Can't forgive or forget
March 15, 2013 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm involved in a hobby that is very specialized and even in my large city the community is very small and tight knit. Outside of work and family most of my friends are in this hobby. I had a falling out with a "leader" in the community, and I can't seem to get over it.

A few months ago I left the facility where I practice this hobby, a small business owned by a "friend," because that person was being emotionally abusive to me, which culminated in probably the worst things that have ever been said to me (sexist insults, needless and cruel attacks on my character, etc -- this person finally admitted, "if I wanted you to leave, I wouldn't tell you, I would just treat you badly until you left of your own accord"). I explained why I was hurt and gave him an opportunity to apologize, which he refused to do. He got his wish and I left and never looked back.

Except that isn't true, I'm looking back all the time. Most of my friends are still there on a regular basis. A couple of my friends who experienced similar behaviors also left the facility, but for the most part, even people who are aware of what happened and agree that the way I was treated was reprehensible, are still there, still paying customers, and still posting shit on Facebook about how much they love this guy and his store. It honestly makes me sick. I don't think people need to take a stand on my behalf -- I'm old enough to know that friends aren't obligated to do that -- but it hurts me nonetheless. It makes me feel like a) they value their relationship with this man more than they value their relationships with me, and/or b) they "yes" me to my face but actually believe that I am fabricating or exaggerating the treatment (I am not), and/or c) they "yes" me to my face but actually condone the way I was treated.

I believe that a major reason for why this happened is that not only am I a woman in this male dominated community, but more importantly, I have been practicing this hobby for a long time and neither consider myself a beginner nor humble myself before other [male] practitioners. This person has developed a reputation for being inclusive of and helpful to women, when really he has pushed out all of the other expert women (myself and a few friends) while nurturing women who are beginners and who, essentially, act submissive and unquestioning of him. Even as I write this I fear that MeFites will be dismissive and assume that we were being "difficult women" and got what we deserved for "interfering" with the community.

Apart from the sadness I feel that my friends aren't "on my side" in this, I also have surprisingly strong feelings of wanting revenge. I can't even work up the nerve to write a negative Yelp review so I know I will never do anything, but basically I want to see this person fail and feel crestfallen when I have evidence that they aren't.

I know I'm never going to "get satisfaction" in this. I need to flag it and move on, so to speak. I am in therapy already. I would like to hear MeFites opinions and advice as well. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Gather yourself and the other expert women together, and create a community around this hobby that's inclusive and fair to all. He might have driven you out, but that's no reason to give up. You care about it a lot, as you keep looking back, so put some of that energy towards being bigger, better and brighter than he is. he sounds like an ass, so you're probably not going to be the only person he treats badly.

"Living well is the best revenge". I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said that. Anyway, show him that you're living well and enjoying yourself. that's going to make him feel angry and jealous of you, which is a far more entertaining thing than him simply being crestfallen.
posted by Solomon at 11:26 AM on March 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


Is there anyway you can band together with the other expert women and start up on your own? Living well (and doing superior work) is the best revenge, and all that. I'm not suggesting you be anti-male, but if you get together with some of the other women who've been driven out, and be careful about not being jerks, you're going to automatically draw both men and women who don't like the other way of doing business/art. I feel certain there are a LOT of people in that group who are on to that guy and would bail out if there was another option available to them.

Memail me if you'd like.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:30 AM on March 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hah! Jinx!
posted by small_ruminant at 11:30 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have been practicing this hobby for a long time and neither consider myself a beginner nor humble myself before other [male] practitioners. This person has developed a reputation for being inclusive of and helpful to women, when really he has pushed out all of the other expert women (myself and a few friends) while nurturing women who are beginners and who, essentially, act submissive and unquestioning of him.

....Can you imagine how pissed off this guy would be if you started your own classes in this particular hobby - and did better than him?

That seems the best of both worlds - you get to practice your hobby, you prove that he didn't knock you down, and you end up getting more followers than him because, well, you aren't a jackass. That's the best kind of revenge, where you really don't have to do all that much of anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on March 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


One, I believe that you friends really DO agree and feel that the way you were treated was reprehensible, but I'm guessing they also know what you know - that this hobby is small and the community is small, so if they challenge the owner on your behalf they too will lose their place within the community/hobby. So I don't think that they value their relationship with HIM over you. I just think they probably really want to be able to keep participating in the hobby AND still be your friend... It doesn't change the fact that they are still giving him business etc. but it may take some of the sting out of it.

