Today, I was told that I could do what I wanted to be comfortable. I could be where I wanted, move how I wanted, wear what I wanted. To be explicitly given the freedom to exist as I desire is a gift I have never been given. It has been ripped from me like candy—I’ve never been a baby.
I have long forgotten how I would weave between desks in elementary school. I would walk in circles, never back, always forward, drawing imaginary swirls equidistant between the objects in my landscape.
“Why don’t you just turn around?”
Because that breaks the rules of the movement I have created, because when i turn around, that looks ugly in the overhead view I see in my mind. Because I don’t want to. You can, but I don’t. It takes longer. It feels nicer. The soft gentle turns, slowly going where I want? The joy of moving! This is enough.
“Why don’t you wear this one?”
My mother holds up a long black cotton skirt with floral metallic daisies on it. The scratchy tulle underskirt on this one is minimal at best. It is best. We are selecting clothes for me to wear to a wedding. I must look nice. No T-shirts and shorts for me, not today. This is a special day, so there will be no fighting about why I must brush my hair. No worrying from my mother about how people will judge her parenting based on how I look. As an adult, I realize that she was afraid someone would take me away from her and that I would be thrust into a world with no more negotiations over comfort. No concern for my well being, only danger of the unknown. “She has special needs.” What would happen to me when they didn’t care about needs (let alone special)?
The child that I was never thought of such things. In a world that is poison, I chose water when I could. My hand-me-downs were itchy, stretchy velveteen. I preferred the comfortable, practical clothes in the boys section. The ones that were made for my body to exist in, rather than the clingy, plastic fabrics made for a kind of pretty I neither cared for nor agreed with.
Her offhanded remarks about how I “only wear masculine clothing” stung. The drain of the clothes and the situations that were always required was too much. For me, her words were tacks in my shoes as I walked out the door. Constant needling about who I wasn’t. Telling the truth is hard when in negotiations, there was only acquiescence and a “maybe” that really means “yes” later.
A decade and a half later, I am in my own space always. The choices are mine now. And yet, choice has been forgotten. The law of others’ comfort overturning my own is long internalized. I have forgotten that I am a choice.
Today, I was told I could choose me. Tears well in my eyes, hours later. I cannot stop thinking about it. How do I choose me? How do I find the self I was robbed of? I have hidden that child away, deep inside. Sometimes it hurts enough that all I can think of is an inevitable end and release from this conflict I ignore.
I remember flapping. I remember flapping for the first time in years—and stopping myself. I was alone on the toilet. There was no one to see. And I realized what I had done, and I flapped some more… and it felt good.
I remember a hurt so deep I wanted it all to end. And flapping. And it going away. I remember walking and flapping in a circle. Flapping the pain away. Flapping the pain at bay. Because the instant I stopped, it all came back.
They don’t need to fight with me anymore. There are no more negotiations.
I wore the scratchy skirt. Eventually, I picked clothes that were acceptable by other people’s standards. Now, I am slowly relearning choice. Realizing that I may have that option brings tears to my eyes as I mourn the safety I have lost in my own bodymind to become acceptable to others.
“Calm down” because I’m happy. “Calm down” because I’m sad. “Calm down” because I’m too much. Unsolicited—then solicited—recommendations on how to pacify myself. How do I choose myself?