What do you do when you have a story, but it’s not like everyone else’s? When you relate, but differently and in a way that might not be seen as “valid?” When the circumstances of your life have created an unusual narrative inside of you that you don’t feel like you can share, but you have to because it’s causing you emotional turmoil?
If you’re me, you let it fester and rot for a bit and then you blog.
Because, yes, I have at least one story of sexual assault. (Like EVERY OTHER WOMAN, if you believe the posts. And I do.) But I also have this other. This weirdly nebulous, not specific, not anything I can grab onto and hold up to show you that lives inside me. And it’s really angry right now. Really, really furious. Because it wants to be recognized, but it doesn’t know how. Even within the safety and sisterhood of #metoo, it just…..well…ISN’T. It isn’t the same. It isn’t like everybody else. But it HURTS. And I don’t know why.
Okay, let me back up. I’ll give you a little background.
There was no “defining moment” or “traumatic incident” that I can remember. Of any kind. Of course, I have to take into account this very weird and uncomfortable fact that I don’t remember. Much. There are large chunks of my life – everything before middle school, except flashes of events & things I did – where there is just nothing. I can tell you facts – where I lived, how long I lived there, what I was for Halloween (because: pictures), the layout of my house, along with random stuff here and there. But there is no reliable memory of what life was like and what happened day to day from that time. Things clear up a bit in middle school and even more in high school, but there are still gaps. I mean, literally. People I’m still friends with will remind me of something that happened or something I did and I have NOTHING. I even doubt that they’re remembering it correctly because I don’t remember anything about it. But they insist I was there and can tell me what I did. So take all that into account as I try to explain. Because it’s not like I can trace any of this back to “well, this happened and after that I was different.”
I’ve seen this quote posted in the past couple of days that really sparked my subconscious to start messing with me.
“Relenting doesn’t equal consenting.”
“Right on!” I thought. And as time went on, my brain started processing that and my life and how I’ve gone through my experiences with this kind of stuff. Because I’ve been a serial relenter.
Not in any kind of “well, this is happening to me, so I’m going to not fight and just wait for it to be over.” But in a much more insidious, creepy way. See, I cannot remember a time where I didn’t feel this sense of ‘obligation.’ Of ‘owing.’
God, how do I explain this? It’s really difficult.
It’s as if I’ve always felt that my body didn’t belong to me and therefore I didn’t have the right to body autonomy. If someone wanted to touch me or grab me or kiss me or comment about me or have sex with me or whatever. I had no right to say no, really. That I should be glad and flattered that someone would even want to, and therefore, I “owed” it to them. You want 14 year old me to touch you in a back lot when we’re out at night with friends, even though we’re not dating or anything. I guess I have to. You want to be someone who graduated 3 years before me, but I’ve never said 2 words to, come up to me in a bar when I’m dancing and ask me inappropriate questions and tell me to kiss you? Who am I to say no? You want to cover an entire page of my yearbook with the words, “EASY” and “UGLY” and claim it’s just a joke and I shouldn’t be upset? Okay, you’re right. Besides, I probably am.
I have never felt like I have the right to say no. So I relent. If you’ve taken me out and think you should get to park and make out now because we saw a movie together? I will figure out a way through that that doesn’t include the word “no.” I can’t even remember the number of times a guy I knew, but wasn’t involved with in any way, would demand a kiss and I just did it. I am obliged for existing.
Maybe it’s because I always felt so unlovable and unattractive that I just wanted recognition or acknowledgment? That my payment for existing in the world as such a useless shell was to give people what they asked for. I know it isn’t because I enjoyed it. I wasn’t finding any pleasure in any of these “relentings.” I didn’t know any other way to be. I didn’t value myself (still don’t, to a large extent) and therefore didn’t ask for anything in return. And, because I never said no, never resisted, never had enough self-acceptance to realize that I was being used, I can’t blame anyone but myself.
And that HURTS. I feel, in way, like my own pimp. I never protected myself, never demanded more respect or kindness from people. And so they didn’t give it to me.
So how does one deal with this in the wake of people acknowledging and speaking out against sexual harassment & abuse. I mean, it qualifies, but I did it to myself. No wonder my subconscious is so rageful right now. I betrayed MYSELF. And I have no reason why. I wish I could at least point back to something and say, “well, this happened, so it explains why I was like this.” But….nothing. I just began and went through my life with no autonomy and no boundaries and no self-respect. So I’m grieving, I think. I’m hurting. I’m angry. Maybe this is why I eventually gained so much weight. If I can’t trust myself to ward off unwanted advances, then at least I can make sure that there are no more of them. And it’s worked.
However, there is one thing I want to say. Yes, a lot of men took advantage of whatever this is in my wiring for their own benefit. They didn’t know that’s what they were doing, but they did it. But I can’t really blame them, because I never said no. However, I want to raise a glass to the men who DIDN’T. Who were either raised right or had enough sense to never even try to push themselves on someone without the ability to resist. Most of those men also had the barrier of my being drunk to deter them, because they knew enough to not move forward on a drunken girl who couldn’t really consent. And they could have moved in and “gotten some.” But they didn’t. And I thank them for being better to me than I was to myself. I honor you and thank you for caring about me – or even if you were just caring enough about yourself to avoid a questionable situation. It doesn’t matter to me. Because in the end, that’s one less self-hating memory I have to deal with.Tweet