Boys

All my life, I’ve been mostly into “boys’ stuff'”, and not so much into what girls are supposed to like. I was born in the 70s, so that was a big deal. Hell, it still is now, if we care to admit it. I have never given a damn about it, though, because that part of my brain is happily missing. As a result, I’ve followed my inclinations with glorious disregard to gender and found myself surrounded by guys most of my life. They were in the places where I wanted to be doing the things I wanted to do. I’ve worked, played, and lived mostly with guys. Most of my friends are guys. I get on with guys just fine, and better than I do with women.

Every now and then, I think I could expand my guy-related activities. I’m not entirely adverse to the concept of dating some of them. Alas, the inclination never lasts more than three days. Never.

I can work, play, and live with guys, but I can’t date them. I can’t manage the interactions that are designed to lead to dating. I can’t go to the places where people go to meet for dating purposes, either in real life or online. Hell, I can’t even go places where people go for entirely different purposes and out myself as a single woman because of the resulting fallout. Every  time I try, within three days I’ve lost a large proportion of my faith in humanity and I’m spending a lot of energy reminding myself that #notallmen are giant douchebags.

#notallmen. I know. I know better than most women, because my studies and my work and my hobbies and my life in general have brought me into contact with splendid guys. I just struggle to remember it when I’m having to navigate what passes for courting behaviour in this place and time. It only takes so many dick pics, so many “I want to eat your ass” in lieu  of “hello, how are you”, so many ignored nos, so many temper tantrums in reaction to rejection or boundary setting or simply not being available enough, and I can’t even. I can’t even with the guys in question, and I can’t even with guys in general.

I know that my reaction is unfair. Men are no more uniform than women are, and shouldn’t all be lumped together. If you get bit by a dog and that’s made you dog-averse, that doesn’t mean that all dogs are bad. Positive interactions with pooches will help you get over your negative experience.

…except that what I’m talking about isn’t a one-off, an unfortunate exception in an otherwise positive environment. It’s not the one odd dog biting you: it’s getting bitten day in, day out, and being told that you’ve got to keep petting mutts because there are good ones out there, believe me, and one day, if you’re lucky, you’re gonna find the right one for you. You may not have any fingers by then, but it’ll be totally worth it.

It’s a matter of taste, of course, but to me the modern dating world is a stream of shit that I’m expected to wade through in the hope of finding someone who doesn’t suck. And the conclusion I keep coming to, time and time again, is that it’s just not worth it. I’m not unhappy enough on my own to justify the energy, time, and revulsion involved in trying to date guys. The numbers just don’t stack up.

It’s at this point in my rant that I’m normally told what I should do. I should shrug off the assholes. I should accept that that’s how it is. I should remember that it used to be much worse in the Bad Old Days or lament that I don’t live in the Good Old Days. Either way, it’s just one of those things and I should get on with it.

The people doing the shoulding are mostly guys, perhaps purely because of how my life is structured. That’s the bit that surprises me, though. It’s not the pressure on me to fix and accomodate and carry on regardless and generally make everything niiiiiice for everyone: that seems to come as a stock feature when one is even remotely female. What really surprises me is that some of those guys are also having terrible difficulties navigating the dating world, and they seem to think that the fault lies with women like me.

Dude: what if I told you that the reason you can’t give your end away is not the iniquity of women, but the antics of men? What if that woman didn’t give you her number because of the scores of guys who used that opportunity to send her unsolicited dick pics? What if that woman told you to fuck off when you complimented her because the last umpteenth times someone did that he treated it as entitling him to an evening of her undivided attention? What if you can’t buy a nice woman a drink because, in her experience, it never bloody ends there and it never bloody goes well? What if the problem wasn’t that she, they, didn’t like you, specifically, but that they’re just primed for conflict, because conflict is what they get all the damn time? And what if the source of that conflict wasn’t them, or other women, or sociopolitical theories, but guys – guys you see, maybe even guys you know – guys who are pissing in the dating pool to the point that only the most resilient, determined, or desperate are bothered to swim in it?

Obviously, feminism is the root cause of all these evils. I won’t deny it. If I didn’t have access to education, like my grandma; if I was forced to marry the man who made me pregnant, regardless of whose idea the sex was, like my other grandma; if I couldn’t earn enough as a woman to support myself, like my aunt; if I got treated like a fallen woman for moving out of my parents’ home without getting married, like my mother; then I’d probably plug my nose and wade in. I’d need a guy, so I’d have to put up with whatever was thrown at me in the dating process until I snagged one, and pray that it was a good one. But I don’t. Here and now, a partner for me is an enhancement to my life. If I have to put up with a constant stream of harassment, pressure, insults, threats, and general unpleasantness in order to find one, then sorry, I’ll pass. And it’s not about you, dude, or even about me: it’s about them, the douchebags.

