Loyal?The Silence of the Abused.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/loyal/

Why are we silent? Why are we so reluctant to share our tales in public? Why do we delete post after post if we are bloggers? Why do we only feel safe sharing the full story anonymously on other writers’ pages?

Too many of us keep quiet about abuse because we feel we would be disloyal to spill the beans. But being loyal can mean allowing bad behaviour to continue, and children to see abuse as normal…

These thoughts have been triggered by a shared status (which I have, unusually, put my name to) on Facebook: Basically, those who have been abused are starting their own brief (or long) piece, which begins, ‘Me too…’ Already, I have seen many of my friends’ names at the top of these heart-rending posts.

Why, though, to go back to my original questions, do we not shout it out in the street? Name and shame our abusers?

Very simple. Part of the poisonous program of personalised abuse is an in-depth ‘seminar’ on mind control and silencing techniques. To put it bluntly, we have ‘This is not abuse. You are imagining it. You are the problem,’ engraved upon our shaky minds from the earliest moment. The training is cumulative and never lets up.

Undermining comments are rife. Punishment of the behaviour which stems from any kind of abuse is widespread and, by and large, accepted. Thus, when I got into trouble six months after being sexually attacked in the street, my then Headmaster made this comment: ‘I thought you were over all that. After all, it’s not as if you were raped.’

Surface impressions are taken as indications of depth of character, hence the many, ‘I have never seen this in him…’ or, ‘I don’t believe this. He is not like that…’ comments I received about my own main abuser. Because most abuse happens behind closed doors, and many abusers are charm personified in public, it is all too common for the abused to be blamed, ostracized and further tormented by those who choose to disbelieve every word he or she says about the abuse.

This all leads to terror and silence – and profound loneliness. This is especially harrowing and hurtful when friends and family members query the abused person’s testament, accuse him/her of lying or exaggerating or getting the wrong end of the stick -and, worse case scenario, take the abuser’s side.

This causes appalling psychic shock and such fear of a decaying mind that many abused people actually do go mad or have a nervous breakdown in the wake of months of disbelief. They start to question their own reality. I know I did. They start to think, ‘Am I the crazy one here? Am I suffering from some form of personality disorder that makes me say these things? Can I believe the evidence of my own mind and experience when no one else does?’

Silence is the end result in all too many cases. And, when statuses such as the one described earlier, show up on a social site, many of us go into immediate frozen terror, and think, ‘I cannot put my name to this. What if he sees it, or someone tells him it’s there, and he denies his involvement in public the way he always did in private?’

But the whole point is that abuse if rife, continuous, hugely damaging and ludicrously, frighteningly, easy to deny. When it is one person’s word against the other; when the abuser is not above using mind games including gaslighting; when important members of one’s potential support system have gone over to the enemy; when the media is full of doubt and denial and stories of women (very rare, this) who DO make up incidents of rape and abuse; when misogny hides beneath charm, good manners, excellent education and good looks; when not wanting to put one’s head above the parapet seems the more sensible choice, the effects of silencing become ever more toxic and wider in scope.

I want to make a very important point here. Every time I write a post of this nature, I am terrified, shaking, tempted to delete it (and often do); I am scared that someone who knows my abuser will read it and show him; I am scared that the whispers of denial, the accusations that I am after my pound of flesh, am mad, am making it up will start again.

If you replicate these emotions thousands, if not millions, of times, you will readily understand why silence is the option so many of us take. It is easier, less dangerous, less painful (on the surface at least), less confronting.

But every time we deny our own histories of abuse, it also means we are denying those of our fellow abused. Every time we read an article by a sufferer, and think, ‘Oh, yeah, bet he/she made that up to get money or revenge…’ we are denying a widespread and enormously serious problem. Every time we think, ‘I can’t tell my truth, but maybe some other brave soul will say the words for me…’ we are allowing abusers the world over to use fear and silencing techniques, to continue their campaign of mind control and intimidation.

I am a survivor of spousal abuse. Of emotional, mental, financial and sexual control. The fact that no mark was left on my body does not invalidate the previous statement. The fact that people I know have chosen to deny my words, to doubt me, and, in some cases, to side with my abuser, does not change the reality of what happened.

