The Lord Voldemort Effect

For the 1% of the population unfamiliar with Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort is the major villain throughout the series. He has many characteristics—including a lack of nasal features and being really, really, ridiculously evil—but one of his most defining characteristics is that most people are too afraid of him to actually speak his name aloud. So when Harry is first learning of Voldemort’s existence, everyone is all “oh no, don’t ever speak his name! Bad shit will happen to you!” and insists Harry call him You-Know-Who. Or the more verbose,  He Who Must Not Be Named.

However, Dumbledore comes along, and being the BAMF that he is, teaches Harry that to fear even speaking a name aloud increases how much you fear that thing itself.

I’m sure there’s a more scientific name for this concept in real life but I choose to call it The Lord Voldemort Effect. We all know that’s cooler than whatever psychology named it (or, to wit, whomever it was named it after. Let’s be real psych, you name shit after dead white guys a lot).

 

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem.

When we’re afraid of something, we don’t want to talk about it. We run away from and refuse to acknowledge our fears and therefore give them so much more power. We are afraid of that which we do not know, or understand, and not talking about it just leads to more fear—and more often than not, anger. Nowhere is it more evident than in the evangelical proselytizing of the rampantly bigoted people of our world. Racism, sexism, homophobia, classism—you name it—it all stems from the fear people have toward that “other” group. But try to talk to those ardently biased and hateful people and they don’t want to hear a word of what you have to say. There’s too much fear and the mental security gates and brick walls are permanently up.

While I’d love to dive into a discussion of these huge social issues, I’m actually going to bring it in close for now, and talk about my own Lord Voldemort, the thing I’ve personally been afraid to talk openly about for a long time.

 

The Big, Hairy, Ugly, Pimple-Covered Truth.

I’ve never been in a relationship. Whomp, there it is.

The extent of my physical contact with a human being is a hug and a night or two of tame spin the bottle in college.

As I recently said to a friend of mine, let me break it down for ya: I’ve never kissed anyone, never slept with anyone, and never been on more than two dates with the same person.

Oh, and I’m 27 years old.

So lets backtrack a little and see where things started. I may not be Wolverine but we all love a good origin story.

I come from a sarcastic family. Sincerity and emotions usually took a back seat to teasing and jokes. We’d watch a movie together and when it would get to the touching, poignant moments and the characters were finally admitting their true feelings or there was a kiss or something, someone would blurt out “I love you man!” in their best Dumb & Dumber voice and we’d all start laughing.

It’s the kind of stuff that families often share and I don’t mean to say that it was terrible—it was usually funny, and probably where I started to find joy in comedy. What I think happened though was that there was not often honest, genuine conversation about our feelings or emotions to balance out this jokey-ness. I cannot remember ever feeling comfortable telling any of my family members I loved them out loud. I’m still uncomfortable with it. I don’t know if my siblings and I have ever said we love each other aloud. I know we do, but we don’t talk about it. We joke, we tease, we use sarcasm, and we don’t usually talk about the deep stuff.

As a kid, I therefore pushed all of my “feelings” to the side and just pretended I didn’t have them. I don’t blame my family; I just took things to the extreme. I didn’t talk about boys or crushes except with my closest of friends and even then, it took a lot of guts to admit it. I usually felt ashamed afterwards, like I had no right to like a boy. I saw nothing special about me, and couldn’t fathom anyone else seeing anything either.

 

Middle School Trauma: Life in the ER

At the end of 8th grade, I made a bet with my sister that I’d ask this boy I liked to our 8th Grade prom, and she would ask out the guy she liked. Through a series of unfortunate events—stemming from me telling a friend that I was going to ask him—I ended up asking in front of the entire cafeteria during lunch. While eating chocolate cake. And mumbling. To make another Harry Potter reference, it was almost exactly like how Harry asks Cho to the Yule Ball—just a mumbled, nervous mess.

He said no, in a pretty nice way I have to admit, and I ended up going to the dance alone whilst trying to wear that as “independence”. I was still ashamed though, and I never forgot that he went with a thinner, prettier girl with long blonde hair. Typical.

 

Hollywood is Real, Right?

I love movies and television, and this further warped my ideas of what “should” be. Hollywood convinced me that the right guy would come after me, because that’s what they did in the movies! Harry runs down the street after Sally! Richard Gere comes to Julia Roberts’ window in a limo! Mr. Darcy proposes to Lizzie–twice! The right guy will come after me and save me from this awkward life, I thought, he will.

I never pushed myself out of my bubble because I was convinced the “right” guy would push me out. He would just know that I needed someone to get me out of my shell and I just had to wait. I bought into—more like lapped up with a spoon—the idea that I could be “rescued” by the right person.

Yes, I really believed this.

Every milestone in my life was another chance to meet the right person. High school, I’ll definitely find someone in high school. COLLEGE, all the guys that are right for me are at college. Moving to New Orleans? Definitely going to find someone there! This party on Friday!? This is it, I know it is! Random Tuesday? Ya never know!!!

But these events came and went, and nothing happened. No one ran after me in the rain, no one sent me anonymous love letters to then later stand under my window with a boombox or sing and dance down the steps of the football stadium. Nope, just same boring old life. I did have a few “almosts” that could have turned into something but I ran away from those and told myself that they would have come after me if it was “right”. They didn’t.

Why wasn’t my “problem” getting solved? Why wasn’t anyone chasing after me? It must be something that was wrong with me, some fatal flaw I had that made me so gross and undesirable that no one could penetrate this super-tough exoskeleton I’d created for myself. But shouldn’t the “right” person be able to???

