Protect Me

A few days ago, I had a dream about a former crush of mine. In the dream, I reached out to him through Goodreads messenger and asked if he could talk. He said wow Thomas, even in your sleep you’re obsessed with books and Goodreads, no wonder I’m not good enough for you yes and we agreed to talk on Friday afternoon. When Friday morning came around, he messaged me and said he could no longer talk on Friday afternoon because he had double booked himself. He asked me if I could talk sometime the following week instead.

When I woke from this dream, I remember feeling so hurt that my former crush canceled on me. Yet, I wondered why my psyche included him in my sleep, because I feel literally nothing about him at all at this point in my life.

“I’m pretty sure my ex-crush was a stand in for my father,” I said to my therapist a few hours after my dream. “I don’t care about [redacted] at all anymore, so my brain definitely used him as a representation for how my father abandoned me throughout my childhood.”

“It’s really awful how your father let you down time and time again,” my therapist said. “How much do you let yourself feel how he failed you?”

When my therapist asked me this, I started to cry a little. I will write here what I told her: I do not like thinking about my father abandoning me to my abusive mother because it reminds me of how much I had wanted him to protect me. On a logical level, the truth of the matter feels obvious. Of course a child abused by one parent would want the other parent to protect them. Yet, when I think about my childhood, I often feel a lot of shame and self-disgust toward my desire for my father to intervene against my mother. Naming how much I wanted him to save me makes me feel weak.

You know what doesn’t make me feel weak? Watching the “Lovesick Girls” music video while eating Jeni’s ice cream! I love all of BlackPink and especially Jisoo but you all, Rosé’s acting in this MV stepped all over me in the most emotional and cathartic way possible. Like the part when she cries in the bathtub during the bridge? I swear I felt the cumulative pain of 27 breakups in that one scene even though I’ve literally never dated a man (thank goodness), lol.

Later on, in the same therapy session, my therapist and I talked about how much I dislike my romantic attraction to men. While I love being gay, happy National Coming Out Day, etc., I fear that I will settle for a mediocre man like I have seen so many of my acquaintances do, including Robert*, a gay man of color dating the most boring white man I have ever met.

“If I’m attracted to men, there’s always a chance that I might settle for a mediocre, just fine, he’s-not-that-exciting-but-he’s-not-abusive-either-I-guess man, like Robert did,” I told her. “If I weren’t attracted to men or interested in romance at all there’s no chance I’d settle.”

“The difference between you and Robert,” she said, “is that you have experience empowering yourself. He doesn’t. You fought your way out of your childhood household.”

I talked with one of my best friends Bri both Thursday and Friday night about my father. After talking with her, I realized: my father did neglect me. Yes, he supported me with food and financial security. At the same time, he did nothing to prevent the hundreds and hundreds of hours in which my mother emotionally abused me. I am not weak for having wanted him to protect me from her violence and harm.

Around Friday at noon, I came to the conclusion that regardless of whether I wanted my father to protect me or not, I managed to save myself. I worked hard in high school to get the hell out of my childhood home, went to therapy, spent a lot of time honing my emotional intelligence, developed healthy and supportive friendships, entered one of the top Psychology graduate programs in the United States, and maintained this blog and my Goodreads following, among other accomplishments. Having wanted my father to protect me, and then radically accepting his inability to do so, in no way stopped me from developing into the most iconic red-haired gay BlackPink-stanning blogger in existence.

I am starting to feel this same level of empowerment in relation to my romantic attraction to men, too. Even though I have not had a crush on a guy for about five months which honestly feels like five decades so if you’re a cute leftist queer man who’s worked on his issues, feel free to contact me lol, I am still unfortunately attracted to men. At the same time, I will never end up like any of the people I know who are codependent on their male romantic partners: I already have my needs for emotional intimacy fulfilled by my best friends and various communities (e.g., my online community), I have passions and hobbies that occupy my heart and mind, and I care too much about resisting patriarchy in my everyday life to depend on a man. Basically, I’m fucking amazing and therefore I would never waste my time on a guy who isn’t also fucking amazing.

I wish that child abuse and neglect were less stigmatized in society. I wanted to write and share this post because I like expressing myself and also because I hope it can maybe help someone out there who has experienced something similar. Processing these issues throughout my life and over the past few days has helped me to further solidify that I have nothing to feel ashamed about. So regardless of whether this post does reach anyone else, I already know that it has helped at least one person: myself.

