Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Intimate Violence: Healing is the Name of the Game

One of the times I was in therapy (and for those of us involved in intimate violence, a good therapist can make all the difference), I was working through my startle reflex around men. I haven't perfected this, I've never quite lost my fear of men, even though I've learned to stand my ground when every nerve in my body says "run!" 

One day I was at the park, working on math puzzles in my car. It was a sunny day out, but a bit chilly, and I was enjoying the solitude and the quiet without the children or the cats or the spouse or the-bills-to-be-paid or the things-to-be-done.

After a while, I looked up, and a man walked by my car, unzipped his pants, and urinated in the parking lot. I doubt he even realized I was sitting right there in the car. I was shocked, stunned, terrified, frozen in place at the sight. It's not that I'd never seen a penis before, it's just that this one was unwanted, pushing into my space. That unintended violation triggered a deep responsive memory and flashbacks galore.

When I went next to the therapist I was still in distress. I told him about the guy in the park, and we talked around it for a while. Finally, he said, "Well where do you think Jesus urinated?" And suddenly the situation normalized for me, and the association of rape and abuse with the sight of the clueless man's penis in the park faded. And it was then that I realized how much of a threat male genitalia symbolized to me--and for that matter, to much of feminist theory and literature.

I was thinking about that as I walked to the dance studio tonight to take my salsa class. On my way to the studio there is a Man's Gym (it's actually called Man's Gym), and out front of the gym is a full sized statue of David in all its naked glory. You can see on the statue evidence that it used to have a loin cloth, but apparently the loin cloth was stolen. The statue stands proudly outside the gym 24/7, rain or shine, and I have found it a bit intimidating. I nicknamed it "the penis statue." I've tweeted about it a few times when I walked by. I've thought about sneaking by at night and donating my string bikini bottom for the cause. I usually cross the street to avoid it. 

But I have been lamenting the cost of joining a gym lately. My body feels out of sorts because I haven't been taking proper care of it. It's time to get back into a workout routine, but my house is not the best place to work out. It's getting dark, and the weather is iffy. I can't afford most gyms on my budget, and the contracts and joining fees are annoying prohibitive.

So I decided tonight after dance class that I would stop at the Man's Gym and find out the cost. I would brave the penis statute. On my way home I looked closer at the window, and the sign said, "Bodybuilding for Men and Women."  I looked at the sign. I looked at the penis statue. I looked at the sign again. I took a deep breath and remembered my therapist gently laughing at my horror of public urination. I thought about Jesus, and that made me laugh. And then I went in.

I went into the gym because I'm not going to let child rape stop me from being healthy now at age 39. I went into the gym because the men who frequent this place are not the men who have raped/assaulted me in the past. I went in because I refuse to be afraid of the penis for its own sake. I went in because this gym has everything I need at a decent price, and I can't afford to let my history of intimate violence scare me away from becoming strong.

I am healing, I think, although it's been a very long journey. I have come to feel a certain gentleness about men that I never thought I could feel. It has taken 20 years, but I'm coming to see the vulnerability in men. For the moment there is a certain sweet, masculine absurdity about this Man's Gym with its penis statue that is drawing me in. So I will go tomorrow and sign up for a while, and I'll breathe deep each day before I go in. The woman at the counter with the tremendous biceps said, "This place is a nasty ass gym where your outfit don't have to match." And perhaps if I go there a while, and work out beside the men in this space, I won't have to breathe deep every time I go in.

Healing is the name of the game.

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