Second, is there really no other way to continue with the hobby? Is there no other facility in your city, or even near by? It sounds like you really miss the hobby and the socializing that came with it, so if it took a half hour drive (or whatever) to get to some other place to be able to do that, maybe it would be worth it. Maybe it is something you and the other women can start up. Maybe you can spread the word about the hobby and try to increase interest and get new joiners so that you can start up a new community.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:33 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


What everyone else is saying. Figure out how to get involved in the hobby you love again by launching some project of your own, something that is uniquely yours, and then invite your friends to share it with you. It'll keep you busy and be very rewarding. In time you may become more successful than this man is (there'll be other people who feel the way you do about this man), and it won't matter anymore what he did or does — he'll just be small potatoes.
posted by orange swan at 11:34 AM on March 15, 2013


Is there another business in your area that could be a community center for the hobby? Or some gathering place where you could put together the social aspects of the hobby in conjunction with other stores that provide some of the materials used in the hobby?

A good portion of this guy's marketing is presumably that his store is the social hub for the hobby. Building a better community is a way to both enrich your hobby, and take that from him.
posted by straw at 11:35 AM on March 15, 2013


In my city, a group of female bike mechanics started a night just for ladies at a local organization that teaches people how to work on their bikes. I think the mechanics really enjoy the night just as much as the newcomers, it is great to create a safe space for women, especially when there are yucky guys around that make women a target to pick on.
posted by dottiechang at 11:46 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a female gamer since the '80s, I've been in this position. It's rotten. The part about not knowing which way the friends go is especially maddening.

The most successful thing I wish I did was to make my own group. I don't know if you can do that or not, but I saw other women do this and it was amazing.

What they did was invite the other women who had been marginalised from specific hang-out spots and groups to have a sort of Maestra Circle of experienced, committed female gamers who traded off on responsibility for running things (so we all get to flex our skills and interests and share with each other). After they got it going reliably, they invited other women to join. Some of those women brought men who understood there would be none of the BS that dominated at the gaming stores and other people's living rooms. Their gatherings began to draw people away from the asshole groups.

I'm not sure that applies to your example, but I do hope you at least find some other venue for your hobby and some appreciative folks to share it with.
posted by batmonkey at 1:21 PM on March 15, 2013


I was/am in a similar situation, except without the gender difference. Was deeply involved with a hobby, friends (I thought) with my instructor/local business owner, and after a few years she changed her business policies without telling me, listed off my character flaws, and banned me from her classes and place of business, which tanked the small business I was developing, because it ostracized me from a close community that had become part of my life. I still am not sure why she chose to treat me like she did. My assumption is that she felt threatened by me.

Being on the outs in a close community really really sucks. It makes you question yourself and the quality of your friendships, because your friends will quite happily associate with this person who treated you badly since the person still has something to offer them. You will always be one degree of social contact away from this person - you'll see their comments on your friend's Facebook posts, you'll worry about which social gatherings you can attend without bumping in to them or hearing about them. It sucks. It's worse than a breakup in some ways, because people understand breakups but they dismiss dense social connections.

I ended up realizing I needed to find a new stomping ground, so I moved to a new (larger) city a few hundred miles away. I started taking classes again and making friends in this new community. I am happy. I still cannot get away from the lady who treated me badly. She came to a local event and I knew in advance and had to decide whether to stay home or go. I went, and she and I said nothing to each other, and though it was awkward I was glad I went because you can't give ground to jerks like this forever. I am quieter in this new community, more hesitant to interact. I really dislike that this woman makes me want to keep my head down. But I am building myself up.

I have learned that sometimes if you make something a big deal in your mind, it gives it more power over you. If you choose to think of it as a bump in the road, you will recover easier and allow others to be comfortable with it as well. You can't change the jerks of this world - and in fact you are wasting the most valuable resource you have (your time and energy) by trying. They say the best revenge is living well, and I think it is true. Part of that process is learning and moving on, and not dwelling on the offending person or circumstances.

