As I Paint Here Tonight


I was 19 years old and had a boyfriend. My first LOVE, if we're gonna get picky. And we LOVED each other madly in every possible way. He was a poet, and I proudly proclaimed myself a painter at that time--more then I do in my best days today....and, well, I was 19. Our passion for each other was at times toxic, and well, I was 19. We were always on-again/off-again and that's the way it stayed for years and days.

Tonight I've been painting. Thinking of what makes my painting FEARLESS...and painting softly...letting my brush strokes move slowly.
Precisely.
Delicately.

When these thoughts began to visit me.

When I was only 19. And me and him were off-again, again. I put on a purple silk dress that was short and sexy. Because damn it--I was 19. And before I left to attend this shin-dig, he dropped by and told me not to wear that...that he didn't want me seen in such a sexy little thang. So I walked out that door as proud as I could be, thinking I must be electrifying in this purple magical thang. Because, well, I was 19.

And what comes next, I can't believe, as I sit here painting meditatively. Why do these stories revisit me now--what lessons am I to retrieve?

So when I was 19, and dressed to kill in a purple sexy thang--the evening got late and I started to get cold and wanted to walk back to a friend's house to get a sweater to compensate. So two young men said they'd accompany me, since it wasn't a safe place for me to be traveling alone. And you see I believed them--because that is me--and they were good looking, and, well, I was only 19.

And when I turned the key to unlock my friend's front door, I remember thinking something was not right. But I was 19 and went inside anyways. Just seconds after, one of them attacked me and held me down, as the other one began to rip my purple short thang. I pushed, I screamed, and punched and kicked the hell out of them, and ran half naked down the street. I drove so fast hoping to fall into the arms of my off-again honey and have him protect me. Because, that's what you think when you are 19.

When he opened the door--and saw me standing there--his first words he said were "I told you not to wear that dress."

I'll never forget that.

But the funny thing is I thought I did. Then tonight I just sit here innocently, painting, and I have to deal with this all over again.

I'm gonna tell you the truth. I'm gonna tell you what happened next--after the arguments, tears, and reports to the police. After things settled, and probably after we were on-again/ off-again, again. I picked up my paintbrush and I began to paint BIG. I painted a series of dresses way taller then me that were oil on raw canvas. And right smack in the middle of those dresses was my purple sexy thang.

I was going to Art school at the time. I had my own little studio space there as well. And all the other Art schoolers, who didn't know me very well--thought my work was girly--and cliche. But I knew. I knew it was bold and in your fucking face--to paint those dresses so BIG and have them take up so much space. Painting them BIG meant taking back the power, those two young men tried to steal from me that night. Painting them BIG was my way of reminding them--that they picked the wrong 19 year old to mess with. Painting them BIG was my way of coping, dealing, working through all the things--that kept me tied to an on-again/ off-again nightmare. Painting them BIG was my initiation into a world that only women understand.

And when I was through...I put them in a dumpster and never looked back....until I sat here tonight. Painting.

Innocently.
FEARLESS.
Again.

24 comments:

Kim Switzer said...

I want to say something, to say how awesome and fierce and strong this is. I don't seem to have quite the right words, but I wanted to say that I read this and felt with you.

Julie said...

Oh my Connie, I am so sorry this happened to you. I'm glad art helped to get you through. Hugs and kisses...

Brandi Reynolds said...

wow. you are a poet. a strong, beautiful poet. your words rock my world.

Indie Grrrl said...

Connie,
I am without words to express how this has touched me. I have always believed you to be a fighter, and now I understand the power of your "gloves"(ART)
Love you and so proud of your bravery in sharing this.
xoxoxo

Paula - Buenos Aires said...

A hug for you and all my love & support for your 19 year old self.
You are a brave chica.

Poetic Dreams said...

Dearest Sweetest Connie,
YOU ARE very brave,strong,and have wisdom beyond ya years. Ya one of my heroes! We seem to have so many similarities.I find myself wishing you nothing but happiness, health, and good fortune! I know Hansel is very much proud of the woman ya've become. I think it's refreshing to open up the past and deal with it. To finally be able to say "YOU DID NOT BREAK ME! Ya keep rocking ya art hun.
Love & Major Hugs, Poe

Alex said...

I am sorry you had that experience, I had something similarly horrible happened to me when I was a teenager but I didn't have art or was confortable enough to tell anyone. Art is such a powerful thing, you are very fortunate to have that. I wish my teenage self had an outlet then.

Natasha said...

As I sit here this morning, I want to step through the screen and into your world where I would simply hug you. It would be a fearless hug filled with protection and love, celebration (for who you have become in the face of life's challenges) and comfort.

As I look upon that face, that painting I feel as though it is face filled with such openness. To me, it radiates warmth and strength like the sun.

I was the girl in the very unsexy purple sweater. I was 16. He was a man who used my trust as a weapon against me and his body like a battering ram.

I found my solace in writing but it never seemed to be enough. It wasn't until later that art became a healing tool.

