Calloused

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

I’m in emotional turmoil ūüôā

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.

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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.

 

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.

Progression

According to WordPress, I’ve been at this blogging thing for 3 years now.

But the “I” who started this blog hardly even remotely resembles the “I” who sits behind the keyboard now.

DownWithTheNorm was founded by an 18-year-old girl during the spark of her *formal* feminist awakening. That girl was fiery, angry, confused, and determined to fix the world. Misogyny was her only foe, and she was vigilant and determined to take him down, and took every opportunity to bare her teeth in the face of opposition.

But, as with all sparks, hers was extinguished.

Gradually, she let her inquiring mind guide her as she learned more and more about the world; how it probably works, and how it most likely doesn’t. She developed an air of cynicism, and became understandably tired of fighting the good fight. Others grew tired, bored, annoyed, or a combination of the three of her persistent, yet non-refreshing wordy posts on social media that accomplished nothing but a temporary emotional relief for our young author.

She did her best to keep her mind open, while simultaneously drawing her own independent conclusions. Especially in the context of her religion.

She spent a short duration as a walking contradiction; trying to force her newly acquired world views into a mold that simply would not fit. She wanted to be the change from within, but that resulted in her being pushed out.  She lost friends, but she gained an identity that she felt comfortable in. An authentic lifestyle was drawing nearer and nearer, but exponentially more solitary.

This girl was anxious-so much so that she couldn’t bare to even hold still even for a minute. Sleep was just a five-letter word. She had to be the fastest, the best, the smartest, and the skinniest always. And she was failing miserably at all of it.

But, breaking down turns into breaking through, if you let it.

The girl behind the keyboard is an enhanced version of the girl from 3 years ago.

I’ve had so many experiences that have shaped me into who I am now, whether that be for the better or not. I’m not the girl with the eating disorder anymore. I’m the girl who maybe spends too much time thinking about food and not enough time about breathing, and probably uses her bathroom scale more often than the average joe. And binges on breakfast cereal once in a blue moon. Oh, and HATES going to the gym.

I’m not the Mormon Feminist Anomaly anymore. I’m simply the feminist woman-person who believes that whether or not there is an afterlife is irrelevant. What really matters is that there are plenty of opportunities for me to develop and enhance as many interpersonal relationships as I possibly can during the time that I am allotted here. I believe that this life isn’t a test at all. Rather, it’s an opportunity to develop oneself to the fullest extent possible, and perhaps find an individualistic sense of happiness while we’re at it; whatever that looks like.

And for all of you looking to slap a label on me (because that’s what people do-no judgment), you can call me an Agnostic. Like I said, I’m not looking to shut out any possibilities completely.

I love tattoos, science, coffee, wine, and angry heathen misogyny-laden rap music. And I let myself love these things, because this is MY human experience. And what I choose to drink, put on my body, or listen to, does NOT make me a bad person, contrary to what I was led to believe growing up with religion

I’m not anxious anymore. Through the process of extensive trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a path that suits me. I got a job that makes me excited to wake up in the morning. I have a degree of self-sustainability that I never have had before. I feel liberated and powerful and in control. Rather than planning for my future, I’m actively taking steps toward living it, and I’m doing it calmly, mindfully, and relatively maturely.

As far as interpersonal relationships go, I’ve made strides toward getting out of my own way. I’m still a bit more self-isolating than I’d like to be, but baby steps are the name of the game. I can let loose now, and go out with friends once or twice a week. Hell, sometimes even on a school night! Because, as I mentioned beforehand, in the grand scheme of things, people are what matter. Yeah, going to bed early so I can bring my A game to school and work is important, but so is making time for those I care about. It’s all about balance.

I breathe easy, sleep easy, and am patient and engaged in every moment, which is much more than I could have ever said 3 years ago. I know I’m no sage of wisdom, and that I have much more developing, improvement, and revision to do, but I genuinely like the direction¬†I’m heading.

Documenting my experiences over the past 3 years has been truly enriching for me, and hopefully at least mildly entertaining for you! I genuinely appreciate anyone who has ever and will ever take the time to read anything that I write.

Here’s to 3 more years!

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Didactic

Two evenings ago, I terminated my relationship with a boy I spent the better part of 2016 with.

I see you, behind your computer screen, rolling your eyes in annoyance, expecting a lengthy rant of a post authored by a dramatic and heartbroken twenty-something. Well calm down, Nancy. (As my ex would say). I’m not THAT predictable.

I had my reasons for cutting ties, but just a week before I did this, I was thoroughly convinced that he was “the one.”

It took four days of separation from him for me to finally admit that our relationship was far from healthy. Don’t get me wrong, our good times were good. And I miss when things were good, a lot. But at what cost? Because our bad times, well, they were BAD.

During these four days that I had minimal involvement in our courtship, I came to realize that I was losing myself by trying to make things work with him. He has a very dominant personality, and I am vulnerable, and admittedly a little naive, despite my fiery ambition and feminist mindset. If I continued to be with him, eventually that flame would be extinguished, and I would be stuck. The things that it took to make him happy hurt me, and up until that point, I thought that for some reason, I owed it to him.

He liked to play mind games with me, and get me really riled up “just to see how I’d react.” He’d check out hot chicks in the supermarket parking lot for 2+ minutes, while I exasperatedly waited for him to get in my car. He’d tell me that I was naive and assumed that he always knew better.

