Monday, 12 June 2006

Is saying nothing giving consent?

Tuesday 12 June 2007

This weekend I went to my parents home with a mission.

I was determined to let them know of my anger towards them. It was now or never: I was seeing them again for the first time since my operation and we would have 48 hours together, just them and me.

And I failed. In the greatest possible way.

I said nothing to them about my anger.

I knew there were great chances that I neglected (my thoughts in the form of “I absolutely must talk to them” did not augur well) but I was resolved at least to broach the subject at some point.

Except that I didn’t. I couldn’t do it.

I said nothing to them about my anger.

I don’t understand. Away from them I was boiling with rage, I told myself they weren’t up to it, they hadn’t protected me and I had to tell them how angry I am for that. I had a sore throat and I didn’t sleep well when I thought about it. When I arrived at their house, my anger seemed to quieten.

The words wouldn’t come to me. I didn’t have the opportunity to speak.

I said nothing to them about my anger.

Certainly after 31 years of blind obedience it was hopeless to expect that I would be able to initiate a great explanation with an open heart at a snap of my fingers. But all the same!

I said absolutely nothing to them about my anger.

My father was very warm. He spoke to me a lot about this that and the other. As for my mother, she waited on me hand and foot all weekend. They seemed very happy to see me. They really pampered me.

But that wasn’t enough to start me off.

I said nothing to them about my anger.

Nevertheless, I noticed the strange look which my mother gave me when she thought I wasn’t looking. I noted that she carefully restricted herself to the practical aspects of my operation (“You are looking after yourself properly? You’re sure?”) I observed the embarrassment demonstrated by my father in my presence. I saw that all his words were only superficial chat as if to fill in the space. As if he feared what could be born out of silence.

I had the impression they were shying away, that I had to cling on to them and shout “Dammit, look at me! Give me some space, so that I can tell you of my anger with you”.

And that cost me, having to run after them again. It humiliated me to be obliged, once again, to open my innermost so that they could throw an expressionless look before returning to their world where everything is best and my operation is nothing more than an anecdote.

My therapist said yesterday that perhaps the “grown-up” me had no more to say to them, while the little girl in me still waited for them to say sorry. I don’t know if it’s that but when she suggested it, I understood that it was the little girl in me that I had cruelly disappointed. She was a martyr, nobody came to ask forgiveness, or consoled her this weekend, the “grown-up” me backed down. She avoided it, she didn’t underline the injustice that the “little girl” in me had suffered. She let her fall.

Damn but why are things so hard to say? Why is it then down to me to do all that? Why didn’t my parents say anything this weekend?

The denial of possible responsibility which my therapist spoke about yesterday hasn’t really been enough to console me.

I said nothing to them about my anger.

Perhaps I am one of those who turns the other cheek after my first one has been massacred. Perhaps I have been let go after all …

Nevertheless this weekend I didn’t feel any fear. With my parents I felt adult. I didn’t enter into the empty chatter with my father (I even stayed astonishingly silent). I didn’t play the adored little girl always agreeing with my mother. I even told them of my plans to buy an apartment with my man, of my decision not to marry but to have children all the same, which is an enormous thing when you think of the traditional society I have come from.

That’s a big step forward, my therapist is right. It’s the proof that I have become an adult as far as my parents are concerned, that I have self-determination.

Yes, OK.

But if I am adult and I no longer fear them, why can’t I say anything to them? Why couldn’t I take advantage of a car trip with my father taking me back to the station on Sunday, to tell him a little more on this “psychological well-being” which, in my letter, I said I was hoping for and about which he asked me?

Why did nothing happen?

I would have liked to say to my father that I hoped finally to be worthy of everything: of respect, of esteem, of love. I would like to have said that I was hoping to kill finally the little voice which whispers to me from time to time that perhaps I was circumcised because I was nothing but good. Like a punishment in advance. As if the suffering which resulted has led me to be a better person. I would have liked to tell him that all the same I believe I am basically good.

Except that not one word of these conversations escaped my lips. Not one.

I said nothing to them about my anger. Nothing at all.

The curtains come down on my make-believe courage of a soldier ….

