Five minutes after meeting him, I wanted to break every one of his fingers and his stupid face and send him packing, out of my apartment, my life, and my mind, but the motherfucker still reaches out to me even to this day. God only knows why.
Why and how (the hell) did I end up in a quasi-dating sort of relationship with this vain and self-centered Men’s Rights Slacktivist in the first place? Not only do I lack the requisite self-esteem or daddy issues to carry on a relationship with this person I’ll only call Michael, but I’m also a pretty staunch feminist.
A Men’s Rights Activist, for the blissfully uninformed, is sort of the inverse of a feminist. For the typical MRA, equality is a zero-sum game, and men have been oppressed by the matriarchy. (I wish I were making this up.) I christened Michael a “slacktivist” of this stripe because his activism was pretty much confined to posting his opinions on Facebook.
Back to the point at hand. Why did I wind up seeing this guy? Love can make you crazy. No, not for Michael, but for the perfectly nice fellow I left back home when I quit my job, sold half my stuff, packed the rest into cardboard boxes, and moved my life to Brooklyn to “start over,” which was sort of an ill-conceived plan from the get-go, but that’s another story altogether.
It wasn’t so much that I craved attention or validation after breaking up with a man I actually thought at one point that I might marry, as it was trying to forget about the past five years I’d spent with him. That was hard. That hurt. At the time, I legitimately did not think I would actually ever love somebody like that again, and I wanted to anesthetize myself.
And so I wound up trekking one Wednesday night from Flatbush to Newark to retrieve Michael, who I’d met on the Internet (of course), from the airport** and bring him back home with me. We all edit our self-image online, and he’d taken a few liberties. I felt guilty for noticing his receding hairline, a severe facial tic, and his smell, a unique combination of mothballs and body odor. He wasn’t a troll under a bridge, but I did not believe him about his past modeling work, although said modeling work was never much of a selling point with me.
Writing this all down now feels like some half-remembered bad dream, like watching a bad slasher film and screaming from your couch, “No, don’t open that door!”
I remember it was June and it was hot and I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail because it was otherwise going to stick to my neck, and he did the first thing that irritated the shit out of me and pulled my hair out of its ponytail and stroked it. In public. Three minutes into our meeting, and I already wanted to break both his hands.
I tolerated the hair groping for a few minutes before prying his fingers off my locks and tying my hair back again. I thought this was a one-off weird sort of thing and that he would respect my wishes and not do that again because I am fantastically optimistic like that.
Twice more on the hour-plus ride back to Bushwick, for which I footed the bill because even though he apparently had some kind of income (which, it should be noted, he constantly bragged about) he lacked the pocket change to pay his own transit fare, I had to remove his paws from my scalp. During that ride, between rounds of hair pulling and petting, he asked my thoughts about moving to California. I understood the subtext – “with me” – and, I think, artfully dodged the question: “That’s a pretty serious move. All my family is here on the East Coast, so definitely not unless I landed a crazy-good job out there.”
And while I’d been doing my best to give him the benefit of the doubt and silence the screaming little voice of reason in the back of my head, Michael replied by dropping the first bomb on me that would set the tone for the next few days and ultimately end with my screaming at him in the middle of a packed Manhattan sidewalk.
“You know, most women wouldn’t do that. Most women would find a guy to pay their rent for them.”
*Alternate titles for this essay included, “That Time I Dated A Men’s Rights Slacktivist” and “That Time I Lost My Damn Mind.”
**He was not in New York only to see me, I think. He lived far enough out of state that he had to fly in, and he supposedly had some business-related pretext for being in the city, which he’d communicated to me through our phone and online correspondence over the previous few weeks. But the week prior to his arrival, he said his hotel reservations had fallen through, and by my own admission, I have difficulty setting boundaries and saying “no” even when it’s for my own sanity. In retrospect, I’m not positive he ever had any hotel reservations. To this day, his reasons for coming to New York are still not 100% clear to me.