My First Date

IMG_20170720_224220
I went on my first date, yesterday.

I wasn’t afraid of him. He was much bigger than I, and I still was not afraid, that is how mild mannered he is. Perfect, really, for me.

We met on a dating site, and he invited me for coffee. I ran a background check and found his wide open social media and went willingly.

Over a year ago I Skyped with a much younger man for the first time, ever. We had been talking for three years, via forum and text boxes. He thought I was cute. I was flummoxed. He knows my story.

Since then he has insisted I am beautiful, repeatedly, consistently. Until I began to have suspicions of my own that my self perception might be off.

I shaved my head. I still could not accept my face, and my hair grew in.

I complained in therapy about this, was it a dysmorphic disorder? My therapist was incredulous. “No one ever told you that you were pretty?” She asked me. She did not offer an opinion. She approached it thoughtfully. She had suggestions.

I started taking selfies. I skipped the filters and played with light. I read tutorials on eyeliner. I put my face online in places where I was known, but not my identity. Didn’t have a great response, but didn’t have a bad one, either.

I wrote a dating profile. I sat on it for months. I put it live. I got some responses, but all women do. I shut down the profile and started talking to some of those responses.

I got to my first adult date invite. Ever. The day before I go, my friend who insists I am beautiful tells me he wants to move here, where I live. He knows I love him, I don’t bother to hide it anymore, but he probably does not feel quite the same and I don’t think he should. The therapist tells me to let him make his own choices and stop deciding what is best for him. I start calling in favors via phone. I take time off work to do this.

I go on the date. He asks me for another. I plan it for two weeks from now. I can’t afford the sitters but I can’t afford not to go, either.

I don’t know what I am doing. How do you get to know someone without confessing things up front like “I am in hiding. I am an apostate, they want to kill me. He wants me dead. My children have PTSD. I have PTSD. I survived. I understand honour violence from the inside out. I am not a product of my culture.”

The small talk is killing me. I want more. I want everything, all at once.

Medical History

My stepmother has been finding things to get rid of since my father passed. Last weekend she led me to a filing cabinet in her garage, and inside was a file with my name on it. Not one for my brother, just me.

Inside were notes I had written for friends, lists of my friends and their phone numbers, and medical evaluations written about me. I have read through three of them so far- evals written just after I turned fourteen. I am going backwards, and I hope to find some good stuff from when I was twelve and committed to a hospital.

I had called that hospital upon reaching adulthood and requested the file but it was no longer in existence. A legal rep for the entity informed me that all patient files had been destroyed.

So far I have found some interesting things. I was recommended to be placed in foster care and given intense therapy instead of going back home after I completed my survival course for troubled kids. My father’s parenting style was not working for me and was affecting my health, and I was considered to be isolated- which again is about my father’s parenting style.

I am hoping my proof of virginity is in here. Not because I need it, but because it is so fucked up that I had such a test done at age twelve that it seems unreal and I want to see it, even if in billing format.

Maybe I was predisposed to PTSD.

