Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How mansplaining made me appreciate my boyfriend more

I love my boyfriend, Earl.

I really do. Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that at any given point,  most likely on Mondays (ManCrushMondays) that you will see some photo or dedication to this crazy, hilarious human who came into my life and made it better. He's incredibly handsome, smart, focused, driven, trustworthy, loves Jesus, loves his mama, probably the best griller I know, and has a sarcasm that matches mine which often has us embroiled in word bouts that result in the both of us keeling over with laughter.

It's the little things...

That all being said, he is definitely got some pretty glaring flaws. He doesn't like pets (I know! Right?!) He drinks more fruit juice than any person I have ever known. His resting face is frightening (in the words of my own mama). I could go on, but that isn't the point of this little post.

But what is NOT one praise the Lord, is that he has never, not once, tried to mansplain anything to me. Ever.

Mansplaining is defined as "what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he's talking to does." After reading though some of the experiences (posted in this morning's Readables), a few of my more recent incidents came to mind where some man tried to explain something to me that he had no grasp over.

Earl may have a lot of flaws, but this is one he has never been guilty of. But that doesn't mean I haven't experienced it. On the contrary, as recent as a few weeks ago, I ended a budding friendship over frequent mansplaining.

I have come to view the people who enter my life as teachers who come along with the gift of some particular lesson that I must learn, listening intently for what they have to say and seeing how I can apply it to my life. Whether it's "patience", or " never read a book by it's cover" or in the case of this person, it was "trust your gut because it told you to never give this person the time of day", people who come in and out of our lives are there for a reason. 

In my defense, it started out harmless enough. He had seen me around the neighborhood, and noticed I was always furiously typing away at my laptop keys and asked what I did. I told him I was a writer and social media consultant and handed him one of my cards and offered my services. And so it began, we would meet up in the mornings to supposedly talk business, business turned into life, and life opened debates. I soon discovered this particular person was so stuck in his own ways of thinking, that he had no real desire to hear or even attempt to listen to anything I had to say. 
He had an opinion about EVERYTHING. His favorite target was my faith, frequently criticizing Christians and Christianity for things for which he had no basis in fact, just his own opinion. A little bit about me; I have been actively studying my faith for over half a decade. I am the lead on a dynamic teaching team and I have completed a ministerial study program. So, let's just say I have a good foundation for my faith. 

He would go on these exhaustive tangents about how Christians were the worst and how the church is failing. Meanwhile, I would sit across from him, sipping my iced coffee, a living contradictory example to everything he believed about Christians. When he would say Christians were stingy and greedy, I would quickly discuss the ongoing giving efforts my church and I were doing in the community. He would say that Christians didn't care about youth, I would immediately point to the different programs and mentorship my church and I were actively doing. For every ridiculous assumption or judgement he would cast, I would combat it with my own experience, facts and my faith. To which, he would quickly write off "Well, you're not really a Christian." and then would point to some long since antiquated faith system, doubting both my beliefs and experiences. Insert eye roll.


These conversations started out pleasantly enough, but over time, I felt myself growing incredibly weary of them. Despite my requests to stop attacking my beliefs, he persisted, as if some point to prove or in an attempt to crack what he believed to be a facade in me. 

It came to a head one rainy day, in an unfortunately public way, when, in Starbucks, he sat across from me, ramping up on his accusatory rant that I, quite frankly had had enough of hearing. After about 10 minutes of silence, I finally, and very declaratively, told him what his problem was, that he was so blinded and so comfortable by what some person had done to him that neither fact nor truth nor experience, even a living, breathing contradiction to his asinine arguments would make any difference. 

He pointed at me, and accused me of being the same as all of those who he had been talking about. He accused me of naiveté, of seeing the world with rose colored glasses, and being as selfish, greedy, and otherwise deplorably judgmental as those he berated me about for weeks. Refusing to let him try to tell me who I was, I snatched my laptop and my backpack and walked out.
Not my most shining moment. But I wasn't about to sit there and let some small man make me feel small. I know who I am. I know what I believe. I know in Whom I have believed, and no one, especially not some miserable man who has doomed himself to loneliness in exchange for the justification of his pain, can tell me otherwise.

I learned a lot from those weeks:
-You (meaning me) cannot save everyone. Some people like their prisons. No amount of handing them the keys will make any difference.
-Misery really does love company. Doesn't mean you have to be it's company.
-Some people are so comfortable in their own pain, doesn't mean you have to get comfortable with them.
-There will be attacks on what you believe and even who you are daily. You have to know, without any doubt, who you are and not allow anyone tell you. 
-Never generalize. Let individuals be who they are without punishing the group.
-Trust your gut and call BS at the door.
-Don't count losses, count lessons.
-Most importantly, shine your light. Some will be repelled by your light, some will draw towards your light, but none of that matters. You just keep shining. 

That night, I met up with my Earl, my fruit juice destroying, mean faced, warm hearted, crazy Earl. I shared with him these experiences to which he nodded as he poured yet another cup of apple juice and affirmed me, saying is his sweetly twangy baritone, "You know who you are and you stood up for yourself. And I'm proud of you." I was swept with overwhelming gratitude that he is my partner and that he, like me, chooses to keep his mind open for growth and his heart open for lessons. I couldn't ask for anything else.  

Now, if only I can get him to smile more.