Sometimes I forget that people might get taken aback when I am frank about my personal life.
I’ve never worried much about “airing the family’s dirty laundry” as my parents called it. I would get scolded once in awhile for saying things that were supposedly our family figurative undergarments; but even now it was never stuff that I found all that important to keep hidden. Societal expectations be damned, I guess.
Even so for long, long time I never spoke about past relationship abuse. I wasn’t consciously hiding it, but I built walls. I tried to give off an aura of a self -assured, confident, take-no-shit girl and I thought I did well with it. Within this personality construct I was still frank about a lot of personal things, but admitting abuse or anything related to that side of my life would not have fit – especially to the large majority of people. If I mentioned anything at all it was vague – such as when I admitted to Dan I was feeling intimidated in the moment. I didn’t elaborate. I didn’t admit to anything specific.
Much later in my life, less than two years ago, I started writing my memoirs for my kids. I went back to ask some old friends what they remember about certain events to make sure I could make sure to have a well rounded account of my memories. Then I decided that though I knew how I felt that I was perceived in high school and during other periods of my life, I would ask a few random people of which I had different types of relationships how they remembered me.
Their answers surprised me. I suppose it wasn’t such a big surprise that my BFFs had gathered a sense of me having been involved in a bad relationship before I met them, but it surprised me a lot when Jude, a cool guy thug who I did not hang around much and who could be quite the bully himself, said that he always had the sense that I had had bad experiences with men prior to meeting him. Wait, what?
I realized that even people that weren’t close confidants weren’t always fooled by the walls I had attempted to build around myself. They weren’t always fooled by the confident exterior I tried to portray. I’m sure plenty of people would have been oblivious. Plenty of people would not have noticed me that closely. But those that paid even half attention… well… and also, I’d like to note that I am so glad I was therefore in Jude’s good books.
So, then, what’s the point of trying to keep this information buried deep down inside? I had obviously already decided to let at least some of it out by putting it in the book – but even that first book did not detail everything. So I admitted it. So I released it into the world a little at a time. I released it entirely by the time I published book number two.
I’ve found that being open about it helps others – helps them not feel alone, helps them to realize that it’s something they too can let out or get away from.
So now I am frank when it comes to past assaults on my person. I forget sometimes that people in real life that don’t already know about this past may find such discourse confronting or surprising.
The most recent conversation happened with my daughter’s martial arts teacher – we were talking about her progress and I mentioned it was important to me that she take this kind of class even when she is not always keen to go – because we want her to build her confidence, and last year she was dealing with a couple of bullies – and then of course my own experiences make me want her to have some skills to protect herself as she gets older.
He said something about school being tough, kids are mean, and he knows what I mean because he dealt with stuff at school too. I said “at least there are teachers at school” and that my own personal experiences happened outside of school… In relationships with males or just being at a club.
“Oh” was the initial response I got, which made me realize he didn’t expect me to say such a thing.
He obviously realizes, as most people do, that this kind of stuff happens to a lot of women – but even so people don’t necessarily expect that it has happened to people they know, and certainly don’t expect that many people would admit it casually in conversation. Most of us build that wall and hide behind it as if it is shameful. Much as I did for several years… But the shame shouldn’t be on us. If there is any sense of shame, it should be the abuser that feels the need to hide.
Once the surprise was gone we talked a little more on the topic as he is running a self defense course for women on Friday of which I had signed up for. I am excited 🙂 I haven’t been able to do another such course since August when Karl was up here from Croydon, and this one will be different. As the one I took with Karl was self-preservation and focused on an intro – hit/kick/run kind of scenarios… basically aiming to get away before you’re taken down… This one will be focused on ground defense – after the assailant has gotten you down. Look for a post about it next weekend – I’ll be sure to report back 😉
He also offers kick boxing classes. I haven’t had much time for my own extra curricular activities, but I am still hoping that I will have time in the near future to take it up twice a week once my work contract ends. Wish me luck on that.