In 2015, Kae Lani, explored the world of online dating and found herself in a bizarre text exchange with a Republican Media Strategist in Philadelphia. The exchange may be triggering to those who are sensitive to verbal abuse, but we have chosen to publish this story to show our readers that they are not alone, your value is not dictated by the approval of the patriarchy, and you can turn harsh words into a fuel. Misogyny is alive and the need for feminism has never been more paramount.
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I do not miss dating one bit. When you’re young, vulnerable and impressionable, the wrong guy can be identity-shattering. It can be hard to continue to love yourself when you’re 22 years old and the guy you’ve been dating for six months turns to you one day and says, “there is nothing special about you—there is nothing that sets you apart from the other girls.” But now that I’m older and wiser—and in the healthiest, most stable relationship of my life—I can look back fondly on my experiences and laugh. I laugh at the college professor who ghosted me. I laugh at that 34-year old actor who was still “in love” with the minor he slept with. I laugh at the guy who told me after my father’s suicide that because he didn’t understand my emotions he “deemed them invalid.” I laugh because through all of that heartache I ended up with a happiness I never knew existed. But no dating experience of mine is as preposterous as my singular encounter with this guy. Let’s call him Chad.*
This is the last text message I ever got from Chad, a media strategist for Republican representatives in Pennsylvania. So what did I do to warrant such treatment?
Let’s start at the beginning.
It’s Summer of 2015. I just celebrated my 26th birthday and started my dream job as the Social Media Director for a travel publication. It’s seven months after an emotionally abusive relationship with an alcoholic and I’m starting to feel confident enough to play the field again.
Since I travel frequently for work, I decide to sign up for Match.com. I had excellent experiences with Match.com in the past with men who were polite, reliable, trustworthy, and overall higher quality than the swipers of Tinder. In fact, a few of my old Match.com meet-ups are still my friends. But not this time. For some reason, the Algorithm Gods of Match.com paired me up with a man that not even ‘Bizzaro-Me’ would date.
After exchanging a few messages with Chad, he wanted to set up a time for a phone call. I was hesitant because he was a staunch Republican and the founder/CEO of a company facilitating media communications for many Republican representatives in Pennsylvania, and I was a tattooed feminist and travel writing globalist with blue hair. We were polar opposites. But could opposites attract?
I was honest about who I was and what I believed in, but he didn’t seem to mind. I found his openness to my opposing world perspective refreshing and decided to see where it led. Crossing party lines was a dating experience I’d never had before, and perhaps we could broaden each other’s minds with differing philosophies.
We talked on a Sunday afternoon for just over an hour. Chad was a little edgier than I expected, and not the stuffy Republican I had previously imagined. He frequented metal shows in Philadelphia, enjoyed middle eastern cuisine, and smoked hookah. He thought my interest in drone videography was fascinating and did not romanticize my travels, but admitted he loved that I was a worldly woman. He said I was a unique free spirit and expressed that he could not wait to meet me in person. His progressiveness and charm were enough for me to give him a chance. We set up a date for that Wednesday and as soon as we hung up the phone I started searching for articles on ‘how to date a Republican’. The Tuesday night before our date, I was hosting a media cocktail event when I received the first of many weird text messages.
I assume he’s super busy. I mean, he is the founder and CEO of his media company, and after assuming an upper management position myself, I empathize with how busy working in media can be.
Woah! “Have a nice life”! That seems harsh. I get up to deliver a welcoming speech at the event I’m hosting and return to my seat to reply to his text. He couldn’t possibly be texting the right person. We haven’t met yet! I haven’t gotten the chance to mess this date up!
Awww, okay. That was honest and I respect that. We’ve all been there. Having just had my life shaken up by a bad relationship, I knew how important it was to take time to heal.
I meant that earnestly. He seemed like a nice guy going through a human experience. We had such an open conversation just two days before, and he had shared so may personal details with me that I didn’t think it was absurd for me to lend an ear to someone who clearly needed to talk. At this point, all romance is off the table. But friendship is something I offer to everyone. That is, to everyone who respects me.
I was astounded that someone would respond so disrespectfully to a woman who was going out of her way to be kind. I owed him nothing but still offered him unconditional compassion. So why even respond to me? He could have just ghosted. He could have just left it at “No, thanks.” But instead, Chad opted to put effort into being rude.
The text exchange with Chad becomes an instant barroom classic amongst my gal pals. We try to imagine the series of events from his perspective. Why did he escalate things so quickly? Did a first date equal a committed relationship in his world? They reassure me that I dodged an emotionally erratic and volatile bullet. I agree.
I save the messages on my phone not just as a conversation piece, but as a testament to my personal endurance. A younger me would have been hurt by his crudeness and would have internalized his behavior toward me as some flaw with myself. But 26-year old me laughed, brushed it off and moved on, and for the first time in my life, I knew that the problem was with him, not me.
