I’ve been musing more about Stevil, my neighbor, who instilled in me this recurring relationship pattern of male friendship going badly awry when I ask to be more than friends. I’ve been wondering about the conversation that started it all:
- Why did he ask me if I’d been sexually abused? He said, “You seem to have anger issues. Were you sexually abused as a child?”
- Was he expecting a different answer than the one I gave him? I said, “No, but I was physically abused.” He seemed… miffed, somehow, as if he’d just given himself away. I don’t remember if that was when I came to know that his older brother and sister molested him, but it might’ve been. (Yeah, it probably was.) I’m sure you all know me well enough to know I wouldn’t have tried to make him feel bad about it.
- How would the conversation have gone differently if my answer had been yes? Alternate reality: suppose I was sexually abused, and I said so. I think that was the answer he was expecting, for one thing. Would he have been just as self-righteous and condemning, or would he have felt closer to me? (Not that I care about my relationship with him. That ship has sailed. But would it have altered the problems he’s caused for me?)
Oh. I just figured it out. It’s like that scene in American Beauty when Kevin Spacey’s male neighbor kisses him, and Spacey’s character says, “I’m sorry. I’m not that way,” and the guy freaks out and kills himself.
Wild and witty aside: they aired that movie for us when I was in the mental hospital once. At around that moment in the movie, the scene with the gunshot, one of the staffers sitting near me on the sofa mumbled, “Should we be showing them this?” In retrospect, that seems hilarious.
Yeah, that must be it. He was expecting me to have experienced what he experienced (speaking broadly), but I hadn’t; and he couldn’t undo the implications of his question. So he came after me, determined to destroy me. And here I am, outing him as a sexual abuse victim on the world wide web. Meg always gets the last laugh.
That conversation was eight years ago. I realize I need to break the pattern. I think what happened with him instilled some sort of fear deep within me. He and I would take these long walks all over the neighborhood and talk about everything. This was before I had any other friends in my life. When he rejected me romantically, I felt betrayed because he’d never told me he had a girlfriend. I felt… sort of taken advantage of, or used, or less-than. And I realized he’d never truly liked me, because even though we’d taken walks and all that, he’d never given me his cellphone number, and he had that cellphone with him all the time–to talk to other people with. People whose names he never even told me.
In some way, he compartmentalized me. I was only allowed to do certain things with him, and to come into certain aspects of his life. I mean, I know we all do that, but the way he did it felt stronger, as if he didn’t think I was good enough to be let all the way in; like he was holding me off because I was his back-up plan, or his friend on the back burner, or something like that.
Unfortunately, I have a long and sordid history of being hurt by people back before I had actual friends like I do today (shout-out!), because when you have no one in your corner and the one person who you thought cared turns out to be manipulative somehow, it hurts way worse than when you have a support system to help you pick up the pieces. That was my life with every single relationship I embarked upon, not necessarily of a romantic nature: my cousin’s new girlfriend, now-wife, sensed that I was close to Andy, and she moved in for the kill. Now we’re on the outs, and everyone else in my maternal extended family thinks I’m crazy, because of her. (I hate all of them, too, so that worked out pretty well.) Stuff like that. Every time I tried to connect with someone–abject failure and loneliness.
And that was the year–the year of Stevil–when my sister assaulted me, and later that year, Granny Smith died. She was a wonderful grandmother. I told her what Ellen did, and her eyes opened wide with fright, and she said, “Stay away from her.” Ellen was living downstairs, so I really couldn’t stay away; but I got the picture. That was a very hard year.
When things went to hell with Stevil, I felt wretched. Another failed connection with someone. I didn’t blame myself, I don’t think (hard to remember), but it reaffirmed my worldview that no one other than my dad could be trusted. That paranoia closed in on itself time and time again. I never had anyone supporting me but my dad. Years and years of that hellish friendless reality.
I guess I understand it now. Stevil, like most people, isn’t an open book like I am. He freaked out when my answer was, “No, I wasn’t sexually abused,” because he knew then that I’d figured out he was. Still, he did a number on me. But from now on, if a relationship of mine goes bad, I’ll remind myself that this has to do with Stevil, not with me, and maybe the pattern will change.
Maybe the next time a guy rejects me, I won’t hear, “You’re too ugly for me, and you deserved to be beaten by your parents!” Maybe I’ll just hear, “I’m not interested, but I wish I were, because you’re the most stunningly sexy and vibrant woman I’ve ever encountered.” That would be nice. [Nods.]
Things seemed to go a bit better with the mail employee than things have gone before. I was only a little mean to him, versus going off the deep end. I think it helped that I made a play for him early on instead of becoming close friends with him. It’s part of my demisexual nature to view male friendship as a launching pad for more. When I become close friends with a guy, I’m always going to want more, unless he’s already married, or gay, etc., etc., in which case it could be ideal friendship time. Because if a man’s already married or gay, then there’s no issue of my not being sexy enough, or pretty enough, or whatever enough. But the guy at the post office wasn’t even interested in friendship, and I see now that it’s because he’s not capable of it. Some people aren’t cut out for interactions, so they fly their drones in search of truth. Fly on, I guess.