Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The poison in friendships between women

    There are subtle ways that supposed friends one up each other, and I've observed two. I'll talk about the first one. Do you have people like these in your life?
    One woman found my vulnerable spot and gave me a lot of unsolicited advice. Take action now, she urged, it will only get worse as time goes on. I felt myself lose hope whenever I listened to her paint my situation in terms more dire than they really were. I told her, "If I woke up looking at my life the way you see it, I wouldn't get out of bed." She was generous with little gifts. I thought she was being thoughtful until it started to feel like every time we hung out I was her personal social work project. Some people get off on being indispensable. But first they have to convince you you're weak.
    Once, she even answered for me, as though I was a child incapable of speaking for myself. I'd been encouraged to get an app by the owner of a fitness studio, and she piped up, "Oh, she doesn't have a smart phone." I said, "But I do have an iPad." Another time, someone asked me to assess her alignment in a yoga pose. This "friend" jumped right in and gave her critique before I could say a word. She is without any training as a teacher whatsoever.
    I might've stayed blind to the deterioration of our friendship had she not started comparing herself aloud to me. We happened to be in front of a full-length mirror in the bathroom of a dance studio, and she noted how her thighs were double the size of mine. Now, OK, maybe this is a common thing among women friends? Not for me. Even jokingly, I don't relish being set up against anyone, least of all by someone I consider a friend. I had a flashback to the time decades ago when someone told me that women's friendships are done in when competitiveness becomes a wedge.
    And you know how competitiveness starts? It starts with comparisons. Which sometimes leads to copying. Which later reveals its ugly self as competitiveness.
    See, the revelation for me in all this is why I minded when another supposed friend kept copying me. No, it wasn't flattering. Despite the cliché about that. It was one upwomanship. "Anything you can do I can do better." But if we were really friends, why would you feel a need to prove I'm less? All that proves is that you feel so inadequate when you compare yourself to me that you have to one-up me to overcompensate for it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Do you pick up every penny you find in the parking lot?

Attraction is like a penny in the parking lot: a momentary glint against a drab expanse. Some of us can walk past it; others have to head over there and pick it up. It doesn't matter if we have a full jar of coins at home or a fat bank account. There's that penny, in this moment, and what we decide to do reveals much about us. Our impulse control, our sense of enough, our weakness for infatuations, our need to possess. I'm trying to teach myself that connection is what deserves my energy, not just any attraction. If my intention is to connect, it will show up in how I relate to people. And that's how I read the way others relate to me, too. Isn't it better to be treated like a person, not a penny?

When a man thinks he got away with something...

What does a man gain when he cops a feel? A moment of titillation, some self-satisfaction, a feeling of superiority over the "hapless" female?
Tell me, because yesterday when I was standing on the platform waiting to board BART, the San Francisco adventure ahead was all I had in mind. I was barely aware there was another human being just inside the doors, waiting to exit. I would not have registered whether that person was male or female if he hadn't grazed my right breast. Not enough to bruise, but enough to get my attention. And then he did a dramatic stop-and-look-back, waiting. Everything in me rose up to make sure I was NOT going to give him what he wanted.
What he wanted was a reaction. Oh, look, haha, I "accidentally" felt you up. Now you're all flustered and pink, and you're looking right at me, and I have your undivided attention. You will remember this; you will remember me.
Except I did no such thing. I didn't look back, I didn't let on I had felt anything. It did not embarrass me—why should it? I did nothing shameful. I exist, I am a woman, I have soft, feminine body parts. They are not for general consumption. They are for me to decide who has access to them. They are for intimacy, not objectification.
When I was a girl in the Philippines it was common knowledge that you had to look out for thigh gropers every time you took public transportation. In my "colegiala" uniform, rosary in hand, wedged in tight three to a bench seat built for two, I was a sitting duck for perverts. Thigh presses against mine, and then predictable as clockwork, hand invades my space. The adult in me wants to go back in time to say to those pathetic males, "Do you know me well enough to touch me like that?" And do you have any inclination at all how a woman gets turned on? It isn't with what you're doing. Go home. Review sex education.
I send this message now to that person on BART: There was plenty of space around us as we both walked through those doors. You were transparent in your desperation. I was not vulnerable. You did not diminish me. You took nothing from me. What you gave up was your own male dignity. You showed me you cannot sustain a loving relationship that gives you enough consensual intimacy.
My body is a temple. That doesn't mean I think of myself as a a minor goddess. It means I have dedicated body, mind and soul to my Creator. The same one who created you. Do not desecrate this temple. Do not desecrate yours. There is always an accounting, buddy. You have lost your humanity already.