Here is my recent post for the super smart USA Today College. If you have not checked them out, they are a must. Recently, I found myself in a random, yet fascinating, conversation at one of my favorite coffee shops (a.k.a. “my office”) on a snowy afternoon. To be honest, conversations with strangers are one of my favorite things on Earth. Knowing you may never see them again allows a pure honesty that you don’t always get with people you see on a day-to-day basis. In this quickly intimate conversation, we began talking about friendships – and he made one of the most thought-provoking statements that I had heard in a long time. “We are represented by our five closest friends.” The comment was almost flippant, but it sent me reeling. I have always been a proponent of “you are who you surround yourself with,” but the simplicity of this utterance made me wonder about my five people – and am I really OK with them representing me? College is an interesting time for friendships and sometimes we end up hanging on to friendships with freshmen dorm roommates and floormates instead of people who support, inspire us and make our days better. Without even realizing it, you might find yourself spending your time talking, studying, eating and socializing with people you don’t have much in common with, let alone even like. Why does this matter – and what does it have to do with dating? Well, everything. Friends impact us in many, many ways. They can affect our mood, confidence, lifestyle choices, social life, schedule, etc. In other words, they are either helping or hurting. So, here are three types of friends who may be keeping you from your best love life. Do any of them sound familiar? Read the rest of the story on USA Today.
OK, I give up. I was talking to a friend at a party last night and he said something that made me want to climb into a dark hole and pretend society was never invented. I may be a little melodramatic, but at least I have a heart of gold… Or something.
So this friend and I were exchanging stories of awkward dates (or in my case, what I didn’t even realize was a date until I was in a ball-gown at a fancy hotel and it was too late, but that’s a story for another day). We got to talking about the dynamics of crushes and all, and he tells me that he’s more the shy type, so if he really likes a girl, he’ll talk about the weather but won’t actually ask her out, for fear of messing things up.
“What if she asks you to hang out sometime?”
“No, I wouldn’t. Definitely not. Because talking about the weather is safe, but if we hang out and something happens, I could say or do something stupid to ruin it and then I’d feel bad. I just don’t want to feel bad, I’d rather be friends.”
I’m not kidding. This happened. It was like something out of a bad psychology class improv game. (Do they play improv games in psych class? Well, they do now.) Personally, I’d rather take the risk and enjoy the thrill, and the clarifying of things that comes along with being open. But who am I to say what’s right?
Clearly this guy is not an alpha male. For one, I was having a lovely conversation with him, so that’s an indicator right there (I seriously can’t deal with alphas). He’s also a self-proclaimed shy guy. And really, he seems like a great catch. But what he said made my brain fall out of my head and run away up the street. He also proceeded to follow it up with an assertion that it makes sense because men are more often the ones who fall in love first in a relationship. This is apparently a scientific fact. And justification for being a total wuss.
Is this real? Is this actually a thing? Are there people who would rather let go of someone they’re really into because it’s less scary than seeing if it could work out? Well, I guess there must be since there are all sorts of people running around out there. It just makes no sense. What’s the point of being friends with someone you’re all giddy for if you’re not going to even try connecting in a more significant and meaningful way? No sense at all. Here, let’s turn it into a math problem, maybe that will help:
Possibly dating awesome person < Irrational fear of emotional response
Ok, no, I’m still lost. And what if the girl reciprocates? Not only would he never find out, but she’ll probably feel bad that he didn’t try and thinks he doesn’t even like her. And then not only does he feel crummy, but she does too. It’s a lose-lose situation. Again, using math:
Having guts > Not having guts.
He did also say, though, that he’s not about the lay, and that he knows sex is an emotional investment. I can admit that’s always a relief to hear. There are decent people out there, even lovely, wonderful ones. So don’t lose hope!
OK. Fine. As someone who’s awkward and shy myself, I should be more understanding. I usually overcompensate by acting boisterous (ok fine, obnoxious), or running off to take photos of the dark night because I’m too nervous when I realize the boy I like wants to kiss me. I did do that. I’m not proud. And I get it. I get that it’s hard, and that risk is hard. I’m sympathetic. It’s just also maddeningly counterproductive.
