Last week, I finally summoned up the courage to tell my father that I’m bisexual.
For a lifelong Catholic, he took it pretty well. He made sure to tell me that he still loved me, and that having feelings for someone of the same sex wasn’t wrong.
It was my actions, he said, that mattered.
Sure, it’s okay to have these feelings – you can’t control feelings – but to act on them would be what constituted a sin. He asked if I’d had sexual partners other than my husband – to which my response was “No,” but honestly should have been “That’s none of your damn business.” He said that he was only worried because if I went outside the bonds of my marriage, that would be a violation of my vows to my husband. I told him that was for me and my husband to decide, and I’d thank him to stay out of my marriage. He said that he would always love me, and that I just needed to be myself… and I knew, in the back of my heart, that the version of me he loved was not the real me. The version of me he loves is the one that would never act on such sinful urges, the suffering saint who lives a moral life while plagued with demons.
In a way, I suppose that’s not too far off. I am plagued with demons. Accepting my sexuality, discussing it with my husband and being given the freedom and opportunity to understand it and explore it, has helped quiet those demons. My demons are not created by temptations of the flesh; they were created by long imprisonment and starvation of the soul. I am happier now, exploring the possibilities that come with embracing my sexuality and asserting my true nature, than I have ever been.
This is the problem that I have with preaching tolerance. Don’t get me wrong – it’s in the right vein, and it’s a damn sight better than intolerance and prejudice. But tolerance isn’t the whole picture. What we need is acceptance.
Tolerance says, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Acceptance says, “There’s nothing sinful about living in the way that makes you happiest.”
Tolerance is the hands-off, “That’s not what I would choose, but it’s your life to ruin” attitude. Acceptance sits down, has a conversation, asks questions, tries to understand.
Tolerance states opinion as fact and, in an expansive and generous gesture, agrees to disagree. Acceptance shares viewpoints and is open-minded enough to accept that faith is personal and truth is not universal, but highly subjective.
My father tolerates my sexuality, but he will never accept it. He will love the sinner but continue to hate the sin, even if it is a sin that brings fulfillment, confidence, satisfaction, and joy to me and my husband. He will magnanimously continue to let me skip merrily down the path I’ve chosen, even if he believes it leads off a precipice into a lake of fire. He will pat himself on the back for being such a loving and caring parent in the face of such adversity as having a sexually deviant daughter, and continue to worry for my poor everlasting soul.
I’ve tolerated my sexuality for some fifteen to twenty years now. In that time my heart has been beaten to tattered shreds as it searched for love, acceptance, and fulfillment in every corner of the empty cell my father’s religion confined me to. His tolerance will always be a cold and impassible wall, and my heart knows not to seek refuge there.
Now I have accepted myself as I am, and had the good fortune to find a lifetime partner who does as well. Now my heart steps, blinking, out of the cell and into the sunlight of a wide and wonderful world. There is pain in this world, too, and dark places to beware of… but I have a measure of acceptance, and with that my heart is free.
Ok. I’ve got a problem with the friend zone.
I’ve seen this applied in memes more than I’ve heard it in real life, but it seems like it’s friggin’ everywhere. And I know what it means: something along the lines of “Duude, that chick is totally hot but you’re being all nice to her and she’s just USING you for it! You are so not getting laid right now, brah.”
Right. Because every guy wants to, immediately and without exception, fuck every woman he spends more than two minutes around. And holy shit, if you ever actually DO anything for her, she’d better be willing to put out, man. Especially if you spend money.
Friend zone as a concept bugs me mainly because it gets held up as this example of utter failure on the guy’s part, and by some weird inference paints the girl in question as some heartless bitch. So let me tell you about a guy I “friend-zoned,” and you can tell me if a) it was really that bad, and b) I’m getting the term right.
I’ll call him Ty.
I think we met over a game of New World of Darkness; he is, to this day, one of the best damn GMs I’ve ever had the pleasure of roleplaying with. (And one of the most infuriating; it took about five years after the game ended for me to get him to tell me the story arc he had planned for my character – a policewoman who came home to find her husband brutally and ritualistically murdered, and her son missing. As a player, I didn’t know who committed the murders, but my character was laser-focused on finding the bastards. The game eventually disintegrated when I realized the group I was working with wasn’t interested in finding out who killed my husband and took my son. Then he refused to tell me what the answer really was. FOR. FIVE. YEARS. Like, I seriously only found out a few months ago.)
