A cloud so ever-dark blankets the skies above my head.
This cloud called probation.
Yup, after several years of seemingly reconciling to some degree with society, I’ve got another strike on my criminal record.
The charges are Assault/Battery and Retail Fraud.
This was the result of my actions on a day in October, 2015, when I stole some Robitussin, proceeded to load myself up on the stuff, and eventually proceeded to grab the right buttock of some random food service worker.
She (or her manager) called the police, and I ended up having a relatively rough day.
Fastforward to now, post-sentencing, and I’m buried alive in justice.
Check this out.
I have to pay 85 dollars, in cash, every week on a randomly selected day.
Apparently it costs 70 dollars to look for traces of dextromethorphan in piss.
The other 15 dollars is to test for a bunch of drugs that I’ve never done before.
Some weeks (usually around holidays, from what I’ve gathered), there will be a second and potentially even third test. Each time, 85 dollars.
Worst case scenario: some weeks I will be paying $255 to align my peehole with a tiny, little vial while a guy who cracks corny dad jokes watches me urinate.
And then there are the random alcohol tests, $5 dollars a pop. During my first week of probation, I’ve done this three times. So, another 15-20 bucks weekly.
I’ve also been ordered into Intensive Outpatient for domestic violence, and additional psychological counseling. It is unclear as of now how much these will add to the expenses.
My probation is for two years, and I have within that timeframe to pay the actual court costs and fines, which amount to $1,300 or so.
If it sounds like I’m bitching, it’s because I feel overwhelmed.
Rarely in my life have I faced such a rapacious, relentless financial black hole.
And I’ll be on this rat wheel for twenty-four months.
Because I stole some cough medicine and touched a butt.
I am certainly not downplaying that the person attached to the butt I touched must have been adversely affected by this. Or else she wouldn’t have called the cops.
I am sorry to this person for whatever pain, anxiety, fear, or traumas I may have triggered.
Truly, I am.
After it happened, I told my friends on Facebook.
At least three people I held/hold in high esteem expressed brutal, honest disapproval.
Eventually this led to falling outs, one of which was so painful it still keeps me up at night.
Somewhere along the way, I lost my voice. Misplaced my power. I lost touch with why I did what I did, and was left with hardly anyone in my corner as I shuffled through my trial.
The day of my arrest, I was full of fire and charisma.
By sentencing-time, I silently quaked and trembled.
So, Why Did I Do It?
The stealing part is simple. Robitussin is expensive, shoplifting is easy.
I don’t know how to feel awful about stealing from a major corporation that is responsible for and apathetic about the rape, exploitation, and murder of countless sentient lifeforms and who still insists on using plastic bags with no regards to environmental consequences.
Sorry, but no one is ever going to convince me that my shoplifting Robitussin is a greater crime than the mere existence of the meat and dairy aisles.
That said, as expensive as Robitussin may be, probation is decidedly worse.
You probably don’t care about why I stole the Robitussin.
What you really want to know: why I grabbed the butt.
So here is what happened, followed by some Q & A.
Real simply, I walked into a fast food restaurant.
A worker there was doing some maintenance, maybe cleaning the soft drink dispenser.
I approached her, and said to her:
“Hey, I am going to do something really weird and unexpected but I mean well, okay?”
She nodded, obviously a little nervous.
I grabbed her butt. I let go of her butt after a second or two. Immediately, I left the store, not turning back or gauging her reaction in any way.
Now some Q & A:
Q. Was your intent sexual?
A. No. There was no sexual thought process anywhere in my being.
Q. Was your intent aggressive?
Q. Do you realize that nobody (especially your probation officer) gives a crap about your intent?
A. Yep. They sentenced me to a domestic violence group. Me. The guy who once went on an hour-long fetch quest to collect all the stink bugs in the house so I could set them free rather than let them be killed by my frightened/disgusted housemate.
Q. So, uh, what was your intent, weird one?
A. One way of looking at it: To explore the possibility that a random stranger can go into a restaurant and randomly grab someone’s butt without the intent being aggressive or sexual.
Another aspect: To create a completely unordinary, spontaneous experience, and to observe how that affects the fabric of the universe.
Q. You know this sounds insane or creepy or absurd to a lot of people, right?
A. Yes. I know that very well.
There’s one more component of this I’d like to make clear.
It involves social reactance, which is a very human tendency to exaggerate our commitment to our behaviors and beliefs due to a perceived threat to autonomy.
In other words, when people do not accept our actions but we feel fully justified in our own choices, we may tend to over exaggerate the actions in question.
