So, you ask, where did it all go wrong?

We swapped photos, which probably would have been fine except, I mentioned how some men stop responding to my emails shortly after I send a photo. (The photo I usually send is only of my face, and I attributed the end of communication as a statement on race–people assumed I must be white and don’t fit the profile of who they expected was writing to them.)

However, Njal assumed I sent them the same photos I sent him, even though I was clear in my email that it is not usually the photos I send.

His response to why men stop responding:

N: Maybe it was you being quite a big girl. They probably assumed you were slimmer.

F: Ouch.

N: You have to be honest to yourself. That would be a deal breaker for many men.

F: I am, but there could have been a kinder way of saying it.
I assume it is not a deal breaker for you, but when you put it like that, I don’t know.

N: You’re perfect for doggystyle.

N: Seriously, F-, don’t get upset. For health reasons alone (diabetes in particular) you should take steps to lose weight. Doing so would also bring out your prettiest self.
Only a friend who has your best interests at heart will be this candid.

F: So I’ve been told. I can’t tell if talking to you on the phone will make me feel better or worse right now…

F: Yes, I know all of that. Yes, I know how devastating of a disease it is. I work at […] Yes, I am actively trying to lose weight.

It sounds like it was a deal breaker for you…

F: And it was terribly cruel that you should make so many assumptions about what I know and don’t know and what steps I take for my health… that is heartbreaking.

FYI, the group photo I previously sent to other men just showed my face, but you made an assumption there too…

N: No. Call it an incentive. Your essential sexiness hardens me still.

F: You have hurt me very deeply…

N: Because of the diabetes in my family (including my late mother) I tend to get a little aggressive in telling people to take care if their health.

I’m advising, not insulting you.

N:  Dear F-,

Please don’t be sad. I care and I mean well.
We’ll talk tomorrow.
N

But he did not send an apology. He made no effort to make amends.

I waited nearly a week before sending this email:

From: F

To: N

Date: August 11, 2016

Subject: Before you set the bridge on fire

It’s true, you know: I’ve only sent photos of my face to other men. What I meant before you soaked the bridge in gasoline and took a flamethrower to it, was I expected men stopped writing because of my race. I figure that if men cannot accept me for my race, they sure as hell won’t accept me for much else, and you’re right: weight is a dealbreaker for many men. I’m not an idiot.

I expected you would understand being rejected for appearance reasons because I’m sure there are many women who stop writing when they realize you are black and not the white person they had envisioned. I thought it could lead to an interesting, meaningful discussion on race.

Instead, your response translates to: “Well, you are fat.” As if I am oblivious to this matter. As if I haven’t been bullied and felt that in many ways my whole life. As if I haven’t had a doctor tell me those exact words to my face, as if they should inspire me at age thirteen and as if I could just make a wish and the pounds would melt away so easily.

You made it much worse when you threw your additional condescending judgment in: “For health reasons alone (diabetes in particular) you should take steps to lose weight.” As if I have not taken any steps. As if I know nothing about diabetes (even though I mentioned I have family with it as well in one of our earlier emails). Translation: “You look like you’ve never tried to lose weight, so if you have, you must be a failure at it.”

And in that moment, you went from a bull to a bully. The same bully I have faced in so many ways my entire life: the bully who hates Mexicans, the bully who hates gays, the bully who hates women. The Trumps of the world.

Being a bully does not help anyone, no matter how good you think your intentions are. If you care about your friends, you apologize when you’ve hurt them. You own up to your mistakes and admit when you are wrong. You treat them with kindness–and that was not kindness. And sometimes we have to say things that are not easy to say but necessary (tough love or the truth)–but we can still be sensitive about it to show our kindness. You were not that either. Compare your response to how you could have responded:

Yours
“For health reasons alone (diabetes in particular) you should take steps to lose weight.”

Mine

“I know obesity is a risk factor for developing diabetes, and I don’t want to see you suffer as I’ve watched others suffer from that disease. Do you know if you are at risk? Are you taking steps for your health? If you need support in any way, I want to be here for you.”

I am not irrational. People everywhere have a need for both love and kindness, and our best friends–our true friends–are the ones who treat us always with both.
-F
 I wish I could say he simply didn’t respond. He did respond, but it was a disappointing one:
N: There’s enough wetness in you now to put that fire out…
I was stunned. That’s how you respond to my letter? I became infuriated and replied:
F: Really? That’s your response? Did you even read my message? I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt that you weren’t an asshole, but your response has convinced me you are an asshole AND an idiot.

I feel sorry for anyone you feel you are “advising”; you aren’t doing them any favors, and you are not a friend.

And that’s the last I expect I’ll ever hear from him. What is it with these older men? Why the hell can’t just just own up to their mistakes and apologize? This hardheaded stubbornness, refusal to admit any wrong and apologize, it has gotta be one of the most unsexy things a person can do.
I expected a lawyer to be more careful with his words.

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