‘that phase where you slowly start hating your girlfriend is crazy😭’
When Twitter user @sk1tguru tweeted this on Oct. 2, the Earth’s crust cracked in half. The conversation in the replies ran long and its reach spanned the cosmos. The boys had something to say, and they were gonna say it loud and strong. With bravery comparable to when Marsha P. Johnson threw the first brick at Stonewall, the “men” of “Twitter” (never call it X) declared: “We hate our girlfriends.”
Men were speaking their truths, shouting from the rooftops that the expectation of loving their girlfriends, caring about their girlfriends, seeing their girlfriends as human beings with inherent value (and flaws, you know, like real people?); were standards that they refused to be beholden to. As for the girlies? They were quaking. Memes spread across the internet decrying these men. The girlies’ response? “If this is what the dating pool is like, maybe being single isn’t that bad.”
As a recently single, strong, independent woman™, reading this thread made me never want to trust a man again. It made me think, “Actually… Maybe dating isn’t for me. I could live a lovely life in the company of my friends and my cat.” We’ve given the crazy cat ladies a bad rap, but maybe they were onto something. I could be wrong though. Maybe men aren’t so bad, and I’ve just had a shitty sample.
So, as with every major philosophical question throughout time, I turned to those most equipped to get to the bottom of this. I asked the girlypops, and the girlypops shouted back.
The boyfriend effect
For too long, we, as a society, have been mired by misogyny and willfully suppressed female voices. But, when it comes to analyzing the gender politics of dating, there is no demographic with more nuanced and thought-provoking commentary than women. “Girl-talk” has been decried as shallow and gossipy for decades, but inside of these bitch-fests, women are cutting to the core of some of humanity’s deepest crises. I can enter a girl-talk confused and bewildered, and leave with newfound revelations on the nature of the human condition.
Professor of the YouTube school of humanities and sciences, Kristen Leo, broke the internet (and my brain) with her video essay, “The Collapse Of Hetero Relationships.” In this video, she discussed the inherent inequalities present in straight relationships, but also pointed towards the dawn of humanity. The creation of patriarchy.
She took my hand, stared deeply into my eyes and brought me back to the paleolithic era and the high maternal mortality rates that came along with it. “The males that got to pass on their genes were the ones that were more capable of ignoring the fact that jizzing in a woman would result in a pregnancy, and then a possible death,” Leo said. “Could we theorize that human evolution and reproduction favored masochistic females and sadistic males? And that would also sort of mean that patriarchy is a part of the human survival strategy.”
What cultural scholar Leo is pointing to is an issue that many a cis feminist has raised. The fact that, seemingly, biology is rigged against women. Women (and all people with wombs) have been historically and biologically forced to undergo the labor and pain of pregnancy, childbirth and menstruation. “Nature is not a woman. Nature is definitely a misogynist,” Leo said. But more than that, throughout human history, women have been subjected to pregnancy and childbirth in conditions that didn’t favor their survival, solely because the need to squeeze out heirs and inheritors (and the sexual needs of straight men) were seen as more important.
“But Naomi,” I can hear you saying. “That was eons ago! Surely there aren’t negative health risks associated with dating men in the modern era! Right?” I mean, domestic violence and sexual assault statistics aside… Yeah girl, there are. Allow me to introduce you to: “The boyfriend effect.”
If you’ve been roaming the green pastures of Beyoncé’s internet lately, I’m sure you’ve seen a reel or two about “the girlfriend effect.” Girls will show images of their boyfriends before they started dating them, and then after, once they’ve shown them how to enact basic hygiene and skin care, taught them how to dress themselves. The boyfriend effect is the dark reflection of this.
Ladies, I’m sure we can all attest to this. You’re on your own and you’re looking phenomenal! Your hair is right, your makeup is killer, your body is snatched. Then, your man shows up and BAM! You. Look. Like. Hot. Garbage. Your hair is fucked up, your makeup is sliding off your face and suddenly you look like a partially skinned baked potato. How does this happen? Many scientists (me and the dolls) have theorized that men actually carry harmful spores on their body that hook into you on a cellular level and steal away your beauty, youth, and sanity.
