Boys Will Be Boys
I've mentioned previously that my feelings about people, in general, have undergone significant change in the past year. Although I find it difficult to understand, it seems that I've spent most of my life building walls around myself. Even Darrin has never been able to get through all of them--until this year. For the first time in my life I've finally felt safe enough to allow my husband to connect with me completely. That sounds very pathetic, but truthfully, this is the first time in my life that I've finally accepted the fact that he doesn't want to leave, that he enjoys being with me, and wants that to continue. I wish I could have understood that years ago, but I'm realizing that some other things had to happen before I could reach that level of understanding.
Darrin is the only man who has ever accepted every part of me. This is an unfair statement to make about men, in general, because Darrin is also the only man who has actually known everything about me. Given that he's my husband, I think it's appropriate that he's given that privilege. But my belief that he would not accept me, ever, is based on my perception of how the general population of men views me. That perception has evolved through experiential information received over many years, but actually beginning with the first time a man tried to molest me.
I was seven. The man was mentally impaired (which doesn't necessarily excuse the behavior, but does explain it a bit). He followed me into a women's restroom at the church and undressed and fondled me. Result: I was outraged and scared out of my mind. I developed a pathological and very stupid fear of public restrooms (especially church ones, which all have a weird, distinctive smell), and a huge fear of men. When I reported the event to my father, he became openly angry, sat me on a chair and told me to stay there, and left. Result: I thought somehow I was the reason he was angry. I thought I was being punished. I developed the belief that I was responsible for any situation similar to this one, and my trust in men diminished more because what I wanted was for my father to hold me and physically protect me. Instead he went to beat up the guy who molested me--but he didn't tell me that. All I knew was that I had been violated and scared, and then left alone.
Subsequent abuse from my cousin left me feeling angry and resentful. I had open disdain for men and boys, but truthfully, it was directed at myself because I believed (and I still have difficulty combatting this belief) that I was ultimately responsible for all that happened to me. Some men managed to get through the walls I erected, by acting in ways that surprised me and forcing me to re-evaluate my preconceived notions, but these were perceived as exceptions to the rule. This was backed up by those men who felt it their privilege to grab my behind in a public setting, whistle or catcall, or simply look at me longer than was necessary (those looks lingering in places that did not include my face). Compliments on my looks were received as demeaning to me. It often became imperative for me to prove to certain men that no matter how smart they were, my intellect was greater--for the sole purpose of maintaining that I was a person, not an object. Again, ultimately, I believe I was trying to prove this to myself even more than the male population.
Two years ago I got to know Sully. This was a terrifying thing for me, because when we started meeting one-on-one for piano lessons, he was the same age as my cousin when I was molested by him. I have no idea if Sully knows that I was afraid of him, but I was very frightened. But within a few weeks I felt that I had met an old friend, and I felt a love and friendship for him that I had not felt for anyone for a very long time. It was strange and uncomfortable for me professionally and personally. By the time I asked him to come talk to me about the problems that were causing him pain (one year later), I loved him enough to disregard any fears and to allow him to know personal facts about me that I hoped would help him find comfort and eventually, peace. I have always felt love for people of both genders, but disqualified any affection a man might express to me (Darrin excepted, of course, but he's married to me--he has to love me). With Sully, for the first time, I started to believe that people of the male persuasion might actually have real, wholesome feelings of affection toward me. This opened up a whole new world for me.
Because he is the type of person that he is, Sully helped me understand the following things:
1. Not all men, especially young men, want to hurt me.
2. Some men can and will treat me with respect.
3. It's good to love men and express that love.
4. Some men really can be trusted.
5. I cannot judge all male people based on my past experiences which are not typical nor normal.
6. Men can actually be sympathetic, gentle, kind, forgiving, loving, and comforting. I truthfully believed that the only men in the world like that were Darrin and my high school friend, C.
I don't know if Sully understands how much he helped me, simply by being the person he is. I don't think he went out of his way to prove any of that to me. I was able to reach those conclusions by observing Sully in his interactions with me and with others, and also through the deeply personal communications we had over the subsequent months.
