Sunday, March 09, 2014

For a friend: Why Are Men Arseholes?

This blog is for a good friend. She knows who she is.

"You always hurt the one you love, the one you should not hurt at all;
You always take the sweetest rose, and crush it till the petals fall;
You always break the kindest heart, with a hasty word you can't recall;
So if I broke your heart last night, it's because I love you most of all."
 -- The Mills Brothers

"Each man kills the thing he loves." --Oscar Wilde

"Love of my life, you hurt me, You've  broken my heart, and now you leave me." --Queen


There are dozens of similar sentiments scattered throughout song and many that it almost seems like love and sabotage are synonyms. It's yet another of those cultural tropes I simply do not understand. Love and pain are opposites. Love is a salve for pain, and (to me, at least) the desire to inflict pain is a symptom of hatred, not love.

I'm not talking about unintentional hurts. A close, loving relationship actually increases the chance of these, for a while at least: in your desire to know every corner of your partner's mind, you can occasionally stub your toe on rocky mental outcroppings, and everyday life lived in proximity inevitably chafes if you let it. 

No, I'm talking about the big, blatant and obviously premeditated hurts, the kinds of things I've seen all too often inflicted on friends I care about, leaving me speechless with sympathetic pain, seething with muted anger and frustrated with my inability to lance the boil. Shared pain may be lessened...but I want a way to make it gone, to make it didn't happen. 
When someone hurts a friend of mine, they hurt me as well. Often, believe it or not, it's a physical its worst it feels like a punch in the gut, except it can last hours or even days. My mind is poisoned with a desire to hurt the hurter, and it can take an inordinate amount of skullsweat to restore equanimity. I must constantly remind myself that nobody is a villain in his own mind: everyone, without fail, acts in what they perceive to be their self-interest...and some people's concept of self-interest is remarkably narrow.

What to make of a man who leaves his partner, seemingly on the spur of the moment...but oh so casually lets it be known as he goes that the leaving had been planned and facilitated over months, that he had an apartment all set up? And then, months later, suddenly shows up on her doorstep proposing marriage? Sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? It brings to mind another cliché that makes no sense: "

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone...--Joni Mitchell

"...only know you love her when you let her go..".--Passenger

"...and it feels like I am just too close to love you
so I'll be on my way"--Alex Clare

Such bullshit. Of COURSE you know what you've got, or you wouldn't make the choice to make it gone. And you know you love her before you let her go--you've told her as much, haven't you? Were you lying? Evidently. And as far as being "just too close to love you"--that's right up there with the stupidest snatch of lyric I've ever heard in my life (It's you I love, but every time I think of you I throw up."

This sort of behaviour is almost (not quite) exclusively male.  As my friend says, "why are men such arseholes?" To which I bristle a bit internally--I'm a man, am I an arsehole? --before conceding that yes,  it does often seem like there are more arsehole men than women.

Lest anyone get the idea I'm blowing my own horn with these sorts of posts--trust me, I'm not. I have more than my share of faults and I'm sure many of them are just as incomprehensible to the average person as this is to me. That acknowledgement doesn't lessen my confusion, though.

To be fair (or at least as fair as I am capable of being when a friend of mine is hurt), it's not as if many men have real role models when it comes to love. Although there has been some progress over the last couple of generations, there remains a hell of a lot of work to do when it comes to raising boys. Men are still tacitly encouraged to bottle up, or even distrust, their emotions. Empathy is seen as a weakness rather than the great strength that it is. And women are so hyper-sexualized in this society that when you consider the empathy boys aren't generally raised with, it's little wonder so many women are seen as little more than notches on a bedpost. 

That doesn't, or at least shouldn't, excuse lying, cheating, leading a double life. And in my view, at least, some errors are so grievous, so fundamental, that they forever alter the relationship. It doesn't mean that some things are unforgivable...everything is forgivable. I means that forgiveness doesn't obligate someone to abrogate natural consequences. You choose to leave me in the most painful way possible: fine, I can forgive you and wish you well...but I'm not taking you back. Ever. If you had said anything, anything at all...even something as hackneyed as 'I need my space'...there are lots of ways to grant that space within the context of a relationship. But just buggering off one afternoon, when that morning, like any other, you were full of endearments? Securing an apartment and having his parents help him clean it up and repaint it, on the sly,  over a period of a couple of months? Frankly, that strikes me as sociopathic. 

And here I hear my dad reminding me the number of sides to any story equals the number of people in the story, plus the truth. Granted, I don't know this man, have never even met him, and I don't know his side of the story. But I think his actions speak -- quite loudly -- for themselves. Obviously he felt he had good reasons for leaving...he sure put a lot of effort into it. And just as obviously he feels he should be unequivocally forgiven that 'momentary' lapse in judgment and allowed to continue as if nothing had happened. Cut and dried, really.

I can't tell you what to do. I CAN  tell you what I'd do. Walk away.Trust that while it sometimes seems like all men are arseholes...some of us only *have* arseholes.

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