Trigger warning: Sexual abuse, mental health
The loneliness that comes with being an independent woman is the result of requiring to be tough and cutting ties, burning bridges to exist in peace. The loneliness is not one of lack of bodies, but of minds to be at peace with. Here is the autonomy of rough independent women, based on my personal experience and verified by the coven of witches, whom I have the honour of calling my friends.
I believe that a society should aim to bring to life, strong and independent men and women, without any childhood trauma. People understand trauma and its various forms, but are alien to their experience. Utopia aside, as of now, the first thing inflicted on a youngling is trauma — I hope it doesn’t happen to all but honestly, I have never met a single woman who has not faced trauma — child sexual abuse, rape, discrimination through verbal/psychological abuse, early sexualisation, emotional manipulation, and the most common, public grabbing. It’s an umbrella term for being forced into doing things we were too young to do, too naive to understand or stand against it.
However, there is a difference between this trauma and the trauma of getting married at the age of 12. There was an escape. If things were kept quiet, no one would know, no consequences. Wonder what if I told my dad that at the age of 17, I bunked my coaching class to hang out with some friends at a flat shared by some engineering college students, who later shared me.
What will he do? I would never see the sunlight after that day. I have seen several of my friends locked up in the house because their parents caught them chatting with a boy on the phone. I am not stupid to lose my freedom forever because of 15 minutes of sexual abuse that someone else should be accounted for. On the other hand, he will do nothing if he doesn’t know.
The first thing that brings a change in you is the trauma itself. It leaves a scar. There are two kinds of people when it comes to a wound. The first kind are those who clean the wound, bandage it, and seal then it up. It heals, it leaves a scar and they carry the scar with them everywhere they go. They show it to some, they hide it from most. I have never seen a woman with no scars. Now, these people make sure they never get hurt again and ask you to save yourself from this kind of hurt. The good news is, they heal well. It’s rare but it happens.
And then there is the second kind of people, who just go back to the wound, not once, but over, and over, and over again, hitting their heads, stomping their feet, slapping their thighs, throwing their head back from the chest up and screaming “WHY MEEE…!” Then, pacing, muttering and asking why, why did I let it happen. Stupid, stupid. These are the kind of people who gnaw over the scar and they never let it heal, ever.
Do you know what happens to an open wound, apart from getting infected? It becomes a nice target for another time. Seriously, if I am hurt somewhere, I will go out of my way, unconsciously, and get hurt in the same spot, again. It just happens. That’s what happens to the trauma that people like me have: it never heals.
If it’s closing up, either someone else will come and hit it, or I will, keeping it nice, fresh and hurting. I believe it’s a side effect of not being able to properly process the trauma. Is it because of self-blame, or because my mom asked me to keep it to myself because people will think I seduced my cousin, I wonder.
The next thing that follows is resentment. Unprocessed trauma leads to a lot of resentment — towards the rules that let that trauma happen in the first place. For example, as a woman in my 30s, I know that the prevalence of child abuse in Indian households is because once you accept it, then you have to acknowledge that your child is violated and impure.
And this is the same reason why my abuse was never discussed. That is why, I resent the idea of the purity of women. I hate that I have to hide my body, cover it, be ashamed at an accidental nip slip, and feel sad that I have seen more male genitalia than a physician would recommend. Hence, resentment is inherent.
Then, there could be resentment towards a lot of other things as well, depending on how you attained the trauma, because you are trying to find the culprit. You either blame the person who did it, or yourself for being there and letting it happen, or a third party for creating a space where it could happen. Like in my case, I mostly blamed my family for not being able to save their only girl child from being raped multiple times in their own house.
This resentment fosters and brews for a long long time, taking different shapes and forms. Many of us become angsty teenagers, strippers, runaway brides, and some of us lay with every man who could entertain us. It’s often to take a jibe at our father or father figures, because we resent them.
We resent them because they let it happen, and it’s a weird-ass feeling. Because on one hand, if they are supposed to save you, then you have the same expectation as a society — men save women. But if you don’t expect that, then who was supposed to stop it? Who is to be blamed — me? There is conflict and confusion. Trauma, confusion, and resentment. A fuck ton of resentment.
Even though at its core, this Mahabharata is going on, life on the surface might be a little different. Or sometimes, women live double lives, just like I did. I was a good girl at home and a wild-wild person on the road. Some people also change course, have a change of heart, have experiences that change them in a much more significant way than others.
Then comes the time when you let the resentment go, momentarily, and fall in love. But we all know how that goes for most of the young men and women. So now you are traumatised, confused, resentful and bitter. Sometimes, your first love is the reflection of your trauma. And if you are unlucky, and your first love/trauma doesn’t go away, then you are fucked. But if you are on the other end of the spectrum and fall in love with a good, understanding person, then good for you, this is where you exit.
Here and there, a volcano of resentment and hate will pop up, but finding a trading partner early on can help restore your faith in life. But if you are unlucky like me, this is where you try to take hold of your own body, wear skanky clothes and smoke cigarettes. I was lucky enough for my parents still let me go to college, as I never told them what had happened to me.
