Friday, 11 January 2013

Decently Concealed

Yesterday I wrote about verbal abuse, and I am sad that some of my readers have undergone it in the past and that at least one of you has been suffering for four years from the nastiness of a supervisor at work.

It makes me furious thinking about goodhearted girls and women doing their best to be quiet enough, or diligent enough, or polite enough, just to wring a scrap of praise from the person with power over them, or at least not to be sneered at or belittled. But their best just doesn't work. It doesn't work because the girls and women are not causing the abuse. The abuser is causing the abuse and will abuse no matter what the girls or women do. It's how she or he gets his or her miserable kick. He or she is a bully and with bullies the only thing to do is stand up to them or to remove oneself from their reach. And then the work of healing begins.

Healing is something best done behind closed doors, usually with a healer and those people who understand what you have gone through because they have gone through it themselves. It is such a relief to know that one is not alone, and one of the most important conversations of my life was with a Catholic woman my age who had also gone through a short miserable marriage and an annulment process. Our wounds were still raw; God bless her for telling me her story.

Healing is not something you do on a date. I know I've written about this before, but I think it is one of the most important things I can write about, so here I am again telling you not to tell men that other men have treated you badly.

I should probably qualify this. There will be a time when it is appropriate to tell a man you are in a marriage-track relationship with about why you don't like this or that, or why you are afraid of this or that. That time is not on the first date, or on the second date, or on the third, or during the first month of a relationship, or probably during the second.

Men pick up their cues about how to treat women from other men. This is why it is important for decent men to speak up when other men speak dismissively or in a crude or violent way about women. This is also why it is important not to give strangers or near-strangers the impression that you are the kind of woman men use and toss away. Never present yourself on a date as a Victim.

There are at least two different kinds of men who love to get involved with Victims. The scarier kind is the man who is at least unconsciously looking for a woman to abuse. The more subtle kind is the man who feels most comfortable as a rescuer and becomes unhappy when the brittle victim becomes stronger and happier because then she's not a victim any more. I once knew a guy who specialized in women who had gone through break-ups so bad, the women were kind of crazy. When they stopped being crazy, and got their lives together, he ditched them.

You can avoid these men by refusing to portray yourself as a Victim. Until a man gets to know you, it is much better to give off the allure of a Girl Next Door or a Princess.

Dear me, how the word Princess is abused. You may have noticed that real-life princesses are not snobby, self-obsessed fashionistas, but bright, charming, confident (but not overpowering) women who shake hands a lot, put people at their ease and do their best to have interesting conversations with whomever they are introduced to. They smile a lot. They wear nice but generally conservative clothing. Their make-up is subtle; they don't go in much for fake tan or hair extensions.

But even if men do snarl about "Princesses" (e.g. the supposedly spoiled modern American Princesses), they still value them more than Victims. Possibly their snarls are more about feeling out of depth with confident, driven women. Men have this concept called "out of my league": it means they think the most beautiful or successful woman in the room would not be interested in them, and sometimes this makes them really mad. (Contrast this with the 12 year old girl/40 year old woman who is sure Justin Bieber would love her if only he knew how much she loved him.)

But I fear that I am veering off topic. What I want to stress is that before a man knows you well, and it takes time to get to know anybody, and you must not try to speed it up by telling a man your saddest stories, his brain will slot you into a category. This category will affect how he thinks of you, perhaps for a long time.


Anon today. said...

I am quite tearful here. Thanks Seraphic. You do have Professional Auntie as part of your vocation. God bless you.

Bernadette said...

I like all of this, but the last bit about Princesses is the part that stuck. A long time ago I was part of an organization that tried to promote female self-esteem by pushing the whole We Are All Princesses Because Our Father Is The King of Kings thing. At first I thought it was fairly silly, but then I had the thought that a princess is a woman who is valued, and worthy of respect, honor, and protection simply because of who she is, not because of how she looks or what she can do.

Seraphic said...

Re: princesses. Well, exactly.

Mustard Seed said...

I went on a retreat last spring, and we read a reflection prayer that had this line in it: "I am a beloved daughter of the King." It totally stuck with me - I try to remind myself of it every day.

Thank you, Seraphic :)

Mustard Seed said...

One other thing - I recently went on a date with a man who made several allusions to "friends who let him down," things being "topsy-turvy lately," people who "weren't there for him as he expected," and some other dark shadowy references. I am a sympathetic person, but it also made me wonder if this guy has some kind of problem where he's negative/paranoid, or if things really have just been a rough go lately for him. Either way, it felt like an overshare for a second date, and wasn't how I would want to come off to someone new. If you need to vent, I think it's better to do so to one's friends and family than a new potential love interest, simply because it's the early stages and the listener has no context for it. Everyone has problems, but it seems best to put your best face forward for starters, and I think it's possible to do that and still be genuine.

Seraphic said...

Mustard Seed, RED FLAG. In general, I'd avoid men who are so quick to think and talk about people not being there for them and friends having betrayed them, etc., etc. It's like the guy who complains about all the women in your life; you start to wonder what he would say about you in six months, if you got together.