I’m a bit embarrassed by this post, but I want to be honest, and I think there is more to taking care of the girl I used to be than telling her she has a right to her feelings.
Tonight my husband and I are hosting our book group under the canopy in our backyard. We are still in the midst of a heatwave here, so it will be chilled wine and ice cold beer and summer foods, along with good company.
But there is one man in our book club who is a bit dangerous for me. Not dangerous as in he is going to bring a weapon to our book group and do me harm. He is dangerous in that he reminds me of someone who abused me. He is a similar size with somewhat similar appearance and voice. He drinks a lot (far more than anyone else in the group). He is a little more familiar than is appropriate. Sometimes in one-on-one conversations, he gets a little too personal. He has training in clinical psychology, and though he doesn’t practice professionally, he is a keen observer of spotting people’s weak points. I’ve seen him do it with others as well. I don’t feel at ease with him.
So you’d think I would just keep some distance, right? Sit at the far end of the table, minimize close contact. That’s what I should do. But at our gatherings, I find myself trying to please him. Thinking about what I will wear, since I know he will be here. Telling stories I think will amuse him. Ensuring I’ll get his attention.
Ugh, I hate that! I don’t want this man. I love my husband unreservedly, with all my heart. I don’t want any other man, and I especially don’t want this man. This man is sneaky, selfish, untrustworthy–like my abuser.
But a much younger self learned to accommodate, to please, to disavow her own reactions in favor of a man’s. And I think it’s that young girl that creeps out just a bit when he’s around. It’s the girl that allowed myself to be assaulted even in adulthood.
So, dear one, you are not making decisions this evening. I, your wiser older self, am going to take charge because I love you and value your safety. I don’t want a summer book club dinner to become a triggering event. I will dress you in appropriate and somewhat modest summer clothing. I will seat you by your beloved husband. I will keep a little distance from this danger. Trust me, you’ll feel better for it.
P.S. Why is this man even in the book club, you ask? Well, he is the partner of one of the original members of our book club, and we have a very inclusive orientation towards who can join us. Let’s see if the wise woman can take care of this issue without having to change the group membership.
P.P.S. Just for the record, I absolutely do believe women should wear whatever they feel like–especially in their own home!–and that it’s this guy’s responsible not to be creepy. But this is a special circumstance and part of work to make things different for this young girl.
And a nod to my snarky side…