What if you discover at a late time in your life that you’ve lived inauthentically almost your entire life? What if, through external circumstances, you find truths that exist inside you that turn you upside down, and leave you floundering in the world around you? Nothing seems right. Nothing seems comfortable or even familiar, even though it has been there all along.
I have been waking up next to the same man for the past thirty-six years. Today he is a stranger. He doesn’t have any idea who I am at my very core. He couldn’t tell me what my dream vacation would be after all this time. He knows my favorite food, but then, everyone knows its chocolate. That’s a lay-up. He can‘t communicate with me civilly. Of course, we always had trouble expressing ourselves verbally with each other. That was always the genesis of any fight we might have, and there were plenty.
My mother, who lives with me now, again, having had a 34-year sabbatical from me, has some sensitivity to my plight, but doesn’t grasp the depth to which it goes. She has the empathy for the reason I am questioning, but not the patience.
I was blessed eighteen months ago, to gain a step-grandchild. I lost the prefix step, because I love this child as if she came from my own bloodline. I marvel at her wisdom at all of age four. What I really enjoy is reliving the days when I was so free inside my own body. I watch her play freely… at home, on a playground… anywhere. She is not self-conscious at all. When do girls lose that? When do they become worried about how they look, or more importantly, worried about what other people think of how they look? When do they begin to feel that desperate need to fit in? When do they lose their self-identity and trade it for the desire to be popular or have a best friend or a boyfriend? My granddaughter is such a joy to watch, because that hasn’t happened to her yet.
My memories of my own freedom are vague and few. I know for a fact when things changed drastically. I don’t like to talk about it, because it involved something physical and someone close. Thereafter, I was quite self-conscious. I knew my body was different than a boy’s body. That was in first grade. It was sad. I didn’t know what happened was wrong until much later. That was even sadder.
All through my “formative” years, things happened that I neither invited nor understood. But they happened anyway. These events changed the way I viewed men and people in general and led me down some interesting pathways. From being raised in a house full of men, to a male-dominated world, (I hesitate to use the word misogynist), to a father who had difficulty showing emotion, to several episodes of sexual battery/assault, I developed not an irrational fear of men.
After an attempted rape in college, it took me several years to even consider dating men again. I even had a relationship with a woman for a year or so in between. I never identified myself as lesbian, or even bi-sexual. I believe labels make for resentments and hate. I just happened to be in love with another person who happened to be a woman. Soon thereafter, I met the man who would be my husband of 36 years. The only reason I let him through my shell is because he was kind, and he didn’t, at the time, place a price on my head, like other men had… I had dated one man whose father said directly to me that if a girl didn’t “put out” by the third date, you’re wasting your time and money.
I often wonder if the “sexual revolution” of the 60’sand 70’s is the reason some men felt they had the right to have their way with women whether the women wanted it or not. Spiking punch in the 80’s all the way through to dropping roofies (the date rape) drug in the new millennium, seem to me to be the generation methodologies… an outgrowth of hormone enraged young men.
Since I was so self-conscious and fearful, I guess I never was invited to those kinds of parties. I was neither rebellious nor adventurous. My Aunt even called me a Goody-Goody when she wanted me to sneak into the seated section at Tanglewood when we had only paid for lawn seats. I guess I should be grateful for being that way, lest I be one of those punch-drunk girls who got taken advantage of.
So today, at age 61, as I look back, I wonder who I might have been or how I might have felt about things or how far I could have gone with my God-given talents had I not been stifled by the men in my life. And by the way, I remember every single one of those episodes like it was yesterday: every one of their names, approximate dates, exactly what the rooms look like, what they were wearing… but most of all, how they left me feeling about myself. Collectively, they ruined my life.