There was this man, common, a man like all the other men, one who lives in the extremes of fight or flight, chase or be chased when it comes to women. He fell in love with me for four hours and then I never heard from him again. I stopped being confused or upset by this type of behavior after dates with men a long time ago, chalking it up to attachment style and the "we all have baggage" excuse.
Not to be swayed by this, since it was one night and no one had invested much of anything, I would occasionally reach out to this man, only to be ignored.
Until one night, he actually talked. And apologized. And then he said something that every single woman out there in the dating world knows, but that men won't ever admit: "The continued interest of a woman terrifies me". Terrifies. Not merely scares him, but terrifies.
I have experienced a lot of men like this. They complain about "clingy women". They don't want what they say they want. They don't even know what they want. They sit on online dating sites forever, as if to sit and feel the wall of separation their fear puts up.
I thanked this man for speaking so truthfully and told him he was courageous. I have no idea if he will be courageous enough to address his fear, but in the context of my week and my own spiritual work, it made me want to face down my own fear. I was so very relieved that a man would just have the conversation with me, that there is hope that men and women can be honest with each other and work together to explore these issues and heal.
I'm not completely sure what makes men so fearful in general, outside of wounding experiences. I think fear from men and women is the blood in the water that brings the sharks to feed in the dating pool. Not in a fierce, ill-willed sort of way, just an unconscious way. We go to what we know, to what we think we love, to what smells good in the moment. The limbic system drives the bus. Fear is comfort food...it's what we know...we want to replay the broken record, be bored in our anxiety. We actually WANT to. It's completely unintentional.
The limbic treadmill, however repetitive and boring, has its moments of excitement, of conquest, of really proving something to yourself and others. Usually this something you've proven is an old script and it was proven a long time ago and it's redundant.
I go to a place in my head that can explain. Terry Real says that men take advantage of the "privilege to flee" under patriarchal relational models. Attachment theorists call it avoidant, or anxious as the case may be. and in the end, that all leads back to trauma.
My heart learned something...that men truly are to be feared. I know where my big fears come from. Starting with my dad and my grandfather, men in my life were sufficiently scary as to cause real fear for my life in their presence. Damage could be done, and often was. These were my earliest associations with the men I grew to love and care about, that they were to be feared in every way. And revered, because every once in awhile, when the attacking, drunken raging, or bruising had ceased, they were generous, charming, loving. They thrived on the attentions of their children, except when those children were a nuisance. I don't want to write the specifics, to show not tell. This has to be told and not shown in this venue. I know what I lived and saw.
It was confusing. Benevolence and destruction were contained in one person, and no one could predict which state would show up in the room at any given time. Everything in the environment was geared towards rejection prevention, the art of eggshell navigation, and mine field management. Everything around fear of men: men who abandoned, men who destroyed.
I know where my fear comes from, why the familiarity of contempt is a stench that used to be tolerated but isn't any more.
People think that once you find your voice, your footing, your orientation around a lifetime of abuse that it is the same as hating men. I don't hate men because I heal. I LOVE men because I heal. I drink up men who are kind and giving and available, like an oasis in a desert. I am not so wounded that I can't recognize goodwill and sincerity and the kinder ones have absolutely understood when a reminder of starvation came to me, and they would hold me until the hunger passed. And I didn't cling to their legs when they left.
I address my own fear. No matter how scary a man in my past or present, I can, right now, be courageous. I never learned that in the face of fear, there can be-must be- courage, that there is strength in numbers, that standing up and speaking out is the essence of love. I can stop giving up so much of myself and know it is ok to have needs and desires. Not to be stuck in limbic hungers, but to live as fully human.
Because no matter how comforting the fear and distance are in in their familiarity, the "limbic treadmill" that ensues is still a cage. It's still a gross limitation to what I can be and do in this world. It places me in some stupid, small-minded box. And it places others in this same box, and boxes are simply not Truth.
I am grateful to that man for speaking his fear...for speaking my fear...for allowing me the opportunity to have compassion for all who walk through this loneliness. And to have the courage to walk out of this cage.