Dangerous to touch

Ok, so yesterday didn’t happen.

What I mean is I had this chat with C except I didn’t. That wasn’t her. I talked to her on the phone and she asked me about chatting with Boyfriend. He told her he had been chatting with me. I said I had and told her about the time I had chatted with him when I knew it was him, not realizing why there seemed to be confusion over this.

Then I chatted with C’s aunt, and it turns out C has not be chatting online at all, because her phone (which I bought for her) has stopped working. So that was not her.

I don’t feel good about this. Life is confusing enough without teenagers pretending to be other teenagers. But it does make me think other times when I thought I was chatting with him, I might have been right about that.

I suppose I can go back and look at the chats and see if I seem to be right.

It leaves me feeling exhausted though. I have essentially just felt exhausted since Friday, when C left school for vacation. I don’t actually know why this is. But the chat I had with what turned out to be Boyfriend left me wanting to sleep.

I think at these times I am trying to link up patterns to past experiences that I haven’t necessarily made before. Increasing the connectivity of my brain is really difficult. I don’t know why it’s like this, but I do feel something.

When I chat with Boyfriend in his worst moments, there are times I feel something like disgust. I feel there is something wrong with the conversation, there is something strange or bad or gross about it, something “unhealthy.”

It hits me, writing this, that educated, middle-class people (I am from a working class background) have taken their expressions of judgment and hidden them in words that make it difficult to recognize the judgment. “Unhealthy” is one of those words. The other one is “inappropriate,” but that one I had recognized already.

It’s simpler to talk about this in my own mind if I use the words I mean: it feels dirty.

Afterwards, I think about that dirty feeling and I start thinking growing up, when I was a child and I felt “dirty” and presented myself as a child with a distressing feeling, no one approached with compassion for that feeling. I am talking about a time I can’t remember: I am piecing this together, just guessing.

I am guessing no one put themselves in my shoes and felt for me. No one thought about my dirty feeling, made sympathetic noises, and took me off somewhere to get cleaned up. No one acted like feeling dirty is a part of life, and what we do about it is get cleaned up. It is mentionable and manageable (Mr. Rogers’ phrase, which I completely love.) No one ever approached my feelings of “dirtiness” as useful information about my state which could be used to take care of me.

Later, no one ever said to me that the feeling of doing something transgressive and dangerous, like touching corpses or being sexually abused, might have the same visceral feeling to it, and that feeling of being “dirty” was telling me to get away from a dangerous situation.

There is a resonance to thinking about it in this way that is very liberating, like finally getting the song out of your head. It absolutely fits with what I remember feeling.

Anyway, I think Boyfriend might feel that way, for reasons that might not automatically make rational sense. During separations, he might feel he cannot reach out for comfort, because there is something dangerous or disgusting about him. He might feel like he, himself, is the threat. To a mentally ill parent or a parent having difficulty processing her own emotions, a child can feel that way.

That sense of one’s own feelings as being dangerous and disgusting can be internalized: the child can end up thinking, “I cannot be rocked or soothed or comforted, because I myself am too dangerous for my parents to touch. My need is dangerous.” When really the need is overwhelming to the parent but it would not normally be dangerous.

Or who knows, but this is helpful to think about: this whole category of times when I have felt something was dangerous to be close to or to touch.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Dangerous to touch

  1. ALEXANDRA ROTH July 3, 2017 / 9:05 am

    I certainly identify with that feeling, of being ashamed of needing my parents because they were overwhelmed by that, and then feeling that I myself was bad for needing what couldn’t be given to me.

    I’m also wondering whether you said to C or Boyfriend, That’s not okay for one person to pretend to be another, because it hurts the trust between us.

    • Ashana M July 3, 2017 / 11:17 pm

      Thanks for sharing what you identify with. It’s nice to feel that connection.

      I didn’t think about what you said, that it affects trust although obviously it does. To me, it just feels cognitively so hard that mostly I thought of it in those terms.

      C has never, in any way, made things easier for me. There have been many times when I thought, “Why won’t she save me the trouble of second-guessing her needs so that I don’t have to try so hard to imagine what she is really trying to say? Why won’t she tell me where she is going, so that I can (for example) give her money that I know she would like to have today?” And after a long time I came to the crazy idea that she can’t.

      Boyfriend knows perfectly well he ought to communicate with me on his own account. I have told him so and common sense tells him so. If he doesn’t do it, it’s because he can’t. I can either set a boundary and enforce it, by recognizing when it is him and refusing to talk to him, or I can do things on his terms as he is ready. It’s really my choice.

      There are times people just don’t realize what we feel comfortable with and what we don’t feel comfortable with and we need to tell them, and there are these other times when they absolutely do know and can’t accommodate us. In the latter case, it’s just up to us what to do.

      I do think C ought to have a boundary about it. I have told him girls need privacy, but given the difference in cultures, I didn’t get too involved. (Country X-ers really don’t have the same concept of personal property that we do. For them, having a sense of “mineness” is just rude. I don’t get it, so I don’t intrude.) But C’s aunt had a similar feeling, so I will tell her not to let him use her account.

      • ALEXANDRA ROTH July 5, 2017 / 9:24 pm

        Mm. I feel as if one thing I do with people who present difficulties is to figure out what I need in order to go the distance with them. Like, I can easily give too much and then resent the person, so with people who ask a lot, I police that in myself and limit what I give, even if they keep asking. But I do it so I can keep the person in my life. It requires a double view – of what they ask and what I am feeling. A different person might have very different “asks” she has to look out for. So I expect you have a good sense of what you can tolerate from C and Boyfriend, informed by the sort of understanding you show in your answer above.

      • Ashana M July 6, 2017 / 9:47 am

        I wonder sometimes if I grew up with a different model of femininity, and it’s one where boundaries and assertiveness are more okay. The reason I say that is that I tend to assume I have power. These are kids–I absolutely have power and the right to say no. But when I look back at romantic relationships, I feel the same way. If I give too much, that’s on me.

  2. desilef July 3, 2017 / 8:34 pm

    I wish they didn’t play these games with you. It’s so destructive. Does C know that people impersonate her? I’m so sorry this is on top of everything else.

    • Ashana M July 3, 2017 / 11:00 pm

      I don’t know that he told her I thought I was him.

      I wish they didn’t too. It’s kind of the mess that comes with being involved in the lives of really messed up kids. His shame about needing support and not even really understanding why the separation would be so stressful is just so great. I would rather he looked to me for support at times of stress than C, but as a teenager thinking about this he might not have any idea why someone would want to support him or see that he has potential and with some support he might actually turn out to be a good human being.

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