Cis Is Not a Four Letter Word

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of ire directed toward cis men. Primarily this is from some feminists and transgender folks.

For those who don’t know a cis person is someone who is comfortable with the gender in which they have been raised. So if you were called a male at birth, raised as a male, and have no problem with being male then you are a cis man. If you are not comfortable with the gender you were given at birth and you feel as if you should be another gender then you would be considered transgender. These are over simplified explanations, but for now simple works because my point here isn’t strictly about labels or identity issues.

Somehow cis has come to be slang for everything that is wrong with men. There is nothing wrong with being a cis man, or cis woman for that matter, just as there is nothing wrong with being a transman or transwoman. It’s just another form of being.

I understand that problems arise when cis men don’t check their priviledge and act in ways that marginalizes and harms others. I also realize that among all offenders, cis men are the largest group both as a population and as a percentage. 

A cursory reading of my writings here should dispel any notions that I go easy on men, quite the contrary. This is not one of those “not all men” writings. I’m not using this as a cop-out for me or anyone else. I give guys a lot of shit because I grew up around them, date them, and hear the dumb things they regularly say which indicates a lot of them haven’t done any personal searching.

What we should be fighting against is toxic behavior no matter who exhibits it. Having dated cis men, cis women, and trans women (sorry no trans men yet, but I love ya just the same) I can tell you that toxic behavior can be found in all of these groups. Also amongst these groups are some genuinely lovely people. Everyone has responsibility and thus should be held accountable.

There are a lot of cis men out there who can be or who are feminist and trans allies. We don’t need to push them away.

As you can imagine this is a little personal for me. I consider myself to be very much pro feminist, pro choice, pro trans rights, pro identity rights, and most likely a cis man. 

That last part depends on who you talk to; for instance Kate Bornstein in her book Gender Outlaws would posit that I am trans by bucking certain guy norms and by the fact that I’m also a queer crossdresser. Truthfully, how people describe me doesn’t much matter to me. However, since I am somewhat to mostly content with being a man let’s just say I’m cis for our purposes here.

If you’re trans, queer, and feminist, I’m doing my damnest to be there with you. I regularly check my privilege and allow others to check it for me. If I am called out, it does not diminish who I am. In fact, I make myself become a better person because of it so that I may help others, which is all I really want to do anyway. I live my life by a feminist/humanist ideology and owe much to the theorists from all walks of life who have helped me to see the world in all it’s complexity and with kindness.

And yet, I’m a cis man.

There are some real assholes out there, trust me I know, and I get it that men who have never had to question their privilege are most likely to be the ones to offend, but that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. Maligning all cis men is the same as when TERF’s malign trans women as murderers and pedophiles, it’s the same as when fundamentalists call feminists nazis. Surely we have more compassion and nuance than those groups. 

I think (and hope) that when folks generically write about cis men that they really mean the ones who exhibit toxic behavior. Without that clarification though they are throwing their allies under the bus.

We need to do better. 

To be clear, this is not a call for moderation. I’m not asking you to be less militant. I’m not asking you to curb your anger. You have every right to be angry and you too deserve a hold on the reigns that guide society. Instead, what I’m asking is that in your anger, your militancy, your passion, your fire, and your drive that you bring some level of honesty and nuance to the world along with it.

I thank you, I support you, and I love you!

Signed,

A cis-man (mostly)

When Love Breaks Through

“There was a time culminating here recently with the Potato Head toy incident when I made everything about me. I didn’t care about other people because I couldn’t get over my own issues. I was literally trying to order the world around my insecurities” said Matthew Drake from Yuma, Arizona recently at a one on one where we spoke about the political climate in America today. 

“I was really scared at one point about trans people, which is really what the toy incident was about for me. I had to have strict gender lines because what if I went on a date with a woman and found out she used to be a man? I was concerned that it meant I was gay. Plus what did it mean for me to be a guy if we could just change? I had so little self-esteem I needed the world to look like me exactly or it shook me to my core.”

Matthew is not alone. Conservatives are finally coming to terms with their own unassuredness that has long been fueling their self-destructive world views. 

Matthew continues, “Anything that used to help people I would say was socialism. I didn’t even know what that word meant and I didn’t care. I realize now I was using it because it helped me to shut down my rational thoughts about social issues. I was upset that some people wanted to help others without realizing that I too had help. I thought I was self-made, but that’s a delusion I had so I could feel better about myself. I went to college and received grants when a single class was $100, now that same class will cost over $1000 at a lower tier state college, heck you can’t even buy books for $100 anymore. Meanwhile, the grants amount to nothing nowadays. No one said life is fair, but no said it should be unfair either. No wonder people are drowning in debt, they just want what I have but are paying 10 times more for the same thing.”

Most folks have realized for a while that the social causes which are humanitarian in nature are not social boogeymen; that trans rights is an attempt to let people live their life in a way in which they most identify, that women’s rights is about extending the autonomy that men have enjoyed since society’s were founded, and that generally extending rights to others only further entrenches those rights for all to enjoy. 

As more people learn these things the objections they found as rational before suddenly lack muster under this new realization. 

Tricia McKay from Killeen, Texas said, “I mean at first I was like, what’s all this women’s lib bullshit? I mean if guys don’t force their opinions and their desires on me once and awhile then how do I know they are interested?” 

Then an interesting thing happened to her; she met a guy who did respect her enough to ask for her permission and he gave her a chance to guide their interactions as much as he did. In the atmosphere of consent she found a level of respect she didn’t know possible. 

“Yeah, at first I was unsure. I mean I told him no and he accepted my answer. I thought he was gay or something; as it happens, he is just confident enough to accept no as a legitimate answer. Turns out I have been passing up opportunities for love my entire life because of my views about dating” (1).

Angie from Charlottesville, Virginia says, “I used to be what’s called a TERF (trans-exclusionist radical feminist) and what I came to realize was despite all the rhetoric about caring for women that this was just a hate group. I just couldn’t do it anymore. As a lesbian myself, I was too concerned about other lesbians becoming males and limiting my dating pool. I couldn’t accept that for some people lesbian is a stepping stone to being a transman just like being bisexual was a step in my journey to accepting that I was a lesbian” (1).

In a statement that is as good a closing note as any Angie says, “I just learned that hate over the long haul is so hard to maintain. It took such a toll on me and I didn’t like who I had become. Love can be harder to show to people that are different but it’s worth it. After all, isn’t that what we all want” (1).

Works Cited

1 – http://www.if.real.life.only.worked.this.way.com. “April Fools Day.” Jokester. 2021. 

I would love to write this article as more than a fantasy for April Fools Day. It’s sad that people don’t come to love one another and have these epiphanies on their own. We hate so easily and come to love others so slowly. We are truly broken.

You’re Woke And It’s A Huge Problem

Woke was a term that when I first heard it, I thought it was a novel way to describe oneself. By the second time I came across it, the word had already soured. I realized quickly that it would be a self congratulatory term and as liberals we do too much of that as it is. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge to any group but most certainly the liberal/left is to check your ego at the door. We like to think that our views (or perhaps our belonging to a disenfranchised group) put us above others, that we are somehow better than whatever out group we have established. The truth is, most of us are still jerks that live a very unexamined life. If that sentence pisses you off then you need to keep reading more than anyone else. 

We hide behind labels. If we are woke, feminist, liberal, and egalitarian then we can’t be sexist, racist or transphobic. We make those who are outwardly racist/sexist/queer phobic evil and so we must be by opposition, automatically good. 

If being critical of racism, sexism and heteronormativity makes you feel good about yourself then I assure you that you are doing it wrong. Why do you feel good about affording people a basic level of decency? It is because you have positioned yourself against your so-called villains that you seem so accomplished and enlightened. 

Casting ourselves as heroes shuts down our critical thought. This is why women and people of color (though by no means exempt from my criticism) lament the emotional labor they have to expend on their supposed allies and sometimes ask for spaces which exclude us. 

We are still sexist. We expect certain physical or personality traits from out partners (you must be this tall/short and masculine/feminine to ride). The idea of what male and female is has been deeply embedded in the ways we think and act. We think we choose our partners freely but that is no closer to being true than it was 50 years ago. Sure we can marry a wider breadth of people than we could then, but our stereotypes still remain as to how people must look and who they can be in relation to us.  

We have more diverse friends now but how many of those friends serve to make you feel good. I have a friend who talks about being the token black guy among his liberal friends and as much as I’d like to assure him that this isn’t true I know there is an element of truth to it. Likewise, as a queer man, who cross dresses occasionally, I watch liberal women’s faces light up when they tell me they would gladly go out on the town with me in drag. What a story that would be for them and it’s a great way to get your “woke card” stamped. 

