Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The People Who Hate Me the Most are the Men Who Said They Loved Me

I didn’t know I was passing a kidney stone, all I knew was that I was in immense, inescapable pain. My boyfriend at the time was trying to cheer me up, took me around to see some sights; I was in so much pain that I couldn’t do anything except lay on the bench at the park we were visiting.

Eventually I said, “can you just take me to Walgreens?” I need some pain medicine.

He became angry with me. “I have been nothing but nice to you all day!” he shouted at me.

I didn’t know what to do. “Please, just take me to Walgreens.”

He dropped me off at Walgreens, then accelerated away, angrily. I got my pain meds, then walked a mile home stopping every 20 steps or so because the pain was just so much. A few days later, my roommate would rush me to the emergency room at 5 am because she was worried my appendix was about to burst, or that I was having an ectopic pregnancy.

It was just a kidney stone, but even the doctor didn’t know that until he scanned my pelvis; he was preparing me for the possibility that I might need emergency surgery.

And you might think, that my boyfriend — who claimed he loved me, wanted to be with me, etc — you might think that he would have at least given me the same consideration that my roommate did. You might have expected that, seeing me in such pain that I couldn’t walk, he would have at least asked “is everything ok?”

Instead, all he could see was that, I wasn’t appreciating him; he was trying to be nice to me and for some reason it wasn’t working, and he was angry about that.

Shortly after the Walgreens incident, I talked about it with him on the phone. I said “I don’t feel like you’re someone who loves me, I feel like you’re someone who hates me.”

He apologized, said he’d been really depressed and he hadn’t been behaving right. “Well, ok,” I said, “if you’re feeling depressed, maybe you should go see a therapist?”

He refused. At that point, we got in a fight, and he made cryptic references to how “our relationship wasn’t working.” He’d done this before, imply he wanted to break up without explicitly saying the words, last time I suggested therapy. So, I suspected it was an avoidance tactic.

In his defense, I wasn’t really suggesting therapy for his benefit. I was suggesting it because he was using his mental health as an excuse to mistreat me, and I wanted to stop being mistreated. However, in that moment I saw he wasn’t interested in learning not to mistreat me; he just wanted a pass to continue with his current behavior.

“Ok, if that’s how you feel, I’ll come over and we can break up.”

So we did; and it was one of the worst breakups I’ve ever had. I lost many of my friends, who were also friends with him, and he kept refusing to return my belongings to me. He became angry with me, and told me to stop messaging him because it was making him anxious. I will admit that I did text him a lot and some of it was a bit insane, but the easiest way to shut me up would have been to give me my stuff back. I actually had to send over third parties to get my stuff without his permission (the last of which was over a year after our breakup) because he kept refusing to make arrangements with me. He also kept lying to me about why he couldn’t return my belongings — for instance, one weekend he claimed to be out of town, but I actually knew he wasn’t because my friends told me they weren’t going to invite me to a party because he was going to be there.

Simply stated, he had more social capital than I, and so he was able to get away with treating me badly because people didn’t want to risk being socially cut off by upsetting him (though some people privately admitted to me that his behavior was problematic.) And, it was because of this social capital that he never had to re-evaluate any of his behavior; he never suffered any consequences for what he did to me, while I suffered severe consequences for allowing the breakup to continue.

All this leads me to an interesting observation; the people who hate me the most aren’t necessarily the people I’ve wronged the most, but rather people who have more social power than me. People who have more social power than me face no repercussions for hating me, so they will hate me because they can. On the flip side, when I actually fuck up and do something bad to someone else, I am often forgiven if we have at least equal social standing.

For instance, in my late 20s, my girlfriend was Chicana, and I am sad to admit that I said some stuff to her that was (unintentionally) racist. We still stayed friendly after the breakup, although at some point she did mention to me that she was thinking of not dating white women anymore. Can’t say I blamed her. But, while acknowledging that I did some things to hurt her, she never seemed to hate me; she always worked with me to try to develop an understanding of where my behavior came from, and to try to proactively request new ways of being treated.

Thing is, my ex experiences racism from a large number of people; if she weren’t able to find ways to work with it, she’d have a difficult time functioning in America. Similarly, if I am not able to find ways of working with misogyny, I simply would not be able to function in the world.

It’s not fair, but when we don’t have power, we find ways of forgiving people because we have to find ways. Our survival depends on it. The men I date often do not have to face how they hurt me because they have power over me, so they don’t forgive because they don’t have to forigive.

And, you know, I’ve experienced some version of this repeatedly. In more recent years, a (now ex) boyfriend of mine cheated on me and exposed me to an STD (that, I didn’t actually catch, but I could have.) Many of my friends were like… “wow, you’re being really zen about this” because I didn’t get mad about it, and my response was, “He was stupid and selfish, but he wasn’t malicious. Most of the men I date behave maliciously towards me, in that, they do things to explicitly try to hurt me, so a mistake is something I can overlook.”

