Recently, in a lot of the shows I’ve been watching or books I’ve been reading, I come across men taking advantage of women, whether that be physically or emotionally, and even in supposed entertainment, it infuriates me. No matter how many times I see it and no matter how much we’ve “evolved,” I will never be de-sensitized to this treatment. It is not okay, and it will never be okay.
I admit in recent years I’ve focused more on my relationships with women. I attended a leadership conference almost 10 years ago (hard to believe), and the biggest threat to women in leadership positions then was other women. And instead of banding together, women competed against one another for that one spot.
I vowed to never do that, but yet here I am, involved in more than one organization with a white man at the top. And I am fighting women to climb higher. But my roommate recently told me of how one of her favorite stand-up comedians joked about how he didn’t understand why women kept dating when men were their number one threat. All men had to worry about was being rejected.
And I admit now that I’m back on the dating scene, I’m suspicious of even the more enthusiastic kind. Why are they so excited after a first date? What’s their real end game, I ask myself? This is silly, I know, but maybe smart? I am very overprotective of my single, independent state. I feel like I lost that in my last four-year relationship, and now I covet it more than money.
But that’s the thing about abusive relationships — women don’t intend to involve themselves with an abusive man. It happens slowly over time, and before you know it, you wonder where you lost yourself and why you can’t leave. I wouldn’t say I was in an abusive relationship, but there were many times he made me feel less about myself, and I believed him.
Sadly, I believed I was this pitiful human being who thought that he didn’t deserve me, but I would make things better. Yes, that’s hard to admit. And I did crazy things to hold onto that relationship like hanging on to the side of his car as he drove away. Because I thought that relationship made me whole, and without it, I would be nothing.
Towards the end, we fought often. I realize now how my less inhibited self was not screaming at him — it was screaming at me. It was trying to tell me how unhappy I was and how much I needed to get out of that relationship. Unfortunately, it took me four years to recognize that.
One time, we’d been fighting about something I don’t remember (this was probably a few months before we broke up). I ran to our bedroom walk-in closet to escape him, and when he found me, I pounded on his chest and pushed him away. He then grabbed my wrists, and I couldn’t move. I was terrified. I didn’t think he would hit me, but I suddenly felt helpless and powerless, and I realized he could do anything in that moment.
I kept telling him to let me go, threatening to leave if he didn’t (although in the back of my mind, I was determined to leave). No man should ever pin me down without my consent. After I calmed down, he let me go and revealed that I had once told him to hold me tight and not let go if I ever became overly upset. But I will never forget that feeling of powerlessness. To this day, I cannot forget that.
I’m not saying I was a saint in the relationship. We both had our faults. And a few weeks after that, I realized that we were never going to work. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed. Because a part of me wondered if another man would ever love me the same way; a part of me wondered if I would find someone that I cared so passionately about.
We tried to stay friends, but it didn’t work. My story isn’t bad — my story is a normal relationship that ended. Not every woman is so lucky. And even though I hope I will never experience degradation like that, even when I see it in real life, on TV, in books, I remember that feeling of powerlessness and I’m scared.
There was another time a guy grabbed my arm and left bruises the size of his fingertips. When my friend asked what they were, I was too embarrassed to admit the truth and made up some lie about my clumsiness. Why should I feel ashamed? And what gives men that right? In some cases, they may be physically stronger, but no means no. Period.
Women are taking over the world. There are already more women in college and working and having families. If they can do all of that, imagine what they can do with the world. Sure, we have emotional upswings and downswings, but who doesn’t? The nice thing about being a woman is I can track it. When I’m feeling less energetic, bloated, irritable, and hungry, I look at the calendar and nod my head: yep that explains it.
But I still function on a daily basis. I still excel at my job and continue my running schedule. I never stop because I refuse to be tied down, and I refuse to believe that I can’t overcome even in the worst situation. After ending a long-term relationship, I thought I might be more desperate in the dating world, but instead, I’m more confident.
I know who I am, and I refuse to put up with manipulation. Maybe it’s because I’m older or because I’m jaded? But either way, even if I end up alone, I will have friends and family who respect me and love me for me. It may have taken me 28 years to realize this, but I honestly believe that’s enough.
So when I start my morning run at 7am with a grumble, I think of the fact that if I was still in a relationship, I probably wouldn’t be up at 7am running. And that makes me smile.