With all of my past experiences with socialization or lack thereof, one would think that I must be a loner. However, I don’t have the extreme tendencies of a loner in the physical sense. I often find myself around people, but I understand that loneliness is mostly in my mind. When I say in my mind, I feel a lot less connected to others because I spend a lot of time talking to myself in my head. Only 35% of how I genuinely feel and think is communicated externally. I believe that more people are like this than not, so I am not alone, but rarely does anyone admit this. I know that I cannot be the only one choking on thoughts, decisions, and ideas; that cannot be regurgitated. So, I swallow them all for fear that I sound stupid saying them out loud.
Being unable to speak my mind, express my feelings, or what pains me is also an early symptom of my up bring. There was always a fear of speaking my mind because children were to be seen and not heard. In an indirect way, I was made to believe that my existence was an inconvenience. This muffled me and made me believe that having thoughts and opinions didn’t matter.
Fear of Asking
One morning in the third grade, I went to the refrigerator to get some milk for my morning tea. I noticed there was none available, I reported this to my mother, who was getting ready for work. She snapped at me, responding, so I knew never to ask again. Hurt, shame, and embarrassment consumed me, making it very hard to ask for anything or express myself.
Whenever I got sick, had a toothache, or needed extra tools for school, I wouldn’t ask my mother for fear she would react the same way. Asking for help in anything became a constant negotiation in my mind trying to predict the outcome of my request. Ponding whether (the respondent) might lash out at me, reject my request, or lie about their intentions often consumed. I often battle with the perception of being needy or surrendering control to someone else.
I became a coward and was paralyzed with fear whenever I had to ask her or anyone for anything. Whether it was money, extra food, or even to let her know that I’d started my period, I would have to work up the courage to do any of this. When I started my period, I didn’t bother to tell her or ask her for menstrual products. It took me two years to tell her. During those years, I fashioned wads of toilet paper into disposable pads or used whatever menstrual products my cousins gave me.
In the 8th grade, when I tripped and twisted my ankle in French class, I ended up with pain in my left hip for days until I couldn’t take it anymore. When my mother was forced to take me to the doctor, she opted out of that role and had my aunt take me instead. The morning I was scheduled to go to the doctor, she asked me if I was lying about the pain to get out of school. When I explained what happened, she was silent. She left the house to go outside to take her morning bus to work, then 5 minutes later, I heard her call me from outside. I could barely put pressure on my left leg, so walking was hard, which meant I was slower than usual. As I drugged my left leg out of the house and then down the stairs towards where she stood in the yard. She looked at me in disgust as she walked towards the stairs, placing money on the last concrete step while demanding that I give it to my aunt. Over 10-plus years later, I still remember that morning and what she told me on her way back to the bus stop. She said, “I hope they can do something for you because I don’t want a crippled child.”
After that, I stopped asking for anything if I could help it. Instead, I tried to be careful about putting myself in positions that would cause my mother to miss work, demand her attention, or spend any money on me. I was and still find myself enveloped with fear whenever I ask someone to do something for me. There is always the idea that they are only doing it out of a strange obligation and not that they genuinely want to. Before I even vocalize what I want, I tend to find myself back in my childhood form, rehearsing in my mind the best way to approach someone for a request. There are many downsides to feeling like this and having these experiences repeatedly.
On the other hand, one of the pros of often being told “no” or experiencing rejection. Is my ability to remedy my issues before bringing them to others. Finding ways to get what I want without involving a second or third party is often what I do instead of asking someone else. If I am forced to ask for anything. In that case, I overcompensate by trying to repay the person with something equal to or higher in value. I never want to owe anyone a favor or make people think I am using them. If I become too anxious about asking for something, I find a replacement or something that I can easily get for myself instead of what I really want.
The Impossibility of Romance
I grew up reading romance novels, but this genre is problematic in the way they position men and women in society. While these novels continue to be an excellent escape for me and could be credited with encouraging me to read more during my teenage years. Deep down inside, I know that I am a romantic at heart, but just like fairytales, I understand that the visions of romance spread across a page in novels aren’t a realistic depicture of what romance, passion, and desire are in reality. Regardless of this, society still pressure us to pursue the sexist, capitalistic, racist, and less than forgiving romance and various forms of love seen in movies and books.
