Gaslighting & Santa Claus

This is part 2 of a series of posts I’m going to be writing on the topic of gaslighting (& my personal experiences with it). This particular post in the series  is more general and doesn’t dive into any specifics of my mother’s abuse, not really. I am not putting any trigger warnings on this blog post. If you think I need a content note/trigger warning, let me know.

Part 1 talked more about her abuse, specifically, and that post can be found here: Gaslighting & Crocodile Tears


Christmas was only a month-and-a-half ago, and every year, it brings its fair share of memories, both positive and negative, and also plenty of memories that just “are” – neutral memories, as well.

Something just hit me one morning a weeks ago, though, and that’s just how much gaslighting was involved in things my mother did around Christmas in my childhood.

In the past, when I would read posts like this on the signs of emotional abuse: http://luvtheheaven.tumblr.com/post/138652549987/what-are-the-signs-of-emotional-abuse, I always thought my mom didn’t engage in the particular abusive tactic known as “gaslighting”. I’d been reading posts like that for a long while now, and I always though that if gaslighting is defined as:

A form of psychological abuse involving the manipulation of situations or events that cause a person to be confused or to doubt his perceptions and memories. Gaslighting causes victims to constantly second-guess themselves and wonder if they’re losing their minds.

then, well, I didn’t experience it. I never really second-guessed my experiences, and I definitely never thought I was losing my mind.

But then, a few weeks ago when I started the draft of this blog post, which I actually started writing before my post on Crocodile Tears, I did a Google search for more explanation on the abuse tactic that is gaslighting, and the first thing I clicked on was this Everyday Feminism article on the topic (“10 Things I’ve Learned About Gaslighting As An Abuse Tactic”), and… the degree to which I can relate to multiple aspects of this post when I think back on specific things with my mom is… um… actually a little scary.

Look at these quotes from the article:

Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality.

and…

I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality.

You can see it in the media constantly.

For instance, every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting. The media is saying to you, What you know to be true is not true.

The quotes will become relevant soon.

In order for me to explain the relevance… I’m going to recount my experience with Santa Claus, because my lovely abusive mother (note the sarcasm dripping from my voice as I call her “lovely”) left me a voicemail on my cell phone on December 28th saying she remembers my reaction when she told me Santa wasn’t real.

She remembers that?!?

What?

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Gaslighting & Crocodile Tears

This is part 1 of a series of posts I’m going to be writing on the topic of gaslighting (& my personal experiences with it).

[Content Note: discussion of emotional/verbal/psychological abuse from a mother.]


I had this stuffed animal when I was young that I slept with every night, that I even vaguely remember playing with. It was this teddy-bear-sized yellow thing that I believe was supposed to be a “chick” (baby rooster, probably, judging by the bow-tie sewn around his neck, very odd stuffed animal honestly), there was a little tag on the animal which said “chick”, but I, as a young kid who didn’t know how to read, called it (her? I don’t think I thought of the toy as a he but whether or not I gave it a gender I am unsure) by a name that clearly implied I had misinterpreted which type of bird it was. Lol.

I called my stuffed animal Baby Ducky.

And last night, while at a local atheist meetup, a man mentioned how his 16-year-old son is still very emotionally attached to his stuffed animals, and how he told his wife that they can never get rid of those, he knows it would crush his son. I mentioned how I was pretty upset when my mom told me I was too old to sleep with my stuffed animal.

What I didn’t mention though, was that my mom was my abuser. What I didn’t mention was that last night, for the first time in a surprising number of years, I remembered the fact that I had actually used that stuffed toy to sop up my tears on multiple occasions. I remember crying in my bedroom in the house we moved into in 4th grade, so I must’ve been no younger than 10 or so, lying in my bed, using that stuffed animal as a very poor excuse for comfort, and also using it much like people would normally use a tissue in these situations. Using it for both purposes.

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Relationships that lack stages

This is my third and final submission for the January 2016 Carnival of Aces, which had the theme “Relationship Stages”. I’m a day late with this one, yes. Oh well. :P For more information on the Carnival of Aces, click here.


 

One thing that I think, traditionally, is so special about friendships is that they aren’t supposed to have stages, rules, limits, ultimate end goals, none of that. There are still ways friendships can go wrong, ways you can feel like you don’t have any friends or not enough, feel like you feel more attached to your friendships than your friends feel attached to you, etc. But it’s nothing like the distinction between being “single” vs “in a relationship”.

