I’m reluctant to admit it, but recently I’ve been reading A Song Of Ice & Fire. I’m reluctant to admit it mainly because I know it’s mildly trashy and heavily busted, but I still like it. A fair deal of that is that I like Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth.
There are lots of reasons. For one thing, I’m a loyal and protective type. Brienne’s quote about being Renly’s shield triggered what is probably one of the strongest emotional reactions I’ve felt in a while. I can’t really say what emotion it was. It felt like the emotional equivalent of raw, unrefined, unshaped ore.
I like Arya’s list of people she wants dead. I used to have one of those, although I didn’t have names for the people, just things they did to me. I identify with having to grow up far, far before you ever should have. I identify with Brienne’s determination, and.. Well, I’d like to identify with Arya being an utter badass.
But that’s the thing. I can’t. Just like every other badass character I’ve read, met or made up. There’s always one, and they’re always my favourite. And they’re always nothing like me.
I grew up with those characters, being an avid reader, but none of them have really shaped me, unless you count my bleak, strange attraction to the kind of experiences that leave you feeling like you’re full of ashes inside.
Oh, for a while I pretended they had.
I convinced myself I was anxious all the time because of the abuse, blithely thought that I hated routine, and tried not to think about how I’m clumsy and small and how punching air puts my hand in crushing, glassy agony for a few minutes.
I was so deep in denial that I didn’t even think I had sensory issues, so strongly did I dislike the idea of being weak in such a manner. It ties quite nicely into how childhood taught me that revealing any kind of weakness meant it being exploited when people got angry with you, no matter how terrible or sacred.
Now? Now I’m quite past that. I’m quite aware that breaking routine makes me anxious, particularly after my mother shuffled my books yesterday, and they’re now strewn all over the floor because I can’t remember how they’re supposed to go, and there’s a mark on my door that may be the result of my amply-banged head.
I’m quite aware of my sensory issues, now that I’ve understood that touching is uncomfortable, forks dropped onto plates are painful, and overall, the world outside my room is painful and overwhelming and awful.
But sometimes, I still think about being Arya Stark, or Brienne. Being somehow, in some manner, badass. I know it’s ridiculous. Adventures are terrible anyway, even if you survive, and the kind I read about are the best examples of such awfulness.
Even when I do get one of those ashes-inside moments of suffering or imminent suffering that I take such bleak, small pleasure in reading or imagining, I don’t like it.
The most pleasure I get out of it is saying that I survived. I survived, I lived. For one, brief, slate gray moment that didn’t shine at all, I imitated a badass.
I suffered, with sarcasm and sharpness and an intimidating manner that’s really just my ADHD showing, and then later, I couldn’t do what I refer to as “putting the gray in gray asexual” to my usual thoughts of power and oppression, because I just experienced a forcible reminder that power and oppression are my reality.
And that, like adventures, they are things best seen through fantasy, particularly if you’re on the end that I am.
Being developmentally disabled is just a red herring. The real reason I’m no badass is because when I push against oppression in any large way, oppression comes back and crushes me.
There’s no author or director to suspend it by shimmering puppet-strings while I make my escape or give it a few clumsy hits that leave my hand feeling like it is being slowly and methodically broken into little pieces.
No convenient, easy option, or even a dramatic sacrifice, to let me avoid the inevitable backlash.