Just Under The Skin: What It Means When We're Triggered

I’ve been trying to kill myself for years. Walking a little too close to the edge in the hope that a strong wind would come along at the right moment and take me down. So that they’d say I was being stupid and reckless instead of selfish because I took my own life. Even when I’m dead, I’m apparently going to be worried about what people think of me. My ghost is going to obsess over every word it types on ghost facebook.

Do ghosts have faces, typically? Would ghost facebook be called, like, sheetwithtwoholesforeyesbook or maybe shapeshiftingvaporbook? And yeah man, of COURSE I’m going to stick around and haunt, what do you even take me for get the fuck out of here.

 Yeah, BARBARA, you bitch.

Yeah, BARBARA, you bitch.


The thing is, I don’t feel as though I have any value, like, in my core. I take on a lot and try to work harder than everyone else because somewhere along the way I internalized the message that unless I am providing value for others, I am not valuable myself. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty of all that, I mean, obviously how you see yourself goes back to your parents and how you were raised, but there’s something larger at play too.

I’m not unique at all. American women have been raised with the cultural implication that if they do not provide value to men - comfort, food, emotional work, sex, child rearing, cleaning, bringing his hairy fat ass a beer or whatever - then they are not valuable. A good family that sees you and acknowledges you can help you separate yourself from that and I think a lot of families achieve this for their daughters to varying degrees. I do know women who don’t intrinsically believe that they are worthless. But a lot of us didn’t make the cut. Men at large just don’t see women as whole people.

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This translates into a life of failed aspirations and exhausting service meant to fulfill others while leaving you drained. Spanx. High heels. Lipstick. Tottering out the door barely breathing only to see his eyes fixed on a woman who is nothing like you. Trying to be the “cool girl” and drinking whiskey and cracking jokes with the boys when all you really want is a White Claw and a couple episodes of the Great British Baking Show. Sweating and running around cooking holiday dinners that you serve to the husbands, who watch football and drink beer in the living room while they wait.

Having to wear a fleece hoodie and a scarf at the office in summer so that the men can be comfortable. Being told to “ignore him” when he’s touching you inappropriately/harassing you/making you feel bad. Boys will be boys. Gross uncles will be gross uncles. Avoid him. Change your behavior so that his behavior doesn’t have to change. Accommodate. Make yourself small. Don’t dress slutty. Don’t dress like a schoolmarm. Don’t be a virgin. Don’t be a whore. Drink. You shouldn’t drink. Apologize for yourself. Excuse yourself. Ask permission. Be quiet. Carry pepper spray. Read ‘helpful’ listicles like, “30 Things Women Do That Scare Men Away.” Celebrate mediocrity in a man while you silently achieve more and do better and ask for no recognition because it would hurt the man’s feelings.

Let him push your head down. Swallow his body parts whole until you gag and do the work that needs to be done. Do you like me? Shave and wax and groom and pluck. Please like me. Let him hurt you physically because “oh he just doesn’t know his own strength.” Please like me. Hear him dress you down in front of other people and laugh it off. Please, please like me. “You’re lucky I like bigger women.” Yes, yes I am. I am. Please like me. Have a whole fucking LIFETIME of sex that is just for him. “Every other girl I’ve ever been with can cum just from fucking, why can’t you?” Know that every other girl was lying. Be angry at every other girl that they, just like you, have lied in the hope that he would like her. That he would pay attention to her. That she would receive validation. Because somewhere in her core, she feels worthless too. Just. Like. You.

Women are so used to being ignored, detested, rejected, manipulated and used by men that it mostly doesn’t even register unless you make a conscious effort to think about it. We function in a world that sees us as worthless and we do our best to find value in ourselves within this world.

That value finds legs around other women a lot of times. Women often feel our best with our moms or sisters, at our yoga or dance class with other women, with our children, with our coven creating sacred feminine space, with our book club or any other small secret space we can carve out that isn’t just completely lousy with loud men galumphing around with their big dumb opinions that they think fucking matter. I’m sure you’ll hear about it when you get home, though. It’s very threatening for men to see women enjoying a thing they cannot possess. He feels entitled to your body and your services, and he does NOT LIKE that he has no ownership of your femininity.