But there was this girl I met in college, similar to me – she was so pretty, chubby with red cheeks, and really sweet. She had been through trauma, and was confused and resentful, the same story. But her family would never allow her to go anywhere, not even stand on the balcony. She was in the prime of her heat and would often attract flocks of men. I once heard that her family was looking for a groom for her, telling people she was 19. She was just 15. Not long after that, she got engaged.
Marriage in this scene changes you. You become preoccupied with duties and new relations. And all your expectations are focused on one person who is obliged to give you the attention, legally bound. (Creepy). I never got married so I don’t know what happens to these women. But I took that resentment, confusion, anger and bitterness, and off I went to college.
It was like a wonderful train wreck. Imagine a pinata being hit, and candies scattering, and rainbow in the bright blue sky; and now imagine the pinata was alive and the candies were gut pieces. I come from a simple lower-middle-class household with no TV, phone, internet or newspaper. I was as disconnected from the world as one can get. Do you know what I learned?
First, I learned that there are stereotypes in society, then I learned what these stereotypes are. Later, I learned how they harm people. I learned how not to stereotype people, and lastly, I learned that there is a reason why there are these stereotypes.
Growing up with these bags full of trauma, resentment and confusion you become very vigilant; just like when you carry around your wound for a long period, you know what kind of people and places to avoid. You end up surrounding yourself with people who you think understand your scar.
But, slowly, as you grow up and age sharpens those buttons on your face, you realise that you have surrounded yourself with people who deal with your scar as psychopaths deal with empathy. They have learned how not to bring out the bitter confused resentful beast in me by speaking with me in my tongue. But deep down, they still don’t have any clue, and if you just look closely, you can see the façade.
So you become paranoid and suspicious at a small gush of wind that tries to flow towards your wound. This becomes especially clear as you move from college to a professional setting. The constant state of mind becomes: it may look like everything around me is better, but only I know after seeing countless of facades fall, that I am inside a simulation, inside of another simulation, which is inside another simulation. And the moment I let my guard down, I will be presented with a bouquet of punches.
So now, I am traumatised, confused, resentful, bitter and paranoid, and then, when we are approached by a man and he says anything — honestly, they sometimes don’t even know they are being sexist — we can smell sexism in it. Some men, they learn and try to understand and, honestly, we are so starved for love, the moment we see someone is even trying to understand us, we give in.
After all, they are not deliberately hurting us. But here is the catch — they are still hurting us. Remember, open wounds are sensitive as hell, and the bag full of emotions doesn’t help in the conversation. But we don’t want you to run away, so we keep this bag away. But inside, we implode over a period.
The man, on the other hand, feels that we are crazy while they are being patient. But the truth is, no man — until they truly understand that we are a bundle of trauma, resentment, confusion, bitterness and paranoia — will ever be able to make us feel at home. And these men are scarce.
So, being an independent strong woman is lonely AF. Because we are tough to please, tough to love, and tough to make comfortable. We are paranoid and constantly looking for clues — clues to prove that you are sexist. And as they say, you will find what you’re looking for, we find it eventually.
You will unknowingly say something stupid, not thinking much about it and BAM! We found what we were looking for. It’s pretty similar to when an anti-vax person finds one research that proves vaccines cause autism, completely neglecting the 100 other pieces of research and the benefits of vaccines.
Similarly, we don’t see all the other nice things the man says or the long-term benefits of the relationship. One proof that you are part of the system that can cause us trauma, and now you will face the burn of years of repressed anger and hate. There is nothing you can do. We are lonely because we have been in the armour for so long, it has become our personality. And when we drop our guard and you see the actual person, it’s not pretty. We are so starved for love that we are very needy, attention-seeking, and just so fragile.
The guy falls in love with an armoured strong-ass woman, and when the woman finally opens up to the guy, here she is — an attention-seeking pile of ice sheets who cannot stop crying. It’s not his fault. It’s complicated to understand how such a strong person can mentally be so fragile. Men who have never faced this have a hard time empathising.
So here we are again — alone. Turning grey. With multiple broken relationships. Still cracking the spine with the bag full of trauma, resentment, confusion, bitterness and paranoia. Our friends are moving on. Either getting married, having kids, jumping on social and professional ladders.
We can’t ask our parents to find us a suitable mate, that ship has sailed for us. Approaching the extended family is a different ball game. I avoid my family all the time so I don’t have to answer why I am throwing away my life for a mediocre career, when I can marry a rich guy and live happily. The only solution is to burn bridges and never look back.
My mom was married into a traditionally-abusive family and I told her once I don’t want to marry, I just want kids. Maybe furry kids. And the first time she said, “Whatever makes you happy,” that is my hope. The fact that my mom would let me be, if that makes me happy. That’s what we are looking for, someone who will let us be, if that makes us happy, and may love us back — be it a man, woman or a furry baby.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.