Monday, May 30, 2011
I got a lot of feedback from my last post about not feeling comfortable being approached by men I don't know. The issue of public safety - for both women and men - coupled with the challenges of male/female relationships certainly struck a nerve. I received several anecdotes about being harassed on the street, on the subway or in movie theaters, and agreement about how difficult it can be to let go of those experiences.
On the one hand, they can leave a person feeling hardened or scarred. On the other hand, they can leave a person feeling tough and triumphant for having survived them. Either way, they inevitably help form our attitudes towards ourselves and the world around us. And how we let them impact us in the long run is certainly a part of every life's journey.
Curiously, however, the real point of my post seemed to have gotten missed...
I've spent enough years hardened and scarred. I've spent enough years tough and triumphant. I'm tired of having the same old reactions in new places and tired of telling the same old stories to myself and others. As scared as I was growing up, to a certain extent I always knew I could defend myself and fight for my life. What I didn't know was how much it cost me to always be on the defensive. Not that self-preservation doesn't have a place. It certainly does.
But surfing has presented the opportunity to consider that there may be different ways to relate to the world - to dangers, real or imagined, and to men - that I haven't considered before.While I don't know what those new ways are, I certainly know they exist.
In the last year, I've identified the true passion of my life as transformation in all its forms, and I've identified transformation - whether overt or subtle - as the common thread running through all the pursuits and passions of my life. Surfing is just the latest embodiment of my life's quest for liberation, oneness and wisdom.
My relationship to "strange" men is just the latest area to which I can apply that quest. And it never would have occurred to me if I hadn't been approached in the water. Not by a shark, but by some pretty average guys.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
The last time I went surfing, this guy, a pretty nice, harmless seeming guy named Mir kept trying to talk to me in the water. I was having none of it. As Brian says of me when I get this way, I was "on the subway." As in, "get away from me you creep or I'll stomp on your head." When I get that way, Brian usually adds "but you're not on the subway anymore."
No, I'm not. But while you can take the girl out of the subway, can you ever take the subway out of the girl?
I started taking the subway at very impressionable age. I was twelve and had been admitted into a prestigious public school in downtown Manhattan. I could have gone to another, also prestigious, school walking distance from my home in The Bronx, but I wanted to go downtown more than anything. Despite the one hour I'd spend travelling each way to and from school I would not be deterred.
From almost day one I was harassed, felt up, leered at and generally accosted by men of all ages. Freshman year, on especially crowded afternoons, there was a man who would stand behind me and stick his hand between my legs. I could never see him but I knew he was there. One day, I lifted up a boot-clad foot and stomped as hard as I could on the foot behind me. That was the last time that particular perp ever touched me - and I never even knew who he was.
Add to that the men I did see - the ones who mugged me, jumped me late at night, or generally made life uneasy for me as a young attractive woman - and it's clear why the attitude I developed towards men was not warm, fuzzy or welcoming. To say the least. By the way, this is directly related to my previously mentioned reluctance to bare cleavage or wear anything that might seem otherwise revealing, seductive or, in my eyes, dangerous.
But that was a long time ago, right?
Since then, I've prayed for surf buddies who have not materialized. I've prayed for a surfing mentor who'd go out with me and help me improve my technique. But when Mir offered himself (as buddy) and his friend Grant (as mentor), I was like "no fucking way, dude."
Until then, I hadn't realized how much I'd hoped surfing would turn me into someone else. That it would wash away the old traumas and hurts, that it would turn me into someone who welcomes the world with open arms and is able to relax, have fun and go with the flow.
When I got home from the beach and realized I was still the same old me, I was troubled and discouraged. And that was the last time I went surfing.
Still, I'll be back.