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And so that brings us around to the big old bloated drunk frat bro in the room, our Government. Boy oh fucking BOY am I angry right now. I actually did not think that I could feel any more worthless than I have my whole life, but these guys, I mean they really know how to drive a point home. I want to just fucking go to… I don’t know, the White House? Where could you even go? The senate floor? These people are so insulated from actual humans. But if there were a place I could go, I would just want to walk in there and look at all of them and put my hands up and be like, DUDES. WE FUCKING GET IT. WE GET IT, OK? CHILL THE FUCK OUT ALREADY.  

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Because it feels a little bit like a tantrum, doesn’t it. It feels a little bit like there’s this group of old white rich people who believe that the United States is their birthright, right. I mean, that’s about as true as saying the earth is fucking flat, but there are a whole bunch of people who believe that too. The world is changing, as it always does, and they know they’re on their way out. They fucking know. This is the end of an era. Capitalism doesn’t work the way it was supposed to, so they’ve completely abandoned the narrative of widespread prosperity at this point and they’re just recklessly throwing money and power at corporations so they can all die outlandishly wealthy, bloated and gray, Scrooge McDucking in their zillions of offshore bank account and black box charity statements like money matters, like money was the point. And the money is the point. They’re not doing shit with it other than making more money and buying political candidates to… help them make more money.   

And that’s I think what we’re all missing here, that’s why I feel so fucking fucked up right now and everyone feels like shit warmed over. We think this is a women’s issue, like the confirmation of Klappertrough is an affront to women, but it’s not - not in the way we think it is. It’s not an intentional attack. These guys are not even thinking about women, women have nothing to do with this. This is about money, and the sexual assault thing is just like, a squirrel they accidentally ran over while speeding down the highway to Dollarsville, USA. They’re just like, “oops! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”

Seriously, they don’t care. Every single government official KNOWS that Kraperdoo tried to rape Dr. Ford, they know because they’ve all done similar things - I mean, please, do you think we were born yesterday? They know, they just could not give a rat’s ass about it - and actually, I think from their perspective, the sexual assault narrative is a very useful tool of control.   

Think about that for a second, though. Women are so insignificant in our culture, and money is so much more important than literally everything else, that being a rapist doesn’t matter at all (as long as you’re white). You can be president. Go rape a few gals along the way, your rapey bros in the oval office will love to hear you tell the tale! We’ll distract them and spin a yarn about giving a shit by putting a black man behind bars for raping women, but we’ll let you just go grab some pussies and pay off your ex who you raped and call it good, mkay? Hey, while we’re at it, let’s grab a few rapists for some other high level positions, just to make sure we can keep that sweet sweet cash flowing and really drive that point home that women are merely a means for men to get sex and babies, and for corporations to make money from via aspirational selling that speaks to that feeling of worthlessness. Rape! Rape it out! Rape is a tool of power! Put your dick in ANYTHING that you can pin down for three minutes! SHE WILL BE A GOOD, WELL BEHAVED CONSUMER ONCE SHE KNOWS SHE’S POWERLESS AND THAT YOU ARE IN CHARGE!! The world is YOURS!!! You OWN EVERYTHING, YOU ARE A WHITE CHRISTIAN MAN IN AMERICA!!!!  

The only way that any of our high level elected officials got into office and stayed there is that they became entangled in a web of huge money. A life of elected federal service is not a life of poverty by any stretch of the imagination. The whole thing with that orange fucking clown is that, like, if it did not make him money to do what he’s doing, he wouldn’t be doing any of it. I mean duh, of course making abortion illegal would make various people very wealthy, and obviously the republican party got paid off by someone, because you don’t work that fucking hard for free. The legal system, the prison industrial complex, consumer goods, healthcare, all of those industries thrive on us gals popping some small people out of our pussies OR on us gals having to break the law to not have a baby. And then those small people we dropped on the earth grow the fuck up into consumers themselves and make more small people to drive the economy. Fucking DUH. Of course they want us to have more kids. And of course they want us to feel powerless and demoralized and like there’s nothing we can do and that we have to give our bodies to rapists and serve men and be complacent and quiet, because people who feel powerless and demoralized don’t do anything to change their situation.