 

S.O.S: Stop Offering Suggestions

These are still things I do, struggles and anxieties that I still have. Meeting new friends, the conversation inevitably turns sharing a crush they have—be it in real life or a celebrity—and I cage up like a hermit crab on NyQuil. I don’t discuss it because my history will come out, and that explodes to a whole new level of conversational discomfort.

When I reveal this particular tid-bit about myself, I’ve heard a variety of reactions stemming from “oh, that’s totally normal and fine!” to “that’s adorable!” to “seriously?!”. It’s nice not to hear “HAHAHAHA” but to paraphrase Cosima from Orphan Black, my lack of sexuality isn’t the most interesting thing about me. All these comments ultimately lead to advice, and I honestly wish it just wouldn’t.

I love my friends, I really do. LOVE YOU (see—feelings talk!). I know that every single friend who has offered me advice is well-meaning.

BUT

No one I know truly understands what it is like to be me, to be in this situation, and it feels condescending when people try to tell me what to do to “fix” it. It seems like empathy, but it feels like judgment.

I don’t need to go to bars and hit on guys. I don’t need them to buy me drinks or to grind on me in some sleeze-bag club. I don’t need to dress like a hooker or censor myself so I don’t scare anyone off. And if I hear “relax and let it happen…you’ll find someone when you least expect it!” once more time, I’ll implode. Yup, IMplode.

I get the impression that some people want me to “just get over it already”, as if I took a vow of celibacy–or were on a juice cleanse–and could stop any time. Granted, I’ve complained enough and given people reason to try and give advice in the past, but it’s been a frustrating road that I haven’t always understood or accepted.

But here’s the shocking revelation I’ve had recently…

I like my story.

It’s made me independent and I know who I am better than many people I’ve met. It makes me interesting and unique. It will resolve itself at the right time, when I’m ready. I don’t need saving. And I don’t need fixing. I just want acceptance. For just being me, with all my weird relationship-phobic quirks. Whether I ever date anyone or not.

This is not a disease I have, it is who I am. I will move forward when I want to.

 

This is MY house, and I HAVE to defend it!

There’s not a magical, fairytale end to this post. I am still not dating anyone; no one has come to whisk me off my feet. But I want to loop back around to my 40 Year-Old Virgin reference (how can I not? It’s so ripe for these circumstances). In that movie, no one rescues Andy. His friends try, and fail, but Andy stays true to his dorked-out self and that leads him to love. Real love and acceptance.

So therein lies the point, my friends. I was suckered into this culture of Disney princesses and romantic comedies, wherein the woman has to be rescued by the prince. I’ve been waiting for someone to take care of this “problem” for me and not willing to do the work myself—or to simply go out and be happy and satisfied the way I am.

I’ve allowed what other people say and think—or what I imagine they will say and think—to rule me for a long time. I hide parts of who I am for fear that I won’t be accepted, and I live with the shame of my past, my identity, who I am.

But…what if I WASN’T ashamed? What if this problem DIDN’T NEED FIXING?

What if it WASN’T A PROBLEM?

I feel the need for extensive capitalization and italics because it’s such a radical idea to me. But what if, instead of this being my gruesome, embarrassing story that I’m afraid to share, I’m not afraid of it? What if I just owned it and liked the fact that I’ve walked a much different path than most people? What if I defended my identify and was PROUD of my life and self and experiences (or lack thereof)?

What if I wasn’t afraid to talk about my Voldemort?

When I think about the bigger social issues I mention above—racism, sexism, homophobia—there’s a similar thread running through all of them, and not the blatant hatred part. The thread I see is the good people who aren’t willing to speak out, who aren’t willing to call out the things their friends or family say that don’t sit right with them.

It’s a pretty human thing, not to want your opinions or emotions to get stomped on. But at some point you have to take a stand. Perhaps at some later date, I’ll talk about the social issues, but today it’s about me taking a stand for myself. For my identity. Some people might think it IS weird or abnormal. But it’s MY identity, and as young Kevin McAllister once said, “This is my house and I have to defend it.”

My 14-year-old brain, which still operates inside my head pretty often, thinks that someone will read this blog, realize how amazing I am, and instantly want to be dating me. Because that would be a WAY easier way to work through this mess.

But 28-year-old me just hopes that someone reads it and is a little more OK talking about their own Voldemort. We have to talk about Voldemort. Harry and Dumbledore weren’t afraid to and they ultimately made him disappear forever. The only way out is through. And I look forward to all the interesting, awkward, hilarious stories that will come from going through my own experience of life. I’ll post more of them here; I hope you come back. 🙂

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gil
    Jun 17, 2014 @ 00:56:47

    Katie,
    Loved your blog. You’ll get no unwanted advice from me! Too bad I’m too old for you, or I would happily break a few of your “nevers…” (assuming you were a willing participant, of course. :-)) You are a sweet, intelligent, interesting and charming person. I’ll leave it at that! Please keep writing your blog. I’ve subscribed!! See you on Saturday.

    Reply

  2. sammy1429
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 00:38:06

    Kate: love it. Very brave! I promise no advice,but everyone could learn a thing or two from Karen and her sexy eyes 🙂

    Reply

  3. Dorian Rush
    Jun 26, 2014 @ 05:29:42

    Love it! And I am TOTALLY guilty of offering you “advice”…oops! You are perfect in my eyes whether you “do” or “don’t”

    Reply

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