Our privilege (ie: ignorance) surfaces when we ask someone to speak for all people of their identification or sexual persuasion. It happens when we occupy the spaces of feminists or people of color and feel resentful that our opinions aren’t weighted to the degree we are used to. It happens when we use others to atone for our “social justice sins” by hogging the spotlight for ourselves and our woes. We want to be good but not at the expense of others noticing how good we are. We languish in our selfish habits. 

Essentially, we rely on others to do the work that we should damn well be doing ourselves. No one is asking you to break down and ask forgiveness from the group (i.e. representation of the other). They are asking you to listen, then take responsibility and put your words where your mouth is. You have to do your own work. The information is out there if you look for it. I hate this term but I’m going to use it, “google it!” Alternatively, ask people what might benefit you to read or watch and then actually do it. 

For instance, I’ve been reading work by trans folks/people in an attempt to understand them as much as I can. It’s shocking how much I thought I was being an ally and yet I was still making so many assumptions that could hurt them and their cause. It’s hard to learn we are wrong but it’s absolutely necessary. Moreover, learning there may not be a correct way to view certain things, like gender, can be exciting and humbling all at once. It’s not always fun work but it’s work that needs done. 

While you’re taking in new information be so honest with yourself that you’d rather not. Then be honest even more because I guarantee you that no matter how much work you do there is still more to be done. Your job of self growth ends when you do. And for god (that I don’t believe in) sake, drop the fucking self-congratulatory labels.

Why You Should Always Share Your Herpes Status

The other day I received a message on Grindr that I found disturbing. I know what you’re thinking, “of course you did, it’s Grindr.” However it wasn’t one of those typical messages and in what I presume was a first for the app there wasn’t a penis anywhere to be seen. 

Since most seem to use the app for hookups I have listed my positive herpes status front and center. In reply to my warm greeting they wrote back, “sharing your herpes status seems extreme when there are so many treatments that make it untransmittable.” 

Abrupt? A little. My initial message said nothing about herpes. It was about relationships and the emotional aspect of waking up with someone in the morning (a response to her profile). To begin a conversation by ignoring my message and delivering a critique is a dick move for sure but that is beyond the scope of what I want to talk about. 

The key issue at hand is about revealing your positive status. You can choose to do this whenever you would like so long as it is prior to any activity that might risk transmitting herpes to someone else. Unfortunately, that means activities using your mouth for folks whose infections could surface orally and your deliciously naughty bits for those where it could surface genitally. 

So let’s get to their claim. 

To be sure, there are antiviral drugs out there but there isn’t a single company advertising anywhere that their product will render herpes noncommunicable. The only way to say that definitively is if a drug actually eliminated the virus. This would be a groundbreaking claim as nothing has been able to do anything other than manage herpes to this point in time.

Viral shedding is a possibility and so far it doesn’t seem like anyone knows definitively when this is or isn’t occurring, just that it can occur. So while the risk certainly drops when on antivirals, there is no way to say with certainty that herpes is noncommunicable in any state of activity or dormancy. 

If we look critically at someone who feels it isn’t necessary to reveal that they carry a communicable disease to an intimate or sexual partner we have to ask why. Why would someone choose not to reveal this?

After all, disclosing this status doesn’t mean you won’t find someone and it doesn’t even mean you will never have sex again. Trust me on that point. However, it does probably mean that some people will decide to skip the opportunity to date or have sex with you because of it.

It’s herein that lies the crux of hiding a positive status. People don’t want to disclose their positive status because they know that it will thin out the number of people willing to have sex with them. They want to have sex and since they already have herpes there is no further risk to them (except for other sexually transmitables). All that’s left now for them is to not care about their sexual partners. 

I can hear them now. “It’ll be okay. They won’t get it.” Allow me to say that we most certainly can get it and there are no altruistic reasons for hiding your positive status, only selfish ones. 

There’s a lot of reasons the United States is experiencing a resurgence in the reported incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. One of them is surely that someone decides it isn’t worth telling the people with whom they have sex. We are living in increasingly selfish times. 

The one thing I think about when my mind drifts through the how and why of herpes is “I wonder if the person who gifted me this wonderful little critter knew ahead of time?” I don’t regret my choices. I may have made each of them exactly the same all over again, even if I knew one or more of my partners had herpes. Herpes for me is not a life changer, it’s just something that can happen. 

However, even though I’ve made peace with it, there was a time when I would have been extremely upset to find that the person who gave me herpes knew their positive status and hid it from me. If someone suspects or knows they have herpes and conceals it from sexual partners then that is a reprehensible act. I would feel horrible if an informed partner contracted herpes while with me. The grief I would feel from giving it to an uninformed partner would be worse yet; a moral atrocity that would haunt me for the rest of my days. 

Hiding a positive status from someone where sex is eminent is violating the very notion of free and informed consent.

If you have herpes then you owe your partners the right to choose. Those of us with a positive status don’t have the right to make decisions for another person’s body and health. This is a matter of autonomy that no one should intrude upon. 

Personally, I want my partners to know that I respect them enough to help them experience the freedom, even the power, not just to choose but to walk away from the relationship if they want. If they do leave then we obviously weren’t a match. If they stay then I know I mean enough to them to be worth the chance. There is value in both outcomes. 

There’s something to be clear about at the close of this article which is that informing a partner doesn’t make you saintly. This is just what people should be doing for one another. Choosing to sidestep the act of doing another person harm is the bare minimum of what being a decent person entails. It’s just that there are so many self-absorbed folks out there that those of us with a modicum of empathy and respect shine by comparison. 

Be decent and share your status.

We Need To Talk About People’s Reaction To Elliot Page

I’ve always found it odd that we place so much attention on what famous folks do. It’s as if we think that because we watch someone on television that we also have a say in their lives. We may root for them in our favorite shows or as part of our favorite sports teams but that is where it ends. Their lives are separate from ours and they don’t follow a script to please us when they aren’t working. 

Recently, Ellen Page (last time I will use that name) has come out as transgendered, would like to be known as Elliot, and prefers male or gender neutral pronouns. Sounds simple enough. 

As you can imagine some people are not happy about this. There really shouldn’t be a problem with any of these things but it often sends people over the edge. It’s like these folks think that their identity has been challenged by Elliot coming out as trans.

One of the people who is upset is the editor at Spiked-Online who published an article with a number of opinions positioned as objections. Because these things are apparently hard for people to deal with, I thought it might be useful to go over his assertions. I have quoted his main complaints and responded to each. 

“Yesterday, Ellen issued a statement saying she is now Elliot and her pronouns are he and they. That’s just bad grammar.”

So . . . yeah, If we’re starting with grammar as an argument against identity then we know the person making the argument is going to take umbrage with everything. 

Sure, if someone is a writer then grammar ranks high on their naughty list but even here gender neutral pronouns actually are beneficial to writers? I’ve been using gender neutral pronouns on nearly all of my articles for over a year now and it’s remarkably easy. The only time it gets complicated is when I use the plural they/them to refer to an individual while also talking about them in relation to a group. Most of the time this can be avoided by using names for specificity. I spend more time trying to figure out how to avoid ending sentences with prepositions than I do pronoun usage.

Writing with gender neutral pronouns allows what’s being said to apply to a wider variety of people. If I write about dating a woman and a reader doesn’t date women then they may not care about what is being said. However, if I use gender neutral pronouns then that same reader may be more likely to think about the situation as it applies to them. I haven’t excluded their experience and as a writer that’s important because I want my material to resonate with as large an audience as is possible. Gender neutral pronouns accomplish that quite handily. 

Plus, c’mon! Are we really going to harp on a celebrity changing the way we refer to them? Really?! When Sean Combs decided we should call him Sean Puffy Combs we did it, when he later said to call him P. Diddy we did. No one actually thinks there are birth certificates laying around somewhere that say Snoop Dog and Lady Gaga on them. Let us also not forget Prince who changed his name to a symbol. We called him “the artist formerly known as Prince” or “the artist.”

We change names for people all the time and very few of us care when it’s for artistic/advertising purposes. We can easily extend the same courtesy for someone who would like a change in order to reflect their identity. It’s such a small part of taking care of each other and being a compassionate, empathetic person and yet seems to be a step too far for some. 

“Who won gold in the decathlon at Montreal in 1976?’, it says: ‘Caitlyn Jenner.’ Which is a lie. They’re lying about the past now.” And then “Well done! You completely erased a woman who did some very important cinematic work over the past 15 years!”

If the past were erased you couldn’t find out who did those things at all. What has happened is that the names have been changed to reflect who the person is now. It’s still the same person. It’s no different than when someone gets married. We refer to them by a current name for past actions all the time. 

The names we use may change over time. People get married, they get divorced, they get nicknames, or they change their name for a variety of other reasons and we all accept it because it’s not that big of a deal. They are still the same person. 

I can watch Elliot’s work in Juno as a pregnant teen and I can watch a clip of Caitlyn winning gold in a men’s event and understand that these are the same people; that one is a transman and the other a transwoman. There is no incongruity around this issue. Sure, at first it can be easy to get crossed up. Old habits are hard to break but as you sit with it longer and think of them the way they wish to be seen it becomes quite easy. 

