meanwhile, in the bathroom

It’s just you and me now, girl

yeah, I see you for what you are

fix your face

laugh louder

make your beauty believable

or try

try harder

get that femme-confidence thing just right

get that not taking shit thing just right

get that self love thing just right

I see you

run your fingers through your hair

flip it again

I see you

touch your face

doubt

wipe your eyeliner

inspect

push red into your lips

adjust

adjust

keep fixing

like your hands be God

creating you

again

like this mirror is here

to remind you

you’ll never be like them

like

even still

this stall can birth you back

better

Dealing with trauma in a no pasa nada culture

At this point, we have probably all seen the heartbreaking photos of Kesha’s reaction to the disturbing court ruling that forces her to continue to work with the man monster who sexually assaulted her and caused her irreparable physical, emotional, and mental damage. As feminists, as survivors, as decent humans with a conscience, what is so defeating is that, though outraged, we aren’t exactly shocked. After all, this is yet another disturbing newsreel that plays into a larger narrative about what it means to be a woman in this country. What a woman is worth in this country. In a country in which the state will not protect us, even if we do report.

Something warmed my heart this time, though, as have some other recent cases. The outpouring response from fellow musicians and thousands of others in a way that was so public that said — “we will not be dehumanized.”

Of course, many sexual assault survivors never get justice, dignity, or even the least bit support.

I am thankful for the friends who have been there for me through the particularly difficult experience of being sexually assaulted abroad; needing to heal without my community, giving reports in a language I am far from fluent from, dealing with policemen who are completely insensitive, taking on a criminal case in a state in which I don’t know my rights, or if it will protect someone who is not even it’s own.

It’s been a whirlwind, traumatizing, exhausting past month, especially at a point in my life where I need to be an adult on my own. Unfortunately, sometimes taking care of yourself has its own set of consequences and complications.

And I am tired of playing the trauma olympics, deciding what is “bad enough” to constitute survivor-hood, downplaying what’s happened to me because I know it could have been worse — no one ever wins.

It’s also been hard because for the first time in my life, I was feeling good about my body. I cared for it more. I loved it more. I opened myself to feeling sexy and young and enjoying myself, to owning all of this, to wearing things I never thought a body like mine could wear, to not giving a shit about what anybody else thought. And then my body was used. And all that stuff started to fall away. But I’m not going to let it anymore. I refuse to shame myself for my body, for sometimes feeling crazy and paranoid and small and anonymous and vulnerable — all the things I’ve been most afraid of being my whole life.

And I hope, as survivors, as non-survivors, as people, we continue to support each other. Until we are all free.

So, here we are.

Learning how to love ourselves not despite our traumas, but wholly, with them.

Learning how to give ourselves after what’s been taken.

Learning how to be sexual and yet not sexualized.

Learning how to be a body that can feel its memories.

Learning how to exist alone and here and together and there.

Learning how to hold our own hands, to take care of ourselves the way we would each other.

Learning how to build back a dignity that isn’t going anywhere.

Learning how to stop apologizing.

Learning how to breathe and breathe and breathe ourselves into a better world.

What the men leave behind

Friends make us tea

because warmth is always good.

Our mothers tell us to come home,

to get out of the city.

People who are not friends tell us

it’s not a big deal

tell us to get over it.

And sometimes friends do, too.

And then they are not friends.


Bosses calculate their empathy

based on how much our traumas

will cost them.

It is all so costly.

Inconvenient.


There is too much sorry.

Always “I don’t know what to say.”

And sometimes nothing.

And that’s okay.


Some silences are worse than others.

We know this.


Then there’s the crushing weight of smallness,

and, of course, the sadness.

The vulnerability.


There’s the before and there’s the after and

sometimes we think they are the same but

then there is the remembering.


And it is all different.


The anger where there wasn’t before.

The heartbeat in our throats.

The clenched fists.

The third eye on the nape of our necks.

How the men all look the same, anyway.


Is it still paranoia if our fear has proven rational over and over?


But then again,

isn’t this just being woman?

Isn’t this just so typical?

Isn’t the worst part that we aren’t even surprised?

That we are only surprised that it hadn’t happened

before now?


How could we forget that as long as we have our bodies,

there is always more

to be taken from us.