An anniversary of sorts.
Loads of people are doing Blogmas – we are, after all, bloggers, and seasonal blogging is sort of a prerequisite in a lot of cases. Most Blogmas posts are full of Xmas cheer – Christmas gift ideas, what came out of special advent calendars. Things that make people happy. Christmas isn’t always a happy time for people – which is why I’ve decided to do A Very Alternative Blogmas, where I talk about the stuff that doesn’t make us so happy this holiday season, and if there are any solutions. I’ll be frank. I’ll be honest. I’ll try my best to listen if you want to join in.
This idea didn’t spring fresh out of nowhere – though maybe it did. It was potentially sitting in the back of my mind this morning when I dropped the grey dress I was going to wear to college onto the floor, letting it sit in a crumpled heap while I selected a baggy, shapeless jumper. Perhaps it was sitting on the tip of my tongue as I selected equally shapeless leggings and threw on a tonne of layers until I was more fabric than girl. It’s possible it started to push its way to the foremost of my thoughts when my fingers darted away from ‘On This Day’ on Facebook this morning. A warning. Don’t look. Don’t remember.
I should’ve remembered.
1st December, 2014. I remember dressing and telling myself it was ironic, this black chiffon, tiered skirt covered in little cream snowflakes. The first day of Christmas and I was dressing in a very festive fashion – a little too festive for my liking. I hated Christmas. I worked in retail, I wasn’t supposed to like Christmas. I got compliments on the skirt throughout the day in college. I was to work a late shift that evening. I started to like the skirt a little less as the day wore on. I was wearing those over the knee tights – you know the ones you buy and wear once, before discovering they’ve ripped right down to the sock part the next time you take them out – and a pair of vans and I didn’t feel warm enough. I worked my shift. Saw myself in the skirt a few times as I dashed past mirrors holding armfuls of clothes, and when I was tidying up. I liked it even less.
I waited for the bus. My usual one wasn’t on the real time information. There was nothing due except a bus that would leave me with a 15 minute walk up a long road. I got on it.
I was sexually assaulted on that walk home.
For the year that followed, I couldn’t go anywhere in the dark. I think it’s what triggered the episode that caused me to need to be hospitalised last year. It was never labelled as such for certain, but I’m pretty sure I had agoraphobia. I was not safe outside alone – and I was definitely not safe out alone in the dark. I was constantly afraid of the exact stereotype of assault and rape we try to avoid – that stranger who saw a woman walking alone as a lucky opportunity. I was lucky he didn’t get me into the park at the top of the road – he had me isolated and I chased him off. Some switch flipped in my head and I ran at him, making myself as frightening as possible. What sort of crying, vulnerable girl runs at the person who’s just assaulted them? And yet, it still shakes me to think what could’ve happened had I not.
Around this date last year I had a mini breakdown. I hadn’t remembered specifically, but my body did. It was a few days after – four, I think. It took me a while to remember what had set me back and made me so unstable.
This time, my body remembered early. It remembers, and tries to self-destruct. Just do it. There’s no voice, you understand – it’s just me, my thoughts. An impulse I cannot place. Frantic phonecalls. Crying. Sleep. Dread.
December 1st, 2016. I dressed in the baggiest clothes I could find. I wrapped myself in fabric. I am not a slut. I am not a bitch. I am not asking for it. I am not any of the things that child – he was but a child, though an adult now of 18 – made me feel that night. I am different now. I am brave. I stare down the drunken men that approach me in the street. I defiantly dare anyone who passes me in the dark to come near me. Try me. I am hyper-vigilant, but I am ready. I am always ready.
No amount of readiness will ever stop it happening again. I know that. I feel that. I feel it in the shape of my body as over the two years it has stopped being mine. It has stopped being my body that I hated and twisted into as much thinness as I could manage – it is now my body I hate and abuse with bad food at irregular mealtimes. It is now a body I cover up as much as possible and hide behind the layers of fabric that tell me I’m not asking for it – I can’t be, these layers tell you I am not asking for it. It is now a body I am ashamed of and feel tied down by. It is now a body that betrays my feminist ideals of what we should think about ourselves. How much we should love who we are. How much we should shirk the concepts that patriarchy imposes on us. How little thin and perfect are interlinked – one is nothing to do with the other.
I binned that skirt.
So, my festive season start is not that festive. I listened to Merry Christmas, Kiss My Ass about five times on the way to college after I had to climb out my window to get out of the house
long story, see Tweets for minimal details. I’m always conscious in the midst the clutches of December consumerism, Christmas brings up some pretty unhappy memories for people. I wanted to get this out there again because over the next month I’m going to be talking about what this season can be like for people who have suffered ordeals, or who maybe don’t have good family situations, or who suffer from mental illness and what you can do to help, or how you can listen.
Leave a comment below if you have any requests for A Very Alternative Blogmas, or if you’ve anything you want to share. It ain’t a happy time for all of us, but we can do our best to look after each other.