“Could it not further confuse young lesbians and make some wonder if their sexual preferences and possibly tomboyish attitude also means they are a ‘he’?”

First an aside, this argument fails in a number of ways. Unbeknownst to many, some lesbians prefer he/him pronouns as well. Where is the outrage about that? People who make this argument don’t really give two shits about lesbians. They just hate transgendered people and they’re willing to position any group against them they can. They are grasping at straws because their argument is lacking.

Another problem with this line of thought is it assumes that lesbians are simply pawns without an independent identity. It denies lesbians agency in their life. Proponents of this argument seem to think someone somewhere first decided to be trans out of a malicious desire for control and then fooled others into joining. This isn’t Scientology.

Keep in mind that sexual attraction and gender are two different things. Trans folk claim a different gender because they are that gender. Some will first wonder if they might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any other number of sexual orientations. It can be difficult to figure one of these things out, much less both simultaneously. We shouldn’t be surprised to see these things happen in progression.

This argument is also belittling to people who are experimenting with their gender and sexuality. If any lesbian decides that their attraction to females is a result of their desire to be a male then naysayers automatically claim they are confused. Former lesbians now trans, by their logic, don’t know what they are talking about and are victims of the trans agenda (whatever that is). It’s a page straight outta the book of misogyny to say that these people’s claims about themselves don’t matter, that they are not to be believed, and are misinformed or just plain stupid. They are feigning concern for lesbians while simultaneously calling them stupid. We are not the saviors for lesbians or trans folk, we are their allies and we need to listen to what they say about their identity and sexual orientation.

Plus, the lesbian argument seeks to impose limits not expand choices. When people are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be, they should have all the options possible. Those who would deny them these choices really just want control. These arguments are levied by people that think being a lesbian is less objectionable than being a transperson so they try to corral people into their belief system. They are not interested in helping anyone learn about themselves or determine their own destiny.

Think about your own life, chances are if you lived it how other people thought you should you would likely be miserable. Our autonomy is important to us and we should extend that wonderful gift/right to others as much as we can as an act of compassion. 

One last note, let us not forget that it’s not just “young lesbians” who are testing the waters but women of all ages come to question their sexuality and/or gender at different times throughout their lives. The choice about how to live authentically is not exclusive to the young.

“But what about us, the people who also inhabit this world? What about our recognition, springing from millennia of observation, that if you give birth you are a mother, not a father? What about our understanding that if you produce sperm and impregnate someone – as Bruce Jenner did – then you are a man, not a woman?”

Obviously, these folks have given up on disputing gender so they are looking to chip away at biology. So let’s look at a millennia of observation from which our recognition should spring. 

For instance, before white folks came to this continent many indigenous cultures had members who weren’t recognized as women or men (India still does). Each tribe had its own name for its special gender. There’s ample evidence here that producing sperm and menstruating were not the only means to determine gender. Instead of anglosaxons adopting and finding merit in these cultures we, for all intents and purposes, eradicated them. It’s the same thing some folks want to do to transgendered people today by denying them recognition. They would rather trans folk not exist so their erroneous world view remains unchallenged. 

In this rush to claim biology as the ultimate trump card we often forget that there are many other biological ways of being that we crush out of existence or to which we are oblivious. Virtually any child that is born as outwardly intersexed (variations in sex characteristics that aren’t what we think of as male or female) is generally surgically altered soon after birth. This is if it’s noticed, some genitalia variances don’t show up until years later. Some folks die without ever knowing. In those situations, a medical examiner finds out upon performing an autopsy. 

For our purposes though, let’s say a surgeon somewhere has deleted one aspect of genitalia from a intersex individual and then let’s look at the argument from biology. 

Imagine a person was born with intersex genitalia and had their female genitalia removed at birth and were left with what was present of a penis and raised as a boy. Are they male? If not then we are saying that genitals alone do not determine biological gender. If we say they are a male then we have to acknowledge that they are male because they were surgically altered just as a transman could be if they choose.

Perhaps we could stake out a middle ground to sidestep this conundrum and say they are neither male nor female. If that is the case then our rigid reliance on a gender dichotomy is superfluous.

Any option we take of the three listed above renders our idea of a gender binary moot. Some men never produce sperm, some women are incapable of having children. Men and women have varying physiologies and the difference between penis and vagina is a gradient not an either or proposition. There are all types of interesex folks who have a wonderful blend of physical traits rendering the definition of biological man or woman neither here nor there.

Additionally, only a few among us know what our chromosomes are. There are people who have lived their whole lives thinking they are male XY or female XX when the truth is something more complex and wonderful than they could have imagined. Some folks who were born as women have XY chromosomes, some males have two “female” chromosomes are XXY, folks who are intersex can have mosaic genetics which means some of their cells have XX chromosomes and some have XY chromosomes (How cool is that?).

Unless, we end up with a disease that requires our chromosomes to be checked, most of us go our whole lives thinking we are just XX or XY. There is such a thing as biology but it does not speak in the stark terms that we do. 

So, as was asked initially, what about us? What do we say from a millennia of cultural and biological observations? Do we heed their lesson and honor the fact that people come in a wonderful tapestry of shapes, forms, and genders or do we keep yelling with our eyes closed and our fingers in our ears because doing otherwise makes us uncomfortable? I know what compassion would have us do. 

If people like Elliot can finally live the life they feel they have been destined to live and it upsets other folks then I think that says more about those other folks than it does Elliot or his allies. 

The editors article, unfortunately, reads like one big temper tantrum. Our refusal to call someone how they want to be called won’t stop them from identifying that way. It will however make us look like the assholes we are when we continually violate someone’s boundaries because of our own selfish viewpoint. 

7 Tips to Find Out if Your Crush Likes You: and how to handle it if they don’t.

I wrote this specifically for guys dating gals because I’ve noticed a pattern among some men and I think this can help. However, my advice is in no way strictly related to men and all types of folks may find it useful so switch the pronouns around as it fits you and run with it till your hearts content. 

Here is the scenario I often see. There is a girl you like and she likes you back. The two of you talk regularly, flirt with one another and then one day you realize that she doesn’t feel the same way. She either started dating someone else, didn’t make time for you like you wanted, or any other number of reasons that made you realize she wasn’t interested. This was incredibly frustrating to you and as you rummaged through your thoughts you start to wonder why she led you on for so long. Maybe you even messaged her to say as much and vent your frustrations. The whole situation stung of rebuke. 

If this has happened to you then I have some bad news, you’re probably exhibiting what is referred to as toxic behavior. It was toxic because there’s a good chance that only you were romantically interested. You made the assumption that she was smitten by romance, but you either didn’t ask specifically or, if you did, failed to heed her response. Then when she acted contrary to your wishes you made her deal with your emotions.

Chances are you’ll deny these assertions which is perfectly natural. It’s the default response when we are confronted with uncomfortable information. I want you to know that I’m here to help you, not berate you. Unless you want to repeat this cycle for the rest of your life and push friends and lovers away, then you should read on as I take you through a better way to guide your thoughts and actions. 

This kind of change is never easy because it requires brutal honesty about your thoughts and habits. Some of these things are probably even rooted in what you think a relationship is supposed to look like and how it behaves. You’re going to have to dig down deep and do some serious personal work. I promise your life will be easier and happier if you do. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve made mistakes in my life and I’ll share those so you can learn from them. This article is for me as much as it is you. The insights I have gained can help you and add depth to your relationships. Along the way, we’ll flush out behaviors and attitudes that are making your life and others miserable. Let’s jump right in with our first tip. 

Tip 1: Don’t assume someone likes you because you like them. 

Sounds simple doesn’t it but I bet you don’t come out as clean on this one as you think. Thanks to our upbringing, guys in America generally grow up to think that if they like someone then that person must also like them. Women don’t generally do this. 

One way in which this plays out is when you see a woman younger than you and say “man if I were 10 years younger. . .” An important joke I keep on the ready is “If you were ten years younger you’d what? Get rejected as a younger man as opposed to a forty year old?” It’s not a way to berate but to help me manage my thoughts and be aware of my assumptions.

There is this idea that the only thing standing in your way is something situational, otherwise you’d be all over women and them all over you. It doesn’t occur to a good number of men that the person you are ogling has their own agency and in fact, is probably not interested in you. 

I don’t say this to be mean but think about it; how many women do you see every day with whom you would seriously want to be in a relationship? Unless you’re terribly lonely, the answer is a significantly smaller percentage than 100%. Sure there are those that you find attractive but we’re talking about next level stuff here and not merely the hormonal driven whims of an aimless libido. 

Well, guess what? Statistically, most women don’t want to be with you either. That’s just how the numbers break. Think about dating for a moment. Every date isn’t going to be with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with (and if it is then please seek help or stop dating and focus on being happy while single). So the fact that you think you have a chance with more women than you do is a delusion. 

