Of Letters and Our Former Selves (25th Edition)

Dear 25 Year Old Emily,

I know you’re angry. You’re angry because you don’t understand what’s going on. Just take this chance to listen to me and I’ll do my best to explain it all.

As I told 19 year old us, he called. Right? You agreed to see him to prove a point to yourself. All that happened is you listened to him go over his life since you broke up. He bought a condo. He finally got a car. That made you angry. After all those years driving his ass around, he finally got his own car. You have a right to be angry. He’s told you all about his new girlfriend. You don’t catch her name, but you do catch the fact that he goes out of his way to point out she has red hair. Red hair just like you have red hair. You don’t miss the fact he says he came with her for her Teach for America training. You don’t really say anything because you aren’t sure what to say. This will be, as they say, the beginning of the end.

You’ll meet more boys. You’ll get more tattoos. You’ll drink like there’s no tomorrow. All that time, you’ll be angry. You’ll hate yourself because you won’t know how to stop it. I understand. There are few worse feelings than not being able to understand what’s going on in your own head. Then you’ll meet a boy. He’ll be just another one in the line. Another stamp in the passport. After you have a fight with him and find yourself drinking, once again, alone in a bar, you’ll have a thought. You’ll realize you don’t want to give up on yourself. You’ll try AA for the first time. You’ll get one of your friends to go with you. She had been angry with you before, but she agrees to help you. You’ll be grateful you have friends like her. You don’t particularly like AA, but you’re not sure what else to do. It won’t end up helping you at all, but that’s another story for another one of us.

As you get to know the boy better, he’ll start slowly pawning you off on his roommate. You’re not sure why. When you ask him to do something to help you at your new apartment or even just to hang out, there’s always an excuse. He tells you to talk to his roommate. Then, one night after the boy has gone to bed, you’ll stay up all night talking to the roommate. You’ll be more honest with him than you’ve been with anyone in a long time. You’ll find out later that you were the first one he’d been that honest with in a long time. Then, in 24 hours, things really go to hell. You’ll be fired for what you think, and I totally agree, is an unjust reason. That night will be the first night you consider killing yourself. You’ll call your sponsor. No answer. You’ll call the boy. No answer. Finally, you’ll call the roommate. You’ll ask him to come over. You won’t tell him why, just that you don’t want to be alone. He’ll come over and stay with you for most of the night. He’ll tell you no. He’s the first one to tell you no. That will stick with you. He’ll be the one to ask the right question.

He’ll walk with you to your first appointment. He’ll sit and wait for you. You’ll meet a woman who I still see today. You’ll see he’s the polar opposite of Will and that’s what you’ll love about him. He won’t force you, guilt you, or bully you into something you aren’t comfortable with. He definitely wouldn’t invite anyone to watch. He’ll be patient with you. You’ll learn to be more patient with yourself. I admit, I haven’t gotten to the point I want to be either. Patience is not our strong suit. What is our strong suit is bouncing back.

After you’re fired, you’ll look for any job. You’ll find them. It’s nothing fancy, just some seasonal work. The house you’re living in will be sold. You’ll have to move back in with our parents. You’ll be resentful and angry again. Anger is the common thread through all of this. I suppose it makes sense. Our 19 year old self was so deep in denial, it stands to reason that you would end up the angry one. You refuse to give up, though. In your mind, giving up means he won. You’ll refuse to let him win. Of all the times to care about winning and losing, this will work to your advantage. Our greatest strength may also be our greatest weakness, but right now, being stubborn is what you need right now.

I don’t hate you, even if you hate yourself right now. You’ll get better. I promise.

XOXO,
30 Year Old Emily

Of Letters and Our Former Selves

Dear 19 Year Old Emily,

Firstly, please don’t blame yourself for what I’m going to tell you. It’s not your fault. You were doing the best you could with what you had. There’s no fault in that.

