I was sitting in the car while Ming walked at a park. It was a very windy day, which is why I was sitting in the car–the wind was too harsh for me to endure.
Some people were flying kites. I liked to watch. I favored a box kite with neon pink, orange, and green with a long bright green tail.
Then I saw a man with a little kid. He was holding the kid–the kid seemed around one year old. I don’t remember being that age, but I’ve seen myself in pictures at my first birthday party.
The kid had pierced ears. I imagined she was read as a boy, so the parents had her ears pierced so people would see her as a girl. I felt sad imagining the pain of the baby, as her ears were pierced. And the pain of the parents who are so upset by their baby being thought a boy, they would put unneeded, unconsented holes in her body.
The dad was holding the kid, walking toward the parking lot, when they encountered an elder with a dog. The dog was a big, reddish brown dog on a leash. The kid looked at the dog, pointed, and said something like “dog” with a curious, maybe afraid, maybe happy feeling. It seemed like cautious, curious, intense response.
“Yeah, dog!” the dad said.
She repeated it a few times, pointing.
The elder with the dog seemed happy to pause. The two adults talked in a friendly way, and I looked at the kid. How her dad held her against his body. The distance they kept from the dog.
Was the dog friendly? I looked at the dog’s teeth and tongue. The dog seemed patient to wait, as the humans interacted.
Did the kid want to touch the dog? She didn’t indicate that. She seemed good with the level of interaction they were having.
I had a front row seat to all of this. They ignored me or didn’t see me, in the passenger seat of Ming’s car. Maybe the windshield had a glare. I thought about the kid, earrings and gender, the dad, the way dogs can fascinate kids.
Did these two adults know each other? No, the way the dad said, “Have a good day,” at the end showed me they didn’t already know each other.
Where was the mom of the kid? There might not be a mom at all. Were the parents already split up, and the dad had the kid for his custody time? Or did he have full custody? No, this seemed like a special occasion. Was the mom resting at home by herself, healing in a quiet room, feeling pleasure and well-being? Maybe she was with the other three kids, and this was an unusual dad-baby outing. Or maybe the mom died, or the dad adopted on his own or with a boyfriend or nonbinaryfriend.
The dad put the kid into the car, and I felt like I knew them by then. “We need to go home and take a nap,” the dad said. The few moments I watched them felt like a long time. My heart was with them.
The dad settled the kid into her carseat. He said, “Good girl. I love you.”
I felt grief well up in my body. At first it felt like grief that I don’t have a dad anymore. No man will ever say “I love you” to me in a way I can trust that he doesn’t want sex from me, isn’t trying to manipulate me, won’t hurt or use me soon after, doesn’t want my money or skills or for me to lend legitimacy to his projects with my stable, reliable realness.
I wish I had a dad, sometimes. I don’t have a dad now, and I never will again. Ming’s dad has little interest in being a dad to Ming, let alone to me. That’s just a role that I’ll never have filled again.
Then I started to cry, and it was more about the combination of “good girl” with “I love you.”
Ming was back in the car, falling asleep over and over again. He noticed I was crying. “Ah, you’re sad,” he said, and hugged me. “Why are you sad?” he asked.
I cried a while and pushed my face onto his shoulder. “It feels so conditional,” I said.
Ming listened to me.
“It’s so disgusting,” I said. “She’s a good girl if she’s easy and quiet and doesn’t throw a fit, leaving the park. Then he loves her.”
Ming understood what I meant. We both know what it’s like, to be a kid who’s not safe.
content warning: violence
I don’t remember being one year old, but I remember being threatened “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” My feelings weren’t welcome, valid, or even ok. Who I really was didn’t matter.
That was my childhood. My survival depended on pretending to feel things I didn’t feel, pretending not to feel things I did feel–doing a lot that I didn’t want to do, being disrespected, and being preyed upon by boys and men. I was told to shut up a lot. Then for some time I did stop talking.
My dad’s feelings mattered–he was king. I was good insofar as I was quiet and easy. I thought I had no worth, and I existed to serve men. The only worth I had was serving men: they were smarter, stronger, and way more important than me.
Now I’m an adult who endured a life of trying to be quiet and easy, so I wouldn’t receive violence. I hid–the lost child.
Then I found Ming and created more freedom to be who I am, supported by someone healthy and happy, who doesn’t need to manipulate me into a positive reflection of himself. Ming doesn’t need to use me as proof that he’s a success or a good person. He’s just a shining, amazing good person and unconditional success at all times. We create a family of nonviolence together, free to be who we are.
Slowly I found faith in myself and the world. I learned how to love myself unconditionally. No man’s opinion of me forms who I am. No man controls whether I’m a good girl.
I cry because of what happened to me, and how much work it’s taken to find a path out of self-denial, hating my body and my entire self, and finding worth by serving men.
I cry imagining a future for that park kid. Will she stay easy and quiet for a long time, to be loved? How will her revolt go? Will she survive speaking her truth? Will her caregivers abandon her emotionally or physically, for asserting herself and who she actually is, what she actually needs?
Then I cry that we made a culture where children are disrespected, and the needs of adults are what matter. The needs of people with louder voices, who threaten violence and do violence, who put themselves first.
We didn’t need to make a culture like this. We could prioritize all people, not just the loud, selfish ones who have money and push others around.
I’m unconditionally a good girl, a good woman, a good person of flexible gender. Still I’m thinking about that glimpse of family pain. Maybe I got it wrong, and the dad loves the kid even when she cries and screams and doesn’t want to go home for a nap. Yes, I hope I’m wrong about the dad and what he values his kid for.
I took psych meds for many many years to make myself quiet and easy for other people. My psych meds were chemical restraints. The bipolar cocktail wasn’t serving my well-being, my life’s purpose, or my own happiness. Powerful, sedating psych meds kept me from doing my life’s work and speaking my truth.
So glad Ming and many friends love me for the messy, complicated person I am. The people who liked me better sedated are my examples of violence today. They’re the people I don’t want to give my energy, heart, or life to.
I was wearing this dark gray lace dress in the car. I took these pics of myself right before all of this.
This is a youtube mix of songs that make me think of my dad. Your dad songs may vary.