I would like to find someone whose company I enjoy more than my solitude, I really would; I just don’t like it enough to put up with all the attending  crap. And I’m not alone in this: I speak to other women who are single and not looking, and we are all saying the same things. We say them loud and clear, in private and in public, and in response we’re invariably told that it’s our fault or at least our responsibility. Our standards are unrealistic, our expectations too high, we chose to muddle up the gender roles and now we’re reaping our just deserts, we did and do this and that, and now dating is a minefield that only a few can successfully negotiate. Our bad.

Ok, dude. So you think the problem isn’t that men send dick pics; it’s that women are so quick to take offence. Whatever. But I’m telling you, your friend Steve who does that, and you know it, and you shrug it off because he’s a nice guy, really, and it’s not as if he’s hurting anyone; he’s the reason I didn’t give you my number. Your cousin Michael who responds to every no with a “don’t be like that” is the reason I didn’t talk to you in that bar. Your uncle Bob who likes to dress formal and talk dirty to strangers half his age is why I don’t trust ‘old-fashioned gentlemen’. It’s not feminism, Hollywood myths about romance, Channing Tatum, or the articles in Cosmo putting me off you: it’s the men I have to deal with every goddamn day. They stand between us, and I’m too fed up with their shit to be bothered pushing my way through. And maybe, just maybe, if you put a fraction of the effort you spend lecturing me on how it’s on to me to get over it into getting Steve and Michael and Bob to cut their fucking crap, in five months or five years we may reach a place where the prospect of trying to find someone like you wouldn’t fill me with dread.

 

[For all those men who are upset by my rant because men have horrible dating experiences too, and I’m ignoring their plight:

How about you write your own?

Blogging is not a zero-sum game. I’m not filling up the internets and leaving no room for you. If you have a problem you want to air, write it out and press “publish”. And I promise you, if you do it well I’ll link you on here. But don’t you dare tell me that I shouldn’t talk about my shit because you can’t be bothered to talk about your own.]

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Slabs.

Every now and then I entertain an outlandish notion. I find myself thinking that maybe, just maybe, if more self-defence instructors stood up when people make sexually objectifying comments, particularly when those comments are made on their premises or through their platforms, and exponentially so when the context they’re made in is women self-defence, then we could inch infinitesimally towards living in a culture where women have a little bit less to defend themselves from.

I’m not saying that clean talking would make rapists disappear. But moving away from a mentality where openly treating women like slabs of meat gets a laugh would almost certainly reduce the number of people who find themselves committing “not-quite-rape-rapes” through being utterly clueless as to what “respect” actually means, and to the fact that it’s important.

Oh, you don’t want to speak out? You’re worried about losing customers, antagonising your friends and associate, getting punched inna face for your troubles? Really? That’s fascinating. It’s particularly fascinating when you’re selling “assertiveness” as a cure-all for women’s problems, when you’re preaching oh-so-very loudly that what women need to do first and foremost is to stop acting like victims, to learn to stand up for themselves, to set some boundaries, dammit. I mean, it’s not as if modelling were an essential component of a teaching methodology, but, yannow, I find it kinda hard to listen to you tell me that I should stand up to someone bigger and stronger, someone who believes in my inferiority, someone who’s selected me as a prey item, when you can’t or won’t do it because the repercussions concern you.

Yeahbut, this is not your problem, is it? It’s not your problem and it’s not your place to act. Hell, it’d be disrespectful for you to do so. Women don’t need men like you to sort their shit out for them. Women just need men like you to teach them out to sort their shit out, which is of course completely different and empowering and only $50 per month if you sign up to the yearly plan.

It’s not about the money, though. You actually care. Which is why you’re making all that effort in preparing those seminars and workshops and writing all those articles and so on and so forth. You care, and women don’t care back. You’re putting all that work in, and nobody’s buying, which conclusively proves that women are, well, just a little bit silly. The fact that you’re visibly hanging out with some the people they’re having to defend themselves from day in day out, that you let those people misbehave unchallenged, that the environment you’re fostering is no better than the one that’s causing them to have a need for self-defence, none of that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it.

