There’s something awkward about being a feminist and dealing with heartbreak. I know, of course, that we all do get our hearts broken from time to time; that our politics can hardly protect us from love or from pain… But to be feminist and to find ourselves whining to our friends in bars, à la “Why hasn’t he called? Am I unloveable? What the fuck is wrong with me/all men?” feels pathetic in a particular kind of way.
I’ve spent the last few months touring my local bars, making out and crying. Well, to be fair, the crying is a more recent phenomenon, concentrated over the past two weeks. It all feels a little male-centered, despite the fact that I bar-hop with some of the fiercest of feminist women. In fact, the company I choose to keep makes it all the more awkward. I worry I will be perceived as a bad feminist, or at least a weak one… Getting all caught up with men who very often and almost inevitably hurt me at one point or another.
But no matter how badly I am hurt or disappointed by men, I keep coming back for more. You could see it as a little sadistic. Will I ever learn my lesson?
Of course, some of us do. I know many women who have straight given up on men and I imagine they wonder when the rest of us will catch on. But from where I’m standing, I doubt I ever will. I, perhaps stupidly, perhaps ignorantly, trudge onwards, turning my emotions and vulnerability and trust and love and life over to men with the hope that they will handle them with care — that this time it will be different, though it rarely is.
This most-recent man in my life didn’t turn out to be a verbally abusive, insecure, angry, jealous little shit like certain Past Dudes I’ve Dumped (PDID)… Though maybe I didn’t give him the chance… But I allowed myself to fall — quickly and without hesitation — certain that I was safe and secure, like I have some form of cognitive dissonance that lets my heart stay 17 forever, right there on my sleeve, bleeding all over my fucking shirt: Take me. I trust you. I’m in.
I don’t believe anyone plans on hurting another in love. No one enters into a relationship thinking, “I’m gonna break this person’s heart. Yep. Big time. Can’t wait.”
Things got serious very quickly. We both went into it headfirst. And then, just like that, it was gone. He ghosted on me.
I felt lost and angry and confused. I cried a bunch. I cried in my apartment, curled up with my dog and a bottle of wine. I cried on the phone with my mom. I cried sitting at the bar, laughing at the fact that I was crying at the bar. “Maybe if I keep laughing, everyone will think I’m laughing so hard I cried,” I said to my friend, sitting next to me with her hand on my arm. I cried on the bus, tears welling up behind my sunglasses. I held back tears walking home from work, screwing up my face in a way that probably made me look ragey or gassey or both.
You get it. Basically I’ve been crying and drinking and writing for two weeks. (Conveniently I distract myself from unsavory feelings by writing. Heartbreak is great for writing. Love gives me writers block.)
I feel stupid and pathetic and weak and like a 34-year-old idiot teenager. All fucked up over some man. Just another thing to add to my “bad feminist” checklist:
1) Wore uncomfortable heels on Saturday
2) Also wore Spanx
3) Fell in love, stopped writing, stopped being around other people, stopped being at home ever, stopped thinking about things that weren’t love, gushed about him when I did see other people, freaked out and obsessed over his sudden silence, cried a bunch, threw my phone across the room a bunch, drank a bunch, cried again when he finally communicated to me what I already pretty much knew at that point: it was over, he was a mess, I was collateral damage in his messiness.
“I hate him,” my friend said.
I’d sent her screen-shots of his text/explanation (we all do it bros, deal with it) when he finally got in touch: “Hi Meghan, I feel like shit blah blah blah, I’m sorry blah, not over my ex blah blah, not fair to you or me to jump right into another relationship blah, will hurt more the further we go blah blah, I’m too emotionally fucked blah, thought I’d moved on blah, have to get out of town for awhile blah blah blah.”
“You’re going to hate my response,” I told her.
I knew I was going to look like a softie. I was supposed to be tough. But I’m trying this new thing out where I put my ego aside and react with compassion instead of anger. It only works every once in a while and I have no idea if it’s a good idea or not but I’ve sent a hell of a lot of angry texts to people over the years and shouted a hell of a lot of angry, mean, rash things at people over the years and I tend to regret those things more often than not. So. I’m trying this out.
