One evening, just arriving for a visit with a dear old friend, I held that friend in my arms as she shivered with fear, and I gave her the gift of listening, which means to “suffer with”, because science says our brains don’t know the difference ‘tween stories and experiences, and I Listened to her tale of whispered warnings, danger narrowly escaped.
You see, my dear sweet friend played music at the market by the sea, and all the people gathered close to hear her melody. My friend loves people, nearly all of them you see, but she’s been wounded in the past, and so obliged to put up more defenses than she’d like.
The tale within the tale is thus: ’bout two years past, there was a gent. The gent was charming, with a fine hippy pedigree, and they went adventurin’ to the snowy north. They found a real nice place to be, holed up in a winter community. Everything seemed nice and lovely, company was enjoyed. But here’s where the tale takes a darker turn.
See my friend loves humans, human company, sweet cuddly human touch. But she values greatly her autonomy, and her chastity. Not for anyone’s morals or anyone’s judgements. She’s not waiting for some anointed one. She’s not waiting at all, it’s simply her preference.
But the gent had other preferences, and the gent had insecurities. And he wanted more of her than she was wont to give, so he reasoned, begged and pleaded. In the end she gave, ’cause she was smitten, and smitten wants to please. But smitten doesn’t last, reality soon comes crashing back, with boundaries crossed and respect lost, and the safety of retreat.
My dear and gentle friend, not one to hide from shadows, she… she wonders wonders wonders, where to place responsibility. But in the meantime, while she’s healin’ she’s set-up quarantine. No alone time, no flirtation, with them, that opposite sex… at least, not with anyone who’s not already Known, not with anyone who’s shadows she can’t already See.
But it’s been about two years past, and recently, just recently, she’d begun to ponder and consider, perhaps she’d healed enough. Enough to reconsider conversation, friendly conversation with that Other. Perhaps she’d healed enough, to tell the difference ‘tween the ones who want too much, and the ones who are safe ’cause they know that love inside. She thought maybe maybe maybe, time had come to loosen up the shields.
And so she played her music at the market by the sea. And the people gathered, and one gent chatted, and invited, for a hike. ‘Twould be the first alone time she’d spend with a fresh-met gent in nearly two years time. She thought, “oh sure,” and gathered up her things. As she chatted and gathered for departure, the people in the market looked sideways, feeling nauseous and worried. But my friend had no such worry, she did not know the story, of the young girl’s rape at the hands of the friendly gent. She would have hiked with him.
And maybe, you think, it’s not so dire, there’s no guarantee, perhaps it’s only drama… But what’s an unhealed rape, hanging in the air… unhealed unsolved, hanging in the air. The gent’s not safe, not to be trusted, wants more of others than they want to give, and doesn’t mind taking what he wants.
But my friend was saved by her need for water and her impulsive tendencies. She dashed away into the store to fill her bottle, and someone stopper her, said to her, “Don’t hike with him, here is the story. Not safe to be alone with him.” My friend was shocked, afraid, dismayed. She stood him up. She didn’t go. Went home where she felt safe.
But here’s the question, worries her so… “Was I just saved by that chance moment? Would they have said it to his face?” Would they have braved the awkward discomfort and said out loud for all to hear, “This gent’s not safe, don’t be alone with him”? Or would they have helplessly watcher her go with him, not wanting to make a scene? That’s the question haunts her: is her safety less important than the maintenance of civility? And here’s the other icky part, my friend now feels like she’s not qualified to tell the difference ‘tween the ones who want too much and the ones who know to seek that love inside. Because she didn’t know, she had no warning. No intuition nor tingling gut pain to tell her “STOP! This is a bad idea…” Her personal experience is telling her that it’s much much harder to distinguish than we’d all like to believe. Cause on the outside, they all mostly look the same. There’s no easy litmus test, no easy way to tell.
So back to quarantine she’ll go, until she knows the edges of her boundaries, until she find her balance, until she’s had more practice, taking up her power. But, well, total quarantine, perhaps a bit extreme… isolation gets to be, well, isolating. So maybe not total quarantine, but careful quarantine. She’ll seek the company of them that’re Listening, listening real real hard and carefully, listening carefully enough that the “no’s” don’t have to be said out loud.
And what about that gent? What will become of him? He’ll be shunned and shamed, eventually. He’ll move along, and none too soon, find some other little town. He’ll find a place where no one knows, stories of what he did… Or he’ll go to jail, for a bit. Meet others there like him. There’s one thing seems sure, at least it doesn’t seem real likely, he won’t heal. He won’t ever learn how to find that love he seeks inside his own dear soul. He’ll keep on thinking that in some way, he’s justified in takin’ more than others want to give. No one wants to take responsibility for his education, no one wants to claim hm as a member of their community. But he did not come from nowhere, and just like you or me, he’s a product of his environment. If “not all men are like him” then why are some, and others aren’t? And just exactly how are we meant to tell the difference? For statistical analysis shows, that in a population, you will get a bell curve ‘cross the realm of possibility. And in any given population, the odds are certain that some will go down every option.
And nature always balances itself, so if we pull too hard in one way, we push the counter just as far the other. So what about them predators, the monsters, the misogynists? The more we try to pull away and the we try to deny and the more we say and say again, “but I’m not like that…” the more space we make for them to grow. For it’s not just this one, aberration, random tragedy, it’s everywhere, all over, over and over again. Statistically, human will is irrelevant. Statistically, the monster is in everyone.
Cause the monster isn’t just the person, the monster is the program. The monster is the storyline that gave those men that thought, the thought that women owe them sex, that sex is something they don’t have. And the monster is that deadly hush, the hush that says “civility is more important than a woman’s safety”. The monster is in all of us, it’s plain to me, you see. The monster is a virus, infecting our society.
And what of my dear friend? What of her safety quarantine? Before I left, I helped her build new shields. New shields to give her space, and time to do the healing that she needs. These shields we rooted deep, into Below for power. We branched them up, into above, for elation, navigation. We brought it ’round her, silken shield, her safe and warm cocoon. Inside she’ll stay, till she’s ready once again to be a butterfly. And the shield is porous, it doesn’t keep out everyone. But it knows, it knows, it knows, to let in them who’re pure of heart, the ones who only want what’s being freely given. The ones who’re listening so, so carefully that the “no’s” don’t need t’be said out loud. And she’s strong, this one, her roots go down real deep. She’s s a healer, through and through, a teacher of truth and beauty. And when she heals herself, she’s healing everyone.
And menfolk, dear, when you do hear, a woman’s lament of boundaries violated, of things being taken that weren’t being given, of predators here and there, don’t you dare, don’t you fucking dare, utter a single breath of those cursed words, “but not all men are like that… I’m not like that…” you shut up and you listen good, and you face those monsters square.
‘Cause it’s not our job to do your healin’. It’s not our job to soften the blow, of your introduction to our reality. Those monsters need healing, but don’t you see, dear menfold, that’s your job. That’s your healin’.
If you’d like to read the account of my friend’s encounter with the gent at the market in her own words, here is a link to her blog.