Let Him Down Gently

Familiar phrases such as femme fatale or man-eater pop into my head when I think of how women are described if they have any bit of gumption in their bloodstream.

In June, on a two-hour drive home from upstate New York with my best friend, Rachel, we fervently discussed how men treat women if the woman is disinterested. It was quite a lively, spirited conversation, which was much-needed, since I had stopped drinking at the wedding a couple of hours ago, and we were stuck behind a Wal-Mart truck going below the speed limit on the winding roads of the Berkshires.

My best friend said that sometimes she’ll get called to at a gas station by a man, saying, “Mami, Mami, you’re looking fine today!” Rachel will ignore him, naturally, and then he’ll yell back, “You whore! You’re probably a dumb slut!” All because she didn’t acknowledge his misogynistic comment and slander.

Just how is a woman a slut if she won’t give you the time of day?

A week later, I was having a conversation on my deck with a friend, who told me how if she’s disinterested in a man on this dating site she’s using, she’ll sometimes receive charged comments blatantly calling her a cold bitch who is full of herself.

Again,

Just when did it become okay to manipulate and verbally abuse women for not wanting to have sex with a man? Are men so fragile that they cannot bear the crushing reality that a woman doesn’t want his scummy dick near her?

The answer is clearly and obviously yes.

This isn’t all men. I know many respectful, amazing men. I am referring to those who treat women this way.

Girls have been taught from a young age that boys will tease them on the playground if they like her. We learn that we need to soften the blow for men and “let them down gently” if we are not interested. Like it is our duty to protect their egos.

Aren’t we allowed not to be interested!?

I grew up believing this. I have had guys falling head over heels in love with me ever since high school. All through college it was a theme, and again, in my thirties, I am still “letting men down” who want to pursue me.

Yet, the whole time, I have this latent guilt about it because of the way society raised me.

I’ve always thought to myself that life is much easier when I have a boyfriend. This is simply because then I have a valid excuse to give to all the men who want to date me.

A couple of months ago, I was on a subway in Brooklyn when a fifty-something year old man began hitting on me. I am quite introverted and anxious in social situations as it is, let alone, this was my first subway ride by myself, but I told the man after he asked me for a hug that I had a boyfriend (a lie) instead of telling him to fuck off.

Why did I do that?

Because women know this will generally work. Saying you aren’t interested tends to generate animosity, and even saying you aren’t interested in dating ANYONE dredges up opinions on behalf of the man. In my experiences, a man will keep trying even if I say no but don’t have a “valid reason” (as if not being interested isn’t valid enough).

If I have a boyfriend, then I am a woman who has adhered to the role of society to be scooped up by a man, and therefore, the propositioner is more likely to back off. Also, my imaginary boyfriend has big muscles, so he’ll beat you up!

I recently got into an argument with a friend, who basically followed the exact pattern of things aforementioned. One of the points I made to him was that if he cared about me so much, then why would he want to make me feel uncomfortable by pressuring me?

This is still a question I’d like answered. Do men think this works? It doesn’t.

I no longer want to behave and feel like it’s my responsibility to ensure that men are being “spotted” when I deliver a crushing blow. It’s okay that I don’t want you; I have never owed you anything.

You are not really the type of respectful man I am looking for if I have to catch you when you are knocked over by my rejection and let you down gently.

If a woman says no, then there’s nothing more to discuss. Ever. No really means no. Get outta here. Beat it.

The Girl Most Loved

Throughout my entire adult life I have been this girl who men have chased and fallen flat on their faces in trying to reach.

I have gingerly nudged their finger tips, peeling back their grip on the edge of a cliff with my foot, and watched them plummet.

I have dodged their advances towards me, tucking myself away in a dark alley of some unknown city street.

Yet, I have also scripted beautiful accolades to men who were able to seek and capture my wild heart.

And, I have continually been shut out by each and every one of those men.

I am the girl who appears to be in the lead–running gracefully with my smile. Not even breaking a sweat.

Really, I am the girl who comes in last place every time.

running_away

Being beautiful or loved is not exactly a situation about which many are sympathetic. It’s something that isn’t really easy for me to talk or write about, because how can you without coming off as completely narcissistic or conceited?

This is the best way I can describe what it feels like to have everyone and no one want you all at the same time:

When I meet men, I have to be super cautious, because when I am just being myself, not even trying to flirt with them, they fall hard. I’ve been told it’s because there just aren’t women like me. That I pour out the Universe with each breath. That I exude genuineness.

Since I was about sixteen this has been the way it is.

What that feels like is that I’m strangely so special that I am no longer special. If so many feel that way about a person, does that any longer give them uniqueness?

I longingly stare at couples at the altar who maybe didn’t have the best dating record throughout high school and college, but then met that one person, and that person didn’t run away.

Mine always run… at Olympic speeds.

Rarely, I will meet a man who does completely enrapture me. It’s happened a handful of times in my life. When this occurs, all the other men in my life get pissy and jealous. They idolize the man I have “chosen”. They either back off or vie for my attention even harder.

I am completely loyal, however, once I have been swooned, and that man will have my adoration until he “flees the scene”, which he always does.

