Posts tagged personal
Posts tagged personal
When I was a kid., I was terrified of clowns. In fact, according to my mother, I ran a fever every Purim as a toddler so I wouldn’t have to go to the synagogue to hear the Megilla reading (so many people dress up as clowns, it’s not even funny anymore.) I still think clowns are freaky, but luckily I outgrew the habit of running fevers to avoid them.
We have a rule in our small town of Efrat, a suburb of Jerusalem: on Purim, kids are not supposed to use capguns as noisemakers. This rule was originally instated during the years when shooting was a regular part of the daily soundtrack in the hills of Jerusalem, and it was dangerous to assume that if you heard a loud bang, it was only a toy. In 2001, it most likely wasn’t. Somehow, Efrat was never hit, though. People were killed travelling on the road to Jerusalem, but inside the confines of the town, no one was hurt (which was odd since back in those days, we did not even have a security fence.)
But now, nearly 10 years later, nobody really cares about this particluar rule anymore. Capguns, fireworks, and firecrackers are all used to drown out the evil Haman’s name. Hours later, when the megilla readings are all over and most people have already gone to bed, the firecrackers are still going.
I suppose I’m not as damaged as I sometimes think, since I do not hit the floor every time one of those accursed fireworks goes off. I jump, I run into buildings that look sturdy, I walk a little faster. But I still get scared. And it’s really infuriating, after I jump, to realize that I’ve been startled by some ten-year-olds playing with fire.
Walking to the synagogue tonight, I pass by a gang of these boys yelling excitedly over the loud noises they are allowed to make in honor of the holiday of recklessness. I watch them in disgust, thinking of the babies sleeping in the houses nearby, the children who are rushing to their parents arms. I think of the soldiers who fought in the war, although they’d probably tell me that firecrackers don’t sound like gunshots at all. They’ll tell me I’m being a crybaby and I should let the children enjoy themselves.
But then, why is there a rule? And why does nobody give a damn about it anymore? It used to mean something. It used to be life threatening to set off a firecracker on Purim. Now, it’s just a joke. It’s normal. Life is normal here, in Israel. People hear a deafening BANG and assume it’s some stupid kid whose parents are irresponsible enough to let him light fireworks. We sure have come a long way in less than a decade.
And to think, after all that, people are still afraid to come here and visit us.
In IMPACT we learn how to set clear boundaries. We learn to define what is ours and how to say how close people are allowed to get. If they cross the line, you have the right to object.
We also learn the power of our own boundaries. When you hold up your hands and shout, “BACK UP NOW!” no normal person is going to willingly approach you. They most certainly are not going to try to attack you.
When someone threatening oversteps my boundaries, it triggers something inside me, a signal that I now have their permission to fight back with all my might (which means they are either helplessly stupid or very, very drunk). I don’t even think about it. It’s an instinct - you take one step closer and you’ll be on the floor, Buddy.
MYTH: Women who take IMPACT will become violent and attack anyone.
FACT: Women who take IMPACT only attack when they are attacked first.
In IMPACT we learn to recognize who is an attacker AND who is not. Last night I was on the phone with my boyfriend, and I told him “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” There, I set my boundary. “Okay, we won’t talk about it anymore!” he replied, and a voice in my mind said, “AHA!” That is how a normal person who is NOT trying to rape you would respond.
Clear boundaries are hard to cross, and anyone who does has definitely got a screw loose.
Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want them to.
Sometimes people hurt us, and we let them, even though we don’t want them to.
Sometimes we look back on a moment months, years later, and wish we had a time machine so we could change the way things happened.
Though our instructors claimed the time machine was out of order, they did a very good job of immitating it. We had to choose a scenario involving someone familiar, in which we felt threatened or uncomfortable, or something we wished we could write a new ending for.
I chose a time when I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine. I was uncomfortable with the topic and told him I did not want to talk about it. He didn’t listen to me. He insisted on continuing with the conversation I really did not want to have. And for some reason, I went with it. The end result was me, covered in my own tears and shaking from crying so much, tring to force myself into an uneasy sleep.
So in last week’s class, I chose to relive that conversation. My instructor posed as my friend, and he said all the same things my friend did, almost word for word. At first I was uncomfortable. I told him I didn’t want to talk about it, and he didn’t listen. He insisted on it. He kept pushing me. But this time, when I said no, a dozen strong, female voices said it with me. No, shouted. I was not alone. I was not overreacting. I was right, and a whole roomfull of people were going to back me up. In the end, he was on the floor, out cold, and I was on my feet, strong, free, and victorious.
