11… Tidbits of Life I Avoid At All Costs
Writing is about cracking into one’s soul and extracting truth. It’s a raw and often painful process. Especially when one’s chosen genre is memoir or creative nonfiction, like mine. Fiction has never called to me; not that I don’t or can’t. Creativity is not my talent, and I’ve lived an interesting enough life to provide a good amount of therapy, I mean, content to write on for a good long time to come.
The genre is an interesting choice because I’m an intensely private person. What a conundrum. From a very young age, I realized if I shared enough seemingly personal things, I wouldn’t have to share anything of actual importance. As a writer who puts words into the world about my life and story for the purpose of starting conversations to change the world for the better, I have been able to find an incredibly delicate balance. My writing is far more honest than I am in person. Face-to-face, I have a tendency to undershare through rose colored glasses.
During the four years I was a stripper, coworkers, who I had spent thousands of hours with naked, never knew I had been raped until one my rapist walked up to my stage on my second to last night. Suffice to say, I lost my shit. I’d been hit and abused in front of these men and women for years, and they’d never seen me cry or even lose a smile. I am a well curated façade allowing people to see only what I choose, except under the most remarkable circumstances.
My ability to share an overview of my abused past or even the gory details of certain events without allowing people to know me is, honestly, exceptional. People feel like I’m letting them in, but, in reality, all they would have to do is google me to find out far more. It’s my way of testing the waters; seeing if they can and want to handle it; but I’ve done it so many times over the years, it’s just one of many stories to tell in the “This is who I am, who are you?” dance we do with new people.
As a coping mechanism to keep people at a distance there are so many things I don’t do or won’t talk about or avoid in general. Never were these choices I made consciously. Habits developed over time from experience, callousness, pain, or goodness knows. I have always held people at arms distance, only letting them get so close, only showing so much, sidestepping vulnerability in favor of mock intimacy. As you can imagine, this is detrimental to relationships of all kinds. More often than not, it has helped me survive. But I am consciously trying to move forward differently because I’m not trying to just survive anymore.
- Feelings Having them. Talking about them. Other people’s feelings are welcome, valid, heard, honored. Mine… I’m sorry. What feelings? I’m just happy, rainbow, sprinkles, sunshine lady all the time, forever. I spent a very good chunk of my life ignoring the fact that feelings outside of happiness existed. When I went to college and met someone who made me confront those feelings, it wasn’t pretty. There’s a strong history of disassociating from all feelings outside of a very compact zone of happy because the moment too much joy, an inkling of sadness, a smidgen of discontent crept into that zone, I did not know how to handle it and would absolutely crumble. I’m better. I’m not great. Feelings are still hard because they’re a gnarly, interconnected yarn ball with a potential to unravel if a random string is pulled a little too much.
- Being Held Touch is integral to my relationships, platonic and romantic. I’m a very touchy human. I love cuddling. I’m realizing by cuddling, I mean holding someone because I can hold people without a problem. Turn that around, not so much. Being held is hard for me. Really, really difficult. I don’t let people hold me much. If ever. Or very long. Hugs. Being the one cocooned in a cuddle. Little spoon. There’s a time limit that my body reaches where I have to let go, become the one doing the holding. I would rather stand sobbing in my kitchen with someone watching me at arms distance than be held. For me, it feels so vulnerable and intimate. There’s a sense of depending on someone, letting them take the weight of me and my pain, a transference or sharing of emotion. If I’m crying and someone holds me, I may not stop. I have this innate need to suck it up. Do it alone. Being held feels like my independence is being taken away because I’m letting someone in. Just a calm night on the couch with no drama or anything other contentedness, if I’m the one being held, I could tear up because I get overwhelmed feeling connected to someone. Even typing this, the thought of someone holding me for too long makes me antsy. I get this is problematic and that I likely need more human touch than I’m getting. Also I should learn to be vulnerable with people, but I had a really bad habit of choosing all the wrong humans to be vulnerable around, so I compensated by never leaning into people. I guess quite literally.
- Attachment Getting attached to people sucks because there’s feelings, and I think I’ve been very clear on how I feel about feelings. Many people in my life have turned out to be… abusive. To put it bluntly and a bit lightly. When parents, close friends, and romantic partners are highly abusive, it makes forming attachments with new people even just as friends incredibly hard. There are some trust issues here. Staying detached makes it hurt less when I get treated like shit or they leave or they leave after treating me like shit.
- Sex with Lights Off I can’t. I don’t like. In the dark, I can’t see my partner. With my past of rapeyness, I have some lingering issues. Sex with the lights on allows me to feel safe and comfortable. The likelihood I lose my shit is much lower. Fluorescent, stage lighting, super bright isn’t necessary, but I do need some light.
- Crying I hate crying. This feels self-explanatory. I don’t like crying in general. But crying in front of people. Whew. No. Way too vulnerable. We’re very far outside my compact zone of happy, and I am not happy about it. If you see me cry: a) I’m really in my feelings. b) I trust you. b alternative) I might be really angry, so this is not a trust you moment. c) I am hating it while it is happening and will do everything in my emotional wheelhouse to stop immediately.
- Hope This is a depressing one. I am an optimistic person for other people. When it comes to myself, I take realism to an extreme. I expect the worst, prepare for the worst, and don’t dare to hope for anything except the worst. The few times I have allowed myself to even contemplate things might be turning around… the things I was optimistic about turn out to be pretty insurmountable obstacles. I have surmounted them but always at great cost. Hope has led me to dark and even dangerous places. I just don’t. I tend to take each day, each moment as it comes, as it is. I keep going not out of hope but out of obligation, necessity, the fact others need me to.