You’re right, and I’m wrong. And if only I had the patience to sit down and listen to you explain to me my experience, then I may be able to understand it. There is absolutely no possibility whatsoever that my complaints are accurate, that my issues are relevant, that you’re part of my problem and that’s why I’m not coming to you for a solution, and that other women feel the same. That just can’t be the case. Fuck do I know? I’m just some woman.

Don’t try this at home

Every now and then I make sure that I go and do something that’s going to result in me getting punched hard on a scar, metaphorically or not. In my head this makes sense at a number of levels. You can’t really tell how healed you are without testing yourself. That could cause you to get caught by surprise and crumble to bits in a situation where doing so is not safe, which I find worrisome. Alternatively, you could find yourself living your life with a THIS SCAR IS HEALED DON’T TOUCH IT attitude, which I find limiting. I’m way too stubborn to let anyone dictate to me what I can and can’t do, even if that person is me.

In all honesty, maybe I just do it because I like getting up again after I got hit hard. It makes me feel all badass and shit. Not everything I do is clever. I’m ok with that.

At the same time, I would never, ever recommend to another soul that they try the same. I try really hard not to advise people because I’m visibly unqualified, but if I did “Hey, why don’t you go and see how badly hurt you have to get to keel over!” would not be the kind of advice I’d give. Yet I do precisely that, repeatedly, and consider it a perfectly good thing for me. Formative, like.

It could be hypocrisy, exceptionalism, or selective braining. Maybe I can only think sensibly when other people are involved. Whatever it is, it gets even better when I look at the next stage of the process.

Getting whacked on a scar can reveal that the damn thing doesn’t hurt in the least. Could be it’s healed properly. Could be it’s gone numb, and that may or may not be a problem, depending on what feeling has been lost. It can also reveal that the underlying injury is still pretty messed up; that the scar tissue was covering up a whole bunch of festering issues. That’s a useful discovery, but not a pleasant one, and can result in a whole bunch of recovery work being both necessary and urgent. More often than not, what I find is that the scar is as healed as it’s gonna get, but it still hurts like a motherfucker. No injury, just pain. Shit happens, traces are left, that’s how it goes, ho hum.

The last sentence in that paragraph is also one I only apply to myself. There’s no way in hell I’d go up to anyone and tell them to ‘just suck it up’ when they’re dealing with the aftermath of a genuine, serious injury. I might think it, if I thought that their recovery was impeded by an excess of self-pity, but I’d be unlikely to say it. It’s not that I’m overly nice; it’s that I don’t get on with people for whom self-pity is a normalised response, so I don’t tend to befriend them. They don’t befriend me either, because they think I’m a flaming asshole, so it’s all good. ‘My’ people, the people who operate like me, only say that they’ve got a bad ouchy if they’ve damn well got a bad ouchy. It’s real and it’s an issue, or they wouldn’t be bringing it up. The sum total of this renders bullying my people through an injury terminally unclever. Unless those people are me, obvs. For me, different rules apply, because.

It all goes up another notch when we get to the next stage: how to deal with the ouchy. It turns out that I have a personal two-tier approach to this. If the ouchy is minor it should not impede function. I must perform as normal, or else I’m a total waste of skin, and words will be said to that effect. If the ouchy is in fact big enough to impede normal function, then I must find the nearest porch and crawl under it. I must stay under said porch until I’ve either gotten better or died. While under the porch, I must avoid all human interaction, particularly with people I care about and who care about me. I may return to my people when and only when I’m absolutely sure that the ouchy I’m carrying has been contained enough that I can perform as normal, enough that it’s not going to impact them in any way.

That’s how I roll. It would be spectacularly ridiculous were I just a random fuckwit, but I’m not. I’m a tried-and-tested fuckwit, a kinda-quasi-expert fuckwit, a fuckwit who wrote a damn book about recovery. And, lo and behold, this is not what I consider best practice in that kind of situation. Rather the opposite, in fact.

If anyone else was spewing this kind of bullshit, I’d tear them a new one. If anyone else was doing this, I’d go under the damn porch, kick them out of there, and then quite possibly continue to kick them until my legs got sore. It may seem like adding injury to injury, but in all honesty, if someone was being that self-damaging, I don’t think I could hurt them worse than they are hurting themselves, anyway.

What I do is terminally unclever, yet it works for me. It has worked for me. I’m still here. What I don’t know, because I’ve never bothered trying, is whether taking a less brutal approach would work better. I know it works better on hooman people, and sometimes I suspect I may belong to that species. It may sound like a simple case of me needing to absorb this and change tack, but there’s a catch.

