I’ll Pass on THAT Rite of Passage

I have been thinking about two rites of passage I experienced as a pre-teen and teenager. Becoming a Bat Mitzvah and driving.

At 13 I became a Bat Mitzvah. Leading up to this ceremony, I had weekly or biweekly lessons with the Cantor at my synagogue. In these lessons, every single girl experienced inappropriate touch from the Cantor, who was old enough to be our grandfather. It was so “normal” that we joked about it with our parents and called him Mr. Hands behind his back. This went on in every class for years. As far as I am aware, not ONE SINGLE PARENT spoke with him or anyone else about this inappropriate behavior. It didn’t happen to the boys, just the girls. It was a cultural norm for us.

At 16, I learned to drive. There was one driving school in my town. The instructor did not touch us inappropriately, but he talked about our breasts to the male students. Compared this girl to that girl while driving around with the boys. He objectified us. We knew it was happening. This time, I think we had more shame and discomfort about our changing bodies, so I do not recall talking to the parents about it the way we did when we were 12.

I did not want to go to my Bat Mitzvah lessons because I did not want to be touched by this man. I did not want to go to my driving lessons with Fran either, as I knew he made fun of my flat chest to the other boys. But in order to move through these rites of passage that I really wanted, I had to bypass myself and what felt safe to me to get there. I made myself small, I wore baggy clothes, I tried to be as invisible as possible.

I and many other women still struggle internally with the desire to be seen and heard and the concurrent desire to be invisible. I believe so much of this internal struggle is connected to these subtle and NOT-subtle experiences we have had. Sometimes the rage pours through so fiercely and we do not even know where it comes from. When the rage pours through and it seems to come from nowhere, that is when we women get labeled as “bitchy” or “it must be that time of the month”.

In the face of #metoo we have a lot to figure out still. Thank you to the men who met this weekend to start (what I hope is a longer process of) unravelling this in yourselves. I hope more men meet to do this work. Thank you to Julie Woods and Katrina Coravos for your facilitation of Me Too: Healing between the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine. I hope we do this again. Men, please keep doing this work. And please keep asking the women for guidance.

Women, can we be gentle with ourselves? I feel so angry with myself in the moments when I am “bitchy”. I get bitchy when I perceive my safety to be breeched. Being hard and cold and bitchy has been the pathway to keeping myself safe in the past. I am still learning what it is to yield to my own divine feminine. What is it to be fierce in our boundaries, AND soft and vulnerable at the same time? I am not looking for an answer to this question. I embrace the question as the journey.


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