Willoughby has always been a problematic character for me. Do I like him? A bit as he is redeemed slightly towards the end. Do I hate him? Of course since he acts as if women were mere playthings. And yet there has always been something that I have never understood about him-his motivation. The reason I didn’t understand it was, I believe, because I had never experienced a relationship like that. Of course, I’ve had crushes and have had my heart broken (who hasn’t), but not like Marianne Dashwood. Well, until now.
In August of 2016, I began working at a Country Club where I met Sebastian (not his real name for obvious reasons). He was only 3 years older than me-pleasant, a bit flirty, but overall I thought him a nice man. I didn’t think much of it (his flirtation) or him actually simply because I tend to fall for men who are taller than me and who are readers (in that they read books, or are intellectual in some way). Sebastian, on the other hand, is slightly taller than me (maybe an inch taller than me) and is more of the physical type (really into sports, not really into the arts or anything intellectual). Strictly speaking, I found him nice, but not at all attractive in terms of relationship status. He was, in essence, my boss and that’s how I saw him and how I treated him. Yes, he had little flirtations with me, but he did with all the girls and I didn’t think much of it. He stated that it was part of his culture (Hispanic) to be flirtatious with women so I brushed it off. This all changed in October of that year.
For some reason, since I worked on my birthday, Sebastian decided he would make a meal for me (he’s the chef there). And I was very touched because I saw it as an act of kindness and a gesture of friendliness. He also began doing little things like that afterwards-maybe not meals, but sometimes strawberries cut up into flowers, fruit arranged to resemble an animal, homemade oatmeal, etc. Nothing that I saw as being overtly romantic, but I tended to smile and thank him and think he was just being very kind. I was always amazed at his ability to cut fruit into animal shapes so when he did little things like that for me, I tended to clap my hands and smile. I was charmed by it because I thought (and still think) it a very amazing talent. But then he started commenting on how “gorgeously green” my eyes are. And how he would talk about my green eyes with the cooks, his family, his friends. It was all very flattering and confusing. Flattery is a very powerful tool. Especially when such flattery starts to include talking points about the color of my skin and my dark hair.
I should make mention that I am very inexperienced with such attentions and really have no defense for such things. Then specific nicknames started for me and me alone. Always sounding similar to my name, but not my name. And then he would tend to hum or sing around me and tell me that he was singing Mexican Love songs. Now, I don’t speak Spanish so I have no idea what he was actually singing. He could have been telling the truth. Again, these were attentions that I have never had paid to me and had zero experience for. Of course, then he noticed that I was losing weight and complimented me on how attractive I was becoming. It was then Sebastian started talking to me about his interests, asking advice regarding his children (he is a single parent), seeking my approval on clothes he was thinking about purchasing, etc. I became bombarded with aspects of his personal life as he dew me in. I, of course, enjoy helping people so when I am asked for help (especially in regards to a child), I will give it freely. I didn’t realize the trap was being set (and it was a trap). He would draw a few personal tidbits from me, no doubt, to make me feel comfortable and to learn enough about me to be able to engage in a conversation, but only superficially I have realized. Almost every conversation ended up revolving around him-his needs, his wants, his interests, his desires. Especially his desires.
I was overwhelmed by all this attention and completely unsure of myself that when the country club closed in December, I was glad of the break. Of course, the break was to only last a month, but I felt that I truly needed that break. Of course, Sebastian made a few promises of his own-possibly a date or two-but not a word did I hear from him until about a week before the club was to reopen (two and a half months later). I truly believed that since enough time had passed and I had time to reflect, that I would not be drawn in again. Now, I did try to find other positions, but was unable to and decided better the devil you know. I was a fool.
He started his attentions full force this time around. Actively seeking me out whenever he could. Even talking, at length and quite often, about taking me out before screwing me. Well, he didn’t use that wording, but I was clearly out of my depths here. I have never encountered any man so blatant and open about his sexual desires for me-well, any desires for me to be honest here. And it was seductive. He openly called me “his love” in Spanish at work and made no effort to hide the fact he desired me at work. It isn’t hard to imagine why I began to like him to caring deeply for him. I may have even have started to fall in love with him (perhaps a little).