My opinion is that most guys, myself included, grow up with this delusion. We can blame whatever we wish, music, movies, pornography, adults that we learn our cues from, but it doesn’t really matter. The key is we have to stop assuming as much and start to see things differently. We are actively disregarding women’s desires and personal agency because we think our desire determines theirs. That’s not how reality works. 

Here’s a story of mine to illustrate why this is important. I had a friend I was very keen on dating and I thought she was interested in dating me. I would say things I thought were flirtatious and that were skirting the edge of outright saying I like you. I was afraid of asking straight out so I slinked around the issue. I see now that my friend could have easily, and did, respond to me without knowing my intentions. In my mind, because I was flirting (poorly) she had to be flirting back. After all, I got goosebumps when she spoke to me. So one day I kissed her on the neck after a hug. 

I know now that it was a total bullshit move. She didn’t respond as I thought she would so I asked her what she did when uncomfortable and she told me she froze up. I said “it seems like you’re frozen now, would it be fair to say that my advances make you uncomfortable?” Surprise! Of course I was making her uncomfortable. 

Then I did what I should have done all along.

Tip 2: Find out if someone likes you. 

So let’s say you’ve been “flirting” with someone for awhile now and you think they are returning your interest, but how do you find out if they like you? Ask them, silly. 

Sorry but there is no other way. Don’t assume it. Stop taking the smile as a gesture, don’t take someone touching you as a gesture of romance, or frequent conversations or anything other than them saying they want to date you. It’s true that those signs could mean they are interested in you romantically but it could also mean you are close friends. To know for sure you’ll have to ask. 

That’s what I did, albeit after the fact, with my friend. It turns out she wasn’t interested in me in that way and me not asking first was a mistake that made the relationship a little awkward for a bit after that. We came out of it after a few days but I could have ruined a friendship and nothing is worth that. 

The benefit of asking if someone likes you is that then you know the truth. You won’t have to worry if that long hug is about friendship or romance anymore. Now you know and that is extremely useful information. 

Here’s how that info works in real life. A couple years later, I had another friend (honestly I don’t just date my friends) whom I liked and thought she perhaps liked me. So having learned from my last experience and before I made any move I simply asked her if she had any interest in a relationship beyond friendship. As it turns out she didn’t, I was projecting my interest and desire onto someone else (again).

While it wasn’t exactly the news I wanted to hear, in a lot of ways it was still good news. It meant that her affection towards me was a product of her meaningful interest and friendship. The closeness we shared I no longer had to fret over. It was about a wonderful friendship. More than that, it let us open up to one another and express our mutual love without worrying about it being misconstrued as romantic. To this day we still tell each other I love you and that is a wonderful thing to share with a friend. 

Keep this next point in mind, asking doesn’t have to be stressful. Did you notice how I asked her? I didn’t straight up ask her out because that would have put her on the spot even more. I simply inquired about her interest in such a thing. If she replied that she was interested then I could have asked her out.

My conversation starter actually went something like this, “you and I are really close and that’s something I cherish. I was curious if any of that closeness came from an interest to be something other than friends. If it doesn’t, that is perfectly okay because while I could be interested in dating what is far more important to me is our friendship. I never want to do anything to mess that up.”

Here’s why I think this works. You establish that you feel close to her and that closeness is important to you. It lets her know that she doesn’t have to pull away or distance herself from being close to you. You are establishing that no one is to blame for that closeness because there is nothing wrong with it. Last, it lays the groundwork for any possible interest outside of friendship as being a mutual decision. Basically, it lets her know you are responsible for your emotions so she doesn’t have to be and that you value and respect her feelings on the matter (i.e. you’re not going to be a dick about it). It’s a low stress option for both people. 

If you think there is another way around this, there isn’t. This is it, you have to ask. Perhaps you’ll find it stressful and maybe you won’t. I find that this alleviates most of the trepidation I have about asking. It’s far less stressful than directly asking someone out (for both people) and it honors the connection you have established so far. 

If the other person says yes then I hope everything works out for the two of you. From here on though, I’m going to discuss what to do if the answer is no. 

Tip 3: Believe the answer and proceed accordingly. 

This step is about boundaries clear and simple. If someone tells you they are not interested, or gives you any type of instruction and you keep acting (i.e. pushing) in a contrary way then you don’t really deserve to be their friend. 

This is toxic behavior and it stems from your inability to be responsible for your emotions. Our emotions are always going to want to run roughshod over logic, we evolved that way so we could procreate, eat, and survive despite the odds. It’s our job now to slow that process down and introduce responsibility into our actions; something for which our ancestors Homo habilis probably had less of a need. Congratulations, you’re evolved. 

When it came to my friend I never let myself doubt what she told me. I would keep returning to our conversation in my mind to guide my thoughts and actions. You should do the same. 

If the person you’re interested in has said there is nothing romantic in the cards then believe them. It doesn’t matter that you want romance. The situation has been resolved. Put it out of your mind and focus on the friendship. 

Don’t tell them that you will always want to date them because that creates tension in the friendship and you really don’t know how you will feel down the road. Just let them know that if anything changes to tell you and it can be discussed further at that time. This will let them know they can be open and honest with you. In the meantime, assume that nothing has changed. After all, you’ve done your part, you have your answer, now focus on being an amazing friend and keep your romantic thoughts unmoored so you can float freely to the next person who sparks your interest. 

That is what the conversation is about after all. You want to ascertain who shares your romantic interest so you can date them if applicable and find someone else if not. 

Tip 4: Other connections are valuable, sometimes more so. 

Realize that friendships are vitally important in your life and don’t think of a friendship versus a relationship. It’s true you may not be dating the person you asked and that can feel like a loss at first but don’t minimize what you still have with this person. 

Try to never use the words, “just friends” because a friendship should never be “just” anything. If someone asks if you are dating say “no, we are friends.” Your friendship can last much longer than your relationship would have because she wants to be your friend. Value this connection because it will make your life richer not poorer.

This should hopefully minimize any anger you feel but if it doesn’t here’s the next useful tip. 

Tip 5: Don’t blame the other person. 

Let’s be honest, life doesn’t always go the way we want it, but you need to own your shit and keep your cool. 

This is the point where guys usually blame the other person for leading them on, which is generally just the result of a guy not adhering to any of the actions above. 

It’s not the other person’s fault that they don’t want to date so don’t keep returning to them with conversations about how upset you are. Remember, everyone is an individual and while you harbored romantic feelings, they did not. It’s not always pleasant but it is unavoidable; we all have our own desires. 

Trust me, I’ve been there. There was a girl in high school I liked and dated very briefly. After this experience I wanted to date again and I asked her several times more. Each time she said no, but I just knew we were meant to be together, though in retrospect I have no idea why. I used all the signs of friendship as indicators of her romantic interest in me. Even her discussing interest in other guys didn’t detour me. I was smitten and delusional. As such, I ignored very clear signs right before my eyes. 

So when I finally felt the reality I was drowning in I talked about it stupidly by saying, “I’ve had enough, I’m not playing games anymore,” and “she just wants to string as many guys along as she can.” If I was being honest, what I should have been saying was “she made it clear she isn’t interested in me and I need to accept that and focus on the friendship” but I was young and dumb and that didn’t happen. I was mad at her when everything was actually my fault. I didn’t believe her answers and I didn’t want to be responsible for my emotions. 

So your first task is to quit blaming the other person and see where you went wrong. You may be young or you may not be, but you don’t have to be dumb. I assure you that if you were pursuing someone and it isn’t working out that you have responsibility to bear. Finding out what that is can be vitally important. 

This isn’t a time for a pity party, none of this, “girls just don’t like me” or “she friend-zoned me” bullshit. You put yourself in the romantic zone not her, the conversation just set you straight and that’s a good thing. Also, if she didn’t like you on a friend level then you wouldn’t be spending time together. So stop the woe-is-me trash talking and realize that the reason you want to disparage her is because you aren’t taking responsibility for your actions and unrealistic expectations. 

Also, don’t go thinking that if you try harder you can make her fall in love with you. This isn’t a fairytale movie where the supposed hero crosses every personal boundary of his love interest and then she falls in love with him anyway. That dude is not a hero. He is emotionally unhinged. You’re not going to be like him. 

You are going to be the person who looks for signs where you may have gone wrong. You’re going to look for times where you let your thoughts go off the rails so you can be more responsible next time. You are going to be a better version of you. 

Tip 6: Don’t make your emotions their problem. 

Nope, seriously dude, don’t do it. 

Everything I’ve talked about so far should help you to see the role you play but if you just can’t see your way clear of your emotions and you are still upset then there’s one last vital piece of advice. Keep your bullshit to yourself. 