I know that my approach works for me because I’ve done it plenty of times. More significantly than that, I’ve done it under adrenaline, and it worked. I’ve done it when it was the only option I had, or the most sensible thing to do. I’ve done it when the stakes were high, and I didn’t get horribly mangled. And as Rory says, “The habits implanted under adrenaline or fear of death are really strong. They rarely change.”

I know there are better ways of doing things, but I only know that in my head. Knowledge doesn’t trump habits developed under fire. Those are in my bones.

Usually I move towards most fears, because I’m a coward. I cannot hear a bump in the night and leave it alone, so I pick any available tools appropriate to the purpose and move forth. It turns out that the fear of letting go of something that’s kept you alive is a different kind of animal altogether. It doesn’t matter if that something is not great, or it’s actively damaging. You just don’t wanna let go.

I might be writing this as a cautionary tale for other people affected by similar brainworms. I may just be washing my dirty linen in public – now that I have talked about it, I am obliged to deal with it post-haste. All I know is that this is A Thing for me, and it may be A Thing for other people, and it’s definitely not A Good Thing. But I choose to believe that it’s not an insurmountable problem, either. Identify your monster, and you’ve got a better chance of slaying it; or, at the very least, teach it to sit and stay and not tear your throat out quite so often.

Beyond Stranger Danger – by Carol Watson

 

Guest blog by Carol Watson – bio at the bottom.

 

In the early ‘80s when I first asked to do an abduction prevention and personal safety program for young children,

I started with what I had been told as a child. “Don’t talk to strangers, don’t take candy from strangers, stranger=danger. What I very quickly realized was that it simply did not work. No matter how creative I was (I’m pretty creative!) I could not communicate what a stranger was to 3-7 year olds let alone what to do if confronted with one.

There was no internet available to mere mortals, there was no Google, no smart phones. I had the public library to try to find what I was supposed to. I found nothing useful. I was literally ready to give up when I had one of those light bulb moments. I was trying to communicate who the bad guys are, but that’s an impossible task. My child and most of the children I was helping to look for were not taken by strangers. As it turns out most of the sexual abuse of children isn’t perpetrated by strangers either. Dad is not a stranger, the coach is not a stranger, the next door neighbor, the pastor of the church is not a stranger. Instead of trying to tell kids who the bad guys are (some of them aren’t even guys) I realized I could tell them what dangerous people do. If I focused on behaviors and situations that should trigger a protective response in our children, I could begin to try to create an effective program.

The program I created is called Run, Yell & Tell! Over the years of teaching parents and educators about this program I realized many were still skeptical about the lack of the word stranger in such programming so I created a handout that explains why stranger=danger doesn’t work. I came up with the information by basically reverse engineering. I didn’t start with statistics and information about child development. I started with what worked. Here are the main points.

Beyond Stranger Danger

Five Reasons Why Telling Your Kids About Strangers Will NOT Keep Them Safe

  • Little kids don’t get it! The word stranger is hard to explain to a small child and your definition of stranger may be quite different from someone else’s.
  • Kids are much more at risk for abduction and sexual abuse with people they know. At least 19% of children who are taken by non-family members are abducted by someone they know, an acquaintance. The largest category of abducted children, over 200,000 each year in the US, are taken by family members – usually a non-custodial parent.
  • In some emergency situations a child may need to go to someone they don’t know for help. If we have taught them to be afraid of everyone they don’t know we have cut them off from help in these situations. We need to tell them how to find a safe person to go to for help. Some suggestions are: 1) look for a Mom with kids. 2) look for a Grandma. 3) look for a Dad with kids. 4) in a store, go to the person at the cash register.
  • Children who are given stranger danger instruction tend to get a distorted picture of what a dangerous person looks like. They say things like ‘A stranger is a man with a dark face.” Or “He wasn’t a stranger, he was really nice to me.” The fact is you can’t tell who is dangerous by the way they look.
  • Children who are taught to fear strangers react strangely in normal situations. They may become hysterical in the grocery store because Mom is talking to a stranger (the gal at the check out counter) and others might refuse to get on the bus because its full of strangers. 

Instead of teaching our kids about strangers we need to tell them about behavior that may signal danger and what to do when approached by ANYONEThe Bad Guys don’t wear black hats anymore and some of them aren’t guys!

When we deal with safety for young children we don’t give them guidelines or suggestions, we give the RULES. You have to hold my hand when we cross the street. You may not get out of your car seat and wander about the car! The rules are simple and unambiguous! 

Run, Yell & Tell! Rule #1:
If anyone wants to give you something you’re supposed to say: “I HAVE TO ASK FIRST!” And run right away to the person who is taking care of you and ask if it is okay.