Apparently a number of these shy boys may actually be more content to stare at you from the safety of the other side of the room because it’s better than legit conversation. Now I’ve started wondering what happens to boys like that. Do they just end up with someone they feel kind of bland about? Do they end up living alone with a dozen cats? Why does the term “cat lady” exist but not “cat gentleman?” Maybe they grow up eventually. They must. But wait, what do we do until then? Date guys over 30? I hope y’all have some grad students at your college.
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When you meet someone you click with, it’s like a flock of doves form a perfect heart in the sky. It’s like bells ring and you just want to do crazy things like shout from mountain tops and skip in flower fields. But sometimes when we get too eager or do weird things, like nervously talk about our ex too often, and then the person we sing “Sweet Fantasy” about in our cars during rush hour gets turned off. There are actions that can ruin a perfectly good thing way before it even begins. TRUST ME (serious face). This is me, helping you and I want you to succeed with those names your draw hearts around when you should be taking notes in class. I don’t really want to talk about the times I said things that were not cool for school and made my crush put me in the “undateable category,” or the times I got too serious too fast, or the times I got really drunk and made a fool of myself in front of the guy I liked. Sorry, it’s too soon. So here’s how you can lose a crush in 10 days: 1. Sharing too much too soon: Telling someone you can’t save money, you eat with your hands, or you have 10 speeding tickets is not so cute. Those are forgivable things once you get to know each other and your bad habits are considered cute, however, when you’re disclosing this kind of inside info to someone you just met in line at Starbucks, they won’t think it’s cute. When you date or meet someone new, just be yourself and hold the weird secrets for later (when they’re cute). 2. Being clingy: Texting, calling, emailing, and Facebooking too much signals signs of neediness and codependency, two wrongs that don’t make a right. Both sexes like the chase, it’s true, don’t fight me on this! But if you’re in constant contact with someone, there’s no mystery left and there’s definitely no need to internet stalk (come on, you know that’s your favorite part). Things can burn out quickly if you’re talking too much in the beginning, so take it slow. What’s the rush? Life isn’t THAT short. 3. Being negative: I don’t care if you have a constant rain cloud over your head, put up a front if you want to get a second or third date. You might be thinking that you should just get it all out there right away, like that you feel like the world is a vampire and some other 90s song, but don’t. Like I said in #1, save it for later, and hey, maybe all that positive thinking will help you out? 4. Talking about your ex: Ugh, it’s too soon to be talking about your ex or the ex before that. Your date didn’t ask and I can bet you two weren’t talking about who you’ve dated on date numero uno. There’s no need to casually throw in “my ex had a Honda” or “my ex was a backup dancer.” A lot of people have Honda’s and a lot of people dance, er, right? Not just your ex. Why ruin something new by talking about something old? 5. Over-sharing how much you like your new crush too soon: It’s nice and flattering, but sometimes it can be a killer. Expressing you really like your crush and maybe that you want to go on another date or that you like where it’s going is good, having word vomit and going zero to white picket fence is bad. 6. Getting really, really drunk: #5 WILL happen and it will happen all over the place. It will happen in a doorway, on a couch and outside your car, and when you finally realize why your crush isn’t texting you back the next day, you will be embarrassed. I hope this helps. Oh, and don’t forget to say please and thank you. Good luck! Get in touch with me on Twitter @JessicaDruck or at Blog with Benefits where I talk about more stuff like this! Photo found on hateyu4wat.tumblr.com
We’ve all heard it before. Communication is the key to a strong, healthy relationship. I always knew that, but what I didn’t know was that being upset and using personal insults didn’t count as good communication. I mean, I was talking to the other person, right? I didn’t know any better, and when you start doing one thing, it’s hard to change your ways. Well recently, I met a guy that completely changed the way I thought about communicating in a relationship. I’m here to tell you guys everything that I’ve been doing wrong in the past four years of dating. That’s right. That’s how much I love you guys.
My Gigantic Communication Mistake #1: Answering a Question with a Question.
You know what it sounds like. “Who is that girl?” “Why, do you know her?” Or “What’s up?” “Nothing, why?”. It’s never a good idea to answer a question with a question, no matter how tough, rude, or out-of-the-blue the question is. It can only make you sound suspicious, and it reminds me of those cop movies where answering a question with a question means that you have something to hide (and they’re usually the guilty one…). I’m sure it’s not quite so dramatic, but my point is, answer the damn question when you’re asked. It’s better that you’re upfront and honest than to seem vague and shady.
