Toxicity

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Maybe this wisdom comes with the benefit of age, but I have enough to contend with trying to keep my own shit under control these days. I don’t have the energy or the desire to try to lock down someone else’s business. And yet, these days I look around and all I see is people trying to do just that.

There are two ladies I know that have dealt with this recently. One just had a date. Just a date. She could tell it wasn’t going to work. I see in my head Ellen Barkin in the movie Sea of Love telling Al Pacino that if there’s not an immediate spark, she’s not interested. In the perfect world, they pay their own bills and go their own separate ways. No harm no foul. But that doesn’t happen in this world sometimes, because some guys can’t take rejection. In the reboot of Sea of Love, Ellen Barkin would say she’s not interested, and three days later she’d have to block Pacino on Facebook because he’s been DM’ing her the whole time saying he’s a nice guy and she must be a complete and total cunt, because only complete and total cunts think he’s not worth the time.

I know another lady who has a stalker. Real piece of work, apparently. Went so far to follow her to a concert given by a band that he doesn’t like, and…I find this part incredible...bought a ticket to the show, JUST to walk around close to her and intimidate her. Frightened the fuck out of her is what it did, and I can’t blame her. But again, we’re talking about petty and small men trying to be bigger than they really are.

We live in a time where women just hanging out at their sorority house can be murdered because they rejected the wrong guy. Where people playing a video game can be shot because someone lost. Where…do I really need to go on?

These tragedies are about the assertion of control, and there are so many other tragedies we don’t hear about that have to do with the same thing. These small people assert control over others because they cannot control themselves. I know. I was one of these people.

I would be lying if I said I have never acted like these boys. In my teenage years, I was head over heels in love with a girl, and it took me years to tell her. Before I had the chance, she started going out with my best friend, which crushed me. I can honestly tell you that I never had any intention of destroying two friendships in one night, but I did, and for years I had decided it was their fault, not mine. I was a very cruel person to both of them for a few years after that. In the scope of things, my cruelty was rather small. I wrote a story that made them the villains. I deposited that story at their doorsteps on the way out of town in a situation where I felt I was never going to return to Virginia Beach.

I returned to Virginia Beach a few months later and ended up facing the music. That compounded everything, and I never saw them again. In retrospect, that may have been the best possible outcome.

A small example, but an example of the lack of self control and assertion of it elsewhere nonetheless.

It was 1988, and I was 18. Some years ago I was able to apologize to the male friend in this equation. I found the lady this year. I felt like I should reach out. I was going to send her a letter. I ended up sending her a DM, and in true dumbass Roley fashion, the address I was going to send the letter to was at the top of the DM. Not a good look, really. I tried, I meant it, and that’s all I can do. Too much water under that bridge.

Between then and now of course, I’ve gotten married, and had kids. Both these things end up changing you, like it or not. Marriage and parenting hasn’t been easy. I’ve had my special moments. But somewhere along the line, I grew up. I got older. I realized that—as Billy Joel said—just surviving is a noble fight. A dirty little secret that no one tells you: When you realize that you can take that energy you spent worrying about what people think of you or trying to put someone else on a leash and you decide turn it inward, a funny fucking thing happens: You end up improving yourself to the point that it no longer matters. You become the person you were trying so hard to convince other you were the whole time. But that control is one of self control, and that power is the power of quiet knowledge of who and what you are. And what I have found, is that kind of control and power is quite enough, thank you very much.

That kind of control and power also gives you the ability to not give any more fucks than you have to. I wish that for you. I really do.

But of course, we know—don’t we—that not everyone gets that message with age. Or, some do and then lose their way. Ask Bill Cosby. Ask Donald Trump. Ask anyone hit by the #MeToo movement. They didn’t get wisdom with age. They hid behind some mask of power that they used as a weapon. Ask the Incel Movement, who uses their self-enforced chastity as a cudgel. Ask the GamerGate or the Remake the Last Jedi Movement…hell, ask any toxic element of fandom that’s mostly men who can’t stand the fact that there might be a woman somewhere in the world that knows about this precious special thing, and maybe knows a little more about it than they do.

There’s a meme from a Twitter account called Swear Trek. It has Doctor McCoy in the animated Trek cartoon, attending to a fallen Kirk. It says “His dick fell off because a woman said something somewhere on the Internet.” Sadly, this is funny because you can almost believe it to be true. I KNOW it to be true. When I first posted on USENET back in the late 90s, I didn’t realize that the default was my name. My full first name is Kristen, which is generally assumed to be female. The first response I got back from a Doctor Who group was a request to show my tits.

Don’t think I don’t get this. I get this. Of all the forms of discrimination and harassment that abound in today’s society, that is the only one I can tell you I have a little—just a little—understanding of.

As it happens I also have a harasser, of a sort. He happens to share my last name mind you, so the debate is open as to whether or not you can actually call him a stalker. What we definitely have is someone who has a lack of self control and a desire to assert control over others. In this particular case, he has recently been released from State Prison, and would like very much to speak with me, despite being told by me that I no longer wish to speak with him. In his most recent voice mail which lasted 55 seconds—a lot of which is dramatic pause--he goes from begging me to call him, to directing me as to what I shall and shall not do. Mentioning this on my podcast was one of those things I was directed not to do. Because I am a person who has learned with great difficulty to control myself, I have decided that this is not a situation I wish to involve myself in, because doing so cedes control to him. So he will not be getting a call, or a text, or anything of the sort. What he will get is an entry in a log that I’m keeping of dates and times, so that when the time comes I can take it to the authorities and ask for them to intervene. As many of you know, that intervention is reactive not proactive, and as many of you also know too well, sometimes that ends badly for the harassed.

As I said, don’t think I don’t understand. Right now I very much understand.