Sunday, February 28, 2010

A prayer for the broken

And this, my friends, is what happens when you play the Secret Game. I promise the snark, sarcasm, and funny stuff will be back soon.

Of all the compliments I've ever received, "
You're hands down the most honest person I've ever met" is one of my very favorite. Ask anyone who knows me well to describe me, and you'll most likely hear a lot of things about how unusually (and occasionally inappropriately) open I am about my life. I've told near strangers about everything from growing up in a weird cult to helping pull the charred corpses of little girls out of a car my brothers in the Corps had blown up with a Mk-19.

It wasn't that I was unaffected by these things. I just really and truly believe that honesty is always best, you can't heal from things you won't talk about, and that holding all the dark things in your heart serves only to stain and corrupt all the good that you might want to keep safe. So I have no secrets, or almost none.

As you might imagine, this leads to a lot of trouble when I try to play the Secret Game. The Secret Game is my name for the age old practice of asking someone you love "So tell me a secret about yourself" and replying with a secret of your own. It's a bonding thing, a way of expressing trust, and of course a lot of fun for the professionally curious. I have a dear friend who shares my love for this game, but it's always tough for me as I just don't have many secrets. And the ones I do have...

There are a lot of bad things in my past, and they still inspire a lot of emotions in me today. Sadness, anger, despair, hopelessness; even filtered by the nepenthe of time and healing, nothing can ever make the deaths of those little girls ok, or erase the suicidal misery I felt when I was at the worst of my depression. But I talk about them, and every time they lose a little of their power. But there was something I always held back...

Shame is a powerful emotion, but sadly the people who most need it rarely seem to feel it. For over 20 years it's been there for me, and unlike any of the other emotions the past brings up it was enough to stop me from being honest. And I hate that it keeps me from that principle, hate that it's so illogical I feel it, and I won't let it be that way anymore.

When I was 5, a family member molested me several times. It happened again about 4 years later, but by a stranger on an airplane. Before today I'd never told anyone that, and I always wondered... Did they hurt other kids after me? If I'd said something, would they have been stopped, and the others saved? I feel so much guilt, so much shame. And it's goddamned illogical, all of it. None of it was my fault.

In reality, I've gotten off quite easily. The abuse was incredibly minor (I believe inappropriate touching is the technical term), it came from both a man and a woman so if I have any issues they're at least equal opportunity, and it actually has resulted in some positive things in my life. Exceedingly protective attitude towards kids (and women for that matter), a great deal of empathy for strippers/hookers/sexy barristas etc (damn near %100 of the women in those trades were sexually abused as kids), and a strong belief in the moral necessity of resisting evil.

And, in what is perhaps an arrogant gesture, I hope that my talking about it now can help others. Given the incredibly limited readership of this blog it's pretty unlikely anyone will actually see this who needs it, but I feel like I need to at least make the effort. So if you've been hurt, and feel broken please just know... You aren't alone.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Couple-y friends

In Roman mythology, both Romulus and Remus (Rome's founder and his brother) were fathered by the god of war (Mars) and raised by wolves. It was a mixture of their divine parentage and feral upbringing that resulted in the uniqueness of character that allowed Romulus to found one of the greatest and most influential empires in all of recorded history.

My own upbringing is not nearly as auspicious, but it has gifted me with what are apparently some fairly unique traits. I was raised... by women. Not in a "Heather has two Mommies" kind of way; I just had a very domineering mother and sisters and weak or absent male figures. Hardly an original situation, but the effect it had on me was a bit unusual.

You see, I'm a fairly manly kinda dude. Did a tour in Iraq with the Marine Corps Infantry, worked as a truck driver and in a machine shop, doing high end building maintenance right now, know more about guns than any other subject, and totally would not blame my wife if she left me for Felicia Day or Jewel Staite. Ok, so that last one more proves my nerd street cred, but still...

In two important ways I am very, very girly. The first is that I love babies. All kids really, but I get especially chick-like around the tiny people. I mean come on, who could not love those tiny little shoes?!?! Aside from the fact that all women seem to presume that a man who does not have kids but likes them is a pedophile, this has not had a significant negative impact on my life.

The second, however, has been causing some issues lately, so I thought I'd just talk it out a bit in the hope it'll be less of a problem. I also communicate like a girl. You want to talk about your feelings? I'm there. I really want to know about your parents, your siblings, your friends, your significant other, and of course the state of your relationships with all of them. When I say "How are you doing?" I really mean it.

In the case of the single girls we know, this is usually resolved fairly quickly. Elisa knows I love her in an amount that cannot be properly expressed without the use of scientific notation, and once it's clear I'm not hitting on her our friends generally find it refreshing that I care about them as a person and enjoy talking.

But in the dynamic of a "couples" friendship, things tend to get a bit more odd. There seems to be an unspoken cultural rule that when a couple is friends with another couple, the guys are primary friends with each other and likewise the girls. Of course there is some overlap: polite chit-chat, perhaps some help given or received, and so forth. But in the grand scheme of things the strongest friendship is with the person of the same gender, and their significant other is a far more casual relationship mainly based on proximity and interaction tied to the primary friendship.

The problem for me is, I really like my friend's wives. They're darn interesting people, and by God they're willing to actually talk about real things that matter to them. And those things generally don't include men in spandex whomping on each other over a ball of some sort. Heck, the dearest friend I've ever had is a wee bonny lass*. Although to be fair, she is pretty into football for some odd reason.

As one might expect, reactions to this are fairly mixed. For the average woman it's a highly unusual social situation. Generally her husband's friends are politely disinterested in her, and when they do show substantial amounts of attention it's often not for chaste purposes. I've had more than one girl who simply didn't know what to do with me.

So, to all the XX halves of our various couple-y friends, I apologize if I've made you uncomfortable. I'm not faking it to be polite, I'm not trying to hit on you, and I promise I really am just interested in your life. I'm sorry if it's a social situation your life has not prepared you for. Believe me when I say I know that feeling, and it's not terribly enjoyable. But if you can get past the awkwardness, rumour has it I'm a mild to moderately interesting guy to know.

* Before anyone gets all aflutter that I didn't list my wife as my closest friend, allow me to clarify that I'm merely using the correct terminology. Elisa means far more to me than anyone ever could, but we have a romantic relationship, not a "friendship." I would no more classify Elisa as "a friend" than I would smooch on one of my female friends. Totally different hierarchies of relationship.