Lost Country

A few posts ago, I made reference to the idea that as a survivor of sexual violence, I feel as though I am “somewhere else”. I gave that some thought tonight, and now I want to talk about why. Over here, Fugitivus talks about what it’s like to be unmoored from the rest of reality, because we live in a place other people don’t see or understand.

I’ll explain it another way. Once, I was babysitting a small child. The child said, “Oniongirl, what’s it like to have those?” She pointed at my breasts. Hooboy, what a loaded question. What do I say? How do I explain to a four year old concepts like the burdens of femininity and how you can at once like and hate something about yourself? How do I articulate to someone who hasn’t entered this world what it’s like to have a part of your body that is both inextricably tied to your gender identity and self-approval, and at times utterly annoying because they are inconvenient, burdensome, or even worrisome?

What’s it like to have breasts? At times, it’s a bit like having objects on your chest. They’re things. Things that define you; their presence is something observed by those who find you sexually appealing, and at times you become quite certain that they are not asking themselves what your personal take on Descartes is, but rather thinking that they would like to touch those things on your chest. In a very real way, there are times when I feel my breasts divorce me from being a person.

On the other hand, I grew up desperately wanting a pair. They’re tied to being female, part of my identity. I can wear things that flatter them (and man if I’m not earning the feminist hate with that). I grew up watching movies with 20something women playing teenagers and making me utterly aghast that I didn’t have a C cup by 16.

—–

It’s like a journey to another land. You walk every day in the normalcy of your life. Then one day something alters the course of events in your life, and you will never be the same. I wish I could sit here and liken it to Narnia or stories of faerie hills, but I can’t. It’s nothing so wonderful or so pretty. My lost country is a barren, painful place, where we go to learn that smiles are dangerous and being polite to strangers isn’t always the best idea.

It isn’t exactly that we get lost here and never come back. It’s more that when we return, we always remember. So often in stories that I read, or movies I see, you see the heroes at the end say, “…how do I go back to my life now? How do I return to my job and paying bills after all of this?”

Tolkien wrote, “How do you pick up the threads of an old life?”

The answer is, you don’t. You gather what you can and move on, live on, knowing that the world that you live in now will forever be changed by your journey to this other lost country. That you will walk through life always aware that there are people around you who have never seen the things you have seen and will never understand you. It’s lonely country, but now and then you meet someone who’s seen the other side, and even in this mundane world with all that hidden away, we can occasionally find some peace and understanding with each other.

—–

How does one encapsulate this to an unknowing child? I couldn’t. So I said, “Well. It’s like having a hairstyle. Just like if you never could wear a ponytail because your hair was too short, but then you grew it out.” It was the closest I could manage to explain something that she had no concept of at all. The awkward, alien metaphor of a pair of breasts being like a ponytail didn’t work very well, but it was the best I could do.

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~ by oniongirl13 on January 22, 2010.

2 Responses to “Lost Country”

  1. “That you will walk through life always aware that there are people around you who have never seen the things you have seen and will never understand you. It’s lonely country, but now and then you meet someone who’s seen the other side, and even in this mundane world with all that hidden away, we can occasionally find some peace and understanding with each other.”

    Beautifully stated. I found your blog through a facebook post by Charles de Lint, and the strength of your words is amazing.

    I also like your metaphor choice 🙂

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