How to Pick a Lover

Handling the Manhandler

“Hold off! Unhand me, graybeard loon!”
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

One important and direct clue that a man is potentially violent is that he likes to throw his weight around literally as well as figuratively. Such a man may have never done anything explicit, such as hit you or threaten to hit you, but he tends to play rough.

Not too long ago, Sheila, a friend of mine, told me about an incident that occurred between her and her boyfriend Mike when they were having dinner in a restaurant. Mike reached over, smiling, and tweaked her cheek between his thumb and forefinger, saying something not very cute about her being very cute. All acceptable, almost, except that the tweak actually hurt. When Mike took his hand away—and he apparently was none too quick about doing so—her cheek tingled from the pain. There was no obvious sign of injury other than that her one cheek was a bit redder than the other one,
but not that much redder as her whole face had become somewhat flushed from the anger she was feeling. She could hardly charge him with assault. She could not even make a fuss, but nevertheless, it did hurt. She told me that she knew, and she knew that Mike knew, that it was meant to hurt.

Beware of the arm twister who grabs your wrist in a vise or playfully puts your arm behind your back while making a joke. He is showing power, not love or even affection, and he is showing power based on the undeniable fact that he is bigger than you are and his hands are stronger. A bad sign of a bad attitude.

A man who will be a good lover may occasionally hold you firmly as, for example, when he is insisting that you stop a minute and listen to what he is saying. Sometimes, he may actually hurt you a little, if he does not know his own strength or if he does not realize your sensitivity. Jocks are especially prone to this sort of thing because they are stronger than most; perhaps their own pain threshold is higher than most. However, the good lover who sees your distress lightens up immediately. He stops and apologizes and offers the equivalent gesture of a kiss to make it all better.

Beware the man who scoffs at your protest that he is hurting you or who takes a long time to cease and desist when you ask him to do so. Beware especially of the man who says or implies, “You think that hurts? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

There is a difference between being held and being held down—all the difference in the world.

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