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It’s been months since I last heard from him. This doesn’t include the month he spent favoriting every single one of my tweets. Usually five in a row; it’s never in the moment or spontaneous, which leads me to believe that he was still deliberately trying to weasel his way into my brain.
I’ve been in abusive relationships before. Although the circumstances with this guy were different, it reminded me of being 20, when I was desperately clinging onto the last shreds of the relationship I had with my abusive drug dealer.
Was this this Twitter guy physically abusive to me? No. Did he threaten to kill me? No. Did he call me names? No. I never feared for my life with him. I didn’t think he was that stupid, but I do think he must’ve thought I was. Or he assumed that, as a woman, I wouldn’t say anything, because he knows that I’ve spent my whole life desperately trying to prove that I’m different than the “other girls.” That I’m not crazy. That I won’t make a public display of my anger. That I will sit back and take it.
Though this man has no personal experience of what that is like, he knows something about a woman’s struggles because he’s so well versed in feminist rhetoric. And I believe that because of that, he knew exactly how to exploit that. He knows that, as a woman, I must maintain my composure. He knows that if I were to call him out, he would have a bigger platform than I would to write a think piece for one of the many sites he writes for. He would have a place to speak about how he, this “good guy,” this male feminist, had been victimized by some crazy girl who was attention seeking, sex-obsessed, a recovering drug addict with an abusive past. That this girl didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like. It’s not like he was cheating. He never said he had a girlfriend. He never said we were in a relationship. “She just… snapped.”
Except I didn’t snap. I reached my limit of tolerating abuse in all of its insidious forms. This abuse, though it wont require the years of counseling, medication, or the EMDR therapy I underwent to treat the wounds from the relationship in which I was habitually raped, abused, threatened, and stalked, what he did to me was still abuse.
Maybe he thought he was in the clear. Enough time has passed now that he probably thinks, “Whew, I dodged a bullet there!” But I haven’t forgotten. And I’m fucking angry that I’ve let him stick around in my mind for as long as I have. I avoided writing this because I didn’t want to believe that I could have been so naive. I should have backed away at the first sign of his bullshit.
This guy came into my life roaring like a hurricane, sending me late-night texts, proclaiming his adoration for me, even though I had only only hung out with him once in a group setting on his podcast. I was a girl who he had only interacted with on Twitter through witty replies.
Normally, this kind of sudden interest would set off alarms in me, but he wasn't a normal guy. He was a self-proclaimed, proud feminist man. He often posted about Gamergate, being pro-choice; he had queer female friends. This guy was woke as fuck!
We spent the next two months texting nightly, often until 4 or 5 in the morning. He gave me detailed specifics and reasons of why I was the most incredible, the most beautiful, the funniest, the smartest, the best writer, the sexiest. Who wouldn’t want to hear that? Even the most secure woman can become intoxicated by certain words and sentiments when they’re that calculated. He knew exactly where to hit me. I bought everything he sold me.
We hung out only twice, which I thought was kind of weird because we lived just a few miles away from each other, but I just assumed it was because he was so busy with his career. I trusted him, and I wasn’t looking for a relationship anyway, but whatever was happening with him did feel nice.
When the first red flag slapped me across the face, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Sure, everyone gets too drunk and texts once in a while. I mean, not me. He knew that I’m a recovering alcoholic. He knew that I’ve been sober for nearly my entire twenties and that staying sober is the most important thing to me. But sure, everyone gets drunk and asks if their female neighbor can do cocaine while you both hook up with her, right? Sure, everyone gets drunk and passes the phone to said girl while you’re in the middle of a seemingly private text conversation. Sure, everyone gets drunk and texts, “She’s fingering herself right now and I’m watching her.” Sure, everyone wakes up the next day and refuses to respond to the pleading questions lingering on their phone. Everyone ignores it and hopes it goes away.
When he decided he was done texting, he stopped responding to me. A week went by, and I hadn’t heard from him. It was the longest we had gone without talking. When I finally texted him to tell him that he hurt me, he dismissively said, “Whoa, I’m super sorry. I didn’t know you would have that kind of reaction.” I guess he assumed I’d be okay with him and some girl drunk texting me about having a coke fueled three-way and then ghosting me for a week.