There are a ton of things that are special about friendships. They’re a kind of relationship that spans little kids (even toddlers) through old age. They aren’t relationships where you need to have a conversation about if you count as friends or not — you can just sort of let it happen and decide that you consider someone else your friend, regardless of how they feel about you. And there is a large array of different ways for friendships to play out that still feel “acceptable” in our society – there is not just one script for friendship.

If you Google “stages of friendship”, sure, plenty of things come up, often about the stages before reaching “best friend” status, and weirdly some results about specifically “female friendship”. But there isn’t a checklist for friendship the same way there is for romantic relationships. There isn’t a list of experiences most people expect to reach when they consider their own friendships, or consider entering into a new friendship. And when a friendship ends, there isn’t usually a need for a big significant “break up” — in fact most friendships just fade and these people couldn’t tell you the day they stopped being friends with that person. :P You don’t really feel like your relationship “Failed”, just that it “ended”, because in general, there is no goal for “success” when it comes to friendships the same way there is that kind of “goal” in traditional monogamous romance.

There are other kinds of relationships that, to me, don’t feel like they have stages either. Something like a relationship a person has with their sibling, their aunt, their uncle, their cousin, their grandparent — most of their family members (except not their parent/guardians) these are bonds that may or may not really be bonds at all, you can have a family member and not know them, never spend any time with them, etc, but if you do have a relationship with them… there isn’t really a progression, a set of common experiences that is easy to generalize among all families… there are just so many differences in how people experience these relationships. And often, there is constancy in these bonds. It doesn’t feel like they go through stages. I could be wrong and other people do experience what seem like stages in their familial relationships of these types, but the general cultural narrative I’ve picked up from living the the USA is that there aren’t general ‘stages’ one is expected to go through in these relationships.

Also, temporary relationships, as in, ones meant to not last. A job that you know you’re only at for a summer and your relationships with your coworkers there. A year in high school where you develop a kind of relationship with most, if not all, of your teachers but you know after you leave their class, the relationship will be over. These also are definitely types of relationships that don’t really seem to have “Stages”. True there is the “first meeting”, a period when, if you’re lucky, you feel like you know them better and they know you better, and maybe a “Goodbye”, but… but I feel like these types of relationships are not usually considered in terms of separate stages, that people usually think back on it in simpler terms than that.

Does this make sense to anyone besides me?


 

Anyway I enjoyed thinking through these things for the Carnival of Aces this month. :P I used my blogging as a way to help me think through the issues. I hope maybe someone enjoyed reading my thoughts.

Stages in Relationships

This is my second submission for the January 2016 Carnival of Aces, which had the theme “Relationship Stages”. For more information on the Carnival of Aces, click here.

[Content Warnings/Notes: Mentions of death. Discussion of abusive relationships. Brief mentions of sexual assault in a section about virginity.]


 

If you go to Google and start searching for “Parenthood stages” you will find PDFs like this one on 6 distinct stages: http://arbetterbeginnings.com/sites/default/files/pdf_files/Six%20Stages%20of%20Parenthood.pdf or, to my dismay, an article from bigoted/anti-LGBT group Focus on the Family on there being four “phases”. You’ll find various books published on the topic and various academic articles at .edu websites on research people have conducted.

Clearly, it’s not just romantic relationships that either seem to have stages. I could think of many ways a relationship between a parent and a child seems to usually… “evolve”, “progress”, etc, much like it has its own kind of relationship escalator. There are ideal stages for kids and parents to be at depending on the age of the child, and this extends until the death of the parent, which is “supposed” to happen prior to the death of the child. Obviously the child dying first is one way the stages won’t happen “according to plan” or according to “how things should be”.

But in truth, there are many ways for parent and child relationships to not follow society’s ideals for the stages. A child having a disability or being neurodivergent can easily throw off the course of the stages, slow them down, prevent some from happening, and the same is true if the parent is like that. A parent dying too soon means not all stages can be completed. Sometimes people just don’t follow the stages for no obvious “Reason”, but the world around them still judges them as doing the whole “being a family” thing wrong. You’re supposed to be exactly the right level of aware of what is going on in your child’s life, but not be overprotective or overly strict or overly bragging, obsessing about your kid when in social contexts, etc, and also you can’t be neglectful, distant, not involved enough, “oblivious”, etc. As a child, you are supposed to respect your parents, but also not be a clingy child one could make fun of with terms like “momma’s boy”.

