The past five years have been about my growth and evolution. In 2013 I removed myself from an environment that taught me to cower in the shadow of powerful men. To embody everything the cult of domesticity is built on. The first eighteen years of my life taught me I needed to fix broken men. That if I could not reform libertines, their mistakes would fall upon my shoulders. These men were my responsibility.
When I removed myself from the men and the culture I had been buried beneath I found freedom. Freedom to discover myself, my power, and the power of other women. I finally embraced feminism as something more than a dirty word, rebuked by the men I had left behind. Unfortunately, the part of me so deeply rooted in my upbringing could not - perhaps still cannot - fully disconnect from these men.
In fact, I spoke with one of them near the end of last year. The conversation that ensued between us troubles me. The disappointment, confusion and even anger I feel still persists now.
In the fall (2017) I returned home for a brief visit. I found myself sitting on the dock I’d sat on many times before across from my high school friend. We both shared stories about our recent adventures. He shared about his love life and I began to share about mine - a common practice between us.
“I’m seeing someone new, a long time friend from Bellingham” I said.
“At first I wasn’t sure I wanted a relationship,” I admitted, “and he respected this. But then I went over to his apartment and we watched Tangled-”
“And you had sex” - he interrupted.
Perhaps this interjection would incite alarm to you, but for me it was normal. We felt comfortable speaking openly with one another. So, this intrusion mid-sentence was not the alarming part. We have yet to arrive at alarm.
“No we haven’t actually had sex yet, I haven’t felt comf-”
“Oh so you’re telling me he’s gay.”
Yep, there it was. “So you’re telling me he’s gay.” My friend concluded that my partner was gay because he respected my body enough to wait to have sex with me. As if this interaction couldn’t get worse, guess how I responded? I laughed it off.
I laughed off the fact that this man’s view of heteronormative masculinity revolved around taking a woman’s power away from her. In order to be considered a straight and respected man my partner needed to fuck me into oblivion, even though I wasn’t ready. And I laughed that off.
So, now you understand why this interaction still runs through my mind months later. I am frustrated that I grew up in a space that produces men with such skewed and misinformed ideals, angry that I missed an opportunity for education and growth, and livid that I didn’t stand up for myself and my body. Honestly, my partner can stand up for himself, and while my friend's comments were derogatory towards him, I felt equally cut down, as if my body, my mental health, and my right to choose meant nothing.
What haunts me most about this interaction is that even after five years of evolution, growth, self-love and empowerment I still couldn’t stand the fuck up and shout to my friend, to the world, to the men who shaped my idea of myself and of feminism, “I MATTER! I AM IN CONTROL OF MY BODY!”
Now, after reflection and conversations with my partner, and my loving support system I realize that even after years of practice and growth it is often all too easy to revert back to old habits. As I laughed off my friend's comments, and missed such an incredible opportunity for education and reclamation, I felt myself slip back into the person I used to be.
However, I know the fact that I can recognize this interaction as wildly inappropriate and unacceptable is growth in itself. And that because of my recognition I can hone in my power when I face instances like this in the future - as I have no doubt I will.
In fact, on New Years Eve I socialized with a self-proclaiming misogynist and the conversation we had is owed a post of its own. So stay tuned - still need to process that one.
I hope to continue this conversation about regression, about sinking into old habits, and how we can learn from these moments and practice self-forgiveness. I imagine you have faced situations of your own. I also imagine you have stories to share about moments where you were able to speak up and speak out. If you ever feel inspired to comment, to share, to continue the conversation together I am available. I will receive you with open arms; after all, we are wandering and wondering together (comments are enabled and you can also head over to the contact me page).
May you all be gentle with yourselves, not because you are fragile, but because even warriors deserve to be treated with ease and love.