I gave him the benefit of the doubt, because I, still intoxicated by the pages of text he had once sent me, was hoping that this was some kind of mistake. That maybe he was embarrassed. I should let it go. I probably incited this after all, having said to him at some point that I was bisexual and not opposed to threesomes.
He invited me over. We watched a movie and he held me. We laughed heartily. He made me dinner. We had sex. I chose to ignore the comment he made about me being “the oldest person he knew to start classes at UCB.” I’m in my late 20s. Whatever. I let him smoke my cigarettes. I left the pack at his house, but he didn’t tell me I left the pack at his house because I didn’t hear from him for almost two weeks after that.
I picked up the phone and texted him: “I think it’s dumb that I haven't heard from you.” I said.
“Me too,” he replied.
I wanted to play it cool. I wasn't his girlfriend after all. At least we were talking again.
Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Rachel, seriously? You’re a dumbass. This guy sucks.” Look, I get that. I did not fully grasp that at the time, which is why I wasted a lot of time blaming myself instead of calling him and other faux feminist men out.
No one wants to believe they could be “dumb” or “weak” enough to not see through someone’s bullshit and kick their ass to the curb. However, being in the thick of an abusive situation had once again blinded me to what was really happening. He was that good at it.
The day we started talked again turned into one of my worst days in recent memory. One of my best friends committed suicide.
As soon as I found out, I texted him panicked, reeling, afraid, because my entire world felt like it was collapsing. He said, “I am here.” He sounded genuine. And of course I believed him, because his public persona is all about what a kind, compassionate, charitable, on-the-right-side-of-history, feminist, activist man he is. He’s one of the good guys.
When he didn’t check in with me the next day, I reached out to him. He responded to my text, but our conversation was brief. Another week went by. I would never expect him to carry me through this ugly time, but to disappear like this again was unacceptable. Other people reached out to me. In fact, lots of people checked in on me. One friend was at my house every single day for two weeks straight. People I didn’t know from Twitter checked in on me. Everyone but him.
Finally, he reached out to me again.
“I’m sorry I’ve been radio silent but my whole life just blew apart.”
His. Life. Blew. Apart. This coming from someone who, just the day before, was posting pictures from Halloween Horror Nights, from concerts, from parties. This coming from someone who still had time to send tweets. Who still had time to get drunk and go out with friends. His life blew apart. Just another lie to try and keep me silent. To try and tame my growing disdain for the person he had been revealing himself to be. I knew now that he was not to be trusted. That no matter what he said to me from this point forward could be taken seriously. Because absolutely nothing he had said to me was ever backed up with action.
The last night we talked was on the 29th of October. I know this because I never deleted the text. He told me all of the nasty things he wanted to do to me. I participated in this conversation. How could I? Hadn’t I learned? Was I so blinded by grief that in this moment I decided to latch on to anyone that would make me feel instantaneous elation? I guess I was. He said he wanted to meet up. The last thing I texted him was a question: “What time will you be done your podcast tomorrow?”
I never heard from him again.
Months later and not a word. For that first month after he stopped texting, the only contact he made was in the form of those weirdly passive-aggressive Twitter faves he’d occasionally toss at me like I was some kind of dog waiting beneath the dinner table for fuckboy scraps. This is who he is.
Furious, and needing an outlet, I posted an open letter detailing my experience. I didn’t name names, but I didn’t need to, because my Facebook messaging inbox was suddenly flooded with accounts from women who had had this same experience with him. Women who felt they didn't have a leg to stand on because this guy with 10,000 Twitter followers convinced everyone he was a feminist. We all felt the same way: stupid and embarrassed that we had fallen for it.
It was at this point that I learned he’s had a girlfriend he'd lived with for the past year.
It’s easy to claim male feminist sainthood to an audience of strangers on the internet. It’s easy to learn the right jargon, the PC customs, the dos and don’ts of online behavior. It’s easy to convince that audience that he is who he says he is. That he’s “one of the good guys.” That he proudly supports a woman’s right to choose. That he would even go so far as to volunteer at a women’s clinic because the publicizing of it has been very good for his brand. He declares that he “gets” a woman’s struggle. He really fucking gets it. He’s a lovable nerd. A music lover. A film buff. A writer. A comic. An actor. He’s one of the good guys.