He is a generous and funny guy. His sense of humor is wretchedly offensive but unmistakably hilarious; and he is offensive toward everyone pretty much equally, which somehow makes it ok. I do remember early on I had to ask him a couple of times to lay off the rape and dead baby jokes; they are particularly triggery for me. Once he understood where I was coming from, though, he was good at remembering that Those Topics = Not Funny for me. He is also the type that will do absolutely anything for a friend in need – and I have been a rather needy friend over the years.
Here are some of the things he and I have done together:
Had dinner many times. Complete with drinks. He paid.
Had lunch many times. Both with drinks and without. He paid.
Had breakfast together. Crepe cakes are amazing. So is breakfast pot pie.
Been blindingly, vomiting-so-hard-I-peed-my-pants drunk. He brought me a fresh pair of (his) pants to wear. I spent the night on his futon.
Played Fallout: New Vegas. Apparently I’m a better shot than I thought.
Went to opening night of Iron Man.
Gone furniture shopping. He needed a better couch that wasn’t bachelor furniture.
Talked about going clothes shopping. For him.
Vegged on the couch and watched TV together. Lots of Top Gear and Mythbusters.
Played more board games than are probably healthy for any living being.
Taught me to play Magic: The Gathering. He gave me an embarrassing amount of Magic cards as a birthday gift when he saw how much I enjoyed it.
Got thrashed as a team at a Magic tournament (Two-Headed Giant format). Had fun anyway.
Fixed my computer when I got a virus on it & couldn’t afford to pay Geek Squad.
Talked an hour or more on the phone to keep him from getting so bored he drove off the road on his way home.
Talked on the phone to keep me from getting bored at all.
Tried sushi with steak in it (it was delicious). Yeah, he paid then, too.
Talked about sex, cross dressing, the female orgasm, the male orgasm, why my breasts are actually not too small at all, why people say and do stupid things, why work sucks, just how much of an asshole his boss is, just how much of an asshole his clients can be, just how much of a bag of dicks my various employers and customers can suck, computers, cell phones, government conspiracies, cake, how many parts he’s had surgically replaced and for what reasons, why one nut is just as good as two, why high school sucked particularly hard for me, and just about anything else under the sun.
Got two different kinds of cake for my birthday because apparently “Chocolate or carrot cake sounds good” is not actually making up my mind.
Got coffee together. He paid (except for that one time when I totally ninja’d the bill).
Rushed me to urgent care when I suddenly turned white(r than usual) and couldn’t stand up because I was in so much pain. Pushed me around in a wheelchair till they could get me in. (Ovarian cysts suuuuck.)
Packed, moved, and unpacked all his stuff once.
Packed, moved, and unpacked all my stuff multiple times.
I’m looking at this list right now, and even in my head I’m going “Jeez, when is this chick going to put out? Why hasn’t he made a move yet?”
But here’s the thing. I happen to be married to the guy who introduced me to Ty. In our six or so years of friendship, there has never been a time where I wasn’t dating, engaged to, or married to this dude that Ty calls friend. And I guarantee you this: you will see a unicorn jump out of a pile of leprechaun shit and play Calvinball with Jesus and Santa Claus* before you’d ever see Ty break up a friend’s relationship. Plus, he’s had a girlfriend for a significant portion of that list.
He never did these things to get laid, and certainly not by me. He did these things because that’s what friends do. He did these things because he gave a shit about me, saw me as a real person with needs and desires and not a hell of a lot of expendable income, and wanted to spend time enjoying my company. And that of my husband. If we tried to pay him back, simply for the meals and events he’s covered in order to have us along, we’d go bankrupt tomorrow. If we tried to pay him back for the support and friendship he’s offered in addition to that… well, we’d never be able to. I’d like to think that the friendship and camaraderie we enjoyed was enough; Ty always certainly seems to think so.
He has been a loyal and steadfast friend, the kind that you can depend on for absolutely anything. He has been there for some of my worst moments; and for some of my best. And there has never been anything that was too weird, too ugly, too nerdy, too girly, or too anything-else for him to accept. He’s never asked for anything in return.
Yeah, I have a friend zone. It’s where my friends are.