Run, Yell & Tell! Rule #2:
If anyone wants you to go somewhere with them, you’re supposed to say: “I HAVE TO ASK FIRST!” And run right away to the person who is taking care of you and ask if it is okay.

Run, Yell & Tell! Rule #3:
There is touch that’s okay, and touch that’s sometimes okay and sometimes not okay. All kinds of touch, especially hugging and kissing have to be okay with both people.

The Private Zone:

Everything that is covered up by your swimsuit is called The Private Zone.
Private means it’s just for you; it’s not okay for anyone to touch you there – – the only exceptions are medical and hygiene. And it’s never okay for anyone to ask you to touch them in their private zone.

What is a Dangerous Situation? If someone tries to grab you, tries to make you go away with them, tries to touch you in a way that’s not okay, makes you feel scared or makes you feel icky…

Dangerous Situation – Response #1: RUN!

RUN to where there are people. Don’t run to a lonely place. RUN to the closest place there are people who can help you!

Dangerous Situation – Response #2: YELL!

YELL for help with your tummy to your toes. That is in loud, deep-pitched voice using diaphragmatic breathing. It’s better to yell than to scream because people consider screaming normal kid-play noise.

Dangerous Situation – Response #3: TELL!

Tell a grown-up you trust what happened to you. There are lots of different grown-ups you can tell.

I have personally delivered this program to 10s of thousands of children. In 1992 I was persuaded to write a children’s book of the same name based on the program. Thousands of copies have been sold and given away to families and early childhood programs all over the US and Canada. I know it works. I have letters and emails and crayon drawings that say it works and children have gotten out of dangerous situations. Run, Yell & Tell! is a copyrighted, trademarked program of Missing Children Minnesota. For more information contact us at: general.info@MissingChildrenMinnesota.org

 

 

Carol Watson was the Executive Director of Missing Children Minnesota (MCM) for over three decades. MCM the oldest non-profit child search organization in the mid-west. Carol’s eldest son was abducted by her ex-husband in 1983 and during the thirteen months he was missing, she participated in the founding of MCM. Carol was a member of the founding board of the Association of Missing and Exploited Children organizations (AMECO) and is currently board chair. She has serves on the board of Community Shares Minnesota. She still works for MCM part time having left the E.D. position to become the assistant E.D. when she turned 65.

In her role as public education coordinator for MCM, Ms. Watson has developed prevention programs for children from age 3 through high school, as well as a program for adults. The response to these programs has been so positive that in 1993 MCM published Run, Yell & Tell! A Safety Book For Children. In 1996, Erica’s Choices Alternatives to Running Away was published. Both books, authored my Ms. Watson have received excellent reviews and endorsements. The third book in the series I Want To Be S.A.F.E.R. for 3rd – 6th graders was published in 2004. She has testified as an expert witness on parental child abduction in court and at the state legislature. She was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Missing Children in 1990, and in 1992, she assisted the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in the development of Minnesota Guidelines to Missing Children Investigations: A Resource book. She has worked with the BCA on law enforcement training on parental abduction.

In 1988 Ms. Watson completed the “Mini MBA” for Non-profit Managers at St. Thomas University in St. Paul. In 2001 she received a National Service Award from the Washington Times Foundation and she and her husband Richard Olson were named Minnesota Parents of the Year by the American Family Counsel.

Ms. Watson has provided MCM’s prevention programs for tens of thousands of children parents and professionals over the last 32 years.

 

 

 

One of the coolest things about a comprehensive head-unfucking process is that you can spend an age or two chip-chip-chipping away at stubborn clogs, spending yourself, and seeing no durned progress. Then something, anything, or nothing much happens, and a whole giant chunk – maybe a chunk so big that you’d not even been able to see it, so big that you thought it was a feature, rather than a clog – comes unstuck. All that chipping wasn’t for nothing, after all. All the small fractures you created over painful weeks or months or years led up to a giant, spectacular release. Next thing you know, you’re rolling around in an avalanche, with no idea whatsoever of where you’re headed, or who you’ll be where you get there.

If you enjoy getting lost, it’s about the best trip anyone’s head can afford.

 

Corollary: Nobody can begin to guess what will be important to anyone else. I’ve got cheap paperback sci-fi books I picked up at a train station nearly three decades ago because I happened to have some spare change and nothing better to do that I’ve dragged with me through 18+ house moves (some intercontinental) and a year on a travelling show because, yes, they made that much of an impact. They’re a part of my software.

Corollary 2: If you put something out there, make it true.