An Open Letter To the Man Who Told Me To Shut Up

Dear Man (You don’t get ‘Sir’ cause, well…below),

Today I got on the streetcar in Toronto at rush hour and called one of my best friends to catch up. I have been having a really rough time. Today I could not get out of bed. I am not working at the moment, my “boyfriend” left for Europe a few weeks ago and I haven’t heard from him. I’m sad and confused with life and feel like I am losing control. I just wanted to talk to my friend but then you verbally accosted and mocked me, in public, as your girlfriend stood idly by.

If you remember, I carried on this conversation with my friend at a normal voice level filling her in that I was heartbroken that someone who is supposedly in love with me is nowhere to be found. Panic button for me. I don’t know what country he is in (I think Sweden). I don’t know if he has checked himself into a mental hospital or a yoga retreat or is on a booze cruise partying with Robyn (ok, that may be fine).  I don’t know if he is cheating on me. We had a fight last week over Gchat, which is the second lowest form of communication. He could not Skype with me because his relatives were in the same house as him. They do not know he has a girlfriend. They know he has an estranged wife. He suggested that we Skype, but I could not talk. I could be on mute while he looked at me as we typed. Hell.To.The.No. I’m not some sort of zoo animal/woman. I have big girl words.

Evidently, you don’t care because you’re a man capable of clearly crappier things than the man who I am currently with is putting me through, but as I confronted him why he hasn’t spoken to me since he’s been in Europe, he went into a tailspin of rage at me saying that he did not deserve this treatment. His version of “treatment” was my definition of “basic respect”. You see, our relationship was already delicate as he is still married and is about six months off from being able to file for divorce. More than that, his conservative cultural background seems to treat a divorce with the same devastation of murdering a small endangered animal. A separated man is not a single man. I thought I could (naively) love through the facts. The glaring red facts. I told him that I was sorry if I was a bit aggressive in my probing as to why he hasn’t been in touch but he continued to act furious and played himself like a victim saying he didn’t deserve any of this. I felt myself pandering and apologizing and prostrating myself at his feet so that he would just calm his rage and say that he is sorry and loves me. The last thing I said to him was “please don’t give up on me.” He stopped responding. I don’t know if I was talking to myself or him at that point.

I have spent a very difficult week in silence. I wrote an email asking him if we are broken up or not and received no response. I am speaking to a brick wall. My words are cast off into space. I do not exist. The disrespect is searing.

At some point during the normal voiced conversation with my friend, you started loudly mocking me to whom I presume to be your girlfriend who sat next to you. My friend on the phone heard the yelling and I told her I would call her back. I said to you, or to your back, that I was sorry that my conversation bothered you, but I had a really hard day and needed to speak to my friend. You mocked louder. You yelled to your girlfriend in a petty tinged, distinctly one of man who is mocking a woman’s, “voice”. “Well, like, I was at this club and this guy was, like, with some girl and I was wearing a slutty dress and he, like, ignored me, and now I’m, like, so sad”, he said. None of these words came out of my mouth.

You continued. And continued, getting louder and louder. I started to weep openly. I couldn’t contain my anger and heartbreak. I asked you, while crying, “Can you please stop? I am really sad right now and this is hurting me.” You got louder, veins bulging out of your neck. No one on the packed streetcar said anything except one woman who saw me and also asked you to stop. I watched your girlfriend’s shoulders shake in uncomfortable, complacent laughter, but I saw her cower toward the window. If this is how you behave when people are around, what is it like in the silence of a dark bedroom? Is she too terrified to stand up to you? Have you taken her words and distorted them too? Told her she is too loud when she speaks? That her dress is too tight?

I kept crying. No one said anything. I was alone. I got off at my stop and said to your neck (you would not look me in they eye) and said, “You are horrible human being.” You replied by yelling at me (in many expletives) that my life was not of value and that you did not care.

I walked home by myself, sobbing. You, horrible stranger, personified how I have felt with many men in my life. Your actions and words that you made up and put in my mouth and your cowardice to not turn towards me and face my honest plea say I do not hear you. Your words or feelings do not matter. I do not acknowledge the physical or emotional space you occupy.

As I write this, I am still hurt. I wrote my boyfriend (ex-boyfriend?) an email to calmly and rationally tell him that I am sure he is suffering but he has deeply disrespected me and to please acknowledge my humanity and words so that I can move on with my life. I have not still not heard anything. I am speaking to someone who perhaps, for reasons of their own suffering, misery and displaced guilt, has decided to pretend that my words and being are not important or of value. This is not my problem. I have my own damn crosses to bear.

He may never respond and I will never see you again, but may this letter mark my words to you, and to him, and any other man who tries to tell me in so many words to shut up – you may never look me in the eye, you can ignore my honest pleas for you to acknowledge that I am here and alive and full of thought and emotion and honesty, but I will not go away and I will not be quiet.

My words are louder than your cowardice.

May you find peace with your own suffering,

The Girl Behind You Yesterday

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