Small Victories

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A couple of months ago, I was stood up by a friend I’d recently got back in touch with. He fobbed me off on the phone, so I made myself feel better by sending him a vicious text, then an email telling him I expected far better from him and he wouldn’t be hearing from me any more as I had better things to do then wait for people who wasted my time.

Tonight, I finally hear from him. He explained he’d been in the middle of dealing with mental illness, which was why he had treated me so shabbily. He apologised profusely for jerking me around and said he felt deeply ashamed of his actions and that he’d do anything to make it up to me.

I can’t help but wonder if it was this no-bullshit stance that made him eat humble pie so willingly. Would he have apologised so profusely if he thought he could win me back with a smile? Did he think this girl is someone I want in my life so I’d better show I appreciate her? Would he have made such an effort to show appreciation if he’d thought all he needed to show was his charm? Would he have been so willing to admit he was wrong and ask my forgiveness – a deep sign of maturity and respect, IMHO – if I had been a silly little thing desperate for men to like me?

I don’t think so.

I feel like I achieved something today, in making a man realise he’d better treat me with respect or I won’t waste my time on him, and in making a man realise that he may not have to apologise to a silly little thing, but she won’t be nearly as interesting, challenging and thought-provoking as me. I realise this is just one man and one situation, but its given credence to my suspicions that men only treat women like crap because women let them, and if women stood their ground, men would soon enough back down from places they had no right to be in the first place.

Comments

  1. Mecha says

    I read this, and I am fundamentally… well, confused.

    I’m sure there are men and women out there who are so blindingly inconsiderate that they wouldn’t apologize for standing someone up, at all. What I don’t understand is why anyone would be so convinced that no man would apologize to a woman unless she… well, stood up to him and demanded, or guilted him, or such. And your language implied, mainly, that all guys would have to be yelled at, and not just ‘some’ of them.

    The archetype of the woman who witholds her affection/care until she is apologized to is actually an incredibly strong one in pop society, and I guarantee every guy, and most women, in the world would respond to it. One of the stereotypes of the female homemaker is that when her husband does something stupid, he has to, HAS to, make it up. Sleep on the couch, buy her flowers, whatever. Bad behavior recieves punishment (Much like a stupid animal: In the Doghouse didn’t come from nowhere.)

    Now, you can consider all of that really ‘shallow’ (He’s just playing at being contrite, what guy would apologize? Maybe the woman doesn’t really mean it, either?) and maybe some people are that way. But I don’t see the assumption that every guy would be that way, nor do I see every woman just throwing up the token effort and waiting for him to say ‘no’.

    Maybe this is just the male perspective here, or the US perspective here, or the fact that I apologize at the drop of a hat (to my ex’s consternation) but I don’t see a societal entitlement that men don’t have to apologize to women. I really don’t. Every bit of culture, pop and otherwise, that I am exposed to has established that if you don’t apologize, a woman (who isn’t a base bad stereotype to start with) doesn’t just simper, unless the woman tends to being abused, or is teenage (which is another problem of its own.) Nor do I see a lot of men who try to get away with it, unless they’re abusive or similarly stupid/teenage. I wasn’t socialized that way, and I don’t know anyone who was. Is this something that happens every day? Apologies left unsaid that you are absolutely certain that certain guys would give to another guy? Apologies that you would, of course, get from a woman? Or is it just that you’re seeing too many real-life women with excellent self-esteem otherwise who put up with crap?

    I guess, in the end, I don’t see why it’s a male ‘problem’ with a female ‘solution’, as opposed to the wonderful world of self-esteem for everyone. Considering your friend just got done with some mental issues, I’m betting he’s the low one on the self-esteem pole, and likely would have apologized anyway, if he worked up the courage, on the hopes of recieving the validation of someone he might care about. It could go the other way, after all.

    -Mecha

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    Men are always happy to apologize to me – which is ironic, since I don’t want it. Don’t tell me you’re sorry; anyone can say that. Tell me why you did what you did, so we can resolve the issue, or if it’s not resolvable, go our separate ways without hard feelings.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Scarlett’s guy here pulls the same thing over and over, and thinks apologizing is all it will take to bring her back to the table. Yeah, that’s cynical, but it’s a personality type I’ve run into more than once.

  3. Mecha says

    Ah, now there’s a different point altogether. The blessed and painfully rare why. A general step in the right direction.

    And I wouldn’t deny that’s a personality type that’s out there, certainly, and an annoying one, because that often brings upon the persecution complex (‘I apologized! Why won’t you treat me like BFFs again!’) But not only would one incident not confirm he’d changed (in fact, it’d be more of the same)… that alone wouldn’t reflect upon all men. Hence my confusion. Is this a male-only pattern? Do only men have the ‘my faults are light and need no heartfelt apology, so if you treat me bad it’s your fault’ mindset (if so, I imagine there’s more than one insensitive high school prom queen out there who would be surprised to find out she’s male.)

    As you commented before, once. The people of entitlement aren’t really ‘male’ or ‘female’ as we think about them. They just feel entitled. And this is one that doesn’t seem particulraly ‘male’ or ‘female’ in its base A man who doesn’t emotionally connect or percieve what he has done as hurtful? A woman who believes she is without fault? A person who doesn’t believe anyone deserves an apology for anything? Is this ‘patriarchy’ or ‘a number of people who are socially/mentally dysfunctional’?

    -Mecha

  4. scarlett says

    Those are all valid points. My post wasn’t too well thought out, I’d written it straight after so I was pretty hyper…
    I’ve often been someone who took people’s crap in the hope – well, I don’t know what I was hoping exactly. But this guy just treated my too shabbily to endure, so I turned around and told him exactly what I thought of him. And in the last week I’ve found calling people on their shabby treatment more often then not gets a rectification of their treatment. I always knew this is principle, but for me, having been motivated to do something and having it pay off has led me to realise that just saying ‘you’re treating me like crap and I won’t stand for it’ can work wonders. This applies to men and women.
    Of course, I expect my friend to make good on his promise to make it up to me and treat me better in the future and he’ll only get so many chances, mental illness or no. But it taught me a lesson about calling people on their crap.

  5. Jennifer Kesler says

    Those are good questions, and I’m not sure of the answer (whether it’s patriarchy or just immaturity). In my experience of personal friendships, men are more likely to apologize and expect you to move on, while women are more likely to rationalize and expect you to accept their rationalization without question and move on. Both responses are dismissive. What’s really insane is that they both seem to assume committing a sin and calling someone on the sin is equally hurtful: “I lied about you to your boss and cost you your job, and then you cussed at me, so now we’re even.” In my unasked opinion, this thinking should be treated as a sign of mental instability, because that’s just cockeyed.

    Again, I just can’t really speak to Scarlett’s experience. I think it can vary a lot from one person to another, from one region to another, etc. I’ve never had trouble getting men to apologize to me.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ve found that men are more respectful when you stand up to them and call them on stuff. But invariably, if they started out believing they were entitled to give me crap in the first place, it’s a non-starter of a relationship. We may become very casual friends, but that’s it.

    Sounds like you’re not investing much in this guy, which is smart. I let a female friend use her troubled childhood (like 90% of us don’t have those) on me for years before I realized she was just a professional victim.

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