Thursday, September 27, 2018

Trigger Warning

At some point in the next 24 hours, I'm going to be an aunt for the first time. This should be a joyous time - a time to revel in family and new life and possibility. And yet here I am, sitting in front of a computer, weighed down completely by the world around me. I am going to be an aunt to a boy. He'll be my nephew. A small, white boy born into privilege, who will be raised radically and well by a deeply wonderful mom, and yet also unavoidably raised by this heinous culture that we live in. This place where we tell white boys and white men over and over and over again that they are not responsible for their actions, that they are being punished for their privilege, that they are targeted because they're in power and we're all jealous or in disagreement or anything but the reality of what we actually are, which is consistently betrayed, abused and ruined by them.

It reminds me, too, that I am a "me, too." It reminds me that when I was 12 or 13, my uncle decided to climb on top of me. It has made me question what I remember, whether I'm remembering correctly. It has made me judge myself, saying, 'Well, it wasn't NEARLY as bad as what happened to Dr. Ford so I must be exaggerating or looking for attention.' Because that's what we're told, we women. We're looking for attention. We're asking for it. We're responsible.

And besides, I tell myself, nothing more happened. He climbed on top of me, I was held down for a while, and then he got up and left. Right? I mean, I blocked this event out altogether for over a decade, and with the brief and deep feeling of PTSD I had when I uncovered it, it's possible more happened and it's all just fuzzy. But, therefore, equally possible that I'm just imagining or forgetting or lying. I was 13, too young to be credible. What was I wearing, anyway?

Plus, what has come of this event? It's not like it's affected other parts of my life. Sure, it meant that almost none of my family were present at my wedding because they didn't know why I wasn't inviting one small portion of them. They largely boycotted because all they knew was that stuck-up cousin Caitlin decided not to invite those relatives, and so they had to band together to make a statement. Because I'll never, ever tell any of them the truth - that I couldn't invite my uncle because his presence makes me anywhere from uncomfortable to petrified. Because of what he did. I won't do that to my grandmother, who I love to pieces, because it will either wreck her or she'll never believe me (and never forgive me) - so I just sit with all of this, quietly, taking the blame for holding out on invitations. Watching as my husband's family fills the tables, and mine doesn't even fill one.

In the days and weeks and months and years that come, I will love my nephew deeply. He will be the one who made me an aunt, and his mother and I will show him all about love and kindness and respect and boundaries. I will have joy.

And yet, tonight, I go to sleep fearing that he, too, will be taught by the world around him that he can do harm without accountability. I dread, truly, that between harm and good, he won't even be able to tell the difference.

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