*Unicorns lack the necessary fine motor skills for Calvinball.
So, turns out Facebook lets you download old Honesty Box conversations. This is the actual Honesty Box conversation I mentioned in my last post, in its entirety. The only changes I have made are editing out names and other identifying details – those edits are identified by brackets, [like this].
Trigger warning for descriptions of rape and some pretty serious victim-blaming from the abuser himself.
On 2008-07-15 they said,
I think you’re a bit lost and always have been. You burned a lot of bridges with people who truly cared about you. There were times you cared and showed it, but something inside you must be too cold to ever really reciprocate any sense of true compassion. When you see these people over the course of your years, be nice, even if it is you just acting.
On 2008-07-16 you said,
Maybe that’s so. To be honest, I’m hurt to hear you say I’m cold inside — has it occurred to you that I’ve been hurt by people, too, and that maybe I’m trying to protect myself from being hurt again?
If I was cold to you, I am honestly sorry. I try my hardest to be kind to those I meet — and meet again — but I’m human and sometimes I fail.
I don’t mean to burn bridges, but I do lose touch easily. It’s easy for me to believe that if someone’s not keeping in touch, it’s because they’re not interested in me or because they don’t care. So, instead of trying to resurrect a dying relationship, I let it go.
Please accept my sincerest apology for whatever it was I did to you. I hope I can make it right.
On 2008-07-18 they said,
Everyone’s been hurt. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe you hurt others too? I feel that nobody can say they’re the victim at all times. Maybe you didn’t realize that every time I’ve seen you over the years you’ve consistantly been not nice to me, when I’ve smiled and tried to ask you how you are most times.
I know I am not exempt from being someone who has hurt others, so I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you I’m sorry – for everything I said/did to ever hurt you. It was not meant as such, but nobody can ever know the outcome of their words and actions until they’re older. Especially when you’re young.
The last time I saw you I had one hell of a day. It was one of those days where you’re thinking about how bad your day was and you think, how can this day get any worse? But, then I saw you, and your attitude wasn’t inviting.
I thought to myself… I’ve been screwed over many times over the years, and most of those people I’ve made some sense of social ‘goodness’ with. I really would’ve hoped seeing you over the years would be totally different.
On 2008-07-18 you said,
I honestly don’t know what to say. I am so, so sorry that I was rude to you. I know I hurt others sometimes, and it mortifies me, because I try to do my best to be a good person and make a positive impact on those around me.
I have to admit I’m baffled. Call me clueless, but I can’t think of any interactions I’ve had –with any guy in my life — that would cause this kind of reaction.
I know this defeats the purpose of an anonymous post, but please — who are you? And what can I do to make it better? I don’t want to leave you with this kind of hurt.
On 2008-07-19 they said,
I’m actually pretty shocked you don’t know who I am. I’ll go over the last time I saw you and I’m sure you can figure it out.
I was walking by you after just slicing my hand doing something I love. You were with your friends when I saw you and I had no other route but to walk by you. I had just that morning found out that the girl I had dated for the last 3 years was cheating on me. I was worried about the living situation of what to do because I had also lived with her for over a year. Maybe it’s perception, but when I walked by you you said hi… it was very very standoffish. Maybe it was me feeling like my world was about to end, but it definitely was my topper on the day. I don’t think I’d ever wished that I could disappear more than that moment. I thought about leaving this that week when that happened, but I wanted to make sure I still felt like you were being standoffish and it wasn’t just me being emotional. Still to this day I feel like you hate me.
On 2008-07-19 you said,
It’s difficult for me to recall a specific situation based on the details you’ve given me. I’m sorry, I still have no clue. All I know is that someone passed me somewhere while I was standing with my friends, and the way I said hi made this person feel bad.
I have a guess, but I don’t want to respond based on a guess — if I’m wrong, it would be completely unfair to you. If I’m right…. then we have a lot to talk about.
Did we last see each other at [the student center at a local college]? If not, then I apologize for assuming and please tell me your name so we can resolve this. I don’t like the idea that I may have alienated one of my friends without even knowing it.
On 2008-07-20 they said,
I don’t think you could exactly call us friends, but for good reason. I know things ended badly between us, but I always pictured us being civil towards eachother over the years.
