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12/16/2005 Archived Entry: "A memory about sex, identity, and stupid ideas we love to live with"
A MEMORY CAME TO ME OUT OF THE BLUE TONIGHT and the ... um, gods or vibes or something told me to blog it even though it appears apropos of nothing. So here goes.
One summer when I was a teenager, my parents had me in this ... oh, for want of a better term call it a "day care for rotten adolescents." I was a rebel, as you might have already figured.
There was a small staff of painfully well-meaning social workers and then there were three college psych majors interning as counselors. One of them was Rick. He was nice looking. Personable. Competent. His only notable problem was that one of his arms was withered.
I had no personal interest in Rick. To me he was an "older man" and I was never the kind to find teachers or other authority figures attractive. And as a counselor, he was barely even a person in my narrow-focused teen orientation.
Anyhow, I eventually blew that joint. A couple of years go by. Now I'm a hippie chick (though still reading Ayn Rand, remember) and it's California and the air is saturated with Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Country Joe and the Fish, and Cream. And saturated with other atmospheric charms, as well.
And I'm at a "be-in" or "love-in" or whatever it was ... and there's Rick.
Now he's really friendly. Way friendly. And he's trying just as hard as he can, in his pathetically straight-square way, to be ... um, cool and groovy. If you get the picture. It's painful. But somehow endearing.
Despite my hippie cache, I'm naive. Inexperienced, as granny might have said, in the ways of roues and cads. So, thinking that good old Rick the counselor wanted to be my friend, I accepted a ride on his motorbike to a nearby clearing.
And there he came on to me. Like a rutting water buffalo he came on to me. As granny would have said, he tried to force himself upon me. It wasn't a violent attack. Just a persistent, clumsy, thoughtless, idiotic, and thoroughly unpleasant mauling.
I dragged myself out from under him and demanded he take me back to the gathering.
He was bitterly furious. For reasons I didn't understand at the time, he made it clear that I had somehow mislead him, toyed with him, screwed with his head, and otherwise betrayed him. His behavior was fine. Mine was traitorous and treacherous.
AND ... here's the vital part ... I had treated him so cruelly in his estimation solely because he had a withered arm. There wasn't even a question in his mind. Women rejected him because one arm was shorter than the other.
He took me back to the whatever-in and I never saw him again.
I hadn't even thought of him in decades until this evening when the whole memory and its meaning burst full-blown into my mind.
Rick, with his entire idea of hippies spooned into his brain by the mainstream media, imagined this: ALL hippie chicks believe in free love. And believing in free love means that a woman will simply hop into bed (or in this case, onto a lawn) with ANY man. Short. Tall. Good looking. Ugly. Smart. Dumb. If a woman believes in free love, then men can just pretty much grab her off the street and screw their brains out on her.
(I have no idea where this idiotic notion of free love as undiscriminating availability came from, but eventually I learned that a lot of egotistical and socially inept young men professed it.)
Since he KNEW this about hippies, then by going to the clearing with him and refusing to have sex, I was the betrayer. And I had done it deliberately to humiliate him for the sole reason that I detested his arm.
But of course, I rejected him solely because he was behaving like an ass. Or a rutting water buffalo. The arm? Who cared? My biggest fault in the encounter -- and I admit it was a fault -- was being so naive I thought a friendly man might just want to go someplace private and talk. Ha! I should have listened to all those warnings my mother gave me about men thinking fundamentally differently than women.
Funny how two people can face each other with such utterly different expectations, and then can come away from the same experience with such diametrically opposite beliefs about what happened.
The sad thing, for his sake, is that by telling himself that every rejection came down to the arm, he was quite likely condemning himself to a life of losership and resentment. He probably never gave himself the opportunity to change his own behavior and become a better person because he never saw any need to change.
If he articulated his situation he might have said, "Why bother? Everyone will just reject me anyway. Even a hippie chick who'd screw a leper or a geek won't screw me. I'm doomed because of this arm." But I doubt very much that he ever even reached the point of saying anything like that to himself. The very concept of making a personal behavior change probably never occurred to him. Because in his own mind he was okay. Only God and other people were at fault. So why even consider change?
Unless he eventually got a reality check, he's possibly still out there today thinking that all his troubles -- and I'm sure he'd have a million of 'em -- come from from his arm and not his attitude. And he's leading a miserable, screwed up, painful life just because of the tall tales he tells himself. Just because of the sad, sorry stories that -- at some level -- he enjoys telling himself because they give him such a convenient excuse.
Sure, he fails and that's painful. But the stories he tells himself about his arm and his helplessness give him an absolutely fabulous, completely bulletproof, reason to avoid actually making any hard, tedious, risky effort to make his life better.
Well, there it is. End of story. Thanks for reading and draw whatever moral or message you wish from it.
Posted by Claire @ 12:12 AM CST