My mom, the public health nurse talked to me about sexual harassment from the time I started middle school, plainly stating its definition and harshly stating its wrong. She told me stories about the old days at University Hospital when male doctors thought they could do whatever they wanted to and with “their” nurses. It was the season of Anita Hill’s Senate Judiciary hearings, where Clarence Thomas, awaiting confirmation to the Supreme Court stood accused, and it seemed the term “sexual harassment” was repeated on every TV and radio station every hour on the hour. My mom seized this opportunity to educate me not only about how to spot it, but the gender power differential that exists in society, making it politically difficult for women to report abuse, and even more difficult for their claims to be believed. She wanted me, as an eleven year-old, to understand my rights, and how to assert them. You have to be assertive, she often reminded me. Continue reading
I once read that there are two types of drinkers–the type without a family history of alcoholism and the type with. The type with history was known as sensation-seeking. I can’t help but feel like this phrase describes my life now. I feel like I am out there looking for sensation constantly, the next high. I’m not talking about substance abuse here. Since getting married I feel even less settled and certain about the future, in the most unexpected and delightful way. I’m reminded of a question we ask our survey respondents at work: did you want so much to engage in pleasurable activities that you ignored the risks or consequences? Every time I ask that question I see myself in it. It’s like I’ve connected with a part of me that I thought I lost long ago–the impulsive Kate who is always looking for a rush of some sort. It feels so good that I can’t help but wonder if there will be a crash. And when there is will I even care?
These words, written by my 28 year-old self in a facebook “note”, (if anyone remembers that apparatus), revealed itself to me in an fb memory from 2008, the year I married and took a nosedive off the wagon. I shuddered reading it, and remembered writing it. Continue reading
Continued from Tuesday…
As I wrote, read and re-read Tuesday’s post I kept having to step away and come back to it, because it was confusing and didn’t flow. I couldn’t get it to flow with better clarity. I was frustrated. Then I remembered that being gaslighted is inherently addling, non-linear and maddening. Naturally, trying to write about it might produce something just that.
People who gaslight are desperate to control others. They are desperate to be right and to have the last word. They are desperate to manipulate reality to conform to their image. They are very sick people who lack empathy and basic problem-solving skills. They are desperate because they lack a stable identity, and are filled with vast empty inner spaces that threaten to collapse on them, causing total personal disintegration. They are living, breathing black holes, and they are desperate to avoid exposure. The deeper the desperation, the stronger the need to manipulate and control. The greater the fear of exposure, the louder the grandiosity. Continue reading
I reject the notion that the incoming presidential administration represents a new normal we must “get over”, accept and even (fuck, no!) embrace. Absolutely not. Absolutely not, because I refuse to be gaslighted. I refuse to allow a person or group shape my reality in order to elicit my consent in an attempt to hold absolute authority over me. No. I refuse to allow a person or group to distort the truth to their own ends, in their quest for unlimited success, power and ideal love. No. I refuse to allow a person or group to attempt to manipulate our common understanding of reality in an attempt to meld it to their will and pleasure. No. I refuse to allow a person or group’s desperate need to be right, to have the last word to superceed the needs of the common masses. If we can come to a common understanding of gaslighting, to recognize it, challenge it and root it out, we will have a shot at avoiding a dystopian nightmare. Continue reading
Watching Barack Obama’s farewell speech this week was an emotional experience, and I found myself crying, don’t leave! at the TV over and over, as he made critical and sensitive point after point in his signature way. I struggle to find the right words to describe the gratitude and privilege I feel to have had him as my president after enduring eight years of inarticulate, knuckle-dragging W. (to say nothing of his policies) as I came of age.
The first time I saw Barack he was the junior senator from Illinois speaking at the 2004 DNC. I remember sitting on my parents’ couch in Athens, Georgia, straightening up and leaning forward as he mesmerized me with his oratory brilliance. Who was this guy? And then he rode in on a unicorn in 2008, offering me the hope and inspiration I so desperately sought. Continue reading
The first time a male exposed himself to me I was five years old, and it was below the lunch table in our kindergarten class. Hey, look, he said and there was a tiny five year-old dick, right out in the open, lolling around in its owner’s grasp. I am thirty-six now, and I can still see it, clear as in that moment, that unwanted visual assault. Continue reading
I knew I’d blown the interview as soon as I’d said it. My prospective employer asked about my biggest challenges, to which I replied that a therapist once told me my personality at work was like wild horses that needed to be harnessed and brought into line together. I watched as the interviewer blanched and slightly recoiled from me across the table.
Was it my cavalier mention of therapy? My direct and rigorously honest self-assessment? Or was it the image of my wild horses running amok in her shop? Well, I gotta be me, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my career, trying to hide or downplay my outrageous personality doesn’t work. Stuffing leads to resentment, which leads to hostility and acting out, followed by righteous resignation. No, it’s much better for anyone considering hiring me to know upfront who they’re getting–a dynamic, driven, ambitious, outspoken and high-maintenance individual who will work like, well, a team of draft horses for the right boss. The wrong boss, however, can expect to be trampled by the herd. Continue reading
Continued from Tuesday…
I met him at a time my friend group was at a low number, having moved back to my hometown after years away. I’d not left home with many friends, and those few did not remain when I returned. I was seeking friends, and a lifestyle that conformed to the way I felt the back half of my 20s should look–parties, going out, popularity among groups. He was cool, an icon of hip bachelorhood in the social circles in which he moved. He was legendary–people spoke his name as though it was a state of being or personality type. Because of his reputation I expected him to be unapproachable and coolly removed. Instead, he was friendly and engaging right back at me, and I was attracted to his twinkling eyes and ready smile. It turned out we were both interested in music, and liked a lot of the same bands, and so making that first invitation, to hit a show together, was easy and obvious. Continue reading
The way I knew to do relationships was to find the least available, most aloof, detached, disinterested person in the room and fling myself at them, a full-court press. I dazzled them with my attention, affection, caring and consideration. The more they ignored me, the more I wanted them. I would make myself into someone they wanted, prove to them my worthiness. I would do this by showing great interest in their experience, asking about them and listening intently, remembering details. I would do this by showering them with thoughtful little notes and gifts. I would do this by making myself completely available to them, their whims and fancies. I would do this by giving them anything I perceived them as wanting, and asking for nothing in return. The lengths that I would go to…just to prove I was worth loving. It was extremely dysfunctional, it didn’t work, and I got hurt a lot. I scared people off with my relentless pursuing, or attracted the wrong people. I went along this way for nearly the first three decades of my life before I realized I was going to need to make some major interpersonal changes if I was going to have the kind of life I wanted. This was the way I attracted Borderlines to me. Continue reading
I used to believe simpering was my greatest power, my secret interpersonal weapon. I affected a coquettish persona, donned the mask which I believed was the key to moving through the world. Later, a therapist and I named this simpering mask the “sex kitten”, as we worked to understand the connection between her and my blackout drinking. But before all that, I learned that if I widened my eyes, batted my lashes and ducked my head a little, people melted. I learned that if I asked for things in a singsong tone or a baby voice they seemed to come easier. Especially with men. Men were helpless against the almighty simper. They figuratively dropped to their knees, palms open, anything and everything on offer. They got out of the way. Or let me hide behind them. They handed whatever it was right over. I smiled and giggled in return, to close the deal. I didn’t know another way. Continue reading