I’m thinking a lot about boundaries lately. Recenty, my horscope suggested that I should See Myself For Who I Really Am. Satisfied with that horoscope, I haven’t read mine since. I don’t know who I really am. I am privileged with insight, with diagnosis and education but I wonder how clouded I am by what other people think of me, and I wonder very much if “other people’s thoughts” are, more often than not, theoretically abusive.
“Knowledge cannot by itself give an account of being”.-Jean-Paul Sartre “Being and Nothingness”
Her yellow sweater hangs.
I read recently, or maybe it was something I heard, that fashion models are curated to appear as clothing hangers.
Ok. Now I understand.
She walks the runway not because she is a model Woman but rather a model Tool That I Shove in My Closet After Purchasing Ten Of Them for $1.50.
I wonder who designed Fashion.
“My friend is at a wedding and she wants to hook up with the guy on the right but I can’t tell why I hate his face.”
I get this text from a friend of mine accompanied by a wedding photo involving a hub of people. I focus on the model hook up. His face is troublesome. Clean. Angular.
“He is for sure wearing makeup,” notes my friend. “And he was supposed to get married last month but his fiancé bailed and I’m like NO DON’T FUCK HIM.”
I have to agree. He looks like a young Paul Bernardo shaken with a little Fabio elixir and garnished with a 2019 mansplain-The-Me-Too-Movement vibe.
“I feel like I can predict his whole life just from this photo,” she says. “And it’s boring.”
I can only see his face and if I take my eyes off of it, I won’t be able to locate it again. I stare until I understand what my friend is saying and I finally tell her, “I don’t think he’ll treat her well”
Signs and symbols of abuse are becoming subtle but vast. Reality feels like a constant parable, like I’m stuck in a folklore nexus and if I make the wrong move I may end up humiliated or harmed.
A small dog hops her way across my legs. The man’s lightness of speech suggests a communal game as he speaks to my dog Mordy who is whining from his back pain, “fuck off and let me chew on my ball,” he tells the Ned Flanders type.
“Here, I’ll throw it for you! You don’t know how to drop it? I can throw it for you!”
Yes, sir, thank you for insulting his training and intelligence but maybe his whining suggests that he doesn’t want you or his dog anywhere near us. Maybe, sir, someone doesn’t want you.
“He has a bad back.” I am sitting in the shade in a safari-hat and aviators, decidedly not smiling.
“aww you have a bad back! Ok then I can just throw it two feet instead of twenty feet!”
Congratulations. You can throw.
“We’re focusing on chewing today,” I tell him but what I need to say is, You should leave us alone.
“Oh just chewing for his bad back? How old is he?”
Ok. When they ask for personal information, always refuse. In the past little while, I have come to realize, people will use personal information to manipulate you and the moment your sharing with them. I haven’t made any real rules for myself, boundaries, but I can feel that I’m coming closer every day to sitting down and designing my boundaries in contract with myself just so that I remember: Rachel, you don’t owe anyone anything.
“4 and a half. Almost five,” I lie. He is four but still a young four. I lie because my dog is having pain at a young age. He is large, a little overweight, and suffering just enough to make me cry every night. I don’t need the refrain “oh, that young?”. I don’t need it.
The man makes a noise.
He could have said, “He’s going to be just fine!” He could have said, “Good thing you’re taking a nice break in the shade.” But instead he makes a noise, he grimaces at my dog and he calls his tiny friend away from my feet.
It could be that I am very sensitive but I don’t think I am anymore. I think my gift is that I have lived with sensitive intent. When I was younger I was more reactive and I am still reactive but I have developed habits to help me remain calm. One of those habits is still developing: The habit of Refusal.
No you do not have access to me.
No you do not have access to my time.
I am not a resource unless I option to become one out of love or empathy.
Here is how I know that most people’s opinions about me don’t matter: No matter how much access I give to someone they cannot anticipate my sensory experience of the world. You do not have to have a diagnosed disability to be experiencing things vastly different from your family, your partner, your friends. In fact, most of our human population is existing without the privilege of diagnosis and they remain even more vulnerable for that reason. Obvious example, how many individuals in the fashion industry struggle with undiagnosed eating disorders and associated mental illness? Not so obvious example, how many individuals are manipulated into power-structured personal relationships because they suffer from a disadvantage that they can’t quite put their finger on.
Google News tells me that Aaron Carter is publicly admitting his multiple mental health diagnosis: “Schizophrenia, Multiple Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Manic Depression (improper antiquated term, should be Bipolar Disorder)”.
Is it possible for one person to be born with that many mental health afflictions? And survive to adulthood? I guess, maybe.
Aaron Carter paid for the privilege of diagnosis.
He can use the diagnosis to craft boundaries and reasonable expectations for himself so that he can learn to live a healthy life.
He trusted someone or a team of Someones to help him with that.
And someone is getting paid. Top American Dollar.
Sometimes we behave badly because we think we’ll live forever and who cares, my behaviour is only considered bad by someone else’s standards. No. Some behaviours are bad because they have harmful consequences. You don’t have to care about the consequences, go ahead: Don’t eat ever again, eat way too much, smoke cigarettes, smoke crack, inhale the exhaust from your car, jump off a cliff…I could keep listing supposed “compulsions” but my point isn’t to shame someone who is reading this, my point is that we abuse ourselves every day.
I have quit more than one addiction in my life and I will continue to battle urgent thinking. No one can abust me quite like I can. But when I abuse me, I am clear with myself: This is abuse. When I abuse me, I inhale from a cigarette and I know it will kill me, I swallow a handful of pills and I cry just knowing what I have done, there are no secrets, the walls of the rabbit hole are painted with YEP THIS HURTS which is, we all know, the pay off. The pay off of self-harm is that I can control the harm.
The worst part of an abuse cycle is the moment you realize you have been abused.
A memory hits me and I recall a man I knew who I thought I could love. He was tall and wore a curved brim on his ripped cap, a bass jumping out of water stitched on the face of it, as if to say: I jump.
He was not sexually capable. But he needed to keep trying. And when I told him it was fine, he stopped talking to me for almost the rest of the evening, silently got out of bed, got dressed, smoked by the window, finished his drink, grabbed his shoes and while he was lacing them told me, “When I was in Afghanistan,” No, friends, this isn’t a movie, he was a vet and he had done two tours but swore he hated speaking about it, “When I was in Afghanistan, we were in the desert and we were essentially police there so we would be up some nights, just in the desert, “watching”. I was with my buddy. We were just sitting there. And a gust of something. A gust of something tall, something right in front of us, I don’t know what it was, it was right in front of us and it was watching us and I remember I couldn’t breathe. I will never forget it was something, someone, watching us. And I just couldn’t breathe.” And then, his shoes on, he looked at me and said, “I had a really nice night. You’re a cool girl. I’m sorry the sex was bad.” He left.
A confidant story. A model Hero.
How else can anyone control a relationship but to insist on an Ego, a diagnosis, a definition.
It doesn’t have to matter.
Just make sure you know who you are, draw boundaries fair enough to prevent anyone from fucking with your sense of YES I AM and forgive yourself when you finally realize that someone didn’t tell you everything.