Yes, that was me. I also remember seeing you at walmart years ago, and it felt good knowing I could catch up with you and have a decent conversation. I had no intention of ‘making’ you talk to me, or push too fast like you said when you pushed me away. I feel you took me being excited about finally having things on a good note as pressuring you to hang out or even talk for that matter. I in no way meant that, and it crushed me when you told me you didn’t want to talk anymore. It reopened wounds that should’ve been long since healed.
Telling you this was not to hurt you [Penny]. I told you this because I hope that if I see you again that I won’t feel this overwhelming dissonance. I don’t want to feel as though your eyes throw daggers and your words, even as a ‘hi [his name],’ are out of malice. I really, truly, don’t mean that first message as it came across. I know me sending that and attacking you wasn’t right, but I do have some bitterness due to seeing you at walmart that day with our short time of talking afterward, and then when I saw you recently it was hurtful too. Please accept my apology for that much. I’m big on keeping tabs on my acctions and acounting for them these days. I never meant to hurt you by telling you what hurt me.
On 2008-07-22 you said,
Okay, good. I wanted to make sure it was you before I said what I need to say.
While I still am sorry that I hurt you, I feel I need to explain why I reacted to you the way I did.
I know our relationship ended badly for you. For me, it ended far too late. I want to explain to you what effect our relationship had on me. I’m not trying to attack you, but I need you to hear this. I need you, if you can, to understand what I went through.
It’s taken me five years to even face the damage our relationship caused. From what you’ve written, it’s clear you haven’t realized how far-reaching your actions are.
[Ex-Boyfriend], you coerced me into having sex with you. You pushed and pushed, and I didn’t know how to tell you no. I went along with it because I thought I was supposed to. I was young and naive, and you took full advantage of that. I remember finally coming to you and telling you I wasn’t comfortable having sex anymore… and your response was to get angry, cry, threaten suicide, drive off and crash your truck. You gave me the biggest guilt trip of my life. How could I possibly say no to you after that?
All the memories I have of us are bad ones. The time you pushed me over so you could fuck me from behind in my parents’ darkroom… the time you screwed me out behind the movie theater in broad daylight… the time you clamped your hand over my mouth so your roommates wouldn’t hear us, in the house on M[……] street… and how, each time, I was too guilty and afraid to tell you no, or make you stop. Do you realize that after we started, the only reason we spent time together was to have sex? For a full year, I was little better than a blow-up doll to you.
That’s why I broke up with you. I couldn’t stand to let you abuse me anymore. And then, when we did break up — you called me a bitch, and a slut. You said I was only breaking up with you so I could “sleep around.” You were my first, [Ex-Boyfriend]. And you made sex so bad for me that there are times I want to give it up completely. It’s not worth the heartache.
You want to know why I’m cold to you? Ask my fiancee, who has to hold me after sex as I cringe away from him, crying, barely able to breathe, because after two years together I still don’t trust him not to abuse me the way you did. Ask him why I wake up screaming at night. Ask my ex about how my incredibly low sex drive drove him to cheat on me three times — and how my incredibly low self-esteem kept me with him after every one. Ask my parents, who took me to three different therapists, trying to find out why I was cutting myself. Ask my friends, who are encouraging me to get therapy now.
I am trying my hardest not to make this an angry letter. But the naked truth is, you traumatized me. Since you I’ve been through a string of relationships where I let myself be abused, where I let myself be a toy, because you taught me that saying no is wrong.
You want to be accountable for your actions? Apologize for raping me. Thank me for not sending you to jail for sexual assault. Beg me not to reconsider.
But don’t you dare tell me how I hurt you. Don’t tell me about the bitterness you have, or the old wounds I’ve re-opened. Everything I’ve ever done to you was a direct reaction to what you did to me.
If, as you say, you “truly care” about me….. apologize for what you did, and leave me alone.
On 2008-07-22 they said,
Wow, you are distorted.
A – I never ever ever ever ever had sex with you when you told me you didn’t want to.
B – I tried to get you help for cutting, and because you were ‘so upset about the religious’ persecution from you not wanting to go to church and believe in something you didn’t believe in.
C – Someone in a relationship of a committed relationship usually has sex. People from 16-old do it. I never ever held your mouth EVER or even knew that you were even wanting to break up with me because of me wanting to have sex with a girl I loved??
