Me, Too.

Recently, survivors of sexual assault united in posting the simple words “Me, too” to their social media platforms in order to raise awareness of just how widespread the issue of sexual violence really is.

I’ve read the statistics. I’ve listened to countless stories of survivors tell their stories. I’ve sat through numerous lectures on how to avoid rape, which, by my avoidance, turns another into a victim.

All indicators of the alarming likelihood that it will one day happen to me.

And it did. And then it did again. And again.

The first time, it was Halloween. I didn’t dress up that year. I wore jeans and a sweater, and went to a friend of four years’ to celebrate. The next morning, everything hurt, and I was groggy and disoriented. I passed out in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I was living at the time, falling into her frail arms. I reported him to the Sheriff’s office, tears streaming down my face as I retold the events that occurred on my favorite holiday, and the cops showed up at his work to interview him. But my friend of four years refused to speak to them, so there was “nothing they could do.” We haven’t talked since.

The next time, it was a Tinder date. He was charming, blonde hair, blue-eyed, big muscles. We went to Fuji Sushi and then saw The Revenant for our first date. The next time I saw him, he invited me to his place to watch a movie. I warned him that I was not open to anything physical, and after being assured that he would not try anything with me, I accepted his invitation. He mixed us each a drink in his kitchen while I flipped through a Cards Against Humanity deck placed on his coffee table in the living room. Hours later, I couldn’t move my limbs. “CONDOM,” I tried to bellow, his body forced on top of me, my toneless arms and legs dangling off the sides of the bed. It was 5 AM when I finally came to, and I tried to sneak out of his house without him waking. Just as I had my hand on the doorknob, I turned to find him behind me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t staying till the morning for breakfast.

Round three started with a young man I encountered at the mall. I was walking, by myself, in broad daylight, and he stopped me, grabbed my face, and kissed me. We were complete strangers, but I found it somewhat charming at the time. We started seeing each other regularly, and one day, he came over when my roommate was out of town. I exclaimed that he was hurting me, and after he was finished, he tapped me on the arm and said “sorry for abusing you there” and left.

And then there was the time at my formerly favorite night club. My roommate and I were there for a friend’s bachelorette party. We entered the dance floor, bopping to the rhythm, and found a group of girls to dance with. A man in perhaps his mid-twenties burst into our circle, grabbed me around the waist, and turned me around. My roommate motioned for us to leave the dance floor, but as I was trying, he lifted my skirt up and grabbed my ass. He then spun me to face him, put his arm around me tighter, and proceeded to kiss me. I couldn’t shake him off of me until he’d stopped kissing me, and by that time, my roommate had successfully exited the floor.

I’ve dealt with sexual harassment at work. I’ve had men catcall horrific things at me while walking around downtown, sometimes men double and even triple my age-their malicious stares looking my body up and down as they lick their lips in preparation to tell me what they’d like to do to me.

Ever since that first encounter, I’d received the message loud and clear: my body was not mine. The words “no” and “stop” and “you’re hurting me” were a waste of breath.

I’m not telling you all of this to compete with the numerous brave survivors who came forward to publicly share their stories. I’m not telling you all of this in pursuit of sympathy. The damage has been done, and I am coping with it the best I know how. No amount of sympathy can reverse it.

However, I am adding my story to the record in order to provide examples of behaviors that lead to assault, so that we as bystanders, or even potential perpetrators, can begin to recognize them, and intervene before someone’s body gets violated.

Sexual assault happens to all demographics, so this isn’t even a lecture at the men to pull their shit together. It will take a societal change to eliminate rape culture, and replace it with consent culture. But it starts with recognizing concerning behaviors, and then DOING SOMETHING about it.

No amount of “rape prevention tips” will prevent a rapist from raping. We as a society must stop tolerating non-consensual sexual behavior.

I am not entitled to anyone’s body, and NOBODY is entitled to mine.

Say it with me.

M.

 

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Passivity

I’ve lived my entire life thus far resigned to the excuse that I am simply incapable of saying “no” to people. I’m a pleaser. I’d rather run away to a new country and change my name than adult-up, face someone, and tell them something they don’t want to hear.

That’s 22 years of “oh, I don’t care where we eat!” and “yes, I can give you a ride even though it’d be COMPLETELY out of my way and quite inconvenient” and “no, really, we can leave the concert early even though one of my favorite bands hasn’t taken the stage yet!” and, most recently, “yes, despite my entire gut telling me it’s a bad idea, I will date you.”

This approach to interacting with others has left me unsatisfied, frustrated, annoyed, and taken advantage of. I have voluntarily taken the passenger seat of my own life for far too long. I’ve felt too afraid, and perhaps a little unworthy,  to grab the wheel and steer for once.

