crazy train

me too [courtesy of MorgueFile]

I went to a liberal art’s college, I’m a millennial, I know all about how we aren’t supposed to use the word ‘crazy’ to describe a situation, or ourselves, or someone else.

It’s, at best, a careless reaction to feeling a bit out of place, and, (often at the same time) at worst, increasing the stigma around those with mental illness.

From The Guardian’s Psychology section eons ago (in Internet time) (2012):

An argument could be made that these terms, while technically describing mental illness are not being used to specifically refer to mental illness. Rather they are referring to behaviour which they consider a little out of the ordinary. We can refer to this argument as Gervais’s Gambit. The problem is that if this language is making people with mental illness feel stigmatised, ashamed and isolated then the amount of thought behind it as it is used casually is largely irrelevant.

Intentions aren’t important: language is important.

Here’s the thing: I can think of no other word to describe how I feel when I am sexually harassed or assaulted. I feel crazy. I also feel invisible. But mostly crazy — I feel out of my mind, out of my body, at a loss of control.

And this is only coming from a white, thin, young woman. While I don’t subscribe to the oppression olympics, in the venn-diagram of whose voices need to be amplified, I’m around the corner and down the block. Please, go seek out other stories — those from women who do not present as femininely as I do, those who have shorter hair than I do, those who do not identify as a woman at all, those who are not white, those who are not as able-bodied as I am. There are enough of Me.

Personal Highlights from Team Tiny Feminine White Girl (TFWG), Ranked

  • I was asked to go down into the City to help with an organization job. I had worked for this person before, they were nice, they left me alone, and they paid me promptly. It was the middle of winter in Chicago — which means it is cold, icy, windy. I am small, I produce little of my own body heat and rely on external material to keep me warm in the winter months. I was wearing long pants, snow boots that went up to my calves, a mid-thigh length down parka, complete with a giant hood, under which I was probably wearing a hat, let’s not forget my mittens. Li-t-er-all-y covered head to toe. I exited the train at a stop I considered to be relatively safe — what’s that? you don’t keep a mental map of relatively safe train stops and bus stops, and routes between them? Weird. When I was heading down the stairs, coming up in the opposite direct, a man reached out an grabbed my chest. He wasn’t blindly reaching for the hand rail (there wasn’t any). I screamed at him. I continued to scream at him as I headed down the stairs and he headed up the stairs. I screeched in the vestibule of the El stop You Don’t Get To Touch Me. Let me just say that this was not liberating or enriching or life-affirming in any way. It was embarrassing and it truly made me feel like I had lost my mind. Where did it go? I’m not sure — whatever was currently taking up space in my brain-case was grey and black and smelled of being scared and lost. The super fun part about this experience is that my employer for the day had yet to arrive at the office, and I was unable to get anyone connected with the job on the phone. I had to waver in my fear in the cold in the middle of the sidewalk. I should have gone home but I didn’t really want to go back on the train.
  • Someone I went on a date with headed back with me on the train in the evening back toward the center of the city. It had been an exhausting and un-fun date for me — we didn’t agree on anything, my choice of dinner was made fun of, as was my choice of beverage (by my date). No matter how much I knew my body language was telegraphing how little I wanted to be touched, my date refused to stop holding me possessively as we walked around the outdoor food court and occasionally kissing me. (Why didn’t I say no? I don’t know. Why did I grab that hot pan in the oven without a mat even though I knew it was 400 degrees?) My date left me on the train with, like, four people who looked like somebody’s grandparents, and some kids. I cried quietly. By the time I got off at my stop, my mascara was smudge, and the rest of my makeup felt like it had congealed on my face. As I was exiting the train platform, a gaggle of boisterous boys walked past me — they were certainly younger than I was — and one of them cat-called me, loudly. Well, I thought, at least I look pretty when I’m a mess?
  • + the thousands of times I have walked home with my keys in my knuckles.

I don’t want sympathy — I’m one hundred percent over these incidents, and can recall them without feeling anything, not even annoyance. I think about them as often as I think about tennis — which is to say, rarely, if ever, unless someone brings it up, but even if they do I have very little reaction to it.

Perhaps, this time next year, we won’t be reciting stories about assault or harassment, but instead of ways in which we proudly call out and refute this kind of behavior. I would love nothing more than to see my corner of the Internet filled with stories like “Today, I Saw a Woman Being Followed, and I Called the Guy Out and Before Rushing in to Play the Nice Guy Who Saved the Woman, I Read the Room and Evaluated Whether or Not She Wanted More Interaction” (okay, shorten the title a bit) or maybe “Here are Five Ways I Stop Harassment Every Day” …