Twenty-second in a series [gs *]
I know I’m close to forgiving him. But I also know from experience that I’m still not to the end of the line, there is still something snagged upstream. I know because I don’t feel that spontaneous sense of release and freedom yet.
In any case, it finally dawns on me to ask myself “Why did I even meet him for lunch”? It has spiraled so out of control, I’ve lost track of the point. What had I wanted from that meeting?
At the least, I wanted to satisfy a curiosity – what was going on with him, why did he react so strongly to me? A small part of it was curiosity pure and simple. The much larger part had to do with learning something about this new role I’ve put myself into. A desire to learn something about how my ‘coming out’ as an ex-whore impacts others.
There is a quote by Wilhelm Reich, which I have in the banner of my blog – “Sexually awakened women, affirmed and recognized as such, would mean the complete collapse of the authoritarian ideology.” I love that quote because it points to an intuition I’ve long had, and because we can’t, right now, begin to know what that might mean. A sexually awakened woman, affirmed and recognized as such – is so far from our current reality.
Then there is this, by Nikki Giovanni:
I used to dream militant dreams of taking over america to show these whitefolks how it should be done i used to dream radical dreams of blowing everyone away with my perceptive powers of correct analysis i even used to think that i’d be the one to stop the riot and negotiate the peace then i awoke & dug that if i dreamed natural dreams of being a natural woman doing what a woman does when she’s natural i would have a revolution.
Both point to an understanding that a fully self-possessed erotic woman is, inherently, a contradiction to, and an undermining of, authoritarian/oppressive structures. And if you look for it, you can see evidence of this intuition woven (negatively) into philosophy and history – it’s a subversive alternate-reality vision about civilization, sex, the body and the earth, women and men. The Active Feminine is always posited as inherently corrosive of civilized order and domesticity. But if there is anything to any of it – what does that look like?
I wanted to explore those questions – relative to the system of patriarchy, authoritarianism, militarism, oppression, power and gender. I wanted to explore those questions relative to these social innovations we’ve been exploring. How does our conception of sex and Eros and how women have learned (as a survival mechanism) to ‘show up’ with only certain parts of themselves ‘showing’ – how does all of that impact our ability to change the world for the better?
Einstein said we can’t solve our problems with the same kind of thinking that created them – and all the organization & change theorists have amply illustrated the truth of that in action.
Women have spent the past 50+ years learning to think like men – which I think was a good thing – we ladies in general are now using both sides of our brains far more than we were a century ago. But now, it’s time for men to learn to think like women. Enough of them have begun to that they can confirm the value of it, but most are still blowing boy-noise at our perspectives and there are still whole realms of our ways of knowing that even those pioneer men shy away away from. Plus, you can’t learn your way out of a paradigm based entirely on internal information. Men need women to model the way for them in this new shift of thinking, just as men modeled the way for us in learning to think like them.
Civilization has put millennia of effort into pushing women’s ways of knowing far outside the margins – shaming those who dabble in anything related to the Active Feminine, murdering those who have embodied her ways of knowing the most. We’ve practiced ethnic cleansing on women’s insights (those witches and whores I keep harping on) for most of those millennia, and turned to assimilation in the past century.
I wanted to explore those questions, but not in the service of a private, personal ‘Lunch Guy and I’ relationship, which is how he took it.
I fit into the world very differently now, from how I did a year ago. There are some ways this new, fuller presence of mine resonates with how I was in the world decades ago, and in other ways it’s completely new. I’m still learning what that means, how it impacts others, how best to deal with others and their reaction to me in this new place. I thought the perspective of a man who seemed to get what I was doing, and seemed supportive, might tell me something (something new, something I didn’t already know. . .).
Also, in addition to my new role, in addition to my writing, I also need (at some point) to find a new way to make a living – because contrary to what some of you may have been assuming, no, my husband does not support me financially – I’m not a stereotypical wife and he’s not a stereotypical husband, and right now we’re both trying to be in the world differently and neither of us is earning an income.
Our savings is running out, and at some point we’ll need money coming in again. Since I have thrown away any possibility of working in any of my old fields, I’m also in the market for a new career. A career which would, of necessity, exist on the cusp of a world that is dying and a world that is just being born. A career that, if not built squarely on the foundation of the work I am doing now around the Sacred Feminine/Sacred Whore, at least does not require repudiation of it.
I wanted to explore the questions of how my current ‘showing-up-differently’ might be part of my future career.
Such a career does not yet exist. It will emerge, and I assume part of facilitating that emergence is networking with like-minded people. So, long term, I was networking. His business seemed to have potential for synergies. I thought that if we got along, we might one day explore that potential. For all I knew, his interest was along those lines as well.
Plus, we belong to a similar niche. At a minimum we could share ideas and experiences and insights about the things we were both exploring – relative to organizational resilience, self-organizing systems, new kinds of presence in the world, etc..
