Part 3 of… “Being vulnerable in the face of sexual assault (when you’re pretty sure it was your vulnerability that got you assaulted)”
This past Friday, I had what can only be described as a “beneficial panic attack.”
I had to flee a location. That alone was not unusual. Since I confronted the loser who sexually assaulted me this past May, I have fled more rooms than I have entered. Yes, it’s a paradox that violates all rules of space/time. I know that. I’m not here to explain quantum mechanics to anyone, but I live in a constant state of Schrödinger’s Panic Attack. Every room can contain a variable that will trigger me OR it may not. It’s completely random; I can never be sure until I open the box. And I never stop opening boxes.
PTSD messes with your sense of space and time. I’m told it’s the amygdala.
Entering new rooms has pretty much devolved into the same multi-point kabuki of driving around the block, breathing exercises, looking for exits, etc. Over and over again.
Once that is all done. I can how scan the horizon like a meerkat looking for that single point of information that I can extrapolate into a dire threat to my person.
Extrapolating from single points of information is what gives each panic attack it’s own nuances, it’s own notes. When you extrapolate from a single point, you can go anywhere. Literally. That’s how geometry works. Each panic is different, which is why each one imprints itself on the palimpsest of my PTSD brain. “Indelible on the hippocampus,” as the wise woman said. Continue reading
Part One of series that’ll be as long as I need it to be:
“Being vulnerable in the face of sexual assault (when you’re pretty sure it was your vulnerability that got you assaulted.”
The worst aspect of dealing with the PTSD caused that smirking bastard sexually assaulting me is that I’ve been closing myself off from others. It’s not just that I’m scared to step foot in a gay bar. That I can understand. Unfortunately, I’m also avoiding friends, family, and anyone who can help.
My therapist says I should be more vulnerable, more open to these interactions. I’m not going to get thru this alone.
But isn’t vulnerability what got me into this mess? I certainly was vulnerable when he assaulted me. Now I’m supposed to be some sort of therapeutically vulnerable?
Etymologies will help. Etymologies always help. They’re not just for SAT prep anymore.
As I tried to wrestle with the contradiction of being vulnerable when vulnerability got me in the situation where my therapist says I need to be vulnerable, I went down the etymology hole. I go there whenever my therapist introduces me to a concept I don’t quite grasp.
New concepts from the therapist’s office often land with a bit of a clunk with me. It’s not that they don’t make sense —the words are never “big” words —it’s more that they come into my brain thru the wrong door, too fast. Researching the etymology helps me guide them thru the proper door at a proper speed. Continue reading
I felt that yesterday’s post about my first time in a gay bar was a bit of a downer, so here’s some words about finally finding a gay bar where I felt accepted.
I didn’t come out until 2000 when I was a whopping 33 years old. This isn’t going to be a tale about me tiptoeing into my first bar (for proper reasons; see above). I had sold pants at Dillards in Austin for a few years during grad school, so I was constantly being dragged to places like Oil Can Harry’s in the name of workplace colleague bonding.
No, this is about finally finding a place I liked. When I came out in Austin, I tried going out to the bars there. My entire circle of gay peers consisted of the sad sacks in my coming out support group, and they hated me because I admitted that drag queens kind of frightened me. I needed friends, and I figured I could meet maybe one or two at any one of Austin’s several gay establishments.
It didn’t work out that way. I hardly talked to anyone basically because I felt so uncomfortable in the Austin bars. They were not for me. My only pleasant memory of Oil Can Harry’s was that night I closed the place and found a nice GAP shirt on the empty dance floor in my size. The Chain Drive, the leather/bear bar in town, had fluorescent lighting.
One winter break, early 2002, I decided to spend a week in NYC. I found a cheap guesthouse on Second Avenue and 13th Street in the East Village and set out, armed with my Damron guide. I didn’t have to go far –The Phoenix was only two long blocks away. First thing I noticed was the music. I had no idea that gay folk who listened to the same type of music as me existed. To this day, I think The Phoenix had the best-curated jukebox I’ve ever encountered. Continue reading
The belly in question.
This morning I’m filling out my registration for this year’s Bear Pride, which is to be held over Memorial Day in Chicago. For the uninitiated, the term “Bear” refers to larger gay men who usually choose to sport facial hair. They proclaim that they prefer to gather in groups with other “Bears” to get a little something-something and to fight the stigma of body shaming.
There is a lot of body shaming.
I know I don’t wear flannel shirts and a beard because they look particularly fetching on me. I wear flannel shirts and a beard because flannel shirts are easy to find in XXL, and a beard is really only the socially acceptable way to cover a triple chin, extra jowly.
So I will travel to Chicago for Bear Pride to NOT be nervous about my body and instead judge people on normal things like the wittiness of their quips, or the irony of their t-shirts, or inanity of their WOOF tattoos. [FYI to the uninitiated: Some Bears like to say “Woof.” Avoid these Bears. They are stupid, and this one word will be the extent of their conversation.] Continue reading
[A piece in which the writer employs the word odalisque eight times.]
Yesterday I finally got those skin tags removed. Yeah, those skin tags. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice them. There were well over 700 of them, most the size of a Kia Soul, stretching from my left eyelid down my face and neck and across my chest. People would point in that way so I couldn’t see them. And I think everyone knows the haunting taunts the neighbor children would sing: “Faggy, gaggy floppy skin taggy. The City’s gonna put your face in a garbage baggy!”
But today I am a butterfly emerging from his chrysalis. They are gone. Go ahead, run your fingers over the upper half of my body –all bumps you find will be the necessary ones.
Hello? No one’s running their fingers over the upper half of my body, much less the lower half.
To remedy this situation, I have decided to take a lover. I refuse to use any of your more base carnal terms. “Take a lover” sounds like something out of the society pages of old: “Marquis Christopher Ronald Bartholomew Fay of the Columbus Fays spent the season at Biarritz, where he was rumored to have taken several lovers hailing from prominent families. This periodical salutes his discretion, tenderness and virility”
The phrase “take a lover” also conjures visions of me reclining like an odalisque on an overstuffed 19th century chaise longue, resplendent in velvets and feathers. I really think this would be a good look for me. I look great in a La-Z-Boy, and male odalisque is not too much of a stretch after that.
Apologies to Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1814.
I have other things going for me in the taking a lover department, too, beyond the lack of skin tags. My collection of abstruse t-shirts is at its apogee; I’ve lost like fifteen pounds; I’ve finally figured out a way to apply Just For Men that looks completely natural; I drive a Volvo station wagon that’s old enough to be interesting; and I’m relatively new meat here in Columbus.
There is much that conspires against me taking a proper lover at the present time. Remember, the inability to take a lover never has anything to do with the odalisque on the chaise longue, but everything to do with the outside world. Continue reading