When I Was Stolen

When I was fourteen, I was stolen, twice. I didn’t think of it that way at the time, I was sure I knew what I was doing, but they were adults. Now that I am a parent I know it was abuse, even if I considered myself complicit.
If I had a loving home and support from both my parents would I have made those choices again? No. I don’t think so.
I get hazy on the details, which might be a blessing.
But I ran away when I was fourteen, to be fair, I ran away at twelve and thirteen, too. I ended up squatting, nearly right away this time, in a suburb close to home.
I was in an abandoned apartment. There were no tools for survival or cleanliness besides running water and heat. There was some half eaten chicken that I recall, and I can still remember the smell of it- which was not pleasant. I don’t know if I ate any. I might have been vegetarian.
His name was Mike. I don’t know how I met him, but somehow I ended up in this abandoned apartment with him and then we got into a beat up old truck and there was another man in there named Tom. Those are their real names, though they sound made up and generic. It was really cold out, and it was the middle of the night.
We went to a house in the city that a couple with a new baby had just bought and were renovating. They let us stay a few days, it wasn’t bad, Tom and I babysat and Mike did odd repair jobs and it all seemed fine.
But after those few days it came out that Mike, a felon from Leavenworth, had a pistol. I think also he figured out Tom and I had been intimate. The couple in the house did not take kindly to unsecured firearms around their baby and Mike did not take kindly to my involvement with Tom and there was a fight on the front lawn. Very civilized. I sure can pick some winners.
Tom, outsizing Mike by quite a bit, won. Mike left, and I think he took his gun with him.
Days later Tom “borrowed” the couple’s older car out of a snowdrift and drove the two of us to Canada, right after I had given my age to the young mom, who had assumed I was an older teen until that point. I did not realize he was stealing a car. I had his ex-wife’s security number memorized with her birth date and we got through customs without issue. I passed for an adult. We were nearly to the first city over the border (about 120 miles in) when he turned around and brought us back, because he realized he had no work permit. Maybe he realized he had just committed international kidnapping. Not sure if he was smart enough to keep such a thing to himself. I spent a lot of time hiding in the car, though, so perhaps it had occurred to him.
We returned the car and of course were kicked out of the house for stealing it in the first place. We had been gone three days.
We went into Uptown and ended up sleeping in the back of a movie theater (they had an unused hallway on the side of the building) for a few nights before they realized we were in there and started checking for us at lockup. Tom got a job working under the table at the pizza shop next door and sometimes we slept there, but other nights we slept at a squat at 37th and Garfield.
There were tons of kids at the squat, one punk, and some crackheads. The heat was on, the water was not. The upstairs was not too bad, but the basement was awful. It was not a well maintained squat.
This was where I spent most of my time away from home during that run, on the streets in Uptown and sleeping in that squat.
My mother’s wife spotted me on a street corner there and mentioned it to my brother, who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone in my squat. So he had me arrested.
After they let me out of jail I asked to go back to the Bridge, a home for runaways. My mother had found a letter from Tom and read it at the hearing. Tom might have been there, I don’t know. I suppose I must have known him for a long time, as it was a twelve page letter, but I can’t remember how. Maybe I ran away to him, a second time, and am confusing the two as one. It seems telling to me that I cannot remember. Like my brain is trying to protect me. I spent a few weeks there at the Bridge before they sent me home.
I didn’t see Tom again as a kid.
He called on my eighteenth birthday. He described the cars in my driveway and asked who was in the house with me. I knew, right then, that this was not going to go away. I only had a two weeks before I was back out on the street but I wanted to nip this in the bud.
I invited him to dinner. At a restaurant. I invited every one of my friends over eighteen and every one of my brother’s friends that I could find-even the ones who couldn’t stand each other agreed to come. I think a dozen people showed up and they all knew the deal.
We all had breakfast (yes, at dinner, what’s better than all day breakfast?), with this bastard sitting at one end of the table and me down on the far right and all my friends in between being loud and obnoxious and laughing a ton. He never called my mother’s house again and I never spotted him after that, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. He had been there for four years I never knew.
I had some very good friends. I still owe them.

Still Floundering

It has been five years since I took off my headscarf. I don’t wear it anymore, but I did for about sixteen years.

I can’t stand my face without it or a turban. I wear neither, and I wish I did.

I hate my body. I miss covering it with shapeless oversized clothing. Form fitting clothes are very comfortable, easy to exercise in, but they are revealing. Everyone can see my issues.

I took a quick online test for body dysmorphic disorder and I scored just below- I probably don’t have it. I am currently working on processing trauma and I haven’t touched on how I loathe myself for being myself yet with my therapist.

When my hair gets longer and the wind blows it in my face it feels good, the sensation of wind is pleasurable after not feeling it for so long, but it also feels like it is an insect attacking me. It always gives me a start. I can’t get used to my own hair.

