Gender Introspection

I find myself wary of men. There are very few men in my life whom I trust, and of whom I have no scruples. Those include my brother, my therapist, my theater friend, my semi-retired professor friend, and the ever-faithful friend who offers me a therapeutic one-sided friendship and is always there for me when I need him. Oh, and my psychiatrist, although, I’ve only known him for half a year, our visits are seldom and short, and I can’t quite gauge his intentions. And then every once in awhile a new male will come in, and then out, of my life. It’s usually when I try dating, and the time spans of knowing them are very brief.

I currently have a new man in my life. I am hoping that a friendship will develop. He has already expressed interest in me that goes beyond friendship but I have stayed firm in setting my boundaries. No touching, for example, and only a light side-hug when greeting. I met him in class and he was ever-so-persistent in asking me to come out with him all semester. I finally did this month and it was entertaining. Yet, I don’t know what his intentions are. He professed the desire to kiss me, yet he doesn’t know who I am and what makes me “me”, so in wanting to kiss me is he then to be merely acting out a fantasy, as a means to an end of a day-dream?

In pondering this person who has recently entered into my life, I have been communicating with my friend, the theatre professor. We know each other intimately, have been in contact for over eight years, and most recently solidified our close friendship a year and a half ago. His response to this situation? “He’s crazy. Keep him out of your house. You know the answer. Too many red flags”. Now, I’m very glad that this person does not know about my blog, else he might read this and become upset. But, I am anonymous here though some friends and family know about my public writing. It allows me to stay honest and bare to my few unknown audience members.

This person wants to become a drug counselor. Similar path to mine. He seems fairly unstable, although he is the one who called me unstable. I take it as an insult because he doesn’t know me. He’s constantly hopping between jobs. His ex-girlfriend still lives with him in his one-bedroom apartment and sleeps on the couch. He isn’t even a year sober. He seems to need a lot of validation, likes attention, is too quick to disclose intimate details of his life. Doesn’t seem to know boundaries when they are set. Keeps trying to push the line between friendship and other, whereas I see him more of a project, a client who would benefit from a one-sided therapeutic relationship. Is that bad? Are there too many red flags? After all, I do want to expand my circle of friends. And in getting to know someone, we always have certain preconceived notions about a person, until we know them better, then those initial images shift and take on a different life altogether.

He wants to come over (yes, for the third time he is inviting himself over to my place) and cook me dinner. His justification? “I like to cook and you seem like you have enough to worry about. Me making you a delicious dinner will make us both feel better.” Why does he feel the need to justify his intentions in that manner? Yes, I did ask him why, what his motivation was to want to cook me dinner. But what does he really want? Why does he feel the need to come over to my house? It is a more intimate setting than outside, and he has already told me that he is frugal, thus, dinner out would be beyond his normal reach. But what is he hoping to accomplish? Is he trying to impress me? Does he feel that he needs to take care of me and help me, thus diminishing my insistence on total independence and establishing my own identity? In what way does he relate to me? Does he feel empathy and compassion for some of my past history which he came to know about through being in class with me? He did see me get taken away by cops earlier this year for suicidal ideation and that didn’t turn him away. In no way am I, however, gratified by this knowledge.

I trust a few men in my life. To me, I don’t see them as “men” but as people and fellow human beings, who are interested unselfishly in my well-being. I can share anything with them and it doesn’t turn them away. They are genuinely empathic. But I suppose my general view of men is that one, they have a penis, and two, they usually consider themselves to be in a superior and authoritarian position over women. In my marriage, I was completely objectified and not valued as a person or as the true “me”. That is my experience. I don’t always like the fact that I have breasts and a vagina. Sometimes I wish we could all be gender-neutral and perhaps, non-sexual beings. But that is far from the truth of society and living in this world. Humans are extremely sexual beings, and we are constantly defining our place in the world, among males and females, or sometimes, as something in-between the two. But depending on which genitalia one has, determines a set of standards one “should” abide by in society.

Personally, I judge negatively women who wear loads of makeup and high heels. I don’t see the need to spend extra time on one’s looks, and to what end? For other people? Those “other” people could probably care less! Why walk around in uncomfortable heels, constricting the ability to walk properly, when one could just as well wear flats and be comfortable? I will have to get rid of this negative perspective over time. I used to be one of those people who wore heels, but the need for looking “pretty” for other people is useless to me now. I like who I am and I could care less about what other people think about my looks. I just want to be comfortable. I’m not skinny, not comfortable in bathing suits. I wear clothes that actually fit me and don’t show too much skin. I don’t want to allow myself to be objectified. Eventually I may want to dye my hair when it goes grey. But I don’t get my nails done, don’t wear obtrusive perfumes, don’t regularly get my hair cut. Low-maintenance is my motto and I am biased to thinking that other women should conform to this motto as well. Because, why not?

I suppose one part of this is me trying to define myself and my sexuality via the relationships with other people, be they men or women. The ladies at my office often look as if they spend at least an hour on their hair every morning. Me? I roll out of bed and in ten minutes I’m ready to go to work. I’m sure as a woman becomes a mother, looking good becomes less important than making sure the child’s needs are adequately met. Bodies gain stretch marks and increase in weight. It’s a normal process in the life of a woman.

I’ve recently started talking about sex again. In therapy, I’ve made some comments about my past sexual trauma, which led my therapist to saying in a caring manner that he hopes one day I can have a sexual relationship with a man that is caring and loving. I’m not exactly sure how he put it, but it felt nice to hear it, and to have my feelings towards the eventuality of having a sexual relationship normalized. I am normal for thinking about the possibility of having a sexual relationship. After all, procreation is one of our survival instincts. We have to have sex in order to create babies, the next generation. I would just as soon, however, adopt. I don’t feel the need to necessarily go through the process of being pregnant and going through a birth. There are so many children in the world who need a mom (and a dad, for that matter). My therapist told me that being a single mom is very difficult and I have heard it from various other people. Having a partner in raising a child is much more ideal.

Finding myself is a constant process that is never over. As I am exposed to more people, the more opportunities I have to define myself as to who I am and who I am not. I have judgments and conform to believing in stereotypes. But the more I get to know a person the more I can release hold of those stereotypes. In fact, women are beautiful in all shapes and sizes, of all colours and ages. We all have had a mother, a grandmother, perhaps an aunt or a female mentor. There are all kinds of women who do different things. Annie Leibovitz’s book of “Women” is a beautiful example of the diversity of women that exist. Women, who are exploring their sexual identity. One does not have to have sex to explore one’s identity. There are many ways to explore it. I find the safest place to do this is in talking with my psychotherapist. But it has also, in the past, been in having photos taken of myself and then by looking at them, in flirtatious gestures, in the way I have dressed over time, in the way that I carry myself.

Okay, I guess what this also comes down to is that I never want to be abused again. There may be other men who objectify me, and I cannot do anything to change that. But I can change the way I act in face of that fact, in the way I greet strangers, in the way I relate to people in my life in terms of professional and personal relationships. I have the power and I’m never going to let it go.

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