I know what some of the ladies are thinking. Here's another guy writing about his opinion on a woman's issue. They roll their eyes thinking, "he's probably going to make this about himself."
Specifically, about how I used to be exactly the kind of guy that contributed to the problem. I used to buy into the whole machismo thing. That a man's worth was based on the number of notches on his bed post. That taking ANY amount of sh*t from a woman was too much. That I was just going to do what felt good, and if women didn't like it, tough. I was selfish and I was an asshole.
I had all sorts of excuses and justifications for my behavior. That I wasn't making any promises, so if they got hurt, it was their own fault. That women enjoy sex just as much as men, so it's the only thing I needed to offer. That if a woman reacted negatively to me, it was just a knee-jerk reaction and I just needed to persevere. There was a particular "seduction guru" whose method boiled down to "make the ho say no." Big surprise that guy ended up in jail. And yet at the time I found him compelling.
All of that crap I believed and my actions came from insecurity. And whereas insecurity usually only hurts the person who's insecure, in this case I was hurting other people. It doesn't matter that I did not grope women in bars, or whistle at them on the street, or make unwanted advances over social media. I wasn't doing anything to prevent that sort of behavior either, so I was part of the problem. I didn't acknowledge how difficult it is for a woman in today's world to go through even a single day in peace. I didn't appreciate how special it was for a woman to trust me enough to be intimate. I took it for granted.
I'm not that guy anymore. I haven't even dated in over a year and a half because I really needed the time to make sure I purged every last ounce of the idiocy and misogyny I embraced in my youth. And to process the not insignificant amount of guilt I experienced due to the women I let down. But guilt accomplishes nothing. It fixes nothing. I can feel guilty all day long and all it does is poison me and those around me. I'd rather do something proactive.
How did it happen anyway? I was an introvert. I was one of the nice guys who was afraid of women and didn't know how to talk to them. So I turned myself into the polar opposite. I became hyper-extroverted. I approached women fearlessly and said whatever I felt like no matter the reaction. And somewhere in there I lost sight of the magic that was the feminine spirit. I just saw them as conquests. I tied my sense of self with my success with the fairer gender. Instead of rejoicing in every connection with a new and amazing human being, I instead focused on the failures, and on having an unending series of empty validation.
|"I can't survive on empty validation! I need real sustenance!"|
I love women. I really love them. I love their incredible passion. I love their strength. The strength! I've met so many women recently who just blow my mind with their grit and tenacity. I even love their roller-coaster emotions. It's as if they can encompass all of the richness of life in a single moment. I need that. Because life is joy and pain and giggles and anger and success and loss and everything in between. Guys are fine; with a guy I can just be.... chill. But women... women activate my soul. They engage me at the deepest level. They make me feel and think and experience. And to think that I once only saw them as a collection pretty bits... it's shameful.
I'm blessed that some of those women I met long ago are still friends with me today: Beautiful and loving creatures all. They've forgiven me because there's no limit to the depths of their hearts. If they read this they may say that I was never that bad, that I was always fun and caring. There are others though who I hurt who will never forgive me. I 100% accept that. The best I can do is to strive to be a better person every day. And I don't expect one of them to read this and think, "oh, ok, you're cool now." I'm not looking for amnesty. I didn't write this to pat myself on the back or to show off my growth. I write this because it is an important conversation to have. Women have as much a right to appreciation and respect as men do.
Incidentally I'm writing this on my birthday. It used to be that on my birthday I would think, "I'm one more year from those I hurt." It was a selfish thing, to escape guilt via time. I don't think that way anymore. Today I'm looking back and thinking, wow, I have so many incredible people in my life. Not all of them are women, but many are. And I met them through our shared passions. We connected because of something meaningful, something that empowered us. From that first moment, I was looking within them. I was appreciating them for the depth of their courage and the expansiveness of their dreams. And though I may have squandered many opportunities in my 20's, I'm deeply blessed that I have learned to embrace these women not only as equals, but as humans who inspire me.