I told him I was sorry for what he was going through. “This is hard stuff. Thank you for being honest.” I meant it. At the end of the day, people’s feelings are people’s feelings. This was someone I cared about and he told me the truth. The truth is often complicated and not what you want it to be. And this truth hurt like crazy. But there’s not much I can do about that except hurt.
“I hate you so much,” my friend said (disclaimer: she doesn’t really hate me, you guys).
“I don’t know. WTF am I supposed to say?”
“Never show your face around my neighbourhood again!!” she said. “Jerk. Like, own your shittiness without trying to garner sympathy from you?!! I hate manchildren for real. He should have apologized to you for being irresponsible with your heart. He was just busy explaining his life. He affected your life…Very diplomatic response though.“
She wasn’t wrong.
“I have plenty of things to say to him, but at the end of the day, this is the situation,” I said.
“Let’s drink at the Alibi Room more,” she responded.
I could be tougher, I guess. I don’t know. The actual truth, though, is that I’m not always great on the man-front. I fall in love too easily; often with men I should maybe not fall in love with… My heart is soft and mushy like an old piece of fruit. I like to fuck and sometimes I accidentally fall in love with the people I think I’m Just Fucking. I make out with dudes in bars. My friends have to watch. I fall off the face of the earth when I fall in love and forget to write and work and do my laundry and eat food and take my vitamins.
Sometimes I want to give up feminism just so that I can stop feeling guilty about being myself. But that feels pretty lazy and self-absorbed so no. Also, I actually kind of like myself. And I kind of feel like, if I can be myself and I can say it out loud, some other women out there will feel like they can be themselves too — and tell the truth about it — while continuing to fight back as best they can, in whatever ways they can.
We teach women not to trust themselves. When they do tell the truth about their pain or anger we call them crazy. When women react to having been discredited and silenced and abused and hurt, they are “hysterical” or “irrational.” We are emotional — society will admit to that — but it is cause for punishment. We can’t be trusted or taken seriously. The flip side of this is that men are taught to feel nothing, to express nothing, to be cold and stoic at all costs. And so when they do express emotions other than anger or callousness, when they feel and express pain or hurt or sadness or vulnerability, they are called “bitches” or “faggots” or “pussies.” The message is two-fold: 1) Whatever you do, don’t be “like a woman,” and 2) Whatever you do, don’t tell the truth. Because you will be punished for it.
Feminist and writer, Adrienne Rich wrote, in her poem, Sources:
This, of course, sends my heart into my throat and pushes those impatient tears back down my face.
We, as women, fight for our selves every day. We fight to be ourselves. Not to lose ourselves. We have to fight to tell the truth. Because what we aren’t supposed to do, as women, is tell the truth. We are supposed to be silent — to smile and look pretty. To feel fulfilled in unfulfilling lives. To be happy and cheery and perky at all times, emanating positivity like fucking TV moms and robot cheerleaders. We aren’t supposed to make anyone uncomfortable with things like feelings or reality. Our emotions and our vulnerability are used against us in the most hateful and violent ways.
So I don’t think our fight is to create some kind of protective shell or some kind of illusion. I don’t think my fight is to pretend to be tough and strong and cold and hard. I don’t think I am particularly tough or strong or cold or hard. I fall in love with men who hurt me, over and over again. I want to be loved like everyone else; but loved as myself. I feel like giving up because it’s just too fucking hard and it hurts too much, but I never really do. Loving men can be painful and embarrassing and irrational and traumatic. But it can also feel like magic. A particular kind of magic that feels a lot like nausea, sure, but magic nonetheless. And I can’t tell you how to cope with that reality or how to resolve it because clearly I haven’t a clue.
What can I tell you except the truth. Which is that mostly I’ve just been listening to The Doobie Brothers and crying in bars. You know, like a sentimental fucking fool.