My Gigantic Communication Mistake #2: Abusing the phrase “okay” and “sure”.
Everybody knows that saying “okay” or “sure” is female dictionary code for “I don’t like that, but whatever, go ahead because I don’t feel like talking about it anymore”. There comes a point where using anything too many times becomes ineffective, and I did just that. Eventually, they stop listening to your explanation-less responses and go ahead and do whatever they want to anyway. And that, my friend, is how to destroy communication between two people.
My Gigantic Communication Mistake #3: Talking too much.
I know it sounds stupid – if I talk a lot, I might as well talk a lot because that’s just how I am. But sometimes I talk so much that it sounds like I’m not even listening to what my guy is saying. And really, guys want to be heard as much as girls do, so shutting up and listening is really important to do sometimes.
My Gigantic Communication Mistake #4: Attempting to decode somebody that I don’t know well enough.
And it takes a lot to know somebody well enough to decode what they’re saying. I’ve known some people for like seven years and I still have no idea what they’re trying to convey under the words that they actually say. I’m not over-analyzing, I swear! Sometimes, it is what it is, and they really do just mean what they say. Don’t look for subtext all the time because you probably won’t find it, and that will only frustrate you further. But sometimes, there’s some serious decoding to do, which you shouldn’t attempt unless you know them incredibly well.
Now that I have thoroughly embarrassed myself, I think it’s time that you list some other communication mistakes for me. What are you going to do to stop them?
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When I was younger, a friend once shoved a copy of Tiger Beat under my nose and demanded that I declare my allegiance to one of the five Backstreet Boys. (I’m not even kidding…. She had an actual Tiger Beat in her hand, which is more cliché than I could even come up with.) I was confused; I felt no affinity to any of them, despite their bowl cuts and playground pedophile facial hair. But of course my friend said I must choose one so that I would have a favorite.
About a decade and a half later we’re all grown women, much more sophisticated than we were at the cusp of puberty. We now substitute real people for boys on posters and are subtler about the whole choosing thing. I never got it. And I never chose a Backstreet Boy.
We do this thing, as girls, where we bond over boy talk, and that’s a lovely thing. But sometimes it becomes imperative to create a topic of conversation, if there isn’t really one at hand. I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone through various periods of time where I just didn’t really have a crush on anyone. Sure, there were attractive people around, but no one really held my interest.
Oddly enough, I crush on people because of a convergence of attraction, intellect, humor, and other standard elements of romantic interaction, not because I need something to talk to my friends about. On a related note, if I seem content with my life and am not complaining about lacking a love-life, please don’t think you have to get me a boyfriend, too, just because yours is lovely. I think we all know the kind of conversation I’m referring to.
I think there are many things we can talk about with our lady friends, and love-tinged conversations tend to be more organic and honest when they focus on a legitimate subject of emotional investment. This isn’t tea with the queen and boys aren’t the weather. My point is: let’s not go too crazy. Silly things are fun, but personally, and I’m guessing for many others as well, those things tends to be more along the lines of recounting Portlandia episodes than arbitrarily choosing someone to crush on just for the sake of it.
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You know, I have always considered myself to be a pretty trusting person. I leave my car doors unlocked way too often. I am very open with a lot of my stories, even the ones that make me look like an ass. (See every blog post I have written on this site.) In my younger years I was somewhat gullible because growing up in a small town in Wisconsin didn’t leave me with tons of life experience. I like rollercoasters…. a lot. Remember the trust falls, you do at camp or leadership trainings? Yeah…. I kicked ass at those.
So you can bet I was surprised as hell when trust looked me in the eye not too long ago, challenging me in a 4th grade stare down. Turns out, I lost.
Here is another one of those stories where I pretty much look like an ass. But it IS Ladies Dating Badly week, so this one is for you.
Awhile ago, I was exploring something new with someone pretty special. Things had been going swimmingly, which is remarkable for me. After a long time of my own self-discovery, I had finally found someone who wanted to meet me halfway. He was crazy smart, down to earth and the kind of guy that when he started laughing I couldn’t help but laugh with him. His accent made my toes curl and his sweetness towards me would instantly kick down any wall that had been left there from previous suitors. Here is the real kicker, though. He would ask questions, truly listen and every day make sure I was feeling taken care of. True story.
