Saturday, March 20, 2010

When I found this in The Second Sex, it was unbelievably resonant.

"At ten or twelve years of age most little girls are truly "garcons manques"-- that is to say, children who lack something of being boys. Not only do they feel it as a deprivation and an injustice, but they find that the regime to which they are condemned is unwholesome. In girls the exuberance of life is restrained, their idle vigor turns into nervousness; their too prissy occupations do not use up their super-abundant energy; they become bored, and, through boredom and to compensate for their position of inferiority, they give themselves up to gloomy and romantic daydreams; they get a taste for these easy escape mechanisms and loose their sense of reality; they yeild to their emotions with uncontrolled excitement; instead of acting, they talk, often commingling serious phrases and senseless words in hodgepodge fashion. Neglected, "misunderstood," they seek consolation in narcissistic fancies: they view themselves as romantic heroines of fiction, with self-admiration and self-pity. Quite naturally they become coquettish and stagy, these defects becoming more conspicuous at puberty. Their malaise shows itself in impatience, tantrums, tears; they enjoy crying--a taste many women retain in later years--largely because they like to play the part of victims; at once a protest against their hard lot and a way to make themselves appealing. Little girls sometimes watch themselves cry in a mirror, to double the pleasure." pp. 296-297

Beauvoir here describes one way of embracing Otherness--specifically, the way that Twilight and millions of other romance novels are about. I remember very clearly at a young age being aware that I wasn't fulfilling this obligation of femininity. I was too happy, too healthy, too energetic and independent and selfish (in the way that children are) to be worth paying attention to. Perhaps in earlier generations this embrace of victimhood was generated out of repressed activity, but for me the self-modifications formed a solitary, powerful drive: less independent, less competent, become dependent, attacked, and therefore defensible or even loveable. I remember being frustrated at how impossible it was for me to really be a victim, and therefore a heroine--the status I wanted more than anything else in the world.

I can only think promoting this paradigm does immeasurable harm. It encourages women to forsake authenticity, and in the process destroys what could have been meaningful relationships with fully developed human beings.

The fact that deep down we all know this goes on on also calls into question the status of almost any call for help. Closing a painfully rational circuit, I now experience this phenomenon simultaneously from both sides. Having long desired the role of the victim so strongly that I would have been willing to fake it, if I could*, it's difficult to sort out which things I experience because I'm trying to embrace my weak and desirable side, and which ones are genuine expressions of damage that's been done to me, needing to be addressed.

I feel guilty about my deceptive embrace of victimhood in the past, and my inclination is to assume all of my accustomed reactions are fake. They are not all fake, and--given that I am not particularly adept at understanding my reactions to trauma--I'm not sure if I ever have been fake, or if I just exaggerated.

Today I tried to listen to a podcast a friend had recommended to me. I made it twenty minutes in before it was hard to breathe. My persistent feeling is that I must be making all of this up, what I'm showing can't be any sort of real symptoms. . . sometimes I have to remind myself, this is real--you didn't decide to stop breathing. I really wanted to hear the rest of the podcast. I was not exaggerating. Moments like this remind me that a lot of it is far more real than I want to believe or admit.

The things I have objectively lived through will leave you with a decent amount of non-exaggerated shit to sort through. Recognizing that can be a mess. Honestly is important, and in general I think everyone honest with themselves knows they've done monstrous things at some point in time. If not, well. . . wait.

One day at a time.

*and in some ways I could. The waters got muddy very early on this.

edit: also, for the record, I almost never enjoy crying. . . but it has seemed. . . necessary?

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