Unsafe People: What I Wish I Had Known

Unsafe People: What I Wish I Had Known

Nice is Different Than Good When I was a kid in elementary, a piano tuner guy came over to tune our piano one afternoon and I remember my stepmother saying “Well, he sure wanted to get his hands on Elaine. He couldn’t keep his eyes off of her today.” I don’t remember even talking to him —and I didn’t know exactly what my stepmother meant—but I remember feeling excited that I was “wanted” by someone. I was desperate for attention from any parent figure at the time… there was a part of me that felt excited and a little scared to receive attention, even if I didn’t understand fully what it all meant. Looking back, I wish my stepmom or my dad had tried to explain that the piano tuner was not a safe or good guy, and that there were certain types of people to steer clear of or that if I felt creepy or weird, I should leave immediately. It all reminds me of Sondheim’s Into the Woods. I played Little Red, and the following lyrics she sings about her encounter with the Wolf are brilliant and so true: I Know Things Now “And I know things now. Many valuable things. That I hadn’t known before. Do not put your faith in a cape and a hood. They will not protect you the way that they should. And take extra care with strangers Even flowers have their dangers And though scary is exciting, Nice is different than good.” I wish we all learned this one in pre-school. Listen to Your Gut! When I was 14 or 15,...
Gaslighting = Emotional Abuse

Gaslighting = Emotional Abuse

What is Gaslighting? Emotional Abuse I’m talking about gaslighting and this is a term—learned this in Al-Anon. It’s when someone in your life is emotionally cutting you off or undermining you. It’s a slow erosion. It’s very confusing. It’s not like when someone hits you. You can feel that. Or if there’s a fly on the wall, you can see that. When there’s emotional undermining and verbal undermining it’s much trickier and more challenging. Especially If you grew up in an insane or alcoholic environment, then a lot of times where you don’t know if you trust yourself or you’re overreacting. You don’t always have the best meters to gauge things with. I was in a relationship with a guy and he would say things like: “You can’t do that. I’ll handle that. You’re just going to mess that up.” If we got lost it was my fault. If the restaurant was bad it was my fault, even if he picked it. If the movie was bad it was my fault. It was this slow slow erosion. He would say, “No one is going to love you like I love you.” Or he would say, “You smell after you work out.” And I’d think, “But aren’t you happy that I work out?” I really hope that if anyone is in that situation, you will write to me because I can support you. It’s dangerous and tricky. It’s a slippery slope. It’s Easier When They Hit You: Gaslighting is Subtle I used to have a joke that goes, “It’s easier when they hit you.” And I don’t mean that literally,...
Teen Dating Violence

Teen Dating Violence

Teen Dating Violence Dating and teenagers and violence… From attacks by strangers to date rape, there is a whole lot to navigate these days. ‘Interpersonal violence’ is on the rise. (That’s a fancy name for teen dating violence.) We have 24/7 access to all sorts of media, streaming, YouTube, videos, TV, and even porn. Pornography is more accessible than ever before, and often shows women who seem to enjoy being slapped around or treated in other violent, and degrading ways. The porn myth implies that women actually like to be treated violently—and even get turned—which is not true. There are Ted Talks about women who have had to train their younger lovers who grew up on recent porn that it is not okay to treat women violently, that it is a myth that they find it a turn-on. Sex and violence sell Our culture uses sex to sell sports, clothes, beer, sandwiches—even socks. We see sexual images, often paired with violence, everywhere. As one top fashion designer said to me about fashion’s advertising: “Well, everything is so fragmented now. We’d rather make a bad impression than no impression.” So the impression is that violence is okay, and even sexy. Our mainstream movies show scenes of girls getting wasted and not being able to give consent as acceptable, and even funny. We tell teens to wait, to be responsible… but we’re showing—and doing—something else. And here’s the deal. Physical violence, like hitting or slapping, is actually easier to define and recognize because it’s more cut and dried. Emotional abuse is much trickier. Whether a teen grew up in an abusive...

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