I’ve been on-line a long time. Like, more-than-sixty-percent-of-my-life long, and – surprise, surprise – there’s always been gross stuff on the internet.
Not gross blood-and-guts gross, or pervy-sex-stuff gross, or scatological gross – I mean, all that stuff is out there, for sure, but it’s mostly there for the seeking, and I have neither sought it out, nor have I had any friends who’d think it was funny to send any of it in my direction (I probably live a charmed life, in that regard).
I mean gross in more subtle ways, in more “socially acceptable” ways – things that, when put under a critical lens, just leave me feeling like I need a shower.
Having already weeded my Facebook feed so that I don’t get my blood pressure up every time I get online, I’m no longer exposed to blatant racism, sexism, xenophobia, transphobia, or queer-phobia. I am however, left with these ubiquitous and gross memes:
I can’t see an alternative timeline where I’d find these funny, exactly, but maybe I’d be less grossed out if I didn’t know people for whom this level of suspicion and attempted control in a relationship was, like, an actual part of their lives.
Shortly after becoming a mom, I joined the obligatory “mommy board” (really a mommy app) in an attempt to find my “tribe” (their lingo, not mine).
What I found instead was a slew of women – primarily heterosexual – who, when talking about relationships, always talked in terms of what they or their partners were “allowed” to do: he wasn’t allowed to have female friends, she wasn’t allowed to like guy’s pics on Instagram, etc.
“Once you are married,” one of them actually wrote, “your man should not have any females number in his phone that isn’t family. After you’re married, that’s when all the trust goes out the window.”
“Once you are married, that’s when all trust goes out the window.”
Let’s ignore the fact that this implies that either 1.) men won’t cheat prior to being married, or 2.) that it’s okay if he does, suggesting that a relationship not somehow “validated” by marriage is lesser, but it also (apparently) suggests that, as a (married) bisexual, I should basically not own a phone. Or have friends.
But leaving that behind, I just… if you can’t trust them… why would you marry them in the first place?
I see a lot of media-savvy women, both feminist identified and not, wondering why we don’t see a lot of platonic friendships between men and women in the media, or wondering why Hollywood keeps insisting on asking the question of whether or not hetero men and women can be “just friends.” I don’t know if this is a case of life imitating art, or art mirroring life, but the answer is apparently, “because we have talked ourselves into the mindset that we honestly apparently can’t.”
Again, I don’t know if Hollywood is to blame for this idea, or if TV and movies are just holding up a mirror to our possessive and unhealthy ideas of what constitutes normalcy, but the fact remains – if you are in a relationship, you are not allowed friends of the opposite gender, because they become regarded as competition… which sort of sends the message that the only valid relationship between people of the opposite sex is a romantic/sexual relationship.
This is completely unfair, gross, and totally undermines the agency of all parties involved. And it’s doubly gross that I even have to say that.
Women-loving-women have all manner of deep, platonic relationships with other women. Men-loving-men do the same, and as a bisexual, I can assure you that while my circle of friends is small, it contains wonderful people of every gender with whom I have never even considered romantic entanglements. I’m not saying this level of petty mistrust exists only in the heterosexual community – of course not – but I feel like it’s not only the most predominant there (likely because it’s the social majority), but also that it’s the most socially acceptable there. Like, ok, there might be petty and possessive LGBT people, but they are being “catty,” or “aggressive,” whereas between the het couple? Well, that level of mistrust is only to be expected.
How are we socializing our kids to look at gender, and to look at the interplay and interpersonal relationships between genders? We are invalidating the importance of having varied people and relationships in our lives, and sending the signal that the only valid relationship is a romantic one between two people of the opposite sex – but that it’s also a relationship frought with mistrust and imposed limitations. Normally I’d talk about how dangerously heteronormative this idea is, and how harmful it is to LGBT kids, but honestly, in this scenario, I think het kids are getting the shorter end of the stick. If you’re straight, your best friend is a dude, and you’re not, kiss him goodbye, is essentially what we’re saying. If you ever want to experience “love,” you’re going to have to give up half of the people who’ve meant the most to you in your life. And answer for any interactions you have with anyone of the opposite sex ever again. Sorry, that’s just how love works.
Except, Jesus Christ, it isn’t. It so isn’t.
Look, cheating happens. There are valid reasons to mistrust people, I’m not saying there aren’t. If you are in a relationship with someone and they have cheated on you, of course I expect you to be wary. Of course I expect you to be guarded, and more than a little on edge. But it’s also not you to whom I am speaking right now. Your trust has been violated, and that’s not okay, and you are entitled to your pain and anger; but it’s not that you had an innate lack of trust to begin with.
But that is the risk we have to take when we enter into any relationship – whether or not to trust the person. And it’s not easy, and it’s not always comfortable, and you know what? They aren’t always worthy of that trust.
But if you can’t trust them – or if that trust has been violated and you aren’t willing/able to work to gain that trust back (which is valid) – then you shouldn’t be with them. The energy expended living in constant fear of them cheating, or in feeling that you have to “reel them in” is so unhealthy, for both parties involved.
Guys, it’s 2017. Can we have a more nuanced view of gender and gender relationships this year? Can we just… stop flooding my Facebook feed with gross memes about how “hilariously” unhealthy het relationships are? Please?