You’re supposed to become friends with your parent once you reach adulthood, and people who don’t have good relationships with their parents need a good explanation, need an excuse, as for why they don’t. The default is that you would. Deviating from that norm is not usually accepted. People will wonder why the deviation has occurred.

One common reason for a deviation from that, a reason to not have a good relationship with your parent(s), is if they were abusive to you.

Abuse is something that has stages too. More specifically, abusive relationships of many different types, from romantic to familial to queerplatonic and many other types of dynamics as well, have specific recognizable stages.

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My abusive mother won’t leave me alone

[Content Note: NSFW/explicit language used (one word), discussion of an abusive parent… let me know if I should’ve warned for something specifically but didn’t. I can add it up here.]

It has been 8 years and 9 months since one particular fateful evening, at the end of April 2007, when my younger brother and I decided to take our mother up on her ultimatum that if we left her house and went with our father on a Wednesday night, went with him to a get a doctor to look at my brother’s broken hand, well… the ultimatum said we wouldn’t be allowed back in the house. We would literally be kicked out. She told us if we went with him, we better pack our bags. And so… we did. Then she made us give back our keys to get into the house.

It has been approximately 5 hours less than that since she has been trying to get us back. Around midnight that night, she started pretending she never uttered that ultimatum in the first place. Or perhaps by then she had become deeply delusional and truly did not remember that she spoke those words. I tried to remind her. Tried to tell her to just look at the keys she now was in possession of as proof of what had happened. Regardless, she did deliver that ultimatum. Many times. That had just been the time we decided to take her up on it, because that time — with my brother’s hand’s well being being at stake — it was worth it. Clearly our mom never imagined we’d ever actually take the “leave the house” option.

I’ve written about my mother being abusive on a number of occasions, most notably in a 3-part series of posts that starts here: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/figuring-out-my-mother-was-an-abuser-part-1-of-3/

And you may want to read those to understand some of the context of what in the world I’m even talking about.

But yeah.

On my 18th birthday, in January 2008, almost exactly 8 years ago now, I cut my mother out of my life completely — putting all phone conversations and visits to an end — and I haven’t regretted it, not for one moment.

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Aromantic People in Romantic Relationships

This is a reply to Saavok’s post “Aro-Relationships”: https://aceofspadessite.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/aro-relationships/

(Originally this was gonna be just in the comments on that post, but then I realized I was writing an essay, so… :P)


When asexual people talk about being in a sexual relationship regardless of being ace, there are a lot of different things that come up.

  • Being asexual spectrum “only” means a lack of sexual attraction to their partner, or sometimes even only “limited” or “lower levels” of sexual attraction. They still have desire for sex. They might even have attraction.
  • Having no desire for sex doesn’t mean they don’t “feel good” when touched in sexual ways
  • They don’t get anything out of sex except for the fact that their partner gets a lot out of it, and this serves to bring the two people closer together/feel emotionally more intimate too, or otherwise is a kind thing to do for their partner
  • The sex is a negative thing for them. They didn’t feel like/realize not having sex ever while in a relationship is an option, and that’s why they’re having it. Or they were under the impression that their partner is “sacrificing” by having sex so rarely, and they feel like they owe it to their partner to have sex sometimes. (Especially common for aces who don’t know they are asexual, who may not have even heard of asexuality, but also happens elsewhere too.) Perhaps they know how important sex is to their partner, so they try to have it, but their partner feels unloved when they have sex

But a sexual relationship is a more clear thing to define than a romantic relationship. It literally means a relationship where sex is happening. Sex may have some discrepancies of what it means, but it’s not that broad of a category.

What does a romantic relationship even mean? No one really can define it, despite people certainly trying to. A relationship where “romance” is happening? A relationship where people are feeling romantic feelings/strong feelings of infatuation and/or being “in love”? Or a relationship where a certain set of criteria are being met? Like in a sexual relationship, where people having sex is the criteria that makes it sexual, in a romantic relationship, is it the commitment to exclusivity? What about polyamorous people and where do they fall into it? Is it just the commitment to the other person, regardless of exclusivity? What about queerplatonic relationships then? Is it the kissing? Is it the hand-holding?

