I have spent, and am still spending, quite a bit of time processing my molestation on 30 November 2016.
I use “my” to convey ownership. A sense of taking responsibility for what has happened, much like the way one would lay out enough food and water for their pet. A more cynical analogy would be that of being a puppeteer, or a bullfighter. Which, I suppose, isn’t that different from pet owners.
On 28 December 2016, I told my psychiatrist that my mood has been extremely unstable since I was “… touched, inappropriately on the train.”
“Oh. (furrowing eyebrows) When was this?”
“Last month. 30 November.”
“How did it happen?”
And I’m sure you, reader, are wondering the same. I want to ask if the details are and were ever necessary, though. But anyway. Let’s have it.
“I… um. I was… Reading. On the train. Then I felt something pressing against me, behind –”
“… My … ass.”
“So I turned around. And – that’s the thing right? – I realised I could turn around. Meaning that the train wasn’t that crowded. And so I just stared at the man.”
“… Yes? Middle-aged. And his hand was there… And. I just. I mean… …”
“I see. How did you react?”
“I… Couldn’t say anything. I mean. I was just shocked. There were people on the train that saw, four men in fact, but no one said anything.”
“Ah, and were you in jeans, or a skirt, or something?”
I stared hard at this psychiatrist at this point. In the interim between 30 November and 28 December I’ve had around a month to mull over this incident, and I’ve asked myself countless times whether this had anything to do with what I wore. It’s funny because 30 November was the first day of my internship, and my mother was insisting that I wore a dress to “look presentable”.
When I came home and told my mother I was molested, she remarked, “Lucky you never wear a dress today.” But she also said, “Maybe he picked you because your ass was sticking out from your pants.”
That’s the thing with people, eh? They always have a witty comeback. At that time I still couldn’t decide. If it didn’t matter what I wore, then I guessed it was more about my body. What was it that was… wrong with my body that attracted so much unwanted attention? What’s wrong with me? I pretty much spiralled into more self-hate for many, many days.
Is it really me? Is it really my body that’s the problem?
Of all the waves of thought that washed over the grooves and bumps in my being, it was that question from the psychiatrist that reached the deepest, dislodging a rock that bounced off the face of the cliff and into the sea.
Finally I said, “Office wear.”
“Office wear,” the psychiatrist repeated, a question mark carved into his countenance. I bit back a smirk.
The middle-aged, Chinese man scribbled in the patient’s records and prescribed me more medication.
Not that I took any of it.
That night was strangely liberating, even as I was crying my heart out. This was me, deciding that I wasn’t going to be enslaved by some man and his pills anymore. I still didn’t know what to do or where to go, but I knew that path wasn’t one that I was going to take.
If that rock had a name, I think it would be Impressions.
Nevermind that I spent two weeks after 30 November trembling every time I boarded a train, or squirming away from people with penises to maintain a 10-cm gap between us.
The thing is I think strangers, acquaintances and maybe even some of my closest friends don’t really care what I think or feel. It explains why people with penises stare at my breasts and smirk when I catch their eye; it explains why I’ll check if the other party just wants to ventilate (in which case I’ll shut up and listen), or if they genuinely want to hear my opinion.
The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.
There’s no reason to be bitter about this, I think. I just need to clarify with the other party.
Unfortunately the world seems pre-occupied with being heard. And as much as I’d like to say that I can go on listening endlessly to everyone around me, I’m not that noble. I find myself still wanting to rant without caring if the other party wants to hear it, and especially without wanting their feedback. It’s why I take to writing. The poor computer isn’t capable of reluctance and rudeness.
What I want to say is that… I used to soak up everyone’s opinions of me and my actions in a desperate, genuine and loving attempt to be accepted. I didn’t know who I was, or who I wanted to be (read: trait of someone with BPD!), so I just tried to go along with whatever others wanted me to be.
But then I was just… different. The very people I used to define myself called me weird and bipolar and crazy and unstable, effectively saying, “Hey. I can tell you’re trying to fit in. But you’re failing. You’re trying too hard. You suck.”
Go away. Nobody likes you. Kill yourself.
At least that’s how it felt.
So what could I do?
- Try harder, but in a more natural way such that people can’t detect it.
- Leave these people and find a new social circle where I could fit in.
Of course all this is in retrospect. So at that time – that is, before primary school all the way until 2015 – I thought Option 1 was the only possibility. And it was hell! So many years of crying and learning to keep mum and hide.
Right now Option 2 is a reality for me. I’m really thankful that I’ve found a place I can call home.
… Fragments of my past self are still stuck in me though. It’s like a bulging tumour that only I can see.
I try not to inject that polite hurhurhur when meeting new people and they’re telling me about their hobbies or favourite memory. Most of the time they can’t tell I’m a phony, I think. It’s only when I start talking about traumatic things and do that excessive laughter that this new group of friends will look me solemnly in the eye and say, “Stop it. Don’t do that.”
Which is nice. For once.
Occasionally I also hear myself asking the person I’m talking to, “Are you laughing at me?” they go all quiet after I make a comment. I wonder what they are thinking, if they are judging or ridiculing me. It’s still a habit I have to care about what people think of me, but I’ve been trying to change.
Things are starting to shift, too. People’s voices and opinions now swim around me like fishes; I don’t take all of them in anymore. And as I’m moving forward, I’m still pausing to reflect on the people I’m leaving… around me, outside of my personal space.
I do realise some people will think my newfound confidence is closer to arrogance, and to be honest I don’t have any benchmark for determining which one I am.
Maybe I’ll miraculously reach a state of superposition and be both, until I or the other party bothers to check. In which case, stop checking!