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Monday, 30 April 2012

Beauty or the Beast?

What people find “attractive” is really interesting to me.  My son, “Lyle” is in a band.  As part of his persona he's adopted the “grunge” look complete with small plugs in his earlobes and tattoos.  He has ink on both arms, but so far just one full sleeve.  He’s a very good looking guy, so I just don’t “get it”. 
I guess there’s a market out there, because CG’s gorgeous daughter, “Jasmine” has a thing for tattooed “band guys”, and is planning a few tats herself.  I don't have a problem with tattoos per-se, I have one myself, but it's hidden during my regular day to day life. I guess I just grew up when they weren't part of the professional landscape.  Thankfully the stigma attached to wearing that sort of embellishment has lifted somewhat. 
Recently, Lyle joined a dating site.  I don’t get that either.  I mean, when you’re in your early 20’s everyone in that age bracket is naturally looking to hook up.  For a raisin like me, internet dating makes sense because you work at the same place, you see the same friends, and you just don’t have the chance to meet “fresh” people.  When you’re 21, even driving down the street is an opportunity to meet someone new.
I must admit, I find it amusing hearing my kid discuss the pitfalls and advantages of internet dating.  For CG and me, admitting we met online seems to get more validity with kids than people our age.    They still seem to see internet dating as a place for losers and freaks, unless of course, they're single too…
Ok, I totally admit, it IS a place for losers and freaks, because both CG and I met our fair share...(remember "Smell your underwear" guy?) but it's also an avenue for people like him and me.  Average people, who don’t have other opportunities to meet people. 
It’s interesting to hear the difference between dating online at 48 and my son’s experiences at 21.  I was looking for someone who was ready to welcome a partner into his life.  Not just a sex partner.  For my son, I’m not sure the goal is quite the same.  Listening to him talk, I guess dating is pretty much like it was when I was 21, just with different “tools”… and that word can be taken any way you like! 
Lyle’s criteria for approaching or responding to someone online are a little different than mine were too.  I admit, I looked at the photos attached to the messages I received, and weeded out the “OMG that is SO not happening in this lifetime” guys, but as long as he wasn’t a complete troll I read the profile to see if there was any common ground there.    Lyle's process is pretty simple.   “I just look for all the “hot girls” and then I message them.  I don’t even READ the profile.”  
CG and I were amused to hear Lyle outline his experiences.  He was telling us he’d had responses from women as old as 35.  His response, "Eeew!"  CG told him he should expand his horizons and just flag those women as "Not long term" prospects, but told him there could be some real advantages to that scenario.  I think Lyle was astounded to hear guys of 35 had approached ME several times online, and shocked to hear women of 67 had approached CG!  Those scenarios don't happen to be our thing.  You know?  There are some really good things that come with age.  Yes, you have to deal with saggy skin, and the loss of your close vision, but you also get a pretty clear picture of yourself and what you want. 
For example, I know no matter how smokin’ hot he was, things could never work with a guy who doesn’t know the difference between “then” and “than”.  I need a guy who knows how to use his brain.  Dumb and pretty just becomes dumb to me after a while.    
Conversely, there has to be something physically attractive enough about a person to make you want to go past being buddies, and trust me, a man doesn't have to be 35 to pull that off.  I have been very fortunate to have found someone I find incredibly attractive both ways.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

No means No. Period.

Well, I have been very lax about keeping things up here.  Life has just gotten in the way, and I’ve found when I’m happy, it’s hard to find something to spout about, but today I found something. 

Before I go on, I want to say I am the happiest I've been in my adult life, ever, and I couldn't be more grateful.  I am in love with the right man.  He makes my good life great.  I wouldn't be who I am, though, without going through the trials and hardships I've had in my life.
Lately, the news has been full of teen suicides brought on by bullying, and today I read a particularly poignant story of a girl who took her own life after being raped.  The reaction of her peers was extremely negative... and I mean toward her, not her rapist.  Really.  I found I could relate to her story, and caught myself thinking "There but for the grace of God..."
I try to avoid bitterness in my real life.  I try not to ask “why me?” in most instances, and I sincerely try to embrace challenges as a life lesson.  Things rarely bug me once I've taken the time and thought them through, but I'm not perfect.  One of the few times I feel my heart twist with jealousy or bitterness, is when someone shares the story of what it was like to experience sex for the first time.  Usually it’s a cute story about their first love, and how awkward it was, but sweet too...  Everyone’s first time should be like that.  My story is vastly different.  You know I'm a middle aged woman... but when you read the following, I'd like you to imagine it happening to any one of the cute young girls in your life. Your daughter, neice, cousin, friend, or yourself.....  
For me, things went something like this…
For most of my teen years.  I was at a small, all girls boarding school in Italy, where I had a large circle of friends and felt very secure.  There were only 80 high school girls living at the school, and about 30 more who came as day students.  The boys I had contact with, were at an all boys boarding school across town, and our interactions were limited to after school and weekends, and were mostly chaperoned. 