But, as I typed, with shaking fingers and teary eyes, upon Facebook this morning:

‘Me too…’

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Quest for a Sexy Dress…


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/ascend/

Let us ascend from this murky and boggy ground of female competitiveness over males! Let us ascend from this assumption that beauty and sexual desire can be defined by a look and refined by expensive clothing…

My lifetime dream, this was – finding, buying and wearing the perfect sexy dress; the garment that showed just enough to titillate without being tarty; the material that would cleave flatteringly to my curves – without, not to put too fine a point upon it, drawing undue attention to the overhang!

Over the years, I have sought this Holy Grail of a frock near and far – with conspicuous lack of success! I have bemoaned my fate, wept copious tears, lamented the shape with which I was born and wished, on countless occasions, to be more like girl A, woman B, crone C.

I imagined, in my most lurid daydreams, slinking around in a little number like that shown above, being wolf-and-other-wild animal-called by men the length and breadth of the land. I genuinely thought that, if I lost enough weight, I could replicate this kind of beauty. I genuinely thought this to be a worthwhile aim.

Or did I? No, not really. Not, deep-down honestly.

But still the search went on, year after year, decade after hopeless decade, with the inevitable disillusionment at the end of each ghastly shopping trip, and the tooth-gnashing jealousy when confronted by women who have a natural flair for clothes.

Yesterday, for reasons which I am not going to go in to, I briefly slithered back down into the Hell that is Ali’s Sexy Dress Quest. Hitting Clarks Village in Street, I forced myself to step through the doors of female clothing shops (whose names now escape me!) and, finding several possibilities on various racks and rails, braved that well-known Dante’s Eleventh Circle, the Dressing Room, with additional purgatorial implement of torture, The Full Length Mirror.

As an aside, whichever smart-arse designed that Inquisitorial Weapon of Mass Confidence Reduction deserves to burn in boiling chip fat for all eternity! As a general rule, I’d pay good money NOT to see myself in toto!

So, back to the Limbo that is trying on clothes in a shop. The first problem for those of us who are Alternatively Thin (aka fat!) is the old conundrum of, ‘How the bloody hell do I get into this welter of garish material without a shoe-horn, a catapult or a cannon to be fired from?’

The second, lesser misery, is the contortion required to do up the zip without possessing eight arms or the pliancy of a python. The third, that stomach-churning moment when you realise that the underwear you donned in the morning is more suitable for Armed Forces assault course than potential seduction, and that the cantilevered bra you are sporting could get you the part of Brunhilde without audition…

But the worst part of it all – and I am sure many a woman will be able to identify with this! – is that moment when, looking at the full horror of the reflection before you, you know, with pitiless clarity, that you are the spitting image of a Pantomime Dame, Dame Edna Everage or a life-size Miss Piggy.

Oftimes in the past, I have had colourful, and nasty, fantasies about shaving bits off the superstructure in order to turn into a siren!

Back to the point, and the shop: There I was, clad in a fussy full-length sleeveless number in a daring shade of coral, giving myself the honest eye: A sobering and underwhelming experience, let me tell you! The aforesaid dress might have passed muster had I possessed a waist (as opposed to an Equatorial Region), had my bat wings been slightly more reminiscent of humming bird’s wings, had my gestational overhang been a little more discreet instead of throwing itself out like the Rock of Ages, had I been nineteen instead of fifty-nine…

I could go on, but I am sure you get the idea!

I hung the dress (the sixth I had tried) neatly back from whence it had come, and climbed back into my jeans and russet jumper, catching strands of recent copper re-sparkling as I did so…

…and, as I prepared to leave The Black Hole of Sartorial Calcutta, I caught sight of myself in the mirror – and it was a revelation!

There I was, jeans, trainers, thick russet jumper, long curly red hair, with a red feather and copper sparkles in it, smiling in utter relief and joy at having disrobed – and I thought, ‘Why, Ali, are you trying so hard to conform to this stereotype of desirable, gorgeous womanhood? When, actually, you are everything you need to be without embellishments, and without trying to ape other women’s looks!’

Neither beauty nor sexual attractiveness are contained within a woman’s wardrobe, make-up box or shoe collection. They reside within the woman herself. No individual dress, no matter how inherently sexy or divinely-modelled by a professional, can touch the inner Goddess, a part of womanhood that can shine through any material.

