For the past 13 years, former Minnesota DFL Party spokeswoman Jess McIntosh has told the story many, many times about her unexpected date with recently disgraced former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
"I spent years telling the story in a way that was both flattering to him and me," said McIntosh, now 36 and living and working in Brooklyn as executive editor of Share Blue Media. Over time, though, her perspective on the incident has changed, she said.
"Every woman has a funny story that they eventually realize isn't funny at all," McIntosh said in a phone interview Friday, the day after ELLE magazine posted her recounting of the encounter on its website.
When McIntosh was 23 and Schneiderman was an up-and-coming New York state senator, she contacted him about a policy issue. Somehow, what she had thought was going to be a business meeting turned into an intimate dinner at a table for two with him in a romantic Soho restaurant, drinking bottles of expensive wine and going through the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out how she had signaled a desire to date him. She had a serious boyfriend and wasn't interested in the 50-year-old Schneiderman, but there she was.
In her own situation, McIntosh talked about wanting a "sense of agency" by being able to point to something she had done to encourage Schneiderman. She was reluctant to believe that something happened to her because he wanted to make it happen. "That's a pretty dark thought," she said.
According to her article, the date ended with Schneiderman driving a drunken McIntosh to her home, which she told him repeatedly that she shared with her boyfriend; an unwanted kiss; and a second attempt at an unwanted kiss that somehow broke her pearl necklace, which had belonged to her grandmother, before she was able to exit his car. She spoke of the incident often to friends.
Then last month, Schneiderman abruptly resigned in disgrace after multiple women accused him of mental and physical abuse, including choking. Until then, Schneiderman had been a prominent male voice in the #MeToo movement.
McIntosh, who also worked for former U.S. Sen. Al Franken, EMILY's List and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, wasn't planning to tell her story publicly. "It was a bad, weird date," McIntosh said. "It didn't belong in the #MeToo canon."
Friends, however, told her the evolution of her thinking about the "date" was worth publishing, McIntosh said.
"It feels nice to put the story out there, to put it to bed," she said in the interview.
Reaction from women was flowing into her e-mail and phone Friday, with most of it coming from "women who wound up on dates they had never agreed to go on and wondered how they got in this situation," McIntosh said. The overwhelming and "disturbing" majority described college professors as the pursuers, she said.
If the same situation occurred today with a powerful man and an unwanted date, McIntosh said that upon arriving at the restaurant, she would say, "I had no idea this was supposed to be a date." She said she would leave and hope she had the fortitude to deal with the fallout of rebuffing a powerful man.
She doesn't want the story to be viewed as yet another cautionary tale for women about how to avoid predators. "It's not about giving advice to women. It's about the way we talk to and raise men," she said.