Some things are unforgivable. Usually, these are the things we do to the people we love the most.
I love my father. My life would be easier if I did not love my father, but I do. My father taught me Howard Zinn and activism. My father introduced me to folk music and singing as a form of healing. My father pushed me towards meditation and intellectual learning and scholarship. My father made me who I am.
My father broke me, and that made me who I am, too.
I am only recently beginning to learn that the light comes best through the broken pieces. Without my father, I would not have become interested in the kinds of breaking that occur in the life of every single boy in this country. I would not have begun to open my heart to boys and men, in spite of the horrific ways they communicate, in spite of how they have learned to hate me from such an early age. Without my father, I would not have learned that traumas men do not talk about make them who they are.
My father is a changed man, but I have a hard time forgiving him. The last time we watched a ‘cancer’ family movie together with my mother, he cried. I moved back in with my parents for years in my twenties because I was so sick and exhausted and defeated by the white-washed world. And then, for a few months at the end of my MFA, sick and defeated again, and worn out. The part of the story I do not share is, my parents at 72 and 73 respectively are finally able to love me like real parents. We cook together. We watch movies. My father feels things. My parents are separately beginning to open up to me about their life histories, their inherited trauma. I finally feel like I am learning these foundational stories, the kinds of stories that make us all who we are, in ways we usually don’t recognize.
My father is a changed man, but he still does not admit what happened. What he did. In my mind, that monster who did those things is still separate from him. That monster is BOB in Twin Peaks, who is I suppose the face of patriarchy, and who is not separate from men themselves. Twin Peaks got that right. Twin Peaks got a lot right.
But I do not want to be dragged back to my hometown kicking and screaming. Oh, that scream. That delicious terrifying good-girl scream. I say, there is nothing wrong with being a waitress. I say that every girl who once was Laura Palmer has a dead man now sitting on the sofa of our own dull apartment. But our hometowns hold no relief. My hometown is a cute small suburban California town filled with strange and very wealthy people. None of them stepped in to save me. They mostly just stepped forward to shit on me more. I do not want to go back. I do not owe it to my father to return. I do not owe it to the male investigator who is writing my biography to return.
Laura Palmer deserves the rights to her own story. I wonder how she would tell it. I wonder what words she would use. I wonder if anybody would listen.
Alice Bolin wrote about how America is obsessed with dead girls. The girls who everyone ignored kill themselves on social media and suddenly everybody gives a shit, once it’s too late. Laura Palmers who are less cute than Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, Laura Palmers without wardrobe and makeup to make their deaths beautiful, they live and die of drug overdoses or eating disorders or some other ill-disguised cry for help, and do not make headlines.
Sexual abuse in real life is profoundly unglamorous. Girls and boys get hurt. Boys separate themselves from the part of themselves that could get hurt. Girls try our best to grow up into women who have NO IDEA such hurts even exist, girls who have forgotten what our bodies cannot forget, girls whose bodies hold onto pain as auto immune diseases or disordered eating or some other chronic disease that spells pain, pain, pain.
Everyone knows sexual abuse exists. No one is interested in hearing about it. Trying to talk about it is scary, too intense, discomfiting. And children who have experienced it are never given the language, many not even as adults. It is considered strong to leave that abuse in the past with childhood. It is considered self-indulgent to insist on one’s victimization, to refuse to be a survivor and tough. It is a bad thing to be Kara Thrace, but that is exactly who this society makes us into. Unless we become Six instead, known by our number, beautiful and sensitive and eminently touchable, sexual, aggressive. A weapon in the hands of some chauvinistic force. Someone who seems to offer love, but whose words, whose ‘love’, always carry hidden razor blades.
I chose to be Kara Thrace. To try to express the pain inside me. To be too honest, too bright, too real. To expose my talents, and my bloody rage, and the pain underneath it all. To keep on screaming, someone save me, and not give up on the idea that somebody would.
And somebody did. All these teachers. Many, many people have. Over the years. I do not think of what they have done for me as saving, but it is. A series of lessons about how to do every part of being human and then every part of being a healer. Every horse I ever loved. Every dog who ever took care of me like the world’s softest mother. Every writer who ever inflamed and enlivened me. Somebody did save me. By empowering me to save myself.
