Tell me about yourself.

“So tell me something about you?” What a nightmare of a question this one. I can answer a complex mathematical equation faster than that. I dread the question, to be honest. It’s an irrational fear I am sure. A question as simple as this and it throws me into a severe lack of vocabulary.

In college, they told us the answer to that is what have you done, who your parents are, your demography. But that’s not you — those are indices that categorize people in brackets of social identities. But for most, it’s an acceptable answer, for most.

I have always been a rebel, never belonged anywhere to anything. Tried to, but it went against my nature. I don’t know who I am either, however, what I know is that I am a very private person. I believe the unexplored core of me with whatever little information I gather about me are all closed. It’s stored in my brain in an encrypted form, and everytime someone tries to hack into that zone of my being, the signals scramble and shut down the entire system.

I think the second challenge is that when you possess multiple personalities, multiple interests, skills, drives and can seamlessly slide into them, it becomes challenging to spell out your character in its entirety.

So as unacceptable as this answer is to people, I am Jean, and I don’t know who I am, but that’s why I am here to learn the same. Tell me about yourself now?


Four men that changed the course of my life

Like all beautiful children, I had a normal childhood in the 90s with my grandmother humiliating my mother and me at every opportunity she got while my father was away. Everyone else was only complicit to the otherwise happy family dinners. But it wasn’t all bad, she convinced people that I was an arrogant child, and a bitch. But God was I still funny. It was going to be a normal life or at least all of the people in my life presumed.

Then came the first one at 8, he sexually abused me. Now, like all sensible people, you will ask me details as if certain forms of it are okay. So let me make it easy for you, he held me; he kissed me, he groped my yet not developed breasts, his fingers around my vagina, slid inside, his penis made its way, made me say unspeakable things. It happened for five years and frequently until he moved out. Can I now suffer in peace or is it still not a big deal, for you I mean?

I suffered from persistent vaginal infections, urine tests, doctors and somehow no one could figure out the cause. I didn’t breathe a word about it to anyone because I didn’t have the words. He kept sneaking into my house, and I was helpless, sometimes scared, later in life just indifferent.

Now I was never going to be a normal person, was I. He gave me the fear of losing control. But I still had a family, religion to my rescue and love of course.

Around a year later my brother found out. Now, he’d follow the ordinary course of things like a protector. But when is life ever straightforward. There came my second man. For some goddamned reason, he thought he had a new favorite pastime, blackmail. He kept at it, night and day for years till I turned 18. Thankfully, he left home then but not before making me feel ashamed, guilty, scared of myself. Now man 1 and man 2 had overlapping timelines. On a good day, my brother told how my family already disliked me, and if they heard about this, they’d hate me even more.

For years I cried myself to sleep, in pain, consoling myself, saying praise the lord fifty times, singing me lullabies. Nothing changed the next day. I built my life on the foundation of fear. The second man made me lose my faith in family. Hey, I still had the refuge of religion and belief in love though.

So at 18, when life finally calmed down from the abuse chapter of life, there were several other cameos of men who thought it was a good idea to tame me, some succeeded some got burned. Let’s not give them space.

As I grew up, the church was a second home, and I loved being there. I felt valued, and my mom vouched for it. Priests came, and they left in a few years. Life had some surprising plans. A new priest came, now this gentleman hated my face. Now some say, it was the way I dressed. My clothes hung on my body like I was wearing two sizes bigger. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, and my beholder had a hateful heart. Then I found it was my attitude; he humiliated me everywhere. One fine day, the church looked like a monster house. It wasn’t much of an inconvenience to anyone I quit church and lost faith in religion. When I cut my losses, I still had love, and you know what they say about it, that it outlives us all.

Everything passes, good times, bad times, happiness, sadness, all of it. We are in constant motion with our world. I finished college with a degree that while being prestigious was not my calling; I took up a job I hated, but it was the most fun I had.

When life was at its all-time high, I met what at that time was the love of my life, my man number 4. Now this one deserves a tribute. Perfect as a summer’s day. Among all men that are featured, I learned from this one. I learned that I was worthy of being loved and respected. He gave me the courage to speak up about the abuse — the first man that told me that it was not my fault. This one didn’t care about what people said about me; I wasn’t tough for him.

Not every person is perfect, all of us are far from it. He once said I had an inferiority complex that I masked with a superiority complex. At that point, his critique of me felt very foreign, but as time passed by, I entertained the thought of me.

All good things come to an end. This one did too three years later. Love got superseded by caste. Love, as I discovered, had limitations. When he left in whatever disgraceful way that he did and chose to lie about it, I flew off the handle.

Sometimes I feel like I am a victim but other times it feels horrifying that my life is a dark reality that is probably going to haunt for some time to come. Maybe I have forgiven all of them like a faithful Catholic because if Christianity teaches you something, it’s to forgive everyone except yourself.

I live now with a conflict that everyone else in my life has done the best they can while collectively letting me down. Maybe they brought me to the realization that if there’s one thing I am good at, then that’s surviving.

Jean Dmello