It’s October 26. My husband and I are eating breakfast at the kitchen table on the morning we are to leave for China. I am checking my packing list, and he is skimming Facebook messages.
“Oh my god, your dad,” he says to me.”Now what?” I ask.
“He sent me a FB message inviting me to like the page ‘Thousands of Hot XXX Girls’,” he tells me. “What does he think, sending that to his daughter’s husband?”
“He’s an idiot,” I say, and go downstairs to get my jeans out of the dryer.
But later, in the car on the way to Seattle, it comes back to me and I start to get angry, seriously full of rage. I have a lot of experience denying or holding back rage, and when I let it come to the surface, it’s big. My father is a sexist pig. He always has been. He’s fucking clueless. Does he think this is acceptable? He does, I know he does. That’s what women are to him, bodies for his entertainment. I start ranting to my husband, who is trying to keep his eye on traffic in the middle of the pouring rain. He’s not able to give me his full attention.
Fine, if my husband thinks not crashing into one of those trucks that drives too fast on I-5 in the rain is more important than joining me in the noisy condemnation of my father, I’ll just find someone else to validate me. I text E and tell her what my dad did, tell her I hate him, and oh, by the way, good morning.
Luckily she appears not to be in session with anyone yet and answers me: Great way to start your day! Disgusting!
Okay, not bad, but I need a more vigorous condemnation of him. I write to her that my father thinks exactly like Donald Trump (he does; he tells racist jokes and I can absolutely see him thinking that grabbing women by the pussy is supposed to be a compliment to them). The only difference is my father doesn’t have any power. I don’t want anything to do with him, I write to E. I hate him. I also send her an angry bitmoji of myself dressed as a witch.
She sends me a bitmoji back: I know how you feel.
I continue (this is a rant, after all): Objectification of women. Assumption that all men share that opinion. Idea that he should share that with my husband. Ugh, I tell her, I just hate him and do not want to help him at all!!! [My dad has very little income and is about to lose his current housing situation.]
I text to her: I am raging!! In case you hadn’t noticed that.
She sees my rage and that it makes sense, she tells me. She thinks my teen self is probably glad to see me able to express my rage clearly and directly. It’s okay to feel and express rage.
I write: Rage is great because it helps me clarify what I believe. My dad is selfish and willfully ignorant and disrespectful. I don’t like him very much–even though I know he has some good qualities. I won’t deceive myself into thinking it would be okay to bring him to live with us [an option I occasionally consider].
Right, that makes sense, she says. Too toxic to have close by.
The more I think about him, the more offended I become. Fuck, he objectified his own daughters as kids, I tell E. I remember him making jokes and comments about our bodies when we took our bath together. And taking a bath together meant we were all pretty small, probably 7 or 8 and younger. I told her that I had also texted one of my sisters saying my dad reminded me of Trump and that she had texted back YES! I have thought that ever since the release of those bus recordings.
We continued back and forth a little longer. Soon we arrived at the airport, and I took a big breath, consciously setting aside the rage in favor of excitement. I’m making my first trip to China! I want to enjoy this!
And now it’s November 10, and I did enjoy China and got back just in time for the election, which is a crushing experience. I allow myself a couple of quiet days to sooth my internal self. I watch as emotions come up and then settle down again. I notice my thoughts arise, including those same old repetitive ones: I’m so bad, I’m so dirty, I’m disgusting, I’m the sex toy men use and discard.
In the evening, I feel the voice in my head turning into the voice of a distressed little girl. And I have images I haven’t had before come up in front of my eyes. Is this a flashback? I don’t feel like it’s happening right now, but it’s quite clear, and the emotions are strong. Shame, revulsion, fear. My body is on alert. I’m not here, I’m here, I’m not here.
I don’t know. Maybe this is something I am constructing in my imagination. Could I be making this up? It is a story about my feelings, rather than a memory which provokes feelings? I don’t know how I can know the difference. I’m afraid I’m making it up. It’s just my reaction to the idea that half the electorate doesn’t think that bragging about sexual assault disqualifies a person for the office of the presidency. As a reaction, I am imagining that I experienced rape as a little girl. But I didn’t really, because I would remember, wouldn’t I? It’s all fiction.
Ugh, this is another visit from Doubt, that persistent member of my emotional house who used to stand in the way of any of my healing. I spent months on her last year. I remind myself that E says fact or fiction, the little girl carries an emotional wound that deserves to be healed. I don’t have to figure out what’s real. I don’t need proof.
I want to be the woman who protects and cares for my wounded girl self. I don’t want Doubt and Self-Loathing to eat her up. I’ll put on my witch costume and my cape of rage and I’ll chase away all the things that try to screw with her young mind. Then I’ll make a cozy spot for her with stuffed animals and real dogs and a china tea set and a stack of books. We’ll sip our pretend tea and read together and plan to take over the world. Maybe we’ll make her a cape of our own design, one for the High Priestess of Love and Justice or maybe the Queen of Fucking Awesomeness. We’ll be safe and happy and smart and strong, and we’ll help others be the same.