Being a recovering “fixer,” that was very brand new in the slightly wacky world of Kira. Although I was able to thrive like I had never had in a relationship before, I occasionally would default into the artist formerly known as “Freaked Out” and find myself not quite sure what to do with all of the…. goodness.
It was scary. Having this person consistently and lovingly offer something of himself to me every day threw me off. I had never known this and with this beautiful gift comes the fear of it being taken away; once you feel this stunning happiness that you never even knew existed, the thought of it going away is terrifying.
Finally, one night, way too late, we stayed up talking in a tough conversation. I was feeling vulnerable, he was a little confused and I was immediately going to that place waiting for the other shoe to drop like it had so many times before.
Although we were having a healthy and open conversation, in my mind, I was waiting for him to tell me that he liked me and all, but was moving along. Sweetly, of course, because he was just that good of guy. I was waiting to hear that I had been too much of one thing or too little of something else, and it just wasn’t going to work out. I sat there that night knowing we would fix this, but wondering how long it would take him to realize that I was very imperfect, that the confidence I have fades away some times when things get tough. That I have messed up many times before. That I say the wrong things. That tend to spill things. And I spill a lot.
So, in the quiet of the evening. Way too late for him since he had to wake up early to work, I sat there. Silent. Wanting to shout out my fears. My insecurities. My stuff. My feelings for him that downright overwhelm me some days. But as my mind was tired and running, I became scared that he might take one look at “the crazy” and run away. Like so many had before.
So, I blurted out some kind of nonsense. Mumbled something about fear and leaving and liking him.
And then, he looked inside of me, saw my fear and gently took it from me. He quietly said, “I am here. It is time that you trust me. I think I have proven myself to you and deserve that. Without it, this is never going to work.”
And you know what? He had. Over and over again. Whether some days I deserved it or not. He was always there. Willing to listen, laugh, care or tell me how much he liked my hair.
It was time for ME to stop dating badly, ladies. To put some trust in this incredible man who deserved it. Because by me not believing in him, believing in the relationship and trusting him, I was subtly sabotaging it. Pushing him away. Buying a ticket on the crazy train although no one had done anything wrong. A relationship can not grow or thrive without trust. You will just keep hitting walls, fears and hurt until you have pushed so hard that you have given the relationship no choice.
Ladies, we love to bitch about how tough dating is. How many jerks and douchebags are out there. How hard it is to find great guys. How many times and ways we have been hurt. But I will tell you this: even when you find it, the really really, good stuff, it is still hard. Then the battle with yourself begins.
But don’t worry, The College Crush is on your side, and you can win. We have an arsenal of awesome to help you out.
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The idea of “happily ever after” surrounds us on a daily basis. We turn on the TV to see women fighting other women to “win” the man of their “dreams” after knowing him a whopping three months, turn on any country radio station and every man on there is pouring his heart out over a woman, and it’s on the cover of every tabloid magazine we see in line at the grocery store. Now, while we are sitting there crying over staged proposals (admit it you’ve teared up at least once while watching “The Bachelor”), most likely the guys in our lives are standing there staring at us, jaw agape, in absolute shock that we are falling for this. But men shouldn’t be let off the hook that easy, when they are by no means innocent. They may not fall for the “fairy tale” in the way women do, but do they have unrealistic expectations of women that they gathered from their favorite movies growing up — you better believe that they do!
Movies make us forget what it really means to be human and how that affects romance and while us ladies want to be swept off our feet, men fall for a different kind of fantasy. Growing up, guys learned from movies that women should be absent of any bodily imperfections, don’t use the restroom (ever!), always wake up with a fresh faced glow, and mostly are just around for the guy’s pleasure. Then they turned 16 and realized that this is not what life is like, that all girls in high school aren’t Phoebe Cates from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and most likely that pool scene fantasy is going to remain just that…a fantasy. The women in these movies that men drooled over had no story arcs or purpose other than to be an object to lust over and a trophy to the male character. Most likely if we, as women, were dropped into any of the movies that men love we would not be very happy. There are no grand romantic gestures, longing glances, or overwhelmingly romantic make-out sessions here, but I promise you that there will be violence, little conversation and lots of sex. I guarantee that no girl out there has ever said, “Man, I wish I was Adrian, I’d love to date Rocky!” Even though “Rocky” is a great movie, it’s not the fantasy we wish we could lead, it is all a little too shockingly real.