I was exploring my world. Change is not a one-person job, but grows out of the relationships in a free-flowing system. Knowing who offers what, and who needs what-else is a foundation of self-organizing.
I wanted colleagues, in the various full meanings of the word, and I wanted community. That’s all I ever want from others, actually. My sense of connection has to do with fruitful interdependence, not private entertainment. I’m not here to help anyone pass the time or to make anyone feel better about themselves, I’m here to make a difference. I was looking for partners in world-changing, not for secretly-lusting pseudo-spiritual admirers. I was looking for allies, not stalkers.
Anyway, I met him for lunch to see if anything of purpose would grow out of the meeting. It might, and it really might not. My intuition told me there was something there, my practice is to follow-up. I can’t always predict the outcome, and I’m usually patient in letting things emerge.
My impulse to reframe the erotic and the magical as an important but mostly missing aspect of community/public life was not about one man affirming my sex-appeal in private, it’s about all of us learning how to hold honoring space for one another’s fully embodied presence, and how to bring ourselves to our own fully embodied presence in ever-broadening circles of experience. How do we be ‘intimate’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘connected’ in community, in a new way? How do we flow in community more effectively, affirmingly, embodiedly, meaningfully, creatively?
I know that some people misunderstand my meaning here, and will think I’m talking about conducting serious business in the context of sexy clothes, open flirting, suggestive jokes – going back to 50’s-era workplace gender dynamics. But that just proves my point and proves which lens is being used. A world where women employ their full bodily, erotic/energetic, libidinal awareness, wisdom and power would look so different from that assumption, you’d think you’re on another planet. We don’t know what that would look like, we’ve never had it here. But a clue of what it might be can be found in that moment when I did not look away.
I understand, more consciously, now, that I wanted a connection to community, allie-ship, to be more deeply networked in my world – a public, whole-person, broad-systemic-flow type of thing. It would have been helpful for me to be more clear in my own mind about that up front.
I don’t know what he really wanted, but my intuition says that the concepts weren’t as well-developed, but that he wanted something somewhat similar – and that he was equally unclear about his ultimate goals from the beginning. And given the confusion the eye-contact created he got sucked into behaving as if he was trying to gobble up as much secret, compartmentalized, one-dimensional pseudo-spiritual-fuck as he could.
We’ve gone back and forth for awhile now, inside the frame he put around us, and which I obediently surrendered to – a frame that comes from a place I am trying to leave behind. And now, when I finally ask myself what I’d wanted and compared it to what actually occurred, I realize that, regardless of how we interpret the dynamics between us, between the P word and the eye-contact, I got sexualized, which hasn’t happened to me in a very long time.
The entire conversation between lunch-guy and I swirled around our respective sexual histories, eye-contact, hearts, openness, Eros, merging, touch, and love. There was not one single word about work, purpose, community, society, ideas, learning, differences – nothing.
The interaction became one dimensional, and he then assumed access to that dimension. That is sexualizing. In that pivotal moment when I didn’t look away, I isolated my erotic wisdom out of my wholeness and played a role in turning myself into a thing.
This, of course, is not at all what I meant, or what Reich meant or what Giovanni meant – I’m damn sure of that. This is why women hide our full selves in the first place.
And this is the goo.
This is the goo I thought I wanted to deal with. But dealing with it in a way that would be useful to him or to me or to the Chthonios or to the Goddess – that would have meant walking into it like a Sacred Whore, and instead I walked in having succumbed to my temptation to be human.
In that pivotal eye-contact moment – I acted like the system was larger than me – like my only choice was to be a victim of the system. He was perhaps trying to back out of that system/pattern (very inexpertly) and I reconnected him into it. How often do we try to change the pattern by changing our own behavior, merely to discover we’ve just stepped an inch to the side into another pattern?
I walked in the door expecting to have a wide-ranging conversation, wherein the whole breadth of each of our beings had space to exist, and wherein we each conducted ourselves and were each treated as sovereign persons with our own separate realities and independent lives. And there I was, sexualized and trapped in a stuffy, tiny head-space, trying to figure out how to expel this guy from a place he should not have penetrated.
This is exactly what I meant in the beginning of this story, when I referred to that dynamic I didn’t like dealing with. A dynamic that had helped shut me up about my past in the first place. Not associating myself with the P-word, disowning my own history, was my way of donning a bhurka or a nun’s habit. My way of showing no ankle, so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention, and then be held responsible for it.
I became sexualized.
But, like I said, I was also exploring a new way of showing up, a way that purposely flies in the face of that dissociative cover-up paradigm. I’m experimenting with the edges of the system, flirting with that chaos. I was experimenting.
I’m not doing this gratuitously – simply to flex my aging babe-muscles or to humiliate the boys. I’m doing it both because the Sacred Whore demands it of me and because this is part of change theory. Change comes from outside the system, from the edges. It requires pioneers willing to explore the disorder. According to Theory U, change requires illuminating the blind spot, and I think the Active Feminine is in the middle of many of today’s blind spots.
