Friday, March 2, 2012

Some Women are Bitches, Some are the Best Thing That Could Ever Happen to You

When I was in high school, I had two very close female friends. At the time, I was very sheltered. I lived in a small town and I was something of a pariah. I didn't fit in anywhere, so when I found a niche, I clung.

One of my friends was very sweet. She wouldn't harm a fly, but she had a bad habit of attention-seeking. It sounds benign, but every boy was fair game, and any tactics were fair game. As she grew into herself, she found that many guys paid special attention to her when she acted in a seductive or teasing manner. She developed a system in which she had two camps of guys: in one, she concentrated all of her booty calls and boyfriends. They fit the archetype of young, attractive, immature asshole and fulfilled all of her sexual desires. In the other camp, she concentrated all of her puppy dogs; the friendzoners. The genuinely good but naive guys whom she would go to when she needed help, support, and a shoulder to cry on, but whom she would never ever consider dating.

Our friendship ended when I started dating one of her puppy dogs and she tried to win back his attention with seductive and teasing behavior.

My other friend was like a jolly rancher: sweet and sour. She would come running if I needed her, but if I upset her, or strained her, even in the slightest way, she would go into pacifistic hate mode and tell everyone but me how upset she was and what a horrible person I was. She did this with all of her intimates. She was also very dishonest. If something happened, she would go to great lengths to ensure that everyone still liked her, often destroying the reputation of the other person in the process.

Our friendship ended when she told me something I wasn't supposed to hear, and I mistakenly took that something to another person. She made sure that everyone we both knew hated me.

I had two dishonest, emotionally unstable, supremely flaky friends who shaped my entire teenage existence and, consequently, my view of women in general. After I stopped talking to them, I avoided getting close to any women. I was afraid of them; afriad of their spite, their sensitivity, their gossip games, yet I still craved their companionship. I became bitter towards my own gender, torn between hate and longing, falling right into that cycle of girl hate that I disapproved of so passionately. I developed an outer shell of anger and disdain to hide both my scars and my desire to be close to women.

Time heals all wounds, though, and after about a year and a half of avoiding any female intimacy, my desire to have female friends became more persistent than my desire to protect myself and I began to creep out of my shell. It was a slow, tentative process until my longtime boyfriend and I broke up. I was heartbroken, and you know what? All of the women who I was afraid of being close to came rushing to my side, nurturing me, offering endless wells of love and support. They broke down my walls and reached to the very core of me, not once showing spite, selfishness, or jealousy; only compassion.

You see, this is what I believe to be the core of womanhood: love, compassion, and nurturing support. I had never experienced the joy of a woman's uninhibited friendship until I broke away from my bad friends and met real women.

I still run into cattiness, and I'm afriad to say that it seems to be the more prevalent behavior among females, but now I know how to filter out the catty ones and find the gems that are truly worth caring about. Ladies, seek out the lovers. Find women who show support and are willing to stand in solidarity with you, and avoid  the ones who try to engage you in their catty games. Don't assume that every girl is a bitch just because some are. There are women out there who will do their best to tear you down, but there are plenty that make you feel like a new person with no thought for themselves.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Change a Heart, and How not to Change a Heart

When I was seventeen, I fell in love with a broken person. You see, I was ostracized as a teenager. I didn't fit in, few people liked me, and the ones that did were not the best friends a person could have. You could have called me socially awkward and insecure, but that would be an understatement. I fell in love with him because he was one of the few people who would give me any attention as a girl.

We began as friends. He had graduated from my high school a year before me, and when he got to college he was in the throes of a major depressive episode. He was not a very popular person himself, he had a reputation for not treating people very well, and I believe he reached out to me because I was the only person who knew little enough of him to give him a chance.

We talked almost every night, for hours, sharing our innermost secrets and fears. After roughly 6 months, we began to express physical affection, although he never asked me to be with him. During that time of being close to him, I began to heal. I began to understand that High School is just a nasty place to be, no matter who you are, and I happened to be one of the less fortunate who was not gifted with a family capable of socializing me properly. He, however, did not heal. His wounds ran much deeper than mine ever did.

Being the naive girl that I was, I stood by his side, thinking that he was just a little bit behind and all he needed was a supportive friend. My social insecurtiy had all but subsided, but my personal and relationship insecurity was still alive and well. I still didn't understand that I was not only likeable, but desireable. I was trying to "change" him because I thought that I had little chance of finding another partner. Needless to say, it didn't work.

After a few more months, he revelaed to me that he was in love with somebody else, someone who was just like him, broken and lost. You see, I had begun to challenge his behavior and opinions in an effort to make him understand himself, and he didn't like that. He just wanted to wallow. I was heartbroken, all that effort and emotional energy, all those hopes, down the drain. As I ruminated, I came to the conclusion that I had been what psychologists would call an "enabler," which means that I supported his undesirable behavior, and he fed off of my support because it meant that he didn't have to change it.