If you had felt that way you should have said it. You never ever told me that you didn’t want to have sex with me. The night I crashed into the fence you told me that you loved [mutual friend] still and didn’t want anything to do to me. Remember? You’ve distorted what really happened and I don’t even know how someone could do that. You’ve made some of these details up. I NEVER raped you. If you had told me you didn’t want to have sex, I would’ve felt bad because I had been picked up and put down by you so many times, but I would’ve respected it. Do you not remember the nights in the hot tub at your parents where you’d tell me about how you wanted to be alone with me?
I mean seriously [Penny], have you really turned out to be someone who would make up stuff about someone else???
And no, I never did anything with you in your parents dark room.
Obviously, with me sending you messages and telling you how hurt I was/am, I never viewed you as a blow up doll.
Yes, I was very insecure when I was younger, and it hurt me when you’d tell me you wanted [mutual friend] more, or I’d hear about you hanging out with other guys and liking them, but I NEVER EVER crossed the line with you and have never with any girl I’ve dated after.
Ask them if you don’t believe me, I urge you. Each one would stare you bold in the face and tell you that I’ve never ever done anything of the sorts with them. Whatever you’re going through psychologically, please remember the facts, and make sure you remember the truth and not made up lies.
On 2008-07-22 you said,
Well, thanks for letting me vent, anyway. This is a letter I’ve needed to write for the past five years. It doesn’t matter if you think I made it up or not, because I know what happened. The people close to me believe me, and those who knew both of us at the time believe me. Either I’m a very convincing liar, or there’s something there that you’re not comfortable taking responsibility for.
I’m not sure why, after five years, you think this is a friendship worth salvaging. I’ve left you alone because you’re a chapter in my life I want to forget.
Let me make this perfectly clear to you: This conversation is over. I don’t want to hear from you again. I don’t want to see you again. If we run into each other, I will do you the courtesy of pretending I don’t know you. That’s as far as this goes.
I’m not willing to let you back into my life, [Ex-Boyfriend]. Please leave it at that. I’ve been willing to keep it out of the courts, because I don’t think it will solve anything, but at the same time I need to protect myself. Please consider this a warning. If you contact me again, I will consider it harassment.
I’m sorry it had to come to this. When I found out it was you that sent that message, it gave me hope that you’d changed.
(Trigger warning: descriptions of rape, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts)
I have spent the last ten years sifting through the broken fragments of dreams, plans, and life goals. I have spent the last decade trawling through the rubble of a building that burned to the ground, turning over charred bricks among the ash, hoping, still hoping, to find something that survived.
And worst of all, there’s a small part of me that wonders if I didn’t just imagine it all. Maybe something happened, and I cracked. Maybe I went crazy and made it all up. He certainly wants me to believe that. Ten years of trying to rebuild from the ashes, and he still says it was out of love. Maybe I burned my own house down.
Here’s what I remember. I was sixteen. He was seventeen. I didn’t even want to date him at first. He kept asking. He wouldn’t leave me alone – kept pestering me to go on a date with him. Finally, I relented. There are only so many excuses a lonely teenage girl can make.
I remember we went to the mall. He could drive – I couldn’t yet. (Didn’t have a car? I question that – I got my driver’s license as soon as I could. Maybe I was fifteen?) We wandered around, not doing much of anything. He bought me a Pearl Jam CD. I’d never heard of them. (I’m still not a fan.) He drove a white Toyota pickup, some mid-80’s model with the three brown stripes that bent at an angle on the cab and streaked to the end of the bed. My parents were nervous about me going out with a boy. I didn’t have a cell phone back then, so it wasn’t as easy for them to keep tabs on me.
I remember we went to a local coffee shop. It was always warm and inviting there, and they had tons of comfy mismatched second-hand couches to sit on. Took pictures together there. He met my best friend. That was kind of our hangout spot, I guess.
It gets hazy after that. We saw America’s Sweethearts in the theaters. There was something on the way home about running yellow lights, and something about how yellow lights meant we should kiss… or something. I think it was kiss. I seem to remember him bringing up oral sex, too, but I’m not sure if that’s accurate.
I remember being in a public park the first time he touched me in a sexual way. I was wearing a neon green tank top. He slid his hand up under my shirt, under my bra. I don’t remember if he asked or not. We were sitting against a tree. I felt weird about being out in public. I don’t remember anything else from that day.