Do what you want and need to do. If that means continuing this hobby, rededicate yourself. Reach outside your immediate social circle. If this means taking a break and trying a new hobby, do that. If this means you have to drop some friendships because your friends are not supporting you, do that and make new friends. It is not easy - major change never is. Play the long game and work toward a future where you are your happiest self. Forget about fussing over this jerk, because you are never going to get the satisfaction that will make the heartache worthwhile.

I was initially bothered when my friends just shrugged their shoulders and continued associating with my jerk like nothing happened. But in the next year or so, most of them quietly distanced themselves from her. The patterns of behavior that led her to target me also made her difficult for others to work with. Now I see her posting little pleading remarks for them to come back to class. The group she was trying to organize fell apart. It caught up with her, just not nearly as quick as I wanted.

Your jerk's actions may be sexist, but it springs from a place of genderless insecurity. He likes being the big man (just like my jerk likes being the queen bee) and though he may react to male challengers differently at first, eventually he will lash out with insecurity toward them as well. This cannot be masked forever, and to get over it he will have to do some extemely painful growth and probably face a crisis. He will likely not resolve it in his lifetime and have a gnawing internal miserableness forever. I would feel sorry for him, and instead focus on making yourself well and happy again.
posted by griselda at 1:29 PM on March 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've had similar experiences. I'm female, and not very 'alpha' though I'm not a doormat. Either start another group, find a related hobby, or find an all-new hobby. Stuff happens, people will randomly decide they don't like you, and be utter shitheads about it. It's not right, or fair, but it's real, and you have to cope. You don't have to think it's your fault, though. Smart people will see what's happening, others will just follow the alpha male. I'm sorry you have to go through this crap.
posted by theora55 at 2:24 PM on March 15, 2013


I had a similar experience and sadly the only thing that helped me move on was completely getting new friends and a new hobby.

Years later, I've had a few old friends from the former hobby contact me via Facebook and it's lovely to see them (online) and it's even been mentioned that the Alpha Couple that were instrumental in my leaving has said they miss me and would like to see me back around.

I'll never go back to it, and to be honest, I miss it like you miss an abusive ex. Which is to say very infrequently and for only short periods of time when extremely intoxicated.

One major thing I've changed about my life since is to make sure I maintain friendships from multiple hobbies and interests. That way if something were to happen again, all my friends don't disappear while telling me how awesome I am and how I'll always be included. It's comforting to have such a variety and it also prevents me from becoming burnt out from one group dynamic.
posted by teleri025 at 2:38 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like I've only half answered your question. Here's a possibly helpful reframing of the situation.

This guy? Weak. He didn't have the guts to ask you to leave, he was just mean to you until you actually left. And, he told you he was not going to ask you to leave, he was just going to be mean to you until you left. He actually explained to you what he was doing, instead of just asking you to go. Who actually does that? I don't think I've ever heard this happen in real life before. He had no place else to go, other than to tell you he was treating you badly in the hopes you'd leave, without actually having to ask you to. It probably makes me a bad person, but I find that quite amusing. And pitiful.

His behaviour is probably quite clear to a lot of people, but where else are they going to go? He has a monopoly on the hobby, so he can afford to get away with childish behaviour. Indeed, he's driven out the competition, so he looks good by comparison. If he was strong, he'd have welcomed other strong people to himself, but as he's weak, he has to cling to any little bit of power that he has and guard it jealously. It sounds like this guy really wants to be an Alpha. Alphas aren't scared of competition though, because they know it makes them stronger.

Regarding the people who are still in his orbit: what are they supposed to do? Give up on the hobby? If he's the only person offering supplies or a meeting place or whatever, then they'll gravitate to him because he's the only option. Planets orbit the sun. Until a bigger, brighter sun comes along, they're kinda stuck, tied to the gravitational pull of the star. It might not be the brightest sun, or the best sun, but it's the only sun they have. People often make the best of what they have.

Regarding your anger, I wrote this comment a while ago that seems to have been well received. It's OK to be angry. Our culture tells us that we should be HAPPY ALL THE TIME which I agree with to a certain degree. It's better than being angry all the time. Sometimes though, you just need to scream and let it out, and then let it go. Or channel it into a more productive use.