Sometimes, when I’m in therapy, my therapists try to convince me that I need to date men who don’t treat me badly, and I’m just like “This doesn’t exist. You say it exists, but I don’t think it does.”

When I watch straight women in relationships around me, they are nearly always diminished by the men they date. They become quieter, less outgoing with their opinions, reduced versions of themselves. I watch as their boyfriends and husbands subtly bully them in public, in ways that clearly hurt but are difficult to call out on. Sometimes, if I ask about these instances, these women get angry at me.

Once, I watched one of my male friends berate his girlfriend for trying to connect her phone to the wifi. When I asked her about it afterwards, she became silently angry at me and refused to talk to me on the rest of the trip. For many women, their identity as a “strong, independent woman” is so important to them they will refuse to see their own mistreatment. Because, what does that mean if your boyfriend is abusing you? If your husband is acting more like he hates you, than he loves you?

What should you do? Blow up your whole life, to simply go out there and find someone else who behaves the same? Be alone forever?

One of the most fun things about dating women and sometimes slipping over to exist in the lesbian world, is to see just how vibrant women are without the influence of men. Sadly, it had made me realize just how reduced many straight women are; how reduced I often am when I date men.

But here’s an interesting thing; the problem actually isn’t men.

The problem is power.

When I date women, especially women who aren’t white, something interesting happens; suddenly I become the terrible one. Suddenly, I find myself hurting the people I love over, and over and find myself incapable of stopping. You may be wondering why — as a bisexual woman — I still date men, given all this. And, the answer is, I hate seeing the part of myself that can be cruel when I am the one with the power in the relationship.

So, as much as that moment in the car hurt me, I understood why my ex shouted at me. He’s lived a life where he desperately wants to be kind to people, but can’t escape the observation that he keeps causing pain and destruction. His friends aren’t willing to give him honest feedback, because they’re afraid of angering him and losing him as a social connection. Many of the girls he dates aren’t willing to give him feedback, to some degree myself included, because they aren’t willing to risk their whole lives blowing up over some petty little argument.

So what’s he do to? How can he become the kind person he wants to be in such a context?

I get the incels. As a programmer, I believe I have an above average salary for a woman, and sometimes I can be very suspicious of the women I date because of it — sometimes, in deeply fucked up and pathological ways; like, I’ll offer to pay for dinner but then secretly judge the woman I’m with if she agrees to let me pay. I’ve come to accept, I’m not a good partner for women with children, because in the back of my head I’m always wondering “do you just need someone to bankroll your kids right now?” I can never trust her.

And, it’s not helped by the fact that, often times women with less power will not call me on doing stupid ass bullshit because they are seeking out material assistance. Like, they actually do need help raising their kids, or whatever. So, if I say something fucked up on a date with them, they’ll politely laugh it off.

But I feel it. I feel the insincerity, and functionally, this leads to me not feeling loved. So I feel angry, taken advantage of.

On some level, I think this is what my ex was saying to me in the car although he was not articulate; “I think you’re taking advantage of me. You’re putting up with bullshit you shouldn’t be putting up with — why? Because you want my money? Social status? Are you a fucking gold-digger? What is happening here?”

But to me, in that moment it felt like — I had nothing. I didn’t even have my body anymore; I just have pain everywhere, and now this person who is supposed to stand by me is adding to it for reasons I don’t understand. I had no real conscious awareness; just blind confusion and pain.

Dropping me off at that Walgreens leaving me to walk a mile home in my lowest moment was one of the hardest things I’ve had to absorb from a partner, but I’ll bet my ex doesn’t even remember it. Meanwhile, I’ve thought about it over and over again over the years. Maybe I’m even getting some of the details wrong it’s been so baked over at this point, I’m not sure — but I remember that walk and my pain clearly.

And, of course, this is a symptom of the power imbalance; I remember far more clearly the people who have hurt me than the people I’ve hurt. It sucks, I know, and it perpetuates the problem, but it’s the reality of it. It’s why we need to equalize power in our population.

There is no such thing as benign power. It always corrupts, it always leads to cruelty, but the most interesting part, is it also leaves empty the people who have it. Devoid of deeper connection, powerful people (usually men) exist as zombies, unable to find what they’re really looking for among their sycophants.

Power leads to a hatred of the powerless, then the powerless end up returning that hatred in response — though, generally not as fervently, in my opinion. Deep, blind hatred can only come with the benefit of power; people with less power need to empathize with their oppressor (to some degree) to survive, and empathy blunts hatred.

Consider Putin, and the depths to which he hates the Ukrainian people — to the point of wanting to eliminate them. However, much as people in Ukraine may hate Putin, they generally have an awareness of what he may want and how he sees the world. I would guess, Putin has no idea how Ukrainians see the world; I think he genuinely thought they’d be happy to join Russia when he invaded, and was completely blindsided when this wasn’t so. Putin has, perhaps, the most individual power of any person on earth right now; this means he can have the least empathy of anyone on the world and will pay no price for it — well, not until after the damage becomes immense.

We need a new paradigm

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