“My theory is that because he doesn’t wash his bum cheeks, the nastiness from that transcends all the cleanliness he has attempted and his dookie air becomes the new aura,” a premiere expert of STEM biological sciences (my bestie) said.
However, there actually is data that backs up the fact that being with a man is bad for your health. According to the Independent, married men, on average, live 1.7 years longer than their unmarried counterparts. However, married women live 1.4 years less than if they were single. Boys aren’t just rotting your brains and tanking your self-confidence. They’re killing you.
Let’s talk boys!
Despite my commitment to consulting the experts (random internet girls), I am, at my core, a woman of the people. In accordance with my values as a citizen of the great human experiment, I consulted you: Ink’s most radiant, breathtaking, intelligent readers. I asked you to speak your truths, to bear your heart on your sleeves, and you showed up. You came through and you spoke vulnerably and truthfully about your experiences with men. These are some of your words.
“I’ve been in many talking stages, many have failed. There was one that changed the way I think about how men talk to me. He love bombed me. He said all this nice stuff about me, then ghosted me before we planned a date. They can say I’m the most beautiful girl in the world or how I’m “different” and not like other girls, but I couldn’t care less. Words don’t mean much to me anymore, and that’s devastating.”
I feel you. When you’ve been burned before, it’s difficult to come back from that. I hope that you can learn to heal from this, and someday be able to trust again. Life is too difficult to go through it on your own.
“One time I used the word “ominous” in a convo and this man asked me what it meant. Two separate times I have had guys ask me to venmo them for taco bell. TACO BELL. One time I made out with this ginger guy at a bar and the next morning I woke up broken out in hives all over my face, and I had to get prescribed steroids for it to go away.”
Those are the harmful spores I was talking about. Stay safe ladies, and carry your valtrex with you at all times!
“Men are super avoidant emotionally and very vague. They also have the worst sense of self-pity that I’ve ever seen. They impulsively sleep with people they don’t really like, then get surprised when it turns into a toxic relationship. They don’t address the things you bring up in conversation ever. They sort of say vague therapeutic phrases around the actual issue that sound like they came off of an Instagram slideshow. I guess they’ve been socialized to not have the verbal dexterity to communicate their emotions properly, but I also think they don’t give a fuck. They don’t have to give a fuck. When you leave, or set a boundary, all they do is mouth off about how it’s your fault, I’ve been hearing it from rejects for years. I’ve had two separate guys who can’t maintain a healthy relationship to save their lives try to mansplain “scaring the hoes” to me. Motherfuckers, YOU are scaring the hoes.”
“My ex would take photos/videos of me during sex without me knowing and would send them to his friends. I didn’t find out until he sent one to another friend of mine. It went on for 2 years.”
Pretty sure that fits the legal definition of revenge porn. You may be entitled to compensation: Consider talking to a lawyer.
“The boyfriend I graduated from high school with enriched my sympathetic side. I feel for others more, I can comfort people better than before, and I know more about what it’s like to live with a debilitating mental illness. And Charles enriches me every day. I have never communicated so clearly with somebody like I have with him. I can tell him ANYTHING without fear or shame. I can be unapologetically me. He has enriched me emotionally. I feel very healed.”
Oh! That was sweet. Maybe love isn’t dead.
As far as feminism has come, we’re still all living in the context of structural misogyny. The male gaze is pervasive, and it informs the way that we all view ourselves. Though we do our best to deny it, it has wormed its way into the female psyche, and we are suffering the effects of its parasitism. No matter how many times we’re burned by men, we still run back thinking: It’ll be different this time! And maybe it will be, but maybe it won’t. Maybe it’s time to try something new, cause girl, this shit isn’t worth it.
