What were the gender stereotypes you grew up with and how do you think those expectations have affected your life and the decisions you’ve made? It’s a topic we explored in the last series of sessions at SFU. Belva came up with a doozy–her guy had to be Superman!
When I was a little girl I had a deep crush on Superman—comic books first, TV shows later. Strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man; who, disguised as Clark Kent, fights the never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American Way.
I imagined myself to be his love interest, Lois Lane.
Lois was so lucky. Superman took care of her. A capable reporter, Lois was forever getting in trouble or somehow being victimized. Superman, this handsome hunk, would mysteriously appear and rescue her. He held her in his arms and flew easily around New York City. Lois had no idea that Superman’s secret identity was the clumsy, mild-mannered co-worker, Clark Kent.
Clark was in love with Lois. You could tell the way he acted around her, the way he looked at her. Lois had no interest in this bumbling, foolish man in his ill-fitting clothes.
It was confusing for me. Love seemed remote and impossible, secret and unacknowledged. Something was happening but no one knew if it was real, not even Lois. The happy ending always seemed just out of reach.
I finally met my Superman soon after I moved to Vancouver. We were both riding our bikes on 4th Avenue. I gave him my phone number.
Superman called and asked me out for dinner. I was crazy excited; my legs felt weak and shaky. He was so beautiful—lean, muscular and sexy. He had a bushy beard and dark twinkling eyes. I was totally obsessed. All he needed was a cape.
My Superman had just bicycled across the country from Toronto; I had just taken the train from Ontario. He had gone to Art School in Toronto and was working at a TV station; I was just starting Nursing School. He was in his mid ’30s and had experienced life; I was 22 going on 16 and was very lonely. I was a sitting duck; he was a player.
We ended up at his place after going to a Greek restaurant. I was introduced to sex. Now I was in love. Superman lavished attention on my body and looked after me. Our time together was spent in a bubble.
I flew with Superman. Between semesters, he planned week-long mini-vacations. We hiked up the chimneys on Black Tusk, cross-country skied to the top of Garibaldi with backpacks on, and camped in a little cabin up there. We biked through the entire Gulf Islands and down into the San Juan’s. We camped or stayed in little inns at night: Manning Park, Mount Baker and on and on. My body became strong and hard. And there was the sex. I felt so good and so cared for.
He challenged my narrow views of the world. He introduced me to new writers. The Buddhist, Allan Watts; the shamanistic, Carlos Castaneda; and the erotic, Anais Nin. These provocative writers pushed against my right wing Christian Conservative view of reality. I was easily shocked and I loved it.
We explored Vancouver together. It seemed like we went to every good restaurant in town, and then the plays, the music festivals, the dance performances. I felt loved like I’d never been before. Alone, just the two of us.
He also, I soon learned, had multiple other relationships. He meant everything to me—I’d given myself to him—what a surprise to learn how little that meant to him. I was so hurt and so in love with him. He broke my tender, silly heart. It was torture. It took me years to recover from this first love. I would have followed him anywhere. He finally thankfully disappeared from my life when I graduated as a nurse.
I have no regrets. I met someone whom I cared for deeply and passionately. In a lot of ways, I feel lucky to have had this experience. My childhood naivety was crushed but it was crushed gently. I had projected my fantasy onto some poor stranger who was unable to rise to the occasion. Nevertheless, I walked away from this experience never wanting to feel like this again, so vulnerable to hurt.
I have always struggled with wanting to be fiercely independent and yet wanting to be looked after as a flimsy, needy female. Looking back I see that I saw in him, as in Superman, things I wanted for myself. I was drawn to my Superman because I wanted those same traits—the unexpressed male parts of myself that I now own. Where was Wonder Woman when I needed her?