Nineteenth in a series [gs *]
There is a place in the underworld, down near Hades, where the unspent flaming rage of the active feminine pools, where the unseen tears of women’s history burn. My husband calls this the Chthonios, the timeless place of women’s suffering at the hands of men, masculinity, the masculine, misogyny – the blood bath.
Lilith resides there, that she-demon whose energetic force derives from the opposition and suppression of the active feminine, Lilith, Adam’s first wife – betrayed by god, Lilith, the terrifying principle of awakening. Lilith, and Medusa, and Medea are all there. Frightening women. Kali and all the great she-monsters, all the dead witches and whores of every type. Clytemnestra (talk about a blood bath) and the billions of betrayed, violated, tortured wives. The mothers of stolen children, the women artists whose work was destroyed. The corporate women who (unlike their male counterparts) don’t display photos of their grand-children on their desks, because grandmothers are not taken seriously in public life. The betrayed lovers and the housewives quietly going insane. The excellent women leaders who would run for office, except that their sexual pasts will come back to haunt them. Those who struggle every day to learn the ropes in a male world, and who crush another bit of their femininity with every work-worldly conquest. The raped and murdered, the raped and the murdered, the raped, the murdered. All there.
This place is also my home, and I ask for no other. Those wounded and monstrous women are my people. I can’t say why or how this came about (nor do I care to, because whys and hows are irrelevant here), but I’ve always been called to them, in that place. I carry them in my heart, I see the world through their eyes, they, and that horrifying power of millennia of repressed female rage are the driving force in my life – my fuel, my love, my purpose, my communion.
And they love me so completely.
In my own personal deepest depths of despair, I surrender to that place, and they swaddle me. They pour over my parched flesh the most quenching broken-hearted love, they caress my soul, they cradle me, and their bitterly haunting voices sing through me, penetrating every cell of my being with sacredness and love. They, in the deepest pits of bloody filth and darkness, they, heal my heart like nothing civilized or transcendent ever can.
And this, I do not denigrate with the label ‘pure love’. This is embodied sacred communion, this love and utter faith, that can exist in the midst of such infinite suffering and fury, this love that is born in such darkness, and has nothing to do with heavens. . . .
In any case, lunch-guy has abjectly flung himself into that pool of rage that is larger than all of human history, with his persistent boyish ignorance. I’ve been trying, all along, to tell him to trod more carefully because his conception of the world is far too small – because he is blind to the dangers. But the fool hasn’t listened, and now that rage is devouring him.
My body burns to kick him to death. My fingers ache to pop out his eyes, rip his skull apart, shred his brain with my feral teeth. We, the enraged, well up complete and clear-eyed, and now I see the whole thing as it was for US, no longer struggling with how he wanted me to see it.
Now I fully apprehend the dick references. This is the point at which my whole body seethes in fury every time I recall that pathetically pseudo-innocent boyish reference to the woody ‘we won’t talk about now’.
You do get, don’t you, that not talking about it now would mean not to have said it at all? So it’s a sneaky-pretend twisty not-talking, which is how the whole thing went down. It’s a ‘don’t look at that elephant in the corner’ not-talking, which everyone knows focuses all eyes on the elephant.
Absolutely every nuance about that one little sentence sends me into a rage.
Now I am a storm, that can only be waited out. I both storm, and watch it. I rage and I learn things.
I am deep below the surface, buffeted by the current, banging my shins on slippery boulders, gouged by broken branches, feeling blindly up the line to it’s beginning where it is trapped.
I, like a storm of locusts, swarm over every word he ever said or wrote to me, every move he made, I rip them apart, I examine every single breath according to my own, Chthonic, understanding. I leave nothing unpeeled, I cut into the bone. I make no allowances.
He is, to me now, as vile, reprehensible, self-serving and pathetic as inquisitors burning witches, as marauders raping women, as war lords enslaving and deadening child soldiers, as priests molesting little boys, as white masters selling even their own bastard children to other white masters to rape and torture, as churches and governments enslaving women in prostitution so they can increase their revenues. He is vile.