These were painful things to experience from someone who had countlessly claimed that he loved me.

The breakup was painful, and despite how hard things were when I was with him, adjusting to being alone again has been nothing short of difficult. But I have purged myself of material representations of our relationship, and am ready for a fresh start.

“Everything happens for a reason” was one of his most frequently employed mantras. Though I was never completely convinced that this is the case, I do believe that breaking things off with him inevitably needed to happen. It took this entire experience for me to re-focus on what I want for myself and my life, and I now feel empowered to dive head-first into exactly the life that I want for myself, with or without a significant other.

I’m one of the lucky ones with a kick-ass support system that has been there for me unconditionally, and has done everything they can to ensure my wellbeing, and for that I am extremely grateful.

I’ve learned from him that I am strong and powerful and in control of myself. I am the only one who knows what’s best for me. And the only people who belong in my life are the ones who make me feel empowered. And that, my friends, is something that I require.

So that’s where I’m at.

M.

 

Irascibility

I thought I was over my self-proclaimed “angry feminist” phase. Boy was I wrong.

I am a sucker for a good podcast, and I scrolled upon one this morning featuring the topic of feminism, which naturally peaked my interest. The discussion participants included a male host, and a male¬†political science¬†professor at a notoriously problematic university (I won’t name names, but this particular university¬†can’t make it into the¬†Big 12 due to their some fundamental, problematic issues in the way they run their institution). You can listen to this podcast for yourself here.

Anywho, I was expecting this professor to advocate for feminism, and to support the progression of gender equality within society. You can probably guess from the title of this post that this was not the case. This political science professor spent his allotted interview time defending traditional gender roles. The take-away message he presented was that perhaps some of the things that feminists have (and will) accomplish are categorically good things, but come at a devastating cost to society.

Professor Bigot’s argument was that yes, women should obtain Bachelor’s degrees,¬†in agreement¬†with the counsel provided by¬†the leaders of his church. However, if women choose to continue on to develop themselves academically, they are delaying childbirth, and neglecting to fulfill their divine roles in the home, even if¬†they¬†have no¬†desire to become a housewife. He feels that¬†a woman should spend the “prime of her life” reproducing and¬†raising the resulting offspring.¬†Ring, ring, the 1950’s called. They want their¬†societal norms¬†back.

He then later in the interview expressed that if it were his daughter that had a more “brainy” predisposition, he would support her in cultivating her fullest potential(presumably after she’d taken full advantage of her child-baring years).

This professor, full of contradictions, argued that one of the many problems with feminism is that feminists view women who choose to be housewives as inferior, and this makes housewives feel unfulfilled and consequently unhappy with their decision to become housewives in the first place. To the contrary, the feminism that I’ve come to¬†advocates a woman’s right to choose for herself what her life will look like, whether that be a life of motherhood and domesticity, or that of scholarly study and professional¬†development, or anything in between.

Because this man obviously knows what the female experience is like, he explained that women who devote their prime years to academia and professional spheres tend to experience a crisis at age 30 because they did not devote themselves to motherhood when they had the chance.

However, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that perhaps it’s the ones who did not pursue their interests because they felt obligated to give up what they really wanted out of their lives to set aside their desires and dreams to adhere to traditional gender roles. Multiple women that I know personally have shared with me that once they become empty nesters, they feel a sort of crisis in which their primary role as a mother has been fulfilled, and she is presented with this newfound free time in which she begins to contemplate the “what if’s” and feel remorse for not choosing an alternate path.

That, my friends, is my worst nightmare.

Now, let me make one thing VERY clear. I have no objections to a woman who willingly chooses to abide by traditional gender roles, so long as it is a conscious choice, made after years of serious contemplation. Additionally, I am the biggest advocate of education for all genders. This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about, perhaps due in part to growing up in a community where traditionalism was emphasized, and nonconformity was regarded as disobedience.

I have not been this upset in well over a year about the issue of gender roles, but this podcast tore open some wounds that I thought I’d partially mended.

I guess what it comes down to is the issue of control and power. I refuse to allow anyone, especially men, impose their myopic worldviews and values on the lives of women. Men of this type seem to think that they are entitled to control the opposite sex, and that their opinion on what women should be doing with their lives is somehow significant.

If you think about it, societal norms were implemented by men, and for men. I’m no history expert, but I am not aware of an active form of consent to traditional gender roles by women. Nobody asked us what we want for ourselves, they told us. And that makes me physically ill.

I will not be controlled by anything or anyone. The only thing dictating my life is my own cognitions. Women, what you want out of your life matters. In fact, what you want out of life should be your priority. We only get one shot at life, and there is simply no time for regret.

My views on feminism can be summed in one simple statement: Everyone deserves to live authentically and everyone else should mind their own damn business.

Enough¬†with the pressure to conform to some silly, arbitrary role. This burning anger I’m experiencing this morning has revamped my drive for accomplishing my academic and career goals, none of which include any kind of adherence to a “predisposed” role that some have decided is a one-size-fits-all, but in reality has no consideration for individual differences.

I typed this entire post with shaking hands and burning cheeks, and my first draft had a much more colorful vocabulary, which I have censored for the children.

I know I’ve beat a dead horse here, but until society eases up on dictating peoples’ life decisions, I will not be at peace.

Down With The Norm, indeed.

M.