Instead of searching for the diamond in the ruff, why can’t we just turn to the love that surrounds us, and is already waiting for us? That’s right, I’m talking about female friendship. Cuz honestly, the girlies have my back way more than any man ever has. When I’m having a bad day, down on myself or just overwhelmed, my friends support me and look out for me; laugh with me, and cry with me.
“Sometimes I felt like my female friendships are so rich and profound and intimate that it makes being in relationships with men actually harder,” feminist writer Liz Plank said in a viral Instagram reel. “The standard that women have set in my life: The way that they celebrate me and see me. It’s hard to find a man that can match that.”
In the months that I’ve been single, my life has gotten significantly easier. The energy I used to put, unreciprocated, into my relationship is now going back into myself, and I’m getting it back tenfold. I’m supported by my friends and my community more than I ever was by either of my exes. Why would I go back to sleeping with an energy-stealing troll who doesn’t know what toner is? I think I’m good.
Honestly, what do men bring to the proverbial table? Yeah, that’s right, I’m turning that alpha male podcast language back on them. Are these relationships emotionally enriching? Not typically. Men struggle with emotional intimacy, communication and basic care for the women they date. Is the sex good? I mean, if the orgasm gap is any indication, most men can’t find the clit. Is it commitment? When men become ill, their wives nurse them back to health, but in the medical field, it’s commonplace for doctors to tell women diagnosed with cancer that their husbands will probably leave them. Yeesh.
This whole relationship business doesn’t seem worth it. So, what is it that captures our hearts and minds? Why do we keep going back to them? Why do I keep going back to them?
We can talk about the way that women have been socialized and brainwashed by society, and I think there’s an element of truth to that. Girls, from a very young age, are taught to aspire to be wives and mothers, and so there’s no wonder that so many of us search for fulfillment in the affections of men that truly could not give less of a shit about us. I know that now. Men are generally kind of terrible, but I still want to believe in love.
When you’re in love, it can be the most beautiful feeling in the world. The butterflies you get in your stomach when you see them, the rush that rocks your body every time you touch, the sparks that fly when you kiss, the dull ache in your chest when you miss them. I love love. I love pining after that special someone, holding their hand when you walk down the street, seeing the way that they look at you. And, tragically, I love boys. I love their hair, and their shoulders. The sound of their laughter and the look of their smiles. I love the awkward way that they straddle you and the way they run their fingers through your hair and the fumbly, stupid way they tell you that they love you for the first time.
The thing that struck me about the thread that started this all, wasn’t the misogyny. I’m not naive. Men’s disdain for women sadly doesn’t surprise me anymore. What struck me was how comfortable they felt saying these things. I’ll admit that to a certain extent, the shit-talking of ex-partners is something that I’ve engaged in. I’ll make fun of their inadequacies in bed, their emotional stuntedness; but I know myself well enough to know that it doesn’t come from a place of malice. I’m hurt. I’m angry. I want men to be better. I want to be happy. I want someone who cherishes me.
When I love someone, I love them for who they are. I fall in love with ambitions, their passions, the lens with which they see the world. The little details of their appearance that you only notice when you’ve explored their body. When I look at a partner, I see the person that I want to share my life with: My teammate on all of my adventures, my best friend, the person who I’ll drop anything at any time to be there for.
I don’t think that men see their girlfriends that way. For too many men, women are a means to an end. It’s exciting to do the dance of flirtation, of getting to know someone and not knowing if your attraction is reciprocated. The game of getting to know them, earning access to their body, then their heart. But once that game is over, once the thrill stops, boys get bored. I’ve never really understood that.
Loving big is the only way I know how. When I’m in a relationship, I’m constantly thinking about that special someone. About cute dates we can go on, little gifts I can get them, and ways that I can make them happy. I count down the days, hours, and minutes until I can see them again. I love intensely, attentively and tenderly. I give them my heart, and trust them to hold it, fragile as it is. And I’ve yet to meet a man that isn’t careless with it.
Men are trash, but I don’t want them to be.
Graphic by Natalie Uhl