I wanted to come back after a long hiatus and write something light and witty. Like how I learned to cook lasagna over Christmas and no one was injured; or how I almost adopted Franklin the adorably, abandoned wonder-dog but a few days of dog-sitting cured that. All those things provided inspiration and seemed blog worthy, yet not enough for me to park it in front of my laptop. Until an email exchange over the last few weeks with a colleague.
We had been going back and forth about Chris Brown’s Grammy tweet. We’d been talking about what a missed teachable moment it seemed that Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna had been. How Chris Brown could have really used the whole incident to talk about the rage inside of him that drove him to assault and what he’s done to seek help. This, obviously, gives the guy the benefit of the doubt that serious self-reflection has happened. His tweet the afternoon after the Grammy causes one to doubt the amount of introspection that’s occurred. The tweet was deleted but captured by Mashable,
HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate FUCK OFF!
Then my colleague sent me this blog post: You Didn’t Thank Me For Punching You In The Face. It resonated with me on so many levels. It got me thinking about how nuanced marginalization is and how those subtle cliches that have been passed down for generations start to become truth. The slow chipping away. How bullying starts on the playground and edges it’s way into other areas of your life as you grow older…
It was in middle school, after lunch, when I got a free ride on my shins down concrete stairs courtesy of the boy who took up the dare to push me. Waiting for mom to pick me up in the principle’s office and staring at my now crimson-colored socks from the blood that ran down my legs, I blamed myself. I knew those boys didn’t like me. I should have stayed further away from them. I didn’t talk about those feelings of self-blame. I didn’t have the emotional capacity as a preteen to name them. What was there to talk about, really.
It was being a teenager and having my boyfriend lose his cool and drive 90 miles an hour with Metallica blaring at deafening volume; or slam his fist on the dashboard when we argued to better make his point. Because that’s what boys do, I rationalized. He never hit me. I didn’t talk about it. What was there to talk about. Really.
It was in college. The date with the grad student that leaned in to kiss me at the end of the night for which I only met with a hug. He returned the favor by covering the car door handle to keep me from getting out. Laughing and writing it off as an attempt to loosen me up because not being allowed out of someon’e car so often gets you in the mood. My take away from that night was that I should have known better going out with someone four years older than me. I didn’t talk about it. What was there to talk about… really.
It was being thirty-something and dating someone who had a shadow side of anger. Who lost his cool for the most unpredictable of reasons. He never hit and by all other notions seemed like a good guy. Really, it was just an unattended blind spot in his personality. But I found that when I was around him my stomach knotted up and I never felt like I was taking a deep enough breath. When I walked away from this relationship, I realized that having the self-respect to draw a boundary and set standards for what was okay in my world was, and still is, really difficult. Even as an adult woman who has had ample training in abuse and her own personal therapy, I still found that I was blaming myself. That I brought out the worst in him. That maybe I’m too sensitive to his yelling. That I shouldn’t be so thin-skinned. As embarrassing as it is for me to write, it’s as much of my truth as the rest of it.
It’s the slow chipping away. The ones that make you questions yourself. The ones that start off whispering for you to yield your personal power and then find themselves yelling at you for it; in some cases hitting you for it. It’s the ones that make you feel crazy; or find you self-hating for getting into the situation in the first place. It’s the ones that you keep returning to because on some level, some deep level when you’ve built a room in your mind for the voices that are abusive or disrespectful, you have this strange lure to keep that room filled. You keep going back.
All of these start on the playground and gets messaged over and over again throughout life. It lives in cultural fabric and is worn through social norms. The one’s we laugh off, or write off, or ask in condescension,
What was there to talk about?
I hope that there will be a generation of girls to come that will one day look back in history on the cultural tolerance for these behaviors and respond to that question in complete and utter disbelief, with a look of horror, and ask,