Don’t make your problem someone else’s. It’s a dick move for you to stalk, berate, swear at, threaten, or employ your friends in any way because you can’t handle your shit. I know you’re thinking that if she can’t make you happy then you’re going to make her miserable. You think you have to get even. It’s a typical control freak move because you can’t handle the outcome. 

The thing is, you’re not getting even because you are likely the one who was leading yourself on. What is really happening is that you were keeping your feelings for this person hidden because you were too afraid to ask and now that you have your answer you’re making her responsible for your emotions a second time. 

Chances are that as a guy you have never felt as if you are in danger from someone who wanted to date you. It’s a horrible thing to make someone fear for their safety and it’s something that we are generally lucky to avoid. Don’t be someone else’s horror story. Not only will they be glad they aren’t dating you, but it will wreck any chance at friendship. 

You need to be careful about what you tell yourself during these times because an uncentered mind clings to anything that fits a narrative and those lies become a reality. That’s why conspiracy theories have such a grip. They make people feel like they have an understanding of things when the truth challenges their personal beliefs. You’ll believe nearly anything about someone else if it means you don’t have to face who you are or what you believe. 

So be forgiving as much as you can and talk about your former romantic interest kindly and without blame. This will help you realize their autonomy and their importance. It will also help you connect with other people down the line because everyone listens to the words someone uses to talk about an ex or a former interest. If you speak kindly of them people will think kindly of you. 

None of these things are necessarily easy and they will take some serious effort on your part but trust me when I say it is worth the effort. You will be better for it. 

Tip 7: What if you did blow up, what now?

This is a hard one and I think it depends on a number of factors. If there is still an open dialogue happening then that makes it easier. Take responsibility for your actions and apologize. By responsibility I mean you don’t blame them. You just own what you did, say there was no excuse for it and that you are sorry. If you bring up mitigating circumstances then you are still blaming anyone but you. So own it. Maybe the friendship can heal in time and maybe it can’t. 

If there isn’t a dialogue then it falls into one of two camps. If the two of you just stopped talking then it seems reasonable to reach out and try to apologize. Only reach out once. If they don’t want to hear it, or ignore you, then you burnt your bridge. It sucks but move on and let them live their life. Don’t keep trying to apologize over and over. You have no right to their time or mental space and you will just be harassing them. If you insist on having your apology heard then you are just as unstable now as when you did the damage. It shows you haven’t learned a thing. You have to control your emotions here as well. 

The second non-dialogue situation is if the person has made efforts to prevent you from contacting them such as if they have blocked you in email, messaging, social media, gaming accounts, and so on and so forth. Sometimes this will come as a direct request and someone will ask or tell you never to contact them again.

When these things happen then you’re done. Leave them alone. Any contact, even to apologize, is harassment. Period. Congratulations, you were so toxic that they don’t want anything to do with you. You are someone’s monster. If you’re not okay with this (and you shouldn’t be) then you need to take the time to do some serious emotional work and perhaps even seek professional help in the form of a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. 

Remember, the strongest people ask for help because they know it will involve saying they are wrong and that they will have to make changes in their thoughts and actions. Weak people refuse help because it is easier to destroy relationships than take responsibility. Be strong and build a better, more compassionate you. 

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with asking a friend if they want to date, but there can be plenty to go wrong if you don’t ask and if you can’t handle yourself after asking. Be honest, be kind, be compassionate and be a friend. May your life be good and your connections to others run deep. 

Why I Don’t Say I Have Herpes On My Dating Profile

When I talk about my difficulties in dating one of the things I mention is having herpes. People have asked me why I don’t say I have herpes on my dating profile. This is an excellent question and whether to list a positive status is something that those with herpes often ponder. After all, if I eliminate the people who aren’t okay with this fact up front then my chances of finding a match should be better.

Everyone is going to have their own approach but here is why I do not state that I have herpes on my dating profile and why it works for me.

The first reason is that of all the things I want people to evaluate me by it’s not that I have herpes. Obviously, I’m not shy or I wouldn’t be talking about it now. Still, I want someone to know my qualities first and not the fact that I have a virus.

I believe there are good people who would rule me out if they read about herpes in my profile. I get it, herpes can be a complication that some may just simply choose to avoid entirely. So when they see it in a profile they think “well that person is a good fit but I don’t know what to do with that whole herpes thing so I’ll pass.” If I don’t list having herpes then I can disclose after a couple of dates. In essence, I’m banking on my personality and I feel much better with those odds. Now the same person may think “this is a really nice guy and we do seem to click so I’ll give him a chance.”

One of the things people ask is, “wouldn’t listing your herpes status connect you to other folks with herpes?” I think the answer to that is yes, and while I will gladly date folks with herpes, it brings me to my second reason which was a bit of an unexpected discovery for me.

I don’t want to attract extremely broken people. If that sounds harsh it probably is but here’s my reasoning. I recently joined four private Facebook groups for people with herpes. I was hoping that I might find some sort of kinship there. Instead, what I found were a bunch of sad sacks with a serious case of the poor me’s. I couldn’t handle all the negativity from these people who obviously felt like herpes made them irreparably damaged. Their anger and lack of self-worth spilled over into every conversation and what should have been simple posts became arguments and just another chance to put someone down.

Now I get it, herpes isn’t something most people choose but here we are so let’s just rock it. People generally spend so much time comparing themselves to others that they never take the time to figure out who they are. They think they have established a sense of self, but they’re far from it.

Humans have played this mental game with themselves for thousands of years and it goes something like this; these people are X and X is wrong/bad. Since I’m Y, I’m not an X, and therefore I’m right/good. If it’s not obvious the problem with this is that if someone only ever determines their worth as a product of how they deem someone else then it doesn’t take much to topple that house of cards. It’s not real self worth.

For example, if Jane thinks Ben is a dirty person because he has herpes then what will Jane think about herself when she ends up with herpes? The only thing that made her dislike Ben was a virus which she now has. Jane is going to feel like crap because her ideas of self worth were based on complete and utter bullshit.

Having contracted herpes these people have become the other (ie: the person they used to make fun of or think of as dirty) and it consumes them. They can’t get beyond how others may view them knowing what they used to think.

These folks are so beat down and fearful that many of them only want to date other folks with herpes. I really don’t want to attract someone who is scared of putting their self out there; someone who is just settling for another with the same virus.

If I date someone with herpes I want them to know they are still awesome. Keeping my status unlisted seems the best way to accomplish this. Someone will have to be bold enough to put themselves out there knowing their status and not knowing mine. I want that bravery for myself and from a partner.

Another reason I don’t give my status on my profile is that I don’t view the effort spent on someone else as a waste of time. Anyone who has ever uttered the phrase “you wasted my time” after dating someone when it didn’t work out is probably a piece of shit parading around as a human being and I put probably in there just to make me sound nicer.

Dating, hell life itself, is about taking chances and being vulnerable. If I date someone for a couple of dates (or months) and they drop some facts on me I can’t handle (like they watch the television show The Bachelor) I don’t view it as a waste of time. I took a chance and now I know we aren’t compatible. That’s good information to have. I consider information gained as a win. We didn’t work and I can look elsewhere.

The final reason I don’t list my status is that I’m perfectly comfortable talking about the fact that I have herpes so it’s not necessary for my profile to do that. I envision that dating me is a bit like blunt force trauma; someone is going to get all my truths in a very short period of time. As a result, I reveal my positive status fairly quickly so someone will know within three dates or less. By then, they have had the opportunity to briefly size me up (as I mentioned previously) and see if they view me as a potential partner.

Those are my reasons. Ultimately, I’m just a person looking for my person. In doing so, I hope to find someone who has done as much developmental work on them self as possible. Keeping my positive status off of my dating profile seems to be the best way to find a good match.

The Hardest Article I Have Ever Written: State Of The Relationship Address

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Most of this article was created about a year prior to this publishing. I’ve written a lot of things throughout my life. I’ve written articles against the government as run by both republicans and democrats. I’ve railed against religion and the belief of god in general. As someone who is a critical theorist I have written articles wading through the topics of gender, sex and identity. When I was an animal rights activist I penned numerous articles against hunters who in turn wrote me death threats. I’m sure I’ve offended those on all sides.

I don’t say this to brag. In fact most of my work has gone largely unnoticed so I couldn’t if I wanted. Rather, I say it so you know the gravity of the statement that will follow; that I’ve never been more scared to write what comes after this sentence.

This is because over the course of two years I learned to fear someone who was also my partner. It was an emotionally abusive relationship that stemmed from her insecurities and while we had some particularly good times, in the the end those moments couldn’t overcome her unhealthy behavior and the damage I accrued.

I don’t write this to demean anyone. I mainly want people to know what this type of behavior looks like because even though I hope people don’t have to go through this, someone reading this is. I want you to know that you are not alone.

I’m also writing because, terrified as I am, I feel like publishing this is a measure of control that I need to implement in order to take back my life. I think as you read my story from over the span of two years this will begin to make more sense.