- Mixing Public and Private There are clear divisions in my life. A whole lot of compartmentalization. My home and what goes on inside it is very much a private place. Very few people know what is going on in my family. Maybe one day, I will feel like opening up more about the relationships in my life, but I keep them private. For as much as I share on social media, I keep it very much in its own lane. Whether people realize it or not, there are very clear boundaries maintained at all times. Part of this is because it’s nice having things just for me. Partially out of respect for my family and friends’ privacy. Honestly, mostly, it’s for self-preservation. Until things are cemented, I don’t write or talk about them. I DO NOT LIKE CHANGE OR EXPLAINING THINGS THAT ARE NOT AS CERTAIN AS LIFE CAN BE CERTAIN. There are three relationships I will write about with a degree of freedom, and those are my three people. One of which I spent many years romantically entwined with; the other two have always been strictly my closest friends. These relationships are going nowhere, probably. I can write about them honestly and openly because I know they love me, support me, and are stuck with me because I know too damn much.
- Silence I love silence, but I have to be incredibly comfortable with someone to be in silence with them. Normally, if there is silence, I will fill it by asking lots of questions. Get the conversation moving… as far away from me as possible. Or I’ll start dancing like the uninhibited human I am for a laugh. The only time I’m really comfortable with silence is when I’m letting questions or statements sink in, allowing my conversation partner time to think and open up more than they would otherwise. I like hearing people’s stories, and silence makes other people just as uncomfortable so they fill it with all sorts of interesting tidbits. I don’t like silence because it gives people time to read me or come up with prying questions. I have a great poker face, but I don’t like to bank on it.
- Prolonged Eye Contact I think most people avoid this. Eyes are telling. It’s cliché but true. This is a double edged sword. Like silence, I love good eye contact because it allows me to really see people, but it also allows them to see me. Abuse and stripping taught me to veil my eyes, but some people are good at seeing through it, calling bullshit. I rarely look at someone with unguarded eyes. One of the most interesting compliments was from a gay man in the strip club. I was 21 and tired after ten hours on my feet with four more to go. We sat and chatted for a while when he said, “You have Marilyn Monroe eyes.” Obviously I said thank you, but he continued, “You’re both beautiful. Her eyes were sad in the way your eyes are sad. It’s not a fleeting sorrow. The kind that killed her. You both guard your souls because all you’ve known is pain. It’s hard to see, but it’s there.” I felt so seen. I hated it. A stranger called me out, on the job. No thank you. It hasn’t happened since.
- Confrontation This isn’t even the angry kind of confrontation; I can handle that, even if I don’t love it. I avoid confrontation in the being confronted kind of way. I find people fairly predictable. They ask the same questions in different but similar fashions. My life story and what I do isn’t exactly run of the mill, so when people find some things out, they tend to ask questions. I have no problems with questions. I love them. It allows me to share my passion with people and learn from them at the same time. Due to severe anxiety, I have tons of canned responses to an array of common questions. This makes me sound smarter than I am and doesn’t require thinking on my feet. I hate being flustered and having to come up with cohesive and interesting answers representing my truest feelings, opinions, or facts on the matter is very stressful and not something I’m naturally gifted at. It’s rare that I find someone who asks new, interesting, and nuanced questions. I have unfortunately found one of those humans recently, and she’s full of smart people questions. It’s throwing me off my game, and I’m realizing just how much I rely on these go-to answers. I say unfortunately but actually it’s fascinating the questions she asks because it makes me think and forces me to articulate things I do not usually disclose or even formulate into cohesive ideas outside of the thought clouds in my brain. I end up sounding like a bumbling stream of consciousness rather than the tenacious writer I pretend to be. I am a writer not a speaker. I can edit words on a page. I cannot go back three days later and say, “Hey, remember that miniscule conversation we had twelve days ago in passing? No? Well, I can’t stop thinking about it, so here is my dissertation on it anyway.” I HATE, HATE, HATE not being clear or concise. Being misunderstood is one of my great fears in life, and being confronted ups the chances I will be misunderstood.
- Women Weird since I’m very gay, but also why it’s taken me so long to just be very gay. This is kind of a culmination of this entire list. Men and women are different. (The feminist in me feels the need to state that does not imply women are undeserving of equality/equity.) Men trend towards surface level interactions for much longer than women. Even after years with men, the conversations, questions, interactions are more surface level and less intrusive than with women. I’ve covered more on a first hangout with a woman than I have after a year with a man. This is terrifying when you’re a very private person with a shit ton of baggage and trauma who also has a chronic problem glossing over all of these things. Opening up about all of these things ever let alone quickly is intimate, intimidating, and rough for me and, oftentimes, for them. Women are excellent at all of the things on this list that I avoid, whether that’s biological or environmental-I’ll let scientists fight over that. Women, on average, are exceptional at creating deep bonds quickly, which I avoid… always. Making it difficult to have and keep women in my life as friends or whatever. I’ve been doing a lot of work on this since moving to Houston. I’m getting better. I’m intimidated. It’s great. I’m fine.
I’m done now. This list caused a lot more emotions than I thought it would. I only cried twice. A few more things I need to work on have been identified. Shocking I have friends or people in my life. I’m a dumpster fire. God help me.
Originally published at https://onthebl.org on January 3, 2022.