Misogynists and Their Moms
Most of the misogynists I know have deep-rooted issues with their mothers. For years I was one of those men, but could never see it.
My mother can be needy, critical, invasive, sweet, thoughtful, aggravating and sexually inappropriate with me. In other words a fucking handful.
As children when we live with a parent from whom we can’t escape physically, we escape mentally and emotionally. I did it by suppressing all the emotions my good little Catholic soul didn’t think were nice, and I and the women I would encounter for the next three decades paid the price.
After many years of therapy, support groups and listening to my gut, I began to realize I didn’t feel safe around my mother. I didn’t think she was going to beat me up, I just never knew when her mood would darken towards me or someone whom she felt slighted by, making me a captive audience for one of her long tirades.
As a child she often manipulated me into being her comforter and confidant. By the time I was eleven, I had experienced countless instances of her locking herself in her bedroom and moaning and wailing about how shitty her life, marriage and children were; how we were all ungrateful bastards and how she was going to leave us. I would come in and comfort her and promise we would all do better, and her crying would subside.
I had no sisters, my brother didn’t get along with her, and my dad was an alcoholic who didn’t want to be bothered, so her happiness became my self-appointed responsibility. It took me years to realize I had been her emotional parent and that I had deep rage and sadness about it.
I coped by shutting down emotionally and making sure I never needed anybody. I became cynical. I detested sentiment, especially the holidays. My humor took on a piggish, nihilistic tone, which is now obvious in hindsight because the very person who was supposed to nurture and protect me was hostile, critical and sexually inappropriate. I had to assume the rest of the world was just as painful to deal with.
I was her object. She would squeeze my ass and tell me how cute I was. She would call me and say “Hello Mr. Gilmartin, this is Mrs. Gilmartin.” The list goes on and on. And with each new boundary I would try to set, she would not only act as if I was crazy, she would find a new boundary to test. She didn’t fucking hear me. Children need to feel heard. Especially by their parents.
I remember one day she found some song lyrics I had written and told me, “You’re a misogynist.” And I remember feeling embarrassment and angry, but I couldn’t put my finger what I wanted to say and who I wanted to say it to. I felt rage a lot. It would start in my gut and move up to my face and make it hot and flushed.
As I type this I can still recall how often my body reacted to her with stifled rage, but being her self-appointed emotional savior, I stuffed it. If I could go back and put words in my mouth, I would have said, “Then stop pawing me. Stop flirting with me. Stop invading me. And stop passing judgement, good or bad on every single thing I do.” My mom was relentless. If I wouldn’t bend to her will, she would keep hammering away until I gave in or she cried, which would then cause me to give in.
So my idea of women was that they were emotionally fragile, manipulative people who overwhelm you with their neediness. So the only part that appealed to me was their bodies. Their personalities were something to tolerate to get into their pants. Fucked up, I know. It’s hard to admit. I couldn’t understand why a man would hang out with a woman if he wasn’t getting laid.
I remember a girlfriend in high school breaking up with me, saying I never listened to her and all I cared about was sex. She was right. She was a great girl, and I am ashamed of how I acted towards her, but I just couldn’t see it at the time, because to be vulnerable and open was to be overwhelmed in my house. It was safer to see women as objects. I had never experienced female warmth, only female torment. A woman being affectionate to me was never interpreted as her wanting to give anything to me, it was seen as her wanting to drain me like my mother did. So I would shut down. And drink to stay shut down. And drink to forget that I didn’t trust the world.
It wasn’t until my wife, some therapists, and women in my support groups showed me what unconditional feminine warmth felt like, that I realized how fucked up my relationship with my mom was.
I began to crave intimacy. I began to enjoy being vulnerable. And I began to look at women differently. Some were still unsafe, but some weren’t. I was intrigued.
I realized I had been guarding myself from all women, when I only needed to guard myself from some women. I started limiting my exposure to my mom and asking her to respect new boundaries about how she talked to me and touched me.
Things came to a head one day when in a sudden rush of emotion and clarity I went to my wife, asked for a hug and started crying. The sentence that had been stuck in my throat for all these years poured out. “She used me. She tricked me. I didn’t deserve it.” As I cried, my wife said, “I’ve been waiting twenty years for you to say that.”
The next day my body and mind felt different. I felt looser, more relaxed, stronger, more peaceful. I began to see the world differently, especially the women in it.
As I began to let my walls down around safe women, I began experiencing feelings I had never felt before. This year, for the first time in my life, as a forty-nine year-old man, I felt the awesome warmth of female friendships and a profound deepening of intimacy and honesty with my wife.
I don’t watch pornography or go to strip clubs any more because even though my body would still have an excited response, my soul doesn’t feel good doing it. I can’t reduce a woman to just her vagina and feel okay about it anymore, because I know how much it hurts to be objectified.
I have met many of the mothers male “pigs”, and there is always something kind of creepy and manipulative in their relationships. And I’m sure those mothers were abused or abandoned as children. My mother was abandoned by both of her parents. I don’t hate her, I’m not angry at her anymore because I don’t let her take from me.
I have compassion for her today. But not at the expense of compassion for myself.
I love grabbing a cup of coffee with one of my female friends today. It’s amazing how well they listen and empathize if I’m willing to talk about what’s really going on with me, even the embarrassing shit. They respect my boundaries and I like to think I respect theirs. And I like listening to them. I feel proud that they trust me with their inner lives and value my opinion. I always wished I had sisters growing up. It kinda feels like I have some now.
If you’re a guy and you’re reading this. Pay attention to what you feel in your body when you’re around your mom. If it’s not good, talk to somebody about it. One of my friends’ therapist said to him, “Before you marry a woman, you should think about divorcing your mom.”