an illogical letter

Nine months ago I went to the Met Breuer alone on a weekday and saw an exhibit about absurdity in art in times of political turmoil. It was a time when I was worrying a lot about politics and not about the state of my personal life. I stopped listening to political podcasts a month later. 

The only thing I remember from this exhibit nine months ago is a small painting or maybe it was a print, it looked like nonsense cursive, the size of a normal piece of paper. It’s title was something along the lines of “It’s impossible to write a logical letter to a general.”

I found this poignant because I was very paranoid about North Korea and was thinking often about names like Mattis and McMaster.

That week as weeks do has taken on a lot of extra significance in the intervening months. I know, logically speaking, that I had not yet met the person who would throw my life off course. And yet, when I remember standing at the Met Breuer in my billowing pink pants and a strappy black top that really shows my chest, I remember it as though I’d already met him. Time is stupid and not real and a trick.

Two or three weeks ago, so still May, my best friend from college was in town en route to a wedding. We also went to the Met Breuer. A month before that I went to the regular Met with another college friend when he was visiting on the five year anniversary of our college graduation which is also 4/20. Before those two Met visits I hadn’t been to a museum since I was in France in the fall.

Outside the Musee Orangerie I was trying to take a seflie and this man started following me and trying to talk to me so I walked faster and faster and I got into the museum and paid my admission and I saw him waiting by the doors. It’s a small museum. There’s a gallery in the basement but the main attraction is two large rooms with Monet paintings lining the walls on the ground level. Half of me was trying to fall into the paintings of water and half of me was calculating if I’d been inside long enough that the man by the door had probably left.

I relayed this tale to another man, how a creep followed me into a museum, playing it off as the classic combination of hi I was in danger and also well look I’m hot and it’s so hard to travel as a woman and look this is really fucked up and don’t you wish you had been there with me and hey aren’t you catching on here’s the scheme the man I confided in was and is absolutely more dangerous than the man who followed me into the museum though he was dangerous also.

When I returned to the Met Breuer with my best friend from college three weeks ago, we went to Flora in the basement first and I ordered and absurd anchovy appetizer and she got a citrus salad and then we split the halibut. I got the halibut nine months ago too. It was a little different. Secret: fancy restaurants keep the same proteins but change the accompaniments.

Then we went upstairs and watched an open rehearsal for a dance exhibit. We marveled at how young the dancers seemed. “They must be just out of college, and already preparing for a performance at the Met.”

The main exhibit was about bodies.

Someday I will write about the past nine months. Wait, I already have. I wrote an essay. I got it workshopped in Hudson four weeks ago. I forgot that I knew how to write an essay. But the women who I’d never met understood what I was saying. They were surprised that I’d written the essay in two days. They wrote annotations that are the same as the annotations I usually write in the margins of essays I read by other women: “I hate him.” They also wrote annotations that I won’t bore you with, about plot devices and interpersonal psychology and carefully placed details. See, like Ali Smith said, How to Be Both.

Some of my friends are fucking thrilled that I wrote that essay which yes I will eventually try to publish. Other people, (ah, yeah, which ones do you think,) said, “I hear you wrote an essay.”

I said exactly the response someone like me would have but which is also true: “I’m an artist, and this is how I process what happened to me. Look, don’t be nervous, it’s more about me than it is about him. Don’t worry. You come off fine. Don’t worry! I’m going to make sure that everyone who could be affected reads it before I consider publishing it.”

God, I love to spend time placating friends of abusive men that they personally will not suffer from being friends with abusive men.

This weekend I guess there’s another panel about freedom of the press. Oh did I mention, that’s the other thing that happened the week of the Met Breuer and the letter to a general. A panel on freedom of the press. I don’t want to say that’s where it began because I know now that things do not begin in discrete moments, but.

I started to wonder if there was a rip in the space time continuum. Did the past nine months not happen. Am I living in a scratchy film loop of bad men and the Met Breuer and panels where progressive men pontificate and then turn around and

And then I remembered a therapist (a male one!) who I had during the summers between college who to be honest is the person who most taught me what mental health means and how when I’d go on my long rants (ha, see my offset of Longreads, Longrants,) about dramatic friendship issues, he’d say, sometimes all you can do is shrug.

I’m simplifying how good he was. But this one thing was simple and true. Instead of searching for the meaning of the panels and the museums and the coincidences—well, it fucking happened, time is a flat circle.

You can't write a logical letter to a general.

You can't have a logical conversation with a sociopath. Good thing I saw that exhibit, I guess.

I always loved books but no one told me how much of my life I’d spend trying to rewrite horrific narratives into something acceptable. I didn’t know that something as simple as ‘enjoying an experience’ would contort in my memory into tar, because I’d realize that what I saw as an equal interaction was just a man manipulating me as an activity. 

Sometimes I remember men who I went on one or two dates with who were maybe decent and I think why did I drop that? Why did I run away? Was it really that bad? And then I’m at a bar and a decently attractive man wearing a shirt patterned with poinsettias is telling me how women just need to ignore men and create their own art and I nod and smile and think yes wow what a genius solution.

And then walking home slowly in wedge heels I recall exactly why I could not physically force myself to text any of the men back.

Despite what happened, this time, or any of the other times, I’ve been so fucking lucky.

