Today someone remarked that I never write or talk about my future, I only document the past or analyze the present. It’s true. Fantasizing about the future only leads to disappointment when things don’t go according to plan, and the past and present can be disappointing enough. I got out of the habit of fantasizing about the future once I realized what brainwashing Disney was up to, and the only future scenarios I imagine are worst case ones out of practicality (ie: if we don’t fix X problem, Y horrible thing will happen). The person who made the initial observation told me that stance was unnecessarily negative, and said “if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know how to get there?” So I agreed to indulge her and detail how I imagine the rest of my life will play out in my fantasy future. For Ellyn:
Tonight I re-read one of the most important articles ever written in the history of the internet (according to me), Why Women Aren’t Crazy, by Yashar Ali from one of my favorite publications, The Good Men Project. It explains a situation that we ladies (and some gents) have likely all found ourselves in at some point or another. A situation that sucks so badly because it has the ability to derail logical circuits and send thoughts spinning off in all kinds of wacky directions. It trashes your self esteem and makes you question your sanity and your intelligence all at once. It is the phenomenon of GASLIGHTING, and it must stop.
Gaslighting is emotional manipulation that confuses people into thinking they are crazy for reacting to inconsiderate behavior. It’s not always intentional, but it is always hurtful. This manipulation is often carried out by men on female partners, but sometimes it happens the other way around and other times the term can be applied to parent-child or boss-employee relationships. For the sake of this blog post, I’m going to arbitrarily assume we’re dealing with a gaslighting guy and his innocent, unsuspecting lady friend.
The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.
Before I read this article, I had no idea there was a word to describe what so many guys have done or attempted to do to me throughout my dating career. But once I learned that this power trick is as old as time itself, or at least as old as black and white movies, I felt better (but then worse when I didn’t even see it coming when it happened again).
Here’s an example of how it happens, as explained by the cast of Clueless:
It starts when a guy you’re into looks at you with those eyes and makes your heart flutter a little bit.
There’s probably some kind of physical exchange, as is only logical when two people are into each other.
If you are an emotionally rational human, you will probably carry on as such, trying to move your relationship forward in a satisfying way, impressing him with your moves. But much to your dismay, you may find that he begins to act distant and becomes impenetrable to your charm. Maybe he says something mean, stands you up, or is just generally inconsiderate of your feelings.
Because his new-found disinterest or agitation seemingly appears out of nowhere, you begin to question what you did, or what it is about yourself that caused this response and the break in the logical progression.
When you try to initiate communication to point out the discrepency between what you think you experienced and what your interactions have become for no apparent reason, the gaslighter will try to dodge the questions and retreat into a further state of aloofness.
Pressing them further will likely result in anger and accusations that you are the one causing the problem in that very moment.
He will disregard your confusion and make you question your assessment of the situation, eventually making you believe that your sense of perception is off-kilter and that you are being paranoid, clingy, or crazy. He may even go so far as to blame the entire problem on your craziness and demand that you stop this behavior immediately, leaving you in a tailspin of internal confusion and emotional haze, powerless to do or say anything because you don’t understand what you did to cause this negative response in the first place.
You may do a number of things to try to remedy the situation such as acting like nothing is wrong or apologizing for overreacting and being crazy. All the while, you know in your gut that it’s not actually your fault. The more introspective you are, and the more you attribute events to an internal locus of control (sorry for the psychobabble), the more this knowledge will slowly erode your self image and sense of reality.
Thankfully, this is what friends are for (or therapists, doormen, random people on twitter, etc.). When you objectively explain the situation, your friends may not be able to explain why the emotional interaction is occurring, but they will be able to recognize that something is off and it’s not your fault.
At this point, the person being gaslighted may chose to end the interaction. Sadly, far too many people in the world allow the behavior to continue, constantly apologizing without knowing why and living in a state of confusion for eternity. But if, like myself, your unrelenting pursuit for knowledge and possibly concern for the person outweighs your emotional thresholds and your sense of self-respect, you won’t simply apologize and move on. You will figure out what the reality of the situation is.
Once the true motivation for the gaslighting behavior surfaces (such as guilt, emotional illiteracy and subsequent shame and avoidance, feelings of inadequacy, mental preoccupation, sadism, and in the case of poor Ingrid Bergman flat out criminal deception) the gaslighting psychosis will lift.
Once you posses the missing information, your mental circuits realign and you can once again see yourself as the awesome person who attracted your cowardly little gaslighter in the first place.
Hopefully the truth is something minor or something that can be stopped in the future. And if you’ve found yourself in this situation, don’t fret—it doesn’t mean you’re some kind of weakling. According to Ari:
The act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting.
Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.
It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.
The solution to preventing and approaching ongoing gaslighting is easier said than done, but something worth working for. This may sound cheesy, but be open and honest with your partners and accepting of their emotions. After all, if the thing causing the gaslighting is really a deal breaker, it’s better to be honest and find out your relationship is doomed sooner rather than being miserable and emotionally mute for an extended period of time.
