Exes & Ø’s

exes

My father died last week, and after I got the news, I coped how I know best. I wrote about it, and the ensuing outpour of support was much more than I expected.

I thought that I would be socially punished for posting private things about my family and my time growing up. In part, this is why I hesitate when it comes to writing about my own experience, even though I have wells of information to draw from. So when friends near and far came out to give their condolences, I was truly touched.

Some friends reached out to tell me that my story reminded me of their own relationships with their fathers. Others just wanted me to know that they understood the complicated feelings I have for my father through my story, and others just wanted to check in and let me know that I always have an ear with them.

Even my former next door neighbor, a high school friend who doesn’t have Facebook, called to check in with me. However, as the days passed, it became more and more obvious that I had not heard from a very specific group: any one of my exes.

You see, I’ve had about, say, five great loves in my life, all guys who were friends first. Three of those men are people that, if they came back to me offering love and support and companionship for real, I would drop everything for.

At varying points in my life, these men, without fail, have popped back into my life. Some have come back after we dated, admitting that they took me for granted and wishing for a second chances. And the others, the ones that I never really ‘dated’ but were significant to me all the same, ‘bump’ into me socially, often pretending that they don’t remember the reason I severed ties with them in the first place, sometimes even giving me a really good reason why things went down the way they did. A  variation of, “You see? I’m not really as horrible as you thought, you just had the wrong impression this whole time!”

I’m sad to admit that it took until my late twenties for me to notice this pattern, that I was in these endless cycles with guys that are perpetually Not Ready For A Relationship but kept me on the back burner all the same, whether as a safe bet or a backup plan or just for the attention. And too often, when they came back into my life, I’d be so happy to hear from them that I’d be too willing to forgive and forget.

But I realized that nothing ever changed. In fact, I noticed something that made me stop in my tracks. These guys, these guys I loved with all their flaws, really thought they could say horrible things to me, treat me like an option and not a person, and all they had to do was wait until I’d be willing to forget.

On guy didn’t disclose that he’d been sexually active with other women when we had been involved, and when I called him out on it, he told me he was a shark, you see, and it was my own fault for not knowing. Another treated me like I should be grateful for the attention our entire relationship, only to hit me up a few months after his wife left him, asking me to come back to Hartford, as if I had been sitting by the phone for his call.

And the last one, the one that hurt the most, didn’t tell me he had been in a long term relationship the entire time we’d been messaging each other. His response? I only talk to you when I need a break from my kids (as if we hadn’t been sending each other explicit messages since we were both teens) and, anything I said to you was true at the time. 

(Plan another funeral, because I died from that.)

It seems to me that as a woman, giving love and being there for others are not just parts of who we are, but they are parts of us that are often expected and taken for granted. I have never been mistreated more than the times when I had uncontrollable crushes on guys that were just my type: Hispanic, tall, smart, and often, trouble.

Once I got to New York, I dated and hooked up with guys all over the spectrum, until the only common denominator was Hispanic, and I found that many of these guys fell within two different camps: the guys that are used to having girls tripping all over themselves to get to them, so they never have to make an effort, and the guys who wished they were the type of guys that had girls tripping all over themselves for them.

And it all came down to this: being taken for granted. Random disappearances or silences when bringing up something they didn’t want to discuss. Getting gas-lighted into taking the blame for something I couldn’t have known or something they did. Or being used as a temporary girlfriend while their real girlfriend was out of town. (That last one, by the way, is some scum of the earth behavior.)

We still live in a world that assumes that women exist to make men happy, and it’s a world that teaches women this expectation from puberty. I was not allowed to talk about boys or date, but my primary training at home was cleaning and learning how to be pretty and docile. The docility never took.

And the thing was, I was as boy crazy as the next girl. All I wanted was a boyfriend, and as I hit puberty, I thought I was so hideous that no boy would ever like me. The boys I liked were so mean that it only reinforced this idea, and when I finally met a guy who liked me, I was so relieved it was ridiculous.

But as I dated as a teen, I never understood why they boys I loved treated me like crap. I didn’t understand why the guys I loved did underhanded things, acting like it was my job to accept it once I found out. The big one was other women, and most often, I was the other woman without even knowing it. I realized then that relationships with these men were not really about love, but what I could do for them. The girl that makes me most comfortable wins.

I couldn’t be a part of that. As an adult, I made the decision to not be a part of that, understanding that it would lead to a very lonely life. But it would be a  life that belonged to me and no one else.

So why am I pissed right now? Because giving condolences after someone’s father dies is a sign of sincerity. If any of those guys who lied to me, treated me like I should be grateful for the scraps of attention they paid me, side-chicked me, or kept me in the dark like a fool, if any of those guys had made the slightest effort to be there for me, then I would have known the gesture to be true, because it had been for me, not for them.

Not one of them did. And I won’t forget. Just ask my dad.

How Male Wish Fulfillment Went From James Bond To Donald Trump

daniel-craig-abs
Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

During November of 2012, right after the release of the James Bond sequel Skyfall, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen penned a hilarious opt-ed titled: James Bond and the new sex appeal. In it, Cohen, a middle-aged man himself, bemoaned the fact that Daniel Craig’s James Bond was a chiseled, muscled sex-god, and sadly, a Bond that no longer reminded him of himself. In his own words:

Craig is 44, but neither gravity nor age has done its evil work on him. Nothing about him looks natural, relaxed — a man in the prime of his life and enjoying it. Instead, I see a man chasing youth on a treadmill, performing sets and reps, a clean and press, a weighted knee raise, an incline pushup and, finally, something called an incline pec fly (don’t ask). I take these terms from the Daniel Craig Workout, which you can do, too, if your agent and publicist so insist. Otherwise, I recommend a book….

