My mother is not necessarily a helicopter parent, but she is an anxious woman. So despite the fact I’ll be 20 this month, she still asks if I have a warm-enough coat every time I leave the house.
She once told me she worries I put too much of myself out into the world through this column. Well, first of all, Ma, if I wasn’t so self-obsessed, maybe I wouldn’t! But, honestly, I don’t normally have that problem. If you don’t know me personally, I have zero stake in how you perceive me. Even when the crazy neo-Nazi alt-righters came after Mainer because of the story we published about hate groups on Facebook a year ago, the best they could do was accuse me of spreading the lesbian male-hating agenda — and, by golly, they weren’t too far off the mark!
For those of you who do know me in person, I often hope my writing humanizes me. I think it shows my soft edges better than I sometimes can in real life. I am nervous about putting this one out in the world, though. My mental illnesses and fears and hopes for the world, my thoughts on being young in a dying civilization, gender, whatever — that stuff doesn’t phase me. But this is some really personal shit.
I got my heart absolutely shattered this fall. It had been a long time coming, I had known it was on the way, and, in truth, I need a little hardship every once in a while to take me down a peg, lest you start to see my head physically expanding. But boy, oh boy, it hurt like a motherfucker.
It was really only the second time I have had my heart bruised. Being the big butch dyke I am, I’ve borrowed a bit of that toxic masculinity from the straight men all us lesbians secretly wish we were , so I usually do a pretty good job of walling myself off romantically. But I let this one slip through the chinks , and for the first few days it hurt so bad I felt as though I was going to vomit. I could feel the cold tiles digging into my knees, my stomach curved around the porcelain from underneath my sheets.
COVID certainly didn’t help, nor did the dreadful transition from summer to fall. And I’ve come to the recent and yucky realization that I base too much of my self-worth on female attention. But with some time to reflect, I think what really made this particular parting of ways more painful than others had a lot more to do with who I was during the relationship. I was a version of myself that I loved during that time. Happy, kind(ish), confident, more or less carefree, thoughtful. Hell, I was almost giddy. In other words, I was the person I’ve always wanted to be.
Let’s therapize this, shall we? My mom is a therapist, so you can trust me.
We all have different parts of ourself, and they all work to protect us. But they don’t always work in tandem. Social anxiety, for example, stems from the evolutionary need to be part of a pack. It is working to keep you from repeating past mistakes, or making new ones, because it’s trained us to equate social denial with death. But, as we all know, social anxiety really doesn’t help us stay part of a group.
We can have trouble getting all our parts in order, working the way we want them to, listening to us as the captain of our own mind. Family-systems therapy is all about talking to these mental parts, getting to know them and trying to get them to work with you, rather than going rogue. I have a lot of rogue parts whose respect I haven’t quite earned yet. As a result, having gone through a heck of a hard fall, a hell of a hard year — as we all have — I am reverting back to a version of myself that I have a hard time empathizing with. I just don’t get her all that much.
In truth, I am something of an asshole. At least I think I am. I told my therapist the other day: “I love my friends. My friends are good people, so I have faith that they wouldn’t hang out with me if I was the complete dick that I think I am.” She made me write that down.
When I’m not in charge, my worried parts take over, and that’s when shit hits the fan, my friends. Point being: be kind to yourself, folks. You, including the parts of yourself you hate the most, all are trying your very bestest.
I’m trying to not be such a dick. Wish me luck. The Age of Aquarius is upon us.