Full Article: Why Women Aren’t Crazy
One of the top things I get asked by friends who have visited NYC but never lived here is why it’s so hard to date. I’ve thought about this a lot in the five years I’ve called myself a New Yorker, but tonight while walking home, I came up with a summary.
It doesn’t have anything to do with the Beauty Contest Problem, the Dowry Problem, the Secretary Problem, or any of the other explanations conceived of by mathematicians who have clearly never encountered a New York woman (which is exemplified by the fact that all of these problems are based on the assumption that the man is doing the picking). These “Problems” were defined in 1966, so I’ll cut them some slack (not you though, Satoshi, your evolutionary psychology example makes even less sense). But I’d like to see present-day statisticians take a whack at this, mathematically. Soma did a pretty awesome job visualizing the # of singles in the US, but as you can see from the beautiful, adjustable map (that you need an updated Java plug-in to view), NYC has some of the most singles per capita, so this still doesn’t explain why dating is hard.
Introducing: The subway door problem.
Say you are exiting the subway on one of those elevated platforms that have swinging doors before the stairs, like on the J/M line (such as I did today). Most people will reach out to push open the door for the person behind them as they’re walking through it. It’s a courteous thing to do that requires very little effort. There are three scenarios in which people won’t do this though: If they’re an asshole, if they are unaware someone is behind them, and if they are carrying heavy bags or are for some other reason physically incapable of holding the door.
Already we’ve solved one mystery: There are more assholes in New York, per capita, than in other places. Now, I think NYC gets a worse rap for this than it deserves, and that most of this perception comes from tourists who have had bad encounters with New Yorkers because they were doing something dumb to deserve it. But there are a lot of sociopaths here. In the world of dating, this is also true. There are tons of people here who have no desire to get emotionally close to another human being, who proceed to pillage what they want, sexually, using whatever deceptive techniques necessary, and then split.* In other, smaller cities, this behavior is rare because the asshole will build a reputation and will eventually not be able to successfully execute this type of feat. In New York though, you never have to see anyone again if you don’t want to. It’s not exactly like a slighted lover can come bang on your door and convince you to give them a shot—New Yorkers have locked outer doors, buzzers (sometimes with video surveillance), and door men to ensure that they can’t.
If you’ve had one of these encounters, which most New Yorkers have, you’re going to build some walls to decrease the chances of this happening again, which brings us to the second subway door scenario: It’s hard to see over walls. Like the subway exiter who is oblivious to the person behind them because they have headphones on or something, New Yorkers who have become disillusioned by previous dating experiences have a harder time recognizing when someone is attempting to genuinely emotionally bond with them and enter into any kind of “relationship” situation. So the door closes, and the person who just got it slammed on their face suffers, as does the person who did the slamming, if they happen to glance behind them and realize what they accidentally just did. They didn’t know anyone was there, they didn’t mean to inconvenience them! But now they feel guilty. Or maybe they’ve just encountered so many assholes they gave up on holding the door for anyone, and even though you just got the door slammed on you, maybe seeing your sad eyes through the glass made them realize there are some people worthy of door-holding out there, and they’ll make an effort for the next.
In the third and final scenario in this reductionist thought experiment, you’re exiting the subway and your arms are full of grocery bags. You know someone is probably behind you, but the person in front of you pushed the door open just enough for you to slip through without it smashing your eggs, so you go for it. In that moment, your priority is what’s in those bags; you can’t worry about the person behind you, because there’s no way you can help yourself and them at the same time. If you reach out a hand to hold the door, you’ll drop something. In fact, what would be really nice in that moment, is if the person behind you would reach forward and stop the door from closing, giving you more time to slip through, lessening the chance that your eggs will be crushed. The problem with New Yorkers is that we are all carrying bags, and many more of them than the average American. Inside them are our high-powered jobs, our dreams, and our egos made fragile by the emotional wounds and feelings of being lost that drove us to this city in the first place. And while we might dream of someday being able to walk around without them so we wouldn’t have to worry about damaging what’s inside, we have to protect them now, and let the door slam shut on others.
So we New Yorkers will continue to move about in our lonely commutes. But don’t feel bad for us. We’ve got serious loot in those bags that suburbanites in podunk USA won’t ever know about. And it’s not so cut and dry, anyway. Some of us learn how to meet each other half way, where you slow down to stick a foot out, propping the door open just enough so the person behind you can slip an elbow in, and everyone gets through unscathed.
The good news for the person who just got the door slammed on them though, is if you’re someone who would like to hold the door for someone else, the chick standing there with her arms full of groceries is probably going to be especially grateful to the guy who saw the door slam in her face and rushes over to open it for her.
*I’m not claiming to have never done this. I have and I’m not proud of it. I’m simply acknowledging this is how some people operate.