Last fall I shaved my head for my daughter when she got hers clipped short, so we could grow our hair out together. I thought it would force me to accept my face. Nope.

No Inkling

I never, ever imagined as a child that I would make it this far into adulthood without a tattoo. It was something discussed from middle school on, what sort of tattoo one planned to get.

I was born in a dragon year, and that was my original thought-a dragon, but as I got older I wanted a tree tattooed on my spine. An actual tree found at the junction of 494 and 7, a twisted yet full thing that never seemed to leaf out, standing alone and defiant on a hillock in the cloverleaf. Blackened and twisted from trunk to sky.

Something on the outside to show the pain inside, the literal scoliosis, arthritis, and also the emotional futility of my reaching towards the sky. I had it quoted back then, at half a month’s pay. Cheap as I am, I never went for it.

When I converted I cast that goal aside, tattoos are frowned upon in the faith. I have no such constraints, now.

But now I don’t see myself quite in that way. I mean, it all still hurts but I balk at having pain define me.

I wonder what does reflect me. I seem to look back and see different people at different times in my life, and only right now do I bear any resemblance to myself, my personality, as a child. I mean my feelings, not my behaviours.

When I was a kid I lived in squats when I could, and hung out with squatters on days off of school when I was living at home. I ran away countless times and I did my best to stay gone, usually. There were a lot of reasons for that, but this post is about symbols and self identity.

I have always wanted to make a squatter sign quilt (it would be a sort of inside joke, for what squatters can sit down and gather material and do a months long project? Probably only European squatters, who don’t have to move so much.), but arthritis is not conducive to that hobby.

I googled it, to see if that was still what people used for squatting, as it is two decades and some since then, and I found it quite readily. But not as we used it. We added the female sign to the tail, and in my search I did not find it that way, anywhere. Who would think equality was more prevalent and conscious in squatter culture back then? At least in my city.

If I were to pick a sign today for myself, would that be it? Probably.

Maybe I should major in subcultures- I test into college next week.

Everyone focuses on the wrong word…

4:34 Surah An-Nisa
But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.- Sahih International Version

In my opinion the key in this ayah is “fear”, and indeed I have never seen it without that word. Fear is not proof or witnesses or even any tangible thing. Fear is a man’s paranoia, his personal issues, his deep-seated insecurities, his mental illness, his worry, his stress. Fear is the justification, here. Fear alone makes it permissible to beat your wife.

Everyone looks at “strike”, which is often translated as “beat” in English versions. I have seen that word picked apart, worried over, given alternate meanings, historically analyzed, excused, justified, and explained away. Daraba, the root of it. To hit.

The ayah is not simply a license to hit, as they claim and also deny, depending on their sympathies. It is a license to use fear itself to justify physical and moral authority over an adult female.

You can reach your own conclusions. You know what mine are.

So I am out, and now you know.

Festering..

I admit to having some unhealthy unresolved resentment about my relationships.
My first husband was promoted because I did most of his homework while he was at work.
My second husband did work while we were together but I pitched in a 100% of my income to support him and his siblings while they were attending university. They never had to worry about anything. When his parents handed us money I used it on their medical bills or put it into my in-laws accounts. I never took it for myself. I tried to keep his family living at the level they were accustomed to, and it was a huge mistake on my part. I never thought he would divorce me, I thought we were in for life. So when he did divorce me, I took nothing but what I went in with, which was my possessions and his debt (he years later paid it off) and a car loan.
My children’s father I put through vocational school, and paid off the cost for eight years-three of them after I left him- because it was in my name as well as his. Letting it fall behind meant that they would look for me, to collect. Finding my information on a joint account means he can access that information. It was my responsibility, AND my safety.
It all seemed like a good idea. You invest in your family, right? My second husband and I even had a deal, and his entire family had heard me say that I would go to school when they were done, like taking turns supporting each other.
I was a skiptracer when I was younger. I spent all day, every day, finding people to collect on their debt. It’s a habit I retain, unfortunately.
Today I found my ex-sister-in-law’s new house. It is worth so much money that I could buy about six houses with it where I live. I paid for her living expenses for her first few years here. I am not jealous so much as I am angry. With a house that big, she must have children. Do her children get told no for just about everything they want, like my children do? Does she have to juggle daycare fees with swimming lessons? No.
I am the drowned fisherman they all used to get out of the water. I was so stupid. I should have secured my own fate before tying it to theirs. Now I have to watch my children being raised below the poverty level because of my own mistakes. I am enrolled in community college but I work so much I don’t know how long it will take me to finish. I haven’t even started, yet. I still have to test in.

