband, whom she met when she was a teenager and he was forty-seven. Her latest novel, The Body in Question, will be published in June by Pantheon Books.
What do I call him? My husband? I would if the story were about how we met and married, shared meals for forty-five years, raised a puppy, endured illnesses. But if the story is about an older man preying on a teenager, shouldn’t I call him the artist, or, better still, the art teacher, with all that the word “teacher” implies?
On the last night of his art class, I stayed after the others left to get his advice about my upcoming move to New York. He knew artists in the city who might need an assistant. In his private studio, adjacent to the classroom, he drew me to him, and I went willingly. He didn’t know what to expect when he kissed me. I could have screamed. I could have slapped him, but what seventeen-year-old is prepared to slap a forty-seven-year-old man she has fantasized about for the past six months?
I fervently kissed him back. But did I have the agency to consent? Was I about to be raped in today’s interpretation of sexual assault?