I Don’t Want To Be Touched

I don’t want to be touched.

Not even when I’m alone on the dance floor of a poorly-lit night club in a black dress and my favorite blazer

As you slither your way behind me, grabbing my waist with your free hand and clutching a warm beer in the other

Your humidified breath dripping down my neck as you try to sync two sets of hips to a beat I could feel just fine on my own

I don’t want to be touched.

Not when you ask me to go on a drive with you through the canyon, and the music is loud enough to rumble my ear drums

And you’re driving reckless and fast, my entire body swaying with the slightest twist of the steering wheel

My safety entirely in your hand, just like my upper leg, as you clench it tighter with every curve in the road

I don’t want to be touched.

Not when I’m strutting through the corridor of the mall downtown in an outfit that makes me feel strong and beautiful and sophisticated, and you, a stranger, catch my absentminded gaze

Your strides quicken as you rapidly collide into my path of travel and grab both sides of my face with your skinny, foreign hands

My eyes widen like the moon as you plant your dry, thin lips on my mouth, pull me over to a nearby bench, and sit me on to your lap, all before you even bother to tell me your name

The passers-by fight the urge to clap at your romantic gesture

I don’t want to be touched.

Not when you ask me to the movies, and you choose the lounge chairs in the very back of the theater where we can be alone

You allow me to enjoy the trailers without disturbance, and once the lights reach their dimmest point, your hands slide under my shirt

And I try to keep my eyes on the screen, but the weight and pinch of your grip makes me flinch and I tell you I need to go to the bathroom, but really I’m suffocating, and the stiff air within the bathroom stall only makes it worse

I don’t want to be touched.

Not even after sipping a drink of your creation in your living room as we watch some stupid action film on your modern, stiff couch

And before the final credits roll, I realize that I’ve been rendered immobile, and my body is slung over your shoulder, and we disappear in to your bedroom

And your body and your bed sheets consume me until the early morning hours, my body releasing inaudible screams

I don’t want to be touched.

Because you never bothered to ask me if this is okay, or are you comfortable, or where is the line

And if you did ask, you didn’t bother to comply

Because my consciousness resides within my skull, but I can’t afford the mortgage on the body that keeps it off the ground

But apparently, you can, and you take and you do what satisfies you

I don’t want to be touched.

Not even by the best-intentioned one of you out there

Because the price of security is isolation, and the perpetual fear of failing to protect myself shackles me

And my inability to form healthy relationships is inhibited, my detachment from the human touch keeps me numb for now

So that if you want to touch me, I can hide within compartmentalized lobes within my brain, temporarily severing the nerves of my periphery until it’s safe to come out again

I don’t want to be touched.

Even when you shower me in compliments about my beauty, intellect or comedic nature

Or buy me flowers, a drink, or a hamburger

So I buy those for myself

And I go to movies and canyon drives and night clubs by myself

And I feel myself

Because I don’t want to be touched.

 

 

 

 

 

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Calloused

I’m back writing again, and you all know what that means.

I’m in emotional turmoil 🙂

Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than succumbing  to my own humanity. Y’know, feelings and whatnot. Particularly the ones that make you appear vulnerable and weak.

I’ve developed into the classic “funny girl.” Ask anyone that’s had a 30-minute conversation with me, I guarantee I’ve made them laugh. Humor is arguably the most effective tool of deflection.

I guess this is my self-protective mechanism; my adaptation to the realization that i’m not safe out in the world. And it’s served me well, for the most part.

I want to be perceived as the comedic, confrontational, independent gal who couldn’t give two bothers as to what anybody thinks of her. And to my core, I am that person. And I love that person. But even she isn’t immune to the pain of rejection, betrayal, misplaced trust, and heartbreak.

And i’ll be honest, initially, things don’t really get to me. I can shrug off most anything, and I’ll probably even crack a joke about it just to assure you that I’m okay. But after a random duration of time, it all gets to me at once. Pain always catches up, no matter how far of a head start you have.

Today was one of those days where I felt the pain of the last decade all come crashing down on me at the same time. I happened to be at the gym, actually, when the lump in my throat began to build. Leg day was cut short so I could make it to my car in time for the water works.

I’ve been through a lot in the past 10 years. Puberty, anorexia, braces, high school, rape, the loss of friends and significant others, death, rejection, and the constant frustration that I’m the one behind the wheel, but my GPS keeps rerouting, turning me in unproductive circles.

And I really haven’t done a whole lot of feeling.

You can only suppress emotion for so long before you break, I guess. Being alive hurts.

A healthy, well-adjusted individual would probably just allow themselves to feel the pain in real time, give themselves time to work through it, and then move on. I’d really, REALLY like to be a healthy, well-adjusted individual.

Recently, I’d misplaced my trust in someone completely, allowing them to tug me around. They gained my trust and vulnerability far too quickly, and left me the fool. My initial reaction was complete denial that it even affected me at all, and then it turned to frustration. Granted, this person wasn’t in my life long enough to put me in the emotional state that I am now.

But there’s always a catalyst for this sort of thing.

And that lead me down the rabbit hole to every other instance in which I was forced into a vulnerable position, which turned into me driving home from the gym with tears dripping down my face and some Kanye song blasting in the background.