I have been writing in genderless terms as of late and I wholeheartedly love it. I’m going to place that aside for the moment because it’s important to realize that while this is a story of abuse, it’s also a story of a woman delivering abuse upon a man. This is especially important because some people seem to think this scenario isn’t possible or that when it happens that it’s not a big deal. Men are supposed to be tough and women not so much. So how could a woman pose any threat. As men we should just shrug it off and move on. This is how patriarchal ideas harm men by denying us our own individual realities.

This effect is even more amplified in my case because my abuser is charismatic, outgoing, seemingly selfless, popular, well connected and extremely short. When people see a picture of her they always say, it’s amazing that someone that small could cause so much chaos and yet every word that your about to read is true.

Overview

My relationship story begins as most do, in my case a boy meets a girl and they hit it off. As we went things progressed quickly and little did I know that the outline of my next two years had been played out in the first week we were together.

The week was a whirlwind. It started with the first four days being amazing and the last two culminating with her getting angry and breaking up. This short cycle of ups and downs was one of the overarching themes of our relationship. It was the pattern that would repeat nonstop.

As I said, there were some good times and the good times were great. In truth, these times and hope are two of the things that kept me going. During these moments I would hear that I was wonderful and that she loved me more than she had anyone else.

When the dark behavior rolled around she would say I didn’t care about her, and was using her. Sometimes she would breakup and sometimes not.

With such extreme polar opposites it became hard to believe that either state of being was true. I was the subject of her emotions during the highs and the lows. When she was down I was more of an emotional punching bag than a partner. Everything she felt, whether good or bad, by her reckoning I was the reason for it. Instead of taking responsibility for her emotions I was the one expected to work through them. I found myself in the position of always reacting to her and it was exhausting.

Isolation

One of the ways her insecurities manifested itself was to whittle down the world in which I lived. She viewed most outside people as hostile to the relationship and so would monopolize my time. I love to spend time with a partner, perhaps even more than most people do, but this was extreme.

Though we didn’t live together (at first) I would spend a week straight with her, leaving my bed with her in it and coming home after work to meet at my place. After this week I would want a little time to try and center myself and escape the emotional cycles for a day. My request would cause her to become distant or even angry. Numerous times she stormed out and went home then bombarded me with messages for the rest of the evening.

I did manage to get some nights to myself but I still couldn’t get the space I needed. Throughout the evening she would message me so often that I couldn’t focus on anything else. Generally I like a stream of messages from a romantic interest as it makes me feel connected. In this scenario though the messages were bombs waiting to detonate. If I didn’t respond quick enough or in the right way I would face her frustration and fury.

It’s not hard to see how this resulted in a fight via text. Numerous times she threatened to, or actually did, break up. Each scenario usually culminated in her calling me on the phone where we would have to hash everything out for an hour or so. The lesson for me was, if I take time to myself then I can expect tumult which will mean I won’t get the space I need. Additionally, taking time for me might possibly cause her to end the relationship.

Sometimes rather than hit me with the stick she would dangle a carrot from it. She would find an event that I might like to go to and ask me out for it. If I said yes, either to my interest in the event or from her pressure (and my fear) then my night alone was over before it began.

It should be clear from this that trying to get some space and tend to my emotions was a fruitless endeavor. I was spending so much time trying to take care of her that I couldn’t take care of myself. My emotional stability began to crack and fall away.

Even trying to spend time with her wasn’t easy. It could become quite literally absurd. For instance, one morning I said “let’s go do something together.” Her reply was that she didn’t want to. She just wanted some down time to read. I thought this was fine and said “okay, if you’re going to read I think I might go to the park down the street and do some bird photography.”  As I was packing my gear she started to get dressed and I asked what she was doing. She said, “I’m going to go out since you don’t want to do something together.” I told her that the only reason I was going out for photography was because she didn’t want to do anything. If she wanted to spend the day together then that would be great since that’s what I really wanted to do today anyhow. Somehow that wasn’t good enough. She said she would just go spend the day with her ex-boyfriend.

Getting time with my friends was a struggle as well. According to her I shouldn’t spend time with them because they were too dumb, too young, or as was often the case too female. Now . . . I choose my friends carefully, perhaps too carefully sometimes as it limits my contacts. Still, my friends are anything but stupid. They are generally emotionally and socially aware folks. As such, they are part and parcel of my well-being and help me stay in touch with reality when I get off track.

My partner knew this and successfully managed to isolate me from them all. A female friend would later say that she stopped messaging me because she knew it would create problems with my girlfriend. She wasn’t wrong. When my phone alerted me to a text (or if someone responded in some way on social media) I instantly became scared of the inevitable questions that would follow if it was a female. She wanted to know who it was, what the person wanted, when the last time I talked to them was and what about.

One day my girlfriend gave me an ultimatum. I had to renounce one of my female friends if I wanted to keep our relationship together. The reason for this was that I might fall in love with this friend despite every bit of evidence suggesting this would never happen. Case in point; shortly after this my friend got married (not surprisingly, to someone other than me). I resisted the demand at first then reasoned that the success of the relationship was worth it and that this was a good way to prove to my girlfriend what she meant to me (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).

Control

In place of my friends hers were inserted. When we would all get together it was talk of cycling and gossip with no apparent concern as to whether I was involved in the conversation or not. I’ve rarely felt so alone and unstimulated as I was in those moments. As I would later learn, those that my ex placed close to me were there for a reason. More henchmen than friends, they would be called upon at pivotal moments throughout the relationship.

For example, I was given a list of three people that I could talk to about our relationship. Her best friend was the number one person on that list. Soon after that, my two friends proved too much for her to handle. I could now only seek the council of her friend.

Once when I did go to her friend, I tried to relate what I had been going through and my attempts to understand it. Her friend replied, horrible things happen in a relationship, just move on. Perhaps it wasn’t the friends fault. She was just too close to my girlfriend to see my reality.

Social media was another pillar of independence to fall. If I posted anything (even a nice sunset pic) when we were together without tagging my girlfriend she would get mad. Accordingly, I made sure she was tagged in the things I posted. Numerous times I visited her page to see what it looked like with our events posted to it. None of them were there. I had spent the effort to make sure she was tagged in everything we did and she didn’t approve them to her page.

In fact, there was rarely an instance when someone could look at her page and tell she was in a relationship at all. It was important for her to maintain an omnipresence on my page that eclipsed everything else, but she would become very upset and claim she was a private person when I wanted some modicum of recognition on hers.

Because most of her friends on social media didn’t know she was in a relationship she would still have men flirting and asking her out regularly. Interestingly, she rarely told them outright that she had a boyfriend. I came to think that this was part of her plan. That she needed me to stay invisible should we break up so she could resume dating anyone she might have been cultivating a connection with before.

At the very end of the relationship she was using my phone and writing my Facebook posts instead of me. Seeing words on my wall that weren’t in my voice was disturbing. I tried numerous times to get a little recognition on her page or wrest control of mine from her. My attempts were met with hostility that usually ended up in her getting what she wanted.

Her control overflowed into this blog as well. If I wrote something about myself or my ideas it would be subject to criticism and so I only posted links with small bits of commentary. I even penned an article about how to look at conflict differently and while I still think it has merit as a mental exercise (in a healthy relationship) it was indicative of me trying to get a grasp on reality at the time (thanks gaslighting).

When I found out I had herpes I wanted to use this blog, as I am now, to become a voice for others. It was clear that she didn’t want this. She actually said that it would reflect poorly on her. She didn’t want people to know she was dating someone with herpes, she would seem dirty. She stayed with me mind you, but with statements like that who needs company.

Love Bomb In Reverse

It also became evident that the kindness extended to me came with strings attached. She attempted to use nearly everything as leverage at some point.

Money was the main method for her to exert control (or so she thought). As a trust fund kid (and probable millionaire) it wasn’t hard for her to come up with money. Once she told me that since she buys things for me she expects a certain kind of treatment in return. On another occasion, after one of our breakups, she bought me a pair of shoes that I didn’t really want. She insisted I have them so I could look good when we go out. Then she asked me, “you’re not going to break up with me tomorrow are you?”

I would repeatedly tell her that if I need something I’d find a way to buy it and that she was not my provider. I asked her numerous times to stop buying me things and let her know that money doesn’t buy behavior. I suggested we only do things together that we could both afford, but she didn’t want to live that kind of “limited” lifestyle. Nevertheless, I was repeatedly given things only to later have them used against me. Those items would ether be taken back when she was upset or used to remind me that she bought them for me at a later date.

She would also exert control over what was sentimental. When she was upset she would remove the meaning from our relationship tokens by saying things like songs that were special to us didn’t mean anything anymore. In the end I’m pretty sure there was nothing sentimental left that she hadn’t decided was meaningless.

