Sleeping Beauty Myth

Pretty soon its going to be seven months since I had sex or any relations with a man. I’ve learned a lot in that time, most of all that I enjoy my own company and that men don’t make me happy. Not thus far, anyway.

Even though relationships with men make a lot of women miserable we continue to pursue them even though they are disappointing. The reason for that is the myth that we need a man to make us whole. Sleeping Beauty is a perfect example of the lie women are told that we are essentially dead until a man comes along and brings us to life. I heard another man describe it this way:

“Women need to stop sitting looking at the ground waiting for a man to tap them on the shoulder.”

The beautiful thing about freeing myself of the need for male attention is that I have learned who I am without it. I don’t see myself as a reflection of somebody else’s vision. I don’t look at my body as an object, I don’t care if I have hair on my legs, and I can leave the house without make-up.

These are huge steps of progress in my life and have brought me closer to myself. I am caring less and less what people think, in other words. I am building a relationship with myself.

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Do you believe in God?

A friend today asked me if I believe in God. I said yes, of course. She said to think of the qualities God possesses in relation to me: is he loving, forgiving, gentle? And then she said think of the qualities of the partners in my relationships. Did they match at all? Were my partners loving, forgiving gentle? No. I would also add that my God is trustworthy, honest, generous, and uplifting. I couldn’t say that about any of my partners, either.

The idea is not to assign God-like qualities to a human being. The idea is to seek in a partner the qualities that make you feel good and give you what you need. Not materially, but spiritually. That idea gave me pause for thought. I had actually been with partners who did not give me anything resembling loving kindness or inspiration. And my part in that is clear. I did not ask for it.

Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 4:41 am  Comments (1)  
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Setting Boundaries

I realize one of my problems with men is that I didn’t teach them how to treat me. They say you must have self-respect in order to command it and since I didn’t have very much I didn’t command very much. Same goes for self-love. Since I didn’t love myself enough I wasn’t able to love another.

I remember telling a guy I met that I didn’t like it when guys texted me. He proceeded to text message me and I accepted it. If I knew how to set boundaries, I would have been firm about the “no texting” rule and he would have either had to call me or find another girl who doesn’t mind texting.

Instead, I denied my own needs in order to keep the guy’s attention. I disrespected him as well as myself by being dishonest in my communication. If I had been honest about how much I disliked texting and the reasons why–it always ends up in a miscommunication, you can’t get the nuances you do from a person’s voice, it’s limited and cold–he would have learned something about me and it’s through these small incidents that people are able to get to know each other, their likes and dislikes, what they can tolerate and what they can’t. They learn to respect one another’s boundaries.

I never had boundaries before. I don’t think I knew what they were. I am gaining an intuitive sense of what mine are the more I get to know myself and I believe it’s got to do with what feels right to me and what doesn’t. When it feels as though I am sacrificing my own integrity to please someone else, a boundary has been crossed. I have to learn to keep those boundaries firm. In the nicest way possible.

“It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly.

Objectification kills the spirit

I’ve been encountering sexual harrassment on a fairly regular basis since I was 15. My English teacher made an advance at me (he actually told me “how to get an A”) and I remember feeling so stunned I just froze. I was praying that he was joking, with the sickening feeling at the same time that I knew he wasn’t. We were alone in the room so I was a little scared but more shocked. I remember him looking at me for a while and when I didn’t respond after what seemed like an eternity he let the matter go. Thank God.

I’m only realizing now that I should have told somebody about the event to spare another girl the same fate. Whether or not anything physical comes of that kind of exchange you are left feeling dirty and ashamed; damaged in a fundamental way. Because of that abuse of power and another soon after in which my boss did the same thing in his office (I was still 15), my view of men changed radically.

Until that point my father had been the primary man in my life and he was honest, hardworking, responsible, always there for me, if a little emotionally detached. So my image of a man was somebody who protected you and whom you could look up to and count on. After those two sorry incidents I began to see men as predators, not to be trusted, and who only ever want one thing from me.

Sadly, I’m not too far off in that estimation. A comment by a male reader backs up my fear.  He says that when men look at us they are indeed only thinking of sex. For that reason, I am doing my best not to let the looks bother me as I don’t want to punish myself for somebody else’s bad behaviour. The thing is, though, that men do not realize the harm they are doing when they look at us that way.

A BBC series in the 70s called Ways of Seeing addressed the topic of men gazing at women in this way. Narrator John Berger said that women grow up with the feeling that they are being looked at and judged by men constantly, that in this gaze a division is created in which the man is the subject (watcher) and the woman is objectified (watched).

Instead of gazing back at men in the same way, women instead internalize this male gaze and see themselves being watched. It is the reason why women have 14 “I hate my body moments” per day. They did a study. Women hate their own bodies because they are taught to believe that their value lies in what men think of their appearance. Since men are force-fed idealized images of women that only 5% of the female population resembles, the other 95% feel they are failures in a fundamental way.

When women look in the mirror we objectify and judge what we see. I’ve done it and I still do even though I’m working really hard to stop. And I look fantastic. (That’s not an ego thing; just some perspective on how ridiculous this business is.) In the post “Women: Humans or Objects” scientific proof is offered of the way the male gaze silences women in its grasp. I’m working on stopping the self-objectification. It will require a massive and fundamental shift in my psyche but I like a challenge.

