I am a bit more sensitized to the current state of sexual crimes and misdemeanors playing out in the public domain these days than many of my brothers. I was once falsely accused of rape by a sibling when I was seventeen. I lived with the judgment, shame, and anger for fifteen years before I was exonerated. Strangely enough, most of the women I dated at one time or another – over 60% by my unofficial, and slightly inappropriate poll – were survivors of familial rape and sexual misconduct.
I’m thinking of one particular time, as a young man, when I started to make love to my girlfriend. Looking at me, she made a quizzical face and pushed me off her. Confused, I asked her what was wrong? She sat on the opposite edge of the bed from me, her face hidden in her hands and quietly said, “For a moment there, you reminded me of my father.” My heart broke into a thousand pieces right there at her anguish, deeply regretting that my actions – and the look on my face – had triggered such painful memories for her.
Maybe it was our magnetics, our quantum entanglement made possible by similar circumstances that brought us together, unwittingly searching for forgiveness, retribution or healing from a past that continued to haunt us, the shadows of which remained, for the most part, unspoken.
Maybe it was just our dumb luck that in the midst of the madness, we found each other at all. Maybe, with the prevalence of this particular type of offense, it was only a matter of time before we uncovered each other’s secrets.
Sensitive as I might have been to the consequences of sexual misconduct, as a man I still had no idea what most women go through in order to arrive home safely at the end of a day.
On a flight back from Phoenix several weeks ago, I noticed one of the airline attendants. She was thin and very beautiful. She carried herself with seriousness in completing her required tasks of passenger safety and comfort. Even though she moved lightly through the cabin it ‘felt’ like she was wearing armor or carrying an energetic shield that separated her from her charges; a ‘don’t fuck with me’ attitude that suggested that any type of conversational chitchat would be out of the question. ‘This woman,’ I thought to myself, ‘is angry.’
It wasn’t anything she said or did; it was shimmering in the air around her; a weary and threadbare desire to do her job without the added hassle of someone coming on to her was plain on her non expressive face. A cymatic frequency rippled through the cabin, moving with her, making her intent plain to anyone with eyes to see. ‘She thinks it dangerous to be her,’ I thought.
Restrained by her professionalism, she was left with few options other than a disapproving and pained smile with which to defend herself against anyone stupid, or narcissistic, enough to confuse proximity with intimacy.
I pointed out the young lady to my wife, who sat next to me. Jennifer sees multi-dimensionally and even though she was trying to relax on the flight, she took a moment to focus her eyes softly and knowingly nodded as she took in the attendant’s ‘field.’ “Yea,” she said sympathetically, “she’s not having a very good time.”
Jennifer went back to reading her book, as I continued to watch the attendant.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for most of my life, I had encountered many women with that same air of defiance. Surly waitresses and curt bartenders carried with them similar barriers to their hearts: an occupational necessity given the comparable risks of drunken advances and unwanted attention.
In the past, when encountering such walls of inaccessibility, I would consider it a personal challenge to scale the emotional blockades I encountered in search of an authentic moment. Sometimes, the smoldering rage and anger of having to put up with the crap that came with the job would spur insensitive thoughts in me such as, ‘Does she think that everyone wants to fuck her?’ Or ‘Does she think that she carries gold between her legs?’.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but truth deserves an unvarnished tale. Growing up a man, I could never have conceived then, given my limited experience with the realities of being feminine, how risky it is to be a woman.
I had heard, and sometimes participated in, ‘locker room’ banter with my friends. Looking back now, I can understand that all the talk about conquests and vivid descriptions of sexual acts were all braggadocio bullshit perpetrated by naive boys without the first clue of what to do with a woman if one had the good fortune to be with one in the first place. Without a ritualized rite of passage in which to frame the necessary conversations, and knowledge of how to be with a sexual partner in a mature, responsible way, most of us learned from our friends during these ‘locker room moments.’
Ignorance of any law, I now concede, is no excuse against breaking it. I stand accused and have been found guilty by my conscience.
The immature ramblings of pubescent boys are no way to understand the deeply secret ways of the feminine, but that’s exactly what happened until I had worked up enough courage to ask a girl what she held to be true, what she liked and how she wanted to be treated.
That was a revelatory moment when Joy Pickett finally set me straight. I discovered that respect, tenderness, and kindness was the only currency that mattered to girls, in spite of the macho crap espoused by my friends. After that schooling by Joy, I no longer engaged in what I now know as the misogynistic objectification of women. I ceased to be frightened to be found out to be a feminist at heart; not that I was somehow superior or better than my friends, it was just more fun to be with a girl and learn to speak her language fluently.
Even though I got better at communicating in a non-threatening manner, given my husky frame and manic passion, I never really appreciated what women when through just walking through their lives.
Many of my brothers and cousins have behaved badly in marking each woman they meet as prey to be conquered. Some have irreparably damaged the name ‘man’ by acting in devastating and destructive ways toward the women in their lives. The damage left in their wake is so pervasive that it is now inherently dangerous for good men of conscience to speak freely about masculinity without the prefix of ‘toxic’ being thrown into the mix as if the two words are now forever joined at the hip.
But this is not about me, nor about masculinity.
This is about you, Angry Woman.
I am sorry to have been part of the problem.
I didn’t consciously choose to be born a man, but I chose my responses to other men when they suggested that women were playthings to be used and abused as any man saw fit. I’m sorry that I didn’t stand up for you, and all other women by shutting down such suggestions. I’m sorry that I doubted my courage, strength, and capacity to make a stand for your reverence when I could have made a difference.
I am sorry that so much hate, abuse, and depravity has been visited upon you by men claiming to be masculine.
I understand now that the damage done to you has also been done to myself, all other men and our environmental community. Proper blame should be attributed, and suitable recompense sought from the perpetrators; however, what I long for is the true healing that only comes from moving beyond this dark chapter of our history, together in peace, humility and mutual honoring.
I am sorry that I spent so much of my life denying my divine feminine.
Maybe by fully embracing that sacred part of me that resonates so harmoniously with your sacred self, I would have followed my heart’s instinct earlier and accepted nothing less than the treatment of all women, by all men with grace, compassion, and empathy. I’m sorry that instead of that outcome, I let fear guide me into complacency and self-righteousness.
I am sorry that it took this long in our history to finally bring this into the light of day.
Now that it has, maybe more men will accept the sovereignty of the women and girls in their life.
It may be a bit confusing for us men for a while as such things as innuendo and coarse suggestions passed off as jokes fade from the field of acceptable behavior. We may need a bit of guidance and even encouragement to come from that place in our hearts where it’s safe to speak one’s truth, even if it’s uncomfortable. We, as men, haven’t had much experience with such transparency and vulnerability but we’ll get there, as a species, only with your help.
There are those of us men, the Inspired Masculine few, who wait patiently on the other side of your wall. You may not even see us, at this moment, because we look so much like those immature boy-men that wanted to dominate, and or subjugate you. Nonetheless, we are there, just beyond your need for safety and independence, ready to be your ‘soft place to land.’ The problem is, you can’t quite see us yet from the high ramparts of your immense fortress of defense.
My request, and invitation to you, Angry Woman, and your sisterhood of survivors is: when you’re ready, we’ll be here. Please don’t confuse us with the other men who may have wanted to hurt you or take away your power. Judge us on our actions, not our affiliation of sexual identity. If we can come together, free of our history, and the corpses of deeds badly done, then we may well be able to chart a different course for all of us, in relationship to one another and ourselves.
All we need is a chance to prove it to you without having to slay the dragons of the past along the way.
None of us are strong enough, for long enough, to overcome that challenge.
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