My first essay for XOJane caught the eye of a guy who posts on some kind of MRA board. Of course it did. Why wouldn’t it? That’s a hazard of the job. If you write about dating, especially if you’re my age and still single, you eventually become a target to men who want to dissect why you’re alone or unmarried. (Or even if you're just out there dating, as in Mara Mercer's recent story for xoJane.)
After 2 comments here and a couple on my website alerting me to the forum, I decided to respond to their comments. What did they say? You know. The basics. I was a fat cock carousel rider who needed bangs to cover her giant fivehead and should wear “hose” in order to conceal the bed sores on my legs.
I don’t repeat any of this to elicit sympathy. I’ve been doing this a very long time. Comments about my weight or looks or single status don’t really have an impact on me at this point. I’ve heard much worse. To be honest, I was rather amused at the speculation that, based on the photos from the post, I had had Botox, was wearing expensive shoes and was carrying a designer purse. The shoes cost $90. The “purse” was an Adidas gym bag. My allegedly wrinkle free forehead was courtesy of my Dad’s Sicilian genes and Olay’s Regenerist product line. Was this an MRA forum or US Weekly?
As I read their thoughts, what I wondered was what they hoped to gain from getting me to see this site. Was I supposed to feel shame or embarrassment? What was I supposed to do, read their words and immediately alter everything in my life based on their perceptions?
Some of what they said was true. I made some crappy choices in my twenties and thirties aka “my prime.” Could I stand to lose some weight? I suppose so, though I happen to like my body now, far more than when I was in my thirties. Nothing I can do about my forehead.
As for my ride on the cock carousel, let’s just say that I’m not hopping off that particular merry-go-round any time soon. Did I wind up 44 and single because of a series of decisions, some good, some spectacularly bad? Yes. Could any or all of those choices have led me down a path where I ended up single? Of course. I’d be delusional to say that they didn’t.
So what now? I guess I’m supposed to be filled with regret over my barren womb and spinster future. Even if I were, what good would that do?
I’m a big advocate of personal accountability. I have a quote that I love, one that I hope to include in the forward of a book that I write someday. It was coined by none other than xoJane’s own Mandy Stadtmiller.
“Own your shit. Somebody has to.”
There’s something incredibly liberating about accepting the role your choices played in the current state of your life. You develop an almost Teflon-like shell. That’s ideal for someone writing publicly about love, dating and sex. I can say with great confidence that anything that has been hurled at me I have analyzed to the minutiae and belabored long before. Self-loathing is never a good look for anybody. It makes you do some really foolish things. You can become a slave to it.
Through my work, I’ve come to the conclusion that fear of being alone is a powerful motivator for a woman. We’re conditioned to be afraid of this potential outcome. I once had a man suggest that dating multiple people or engaging in casual relationships was nothing more than a game of musical chairs.
“You don’t want to end up without a chair,” he said.
But what if I do? Who’s to say what my deadline is for finding a long term partner? Who died and made them arbiter of such things?
I think that is the primary goal of these MRA/Manosphere blogs. They want us to be filled with dread and regret in the hopes that we’ll just throw our hands up and cry uncle and eventually settle down with one of them. Or maybe they just want us understand how they feel. I know it’s not as simple as wanting to vent. There’s a goal there, and it’s not just about wounding us. It’s about forcing us to acknowledge them. That’s interesting, isn’t it, given that many women in my age range so often feel invisible?
What didn’t surprise me was that, when I did finally address the men writing about me, they were all incredibly welcoming. I’ve tangled with a number of guys like this on my site. They all back down fairly quickly when challenged. They really just want a woman to engage them.
I acknowledged the comments, corrected a few misconceptions and then encouraged them to continue the bangs or no bangs debate. There was a time when I probably would have tried to take them down a peg. But that was when I wasn’t willing to admit to myself that there was some truth to their words.
A writer and even a casual reader can tell when someone has struck a nerve with their target. To unleash my wrath would be nothing more than a tell. They’d know immediately that they had me. I would have made myself chum. It wasn’t a refusal to reveal my hurt that caused me not to lash out. I genuinely did not feel any anger. To be able to sit and review their insights and laugh over most of it was somewhat of an accomplishment for me. It signified that I had reached a level of acceptance of my life, my body and my looks that I hadn’t realized I had achieved.
I’m 44. I’m single. I have a fivehead. Am I content 100% of the time? No. But neither are some people who are part of a couple. That’s life. It ain’t all puppy dogs and rainbows.
I’m doing the best I can to make the most out of this life that I have created for myself. I honestly think that’s all we can and should expect of ourselves.