Saturday, September 24, 2011

I dare you to let me be.

I remember once when I was talking to A in high school about something... mediocre. Something that shouldn't upset anyone but devastated me, something so small that I don't remember what it was. And she said "it would be a lot easier of we didn't all hate ourselves quite so much".

By 'we', she meant that bunch of kids at school that would maybe once have been called 'outsiders' or 'misfits' but- luckily for us- were then known as 'lesbian emos'. A group of people who were drawn together due to a variety of shared characteristics, among them queer sexuality, above-average intelligence, quirky and obscure interests and a general dissatisfaction with what those personality traits meant for us in the 'real world'. I've never felt more lonely or loved in all my life as when I was with those girls. Nothing can replace that group of friends you have in high school that smother and nurture everything you love and hate about being who you are. Sometimes I wish I could go back and correct or bask in what that group did for and to me. But mostly I am grateful that I had the experience at all so that I can compare what I feel now to something different.

Independence is zen. It's delicious and crisp and feels like an early morning on your bare skin. I like it a lot and I fought for a long time to fully experience it. And fuck, it sucks. I miss being touched, being hugged and held. I miss being seen through and having my mind read by people who heard my thoughts before I did. I miss knowing that my days would never be empty of other people because we'd promised each other we'd be there. I miss caring about someone else more than myself. And yet I hated that shit. The whole time I was Miss Self-Sacrificing (or, more, Miss Sacrificing), wearing my emotions like my favourite dress and showing off all my life's scars to anyone that would look; I was miserable. Not just teenage, hormonal, romantic melancholy miserable. No, none of the above. I hated myself for being incapable of being myself, for not being separable from anyone else. I wasn't me, there was no me, and I resented that more than I resented every single person in close proximity to me just for being there and blurring the lines between me and them.

So now when times are bad and I wish I still had the support network that I sewed myself into when I was fifteen, I tell myself about all the crying I did, the ways I made myself numb, the nights spent lying awake wondering what it was like to have this. Because now even when I have off days or horrible moods, my first instinct is to look inside myself to find a solution. No matter how large the problem, I can't seem to want to go to other people to help me fix it. I might miss the good parts of being co-dependent, but I certainly don't miss the bad. Is it fair to want joy and familial intimacy and abundant love with everybody when I don't want the pain and drama and shared sorrow? I know it's not. Because the little stuff doesn't piss me off anymore. I don't feel overwhelmed all the bloody time. I feel love but not need. So I am better off, no matter how cold I get sometimes standing out here on my own. I just need to be reminded, I think.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I'm not sure who I'm saying this to but I felt like it should be said; this post may be triggering or upsetting for survivors of sexual violence.

I was fourteen the time a close friend of mine walked into class late one day and asked me to walk her to the bathroom about two minutes after she'd first sat down at her desk. She looked sick; shaken, pale and dishevelled. I followed her around twenty metres out of the classroom, down the steps into a courtyard, and then she turned around and threw herself into my arms. She was about a lot taller than me and she curled her shoulders so that she could hide her face in our hug. I realised she was crying harder than I'd ever seen before and knew this was something horrible, not just the normal dramas we'd shared up until this point in our friendship. I didn't even get the chance to ask her what had happened before she told me, in one crisp, clear sentence, that she'd been raped.

I stared at her, determined not to believe it could be true but certain that it was. These things didn't happen, I thought, they didn't actually happen. They didn't happen to my friend. They didn't happen when you were fifteen. I'd been certain I'd be sheltered from all the ugliest realities of being human for the rest of my life. And in an instant, I knew that if this had happened once it definitely could happen, and it could happen again, and it could happen to her. It could happen to me. I put my arm around her and walked her to the bathrooms, washed her face and held her whenever she needed me to. All this time, I gently asked her to tell me what happened and encouraged her several times to go to the police. The more I heard though, the more I knew that she never would, and that if she did her life would definitely be worse for it.

That's the thing they don't tell you when they start educating you as a young woman. They say "anything ever happens, tell someone". Sometimes the only person you can tell is your fourteen-year-old classmate because the rest of the world thinks you're promiscuous and probably lying when you say you said "no". Sometimes you know about someone's having been hurt and you know that if you break their trust and tell someone, you'll never be able to help them again. Sometimes you can see how it will look to the police and the friends of the person who hurt you. You reapply your make-up in a high school bathroom. You help your friend walk back to art class. And you keep your mouth shut.

