A few weeks ago I decided to get a flatmate to help me through the Covid rollercoaster. I was excited right up until the moment that he turned out to be a tosser. 2 hours after he moved in.
When we first met, I thought he seemed like a cool guy, and that we were gonna be #isomates and it was all going to be splendid.
On his first night in the house we shared a glass of rosé to celebrate our new flatmate-friendship. At some point he mentioned that he finds his Mum annoying, despite being in his mid 40s. He then told me a story to illustrate an example of his recent annoyance, and all I could think was
“Ah feck it, I’m flatting with an entitled, chauvinist knob. His poor mum.”
The day after he moved in, I was in the kitchen cooking when he suddenly brought up the topic of sex, unprompted, and out of context.
At first I laughed. I’m no stranger to talking about sex, as you know from all my sex related blog posts. But it wasn’t long til I realised he was insinuating that he and I were each other’s only option for sex during lockdown.
I started to feel more and more uncomfortable as he talked.
By uncomfortable I mean that I wanted to kick him in the nuts, and also in the face, at the same time as never being in the same room as him again.
I started to feel physically sick.
I found myself laughing off what he was saying by making jokes and suggesting he get himself an AI sex robot.
And then I realised anger had joined the feeling of disgust bubbling in my stomach.
As he continued to talk despite the fact I was clearly not comfortable with where he was going, I grimmaced internally. It felt so familiar, this feeling of having to make jokes to diffuse a situation that made me deeply uncomfortable.
As women we learn early on that it can be dangerous to reject a man or to say what we’re really thinking when they’re being inappropriate, especially when we don’t know them. We have no idea whether they’ll shame us, belittle us, try to cut us down, or maybe even attack us.
Humans do not tend to take rejection well, especially when we feel shame, it can cause us to act in ways that we later regret. Women know this, so we know to tread carefully with unknown men.
So when faced with a man we’d rather punch, we have to try to make light of the situation. For our safety.
Eventually my flatmate must have sensed my discomfort, and he stopped talking for a while. I continued cooking.
Then, after a few minutes, he added “I wasn’t trying to depress you into shagging me or anything.” When he saw the baffled look on my face, he added
“I mean, I’m not trying to make you feel bad for me so that you end up fucking me out of pity.”
The physically sick feeling doubled and I paused, unsure of how to respond.
As one of my friends put it, “The man doth protest too much, methinks!”
After a long pause to make sure he was clear just how inappropriate this was, I turned to him and looked him dead in the eye.
“There is no chance of that happening.”
I finished cooking, then left the house to call a friend. As I marched through a park, rage-fully explaining what had happened, I started to cry. It was only then that I realised how badly the interaction had affected me.
Do you know how long it took me to ask him to move out after that?
For a full 8 days, I pretended everything was fine, hid from him in my room, and went out for a ridiculous number of walks in parks.
My Fitbit step count clicked over 28,000 steps on a few days that week because I didn’t want to go home and there was nowhere else I could go (cheers Covid!)
During those long walks, I talked to many wise friends to ask them what I should do.
Their reactions were mostly unanimous.
1. Disgust as I relayed the conversation to them. 2. Anger and stories of similarly inappropriate conversations they’d been subjected to. 3. “Do NOT ignore your gut instinct on this. Get him out of your house.”
I tried to override my instinct. I kept questioning myself, was I being unfair? I felt so bad that the guy was really loving living in my beautiful house, and I knew he’d be really gutted to have to move out. And I was petrified of what he would say or do if I told him the reason why.
Surely I could handle a few months of just hiding in my room and going to Bunnings to get a lock for my door so I didn’t feel stressed while in the shower?
My unwillingness to follow my gut when it inconvenienced someone else was a real eye opener for me.
I am a very blunt, direct, outspoken woman. My gut instinct was clear.
And yet it took me a full 8 days, and many conversations to come around to the idea that it was ok to inconvenience someone in order to meet my own needs. My needs being: feeling safe in my own house.
Whether he was harmless or not – why did I ever think it was a good idea to make myself tolerate months of feeling nervous and uncomfortable all day every day in my own house?
This is just one of a million examples of how deeply we are all conditioned to “keep the peace” and please others rather than following what our gut instinct knows we need to do.
As Glennon Doyle puts it:
“We forgot how to know when we learned how to please.”
When he finally moved out, 2 weeks later, I cannot tell you the weight that was lifted off my shoulders.
I didn’t even realise how tense I was until I breathed a huge sigh of relief, gave the finger to the creepy guy (metaphorically), and jumped on Houseparty for a cocktail with my friends to celebrate feeling good in my own house again!
I followed my gut and it was uncomfortable and awkward and stressful.
And it was, as always, the rightest of right decisions.
I’m grateful that I ended up in this pickle of a situation – as usual, life is happening FOR me, not TO me. It reminded me that the ONLY sane option is always to follow my gut, no matter how hard it feels.
This doesn’t just apply to creepy flatmates.
It applies to that job you know you don’t want to be in. To that friendship you know is unhelpful. To that partner you know isn’t right for you.
Follow your damn gut.
No matter how uncomfortable it may be (and it will be). No matter how many people you need to piss off in the process.
As my new best mate Glennon puts it (Ps – I highly recommend you read her new book Untamed immediately):
“You are here to decide if your life, relationships and world are true and beautiful enough for you. And if they are not and you dare to admit they are not, you must decide if you have the guts, the right – perhaps even the duty – to burn to the ground that which is not true and beautiful enough and get started building what is.”