He’ll be your first. You’ll be his first. He’ll be the first one to tell you that he loves you. You’ll tell him that you love him back.That’s how these things go. You’ll slowly lose everything you care about because that’s what Good Girlfriends do. Theater will be gone. Dance will be gone. Before you know it, your life will revolve around him. Then you’ll take a step back and think maybe you should end it with him. You’ll choose not to because all of your friends are dating all of his friends. You don’t want to lose your friends, so you decide to stick around. All of his friends will marry all of your friends, so you’ll lose them anyway. You’ll just lose them later than you thought. You’ll find yourself doing things you don’t want to, like drinking, because that’s what Good Girlfriends do. Good Girlfriends go along with their boyfriends because, somehow, their boyfriends know better than they do. They don’t. You’ll want to say something, but choose not to. It’s easier to not speak up. You’ll just take the drink. It’s easier to keep doing things and slowly getting used to them. You’ll forget that you didn’t really want to do them in the first place.

You won’t remember the exact date and neither do I. You will remember what happened. As usual, by that point, you’ll be mostly drunk. He’ll decide, for whatever reason, he wants one of his friends to come watch you two. At first you agree because that’s what drunk Good Girlfriends do. Then you’ll change your mind. You’ll tell him no. He doesn’t listen. He lets his friend keep watching. Instead of fighting back, you’ll just lie there. It’s easier. Don’t blame yourself for always taking the easy way out. You don’t know any better. That’s okay. You’ll fake it, just to get him off you and get his friend out of the room. To add insult to injury, his friend will tell you both that it didn’t really do anything for him. You’ll feel humiliated for no reason. There’s a word for what happens that night.

Rape.

You said stop and he refused to listen. As time goes on, you’ll start to hurt yourself. You’d gotten a few piercings here and there, but nothing terribly exotic. You figured you were in college so why not get your belly button pierced (that’s what all girls do, right?) and more piercings in your ears. The piercings will get more extreme. You’ll get your nipples pierced just out of spite. He said he didn’t like girls who had their nipples pierced. I can see now what you were trying to do, even if you can’t. You want to break up with him, but you don’t want to be the one to pull the plug. So you start doing little things like that to push him into doing it for you. Then, one morning your senior year, you’ll wake up and decide to get a tattoo. Before that day is over, you’ll have your first tattoo. Then you’ll get another. And another. And another. You’ll graduate. He’ll move back home. He doesn’t want you to be his girlfriend any more, but he still wants you to visit so that he can still prove to himself that you’re at his beck and call. Eventually, it will end. Your pain won’t. You’ll just keep hurting yourself. You’ll drink too much. You’ll sleep with anyone. You’ll get more tattoos. A part of you will know something is wrong, but you won’t be able to quite put your finger on it. Then he’ll call you.

He’ll ask you to go to lunch with him. He’s in town with his new girlfriend and wants to see if you were free. You’ll agree to go just to prove you’re “over him”. It won’t work. He’ll just tell you how great his life is now. He’ll tell you all about his new girlfriend. He’ll point out that’s she’s a redhead just like you are. He’s got the upper hand and he knows it. It will end up making things worse rather than better. I don’t blame you for trying. Again, you don’t know what else to do.

You’ll kick yourself for not having your shit together. For what it’s worth, I don’t have my shit together. I’m not perfect. I’m not who you think you’ll be when you’re my age. You think you’ll be married, just like all your friends are doing. You’ll wish you had been thrown in the pond, too. Trust me when I say that had you gone through with what you thought you wanted, you’d be divorced. I want you to know, in the end, you made the right choice. It won’t feel like it at the time. You’ll feel left out. You’ll feel like you screwed up along the way. There are days I still feel left out. Then there are the days where I question if what I’m supposed to do is what I really want to do. You scoff at me, but you’ll get there. Again, a little tiny part of you has always questioned if what is supposed to happen is really the best thing for you. You’ll do the right thing for the wrong reasons and the wrong thing for the right reasons. You and I are the same. We like to remind ourselves, even in a tiny way, that we aren’t the kind of girl (woman) who does what’s expected of us. You just take it to a little more of an extreme than I do. That’s okay. You’re still a teenager. Though there are days I still feel like a teenager, too.