It’s no wonder women and men can, at times, have such difficulty navigating relationships when we are programmed from two very different schools of thought. Girls want Prince Charming and guys want the Trophy Wife, neither exist and therefore that is the reality we must face. So, what I offer you now is a fresh prospective on what guys fell for growing up and what women did not fall for, but should of given a second chance.
Why we didn’t fall for him:
- Although, a typical “bad boy” his particularly rough around the edges personality makes him unapproachable, not mysterious
- He’s not very educated
- He’s an underdog, past his prime, with the world stacked against him
A fairy tale character he is not, but maybe he deserves a second glance:
- He’s an underdog with the world stacked against him, yet he doesn’t give up on his dream, even after being told time and again that he’s worthless.
- He has real emotions and outbursts.
- In the end, when all is said and done, he lost the fight, but the only thing he cared about was finding Adrian, the only person who constantly stood by him.
Sloane Peterson (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off):
Why guys fell for her:
- Classic girl next door, she was sweet and unassuming
- She was spontaneous and fun
- She never questioned or argued with Ferris, she just was just happy to go along for the ride
Why she is too good to be true:
- In her last line, that’s basically a throw away line because Ferris doesn’t hear her say it, she says, “He’s gonna marry me. I know it.” Right there. Done. Over. Not what a high school boy is thinking or wants to hear.
- She’s just an accessory to Ferris, no real hopes or dreams of her own beyond being his girlfriend.
- She never questions or argues with Ferris about his crazy plans and just goes along with his every whim. That girl does definitely not exist.
After all this, I am never saying to give up on your “happily ever after”, I completely believe that they do exist, we just have to stop expecting it to look a certain way. That goes for men, too. We may not be the picture-perfect, girl next door who rips off our red bikini the moment we see you, but we are pretty awesome and sexy in our own way. So, put down that movie you were about to watch for the hundredth time just to see the scene where Ryan Gosling is shirtless and says he can do the lift from “Dirty Dancing” and spend time with a real guy, a great one!
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It’s today’s world it’s considered kind of funny, even cute to be a bumbling mess. It works for Kate Hudson and Sandra Bullock in almost every romantic comedy. But unfortunately, in the real world being a hot mess isn’t as attractive and you’re just seen as a mess. Sometimes the world can get to you and it’s OK to have your moments. At times the only way to work your way back up is to hit rock bottom. While it may seem like things will never look up, when you finally make it back to the top there are a gem of lessons you collect on your journey back up. Here’s what I learned from my breakdown.
1) You Are In Control
When it feels like your life is spinning and you feel like you have nothing to do but stay caught in the funnel cloud and there’s nothing to do but sit and and succumb to the idea that you are the next Courtney Love- don’t! Regardless of the situation there is a way for you to take control. You might not be able to change everything at once but there is at least one thing that you can manipulate or change to start to create bigger change. Once you start making small changes, the large changes will seem easier to tackle and at some point you will have conquered the downward spiral before you had the chance to hit rock bottom. The worst thing to do is nothing at all.
2) The Only Thing That Matters Is You
How often are we upset by other people? Breakups, friends talking behind our backs, not getting our dream job. None of that has to do with you. Those are other people’s issues and for some reason or another the issue caused them to act in a way that was hurtful towards you. But if you’re laying in bed for the next three weeks moping around about how someone else’s actions affected you, now YOU are the one making you miserable. Do whatever you need to do to get your head clear and focus on yourself. What do you want? This is obviously a much trickier question than it sounds like but you figure out what it is that you want and you focus on that. There are no guarantees in life with anything or anyone and if you give up what you want out of your life for someone else you will probably regret it forever. While I wouldn’t recommend emulating most of Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club” the girls in the cast almost every season use the phrase “You do you, I gotta do me.” So do YOU.