But the thing is, I know exactly what I want, in 9/10 situations. I do not resign myself to passivity due to uncertainty.  I definitely care where we eat, and I’ve probably been thinking about it for hours. No, it’s not okay with me if we leave the concert early-I paid money to be here and want to see the damn show. And lastly, I know EXACTLY what i’m looking for as it pertains to a significant other, yet I find myself accepting gentlemen’s advances, due to the mere fact that they are, indeed, gentlemen.

The problem is that I lack the voice to assert myself.

However, yesterday, thanks to a little push from my best friend, I did one of the hardest things I’ve probably ever done in my life. I confronted someone face-to-face about what I wanted.

And it was nauseatingly horrifying.

I broke off the situationship-turned-boyfriend that I’d found myself involved with for the past few months. In person.

You see, my default approach would be to shoot him a text saying that I was breaking things off, provide little to no explanation, and then hit the “block” button as fast as my little fingers could move.

However, I chose to take this opportunity to grow as a person, and decided to handle it face-to-face like a big girl.

Let me be clear, there was nothing particularly wrong with him. He’s a fine guy-nice, smart, well-mannered. Has his shit together. Pretty good “boyfriend material”, objectively speaking.

We hit it off in the beginning. We had plenty to talk about, had all sorts of fun together, and he treated me better than I probably deserved. But we just never had a “spark.”

I’d expressed this to him bluntly when we were deliberating whether or not to take our relationship to the level of exclusivity. I told him that my gut told me that this was a bad idea, and I didn’t think I’d find what I was looking for in a significant other in him.

Alas, he persisted. And so I gave in. He’s a nice guy-he deserves a shot. Right?

And I gave it a shot. I gave it my best shot.

He became increasingly clingy-freaking out when I hung out with a member of the male gender, needing to be in constant contact with me, declining to give me space when I deliberately asked for it.

Enough was enough. I panicked, and shut the whole operation down.

I invited him to my place, and explained to him that this relationship isn’t working for me, and that no, there was nothing he could do to fix it, and that I saw no reason to continue to see him, as it felt disingenuous of me to do so without having developed the feelings for him that he professed to have had for me.

I won’t speak for him, but I could visibly tell that I was hurting him with every word that came out of my mouth. And that was devastatingly hard to watch, especially as I watched him walk away from me for the last time, with his head hung, and his eyes down at his feet.

Hard as this experience was for me, I feel that I really learned a lot about dealing with confrontation and being honest and transparent about how I feel about things. It was uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and scary. But I’d rather feel all those things and say what I need to say than keep my mouth shut in the interest of not upsetting people because I don’t want what they want.

From now on, I’m the driver. I have a voice, and I am fully capable of using it. And I intend to.

I’m in charge of my life, and the direction it takes is up to me.

M.

 

 

 

Grotesque

One day, I will greet my reflection with a gleaming grin of approval.

One day, I’ll be the girl with the energetic glow, whose happiness infests everyone who crosses my path.

One day, I won’t be so consumed with my own self-hatred that I will finally propel myself forward and become all that I am meant to be.

But that day is certainly not today.

Today, I will poke, punch, and grab at my body in the full-length mirror at the corner of my room.

Today, I will regret putting too much creamer in my coffee.

Today, I will force myself to study less-than-flattering photos of myself and feel the piercing pain of every imperfection.

Today, I will graciously accept compliments from strangers and friends alike, and question their genuineness, as well as my own perception.

Today, I will swear to change.

And tomorrow, I’ll swear it again.

 

M.

 

Pieces

I find it notably paradoxical that oftentimes, I feel most lonely when I’m surrounded by people.

Interestingly, I don’t tend to feel this stomach-sinking emotion when I am all alone.

I think that I’m a fringe person. I dwell just on the outside; within arm’s distance of others, but never closer.

At work, I float around from clique to clique, managing shallow small talk and building bridges just strong enough to give me someone to eat lunch with in the break room.

Within my family, I am amidst most of the inside jokes. But oftentimes, I sabotage our kinship banter with annoyance or moodiness or an inability to just let myself enjoy experiences.

When it comes to anything relating to the male sex, sure, I’ve got a list of dudes that would likely be more than willing to spend an evening with me. They grace me with their attention and overdrawn compliments on the Snapchat or when I post a new selfie featuring my legs.

And I keep them around. Y’know, just in case loneliness sets in.

And for just an initial moment, I gain a minuscule taste of satisfaction.