I would beg whatever supernatural forces that exist to take the pain away, but I think the point is for me to let myself feel it.

So i’m laying here, in a cuddle puddle with my two felines, doing just that.

Growth; it isn’t always pretty.

 

M.

Remedial

I recently became a volunteer advocate at the Rape Recovery Center, a local nonprofit that provides counseling services, a crisis hotline, and hospital teams for survivors of sexual violence. In order to become an advocate, one must complete a 40-hour intensive training program. I’m at the midpoint of my training now, and while my experience so far has been one of empowerment, solidarity, and fulfillment, it’s also forced me to re-examine and really process (for the first time) my own rape.

I’ve come to realize that due to many contributing factors, I have yet to take the time to really process what happened to me, and how it’s impacted me physically, cognitively, and spiritually even now, a few years after the fact.

My initial response was one of damage control. Immediately after regaining control of my body, I sped to a pharmacy to pick up a plan-B pill, inquired a private feminist Facebook group that I was a member of about STI testing, and took the proper steps to ensure that my perpetrator would not be able to contact me again.

A member of the aforementioned Facebook group took it upon his (or her)self to notify my father of what happened to me. This member screen-shotted my original post about inquiring about STI testing, and emailed it to my father, which gave me more damage to control.

I’ve been floating around from day to day, somewhat numb, ever since. I’ve always been kind of a distant person, but since this occurred, I’ve been even more withdrawn, even less in-touch with my emotions and my ability to connect with people, especially men.

A guy that I’m not personally friends with DM’d me on Facebook the other day, and asked me if I was a rape victim.  I responded in the affirmative, and he proceeded to tell me that I’m so much stronger, and my spirit is more alive since I was raped.

I found this response both appalling and offensive, for a handful of reasons. First of all, this man does not know me. He didn’t know me before the rape, and he doesn’t know me now. How, then, can he feel confident in making such a statement? Furthermore, I was strong before this happened to me. Nobody needs to experience sexual violence in order to become strong. I had the strength to cope with this trauma before it even occurred, and I refuse to credit this incidence for giving me any such thing.

As for my “spirit being more alive,” I have felt quite the opposite. This incidence swiftly changed me into the cynical, numb person you all know and love today. I struggle with my emotionality every day of my life. I don’t know how to connect with people. I don’t even know how to process my own emotions without enduring a full-fledged panic attack. My sense of security has been breached, and I’ve realized that there are infinitely many things that are completely out of my control.

The man who made these comments did so with good intent. However, he does not know my experience, and therefore should refrain from telling me what it did to me. Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but I don’t feel like anyone is qualified to make such bold statements about an incident that had such a severe impact on my life except for myself.

Anyway, I am sincerely honored and excited to become an advocate in my community, and hopefully be the support that I so desperately needed when this happened to me. It’s going to be triggering, difficult, exhausting work, but I feel like taking it on will be a healing experience for me, overall. It will, however, force me to rely on others for support when the burnout inevitably hits, and discouragement sets in.

So I’d like to thank my amazing support system in advance, for helping me through this.

M.

 

Denunciation

I’ve heard a lot of bullshit regarding the ousting of sexual predators disguised as prominent and powerful men (i.e. a lot of hoopla from dudes exclaiming just how scary it is to be a man nowadays, The War On Men, etc.). I’m not quite sure which I find most disturbing-the sheer number of celebrity men finally being called out for their sexual offenses, or some of the reactions to these allegations from normal, everyday dudes.

I get it, you’re shocked. You don’t want to believe that someone as likable as Louis C.K. (your favorite comedian!!) ACTUALLY masturbated in front of numerous women. Or maybe you can’t believe that these women finally spoke out. Or worse, maybe you can’t believe that actions like his could potentially result in consequences.

I don’t speak for all women, nor would I ever attempt to, but I personally was not shocked, because I know that these things happen. And I know that oftentimes, the offender is someone you would have never expected.

You see, it’s scary being a woman every day. As girls, we learn very quickly where our place is in society, and that it’s safer and smarter to submit to the men who have power over us than to fight back or speak up. The brave women who have spoken up against their abusers over the past few months gain nothing from doing so, except for possibly allowing their perpetrators to victimize another woman.

And don’t give me that nonsense about “false accusations,” because only 2% of rape cases turn out to be false, which is no higher than any other alleged crime, according to the FBI. And if you ARE worried about facing a false accusation, why not just ensure that you’re conducting yourself in a manner that could never be misconstrued as sexual harassment? It’s not scary to be a man nowadays. Y’all still hold the majority of systemic power. It’s scary to be a sexual predator. So make your life easier by just not being one. Problem solved.

Finally, we’re being listened to. And furthermore, action is being taken against these malicious men. And if that’s not reason to rejoice, then I don’t know what is.

Frankly, if you’ve ever sexually assaulted another human being, I want you to be afraid. I want you to be looking over your shoulder all the time, anticipating a consequence that could ruin your career even, like you ruined your victim’s sense of safety.

In a perfect world, we’d identify all these perpetrators and put them behind bars so that perhaps one day, women would be free to explore their world without the constant, inhibitory fear that we could be harmed, raped, or killed at any moment by someone who can easily overpower us. Maybe one day, we can go for a jog at night, after the sun sets, and not worry about the possibility of our own 20/20 episode.

M.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.