(I remember being in that same park later in our relationship, and he put his hand down my pants without any warning. He told me how moist I was down there. There was a giant cloud of gnats behind his head. Or am I making that up? I can’t remember.)
I remember the day I lost my virginity to him. My parents were out of town, but coming home that night. He and I had tickets to see a stage production of Narnia that some of my friends were in. He had condoms in his pocket. I don’t remember if we’d agreed to have sex or not. I don’t remember being eager or particularly willing to try it. I do remember we were late to the show. I also remember sitting there for less than a scene before he decided we should leave and go back to my house. I remember wishing I could stay till the end of the show and congratulate my friends afterward. I don’t remember wanting to leave.
I remember my bedspread – hearts in every color of the rainbow on a white background. Old and a bit worn. I remember the weak November sun shining in through the window. I think he did ask if I was sure. I think I said I wasn’t. We did it anyway. He used a condom. I wrote about it in my journal. I said that it hurt. I don’t remember if it actually did. (I know I thought it was supposed to.) I didn’t bleed. I didn’t feel different. I was terrified that someone would see it in my face – that my parents would know. They didn’t.
I remember having sex in the passenger seat of his truck, parked in a lot near a church after dark. I was worried we’d get caught. He threw the condom out the window. That bothered me.
I remember having sex on the lower floor of his house, while his father took a nap upstairs. I got carpet burn, right above my tailbone. It stung. I had a scar for a while.
I remember having sex in a vacant construction lot next to the two-dollar movie theater. He pushed me down into the dirt, in a ditch where no one could see us. I remember the rocks and the grass on my bare skin. I remember watching the sky, the clouds. I don’t remember feeling anything at all. It seems like so long ago. I didn’t want to do it.
I remember lying to my mother on the phone, telling her I was at the mall, when I was at his dorm room. He hated his roommate. I remember he made a playlist for us to fuck to – it had Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer,” Bloodhound Gang’s “Discovery Channel,” Metallica (his favorite band), some ridiculous song about beer… it was on a loop, the whole thing played probably three or four times. I remember his computer desktop was a smiling girl about to deep-throat a balloon. He told me his roommate had put porn on his computer as a joke. He told me he got so annoyed with his roommate once, he jacked off onto the guy’s keyboard while he was out of the room. He gleefully told me about how his roommate ate Cheetos at his computer later on… how he kept licking the cheese dust off his fingers so he could continue typing…
I remember when my best friend turned eighteen, we decided to watch porn since it was legal for us now. He brought over a DVD. It was called Gonzo’s Gang Bang Auditions 6. It was nothing but women being stuffed full of dicks – degraded in every possible way. They looked like they wanted to cry, like they’d been tricked into it. My friend and I were horrified. He said it was his roommate’s, that he’d never seen it before. He took it out and scratched it with his pocketknife.
I remember having sex in the house he shared with two other guys and a girl whose parents owned the place. I remember his face, looming over me – he always stared blankly ahead, mouth hanging open, never looking at me as me pounded himself into me over and over. He’d tell me he was envisioning his grandmother so he’d last longer. I remember he’d never use lube. I remember he’d always have to push himself slowly into me, because the condom would stick and skid on the way in – I had no idea that meant I wasn’t wet, and that in turn meant I wasn’t turned on. I remember him telling me to shut up so his roommates wouldn’t hear us.
I remember having sex crammed into the back of my car once, along the dirt road where I lived, on the way home. Got a stain on the seat. I think someone drove by. The windows were fogged.
I remember working in the darkroom my parents built for me when I got interested in photography. I remember he was with me; he came up behind me and put his arms around me. I thought he was being sweet; then he started undoing my pants and bent me over the worktable. I had to process the photos twice because he made me have sex with him on the floor of the darkroom, there under the red light, with the smell of chemicals all around us.
I remember going out to dinner with his family. A locally owned Italian restaurant. He and his mother got into a screaming match. His father and I exchanged uncomfortable, sympathetic looks. Neither of us knew how to get them to stop.
His mother was the first to find out we were having sex. He had wrapped the condom in a tissue, then set it down on the front step when he’d gone back to lock the house door. He forgot it there. She told us later she found it and thought it was a present like he used to leave for her when he was a little kid. She was in tears. I don’t remember how that argument went. I remember hugging him after because he was upset, and she yelled at me not to take his side.
