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?

Thursday, March 18, 2010


"Honestly, it turned my stomach when you mentioned that you'd thought about blowing things up," he said, turning towards me in the darkness of the car.

"It should." My answer was easy and fast. "If it doesn't turn your stomach, then you've lost something. . . something that's important to have."

I thought about the girl, abused, intentionally isolated, eleven years old and peeling away her own skin under quality professional care.

I have lost something.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To me, Pan's Laborynth remembers the beginning; grainy and heartbreaking, jutting ribcage and sprawling lanky body next to mine, you emanating anger and a broken future to match the past, everything fragile and new. I would have found it someday, but I found it in you, in scrappy strength and Guinness and outspoken angry dreams. I felt impossibly safer and more free. All the heavy dark was an almost easy price.

And now, no borrowed faith. Over. I remember how you were more real than anyone I had ever met.; now I am a person, I am real, I am more than a sophisticated toy. Now, for myself. You were right--it's exhausting--it's better--it hurts--it's exhausting.

Bad faith is hypnotically easy.
Honesty is hard to come by.

I will show you how I hurt you, and you will do whatever you want
which will not fix it
because the time is past
and there is nothing we can do
and this is what it means to be alive.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

People say all sorts of things about just accepting where you are, becoming happy with your lot in life, joy in the journey, all of that. I think sometimes it's wrong. You can't layer sand over toxic waste and make a perfect beach.

It can be beautiful sand, the really fine stuff that feels like liquid velvet between your toes. You can lay in it and feel the waves crash over you gently in the shallows. You can appreciate it with every fiber of your being. That stuff that's trying to kill you will still seep up between the grains and be everywhere, all the time, impossible to wish away.

Toxic waste cleanup is expensive.

Also, God forbid we should talk about it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Today I came home hungry and tired and sad. I ate food, tried to take a nap, and discovered I was still cold, hungry, sad. At least I'm getting better at keeping track.

I've been thinking a lot about this idea of getting my own social needs met. . . like, what exactly are my social needs? And in an ideal world, the things I'd want from friends are about this:

-Real conversations with people who actually want to talk to me, and can talk about both social/emotional things and cool other stuff (literature, music, philosophy, politics, electronics, economics, etc.). I think on average I'd want this to total at least a few hours a day, but I'm happy for much more if it's intellectually productive. I'd like these to be people who I talk to often enough that we sort of know what's going on in each other's lives. I'd like them to be able to deal with me being depressed or otherwise crazy (when I am) and willing to act as support network for this. Hopefully the need would be very rare.

-Good feedback on the stuff that we talk about, social, emotional, and otherwise.

-Depression support is: sometimes shoulder to cry on, sometimes normal conversation even though I am upset, sometimes someone to help be a problem solver, sometimes listening ear, and always a safety net. Also--when I say safety net, I mean, I want there to be people who would know and care if I were getting close to falling off a cliff, even the sort of cliff that wouldn't leave me physically injured.

-Good company for quiet things, sometimes, maybe twice a week or a bit more; probably cooking, eating, doing housework, or watching each other do hand-work of some kind while talking or reading--maybe followed by a movie on the couch. This particular thing is nice because it can sometimes save a lot of time for the person being visited. I like visiting people like this, but I would like it to sometimes be reciprocal.

-At least two or three good hugs a day, from people who actually want to hug me, and not from children. Diversity in timing and huggers is preferable. (I love child hugs, but they are different, and I've extremely affectionate nieflings.)

-People to go out with occasionally and do fun, expensive (in my budget) things--like eat out, go to concerts, etc. This one I don't have trouble finding, though honestly, I also sort of enjoy going places alone.

-Introductions to new interesting people with some sort of reasonable frequency. For this, I'll need at least one or two friends who are way more social than I am.

-Other assorted social goodness: crazy midnight adventures, backpacking trips, swing dancing, back massages, making music and other things together, showing up to each other's important events, road trips, and whatever else seems like a good idea at the time.

There are several encouraging things about this, especially to notice that they are basically all things I can do reasonably well in return, even if I am less entertaining and socially appropriate.

Also; I sometimes get the feeling of adequate conversation from some philosophy classes. Awesomeness.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some of the people who have hurt me worst are very hard to get mad at. You say anything to them about what they've done wrong, and they collapse inward into violent paroxysms of guilt.

This is difficult. It feels like they can't or won't face the consequences of their actions. . . but I still have to. Some part of me really wants to hurt them, but yelling at them to try and make them understand would be like kicking a puppy; monstrous, horrifying, and not at all useful. In the slightest. To anyone.

I think anger is useful. It seems there are two good responses to it. If anger is telling you about something that ought to be changed, change it if you can. That's what anger is for, to fuel battles, to keep you awake and strong and make you remember what you fight for.

If it is impossible to change--there is only to mourn what you've lost.