Disclaimer: I don’t usually make personal stories public when they may hurt the people involved. In this case, I am making an exception because I think the subject matter is important and because the day after the incident I’m about to describe occurred, Emily sent out an email asking, “Are there words a man should never call a woman? Cunt? How about bitch?” The timing of her question made me think that perhaps this is one story I was meant to share. And anyway, the damage has been done.
"Some People Just Have Personality Problems"
I met my dear friend Jenna’s (names have been changed) boyfriend in July at her two-day birthday party. After casual sex for almost a year, they’d recently decided to take things to the next level and I was excited to meet him. I’d known her since 2007 and, in all of that time, she’d never dated anyone seriously.
Unfortunately, Brent didn’t make a very good first impression on me or any of Jenna’s friends. Some people drink and get funnier and nicer; unfortunately, the more Brent had to drink, the more caustic he became.
Nonetheless, the next day I decided I’d make an effort. After all, there had to be something redeeming about him; Jenna is one of the kindest, smartest, most amazing people I’ve ever met. She wouldn’t date a loser.
So I sat next to him at the pool and asked him questions about his life, his job and his ambitions. We talked for at least an hour and even though he didn’t ask me a thing about myself, I thought we’d made progress. That things had gone well. I saw the side of him that was earnest and well meaning. The side of him that Jenna loved.
Fast-forward a few hours (and many drinks on his part) and he came up to me and said, “I hear we’re going to have problems in the Tahoe house.”
“Excuse me?” I asked baffled as to why this guy was being confrontational about the house a group of us rent for five months in the winter.
“I just heard that we might have problems,” he said again.
“Well, I don’t know why you’d say that to me since I JUST met you, but I certainly hope we’re not going to have problems since Tahoe is my Zen place.”
“It’s OK,” he replied. “Some people just have personality problems.”
Clearly after that exchange, I knew that Brent and I were never going to be friends. I mean, how could we be?
But I also knew that for Jenna’s sake I needed to try. Except that as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get over it. When Jenna told me they were thinking about moving in together, I responded with, “That’s a horrible idea,” effectively inciting a huge blow up -- our first fight ever.
But fighting with Jenna felt awful. Especially when it was over a guy she seemed to really love, so I promised her I’d try. That I wanted the ski season to be drama-free and, more importantly, fun. I told her I would make an effort to learn all of the reasons she loved him so much. I assumed that implied he would do the same for me. I think at this point we all know I assumed wrong.
"I Am Going to Be So Pissed if He Comes in Here and Acts All Nice"
Fact: There are many parts of myself that need improvement. The good thing, though, is that I’m in therapy so I don’t need my friends’ weirdo boyfriends telling me that after knowing me for one day.
Fact: One of the things I am working on is learning how to let things go. Unfortunately, I kind of suck at it. So when I found out Jenna and Brent were headed up to the Tahoe house last weekend (the first time I’d be seeing him since Jenna’s birthday), I might have said to my friends, “Ugh, I’m going to be so pissed if he comes in here and acts all nice.”
I admit it -- a part of me wanted him to do something egregious so that not only would my dislike of him be validated, but so that other people would see the side of him that I saw.
“Lucky” for me, Brent made all of my dreams come true. It started when he walked into the house and didn’t say hi to me or any of my friends.
“Hey, Daisy, this house is great. Thanks so much for all of your hard work putting it together,” would have been amazing and made me instantly forgive and forget. “Hi” would have at least made me feel like I had to be nice to him. Instead, he did neither. He didn’t acknowledge anyone’s existence and then went and sat in another room.
“Gosh, that guy is really cold and unfriendly,” my friend said. To a woman she didn’t realize was Brent’s sister. Which has nothing to do with this story, but is kind of amazing and needed to be thrown in there.
Then an hour or so later, my friend went missing. We couldn't find her anywhere and I was worried she’d drunkenly gone out into the snow and gotten lost. We started a search party. When I saw Brent wasn’t doing anything to help, I called him out on it. Probably in a bitchy tone. Again, I’m not perfect and at this point I was annoyed with him.
We found my friend (passed out naked in a bedroom -- alone) and went back to playing Cards Against Humanity. Brent and Jenna were still in another room chatting with a few people.
"You're a Fucking Cunt"
I know now that he started calling me a fucking cunt before I even walked in there, but regardless, I fully admit that I should not have done what I did next.
