Or whatever. I’m not even 100% sure what I want the title of this post to be, but I suppose that will suffice.
This is a LONG post. I’m sorry. It’s a long story. First, we have an intro story about me being too harsh with someone. It seems like sexual assault guy had so much leniency that now I’ve taken away all leniency toward everyone, which isn’t fair…
Then we have a story about sexual assault guy. The first thing is in the first set of dotted lines. The story of sexual assault guy is right after that. Feel free to read whatever you want. Thanks!
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The other day, I was having a lovely conversation with a really close friend of mine. He is lovely. Never have I ever noticed anything “problematic” about him. Every interaction I have ever experienced with him – he has respected me, all women, (all people that I’ve seen him interact with). He’s charming and wonderful, and it’s all good.
But this one time once, he made a little “joke” that seemed more just kind of like an unfair sort of sexist remark than something funny. And I was like, “Hey! That’s not really funny, pal.” And he was like, “You’re right. I shouldn’t have said that.”
And like, that should’ve been totally enough. Based on everything I know about that man and every interaction I’ve had with him, that should’ve been more than plenty enough. But no. I was like, “Right. Because ___________.” And I explained what was hurtful about it (because he seemed to be kind of rushing past it (as who wouldn’t have?)).
Now, that probably wasn’t necessary, being that he already stated he shouldn’t have said it and that he’s super smart. I’m pretty sure he got it. But, like, just in case, I let him know. And he’s like, “Oh my gosh. I totally get it. I’m sorry. You’re right.”
And that obviously should’ve been more than enough for me to be like, “Okay, it’s all good.” But no. As he was trying to deescalate the situation with all that I’m sorry stuff from above, he made a little joke, just being like, “I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. I’m a child.”
And I could’ve just laughed at that.
He obviously knew he was in the wrong. He was just trying to lighten the mood with humor. What good is it to beat someone when they’re down? BUT instead, I piped up with, “No. Actually, you’re not a child. You’re a grown adult man around 30 years old. You actually could help it, because you have cognitive thinking abilities and the ability to distinguish what’s appropriate and what isn’t.”
I think he would’ve had every right at that point to be defensive or angry or like, “Cut me a break!”
But he didn’t. He just said, “You’re right.” And we moved on to something else.
I don’t want to be like this.
I am acting like a crazy person! It’s shocking any human ever wants to be around me.
And I know where this is coming from…
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One day, I was getting ready for this party sexual assault guy was throwing. He had made kind of a big deal about how he wanted me to be there and had been telling some people about me, whatever.
And I spent SO much time getting ready.
SO. MUCH. TIME.
Makeup had to be cute. Had to pick the right dress. I even got my hair dyed a darker color that day because he likes my hair better when it’s darker brown. (So do I! But I was doing it right now, at this time, for him.)
Now, the timing of this party came between assaults – after he had refused to leave my apartment when I asked. After all, “it was SO important that we have sex at my place too, because we will be seeing each other ALL the time. So, both places need to be available to us.”
After saying that, and doing that, he started cancelling on me a lot – on the times he would even make plans in the first place. It was a little disconcerting to go from, “I must see you all the time, so I have to have sex in your bed even though you’ve made it so clear you don’t want to,” to “uh, maybe I’ll see you one time a week and a half from now.” Like, what?
But I kept thinking “maybe he just got busy. Maybe this, maybe that.”
Anyway, then the night of the party came.
I didn’t think I’d be able to spend the night even if he’d wanted me to because I had a friend in town. But I found out she was gonna be out waaaaay late…. and I’d already spent hours upon hours trying to be all cute and stuff. Like, after all that work… I’ll just ask if maybe he’d like me to stay over… That can’t hurt anything, right?
So I texted, asking if he wanted me to stay.
Of course, looking back on it now, I could’ve asked him later. I just think it was gonna be a big deal, and I was gonna figure out the key situation for my friend if I wasn’t gonna come back.
Anyway, he said no. Now, of course that’s totally okay. He doesn’t have to have me over. (I didn’t even love the actual act of spending the night!)
