I remember the first time a pretty girl was mad at me for something that was my fault. She was beautiful and fun and somehow I’d fallen out of touch. I’d said I’d text her back and I didn’t, and when she saw me at a party she came to me drunk and indignant.
“Oh” she said. “Hey.”
This is not a boast of how I kissed a girl, or an exploration of what it means to not text a girl you should’ve. But I hope this sheds some light on why guys — good guys, normal guys, allegedly nice guys — can be so bad.
I was not a smooth kid. I am not smooth now, but fate is kind to tallish funny guys with good eyes.
The problem is I grew up, like most late-bloomers, with pent up anxiety. I remember being obsessed with girls before I was attracted to them. I knew, intuitively, what they represented. To kiss a girl was to be cool and I had not. I was not cool.
Similarly, I was a romantic. Without tangible, actual relationships to experience I was free to imagine, offhand, what life could be. I fell deeply in crush fairly often, and then, by the grace of God, I sort-of, sort-of dated a girl I was madly in love at.
At, not with. See what I’m saying?
I was overheated, torn between anxiety and greed. It didn’t work out, but I took the wrong lesson from it. I’d learned that love was scary, bad, and more importantly, one-way. I was so invested in the idea that I was a victim, an aspirant, that I turned to other narratives. Namely: woo, college!
Misogyny, even or especially casual, mild misogyny, is a very tempting thing. On paper, it offers you safety in your feelings while giving you affirmation. If someone doesn’t want to kiss you, suddenly it’s their fault. You distort attraction to hate is easier than love because it hedges your bets. You risk less of yourself, put less of yourself open, and you get to have it both ways. Now if a girl doesn’t want you, you don’t want her either; she’s bad, you’re good, and all the subtleties of humanity is reduced to a warped binary. You are a guy who wants girls, but to whom hating them is easier than loving them. Because loving them, when soured, makes you hate yourself.
That sounds dramatic, and it is. There are shades of this and it’s much more common in milder forms. Sometimes it’s just easier to be inconsiderate: texting a girl back is hard, schedules are a chore, and maybe, just maybe, the part of you afraid enough to retreat to misogyny is still afraid.
I was careless and thoughtless because, quite plainly, I didn’t think I had the power to hurt girls, to affect their days or weeks. I’d spent so long seeing myself as a victim of fate that it hadn’t occurred to me that I had the power to hurt someone.
It’s a pet theory of mine that a decent percentage of guys who behave badly do so because it’s easier too, because it’s less scary, and even because they don’t understand they can. There’s a skittering fear of women present in misogyny, a shock and surprise that lurks behind the surface. It’s the same fearful confusion that leads bros will brag about the sex they have- deep down, they can’t believe it. It is so surprising that it needs to be processed aloud.
This is not an apology or an explanation, or a “love a misogynist today!” campaign. Bad people suck, and bad things suck too. You shouldn’t accept being treated badly. But if you have been, in passing, in the moderate-but-typical level that happens to everyone but wouldn’t quite make it into a Taylor Swift song, understand it’s not you’re fault. It never is, really, but I hope it helps to remember that boys can be mildly bad for a wide variety of sad, strange reasons. It’s cowardice, it’s embarrassing, and you shouldn’t put up with it, but it’s about them, not you.
It’s the same cowardice that prompts open-letter apologies on Thought Catalog.