This, being my full self, with my full embodiment and my full unvarnished history, this is how I mean to help change the world. Our lunch was an exploratory part of that practice.
Realizing all that, I see now that by the time we were done eating lunch, before we did the hand-holding, part of why I felt depleted was unconscious disappointment. I could tell by the whole interaction that none of what I’d hoped for was possible. You can’t build community on shame and secrets. He wasn’t ready to build worldly contributions on our connection – he wanted to hoard it all into a secret titillation pile, which was less than useless to me. He wasn’t even ready to tell his wife we’d had lunch – how could he be of any help to me in changing public attitude?
Until men can publicly, socially, in community and in their worldly lives, respect, claim connection to, and promote the other strengths of women they happen to appreciate sexually or erotically, they’re just taking advantage & ghettoizing her. In other words, if sexualizing a woman reduces her in your estimation of her communal value beyond her sexuality – you’re getting your thrill & energy-boost, but what are you offering her? It’s not about ignoring the sexual/erotic dimension, it’s about him only being able to deal with it in this secret, compartmentalized way that dishonors the whole of who I am.
Then, in the hand-holding, at the end, it felt good to connect at that level – that touching-his-heart place. It’s a gift I rarely use anymore, and it was nice to relax into that. And that triggered this erotic-energy Florence Nightengale/Mother Theresa part of me – the urge to practice a healing power I feel inside of me. To play Sacred Whore on the energy level for this guy – but for what in return?
This gets me right back to the original conundrum of prostitution that has haunted me from the beginning. No-one wants to be mercenary with their gifts. My soul is not transactional, and no price is right relative to spirit/soul gifts. But at the same time, the world is transactional and a girl needs to eat. She needs a roof over head, food for her babies, and enough security in her life for her gifts to continue to flow. And society does not value the healing gifts of the erotic.
There is one job for an erotic healer – whore. And, though the impact that an erotic healer can have on a community should make it a central, highly prized role (like a communally-supported priest or shaman or physician or midwife) in our society it does the opposite. Whores become pariahs, not priests. If that’s the deal, no payment is ever enough. What should the price be, for becoming an outcast in the service of healing?
So, the hand-holding is nice. But it triggers the dormant Erotic Flo Nightengale. And I walk away saying to myself ‘but what do I get in return?’ I get to sneak around with a little guy who is unconsciously ashamed of his response to me, is utterly oblivious to the parts of me that I’m trying to bring into the world, and couldn’t support me in my life’s purpose if he wanted to.
Sure, I could teach him a lot, as he says – about touch, and women, and his inner femininity and love and connection. But what would he teach me, how would he support my purposes? What would that do but take up my precious time?
Who agrees to that kind of relationship? Just a slut with low self-esteem.
And that starts my class exploitation issues rolling – which happens whenever someone of greater economic privilege than me benefits from me without me being benefited back. I can work happily with anyone, but I don’t like to spend my personal, private time with rich people – it just starts me feeling so desperately behind. They already have so much more than I do, for historical reasons that are somehow supposed to be my own fault – and now I’m giving them the one thing we have in equal measure – my time – with no payoff for me. With monied people, the minute I stop having fun (which is usually pretty quick), I start to resent their wasting my minutes.
So all that was the goo – not being sexualized per se, but feeling confused and sucked into a sticky concoction comprised of his sexual confusion, his need for secrecy which triggered a complicated and undesirable connection around shame, my feeling called upon to practice my healing gifts without being valued (beyond adoration – which you can’t take to the bank, or build anything on), and the triggers of exploitation around economic class, the feminine and the erotic. I thought it would be a simple, exploratory lunch. I didn’t expect it to go to the core of my most un-processed shit. To that place where, to be honest, I don’t know if I am still exploitable or not, but where I feel overwhelmingly exploited and shamed and self-protective to the point of being self-delusional.
The one thing I really needed at the end of that lunch was enough time and space to work through some of what it was bringing up for me. To make some preliminary sense of my own inner dynamics so I could address them in a careful, honest and respectful way. But he was diving in as fast as he could, which seen from the outside could not have looked all that dramatic – but from inside that pile of stirred-up crap, it felt violating.
The one thing I wish he had done differently is to have slowed way down. That’s really the only fault I find – not giving me the space to process, and not backing off respectfully when I asked him to.
But – given the complicated, and, in a normal civilized context, contradictory set of initial intentions on my part, and the depth of the goo-pit I fell into, I’m actually becoming rather pleased with the outcome. I think I needed a refresher course in sexualization, the subtler the better. This experience pushed me so much deeper into my own self-defeating beliefs and habits that I learned far more than I otherwise would have.
Lunch guy was exactly the foil I needed to become more aware of my own crap that I need to deal with better if I’m going to proceed.
What more could I have asked for?