It feels isolating. I’m terribly lonely sometimes even when in the same bed as a man, knowing that I’m either just being coveted for my sexual appeal or I’m being held away at arm’s length.

It hurts so scathingly deep to be told I’m “perfect” and know they are either just talking about my flesh or abilities in bed, or they truly think I’m amazing and unlike anyone they’ve ever met but abandon me anyway.

I remember one boyfriend I had, where we made love and I said I love you for the first time. It was over ten years ago. That’s the only time I’ve ever been able to say that while intimate with a man and not be mocked or left in silence, with the exception of my ex fiancé, who, although loved me fiercely, abused his power over me and ultimately squandered our union.

There have been times when I have wanted to say it, and I just look at my lover with this reverent and passionate stare, hoping they can read minds or something, because I dare not say it again.

I’m honestly fearful that I will never be in a meaningful relationship again, because the men who fall for me (that I feel anything back for) live far away, choose career over me, have other relationship statuses, or are completely commitment phobic, self-sabotaging humans.

Why can’t I love one of the twenty men circling me for my interest? Sadly, it just ain’t how life works.

The girl most loved is the girl most desired. The girl with the nicest skin, prettiest smell, tastiest parts… The girl most loved is the girl who gives her whole heart only to find that no one really wants it.

I have literally (and I actually mean literally) been abused by multiple men who have claimed that they love me and I am their favorite human in existence. I have been denied; I have been sworn at; I have been verbally battered and emotionally neglected. I have been invited in and then thrown away.

I don’t want to be the girl most loved.

I want to be the ordinary girl who meets the guy–maybe the only guy who will ever be interested–and he only has eyes for her and always will.

I Was Just As Bad

[some adult language]

I remember it clearly: me, sitting in our old apartment bedroom by the desk; he was on the bed, facing me. The lights were out, but it was afternoon. We were arguing.

J pointedly says to me, “I had all the money saved, but then you acted the way you did, and now the money has been spent.”

In hearing these words, I burst into frantic tears–he was talking about the money for my engagement ring.

That was probably about five or six years ago. Some things you will never forget.

To what he was referring (with my behavior) was something completely fabricated, because J had paranoia issues and was very manipulative with his words out of fear of abandonment. He thought that the next door neighbor and I were bumpin’ uglies, when I was not even remotely interested, nor had I ever been. I only had eyes for J. But because it was so real to him and he felt the magnitude of the indignant righteousness, all of the money put aside to keep his promise to me went to drugs and cigarettes. Maybe a toy for himself or some magazines. I don’t know what he did with his money.

That man knew how to bite hard. The term “mind bullets” accurately fits how he would fight, because he was scathing and unforgiving in his choice of words. But to say that we argued would be misleading. I never fought back.

As part of my healing process over the past three years, I have divulged a lot about his and my relationship that, previously, I kept a secret. I’ve needed to in order to accept that it happened and to realize that I was taken advantage of emotionally. However, I am no saint. Not perfect or all-knowing when it comes to relationships, in the slightest. Part of the reason for our failure was my fault.

I never fought back. I never stood up for myself. I let him whip me over and over with his nastiness and sat there silently, tears leaking from my eyes. Some days, after the pain had been too much and I no longer felt it, I shrugged at him with a straight face and walked out of the room.

I was inactive.

Part of it was because I felt as though no matter what I said, he would twist my words. I felt manipulated. That’s true. Yet, most of it was fear of losing him. What did I have to lose? I was naive and didn’t recognize that I had already lost my integrity and sense of worth. Without excusing him for his behavior, I see the magnetic attraction to someone abusing something that is cowering in the corner. That’s how it works. I never asked for it to begin, but I allowed it to continue.

Sure, I could play the victim role, especially since I experienced emotional abuse from multiple partners–some of the things that have happened in the past year, alone, are enough to garner sympathetic hugs from listeners. Screw that, though, because no one ever gains forward momentum or breaks out of the cycle by the mere recognition of victimhood.

I am an active party in my life.

Shortly after the breakup, J called, harassing and hurting me. Every time I tried to speak up, he would cut me off. I yelled into the phone, “SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” His response was one of glee: “Finally! I have been waiting years for you to say that to me. Good girl. Good for standing up for yourself. You tell me to shut the fuck up. Do it.”

What? Yeah, that’s right. Not that it was ever okay to begin with that he was controlling my emotions, but he respected me the moment I gave it back to him. Things were different after that day.

angry

I finally had a voice. I finally had nothing to lose.

Unfortunately, I had to lose everything with J to find my strength to stand up for myself to him. Sometimes, that’s how a lesson is learned. I was no longer afraid of him, because he wasn’t mine.

Since then, I have the integrity to fight back. I never play dirty, but I communicate, and sometimes, fervently or with anger. I express what I need to, and I don’t worry about the other person pushing me away, because if they do, then that is a demon within themselves. It says nothing about me as an individual.

To gain this personal responsibility, I had to accept that I was part of the problem. I contributed to my own abuse by letting a man destroy my happiness and mental state for five and a half years. I could have left at any point; I could have stood up for myself. I didn’t.

I may not have asked to be abused, but I have a voice and two legs. I can speak up and get out whenever I need to.