All the Little Boys, All the Little Girls

I once knew a boy desperate to be a man. He showed up with little commotion (I should have guessed even then), and I knew he wasn’t the right fit.

I knew I was too much.

I knew he wasn’t enough.

I did that thing that vulnerable people sometimes do, and I allowed him to convince me, and then I convinced myself until I had spent the better part of a decade trying to bend and flex my boundaries, my values, my self-worth. I made excuses for his deficiencies and his cruelty, trying to make him live up to the golden and reverent version of him I carried with me in my mind’s eye. The version where he was a kind man with no deep, dirty secrets, and he truly loved me. The version where he was an unbroken man who was loyal and honest and accountable. The version where he was a man.

It was always going to disappoint us both. Because this is what I’ve discovered recently – I wanted a man, and he wanted a little girl. I’ve learned that the boy that I lit up and elevated, the boy I used to tell myself was pure and kind and respectful, hated women.

At home, he played his part like a fiend, convincing at times, entirely transparent and flawed at others. For the most part, he did all the right things at the right times, he said all the right words, he felt all the right feelings. Because he was being watched. Because there were witnesses. One witness, actually. One dreamer, one idealist, one pathetic little doormat who knew it was all a fragile, self-destructive illusion, but chose to live her life as if the carriage was about to be thrown from the tracks anyway. But when that naïve, deluded doormat wasn’t watching, the boy strutted around like a peacock, showing his true colours to all and sundry. He objectified women and embarrassed himself in the company of other peacocks, peacocks who were men and who were ashamed of the infant they called a friend. The boy disrespected women and viewed them as meat, fodder for his distastefulness, leering and spitting lewd comments about their bodies and what he would do to them (as if he was somehow God’s gift to all of womankind; as if he could actually do anything about it). Out in the open, he wanted his women to be sluts. He wanted them dirty. He wanted them submissive, to do what they were told, to go where they were put. He wanted women who wouldn’t argue and who wouldn’t fight. Little girls in porn star packaging.

At home, he behaved like a good boy, well-trained and obedient (later claiming it was me who had somehow beaten him into submission). That boy who had the capacity to transform women into acquiescent objects of contempt, passive vessels he could pour his hatred into, became vacuous and immobile at home where there was a witness. He always told me it was the people who talked the most about their sex lives that didn’t have one to speak of, and he proved his point thoroughly. Out in the open, he was virile and eager, shamelessly sniffing out new bones to place beneath him. At home, where there was a woman, he was paralysed and frigid; a little boy.

But, in his defence, he wanted a little girl. He wanted someone who wouldn’t challenge him, someone who would say yes, someone who would sweep it all under the rug with the rest of his secrets and lies. He wanted a girl who would lie down, keep her mouth shut, and let him hate her the way he hated all women.

He wanted a little girl, but what he got was a woman. A fierce, independent, honest, hurricane of a woman, and it terrified and repulsed him in equal measure. He got a woman who expected more from him, expected more for herself. He got a woman with courage, a woman with balls. He got a woman who was more man than he could ever dream of becoming.

It was always going to disappoint us both.

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