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 4:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Blue Valentine

I read a succinct and poignant blog post today that asked one simple question:

“What is the hardest thing you have ever done which, looking back, resulted in your own growth?”

Of course, the answer is my year without sex. I’ve spent my whole adult life entangled with one man or another, usually for the long-term and occasionally for only one night (well, twice). One night to ten years: these are the varying lengths of my trysts. Inside of those “relationships” I lost myself and I’m willing to bet the guys did, too. I simply could not imagine myself without a man so I never let myself be without one. The idea seemed inconceivable to me. Until I challenged myself to a year without them.

Now halfway through, I am discovering myself in a way I hadn’t realized I existed, who I am when I am not looking at myself through another person’s eyes, especially a man’s which are always (in my case) objectifying and sexualizing. As John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing: “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” Away from men for a decent length of time, I am finally breaking free of that self-imposed object-ness.

I saw a movie today called Blue Valentine. An antidote to the happily-ever-after romances that tell us fulfillment lies in finding a life partner, the film traces the erosion of a relationship/marriage from its “love at first sight” beginning to a treacherous end. Having been part of a soulless marriage I could relate to the deviant fighting, sex, and reliance on alcohol these partners dissolve into.

When we have not dealt with the baggage of our past, when we look to another person to make us whole, when we see ourselves through their eyes, and try to please them in a way that does not please ourselves, we are doing both the man and ourselves a disservice.

I have never been in love although I’ve had several long-term relationships. I believe the reason for that is I have never loved myself. Being on my own these past six months, I have begun to see a way to love myself and care for myself, to be gentle with myself and treat myself with kindness. Now that I am beginning to do that perhaps there is a chance for me to love someone else. The irony is the longer I am on my own, the less I need the attention of another. I realize that I am enough.

Law of Attraction

I saw a guy the other day that made me feel something. I didn’t speak to him, was only in close proximity to him and he just aroused something in me that I thought had gone to sleep. In the past I would probably have had sex with this guy by now but since I am in my blissful abstinence phase, I had the freedom of not being able to pursue him at all even if I was so inclined. Which I wasn’t.

I enjoyed the feeling of attraction, was even surprised by it, rather than having to do something about it like figure out a way to meet the man. Before my self-imposed celibacy, when I was attracted to a guy I had to have him and would do whatever it took to get him. Now I can simply observe and enjoy these feelings and have the pleasure of going home by myself. And masturbating, of course.

Lust and fear

It’s been over six months since I had sexual relations (or relations of any kind) with a man. When I first started on this journey of abstinence I thought at the halfway point I’d be relieved and begin counting down till the time I could do the deed again. But it’s not like that. I’m beginning to love myself in a way that has nothing to do with being seen through someone else’s eyes.

I feel a new freedom that comes from not caring anymore what men think or want. I used to dress in a way that I thought would appeal to men. No man in particular, just men in general. Now I dress to please myself and I may have mentioned before that I have become more modest in the way I dress, too. I no longer wish to show off what I’ve got. I no longer wish to dress in a way that stirs lust in men and I no longer wish to feel lust toward men.

I went to a spiritual retreat over the weekend and the woman who organized it said it is easy to confuse panic and lust. Apparently both make your heart race and raise your adrenaline in an eerily similar way. Hearing that represented an a-ha moment for me, explaining why I was often attracted to men who scared me, or I couldn’t tell whether I was frightened or attracted, and why I would sometimes feel revulsion and lust at the same time.

Choosing men who scare me and wanting to be dominated by them is something I need to address. I don’t think it’s normal to want to be submissive to someone unless of course you’re doing some sort of kinky role playing. I often say I need a man I can admire or look up to, but maybe I should be thinking of men as my equals and not putting them on a pedestal they can’t possibly keep from falling off.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 3:46 am  Comments (1)  
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Valentine’s Day

Is it any surprise I didn’t post on Valentine’s Day? By coincidence I believe I was single last Valentine’s Day, too. The one before that I was freshly divorced, so this is the third Cupid Day in a row that I have been on my own. I suppose I am getting used to it and for that reason the day carries little to no meaning for me. I’m not even one of those single people who gets ticked off about Valentine’s Day. It’s just not even on my radar.

My one and only male friend (I’m more of a girl’s girl) sent me a “Happy Valentine’s Day” text which was kind of sweet and pointless. At the end of the day I was treated to a great big belly laugh courtesy of The Oatmeal which says the worst thing about Valentine’s Day…

The Oatmeal

To read the rest of the hilarious cartoon click here.

I’m so glad I’m single.

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Craigslist: I DO ANYTHING

Here’s proof that there are still some smart, funny men out there. For some odd reason it gives me hope:

http://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/crs/2202170274.html

P.S. He won’t rape, murder, or steal. He will have sex, though. Just not for money.

Published in: on February 9, 2011 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Country Strong

Garrett Hedlund stars with Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong

I went to see Country Strong by myself today. Going to movies is one of the things, along with nice dinners, that I haven’t been allowing myself since I became single. I am becoming a little too self-sufficient for my own good and it’s time to get more social and stop letting the fact that I’m not dating keep me indoors.

It’s Saturday night and I am staying in with a book: not tragic but not exactly living live to the fullest, either. It’s time for me to stop being obsessed with the fact that I’m celibate, because that’s just as bad as being obsessed with whatever man I happen to be dating at the time. I must remember that today is all I have and to live my life as if every day is my last.

Published in: on February 6, 2011 at 12:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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