An ex-boyfriend once said he would kill me if I ever cheated on him. He mentally painted the picture for me: He would chop me up into little pieces and throw them into the sea.
That was at the beginning of our relationship, and the beginning of me teaching and arguing and debating with a man about why he should not joke about killing women, about why he should not refer to women as females, about why he should not let his best friend disrespect me in his presence, about why he should not personally have a problem with gay people, about why he should not drink and drive…
The cognitive dissonance scares me to this day – I was heavily aware of all the red flags, but did not mentalize the darkness and actual visible threat of his being in my life, my intimate space. And I don’t know if we conceptualize this enough. Or rather, I personally don’t conceptualize it enough. Because I liked him, I let his threats of intimate partner violence roll off me like water off a duck’s back. How I chose to react (instead of running at the first red flag) was that I put in the work to teach (to try and teach) him about being respectful of women and treating women as human beings.
And when I complained about being uncomfortable with the volume and type of music playing on our road trip one time (mostly because I was uncomfortable with the fact that he was driving drunk, at night, with my best friend in the car, playing terrible music, and it was LOUD – all this made my anxiety roar) he told me all I do is complain.
And you know what, he was right. I had not realized it until then, but I was ALWAYS complaining about something. Because he was someone I liked tremendously, but was a walking red flag. AND I THOUGHT I COULD CHANGE HIM. But what I thought of as doing the Lord’s work by teaching a man not to be homophobic and sexist and murderous (even if jokingly) came across to him as nagging.
I’d be the Proverbs 31 woman
This relationship had me reconsidering my very serious convictions of not wanting to be submissive, not wanting to get married, not wanting children, not shutting up to please a man. And I was willing to change all that about myself (to get married, have his children, play the Biblical wife role) for a man who would chop me up and scatter me into the Indian ocean if I let another penis cum in me.
I broke if off with him the moment he called me a nag, because I just imagined a future wherein, a thousand times I tell a man to pick his smelly socks from the bedroom floor, and a thousand times he rolls his eyes and calls me the nagging wife. Not me ma’am.
But here lies the issue. Of all the problems that could have (SHOULD HAVE) broken us, I drew the line at being called a nag. I reluctantly embraced all the patriarchal notions of traditional heterosexual relationships, and even laughed at the idea of being threatened with death. But the idea of being with a man who dismisses my feelings for the sake of ending an argument, even one as silly as the volume of the music playing, that’s where my guard goes up?????? I am terrified of my willingness to so easily and indiscriminately relinquish my brain sense for a boy.
I’d be the cool girl
This is also where my fear of heteronormative romantic relationships come from, because how cool was I with a man threatening to kill me? Will I be the cool girl with men and their red flags to avoid being considered a nag? Which, knowing me, I inevitably will. So, as though they were the black plague reincarnate, I actively avoid romantic relationships with men.
This is also why I have resigned from teaching and debating and arguing with men about issues pertaining to the human rights and oppression of women. All that emotional labour to be told you complain a lot. Those who engage with the topic from a place of compassionate and willingness to discuss with respect, however, know they can ALWAYS come through for a chit chat about why I believe being called a nag is the biggest red flag a heterosexual cis-gender man can portray.