Hello, I mean… Theon Greyjoy? Do any of you even watch GoT?

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Seriously, though, like, you guys I feel like it’s working. On me, anyway. I fucking HATE MYSELF right now. And the shit in my personal life that’s been going on hasn’t been helping. I don’t speak to my dad anyway, but I found out that he sold the house I grew up in, threw out all the shit and moved to North Carolina. I guess in the back of my mind I was like, well, maybe one day I’ll get to look at the paintings I made as a kid again? But no, it’s all gone. Just one more instance in which a male human didn’t consider me at all. Not even for a second.

That’s greedy of me, right. Like, I shouldn’t ask for consideration if I don’t have an active relationship with someone. That’s rational. But that’s just not where my head’s at with it.

Hearing that he moved sucked. I don’t even really know why, if I’m being honest. I was visiting Seattle when my brother called to tell me that our uncle had died like a week before and nobody had my number so the funeral had already happened. I mean… ok, you’ve been calling me on this number for four years, but whatever.

Then he told me that our father had moved without telling us, and every horrible feeling associated with this idea that I lack value in my core came blood-through-the-elevator-doors-in-The Shining into my head. I’ve worked really hard for a long time to try to move past those feelings, or at least find ways to cope with them that aren’t harmful to myself or others - feeling them again this intensely is like OK GODDAM IT YOU GUYS AGAIN, ARE YOU SERIOUS?

I was visiting a city where I used to live, Seattle, when this happened. Seattle was the worst place for me to be when I got that news. It’s all tied up together - I went through a violent sexual assault while living in seattle, then a few months later ma went to the old great gig in the sky, and then pretty much everyone I knew in Seattle was like NOPE about how intense and horrible I had become in my grief. They didn’t know me very well, and you can’t rely on loose roots for grief support, that’s just reality.

 Actual footage of how people react to you when you’re grieving.

Actual footage of how people react to you when you’re grieving.

So I was so so lonely in that city. I did everything alone, and I fought tooth and nail not to become bitter about it. To stay focused on the end, to believe that these feelings of grief and lacking value would pass at some point, that I could have a deep and meaningful relationship with a human being on some shining, golden, future day.

But on this vacation, the person I was traveling with broke off to spend time with other people, and there I was again, alone in Seattle, watching the news, looking in that fucking monster’s disgusting dead shark eyes while he CRIED, thinking about rape, about what the black eye and bruising feels like, about being completely abandoned by men, about grief, about feeling powerless, insignificant and worthless. About how I’m so fucking worthless at my core that my remaining family doesn’t remember to call me when my uncle dies and even my friend that I went on vacation with has to be coerced into hanging out with me.

So of course I acted like an asshole and said some mean shit because how do you explain all those complex feelings when they happen while you’re on vacation, and then they said some mean shit and now everyone is super mad at each other and it’s my fault. IT FUCKING SUCKED*.

*Not all of it sucked. Hey, Lu, I see you.

So, like, yeah, guys, I fucking feel like SHIT about Boobs Kravenclaw (that name is way too cool for him, but it stays anyway) just waltzing his way into a high seat of honor among his fellow rapists and misogynists. Like, that’s what feeling “triggered” means. Nobody thought to protect women, nobody thought of us once again. This is that. And I am not sure how to come back from it. I’m like, totally broken. I’m fucking broken. I go out into the world and I can feel the roiling, undulating, sinister sea monster of male anger just under the surface everywhere, and I go home and I can’t stop thinking. I feel like a raw wound, getting stung over and over again. There’s nowhere safe. HOW THE FUCK DO YOU STOP THIS? PLEASE MAKE THIS STOP. I AM GOING FUCKING CRAZY.  