But it was weird – so weird – for him to go from being really, like, almost uncomfortably obsessively into me – and using that obsessively-into-me-ness as an excuse to force sex in my bed, and then to no longer seem to care how much we hung out, and even seemed to talk to me in a different way. Instead of, “I’m sorry. I’d love to see you, but I’ve got an early night,” it just became “no [period in a text message – mmm hmm, you know what that means].
Now, I was weirded out at the very 180 degree change in his behavior. But that was easily a conversation I could’ve had with him later. I didn’t need to say anything else. I said something dumb like, “why, you got something more fun to do than me? 😉” or whatever – something dumb, and I’m sure, yes, a little passive-aggressive.
And I know I didn’t need to say that. But not for one single second did I think it would make the night turn the way it did.
He went off on me about how he didn’t have to justify his time to anyone, and how he would NOT have this conversation through text.
(He could have calmly told me things had been weird and he’d prefer to discuss it later. But no, he just laid into me about anything he could think of, and said he refused to have a conversation with me – and yet wouldn’t stop.)
And I was profusely apologizing, and when thing seemed calm for even a second, I tried to just deescalate the situation with some jokes and some flirting. Hahaha, laugh laugh laugh. We’re okay now… Except no we’re not. He just would not stop.
I was crying tiny tears down my cheeks as inconspicuously as possible in the hair salon. I could see myself in the mirror – with stuff in my hair waiting on yet another step of my beautify-ing, thinking about how I had spent the *whole* day getting ready just for him and he is talking to me like I am sub-human.
And I remember so so very distinctly at the time thinking, “no one who cared about me even a liiiittle bit. No one who felt an ounce of respect for me for would ever ever talk to me like this. I understand that sometimes people get angry and raise their voice or whatever. But there’s a difference between just like ‘a little over the top but within the rhelm of normal angry’ and this – whatever this terrifying dehumanizing horrific stronger-than-just-anger this was.”
As I ran through that in my head right then and through the night and for the next nights after, I just said so many times, “no one who cares about me would ever speak to me that way.” I knew that – I knew that as fact. But did I listen to that fact? I did not.
As he would not stop berating me, I finally told him that I hope he has a really good birthday, but I’m not sure I’d see him after all. And he, of course, was furious. Oh, I’m “not even gonna come to his party now? Am I that spoiled that just because he doesn’t want to f*** me, I’m gonna pout in the corner and not go?” And I calmly told him it had absolutely nothing to do with that, but with the fact that the way he was speaking to me was completely unacceptable. And he didn’t hear me for a second. “I know there’s nothing else it could be. There’s no other reason.” And he stayed with that line of barraging even though I told him it *only* had to do with how he was talking to me.
And we ended that conversation with him saying something like he couldn’t believe what a baby I was being, that if he wasn’t going to have sex with me I wouldn’t go to his party (which was so incredibly far from what was actually happening).
Later, after I’d cried for a while (and continued with my hair because I can’t very well just walk out with a hair full of foil), he texted something nice about how he really wanted me there.
I told him I was still exceptionally unhappy but that I would go and play nice with his friends. (And I did.)
And even though I *knew* – I knew -that my new mantra (no one who cares about me would ever talk to me that way) was so incredibly true… I let him take me out to dinner to make up for it.
Let us not forget the mantra! Anyone who cares about me (even a little!) would never ever speak to me the way he did.
I should’ve just said no. Or I should’ve said yes and at dinner talked about how innappropriate it was and that I was sorry but this was the end for us sleeping together. I’d still be willing to be friendly when I was at things where he was too, but that this whole thing was over and I just wanted to make sure we talked it all out and understood what happened before we went out separate ways – those were the correct options.
I was like “people get angry. They lose their tempers.”
And I do know this. People have gotten angry with me before. And let’s get real, as embarrassing as it is, I’ve totally raised my voice to others before. I know people get angry – but not like this. Not a full-out blow-up over a little passive agressive text. Not an a complete attack on who I am as a person and everything about me and all of my intentions because I was a little passive aggressive that he’d been acting weird for a couple of weeks.