I don’t remember any of the classes I took at school that year. I don’t remember spending time with my friends. I don’t remember what my family did. I don’t remember that Christmas. I don’t remember my birthday. I don’t remember waking up, going to work, going to class… I don’t remember the day-to-day. I don’t remember anything except what he did to me. I don’t remember what order things happened in, or what year, and sometimes I don’t know if they ever happened at all.
I’d get angry at the littlest things. I hid in my room a lot. I started cutting myself. I used a pair of scissors at first, on the sides of my wrist. They were tiny and shallow, like cat scratches. That’s what I told people they were. No one ever looked twice. If you look really closely, the scars are still there.
Later I started using an Exacto knife. I’d cut my thighs – a body part I wasn’t particularly fond of, and easy to hide. I cut my ankle once – it bled and bled, and the scab was sunk in deep when it finally closed up. I probably should have gotten stitches. That was the one my parents finally noticed. They sent me to a psychiatrist. I didn’t trust the first one. He referred me to someone else. I didn’t tell her about my boyfriend either. I was afraid she’d tell my parents. She made me draw a picture – the way the world saw me, and the way I saw myself. I drew a perfect porcelain mask for the first one. The second one, I couldn’t draw at all. I didn’t know how to draw it ugly enough.
I wanted to talk to my parents about it. He said I couldn’t – if they knew, they’d make us break up. I told him I wasn’t sure I wanted to have sex anymore. He told me that sex was how he showed his love for me. He said that if I didn’t want to have sex anymore, then I didn’t want his love anymore. If I didn’t want his love, it meant I didn’t love him, and without my love his life wasn’t worth living anymore so he might as well commit suicide.
If I stopped having sex with him, he was going to kill himself.
He called me on the way home from that conversation. He’d driven away angry, and hit a gate with his truck. He was crying. His mother was going to be so upset, he said. His headlight was a little cracked and his fender a little scraped, maybe dented. He didn’t want to go home. He had kept a handkerchief I’d used in my hair… said it smelled like me. Said it kept him sane. I wanted it back but didn’t know how to ask for it.
I kept dating him after that. I don’t know how long. We had sex all the time. I don’t remember doing anything else. I don’t remember going on dates. I don’t know which of the memories I’ve listed happened after that conversation.
Eventually, I broke up with him. I have no memory of how I did it. I remember he texted me afterward to tell me that I was only breaking up with him so I could sleep around. He said his roommate called me a dizzy bitch; he said he defended me. He said he went and drove his truck into a statue of Jesus, because he was angry at God.
He came to the haunted house I was working, later that year. I think I spoke with him; I don’t remember.
Seven years later, he contacted me anonymously on facebook. He wanted me to apologize for being rude the last time we’d run into each other at the college’s student center (I’d awkwardly said “Hello” and walked past him to continue what I was doing). He said he was having a terrible day and I made it worse.
When I found out who he was, I told him all the things he needed to apologize for; namely, raping and abusing me for over a year. He said he never raped me; that it wasn’t wrong for a guy to have sex with the woman he loves. I told him if he ever contacted me again I’d take action.
I’ve seen him once since then. I was working at a shipping company; he came in to mail some packages. He saw me and stopped cold, turned pale, a look of utter dread on his face. I greeted him cheerfully, helped him with his packages, sent him on his way. I got a weird charge out of pretending I didn’t know who he was. It was a little thrilling, too, to see him panic momentarily.
I want to put his name here. I want to post it on Facebook, and send a message to everyone I know who knows him. I want to print posters and put them up all over my hometown. I want to speak out and tell the world This Is The Guy, This Is What He Did To Me. I want everyone who knows him to know what he did. I want his girlfriends to know. I want his bandmates to know. I want his parents to know. I want him to know. I want him to understand.
I want to step forward, and I can’t. Stepping forward means stepping into the line of fire. My word against his. He’d call me a liar just to save his own skin. He already has.
So I’ll tell you what I remember. I remember being raped. I remember being abused. I remember wanting to die. And no one can call me a liar for that – all those things are real. Regardless of my lack of proof, regardless of my lack of memory, I remember those things. I will never not remember.
For the few days I knew of you,
you were the smell of blossoms in the air.
