Denied Privilege, Guest Post: Oliana Kim
Today I bring you Oliana Kim from Traces of the Soul. I find her blog to be one of the most honest and insightful that I’ve read. You usually feel like you did something right by reading her words, as they are inspired and imbued with wisdom.
By Oliana Kim
Story of my friend.
A woman denied privilege .
Jacinthe had finally received her divorce papers. To her it was not an award of any sort. She had been married for 15 years and with the same man for 23 years, Etienne had been her first love. She had a great relationship with her family, friends and even her in-laws that had become her true friends. They knew Etienne was not an easy person to live with and her sister-in-law, often encouraged her to make a new life with her sons, that she deserved to be happy. It was more difficult changing her attitude… that she was, in fact, entitled to happiness.
All through high school, she took care of her alcoholic mother who went through binges and then deep bouts of depression; bi-polar disorder was diagnosed only 20 years later… how did she know at 14 what her mother was going through and how to help? All she did know was to keep the house tidy so her father wouldn`t fly off the handle, get food on the table, when there was enough in the pantry and fridge and get good marks at school. Jacinthe was destined to the compliance… a feminine entitlement to many of her era… to comply and silently acquiescing if she knew what was good for her!
Fortunately, her father was rarely home, a businessman in advertising… a pseudo Mad Men character yet, he was for real. In public and at work, he was Mr. Charm, so sweet a diabetic could go into a coma! Just as well that he’d go on his extended business trips, his sharp tongue hurt more when he was around.
Her brother, Jean-François, was the light of her parents’ lives. Back in the mid-sixties, life had not moved forward that much for women… the Beatles and Rolling Stones were the only change really and a few burning bras… so what! Women dressing sexier, showing more skin did not get them more respect and the extreme feminists dressing in 3 piece suits and ties… good Lord! What were they thinking? Perhaps, they thought by changing their attire it would entitle them into a man’s world… think again, sister!
Jacinthe was an A+ student. She graduated Valedictorian. She could go so far, be anything she wanted… academically she was the gem in her family. If only her family would see that but she was not a boy and Jean-François was the only person entitled to higher education. Her parents were blind to the fact that their son had no ambition, was sinking into his mother’s addictions and that Jacinthe could have made them so proud… but that was how it was then. Some boys who were to become men were entitled to have the rug rolled out before them, so Jean-François would be the chosen… this privilege went to him.
Jacinthe managed to get a full year scholarship at Marianopolis College that was not a freebie or an entitlement in any way… she earned it. To support herself to live in Montreal… away from her Eastern Township home, she accepted a live-in “mother’s helper’s” position. That year was so overwhelming, being away from her small town, family, friends and of course her Etienne who was having a blast at Dawson College while she was inundated with so many Pure and Applied Science classes. She was lonely, depressed and dropped out the second year… just as well. The following year she registered in a one year extensive dental assistance programme… practical and it had served her quite well up to now.
Jacinthe had just recently started dating but nothing serious. Her sister-in-law would match her up with a “guy from work” or a cousin from somewhere else. And the date she had tonight was an accountant who worked with her brother-in-law. No harm there, right? He had seen her at a family Christmas party years ago. She was flattered. Nothing wrong with being flirted and desired, was there? They talked on the phone a few times, met for coffee briefly and then he invited her out for dinner. She was now a single mom of two pre-teen boys and occasions to seek out a male partner were slim. Jacinthe was definitely not the “bar scene” gal, nor was she much of a drinker. She was 38 and this man was 43. “Maybe he is over the Peter Pan Syndrome,” she thought with a chuckle.
He insisted on paying for dinner… and that made her a bit uncomfortable but with her meagre wages raising a family without “child support”, she gave in. The evening was non-eventful… he talked about himself, she listened and smiled and commented at the right places, a habit difficult to drop.
He took her home and asked to come in for a coffee. Jacinthe had a neighbour stay with the boys (still not comfortable leaving them on their own at 10 and 12). When her neighbour left, she put the coffee on and went to the washroom and when she came out, HE was completely naked! Jacinthe was totally numb. A million things were going through her mind all at once. She realized that he was expecting to get paid for that measly dinner. He may have actually convinced himself that he was entitled to “his desert”. Trying to think real fast, she thought it would be far less traumatic if she just gave in and got it over with. Her screaming would only wake up her boys and upset them. It would bring unneeded attention to her in the apartment building… the single mom bringing an almost stranger into her home. It’s amazing all the thoughts and images that flash before you facing a shocking event. She asked him to please be quiet and not wake up the boys and that he could not stay the night, or much longer… and so he did his business right there standing in the living room and left minutes later… yes, minutes!
Jacinthe felt violated, dirty and stripped of all her dignity. Weeping and on her way to the washroom to try and cleanse her soiled body in the shower, she stopped by the boys’ bedroom and sighed with relief looking at their sleeping angelic faces; she counted her blessings despite what she had experienced tonight. She may have been denied the entitlement of human respect, but she was safe as well as her boys who were sleeping soundly. That’s was mattered the most.
© Whispering Insights, October 18, 2013
I`m a mom, a nana…a youth counsellor, a family life educator, life skills facilitator, a daughter (mom is still alive) a sister, a lover sometimes, a loyal friend, compassionate volunteer and lifelong student. I am not religious but I am spiritual. I believe in the Golden Rule…you can`t go wrong there if everyone just abided by that.