The Empty Spaces Inside Me

I seem to have lost my online friend. He no longer talks to me and I can’t blame him. I miss him a great deal, I feel like a limb has been lost.

Sometimes it is hard to come to terms with the fact that I am older and I am alone and will remain so.

Just when you think you have accepted being alone someone makes you feel like you might have some hope of sharing a bit of your life. Not necessarily with them, but because they find you decent or attractive you think “Maybe someone out there WOULD like me and be willing to put in the work.” When they stop paying attention to you that hope seems to die as well and the grieving process begins all over again. Luckily it doesn’t happen often to me.

It makes me feel overly dramatic and self centered, both things I abhor.

Last night I attended a meetup with others who have left the faith. I didn’t hold back much, and though it makes me look crazy I just let it all out in the open, my experience, what has happened to me, the effects. I didn’t want to let it out in pieces or wait for later. I want to listen more than I talk when I go to these things. I did not name names, though. It is SO EMBARRASSING to be myself, to have made the choices I made and to have to own it. I joke around a lot but there is so much shame under there. What kind of crazy person gets involved with the people and the movements that I do- by choice rather than by birth?

I really liked these people. They are not necessarily people who have lived like I have, they seem a bit sheltered, which makes me happy for them. Probably they have nice families who have looked out for them. It was weird to greet and leave them without the customary rituals common to our former religion, I might never become accustomed to foregoing that. I missed them immediately, as I walked away. I get attached quickly, often without reason. It makes me a great wife and in-law but it’s not much use with everyone else.

I left the children with a sitter, and I think this is the first time in 14 years that I have gone to meet up with strangers. It is certainly the first time I have left them with a sitter to do something that had nothing to do with them or their issues. The first in over nine years.

I will go again. I don’t know that I will be much help. I am not skilled with small talk or conversation, I do better in emergencies, better when working. Maybe they will put up with me, if I am lucky. Perhaps I will get better at social cues. It is hard to pick up cues from sensitive, educated people after so many years spent in isolation. Five years in American culture does not prepare one.

There were four other people there. That is how hard it is to leave the faith in this area. Their membership seems to be less than ten. Other chapters in other cities always show more.

I will never again automatically be treated like family by perfect strangers and never again will I do the same with others. There is no sisterhood for me, no shared faith, no comforting words. I am an outsider and it breaks my heart. Everything was easier when I belonged. When I belonged to a family, to a culture, to a community. I am not comfortable anywhere else and it is no more.

I can’t replace any of it. I don’t think there is any substitution.

Birth Control – Published on Both Blogs

I have cysts. I have them in the usual place, the ovaries, and also I get them on my skin, where the skin is thin. Behind the ear, in front of the ear, armpits, etc. It’s more annoying than painful. Pain is something I tolerate decently, but if I can avoid the cysts I would rather.

When I was with my abuser I could not get medical care. I was covered for pregnancies only. After the pregnancies they would give me low estrogen pills which I suppose worked well enough. They gave me these because I was breastfeeding and those were supposed to be tolerated well by the baby and not interfere with breastfeeding. So I was effectively pregnant in some form or another for about five years.

