Mt. St. Helens in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State blew up the same day as my marriage: May 18, 1980. My father passed away on Bastille Day, 2005. Bastille Day commemorates the storming of a French prison to liberate political prisoners.
During my fourth therapy session, Kate drew a volcano on her white board to depict my emotions. On top of the volcano, she drew the steel dome which I delude myself into thinking will contain the pain. The heat of all those emotions, however, is melting the dome. When iron gets hot enough, it melts into liquid steel.
Kate pushed my “not good enough” buttons. I didn’t explode. I shut down. Completely.
But, nightmares kept me from sleeping. The dreams were filled with unexpressed ~ unexperienced ~ supressed rage and grief bursting out in hot plumes of steam. It took me back to the rage and pain I felt the night after a particularly distressing experience of sexual harassment. I desperately wanted and needed a job. I had been interviewed by a man with substantially fewer qualifications and credentials, but I knew he wouldn’t hire me because I had refused to allow him to play tongue hockey during the interview.
It was the only time in my life that I became hysterical. I had amazing credentials, but the only thing that mattered was whether I was wet and willing. And, this wasn’t the only time an interviewer had made disgustingly inappropriate sexual advances. It wasn’t the first job I’d been denied because I said “no.”
We didn’t talk about the sexual harassment that was prevalent in corporate America in the early 1980s. We didn’t dare. Women were getting raped at work every day by their bosses and pretending it was consensual sex. Sure. We could refuse. And, end our careers.
I couldn’t buy a date on Saturday nights, but men in my professional life couldn’t and wouldn’t keep their hands off me.
In some respects, this was because I never learned how to bond ~ how to share intimacy in a healthy way. This experience was violated by incest. In other respects, it was a silent rebellion by men accustomed to a life of entitlement who wanted women to pay the ultimate price for daring to have professional career aspirations.