In my mind, I put the incident behind me. Because this time, I won. This time, I did it right.
For as long as I’ve been alive, I have believed that women are not as strong as men. As much as I tried to deny it, deep down I believed it. I believed what the world told me: that men can control women, that women are not strong enough to win. I have believed that it is not safe for a woman to be alone. I have believed that women should fear men, because there is always a chance of them raping you.
It’s not really my fault. That’s what people told me. No one ever argued with it. Everyone seemed to take it for granted that men rule the world and women just have to tiptoe around them and try not to aggravate them.
No one ever told me that I’m strong.
People encouraged me, yes. People helped me develop my “strengths” and my talents. People helped me believe in myself and build self confidence. But no one ever said I’m physically strong. I’m a girl, I’m not supposed to be strong. I’m supposed to be dainty and weak, to rely on a man so he can control me.
But here’s the truth: I am strong. Yesterday I felt strong, when I fought to protect myself in Impact. I can hit hard. I can shout out loud. I can show confidence and power. But I never believed it until I felt it in my body. Strength can not be taught verbally - it has to be felt. You have to reach for it. You have to want it, and find it, and feel it. It can not be acquired by studying. Even if a million people tell you you’re strong, you won’t believe them until you feel it yourself. It reminds of the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Glinda could have sent Dorothy home on the spot, but she didn’t, because Dorothy had to learn to believe in herself (in other words, the story would not have been interesting if she had been sent home the moment she arrived in Munchkinland, but that’s not the point).
After I have experienced true physical strength, I’m never going to forget it. From this point on I can only get stronger. There is no reason why any man should be able to control me, because I have the option of refusing his control. I can say no. I can hurt him, and I can win. How? By being just as strong as he is. Maybe even stronger. And I’m not big. I’m barely 5.1” and 115 pounds.
So here’s a little message to the women of the world: Take a shot at being physically strong. Try it on, see if you like it. First of all, know that it is possible. Know that there is no reason for you to be weak, helpless, or afraid. If you are, know that you have the choice to be strong and fearless.
If you don’t like it, by all means take your money back.
5pm. I had been at work for three hours. We were busy wrapping freshly embroidered towels and tying ribbons around them.
A man entered the shop - I should say strutted into the shop, because that was what he was doing. His black hair was sleek and spiked at the front. His skin was dark and he wore jeans much lower than they should have been and an extra large size sneer. He approached the counter as if he has blaring rap music in his ears and asked, “What can you give me for…Henna?”
Henna? We don’t sell henna. I looked at him skeptically. His quick thinking had not been very effective.
“Towel, bathrobe, anything,” he added, speaking more loudly than was necessary. He had “HITTING ON YOU” written on his forehead in large, friendly letters. Or, at least, that’s how I like to think of it.
“A towel or a bathrobe?” I asked calmly, looking him in the eye, something he did not have the courage to do after more than a minute.
“Bathrobe, how much is that?” he said. His hips swayed with every word he said. He was gross. Really gross.
“It depends on what size,” I replied.
“The smallest one.” I really should put an exclamation point after all of his sentences to emphasize how loudly he was speaking.
“For you?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. In my mind, I smirked. Contradiction. This man was not using his brain in the slightest.
“219,” I said without hesitation.
Now that I had answered his question clearly and left no loopholes, the conversation had died and he did not have any more material.
“Thanks,” he said, turning around and walking out of the store.
I turned to the girl who was working on the shift with me and said, “I dealt with that well, right?”
She nodded. “I guess that course you’re taking helps.”
I don’t know how I would have dealt with him before Impact, but I know I did it right yesterday. He was trying to make me feel uncomfortable, but I held my ground, kept my cool, and gave him straight, blunt answers. I don’t know what he intended to do, what he thought he was going to achieve - excuse me, did I say thought? - but whatever it was, he didn’t get the chance.
We practiced verbal battles in Impact, and one of the most important things we learned was to just say no and not leave any questions. Just say it clearly. Simply. Almost always the attacker would walk away and mutter something like, “Whoa, that one’s crazy paranoid!” And for a moment it’s tempting to believe he’s right. Maybe you are being paranoid, maybe you are crazy. But then I thought, no, I’m not paranoid. If it was unnecessary to fight back I would not have done it. He’s just a sore loser. HE’S A SORE LOSER. There’s nothing wrong with me standing up for myself. He’s the one with a screw loose.