I'm fairly ashamed of what happened that day. The way I've gone all these years, through more accounts from people I care about of things that have hurt them, and not hated myself for the way I handled the courageous and heartbreaking honesty of my friend. That I pride myself on taking care of people, protecting them, helping them, and all I could do in that moment was give her small, brief comfort. Because I knew now. I was part of a world where "these things unfortunately do happen". It was just an event that occurred in people's lives that we dealt with in any way we could. The horrific, the unthinkable, had become part of my school day. I was able, through being exposed to this truth, to go on with things as though it were not still unreal. And I have done ever since.

I wonder who else has felt this way? Has seen the shift from horror to resigned sadness in their own mind? Has looked back on the very first time, early in life, that they knew the latter response would become a familiar one? That they would feel helpless and disgusting for not being able to help or change? I still wish things had been different, would be different. I look at my crying over these memories today as an indication that perhaps I'd not gone as numb as I feared. More than anything though, I want to know how to fix the whole wide world for what happened to my friend, starting with myself.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Father's Day was not terrible. But I didn't feel anything. I know that's a horrible confession but my relationship with my father may well be dead. I don't really know when this happened; sometime between my coming home and his offering to do my dishes the morning I got off the aeroplane so that I could run off and see my friend and Sunday when we sat across the breakfast table at a local cafe with nothing to say to each other. He's made a game of taking shots at my physical appearance of late (I'm fat, didn't you know?) and over the weekend he also criticised my "student" vocabulary. I never knew the thing my father has always revelled in most about me- my success at school- would also be the nail in the coffin of our ability to relate to each other. The day I got my tertiary entrance result, I think he told everyone he knew. Three years later, he's embarrassed to be with me in public because I use 'hyperbole' in a sentence without flinching. We haven't had an easy conversation this year, I think. Every time I speak directly and firmly to him; he retreats, hurt. He teases me or offers a compliment and I am wary of the bitterness that might be underneath his humour. He's not told me he loved me in months. Once upon a time, I heard those words from him every day, even if they were the only ones we exchanged before bed or as one of us made a hasty exit in pursuit of our morning train.

I used to hold him when I was cold inside and my head resting against his heart would feel less foggy. Now I hug him out of habit and all that is familiar is the contrasts of our height, the way the balls of my feet feel on the hard floor as I reach up to wrap my arms around him. I stopped laughing at his bigotry and started returning his disturbingly smug looks with blank stares over six months ago. So I suppose it's my fault he sees me, as he never has before, as his expendable child. He sensed me withdraw from him; I quit the job I'd had in the same industry, started avoiding home whenever I could and ignore his presence when I was there. Both he and I are strangely emotionally sensitive; we know how other people feel but we don't deal with it well. And I am painfully clear when I don't like somebody, though I never say so in anyway overtly. Between my coldness, my desire to break with the traditions of our Daddy-Daughter relationship, establish independence and my own identity, and his sense for discord; we were doomed, I guess. After all I've dealt with in regards to him; alcoholism, depression, loyalty, affection, gratitude, fear, anger... I never thought there would be a time when I cared so little about the dissolution of our relationship. But I can't muster up any upset over his rejection of me. I guess it was, after all, a reaction to my becoming disenchanted after all these years fighting for a positive image of 'Dad'.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sometimes I look in the mirror and think I’m a beautiful girl, maybe a little overweight and with a bad haircut, but overall quite genetically blessed. I see the way certain men look at me, especially when I wear dresses and leave my hair down, and know that if I put the effort into my appearance I could be successful anywhere I went in anything I did just because people would be sucked in by how I looked. Such a sweet girl, look at that smile, and those eyes. I like her. And other times I think that rare moment of self-hatred tinged confidence was insanity because I’m hideous and nothing about me is attractive and I’ll never get my way in any career or group because I’m just the ugly, fat girl who people tolerate because she has personality or despise because she has the nerve to have confidence despite all her physical shortcomings. But I feel secure in the knowledge that I’d have felt so guilty and ridiculous if I’d conformed to the Pretty Girl stereotype and that my being repulsive helps me see people’s true natures and I’m glad of that.