In the week and a half since leaving my job I’ve started to take stock of the toll it’s taken on my life. I even went so far as to send an email out to some of my closest friends who live in the city with me to thank them for sticking by me through the random evenings where I was pretty wretched to be around and for the passionate bouts of soapboxing that I would find myself imposing.
This infusion into my life became intensely clear yesterday at a casual BBQ in our backyard. Our friends were discussing boy movies from our childhood, like Revenge of the Nerds and Porky’s. The conversation came up because my husband and I had just watched Revenge of the Nerds the night before and I was appalled at the amount of sexual harassment that was happening, but even more disgusted by the sexual assault scene that isn’t considered a sexual assault scene by most but if you actually think about it, it is. (I’m referring to the moonwalk scene. For those that have never thought of it this way, Lewis dresses up and leads her to believe that he is her boyfriend. She didn’t consent to have sex with Lewis and therefore it would be considered an assault. It’s normally not viewed as that because she falls immediately in love with him, which, by the way, is far from reality.)
My friends were laughing about those movies and talking about how much they loved them and I don’t know what came over me, but I was pissed. I was pissed and I was frustrated and all I wanted was to reverse the conversation back to the chill mode that we had be jiving in 10 minutes earlier. The crazy part about all this is that I was fine and then in a matter of a few minutes of conversation, I was an emotional mess.
I asked if the conversation could be changed, that I was on the verge of stepping up on the soapbox and I really didn’t want to do that. The emotions then took a real turn for the worse when my husband didn’t quell the conversation but added something to it. When it kept going I said, “I’m done!” and stood up rapidly, gathering a few things and headed upstairs. At the time, I was pissed at my husband. He knows how sensitive I am to those sorts of things and the fact that he didn’t back me up really upset me.
The only thing I could do to keep the tears at bay was to slam down the dishes in the sink and pace the apartment looking for things to clean up. Hubster walked through the door a few minutes later and I went off on him a bit, allowing my anger to take over. He admitted to the wrong pretty quickly, apologizing for not being more sensitive to it, but then brought up how sensitive I was to it (in a loving and gentle way). After talking with him for a moment, I was practically sobbing.
The trouble with me in these situations is the amount of knowledge in my head about this topic. To know that there are men and woman who wait 25 years before coming out with their abuse and it’s still met with disbelief pains me. The knowledge that if you put 3 or 4 woman in a room, it is very likely that 1 of them has been sexually assaulted or abused makes my chest tighten up. And, related directly to those movies, the fact that boys are poisoned with the belief that if they could just show the girl that they can please her sexually that she will like them and how they grow up with misconception that sometimes trickery is involved angers me.
I could talk for hours about this but I won’t here. The point is that it’s too soon for me to not speak up and be the “educator”. It’s too soon for me to prevent myself from seeing and sharing the facts and figures and faces that move across my head. It’s way too soon to not get emotional. I’m still too close to it.
Still crying and resigning myself to this, my husband threw out a radical idea: go outside, right now with the tears and explain this to them.
Scary. Really freaking scary.
For one, my husband is one of the few people that I have allowed to see my true emotions about this. I tend to feel pretty big, something that gave me the label of “dramatic” when I was a child. But truthfully sometimes I feel bi-polar because of how intense my emotions can be. I would explode if I repressed them. But I’ve chosen very carefully who sees them in order to protect myself from the potential backing away that I feel would happen.
But my husband was right. I needed to show this to my friends and trust that they would be there for me. Not to mention they have seen the passionate angry side of me plenty, with me sometimes unintentionally inducing guilt over what I’m saying. It was time that I shared this more vulnerable side and focus on my emotions instead of knowlege.
So I went downstairs and, even though they were all in the middle of a conversation, I plopped myself on the blanket in the middle of them and allowed the tears to flow down my cheeks and the facts to come out. I didn’t apologize for my reaction (something it’s taken years to not do) but I did explain how difficult it was for me to engage in those conversations because of what I know. That this program has gotten deep into my bones and that it is going to take me awhile to not jump to those things immediately.
The reacted beautifully, asking me if I needed anything, giving unnecessary apologies and one person even gave me a mini massage. I should have known how rock star they all are.
One of my friends left a job that took an emotional toll on her about a year ago. We were discussing my leave and she shared her experience, saying it took her almost a year to be able to separate herself from the experience and look at it without getting emotional. I guess I was naive to think that when the job was over, a lot of this stress and the emotional toll would also be over. I guess my journey towards normalcy is actually just beginning.