In 2016, I posted something on Facebook about the inappropriate positioning of Kellyanne Conway during a White House photoshoot. A lot of you may remember that photo - her sitting, splay-legged, trying to take photos with a phone while dignitaries met in the Oval Office.
Looking back, as a feminist, that was an incredibly sexist and stupid thing to post.
And at the time, one of my friends from ACU called me out for it.
This is where I step back, as a feminist, a friend, a female, and a human being, and think, dear GOD, Bee, could you have BEEN a shittier person? Why would you respond like that? What compelled you to destroy a relationship you held dear for so long?
My response to her was slapdash and rude. Then, my best friend at the time commented something else. Somehow, it devolved into me divulging information of a sexual nature that my ACU friend had shared with me during our freshman year. I posted about it, in a comment, on a public post on my Facebook, where she and all of our friends and everyone who knew me or her could see it.
And then I realized what I’d done. She messaged me, brokenhearted, and asked why I would do something like that. I immediately blocked her, full of shame and fear, and then tried to ignore what had just happened.
She still knew my ACU email address, so she emailed me and demanded a response.
I unblocked her and tried to re-add her as a friend, and i sent her a heartfelt message of apology, desperately seeking her forgiveness and friendship again, and fell on her mercy as if my life depended on it. She did not accept my friend request, and I don’t remember if she responded at all.
This past year, I messaged her again, asking for her forgiveness, lamenting my stupidity, and asked if we could be friends. She kindly replied that she had forgiven me years ago, but that she now had a family, and it was her duty to protect them from toxic people like me, so no, there would be no friendship, but she wished me well.
As someone who has been destroyed by “toxic people” like my ex and my rapist, I was utterly devastated at having been referred to that way. Was I really toxic? Was I, in fact, everything that I despised?
The answer was yes and no.
Now, in 2019, I am not a toxic person. At least, I work my hardest not to be, and not to disparage other people in the things that I write or say, up to and including those who have hurt me. I do not consider myself “toxic”, and I DO consider myself an active feminist.
Back then, though? Absolutely. I was toxic to everything and everyone I touched, because I was in a very dark place, and my soul was feeding off of that darkness and spewing out nothing but hatred and malice in every direction, especially towards those who disagreed with me or I felt “wronged” me in any way. My sweet friend had been directly in the line of my toxic fire, and I know now that I deserved to be called that. It was true. My friendship with the “best friend” who had helped to pull that response out of me ended not long after that Facebook post. She was toxic, too, and her toxicity and mine fed into each other. She was also in the middle of a hell I cannot imagine with her family, and I keep a picture of them on my wall to this day to remind me how quickly things can devolve into nothingness; how rapidly toxicity can progress. I still love her, even though she ghosted me, and it was that ghosting that led me down the path of self-realization. Who had I become? I knew I had to change.
In my life, my brother, two of my best friends, and one of my ex boyfriends have ghosted me. I do not take that lightly. Two of those relationships have been salvaged, but they remain strained, forever haunted by a scar I left when I forced those people I loved to cut ties. I wholeheartedly take responsibility for my toxicity in those times, and it hurts me to think back to when those ghostings happened. I had allowed addiction and selfishness to drive me to places I never imagined I’d go. I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to rebuild those two salvaged relationships, but as of now, I don’t think they will ever be fully repaired. And that hurts me more than anything else in this world ever has.
We live in a culture that thrives off of public shaming. Comments like the one I made about my dear friend fuel our fire. Every day there is a new scandal. Jussie Smollett, Kevin Hart, a plethora of YouTubers… anyone in the public eye can quickly become fodder for us as we hold up our pitchforks, looking for somewhere to place the rage that is ever-burning within us. We are a culture of angry, toxic people, willing to crucify those we once loved to slate our blood-lust.
This was true even before the digital age, and the damage we’ve done stands the test of time.
I will never get my friend back.
I will never be able to undo comments and posts I have made.
I will never be able to take back what I have spewed forth; words tumbling out of my mouth with a veracity that makes them impossible to ignore and even more impossible to un-say.
I think nothing on earth better explains this than the video below, and I ask that you watch it and think, am I being toxic? Am I contributing to the Shame Machine? How do my words affect those around me, those i disagree with, those I dislike?
Stop and think before you throw stones and light fires.
I wish someone had taught me that, or, perhaps, I wish I had listened to that advice when I was given it as a child.