[Original in French]

Next post


  1. Perhaps also that to be adult is to accept that your parents are not perfect and make mistakes and refuse to admit it? I understand that in any case it's hard to swallow on your part ... (and remember that I am at a level approaching zero in my relationship with my parents, so by way of being a good adviser, I am the wrong card to pick ;-))

  2. Because perhaps you felt that the real people facing you were no longer those who had, or allowed, the mutilation done so long ago. Perhaps that saw two people battling with their own questions on their responsibility, even if going in circles, and that you decided to let them progress with that as you have progressed with your own anger.
    But no, you didn't show consent because you didn't say a word. You have just given a clear proof of that.
    Those who consented, it's they, and the words which weren't said in opposition rest on them and not on you.
    Good, how simple it would be if all that could be held in the kiss I'm sending to you. Words are so clumsy sometimes.

  3. It's interesting what your therapist said about your big and little me. My reaction to your post is that I respond in the same way to my parents. I too am often determined to tell them about my fury, but when I see them, nothing comes out, I have a detachment with astonishes me.
    There remains the solution of writing to them, as you did when you announced your operation, that could perhaps be a starting point for a "live" discussion which you are wanting?

    Hmmm... I don't really know what to say to you... it would be so simple if we were capable of a sensational blistering rage which would dominate us and push us beyond this awful silence of words.

  4. Dear Papillon
    Don't be too hard on yourself!
    A confrontation is very difficult to go through, especially when you have ambivalent feelings, filial love, anger, sadness... Above all you need to be "pampered" by your parents after the operation you have undergone!
    I found some advice given to victims of incest who want a confrontation with their families (or one member):
    Think well about the goals you are aiming for, write down in advance what you are going to say, meet in a neutral place (or in the therapist's office and accompanied by her).. if you want, work on the confrontation as a role play, so that you aren't completely overwhelmed by anger, and anticipate the different reactions....

    You always seem to us to be so courageous, and we are feeling for you! ;-)

    ...I hope I have made fewer spelling mistakes than usual! ;-)

  5. Hi Papillon
    You shouldn't be so hard on yourself.
    Reading your post, it made me think of myself when I was a little girl. Besides I still sometimes act like that with my parents.
    I remember that when I had to tell them something important or ask them something, I daren't. In my head I said "I'll tell them on a count of 3" and then I counted to three and said nothing.
    I was afraid of their reaction or their refusal. It's as if inside you there is still the little girl who was circumcised and who wants to shout with anger. But a little girl inevitably has difficulty shouting in front of her parents and the authority they represent. It's perhaps this little girl too who is angry.
    Even if you are an adult today, that doesn't wipe out the pain you suffered when small. That will take time, but you will get there, I am sure, with lots of work.
    I'm giving you a big hug and feel for you. You are an adult now and you have the right to express your anger, anger of an adult and that of the little girl you used to be.

  6. Hello

    Perhaps also (you will find perhaps in one of our interpretations one which will suit you?) because you passionately want them to take a step? That they will explain things openly, as you would speak to an adult.

    Perhaps that simply, to forgive, first someone must ask (not just having the appearance of asking)? And you are waiting for a sign on their part, and you feel you have nothing, which is terribly frustrating and disappointing. Perhaps that their way of reacting seems very hypocritical to you and you expect better from your parents?

    There is no shame for you, this is no doubt the most difficult part to manage, the most painful part.

  7. I think you are right Fyfe, it will be better if I accept that my parents can refuse to recognise the pain they have given me (the famous denial of responsibility which my therapist spoke of) but it is frankly hard to digest that ... And worse, if you can find me a good adviser on parental relations, I will give you 10,000,000 euros (given that, if you exclude therapists, they aren't too common, in my opinion).

    Anita, I am struck by the words "real people" that you use. A week ago I was talking to my therapist about "false parents" when I was trying to describe how I perceived my parents. I ask myself if, in effect, there isn't a break between what they once were and what they are now. And I ask myself if they don't expend an enormous amount of energy maintaining that break. You see, when I wrote these words, I was thinking of myself when I asked if saying nothing is giving consent. To the big me in fact. And then reading your comment I began to ask myself about my parents. I have this fear that their silence could be a confession of the fact that they aren't inevitably certain they did wrong ...

    Oh yes Elté, the expression of anger is the precious objective of the quest I started so long ago and clearly I still have some way to go. I hope you are nearer the goal that I am. Because in the end it's tiring keeping your words to yourself. Sometimes I am afraid of poisoning myself with them...

