Friday, October 20, 2006

Being A Woman, Revisited.

Basically, I am a worldly, mouthy and at times profane Christian. I don't particularly like some of this, but I now realize why it has been so hard to uproot the habits of a lifetime. Hello sexual abuse, I thought I was done with all of this!

I have a close friend who is a very serious and sensitive Christian. He is not judgmental, or self-righteous. There are just verbal behaviors that he is sensitive to. He also knows, as we've explored the topic, that at times, I have no clue as to when I've "crossed the line", in terms of "polite" mixed company sharing.

Yesterday we were deeply involved in our usual text messaging tennis match, which I truly enjoy. He reacted to my tale of woe from college, (flunking out of engineering) with a deliberately exaggerated macho rant GUARANTEED to illicit a response from yours truly:
"See, that's what you get for thinking. Like I keep telling all the little ladies, if God meant you to think then he woulda made you'all the head.

Don't worry your little head about it, just take care to keep things tidy and make up a meal now and again and it'll all work out just fine. (all said with a thick southern accent rolling about my head, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek)"
I reacted with a blatantly sexual retort along with aggressive commentary, I knew would have him laughing. NOT!

He responded with the remark that I'd "crossed over the line". I immediately apologized for offending him. He replied that it wasn't about offending him, but this was not appropriate conversation for mixed company.

I had to get ready for a meeting and couldn't continue this conversation. I am thankful for feedback like this. Most of the time, I have one of those: "oops" moments, but I was really confused. I couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong. My friend had discussed how "Christians" act with one another.

Well, hell 99 per cent of my really good male buddies aren't Christian, or at least, they aren't working on sanctification! They'd have been rolling on the floor. We joke about sex all the time. The married man's wife is right in there with me and the other gentleman. Both these guys are gentlemen. We have grown to deeply care for each other. I know when I'm being trashed. They have never been offended, nor have I, over conversations which stray into the mildly sexual. it just feels like a normal part of communication.

However, I knew my Christian friend was correct. I'd never joke around like that with friends from church. This is the one area where I'm still leading a double life. I began to investigate why I had no gut level "feel" for what not to discuss in mixed company. I was surprised, the information and habit pattern, not even childhood rules were there in my memory. I wondered why.

Then I remembered. I was the risque entertainment for my family's drinking parties! No wonder I had no sense of what is correct behavior in mixed company. I was taught to parade around in front of a room full of drunken strangers in my training bra and panties! I immediately felt a wave of sadness run through me. Yeah, what to do in polite company was simply a theory for me. Something like reading about proper behavior in front of the Queen of England. (I've never practiced that one either!) More sadness.

Then I pondered why I always work hard at being aggressively outrageous. I try and come off with an offensive, macho-woman stance I know turns men off sexually. I also am very glad I'm one hundred pounds overweight. I know that is another protection against unwanted sexual attention. But I'm now in my fifties, hardly a tantalizing bombshell, normal weight or not. I realize I'm thawing out inside. I'm beginning to feel that longing for a husband, to be held and all the rest of the part of life I have failed at so miserably.

Then the light bulb came on. I'm still terrified of letting anyone get close enough to me to trick me like the man who battered me did. When he called me a "fairy princess" I totally let down all my barriers. A few years ago, a man told me I was pretty. I got so frightened, I almost lost consciousness. So, I make sure no one can get at my core. If I let my softer side show, I might try and trust again. Not a good idea, since every intimate relationship I've experienced has been more violent and destructive then the last. I follow Nancy Reagan and just say "NO!"

But God is His wisdom and mercy wants to heal this tangled mess. I adore dressing up for church in really expensive dresses. Silk, conservative lace and gold patterns. Beautiful earrings, necklaces and bracelets. To know my hair is professionally styled, colored and highlighted. These all produce wonderful feelings. Church is safe. No one would dare to touch me wrong, with the Pastor only yards away!

I see men who are as damaged as I am. They stumble over basic conversation. We are learning we can trust one another. It is really quite sad to see a 45 year old man, so beaten down that, to ask me if I'd like some coffee, makes him tremble and sweat. Oh, how I can relate!

I feel like I've accidentally built a prison for myself, all because of fear. God will help me, but turning over some of these rocks is mighty painful. I know, as I continue to emerge from my pseudo maleness, that whole new worlds will open up for me. I encourage all of you, try not to run from that acute pain. I couldn't face any of this without the God I have come to know, feel and trust. I'm also thankful for honest feedback. There are just little pockets of "normal" I only know as interesting theories!

Also, sometimes someone will bring you up short on a behavior and you know you can't bear to hear it at the moment. Healthy people respect "not now". When I finally calmed down enough to where I felt I wouldn't hang up on my friend, I requested his information. THAT was such a blessing! Healthy people don't need to play the emotional "bulldozer" game. You remember, where you know you are too defensive to be rational, but they just run you over anyway? Yeah, I really hate having to explain one of my "disappearing acts" to people, when I don't like their observations!

I am learning to have enough faith to to tell the truth. It is really scary to admit to a friend that they've hurt me, and I don't want to talk about it any more. I waited to be run over, instead my friend moved onto other conversation. Amazing. My friend didn't even argue with me about what I was feeling! Recovery is exciting, confusing, painful and one whale of a lot of work, but it is worth it.

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