Men Aren’t Entitled to Women's Time or Affection. But It's a Hard Lesson to Learn
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About a year after I graduated from college, I met the woman I was going to marry. I didn't know it at first, but the feeling slowly grew within me, until one day – around year two – I looked up and didn't see "my girlfriend", but the person with whom I was destined to spend the rest of my life. Somewhere along the way, she felt it also, and we began to replace "I" with "we" in sentences, like, "When we finally buy a house." One day I commented that I hoped any child of mine would be blessed with a strong chin, and she said, "It absolutely will – look at our chins."
I still knew that I was going to marry her the day she called me and told me that she didn't want to see me anymore.
I still knew I was going to marry her when I called her a dozen times after our last tearful goodbye. And when I emailed her a dozen more times after that. And when I had flowers delivered. And when I sent a few last text messages.
Eventually, after aborting a plan involving plane tickets and a surprise reunion that I was sure would have fixed it all, I got the message – but not before I'd convinced myself that it was her fault I'd been behaving like a maniac stalker. She was the one who turned her back on me without explanation, I told myself. She was the one who ended a four-year relationship with just a two-minute phone call on New Year's Eve. She was the one who refused to give me at least the closure that I deserved.
In recent months, it's been hard to escape the spectacle of other men talking about what they deserve – and what women have supposedly taken from them. In May there were the grisly Isla Vista killings, perpetrated by Elliot Rodger, who called his violence a "day of retribution" for the women who had rejected him. There is increased talk of "men's rights" forums, websites predicated on the serious belief that men are greatly disadvantaged by women's empowerment. Last month, a speaker at a men's rights conference in Michigan postulated that feminism was leading to a future without love.
Elsewhere, there's the less ominous and more omnipresent discussion, online and in pop culture at large, of things like the "friendzone", a term coined a decade ago on Friends to describe a scenario in which a man is attracted to a woman who only seeks a platonic relationship with him. Women tend to call that kind of partnering "friendship" – but, to many men, "friendship" doesn't capture the degradation they apparently feel at the prospect of spending time or being emotionally intimate with women who are uninterested in having romantic relationships with them.
Complex magazine recently published "15 Dudes Stuck in the Friendzone on the Internet", a slideshow of 15 social-media pictures of guys living out the "horrible experience" that is being friendzoned. Unrequited love can indeed be a hurtful, horrible experience. But the slideshow doesn't show that. Rather, the young men it depicts are shown laughing, exchanging gifts, hugging and goofing off with various young women, apparently their friends. To look at the photos – even satirically – and see "horrible" experiences, you have to think it's horrible to see a man interacting with a woman when the end result won't be them fucking. You have to see a non-romantic relationship with a woman as a kind of purgatory, a place of suffering to be begged and bartered out of en route the bedroom.