I do not have to prove myself in this way. In truth, I never did. I do not have to buy, or buy into, the notion of forever making the best of myself through potions, lotions, diets, clothes and face-painting. I am not saying it is wrong. If other women choose this path, that is their right. But it is not for me. It never was.

Too often women buy such garb in a competitive and insecure way (as I have always tried to do), basically because they want to outshine others, because they are unsure of their own inner loveliness, because they want to attract or keep a man – and because, at some level, they believe that they are defined by their ability to be sexy around the male species.

I am who I am. My Quest for the Sexy Dress is at an end. It proved to be a False Grail. Sexuality shines from within. My Grail pours forth its water from within too.

I choose to walk away from this kind of damaging inter-female competitiveness, this sartorial upstaging of other women. No man is worth the kind of terrified vanity which causes women, on a daily basis, to need the words, ‘You are the fairest of them all!’

And most women are worth far more!

 

Reblogging my Posts…


Like most writers, I am delighted when another pen-wielder is kind enough to reblog one of my posts.

However, there are a couple of points I would like to make.

First: Please read the post before reblogging it. I can be controversial, even rude, and swearing is far from unusual. This level of bluntness may not be suitable for your audience. If you reblog seconds after I have pressed ‘publish’, you cannot possibly have read the words, thought about their relevance to your own oeuvre and made informed decisions based upon those criteria. The fall-out from your usual readers could, potentially, lose you hits and support.

Second: Please acknowledge that the post was originally mine (and the vast majority of you do this) by writing a little comment before reblogging. It is a courtesy all writers need to adopt, otherwise the reblog becomes little more than copying, or stealing, another’s work.

I have, over the years, had several instances of reblogging which has come perilously close to pilfering. Akismet often queries such examples – and I then have to approve (or not) the reblog.

As I say, most of you are extremely supportive and polite in these matters. But one or two are beginning to catch the censor’s eye and give me cause for concern.

Succumb: A book with a seriously bad message and vibe.


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/succumb/

I must, in my life thus far, have read many thousands of books. Some have bored me; some have frightened me; one of two have disgusted me – but, yesterday, and for the first time EVER, I actually threw a book I had bought in the bin. I found it so revolting, so degrading, so nasty that I did not want it to pollute my living space one moment longer.

I am not going to mention the name of the author, or the title of the book. The male writer is famous, and, I am privately certain, both wealthy and powerful – and I do not wish to attract potentially serious consequences as a result of my honesty.

I have read far worse on the scale of violence. Many books have been far more overtly menacing than this one was.

So what was it that made my blood run cold?

I will come right out with my central objection: The author’s attitude towards women and the way his novel was so clearly wrapped around his own, somewhat predictable (but also subtly abusive), sexual fantasies.

His main female characters behaved in a way that was straight out of, if you’ll pardon the phrase, Wank Mag Territory. They succumbed, that is to say, to two of the most widely-known masculine sexual desires (and, by so doing, showed very clearly the yawning gap between fantasy and reality. I say this because few women of my pretty broad acquaintance would get off on the situations purported to be experienced as massively arousing through the characters’ eyes and pores.).

To be frank, I got uneasy vibes when it was mentioned fairly early on, that one of the main characters, a woman in a senior position in her place of work, kept a thong in her handbag. But, I thought to myself, ‘Be open-minded, Ali! Many women may do just this!’

But the main sex scene – which I personally found about as erotic as a dog turd – was male erotic drive from start to finish: Threesome; two girls titillating one another for the man’s benefit; anal sex. Need I say more?

The rape scene – described in lurid, almost hungry, detail – was equally disturbing and suggested some very unpleasant twists to the writer’s imagination.

There was something really dark and unwholesome about this book. It reeked of a man who had, long ago, succumbed to the basest desires and most misanthropic attitudes. It screamed, ‘Man who genuinely believes that women only exist to turn blokes on!’

I would love to say that it was darkly humorous, tongue-in-cheek, ironic, scathing – or any of these acceptable ways of high-lighting mankind’s nastier side – but it was nothing of the kind.