You have such a BIG heart - wide open and pulsing with love. It is that heart that allowed to share here in a public forum, fearlessly.

Thank you for your art, for sharing your thoughts, heart, hurt, healing and fearlessness.

From my heart to yours

Heather Plett said...

Wow. So bold and beautiful.

And it brings back a powerful memory of when I was just a couple of years older than you at the time (21) I used my writing as a way of healing after rape. We are soul sisters in such a deep way.

Linnea said...

Damn right, Connie. Reclaim that purple dress. Reclaim your power. Reclaim YOU ... and #$%! anyone who ever says you shouldn't have worn the dress or the paintings were cliche. You knew the truth then, and you know it now.

I am turbo-charged with emotion right now. So much power.

Chana said...

For me it was a soft, peach sweater. He said he couldn't resist me when I wore it.

I was just thinking last night how I need to get some more peach into my wardrobe.

Nolwenn said...

You know, I may be young but I realized years ago that BIG lessons usually come from BIG negative moment... It's bizarre but maybe we, Human Beings, need to be shaken to open our eyes ?

This thing that happened when you "just was 19" made you the Beautiful Creative Juicy Open Hearted woman your are NOW, and that's all that matter, does it ?

Take Care

nadia said...

wow connie! I love you for sharing yourself and your stories. I love watching the evolution. you inspire me and give me hope that I will get through this. thank you beautiful connie! happy weekend! ciao!

thicklygrownwithweeds said...

BIG lessons usually come in layers.
Thank you for sharing another way to heal and allowing healing to be in stages on its own time.
Blessings to you today and blessings to your hurt girl of yesterday.

sweetmango said...

There are so many things and people in this world who are wrong including those two boys.
And sometimes it becomes like a sea of sludge that we have to wade through to get to where we know we need to be.
And we wear purple dresses so that as we wade through the mass of black and grey, negative, dominating grunge we can see each other from afar and know that we are not alone.
Those purple dresses are so special to us that sometimes we feel we have to change our clothes and put them in a box because something happens that makes us think the world is just not ready for us, that it doesn't understand who we are and how delicate and strong we truly are.
The true gift of growing older is this...wisdom. We learn to wear purple however we want to. We learn the skills that create boundaries of safety in every single aspect of our lives so that no one will ever take away the creativity that exists within us, the creativity that will come out of us in so many ways including the colour that most accurately reflects our authentic self.
I love you Connie, but you know that already :) and I am so freaking grateful that Hansel found you and you found him.
Love is the greatest healer and it is the only thing that will win over any kind of evil.
Thank you.
xxme
(p.s i have been so sick with the flu honey, that is why I havent emailed yet. it has really kicked my butt. but YES we will talk soon, i promise xxxx)

Emma said...

This is one of your Art Saves stories, I believe.

Thank you for sharing this.

You are amazing!

Eveline said...

Oh wow...

Just so you know, what I hope you already know.. it wasn't the dress. It was never the dress. Or you.

Thank you for sharing something so powerful.

Tracie said...

YES! Powerful and strong and true and brave. Art has the ability to transform and save us....I'm so glad that you used it to help you heal.....both in your series of paintings just after the nightmare and again now in your continued painting and this touching post. I think those boys saw your light and your strength and tried to steal it from you. Damn right they didn't know who they were messing with!
Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Kelly Warren said...

for once i'm almost at a loss for words. so sorry you had to experience that. so happy that you found your way out. so amazed to see that experiences like this have affected so many first hand. i was 20 and he was a first date who wouldn't accept no and instead took what he wanted. i remember every stinkin' moment of it to this day, but like you, i'm a much stronger person for it now. peace be with you and kick ass on those memories.

Leila Lloyd-Evelyn said...

Drinking my coffee morningish here in London on a Sunday. Teary eyed now for women and men yes who stand up for themselves however they can. Old stories revisited and relived in parts.let's Paint. with and without our brushes heart break disappointment joy and all the bits in between. express. rage. share. stamp stamp stamp. Big purple dresses.
Thank you for this sweetie. Thank yoooo. xxxx

faerian said...

you are a Goddess of BIG power and BIG wisdom and BIG courage and BIG heart... so glad they didn't break you and that you knew those dresses were redemptive <3

blissartworks said...

Thank you for sharing this story Connie. You are so brave for sharing it. And your writing, like others have said, is very moving.

leah creates said...

Oh, the pain of this.
Something all to similar happened to my sister when she was 16. She was raped 4 times in one night, by 3 different strangers. After prom. Her boyfriend made her feel like it was her fault. She has never been the same.

I'm sorry that such a painful, repressed memory - the memory of someone blaming you for something that you were a VICTIM to - surfaced.

But you are amazing to share it here. Look how strong you are.

So much love, Connie. <3

Creative Spirit said...

Connie, thanks for sharing and I would like to share this with my Women of the Wolves group on Facebook. We are reading Women who Run with the Wolves and just finished a chapter on Bluebeard. I think your story is a perfect example of Blue-beards but also the power of the wild women. Let me know Joy