Brene Brown’s TED talk got me thinking about shame, and with that in mind, my well-intentioned new therapist suggested a relevant Atlantic Monthly article she remembered liking. So there I was on a rainy Sunday, tucked into an armchair, hoping to learn something. That is, until I read this:
LAURA (NOT HER REAL NAME) IS A FORTY-ONE-year-old single woman whose closest male friends are almost all homosexual. While waiting for a suitable marriage partner, she has created a social life that includes female friends, couples, and gays. Straight men occasionally enter her life in the form of debilitating obsessions. They are invariably men–her psychotherapist, her married supervisor–who are completely uninterested in pursuing a relationship with her. “Maybe I’m just a fag hag,” she says, shrugging. “I like being with gay men.”
The presence of a man with whom a lasting relationship might be possible triggers in Laura a latent and unconscious shame. The wound was largely inflicted by her seductive father, who became overwhelmed and disgusted by his desire for her and turned his disgust on his daughter. Her precocious sexuality, which her father had helped to promote–a sexuality that remains vibrant but is sadly quarantined–became tainted for her.
The article was written in 1992, and ALL of it feels musty. Not just the hideous part where the author pathologizes the “single woman.” (It reminded me of how “experts” used to talk about homosexuality.) Today, I handed it back to my therapist, and said, “thanks, but no thanks.” She hadn’t read the piece in a long time, and apologized profusely.
Image via GreyHandGang