But once I began to show that I cared for him a lot, a little meanness began to appear. Comment son how I wasn’t losing enough weight fast enough and how I should or shouldn’t be eating. Now, as a Diabetic, I have to eat at regular intervals. When he cared, he made sure that I ate something. Now, he doesn’t care at all and I have begun to bring snack bars in because while everyone who works there is entitled to a free meal when they work there 6 hrs or more, this has begun to be denied to me more and more. He also made comments that I really should only buy undergarments (bras) from Victoria’s Secret because, in his opinion, that’s sexy. Which I’ve always thought an odd comment since 1) he’s never seen my undergarments 2) he never shall see my undergarments and 3) Victoria’s Secret doesn’t make bras big enough for the busty gal. Or even comments that getting my hair done and wearing certain colors of lipstick is leading me on the path towards becoming a whore. I’m sorry but I believe that most women would not find it strange to spend over $50 for a hair cut and color at a salon. And it’s not like I wear gobs of makeup either.
Of course, the final straw was that while he could text me about everything personal under the sun, I crossed the line by sending him a picture of me holding my infant niece because he demanded to know who I was having lunch with. His response was that I can no longer text him anything except restaurant business. This occurred just this past Sunday and yes, my heart broke. And yes, I was and am still upset. But at the same time, Sebastian pursued me. I didn’t pursue this man at all. Frankly, hes not my type and from what I’ve gleaned from his family (yes, his family), he tends to go for immature 20 somethings, take them out a few times, probably sleeps with them, then dumps them. Apparently, I am exception because 1) I am age appropriate to him 2) I am mature and 3) I am not stupid.
Perhaps that is the real issue here. Sebastian, like Willoughby, saw me as a prize-something different than his usual fare and wanted to see if he could get me. So he started this game and I did try to resist. I don’t think anyone can be immune to such charms forever, especially when exposed to them on almost a daily basis. When a man in constantly telling you that you are beautiful, you are desirable and that he wants you, it’s very hard to stop feelings from developing. This same man would become jealous whenever another man paid me a compliment. this same man who threw not one, but two separate temper tantrums because I received flowers from 2 other men. Sebastian is so overtly possessive of me that even a vendor (who did end up asking me out), who only wanted to know my name was give the impression that I was Sebastian’s woman. But it’s just a game, right? A silly eight-month long game of flirtation he started and ended abruptly.
Except now I can see him through my tears for what he is-egotistical, vain, pompous, and extremely phobic of anything he doesn’t understand. He tells me that I don’t know God because I’m not Catholic, yet he sees nothing wrong in seducing young women in order to sleep with them. He thinks anytime a man in staring at him, it’s because the man is gay. Well, it could be because you’re almost 40 and you’re dressing like you’re still 20. Just because I can fit into dresses at the plus size clothes at Forever 21 doesn’t mean I am going to purchase them and wear them. I am no longer 21 and am 36. And I’d rather wear my Alexander McQueen scarf than anything from Forever 21.
Yes, I am still hurt and will still hurt for a while yet. It’s very hard to stop feelings for someone you care for. It’s not like I am a faucet and I can’t just shut them off (though I wish I could). Yes, I am well aware that such feelings were created under false pretenses. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t real for me. And I also call into question everything he ever said to me that I enjoyed. I call into question that I am beautiful. I call into question that a man can find me desirable and would want to willingly spend time with me. Sebastian, unfortunately, was the first man to ever say such tings to me and I do not know if he truly meant them or if it was all a lie. My hope is that perhaps while he many have started this as a game, he did, at some point, mean it.
This brings me back to Willoughby. Sebastian is now Willoughby for me-Willoughby wears his face, has his voice, uses his mannerisms, and his motivations. Willoughby. Willoughby will forever know have brown eyes that can seduce you one day and wound you the next. I’m not justifying what Sebastian did to me. On the countray, I think what he did was wrong-not only ethically (as he is, technically, my boss), but morally as well. I cannot believe that a majority of men out there would ever behave in such a manner willingly. And I cannot believe that he would approve of any man treating either of his two daughters this way. But Sebastian did act like this. More’s the pity because I am someone’s daughter, Sebastian. I am someone’s sister and someone’s aunt. Maybe, one day, I will be someone’s mother and someone’s wife. And that alone meant I deserved to be treated with respect by you and by every man out there. Especially by you because you started this game with the intent to do what….seduce? Hurt? Boost your ego? Except I do believe it backfired, this game you started. I believe it started to mean something for him as well and that’s why he started being mean because it was something new (only about a month) and only once or twice a week. The rest of the time, he was always all smiles, and sighs. All sweetness and love. And perhaps he realized that he went too far and his game was, perhaps, becoming all too real. Being mean was and is his way of pulling away. The only problem is that unlike Willoughby, there is no Austen to write an explanation for the meanness, to soften the hurt feelings.
