Being sick for a week has left me really tired, so I'll try to keep this short.
This is a blog to provide conversation, advice and hopefully comfort to Single readers. Married readers are welcome, too. I try to keep it a welcoming place, where even very sensitive girls will feel comfortable. And so I prune the comments box all the time, and not just to keep the anger and the insults at bay. Even warmhearted descriptions by married ladies of healthy married sexuality fall to the pruning sheers. Even the comments of close friends are sometimes thwarted.
But this is also a blog about living in reality. Reality is sometimes worse than we want it to be, and sometimes it is better. Catastrophizing is as dangerous as wishful thinking. Hyperbole, if indulged often, can lead to catastrophizing.
I came across a Single woman's blog the other day, in which she declared that she was hit on by married men every day. Every day. I tried to get my mind around a situation in which a woman could be hit on by married men every day. Maybe if she were a hotel bartender who worked seven days a week. She also said she was pretty sure there were no good men, and yet she was dismayed to be approaching 30 without a man. If you can read very vulgar language and ideas without flinching, here is her post.
One thing about being unwillingly Single for a long time is that you experience a lot of disappointment. Serious disappointment leads to bitterness, and this is not surprising. The problem with bitterness, however, is that it doesn't heal the disappointment or correct whomever or whatever it was that disappointed you. It hurts you. It also hurts the innocent people upon whom you turn the shafts of your bitterness--like your mother, for example.
I find it interesting that "She's just bitter" has become an insult rather than an private revelation that should lead to compassion. Occasionally my online critics decide or tell me that I am bitter, which makes me feel indignant. (Seraphic to friends, with outrage: "I'm not bitter! I'm the opposite of bitter. I am SWEET!") "Bitter" should not be an epithet to dismiss people but a clue that they need help.
Helping the bitter--which means disappointed, often heartbroken people who can feel as much attacked as helped by advice--is a difficult and sometimes thankless task. I am sure we have all experienced the shock of being asked for advice and then having our words thrown in our faces. It's a bruising experience.
But if you can put up with the occasional bruise, it is a gift to help your friends remain rooted in reality. Yes, there are times when you should let your friends get away with such hyperbole as "All men are jerks" or "I can't tell you how many married men hit on me every day" (like, for example, when they are hysterical and in tears), but there are times when you really have to call them on it. At a certain point you have to say, "Sandra, to my knowledge you've been propositioned by three married men, and that was over a period of ten years. You've met dozens and dozens, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands of married men in the past ten years, and only three of them actually propositioned you. Sure, a few more have said flirty things, but don't you think they were just being lighthearted?"
It's the same thing with "stalking." Girls throw around the word "stalking" a lot. But stalking is a serious offence. It is not the same thing as a clumsy male attempt to contact you over Facebook or multiple attempts reach you on your mobile, especially if you said "Yes" to him being your Facebook friend or you gave him your mobile number.
I once came home to a post-split hideout and found a present from my ex on the radiator. It was a book of poetry. I had no idea he knew where I lived, and I was furious and scared that he did. "Stalking" I shrieked, and called a battered women's hotline.
"That's not stalking," said the annoyed-sounding counsellor. "Stalking is when they call you dozens and dozens of times or follow you everywhere."
I was expecting complete and unconditional acceptance of my feelings of being stalked, so I was seriously surprised. But I was also grateful because after I heard what other women went through, I stopped being alarmed by this one stupid book of poems.
When you exaggerate the wickedness of men, or the number of wicked men you have met, to yourself, you can psyche yourself out and make yourself unhappier, unhappier than you would be if you just looked banal reality in the face.
This is not to say that many men do not do many bad things. There are places in the world I simply will never go (like Tahrir Square, Cairo) because the men who are there have such a reputation for disgraceful behaviour towards women. But to my knowledge I have never met men like the men who rip off women's clothing in Tahrir Square, so I don't define men by the men of Tahrir Square.
Nor do I think that much about men who have disgusted me or hurt my feelings to such an extent that I would never speak to them again. Since I began this blog, I have always concentrated my thoughts on the great men I know, especially the men of my own family. And I suspect this is one reason why I found a great man, one that I knew at once would get along so well with the men of my family.
It may be a relief to one's feelings to announce that all men are jerks, and it may seem like a quick way to bond with female friends or get emotional support--and heaven knows, we all need emotional support in our lives--but I posit that this can be a dangerous mental rut, and can even become a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Update: By the way, I have absolutely no interest in attacking any reader. I will attack thought processes and myths that I think hurt readers, and I will sometimes express myself robustly, but I am not interested in attacking readers. If you are a reader, and you think I am attacking you, please examine the evidence, e.g. the context, what I have actually written, six years of not attacking readers.