I put down my cards, walked into the room, and said, “Hey, Brent. Thanks for saying hi to me when you came in. That was super awesome of you.”
And then Brent lost it.
“You fucking cunt!” He screamed. Over and over and over again. “You stupid fucking cunt! You’re obsessed with my girlfriend. Why don’t you just shut the fuck up, you fucking cunt?”
I can’t exactly remember what happened next because after being called a “fucking cunt” seven times, my mind went blank from rage. I definitely called him a “poor jobless loser,” but he just came back again and again and again with “fucking cunt.” In one two-minute period, I heard the word cunt more than I had in my entire life.
And no one did anything. One of the housemates asked him to stop using the word before I came into the room and told him that if he said it again he’d have to leave the house. But when he was screaming it at me -- “YOU FUCKING CUNT!” -- over and over again, the house was silent. I don’t actually expect people to fight my battles, but what I did expect was for Jenna to speak up.
I can guarantee you if my (non-existent) boyfriend called one of my closest friends a cunt, I would jump on top of him and shove my fist in his mouth if that’s what it took to make him stop. Instead, when Brent finally paused long enough to breathe, Jenna insisted that she talk to -- wait for it -- me.
What happened next doesn’t really matter. Jenna said she’d talk to Brent. She got mad at me for holding a grudge from before. I cried and told her that no matter what happened, I loved her and that I’d always value our friendship. She said it sounded like I was breaking up with her. I just looked away, but in my heart I knew I was.
"Sometimes I Just Get Really Grumpy"
The next morning, Brent took me aside and apologized.
"Sometimes I just get really grumpy," he said. "I've never unleashed like that before in my entire life." "I'm sorry. And I really mean it." "It won't happen again." And then he asked if we could try to move forward. I didn’t know what else to do, so I agreed. I mean, I have to live with the guy.
But the thing is: how do you move forward from that? How do you move forward from being verbally abused? And it’s not even that he called me what, in my opinion, is the worst thing you can call a woman. Even if he’d called me a bitch, I’d be upset. But I do think he chose “fucking cunt” specifically because he knew it was the most outrageous thing he could call me. Because he wanted to intimidate me. Because he wanted everyone in the house to know THAT is what happens if you fuck with him.
For better or worse, I have to share a house with Jenna and Brent for the next four months. I won’t see them every weekend, but I will see them most. The thought of Brent even walking into the room when I’m there makes me feel physically ill. He apologized, yes, but that doesn’t mean I’m not frightened of him. He showed me what he’s capable of on Friday night. He showed me that he is totally okay with using intimidation and bullying tactics. He showed me that he is ready and willing to cross the line whenever he feels like it.
I know it sounds dramatic to say and I truly hate to even say it, but I’m scared of him. And even worse? I’m scared for Jenna. Because if he’ll talk like that to her friend, how will he talk to her when she does something to upset him?
Jenna said she doesn’t want this to affect our friendship, but we both know the truth. Our friendship will never recover. Not because her boyfriend called me a fucking cunt 20 times, but because he called me a fucking cunt and she didn’t do anything to stop him.
I’ve never been one to take name-calling very seriously. People call me names on Twitter all of the time, but I can't let what strangers say bother me. It's pointless and a waste of energy. Last year even, I gave the finger to a truck driver after he tried to run me and my (ex) boyfriend off of the road. He rolled down his window and called me a cunt. I laughed. I told the story a hundred times and every time I laughed. But I didn’t have to share a house with that truck driver. In fact, I knew I’d never see him again. Instead of being intimidating, it was hilarious.
In fact, it wasn’t until I dated a guy who’d get blackout drunk and call me awful names (bitch, whore, whatever) that I learned how powerful calling someone horrible names can be. Even after breaking up with him, it took me months to come to terms with the fact that I’d been in an extremely emotionally abusive relationship. That calling someone horrible names is abuse. No matter how drunk the person is or how many times they apologize the next day.
When Brent called me a fucking cunt over and over again on Friday, it brought me back to that relationship. I felt that fear I thought I’d never experience again. But I can’t break up with Brent. And Jenna isn’t going to. So, now I guess I just have to hope he keeps his word. Even though I’m terrified he won’t.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever been called? Does it matter what names people use or is the act of aggressive name-calling bad enough in and of itself?
Follow @daisy on Twitter for more of her Tahoe “adventures.”