[This is another post in the sexual assault series.]
…And this one makes me feel particularly vulnerable (or maybe stupid?) for some reason. So obviously, as per always, if it feels too dumb or whatever to you, please feel free not to read.
As I’ve mentioned before, the goalposts with sexual assault guy were always moving. I was always something either too much or not enough – too smart (and made fun of for being a Mensa member smartypants), or not smart enough (and condescended to, having very very basic concepts overly-explained to me as though I’d never lived in the world before, and hearing stuff like, “whoa! You really used that word correctly” on a totally normal maybe medium-sized word, like I’m a child who’s parent is trying to teach her).
I was super pretty and yet not pretty enough – always complimented on how thin I was, but could never wear the right thing. Dresses were too revealing, or not revealing enough, too tight or too lose, or god forbid I wear pants (which, granted, in his defense I don’t even normally like doing unless I’m working out… There was even a time he asked me to wear something and then made fun of me for doing it). Sometimes he seemed to get a little angry about the compliments he’d give me about being beautiful (which never made sense to me as a thing to be angry about, but a lot of things didn’t). So, he’d have to tear me down in any other way he could about my looks.
I was either too nice (and naive or not smart for not critiquing something enough), or too mean if I started to join in on the things I thought he wanted – whether it be critiquing shows or people (I am a little embarrassed about sometimes I did talk a little poorly about others (as it’s something he did all the time), like, what? I’m in middle school succumbing to peer pressure to please him – the queen bee? I don’t even remember doing that in middle school. So, why am I doing it as an adult?)
I was just too everything and not enough everything. We could go on forever. The goalposts were always moving – always. I could not do anything right, no matter how hard I tried.
And now, I feel like sometimes, some of my pulling away from the world kind of to some extent has to do with that – like if I dare try to go do anything, I’m just gonna have to hear about how “actually… I’m not [smart, pretty, funny, who knows what, anything positive at all].”
And it’s not to say he never complimented me. Sometimes he’d be compliment city, laying it all on so thick. And then it would turn.
And it’s not like we were together for so long that something he used to find endearing became annoying. It was like what was endearing depended on the day. It felt impossible to know what would make him happy/pleased/nice, and what would make him angry/mean/and put me down.
And now I live in this world of his voice being louder than everyone else’s, for some reason.
And that doesn’t make sense. Like, who is he?
I used to keep a “compliment” notebook where I would write down nice things people would say about me on The Nightly Show, so I could try to remember “people do like me, I can be liked, it’s okay.”
Sexual assault dude’s comments matter more than every person I’ve ever met?
And obviously some people are not going to like me. This is such a hard thing for me to really put words to because it’s a feeling unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – this sense of despair about the awful things that man would say about me. (And the hilarious part about it all, is that he talked about practically everyone that way – previous women he’d been with, female friends of his… A few women escaped being talked about that way, but for the most part, I think it’s possible he just hates women…)
Anyway, as I was saying, some people don’t like me. Sometimes it feels more “warranted” than others. I mean, everyone is allowed to have their own opinions. But, I guess what I mean is, sometimes an internet troll with come at me with just such vile. He will talk about me with such hate, you would think I would’ve killed someone or something. So, that’s always a little odd. But then there are some people I’ve met who don’t like me – because not every person is liked all the time.
For instance, i kinda accidentally ruined a friendship one time for really prioritizing someone else over my friend and not even realizing I wasn’t giving them enough time/paying attention and my friend (rightfully) decided I wasn’t worth their time.
And if that person went around and told people that I was too oblivious or not caring enough, it’d be like, “Well, yeah. You have good reason to think that way. I’m sorry.”
When criticism makes sense. It’s easier for me to take, I think.
And yet, there’ve been times when it totally didn’t make sense, and I was still fine! I had a job once where my boss thought I was an “entitled millennial” for wanting fair working conditions. I got out of there quickly, and I know (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that he was wrong about me. And if he, or anyone he talks to about me, thinks I’m just an entitled millennial, I don’t care. That rolls off my back.
So why – why does this sexual assault guy, who really is quite honestly just mean to a lot of people… Why is it sooooo important to me that he not be mean to me? Why can I even imagine for a second that he wouldn’t be?
And why do his words always haunt me, as though no one else on earth’s matter? Like I’m waiting for permission that I’m an okay person (in his eyes) after all?
I think there is something to the idea that stuff he said wasn’t just often dreadfully mean. It was confusing. He would be all over the map from how I was was selfless and kind to the worst person on the planet and back again. I could never get a read for how he actually felt.
He also seemed to try to take away the things I loved dearly. If he saw I loved or took pride in anything, that was the thing that had to be demeaned beyond recognition. So, I think that was really hard for me.
Again, I think the constant moving of goalposts was very hard for me. Even though he’s (thankfully) not in my life anymore, for some reason, it’s like I’m still trying to figure out how to please him – which would be impossible. If he found out I were an editor on The Daily Show, it would become about how I’m on the show without Emmy nominations. So, if I got on Last Week Tonight, it’d be about how I’m “just” an editor, instead of a writer. If I became a writer, it’d be about how I don’t have a show. If I had a show, it’d be about how I don’t have an Emmy. And on and on and on and on. If I weighed 85 pounds, it’d be about me being too thin. If I gained a little weight, it’d be about being not whatever shape enough, or it’d become about what I was wearing. And on and on and on and on and on with every single thing in my life. There is nothing I can do or say to avoid constant ridicule – and I don’t just mean the cute fun little teasing of friends, I mean, putting me down, making me feel like there’s no escape and that I’m so completely worthless ridicule. I literally cannot be good enough, or “whatever” enough. It. is. impossible.
Lastly, I think it was confusing that he kept trying to tell me a million things I wasn’t. If I said I was uncomfortable around him, he’d be like, “What?! That’s crazy. You’re actually uncomfortable about this or this.” And that’s one example of many – always explaining my emotions to me instead of ever trying to listen, or care about what they were. When you’re reality is constantly being altered or questioned, I feel like it really does make you question reality! Who am I even?
I thought I had at least a semi-strong sense of self before being with him. But he was able to just destroy it that quickly? That doesn’t feel right, or like me.
I’m reading this great book called – Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That – Encouragement For Women Involved With Angry And Controlling Men.
One of the things it talks about is how “a destructive man’s behavior has a way of creeping inside your head, so that you start to do his unhealthy work for him… Start noticing if the voice in your head is actually his voice, not yours… One critical step toward freedom is to stop enslaving yourself…” It basically goes on to say that you area learning his behaviors and doing them for him – therefore you are abusing yourself. If you wouldn’t want to stand for his abuse, why would you stand for doing it to yourself?
Anyway, I’m just rambling at this point… But one of the things that I’m finding my last little stuck rock in my way of moving forward is that I have this overwhelming feeling of “Why even bother?”
“Why even bother starting to volunteer again? Why even bother to make something cool? Why even bother doing anything?” because at the end of the day, I’m just gonna be told why actually that’s “totally not worth it,” or I’m “doing it all wrong,” or “for the wrong reasons,” or “actually I’m a terrible person” etc. etc.
He’s like a little ear worm that has made me feel so worthless – so beyond redemption (even though I never even actually really did anything to him, especially on the scale of what he did to me), that it’s literally sometimes like, “Well, why even bother?”