Don’t Look @ Me - A Woman’s Self Effacing Self Defense

Recently my vocal coach challenged me to sing the same song in 4 different moods: Angry, sad, happy and sensual.

I realized two things: 1. Happy and sad were accessible, angry - a little less so.

2. Sensual? Oh man. We went over and over this one. It was strange because there was a time in my life where it was always the most accessible. I could and would turn it on at the drop of a hat. What happened?

Men happened.

My coach said, “you know you’re the only girl that has struggled this much with this one.”

Then what I said next was a revelation to me.

“I’ve spent so much time trying not to attract a certain kind of attention that it’s hard for me to just go there now”.

On stage or on set, I feel more protected. Under the lights, it feels safe.

The words were so true, that they demanded to be spoken. Each word spilled out of my mouth like the bubble in my chest they were trapped in was finally pierced. They came quickly and were spoken before I even realized I knew why that exercise was a challenge.

We continued our work and because my coach understands me and creates such a safe space, I was able to access it. It felt liberating, true and most of all fun.

As I was doing it though, there was this sense that it was like visiting an island you love but know you can never spend much time on, because life.

Days passed since that lightbulb moment, and it dawned on me, I was still trying to hide parts of myself. Hiding was a theme in my life.

It was time for some internal excavation. Here’s what I found: Life had taught me that without trying, there was a certain kind of attention I seemed to attract from men since I was 8 or 9. It was the kind of attention I wanted to avoid. Add to that the other ways I was incessantly silenced as a child, and well, am I painting a picture?

Even the way I just worded the experience of men’s unwanted attention gives me pause. It still places the onus on me. “I was attracting”, is really an unfair way for us to look at this.

Unfortunately, this is what it feels like for most of us. 

It’s always, “why do I attract this? When, in the case of either harassment, assault or abuse, the questions should be more like, “why are so many men such trash and how can our society producing better men?”

In high school I loved short skirts, dresses, and tight clothes. Being flirtatious was fun, and innocent. 

After high school, I still enjoyed expressing myself this way but the more I was around men in the entertainment industry, the more it made me feel like I was asking for their disrespect. I became well trained in smiling less, wearing hats as close to my nose as possible, covering up and not saying much at all. 

I was always afraid something I might say, or do would unwittingly bring on unwanted behavior.

In one especially difficult to process instance, a friend of mine blamed me for being manipulated by an older man. So, needless to say, I became completely paranoid. Everything I did felt wrong for years after that. 

So I tried not to exist. This was my form of self defense and it only hurt me. Muting parts of ourselves has an effect on the whole, however subtle or unnoticeable.

I think that’s why I love taking those heels dance classes. It feels good to let go and know I’m safe.

As women, we do have to strike a balance between being safe but free.

Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in.

It’s a delicate balance and I’m still learning. I hope we can band together and help each other navigate whenever possible.

Photo: Aana

Photo: Aana

Ehlie Luna