AJ,

Out of respect I spent some time reviewing your comments on other stories in order to get a better understanding of who you are and where you come from before responding in a knee-jerk fashion, which is the habit of all too many. You self-define as a “miserable and unhappy man, a lawyer.” You expressed that you had a rough time between the ages if 18–30. Let’s be honest. This does not express the entire you, nor does it express the totality of your life, which most assuredly involves joy, successes, and a great many more spheres than you may select to share on line with the rest of us. We are far more than we choose to share online. However these are words you have chosen to describe yourself, and it’s very easy for me or anyone else to make hugely unfair assumptions about who you are, the quality of your life and experience, and a great deal more based on what you’ve said. It is very tempting to leap to conclusions. Chances are I’d be wrong.

The same goes for how you have made hugely inappropriate and unfair assumptions about what I wrote. To wit- I didn’t get “born” with the body I now have, nor did I understand that I was an outlier until I was in my thirties. I had to work brutally hard to become an athlete, and I’m still clumsy. I’ve been obese. Struggled with eating disorders. NOTHING was easy, nor did it come naturally. I didn’t get born into that environment, I had to create it for myself. Just as you aren’t a victim of your circumstances, we create our worlds, and we choose how to respond to them. As I indicated, my brother was the natural in my family. Of course I embrace being an outlier now, but for years there was a cost: ostracization. People don’t like different. There is still a cost and I pay it every day. Society prefers their outliers dead so that they can honor them after they are no longer personally offended by them.

You also indicate that somehow I imply that I have found the secret for all women. That’s a hugely insulting and inappropriate statement if for no other reason than it would be beyond ridiculous for me to make such a claim. I made a suggestion based on what we know about how risk taking helps girls (because I don’t write about boys, please, that’s not my purview) become more confident. It was inspired by a report I’d heard about how girls hang back, resist risk- and if you note, in a number of places I specifically say “kids,” which is inclusive of all children, not just girls. You also imply in a breathtaking misread of this story that I want them to magically be like all men. Where in this story do I say that, even imply that? Not only do I not do this, but I would be horrified if such a thing happened. I want girls to be all they can be (just as I would equally hope men could be fully realized, which means emotionally mature as well as other developments). I said that we adults could also take risks- and I honored the fact that what that means is unique to each of us.

AT NO POINT do I say be like me. I am using my own story- which is the only truth and reference point I possess, just as your is for you- to make a point. That does not imply that others should be like me. I am simply saying that by learning to take risks I overcame social anxiety- and as well, learned to deal with the vicissitudes that I have drawn towards myself. That includes abusive men. I choose to use those experiences to make me stronger. That is a choice that you have, that we all have. We choose our emotions, or we let them turn us into bitter, miserable people. What I found, and research backs this up, is that learning to take risks teaches all of us better coping skills as well as how to put those inevitable, life-conformable damaging events that happen to us all into perspective.

You imply that I was “lucky.” Being serially raped in the military by a senior officer isn’t lucky. Those were my circumstances. I don’t consider myself a victim. That is how I choose to see what happened and it’s made me far stronger. I am genuinely sorry that your circumstances have led you to a point were you self-define as “miserable.” That is your choice to perceive your life as such. I’ve been raped and groped and assaulted and mauled and under no circumstances am I “miserable.” Those experiences have made me a great deal more compassionate to anyone who has been abused in the same way-including men. This in no way implies superiority. It is simply different. I fought and scratched to develop that POV and it serves me. That does not make me right, nor does that make this a panacea for all of us.

You mention drugging boys to make them sit still like girls. I struggle to see how this is relevant to my story. While drugging our populace is whole different issue -about which I also write, but not about just boys- it has no bearing on a feminist piece about helping girls (and all kids, and all adults) learn to be more confident. While it may be relevant to you, and I don’t question its veracity, it’s not relevant to this story.

