07 August 2020

0 things written in early may that have no home

I’m in the middle of a four-hour phone conversation with a man I know vaguely from work and with whom I have connected on Tinder. This is quarantine. 

The conversational atmospherics careen provocatively, cyclically, from first date to work gossip session to confessional booth.


At some point, I confess the story of how an ex-boyfriend of mine wound up impregnating the two women he dated after me and emotionally terrorizing us all. When I finish the story, the man on the other end sighs and says, “How sad for him. I really do sympathize with him.”


Immediately, I assume I’ve told the story wrong. That, in my effort to tell it while still appearing attractive and interesting to this person, I've elided the damage. That, for fear of looking like a man-hater, I’ve somehow made someone who clearly, deeply disrespects women the hero of my own account of a broken heart. 


I thought I was telling my story, but it seems what was heard was his.


I’ve been thinking through this dynamic for several months. Stuck alone in quarantine, I’ve been processing a college relationship rife with sexual violence and emotional abuse. In working through that, I’ve been deeply angered to realize I believe my own story, in large part, because I subsequently told it to a man. And I can access what I imagine to have been my own fear then only through the fact that the men around me then were afraid for their own safety too.


My anger has come to settle on the fact that that I cannot tell my own story without men.


Even the way we tell our stories is adapted for them, to lessen their discomfort. In telling the truth, one constantly polices oneself. In this quarantine “date,” I’m aware of how often I’m using words like “patriarchy” and “power systems,” so as to make clear that this is about systems, it’s not personal.


But it is personal, even as it is about systems.


It's still people doing this bullshit, committing these harms. 

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