It’s hard to explain the way he talked to me, but it was different than anyone who’d ever “lost their temper.” It was troubling.
And yet I went out to dinner with him.
And now, the difference between this story and the one I told at the beginning of part 1 – I think the nice guy in part one knew when he said something sexist that it was an off comment. He knew he messed up and he knew why. And he didn’t need me laying anything out for him.
I wasn’t so sure about sexual assault guy, since things had gotten so incredibly out-of-control so quickly.
So, I started talking to him about the specifics of the fight we’d had. And he kept interrupting to be like “yes, I know. I know. I know. I know. I know. I know. I overreacted. I am so sorry.”
And so I stopped.
I had other things I thought I should probably say – specific things I remembered at the time that had been hurtful, that I wanted to point out. But when I’m hearing a very steady stream of the words “I know” over and over, I just thought, “okay. He’s obviously embarrassed. He obviously knows what he did was wrong. What kind of person would I be if I couldn’t forgive one fight – one mistake?”
And we moved forward.
And this whole specific story seems so important to me for two reasons:
1) I *knew*… I knew that no one who cared about me would talk to me that way. I knew it in my bones. It shouldn’t matter how complimentary he was otherwise, or if he said the right things, or whatever. I knew ultimately that there was no possible way he actually cared about or respected me.
2) It truly felt like that night of him taking me to dinner and me so easily accepting his apology and being silenced when we needed to have a longer talk about the way he’d treated me – it felt like that was when I lost aaaaany footing I’d ever had – any “power,” any whatever you wanna call it… Basically any safety.
For the most part, I felt safe and fine telling him I wasn’t gonna go to that party. Yes, I ultimately folded and went, but didn’t stay too terribly long, and didn’t talk to him much. I still felt independent and safe.
And I don’t know if he was purposefully testing my boundaries and what I would take. I don’t understand the mind of a man who exhibits many traits of a true sociopath. I don’t know how much was calculated and how much wasn’t.
But I do know the way he started treating me after the apology dinner was worse than he’d ever treated me before. The way he’d talk to me would be appalling. He would make me feel so exceptionally uncomfortable and afraid that I no longer had space to argue or stand up for what I deserved – it became about preservation and merely trying to minimize damage. I was always on the defensive, again, just trying to make whatever choices would minimize any damage – just keep myself safe.
And it was at the end of the week that – it’s hard to think that it wasn’t at least partially due to that dynamic shift – that I was assaulted by him.
It felt like I was out of options. I barely wanted to go there in the first place. But maybe if I just go and I’m better – if I’m the “perfect good little girl,” things will be better. And when I was there, I didn’t want to stay. But it felt like I’d be in “trouble” if I’d left. And when he climbed on top of me, I most certainly did not want to feel him touching me, but it didn’t feel safe to do anything but lay there and cry. In the moment it felt like the wrath that I would be introduced to if I dared do *anything* else was scarier than what was happening to me (even if I hated what was happening so much).
I know it’s a little crazy and potentially slightly convoluted in some ways, but it feels like that one fight was kind of the – I don’t know… the inciting incident maybe? Something that flipped a switch that led to being assaulted…
Which brings me back to the beginning of all this. I let a man walk all over me and now I have weirdly gotten SO defensive that it’s like if someone tells a sexist joke, I jump down his throat. (Obviously not all the time. But I did in that example.)
People need to be able to have some air! Let’s remember how I felt having someone go from 0 – 4,000 after I made a slightly passive aggressive comment, and wouldn’t take a breath when I tried to deescalate the situation. I certainly don’t wanna become sexual assault guy!
Of course, it is different. I don’t go off like he does… But my whole internal calibration has been offset.
I used to be able to tell, if someone hurt my feelings or did something offensive – when they got it vs when they didn’t. For the most part, I knew when it was worth it to bring it up and when it just wasn’t. But feeling like there is a nearly direct link to being assaulted from not standing up enough to someone being disrespectful – it’s making me like a no-tolerance cop policing every comment from people I care about who I reasonably know care about me in return.
So, anyway, I have lost all chill. And I hate it.