I was raised as a fighter, in multiple ways. I marched outside of abortion clinics with my dad, protesting the protesters so women could have some sense of solidarity going into their appointments. I took karate and Model Mugging, preparing myself by learning how to get out of holds, where to hit a man for the most impact, how to improvise a weapon. I wrote letters to the President about environmental issues and was furious when I got a form letter in response.
The other side of the coin of being a fighter, though, in my opinion, is fear. Fear of a loss of control. Fear of losing a conflict. Fear of the consequences if you lose.
Looking back, I see that while I was in many ways a seemingly fearless child, a lot of my behaviour came from a deep place of fear. I was afraid about the future of the world, afraid for my own future, afraid of my struggles in school and afraid of men, who I knew would, eventually, hurt me. I am still wrapped up in fear like a fucked up insecurity blanket. I tuck my feet under my blankets because there is some deep inner part of me who still feels their heart turn to ice at the fear that something is under my bed, waiting to grab me and drag me under.
I think because of this, I kind of hate being scared. It's one of the things I really hate about Halloween, where people think it's "fun!" and "interactive!" to jump out from behind things to shock you. For some people, I'm sure these experiences make them feel more alive. For me, it can take hours to get my heart rate back to normal, the stiffness out of my body. Movies that depend on jump scares leave me feeling traumatized, not excited. I once punched a poor haunted house actor who jumped out at me because that was just my trained instinct. I don't go in haunted houses, or mazes, or hayrides anymore.
Because the fact of the matter is - I spend a lot of my life on edge. I am so used to this feeling of fear that relaxation feels alarming and strange to me. I go to parties and walk down streets at night like I have no fear, because if people smell fear on you they'll attack, at least that's been my experience. I am never without some sort of weapon.
I would say that part of this is because I've experienced sexual assaults, but most of those were in private, with someone I thought I could trust. And frankly I acted this way long before I had anything concrete to fear from my own experiences. I think it's just part of being socialized as a woman, as much as my parents tried to shield me from it. Intimate partner violence only taught me that I wasn't safe then, either, that there was nowhere I was safe to let my guard down.
I mean, I have a lot of privilege, being white and cis. Part of me is angry at myself for being so fragile when other people are struggling much worse. But I can't shake out of my head that time a stranger grabbed me and refused to let me go until I kissed him, or the man a friend recommended should drive me home who then refused to leave until I gave him a blow job. The world is a coercive, scary place where I feel that lack of control often, and I personally don't understand seeking out that disempowerment for fun. But, hey, to each their own, right?
Sometimes I wish that I didn't jump when my partner touches me unexpectedly. I wish I didn't feel dread when I have to walk in the dark. I wish I could go to a horror movie and shriek an giggle and have a good time. Maybe someday I will. But this Halloween, I think I'll stick to the treats instead of the tricks, thanks.