I had lunch with a new acquaintance one day recently, and it got a little weird.
It would be a typical story of an awkward interaction between a man and a woman, where somehow the messages got a little confused. Except in this instance, both parties are committed to their marriages, well-educated, successful corporate professionals. They are both steeped in the theories and practices of leadership, organizational change, and group dynamics. They’re also both well versed in various eastern spiritual perspectives and practices. Both are generally self-aware, emotionally astute, spiritual, responsible and mature individuals.
You’d think they could have a normal civil lunch with little story value.
The twist is: she is an ex-prostitute who, after keeping that fact a secret for 20 years, has recently committed to a greater degree of authenticity and leadership integrity, and has begun ‘coming out’. She’s doing this both in recognition that her secret warps the way she ‘shows up’ and wants to un-warp her presence as much as possible. She’s also discovering that her coming out necessitates a practice of surfacing people’s assumptions about prostitution, secrets, and gender politics (that she would be me). And he has a slight pornography addiction, some marital sexual dissatisfaction, and has recently experienced a major spiritual upheaval in the form of a broken-open heart.
They’re both trying to ‘be present’ in new, more vulnerable ways that are a little beyond their abilities. It could get messy, and it does. And it’s not a mess that’s easily cleaned up, in spite of their best intentions.
Women will appreciate the nuanced dissection (and sometimes, evisceration) of gender dynamics they experience every day, dynamics that become far more repressive than we’re always willing to admit.
Courageous men, looking to be more responsible for their own unconscious and unintended repressive impact on women, will appreciate a peek at the normally-hidden impact of their subtle interpersonal behaviors with women.
This story originated in a series of blog posts, but if you’re coming into it in the middle of postings, here it is, in sequence: