This is a direct follow-up to my recent post on how my father labelled me and labels me, about what I’ve been thinking about since and what others have said to me. That first: general response from others who have read it is sadness. I met with my grandfather over the weekend and he said that he thought that I should be weeping over what’s been done to me; someone else in Balliol tells me that they got labelled in a similar way by a teacher but was fortunate enough to have parents who were against the general practice of such labelling, and she thought it was really sad. For my part my feelings were of elation when I put the truth together, more sobered thoughtfulness when cataloguing all the stuff I did in that post, and I do have the sadness that I don’t see how I can ever recover a proper relationship with my father given that his opinion hasn’t changed and probably never will—to illustrate this, the point is that any conversation with him seems false because I’m just waiting for him to patronise and dismiss me, which he inevitably does. However I do not feel like something terrible has been done to me and I seem to have more perspective than others, because to me there is far, far worse out there and I should be happy with the upbringing I had. The thing is that my relationship with my father has been virtually non-existent for so long that I’m sort of over not having it. To thoughts had since. Essentially I keep linking more and more things about me that aren’t great that I regret but can’t explain to my reaction to my father’s treatment of me, and that means it’s not about me but about him, and I can drop my negative responses and blame and self-doubt—I can let them go—because I know now that it’s just a bad habit, and those are easy to deal with once one becomes assured that it’s nothing more than that.

A few other points worth mentioning here. Firstly I do not think that my defensive reaction is in any way inappropriate or something negative about my personality; it was an expression of my fierce desire for freedom and individuality and I have no desire to alienate myself from that. And secondly I do recognise that this new way of looking at things is just one theory, and the combination of my judgement with the authority of the counsellor who cemented it is far from infallible. But I have a sceptical disposition and I feel that I am applying the theory critically and finding that it all fits together, so I’m accepting the conclusions and ending up a lot better off for it.

So what are these things that I’m now linking up? Here’s a description of the biggest. Here, the only thing that I have openly lied about, outside of stealing biscuits from the kitchen, for as long as I can remember, gets thrown open to honesty: the topic of my attitude towards love, infatuation, crushes, relationships, the lot (not sex, because I’m still working on that one. Let’s say we’ll consider things up to second base, according to the xkcd specification, in this post). So the official public message up to now is that I am anti-relationships. The reasons I gave for this was that the idea of dependence on one individual was really bad—I didn’t think it was good for people—and also I hated the idea of people lusting after each other. This latter thought remains to a lesser degree, and I reckon that for most people, casual sex based on physical attraction is a bad idea—some can do it, go them, but most people end up hurting themselves, especially if they require alcohol in order to make it happen. Another thing that remains is that I dislike the idea of flirting as it seems rather disrespectful and objectifying (consciously, anyway). However my mistake was to morph this into “sex and relationships are evil and must be preached against with the same ferocity as I preach against everything else”. As will be visible here, I ended up mashing together the worst parts of sex, and the worst parts of relationships, into one amorphous, detestable whole. How ridiculous.

Why did this happen? Well, this is where my recent stuff comes in. The thought is that my reaction is defensive of my unusual stance against the rest of the world trying to convert me, because they think I’m mentally ill/socially inept/whatever. Into adulthood, I maintained the pretence because I would blame any changing opinions on hormones, thinking that I must not allow my father to win this one. But again I’m fooling myself. Hormones have precious little to do with this, because it’s instead a question of correcting my former opinion by understanding people and what they do better, which is just an innocent question of social experience. I am aware of the physical changes that happened to me somewhere between 11 and 17 but I was wrong to link that to my anti-relationships attitude as strongly as I did (further I should note that based on talking to others I am pretty confident that I am far less affected by such chemicals and the associated lustful desires than most are). I do not want to sound as if I’m now claiming “platonic relationships are now great and romantic/sexual ones aren’t” because that’s not what I’m aiming for; my problem was having individual components out of perspective, and refusing to allow myself to correct that perspective, defensively.

But now I can just drop it. That’s the point. I now know that it’s not about me, but about my father and goodness know what else, and so I can let it go and any other neuroses are just bad habits to be corrected. I am no longer anti-relationships and I am no longer conflicted on the question, in fact I am pro-relationships, though this does not mean that I’m going to go out and try to get one!

I said I was only going to discuss one hangover from my father but I actually have another to deal with, the next hurdle on from this one in fact, and that is the thought that no-one would ever like me; no-one would ever want to have a relationship with me. The idea lodged very firmly into my psyche is that I am different in a negative way, in fact, I am mentally ill, disabled, I have ‘issues’, problems that put me in a write-off group by everyone else as little more than a curiosity. I’m not someone to ever consider having a relationship with because I’m not weird in a good way, but weird in a incapacitated way. This I am now trying to drop too. “We accept the love we think we deserve” etc., but it’s hard, because I’ve been convinced of this for a long time. We all suffer from a fear of rejection at all social levels (i.e. including friendship) but while I have so little of it in normal social contexts (to the embarrassment of my friends at how I bulldoze through…), I have the ultimate degree of it romantically. Again a confidence issue I guess.

I shall finish with some more straight-up truths to delight and amuse family and friends, because I don’t like keeping (my own) secrets, and because it’s a lot easier to type these than try and say them with a straight face. This is not in any way exciting. This is so very small scale and ordinary. But compared to my very publicly closed minded attitude that I had before, it is probably more significant, so if everything in this post is new to you please forgive what seems to be the glorification of trivialities. Here we go. I have ‘liked’/been infatuated with five girls (just had to count…). Two I have asked out; one I have almost asked out until I discovered she’s gay at the last minute, ouch. Yes, I thought they are/were pretty. The rumours about me asking out that particular girl at school that circulated for a while that I denied are in fact true; this should allow some of you to figure out who one of the five is. It’s still rude to ask me who the other four are, though, so please don’t. Remember, sister, when I was sad and wouldn’t tell you why? I had my first crush and didn’t know how to deal with it. So not actually a big deal and hope I didn’t worry you; you’ve probably forgotten though. I am good friends with all five, even if I don’t see two of them very often. They are all very interesting people and that’s why I liked them. In general but not necessarily with those five: small girls, dark hair, smiles and eyes. Pretty sure I’m straight. If I told you all that IRL I would be red-cheeked I imagine.

I am now imagining people from university reading that previous paragraph and wondering why I’m listing things like that. Please ignore it; it’s for others. Well there we go.

As your mother I think I know you well. I have spent 20 years loving you and examining you as I would examine myself.

I never thought you were gay and knew that you had/have crushes on girls. I just knew that for some reason you could never admit it. I never really believed your bluff and bluster about the evil of relationships and romantic love.

However I am devastated to know that you stole biscuits from the kitchen. I have failed as your mother therefore!

M x

Comment by h.r.armitage Tue 07 Jun 2011 20:38:44 UTC