Every now and then, I feel ballsy and decide to reach out. Give somebody a chance, if you will. But they say that there is no loneliness like the type you feel in another’s company. And they are right.

I’ve caught myself time and time again making the horrific mistake of trying to open up to someone and truly be understood. My cries for help are dismissed, and people come and take what they came for, and then they are back on their merry way.

Cynical? Perhaps.

That being said, I think I’m just intended to be a fringe person. And that entails drawing further and further inward, playing it all safe.

I’ve accepted this reality since the day the pieces of me shattered into too small of fragments that they simply don’t fit together anymore.

And so I carry on, broken and wounded from yesterday’s mistakes.

M.

Stuck

I typically try to be a little bit more eloquent and creative in titling my blog posts, but this simple, 5-letter word seems to be the most appropriate for encompassing the mood I’ve been in for the past, well, months.

Some nights, when I’m out inhaling the heavy summer air, enjoying the romantic landscape of a late night sunset, I feel carefree and optimistic, and completely in love with my life.

Other nights, and honestly, most nights lately, I feel a sobering sense of hopelessness- like I’ve dug myself into the ground, and there is no rope long enough to rescue me.

I miss who I was before I became who I am now.

I used to wake up every morning as a girl on a mission. I was charismatic, passionate, and a bit of a know-it-all. I knew where I was headed, and nobody was going to stop me. I knew I had a lot to prove, but I also knew more than anyone that I was more than capable. I was engaged in my everyday experiences, and I drank up every opportunity I had to learn something.

Even despite my history of trauma, anxiety-based pathology, body dysmorphia, and self-imposed tendencies to isolate myself.

But now, I am uninspired.

Or, perhaps, simply unconvinced of my own capabilities. Disenchanted with me.

I’m in a maze-no-multiple mazes at once, and I’ve hit a dead end in every one.

I chose an academic path that is insufficient for my career goals.

I chose to associate with people who were capable of more damage to me than I could have ever foreseen, and can no longer outrun the impact.

I am stuck in a body-a cage that I hate-and will never be able to mold into something that I can tolerate.

I am stuck in a toxic atmosphere, where I see real suffering by real people everyday, and am incapable of alleviating it.

I am stuck in a brain that won’t turn off, or simply even slow down.

At home, I feel like an intruder.

I feel distant from everything, as if I’m watching it through a glass barrier in a museum. Close-but not close enough to feel.

The best solution I can draft is the “clean slate” method. I want to run away-start over in a place where nobody has met me. Go by a different variation of my name. Become someone else. Someone better. Someone stronger.

A change of scenery is what I need.

And that, is the sole mechanism that propels me forward-the opportunity to never look back.

M.

 

 

 

Empty

There’s nothing like a solitary summer night drive to really get your feelings to surface.

But big girls don’t cry, and so I will write.

I spent the last hour coasting up the hillside in my car to the sobering melody of “Me” by the 1975, and thinking too deeply about how I got here. I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.

For starters, I genuinely like the personality I’ve developed. I like that I’m witty and weird. I like that I can talk about almost anything for hours and that I have posters of chemical formulas and DNA helices on my bedroom wall. I like that the people at work know me as a sassy-pants know-it-all who is a little neurotic about cats. I like being the cool girl that lets everything roll off her shoulder. I like the things I say, and the way I think.

I don’t like my body-it doesn’t feel like mine. I don’t like how my body is satisfying to men who have touched it, or thought about doing so, while I can’t even bear to look at it in the mirror sometimes. Or worse-that I can’t stop looking at it sometimes, and allow my thoughts to tear me apart, limb from limb, as I fight back tears of frustration and inadequacy.

I don’t like that I try so hard to be attractive. Even now, nearing the middle of the night, I sit here in a “waist trainer” that closely resembles the rib-crushing corsets that the ladies of the middle ages laced themselves into every day, in a desperate attempt to shrink myself smaller and smaller. I don’t like my freckles, or the fact that I can’t tan.

I don’t like how painfully aware I am of myself in space. I don’t like constantly trying to read others’ minds as they encounter me. I don’t like over-thinking every human interaction I have and anxiously hoping that I haven’t done anything wrong.

I don’t like living my life as though everyone is going to hurt me. I don’t like snapping at anyone who makes a pass at me-I’m practically biting their heads off all the time. I hate that I use previous unresolved trauma as an excuse for not allowing anyone within a five mile radius of me. I really don’t like feeling alone all the time, watching everyone else be, y’know, not alone.

I don’t like being considered an “attractive girl,” because that implies that my physical attributes are the primary cause that allures people in my direction. The “attractive girl” doesn’t seem to get what I want more than anything, which is the security of someone somewhere who understands me in all my flaws and contradictions, has seen me at my ugliest, and wants me to stay.