Life changed for me in 1979, when my dad was offered a job back here.  I was uprooted at the end of 11th grade, and had to start all over finding friends and trying to fit in for my senior year. 

I know, right?  That would be a bitch for any girl of 17, but to add to the awkwardness, the school I went to senior year was co-ed and HUGE.  I went from having very close friends and an active social life, to being 'that weirdo' who grew up in Europe. 
Most of the kids who were in my new school were in the same cliques they’d been in for years.  Some were still hanging out with the people who had been in their first grade class.  That makes it hard to break in to any social circle, especially if you’re shy.  I felt alone, awkward and out of place… I made a couple of friends, but my social life was limited.
I'm a people person, so being isolated like that isn’t comfortable for me… and at 17, being dateless was not a natural state either.  I ended up meeting a boy from another area of the city I live in, and I fell hard.   I thought he was that “someone special”.  He was tall and handsome.  He was muscular had a great smile,  big blue eyes and shoulder length feathered blonde hair.  He was the bomb for me in 1979...

He was older than me by about two years, so he was working, and he was a little bit dangerous having grown up in a blue-collar area of the city.  That was like catnip to me.  We began dating, and in retrospect, I cared much more for him than he did for me. 

I was looking for affirmation from someone in my age group so I did all the classically stupid things a teenager would do, such as making myself available to him any time he felt like seeing me.  Paying for movies or dinner dates even though I was only working part time and he had a full time job.  I even forgave him when he stood me up without so much as a phone call the night of my graduation.  His excuse for humiliating me?  He "forgot".   
We dated at his convenience for about a year.  Because we didn’t have cell phones or texting plans back then, I didn’t always know where he was or what he was doing, but rumors spread that he’d become involved with the little sister of a friend.  It made sense, because I was a lily white virgin, still holding him off from home base, and she was a girl from his ‘hood.  Younger than me by almost two years, but WAY more experienced in “street smarts” as it were.  She was just 16, but had lied about her age, and was already a stripper making thousands….

 I elected to believe his BS when he told me I shouldn't believe the "lies", but when we showed up at a party at the house he and a couple of friends were renting, and she was there, their behavior convinced me the rumors were true.
I was upset watching her grab his butt, and giggling with him right in front of me.  He began to get drunk, and was ignoring me rather effectively so I decided it was time to go home.  I quietly went to leave, but before I got out the door, he said we should go have a talk. 

His bedroom was not unfamiliar to me, we’d necked in there a million times, so when he suggested we get away from the crowd and have our conversation there, it didn’t cause any alarms to go off for me.  Not even when he locked the door, so the people just outside the door wouldn’t “come in and interrupt us”.  Remember, I was only just turned 18 at the time.

He told me he had gone out with “little sister” a couple of times, but they were just friends.  He said he had no interest in her, and  I had no reason to be insecure.  When I told him I was upset that he went out with her behind my back, he tried to placate me by kissing me and telling me to lie down with him for a bit. I wanted to believe he was telling the truth.  As I said, this wasn’t unfamiliar territory.  We’d necked several times before, without things getting too heated.   This night would be very different. 

I remember exactly what I was wearing, where I bought it and how I felt when I was getting ready that night.  It's seared in my memory as clearly as though it happened yesterday. I’d bought a new outfit to wear over that night.  A pair of high waist, yellow jeans with slash pockets, and a cute little yellow peasant blouse with cap sleeves and little pink roses embroidered on the collar.  Certainly not suggestive clothing in any way.

When he became a little insistent with me, trying to get his hands in my shirt, I fended him off.  He continued to pull my shirt out of my waistband.  I told him I wasn’t comfortable, and started to move away.  That’s when things turned.  In a fraction of a second, he held me down, pulled my shirt over my arms by the tail and then leaned on my hands with one forearm.   The shirt was covering my face, and effectively curtailed my being able to lower my arms. 

