I have sometimes been mean although I would not describe myself as a mean person. Far from it…but when I have been it was directed at men that posed a threat to my heart. It generally was slightly mean spirited banter online in that time before going on a first date and sometimes afterwards in realtime for necessary reasons and sometimes it was for free in jest or with a blaze attitude to test the others responses. Would they attack or laugh it off or stand up for themselves and ask me why I would say that?
I have consistently been surprised to discover that men have feelings and the men I meet are great people. They are soft and vulnerable no matter their large towering size. I think it’s a miracle whenever we are confronted with our prejudices and they are systemically proven incorrect. Whenever I am confronted with men I see how misplaced my small expectations of them are…obviously my automatic pilot is rooted in my childhood and it believes that men are to be distrusted, that they lack empathy, that they are hard and violent and dangerous. It surprises me often that these ideas time and again are completely wrong. There certainly are bad people that include bad men but it can’t be luck that the men I meet continuously across religious lines and borders are all good and nice people. Better people then me.
It takes sometimes meeting the worst to finally see not only how human we all are but how great most people can be.
About four weeks ago I tried a new dating application for people that share my culture and faith. It was highly recommended so out of curiosity I got on it and met a man named Ben. He was wicked smart and able to read me well and within a matter of hours had already deconstructed me. I was impressed even a bit smitten to have met such a smart guy who said he was looking for love and (seemingly) very aware of himself and others. We continued to chat but as I had to travel I put off the meet up and went to France for work.
On my trip to Paris I met another man from a similar site. The nicest man I have ever met. The kind you should marry. The kind that strokes your back when you are telling him a hard story. The one that listens and empathizes with your pain and you find that you are telling him your life despite knowing that there are plenty of people you shouldn’t open up to about it. It was hard to not fall for him. But…as it happens, he is in love with another woman and will be for probably longer than one will ever know. So I took that rejection on the chin and womaned up. We could still be friends. That is my mission still.
So there was Ben. We had already had a few misunderstandings in our chats partly because I thought I was rather funny, but he didn’t see the humor.
On my return to Casablanca we agreed to meet up but a few days before we had a little upset. I had asked him how he has a personal life if he is still living with his parents and he then had to prove that he is very much a man and even has a sex friend. I asked why not just date her but as she isn’t of the same culture or faith that wasn’t possible. The conversation was from my side just innocent curiosity but for him it imploded into WW3 and a lot of verbal abuse. I tried to excuse myself from the conversation and he was worried I wouldn’t agree to see him after. I said I would and took a day to get over his aggression with the belief that on some level his anger was out of shame. For what exactly, I did not know, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt that we all sometimes overreact and denigrate others when we are in pain. I didn’t judge him. He though went off the map for the next few days and was quiet.
On going out to a club I accidentally ran into him. He was gracious and kind and invited me to sit with his table of friends. I was drunk and dancing and having fun to the delight of my friends who found me adorable. On his end, his table found me crazy because I was dancing as they all sat squarely in their seats. He said I had been rude (code for not paying enough attention and left too soon) but followed that statement with “but I don’t care”. I told him I was sorry that I came off that way but I genuinely liked him and was having fun. We agreed to meet another day.
I had made a joke that in order to get him to respond in a timely fashion the way he always expects me to respond to him I would have to send him nudes. That is when the second round of abuse started. He said he was looking for hot girls and I was definitely not his type. I graciously accepted his rejection but asked why he had bothered talking all these weeks if that was the case. He knew what I looked like he had befriended me on facebook and instagram. He didn’t have a good answer but he repeated a few more times that I was not beautiful enough for him. Then he said I was not normal. I tried to stand up for myself with each attack to see where this was going exactly. (My curious side has sometimes gotten the better of me.) So I agreed that I am indeed not “normal”. I do not “need” a man. I do like sex. I am not interested in money. None of the normal things I should stereotypically want as a woman in a man’s world. He asked what I wanted from him. I was a dumbfounded at the neediness even as he tried to position himself in a power seat. And although he protested how much he didn’t like me he still asked for more pictures of me. He held a mix of desire and rejection for me.