I know what I’ve said is upsetting. I know what I’ve told you is more than a little hard to swallow. You’ll get through it. I promise you will. You’re smart. You’re tenacious. While what I’ve told you mostly about what you’ve lost, I want you to see what you’ve gained. I don’t want to spoil the surprises and the breakthroughs you’ll have. I know you hate surprises, but these are worth the wait.

I love you, even if you don’t.

XOXO,

30 Year Old Emily

Of 50 Shades of Beating My Head Against a Wall and Colin Firth with a bulletproof umbrella

Hello fair readers! I have not abandoned you! I have merely found this obnoxious thing called life getting in the way. 😉

Happy Valentine’s Day and not so happy 50 Shades of Grey release day. As the reviews roll in, everyone comes to the same conclusion. The movie blows and not in the fun way. The New Yorker concluded that all Mr. Grey wants is a pony. From the other side of the pond, The Guardian offers probably the most entertaining review. Warning – do not consume a beverage during reading. It will come out your nose. The Aussies also had their take and the only reason it got 2 stars instead of 1 was because one of the critics liked the soundtrack. Finally, and the coup de grace, is the stars themselves didn’t like it. Spoiler alert – Jamie Dornan admitted to taking a shower after he got home before he would hug his wife and daughter. Yeah.

However, it will still make millions of dollars because women, apparently, don’t understand the difference between abuse and romance. As a survivor, after I’m done with the satirical reviews and synopses, found it incredibly disconcerting. I had forgotten that he flat out rapes her in one scene. How is that okay?! Clue – it ain’t. Their relationship literally hits on every single indication of an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. Romance, ladies and gents, is buying your partner a gift *because you want to*, not to manipulate them into doing something they’ve previously stated they aren’t comfortable with. Romance is busting out the bubble bath with candles and rose petals if that’s their thing. It’s not mine and probably not most dudes’ things, but I don’t judge. If he wants rose petals and candles, more power to him. Abuse is doing something nice for someone else with the intent that they’ll “return the favor” regardless of their feelings on said reciprocation. Romance is doing something for your partner WITHOUT the expectation of something in return whether it’s fixing a leaky faucet or really awesome oral sex.

Naturally, I’m coming from the perspective of a straight female. The story also does men a disservice. Boys, that’s not how you treat your lady. If she says no, she means no. If she says she needs space, respect it. Be the dude who actually listens. Stalking her is not romantic. It’ll just get you a restraining order. I know most men are NOT this creepy cad, but it bears saying. Intimidation techniques should be left to the battlefield, not the bedroom.

Last fall when I was working DragonCon, there was a BDSM panel where people who were in the lifestyle talked about what it’s like, how to become part of it, etc. They flat out refused to address 50 Shades of Grey. Just because you may have been abused previously doesn’t automatically mean you become part of the lifestyle. People with standard histories can be just as into it as those who had abuse in their pasts. Ironically, BDSM relationships are some of the most sane because everyone has to know going in what’s going to happen before they start the scene AND agree to what is proposed. Depending on how hardcore it is, it could result in serious injury. One of the men spoke up saying that he had injured a partner and he felt guilty about it for weeks. There’s a level of communication that doesn’t exist in a lot of “normal” relationships. Pro tip: Whether or not your sex life involves whips and chains, talk first.

For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you’ve already heard this. For everyone who buys a ticket to this steaming turd of abuse glorifying, they should be required to donate twice the ticket price to a group which assists rape survivors and victims of domestic violence.

You can also just go see Kingsman. It involves Colin Firth using a bulletproof umbrella.  Samuel L. Jackson does an excellent job as a riff on a traditional Bond villain. Boy and I got to see an advance screening and it’s SO GOOD. Run, don’t walk to support well hidden weapons and an evil tech genius. It’s all the soul bleach you’ll need.

XOXO!

Of pissing people off and tales of a reformed people pleaser

You’re always going to piss someone off.