With his other hand, he pulled my bra, up over my breasts without undoing it, and bit me.  Then he proceeded to undo my pants and rip them and my underwear off just ONE leg.  He used his hip to pry my legs apart, with me saying “No” louder and louder.  That didn’t even slow him down.  Keep in mind, he was about 185 pounds of drunk young muscle, and I was about 118 pounds of female, with no upper body strength.  What was I to do?
He proceeded to rape me.  He didn’t care what he was tearing or bruising.  I screamed for him to stop, but nobody outside the door even heard me because the music was so loud.  I became so numb, that when he lifted me on top of him I couldn’t even fight him any longer.  Once he was spent, he fell asleep, leaving me to pull on my other pant leg, and try to clean myself up before going out to walk the gauntlet of people at the party to get to my car.    

I struggled to unlock the door, so when he heard the door open, he followed me out to the party, and put his arm around me.  Because I was in shock, I stood there like a zombie for about 15 minutes before I found an opportunity to escape when he went to the bathroom. 
I drove to my sister’s house because I’d arranged to stay there that night.  The moment she saw me, she knew something wasn’t right.  My face was puffy, my makeup and hair a mess, and where the collar of my shirt had rubbed, my neck was raw.  I basically stood there, stiff and shaking while she put two and two together and demanded I take my pants down.  When I was standing there in my panties, with my pants around my ankles, she could see the angry bruises starting to show.  You could see where each of his fingers had bitten deep into the flesh of my arms and legs. 

I had bruises all over my arms, the bite on my breast, and to add to the injuries, he had torn my peritoneum open which allowed for an infection to set in just as my bruises were fading, days later. I went to the doctor when I realized I wasn't healing, under the auspices of having my first "real" check up.  When he saw the damage to me, he knew exactly what had happened. 

My doctor urged me not to press charges because the victim is often the one who pays the price.  I agreed because it would be hard to keep from my parents if I did.  In collusion with my doctor I went through months of torture trying to deal with the physical damage because the treatment was to have a large q-tip soaked with silver nitrate solution inserted inside me to burn away the damaged tissue.  I suffered this without alerting my parents, because they'd warned me about my rapist months earlier.  They hadn’t liked him right from the first seconds of meeting him…

Because I wasn’t able to talk with my mother about this situation, I talked to a few of my new "friends".  Many of them asked me why I would talk about it at all.  It should be something I locked away.  I was told it wasn't a "big deal" and I should just "get over it".  Many asked what I was wearing that night.   Everyone offered an opinion on how it could never have happened to them if they'd been in the situation.  They'd have kneed him in the balls, or screamed louder, or bitten or scratched.  They acted as though I hadn't tried to defend myself.  Some even accused me of “blaming” my rapist because I’d “allowed” him to deflower me and then regretted losing my virginity. That was the one that hurt most, and caused me the most damage.

I didn’t seek any sort of therapy, and so my behavior was not healthy afterward.  I spent years wondering what I had done to “invite” him to rape me.  Maybe people were right.  Maybe I didn't fight hard enough....  

I began to believe I didn’t deserve to be treated any better than he'd treated me..  That I had asked for it because, after all, I had gone into his bedroom alone with him…  I MUST'VE let him go past the point of return, and then just let it happen. 

Even my wonderful, strong mother’s reaction was way off base. I didn’t tell her what had happened until my infection became so bad I had to be hospitalized to treat it.  Her initial response was that it was my fault for seeing “that boy” after she and dad had told me they didn’t like him. 

My physical problems continued for years, culminating in surgery to repair the damage when I was 24.  When I was put under, I wasn't sure I'd have a uterus when I awoke.  That was devastating, because I always wanted to be a mother more than anything in the world. 

The emotional damage was insurmountable.  I had self esteem issues for years afterward.  I convinced myself I had brought this on myself, and that I was being punished.  I honestly believe I sought out men I thought would mistreat me because THAT’S what I deserved.  I allowed behavior no woman should allow.
My mom later admitted many times over that she reacted badly.  She became an outspoken advocate for women whenever she got the chance to change someone’s view.  I remember several years ago, when my uncle, her brother in law, was pontificating about how women invited rape by dressing provocatively.  He was an ordained minister, and was discussing the topic of his next sermon.  He stated his case, not knowing what had happened to me, and ended his point with the question “What do women EXPECT when they dress the way they do?” 
My mother calmly let him finish, and then said “Listen.  I will bet you a million dollars, you could walk down the street stark naked and you wouldn’t have to worry for one second that some woman couldn't control her urges enough to keep herself from having sex with you!”  The look on his face was priceless. 

Why do we continually blame the victim? 
Happily, I can say I turned a corner some time ago.  I still struggle with insecurity and self worth, but most of the time I can overcome my negative self talk with a little reflection.  The man I spend my time with now, is the man I deserve to have in my life.  And he deserves me.  How lucky is HE?
Wait.  Don’t answer that!  ;-D