Vulnerability is an opening

“Why aren’t some people vulnerable?” I asked my friend once, years ago. He said wryly, “How do you know they aren’t vulnerable with someone else? Maybe they just don’t show their vulnerability to you.”

To be vulnerable, after vulnus, the Latin word for a wound, means that you can be hurt, but also that you are open to the Other. Maybe vulnerability is a scandal or a strength, a joy or a shame — in any case, it often takes us places. Being harmed or undone isn’t always the end of us. It might become an opening. If we are optimists about each other.

Vulnerability is an opening like a hole in the wall: you might see me through it, or I might catch a glimpse of you, or I might hide, or you might hide, or something mortifying might spill out through our vulnerable parts, or we might start covering up our wounds with eyeshadow or camouflage.

What happens next, after vulnerability? — only life, I suppose, only the exhausting work of breaking and repairing bonds and holding onto each other. How are we going to hold it all together, how can get through the endless work of it? Can we marry and find feminist utopias in patriarchal traditions? Can we conceal our flaws behind love or rage? Can we become different genders or escape to different cities? Can we have babies and save them from the world? Can we feel, can we do anything but feel? Can we get anywhere, can we do anything but repeat ourselves? Can we ever answer any of our own questions, tell me, can we?

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