Nine days later, Chad returns.
My non-responsiveness should have been enough of a sign that he lost his chance to date, let alone befriend, this understanding woman. He could have gracefully left it at that, chalked it up as a learning experience, and made sure to treat no woman like this again. He explored the boundaries of acceptable behavior and discovered that women are people too, and thusly, deserve to be treated as such. But not only does he message me twice after unceremoniously canceling our first date…
…he continues to message me a month later. At this point, I’m working in Austin, Texas with three other magnificent women travel writers at my publication. We had a jolly good laugh at you, Chad. Seriously! What was your plan? How did you think you would win me over after dishing out such abuse?
But, how vulnerable, right? A month overdue apology for his behavior packaged in an excuse of his “anxieties and sorrows”. At this point, it doesn’t matter that I didn’t get a chance to date a Republican. Because I’ve already dated this guy before. I’ve dated him over and over and over again. He is the personification of misogyny.
He baits you with his charm and lures you in with flattery. He uses victimization as a weapon against your empathy. “You misunderstood me. It was my anxieties and sorrows, not me!” He would say anything to make you feel safe and secure. And the moment you settle in, he begins treating you however he wants with zero remorse because society has not reprimanded him, instead, society has validated him for treating women as lesser human beings. Chad’s apology wasn’t real. It was a tactic to elicit a response and restart the game—a game I’m sure he’s played with many women before. This was merely an assumption until 1 year and 3 days later he confirmed that I was right.
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Welcome to August 20, 2016. Sorry, Match.com, but after encountering Chad, I canceled my account and went to OkCupid where I connected with my current partner, Jon, and within a year, Jon has given me a kind of love and loyalty I knew existed within me but had yet to find in a romantic partner.
Where weaker men have compared me to other women, Jon celebrates me as an individual. Where a previous partner once told me I “took the less lucrative career path,” Jon was the one to fly with me to Panama and support me during my first keynote presentation. Where the “Chads” of the world lashed out at me for no reason, Jon, instead, confides in me his feelings and discusses with me his challenges.
I wake up in my Vancouver AirBnB to this text message from Chad. Wow! Did I have this much of an impact on him? How does this guy remember me after an entire year? What kind of impression could I have possibly left on a man I never met in person?
Oh, but it’s an iMessage now. Perhaps he’s just going through his phone and texting every woman he’s ever met on Match.com? And so early on a Saturday morning? Wonder what happened on Friday night.
At first, I decided to continue my silence. But curiosity is my Kryptonite.
I am firm and honest about how he treated me. My response to him is not irrational. I am not going to be polite or respectful to someone who did not give me the same courtesy.
His response felt like a set up to something uber romantic. I was almost expecting, “I don’t want to talk to the journalist in you. I want to talk to the woman in you” or something gushy like that. But instead:
I send him a link to Bye Felipe. I hope to show him that sexism is a rampant issue and he is part of the problem.
I guess that not looking at sexism means it doesn’t exist?
It’s true. Jon and I live together. We have a three-bedroom house and a cat.
But he still feels the need to let me know that he wasn’t interested in me as a girlfriend. Chad, let’s be honest. We met on an online dating service—one that is not free—and you asked me out on a date the year before. What other reason would you be texting me? There’s no other context in which this conversation exists. Also, me giving you a disclaimer that I’m in a committed relationship and there is zero chance that anything can be revived between us means I’m “a stuck up bitch?”
How dare I stand up for myself! His words of advice to me: “Be less of a cunt.” Note taken! My life will be vastly improved by letting men like you trample all over me.
43 minutes later he added “Asshole.”
At the time I found it very humorous. In what reality was this okay? I maintained the ability to express myself civilly and without the use of vulgar language. How was he not ashamed of his behavior?
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After Trump’s election, it’s more important than ever to continue to share stories of how prevalent harassment towards women and other marginalized communities exists in our society. We need to discuss that harassment is commonplace and there are people out there who not only think that they can get away with it but feel as though they are entitled to it.
I found this exchange funny, but the more I think about it, the more frightening this scenario becomes. Chad is not an anonymous online troll. He told me his name, where he lived, and the name of his company. His phone number matches the cell phone number on his company press releases. I can Google him and find his articles in right-wing publications, see his bio on the Young Republicans, and find photographs of him standing with Pennsylvania State Representatives.
He is not some social outcast living out of his mother’s basement, he’s not some “street thug” characterization of a rapist. Chad is an average, charming person, who is highly successful and leads communications for the political party that holds power in our country. He has the ear of politicians who are making decisions that will impact you and me. He contributes to a media that influences the culture of the United States of America. And this is how he treated a woman that he never met in person.
*The name of this Republican media strategist has been changed to protect his identity.
This article was originally published on Medium on December 3, 2016.