Thursday, May 26, 2011

the one you might not want to read

I will be quite honest with you. You might not want to read this post. It will not be funny, or amusing in any way. This post, though, is nagging on my heart, a thing of darkness and necessity. I feel like someone out there needs to read these words, today, and hear them as if they were talking with themselves. If you are that person, read this and know you are not alone, that you are capable of being more than a scared soul locked in a dreadful spiral of hurt and shame. I know how you feel - I've been that girl.


The first time someone imposed themselves physically on me I was 12. It was innocent, as far as he knew, but he'd raided his folks' liquor cabinet on New Year's Eve and was itching for a good time. Somehow, he'd found out where I was babysitting, and called me up. "Hey, can I come over?" No. "Aw, come on" No. "I'm coming over." I won't let you in. Knock knock. "It's raining, at least let me in to dry off" No. "Please?" Oh OK. As soon as he was halfway through the door he grabbed me and kissed me, slobbery, on the mouth. I shoved him back out that door, into he cold rain, without his umbrella, and ran to the bathroom to scrub at my face until it was raw. I should have been happy a boy wanted to kiss me, but I was ashamed.

The nest time, I was 13. The Dad of the kids I was sitting for offered to drive me home. He'd had a few drinks while out which had aroused his inner Lolita complex. He locked the car doors and wouldn't let me out, pawing at my breasts and grabbing at my head to kiss him. I clocked him in the jaw good one, spat at him, and when he sensed defeat, he let me out, hissing 'that's the last time you'll sit for us, bitch.' Good, I thought. I went upstairs and scrubbed at my face until it was raw. Maybe I should have felt grateful an older man was attracted to me, but I was ashamed.

I avoided dating in high school, though I was desperate to be loved. I didn't know how to act around boys, and made myself so aloof and awkward that nobody asked me out. Except for one semi-disastrous date Freshman year, I didn't go out with any boys.

In college and grad school I had many adventures, some of which were with boyfriends who taught me many things, mostly fun and good and so I felt grand and forgot those early shameful experiences.

Later in life, when I was in a new place and lonely, I was asked out by a guy I met at a bar. He was going take me to dinner, I said yes. Then he offered to cook me dinner, and I said yes. Then, after dinner, he wanted to go up to his room to 'play backgammon and talk" to get away from his roommates. I, stupidly, said yes. This was all he needed to assume I wanted to do far more than play backgammon, and once the door was shut and locked (I said no to that, but he didn't listen), I was taken advantage of in the most awful way. Being physically overpowered while my accoster whispered "I bet you like this, huh?" as my clothes were torn away with his one hand (because his other was over my mouth) was horrifying, demeaning, and embarrassing. When he was done, I shoved him off me, spit in his face, grabbed my clothes and ran. Thank God I'd driven my own car there. I should have been thankful a big strong handsome man wanted to sleep with me, but I was ashamed, and a tankful of hot water couldn't wash that off of me.

I avoided guys after that for a while. Then I met someone, again while I was in a new place and lonely, in a bar, and he offered to take me out to dinner. I said yes. At dinner he acted like a total tool, and I decided I hated him. He was driving though, so I had to live through the ride home. He locked the doors, leaned across the seat, and said 'I'll let you go if you kiss me.' With gritted teeth I did so, and kissed him so angrily I hurt him. He did not like that, one bit, and twisted my right breast so hard I thought he'd torn it off. I punched him in the crotch. He unlocked the door, shoved me out, and cussed me a blue streak while tearing out of my yard. I never went back to that bar. I should have been thrilled someone wanted to date me, and wanted to kiss me, but I was ashamed.

I've been awakened with someone's hands around my throat. I've had the shirt ripped off of me. I've had dishes broken because 'I wasn't paying attention.' I've been cussed out, called names, threatened, and berated for hours on end for things real and imagined. I've had hate poured out on me in such heavy bucketloads I thought I would break. I've given up so many bits of my soul that I thought I'd lost myself forever. I should have been happy to have a home and job and health, but I was ashamed at how I let myself be treated. Ashamed, and angry.

Anger is key.

Anger helped me to, one day, stop being the victim. One day, when I was being told again how useless I was because of something utterly stupid, trivial, untrue, and spiteful, I got so furious that quit taking it. Funny how being attacked while you're folding laundry puts a fresh new perspective on the abuse you've been willing to take. Funny how the coping you've done for years all of a sudden falls apart like a ragged old shirt that just yesterday you wore out in public but would never dare put on again. Funny how once the fog of shame lifts, there's abundant harsh clarity to inform the next steps you have to take.

I quit being a victim just about 30 years after the first man pushed himself on me, making me his prize to be taken, his treasure to be tarnished. I quit believing so little of myself that I believed this is what life was about, that I had to take the abuse.

On that day, anger something cracked open inside me fierce and raw. On that same da, unfortunately, I quickly sealed up the crack, afraid of the knife-sharp edges of ferocious sadness, and pretended that what was bubbling up out of it was better sealed inside. On that day, I thought I could make a new me through grit and a knack for forgetting bad things, but I was wrong.

You see, denying those experiences does me a disservice. Who I was then is part of who I am now. Her actions then inform my actions now. That woman IS me. That life WAS mine. Those experiences, brewed together over 30 years of negative experiences, drugged my sensibilities to the point where forgetting, sweeping away, seemed the wisest course to take. It was, most certainly, NOT.

Forgetting, denying, belittling of those experiences takes some of the depth of my experiences away, fills in the crags of who I am with complicit agreement with how I was treated. I thought I could soften their impact with a thorough coating of "I choose to not think about this right now,' but that's like filling a boxing glove with broken glass and goose feathers - as much padding as you put in, those sharp parts are still there and will, eventually, hurt you, bad.

Acknowledgement of those dreadful experiences, and moving BEYOND them, is the key.

First though, you have to acknowledge.

If you are in this situation now, do not be like me. Do not let that second dish be broken because 'you made me do it.' Realize that you are worthy of real love, of nourishing and acceptance, that you are not the broken thing. You can be whole, can be beautiful for someone just as you are, for who you are and not who they think you should be or how they think you should act. Do NOT let 30 years, or 3 MONTHS, go by, thinking 'this is how it is.' It's NOT how it is. Not at all, and even if you live alone for the rest of your life, there's far more peace in that than in waiting for the next attack, the next bad thing to happen at the hands of someone else.

There's never an acceptable amount of predation in a relationship. There's never an acceptable amount of violence. If you've been attacked once, seek out what it is that allowed that to happen, and don't do that again if it's within your power. If you're in a nasty relationship, walk away. You deserve far more than a life of dreading the sound of a car coming up the driveway or dating 'that guy/girl' because s(he)'s the only one who has shown interest.

Please, learn from my lessons. It took me long enough, and once I turned around and walked out my life changed for so much more good that I'm stunned, daily, how liberating it is to just BE. Not perfect, not even close, but by just being me it's enough for some people.

Me included.

Whoever you are that made me write this - I love you, and hope you get the help you need to make a new life, for YOU. You deserve so much more than you have right now.

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