I carry secrets.
Secrets I don’t tell anyone. Not even my husband.
Which I find unusual because I don’t consider myself secretive. They aren’t terribly scandalous secrets. Just parts of my soul that I keep to myself.
Because no matter how long we’ve been together, and despite what we’ve been through, this is all a house of cards. There’s no guarantee that any passing breeze won’t whip the foundation out from below. That I may reveal the wrong thing and cause the sort of tsunami no woman can control.
He’s never hit me. Never raised a hand to me.
But he could. And I don’t ever forget that. I’ve even warned him. The first several years especially I would remind him from time to time.
I will leave you if you hit me.
They are my kids.
He’s their father. He’s a good father. And not just in the earns a living for us way. Though he does work his ass off for us.
I mean in the ways that count. If one of his kids finds a new hobby, he’s all in. Something breaks? He’ll fix it. He brings home little surprises for them. There were times we had no money, but he still brought home surprises because he talked so much to others about his kids that if they had something to give away, they’d seek him out.
Here, the boys might like this.
Boxes of baseball cards and a beat up gaming chair. Headphones or some candy.
He goes to their games and events and jokes with their friends.
But they’re still my kids.
I refer to them that way when we argue.
He’s communicated to me how much that bothers him. Yet, I still call them mine. In a voice that cannot be mistaken.
It feels like an incantation. Some type of magical spell I cast over them. If they’re mine, it keeps them safe.
From whom, you wonder? I often wonder the same. And if I’m being honest . . .
From anyone, really. But yes, even from him.
I don’t believe him when he says I’m attractive.
I don’t believe any man who tells me that.
How can I be? I don’t look anything like the women in the ads, in the magazines, in the movies, in porn, in TV shows, on runways, on billboards, or anywhere else that women are on display.
That’s the ideal, right? The long legs and flat stomachs and perky tits. Fuck, I remember being in elementary school and reading the Little House series of books for the first time. I remember the way Laura watched as her mother and aunts readied themselves for a dance. Cinching corsets and bragging that Pa’s hands could still meet around his wife’s waist.
I remember the disappointment I felt alongside Laura as she grew into a young woman who lamented her appearance. She would never be willowy or pale or thin. Even then, Laura in the 1800’s and I in the fourth grade, we recognized the other category we were pushed into, beyond our control, for not meeting or exceeding society’s standard of the ideal woman.
So no, I don’t believe him.
If the house is messy, it’s my fault. I take it all on, the guilt and feelings of not measuring up somehow. In some way. Even when I worked two jobs and volunteered as class mom to two kids in school so that I could feel I was still a part of their day, I’d come home and beat myself up that the house wasn’t more organized.
Clearly I couldn’t have it all.
That disarray revealed all the cracks in my facade. And weakness will never do. Not when you’re a woman trying to prove that somehow, some fucking way, you’ve got it all covered and dammit you’ve earned it.
No matter what it is.
I always feel I have to prove I’ve earned it.
The fact that he’s never asked me to . . . doesn’t seem to matter.
A detailed response to this question posted on Facebook:
What are ways that you have difficulty trusting the men in your life that objectively have earned your trust?
This isn’t about overtly horrible men, or even average men. Specifically how has your experience of misogyny made it difficult for you to form trusting bonds with men that you WANT to trust? What is your experience with that phenomenon? How does it make you feel? How does it affect your relationship to those men?
ONLY people who experience misogyny – and it’s on you to decide if you feel you qualify because some non-binary people do – should respond to this challenge.