The Beast in Me

I have a confession to make.

I’m afraid of women. Specially when I am physically attracted to them. As to why I do, I just realized it two years ago when I was 41. After knowing this, a lady friend told me, “Bro, you have been deprived of many things for so long.” About those things I’ve been deprived of, that’s debatable. As for “so long,” I concur. 😁

People usually mistaken me as a confident man who have mastered himself. Well, in some degree, that’s true. Normally I am confident to face a woman (or anyone) if I am to talk to her about ideas, beliefs, values, or anything related to work. Or any other topic for that matter. But when I admire a woman, I become shy, too shy that all my self-confidence vanishes in the air.

And why is that?

Two years ago, through the help of two female friends, I discovered why. Here’s the summary: I grew up in a very tight family. Five young ladies took care of me during my youngest years: my mother and her four sisters. One of my aunts was very influential to me. Her words — her daily reassurance — became an irrefutable fact in my mind. Every day, she assured me that I was ugly. That no one would ever be attracted to me. That I would never have a girlfriend because no one would ever like me. That brainwashing process began before I was five years old.

She would tell me those words when she was combing my hair or fixing my school uniform or tying my shoes. She would say that again whenever I would attend a class Christmas party or acquaintance party or whenever she would take me to school or to the park. She would remind me again before I went to church for a Sunday service. Almost untiringly, she told me that many times every single day.

I didn’t even question her. I was too young to reason out or even to clarify. I just believed her with all my heart. Everyday it sank to me just a little bit deeper without me noticing it. As the years went by, the sound of her consistent voice gradually became truth to me.

When I reached high school, she would always ask me, “Do you think one of your classmates would have a crush on you? I doubt,  you’re ugly!” During college, she commented, “I’m sure you still don’t have a girlfriend. That face (pointing to my face) won’t ever have a girlfriend!”

Through the years she would relentlessly convey to me the same message over and over. She would just use different words, and structured the statements differently — sometimes in a form of authoritative declaration (You’re not handsome!); sometimes in a form of a compelling question (Would they even notice you?). Nevertheless, the message was the same: I am ugly. And no one would ever like me. Ever!

As I recall now, she was just teasing me like an older sister to a younger brother. But nevertheless, her joke became true to my heart.

Her words were injected in my mind without any resistance. They were like toxic fumes that I breathed daily, unawares. I never felt hatred or resentment to my aunt. I just stupidly believed her. Remember, I was just five years old. And I was ugly!

That’s why the Disney animation “The Beauty and the Beast” became my instant favorite the moment I watched it more than twenty five years ago. I have loved the movie for three reasons:

  • First, because I can relate fully with the feelings of the beast — knowing how ugly he is. I knew the fear, the assurance that I would always be rejected no matter what. I knew the pain of not having someone who would love me. I understood the loneliness.
  • Second, I knew how hot-tempered I was, just like the beast. I admit, that it wasn’t only my face that was ugly. My temper too.
  • Third, I still hope against hope that one day, someone would love me for all my ugliness! But of course I never expected that I would be transformed into a handsome prince one day. Hehe, that part, I was sure to be fantasy. Besides, I wasn’t cursed. There was no magic spell to break. I was simply dealing with my “ugly” reality. 😊

Few years ago I wrote the article Unlikely Protagonist. There, I mentioned that most of the time, when I watched movies, I fantasize myself as the protagonist. I can immediately relate to the star of the story, the good guy, the hero. There is one exception though: my favorite movie — The Beauty and the Beast. Only in that movie that I can relate fully with the antagonist, the bad guy, the ugly one. That’s why it’s my favorite!

Yesterday,  I watched it again. And I was laughing at myself. After all those years the movie can still touch me to my core. Honestly, I’m still the same shy person. But I’m not bitter.

What have I learned?

When my friend told me that I have been deprived… I knew that’s debatable. My aunt’s words took a different form in my heart. As a growing young boy, I naively accepted the fact that I’m ugly. So I didn’t attempt to court any lady. Instead, I satisfied myself to become “just a friend” to them. As a result, most of my closest friends since grade school up to now are women. I realized that if I became “just a friend,” I won’t get rejected. And true enough, I have never been rejected.

But if you are to ask me about sex, maybe that’s where I’ve been deprived of for a long time. All of my lady friends are really just friends. We never had sex, or had any romantic relationships. Comparing to other males out there who had too many sexual experiences, I cannot compete. But why should I? My friendship with those women are more meaningful to me than sexual relationships. I prefer a soulmate than a sexual playmate. Sex had become the last thing in my mind. Rather, I focused too much on trust, respect, encouragements, growth, and love!

Still I feel lucky, perhaps luckier than most men who had many sexual partners. In fact, I have male friends who envy me because most women trust me more than they trust them. I still remember in my grade school and high school days (during camping and other outdoor events) when my female classmates would prefer me to accompany them when they were to change their clothes over my male classmates who were volunteering themselves.

When it comes to sex, I admit I’m still afraid of women. I still don’t have that “macho” confidence many males have. I still see that ugly beast in me who will surely be rejected. I still feel that it’s impossible for a woman to like me or be attracted to me. Without doubt, the decades of brainwashing took a strong almost permanent effect on me. It really did sink in, so deep that it’s now difficult to uproot.

My aunt may have succeeded in exposing me to a toxic fume that I naively breathed without noticing. But without both of us knowing it, I have acquired other things — things that are more important than sex. Because of fear I learned to be gentle to women. My ugliness taught me to focus on building trust, respect, companionship, encouragement, deep care, and other virtues rather than sex.

Because of my childhood I have learned the meaning of platonic love — something many men don’t fully understand.