There are two essential components of my identity:
- I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of it and I cannot stop working. I could work a little harder, but we all fall down the wagon.
- I am horribly insecure. Although I am proud of my work and my new directions (and whatever my future directions may be) I need constant validation in some form or another. I hate it, but it is something that I cannot help.
In that insecurity comes doubt. I know my work is good when I put my heart and soul into it, but there is always that voice “How could it have been better?” Not abnormal behavior for most people. I eventually receive some kind of validation, be it praise from my professors, managers stealing my ideas, grades, or scholarships. Everything goes back to normal once these things fall into place. However, there is an insecurity that I have not been able to get over, because I rarely receive any validation of it. That would be the validation of being a woman, a desirable woman to be specific.
Before I go on, let me say that I am hyper aware of my faults, traits and personality. I know how I work and why I work. I know the deep emotional issues that go behind all my insecurities. I know their roots. I know why they exist. I know why some are bad and sometimes, plain silly. Yet, they still exist because I can feel them when I am alone at night. And they hurt a lot. At the end of the day, they are real and they hurt. It is why I throw every single emotion into my job, my projects and school. Somehow I hope, in vain, that I will be exorcised from these insecurities. I hope, in vain, that when I am trying to fall asleep, I’ll feel complete.
I know it won’t happen, but there is always a little hope. I am most insecure when it comes to men. It is probably the reason why I most likely end up giving the impression, to new men that I meet, that I am unstable, a little crazy and a little too drunk sometimes. But, like a Jesse Spano episode, I’m just so excited that I am scared. I hate that I know that my emotional void is fulfilled by the attention of men.
Spare me your strong woman speeches, because I’ve heard them and I look up to some of the strongest women in the world. I preach self-love and independence and all that awesome feminist stuff. I preach it, man. But I am ashamed to admit that I do not often practice it.
This year has been really amazing to me in terms of my academic and professional opportunities. Yet, my emotional stability has been derailed the most. I had several panic attacks during February and March. My schedule was hectic. I was going to school, had an internship and worked 30 hours. I literally broke down because I felt like I was letting everyone down. I was chronically late to work and I was a nervous wreck at work, often on the verge of a full on panic attack. It is why my boss circulates the notion to everyone that I am flaky and unreliable, when I thought she understood the circumstances. But that’s a whole other story. I met a younger dude whom I clearly misunderstood, but if I had screen capped our conversations, I think the world would agree with me that he gave me mixed signals. My honesty might have been too abrasive. I could have drunk less when we hung out. I should have just ended things when he said he was not interested in dating. But you know me, I need attention and validation, plus I am stubborn. I also did not want to be that douche bag that ended a friendship just because we didn’t end up banging. I thought that would have been a total bro move. Remember, I’m still some type of feminist. My license might soon get revoked, though.
Throughout all this, and during some depressions last year, there was one person that gave me constant attention and validation. That person was a man in a position of power over me. A very egocentric perverted old man. Despite knowing his nefarious reputation, I engaged in his pointless banter that seemed harmless to me. He was also looking for validation for his outdated views and thought I would give him that. I didn’t and because he knew how to detect insecurity and also needed attention, he set out to prove himself correct and ultimately awesome. I never validated his views. I always challenged them. But I thought, no harm. It was a male professor who would constantly tell me how impressed he was with me. As the insecure little short person I am, I liked hearing that. And who doesn’t like hearing that from their professors, or bosses, or men?
That’s where I am a horrible feminist because I knew what was going on, yet I still engaged. There was no harm, until he started to insert little comments here and there. “Great seeing you, especially with your new flattering haircut” Uh-oh. “You weren’t in class today. Missed you” Oh no. And finally, he was smart about it, “Come to my office before the final. I have a Susan Sontag story and some jokes to cheer you up” well….ok? That’s ok….right? Never meet with professors behind closed doors. That’s elementary. We all know that, but conveniently the door closed. It happened once before, but I opened it again since I “found” the doorstop. That time we were discussing a paper. Well, the Susan Sontag story was only about how she was flat chested. He knew I looked up to this woman as an intellectual and a writer. Why would I care about her breasts? The awkwardness only got much much worse. His jokes were graphic, dirty and in every possible way inappropriate. Hearing my professors say words like “cum” is like hearing my parents say it. It’s just not right. I did not laugh at any of his jokes. I could not look at him. He tried explaining one of the jokes by using him and me as an example.
I stalled. I really did not know how to react. Was this the vibe I was putting out there? My feminist self told me to just straight up say, “hey man, that’s fucking inappropriate.” My student side said, “shit. I have a final for him right after this” I did the only thing I could do. I excused myself out of there so awkwardly. “Ok, well I really wanted to study for the final before class. Yeah….heh…ok…bye” as I hung my head low, as if I had done something wrong.
But the truth is, I do feel like I did something wrong. I feel like ultimately it was I who sought it out. Did I need to go to his office? No. Did I need to respond to his emails? No. As much as I hate this type of thinking, I feel like I was asking for it. What a horrible feminist, right? It is the reason why I cannot bring myself to take any action. I feel embarrassed, as most of my professors have found out. Not because I said anything, but because of some inter faculty email he sent. I had to ask our chair to change one of my requirements, and I felt a panic attack coming on. I kept thinking that he must be thinking terrible things about me or I wondered if he knew and if he did was he judging me? And, I told myself to be short and quick because what if he thought I was one of those flirty dumbass girls? Now I think that every time I meet a new professor in my department, they must be thinking “oooh this is the girl”
And then a million things run through my head. A million things that don’t let me sleep. A million things that are probably insignificant and exaggerated. A million fucking things that I hate. And suddenly my insecurities are manifest in this incident that I did not control. Insecurities that make me feel guilty, sad, ugly and alone. And they are out there for everyone to see and judge. And I often do not have a problem laying myself bare, but I do it on my terms and words. This blog holds many of my insecurities but I feel safe here. I never have a problem being honest, and I often am, but this was different. I liked the attention and that is embarrassing, and it’s the source of my guilt. I can understand and analyze why I liked it, but I never crossed the line.
I’m a horrible feminist for not confronting this issue the way I’ve confronted sexist classmates or even standing up for myself and my co-workers against petty shit at work. I’m not trying to be a victim either. I just thought, and I hoped, that I would have been stronger with something like this. At the core, I am embarrassed not just because I feel stupid, but because I know I wouldn’t let this shit fly anywhere else. It’s challenged my own core ideals. I let some dumb weak man tap into my own dumb weak traits. That’s embarrassing. That’s stupid. That’s ugly. I don’t know how to correct this. I don’t know how to reconcile my feminism with my insecurities. I’m used to laying it all out there, but this was different.