In my case, I had spent all summer having mystical experiences on dextromethorphan, experiencing miracles every day, and observing constant profound psychic and mind-expanding phenomena.
More importantly than all that, I felt completely connected to the essence of infinite possibilities and the creative power to transform, manifest, and live in abundance.
I was connected to a vision of world peace, and visions for personal peace for every life-form in existence.
Being immersed in that sea of potentiality, but being near loved ones who struggle with constant pain, suffering, and self-limitation, I wanted to help them see their potential.
Then I’d share my experiences with loved ones get booed out of town.
I was too pushy and controlling to be pleasant and heard.
Interpersonal conflict became ubiquitous in my family, in my friendships, and just about everywhere else that was once warm and familiar in my life.
Unconsciously operating according to the principle of social reactance, I became increasingly more erratic and flamboyant in my approach to defending the legitimacy of my dextromethorphan use.
During my DXM trips during that time, I was thinking a lot about the lack of objective meaning of what happens in life, and how we prescribe meaning subjectively through our interpretations of life events.
On the fateful day I grabbed that butt, I had reached my boiling point with all the conflict going on in my family. I was so tired of feeling not taken seriously, disregarded, and misunderstood with what I saw then as such hostility and belligerence.
So, I combined the objectivity/subjectivity trip with the reactance and catalyzed them together with a spontaneous butt grab.
Q. It sort of sounds like you’re blaming your family for your actions.
A. My family and I are interconnected.
We’re all technically responsible for our own individual actions, but what we do affects one another in unavoidable ways.
Being aware of reactance and how it influences our behavior is a crucial component to truly accepting responsibility and acting consciously rather than operating on subconscious scripts.
Q. Seriously, what’s wrong with you? How can you do something so perverse and claim you did not mean any harm?
Again, intertwined with my intent was a desire to explore the objectivity of actions, and how it is our subjective interpretations that give those actions meaning.
In other words, nothing means anything by itself. It takes the beliefs, preconceptions, and intentions of an individual to prescribe meaning to any event.
This can be proven because not everyone would call the police after having their butt grabbed.
People would respond in a great number of ways.
Some would laugh it off (I fall in this category. Go ahead and grab my butt sometime and find out).
Some may be aroused, depending on the situation.
Others could be upset, disturbed, or triggered in any number of ways.
Q. Aren’t you in a slippery moral territory here?
A. Maybe. I have two years of expensive drug tests and domestic violence therapy to think about what I did.
Q. Do you regret what you did?
Also, I wish that there had been more conversation generated between myself and my victim and that I had not lost my voice and backed down when explaining the situation to others.
Q. Are you ever going to grab another random person’s buttocks without their consent?
A. Nope. Once was more than enough.
Q. One more question. I don’t quite feel satisfied with your answer about intent. Please say something that makes more sense?
A. If I had my way, everyone on Earth would be 100% comfortable with their bodies, no one would be afraid of anyone or anything, and all the stupid dogmas of society would be rendered obsolete or optional.
I’d love to live in a nudist community, for instance, or at least a community where no one bats an eyelash at nudity.
Why? Because clothing used for any reason other than protection from the elements or personal artistry/expression is quite frankly bizarre to me.
Do you think it’s normal to be so ashamed of your body that you need to cover it?
Do you think it is healthy to be terrified of being seen naked?
Everyone I’ve ever known was raised with a sex complex.
Raised to be embarrassed and ashamed about their bodies. And I don’t want the world to stay full of ashamed, frightful people forever.
If you disagree, feel free to tell me why. I want to understand your point of view.
My action of grabbing a random woman’s butt, in the context of the society I live in, was misguided and despicable.
As a result, I have paid the social price.
I’m now a criminal, a social deviant.
In my heart, I meant to generate transformative conversation about society and stigma.
I meant to inspire people to think about things differently than they had before.
And yes, I’m aware that there’s a good chance you do not care.
I am also aware that there is a chance that you do care.
Regardless of what I meant to do, I certainly hit a nerve with the victim.
To what extent, I don’t know. I’m not allowed within 1320 feet of that lady, so I can’t ask.
Can’t generate conversation with her, or express my remorse for my actions.
But if she ever reads this, I want her to know that I am truly and deeply sorry for the damage I did.
Join the peaceful revolution with Andrew L. Hicks
Sign up for free stuff and all the latest about Andrew's books, public appearances, and policies pertaining to HICKS/YOU 2020.
Instantly receive a free copy of The Art of Being Human in the eBook format of your choice (or choose 'em all, whatevs).
Also published on Medium.