Said something negative about religion or faith in front of someone who is a devout [insert faith here]? They’re pissed. Posted on Facebook about how cats are better than dogs? Yup, someone just got pissed off. Then there’s the cream of the crop. “It’s okay if I say it, but not okay if you say it” a la “nigga” and “fag”. You see that line? You totally crossed it. And someone took it as a personal affront. Here’s a relevant example from my own life.

If you watch Game of Thrones and haven’t seen the episode from last week, stop here. Spoilers there be. There has been much made about a particular scene that amounted to rape. Everyone started screaming about how it was glorifying rape, not advancing the plot, etc. People who know my history inevitably wanted my 2 cents. Given the fictitious world in which this occurred, I’m not surprised. There’s a reason he’s referred to as “George Rape Rape Martin”. The scene itself didn’t cause flashbacks or anxiety. What bothered me was people getting pissed on my behalf. Why was I not bothered by it? I’m a rape survivor, therefore I should be crying from the rooftops “how dare they!”. The only reason the scene surprised me was they’d been setting up Jamie to redeem himself and this came as a sharp U-turn. He’s certainly not the only male character guilty of some iteration of rape as the currently legal definition stands. Theon, I’m looking at you. Full disclosure, I haven’t read the books. I have no intention of reading the books. From what I understand, some of the female characters have been made older so you’re not staring at statutory rape every other scene.

For people who haven’t let go of their sexual assault, I totally understand how this scene, or the entire show, could be traumatic. As for me, it’s an hour of bawdy, bloody entertainment. It goes away when I turn off the TV. There’s no need to be angry on my behalf over something that no longer controls me. Get angry because someone intentionally hurt your feelings. While I appreciate the thought, leave it to me to get angry about my own life.

If I’ve pissed you off at any point while writing this blog, awesome. It gave you a chance to stop and think about your own views for a second. I’m not in this to please the masses. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. If I haven’t pissed you off, give it time. I’m sure it’ll happen sooner or later.

XOXO!

P.S. Dad still in hospital, but up, moving around, and feeling good enough to complain. I’ll take it.

Of monsters and men

Five years ago, I never thought I’d say this. In writing. On the Internet.

He’s not a monster. He never was.

It’s all too easy to paint someone as an inhuman caricature. It’s all too easy to use that as a dumping ground for everything that’s gone wrong or hurt or upset me over the past decade. I read something about forgiveness recently that made me stop. Realize that person is still a person with faults, thoughts, feelings, good sides, and bad sides. Monsters, as it were, are few and far between. I’ll never know what was going through his head all those years. I’ll never know if he knew what he was doing. What I do know is he’s human, too. I’m certainly no saint. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t give me free rein to lay every bad thing that’s happened to me, or that I’ve done since then, at his door. That’s my responsibility to clean up what needs cleaning up and dumping out what can stay in the trash. I don’t have the right to point at him and say “He’s the reason I don’t like cartoons! He’s the reason I’m covered in all these tattoos!”. I don’t like the way it makes me look or feel. It’s worlds easier to point at someone else rather than say “Yup, I screwed this one up,” or “No, that’s just not my bag,”. It’s finally seeing a picture of yourself in the baggy sweatpants, messy bun, & old sneakers in public and realizing what the rest of the world is seeing. Then it’s getting off your ass, washing your hair, putting on clothes that fit, and walking out of the house knowing you look like a completely different person. I don’t know about you, fair readers, but I would much rather be seen in public looking fabulous.

When all this occurred to me last night while I was falling asleep, I felt nothing. As strange as it sounds, I didn’t feel a sense of relief or a deep gut reaction. Maybe this is what real peace feels like. It doesn’t provoke a strong reaction either way. It just is. I forgive him for having his faults and making very poor choices when we were young. I forgive myself for hanging on to something so horribly broken, I cut myself in the process.

Just like yesterday, another small step. A small step that when I look behind me has left a trail of hundreds of miles.

XOXO!