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Certain conversations recur in the long, drawn out hours you have to fill with your peers. Whether on the bus, in the locker room, or just over a casual lunch, someone eventually asks a question meant to stimulate a debate or controversy. One such question I have answered enough to perfect a response illustrates my stance on one’s past.
“Would you ever date a stripper?”
And if this question does not yield enough controversy the question gets pushed to the next level, “Would you ever date a prostitute?”
I would love to dive into a feminist excavation of this question and discuss what this says about our patriarchal views of women’s sexuality, but that is a post for another day. In this post I will share my answer and how answering this question shaped my views of personal history
Simply, yes I would. I would date a stripper. I would date a prostitute. When this shocked my friends back in the day, they being the type of men who like to pretend every woman is a perfect virgin before she meets you, I learned a lot defending my answer.
I will only date someone I really like. That goes without saying. If I like who you are today, it is unfair for me to pass judgement on how you became that person. I believe our experiences shape who we become.
I believe we are born with certain proclivities, sure. We are not born as a blank slate we are born with a certain brain and certain genetics, but after the moment we are born our life experience begins to dictate who we become within the realm of what we were given to start with. So if I like who you are today then logically I cannot have any qualms with what you have done in your past or what has happened to you in your past. Those experiences directly created the person in front of me today whom I enjoy.
So if you used to be a stripper or you currently are working as a prostitute, and I like you, then I have no right to judge how you became that person. All I can do is cherish who you are today and know that your experiences dictated your development.
Now its time to turn that same logic on myself. I honestly like myself. It took years of hard work and determination, but yes, today I do like myself.
I tried to apply this logic about the past shaping our present to myself, but it is much more difficult to make peace with you own scars than to accept other’s. It is difficult to avoid wishing away your past. It is difficult to accept that even the most painful experiences shaped who you are.
I have learned that to be happy you must learn to make friends with the skeletons in your closet. So on one hand I do not wish to change a single thing about my past. On the other hand, if wishes were real, I would have a very hard time not wishing away parts of my past. So for a moment, I will abandon the logic I use to make friends with my past, and I will give you a list of things I wish I could change from my past.
I wish I hadn’t played an entire high school football game with meningitis.
I wish my coaches had taught me about concussions. I wish my coaches would have noticed that I couldn’t get off the field without falling over. I wish I had known brain injuries were serious.
I wish I hadn’t seen depression medication as a crutch and had tried it sooner.
I wish I had learned how to ask for help earlier. I wish therapy wasn’t so intimidating the first time.
Sometimes I wish I had the courage to tie off the belt and step off of the chair. I wish more people understood what I really mean by that last sentence.
I wish I had realized falling asleep five time a day on accident was not what everyone went through in college. I wish the tick bite that gave me Lyme’s Disease had left the telling bulls-eye mark so it would not have gone undiagnosed for years. I wish I had gotten treated before the permanent nerve damage.
I wish I would have taken Brother Michael up on his offer to move in with him when my parents had clearly stopped parenting me.
I wish I had understood why my mom had to move out while I was still struggling with depression. I wish we could have helped each other.
I wish I hadn’t searched for self validation through sexuality and at the expense of others. I wish I hadn’t used my desperate need for acceptance as an excuse to use and hurt women.
I wish I could have understood what my mom was going through. I wish I could have convinced her to get help. I wish I could have protected myself from her emotional terrorism. I wish I could have protected her from her self destruction.
I wish I hadn’t felt so old when I was eleven. I wish I had realized how young I still was, how vulnerable. I wish I had realized sooner that I was no longer in control and that I was being manipulated. I wish I had known it was okay to choose not to follow him to his room.
I wish I hadn’t internalized what Catholicism taught me was wrong about myself. I wish I had learned sexuality was beautiful and not wrong.
But wishes aren’t real. I would date a stripper. Bad things did happen. Now I’m strong as fuck. I like me. I like knowing how much I can handle. But we all wish anyway.