However, it didn't stop there. By June I had encountered many men who showed interest in and care for me. Ward Cleaver started the ball rolling. For about two months he was my sole blog buddy. He was compassionate and loving, as well as giving some really helpful advice and support. And he was a good friend. He has since disappeared, as is the way in in blogland, and I miss him, but he was another who helped me in many ways to understand that I can form healthy relationships with men.
Elbow ushered me into a social circle that actually became my relationships Petri dish. Because of his blog entry which spotlighted me, against all odds, I suddenly started receiving more interest than I ever wanted. I had been perfectly happy with my monogamous blog-friendship with Ward, but now I had many visitors, almost exclusively male. Not only that, but they were kind and concerned, to my surprise. Friendships began to form in the most unlikely circumstances. Ward and I were close to the same age (he was a few years older), but suddenly I was talking with young men more often than not. It was a rather bizarre development. Comments and email developed into online chats. Occasional phone calls developed into more frequent ones. I met with many of those I had gotten to know online, and felt a huge desire to meet with many that were too far away. Suddenly, my trend of having no friendships with men had become non-existant.
There are a few factors which I believe are crucial in this developement:
1. Of the men I have had contact with in this venue, almost all are gay. I believe two or three are not.
2. This negates my fear that I can be physically abused or hurt by them. It's just not going to happen.
3. Because of the circumstances under which we've met, these men know much about me that no others do--and vice versa. This allows a familiarity and acceptance that doesn't always exist in first meetings.
The amazing thing to me is that several of these friendships have now been ongoing for much longer than I've ever allowed most friendships to continue--and in a much more personal vein. the first people I contacted were Jason and Smurf, in April. I met Smurf in September--and have yet to meet Jason, although we have plans to go skydiving at a later date (The Great -L- will join us if he doesn't chicken out. Jason and I have even promised to fast and pray for safety and -L- is still waffling. But I want him to come, so I hope he will...). I subsequently had the opportunity to meet others, among whom were Tito, German, Silus, Kim, Pinetree, El Veneno, Naked Native, Carrot, and of course, the Most Attractive AtP. More recently, I've had the privilege of frequent dialogue with Tolkien Boy, whom I met a couple of months ago, and who helped me through my bout with nightmares over the past few months. The truth is that in an odd and amazing way, getting to know these men, and fostering friendships with them has changed me.
The change actually began with The Great -L-, who invited me to call and talk to him at a time when I was really in need of some support. My eating disorder was escalating and I was completely frustrated. The phone call was unusual and a little awkward, because I thought he was going to play doctor and tell me I was stupid for having an eating disorder in the first place. Instead, he was compassionate, helpful, and kind. I hung up the phone feeling that somewhere, someone was concerned for me--and that someone was male. Darrin was amazed that I had called in the first place (so was I), but happy that I'd stepped out of my comfort zone and that it had been an extremely positive experience. From there, my personal contact with others increased as I deconstructed many walls, and re-evaluated my judgments of men.
Okay, I think I've either made my point, or I've completely missed it. However, I've meandered enough, and it's time to wrap this post up. I'm going to see AtP next week, because I love his guts and he makes me laugh. If TB can stop worrying about it long enough to be decisive and make his airline reservations, I'm planning to see him for longer than an hour, as well. If not, we'll just have to continue our ongoing conversation through chat (even though his computer hates me) and phone (even though his phone wants to die). I also want to catch a few others, if possible (and if you want to see me, let me know), and I just want to point out that this would never have happened a year ago. Not ever. I wouldn't even have considered it.
One last thing. I want to see my cousin, David. I don't know why. I'm going to ask Therapist for his ideas about it, but I'm feeling more and more compelled to see David face-to-face. I don't want to accuse him. I don't want to hurt him. I don't want to talk about what he did to me. I just want to look at him, to talk to him. Maybe we'll go get lunch together next week.