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Aro-Relationships

I just realized I have a lot to say in reply to this, so I’m coming up with a new blog post as a reply to this instead of just a comment. ;)

Ace of Spades

I have been digging around in a lot of ace and aro stuff on the internet lately. In part for the powerpoint that I posted a while back, in part so that I have some material to bring to ace club, and in part because I really want to know and try to understand all the different ace and aro perspectives.

One thing that comes up a lot in ace forums and pages is an asexual participating in a sexual relationship for whatever reason (they use sex to connect with their partner, they enjoy the act despite lacking the attraction, etc.). What I haven’t seen a lot of (hardly any, almost none) is an openly aromantic person participating in a romantic relationship. The individuals involved would not necessarily be getting the same things out of the relationship, someone would feel romantically fulfilled by the relationship, and someone else would be platonically…

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What Stage of a Friendship Am I Even In?

This is a post written for the January 2016 Carnival of Aces. I believe it is just the first post I will be writing for this month’s Carnival topic (“Relationship Stages”), but time will tell if I actually do write any of my other ideas.


 

  • If you want a specific kind of relationship, how do you go about looking for someone(s) to develop that kind of relationship with?

  • Do you go looking to start a specific relationship intentionally or do you wait to see if it happens serendipitously?

  • Do you start off with an ideal image of your relationship member(s) or are you just open to seeing what works?

Life works in mysterious ways. I’ve generally been the kind of person who just lets life happen to her. At least, it’s sort of how I perceive myself. All 4 years away at college and not a single truly close friendship was formed, I just let myself get assigned random roommates each time.

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What are search terms I might’ve used before I knew “asexual”?

This is my response to Asexuality Archive’s question.

See the full tumblr post and look through the “notes” for all of the “Reblogs” with many different perspectives and comments, too.

He said:

Before you knew what asexuality was, how did you think about or describe the collection of feelings that you later recognized as asexuality?  What were some of the things that you sensed were different?  What were some of the questions you had about the way you were?  If you looked for answers using a search engine, what were some of the search queries you used?

I have an idea for a new section for my site that comes at things from that angle, from the point of view of the ace that doesn’t know what asexuality is.  It’s still sort of fuzzy.  I’ve got about 85% of what I want to talk about, but it’s still missing a clear picture of the other 15%, something that connects all the pieces.  Basically, I want to reach out to the undiscovered/pre-identified asexuals, using the words and phrases they’d use and the thoughts they’d be having.

So, before you understood that you were ace, how did you think about things?

And someone else answered, and I reblogged and replied too. I realized I said enough for it to be a whole blog post… so I’m posting my tumblr response here too.

“I figured sexual attraction would come, but I thought I needed to pass some milestone, whether it was age or experience.  I had other things to do“

THIS.

I really thought I was “just” inexperienced, although as time went on, I started experiencing more and more cognitive dissonance about it: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/why-i-should-have-accepted-the-truth-that-im-asexual-sooner/comment-page-1/#comment-542

After I did know that asexuality existed, search terms I used were things like “Do asexuals not like kissing?” because I hated making out/kissing with tongue, the only kind of kiss on the mouth I’ve ever tried, and I thought it might be a sign that I was asexual. But what I found were all these asexuals saying “Can I still be asexual even if I like kissing?” so I felt more lost, like it must be that the guys I was kissing just weren’t “my type” sine EVERYONE, even asexuals, liked kissing.

If, @redbeardace​ , you had a search term like “Are there other people out there in the world who don’t like kissing?” or “Do some people like sex, but not kissing?”, that would’ve been the kind of thing I was wondering about then and searching for (wondering if I might like sex when I tried it in the future, even if I hated kissing.). Other asexuals could use, “Do some people like kissing, but not sex?”, lol.

Other things I started wondering about was if I might be demisexual/might just need to wait out being with my boyfriend for long enough to ”fall in love” before I could really give up on the idea that I was “normal”. I didn’t want to be asexual. If I didn’t know the words, I would’ve probably done the same thing, and I might’ve searched “how long until you enjoy kissing?” or “how long until you’re ready for sex?” or “how long until something your partner does gets you aroused/turns you on?”