I don’t like holding myself to standards of perfectionism, and inevitably falling short of it every time-doomed to perpetual disappointment.

I don’t like that I’m still up writing this stupid post that will likely be deleted in the morning.

I don’t like thinking that things will always be this way.

M.

Temerarious

 

I spent the last weekend bedridden with a horrible flu.

The flu can be detrimental to one’s health in a number of ways- there’s the physical component of the illness, of course, in which the immune system is insufficient for fighting off pathogens, but there’s a physiological component that, in my experience, is far more harmful than any fever, bout of chills, or stuffy nose.

When you’re as sick as I was last weekend, you have no other option but to slow down-your body insists. But your brain is not forcibly stagnated to the extent that your limbs might be. What I’m saying in way more words than are necessary is that I had far too much time for thinking over the past couple of days for my own good.

In a desperate attempt to occupy my mind and focus my racing, unorganized thoughts, I began (and finished) the Netflix original series Thirteen Reasons Why. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I suggest that you set apart the next 13 hours and binge the entire series. If you don’t have the time for that, I’ll provide a brief synopsis.

The story centers around Hannah, a high schooler who takes her own life, but not before explaining her reasons for doing so via 13 audio tape recordings. The topic of each tape is one of her classmates who has contributed to her ultimate decision to commit suicide. Among those reasons are betrayal, rape, objectification, and harassment. Ironically, all things that I have experienced, as well.

This powerful series was profound and resonated deeply with me, and unfortunately, has forced me to face some things that I’ve never truly allowed myself to process. Ever since my body was invaded, it’s felt as though it no longer belongs to me. And sometimes I feel that all I am is a body, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been handled with care-by men since him, or by me. The most practical remedy is to enclose oneself in a pod of isolation-just big enough for one. Because the illusion of control is much more satisfying there.

I’ve been played with, used, ridiculed, and objectified. I am left weak, afraid, and tired.

I’d like to think that I’d never engage in self-harm, but this sudden flooding of relived past experiences has forced me to feel things that I’ve suppressed for far too long, and I’m paying for it now. How does one who’s deceived herself into strength cope with the fact that she’s been wounded the whole time?

I think that the biggest take-away message I got from viewing Thirteen Reasons was that we are reckless. Humans are reckless people with little to no awareness on how significant our actions can be in the grand scheme of things. Our actions have the power to significantly alter another’s perception of self, and the consequences of a poor self-perception can, as in Hannah’s case, be fatal.

Human interaction is a complex phenomenon, and everyone experiences his or her own truth. If you claim that I hurt you, I don’t get to decide that I didn’t. So it’s best to err on the side of safety, right?

Unfortunately, unless you’re Ghandi or Mother Teresa, you will inevitably hurt those you interact with, intentionally or not. But we don’t walk around with a gauge pinned to our shirts, notifying those around us how close we are to our breaking points.

It’d be extremely difficult, and frankly boring (not to mention unrealistic) to treat everyone as if they are fragile as fine China, all of the time for the rest of our lives. That’s where I think that a little self-awareness could go a long way. And believe me, my hands are definitely not clean here.

Watching the way Hannah was treated by her classmates in Thirteen Reasons was piercingly painful for me to watch. I could feel her solitude through my computer screen, and it transported me back to my own lonely years as a high school student. (Which was much more difficult in some ways than my desolate college years now.) Each episode’s conclusion catalyzed another stream of tears from my eyes, and I found myself in bouts of severe regret for the way my life has been going so far.

People can cause a lot of harm, but they can also do a lot of good. The only problem is, once you’ve experienced enough harm, you find that it’d be foolish to put yourself out there in pursuit of some good, because that would leave you vulnerable to even more harm.

So, you withdraw further.

And what’s so noble about being fine all the time, anyway? Why does being able to be okay with people treating you like shit make you strong? Resilient, maybe. But I’d argue that strength is found by allowing yourself to feel real pain-to hurt to the extent that it hurts, and to heal in your own time, and your own way.

That’s what I feel like my experience from this weekend is forcing me to do-to allow myself to not be fine anymore. Because the last thing I am is okay. I am weak, wounded and alone. And if I don’t accept that now and deal with it, the next time I get hurt might pull me completely under water, and I’ll drown.

I fully admit that I’ve done more than my fair share of harm to other people. My hands are far from clean. But I’ve gained a heightened awareness of my deeds and their potential for harm or help to my fellow man.

But why are we so reckless with each others’ lives? Should it not be more of a priority to minimize the pain we inflict? Or are we simply just not aware?

M.