I found it interesting that this is a self described man that would tell you himself he doesn’t find himself attractive and has low self worth. He can barely send me a picture of his face. He was angry without reason and by all accounts had everything. A good family, a great job a big income and a good social status. Partly all his aggression and violence made me remember how I had been in the past when I had felt totally weak although never to this extent. My rejection of people could take a few forms but always with sweetness. He protested a bit too much. He had a point to prove, not so much a truth to tell.
He said he was loved much more than me and that I have no self confidence that was sure. So what would I know? I agreed that he most certainly was loved better in childhood than me and we can all have moments of self confidence and strength as well as weakness. We aren’t total strength of total weakness.
I asked him why he always compares himself to me constantly as he has since the beginning but I was only now beginning to notice? He ignored my question and asked who took the photos for me which he was apparently very concerned with especially for a girl he doesn’t like.
He did finally say one nice thing which was my pictures were beautiful, hallelujah! But followed it with how unique he was, saying that while any other man might love me he feels nothing and the only reason I was insisting to talk to him is because he feels nothing for me. He asked other silly questions following that such as what I liked in bed then made statements like, “What do you think, I am waiting for you to show me something?” Then he denigrated me for having sex at all. Of course. That of course rendered me undoll-like and not elegant. I had for duty sake explain that I and women in general are not dolls. His future wife and daughter will not be dolls they will be people, who will like love life and have sex and have ideas and bleed and make mistakes. He should leave some room for us to be human.
That of course made him even more angry. Go figure. Instead of answering what I said he repeated that I am not elegant and I am not attractive to Him and he has no envy to know me. Great!
He then angrily expressed that we will never be together. I asked him why he was angry. He said he wasn’t. He said he wanted nothing to do with me.
I told him I was sorry to disturb him but I wouldn’t have sent the pictures or answered his questions if he had not asked for them.
I fell sick the next day partly from the trip to Fes and partly from this asshole being aggressive for nothing. But I did have time to reflect on somethings he said.
Was I trying to save him? Was I trying to prove to myself something, like he said I was, instead of just letting the rejection and the pain go through me. Was I even admitting that he had hurt me?
I think he was right on one point. I was trying to prove that I was valuable and I desperately wanted to help him. I wanted to give him advice and I wanted to love the ugly out of him but where was that coming from? It is not my job to care for every broken man I meet. Why did I want to fix him and be of service? Maybe he was right to say I have no confidence in myself. I lack a lot of confidence although perhaps I have much more than him.
From this experience of meeting a broken man, I actually have gratitude for both all the others that have been kind with me and I also appreciate that his hate and aggression have been teachers. I realized how awful I have been in the past to people who were kind with me. I also had to admit that as strong as I am I also can feel pain from a random act of violence. I sat with my pain finally and let it do its work. It seeped through me and told me I was honest and strong enough to feel it and admit that someone small had hurt me and that was okay. Why? Because I am beautiful. More than I even know. I am good as he is good. He is no less than me and not more broken than me. He is my broken brother in arms. I might not know his pains origin and it is not my business, but I can understand him even in just his pain.
Thank goodness I met him, I thought. Thank goodness I met a man that confirmed all my stereotypes but did not let me forget all the beautiful men I have known. I appreciate and love the kindness even more now. I realized I am very soft and the attacks to my physical beauty did not define my being as a woman and it is not everything I am. Although he hurt my feelings with his attitude of throwing me under the bus I was not devastated because I don’t believe him to be honest.
I still sent him a message one night because I felt that I had been honest and my honestly will continue help me live authentically and perhaps help him too feel more implicated in the world outside his small bubble. I said, “You won. You hurt me a lot more than anyone has but I am not angry with you. I know you are a good person. And today as we fast for Tisha B’av I will think of this encounter and every critique that you have of me and take it to heart.”
Part of Tisha B’av is to understand the other. Maybe cruelty is just weakness fear and loneliness that we all feel at times. I am strong enough to be vulnerable and to find a lesson to learn in this. I can understand his position and I can let go.