Bit of foreword here. I wrote this piece for a college writing contest, and kind of thought it was garbage. However, I was pretty shocked to get an email back from my Comp 1 Professor telling me I had won the essay segment of the contest (other entry types included poetry and short story), and even more shocked when I was told this was getting published and I was getting paid after I put my Hancock on a few documents. I figured I would share it with you guys, given that it has to do with relationships. Initially, I wrote this to try and show the world that dating abuse does not just mean man-against-woman. It can happen to anyone, and two years later- I still sort of can't believe it happened to me. But without further ado...here's the essay!
Be Your “Right”, Not Their “Normal” (A Story Of Abuse)
Often times, our strongest beliefs do not form until reality hits us where it hurts. Stereotypes only dissipate when we are faced with the cold, hard truth of the matter.
I am a man. And there are plenty of preconceived notions tied to my gender that have made life rather tricky in recent years. “Men” aren’t supposed to cry. “Men” are supposed to be tough.
Those two stereotypes have been around for centuries, but then we have the issue of “men cannot be raped”. We live in a generation of alleged change. Yet, in 2016, men supposedly cannot be victims of relationship abuse. Or, at least, they keep it under the rug thanks to these stereotypes. I will be the one to step up and say that it happened to me. It may not have been the type of abuse you all may be thinking. That is, physical or rape. But keep in mind, abuse comes in all forms.
I never thought it would happen. Not to me. I used to have what I call “nice guy syndrome”. I spent plenty of time in the confines of the Friend Zone, peering in at what it was like to be out of that metaphorical prison. When she (who will not be named for the sake of privacy) came into my life and wanted to date, I thought I had a break. And, initially, I thought I had something good. And throughout my experiences of abuse, I still thought I was in a normal, healthy relationship until I was convinced otherwise.
She was considerably larger and stronger than me, but I trusted her. Unfortunately for me, she used that entirely to her advantage. She would always be quick to yank me by my shirt, growl in my face when I wouldn’t meet one of her silly demands (like sitting down even though we already ate and watched her favorite film for the umpteenth time and I just cannot sit after a round of gluttony), and suffering from a severe case of “nice guy syndrome”, I just brushed it off. I supposed it was normal. That this was how it was supposed to work. But her control over me began to grow as the months went on.
She would take my phone just about every time we visited each other. Now, I am certainly not the nice guy I was about a year ago, but nevertheless I do not believe in cheating. Wrong is wrong, just as abuse is abuse. But she assumed quite a bit. If anyone else of the female gender in our age range contacted me for any reason whatsoever, she assumed I was cheating on her. As if “hello” was flirting. For this reason, I often hid my phone in the house and pretended that I had lost it. She forced me to cut ties with several people, including a close female friend, and even hacked my Facebook account to unfriend them virtually.
Then there was the issue of money. I was struggling to find a job, but that didn’t keep her from digging into my wallet as well as my mind. I was the one to pay just about every single time we ordered food, went to the theaters, and she’d even badger me to buy her overpriced Pikachu plush dolls at Gamestop. I don’t mind spoiling every now and then, but this was an every day occurrence. And it was taking its toll on me. Nothing was mine at this point. It was either hers, or “ours”.
The night it hit me was a night I’ll never forget. I explained, after about one and three quarters of a year, the entire situation to someone. And what I got as a response was very true “You can’t bear the weight of your world on your shoulders”. At first, I didn’t want to break it off. But I was now in college, about to work my first job on campus, one that I still hold. Juggling college and work would prove to be challenging, and I didn’t need a tumultuous relationship holding me down any longer than it already had. I had no idea just how I would do it. Talking to her would spur one hell of an argument (arguments were daily at this point, often over trivial matters). So, the last thing I knew to do was to block her number. Delete her off every social media account we had in common. But that didn’t stop her from trying to raise a bit of Hell.
Laying in my bed a few hours after doing this, sighing and wondering whether or not I did the right thing, I hear a banging on my front door. The impact made me think that the FBI was about to bust down the door. Thankfully, my mother was home and wasn’t a fan of who was on the other side as it was. She shooed my ex away, and aside from some ramblings about me on the internet, I have never heard from her since that evening.
The pain has subsided. But, as I said before, our strongest opinions do not form until reality hits home. I never really saw where our world has headed up until a few months ago. I believe we are living in a society in which women are all made out to be perfect little angels, with little girls getting far more attention than little boys in terms of emotional support. Now, this is not always the case, but from what I’ve read in Sociology textbooks, this is generally how it works. And it disturbs me now more than ever. It would only make sense then that, if a male goes through abuse at the hands of a female, he is not apt to speak up on it. Because, at an early age, boys are socialized to withhold emotions. If he cries, he’s a “wuss”. If he isn’t into sports, than he’s a “fag”. And if he grows up and finally snaps, trusting very few and questions the way in which the world runs…he is a considered an “asshole”. But if he conforms…society will not trouble him quite as much. And that is why males may not speak up in times of need, to conform. That urge to be a part of something conceived as grander instead of deviating is a problem that has probably affected everyone at some point in their life, and may even be a factor for the rest of their life.
At first, I really didn’t want to talk about any of this. What I went through. But getting it all out is the first step of recovery. And while plenty have questioned if I was truly “a man” or not, have called me weak, worthless, or simply did not believe that a guy can be a victim…that should not (and will not) stop me from sharing my story.
I will not be anyone’s puppet, and that includes the folks in suits with cigars determining what constitutes a man in the eyes of the public. There may be fewer cases of female-male relationship abuse, but keep in mind, those are just the reported cases. There may be someone next to you that has gone through some form of abuse, but they’re frightened to tell…male or female. If you take anything out of my rambling, let it be this; your neighbor may have been through Hell and back, whether they’ve told you or not. He or she may seem just fine and dandy, but you are only seeing the side of the story they project to the outside world. Don’t assume anything from this projection. Change won’t really begin to happen until we begin to truly challenge the box we were raised in. Be the one to question those notions drilled into our minds as children by whoever loomed over us. To ask questions. To look beyond what the bigwigs sketch up. Don’t be the one to follow the rest of the puppets off a cliff. They may seem “normal” for believing in the popular opinion on every given subject, but the qualifications for normalcy seem to change at the will of the mass media every so often. Don’t assume. Don’t be their “normal”. Be your “right”.