Generational Fear

January 8, 2010

Something unusual happened to me on New Year’s Eve – I got asked out by someone I don’t know. I went to a swing dance and danced with someone who I didn’t know. We had fun dancing and he asked for my email address. I gave it to him and he emailed me and asked me to go dancing with him again. This rarely happens to me and I’m totally panicked even though we haven’t made definite plans. I was thinking about the fact that I am experiencing this level of panic about the possibility of dancing with someone who seemed like a very nice guy. I know dating is scary for many people, but I don’t think it should be paralyzingly terrifying.

Then I remembered: my family. It’s not really talked about, but I think that every woman – or close to it – in my mom’s family except my sister and I (it stopped around then) was sexually abused. That’ll do something to the atmosphere you grow up in. So, if my mom, my aunts, my grandmother, and my cousins were all molested/abused (and I know WAY too many details about some of the situations), is it any surprise at all that I find men frightening? It’s almost worse that it was never talked about because I had to wonder and try to figure it out myself.

If something specific had happened to me, I would feel like I had more of an “excuse” for this fear. Anyone can understand “hey, my uncle molested me when I was 12, so I’m a little nervous about getting into any sort of relationship with men.” But it was more like there was something in the air or in the water. I’m afraid to tell anyone because they might point out that nothing happened to me personally, so why is it affecting me? It’s not straightforward and I feel like I must be making it up.

All of these abusers were artists. They created absolutely incredible, breathtaking, beautiful art. Some of their work has been given to heads of state as gifts. It’s a little jarring to realize that people who created so much beauty could also do something so awful and ugly, with lasting consequences to people they weren’t even thinking of.