Sometimes there were nice gestures that became weapons to wield against me. She threw me a surprise birthday party once and I told her how much I appreciated it. No one had done something like that before. I was extremely grateful and for one of the few times in my life felt appreciated (I struggle with this). I posted to social media of my own accord about what a wonderful night it was. Afterwards, I was scolded for not showing enough appreciation. She said it was a waste of her time and money and she will never do it again.

Gaslighting

Whenever I tried to stand up for myself I was told I was mean. By now I didn’t know if this was true or not, my reality had been supplanted by hers. The distortions were palpable and I just didn’t know if I could trust my thoughts anymore.

One of the only things we had left, which was the physical part of the relationship started to come under fire as well. We generally had sex at least once a day. If one morning, for instance, I said I didn’t want to have sex right now, let’s see about later in the day then she would get angry with me. When I would relent and have sex for the “good” of the relationship then later that night she would tell me she didn’t want to have sex and that she only did because I wanted to. The insinuation being that I had forced her.

I was also blamed for other things that I shouldn’t have been. A couple of times after huge disagreements, we made up and she said “you make me so mad sometimes.” I knew she was blaming me for her behavior, but I didn’t want to start another fight after having just ended one so I kept quiet.

Every now and then she would say something that confirmed my reality. When it looked like I might break up she would tell me that she was the reason I was broken, that she couldn’t control her emotions and that she was going to go back to therapy (she got kicked out of group for not doing the work and went a couple times to private sessions).

These admissions kept me in the relationship because it confirmed what I was feeling for once. Whether this was strictly a moment of truth or another way to keep me in the relationship I truthfully cannot say. Either way, I stayed.

Belittlement

There was subtle and outright verbal abuse as well. A pair of my friends ask me to officiate their wedding and she couldn’t wrap her head around why they would ask me to marry them. Silly me, I just figured it was because they valued me.

Once when we broke up one of her friends got ahold of her phone supposedly without her knowing and sent me a message saying “they all hated me and always had.” Obviously she had been talking negatively about me. Nothing was ever said to this person by my girlfriend because “they were going through a hard time.” If my girlfriend couldn’t protect me from herself then why would she do so from other people. It let me know my ranking in her life.

When she was happy she would say that her friends liked me and when she wanted to hurt me she would say that they didn’t.

Once when we broke up she told me that the only reason she was with me was for the sex. Dating me was like dating a homeless person she said (because I was working class and she was rich). I knew she was using this as a means to try and distance her emotions from me so I let it slide when I shouldn’t have.

Breakups

Over the course of two years we probably broke up around a dozen times, usually at her insistence. During those times I would repeatedly ask for space. Despite asking, telling, and virtually pleading for her not to, and me often getting mad over it, she would keep talking to me about the prospects of who she was dating and lining up to sleep with next (sometimes hours after we broke up).

Half the times we broke up she would end up in the hospital for various things (gastroparesis, a cold, dehydration, passing out, a seizure, and twice because she said someone drugged her on a date). I realize now that they were probably fabricated. Her extensive experience as a head trauma nurse gave her a working knowledge of illnesses and medical protocol. Nonetheless, these crises would usually draw me back to her side.

After one breakup she ended up hospitalized and they had to keep her overnight. She asked me to stay. I told her I had plans and that I just came to visit, but she pleaded for me to remain. I cancelled my plans for that evening and spent the night in the hospital with her. The next morning after we woke she told me to leave and that she never wanted me there in the first place.

After our penultimate breakup she used the opportunity to tear asunder anything that I might still find dear to my existence. It was a way to remove everything she had “given” me.

In the course of those two years I had used every day of my vacation time and more helping her to establish a new career and volunteering with her for a foundation which helped women in cycling (something that was near and dear to my heart). She became the executive director of the race team and when I refused to get back together with her she removed me from the staff. Granted, I didn’t really want to work with her anymore, but a conversation rather than an edict would have been courteous.

All of her friends with which she was so fond of me cultivating relationships walked away en masse. Overnight about 30 percent of the people on my social media unfriended me. She had one of them message me to pile on the harassment and ask for a cycling kit back that they gave me because they didn’t want me representing their team anymore.

She contacted my ex-wife and tried to plant the seeds of dissension by saying I was a downer and mean. She told my ex that all her friends saw it and she was “just trying to help the poor guy (me) out.” The picture she tried to paint of me wasn’t what my former wife had remembered or ever experienced. In some ways though she was right. I wasn’t the same person that my ex-wife knew. I had been through two years of emotional abuse and I was tattered and worn. Still, my ex-wife knew the score because she had also witnessed the ways in which I was striving to be there for my girlfriend even when I shouldn’t have.

My ex-girlfriend came into my place of work repeatedly; once she screamed at me in front of the store. Another time she walked through my area to ask me where something was in the store. I’m sure it happened to be a coincidence that she was dressed up for a date which she also used the opportunity to tell me about. I saw her staking out the coffee house I frequent and circling the employee parking at my break time to find me. She started using an app to get around the fact that I blocked her in every way I could. She also left letters on my car and mailed them to where I lived.

In a move that chased me from where I lived she began dating my roommate two weeks after our break up. She was sleeping over every night with him. I couldn’t get away from her and he was too miserably lonely to see what was really happening.

They camped out in the room right outside my door with the television blaring. The effect of which was a constant reminder of her presence. All I wanted was space. I was a hostage and boxed in on all sides. It got so bad that I started keeping a bottle in my room to pee in when they were awake so I didn’t have to use the restroom and risk seeing her. Sadly, it had come to that.

One cold rainy evening I called my parents sitting outside the house in my car afraid to go inside. I don’t know how much they understood because I was sobbing uncontrollably. I was trapped and utterly fucking miserable. It was clear that she wanted me to lose the place where I lived because she had recommended it to me. It was one more thing she had “given” me that she was determined to take away. She asked when I was moving out so that she could move her stuff in. I let her have it and took the first new place I could find.

If you haven’t wondered by now it will probably come as no surprise that she would go on to say on that breakup that I was sexually abusive to her. It was the final thing she could do. Because I’m pro-feminist and a writer/author, floating the idea that I was an abuser denies me credibility and an audience. I’m sure it was also the story she used to get her friends to run away from me.

In one way I guess I should be happy. She posted this latest “revelation” to social media and I finally made it onto her Facebook page. She also started tagging me in derogatory comments linked to my photography page on Facebook. Having pushed me out of every part of her life it was all she had left to do.

I began reaching back out to those friends that I couldn’t before. I realized what my ex was afraid of and it was their experience and judgement. One of the first things a male friend of mine said from back home was “I believe you Jeremy, I’ve been exactly where you’re at.” Time and time again nearly everyone said that I should get a restraining order (I almost did), that I was being gaslighted and that I was most certainly emotionally abused.

I cried so many times because finally someone fucking believed me and for one of the first times in a couple years I realized that I wasn’t crazy and that my experience was actually real (something I still have trouble believing). Having contact with my friends helped to recenter me and see a few things clearly. Well . . . mostly that is.

The Ultimate Breakup

I thought I could hate her forever for what she did to me. The hate felt pure, it was strong, and I was strong because of it, or so I imagined for a second. I thought that hate would be enough to keep me away from her for the rest of my life. I was wrong on all counts.

Eventually I just got tired of being angry about what happened and so . . . we got together for a beer. Then we met again the next night. She said I seemed happy again and told me she was sorry for everything she had put me through. She said she broke me and put me through hell over the last 18 months and realized if I went through that without leaving then she could finally trust me and wanted things to work out.

Then because this is what we did, we got back together. To be honest, I’m not sure why. I think it was just familiar. My friends had cautioned me about dating her again. They were right to be worried about my safety of course. The time apart had let me center myself enough that I knew I could handle one last chance. If it didn’t work or became unhealthy I could leave this time without the crushing aspect of our last breakup.

So, by the end of that second night we were together again and her boyfriend/my ex roommate was out (although it took her another 10 days to tell him that). She said she didn’t want to hang around her friends anymore; that she didn’t enjoy spending time with them because they were immature. I think her friends were easier to cast aside than to admit we were together and that she had lied about me.

A couple of weeks or so later the new place I had moved into didn’t work out as my then roommate proved to be unstable (can I pick em or what). My girlfriend said I should move in with her. It wasn’t a good decision but I had to go somewhere quick. Living together wasn’t good for us. It wasn’t our time to live together and I knew this from day one. I would need to get my own place, but she would have to realize it as well. When I suggested that it would be healthier for our relationship to each have our own places she told me that if I moved out we were done.

That ultimatum was very unfair to me. The only move that could save the relationship was the one that if I made would also end it. There was no good way forward. When I was trying to decide how to navigate this conundrum she started demanding I get out and contacted a lawyer about having me removed. I moved out once more to the first place I could find. Luckily, I landed in a good place to live this time.

Two weeks later she would tell me she was okay with us having separate places and that moving out was the right decision. She wanted to start dating again. What I told my friends was correct. I could step aside if it didn’t work that one last time. I declined, I was more than ready to move on. There were too many wrongs and too much pain that I couldn’t overlook and rightly so. To be frank, I was treated like a piece of shit she stepped in and I had been wiped off of the bottom of her shoe for the last time.

