While at the beach last week, I read both Terrence Real’s How Do I Get Through To You: Reconnecting Men and Women and Jane Fonda’s biography. It was serendipity, really, an interesting coincidence; she actually cited several passages from his book. Fonda’s life is a vivid illustration of all Real has to say. So is my own life, so much is it like Fonda’s—only without the money, glamour, or fame.
Real’s premise is that our patriarchal society has damaged not just women, but men as well or more. In the forty years that women’s roles have been changing, we’ve come to need and expect a level of communication and intimacy that men have not been prepared to give us.
He says, The patriarchal norms families live within are profoundly skewed against emotional sensitivity….Intimacy is our natural state as a species…our birthright. And yet, as a culture, following strictures we have all been raised within, we force our children out of the fullness in which they begin their lives. We teach boys and girls to bury their deepest selves, to stop speaking or attending to the truth… ‘We enter life as children,’ the poet Wordsworth tells us, ‘not in entire forgetfulness and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory…’
…It is not uncommon for those who enter my office to present themselves initially as victims, but I see them as just the opposite. In the core of their dissatisfaction, their refusal to adjust, lie unrecognized seeds of resistance. Angry, lonely, bruised, addicted, they carry within them intimations of passion once possessed like clouds of glory, no matter how dimly recalled. And they share this in common: They want it back.
That’s me, in a nutshell. I, who was raised that little girls should be seen and not heard; who got the message from my father and from our culture that my value lay in physical perfection and in acquiescing to a man, not in being my authentic self, and certainly not in speaking the truth. I learned that speaking at all can lead to a man’s rage and violence. I kept the secret of my own sexual abuse for more than ten years, and when I finally spoke up, at fifteen, and the earth didn’t crack open, I determined I’d never keep silent again. That, my friends, has led to all kinds of trouble. And I know I’ll stay in trouble until things change.
I want real intimacy and equality. I want to speak without fear and to be heard. I want tell--and to be told--the truth in all things, always.
Hell yes, I want it back!