    A thousand thanks for your advice Cornélie. In effect, there is this permanent filial love which blurs signs and makes things much more complicated. And my therapist also said that she was sure that things would have been very different if we weren't in my parents' "territory". But what I realise from reading your words is that I am still not set on what I want to say to them. For the moment there are few words and one great shout. No doubt it needs to mature...
    Oh you normally make mistakes? I haven't noticed. If it comforts you, I make loads too but I can remove them behind the scenes if I notice them (he he, neither seen nor known)

    Hi Nono! It's exactly that: I would do it, I think, express my anger (at least to my mother) but I think it's the little me who has all this anger accumulated to be expressed. And I can't stop myself from judging myself all the same: the big me still doesn't say anything. I hope that in time you will be right and one day I will be able to express these angers from both adult and child.

    Yes Moira, each one will have his turn in the end. It’s always me who goes towards them, I’d like it if they too would take their courage in both hands nd come towards me a little. What's more, I already have difficulty in envisaging one day I will forgive them, even if they don't ask for it, that would be completely Utopian. The thing is that, wow, it's THEY who are responsible for the harm done to me, and I am the one who pays the price. I can't get over it. Normally things are not supposed to take place like that. And of course, in life, nothing happens as it should, and I am knocked off-balance and my words feel as though they are stuck in my throat ...

  8. I too find what your therapist said to you very interesting.
    What you tell about the attitude of your parents shows they are embarrassed. If that's true, they really would want to ask your forgiveness but they don't know how set about it.
    What was done to you wasn't nothing. Your mother knows that, because surely she is also circumcised. As for your father, that must be even more difficult, men aren't good with words.
    Measure all the effort you have made, the reconstruction, physical and mental, which has brought you to where you are now. They are still the parents of a little girl from the past, whom they didn't know to protect and with whom they can't manage to talk.

    I don't think that you didn't shout out your anger because of cowardice, on the contrary you are damned brave.

    You have the courage to leave the time to progress.

    I think also of the luck you have to know, to be able, to need to talk, to explain, while they ultimately live in silence, to say nothing of the denial, but in fact according to what you are saying they are no longer in denial, more unable to express themselves.

    You are very much a butterfly who knows to spread her wings. They, poor souls, don't know how.

  9. Hello Papillon
    What Claude says (about not being able to talk about the abuse that they had made their children suffer) reminds me of Alice Miller, do you know of her?

    Her site is this

    For her to survive her feelings of pain, terror, humiliation, betrayal felt after these acts, (and so that nobody lies to us by saying "it's for your own good"), we have to freeze our deepest emotions.
    It's very difficult afterwards, as adults, to establish an objective view on past events... if you can it's often that on the way there has been someone who she calls "an enlightened witness" who can help call into question the family dysfunction (or society's) and help us revive our emotions...

    The books are superb and there are some articles on her site.

  10. Elté reblogged25 June 2007 at 11:20

    Dear Papillon
    my situation isn't comparable to yours, and I am finally trying to swallow my anger. My reaction to what Claude says: parents don't know how to start. My mother starts from the principle that she and my father love us (my brother and me) more than anything in the world. Their mistake (difficult to use that word in your case because it is too weak) ought not to count compared with the love that they have for us. I find that irritating to hear, but when she uses emotions, I always melt. So as far as my mother is concerned (and I ask myself if if isn't Asian education that is coming out again) anger against parents is bad, although I think myself that it would do me good if I could manage to fly into a temper.

    Your parents are obviously trying to find a means of reconciliation, even if you haven't expressed your anger to them. If I were they, I would be afraid of you, because by their lack of attention they did you an enormous harm of which they are well aware (do you doubt it?)and also because, according to you, there will also be your sister to confront perhaps.

    By the way, do you think your mother has been circumcised according to what she said about the traditions of her village? Lets hope not.

  11. Myself, I always find you so courageous, and that doesn't change at all. Time isn't exactly pressing, you can speak to them later.


  12. Claude, I'm delighted you're back! My thoughts have brought me towards what you are saying, to realise that I express myself while they are wrapped up in their silence. I don't know if I've really given them time to move on. Let's say that I've decided that I've done enough. I'm stopping trying to establish at all costs a communications channel with them so that they can ask me to forgive them. I'm going to devote my time to the discovery and appreciation of what I'm becoming and of my new-found clitoris. I tell myself that it is they who are missing the opportunity to get closer to me ...

    Cornélie, my therapist gave my one of Alice Miller's books to read "L'enfant sous terreur". While looking to find out more on the internet I came across her site and read several articles there. That taught me a lot of things even though at the time I wasn't able to apply what i read to myself. I may re-read the book and visit the site again. Thank you for having jogged my memory, as far as I am concerned it is an excellent reference. When I read what you said, I think again about what led me to my therapist, knowing the impossibility of accessing my emotions. My "enlightened witness" will therefore be my therapist?

