I talk about having MRKH often, and so I’m no stranger to awkward conversations. I mean seriously, I’m talking about myself…and missing body parts…and vaginas…that’s bound to make nearly anyone cringe a little bit. Sometimes it even makes me cringe – but I’m determined to reduce the shame, to empower my MRKH sisters, and make it just a teensy bit less awkward if possible.
I’ve been thanked, and I think admired, by people for speaking so openly about MRKH and my experiences. And you know what…that feels kind of awkward sometimes to me. I’m not doing this for a form of self promotion. I’m not doing this in hopes that an article is written about me, or an invitation comes from some talk show host to appear on a TV show to sensationalize MRKH. I’m doing this for the love of my MRKH family, and to give hope and encouragement to young women who have just been told the name of their condition. I want to both celebrate and empower us. To show the beauty in the imperfections. To encourage them in the face of what feels very much like tragedy.
Sometimes I forget that by quietly speaking out and speaking openly, that I might gather more attention than I was intending. Allowing my quiet strength and confidence to show might create some intrigue into just who I am. As you get to know me you notice other things too, that add to the intrigue. My choice of eye wear – to me it’s functional, but is it also “sexy smart girl” fashion? My choice to have visible tattoos – to me it’s self expression, remembrances, and healing, but is it also “rebel bad girl” statements? My choice in business casual and comfortable clothing seems practical to me and fits with my everyday life – but does it lend itself to a “when she’s good she’s good, but when she’s bad she’s better” air of mystique? I don’t really know the answer to these questions, but it does make me wonder a little bit about how I am perceived, and am I portraying my “true self”.
I love to watch people and their interactions. While traveling for work the last few weeks I’ve had plenty of time for gawking and watching. I’ve seen things I just can’t un-see, and I’ve seen things that have moved me to tears (hush, peanut gallery!!!). I’ve had some interesting conversations, and observed some interesting interactions. I had that weird moment on the plane that I wrote about, and I’ve had the opportunity to brighten someone’s day.
Indulge me while I tell another story that really raised some questions in my own mind about perceptions and potential misunderstandings, and am I really projecting my authentic self. I was at a casual social event/mixer that was a blend of co-workers and spouses and friends. Lots of conversations happening all around the room, talking about work projects, the weather, upcoming summer projects, and all manner of things. There were adult beverages being consumed, music playing, and just generally a good time was being had. In situations like this, I’m generally a bit of a wall flower. I sit back and just watch people interact, engage in light conversations with people I know fairly well, and generally just try to enjoy the event for the politically correct amount of time before suggesting that it might be time to leave. As I’m sitting there this particular evening, a gentleman who I’ve known for a while comes up along side of me and starts a conversation. I know him on both a business and a casual friend basis, so conversation is easy and friendly banter. But I can’t exactly hear everything he’s saying, but I’m nodding politely, smiling and shrugging as seems to fit the blah, blah, blah kind of conversation. As the conversation continues, I’m catching more and more of the words and starting to catch the drift of what’s actually being said. And I’m flustered. Caught of guard. Shocked even. And then scrambling to find the correct responses. You see, what started as friendly banter had turned to flirting, and then to pretty decisive hitting on me.
This certainly was not the first time I have been flirted with or hit on at some kind of event – but it was the first time in a very long time that it has happened when my husband has been in the same room, AND the “flirter” knows us both as a married couple. It was shocking to me, and awkward, and honestly kind of funny too. I was wracking my brain to figure out how to respond. I excused myself and went to the bathroom. As I locked myself into the stall, and sat down I said a little prayer to God asking for some guidance and strength, to give me the right words to say, to intervene in my brain, to help me get through the interaction without making it any more awkward than necessary, and to help me to come to terms with the whole thing – sort out my true feelings, and to figure out what to say to my husband – if anything, and to not make this any more of the cluster-muck it was quickly becoming.
As I left the bathroom, I stopped and chatted with a couple different groups before returning to my previous spot where I had left my stuff. He was still there, and I was determined to be polite but firm in turning down his advances. He continued in the flirtatious banter, telling me he had been attracted to me for a while. And while he knew I was married, he didn’t know if we maybe had an open relationship, or if he should be concerned that he was about to get decked for coming on to me. I laughed awkwardly and told him honestly, look I’m flattered, but it’s not going to happen.
And I was flattered. I mean really, who doesn’t want to hear that someone finds you attractive and desirable? It’s the ego-boost that every woman needs from time to time. But I also felt guilty for being flattered, and I started the non-stop, 10,000 thoughts per day, inner turmoil of what did my reaction to his compliment really mean? And what if he didn’t take the hint and drop it? And would I tell my husband of the interaction? And would it be totally awkward the next time I saw him in public? And what had I done, or said, or worn that might have given the impression that I would be available or interested in a fling? Was I sending out mixed signals? Was I letting my authentic self shine brightly? Had I brought this on myself? I was so conflicted…
The flirtations and suggestions continued, and I politely told him again that while I was flattered, it’s just not going to happen. About that time I gathered my coat and purse and headed for the best defense I could offer – my husband. We said our good-nights to everyone, the flirt included, and headed out. I still wasn’t sure if I should tell my husband what had happened, not sure how he would respond to it all. As we walked to our car I said another silent prayer to God for guidance and clarity about the whole situation. When we were on the road, he asked me if I had a good time, and a nice visit with….. I laughed awkwardly and said well, yeah I suppose – but he was totally hitting on me (and I held my breath waiting for his reaction) . Hubby laughed and we talked it out on the way home. He was not spitting mad and prepared to defend my honor with testosterone fueled fists, instead he found the whole thing kind of funny, but also a confirmation of some hints/feelings he had about this guy over the last few months. I told hubby that I was afraid it would be awkward the next time we saw him, but he doesn’t think it will be. I hope he is right.
In the mean time, I’ve had plenty of time to think through my feelings about the situation. I’m flattered, and yet I feel guilty for being flattered (insert eye roll here!). I think that sometimes I do inadvertently send out mixed messages. I dress somewhat conservatively, am generally quite and reserved, I am intelligent and driven. I also have tattoos, drink whiskey, and enjoy dancing to live music with my husband. I know that my quiet strength and confidence, along with the glimpses of my inner rebel, has the potential create intrigue. But acknowledging that, I did NOTHING to provoke this, it’s all on him. I like and respect this man as a person, and I’m not really offended by his flirtation and hitting on me – surprised, but not offended. It has made me think about and reaffirm who I believe myself to be, and if I am truly sharing my authentic self with the world.
It’s approaching the time of year when I once again put myself out in the public eye and openly promote and talk about MRKH and my Courageous Project. I hope that these recent experiences will better prepare me for raising my voice, speaking out, and celebrating and empowering women with MRKH.