I’m surprisingly good at hiding my feelings and pretending things are okay. Especially when I am overwhelmed with emotion or fear. When my father died on Christmas Eve, I pulled the turkey out of the oven and served dinner to our guests. When I worked as a nurse, I could look at terrible wounds and smell terrible smells without moving an eyelid. When people threatened me on home visits, I talked my way out of the situation. When I was assaulted, I walked the man out of my apartment and said goodbye.
It’s like I freeze a part of me inside. I feel a little bit like the main character in Pat Barker’s excellent Life Class – covered over with a surgical glove, protected, safe. But numb. Not really present.
Sometimes I wonder if my MS numbness is really from the demyelination of nerves or from the reaction of my body to shocks. I’ve had a few of those. I’m sick of them.
Last week was one. The testimonies before the supreme court committee; the repetition of stories of assault; the horrible feeling when Dr. Ford recounted the laughter she still remembered; the comments by so many that she shouldn’t have waited to report, that she was obviously wanting to take a strong man down…
It, and much of the #MeToo movement is like a slap in the face. I imagine most women have been in situations where they’ve felt the need to fake it and make nice, just to end the situation intact, unhurt (relatively speaking), and get out of there. I can’t tell you how often this occurs, but it’s certainly more than I would like. Every time another instance is discussed, I revisit all of the times I’ve had to duck and cover, or make do, or lie to be safe. My near misses. My actual assaults. I feel sick at heart.
I simply can’t take it anymore. It’s happened too much to little old unassuming me. I don’t like it. But more than that, I simply do not understand why men think a part of their anatomy gives them the right to push people around, force people, wave the damn thing in our faces.
And HEY! I’ve led a protected life, raised upper middle class, went to the right schools, was allowed to grow up slowly and stay a kid for as long as possible. But I have always known about the need to pretend things are okay, the need to step back from confrontation. Not sure where I got that message, but I have it deeply ingrained in my psyche. I could be furious and you wouldn’t know. I’d just get on with things. So I know why women don’t report assaults. We just get on with things, as well as we can.
But – the unfortunate thing about sitting on anger and fear is that it prevents the other things from showing through – joy, happiness, love. Gradually we get flattened into depression, lack of initiative, introversion.
After this week I am finding myself curled in on myself. I know it will pass. I know eventually I will be able to smile at men again. Right now (a very few excepted), I would like to kick them all into the harbour. In midwinter.
But I won’t. I’ll just get more cynical and frustrated and hostile. And numb. Because no matter how I try to claw myself back to hope and optimism, there is always another asshole around to fart on my parade.