1. When you voiced your bewilderment on how banning gay marriage could be unconstitutional if the majority vote to ban it, realized I could argue this point, and then backtracked with “I don’t want to get into a fight about this.”
You don’t get to close the discussion before my opinion gets heard. You can’t be both someone who values me and someone who refuses to hear my thoughts on an issue I am passionate about because I might outsmart you. Women see this all the time: a guy makes a casually offensive remark and acts wounded when we call him out. “Whoa, calm down! Can’t you take a joke?” It’s dismissive. It’s a cheap shot. You can’t call in backup, so you have to question my ability to have a rational discussion. And if you are so worried about constitutionality, maybe go back and read the part about inalienable rights. I don’t think it contained a “unless a huge group of people gang up to take them away” caveat.
2. When you brought up your ex girlfriend on our second date.
You ex-girlfriend sounds like a fucking bore, by the way. She listens to Dr. Laura and doesn’t understand why anyone likes Harry Potter. I can’t fathom the active self-loathing it would take to boast either of these qualities. This should have raised one of two red flags for me: either you are hung up on this woman so you will probably bore me just as much as she would, or you must be so insecure that she jumped to the forefront of your mind the minute she moved on from you. By dating you, I was placing myself in the crossfire of an unfinished shit-slinging contest. Plus, between this ex and every woman in your family – an onslaught of one kitchen fixture after another – I felt like I was deconstructing the Feminine Mystique every time I considered what a future with you would be like.
3. When you told me “I hope I never have a daughter.”
One of my girlfriends is convinced that when a guy say this, what he really means is that he sees women as sexual objects; given how he views a woman’s role in society, he cannot conceive of a world where he is responsible for loving, guiding, and protecting one. You are so comfortable being complicit in female oppression that you don’t think a female life is worth the trouble it takes to challenge gender norms. I felt so dehumanized when you said this, I wondered if having extended contact with me was also too burdensome for your privileged brain. I finally came back with “I guess you and I can never have kids, because I’m only having girls.” I love being female. I love women. You cannot shame me for my identity.
4. When I mentioned my idea of applying for a competitive writing fellowship in addition to graduate programs, and you told me I shouldn’t.
It was a shot, even if I was fumbling in the dark — a shot at something I’ve wanted since toddlerhood when I stared at the symbols in those heavy books my parents read and knew I had at least this much to say. I don’t know why you hated this idea. Perhaps because the fellowship was out of state, or possibly because you thought it was a ridiculous goal. Really, I should’ve known I was ill-advised to sleep with you after you blew off my offer to let you read an essay I’d gotten published. How little you must have regarded my voice to choose to preserve the effort it takes to glance over a few pages.
5. When I landed a teaching assistant gig and you said it was a waste of time if I wasn’t getting paid.
You praised this accomplishment until you realized that it actually required some commitment of me — time when I should have been at your beck and call. It never registered with you that I was working toward a career — all you knew is that I didn’t make enough money to lay down a grand for some dream vacation or to order sushi twice a week. Last I heard, you’re still burrowed under the same desk your mom helped you land when you were two years younger than I am now.
6. When I asked you what kind of tattoo you would get if you ever got one and you replied “I don’t know — some kind of really bad ass design.”
I get that ink is not for everyone. But you know what is? Having an identity. Knowing what you’re passionate about, what drives you. You should know in the most general sense what you’d want people to see if they could read your skin. If what you want people to read is what a fucking man you are, then you don’t have the balls to stay with me.
7. When I told you about the time I was sexually assaulted in a Whole Foods parking lot and you said it must’ve happened because I looked so sexy.
You interjected this gem as I tried to convey how terrified and powerless I felt. How I approached the counter in tears and told a cashier what happened. How I dialed 911 but my fingers were shaking too disruptively to press “Send.” How I circled the plaza in my car, trying to track down this man because I’d forgotten to pay attention to the color of his hair. How I replayed the incident over in my mind, furious that I didn’t knee him in the groin. You somehow managed to turn my story of this assault into some kind of foreplay. At the time, I did not have the language to express what a misogynistic fuck you were, so I laughed.
It wasn’t until after we broke up — after you started ignoring me unless you were inside me and I confronted you about it, and you spewed a slew of cliches about not wanting a traditional relationship — that I sought to understand what I’d been through with you during the last year. Our time together was less about me trying to be good enough for you and more about you undermining my worth so I’d never stand up to you. It was more about your need for someone to validate your interests, make you feel desirable, and help do the work necessary to create the life you wanted without something as pesky as individuality getting in the way.
Someone recently told me you’d become engaged. I don’t have to meet your fiancee to know that she fills your spaces with no shifting or expanding required of you. I haven’t reached the final stage of metamorphosis but when I look to the woman I was then I see that I’ve outgrown both of you – and that forever proving myself forced me to crystallize who it was I wanted to become. Now I teach other people how to do things that I was too scared shitless to try back then. There is no part of my body I’m afraid to tattoo, no job I think I’ll never qualify for, no amount of failure that I believe strips away my worth as a human — not even my failure to become your obedient wife. That’s why when you asked me to get back together a week later, I rejected you after a brief deliberation. Yes, I should’ve realized a lot sooner that we were wrong together, but at least I worked it out faster than you.