FEMPOWER











I’ve been seeing my therapist every week for over a year. She always has insights that no friends or family can offer. During my tearful recent session her words were especially effective.

I broke up with my First True Love two weeks ago. We broke up because he’s moving back to Europe, still very much in love.  I’ve been calling on all my family and friends for reassurance that my pain will heal and that I made the right decision.  My doubt arises from the fear I’ll never experience the same feelings for another person. Though all my friends tell me this won’t be the case and that my FTL just “isn’t the one,” I don’t believe them. My therapist had this to say:

Me: I think about things and I don’t understand why we aren’t trying out long-distance.

Therapist: What would that look like? You’d see each other a couple times a year. You wouldn’t be able to talk to each other much. You’re not sure when you’d be living in the same place. Is that what you want from a relationship?

Me:  [long pause] No.

Therapist:  I think what FTL is saying is that he needs to be with the person he’s in a relationship with. Relationships don’t grow when people aren’t together. That’s not how intimacy develops. And, Me, do you think—at 22 years old—your life would be as full and rich as it could possibly be if you were committed to somebody an ocean away?

Me: [long pause] No.

Therapist:  For long-distance relationships to work the two people have to have a plan for being together in the end. And it’s not like he’s going to Connecticut, which itself would be hard.  He’s going across an ocean.  If you were studying abroad in Europe in January, your situation could be different. But in relationships two people have to want the same things. They have to have the same priorities. FTL chose his home. And home is a very deeply rooted place.

Me: I’m afraid I’ll never feel that way about anyone again.

Therapist: I don’t know anyone who that’s happened to. And everyone who goes through a difficult breakup like this feels that way. And I think over time you’ll be proud of the decision you made. Because your relationship wasn’t perfect. He didn’t accept your personality for what it was. He could be controlling. Ask yourself, if you were in the same situation again would you have made the same decision?

Me: You mean if I gave him an ultimatum to commit to me when he leaves or it’s over?

Therapist: Mm hm.

Me: Yes.

Therapist: So that’s important to know.

Me: But I’m so attracted to him. I’ve never felt so attracted to anyone before.

Therapist: And you’ll feel that way again. Me, don’t make the mistake that so many women make of thinking that a man made you feel that way. You made you feel that way. Those feelings came from you. They didn’t come from FTL. He may have brought them out in you for the first time, but those are your feelings. And now you know you’re capable of feeling that way. That’s a good thing.

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I live above a restaurant. Last night, fumbling for my keys outside my front door and talking to my sister on the phone, a table of guys seated outside tried to get my attention. I pretended I didn’t notice. Then one jumped out of his seat and ran over to me.

Ass Hole: Can we take a picture with you?

Me: No fucking way, man. Are you kidding me?

Ass Hole: What?

Me: Fuck off.

Ass Hole and Co.: What a bitch!

Now why should I want or allow my picture to be taken with a bunch of scum bags I don’t even know? I wondered if my reply was too rude. But I think asking a total stranger to take a picture with her is just as rude as saying “fuck off.” Yet in the end, I’m the bitch for defending myself.

This is the start of the Campaign Against Street Harrasment (C.A.S.H.). Every woman and man who can’t stand incidents like this one, defined by cat calling* and petting**, should do everything in their power to make it known that these behaviors are unacceptable.

I believe a forceful statement with the word “fuck” does the trick. Once I was walking down the street and a guy asked if he could touch me. In the past I’d always ignored such comments. But this time something in me snapped. I gave him the finger and a forceful “fuck off.” It felt incredible.

The worst thing about street harassment is it renders the victim completely helpless. It’s a form of sexual harassment we just have to take because once it happens we can’t erase the feeling of disgust or unease we have. And we can’t create that same feeling of unease in the instigator. It’s the emotional version of spilling coffee on your white pants first thing in the morning with no bleach pen available.

You might be thinking, “But some women enjoy the attention.” True. But these are the insecure types who gain confidence through hotness validation. The philosophy behind Fempower is to look elsewhere for confidence boosts.

So think fast the next time you feel offended by a street harasser–stand up for yourself. Because it feels great to have a say, too.

*Includes all derogative verbal come-ons by a stranger on the street, from whistling to the more blatant “nice t*tties.”

**Includes all unwelcome physical come-ons by a male cat caller a female victim doesn’t know, from a touch on the thigh in a bar to an intentional brush on the arm while walking down the street.



{August 9, 2007}   My Birthday Break-up

When it comes to birthdays, 22 is a forgettable number. But I’ll never forget mine. I broke up with my First True Love.

He was amazing. He was my fourth boyfriend after a messy break with my abusive third. He treated me far better than anyone ever had. Except he couldn’t commit to me.

My First True Love is European. I met him when he was a grad student in New York. I knew he had a contract for a job here. At the end of March—five months into our love affair—he revealed he planned to move back to Europe. It could be as soon as September or as late as January. He wasn’t sure, he said. It depended on the company. But he doubted he’d win his transfer as soon as September. In May, he did.

What ensued was a long back-and-forth about “us”. He had been in a long distance relationship before and it didn’t work. “It never works,” he told me repeatedly. I—the hopeless romantic—believed he and I could do it.

He graduated and went to Europe for the summer. I went to visit him. We spent both an amazing and trying ten days together. It felt like a test to see if I could live there. It was much harder than I expected.

He came back to New York in August for his job training after two months away. I knew our relationship had problems. But I knew the biggest problem was that he couldn’t commit to a relationship after this month. And I knew that meant he didn’t like me as much as I liked him.

I had been gearing up to break up with him for a couple weeks. I knew I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t reciprocate my feelings, and nothing changed when he landed in August. After going through an abusive relationship, I know what I deserve. I deserve someone who is sure about me. I deserve someone who won’t make me feel horrible for days at a time because they’re unsure about me. I deserve to be treated like a queen. And my FTL did—except for all his uncertainty. As my mother said, “That’s a big except.”

So on my 22nd birthday, when he still wasn’t sure, I showed him the door. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, though made easier by the fact that he gave me The Worst Gift Ever (more on that later). But I had to do it. Because I made a promise to myself after going through years of abuse that I wouldn’t put up with bad treatment. I will only be with someone who treats me like a queen—no excepts allowed.



{August 7, 2007}   FEMPOWER Launches

Fempower is a cocktail of insights, true stories, and criticisms. It’s therapeutic journalism meant to revive the long-lost feminist in all of us. In a time when we are too consumed with how we look and what others think, we must take a step back to think about what should define modern women and what we deserve. Fempower is the new girl power.



et cetera