I don't have a Facebook account, so I'm not sure how it works, but I seem to recall a thing where you could hide updates from certain people from appearing on your feed. Could you do that with the people who are posting positive stuff about this weakling on there?

Always take the higher moral ground. It's more easily defended and people can see you better up there. Live your life, enjoy the hobby and every time you feel yourself getting annoyed by this, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you're better than him. Because you totally are.
posted by Solomon at 2:40 PM on March 15, 2013


New Meetup Group: Women's $HOBBY Thursday Night Jamboree! Level: upper intermediate to advanced. For women hobbyists who may be in shape or may be rusty, but have substantial $HOBBY experience. Share and grow in an all-women environment.

[you can add mixed classes after a while]
posted by tel3path at 4:51 PM on March 15, 2013


I believe that a major reason for why this happened is that not only am I a woman in this male dominated community, but more importantly, I have been practicing this hobby for a long time and neither consider myself a beginner nor humble myself before other [male] practitioners. This person has developed a reputation for being inclusive of and helpful to women, when really he has pushed out all of the other expert women (myself and a few friends) while nurturing women who are beginners and who, essentially, act submissive and unquestioning of him. Even as I write this I fear that MeFites will be dismissive and assume that we were being "difficult women" and got what we deserved for "interfering" with the community.

This kind of thing has happened to me as well, and I believe you when you say that the major reason this happened is gender-related. While it's true that people of any gender can be assholes, there is a very specific dynamic that takes place when a woman who is in no way an acolyte steps into a group headed by a guy who requires that she be. It's a very difficult situation to be in, and it's compounded by the fact that it seems like the other guys support it by acting like they don't see it and not speaking up.

What helped me make peace with situations like these was this realization: Most people are chickens and scared to rock the boat. Women HAVE to rock the boat just to not get tossed out of it half the time, but men don't. They don't speak up because they're not forced to be brave in the way that women are. Not all of these guys are actively against you. Some are just glad that the bully's focused on you, and they're keeping quiet so as not to draw attention to themselves.

Do these guys still suck? Yes! But they're not trying to destroy you - they're just letting you get destroyed. Why do I say this like it's a good thing? Only because the degree of malice is less in this light.

It's small, but for me it's actually a bit of solace.

I personally think these things will never change until the men in the room get as brave as the women. Guys who are reading this: if you see this dynamic in action, speak up!
posted by january at 5:48 PM on March 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


even people who are aware of what happened and agree that the way I was treated was reprehensible, are still there, still paying customers, and still posting shit on Facebook about how much they love this guy and his store. It honestly makes me sick.

I'm not sure if this applies to this particular situation, but being aware of what happened, vs seeing the full extent of it firsthand, are often very different. Especially when someone reserves their most venomous actions for times when most people won't see it directly. Or similarly random people will witness each nasty thing directly, but none will see it all and so each one underestimates the frequency of that behavior. When aware of nastiness between friends, it's often very hard to guess the full extent of the nastiness when you're not the target, and if the person is nice to you then your guesses are going to err on the side of benefit of the doubt.

What I'm saying is that your friends still liking this guy despite his shit - it might not mean much, even though it feels like a massive big slap in the face. It's normal for people to understand you were wronged and that you don't want to be around, without having an accurate grasp of how bad things were for you.

I agree with the people above - get some like-minded peeps together for small informal activities, and let it grow into it's own new hobby space.

Even if that means renting a permanent space, you might be surprised at how feasible that is if a few people commit to splitting the bill, doubly so if a nice happenstance can be found (someone knows someone who needs some extra income and while they have a space, they don't want a tenant and it's not commercial property, etc etc)
posted by anonymisc at 6:34 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think it is possible to forget. This is human nature (and probably not terribly healthy if you do manage) What you want to do is lessen the pain, so when you do remember it hurts less and less to none. We usually recommend forgiving. This can be hard to do, but some steps: Acknowledge how he hurt you. Acknowledge what he cost you. Acknowledge how this all made you feel. Pick something, say 'I forgive you for X' (not to his face, obviously, thats neither safe nor productive) Pick y, z, Z+, till you have forgiven him for everything. You will probably feel better. Till the feelings come back, which is also natural, and then you... forgive again!
posted by Jacen at 7:14 PM on March 15, 2013


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