The promise of a tomorrow stretching beyond my own.
You were to be a fine man,
a strong woman.
A miracle where I had not thought to find one.
But life has not finished being cruel to me yet.
Now I carry an emptiness
a vastness of cold space stretching deep and wide
lifeless planets and cold suns
where once there was you.
I bleed and I cry,
and nothing changes.
I would give you a burial at sea,
burn a pyre,
plant a bed of roses over your grave;
but I have nothing to bury,
nothing to burn.
No way to say how much I loved you
in those few days.
No way to tell how much I wanted you,
how much I miss you now.
At its heart, I believe feminism is – or, at least, should be – about convincing women they’re good enough. Isn’t it? It’s the affirmation that a woman’s thoughts are good enough to be heard; that a woman’s work is good enough to be compensated; that a woman’s sexuality is good enough to be respected; that a woman’s body is good enough to be beautiful; that a woman is good enough to be a person. Many of the most terrible injustices of the world spring from that place of not-good-enough: if your thoughts are not good enough to be heard, you are silenced. If your work is not good enough to be compensated, you go hungry and homeless. If your sexuality is not good enough to be respected, you become an object for others’ pleasure and not your own. If your body is not good enough to be beautiful, you are scorned and denied legitimacy and opportunity. If you are not good enough to be a person, you become a piece of property, an object, something to be used or abused by those considered good enough to be human.
The insidious thing is, this message of not-good-enough is all around us. It’s in the ads that sell us things, the movies we watch, the magazines we read. It’s reflected in the eyes and attitudes of our family, and our friends, and our lovers. It seeps into the soul of who we are, until we accept the message and begin to oppress ourselves. Society doesn’t need to beat the average woman over the head to get her to accept that she’s not good enough; she’s already come to terms with it. She already believes it. Not-good-enough convinces you to become your own jailor.
In high school, I wanted to be an actress. Truthfully, I have craved being onstage since I can remember; whenever there was a school or church play, I always envied the kids who got picked (seemingly at random) to dress up in costume and read their lines before the crowd. I always wanted that. Does it matter why I wanted it? Nope. I’ve just always wanted it. And I was good at it. And I enjoyed it. (Isn’t that what they tell you to look for when choosing a career?)
Somewhere in my high school years, though, an absurd and horrible thing began to happen. Somewhere, the doubt crept in. I wasn’t pretty enough, not like the actresses in Hollywood. I wasn’t talented enough to make it into the main parts in many of the shows I auditioned for. I didn’t have the right body type. I didn’t have the right face. Maybe what I thought was a good performance was overacted. Maybe I was too subtle. And goodness knows I couldn’t sing well enough.
Late in my junior year or early in my senior one, a friend invited me to star in a movie he had written and was filming. The script was about a depressed and suicidal young woman who finds love in an alternate dream world. It becomes more and more difficult for her to distinguish reality from fiction, and eventually she is committed to a mental hospital. As she sinks deeper into despair in her real life, she turns more and more to the love she experienced in her fantasy life. Eventually the worlds blend indistinguishably, and the viewer is left questioning which version was reality, and which was the dream. Even by eighteen-year-old standards, the concept and scripting were quite good.
My boyfriend at the time was less than thrilled about my position as the main character – especially because the script called for a kissing scene. He was jealous, manipulative, and controlling… and so it was that the only way I was “allowed” to take the role was if he played the romantic interest.
He was also, as it turns out, a terrible actor. The film made it halfway through production before it all fell apart – mainly due to the fact that he could never remember his lines, constantly criticized the other production members, and never managed to show up on time to anything. He also hated letting me spend time with the friend directing the movie – since this friend and I had dated in the past.
That was more than ten years ago. It is only now, as I sit here writing it out again, that I realize what a ridiculous position he put me in. It was never up to him to decide who I could kiss, or why. It was never up to him to decide who I could or could not spend time with, nor how I spent that time. I was good enough to make those decisions on my own. I was good enough to choose my friends, and I was good enough to not allow some childish jerk to derail a project I found meaningful and important. I just didn’t know I was good enough at the time.
So this is me, taking that step out into the world. This is me believing that what I have to say is good enough; that there will be people to listen and read, people who agree and think I have something worthwhile to say, people who are interested.
I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and darnit, people are gonna like me.