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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nature vs.Nurture

Someone I once knew has this as her motto: "I am a product of my environment". She asked me why I was gay. At first, I was taken aback a bit, as this question came from a woman who knew that she was gay from tender age of 6 (by her own admission).
But then she explained her concept of nature vs.nurture and how we all are product of our environment and we had a lively discussion on the subject.
She made me see/look at things from a different angle and it gave me a whole different perspective.
When I was growing up in Russia, being gay was not only  unacceptable lifestyle, it was absolutely unthinkable. If found out, it was punishable by jail term.
To give a better idea, it is very much comparable to walking down the street buck naked: yes, you COULD possibly do it, but people will not understand or accept. And you WILL be arrested at some point. It is just not accepted by society as a norm or even reasonable deviation-it is simply not done, so very few of us would spend any time contemplating doing this.
So I never considered gay/straight concept for myself when I was young. It was simply ingrained in me that the ONLY way to be is to have a heterosexual relationship. Everything else was "a flight of fancy" or "dirty secret". It took decades for that to change and it was a very slow process. Nurture almost won.

Another part of the problem was that we were brought up not show our emotions. My Mom was especially strict about that. When she punished me for misbehaving (often giving me a good hiding with a belt), she did not want me to cry-I would get further punishment for crying. I was told that children were meant to be "seen, but not heard" and was not encouraged to show any "over the top" emotional responses.
I was meant to be a proper "little adult", acting in civilised manner at all times.
Later, when my Mom was my coach (she was a member of a Soviet National Volleyball team for years and started coaching after retiring), she deliberately put me on a team with the girls 2 years my senior. To get to their level, I was made come to practice an hour before everyone else and she would "run me" one-on-one. It was gruelling, as my Mom was a very hard coach to begin with. I was given no handicap for being younger than everyone else or for being her daughter-in fact, she was even harder on me.
Back then in Russia we were brought up believing in "end result"-meaning you had a specific goal and you HAD to achieve it. Just "doing your best" wasn't good enough. No one cared if you did your best, your worst or your median to achieve the specified result-it had to be done or you failed. Being second best was the same as failure.
Being a successful athlete meant a lot: trips abroad, lots of money, your own flat (where most families lived several generations together, as flats were all owned and dispensed by the government),possibly a car..
We were constantly reminded that there are hundreds of others who'd want our place and we are all expandable. From the very young age we worked really hard.
Some sports required more sacrifices than others: young gymnasts,for instance, routinely starved themselves and were bulimic.. We all performed with injures at one time or another..
Once I was at the Nation's Volleyball Championships (I was 15) and the player on the other side of the net stepped on my ankle. It was torn. My coach pulled me off the field, had my foot sprayed with some liquid from the large capsule that effectively "froze" it (I couldn't feel anything) and right back in I went,as I was a key player and my team needed me to win. So I run and jumped for another 45 min before the game was over (we won)... The pain that hit me when my ankle was "defrosted" was almost unbearable-I had to bite my fist so I won't scream... No one made me do that-I could have easily asked to sit the rest of the match out, but I wouldn't even consider that... Nature vs.nurture.
My mother also demanded I maintained straight "A"s at school (well,actually we had 1 through 5 grade system with 5 being the best, so I was bringing home all 5s). Even an occasional 4 would merit a very serious discussion and, God forbid, 3 was a full-blown alarm. Being the best was the ONLY way to be. Anything less was not an option.
From the early age I was taught discipline,subordination,structure and order.
In a way, I am grateful for that. It gave me  significant edge in the workforce in America, where a lot of young (and not so young) people are just wimps, self-centered, not prepared and not willing to work hard, yet posses a huge sense of entitlement.
The flip side is that I'm still having trouble with openly displaying my emotions (for instance, I find it incredibly hard to cry with others around). It affected some of my relationships, as I often think it inappropriate to ask lot of "probing" questions and not always let people know how I really feel-I just don't say anything at all.
It is true that it's not good to "bottle things up"-it all comes out at some point,often unexpectedly, because some event, however insignificant, was "the straw that broke the camel's back" and people don't understand why I overreacted. I've hurt some people that way and I do sincerely regret it.
I  have a hard edge to me- a "dark side". I am not proud of it and I don't attempt to make excuses for it, but it was definitely developed slowly over the years as a product of surrounding environment.
I always had to work harder because I was a woman, to achieve the same level recognition as men. I also took a lot more abuse. I had to find the way to navigate the system, as there is no point of fighting it-it'll be decades before mentality truly changes,if ever..
Yes, I am not above using my "girly wares" to achieve my goals, if that's the only way to get there... Having said that, I've also made grown men cry,as I can be ruthless. Being one of 17 thousand Realtors in Las Vegas vying for business did nothing to improve my disposition. It was definitely the "good 'ol boys club" and women were considered stupid, good for nothing whores and treated with contempt. Well, I showed some of those "boys" what I was made of..Hehehehe
On the onset, I treat everyone the way I want to be treated myself-that is, with respect. But when people "do me wrong" I can be a nasty piece of work and an abrasive cunt.
Once, when I was working at Olympic Gardens, one of the girls who worked with me let it slip that she is using someone else's Sheriff's Card (necessary to work in Vegas) because she is actually in US illegally (she was from Canada.
I filed that piece of information away and had absolutely no intention of doing anything with it until one day, almost a year later, that girl decided to rat me out to the manager for doing "touchy" lap dance. We ALL did those-you couldn't make any money otherwise, but that particular afternoon it was quite slow and she was jealous that I was making money and she wasn't. Never mind the fact that she usually made a lot more than I,as she had that popular Pamela Anderson (blond bimbo) look.
I was not amused. I do not care how much money everyone else makes and never even think about it-it's a pointless exercise in futility. But I do take exception when people mess with MY livelihood.
After the manager pulled me off the floor and gave me a warning, I promptly informed him that he's employing an illegal alien. Quick verification confirmed that I was telling the truth. The girl was asked to leave immediately, thus loosing A LOT of potential income and, quite possibly, any chance of working in Las Vegas, as they confiscated the Sheriff's Card. She should have just let the sleeping dogs lye-I was going to go home after I've done 5 dances for that customer and she would've made her money.

 We definitely are the product of our environment, only some of us realise it sooner than others.

2 comments:

  1. Hello
    I am an adult student and I am writing about ancient courtesans, this may sound pretty naive but it was not until I found your blog that I thought there were no courtesans as such in the contemporary world, I thought pleasure had been relegated as a profession for uncultured women in need who have no other work choice, and that educated woman do not choose to work as a courtesan due to religious morality, but it seems I am wrong, would you have anything to say about modern courtesans for my writing?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh,I have plenty to say and would love to. How would you like to do this?

    ReplyDelete