You see, Daniel Craig’s James Bond made Cohen sad. Every toned muscle Craig sported on the big screen was a reminder of every set and rep, clean and press, weighted knee raise, incline pushup and, incline pec fly that Cohen himself had not done. Cohen, you see, prefers to read, which is fine, except it’s not getting him all the girls. And, ugh, why can’t things be the way they used to be?

This is all very sad news. Every rippling muscle is a book not read, a movie not seen or a conversation not held. That’s why Sean Connery was my kind of Bond. He was 53 when he made his last Bond film, “Never Say Never Again.” Women loved him because he was sophisticated and he could handle a maitre d’ as well as a commie assassin. Western civilization was saved not on account of his pecs but on account of his cleverness and experience.

Of course, Cohen was ridiculed across the internet, not more so than on the very feminist websites that give me breath. Cohen and men like him, for the very first time, have been told by the media they love that they’re just not good enough. That they actually have to look sexy to have mainstream sex appeal, and well, that’s just not sitting well.

If you’re a woman, you know of this pressure all too well. For decades, popular media has portrayed versions of idealized femininity that are often unreachable for most women. But unlike men, these ideals don’t just get in the way of us getting laid. They can keep us from opportunities, jobs and relationships.

You see it through the recent cult of celebutants, women who are beautiful first and famous later. The message is that if you reach a certain level of attractiveness and privilege, doors will automatically open to you.

You see it in dating trends. When was the last time you got a guy you actually liked to say, “Yes I want to be in a relationship with you. Let’s talk about it some more.”? You see it in sexists restaurant dress codes. Remember when you had to be a perfect size six to be a stewardess? Or how about when Playboy used to conduct gynecological exams on their female employees? Or have you even tried to walk outside without being bothered?

And if you’re the type to say, “Well, if you don’t like it, then stay home.” Well, asshole, that’s the fucking point. Socially, women have always been told that their worth is closely tied to their looks, and that link was not to be broken. Women won the right to have a presence in public spaces, but not without stipulations. The message was clear: You can have a job, as long as it’s a job we approve of. You can exist in the public eye, as long as you make it worth my while. 

The difference between the pressure women face daily and the pressure that Cohen has most recently made aware of is, of course, male privilege. Cohen is moaning about this new standard, but not looking like Daniel Craig will not cost him his job. Cohen may not like this new standard, but he can at least rely on the fact that as men on screen age, their love interests stay the same age.

And what if you don’t like this new standard? Enter Donald Trump.

donald-trump-iowa-reuters-800x430
My apologies to your eyeballs

Donald Trump’s popularity among his mostly white, male base can be attributed to many things. Fox news can take the blame. You can also blame trolling culture in social media. You can even say that Trump’s rise in popularity is due to a real social backlash against growing democracy.

You can argue all of these things, but I’d like to add another theory to the fray: Donald Trump is the lazy man’s James Bond.

What do you do when you have all this anger, all this expectation of privilege, and all of this change, and you just don’t fucking like it? Do you adapt, or do you dig your heels in deeper, because losing your privilege and being equal to those other peoplis a fucking insult?

You see, I think the majority of Donald Trump supporters are very aware of the fact that they’re supporting an overgrown man-child for President of the United States, because they believe that above all else, they have, and should continue to have, the privilege to behave like overgrown children. Because they’re men. Grr.

Donald Trump is the embodiment of male privilege. He lies, he cheat, he steals, he abuses, he insults everything under the sun that doesn’t look like him, and he continues on mostly unscathed because of his name, privilege and connections. And penis. Don’t forget penis. A woman could not get away with even half the shit Trump has said.

His supporters know this, and still continue to defend him because they believe that this is the way things should be. That white men should have the right to look like melted crayons and date women light-years out of their league. It’s gotten to the point that even the religious right have changed their minds about morality in order to support Trump. You can’t make this up! From the link:

Instead, they have changed their judgment about the link between groping and governing. Previously, they had espoused “moral clarity” – a single principle applied unbendingly to all situations. Good is good, evil is evil. If a man is immoral in his private life, he will be immoral or worse as a public official.

Now they favor “situational morality,” the situation in this case being the prospect of a Clinton victory. So rather than condemn Trump absolutely, they say that, although he is out of line, they will vote for him and encourage others to do likewise in order to keep Hillary out of the White House.

When you look at the world from this angle, Clinton looks like a damn near race traitor.

And if you want to go the false equivalency route with Clinton, please watch this video:

Unlike men like Cohen, who moaned about the new social standards for men but is not a Trump supporter, Trump is the natural conclusion for men who see the new social standard but refuse to adapt. Trump is also the macro example of what’s going on on the ground.

Trump is the embodiment of the difficulties of dating while female and/or feminist. If you’re a single woman trying to date, and you’re having a hard time finding someone who treats you with basic decency, understands emotional maturity, and discusses the parameters of your relationship upfront instead of after, well, sadly, it’s not just you. Our boys are having a little trouble catching up.

So what do you do in the meantime?

Well, for one, vote for Hillary this November and get it over with, and accept that Trump is a con-man and not a politician. And let’s hope that Trump’s popularity in the limelight is nothing more than extinction burst behavior, and that our boys will eventually get over it and grow into the men we need.

Let’s hope that is the case, because if the alternative is even remotely possible, then yes, we are all doomed.