The glowing reviews worried me almost as much as the contents of the book itself. Do these people really believe that the book was a work of high quality, almost genius-level, writing? Or did they succumb to the lure, and fear, of an internationally-known Name, a famous person, a man with more power and prestige than most of us will ever know?

Is it, to widen my concern, this kind of wimping-out which is responsible for Trump’s ever-widening stream of attested-to and documented abuse being glossed-over and ignored?

I am not, for one moment, saying that this book suggests that the writer is an abuser. I do not think that can be proven, though I do think it implies a somewhat less than healthy approach to women and sex.

But, power should not protect in this way. A vast income, a title, a position at the top of the dung heap should not make any difference. Often those who are in a position of power see themselves as impregnable, act as if their peccadilloes (crimes  for everyone else) are trivial, humorous, almost cute. I find this utterly repulsive, indefensible, gross.

It is a sad indictment of something very wrong in our society that I am too scared to mention name and title, while the writer himself has no such qualms when it comes to publishing offensive tripe, and justifying his own fell desires by inferring that they are what women really really want.

Yes, that book hit the bin yesterday afternoon…

I, for one, an NOT succumbing to its hissing and sibilant snake of a message!

Community Reviewer Versus Published Author


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/cloaked/

Cloaked in envy and insecurity, all too many creative artists try to annihilate those they see as competition by refusing to give anything more than lip-service levels of support to them… 

After I left teaching – and before I published the first of my novels – I became, for a delightful year or so, a Community Reviewer for the Theatre Orchard Project. In this capacity, I watched some wonderful examples of local theatrical talent, which included Living Spit (whose play ‘The Six Wives of Henry V111’ I have seen five times to date!).

I have, to a greater or lesser extent, continued to review local talent, albeit unofficially – and it is something I enjoy, partly because I love the breadth and variety offered by the local scene, and partly because, as a struggling creative artist myself, I understand all too well the need for a helping hand and a blast of publicity.

However, the balance of this and my own writing career has dipped in favour of the former. I have been putting my own books, and writing projects, on the back burner in order to write reviews on, and thus gets hits and notice for, others who have creative projects.

I am going to be absolutely honest here. While I LOVE (genuinely) the attention the subjects of my reviews get, I find it hurtful in the extreme when statuses on Facebook, and posts on here, in which I mention my own output, die the death and attract almost no views or comments at all. It makes me feel as if I only have value as a writer when I am either sharing the deeply-personal posts which others can secretly agree with, or am pushing other people’s talents as far as I can.

If I am only seen as a writer who uses her words to review or to write about common human emotions; if, that is to say, my ability to write creatively, and to publish novels, is subsumed by other considerations – then it is, frankly, a huge waste of my talents.

I feel as if I am increasingly being seen as USEFUL in my capacity as a writer; that the ability to form well-written pieces comes very much second to the content; that people cannot, or will not, make the logical leap from being flattered by my blog posts to evincing interest in my books.

There are, of course, exceptions. My friends Jo and Aelph have been most supportive.  Shadow of the Tor has been a warmth and a revelation. Sue Vincent, Dean, Mark, Lisa and Running Elk have always backed me as a writer. There are others. I will not name them because I do not want to be accused of unfairness on this front.

But these comments go further than my own concerns. I have seen the pattern I write so passionately about reproduced in struggling artist after struggling artist. Lip-service seems to be the order of the day, with much overt admiring of another’s oeuvre and very little actual on-the-ground support.

But I do feel that, for some people I have come across, I am seen as almost a threat: That it is fine as long as my words are confined to up-beat praise or the kind of female sharing which makes other women feel they are not alone; but that I am being a show-off, or arrogant, or rocking the boat, or upstaging the insecure, if I dare to bring my books into the room, the conversation, the Facebook page.

I am an author, a writer. I have over a hundred unpublished volumes of journal, have written over eight hundred posts on this blog alone – and have, to date, got five books out there. I was a creative writer long before I became a reviewer.

Words and posts that please, praise and bring to life the abilities of others are but the tip of the iceberg. Words that make others people, especially women, feel less alone with their emotions are important but not the central tenet of my writing.

Perhaps I need to be more aggressive, more overtly ambitious, more thrusting in my approach.