It’s often been said that girls fantasize about their wedding day and their perfect partner. I don’t think I was ever that girl. I was never reared up to believe that I would ever get married or be in a relationship. I never saw it in my future, and even worse, I couldn’t envision what a perfect man would look like for me. In my early twenties, after my second terrible relationship, I made a vow to never ever get married or fall into a relationship casual or serious. I thought and still believe that I wasn’t desirable, but ultimately by the time I was in my early twenties, I understood that the very nature of my being would be too cumbersome to share with another. I found many aspects of my body and life embarrassing to share with anyone else. I wish that there was a way to never fall for other people and to avoid these things. I often feel that if we never chased after pleasure by way of sex or acceptance from others most of us would be more productive.
When I did find myself in the company of the opposite sex who fancied me, they were often guys who picked me, but I never picked them. I was often too excited about having a guy show interest to notice that they weren’t really my type or didn’t like me for me. When it comes to relationships, it’s the same thing. I never ask for what I want or who I want for fear of rejection. Sometimes I equate this to being back in school, lining up on the playground waiting to be picked for a team. All the best players get selected first, and then I am last because no one wants me on their team. I end up on a team anyway because I am the last person standing, and based of the rules of participation, the last man standing had to be consumed by another team for the sake of evening the playing field.
When I did find myself in my first relationship, I resisted having sex for 6 months. I only concluded that as a gift to him, sex I would be included in the relationship. Months after starting this relationship, I discovered that he had sex with another, and as if god was punishing him, he was arrested for it. As a twenty-two-year-old male having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl was a punishable offense, and I had the privilege of being embarrassed in this relationship in a public forum. While I had few serious or casual relationships, most ended similarly or I ended it by avoiding them for one reason or the other but never explaining myself.
After that relationship, the next person I dated didn’t like me. He constantly asked for money or anything that helped him, and because I was so enamored by him, I went along with it. The other men I dated after that turned into a list of very different people from varied backgrounds but with similar selfishness. If I dated a guy my age or a few years younger/older, they often treated me just as my first two boyfriends did. While the older men might appreciate me more, they made me feel like I was less than them. It seems to be the same with female relationships. As both romantic and platonic relationships often made me feel like I had to be extra supportive. I had to be a giver, whether that’s helping with courses or information, I was often the giver because I felt they would see this as a true sign of friendship and understand that I was a capable friend or lover.
Ultimately my willingness to give gifts, money, other resources, or information was just my way of getting people to like me, which, when said out loud or written down, is pathetic. When I started my very first job, I remember saving my money, so around Christmas time, I was able to send my mother $300.00 in cash as a gift. It was almost like I was saying sorry for being born; and indirectly saying that from now on, a percentage of my income would go to her. I felt obligated to do this because I wanted her to love me or at least like or appreciate me.
When you grow up trying to always please demanding parents or the adults in your life, by being “a good” child who never talks back, always does chores unprompted, or receives good grades. That then creates adults who spend a lifetime being of service to people who walk all over them. This is because you believe that making others happy by constantly trying to satisfy them somehow is the only way to gain respect or appreciation. The truth is that most people will never even see us for who we are and will continue using us because it’s easy.
I knew now that I was doing all of this to be liked by my mother, family, and friends. But, as an adult, this has translated into an obsessive need to be supportive or always give to others. Whether that be by providing information, yielding to demands, offering assistance or resources. Is this the true nature of a supportive person or a fear of not being liked, which ultimately makes both parties (givers and receivers) disingenuous. Both sides are engaged in a transaction, one for resources or information, the other for attention, love, or appreciation.
To this day, I never really felt comfortable around men. I knew no man I was ever in a relationship with, whether serious or casual, who didn’t use, rape, cheat, take me for granted, or make me feel like I was worthless while simultaneously still professing their interest. Even when I followed the rules of hypergamy I found that while I got an education in economics and capitalism. The treatment was one where I got what I wanted in the material sense, but that came with the price of understanding that my dreams, fears, and desires were secondary to theirs.
I don’t see myself ever experiencing love “with no reservations” in this lifetime. While for me it may seem impossible, I still know that because of the way life is, anything is possible. When it comes to friendships, I feel the same as I do not possess the ability to let my guard down to form a genuine connection with others. I am always holding something close to my heart that I can never share with others. I am always wearing a mask that I cannot take off until I am alone. Since vulnerability is the key tenant of any relationship, I am not surprised I find myself alone. If I had to predict if I would ever be in a relationship that is balanced I would say no, there is hope for me there.
There is no love or man for me.
…end of Act III