Well, crazi-er, AMIRITE FELLAS? I’m a woman, so... Emotions! So scary!

You know, in Victorian era England, doctors would come and administer orgasms to women to relieve cases of hysteria? Like, fellas, jesus christ, fucking get a GRIP. Doctors shouldn’t have to roll in to give your wife a few minutes of pants feelings, though I suspect that a lot of women would sign right the fuck up for regular visits if that service still existed today. I was podcast-listening about The Donner Party and all the shit they went through; women and kids were the first things to get left behind when shit got hard on the trail. They’d just leave them on the side of the road. Things don’t change. Men have never really cared about women. We are fooling ourselves if we expect something more.

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So, like, the only real thing I can think of to do when someone stops caring about you or never cared to begin with is to… stop caring about them. Why are women so obsessed with being validated by men anyway? All it does is make us miserable, and we will NEVER GET what we want. Ever. I mean Klovendick is one big thing that affects our country, but if every woman (and man with a shred of dignity) in the federal government stood up tomorrow and were collectively just like “oooh… you guys, we fucked up,” we could undo all of this in a heartbeat. But we won’t because our whole THING with men, culturally, is like that time you got dumped and kept creeping on his facebook page for like two years to see if he “still thinks about you.”

Girl. GIRL! He doesn’t. Honey, real talk, he doesn’t ever think about you. Women: we gotta get OUR shit together too. Enough enabling and fantasizing about Prince Charming. He doesn’t exist - he’s a construct of the great misogynist glamour too.

Look you guys I’m super baked because I went to one of those weed stores in Seattle and bought like everything they had and then my uber driver from the airport was like hey I sell weed candy and I was like GREAT I’LL TAKE MORE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE TAKE MY EMOTIONS AWAY so I have a combination of tincture, mints, gummy bears and headache salve coursing through my veins right now and it’s pretty good. I mean how the fuck else are we gonna get through this?

So look, the last thing I’m going to say about this is that this is a perfect moment for white women to unfuck some of the shit we’ve fucked up over the past couple decades. We have to do this for ourselves, sure, but we’ve really fucked over women of color, and we need to course correct that shit NOW. Because these are the women in this country who will be most attacked by this government’s policies, they have targets on their backs. We can’t let this keep happening. How you show up is how you show up, that’s up to you, but DO IT. Take a fucking stand, what are we even here for? The money can’t be the point anymore. I mean, do you even have any anyway?

As for the men, I mean, you’re not going to do anything. You don’t have to. You’ve never had to. Everything is made for you, everything is to your taste and is in your size and has pockets for you and is at a temperature at which you feel comfortable, why would you change? So, like, we’re done here. I’m not begging you for anything else ever again.

I get that maybe 30 years ago we all wanted to be Tess McGill, so we put up with what we had to put up with - but it’s a different time. If we remade Working Girl today, if it were the feminist hero narrative made for a new era, it would be Tess, who is a black 45 year old woman with a healthy savings account, a fantastic wardrobe, a Birkin bag and whatever fucking hairstyle she wants, going to work doing whatever career she wants, getting paid the same amount of money for it as her peer-level white male coworkers, completing her entire commute without having someone harass her on the street, having a trusting, supportive relationship with Sigourney Weaver’s character, not paying a luxury tax on tampons anymore because our kickass ladypresident made that sexist law go away, and being single and going home every evening to eat cookies and fart all night because men are fucking trash... tho I guess maybe she can, like, sleep with her cute sensitive neighbor once in a while or whatever (let’s dreamcast this thing, why not: played by Adam Driver, obvs). His name is Henry or Benjamin or something that makes you want to punch him in the face for being completely adorable. Oh! And he brings weed and homemade iced tea and sandwiches every time he comes over, and eats that pussy like a man who is happy when his partner is happy so he does nice, kind things to make her happy including all the sex stuff she likes which he knows about because they had a really open and respectful conversation about smashing before actually smashing. The end.   

That’s the new goddam feminist dream right there, you guys. Keep your eye on the prize.

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