Am I going to be assaulted?

I’ve never been raped. In my years as a hetero- and then bisexual identifying person (in my teens and early 20s), I was sexually harassed and sexually coerced by men numerous times, and long before I knew what consent was I definitely had sex without really wanting to, for various psychological reasons. But I have never experienced the horror of having a man enter my space and force himself on me explicitly against my will.

And yet, the fear of having this happen is at the forefront of my thoughts when I interact alone with any man I do not know intimately well.

Someone I used to volunteer with – a white man in his 50’s – came to my house the other day just to catch up. He requested a get-together at my house so he could see my chickens. He’s a nice person and I was happy to catch up and show him our set-up. But we were going to be meeting at my house on a day when I was going to be alone. My wife and daughter were out of town. On the days leading up to our get-together, a dark thought started running through my mind:

What if he plans to assault me?

I had horrible images in my head. As the hours to our visit ticked closer, I became scared. But I also felt ridiculous for being scared. I’d worked on odd projects and had board meetings with this person for a year prior. We weren’t close, but he was really nice and easy to get along with. While I KNEW he wasn’t actually a threat, I also KNEW the statistics around sexual assault occurring mostly in the victim’s home, by people the victim knows.

Our visit came and went, and I was unharmed. He was a perfectly pleasant human who legitimately wanted to catch up and learn about my chickens. And I felt horrible for fearing the worst of him.

But that’s what it’s like to be a woman.

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Self-Care Campaign

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Inspired by International Women’s Day (and the #daywithoutawoman campaign that has my friends all taking the day off of work) I’m starting a self-care campaign for myself and anyone else who wants in on this challenge. I’m using the hashtag #selfcareformama on twitter (@momwithawife).

I was a pro at self-care when I was pregnant. I meditated, ate well (but indulged my sweet tooth when it felt right), got fresh air, naps, relaxation, took baths just to soak, drank herbal tea… I prioritized myself because I was a vessel for my unborn baby. When that baby left my body, my body became like the forgotten, shed skin of a cicada (this thing:

you’re welcome for the nightmares).
I started showering twice a week when the baby would “allow.” I started shoveling boxed food into my mouth, wearing the same clothes for two days and a night, never brushing my hair – just putting the elastic back in every morning over the new knots and frizz that formed each night. My makeup sat in the bathroom cupboard untouched, along with my razor. Perhaps the most dangerous neglect I showed myself was forgetting to drink water (although somehow there was always time to make coffee) and forgetting to go to the bathroom.

My body has had enough of the neglect, and now it’s also starting to ware on my emotional wellbeing. So I’m working on bringing back self-care, one tiny, baby step at a time.

Quick caveat: making time for self-care is harder for some than for others. Some may read this and think it’s absurd that I couldn’t make time to go to the bathroom. Others, in the thick of a stressful and challenging stage of parenting, might feel there’s no way they could follow me on this self-care journey right now. For me, this is actually possible now that my baby is 6 months old, happier, and more independent, and my wife works closer to home and can help me out on evenings and weekends.

The first act of self-care I prioritized was actually for the benefit of the baby, but I found it really helped my emotional wellbeing: I started my daily outside time goal. Easier said than done here in the winter months in Canada, but I’ve managed to do it – at least 5 days a week, for the past month. I get the baby and myself outside for a good stroller walk (or sleigh ride), rain, shine, or sleet.

Next on my list:

  • drink more water. I don’t really know how much I’m aiming for, but I figure I’ll know when my pee is no longer orange.
  • take baths for pleasure again, even one a month. I hate bathing when I’m dirty though, so that means showering AND bathing in one day. It’ll have to be a weekend.
  • Start doing my hair (run a flat iron through it) and wearing makeup (maybe just some mascara) a couple of times a week.

If anything else pops into my head (maybe painting my nails, taking a nap, dressing up nice…) and I can make time to do it, I’ll document it on twitter (#selfcareformama). I hope you’ll take on this challenge for yourselves, if you are in a place to do so right now!