3) Give Love
When I’m feeling down I can be the meanest, snarkiest person on the planet, next to Simon Cowell. But it only makes me feel even worse. Wallowing in what I hate about my neighbors wardrobe isn’t getting me anywhere. But offering to dog sit for her did. I believe in the laws of attraction and when you give love and positive energy, you receive it back. So no matter how small a kind deed seems it’s worth it for you and to help brighten someone else’s day to give love instead of sit in judgement.
Having a breakdown is nothing to be embarrassed about. It happens to everyone. No one would argue that life is tough. The most important thing is to try to have a tiny bit of self-awareness and realize that this is a phase and we are not powerless against it. What have YOU learned from going through tough times?
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If you’re a woman, it probably does.
Do you ever hear any of these comments from your spouse, partner, boss, friends, colleagues, or relatives after you have expressed frustration, sadness, or anger about something they have done or said?
When someone says these things to you, it’s not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling—that’s inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation—pure and simple.
And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.
I think it’s time to separate inconsiderate behavior from emotional manipulation and we need to use a word not in our normal vocabulary.
I want to introduce a helpful term to identify these reactions: gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a term, often used by mental health professionals (I am not one), to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.
The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.
Today, when the term is referenced, it’s usually because the perpetrator says things like, “You’re so stupid” or “No one will ever want you” to the victim. This is an intentional, pre-meditated form of gaslighting, much like the actions of Charles Boyer’s character in Gaslight, where he strategically plots to confuse Ingrid Bergman’s character into believing herself unhinged.
The form of gaslighting I’m addressing is not always pre-mediated or intentional, which makes it worse, because it means all of us, especially women, have dealt with it at one time or another.
Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction—whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness—in the person they are dealing with. Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal.
My friend Anna (all names changed to protect privacy) is married to a man who feels it necessary to make random and unprompted comments about her weight. Whenever she gets upset or frustrated with his insensitive comments, he responds in the same, defeating way, “You’re so sensitive. I’m just joking.”
My friend Abbie works for a man who finds a way, almost daily, to unnecessarily shoot her down and her work product. Comments like, “Can’t you do something right?” or “Why did I hire you?” are regular occurrences for her. Her boss has no problem firing people (he does it regularly), so you wouldn’t know that based on these comments, Abbie has worked for him for six years. But every time she stands up for herself and says “It doesn’t help me when you say these things,” she gets the same reaction: “Relax; you’re overreacting.”
Abbie thinks her boss is just being a jerk in these moments, but the truth is, he is making those comments to manipulate her into thinking her reactions are out of whack. And it’s exactly that kind manipulation that has left her feeling guilty about being sensitive, and as a result, she has not left her job.
But gaslighting can be as simple as someone smiling and saying something like, “You’re so sensitive,” to somebody else. Such a comment may seem innocuous enough, but in that moment, that person is making a judgment about how someone else should feel.
While dealing with gaslighting isn’t a universal truth for women, we all certainly know plenty of women who encounter it at work, home, or in personal relationships.
And the act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting.
Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.
It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.
Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: it renders some women emotionally mute.
These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.
When these women receive any sort of push back to their reactions, they often brush it off by saying, “Forget it, it’s okay.”
That “forget it” isn’t just about dismissing a thought, it is about self-dismissal. It’s heartbreaking.
No wonder some women are unconsciously passive aggressive when expressing anger, sadness, or frustration. For years, they have been subjected to so much gaslighting that they can no longer express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them.
They say, “I’m sorry” before giving their opinion. In an email or text message, they place a smiley face next to a serious question or concern, thereby reducing the impact of having to express their true feelings.
You know how it looks: “You’re late :)”
These are the same women who stay in relationships they don’t belong in, who don’t follow their dreams, who withdraw from the kind of life they want to live.
Since I have embarked on this feminist self-exploration in my life and in the lives of the women I know, this concept of women as “crazy” has really emerged as a major issue in society at large and an equally major frustration for the women in my life, in general.
From the way women are portrayed on reality shows, to how we condition boys and girls to see women, we have come to accept the idea that women are unbalanced, irrational individuals, especially in times of anger and frustration.
Just the other day, on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a flight attendant who had come to recognize me from my many trips asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I write mainly about women, she immediately laughed and asked, “Oh, about how crazy we are?”