If I didn’t preserve the cave I’ve been given by running away from people who threaten the small things I hold—

I’d be a fucking fool.

 

Caricatures in Misogyny: Modern Hate

Recently someone asked me to clarify what I meant when I said that one of the topics I write about is misogyny.

“Well, I try to bring to light the everyday instances in which men mistreat women, in such ways that are so ridiculous that they become caricatures of themselves.”

“Like what?” he asked. I also happened to be on a date with 'he,' so this was not necessarily what I wanted to be discussing. However I am not one to back down from discussing the problems of humans, so I continued.

“You know, just for example...one of my friends [me] had this really horrible time where a guy was just so cruel to her after their time together for really no reason and I wrote about that....I find it happens more often than people realize so I want to bring that to light. And also the ways men mistreat women that they don't realize are misogyny.”

“Isn't there another word for that?” he asked.

I didn't really want to get into an argument of semantics with this guy, although I should have, because he ended up being le worst. I segued the conversation to how I also write about the great stories of the men in my life who have helped me overcome my fear of men in general and how they should be celebrated. I think I did write about this. Once.

This fellow and I actually ended up having a great time on the date, or so it seemed. It started out a bit awkward, as first dates can, but we quickly found common ground and the conversation seemed to take off. I could tell he was a bit more boring than the people I usually spend my time around, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so I framed this as 'calm,' 'kind,' and 'attentive.' I don't know if I laughed much, but again I wanted to be forgiving since we seemed to be getting along well.

After hanging out at my house for a bit after the date, he actually agreed to go out with my friends and I, which to his credit was nice. I enjoyed not feeling like I had to be socializing with strangers at the bar, and it was fun to have someone to be my buddy.

All, it seemed, was well.

For the next few days we spoke consistently via text, basically continuing the same conversation. This hasn't happened to me in a while, (partially because I had sworn off men after the early summer fiascos,) so I found I quite liked it. I got worried that we were talking about everyday mundane things, but Amber told me that this is just what you do when you're getting to know someone, or even when they're dating them.

“That's part of the thing of dating people. If you see a really weird car, you tell them.”

Interesting, I thought, this is actually kind of fun.

Alas, it lulled me into a false sense of security, when I clearly should have been saying to myself, “BECCA SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG SO DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP ABOUT THIS OR ANY OTHER MAN EVER”

Again alas, I did not say this to myself. We continued to speak, flirtatiously, until on Wednesday I received a text which basically said : (I would copy the real thing, but I left my phone charger in Redlands so I'm trying to save the battery until I go to bed because I've been borrowing my roommates charger but she uses it at night...anyway...)

“I've been doing some thinking and I don't think our personalities mesh the way I want. I'm sorry. You are a great person and I'm sure you will make someone else very happy.”

I will say straight away that I am not actually angry about the content of this text. I mean, it's annoying, but all in all a relatively respectful way to do what it accomplished. I said something along the lines of 'alright, I'm just curious as to why you'd text me every day for four days if that was the case...seems to not be accomplishing anything' to which he had a somehow simultaneously vague and overwrought response.

I was rather upset at first, but seeing as this was yesterday and I'm already glad that he saved me from his boring self / happy to go on living my Sex and the City themed life of dating and being adventurous, I am more interested in the other aspects of the situation.

He was probably correct on some level that our personalities don't mesh perfectly, but my question is, is that really necessary in getting to know someone? I would never argue that back to him certainly, because I would never try to fight with some rando to date me when they are already over it, but I am curious. I find that in not just dating but also friendship and workship and life, I want to get to know someone better than I can in a few hour timespan to make that kind of judgment. I find that the more I get to know someone and see their interesting aspects, the more I can find a way for them to fit in my life, whether it be romantically or in friendship or even just an interesting person to be around sometimes. Not everyone I meet or date has to be my soul mate, and in fact I'd like to date a lot of people who aren't my soul mate before I find my soul mate (if such a thing exists) so I can get the experience of sharing my life with all different kinds of people.

Perhaps this is not a common held belief. Meh. I think it will make my life much more fun and interesting.

Then, the truly sad thing that a friend brought up:

“Most guys are just looking for a pretty, probably boring girl to sit with them on the couch and cuddle while they watch TV and listen to them talk. You aren't that.”

She may be right. What a sad thing. I guess to each their own, but it's a shame to think that so many people are willing to give up an interesting life (not with me, literally with anyone) because it's so much easier to sit around watching TV with a lame companion. Le sigh, what is the word for general distaste for most humans and their motivations? Oh, misanthrope.

Perhaps you are wondering how I categorize any of this as misogyny. I don't. I actually would like to encourage more men to be up front when they don't want to date someone instead of ignoring them. The rest of the aspects of this fellow's behavior, mainly talking to me for four days straight while simultaneously brewing this little plan, is not admirable, so don't do that, but not particularly misogynistic either.

Wanting to write about this but it not fitting into my first category of man related posts brought upon a second category, a wee bit of satire, one might say. The New York Times runs a series called Modern Love, and seeing as my experiences are nothing of the sort, I've decided to call my dating trials and tribulations that are entertaining but not necessarily misogynistic Modern Hate. Funny that Hate is in the title when misogynist is woman-hating, but the joke is hating the dating in the modern world, not any genders hating each other. So stay tuned for periodic stories of the fiasco which is my life of trying to casually date in the modern era.