Now, I still work with Sebastian and will have to use my acting skills to not only refrain from crying, but to fight the urge to slap him. I refuse to run and hide. Sebastian, after all, is the one who is to blame for all of this. He pursued me-I didn’t seek his attentions nor do I desire them now. I believe his true intention (besides the obvious thrill of seducing a virgin to his bed) was to stroke his ego and nothing more. After all, isn’t it a boost to his macho self image that he can go after and make an uninterested virgin interested in him? And since I do believe one of his goals was to seduce me to his bed-on that count he failed miserably. I am not so easily won and am not that stupid. Truly, if he wanted to seduce me, a trip to the Field Museum or the Art Institute would have been more seductive than the finest restaurant he was planning. I did tell him once that I am an intellectual and would not be so easily won like his past girlfriends. Clearly, he didn’t understand and never bothered to read my letter that I wrote to him either. That, he informed me, he tossed away without ever opening it. Pity then, for it seems while he tried to play a game with me, he himself got a touch of it as well.
The one thing that still bothers me is why-why go after me? There were and are other girls more like his usual taste in bedfellows. One girl, in particular, has stated to me (and to Sebastian apparently) that she will do anything for a raise. Now, she has a boyfriend, but is willing to do anything sexual for a raise. He flirts with her and while that hurt last week, this week I shan’t care. If she does do “anything,” I doubt he’ll do anything for her and I’m not going to say anything about it because he has children and I refuse to hurt them. They will end up getting hurt by his actions, but I refuse to be the one to hurt them. One of these days he will play this game again and it won’t end well. Or he’ll end up exactly like Willoughby living a semi-charmed life. Regardless of what occurs, I hope he does have a few regrets. I really hope one of those regrets will be how he treated me. Not to be mean, but only so he can understand how his actions hurt me and how they, no doubt, have hurt others.
I will get over it and I have to because while every fiber of my being wants to curl up and cry, I know that I have to face him at work every time. Unlike Marianne, there is no Colonel Brandon there to pick up the pieces and make me feel safe and loved again. I wish there was. I wish I had more experience with men other than what I end up having, which is mainly a lot of male friends. And I don’t think any (if at all) of my single male friends has ever thought about dating me. Ever. they probably don’t realize this, but when they tell me that I will make “some guy” a great girlfriend, it’s like some kind of back-handed compliment. Because you’re telling me that I’m girlfriend material, and apparently really good at that, but somehow not pretty enough to tempt you. Which is what most of them have said or implied over the years. They haven’t said it to be cruel. I honestly don’t think they realize that telling someone that except for her looks you’d date her is soul crushing and the fact she continues to be your friend, is pretty amazing of her. Sebastian, of course, has done the most damage regarding how I feel about my looks as I had begun to think I was pretty. After all, here was this very good looking man pursuing me and telling me that I was beautiful. Except that since it was all a game to him, it was all a lie.
So, what did I do? I went to see Wonder Woman today. It was better than crying over Sebastian (or even dying over him, because frankly, he’s not that worthy). And seeing the film helped. After all, I have been wanting to see a live action WW film since I was 12 and first read a WW comic book. It was also, in a way, some kind of revenge on Sebastian. He thinks the film looks “stupid” and is “for lesbians” because I believe the concept of a strong woman, or a race of them, challenges his perception of what it means to be a man. After all, Sebastian has no appreciation for literature of any kind. He thinks books are worthless and was proud of the fact that when he moved into his place, there were all these old books that he threw out. He never understood that books are precious and full of knowledge. He also thinks watching Dr Who or liking Monty Python makes me stupid for some reason. He doesn’t believe that girls can enjoying fishing or camping and believe all women want to be taken to restaurants before being tumbled. Well, I’d rather watch Blazing Saddles and order a pizza. Or go to a museum or a Theatrical show. I want someone who thinks being smart is sexy. That doesn’t care what size dress I wear. Who thinks I’m something special. Applications are being accepted.