Yesterday’s meeting started off with a verbal exercise: we had to shout “no!” while gradually increasing the force and volume of the word. Then we did a second exercise in which we had to increase the force but lower the volume. It’s a strange concept, but it’s possible.
I was standing across from my partner, saying “no!” with a sort of venomous power in the softest voice I could use to remain audible, and I imagined myself in a threatening situation, trying to say the same “no!” I was saying to her. I couldn’t see it happening. I thought I wouldn’t have the guts to do it. I wouldn’t have the guts to be intimidating.
Then we practiced another technique: the elbow to the face (which is particularly useful when someone grabs you by the shoulder from behind). My first try was sort of lame, and I forgot to shout. The instructor told me to try it again, so I did. The attacker grabbed my shoulder. I looked around and threw my elbow backward to his face, shouted “NO!” and turned to face him.
I felt a sudden heat in my eyes, like I was glaring at him with all the force I had just thrown into his face.
I realized practicing is different from the real thing, because when you’re practicing you know it’s not real, so you won’t try as hard. But when there is an attacker - even if he’s an instructor posing as an attacker - he’s actually scary, and everyone’s watching, and you don’t want to lose, you can’t lose, you have to get away from him, and you have to use all your strength in order to do that. So you do.
And you intimidate him.
1. Today I played the cello for the first time in like, 3 months.
2. I like my job. I thought it would be boring, but it’s not. It’s fun and aritistic, and there are lots of pretty colors everywhere. I have to work a lot of self restraint to not constantly buy things, though.
3. I need to find an apartment in Jerusalem that isn’t a bazillion dollars per month.
“Does anything hurt?” the instructor asks kindly.
“No,” I reply, trembling slightly.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes,” I say, not entirely sure if I mean it.
Before I have time to breathe, I am grabbed from behind by a man who is twice my size and in full armor. His arms are strong, locked around my chest.
“HANDS!” yells the instructor. I raise my hands slightly, but I can only move my forearms because my upper arms are trapped beneath his.
“WAIST!” yells the instructor. I shove my hips backward at the man holding me. He staggers slightly but his grip remains firm. I have gained an inch of space, just enough to slip my arm out of his grasp and slap him hard in the -
“GROIN!” yells the instructor.
The man releases me as his hands drop to his groin, which is supposedly throbbing painfully. I turn around, hands raised, prepared to protect, prepared to punch hard.
I punch him in the face.
Again? Yep. Because my knee is right there. It’s an easy target, and my legs are strong, so I can hit hard.
Because, having been hit in the groin twice, the man has bent over and his head is hanging conveniently next to my knee. I knee him in the head. He falls over onto his back, arms at his helmet, the sign that, were he without his padded armor, he would have been unconscious.
Step 1: HANDS. When I raise my hands, I open up my lungs so I can continue breathing. The instructor explained that when a person locks his arms around another’s chest, they can cause them to stop breathing. And if you stop breathing, you lose, and the goal is not to lose. The goal is to win.
Step 2: WAIST. The waist is probably the strongest part of a woman’s body, and when it is thrust backward into you, you’re going to jump back. At the beginning of class, during warm ups, the instructor made us shout, “I LOVE MY WAIST!” Because it is important to know where you are strong, and like it.
Step 3: GROIN. Well, as we know, that’s a fairly obvious weakness in a man. It’s position is perfect, opposite the woman’s waist: The woman’s strength versus the man’s weakness. Of course she’ll win, if you look at it that way.
Step 4: HEAD! Another weakness in a man. Nobody like being punched in the nose, or the jaw, or the eyes, or the head. It hurts. A lot. Might even make you cry, or bleed.
In IMPACT we learn to match a woman’s strengths to a man’s weaknesses. Usually, in everyday life, they are matched the other way; a man’s strengths to a woman’s weaknesses - which leads us to believe the common stereotype that men are stronger than women. The truth is, men are stronger in the upper body. Women are stronger in the lower body. So when a man and a woman arm wrestle, of course he’s going to win - upper body strength! But what if they were “leg wrestling”? Lower body strength. The woman would probably win.
Now, you might say, “That’s not fair!” It’s not fair to match one person’s strength against the other’s weakness. But may I calmly point out that SEXUAL HARASSMENT IS NOT FAIR either. If someone is trying to rape you, you’re allowed to play dirty.
I’m taking Impact. The first meeting is today.
It’s a course for women about self defense and mostly rape prevention.
I’m nervous and jittery walking around the kitchen baking cookies.
I’m worried about the following things: