To Be Invincible

We’re taught that vulnerability will kill us. It only made me stronger.

Kitty Stryker
May 18, 2016 · 5 min read

This piece was written for Write Club SF

I wanted to be invincible, so I put my armor on.

When I was 7, it was a karate gi. My parents took me to competitions where I won silver medals, and to Model Mugging, where I learned how to defend myself against a rapist. I was a child who knew how to kill a man. I remember when my dad and I were sparring once, as we often did, and he told me to “take my best shot” — I kicked him in the balls and he dropped to the floor like a stone. I thought I had killed him. My dad, gasping from pain, gave me a thumbs up. I felt I was prepared for anything.

No one ever told me that the one most likely to hit me would be a lover.

I wanted to be invincible, so I put my armor on.

When I was 16, it was black eyeliner and combat boots. It wasn’t easy being out as queer in my school, but the Goth aesthetic kept people from bullying me too much. I wrote dark poetry and painted myself as Ophelia drowning. There were whispers I drank blood, but I think they were really afraid that I was going to be the next school shooter. I basked in being weird and untouchable, because I felt that I would be safer that way.

I didn’t realize my graduating class didn’t invite me to the reunion because they assumed I had killed myself.

I wanted to be invincible, so I put my armor on.

I was 19 when I whipped a man for money for the first time. The Head Mistress at the dungeon I worked for insisted I wear black thigh highs, black lingerie, and pumps for every session. I didn’t know how to walk in heels so I would blindfold my clients as quickly as possible, kicking them off for the rest of the session. I took on a new name, a new life. I fashioned myself into a nanocelebrity, going to the right parties, making the right friends, doing the right drugs.

There’s no corset that constrained me like my desire to be “likeable”.

I wanted to be like Xena, like Buffy, like She-Ra. They were all tough women, warriors, with fierce loyalties and fiercer fashion. They were witty, passionate, beautiful, with a core of steel. I was a wreck of feelings, told so often that I was too much, too fat, too femme, too emotional, too intense.

All I desired was to be cool and strong. Invincible.

So I hardened my heart. Because that’s how we become tough, right, we wrap our hearts in leather and steel, build ourselves a wall that even Trump would find overkill. Feelings are vulnerable, and vulnerability is death. So I hid the softest pieces of my bleeding heart deep within and locked it away. I thought I was invincible, then. Untouchable. If I was going to be put on a pedestal than goddamn I was going to build a moat around it and fill that moat with crocodiles. I put my armor on, and I welded it shut.

But pedestals topple. Crocodiles grow old, and weary. Moats dry up. We’re in a drought after all. And armor, well, armor rusts. All these wards and spells I used to shroud myself in a cloak of being “intimidating” didn’t make me stronger. It just underlined my fragility, my heart, atrophying. This type of invincibility isn’t invincible at all, it’s rigid and it drags us down like a cement brick.

Humpty Dumpty fell off her wall and nothing could put her back together, no self help book, no casual encounter on Tinder, no epiphany brought about by a drug-fuelled bender.

I was told over and over how invincible I was and it shattered me into a thousand pieces.

I have been trained, as all women have, to heal, to excuse, to forgive. And I taught myself to fossilize rather than feel, a velvet fist in an iron gauntlet. To be tender, I thought, was to be devoured alive. I walked the streets afraid, went on dates afraid, went to sleep afraid. So I became a feral cat, all hissing and scars, not letting anyone near me because to trust was to be weak.

But then I shattered. I had a breakdown. It was public, and embarrassing, and my facade was scattered to the wind.

It was then I realized destruction is an act of creation. This is something I never believed, really, until it settled into my chest and I realized I was made new every time I fell apart. So I tattooed my heart on my sleeve and I let myself be radically vulnerable. I loved, and broke up, broke down, and loved again and will continue, on and on and on, because I can — hearts are made to be broken, and made to mend. Tears become diamonds on cheeks of satin.

There is no such thing as infinity. No promises of forever. There is now. And now. And now.

Real talk- I wrote this after being dumped. He told me that he loved me and we should run off to the woods together and let’s be fluidbonded… and then he dumped me the next day via text because I asked him to wear a suit to a gala and he’d rather wear motorcycle leathers. I may have left my heart in San Francisco, but here romance is a startup and angel investors are hard to come by. Impermanence has become my bedfellow in the last few years and while the heartache is strong, I am able to cry and let go more easily now. An emotional gymnast.

I can spend my life staring across the sea wishing for his return, or I can pack up and head home. I keep the seashells from those times but let the sand fall through the cracks. I allow myself to be a piece of ocean glass, tumbled and smooth, worn down but not broken.

Now I unpick the knotwork, the neurosis I tangled around my heart because suffocation was better than breathing as long as I had control. I can breathe again, and it hurts, oh fuck it hurts. But it’s better than being dragged under by armor too heavy to carry.

People talk about “survival of the fittest”. But Darwin told us that those who survive aren’t the biggest, or the strongest, or the toughest. They’re the most adaptable. Invincibility doesn’t come from having the best weapons, or the snazziest exoskeleton. It comes from baring my belly and trusting that the world won’t rip my guts out… and that even if the world approaches, teeth bared and growling, I will get through it, and I will survive. It’s staring the complete death of my ego in the face and saying “come at me bro”.

I wanted to be invincible, so I lay my armor down, and I let you in.

Kitty Stryker

Written by

Professional Bleeding Heart. Sick & Tired. Patronize me: http://t.co/RSd5cSVGE5 Image by @mayakern

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