Wanting to be read, wanting my books to be bought, is neither a crime nor a sign of Narcissistic arrogance. It is a perfectly natural response, and is shared by the vast majority of other creative artists. Of course we want our products to be bought and used and loved and valued. Why wouldn’t we? Of course it helps if we can make some money from the talents we were born with. Again, why is this in any way a problem or a sign of inflated ego or a materialistic nature?

I think there is a massive misconception abroad that being creative means eschewing monetary concerns, and that, therefore, it is somehow betraying the artistic spirit, or letting the side down, to want to make gelt from one’s talents.

But pale and consumptive poets coughing up their gobbets in garrets are very much a thing of the past, and those of us who write, compose, play, act, paint or sculpt do not expect to be seen as grasping gits if making art our lives includes the hope of making a living!

Finally, I wish to make this point: We do not diminish ourselves by supporting and encouraging other artists. Sometimes, the only way to give an artist the wide attention he or she merits is to get out there and spread the word – and, despite what I have written in this post, I shall continue to do just that because creative talent is life-affirming and lovely and should not be hidden away just because the artist him or herself lacks confidence, and some other artists are too mean-spirited or easily-threatened to get off their own cloud of ego and give someone else a chance!

But I will keep the scales – between supporting others and letting loose my own creative flow – balanced. I will value my own contribution just as much as anyone else’s, because I am one of Glastonbury’s tribe of creative artists and, as Enobarbus said of Cleopatra, ‘…age cannot wither her, nor custom stale…’

Letting Compliments In…


I have always found this really hard to do. There seems to be a deep moat around my heart, and a thick port cullis before the castle that is my mind. I am impregnable.

I hear the words. Sixty years of training in manners give me the ability to sound thankful (which I am) and convinced (which I am not).

Let me share a fundamental reaction. Disbelief. Stunned certainty that any compliments have an unspoken rider, ‘…but Person A is better, nicer, more talented, sexier…’

My upbringing had a strong Christian element – and, I can now see, this side of things was more punitive, more hell-fire and brimstone than loving or confidence-boosting. There was a fundamental belief that it was wrong to allow children to become cocky, complacent, full of themselves – all of which I agree with in principle – but this spilled over into a fear of instilling basic confidence lest we became any of the above.

I can see that the philosophy – preventing us from becoming unbearable, puffed-up little monsters – was sound and sensible, but the underside of belief (that it was almost a sin to believe well of oneself, to be good at anything, to allow confidence in) was, for me, very damaging.

My insecurities were dealt with in a most peculiar way. I can see this now – though, obviously at the time I had no other model to base anything upon. My central certainty – that I was ugly (and, when the time came, lacking sex appeal), bereft of talent and mediocre of brain – was subtly encouraged by such comments as, ‘We can’t all be pretty..’ – and, in my twenties, being told that I was seen as evil and corrupt.

My journal-writing habit (so essential for an inhibited and largely silent young girl) was seen as threatening, antisocial and of no true value, and the only one of my books my parents read they damned with faint praise: could see that it was well-written, but loathed all the characters and thought its message nasty.

I am intensely, almost morbidly, self-critical – and find it hard to look at film footage and photos of myself as a result. In my eyes (trained by experts), I almost invariably look obese, hideous and unflatteringly dressed. ‘Training’ from some men (please note the word ‘some’ in this) has not helped, with such expressions as, ‘I’m seeing you because there was nothing better around,’ and, ‘To me, you were just another young woman prepared to drop her knickers…’ eroding my already-low sense of myself as a desirable woman.

But then, to be fair, I unconsciously chose intimates who would further the confidence-blasting side of my early years.

I can finally see that at least some of that early work was meant for the best and reflected very real damage and fear in the parent mainly  responsible; that a twisted and charred fire-shrunken corpse of the Christian message was being utilised, and that the fears and repression around looks and sexuality were no more my parent’s fault than mine.

But seeing and knowing this is one thing; actually cutting the threads of Hell-fear and Heaven-reward, of beauty and sex being seen as borderline sinful and certainly not something to be encouraged, of talent being of very dubious worth (and very much akin to being a big-head and showing off) – and of the eternal bonfire awaiting those who strayed from the Path of Righteousness (which meant meekness, being nice, not standing out, waiting for marriage to have sex – and being seen as less loved and important if one broke these unstated rules), my rational self has always been in conflict with the irrational Bible-based control heaped upon my growing character.

