The Insincerity Of Being Guarded

Trigger Warning: Vague Mention of Sexual Assault

 

She asks me about my sexual fantasies. I panic and, thinking about a topical podcast I listened to a few days earlier, bring up the topic of rape fantasies. Do women really want that? Is it a misunderstanding of the need to feel protected? How, as a sexual abuse survivor, can I reconcile wanting a big burly man to pick me up and throw me against the wall when that is so similar to how women are objectified and dehumanized around the world every day?


I can see the interviewer getting bored with my theorising, so I pivot. I start to explain why I don't have any fantasies of my own to discuss. "Fantasies are the things we don't think can happen for us, and I'm pretty open. If I want something sexually Tinder is always there."


Again, I can see the interviewer getting tired. I wonder why - I'm talking risque stuff here. Before I can finish she cuts me off, "Thanks, I think I understand."


In the end, they didn't ask me to be a 'personality' on their new web series. Something about me just "didn't feel authentic".


There was no sadness about not being chosen, but for a while I was confused. I had jumped into the water and really opened myself up (or so I thought at the time). I spoke about being a survivor and told her how I was sexually adventurous. In other parts of the interview I also mentioned how I had been in an abusive marriage, and heavily hinted at my story of being shot at in America on the 4th of July.


For me, just mentioning these things felt so exposing. But to her, they were just facts. A list of sad events said with no real emotion and a predictably deflecting laugh thrown in for free.


I am the conversational equivalent of treading water.

 

It's no secret to people who know me well that I don't like to be vulnerable. For most of my early life being resilient and tenacious were what got me through. Even now, years away from the events that hurt me, I still fall into the pattern of just handling things myself.


I cocoon away, wait for the bad feelings to pass, and emerge again a social butterfly without having bothered anyone else with my issues.


As a writer (if a somewhat occasional one) I purport to be in touch with my emotions. I claim to be able to access my feelings in a different way; to be able to connect with things in a way that others may not. To be a modern writer is to put a bow around humanity, package it nicely, and send it out into the world to be #relatable to the #masses.


But I don't do that. In fact, I avoid writing about the things that have hurt me. I even avoid writing under my own name most of the time. (This is my real name though, I paid $250 for it so I'd better start to goddamn use it.)


I am disconnected from the stories I tell. The lack of authenticity leaves me feeling hollow when I write, something I used to love, and keeps me disconnected from myself.


Writing has begun to feel like trying to take a photo of something through the mist, all while denying the mist is there or needs to be dealt with, then wondering why my pictures are blurry.

 

What I learned from my failed interview is that being vulnerable isn't reciting a laundry list of traumas. It's letting people know how those traumas affected you and trusting that the people who now have this knowledge won't use it against you.


It's opening yourself up, exposing the raw pinkness of untouched memories and the slick blackness of every horrible thought. It's sharing the toxic yellow bile still in your gut from when you told your sister that you loved her but didn't like her, and showing off the haloed purples and blues of the bruise you let him give you because you were desperate to feel something.


It's being naked, and still having layers to take off. It's knowing that people will judge you for just one of these colours, instead of seeing you for the messy, bleeding rainbow that you are, and not caring what they think.


The truth is, like a lot of us, I am afraid. I do care what 'they' think. What if there is more rot inside me than raw? What if my rainbow is uneven? What if there is something festering that I will no longer be able to hide?


What if people see the real me, and decide they don't like it?

What if people see the real me and decide they do?

I don't know which would be worse.


There is some sick pleasure in deciding how people see me. Having control over which parts of me they get to have an opinion on. Curating different versions of myself for everyone I come across. It is, possibly, my life's work.


Letting people decide for themselves is a liability.

 

Years ago, when I worked in retail (don't do it) I watched one of my staff giving change. They saw there was only one $5 note left, so instead, they gave change in gold coins. I asked them why. "I don't want to run out of fives," they had said.

"What will happen then?" I pressed. They paused.

"I'd have to use coins."


I would like to be able to chuckle loftily at the backwards-ness of trying to avoid the thing you fear, and accidentally doing it instead, but deep inside my blacks and pinks I understand that terrible logic. So closed off from the world I am, so that I can avoid isolation. So terrified of being rejected, that I don't even give people the option of chosing me.


And while this shield I put up does keep out the bad, it also keeps out the good.


I am so afraid to live without it, but I am more afraid to go through life as a shallow version of myself.


xx Hannah

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