Defining Misogyny is a series dedicated to sharing stories of how misogyny and gender-based discrimination have affected women and gender nonconforming people in our community. If you have a story you’d like to share, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Age 17. I allow the men in my life to view me as a service-provider. Custodian. Cook. Alibi. I am good, innocent, eager, and trustworthy. I can be relied upon to hide whatever secrets they needed kept. I want them to need me, existing in a fog of my own expectations while waiting to mold myself to theirs. I protect them, and wait for the moment when they will finally protect me. I keep waiting. I am the good sister, the good daughter, the good friend. I am a good girl.
Age 18. He is kind to me, and he is handsome, and he is smart, and when they look at me with him I finally feel seen. He is calling me, I can’t answer right now. 11 missed calls. 23 missed calls. 68 missed calls. He is going to throw himself off a bridge if I don’t answer. Who was I with? Where have I been? He doesn’t care that I am in a lecture. When he calls, I answer. That is how this works. Don’t I know that?
Age 19. I call him. I call him again. He was busy. Why am I so needy? When he calls I answer, but when I call it is not the same. We are not the same. Why don’t I know that yet? I’m putting on weight, he doesn’t like that. I need to go to the gym more. I leave. I am failing my classes. I drop out of school, drink too much, and will never find a man as good as him. I was stupid to let him go. I know they are right, but I have lost myself and I can’t find her anywhere. I look for her in the men that I kiss downtown, in the beds of coworkers. He is gone and I am empty.
Age 20. The city welcomes me like a gutter welcomes a lost glove. Catching me before I fall, but leaving me wet, dirty, and looking for shelter. I try to find it in my new school, my new friends, and my first apartment. I stumble. I see him in the bartender at my job, the regular that buys me drinks after my shift, and the man on Tinder that tells the cab “just one address” without asking me. I hate them, and I hate myself. I begin to resent them. I become them. Commitment becomes a foreign concept, one that is reserved for desperate little girls that needed somebody to love them back.
Age 21. I am lost.
Age 22. I am lost.
Age 23. I allow myself to feel again. Love, trust, fear, heartbreak – all of it. It feels good, and it hurts bad, but I finally know what it means to dive right into the human experience and indulge myself. I do this for me. He no longer dictates how I choose to love myself. I look in the mirror and I finally see who I am, instead of who he made me. I am capable of saying NO, of saying LISTEN TO ME, of saying I AM HERE. I will no longer be ignored by anyone. Especially myself.