I chose not to follow the Christian Path, in its corrupting form – though there is still a tiny residual guilt associated with this and the knowledge that my mother (were she still compos mentis, bless her) would be horrified by my choosing Ceremonial Magic and the Western Mystery Tradition as my spiritual journey.

I am, on the surface at least, far more confident now than I ever have been – but the underlying lack of self-confidence and trouble accepting any compliments remains a genuine problem in my life.

I confess quite openly that there is a part of me that would love to be cocky and complacent, convinced of my own genius (yeah, right!), sure I am the bee’s knees and the dog’s bollocks; there is a yearning side of my character that would love to gaze into the mirror and see that I was ‘…fairest of them all…’; there is a prickly and terrified part of me that feels intensely afraid of, and in competition with, other women as a result – and I don’t like this gnarly, angry, bitchy little inner self very much.

I often ask myself, ‘Why is this physical beauty and sexually desirable aspect both so important and so bloody terrifying?’ After all, in terms of human personality traits which actually matter and contribute to the common good, how we look and our ability to attract the opposite sex comes pretty far down the list. Besides, standards of beauty vary enormously, as, to be frank, do all qualities relating to talent.

I think that there is a significant little-girl presence still at work within my ageing body – and this small Bambi is terrified of being told off if she says she is good at anything; she is petrified of being told she is arrogant if she thinks her writing is good, her curls pretty, her singing voice tuneful; she is scared of facing the wall of parental, and then spousal, disapproval if she performs in public and shines, if she stands out in any way and, perhaps most crucially in this context, if her accomplishments go against her childhood, and marital, training.

There is, that is to say, a hurt little inner self who still believes that it is wrong to let compliments in; that it is, in an odd way, the path to arrogance and eternal punishment.

Parents, be not niggardly with your praise and approval. Let your precious children know that they are loved, important, worthwhile, talented and that it is absolutely fine to own these characteristics without fear of punishment.

An absolute classic of its kind!


https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fraud/

Words rarely fail me. This morning, however, they did! As you will know, if you’ve been reading my posts for a while, I have received some hilarious search terms over the years (‘Rampant Granny Shaggers’ and ‘Woden Horse Porn’ being two of the best!) – but today’s Spam comment (which, somehow, slipped under the net) made me laugh out loud.

Damning with faint praise, this individual gave me credit for being, as he put it, ‘…quite a good writer…’ of, as he then put it, somewhat bafflingly, ‘…a fastidious article of entropy…’but, added, ‘…you make too many spelling mistakes…’

WTF? (as the fashionable acronym goes)

Almost as riotously farcical as my other top ‘favourite’: The commentator whose critique starts, ‘I don’t read many articles on line…’ and whose supplementary dross makes it all too clear that he/she/it has not read mine either!

So, now, for the delectation of the masses, and as an ironic counterpoint to the above comments, I shall turn paragraph one into the kind of mistake-ridden prose I so often had to correct as a teacher:

Word’s (please note the superfluous apostrophes throughout!) rairly fail me, (and crap use of punctuation generally!) this morning however they did, as you will now if youve bin reading my post’s for a wile/wyal/wiel/ for ever i ave recieved some hiral/hylar/funny serch term’s over the year’s (ram pant grany* shager’s and wodes horse’s spawn being to off the best), but todays spam coment (witch somhow sliped under the net) made me laff/larf/lol out loud.

*not to mention insecurity around the doubling of consonants rule!

Need I say more?!

Other than this (to my erstwhile literary critic): ‘Once you can actually express yourself coherently in one of the world’s many languages, then you are more than welcome to point the finger at my grammar, punctuation and spelling. Until then, Oh egregious toss-pot, I strongly suggest that you go and drain the main vein off!’

NB: My ambiguous use of the phrase ‘drain the main vein’ is quite deliberate suggesting, as it does, two very different uses for the same bodily part – but one absolutely clear instruction to my latest Tame Troll!

Literary critic, my arse! Literary fraud, more like!