Her gut reaction to my work made me really depressed. While she made her response in jest, her question nonetheless makes visible a pattern of sexist commentary that travels through all facets of society on how men view women, which also greatly impacts how women may view themselves.
As far as I am concerned, the epidemic of gaslighting is part of the struggle against the obstacles of inequality that women constantly face. Acts of gaslighting steal their most powerful tool: their voice. This is something we do to women every day, in many different ways.
I don’t think this idea that women are “crazy,” is based in some sort of massive conspiracy. Rather, I believe it’s connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis. And gaslighting is one of many reasons why we are dealing with this public construction of women as “crazy”
I recognize that I’ve been guilty of gaslighting my women friends in the past (but never my male friends—surprise, surprise). It’s shameful, but I’m glad I realized that I did it on occasion and put a stop to it.
While I take total responsibility for my actions, I do believe that I, along with many men, am a byproduct of our conditioning. It’s about the general insight our conditioning gives us into admitting fault and exposing any emotion.
When we are discouraged in our youth and early adulthood from expressing emotion, it causes many of us to remain steadfast in our refusal to express regret when we see someone in pain from our actions.
When I was writing this piece, I was reminded of one of my favorite Gloria Steinem quotes, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”
So for many of us, it’s first about unlearning how to flicker those gaslights and learning how to acknowledge and understand the feelings, opinions, and positions of the women in our lives.
But isn’t the issue of gaslighting ultimately about whether we are conditioned to believe that women’s opinions don’t hold as much weight as ours? That what women have to say, what they feel, isn’t quite as legitimate?
Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based blogger, commentator, and political veteran whose writing is showcased on The Current Conscience.
At several points in my life, I’ve been presented with a choice:
1. Good, faithful, mentally stable, responsible, non-dramatic, steady-job guy
2. Brooding, mysterious, always-pursuing-his-art, passionate, prone-to-cheating, wherever-the-wind-takes-me guy
And after many years of psycho-analyzing my girlfriends, I know that I am not alone in my repeated choosing of option #2. I’ve spent a great deal of time lately trying to figure out why it is we get ourselves into these tumultuous relationships with unstable people. There’s always the old “women like a project,” but I’m not convinced that is always the case. I, for one, don’t like projects – they exhaust me – although you’d never know it from the vast amount of fixer-uppers I’ve been with. So, maybe it’s just the feeling of excitement that comes along with a risky guy because you never quite feel like you have that person entirely. Know what I mean? It’s like they’re always an arm’s length away.
We can’t say that we find ourselves in these risky relationships because we didn’t know better. We’re not fooling anyone with that excuse. Yes, people can be deceiving, but I think we always have a hunch deep down. They warn us, we just don’t listen. Once, I actually had a guy tell me, “He’s the nice guy – the guy you should be with. I’m not, I’m a huge risk. Dating me is like playing the stock market.” Well you know how that story ends.
I played, and I lost my @ss.
For years, I repeated this cycle of dating unstable men: the British heroin addict, the tortured musician, the comedian who needed more counseling than the world could provide, the passionate poet. So what keeps bringing us back?
Like I said, perhaps it’s the excitement. That desire to be the one person who can cure them. That passionate connection that seems to only happen when you’re with someone who you know it will never work out with. Or that you can’t ever really have.
I haven’t quite figured out the science, but I think it might be a combination of them all.
But, here’s what I have figured out: it’s not worth it, though it may seem like it. And I don’t expect anyone to go through life without some mistakes, bad relationships and crazy, passionate moments with all the wrong people. I did. And you will.
However, I’ll give you the spoiler alert. In the end, most of us want someone we can make a life with. You’ll want someone you aren’t constantly paranoid about every time he doesn’t text you or walks in the door late. You’ll want someone stable, who will be a good father to your kids. And you won’t want the financial stress of someone who can’t ever commit to a career or direction. Because although the unknown and the excitement and the risk may pique our interest for awhile, it fights against everything that we truly want: the concrete things in life that matter.
You know, the picket fence and all that crap.
Take my word on this one,
“It’s always tempting to lose ourselves with someone, but, eventually we all want reality.” - The Mom, My So-Called Life
Image found on http://weheartit.com/entry/77670310