Your Story To Tell

The response to yesterday’s post completely overwhelmed me– in the most beautiful way.

I was extremely nervous to put something so private, so vulnerable, so personal out into the world. I had grown used to carrying the burden of that secret for six years and to release that weight? Wow, it didn’t seem possible.

But with your help, it somehow feels lighter.

I was showered with love and with remarks about my bravery. And my courage. I don’t know if I would pick those words to describe sharing my story, but I appreciate them dearly. I’m honored to be described in such a way. I decided to write about my own experience because I was so angered by the remarks of political figures who seem to believe they know more about rape than women who have actually been held down against their will. It’s incredible to me that we can come so far in certain areas of progress, and yet we always seem to argue about women’s rights. This isn’t “I am woman, hear me roar” — this is “I am human, I have the ability to make choices, the right to make them, and I deserve to be treated as such.

These are fine words I can type now, but it took me a long time to get there. Because when it came to my writing, my career, my public image — as a writer, an editor or as Lindsay Tigar on Facebook who went to Appalachian State, works for NBC and writes this blog — I wasn’t sure I wanted the scarlet-colored word of “rape” associated with me. Even if I’ve been writing about women’s issues since college, and mostly, about love, dating and, well sex. But consensual sex or a lack of consistent sex. Talking about the heavy, scary topics was always something I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to go about it or if I could even do it as well as I express what it feels to fall in love with someone.

How could I eloquently describe what it feels to fall out of love with yourself? To blame yourself for something that wasn’t your choice? To pretend you weren’t bothered when you walked past the person who raped you? To wonder if it really was your fault? How could I illustrate the thoughts that creep back into my mind every time a guy buys me a drink or when the eve of my birthday rolls around?

But then the greatest question bubbled inside of me earlier this week: how could I not talk about it when so many women need to hear that it can happen to anyone?

Yesterday alone, 15 women came forward to share their story of sexual assault, molestation or rape with me. Their words, their experiences are their own, and it’s not my place to tell them. But reading how many women, of all ages, stages, countries and walks of life, have been taken advantage of — absolutely broke my heart.

But it also really inspired me.

While we have all endured both the trauma itself and the long aftermath of mentally and emotionally processing it– we have all, also, rose above it. We’ve all made something of ourselves– some have met loyal, loving partners. Others have gone on to lead women’s groups and write about important topics, like this one. Many are incredible friends who support those who have gone through it, those who are afraid of it and those who can’t speak for themselves. Some are the strongest women I’ve ever known.

Knowing that like me, they were survivors — didn’t make me think any less or differently about them. If anything, it made me see how powerful they really are. Because being attacked — in any form — will never define their story, it’ll just be part of it.

As soon as you claim it, as soon as you let those awful words leave your lips: “I was raped” — they don’t own you anymore. They lose their power and you gain it. You don’t have to hide behind them and they certainly don’t define who you are as a woman, as a professional, as a lover, as…a person. They become words that belong to you and a painful experience that you overcame to become something stronger, brighter and more beautiful than you already are.

Thank you so, so much for making me accept that while what happened the night of my 18th birthday will always be a part of me and it is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not something I have to hide or a burden I have to bare. It is something I can now share anytime, anywhere, when you need to realize that you are many things — but alone, is not one of them. And what happened to you– it’s your story to tell, no matter how long it takes to say it.

If you’re a survivor of any form of sexual assault and you’d like to tell your story anonymously, I will publish it — without your name or any details — with your permission. You can fill out this form (I won’t even know who sent it!) or you can email me, if you feel comfortable enough. Talking about your experience will help give you power back. 

I’m Not a Supermodel

I used to have a boyfriend who liked to pop my pimples.

There was something about it that he was fond of. Maybe it was the challenge of ridding me of the occasional back-ne or perhaps he liked the burst. I’m not sure – even to this day – why he got a kick out of it, but once he popped…he didn’t want to stop. What started as an occasional odd plea “Baby, please let me take care of that for you” eventually turned into a nightly routine that eventually, I found commonplace.

In an essence, this was a mark of the level of intimacy we shared. I had grown so comfortable with him and with myself, that I allowed my imperfections to not only be visible but invited (or rather, allowed) him to explore their ugliness. We still made love, he consistently commented on my beauty, and in public, there was no probing or picking. To him, draining a zit was no different from any other mindless task. He enjoyed it and I somehow grew to not mind it so much – especially when I noticed my skin clearing up from being constantly massaged, inspected, and cleaned.

Since then, I haven’t been with anyone who asks this special request of me and honestly, I don’t miss it too much. What I have wondered, however, is how I reach that same level of acceptance for myself that Mr. Acne-Fighter had toward me. If I could see myself as beautiful as he found me, even with all of the issues I see as problematic and unattractive, and view them as “part of the package of me”, then I’d gain a bit more self-confidence.

Yesterday, I joined Mr. Possibility at a birthday party where I met some of his friends and family. Having met most of his group of friends and the members of his clan that are important to him, I wasn’t nervous but rather excited to have an afternoon to relax, eat Italian food that I normally wouldn’t allow on my diet, and spend some time cooing over his nieces. It’s almost like escaping to the suburbia I grew up in, that’s full of love, comradery, and timeless memories, and while I’m not ready to return to that way of life, it’s nice to be away from the rush of the city and go at a slower pace for an afternoon.

Getting ready for the day, Mr. Possibility commented that I was taking longer than usual and started rushing me to get out the door. I’m usually not short-tempered but I immediately snapped at him the first time he hurried me, and seeing my frustration, he knocked on the bathroom door to figure out the reason behind my short-wick. Nearing that inevitable time of the month, I’ve found myself oily and broken out, bloated, and overall, not feeling all that gorgeous. And so, I stood in front of the mirror, trying to figure out how I could boost my esteem before being friendly and warm to Mr. Possibility’s network when the only thing I wanted to do involved a huge bowl of buttery mashed potatoes, my yellow blanket I’ve had since I was a child, and re-runs of Lifetime movies that I hate to admit I watch…and sometimes, enjoy.

