Definition of VICTIMOLOGY
: the claim that the problems of a person or group are the result of victimization.
It is part of my family lore that I contracted encephalitis from as a baby. It is said, because of that, I developed the hydrocephalus that robbed me of fluent speech. I stuttered from the time I could speak, and because of that, spent, oh, about seventeen years being concerned about what people thought about me whenever I opened my mouth to speak.
I have a unique insight into the human heart as an early childhood professional. The Bible says that people are born naturally selfish and prideful, and I can testify to that first hand. My timeline was rife with children who couldn’t resist making me a target, imitating my stuttering, and otherwise tormenting the life out of me.
Around 18 or so I realized I didn’t really give a damn what people thought about how I spoke, and that was freeing. Years and years of boring, repetitive work at speech therapy finally came to fruition, and I could relax enough to speak much more fluently.
People still get goofy when my speech gets away from me, though. Since fluent speech for me is a learned skill, I don’t do it as well if I am tired, distracted or bored. Often, that’s when things get really interesting. All kinds of snap judgements get made about me, from my level of intelligence to my perceived level of sexual interest.
(e.g.- Victoria meets a new guy, Victoria is completely exhausted from long day; Victoria stutters during introduction. Guy smiles patronizingly and says “You don’t have to be nervous meeting me, I don’t bite.” Actually, I sort of do, so watch it, idiot. True story.)
It would be easy to play the role of the victim with this one. Gosh, I can’t talk. I can’t stand to recite poetry. I can’t act on stage. I can’t talk to people who actually do make me nervous, like heroes or celebrities. I can’t speak in front of groups, too nerve-wracking. What if I have children? Maybe they’ll talk like me! I can never have decent relationships, what if people think I’m too funny -looking when I talk? First impressions are everything!
Well, discrimination is real, too be sure. Those concerns are genuine, and as unfortunate as it is, bad things often happen because people make snap judgements about others, and discriminate. I was a victim for years of exactly that. It seems though, that we are descending into a culture of victimology.
I simply cannot tell you how much victimology exasperates me. I popped a cork at an acquaintance today who claimed that her problems arose from a lack of appreciation of her artistic endeavors. Discriminating buyers would make her rich, of course.
“I create art to make others happy!”
“My personal problems can’t interfere with my art, or I don’t get paid!”
“I sacrifice my creature comforts for the sake of my art!”
She is a remarkable artist, truly has a very unusual gift. Another acquaintance once bent my ear about being a dancer of color. She danced for years with a very prominent company, and was the lead in many well-known shows. But life was hard, don’t you know, because sometimes she was discriminated against because of her face. In my line of work, I often must listen to people sort through the source of their problems. Since Chris died, I have been given a measure of compassion for how difficult life can often be.
Having said that, I must say that I have to leave to room when otherwise gifted people kvetch and moan about discrimination.
Figure It Out! I want to say. You are bright! You are gifted! Able bodied! You don’t even stutter! Adapt!
When Chris was alive, and we were working together, I got a bit lazy. He was great PR. He looked forward to speaking in front of groups, and did it well. Names came easily to him. When he passed, I realized that if I was going to make this work, I would have to develop similar skills, consciously.
I hired a life coach, one who specialized in working with women executives. Melanie Curtis and I developed strategies to work on this. I learned not just names of clients, but jobs, relatives names, names of other children and family members.
I attacked other problems full-on. Chris spoke in front of large groups at our school; things like back to school night, and Christmas programs. Now it was my turn. Fluency and humor came easily to him. Fluency is very deliberate for me especially in front of a group of adults. But guess what? I can be pretty funny naturally, and pretty fluent deliberately. Mel and I worked on these types of things for months.
In another column, “Relationships and Cougars Hunting” I described to you my first foray into talking with appealing members of the opposite sex. It went well, much better than I expected. Since then, my men friends keep appearing, their dear faces making my life much brighter. Adaptability is great!
Look, I have never been one to get stuck in self pity for long. If anyone has reasons to be to feel victimized, it’s me. I understand, though. Life can be hard, making things work is often just that, work. But at the end of the day, the knowledge that I gave it my very best shot with the tools I have, is very satisfying.
I wish the same for you.
Much love, Victoria