Around this table, when she was a young girl within the safety of our home, I gently told her the cautionary tales.
It was not enough. Storm grew up and met a nice guy. And then he hurt her.
At the time, I took her outside. Out into the wild, to a clear area around an unlit fire.
I asked her to put aside all that she thought she knew about men. I began:
“The stories told about them are mostly untrue. Experience shows this already, but truth is sometimes too easy to hide, and the lonely keep searching for fictive rather than real creatures. You and your friends tell of mixed experiences – you have experienced part of the reality. But that knowledge serves you well and is sufficient to ignite a fire.”
Storm shuffled as I lit the fire.
“Here it would be easy to pause, and heap the past all at once into the fire. To bask in the warmth as the fire burns fast and quick, in turn drawing the lonely and others to the dark just out of reach. True, some of the creatures about might make good mates, but there are others there as well.”
Moths started to gather around the flames.
“I ask that you sit back and consider the fire. Fire is the place to tell stories, to heal, to play, to teach and to sing. A place to watch the sparks climb into the unseen river of stars just above. It is a place of safety and rest, a place to reflect, where the past can be unraveled slowly, where the present can be woven into plans.
All around is uncertainty. In time, you will find a mate. Even if you just wait by the fire, they will come. Some will carry their own horrors, some dripping in the gore and exultation of past victories, some soft and vulnerable. Uncertainty abounds. But in this world, you cannot simply wait by the fire. It is too easy to become the prize, the person taken by whoever wins the hunt.”
Storm had shut her eyes. I could not tell if she was listening. I needed her to hear.
“Instead, join the hunt, on your terms. As a hunter, free of the fire, the game changes. You choose what you seek: pleasure, company, friendship, a mate. And those that deserve no consideration can be thrown into the maelstrom from whence they came.”
I paused. Storm turned and looked at me.
“Cutting through uncertainty is not an intuitive skill. Most people have to learn it painfully, potential mate by potential mate. In time you learn to take nothing at face value. You learn to follow at a safe distance, frequently backtracking, observing by looking at traces written in the dust showing how the other behaved when out of sight. What does he do when alone? Does he seek the company of others? Is he the same in and out of sight, or does he become different? Is he healthy? Can he provide for himself or is he a wastrel, a scavenger at the table of happenstance. The deeper the proposed engagement, the sharper the inquiry and the greater the evidence required. Too often, we fail at this first step, we do not ask direct questions, we do not seek proof, and we make excuses. The questions are simple. Are you married? Are you in a relationship? What is he to you? Are you who you say you are? How can you prove this? Simple questions, easily discharged with a smile in good faith. But predators and the hunt twist and turn when the questions are asked.
People group. People come with a context: friends, a family, pets, and a past. Before considering letting another join your group, these pathways and relationships need to be accessed and tasted. Why did your relationship fail? When can I meet your parents? Let us run with your friends. Predators and the hurt twist and turn when these questions are asked.
Sometimes you get hurt. Before you rejoin the hunt, you must rest and recover. Put the injuries from the past to one side. They have a place. In the future, around your fire, you might want to reflect on those events. To tell a daughter how for a moment, the role of the hunter and the hunted reversed, and how easy and hard it is to be snared. And then to tell her how she might run her hunt.”
I had finally got Storm’s attention.
She was sitting up, wide-eyed. Not believing her mother was shouting at the fire.
Storm said calmly, “It was just an argument. I was to blame as well.”