silenced by a hashtag

I Was Admired By All, But Then an Angry Mob Came for Me!

The Abduction of the Sabine Women, Nicolas Poussin.
The Abduction of the Sabine Women, Nicolas Poussin. Photo: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1946/The Met Collection

I have reached a reckoning moment in my life. It’s incredibly difficult to talk about, so I’ve written 6,392 words on the subject for a high-profile print publication instead.

Silenced. Most of us can’t imagine what that feels like, but now I know. It’s a cruel irony, since I’ve spent my entire career speaking words out loud for an adoring audience. Imagine my pain, if you canEvery utterance was once cherished, yet now I find myself without a voice. The other night, I was walking alone along the Seine — a quick trip to Paris try to catch my bearings after all I’ve been through — and I thought, “Voiceless, that’s what I am. Why, this is how the women of Sabine must’ve felt as they were carried away and brutally raped by the Romans.” The Sabine women’s suffering might’ve come at least a tiny bit close to matching mine.

Because even though I was once admired (and often desired) by respected statesmen and tight-bodied celebrities and delectable young morsels alike, I have always, inwardly, seen myself as something of a hideous beast. This might be true because my favorite fantasies involve tying women up and punching them in the face, or it might be because my mom didn’t show me as much affection as she did my brother Richard, that fake little twat. Either way, my self-image was always warped. The awards and trophies and accolades would roll in — or my assistant (you should see her ass, round as a peach!) would haul them into my office for me —  but I couldn’t feel a thing. Which is probably why I kept squeezing that peach over and over before I realized it was actually an ass, one that was attached to my assistant.

That’s also why I couldn’t hear her when she said “no” and “Please stop doing that” and “I quit.” In fact, my other assistant was the one who eventually told me my first assistant had quit, but she was only explaining why it might take longer to get the Brazil Monte Alto single origin cold brew I prefer each morning at 8 a.m. on the dot, from Propeller Coffee across town. When I finally got my coffee (What are these, Nicaraguan beans?! Who do I have to hate-fuck around here to get my order right?!!), I felt so mistreated and abandoned that it reminded me of how I used to feel when my mom cheered for stupid fake Richard’s soccer matches. That twat couldn’t even kick straight! That’s probably why I called my lawyer and told him to call his fixer and make sure my first assistant never opens that fat mouth of hers (which I never heard or saw when I was squeezing her sweet Georgia stone fruit) or she’ll never haul big boxes of trophies around in this town again.

But even after my assistant, whose name I can’t recall at the moment, dragged my respected name through the mud for no reason beyond petty vengeance, I still felt invincible. Invincible, the default feeling a man should always feel, when he is embraced and celebrated for decades. Alas, soon I was dropped by my literary agent whose name I can’t recall but who signed all of the biggest names and had an extremely posh office with a posh receptionist to match whose name I can’t recall but she was hotter than, seriously, most Victoria’s Secret models. I still remember sitting in my agent’s posh office, gazing through the glass and imagining nailing his ludicrously hot receptionist on top of her desk, and hearing my agent say that he could no longer represent me. I was just getting to the good part of my fantasy when a security guard entered his office and stood over me and asked me to leave. So this is how the witches of Salem must’ve felt when they were burned at the stake, I thought.

But a quick bonfire could never match the extended agony of my humiliation, which had only just begun. Not only did my job prospects narrow to a few mediocre offers that would’ve made me laugh until Brazil Monte Alto single origin cold brew sprayed out of my nose in the good old days, but I was shunned by all of the busy and important people who once hung on my every word. The brightest lights of the literary world, the hippest celebrities, the sexiest pop stars, the ones who once scrambled to be in my company, now refused my phone calls. The other morning I was making myself a cappuccino (I can’t even drink the meticulously cultivated single origin cold brew that is my birthright now because I’m struggling financially), and I thought, “My god. This isolation, this despair …. This is how those Armenian women must’ve felt in 1850 when the Turks invaded with genocidal rape on their filthy, invincible minds.”

Just like the Turks, my accusers won’t even acknowledge me or check up on me, to see if I’m okay. The one former coworker who was honorable enough to reach out to me (after my new assistant sent her a muffin basket with the note “No hard feelings, keep that fat mouth shut tho, lol!”) told me that a direct apology would go a long way toward making things right. (I think that’s what she said, I can’t remember because she had the tits of an angel, to be honest.) I carefully explained to her that she doesn’t understand anything at all. If I apologized in any manner whatsoever, every word would be taken as an admission of guilt for things that I am pretty sure I only did two or three times, with people whose names I barely remember. Who are they, even? No one cares. If can’t remember them, why should anyone else? Just seeing them on the TV with words coming out of their faces is jarring to me, honestly, since I never really noticed that was happening before and it looks weird and frightening and deeply unsexy to my eyes, possibly because my mommy always looked like that when words were coming out of her face, and she was so no fair. (If you don’t believe me, phone up my therapist and she’ll brief you.)

My former coworker pressed me, though. She reminded me of something I probably never did five or six times as is alleged, which I can’t mention here or people will just repeat it again, except with unfair ageist and body-shaming undercurrents. So I will simply admit that I’ve hurt people, people whom I never saw as people so much as juicy bits of fruit-meat to fuck in the face, but whom I’m told were, in fact, actual human beings. With feelings. Who cares? But yes, apparently these “people” had them.

Honestly, that’s what hurts me the most. As invincible as I have felt all of my life, it absolutely crushes me to think that I could be damaged enough not to notice that I’ve been hurting other supposed people who supposedly feel things. Arguably that crushing realization hurts me a lot more than it hurts these alleged “humans” who are rumored to be hurting. In fact, the other night I was jogging through my tony neighborhood (I can’t even jog during the day now for fear of being photographed looking all damp and guilty) and I felt the full force of my anguish and I thought, “This is how those girls in Africa must’ve felt when they were carried off by Boko Haram or whatever it’s called, to wherever.”

I’m sure those girls are back by now, but my suffering goes on and on forever, until the merciless and ultra-powerful mobs of semi-employed twentysomething ladies on Twitter decide otherwise. I’ll bet some of them are hot, though. OK I have to go beat off now.

Oh sure, you don’t want to hear about that. My needs — sexual or emotional or financial — don’t matter to anyone anymore. I’m just a hashtag now. And I’m sure the mob will come for me after this, too, and there will be a giant backlash and all the work I’ve done here will be erased. Imagine feeling that way, like your suffering never mattered and all of your hard-won progress will just keep disappearing. I’ll bet you can’t. Even once people can see how much you’ve suffered, they don’t care, they just hate you even more!

Sometimes it feels like they were born to hate you. Sometimes it feels like you’ve suffered since the dawn of time, and no one even noticed, and no one cares now, either. They all just want you to simmer down and disappear. They all just want you to stop making them feel uncomfortable. They all just want you to pretend like you don’t even exist. Imagine that. Yeah. I’ll bet you can’t.

Heather Havrilesky writes The Cut’s Ask Polly column and is the author of the essay collection What If This Were Enough? (Doubleday, October 2018).

I Was Admired By All, But Then an Angry Mob Came for Me!