The Friendship Attempt

Even friendship was unsuccessful.

As I stated before, my repeated statements that I didn’t want to hear about her new love interests went unheeded. She would say, “but if we’re friends we should be able to talk about this.” In most situations that would have been true, but not one where we had been recently separated and that type of information had previously been (and still was being) used to hurt me.

She was also fond of telling me about all the things that we would have done together if we had remained a couple. “We would have had a race car (a mutual interest of ours) and I could have built my dream project vehicle” as if offering me things would bring me back. It was clear friendship wasn’t going to work. I decided to cut off contact.

After a month of no contact she bumped into me at a stock car race and made sure to remind me of how she bought the coat I was wearing. I guess I’m still indebted to her. She also tried to find out where my new job was with the bait of giving me sales. It’s worth noting that one of the perks to my new job was that it is 40 minutes away so she can’t just pop in to see me. She inquired as to where I lived now. Some people never change. Except that I do and I don’t want to be around that level of control and insecurity anymore.

Ten months into no contact letters still end up being mailed to me or are left taped to my truck window in the middle of the night (so much for not knowing where I live). She sent me a photo of me sitting in my truck at a stoplight, one which I had just bought and she had never seen, with the caption “I see you.” Accounts where I forget to block her have messages waiting for me. I don’t read them; I already know what they say. One of the messages would read that she has dated and no one is like I was and she compares everyone to me and they come up short. Another would say how she missed me as a friend, then it would go on to take abusive shots at me by saying it’s for the best that we’re separated because in the end she didn’t care for me anymore and was just having sex for the good of the relationship. Then she would make mention that she doesn’t want to date because she is seeing (insert new guys name here) and she’s working on building a relationship with him. She’s so happy now that she’s almost beside herself.

Even her letters follow her desperate emotional cycle from which I fought to extricate myself. They are an attempt to keep me close so that something between us can start up again. If we were to start a relationship again then that wonderful guy she was on about will end up in the trash along with those letters. I’ve seen her do it numerous times before. At least he’ll have some reading material.

Even though I don’t read these messages, seeing them has the same effect as if I did. My heart starts racing, everything comes rushing back and I get that flush feeling like after you’ve taken a hard fall and you realize you’re injured. Fight or flight takes over and though I’m gradually getting better, it still takes a toll. The letters, emails and cards regardless of what they say are a steadfast indicator that I’m still responsible for her emotions. She still won’t let me live my life and yet I’m only happy when I’m free of her.

James Baldwin said it well, “I cannot believe what you say because I see what you do.” Her words aren’t worth hearing. She has apologized for her behavior dozens of times and has said that she is the reason I’m broken. That doesn’t matter anymore because those realizations and her apologies won’t heal me and they definitely won’t stop her from turning around and abusing me tomorrow if she feels the urge.

The only thing that will stop this pattern from repeating itself is me. Happily, I have.

Out Of The Void

If you’re mentally and emotionally exhausted just from reading this then you can understand how I was on the verge of a mental breakdown from living it. Unfortunately, this was only a portion of the things I endured.

Whether knowingly or not, I think she kept me close for whatever emotional need (to love or to hurt) she had. I believe her when she said loved me and when she said she felt as if she wasn’t good enough for me. Those competing impulses: the feeling of longing and of potential loss, kept her from acting from a place of love and it put me in a dangerous and abusive place. Truth be told, I’m not really sure she knows what it is to feel love.

Prior to this my moral compass had guided my life and made me feel healthy, surefooted and steadfast. During and after the relationship though I was set askew and couldn’t trust my own thoughts. My reality had been questioned, altered and controlled.

Because I wanted to keep the relationship together I had to stop trying to establish healthy boundaries. Now that sentence is pretty messed up I realize, but true nonetheless.

I know now that I was enacting a failing strategy. No amount of care I give or well-being I sacrifice for an extremely insecure (possibly narcissistic) person will sooth their behavior. There will always be some other concession they need to be made and I will always be the one making it. Here’s a life tip: when someone in a relationship continually refuses to take responsibility and be accountable for their emotions then you either respond as if the burden is yours (normalizing the behavior) and begin the cycle of codependency and potentially abuse or you call them out, and in the absence of change walk away.

Her insecurity manifested itself in a need for total hegemonic control of the relationship. I went into this relationship the happiest I had ever been. I came out a nervous and shattered individual with some symptoms of PTSD. Putting myself back together again has been real work but it has certainly been work worth doing.

The Takeaway

I’m a believer that there is no such thing as a wasted experience. If I learn something from less than ideal circumstances then it can guide my behavior in a way to make a better life.

In my case I was open to abuse because I believe in being vulnerable. I also critically examine my behavior and seriously consider the critique of my partner. I want to be there for my partner and that trait was wielded against me in the most pernicious of ways. I still strongly value vulnerability and openness but have learned that those traits without healthy boundaries are a recipe for abuse. I can still be open and loving and expect something similar in return. I’ve already used this lesson to side step what would probably have been a few dating/relationship disasters.

Certainly I can’t go back to the happy me before I met this person. That exact time has passed and I can never return. However, I am becoming happy again and I will continue to do so with new experiences under my belt. It will be a new, even better, version of me with the my past as a guide.

After all, I have learned that there are far worse things than being single.

 

Postscript: Since these events I have reassembled myself into something very much like I was before this trauma. Recently I have been spending time with someone who has been doting on me in a way people used to. Not only that but she is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. She and my friends have helped me realize that all of the good in me is still present. I don’t feel like a pile of ashes on the ground anymore. I’m the nourished sapling that has sprung from ruin. Knowing that makes me very happy. May you also rise from your ashes.

 

Why Being A Grammar Elitist Ain’t All That

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A tip for dating or relationships in general: policing someone’s grammar is a dick move. Here’s why following grammar protocol doesn’t show the good form that you imagine it does.

So-called correct grammar is an appeal to upper class views of what is proper and just in our language. Except that language has never really worked that way. Do you think the railroad workers, saloon owners, or sex workers in the 1800’s spoke perfect English? Me thinketh not. It was more a mixture of broken Chinese, Spanish, French, Irish (Gaelic), German and a whole other host of languages. And yet, these are the people that built America and they got shit done without needing to resort to the queen’s english.

Proper grammar is an elitist approach to the english language. It’s a way of thinking one person is better than another because of how they speak. Grammar elitists place their self worth and others on education without ever once imagining that not everyone has access to the same level or quality of education or sometimes any education at all.

It’s also a form of racism and classism which ignores the cultural influences that can exist in local neighborhoods and regions. Speaking like an upper class WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) who is well versed in fine speak is not likely to garner you any special level of appreciation from a Tennessee mining community, the Dark Corner, Flint, Michigan or even in New York City.

Granted, it’s a fictional character but Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly spoke about being immortalized saying, “It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another.” It’s not at all proper english but it’s a wonderful quote (one of my favorites I might add) which easily exhibits wisdom. Everyone who is idolized has a darker side that often gets swept away by the need for a hero. Proper word choice isn’t necessarily a display of intelligence, but rather an example of someone following rules just for the sake of it.

The important thing is that we try and understand what the other person is saying and not how they are saying it. If someone from my home town told me “I found bout 5 five pounds of shroons the other day over on Kuhlman Hill.” I’m not about to correct them and say “you mean to say mushrooms” because I would be a colossal prick and their meaning is easily obtained.

Focusing too intently on grammar can also hide our chosen identity when we develop a stalwart adherence to pronoun choice such as him and her as opposed to zir and ze or they. We disrespect people and who they are over word choice.

The final reason that grammar (and word choice) doesn’t matter is that those whose job it is to keep us abreast of the english language aren’t at all concerned about what is proper. This very month Merriam-Webster introduced the words “safe space” and “microaggression” to the dictionary. Since that will piss conservatives off to no end they might be pleased to know that “riding shotgun” is now included as well. The point of cataloging language isn’t about proper usage, but about documenting what is happening. That word that you despise if it persists will one day make it into the dictionary. The kicker is, it was a real word long before that happened.

So the next time you decide to chide someone for not living up to your language standards perhaps you should critically examine those expectations and their privileged origins.

The Future of Queer in America Looks Bleak

Whenever conservative politicians say “we want to protect everyone’s rights” they mean the ability for other conservatives to discriminate against those they dislike without reprisal. It’s a wink and a nod to various forms of hate, disgust and intolerance. Not only that, it will most likely be our future.

Trump Attorney General still wants to pass law to permit anti-LGBT discrimination

We have yet to see how the Anti-Justice League of Trump will act when faced with protests and dissent. I don’t see a lot of budging on their part. However, resistance and each other are what we have right now. Let’s be there for one another, stand tall and fight like hell.