I didn’t in any way shape or form call boys “toxic.” Being lucky enough to have had a lifetime of extremely close male friends I would hardly agree with this. I am not sure that I agree that we call boys toxic. Vicious, bullying behavior is, sexual assault is, objectification is, but not boys as such. It’s critically important to separate behavior- which is learned and modeled- from the person. Very few of us are born psychotic. Most of us learn negative behaviors from our surroundings, and training in the family. Boys are not born sexual predators. My big brother was a sexual predator- against me. Something gets twisted, just as girls aren’t born bitter and angry. I have no idea why he did it. He’s no longer alive- and even if I had asked him, he wouldn’t have known the answer. Who can possibly know such things. I sure don’t.

You also imply that I want to erase differences. Thank god there are differences. I didn’t in any way “vilify boys.” Not at all. I want girls to become everything they can be and not be so consumed with getting a date or being accepted by the opposite sex (or same for that matter) that they give up chunks of themselves to be acceptable. I feel the same way about boys, but I don’t write about boys. As an inspirational speaker who specializes primarily in working with women I want to see women (and all of us for that matter) find a way to be all we can be. That most certainly includes you, AJ.

My boyfriend of 11 years is not much of a risk-taker. Between the two of us, I’m the one who lives on the edge. He’s far more conservative, a homebody, and a pillar. I wouldn’t have him any other way. God help me that he would become like me. While most of my male buddies are idiots like I am, the man I love most is most definitely not. At 49 (and I’m 65) we are ideally matched. He’s gentle and quiet and considerate and thoughtful and a bodybuilder and an athlete. But no big risk taker. I honor him precisely as he is.

I’m also not a liberal per se. I’m smack in the middle of the road. As someone who has worked at the highest levels of politics in DC, my views have been molded not only by the shit I saw on both sides of the aisle but also from years of international travel. “Liberal society” doesn’t pretend that differences don’t exist. Individuals may want equalization but I seriously doubt (and again, AJ, I can only speak for myself) that we want complete equalization. Those differences exist for very good reasons, thank heaven. While I was able to muscle a heavy couch into the garage through a very narrow door two hours ago, I wouldn’t for the life of me want to be more male. A lot of men I know can’t do what I can do. And I can’t do what they do. Nor do I want to. It is our uniqueness and individuality that make us interesting, engaging and worth knowing. And that includes you.

You have every right to your take. As a lawyer, you are likely also invested in being right. It comes with the legal discipline. It’s also part of the human condition to want to be right. I see your points, and I understand what you’re trying to say. However, you’ve made some significant judgments based on your POV which aren’t correct here. You’ve made assumptions and inferred points I didn’t make. That is your right. However, growth and learning come from being able to back off a bit and question where we come from, and how that perspective colors everything we read and see. Based on reading your other comments, you appear to have a lot of anger based on your upbringing and your experiences. I don’t know that this is the case. Nobody- especially me- questions your right to your feelings. I only question how that POV colors what you read, and what you read into what other people write. You see things that are not there, at least in my story.

Now you can read all of the above and choose to experience it as criticism. Not in any way, shape or form. I honored you by taking the time to research your comments. That was an act of respect. You can read this any way you wish, and you can also choose to take issue with anything I have said. That is your right. However you don’t have permission to put words into my mouth, as it were, and make points for me that I didn’t make. Those are your views, your feelings, your judgment, not mine. Again, you have every right to them. There are 7.4 billion plus versions of what is a truth. Yours is as real to you as mine is to me. Both are valid. But your truth is not my truth, and your interpretation of my intent and my points is way off the mark. I respect and appreciate your willingness to make comments. It’s our job to be mindful that we are not projecting our issues onto others (Psych 101) and owning our own stuff. I’m very happy to read, weigh and consider your views, as well as learn from them. But they are not mine, nor would I have my words be misinterpreted, any more than you would wish to have your description of yourself based on your comments be interpreted as who AJ is in his complex, multi-facted, and unique entirety. I’ve taken great pains to word this response in a way that respects who you are, but also honor who I am. How you interpret it is up to you. Best wishes to you.

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

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