    Elté reblogged, but if you follow your mother's reasoning, parents will never be responsible for anything bad they may do to their children? They always act for what they believe is the best for their children, is that all there is to remember? I admit that I find that too easy, even if they basically really didn't want to do any harm. Yes, I doubt a bit that they knew the harm they were doing to me. In spite of the "they know very well" dealt out by my therapist. I know they are aware of being responsible for what happened to me but I'm not sure that they were convinced it was so bad. In fact I ask myself really if, today, with all that they know about circumcision, they would refuse to have us circumcised.
    As far as my mother is concerned, I am preoccupied by the question of her circumcision. Sometimes I say to myself yes, obviously she must have been circumcised. And sometimes I ask myself if she hadn't escaped it. I thought about asking her sister who lives north of Paris. But seeing that we aren't close, I don't know yet how I'm going to manage that. All the same I haven't given that up. For my mother as a woman I hope she escaped. For my mother as my mother, I admit to more ambiguous feelings...

    Hi Mlle Crapaud! Actually time isn't pressing any longer. At least for me. With the passing days, I want to less and less. After all, I've done what I can and too bad for the rest. Perhaps it's best to let the dust settle a bit. Anyway, I have the feeling that my relationship with my parents has altered since my letter, and that it's continuing to change. I'm waiting to see where it's leading me...

  13. Elté reblogged25 June 2007 at 13:44

    You know Papillon, the more I think about it, the more I am persuaded that my mother brings out this moral code to turn my anger into something ridiculous.

    I have just realised something sweet, thinking about your pseudonym! Vietnamese are very modest, and they never use the words for male or female genitals by their direct names. Imagine, they call male organs "bird" and female "butterfly" (papillon)! And the metaphor for the sexual act is a story of cloud and rain, in brief it's all very light :-)

  14. Oh no, you're not going to be feeling guilty because you have been circumcised, "punished in advance", no, surely, is that what you're saying??!!
    Your parents, responsible but not guilty (in their eyes) according to a formula which prospered as blood was contaminated.. They are digging themselves out permanently opposite you, and as a result, you daren't attack them head on... And even if it's a pity, I understand you perfectly, I would do exactly the same in your place. How can you attack someone who presents such a smooth surface, without any bumps to hang on to and jump off?
    Wait, there's no need to be in a hurry, in my opinion, when the moment comes, without knowing in advance, everything will come out, and that will be liberating. Don't you think?

  15. Hello, first comment here. I found your blog from Fyfe's. Well I have average abilities for saying agreeable things.:D Hmm... I love you way of writing and of telling your story.
    I haven't yet read it all but I think I'll come back to read it all from the start.

    (and I'm going to add you to my list of links)

  16. hello
    I think you are right to be angry with your parents, with the fact that you weren't protected by them, and everything you said.
    On the other hand, I don't know that it's necessary to say your reproaches out loud. It isn't certain that they will hear, for various reasons, good or bad, just like your sister hasn't managed to speak about it, because it probably awakens too much fear in her.
    Perhaps it could be useful to write down your reproaches to your parents, to write them a letter with all this anger, so that you can express all that is inside you without necessarily sending it to them or anything. I wish you courage and plenty of nice things in your life. In any event you have shown that you are able to take your life in both hands and face up to difficult situations! Congratulations!

  17. In any case, from my point of view, that allows her to deny you the right to be angry with her, Elté reblogged.
    I can't get over what you say about my pseudonym. I find that so funny. Especially as I chose it without thinking just as I created my blog. No, frankly, that amazes me! :)

    I think you are right Christine. One day it will come out. While waiting I'll continue to work on it during therapy so that i don't find myself constantly thinking about it and waiting without end. I've thought about it a lot, and I say to myself that I've done what i had to as far as my parents are concerned. I can't take any more steps to drag a plea for forgiveness out of them. It won't have any value if it comes from an action on my part, if there is no spontaneity.

    Hello and welcome Pirskilla. First comment and a massive effect: I'm babbling happily (that happens when someone says they like how I write:)) See you again soon I hope!

    Hello to you nab! I admit that for the moment I have put aside the idea of looking them in the eyes and shouting my anger. Actually I think it would be pointless, they wouldn't hear and that would well cause me pain. At the moment I'm trying to come out of my anger in effect. I speak about it more and more in therapy. I can't manage to write about it. As though that wouldn't be enough. I must shout it.


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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