At my last session, my therapist sat back in her chair and said Y’know, you remember a few weeks ago when I said you were an attractive woman but you weren’t exactly sexy? You haven’t brought it up since. Why’s that? (I found her question a little strange as she also told me I have to pick a direction for future sessions and I chose the emotional abuse rather than my self-esteem.) I have brought it up, I told her, just not with you. I told her what my friends had told me: it’s being comfortable in your own skin, that she’s wrong, that it’s subtle, that it will emerge as I come out from under the shadow of my ex-husband. I told her I actually got checked out by a young man who, as far as I could tell, wasn’t homeless. It was subtle. I noticed his head turn as I walked by and when I turned my head he was looking over his shoulder at me. I smiled and kept going. Maybe they’re right. Maybe the shadow is lifting just a little. Maybe I’m not as invisible as I thought. Then I had a horrible week.
When I have bad weeks, I often chalk it up to external factors: the weather, my messy apartment, my ex found someone new almost immediately, my hyperprolactinemia. Wanting to die was something new and different. I texted one of my oldest friends, who has been through this twice, and I told her I wanted to die. I wanted all of this to end. I feel guilty and ashamed when I do this to her. I text and phone her at other times too, when I am not down, and we have riotous conversations. She is getting a law degree and a masters in pastoral counseling at the same time. She said, Don’t you want to see the woman you’re becoming? Don’t you deserve to meet her? Besides, don’t give him the satisfaction. The first two are why she will be an exceptional counsellor. The third is why she’s an exceptional friend. Every once in a while she will send me a job posting in Seattle and tell me to move out there so she can take care of me, take me dancing and to Korean spas, and introduce me to a community where I will find my house submissive. Every once in a while I think I might accept her offer, but my life and my self-made family are here. Besides, I’ve packed up and started over enough times and while this time it will be for me on my own terms it’s still packing up and starting over someplace else. I have another friend who sends me job posting in the DC area so I can move closer to her and she can take are of me. In the end, it’s not that I don’t want to be taken care of, it’s that I need be able to take care of myself. I need to find my own strength again. I need to clean my apartment.
This past Saturday I was heading back into my complex having purchased sumptuous provisions for Shakespeare in Clark Park when I noticed two young men behind me also heading for the door. Being a civilised person, I held the door open for them. One of them made eye contact. I had seen him at the pool and at an owner’s board meeting. He bought his place around the same time I bought mine. He is a powerfully built man with a massive upper body and what can best be described as a Persian beard. What I learned that afternoon was that he has large black eyes that are full of mischief. Maybe he wasn’t used to having a slight woman in an outrageous straw hat hold the door open for him, but I think he liked it.