He disgusts me. He is a terrified little man hiding behind his own ignorance and privilege, feebly attempting to control the vast forces of nature with a pathetic pile of empty hypotheses. He’s lucky I’ve renounced my magic powers for this lifetime, because if I hadn’t he would be burning in his own perpetual private acid bath right now.
Most of the insults have been parsed already. In spite of a personal twisted shame struggling to control my full realization of how violated I felt, enough moments of clarity erupted that I don’t feel the need to reiterate them now.
But the depths of his ignorance is revealed in this very last offense to come out of hiding:
At one point during lunch he said to me, in the context of prostitution: ‘we’re the same’.
‘How so?’ I asked – thinking I really couldn’t see that at all.
‘We’re both prostitutes’, he said.
‘What do you mean?’ I said, confused, because it seemed he’d wrapped up ‘his story’ awhile back & I’d heard no hints in that story that would lead to male prostitution on his part.
‘Well, I go online for sex’, he answered, as though that were a behavior we essentially shared. And right there, my instinct shut down even further than had been accomplished by the excessive eye contact. The mindlessness in that utterance, the appalling incomprehension of the nature of the entire universe of sexual exploitation, of which he is an integral perpetrating part – if I had let that stupidity into my brain at that moment, the whole cafe would have blown up.
I can’t even believe he said that. But I know he did. It registered in that way things register that I know I cannot afford to process in the moment, it’s like a perfect snapshot in my mind. In fact, it’s always the things I don’t process in the moment, those things I refuse to ‘be present’ for as they happen, that are most crystalized in my memory. The things I process actively in the moment, those become vague. They disperse.
But this, no. I clearly recall myself hearing those words. I re-experience myself understanding clearly that he has just equated a john and a whore, not as two sides of the same coin, but as ‘the same’. I can almost see the fuse being lit and the bomb team jumping to defuse it before I explode. I’m so appalled, I never even mention it to my husband, or to my readers, except ‘he alludes to online sex’. It takes almost two months before I’m willing to contemplate that little nugget of memory.
The ignorance inherent in that insoluble equation of his is horrific. It’s breathtaking. Stupefying. These kinds of men still exist, trotting around considering themselves pro-women liberals???
Ok – to be fair – another month after I rip apart this horrifying ignorance, I see that I did exactly what I hate him for doing – I got unconsciously triggered by a small statement, concluded I knew what it meant to him and got lost in my own assumptions (way after the fact). Now, in retrospect, I have a sense of what he could have meant. Maybe he meant we were both embedded in a system together. Like a doctor and patient, or a priest and parishioner, or an attorney and client – no, those are not the same, not at all. But they are connected, inextricably bound within a system. Their roles are very different, but complimentary. Now I can imagine he meant something along those lines, something almost inoffensive. But even so, to say it with such complacence indicates an abject ignorance of all the issues of power and poverty and misogyny that make the two halves of that particular coin worlds apart. We inhabit the same underworld, sure, just like masters and slaves inhabit the same plantation. But only the masters could delude themselves about how similar that makes them all.
He said that, he did.
No wonder I felt such a uncontainable contempt in the moment for his broken-open heart and transcendent pablum, which surprised even me in it’s cynicism. It’s all contextual. I don’t feel that for every spiritual growth story I hear. Now I understand that I was responding pre-consciously, my body was feeding that contempt to my mind, trying to enlighten my own willful ignorance about what was actually happening between us.
And I (perhaps more horrifically) refrained from enlightening him.
I held his hands, I let him practice his (subtly exhausting and subtly toxic) juvenile love-pouring – pretending by omission to receive what he thought he was giving, I restrained my instincts, I touched his heart. I did all that, for him. But I did not do the one thing I needed to do for the Chthonios – which was to tell him, in piercingly clear terms, how a slave and a master certainly are bound together in inhumanity, but that does not make them anything resembling ‘the same’.
