I am often so poor at controlling my anger when typing, because my mind works faster than my mouth. Because of this, it often takes me a bit to respond, because I need time. I would rather sit in an extra second of silence than stammer and sputter my way through a conversation. When I am the most angry, it’s when I’ve isolated the most and only use my keyboard as my voice, because I forget to add in as much love and humor as I would while watching someone’s face.
Because when I sound angry on the internet, I’m not. I’m scared. I feel powerless and alone, taking on your emotions to an enormous degree without being able to express the ways it moves me in ways that don’t sound like I’m nitpicking, because anger is a PTSD response. I often don’t even realize I sound like I’m nitpicking. In Daniel’s case, it was a double edged sword, because on video and the phone, he could tell how I felt about him. What he couldn’t see was my alarm. I was trying to get him up to speed on a lot of things very quickly, most of them having to do with escalating fears for Cora’s safety and how we could protect her as a family. It had to start with her family not hurting her, first.
Everything he was going through changed me as I navigated what I was doing emotionally in response. Anxiety I’d felt for years mixed with anxiety I’d felt for weeks, and on top of it my new mother love created powerful fear that I could not do enough for her. I could only get Daniel to understand that I needed him to change. I could not get him to see how freaked out I was, how I needed him to look at what the situation was doing to me and not just assume I was trying to reprogram him. I was walking with him in a world he’d never had to think about until his daughter transitioned. I also wasn’t saying that he wasn’t doing the best he could. I was saying “we need to do more,” which he heard as “you are a failure.” I can’t go back and undo anything, I can only explain that he was very certain I was wrong and asked me to walk back some of what I’d said, even though it was true. I’d just done a lot more work on my white fragility. I even said, “I’m not picking on you because you are a racists. White people are racists. Period. It’s baked into the system.” To me, it’s all the same struggle. If you’re talking about one, you’re talking about them all. It’s all about getting respect.
White people think they’re hilarious when they say something the way a black person said it as if their impressions are cute and won’t said people be impressed at their astute mimicry? Sometimes, it’s true. I used to imitate Chris Rock all the time, but stopped when I found out that it wasn’t received in the way it was intended. The joke was about OJ Simpson. Some people thought the joke was the way I was imitating him. So my conversations with Daniel would run the gamut on this topic, me thinking that I was getting him up to speed and him feeling constantly guilty and irritated. If we’d been talking on the phone, I would have changed subjects a lot more, able to notice when a subject should drop. But at the same time, I didn’t say anything wrong. I said how I felt. I didn’t watch my tone because neither did he. I let him gut me with an axe over and over and over, and called him on it so he would stop.
He didn’t. He said some really, really terrible things on the way out. Stuff that will stick around in my head and make me wonder what happened with me for years on end. I don’t know why he didn’t see that I was taking on his pain as much as my own, and asking that he carry his load when it was all mixed together. He also broke up with me by text, and even that was okay because I knew what kind of pressure he was under to get himself well. I am left with a lot of pain that doesn’t actually belong to me, because I agreed to carry it.
I don’t like to believe that I was too harsh, and at the same time, I know it’s true. I don’t like to believe that Daniel was too harsh, but at the same time, I know it’s true. If he couldn’t see the enormity of what I was giving, why would he see that he needed to give me anything in return? Some words of encouragement would have gone a long way toward resting my fears that he heard my alarms. But that’s my best hope for what should have happened, not my expectation. People are going to react the way they react, and I give myself that same right. I think he also really needed someone to blame for all the guilt he felt and I was a great target because I was calling him on his bullshit at a time he didn’t want it….. and couldn’t ignore it anymore, either, if he wanted to be with me. I don’t regret standing my ground because ultimately it would have devolved into him feeling like I was trying to reprogram him all the time when I was trying to teach him. I needed him to let me be the subject matter expert on this one because he wasn’t queer. I already let him be the subject matter in other ways. This one was mine.
I am left shaking in righteous, Christ-like anger because I wasn’t trying to hurt Daniel. I was trying to liberate Cora.
I am right, and I am wrong….. all because I wasn’t looking into his eyes, searching them for what was real. How would this conversation have gone had we had more ways to express love and fear? With coping mechanisms that allowed us to open up?
I think I want that. He’s in my dreams, always. But then I go back and read our old letters and think “it’s going to take so much work now, because there’s so much more here than I thought.” And it’s not because I don’t want to do it. It’s because I don’t think he does. I don’t think he’s brave enough to admit that though I was wrong with my tone, nothing I said was inaccurate. He does lead a charmed life because of his straight, cis, white male perspective not because he is never discriminated against in terms of his skills and what he can bring to a job. His path to employment is not hindered by his skin or his sexual orientation. That he thinks it is while having a bisexual fiancee and a trans daughter is completely laughable. And that’s probably what felt so pedantic….. that I’d spent years and years studying this stuff and he was in 101. I didn’t have the patience to stick with 101 AND have a trans child living in NE Texas where I was afraid for her physical safety.
They’re problems in which both of us would have to be extraordinarily vulnerable, and say that we were both right and wrong…. but for different reasons than we think. Daniel is so wrong in thinking that I don’t have empathy for him. I absolutely do. I just want the same in return, and feel cheated when it doesn’t happen. If you want me to be all in, I am, but I can give what I require. I need patience, but it’s more than that. I need the people closest to me to see when I’m panicking and asking why so that I can release the pressure valve. Sometimes, it’s society. Sometimes, it’s between us. Sometimes, it’s between me and someone else and I don’t want to talk about it, I just want you to let me cry. What I don’t want you to do is think that I am being panicked for no reason at all. Just because my problem is big in this moment doesn’t mean that yours aren’t big to me the rest of the time.
I am programmed to think of everyone else first. So please believe that if I have a problem I believe is worth talking about, it really is. I am a people pleaser by nature, and would rather stand there and apologize for my existence most of the time.
It was a big deal to give up my label as a lesbian, because traditionally bisexual women are thought of as untrustworthy. We are not more untrustworthy than anyone else. Lesbians also have no problem screwing you six ways from Sunday, only a few of them enjoyable. (And straight girls are just the top shelf you can’t afford). Humans are not remotely clever in the ways they screw people over, and to get cheated on hurts no matter what. To cheat on someone hurts no matter what. We all go through it, all the time, male or female, mono or poly.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t a big deal to change what you’ve always known is true and haven’t because of flat embarrassment…. mostly because the stereotype for bisexual women is definitely not “I’ve been with women my whole life until now and I’m old.”
That lesbian label for me fell apart when I realized that I could love myself better when I was with him, that I didn’t want to fight him. That we were fighting each other because we were both in the shit, both intimidated, both directionless because it was too much to take in all at once and be comfortable at the same time. The flip side of the coin was that I chose it. I chose to be there and I was punished for it, and I’m sure Daniel feels the same way.
It’s just a shame that when he felt punished, he didn’t also keep in mind that I would have turned him out. The fact that he would have done the same to me definitely kept my feeling punished at bay. It’s hard when you can’t change the direction of an argument by unbuttoning a button…. and does it matter if it’s yours?