Because, well, I have zero sex drive/libido/ability for arousal. http://luvtheheaven.tumblr.com/post/128500834127/non-libidoism-asexuality-aka-i-have-never-had

And I thought, I wondered, about hormone imbalances or about being stupid and about how maybe I was getting aroused and didn’t recognize it for what it was, or that I needed just the right trigger, needed to touch myself or be touched in just the right way, and then I’d experience what it was like to be “turned on”. I saw that hormone imbalances usually have other pretty obvious symptoms I didn’t have. I searched about a lack of or “no sex drive” or “low sex drive” in women and all I found were the types of things like, idk, what Flibanserin interviews talk about now. Older, married women not feeling interested in sex anymore, finding it hard to get in the mood, etc, and found that it’s normal for sex drive to decrease with age. But I was in myyoung 20s! Not that age yet!And even in my teens I hadn’t ever had a sex drive that I knew of!

I read this article: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/what_if_i_never_want_or_feel_ready_for_sex and I really don’t like how they say it’s “unlikely” you’ll turn out to be asexual, (okay their exact phrasing is:

…most people, in a lifetime, will want to engage in at least some of them and will feel ready for at least some of them at some point.

But while that’s true for most people, it’s not true for all people. Some folks really don’t ever want to have some kinds of sex or even all kinds, because they just don’t feel those desires or don’t feel the desire to enact them.

but whatever)

because it made me doubt myself, doubt that that could be my identity, for longer. “What if I never feel ready for sex” seems like a search term more asexuals would use than non-asexuals, although maybe not, but either way @hellyeahscarleteen made it seem like there is such a low chance that asexuality is the answer, that you shouldn’t bother “worrying” about the fact that asexuality might be your answer, about figuring out if you’re asexual or not, in fact the word asexual isn’t even mentioned in the text there, only indirectly told people about asexuality being a possibility in the link under “Don’t feel those desires or don’t feel the desire to exact them”. It brushed off asexuality as a potential comfort to the asker of the question, and instead focused on all of the things in life you can do instead of sex, and idk, while I like the post overall, I know at the time it almost made me feel worse about myself, when I was confused and searching for answers and wondering myself “if I’m 23 years old and have a great boyfriend and I’m not ready YET, will I EVER be?”

They have these posts on a similar topic, too:

(see the second question here, especially, since sex isn’t enjoyable for the advice-asker, an aspect many asexuals could probably relate to) http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/im_not_readybut_am_i_just_overthinking_it

and:

http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/im_25_shouldnt_i_have_been_ready_for_sex

Anyway… I guess I had a lot of thoughts on this topic. I’m looking forward to your page meant for asexuals who don’t know the word yet! It’s important, for sure.

Why I Should Have Accepted the Truth that I’m Asexual Sooner

This is my (late) entry for the November 2015 Carnival of Aces, which has the theme “Reasons I Should Have Known I Was Asexual”. (Whoops, time got away from me and it’s December already. Well, in the wee morning hours of December 1st I’m trying to write this quickly and squeeze this in under the wire.) For more info on what the Carnival of Aces is, look here.


 

I’ve read multiple people saying for this Carnival of Aces theme that they should’ve known they were asexual sooner (and often should’ve known they were aromantic too) because they were so obviously sex-repulsed (and anti-romance) in the way they acted and the things they said throughout all of high school, or otherwise for years before discovering the label.

They use anecdotes of the form “I was so ace, I ___”, most of which I don’t personally relate to. I understand that some of them are perhaps a bit exaggerated. Often the stories are told in purposefully amusing ways and they are entertaining sometimes to read. I do appreciate everyone sharing their experiences, even if they aren’t the same as my own. I love learning about what other people in the asexual community went through.

But growing up, or just looking back now in retrospect, things weren’t really that obvious for me when it came to my asexuality, and I didn’t say or do things that seemed drastically different than my heterosexual peers.

lilo-the-awesome-one’s submission is one of MANY examples that has moments like the ones I’m talking about. She said, for example:

I actually remember one time in preschool I was thinking about how someday I would have to get married. The thought absolutely sickened me. I thought boys were gross, and girls… Well I couldn’t see myself marrying one either.

And, well… I don’t relate to that at all. When I was a young child I dreamed of getting married one day. I looked forward to the limited stuff I knew about romance — even despite my parents getting divorced prior to the age when I really started forming solid long-term memories. And I always thought traditional, heterosexual romance would happen for me, which, once I knew what sex was, would include sex in my hypothetical future.

I don’t really think I “should have known” I was asexual before discovering the word for it.

But what I do think is that I should’ve “known” that I was asexual a little sooner than I did. I found out about the word asexual when I was still in college, when I was 20-ish.

It took 3 full years for me to embrace being asexual, including months – months!! – of dating a heterosexual guy where I did not yet know.

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