I did not explain to him how his own mental patterns reinforce his woefully mistaken belief that he is buying even such a seemingly far cry from ‘pure love’ as shared sexual gratification. I did not explain to him that those women are not having fun, but are being demeaned. That they do not get from it what he gets, but precisely the opposite (else why would he have to pay for it? If they wanted it too?). I did not explain to him that if he is that mistaken about what those women online were experiencing, he’s lucky his wife hasn’t castrated him yet.
I did not explain to him that buying a body (or an image of one) is the opposite side of the universe from selling one’s own. (my god how this hurts my heart!)
I missed my opportunity to give him a little lesson in ecology – that all that bullshit about non-exclusive love belies the limitations of material life, and that women, like all of nature, require an authentic communion and individual valuing and respect – that women are no more an endlessly replaceable bottomless pit of resources for you to ejaculate your way through than are ecosystems endlessly available for civilization to destroy, or than any of nature is limitlessly available for extraction and wasting. That human life is about limits and cherishing, protecting and nurturing what you have been given, not replacing it the moment it asks something from you, with another.
I did not explain how his happy sameness-oneness was a violation of someone else’s sovereignty. I did not go back to the beginning and explain why ‘pure love’ offends me in it’s inherent ‘transcendent’ devaluing of the body, and sex, and women’s bodies, and how that exact ‘pure love’ abstraction contributes, in it’s sneaky-pretend twisty not-talking way to all the vileness that creates all those tears and rage in the Chthonios.
I did not teach him how to be present with a woman in a way that inspires her to open naturally to him, and allows a real connection. I didn’t even explain that that was necessary. I forced apart my own (metaphorical) legs and willed them to stay open until he had gotten his rocks off, in spite of knowing that was not a true gift, knowing that ultimately that brings nothing but bitterness.
Astonishing! Me! I did that! This year! How disgusting!
Theory U just happens to coincide with the core cosmic truths I’ve already discovered simply in the living of my own life. There is nothing new or earth-shattering in it to me. But it does articulate those cosmic truths accessibly to the academic and logical types, and it helps me think about how those truths can inform and transform larger systems – so I find it a useful framework for communicating with others about change in any context. It introduces the potential for a common language that I’m able to embrace.
So, if we talk about leading from the future as it emerges (as in Theory U), and as I examine my own multitudinous experiences at the bottom of the U, it is unshakably clear to me that a significant part of the future that is trying to emerge though me is connected to this place of the repressed feminine – it has to do with erotic power, and the sacred whore, and the active feminine taking her rightful (and sorely needed) place in the world. The Chthonios is intimately connected to my sense of purpose, and here was an opportunity to engage significantly from that purpose, and I totally botched it!
No wonder my eyes wanted me to turn away! No wonder I got a headache that night and felt sick the next day. No wonder the Chthonios welled up so angrily in my chest when I thought of him. No wonder I felt I’d been treated like a whore.
I did not explain to that pathetic little John that he will never, ever find what he seeks without suspending all of his fucking lame-ass pseudo-spiritual misogynist-transcendent platitudes and surrendering to the horrible, horrible pain of actually hearing and accepting as true what one real woman tells him precisely that she feels coming from him in real time – which is the one way I’ve ever found that actually enables a man to learn what he feels like to her – he has to listen and not explain-away. And then listen over and over again, every time she speaks, until what she says is how lovely to have him in there, and even then to continue to listen.
I did not tell him, in any words he’d ever understand, how to step out of the hamster wheel of his own invisible self-referential, self-defeating misogyny. He wanted to understand how to earn a woman’s love – and, though (theoretically) I could have, and though it was the only thing it would have felt right to give, I did not give that to him.
Perhaps I even might have, if I’d let my body turn my eyes away from him when it told me to. That’s where it all would have had to have started. That’s where the mistake was born.