There I was, luxuriating on a beach on Florida's Redneck Riviera last week when news broke about Donald Trump's vulgar remarks on what fun it is to grope women between their legs.
By now, most folks have heard that the Republican nominee for president boasted about how a fellow can get away with such behavior "when you're a star."
"Grab them by the [expletive]," he said during a conversation recorded 11 years ago. "You can do anything."
Reading his remarks flipped a switch in my memory, and the flashbacks started.
A fraternity member at a party grabbed me in the way Trump described when I was a student at Northwestern University in the mid-1970s. It was not something I will forget.
I didn't know the guy and never even learned his name. He was from another Midwest university and had come to party at a fraternity for the weekend. Later, I was told that he was really drunk, which was no surprise. The dude had to be seriously impaired. After all, your local columnist, at nearly six-feet-tall with a stare like a boning knife to the chest, rarely is mistaken for someone who will let a fraternity member — or even that eternal frat boy Trump, for that matter — "do anything."
I was climbing an open flight of stairs from a party in the basement to leave through the front door on the first floor when a guy standing on one of the stairs as I passed reached under my skirt and firmly grabbed with a wild whoop of success.
Oddly, I did not find myself grateful for his attentions, sexually aroused or even mildly amused. Go figure. Is there something wrong with me?
Instead, I wheeled on him with a punch, sending him backward over the stair railing in what seemed like a stunt scene from a James Bond movie. He landed on a terrazzo floor at the bottom of the flight in an unmoving heap.
I smoothed my skirt, gathered my tattered dignity and took my rage out the front door without a word. No one had ever groped me like that, and I couldn't believe it.
Immediately, however, more complex feelings arose. A flood of remorse washed through me, halting the wave of adrenaline. I was certain that the guy was dead, and I'd killed him.
My stomach roiled, sickened by my own swift, thoughtless violence. At the time, I didn't know I had the brute in me. It is a repulsive lesson to learn about oneself.
I'm not going to claim the punch was self-defense. It wasn't. After all, I didn't figure the guy's next move was to rape me on a staircase with dozens of people watching. Rather, I was furious, and I reacted. Anger owned me in the moment.
Learning what I'm capable of so frightened me that I changed how I react toward aggressive people. Over the last 40 years, I've found effective ways other than lashing out to deal with human swine.
Does that mean I would never resort to violence? Not at all. Rather, after years of on-and-off reflection on the matter, this old girl is a bit self-satisfied to know she had the will to react — and to know it's still in there if a meeting with the likes of Trump ever is in the cards.
Later during that party weekend at school, I was told that the fellow who groped me wasn't injured and didn't even remember being clocked by a 125-pound sorority girl. Yeah, right. Bet he kept his hands to himself for quite a while.
I can't help wondering what Trump's memories of imposing himself on women are like. Too bad he never encountered someone who corrected his repulsive behavior — perhaps he could have avoided the current fuss if he'd tamed the beast early, like I did. I can proudly state I've never randomly grabbed some man's private parts.
But then, men like Trump feed the beast within until the day they die, and in the meantime, they pick their targets with care. Women who ooze self-respect don't make complacent victims because they know they don't deserve bad treatment. Those with less confidence are a better bet — they've already taken too many beat-downs — and such men know it.