This New Year's Eve I noticed something, a pattern, a pattern I haven't seen before. I sensed it, it bothered me, but I was blind to it. It's rather simple. Nothing alarming or significant about it. Until you understand what it means.
Every year on December 31st I call my relatives and friends in Russia to wish them Happy New Year. What could be wrong about this? Nothing at all. Except I AM THE ONE WHO CALLS. Think about it. Think about it carefully. Not once has anyone called me. No, I take it back. I think once someone did call, only I can't remember who. Usually my mom calls when she needs money, but not on New Year's. To her credit, this last year she called twice not to complain in hopes I'd send some cash but to share good news. Both times I was flabbergasted and afterwards, very happy.
Anyway. What I mean for you to see is what I'm doing to myself. Notice.
I'M BEING A GOOD GIRL.
Since I was born I was conditioned by my family and by society to be a good girl. I won't go into the raging misogyny and gynophobia rampant in Soviet Union at the time I was born, neither will I go into it still raging in Russia now as much as it does in US. This blog post won't fit all of it. I will, however, go into a bit of abusive family mechanics where the victim is blamed for crimes she didn't commit and is told to shut up and be a good girl.
I'm turning 40 this February. And I'm still acting as a good girl.
It's easy for me to type it here and hard to actually do. The behavioral conditioning lives deep under my skin and I feel old and tired and afraid that in the years of life that I have left I won't be able to battle it and win. I can start doing it by doing one simple thing.
I can stop calling my Russian relatives and friends, wishing them Happy New Year and Happy Birthday and the like. Why bother? They never call me. I'm curious to see who will call me on my birthday. You see, I'm expected to cower and behave. I wasn't expected to suddenly speak up about my abuse after decades of silence. On no, nobody wanted to hear that. They still don't want to.
At first I was very angry and lashed out. Then I decided to be a good girl. After all, this tactic worked my whole life. You see the adorable drawing above I did when I was 5? It proclaims my love to my cousin, my grandma, and my father. This was the year my father hurt me so bad I started peeing myself. Do you think any of these people have ever written me a letter saying they love me? Nope. Not once. Though I'll have to call my cousin and ask him if he ever did. He did lots of drawings. Maybe I'm forgetting an instance of him writing me a note. My grandmother is dead, and I don't remember her ever writing to me. My father never did. He is not dead, but if I find him and ask him this question, he'll shit his pants in fear and pronounce me crazy or shut me out. He's an old man now, see, no teeth left to bite me, and he's scared of me, as he always was of powerful women, harboring his secret hate for his controlling mama.
Well, here is a valuable lesson that I've learned this New Year's Eve.
"BEING A GOOD GIRL GETS YOU NOWHERE."
The credit for these words goes to Laurie Penny. They're from her book Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, the book that opened my eyes on this trait of girls and women imprinted in us by patriarchy since birth. If you haven't read it, you must, for the sake of all of women who suffered violence for our gender. Reading it and remembering my childhood made me understand for the first time that calling all those people WON'T MAKE THEM LOVE ME.
Some of them do love me, in a distant way. I love them distantly too. We haven't seen each other in a long time and have little in common. I love my girlfriend Olya more than my relatives as she is closer to me and I am to her. Then why do I keep calling??
I have tried justifying this in the past. It's too expensive for them. They don't remember my number. They don't know what time it is in Seattle. They're busy. It's all bullshit, of course. No matter how good I am, it changes nothing. And now that I don't have my comfortable corporate job, I can't afford to call Russia as much as I used to. I can't afford to be a good girl anymore. It's time I spend what little money I make on myself and my dream to write.
You see? It seems that being a bad girl is the ticket. It translates into loving myself. And it is precisely this self-love that those of us women who dare in indulge in it are labeled as "selfish" and "bitchy" and "shameless" and "spoiled." We're supposed to support the dreams of our men and children, and we're supposed to forget about what WE WANT. Excellent logic, isn't it?
This logic has ruled most of my life.
I have little hope that in my lifetime I will enjoy complete freedom from my past and my ghosts and my self-inflicted restrains that are the cost of the shit I had to endure and to bear in silence, the shit that stole my best years. When I could realize myself, learn and make mistakes and fuck things up and learn more and grow into an adult, I ended up running away from home and getting pregnant and becoming a mother and choosing a subservient married life cooking dinners I hated cooking and cleaning houses I hated cleaning and trying to be a good wife and mother and daughter by sacrificing my wants and wishes and dreams for others.
It is only for the last 4 years that I've been doing what I truly want to do. Write. And I feel guilty. Every day I feel guilty. The shaming is at work. I'm not supposed to enjoy myself, you see. I'm supposed to suffer. Quietly.
Every minute of my life is precious to me now. I want to have enough time to catch up, to write all the stories I want to write, and to write them well. I'm getting old quickly, damn it! Where can I get more time?
Stop calling Russia, for starters.
How simple is that? And how hard was it for me to see? Fascinating how conditioning works, doesn't it? Paradoxical brain acrobatics.
So enough of being a good girl. It's not moving me forward. It's holding me back. But for me to truly shed this I'll have to reassert myself, over and over and over again. Old habits die hard, bloody suckers. You'll see me post here more about this, as my blog and my writing are the things that let me breathe when I'm suffocating in the stink of the memories. If I couldn't write them out, I'd get poisoned. So drink vodka for me. And for others like me, girls and women who are liberating themselves through writing.
Here is to the bad girls!