I Was A Self-Mutilator Before It Was Cool

Wouldn’t that be a great title for a book? All the others on the subject are such downers. So many played-out plays on “edge” and “skin.”

Cutting works. It isn’t crazy. It’s an effective practice in the short term, and women are good at surviving. That’s why my “Girls, self-mutilation is not the answer” speech — and if you work with teens, you should have one ready — differs from the copperplate.

Whether or not cutting is the answer depends on the question. If you’re asking, “Will cutting temporarily relieve my inner pain by relocating it to a designated outward locus rather than letting it weave, unfocused, through an amorphous emotional landscape?” the answer is yes. If you’re wondering, “Can I show other people how badly I’ve been hurt via a keloid roadmap?” again, it’s yes.

These questions are the ones teenage girls know how to ask. Here are some others they don’t always have words for:

How do I become a woman in a world that hates women?

What are some choices besides “virgin” or “slut”?

My boyfriend says he hits me because I make him mad; is that true?

Am I in love with my best girlfriend; is that wrong?

How fast can I run? How hard can I throw? How hard can I kick a soccer ball?

Why do the women in magazine ads look unconscious? Why are their mouths always open?

Why do ads for violent porn pop up onscreen out of nowhere? 

Why can’t I walk down the street without being bothered/leered at/propositioned? Why do I feel like it’s my fault?

Who can’t I say “no” to? What would happen if I said it?

What kind of work would bring me real joy?

Why am I never skinny enough?

Does anyone else — ?

Will you listen long enough to hear me?

2 thoughts on “I Was A Self-Mutilator Before It Was Cool

  1. This is great. You have a real gift for showing these layers of thought: what you can express, and all the other stuff underlying it that you can’t express yet.

    Can I show people how badly I’ve been hurt via a keloid roadmap?

    That’s the part of cutting that’s been easiest for me to understand, and that had the strongest appeal for me. Partly because I’ve always been so inarticulate about nebulous things like emotions or states of mind (I am autistic, so I have both an inherent difficulty with language and a vastly different set of basic emotional responses; I don’t work well with language, and language doesn’t work well *for* me, since it was not created by people who experience things the way I do), and partly because I’ve also internalized this notion that unless it makes a mark on your body, it couldn’t have really hurt you.

  2. That’s so interesting; thank you for it — I’ve never looked at cutting via anything but a neurotypical viewpoint. Several of my best students are autistic, though (mostly Asperger’s) and they’ve helped me look at MANY things in a different way…

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