I am still Kara Thrace. The vulnerable parts. I refuse to let her go. Instead Kara Thrace inside of me is slowly transforming. Kara Thrace is not an angel any more than Laura Palmer is. They are archetypes who exist on their own, brought into being by very intuitive creators. They are not the things those intuitive directors have tried to do to them, the ways these men have tried to force these female characters back under control. You can see the points where these splinterings have happened. You can see where the female characters fought back.
I am trying to find the voice these characters will never have.
I am trying to grieve the person I have been, who kept screaming at the men who tried to direct me to be something more recognizable to themselves, to be something other than who and what I am.
In this world, women are taught to call our male partners “daddy.” Men are taught to believe they like this. Women are taught to believe we like this. To seek lovers who will provide for us, in the way our fathers never did. Now I am all grown up. I don’t need this.
I want the partner who will not need me to play his angelic Laura Palmer, the sweet little nymphet girl at the center of the maze of his own tattered masculinity. Who will not hate me for being Kara Thrace, for being a girl who will punch back if necessary. For being a girl who identifies for herself where the source of the violence is. Even if that means sometimes the violence is from patriarchy, from BOB coming through even him.
I want the partner who understands BOB is his nightmare, and BOB is also in him.
Six is my nightmare. And Six is inside of me. I am learning to not listen to her anymore. I am learning to let her go.
I met her once. Tricia. At a Wizard World event, because I really am a geek at heart. Anyway, she was lovely. I told her I was intimidated by her beauty, but I was willing to get over it. She laughed, a bit uncomfortably at first, but I was smiling openly and so she warmed up. We bonded. I asked a feminist question at her panel discussion later on. I suspect she was grateful to get to be a human being for a moment, just human, not ‘special’ or a model or a pretty intellectually neglected bauble. Women turn into Six because men treat us like baubles one time too many. Like things to try to own. Like robots with nothing inside, at any rate, nothing real. No morality.
Men look at women and tell themselves stories. It is as though women exist only inside of their fantasies. They cannot recognize too often that how they read our actions, is not the same as what our actions actually MEAN. That our intentions are a combination of evident and hidden, just like theirs are. That our words are both honest and double-sided. That we speak in both pain and hope. Just like they do.
A man watches me and says, you are flirting with me. I say, I was intending to charm the man behind you, and anyway we exchanged only two words, and I did not enjoy the exchange. Is he right? Is that flirting, that thing I did, because he says it was? Do I have the rights to my own story?
Six is someone who has stopped fighting for the rights to her own story. Kara Thrace is someone looking for a way out of her life, and of course there isn’t any, but still she is looking. Kara is someone who wants to be free in a way she never will be, in a way that many generations of women have tried and failed to be. But maybe someday. And anyway the beautiful part is in the trying. Is in the fighting back.
But neither of them has learned what Laura Palmer knows too well. That the enemy is not one person or structure or even one form of oppression. The enemy is BOB, and he is only even powerful enough to be anyone’s enemy because we believe in him so strongly. All of us. Women believe he will protect us. Men believe he will protect women. We are all of us trying to save each other from women’s sexuality and from men’s rage.
Men’s rage is legitimate. Women’s sexuality is valid. Neither experience is pathological all on its own. It’s all in how you use it. And misogyny teaches us to weaponize both, and use that weapon against each other. Rather than accepting the offer we are making to heal one another from childhood wounds. We condemn each other for reminding us of what happened to us, instead of welcoming the opportunity to return to the past in order to heal it.
We can either let someone else, Coop who is only the paternalistic hero-driven self-obsessed form of BOB, lead us back and back to our hometowns, endlessly. Return for healing or out of a sense of responsibility towards our parents, or because we have idealized the past. Return like Nick in Gone Girl. But return.
Or else. We can flee for safe places and find opportunities to return to the places inside ourselves we once abandoned. The only thing we owe the past is our rage and grief. If we must return, let it be on our own terms. Let it be to plant our rage and our horror where it belongs. And when we leave, let it be forever.
I love my father and I forgive him for my own sake. But I recognize that my generation must do better than his, if we are to survive.
I love this world. More than I will ever love another human being, including myself. I don’t know if I am doing the right thing or the right things. But I am trying. My people have not loved this world for a long time. We have not loved the goddess or the good earth between our hands. I am on a path of relearning how to do these things. Not for my own sake.
An entire preceding matriarchal line of women who have been Six and women who have only recently had the space to even attempt to be Kara Thrace and women who can love and pity the Laura Palmer inside of us but who are so much more than Laura Palmer can ever be. These women all go with me.