I opened the door and asked, “Would you be terribly upset if I caught the train?” Confused, he inquired where I was going on the train. “Home,” I replied with a pout. Without a word, he raised an eyebrow, and I heaved an aggravated sigh. “This, Mr. Possibility! See this? On the side of my cheek?? Huge zit that I can’t cover up and if I put makeup over it, it’ll only look cakey and gross. Do makeup companies not make anything that will erase this? How can I meet everyone and be an extension of you, when I look like this? They will wonder why in the world you’re with me.”

Following my outburst, I cautiously met his eyes, only to see him smirking. “Why are you smiling? This is awful. I can’t go,” I continued. He placed his hand on the side of my face, right next to the culprit who was causing so much dismay, and asked, “Do you think you’re going with me because of the way you look? Or do you think you’re going with me because you’re you?”

Not amused by his approach at a sweet tactic, I combated his sentiment by saying, “I know. I know you’re not with me because I’m the most beautiful thing to ever grace the Earth, but I want to feel attractive. And I’m glad you find my attractive, but I don’t and that’s a problem. How can I put on a happy face and go when everyone can see this?

Realizing he wasn’t going to calm me down, he tried a different approach, “Well, they’ll see it. They’ll notice it. And then they’ll move on to get to know you. They know you’re not a supermodel, neither are they, neither am I.”

And in his own twisted way of being rational, Mr. Possibility actually made some sense: I’m no supermodel.

Of course, I’ve always known that – but I’ve also always thought I needed perfectly clear and tanned skin. I’ve thought to be considered remarkable by aesthetic standards; I needed to be a size two (though I’m consistently a four). I’ve thought men want girls who are no fuss, who can roll out of bed with rosy cheeks and breath that smells minty and fresh. I’ve thought to feel comfortable with myself; I needed to always have my best face forward.

But what I’ve really needed to accept is that I’m not a supermodel. I’m never going to be on aVictoria’s Secret ad, a Clean & Clear commercial, or be the one in my group of friends who is complimented for their pretty skin. I have nice eyes, a great figure, and naturally wavy hair that may turn heads, but maybe, my skin won’t. Even when I get it under control and my hormones die down, I may never feel comfortable in my own skin – and really that’s okay.

Because I still love who I am and mostly, what I look like. I have off days where preparing to face the day with a face that’s not perfect is difficult. I have moments where I want to run away from the world so they don’t see that I’m flawed. But my blemishes don’t define me any more than my beauty does.

And if I can meet men who enjoy ridding me of acne and ones who see straight through it and right into my heart, then I believe not every guy needs to date a supermodel to find their partner beautiful.

In fact – most don’t.

What the World Needs

I wrote a blog for today.

It was about learning to control your imagination and not allowing it to get the best of you, the relationship you’re in or considering making official. I made analogies and edits, I crossed the t’s and dotted the I’s. I inserted links. It was what I consider a clever concoction of words and ideas and I’m sure readers and haters alike would have related.

But then WordPress goofed on me.

For whatever reason, the scheduled blog missed its automatic deadline and didn’t publish. I currently am without a phone with a higher IQ than the basic feature one, so I didn’t realize the mishap until midafternoon – maybe 20 minutes before this post goes live. I spent the morning away from the computer, sleeping in, eating breakfast in bed, and attempting to motivate myself to clean while nursing a one-too-many-Merlot haze.

However, the hours I spent enjoying the company of Mr. Possibility and his bacon-cooking skills, were interrupted by the news. I notoriously don’t watch shows or commentaries – I’m more of a reader. I digest The Times daily, subscribe to New York magazine, and my job requires me to follow business trends – which, surprisingly, have become far more interesting than I ever predicted they would. I’m fascinated by international affairs and the changing state of the world and its politics. I tend to believe we can’t all fight every single war, every injustice, or every problem – but picking one and sticking to it, would do the planet and its people a lot of good.

So today, don’t read this blog.

Put relationship troubles and worries of never finding the right guy on the back burner. Stop focusing on how to love yourself and what are the proper relationship-oriented decisions you should make to remain happy and confident. These things are important (I wouldn’t need a 12 step program, if they weren’t) – but today, take the time to catch up on the needs of the universe. Not the needs of yourself.

Love may not give back the lives of those killed in Egypt or give peace to the women raped in Libya or bring back the hundreds who lost their life in Japan’s current state of disaster. It may not save anyone from radiation, should it become a real threat. It may not stop sex trafficking from being the third most profitable illegal trade – only behind the smuggling of guns and drugs. It may not help an 11-year-old who was taken by 18 men in Texas or change the articles published placing the blame on her and posing a question of concern for the rapists’ futures. It may not turn the agendas of the media – who may be more concerned with hits and clicks – from giving way more attention to a washed-up, B-list celebrity who has abused women for decades, without anything more than a smack on the hand, followed by placing another million in his pocket.

It’s true, love doesn’t solve everything.

It doesn’t answer the questions left unruly and bitter in the hearts of those who have suffered great loss or pain. But maybe The Beatles are right – what the world needs now is, in fact, love. A love for humanity. A neighborly kind of love that looks out for the family of four next door. A love that doesn’t want something in return, but wants to give. An educated love that knows of the world outside of their zip code. A love that sees people as people, not as objects, statistics or figures, but human beings, who have the ability to love and to hate.

Go give the world what it needs: more people who care. More people who want to help someone else. More people who, regardless of what’s going on in their lives, their relationships, their homes, or their hearts – know there is always someone out there who needs love more than they do.