This is years gone now, but it taught me a few key lessons:

1. You can't change a person who doesn't want to change. It doesnt matter if it's something as benign as a proclivity for wallowing or as malignant as abuse or drug addiction.

2. You shouldn't try to change a person for your own means. First of all, your emotional investment taints whatever guidance you may give them. Second of all, it's really only a good deed if it's done for their benefit.

3. If you want to change someone, you do want to empathize, but you do not want to empathize so much that you get caught up in their problems. You lose any control you have over the situation.

Monday, February 20, 2012

How I Learned About Abuse

When I was nineteen, I was kicked out of my mother's house. At the time, I understood abuse as hitting or raping; I didn't know that such a thing as emotional abuse occured, or that it could be just as damaging as the physical or sexual varieties. I didn't know that my childhood home was abusive, and I didn't know that abuse could rear its head in so many different ways.

Very soon after I was kicked out, I met Allen. He seemed beautiful to me, in every way. We got very close very fast, and within a matter of weeks, began a romantic relationship. To avoid a bad living situation, I spent more and more nights at his house. Soon, I was spending whole weeks there without once going home. After a few months, we decided to get an apartment together, but I had to move between states on a low income. I remained on the lease with my bad roommates to keep my vehicle legal while I worked to fund the repairs for state inspection, and was unable pay for rent at Allen's house during that time.

I should take a minor break and tell you that I believed myself to be a strong woman. I thought I knew what abuse was all about. I knew all the facts: abused people abuse others, women who are abused as children are much more likely than their unabused counterparts to be caught in the same cycle. I remember hearing about the incident with Rhianna and Chris Brown, and I remember thinking "That will never happen to me." I understood that my best friend was caught in a cycle of abuse, but I had no clue that that was exactly what was happening to me.

You see, as time passed, Allen slowly caught me up in that same vicious abuse cycle. It began with little things. Rude comments made in a temper fit, easily justifed by his "bad mood." Those comments got worse, especially when I lost 20 hours a week at my job and lost my car, and had to rely on him completely. He blamed it on stress. He told me I was a loser, he told me that I had a million problems; that I was a workload and a codependent. He told me that I was broken, and that I always had been, and only he could fix me. I never questioned him. I believed him.

In the span of a year, he stole my confidence, my self-esteem, and my self-reliance. He removed me from my position of stability and put me in a position where I had nothing to give to myself, emotionally or economically. I was trapped.

Then, one night, after the only fight in which I held my ground, he did what he had never done before and started carting my possessions down to the street. He said, "you don't live here, your name is not on the lease, you need to leave or I'm calling the police." I wouldn't bow down to him, and so he tried to force me. I left, I found myself a one-bedroom apartment, and began with nothing, not even a bed.

I stayed with him for another year, enduring the same emotional turmoil because I loved him and because I didn't believe I was worth a better person. Then, one night, we had another fight on the scale of the one in which he kicked me out. I stood my ground, he became enraged. I tried to leave him then, but he begged me to stay. A week after that, in a "stressful" situation, he chose to kick me out of his car on a dark, cold, rainy night, miles from the nearest town. He did swing back around to pick me up, but I demanded to be taken home, and he said "If you ruin this night, I'll never speak to you again." I said: "That's fine." and never looked back.

Right now, I'm working on a degree in psychology. I plan on taking it all the way up to the Master's level so that I can practice psychotherapy. I'm still poor, but I have resources and connections now that I never would have considered when Aaron was my entire reality. I have goals, I have dreams, I have self-reliance. I know people whose only agenda for their partner is to protect and love them. I also believe in myself, I discovered the vast potential within me that exists in every human being, something that I always knew existed in others but forgot existed within me.

What did I learn about abuse?

Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical or sexual, albeit in different ways, and is often more dangerous because of its subtlety. It can happen to anybody, even the smartest, strongest person in the world.

Abusers don't abuse you because there's something wrong with you. Something inside of them is broken, and you can't fix it. They may blame you for it all the time, but that doesn't make it your fault, or your responsibility.

What did I learn about myself and my relationships?

1. Never let another person make you believe you are broken and they can fix you. Your faults are your responsibility, and only you can be your savior.

2. Never let another person define your mistakes or imperfections for you. What you like about yourself and what you don't like about yourself are up to you to decide, no other person has that right.

3. Know that a person who's worthy of your love will protect you and love you with all their heart, that they will never trap you, and if they do hurt you, they will shake the world to make it better.

4. Know that you, yes, little old you, are a gift to the whole world. You are not a workload, a project, a security blanket, or a sidekick, and nobody should ever make you feel that way.

You have it within you to move mountians and boil seas. I seem to recall a saying about people being "frightfully and wonderfully made." Love yourself for what you give to the world, and don't let anyone make you think that it's out of your reach or that you don't deserve it.