I never lost pregnancy weight. I had my pregnancies pretty close together. Two of my kids are a grade apart and the baby has one grade between her and the next oldest. I got pregnant, had the baby, breastfed, got pregnant before weaning and repeat. So I was never suspicious of birth control pills playing any part in my weight gain. I couldn’t get out to exercise often. I was allowed some walks but not too many and not too far.

I was always starving. Normal for breastfeeding and malnutrition.

When we escaped I let the birth control lapse but I was still breastfeeding the baby. I fed her for about nine more months after we left and then it got too hard with working to keep it up. She was twenty months, anyway. The boys got two years and some. I felt bad but my circumstances were so different. She did not fuss much.

As soon as we escaped the weight started falling off. I was able to get outside, I was not so hungry, and I attributed all of that to our changed life.

When we were relocated by the District Attorney I kept losing weight in our new place. I lost a lot of weight, I was nearly my early twenties weight when I was able to focus on my own medical care. I got the children looked after first, and with eight appointments a week and a new job I just put myself last. Who wouldn’t? So when I went in to finally see an OB/Gyn I did mention the cysts and she put me back on birth control. She put me on them all the time. No weeks off. No periods. Yay! Ummmm, no. But I didn’t figure that out til later.

This is so boring, really, but it’s context. So after about three months I started gaining weight again. I was starving, all the time. I was stressed out, tired, short tempered. At this point I was about a year and a half free. We figured it was my PTSD. Sometimes it hits you after a delay, sometimes dissociation keeps you from remembering. Sometimes you are in survival mode and only get around to feeling your feelings after you hit real safety.

I went with it. I started on beta blockers to help me slow down and stop overreacting. That took care of half the issue and then quitting coffee helped me enough to feel nearly normal. Not so irritable and crazy.

Last holiday season my son got the flu and I couldn’t leave the house to get the birth control pills. There was a holiday, they were closed, I had to wait a week. You are supposed to wait a week if you miss a few days. That was the best week of my last few years.

The pain stopped. The intense hunger turned off like magic. I was no longer a slave to the stove. My caloric intake was reduced by a thousand per day. I was logging, and it was ONE THOUSAND less calories a day. No more obsessive cravings. And I was so chill. Kids got into a fight? Pull them apart and send them to different rooms, have a chat. No problem. Not my usual MO. I usually have a bit of yelling first. I didn’t know what it was from, it didn’t register until I started back on the pills and my pain and irritability started up again.

I threw them out. Okay so I have them in a bag in my car to go to the medicine recycling box at the local Sheriff’s. You know what I mean.

I live like a nun. I don’t need these pills for the usual reasons. I got some cysts. I can take it. I lost four pounds. I stopped being afraid of being found. It doesn’t seem possible now, for some reason. I started talking in therapy. I don’t do so much of a standup routine in there anymore, now I tell my therapist what happened. I got my knee fixed, my cabinets rearranged, my room tidied up, my closet sorted. Shit I put off for months is getting done. I am blogging more. I am feeling more. I am having symptoms of dissociation. Not sure if I like the last one, but it feels more real than not caring. I sleep a lot less. I wake before the alarm, and sometimes I have to take melatonin to fall asleep.

This is all from birth control. I wish I had figured it out years ago.

Consolidating Power

I spent my therapy session explaining political history and party loyalties and background of my ex’s country of origin to my therapist. The entire session, and still I was not done. But she did not know, you know, WHO he was. She does not take notes on our sessions, she is afraid to enter them into her database, since my identity is supposed to be concealed and her system is linked up to cloud.

Not that he is famous, outside of the borders he fled.

But today I read the news from there and his party has mended their rifts and taken up arms again.

I don’t want him to gain any power, from anywhere. I don’t want him to gain support or get organized or start to use his rank again for anything. I want him to stay penniless and addicted to his vices and far away from us-forever.

I don’t want to worry that he is coming for us.