It was the first time I met his friends. We were sitting at a picnic table in the chilly autumn air, a small group of 8 on a couple’s retreat. It was a long-awaited trip away after 10 long months in quarantine. We were having salads that his friends took too much of a portion of for one person and everyone was having a spirited debate about Trump and his tainting of the United States of America in the eyes of the whole world in one fell swoop.
Conversations jumped from his sexual assault charges and campaign finance violations to his clear disregard in mocking the United Nations. My ex-boyfriend played devil’s advocate, saying that all men talk about assaulting women.
It was alarming and disgusting, and everybody at the table immediately attacked his stance. The table erupted in indignation filled with statistics and well-thought-out arguments.
Still, he did not budge.
I have been the other person at this table before, watching the girlfriend of the devil’s advocate stay silent whilst everyone admonished the boyfriend for being so racist, uneducated, and biased.
At that moment, I decided to be his loudest critic.
I took a quick survey from the three other men at the table, asking if they would ever say that they would “Grab her by the pussy”. Two of the men immediately responded no, another, for fear of rocking the boat, told me with his eyes no, but kept it to himself.
Still, the ex-boyfriend did not relent.
He had a college education, was a child of immigrants, and still supported Trump. But he also puffed out his chest and tried to make himself more manly than he was. I was the breadwinner in the relationship and clearly, it made him feel less.
A study shows men who support Trump are more likely to feel that they aren’t enough of a man and supporting trump’s rhetoric makes them feel like more of a man.
In hindsight, there were small red flags that seemed to slowly pile up.
He never wore a mask or restricted his comings and goings during the pandemic. That should have been my first sign.
He was unemployed and had no office to go to, but still, he left his home for no reason other than because he wanted to. And he deplored me for being cautious, for wearing a mask, for being afraid of getting others sick.
Yes, I was young and my body was resilient, but what of the elderly, babies, the immunocompromised? What of them?
After the rousing discussion, I couldn’t shake this feeling that he was not a man I wanted to associate with any longer.
It was further compounded when I talked about it with his long-time friend, a woman who was a software engineer at a prominent company. I told her “I don’t think I can do this anymore”. She turned to me and in a biting tone, said “What”. It wasn’t a question, but it was supposed to come off as such. She was saying she didn’t care what I said or felt or thought. She and he had been friends for a long time, and something told me they shared the same thought.
Looking back, he was trying to appear manlier than he was. His friends knew that I made more money than him, and while I never held it against him, he felt that standing up for something so rotten and misogynistic would make him bigger to his friends, in spite of me, and manlier.
After this event, whatever positive view I had of this man or knew about him was blocked off by this feeling of deep uneasiness. We had a clear and distinct convergence beyond what we felt for one another. He supports rape, caging children, and campaigning against immigrants.
And I don’t. So I left. Because I could.