I found this tweet about a month ago and have yet to relate to anything more. Again, love being gay, being attracted to men though? Big yikes.

Reactions or feelings to this post? Any similar or different feelings if you have had comparable childhood or adulthood experiences? Also, Robert* is a pseudonym lol I wouldn’t publicly and non-anonymously roast someone like that, unless I was making the conscious decision to out an abuser or something like that. Until next post!

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Protect Me

  1. You are in no way weak for wanting to be protected as a child who needed protecting from your mother! I used to long for someone to come and protect me and I still feel sad when I see what protection mechanisms are now in place, people having a duty to report suspicions etc, that that all came too late for me. I’ve never been ashamed of wishing someone could protect me. And also even as an adult, Matthew has had any emails from my parents bounce to his email first so I don’t get ambushed by one, and I protect myself by not answering the home phone line. That’s all fine and not weak so I don’t think you’re weak either.

    • Awwww Liz I so appreciate these words of validation and you sharing your own experience! It is helpful for me to have a friend who is able to say that it isn’t shameful or weak to have wanted (and to currently want) protection against negative stimuli such as abuse. Thank you for your time and insight. (:

  2. I admire your gentle strength and determination. I don’t see you as being weak. Not many people would be able to do what you did.

    Some parents are great while others have tragic flaws, limitations and are likely carrying baggages from childhood trauma.

    You do have a weakness for ice cream and K pop stars. But that’s about it.

    Have a great week!

    • Awww thanks Matt for your kind words able my gentle strength and determination! Agree about the parental stuff, as well as parents who adhere to patriarchal and white supremacist forms of interacting with their children.

  3. priya

    Thomas, you’re so caring and iconic and self-assured and even if you have times when you’re feeling down, you clearly know what makes you an amazing person! And that’s really important (coming from an 18 year old with no life experience ansbdbdjcjcn). I think it’s pretty natural to expect your parents to protect you and it’s really tragic that your father didn’t make you feel safe throughout your childhood. I’m so glad you’re in a much better as independent position now! You’ve probably thought about this, but I just wanted to ask: do you think your fear of being ‘weak’ is because of masculine norms, rather than (or in addition to)being abused by your mother. Alsooo, I can totally relate to the tweet regarding being embarrassed about being attracted to men. Ugh I wish I was just gay instead of bi haha

    • Awww Priya thanks for your compassionate words and validation! I feel like if you are 18 you have life experience, even if it may not feel that way. (: I appreciate you being kind to my past self re: feelings about my father and also yay yes @ me being in a better position now. Hmm,mm for me I actually don’t feel like it’s masculine norms mostly because I grew up pretty femme/feminine, I think it’s more the overall stigma surrounding child abuse as well as adapting the somewhat white liberal feminist belief that I should be a “strong” femme when in reality you can both be strong and also have feelings of weakness/softness and that’s okay. Thanks again for your time and energy with this comment and total RT re: ugh at being attracted to men.

  4. Patrick

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a panic attack or a meltdown and then, in asking myself what triggered it, eventually traced it back to something one of my parents said or did days, weeks, or even months prior. Passive aggressive comments from my mother have a way of burrowing into my head so subtly that I don’t even realize what they’re doing at the moment. And my father always stands by and says nothing. The only thing that works is to take the resentment and anger I feel towards them and direct it towards something else. I believe that what you put out into the world comes back to you eventually. So I try to act like a person who deserves friendship and eventually romantic relationships. I think I’m good enough.

    • Patrick as someone else with toxic parents I can say very surely that you ARE good enough. Just wanted to pop that there before Thomas comes along and says something iconic, to keep you going.

      • Patrick, thanks for vulnerably sharing about your experiences here. I’m glad that you do think you’re good enough; I or someone else could say that to you though my sense is that what really matters is if you believe that for yourself. Also so appreciate your self-awareness about tracing the emotions and difficult things you experience in present (e.g., panic attacks) to your experiences with your parents. Sending a lot of warmth and strength your way.

        Also Liz I appreciate you chiming in and I literally laughed out loud at “Thomas… says something iconic” hahaha @ iconic. So appreciate my blogging friends and blog readers/commenters.

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